Dec 22 2014

The Breakup

Published by Kathy under General

I have lost my own true love.

It has been nearly two years in coming. When I first awoke from my coma in December of 2012, I was afraid that something was not right. And though I have tried to deny it many times, the time has come when I must now face the truth.

Although the two of us had blissfully spent many stolen hours together, after my coma things just were not the same.

I tried to force the issue. I tried to pretend that things were going to be the same as they always had been.

When I awoke from my coma, my taste buds were off. I couldn’t taste anything. “It’s the drugs,” the nurses said. And indeed, I was taking so many powerful medications just to stay alive that I wasn’t eating much of anything.

Hospital food was out of the question. The dieticians tried to tempt me with one “delicacy” after another, but face it — it was all made by the hospital cooks, and at that point I was not in a good hospital. Their food was not going to tempt me.

The dieticians finally brought me two bottles of Ensure at every meal. Fluffy took most of the bottles home, where they sat in the refrigerator for months until we finally threw them away.

Instead of the hospital food Fluffy brought me Jell-O or soup, and I ate as much as a cup of that a day. I lost a ton of weight, and that was fine with me.

When I got home, food and I continued to be at war. For about eight months, I ate Velveeta dip on toasted baguette slices for every meal. It was all I could taste, so it was all that tasted good.

One by one, my taste for foods came back. Apples were almost the last. They had been my favorites and I was glad when my love for them returned, but try as I might my one true love remained elusive.

I tried to woo him back.

Every few months, Fluffy would make the pilgrimage to Popeye’s. He would buy the chicken — all dark meat with spicy seasoning. It was just the way I had eaten it, all those furtive years.

It was the chicken that would have been my last meal if I had ever found myself on Death Row and had been forced to make the request — four-piece dinner, all thighs, with red beans and rice and an extra biscuit.

But try as I might, I couldn’t get the chicken to taste the way to me after my coma as it had tasted before. Even two years later, it has an off flavor.

I say to the chicken, “It isn’t you. It’s me.” And it’s true. My taste buds are catty-wampus. I want to love the chicken the way I used to. I just can’t.

Last week was the last straw. I had a doctor’s appointment near a Popeye’s. I decided to get chicken for me and go somewhere else for take-out for Fluffy. His choice was anywhere else. (He isn’t on speaking terms with my beloved. His is a seething jealousy.)

We arrived home, and Fluffy set the feast before me. It took only one bite for me to know the sad truth.

It’s over. “Irreconcilable differences” is what would go on the papers if there were any formal papers, but there aren’t. We have just grown apart. Something that I thought would be a lifetime love affair is no longer a part of my life. Oh, I may return to Popeye’s for the biscuits and the red beans and rice, but I see no point in buying the chicken again. It is finished between us. There is no sense in forcing the issue.

I have spent two years trying to rekindle my flame with Popeye’s chicken. It’s a small incident, perhaps, but it illustrates the idea that we as human beings often hold onto things long after we should let them go.

Sometimes we cling to habits, stubbornly, even though they are no longer our friends. We hang on to a sedentary way of life even though we know we should exercise, or consume a diet that only young people should eat. We watch television shows that dull the senses, or play video games that numb the mind. We may allow our vocabulary to drag us down rather than uplift us, or choose music that incites rather than heals.

Sometimes we hold on to companions who would drag us down. We follow their lead rather than making the effort to being the leader, refusing to put forth the courage to turn the group in a different direction.

It is often the little things that make a big difference in our lives. Either we do those little things or fail to do those little things — a difference is made either way.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” The verse implies maturity. When we are spiritually mature, we discard the things we need to put away, the “childish things” that distract us from a meaningful life.

It has taken me two years to realize I need to walk away from my one true love. I only hope that when I am confronted with habits and issues that really matter, I will able to spot them a little more quickly, turn away without hesitation, and become the creature that God intends me to be.

3 responses so far

Dec 15 2014

Two-Year Anniversary

Published by Kathy under General

The Kidd family passed a milestone recently, although I passed it without even thinking about it and had to be reminded by Fluffy. He, being on the sentient end of it, wasn’t exactly in a position where he could forget about it.

Two years ago, I was in a coma. Some of you may think of this as a relaxing twelve-day nap, but it was a life-altering event for me. I was not the same person when I awoke as I was when I went to sleep.

There is a whole lot involved in the coma biz — so much that these days, when we see people on TV shows who are in comas just wake up and go about their pre-coma activities, Fluffy and I tend to laugh and laugh.

In fact, I was lying in my hospital bed when Fluffy and I watched Leroy Jethro Gibbs of “N.C.I.S.” wake up out of a coma, strap on his gun, and run off chasing the bad guys. I would have rolled out of my bed laughing, if I could have rolled over, that is. Having awakened almost completely paralyzed, rolling over at all was somewhat out of the question.

After I woke up, Fluffy had to teach me how to open and close my fingers into a fist. To encourage this, he would bring dice games to my hospital room and would spend hours chasing the dice around the room as I attempted to pick up the dice cup and throw out the dice like a normal person.

For months I had daily occupational therapy (the occupational therapists work on your arms and hands) and daily physical therapy (the physical therapists work on your legs and feet). The heroes on TV never have to learn how to make a fist again, much less how to brush their teeth.

But I assure you, these little acts take weeks or months or even years for those of us who are not highly-paid television actors.

Fluffy tells the story of how, in the second of my three hospitals, I used to try to convince him to help me escape. I wanted him to get the wheelchair from home and sneak it into my hospital room and take me home.

“Great,” said Fluffy. “Show me how you’re going to get out of bed.”

He said I’d try and try and try, until my face was red and maybe I’d move one leg a half-inch toward the edge of the bed. “Okay,” I’d finally say. “Maybe the nurses can get me over to the edge of the bed.” (The nurses in this hospital were strong men from Africa. It would have taken strong men to move me across the bed. Fluffy never could have done it by himself.)

“Great,” said Fluffy. “Show me how you’re going to get into the house once we get there.”

I’d think for a minute. “Men from the ward can get me into the house.”

“Great,” said Fluffy. “How are they going to get you up the stairs?”

“I guess they can carry me,” I said. It was obvious I wasn’t thinking this through. I probably still tipped the scales at close to four hundred pounds, and even after they got me into the house it was fifteen more stairs to get me into the bedroom.

“Great,” said Fluffy. “And how are you going to go to the bathroom?”

“Oh, never mind,” I’d say in frustration.

Then, five minutes later, I’d say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Next time you come, why don’t you bring the wheelchair from home and take me home with you.” And thus the conversation would start all over again. My hands and feet were not the only parts of me that needed retraining!

This was in December. I didn’t go home from the hospital (yet another hospital) until March 5. Even then, I felt like a baby chick leaving the egg prematurely. It took me nearly a half hour to get into bed. Our bed did not have those nifty rails that were on the side of my hospital bed. Fluffy finally rigged a rope in bed so I could grab it and pull myself far enough onto the bed that I wouldn’t fall out. It was an answer to prayer.

Even then, I was so weak I kept falling off the wheelchair as I transitioned from the bed to the wheelchair in the morning. Once I was on the ground, the only way to get me up again was to call Fire and Rescue. That’s how weak I was. This did not promote marital harmony. Finally Fluffy found a different way for me to get off the bed in the morning. It was another answer to prayer.

I was not strong enough to stay in my wheelchair without a seat belt to hold me in. Otherwise, I’d slide right out like a greased pig. I was not strong enough to sit in any seat other than that wheelchair until September of that first year, securely belted in. The first day I was able to get over on the loveseat and sit next to Fluffy where I belonged was a red-letter day.

I was not strong enough to go into the bathroom until June, two months after I returned home. I am sure this was an answer to Fluffy’s prayer, because until then I was using a bedside porta-potty that had been supplied by the hospital. Somebody had to clean that porta-potty after every use, and here’s a hint: the hospital was not sending out orderlies to do the job.

Even now, two years later, Fluffy has to put on my shoes and socks for me in the morning and take them off at night. I am not a total doofus. If I did not wear compression stockings I could put on my own shoes, albeit with considerable difficulty; it is the compression stockings that make Fluffy’s participation in the process necessary. It takes a good ten minutes to get shoes and socks on my feet every morning.

I’ve found throughout this process that challenges seem insurmountable. After a while, with perseverance, they become possible. That’s how I conquered the stairs. I practiced on a plastic stair-stepper until I could do one step. That alone took months. Then I went up the first five real steps every day until it seemed easy. Only then did I try the last ten.

My next goal is to be able to stand up from a chair without pushing myself up by the arms, just using my legs and the walker. Right now it’s impossible. It’s the hardest thing about church with the exception of using a walker in the parking lot, which is a real pain in the neck.

But getting up once I’ve sat down on those nasty church chairs is impossible unless Fluffy just about gives himself apoplexy in an effort to pull me up again. Something just has to change. So it will.

That’s what happens in the process of growth. Something is just too hard to tackle. So you agonize over it, for a nanosecond, or an hour, or a week, or even longer. Finally you decide to do something about it, and you mentally work it out. Then your body follows. Eventually, through a process of trial an error, you do what has to be done.

It’s a process. In this case, I am going to practice knee bends to strengthen my knees and my thighs. They won’t like it, of course. They will think it is w-o-r-k, and they do not like w-o-r-k, which is why I have to spell it. But eventually they will be stronger, even against their will, so that when I try to stand up just using the walker, I will be able to do it.

And then, one day, I will be able to stand up even without the walker, just the way you do. Effortlessly. Or even with effort. Hey. I’m old. Everything I do takes effort. It’s one of the rules.

When I can stand up again the angels will sing, but perhaps not as fervently as Fluffy. Then I’ll go on to another goal. That’s part of the human endeavor. Whether you’re a baby learning to walk or a person like me recovering from a coma, it’s the way of life.

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Dec 09 2014

The Great Unrecognizable Kathy

Published by Kathy under General

We happened to be scheduled to work at the temple on Black Friday. Of course, because everyone at the temple wears white it is more appropriately called White Friday. But I digress.

Anyway, as Fluffy was rolling me from one place to another I noticed a couple we hadn’t seen in several years. I had really enjoyed working with them several years earlier when they had been assigned there as temple missionaries. Seeing them once a week while they served there resulted in quite a bit of time spent together.

One of the fun things about working in the temple is getting to know all of these interesting people who have lived in many places and done many things.

When the wife came to the office to visit with the office staff, I waited patiently while she talked to Karen and then to Lydia. Then she turned around to me and looked at me without a glimpse of recognition.

She read my name tag and said brightly, “Oh. Kidd.” I could tell she was faking it. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but she had no earthly idea who I was.

I said, “I used to have long hair. I lost a hundred pounds.” I didn’t mention the coma that took the weight off me. She didn’t have enough interest in that. You only have interest in coma-related things when you know people, and she obviously didn’t think she’d ever met me before in her life.

She smiled at me vacantly and walked off, looking to reconnect with her other friends. No doubt if she had seen me as I looked before my coma we would have embraced like long-lost companions, but I am not the same person I used to be. I understand that.

This is not the first time this has happened, you see. The last time, the person was a lot closer than a missionary who had only been here on a two-year assignment.

The last time, the person was someone who had been in my home. I had been in her home. In fact, I had held Connie’s hand, so to speak, as she and her husband Floyd had built that home. And then when it was finished, she had invited Fluffy and me and another couple over to inspect every inch of it and see the grandkids’ pictures that were nailed up the staircase to the second floor and into the bedroom.

She and I had worked together as initiatory directors every week at the temple. We were part of a tight little group of four temple couples. We went to the Cracker Barrel together on numerous occasions. We celebrated the Millennium together.

We were tight.

Then she and Floyd started working at the temple on a different day, and Fluffy and I just didn’t see her anymore. The first time I saw her after the coma, I was in the temple and she came to the office. I called out, “Hi, Connie!”

She gaped at me, silent. Then she said, “Who are you?”

I said, “It’s Kathy.”

She said, “Kathy who?”

She had been standing at the counter, but she wasn’t content to wait until I shouted out my last name. She came back to where I was sitting and kept looking from my name tag to my face. I don’t think she was ever able to reconcile the two.

I tried vainly to convince Connie that she knew me, and that we were friends, but she never believed it. We never had a conversation that indicated in any way that she knew who I was. She just walked off and out of my life. The end.

It hurts when people whom you considered to be your friends do not recognize you as friends anymore, but as soon as Fluffy picked me up at the end of our shift all was well again. He recognized me just fine. Our home is happy and warm. That’s what’s important to me.

And the bottom line is found in 1 Corinthians 13:12 — For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I am known by my Creator in a way that will never be forgotten. No matter how much weight I gain or lose, how old I get, or what I do to my hair, He knows me through and through. He accepts me. He loves me. He doesn’t have to sneak a peek at my name tag. He is waiting for me. And when the time comes for me to return to His presence, His will be the arms that welcome me home.

6 responses so far

Dec 01 2014

An Avalanche of Service

Published by Kathy under General

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, Fluffy answered the door three times. This in itself was a little out of the ordinary, because Fluffy generally hides from door-knockers. You never know who’s going to be on the end of that knocking fist — a salesman, for example, or even a missionary from one of those crazy churches out there.

But on Saturday, Fluffy answered the door three times, and on all three occasions the knocker was somebody we knew and loved, and on all three occasions the knocker was somebody who was performing a surprise act of service for Fluffy and me.

Three of them — all in one day! That’s one of the bizarre things that happen when you turn into an old person. It is also fairly common in our church, where the members really do look out for each other.

The first incident had a crazy story attached to it. John, one of our home teachers, came to our door with a pan of funeral potatoes and a bag of salad greens. This was a real treat. Who doesn’t love funeral potatoes (unless they are actually made to accompany a funeral, which is not near as fun)?

I have mentioned John in this column before.  He does a lot of traveling, and he sends us selfies wherever he goes.  The last time he went to Kuala Lumpur, he took a picture with the Petronas Towers behind him and I said he looked jowly.  This time he was careful to crop off the bottom of his face so any ambient jowls did not show.  He has an endearing sense of humor, even when he does not bring funeral potatoes.

John does not usually have jowls, but just in case he cropped off the bottom of his face when he took a picture of himself with the Petronas Towers in the background. He did not want accusations to fly.

We asked John why he brought us a fresh pan of funeral potatoes on a Saturday morning, and he said it was due to a slight misunderstanding on the part of his wife, Michelle. Michelle is the visiting teacher of a lady who does not ever come to church. Unfortunately, the lady’s husband got an E. coli infection and died from it last week. Naturally Michelle asked what she could do.

Somehow the message that Michelle got was that the funeral would be held in Baltimore, and they would need salad and funeral potatoes to feed 200 people. Michelle rolled up her sleeves and did just that. With the help of her two daughters, she did a funeral potato assembly line. She made thousands of them, and bought many bags of salad greens to accompany them.

Surprise! It was only after she was up to her ears in funeral potatoes that she learned that the two hundred funeral attendees were going to be eating African food. Michelle had only been asked to make enough potatoes and salad to feed two people — the mother and father of the woman she visit-taught, who preferred more traditional funeral foods.

Funeral potatoes, anyone?

I was upstairs working when John arrived, so I had him schlep himself upstairs to the second floor and visit with Fluffy and me in my office, just because it’s so hard for me to get downstairs. It was only after we had been visiting for a half hour or so that he confessed he had just gotten out of the hospital after having hernia surgery.

Indeed, the only reason he was able to escape with the funeral food for us was that Michelle was up in Baltimore attending the funeral with two hundred Africans. John was supposed to be lying in his sickbed, recuperating. He wasn’t even going to church on Sunday. We promised to not tell Michelle about his transgression.

It’s not often that you have somebody who is so intent on doing a good work for you that he will get out of his sickbed to bring you funeral potatoes. John is a man among men. But this was not the first thing he had done for us this week. Oh no.

An earlier email he had sent us this week had said, “I stopped by on Saturday to do some raking for you but it looked like the backyard was done so I finished raking the leaves from under your deck and disposed of the big pile of leaves by the deck. Then I raked and mowed your front yard.”

Where do you even get home teachers like that? All I can say is, when the home teacher and visiting teacher programs were being designed, John and Michelle were the people they were thinking about as the poster boy and the poster girl for what the perfect home teacher and visiting teacher should be. They don’t get any better than that.

I’m just glad they don’t read my column, because I don’t think either one of them would be happy about all the publicity. And I also think John would be in trouble if Michelle found out he’d gone out in the car and climbed our stairs when he was supposed to be flat on his back in bed on Saturday morning. That’s what I think. So, friends of John and Michelle, mum’s the word.

But this was only the first visit we received. In the late afternoon, we got a knock on the door from a friend with a leaf-blower, just letting us know he was on the premises blowing leaves.

This was the second time this week he had done so, but we had not been home last time. We were out of town when Jeff had come previously, but John’s email had said it “looked like the backyard was done.” Yes, it was done because Jeff had done it.

Jeff had blown every last leaf off our yard with such precision it looked as though we lived on a golf course. He got rid of the walnuts too, no doubt to the consternation of the squirrels who lived in the trees in our yard. But he was back for an encore. And he, too, came inside for a welcome visit. We treated him to some funeral potatoes, and then he got back to work.

No doubt the squirrels were disgruntled.

Less than an hour later, our friend Jim, also from church, came over with a loaf of bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. He did not come in for a visit. He knocked. He gave Clark a loaf of bread. He left. No reason. He just did it. Amazing.

We are told to give acts of service. Giving acts of service is what we do as followers of Christ. The very act of becoming a Christian implies learning to give — to stretch one’s hand out in an act of service, not just once, but often. Not just daily, but more than once a day. Giving acts of service becomes a way of life. It becomes who we are.

What we often forget is that every act of service has an implied recipient. Somebody has to be on the receiving end.

Unfortunately, we tend to ignore the receiving part. Indeed, we often pride ourselves on how independent we are from needing any help from others. We can be lying in bed with a broken leg and no food in the refrigerator and flatly refuse any help from friends who offer to bring over a pot of soup.

But in refusing to accept help when we need it, we are refusing to allow people to give service, and we are refusing to learn humility by learning to accept service.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but God has an impish little sense of humor about things like this. He calls it “old age.” As age-related maladies make us more and more helpless, it gets pretty much impossible to say no. So visits from people like John and Jeff and Jim are no longer impositions — they are godsends. And I mean that literally, so I guess I’ll capitalize it. They are sent from God.

Hebrews 13:2 says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” We are not unaware. When Fluffy opens our door to the Johns and the Jims and the Jeffs of the world, he knows full well Whose messengers they are. And we are grateful every day that they have the ears to listen to His inspiring voice, and the willingness to act upon His suggestions.

4 responses so far

Nov 24 2014

Are We Not All Beggars?

Published by Kathy under General

Recently Fluffy and I spent a lovely week in Williamsburg, Virginia. No, we weren’t checking out the usual tourist sights. We’ve done that many times because we are residents of the state.

We have been there so many times that we mainly just use it as a place to relax for a week, prior to all of the activities of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We spent the week reading, playing on the computer, and catching up on our DVD collection.

On one afternoon we were on our way to dinner, and we were in the rear of the Cracker Barrel parking lot. We were in the handicapped parking stalls, where nobody could reasonably see us. Fluffy had wrangled my wheelchair out of the car, and I had just settled myself into it when a stranger came up to us and started his spiel.

“I am not a beggar,” he said. “I am a draftsman. I have a job. My father died last week, and I need to get back to Richmond to be at work tomorrow at 8 a.m. Our car is broken and we have run out of money. I just used my ATM card to empty my bank account, but we are still $18 short for getting the card repaired. Do you have $18 I can borrow? I’ll send it back to you in the mail when I get home.”

Fluffy and I were hesitant. We live on strict budget and $18 is a lot of money to us. Although we have been deceived before, this man looked like a good man.

Just that morning, at the timeshare where we were staying, we had told the story of how we had been taken in by one Kinja Dixon, a young man who was as smooth as butter and who cheated us out of several thousand dollars in a timeshare scam. He has his own website now. He retired at age 34, has written his own book and is very rich, while we, as you know, live on a limited budget.

But on the other hand, the Book of Mormon tells us to be generous to those in need. Mosiah 4:16-19 says this:

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just –

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

King Benjamin was a great guilt-inducer, wasn’t he?

Fluffy had exactly one twenty-dollar bill in his wallet, and he was loath to part with it. But how could we look that man in the face and not help him? We couldn’t. So Fluffy took out his wallet, gave the man $20 and our address, and sent him on his way. Then we went into the restaurant for dinner.

As we were eating, I couldn’t help but wonder why the man picked Fluffy and me, who were way over on the side of the restaurant, rather than someone who was in the front of the parking lot or on the porch sitting in the rocking chairs.

I asked Fluffy, “Do you think people are inspired by God to ask particular people for help?”

Fluffy didn’t hesitate for a minute. “Absolutely,” he said. “Don’t you remember Dick Winters from the Bonneville Ward when we lived in Salt Lake City? Fluffy then told me a story that I had pretty much forgotten.

Dick told a story in church of how he was driving home from vacation and was on his way down a particular canyon. Even though they were in no rush to get home, he kept getting the feeling that he needed to drive faster.

The feeling got stronger and stronger, and he was soon driving as fast as the speed limit and the road conditions would allow. Eventually he rounded a corner and saw a little old lady whose car had broken down. He stopped to help her. “Are you a Mormon bishop?” she asked.

“Yes.” he said.

“‘Well, it’s about time,” she said. “I prayed for a Mormon bishop to come and I thought you’d never arrive.”

It made me feel good all day that maybe — just maybe — the person who needed eighteen dollars was directed all the way to the side of the Cracker Barrel to Fluffy and me because God knew that Fluffy and I were the ones who would help him.

This reminded me of another story that I read recently. This took place a few years after the Mormon pioneers had arrived in the Salt Lake valley, and happened to a man we’ll call John Jones (okay, I don’t remember his real name).

It had been a long cold winter, and most people were running out of food. One day there was a knock on the door, and John opened it to find a stranger there. The stranger was nervous and apologetic, be he explained that they had run out of food. When the stranger had exhausted all of his options and had finally prayed about it, he was told to, “Go visit John Jones and he will help you.”

Even though John had limited food for his own family, he was happy to share what he had with the stranger. He later wrote in his journal that he went to bed that evening with an empty stomach but a full heart. He was excited that God knew him by name and trusted him to help someone else in need.

Almost daily we read somewhere about someone who makes a living through the generosity of others. There was a story just yesterday about a woman who was begging by the side the highway, but then someone saw her driving away in an expensive car. But someone once said that they were willing to be cheated 90% of the time, than to turn away that one person who was really in need.

We still don’t know if the $20 will arrive in the mail or not, but that really doesn’t matter. It’s worth more than that to know that God sometimes trusts us to be His angels when others of His children need assistance on the pathway of life.

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Nov 17 2014

No Rules; No Masters

Published by Kathy under General

We recently experienced an eight-day vacation in Florida and the Bahamas, where it was always sunny and warm. But when we got off the ship in Baltimore, it was rainy and cold. Fluffy and I were not dressed for the weather.

As we waited in line for U.S. Customs, we noticed a teenage boy in line ahead of us. He was wearing a gray hoodie. The message written across the back of it said, “No rules. No masters.”

I pointed out the hoodie to Fluffy and said, “There’s a kid who has never had to deal with the I.R.S.”

Fluffy said, “He has obviously never held a job of any kind. Managers own you. If you’ve had a manager, you’ve had a master.”

I said, “I guess his parents have never set any rules.”

Fluffy observed, “These days, maybe they haven’t. They probably paid for the shirt.”

I said, “When he learns to drive, he’s going to he’s going to have to deal with a rule or two there.”

Fluffy said, “If he doesn’t, he’s going to meet the masters of the Highway Patrol.”

As we stood in line, we went on and on about the masters and rules the slouching young man already had to deal with in his young life. Teachers and principals. Paying for things versus shoplifting. Dealing with a mortgage. The pesky little law of gravity.

That rebellious little teenager could wear all the hoodies he wanted to, but he was only showing his ignorance. We human beings are subject to rules and masters all the livelong day, and it’s a good thing. If we were not rule-keepers, we could never get behind the wheel of a car without fearing for our lives at every intersection. We could never eat at a restaurant without fear of being poisoned. We could never buy food or gasoline without peril, or goods without fear of being cheated.

Even nature follows its own innate rules. We read about the law of the jungle and survival of the fittest. But everything is equally true on a cellular level. Cells divide and plants and animals grow according to the rules of nature. When things go wrong, we get cancer and other diseases. Most of the time, we are healthy because our bodies follow the rules that nature intended them to do.

And it’s the masters who enforce those rules, or who teach us from a young age that those rules exist. They are our law enforcement officials, our judges, our magistrates. They may be the ones who pull us over when we are speeding, but they are also the ones who come to our aid when we have been the victims of a crime.

They are the shopkeepers who keep prices down by making sure other shoppers do not steal. They are the forest rangers who do not let you hike or camp in unauthorized areas, making sure the pristine areas will stay pristine for generations to come. They are the federal regulators that tell fisherman they can’t fish for cod for six months because the fish populations are down and need a chance to regenerate.

Whether our young friend is willing to admit it or not, there are masters in every sphere, and there are masters that rule over us all despite all the hoodies in the world.

In fact, even the great Ruler of us all is subject to rules of His own. One of the themes of the Book of Mormon is that even God is subject to rules He cannot violate. We humans may not understand what those rules are, but our God is a God of order nonetheless.

Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 says, “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” This tells us more than that God’s refrigerator is squeaky clean, and that His shoes are lined up neatly in His celestial closet. No, if you read the Book of Mormon, it says that if God violated the rules of the universe, He would actually “cease to be God” (Alma 42:45).

Right there, in those four words, you see exactly how important rules are. “God would cease to be God.” I cannot even imagine the ramifications for the universe if God ceased to be Himself. I don’t think it’s something the human mind can comprehend, although I’m sure Hollywood would like to try. Everything would fall apart.

The message on that hoodie — “No Rules. No Masters” — was written by somebody who does not understand the way of this world. I am grateful for rules, and I am grateful for masters. Yes, there are rules that are harsh and there are masters that are unjust and unkind. But I follow rules that are eternal, and I follow the Master of the Universe.

Those rules and that Master make all the difference to me.

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Nov 10 2014

At a Loss for Words

Published by Kathy under General

We recently spent eight days on a cruise ship, eating dinner every night with the same four strangers. None of them shared our faith, so when one of the ladies had a birthday on our penultimate night out, it was only natural that her husband celebrated by buying a bottle of champagne for the table.

Nobody was surprised or offended that we didn’t drink the champagne. Fluffy and I had told them earlier in the week that we were Mormons, so all it took was a gentle reminder that we do not drink alcohol for everyone to cheerfully accept that two people at the table were going to be toasting Dawn with glasses of water.

But it was when I cheerfully added that Mormons do not drink coffee or tea that things started to go south. Because this concept was beyond the ability of the birthday girl to understand.

Cawfee?” she asked incredulously, in her best Jersey accent. “What’s wrong with cawfee or tea?”

And that’s where things unraveled, because Dawn asked me to answer a question about something that actually meant something to me.

Now if she had given me a keyboard and ten minutes, I could have answered her question intelligently, but she didn’t. She expected me to use my mouth to formulate some type of answer to her question. And then, quite reasonably, she looked at me, open-eyed, and waited for me to answer her.

Envision, if you will, a deer in the headlights. No, envision a deer in a whole herd of headlights. I could no more have spoken than I could have stood up and done a tap dance on the table. The words were not there. Forty-four years of faithfully following the Word of Wisdom had not prepared me for one innocent question, asked without hostility by a person who simply wanted to know the answer.

It was not that I didn’t know the answer. I could have written essays on the subject. But I was not asked to write an essay. I was asked to speak.

Fortunately, Fluffy was sitting next to me. After a silence that couldn’t have lasted more than, oh, thirty-seven years, I elbowed Fluffy and said, “Clark can say it better than I can.”

And Fluffy launched off on a perfectly intelligent explanation of why we might avoid such substances — in addition to the health implications, Mormons are taught to avoid all addictive substances because that helps us control our passions and subdue our bodies.

The rest of what he said doesn’t really matter. All that matters was that it was said in a way that satisfied our tablemates, and I didn’t have to say it. I am not just slow of speech. Sometimes I am devoid of speech. It was bad enough pre-coma, but post-coma I am much, much worse.

I can no longer trust myself to speak in public. I rarely make comments in Relief Society, because when I do, the comments that come out of my mouth are not the comments that I compose in my brain. I am not sure if it is severe enough to be classified as aphasia. Well, maybe it is. I’m not yet to the point that I try to say “God” and it comes out as “toasters,” but I may be on my way.

Fluffy loyally tells me I am doing just fine. He sees no difference from the pre-coma Kathy and the post-coma one. Of course, Fluffy looks at my hair when I have slept on it wrong and it is completely flat on one side and sticking out at a forty-five degree angle above my left eyeball and tells me it is absolutely beautiful.

His loyalty is an endearing thing, but perhaps — just maybe — it is not to be trusted. He (and other friends) have also assured me that this is just part of aging, and has nothing to do with my coma adventure.

I used to be articulate. In all my years of giving church talks and teaching lessons, I have done it extemporaneously. It has been amusing. When Fluffy and I have been assigned to speak at the same meeting and on the same topic, he would prepare assiduously for days ahead of time, going to the meeting with a neatly typed script that served as his springboard for the talk.

This is not to say he didn’t deviate from the script if he wanted to do so. He has never been a robot. If Fluffy decides to make a change to accommodate someone he sees in the audience or a thought that springs to mind, he is fully capable of it.

For the most part, however, he is completely prepared when he stands to deliver a talk. He was a Boy Scout when he was a tyke, and that’s what good Boy Scouts do — be prepared.

But that was never the way I did things, pre-coma. I would be assigned my topic at the same time he was assigned his, and I thought about the topic in my own Kathy-like way. Then I would get up to the lectern with a piece of paper the size of a gum wrapper that might have five words on it. Those words gave me the direction, and I went from there.

I told stories that wove messages together. It all worked. The gum wrapper was all I needed.

Now? If I were ever asked to teach a lesson or give a talk, I don’t know how I’d do it. I have never read a talk in my life, but I think if I tried to do it the old way I would open my mouth and either nothing would come out or I’d start speaking gibberish. No — I know I’d start speaking gibberish, and that scares me.

It frightens me to know that I am not who I used to be. I look at the mirror and I see an old person. I look at the floor and I see feet that do not walk. I look at my hands and I see the skin of a Shar-Pei.

But none of that scares me as much as the tongue that does not work — the beginnings of aphasia. If I cannot communicate, who am I? When am I no longer Kathy?

The idea of losing my Kathy-hood depresses me. I think of all the old people in all the rest homes in the world who cannot communicate. People look at them and assume that nobody’s home. Now I wonder how many bright minds are hiding inside bodies with tongues that can no longer tell people what they want to say. I have worried about becoming one of those silent people.

But then I read Alma 12:9-10. In those verses, Alma is preaching to the bad guy Zeezrom (he is such a bad guy that the only way the Book of Mormon can describe just how bad he is, is to tell you that he is a lawyer). This is a small part of what he says:

And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

What that said to me when I was reading it yesterday is that God is willing to tell us His biggest secrets, but we can’t pass them along to just anybody. Some challenge that would be! Humans are natural blabbers with even little secrets, and if God gave them the secrets of the mysteries of the universe, there is no way we could keep those mysteries close to the vest.

So what does He do? Maybe — just maybe — he waits until those of us with loose lips but who still love Him are no longer able to speak. When they have been silenced with any kind of illness or even with Alzheimer’s, He tells them secrets from the other side of the veil — secrets that they are in no danger of imparting to others.

What we mistake as dementia may be something far different. We may look at Grandma and say that her mind is gone, but we may be wrong. Grandma may be mentally conversing with generations unseen, or she may be sitting with God Himself — learning the mysteries of Heaven directly from Him.

As I get older, my aphasia will only get worse. That’s the nature of the human condition; the body continues to deteriorate until we finally abandon it for something better and new.

But if I end up as one of those who are unable to speak, think of me as one of those who are watching instructional videos from the other side. There’s a lot I need to learn to get me ready for the next phase of my existence. I don’t want to miss a single lesson along the way.

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Oct 14 2014

Builders or Breakers

Published by Kathy under General

Fluffy and I had a grand adventure last week. Well, maybe it was a little adventure, but it was still grand. When you get old, everything that used to be little takes on grander significance.

Anyway, we got a coupon that allowed us to go apple-picking in Berryville, Virginia. I was out of apples, and this coupon allowed us to get two pecks of pick-your-own apples for just about the same cost as we would pay at the grocery store. Plus, we would be out in the autumn air, picking them ourselves.

We planned an outing at an apple orchard, with all the photogenic excitement that entailed.

Well, Fluffy would do all the picking, seeing as how he is the one of us who has working feet. But I did my part, purchasing the coupon and bringing the camera to record the picking. And then Fluffy did his part, because he got us a hotel room the night before in the nearby town of Winchester.

He figured we could spend the night in Winchester and then wake up leisurely the next morning and go to the apple farm. We thought it would be a great experience.

Plus, the apples would not have been grown in China. The Nauvoo Times food storage specialist, Carolyn Nicolaysen, has recently informed me that American apple farmers are starting to abandon their apple orchards because supermarkets can get apples cheaper in China. Do you want to eat apples that were grown in China? I know I don’t.

I thought the whole thing would be wonderful for picture-taking. And so it would have been, if only…. Well, “if only” a couple of things. First, it happened to be raining when we woke up on Tuesday morning. It was hardly the crisp autumn day we had experienced the previous day.

This was the sort of merry scene we envisioned.

But then we reached the farm in Berryville, and it was hardly the scene of merriment we had hoped to see.

Oh, it was supposed to be a scene of merriment. The farmers had planned it to be that way, with hayrides and picnic areas, with picnic lunches and other great food for sale. But as the weary woman who accepted our coupon explained, the people from “the city” (“the city” being our nation’s capital) who had redeemed their coupons before us had ruined the whole experience for everybody.

When we asked if she would participate in the coupon program next year, she just laughed.

First, the buyers had made duplicate copies of their coupons, so that they had paid once and then visited numerous times and picked numerous pecks of apples. But as if that weren’t enough, they had gone into the orchards and thrown the apples off the trees, so that perfectly good apples were lying on the ground and rotting.

They had also left the ground littered with trash. They had done this for no earthly reason except to be lazy and mean.

These apples, which had been perfectly good for picking, were pulled from the trees and thrown on the grown by jerks from “the city” — the city in question being good old Washington, D.C.

Thus the farmers, who had expected to provide a way for city folks to experience the farming life and get some apples right off the tree, had lost their profits for the year after having been cheated by the same people they had been hoping to show how a real farm worked.

Surprise! The city slickers had, instead, shown the farmers how things are done in Washington, D.C. How silly of them. We who live outside of Washington know all about how things are done in the nation’s capital. After all, we are the voters!

The lady who told us there were no apples on the trees left to pick was more than a little disillusioned, as you might expect. She said there is no way her farm will subject itself to the hooligans from the city next year, or ever again.

Why should she? People who tear apples off the trees and throw them on the ground don’t deserve the nice things in life. The farmers still had several varieties of apples that they salvaged and stored, so we got our two pecks of apples even if Fluffy didn’t get the chance to pick them (much to his relief and my dismay). We ended up with a grand total of 43 honeycrisp apples in our refrigerator.

We have a friend who wrote a series of books where good people were described as “makers” and evil people were “unmakers.” I have thought about that for much of my life, but I think of them as “creators” and “destroyers” or “builders” and “breakers.”

This is hardly a new concept. In the Hindu religion, two of the three gods in the trinity are Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. There is always a good force and a bad force in the universe. One force builds things up, and another force tears things down.

As it says in the Book of Mormon:

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. (2 Nephi 2:11)

Even though I know this is the way of the world, it’s painful to see it so close to home as in an almost-local apple orchard, where people tear apples from the trees and throw them on the ground to rot just for fun. I guess I’m just old, but I don’t see the sense in it. I don’t see how it could possibly be enjoyable for anyone.

A new television show this season is “Utopia,” where an alleged cross-section of Americans were plucked out of the towns of America to populate a new village where they could start anew, just to see what kind of society they would create.

Fluffy and I have been appalled to see the fruitcakes who are living in this village. One of them, “Hex,” is a young woman whose name says it all. She says that her ideal society is one without laws or religion. She describes herself as “six feet of twisted steel and sex appeal.” It is no surprise that on the outside of the fence, she was unemployed. I don’t think she has the self-discipline to have a job.

Hex’s most obvious attribute is her loud mouth, and because she has a loud voice that she isn’t afraid to use, she became one of the community’s first leaders. Her dream for Utopia was anarchy. She actually put forth that suggestion for how the community should govern itself. And because she was so loud and forceful, and because the rest of the citizens were blockheads, they all went along.

You can imagine how it all turned out. The producers must have been delighted. It only took a few days before the citizens returned to a saner form of government.

I took one look at Hex, during the first episode of the season, and thought, “She’s a destroyer.” I haven’t changed my opinion. You can look at some people, and you just know who they are and what they are. You can see they have chosen the dark side.

They may smile, and they may be pleasant sometimes, and they may even befriend you. But when the time comes for them to stick a knife in your back or for them to unlace the corset of civilization in hidden ways or even in open ones, they are going to do it. They do it because it is fun.

You may be saying to yourself, “I’m neither a builder nor a destroyer.” If you are thinking that, you are wrong. There is no middle ground. If you aren’t actually making the effort to improve things, but are sitting on your rear end and letting other people do the work, you are firmly in the destroyer camp.

It may hurt your little feelings to hear that, and I’m sorry but — well, actually I’m not sorry. You know what the platitude says about being part of the problem if you’re not part of the solution? It’s true.

No matter what our situation, there’s something each of us can do to help somebody else. That something may be very small for some of us. It may even be a widow’s mite.

But the good thing is, I’m not your judge. God is. He knows whether you’re doing your best. And that’s what He requires — all you can do:

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)

I’m going to try my best to be a builder today, and I hope you do too. There are already too many breakers and too many rotten apples in the world.

3 responses so far

Oct 06 2014

Uninvited Guests

Published by Kathy under General

My eyelashes are infested by animalcules.

I learned this entirely by accident recently, when my eyelids started itching like crazy. I happened to be leaning over the bathroom sink when I scratched my eyelids, in preparation for my morning hair-washing ritual. Afterwards, there were two tiny red specks on the white porcelain — specks that had not been there before I scratched.

I touched a speck, and then I wished I hadn’t. Because then, when I lifted my finger, there were infinitesimal red legs splaying out from where the speck was lying.

It’s alive! I thought, even though, technically, it wasn’t anymore. I’d had no idea, or I never would have murdered the poor thing. I wondered if there had been a when I had obliterated it, invisible to human ears but deafening to the ears of whatever creatures they were. I’m assuming that it had possessed ears. I wondered if it had screamed.

If you are envisioning these things, you may be thinking of them as being the size of a head of a pin. You would be wrong. An entire family of these things could use the head of a pin as a dining room table — that’s how small they are. I could only see the legs because I have amazing close-up vision. We could not see any other features on the animalcule even with Fluffy’s magnifying glass.

These things make a chigger look like Godzilla.

I did what any red-blooded American would do. I turned on the computer and googled it. I looked up “round red mites on eyelashes,” “tiny red bugs in eyelashes,” and everything in between. What I got were pictures of long, gray, wormy things.

What part of “round” and “red” did Google not understand?

I went to Bing, and Bing was even worse. It gave me false eyelashes and Halloween costumes and round pillow stuffed animals. Boy, was that helpful. I don’t know why people keep saying Bing is better than Google. I think they are Bing employees, because that’s not the experience I have whenever I try Bing out of desperation.

So I was left with my own little round things and no explanation for them. Fluffy told me to just soap up my eyelashes every day, trying hard to keep my eyes squeezed shut so none of the soap gets in my eyes.

That’s what I’m going to do, hoping that the little red bugs find somewhere else to live — somewhere with pinheads to use for dining room tables that are not my pinheads, and eyelashes to live in that are not my eyelashes.

Meanwhile, all I can think about is the movie Men in Black, where the punchline was an entire galaxy that was small enough to fit inside a bell that was hanging around a cat’s neck. I think about that sometimes. It was a clever plot twist.

Think about it. All the human beings in all the planets in that fictional galaxy must have been very tiny, and the dogs and cats were even tinier, and the fleas on the dogs and the cats were even tinier than that.

And assuming such a galaxy existed — because God has to put all His galaxies somewhere — God would have created all those tiny people and all those tiny dogs and cats and all those tiny fleas on all those dogs and cats. And, presumably, he was cognizant of all those little red specks in the eyebrows of those of us who have those specks in our eyebrows.

It boggles the mind. Of course, I freely admit that I have the sort of mind that is easily boggled.

I guess I’m a bit squeamish about killing things (even nasty little red specks that make my eyelids itch), because I always think of this scripture in Moses 6:63:

And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.

We live in a world of increasing cynicism, where people not only deny the existence of God, but then ridicule those who believe in such silly superstitions. But the older I get and the more I learn, the more I am in awe of the sheer variety and abundance of His creations — even these tiny red creatures who have currently rented out my eyelashes.

3 responses so far

Oct 03 2014

Walking Wherever I Can’t

Published by Kathy under General

When I’m sitting in front of the television or in my office or somewhere else in our house, I’ll get it in my mind that I want to walk across the room and turn on a light or get something or do something, and I’ll come pretty close to doing whatever it is that I’m thinking about doing.

It’s so easy it almost comes as second nature. In fact, it is such second nature that I almost — almost — hop up and do whatever it is that comes to mind.

The only problem is that if I actually made the attempt, I would no doubt end up in a heap on the floor, and we would have to call the friendly Fire and Rescue people yet again.

I have learned from experience that the people who work at Fire and Rescue are nice, and that they provide their services in our county for free. Nevertheless, I would just as soon stay in my wheelchair and let the Fire and Rescue people watch “Judge Judy,” or do whatever they do at the fire station. They don’t need to pick me up off the floor once more, risking strained backs and other tortured body parts. It’s a lot better on everyone if I just stay where I belong.

My neurologist has a name for my malady. He calls it “critical illness neuropathy,” and he says it will keep me in my wheelchair at least another year. Unfortunately, my nerves have not communicated this to my eyes. My eyes see things and say, “Ooh. You need that. It’s time to hop up and get it.” And my body just wants to do the hopping.

My eyes are persuasive little critters, and there are two of them. There is only one of my brain, so my eyes tend to gang up on my feeble little brain and convince it to do things it shouldn’t. More than once, I have caught myself at the beginning of a leap to do something or another, only to lean sheepishly back in my chair. “Back off!” I tell my brain. “Not today. In fact, maybe not this year.”

I find it ironic that most of us find ourselves in the opposite situation. In most cases our bodies are perfectly capable of hopping around and doing the things that need to be done. The big problem for most of us (and even for me until last December!) is getting our brains motivated to the point that they send those signals to our muscles and get us moving to do the task at hand.

It is just too easy to read another chapter, or watch another TV show, or sleep for a few more minutes, or eat another potato chip. If we are not careful, the sun is soon setting, the day is over, and the tasks for the day remain undone.

The Lord allows us to have adversity in life because it teaches us things. One of the things I have learned from my latest little adventure is to be thankful for the simple things that we I used to take for granted. When I was recovering in the rehabilitation hospital, Fluffy used to bring a dice game that we played when he came to visit. We played Farkle often, because it was great fun and good therapy for me.

I was a pretty pathetic sight each time I tried to pick up the dice cup and dump the dice out onto the table. It took a lot of strength and concentration, and the dice would often go in many different directions, leaving poor Fluffy to scramble around the room looking for missing dice. Now my arm strength is pretty much back to normal, and I can do things like roll dice and shuffle cards without giving it a second thought.

Even after I am once again able to hop around my world the way I used to do, I hope I will remember to grateful for the “simple” acts of motion. Standing up to get a book off the shelf, walking across the room, and leaning over to check a pot on the cooktop are such thoughtless acts that most of us do them without a second thought. Yet there are others who would give anything to be able to do such simple tasks.

As we express our gratitude to God for his many blessings, let’s not forget to thank Him for the little miracles that don’t warrant a second thought until we lose them.

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