Tuesday, June 6, 2017

It's a Slippery Slope When Women Stop Wearing Slips

Could anyone please explain to me how I'm supposed to know what all the new social rules are these days?  Hasn't anyone younger than me heard of Emily Post or Abigail Van Buren?  Are there any hard and fast etiquette rules anymore or is everything just made up as people go along?  Maybe I can share a few things that really bother me and I really don't understand.  I earned a minor in Sociology and these human-nature things have always intrigued me.  This will have to be the first in a series.

First, when did proper undergarments become optional for women and girls in our culture? Seriously, hasn't anyone younger than me heard of ladies wearing slips?  You can't even find them in the store anymore.  Case in point.  I have several slips of varying lengths, types, and colors.  I've had them for many years and the ones I wear the most are getting a little worn out.  While bra shopping with my daughter a month or so ago, I thought I'd get myself a new slip to wear with dresses, but there were no slips to be found in any store we looked at.  Sure, there were Spanx and other types of bodysuit-kind-of-girdle articles, but no slips.  I asked a few store clerks about where to find a slip.  I was always directed to something that looked like a sausage casing about 3 feet too short.  That's not a slip!  Some sales people even laughed at me, saying, "nobody wears those old-fashioned things anymore," and the young sales people didn't even know what a slip was.

For those of you who are slip lovers like myself, you know what a real lady's slip is like.  It's usually white, beige or black and has adjustable straps and a nice-looking bodice with pretty lace and a nice straight or A-line shape made out of pretty tricot or silk.  You feel like a woman when you put it on top of your bra and hose, lounging in it even as you do your hair and makeup and ready yourself for the day.  It makes your dresses and skirts look better because their fabric seems to "slip" over the undergarment nicely, avoiding the sticking and the riding up that happens when no slip is worn.

I could do a whole research project on why women wear/wore slips, where petticoats and dressing gowns originated from and why, but I think it's pretty simple to understand.  It comes down to modesty and cleanliness, both ladylike characteristics I think all of us women might want to have a little refresher course in.  One of the reasons women, especially those in earlier generations, wore petticoats was to keep their dresses clean.  They wore slips underneath the dress to keep it free of sweat and body oils and aprons on top of the dress to keep it clean of dirt and spills.  It wasn't easy or convenient to do laundry, so they protected and took care of their clothing.  Another reason was to enhance the look and shape of the dress. Poodle skirts required really big slips to help the skirt have a shape.  Study the history of fashion and you'll see just how important slips and petticoats really were.  Without a hoop slip, Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind was just wearing a droopy gown.  Then there was the modesty quotient.  Slips and petticoats prevented others from seeing through a gown's fabric, sheltering the shape of a lady's body from curious eyes.  

Why then, don't so many women and girls wear slips anymore?  I know that if they did, more stores would stock them.  Many stores don't sell them because people don't buy them and people don't buy them because they don't wear them.  I think it's a symptom of society's general lack of propriety.  Men don't wear jackets and ties like they used to and women hardly ever wear nice, pretty dresses.  If they don't wear pretty dresses in the first place, why the need for a slip?  So many women of today have become casual in their dress and have given up the notion of being feminine and classy.  When they do need to wear a dress or skirt, they throw on a piece of wash-and-wear knit that clings to their hips, thighs and buttocks in the most unbecoming way.  They add a pair of flip-flops and they're "dressed up."  Even if they wanted to wear the knit maxi skirts that are so entirely and hideously popular these days, they still need to wear a slip.  Why?  Because we can all see through their skirt.

Somewhere someone had a terrible idea of making floor-length, bottom-hugging, unattractive skirts out of T-shirt fabric with all manner of nauseating designs like Chevron stripes, horizontal stripes, vertical stripes, to name a few.  These skirts are so ugly, my daughter and I actually pinky-promised each other we would never, ever buy, wear, or consider wearing one of these "skirts."

Do you know what a real skirt is?  It's got a waistband, a zipper, a button or a hook and eye, and is lined.  The fabric is twill, wool, gabardine, corduroy, silk, tweed, or taffeta.  It has a shape that makes you look better, not worse.  It hides your flaws, instead of accentuating them.  It's a solid color like navy, gray, black, camel, or red.  It's timeless and of excellent quality.  It stands the test of time and can be worn with heels or flats.  It looks good with a blouse and jacket or a sweater.  It can last a lifetime if it's cared for properly.  It falls just above or below the knee.  It needs to be dry-cleaned and pressed.  It's a lady's skirt.  And it requires a slip and hose.

Now that I think about it, the slip isn't the only element that's missing.  It's all missing.  Women don't wear blouses anymore, or even jackets.  And most women don't wear pretty shoes and hose anymore either.  The popular choices range between flip-flops for the beach or locker room, all the way to 5-inch, cheap-looking stiletto heels.  Pretty Georgette blouses have been traded for body-hugging, immodestly tight t-shirts, again made out of knit.  If a jacket is worn at all, it's usually a denim jacket or even a hoodie and yes, I've seen my share of zipped hoodies with skirts.  Denim jackets are good, and I even own one, but it shouldn't be your only jacket.

Who or what is to blame for this shift in culture and lack of ladylike-ness?  We could blame the person who first sported the Chevron-striped yardage in screaming yellow and blue, but it's not really their fault.  The problem lies in all the droves of females that decided they too wanted to look like they were wearing butt-hugging flags.  Another reason is the "skirts" are so darn cheap that a person who likes such unsophisticated clothing can own 2,400 of them for the price of one really good and nice, womanly skirt.  Some might blame it on the desire to be "comfy all the time."  You don't want to hear what I have to say about that.  Being ladylike was never supposed to be about being comfortable.  As soon as we get too comfortable, we lose our manners, our dignity, and our femininity.

Now, it's not to say that comfort is a bad thing.  I don't believe in wearing clothes that are painful or shoes that cause blisters.  But I know the reason a lot of females don't wear slips, bras, and hose is because they say it's not comfortable.  The whole point is to not be comfortable.  When you wear feminine undergarments and you're a little uncomfortable, it's a reminder that you should cross your legs or ankles, walk in a graceful manner, and not roll around on the floor because you feel like it.  Dressing like a lady helps us to act like a lady.  I love things that are comfortable, but I also love things that are beautiful.  I believe we can have both.  There are also times that are appropriate for comfort over style.  I own a pair of Birkenstocks that are heaven on my feet and hips, but I don't wear them with a nice skirt and I certainly don't wear them to work or to church.

Maybe the problem is that as a culture we've become so comfortable with ourselves that we don't even care if it's offensive to others.  Part of the joy of dressing well is in showing respect to your fellow men and women while caring enough about the world we live in that we're trying to make it a little more beautiful ourselves.  Young people and even older ones have become comfortable in going to the market in PJs and slippers, dirty and un-showered, with filthy hair and a grimy face.  Other people do it, right?  Kids wear slippers and pajama bottoms to school and teachers teach in front of the classroom in sweat pants.   It's become so commonplace to dress so casually that when a person is dressed up like Cary Grant or Doris Day, they get stares and questions.  That used to be the expectation, do you realize that?  The expectation that a lady didn't leave the house without her hair and makeup done and a pretty skirt and sweater?  A gentleman didn't walk out the front door without a coat and tie, slacks and Oxfords, even a hat.  

It's now June 6, and summer is here.  I hate summer.  I really loathe it, mostly because it flares up my chronic health conditions, but also because I hate seeing everyone suddenly without clothing, in their full-on "comfortable" uniform of skin-tight, bottom-revealing shorts, tank tops with bra straps hanging out or better yet, no bra at all, and flip-flops.  Warmer temperatures don't require nakedness and impropriety.  You can still be cool and even comfortable in linen slacks, a cotton blouse, and pretty sandals.  

It's critical that we as women not become so complacent in our dress and grooming that we allow ourselves to also become lazy in our feminine values, traits, and virtues.  It is my opinion that when women begin dressing like men or wearing clothing that while comfortable is not respectable, we risk damaging the unique womanhood we are blessed with because we are daughters of God.  How would God want His daughters to adorn themselves?  I am sure He would want us to be modest, lovely, virtuous and praiseworthy, showing respect to our fellow men and women on the earth with the way we dress and carry ourselves.  He would want us to embrace our femininity and enhance the beauty He blessed us all with individually.  Our Heavenly Father would want us to honor Him by clothing our bodies reverently and decently.

I think it's time for a revolution, a revolution of ladylike-ness.  If you're a person who loves her Chevron knit skirt, then at least wear it with a slip, cute shoes, and a better shirt.  What if every girl and woman suddenly demanded slips in all sizes, lengths, and colors choices?  The stores would have to stock them.  If every girl started wearing slips with dresses, maybe the selection in dresses while shopping would improve.  If we had better choices and took them, maybe our manners would show an uptick.  Maybe we'd become a little more polite, courteous and forgiving.  Maybe if we wore pretty blouses instead of knit shirts, we'd actually like our bodies more.  If we wore beautiful dresses and heels, maybe we'd decide we love being women and we'd stop feeling oppressed.  Maybe even men would treat us better because we'd think we deserved better.  The list could actually get quite long here, so I'll stop, because you get the point.  

Something as seemingly small as wearing a slip has the power to create change.  At least it has the power to affect change in us individually.  Maybe we won't solve all the world's problems by wearing slips with smart suits and dresses, but we'd definitely feel better about who we are and maybe we'd treat ourselves better.  That might create a domino effect and give our children higher self-esteem.  It could cause some pretty big changes in society if enough women would accept the challenge.

My challenge to you is this:  If you have a slip, start wearing it and if you don't, find one somewhere and start wearing it.  It will change your clothing choices and while that doesn't have to be expensive, it could be very, very effective.  Embrace your womanhood and your femininity.  Decide that no one should see your silhouette through your skirt.  Save the flip-flops for the pool.  Invest in a nice skirt.  Buy some pantyhose.  It might even improve our economy along with our self-esteem.  I know that at the very least, it will give you greater confidence and you might decide to take on that project you've put aside or ask for that promotion at work or get your college degree.  It might even make you confident enough to go on that blind date or accept a new work assignment.  Maybe I'm crazy, but I think wearing a slip could change the world.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

Spend Well, Not More: A Few Tangible Things That Make Me Smile

I found it rather difficult to get up today.  At 4 a.m. I saw the clock.  A mild panic set in.  Only a few more possible sleep hours.  Please let me sleep.  At 7:00 I finally became conscious and then I didn't want to get out of my bed.  On some days it's a dreadful thing to have to face time outside the warm covers and feather pillows.

As I began my morning rituals and was washing my face, I paused to notice a few things on my bathroom counter.  Is it wrong to feel abundantly grateful for a moisturizer that I love? Is it a sign of wrong priorities to absolutely love the cleanser I remove my makeup with?  As I took a deep breath and really smelled the delicious scent of the soap and the lotion, even the toothpaste, I was just happy. I have a really cool life!  I'm very blessed.  I have the blessing of waking up in a warm house in a soft bed with a wonderful husband and I have orange juice in the refrigerator!  I love my OJ!  I have pretty clothes, lots of books, and paints and brushes and canvases just calling my name:  Get up!  Get to work!  And best of all, I have a beautiful family with children and a husband who are good and kind people.

I have so many things that are little luxuries to me, that make me smile and help me feel safe, beautiful, and smart.  It's not a coincidence that certain things elicit specific emotions and responses. The older I get, the more I realize that quality is so much more valuable and important than quantity. And what we choose to use and for what reasons, can help to heal our wounds and even help us turn difficult corners in our lives.  Just the fragrance of my facial cleanser is exactly what I needed on the day I chose it seven years ago.  It continues to care for my skin and helps soothe my heart.    

When my husband and I were first married, we bought a stereo with some of our wedding money. We bought the one we could afford, a brand called Sound Design.  The Sony was better quality, but more expensive.  It was only a few months after playing our LPs on the Sound Design that it completely died.  We had to replace it.  That time, we got the Sony and 32 years later, we still have the Sony--it still works.  It was an expensive mistake.  The Sound Design and the money we paid for it were wasted and forgotten.  We've been careful ever since to not be fooled by the price tag.  You do get what you pay for.  

We had been married a few years and I was having trouble with my hair.  It was dry and had a lot of split ends.  One day I went to the beauty supply store to get a new curling iron.  The owner asked if he could help me find what I needed.  After some discussion and looking at my hair, he told me I was being too cheap and that was why my hair looked the way it did.  He offered some suggestions, told me what to buy and what to throw away, what to stop doing and what to start doing to properly and respectfully care for what God had blessed me with.  It took some time, and lots of trims to get rid of the dry ends, and finding a hair designer that was a good match for me to get my hair into shape.  I've never looked back.

I have many things that I love and could recommend to you, but on this dreary February morning, these are the things that jump out to me today, things I am truly grateful for in my life, and that bring a smile and a sense of wonder to me every single day.  They are material things, but we do live in a material world.  As long as we have our priorities straight, it's okay to enjoy life and the things that help us get through each day.  Could I live without these little favorites?  Of course.  That's not the point.  I did live without these things most of my adult life, but our family is raised and there are no more orthodontics to pay for or violin lessons.

Clinique Moisture Surge
My favorite thing to do at the beginning of the day is to wash my face and put on this scrumptious, creamy gel.  It reminds me to be gentle with myself and to be gentle with others.  I can feel it filling in the dry patches and cracks, plumping up my tired skin, readying it for a day of work, creativity, and service.  There is no fragrance.  Nothing to make my eyes run or get in the way of the simplicity of moisturizing.  It's like my face's little cheerleader, getting it ready for a night of rest or a day out in the universe.  I love it.  It lasts a long, long time, and is worth every cent.

Iconiq Stainless Steel Bottle
I drink a lot of water.  I loathe warm water or even water at room temperature.  This bottle solves the problem.  It keeps cold water cold and hot water hot for the whole day.  Even in the summer, sitting in my hot car, it keeps my ice water nice and cold.  No need for ice!  No nasty "floaties" and no weird residue to scrub off.  This single-handedly is responsible for helping me to drink more water.  I take it with me everywhere and I gave them to everyone in my family.  A little more money than a cheap water bottle, but again, worth it if cold, ice-free water is your thing.

Fossil Watches
It's a family thing at our house, to have and wear a Fossil watch.  They last forever and can really take the beating from everyday wear.  There are countless designs to choose from to suit every style, every personality, and every scenario.  We've given them to our children and most recently our sweet daughter-in-law.  I can always trust that the time is correct and the ones I have are just so darn pretty, it's fun to check the time and be reminded that there is art everywhere around me, even in my watch.  

7 Salts of the Earth from Trader Joe's
I love salt.  I salt my food like a sailor might.  All my life people have told me to "watch the salt." Then a strange little blessing came into my life.  My cardiologist gave me the prescription of "SALT." As in, eat and drink lots and lots of salt--all you want!  Luckily for me, salt is good for me.  I need it. If I'm not getting enough, my heart does weird things.  My darling sister gave me this package of salt for Christmas.  It's divine!  I sprinkle a little in my clean hand, and eat it!  I'm being really careful with it because I want it to last, but it's my little treat.  My favorite in the collection is Blue Persian Salt.  It's funny to think they might all taste differently, but they do.  If you love salt or know someone who does, this is the perfect present.  Thank you again, Jane!

Sunbeam Heating Pad from Walgreen's
Here's a more practical item, but I really could not live without this.  Inevitably something is painful or tender and needs the gentle heat of this extra large heating pad.  I love it because it doesn't get scrunched or crushed and it keeps its shape.  It shuts off automatically after 2 hours or you can choose the setting of "constant," in which it doesn't shut off unless you turn it off.  It gets good and hot and helps relieve all my aches and pains.  I take a whole lot less Celebrex when I use this regularly.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Aside from my scriptures, if I could only choose one book to take with me on an extended trip, this would be my choice.  I don't think I can ever read it too many times.  If you haven't read it, you probably wouldn't understand, but this book teaches things that are unexpected.  It's about pride and sin, power and denial, God and redemption, the search to become benevolent and the follies of mankind.  It's beautifully written and for the serious reader, I believe, requires note taking and long pauses to ponder.  It's a classic and one of a kind.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment
When my little son had problems with severe eczema, his doctor wanted to give him a prescription that had serious side effects.  I didn't want to risk his health if there was something more conservative that we could try first.  Thankfully, that particular doctor took another job and our original pediatrician returned from a specialized fellowship.  He was the one who handed me a sample tube of Aquaphor and said, "this is all he needs."  And, he was right.  It really works its own little skin miracles.  It's been a staple in our home ever since.  It's pricey at the outset, but it lasts a very long time.  It has long since replaced Vaseline in our family bathroom cabinets.  Its healing quality comes from allowing the skin to breathe while also being protected.  Other ointments merely cover up the skin to form a barrier.  Aquaphor creates a barrier of protection, but it also allows oxygen to move in and out of its barrier, which is what I think makes it so good for your skin.  It's everywhere in my house and I really couldn't live without it.  It goes on scrapes, lips, sores, cuts, and I even put it around my eyes every single night and after 22 years of doing that, guess what?  No crow's feet.

J. Crew
Enough said.  Premium quality, consistent fit, yummy fabrics, classic styles, and generous customer service.  Just like the cheap and flimsy stereo, you get what you pay for when it comes to clothes.  I love how my normal size fits me every single time.  There's really no need to even try things on--I know it will fit.  The best part is they make things in Tall.  I can actually get pants that are long enough for my 35" inseam and dresses that aren't too short in the waist.  The quality will last a lifetime so it's probably important that you truly understand your style before investing in these pieces.  You will never wear them out.  Well, I take that back.  I have actually worn out my J. Crew jeans to the point of my husband and daughter begging me to please throw them away, after my last patching job to keep them in circulation failed miserably and they actually fell apart, literally.  If you buy J. Crew, you will have the pieces forever.  If you consider your clothing an investment like I do, it's worth the money.  One gorgeous sweater that will never stretch out, or a dozen from that terrible and nasty store with the red bull's eye logo?  It's also nice to have less things in my closet.  Less is always more, in my opinion.  Classic neutrals are what I have in my closet like black, gray, navy, and beige.  Timeless, soft, classic, and tangibly comforting.

Simply Orange, Orange Juice
It's not from concentrate.  It's simply oranges, squeezed.  I like the one with high pulp.  I drink a big, tall, ice cold glass every single morning: doctor's orders.  I start to stress when I see the bottle is getting low.  My husband eats Greek yogurt; I drink orange juice.  Mornings wouldn't be proper without it.  And I know why my doctor ordered it.  My body does need it.  This myth about juice being bad isn't true and it certainly isn't true for every person.  Just like my body requires salt, it also requires squeezed oranges.  Maybe yours doesn't, but mine does.  We drank the frozen concentrate for years and years when we had children running out to school every morning and we all sat down to a hot breakfast every morning together.  But now I'm the only one drinking it.  This tastes far more delicious than the concentrate and I don't have to mix it.  I recycle the plastic jugs every week and sometimes I use them to store water.  I'm glad they have it at my market.  It's one of my favorite things about morning time.  

I only share these things out of an honest sense of wonder and gratitude for all the sweet creature comforts in my life.  I know I am blessed, even lucky, but we have also made conscious decisions to be smart, to spend wisely, to invest in quality and to get rid of the quantity.  It's the quality of our lives that matters most.  I'd rather have fewer things and less vacations that are of real and sound quality than a bunch of clutter and countless trips to theme parks.  To each their own, but for me, I'd rather have a quarter of a grilled cheese sandwich made with Gouda and sourdough bread, than a whole one made with American cheese and Wonder bread.  

I like to think it's also a metaphor for life in the bigger picture of things.  Do we spend our days doing the quality things that are really and truly important to our eternal salvation or do we squander our time with eternally insignificant pursuits like playing to the world's standards and trying to look like the rest of society?  Shouldn't we be trying to stand out in a world so that maybe some might wonder what makes us different and then maybe even approach us to ask?  I had an interesting experience a year or so ago.  A woman contacted me through Pinterest and asked if I was Mormon.  She wanted to learn more about what Mormons believe and had wondered if I was LDS simply based on what she saw on my Pinterest boards, namely the one titled "My Style."  She said that all the images I had pinned were modest, ladylike, and elegant and she wondered if I must be Mormon.  It was a tremendous compliment and of course I told her that I am indeed a Mormon, and proud to be. We've become acquainted now, simply because of me pinning things that I find to be "virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy."

Maybe this will inspire you to look around your surroundings, to pause and realize how many sweet and wonderful personal comforts you enjoy and what it is that adds the little lift in your step that enables you to go out into the world each day and do your best.  I believe that in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, we can each find these little gems that make us smile, help us to be cheerful, and give us the righteous confidence we need to go out and make a difference in the world. After all, life is to be enjoyed, not simply endured, or at least Gordon B. Hinckley thought so.

Disclaimer:  I am NOT being paid to endorse the products mentioned above.  

Monday, January 30, 2017

My Own Executive Orders

I'm going to sign some "executive orders" of my own.  Today.  It won't affect anyone or anything, or maybe it actually might.  President Trump has been signing some and I think it's a good thing to do, when you want to pull the anchors up and right the ship.  I'm not the president of a country or even a company, but I am the president and CEO of my own life.  Not in any particular order, but let me give it a whirl.

Moratorium on Fake Reality:

The election is over.  It was a long and arduous year, but America voted, I voted, and I hope you voted.  Even if people didn't vote, those of us who did, chose the President and it's Donald J. Trump.  Yes, and he is your president even if you don't like him or you didn't vote for him.  Yelling "not my president" is childish and makes me wonder if those people really ever went to school or if they just failed elementary thinking skills.  Want or need proof?  Do you live in America?  He's your president.  Hoping for an example?  Sure, I've got the perfect one for you.  I didn't vote for Obama---twice.  And he was still my president.  I might not have liked everything he did or said or stood for, but I respected his office and I tried to be a good American.  I was a good American.  I didn't damage any property or set anything on fire.  I didn't march in a parade dressed like female genitalia, yelling obscenities to people who think differently than me.  I had lots of reasons to protest or be angry and I was angry, but I didn't have a public tantrum or prostrate myself on public property and claim I had been offended.  I didn't sue anyone and yet I feel I did actually lose much in those 8 years.

I watched as traditional marriage was trampled and spat upon.  I watched as the president used his authority to force anti-family and anti-marriage legislation upon me and my family.  I felt the loss as I watched our savings sit there, not growing, because interest rates were so low it only benefited those with massive debt.  I watched the stock market slide lower and lower and lower.  I saw the end of my profession as Obama sent the work I used to do, overseas to people who can't even speak English.  I watched as the White House was draped in rainbow lights to celebrate the SCOTUS decision to make gay marriage legal, which felt like an actual physical assault to my faith and my values.  I watched as the president gave more respect to transgender bathroom rights than he did to women and children.  I watched as we lost a great and worthy Supreme Court Justice and the left seemed almost to cheer, so confident were they that Hillary would win and thus render the highest court undeniably and forever liberal.  I watched as more abortions killed millions of babies and mass shootings killed hundreds.  I watched as cops became targets and singers became heroes.  I watched as the president who swore he would never pull the race card, did, and over and over and over again.  I watched as the country who was attacked on 9/11 seemed to almost forget who did it and why.  My hands were tied when Twitter suspended my account temporarily after simply posting a flag and "never forget" on 9/11.  I watched as my own healthcare costs soared while coverage sank, all to help pay for the people who have no insurance and no intention of ever getting it.  I stopped taking a critical heart medication because the FDA deemed it "experimental" for my condition, which made the cost to me absolutely prohibitive.  I watched the American model of bravery and courage, sacrifice and hard work, turn into some sort of nightmare with weakling citizens and people so offended at every thing anyone ever said that soon it became "hate speech" and bigotry to just simply and quietly believe in God and traditional marriage.

I might have muttered under my breath, or out loud in my own home or among friends, about my dissatisfaction with what was going on in Washington, but I didn't beat anyone up or break windows.  I didn't demand to not be offended, and yet Obama offended me on most days.  His wife, Michelle, also offended me on a regular basis.  But guess what?  I'm an American and Americans, or at least I was taught in school, are strong, brave, resilient, and problem-solving men and women who respect their country and their fellow men and women.  When we don't win an election, we just try to do what we do best and hope that Washington is grateful for our contribution.  We wait for the next election and we try again.  When Obama bothered me, I turned the TV off, read a book, made some art, cooked something fabulous, or went on a walk.  Maybe that could work for the people bothered by Trump.

How about an executive order against gossip?

Gossip is evil at its core.  Tell a person seeking juicy details from you about a friend's misfortune that you won't share and watch the horror crash up against their face.  It's almost as if you stomped their foot with a high-heeled shoe and told them they couldn't cry.  Their whole world spins out of control.  That's what would happen to gossip if everyone actually had the guts to say, "hey, I'm not participating."  It would be the severing of Medusa's head.  No more hissing mouths.  You can always tell who is guilty of speaking ill of you.  Their guilt gives them away.  Someone who used to act kindly suddenly and consistently acts cold and becomes estranged?  One thing to watch for is the circles of friends that travel together.  If someone in their group has singled you out, soon enough, they will all have singled you out.  It's the bully code of their club.  Only bullies gossip.  Don't believe me?  Maybe you're a bully.

An executive order on judging.

I seriously wanted to help with the refugees in my community.  I even wrote an article about it.  I got involved with a few groups and had some amazing experiences.  Then we helped our son move and went on vacation and I got sick and we had a wedding.  I had to put my volunteer plans on hold until after Christmas.  I was just getting organized for the new year and prioritizing projects, when I read the newsletter from one of the groups I was affiliated with in the summer.  Result?  I will not be returning to help that group with the refugees.  Why?  Because the article was shamefully provocative bigotry, just reverse bigotry, I guess.  When people who have long been victims of bigotry suddenly become perpetrators of bigotry and racism, we have a deep and wide chasm to cross and some people like me, might not want to take the risk, so they just withdraw.  If you lump all Trump supporters into one big group of bigots and fascists, you might end up with many fewer volunteers.  Maybe it would be wise to not assume everyone who cares about refugees is a liberal Hillary fan.  Some might say, well you can still help the refugees, why does that make you angry?  It makes me angry because the person who wrote the article is the same person who said they'd never confess whether they were Sunni or Shia, because they didn't want to be judged, yet without knowing how I voted or what was in my heart and discounting and disrespecting the service I rendered, they made very sweeping and hateful statements about the very policies I voted for, the very America I voted to protect.  Just because I want my country to be safe doesn't mean I hate refugees or don't want them here.  They don't want to be judged, but they will judge me?  I'm sorry, but I don't play with those who don't play fairly.  So I'm out.  I have lots of other projects that could use my attention.  And sadly though, we all lose.  This kind of blind hypocrisy and bigotry hurts us all.

An executive order on being "entitled."  It just needs to stop.

My husband and I have earned everything we've ever received.  My children also have earned their way in life.  Painstaking, sacrificing work has gone into what we have achieved within the walls of our modest home.  I'm proud that our children are as hard working as they are because it has blessed and will continue to bless their lives and their future is very bright.  I don't take kindly to people who want everything for free and without any effort on their part.  I don't respect parents who don't teach their children to work.  If I have to hear "well, how would it be to....." one more single time, I might just move the atomic clock all the way over to midnight myself.  Here's the answer to "how would it be?"  Well, it would be just fine if you learned how to work, got yourself through high school with a full-ride university scholarship, then worked your actual butt off for four years to maintain and keep said scholarship, graduate with honors and got a good and professional, grown-up, real, American job.  It'd be even more cool if you earned a spot at at a top graduate school program to further your studies and came out even higher in terms of income potential, and then paid for your student loans, by YOURSELF.  It'd be great if you could save money for a down payment on your own home and enjoy the sacrifice and blessings of home ownership because you earned it.  Even more cool if you took care of your house and paid the bills so your bank didn't come and take it back from you, and better still if you kept your home in good repair and respected it and were happy there.

Here's the deal.  The people who live or have lived under our roof learned one thing very early:  We work before we play and we live within our means.  That combined with going to church every single week unless burning up with Ebola fever, a love for Jesus Christ and His gospel, and respecting our country of America, have worked very well for us.

An executive order bringing back propriety and etiquette.

Thank-you notes, wearing a bra, wearing pants for that matter, taking a shower before going out in public, allowing older people the right-of-way in the aisle, not attacking the parking spot someone else is patiently waiting for, saying please and thank-you, returning what you borrowed, being honest with your fellow men, not taking what doesn't belong to you, paying for what you break, and taking your screaming child out of the movie are just a few that come to mind.  Remember when it was shameful to not do any of these things?  Now it's perfectly alright to just expect others to put up with you and your own interpretation of etiquette.  You don't feel like putting on clean clothing that you didn't sleep in 27 times straight before heading out for a night at the movies?  Good for you!  Way to be!  Except, no--that's not cool because now the rest of us have to smell you.  You were wasted after leaving the basketball game and didn't see my car?  Why on earth would you think you'd need to leave me a note so I could have your insurance company pay for it to get fixed?  Don't have insurance?  See, now you're running from the law.  Knocking over Grandma in the aisle of the grocery store?  She moves too slowly, you say?  Well, now you just might need a cane on your back side.  And blessing everyone at church or the movies with your crying baby?  So not cool.   Some places, like church, museums, and libraries are for quiet, remember?  What about appointing yourself in charge of the company thermostat?  Everyone else brings a sweater, but you?  No, you just crank it on up because you are cold and it's all about you.

How about an executive order on closed-mindedness?

I didn't vote for Obama, but I watched both of his inaugurations and I prayed for him.  I wanted him to succeed.  I tried to do my part.  I wanted to have hope.  I really tried.  I've been a good American.  If I had had the chance to meet him as the president, I would've been happy to meet "my president."  I would've wanted his autograph and a selfie and I would have been happy to tell my children about it.  But I guess I was born too late, either that or it's almost too late for America.  We've become so close-minded, so hateful and so whiny and offended.  Trump hadn't even been sworn in yet and there were death threats and rude predictions about his children and talk of how his wife is an illiterate doll.  Would you be willing to meet and shake hands with your president?  Are you willing to pray for him?  To  exercise hope in him and in humanity?  To bring civility back?  To care about our country and her people enough to bring it back?

Is there enough time to right the ship?  I think we can do it, but we all need to be on deck.  All hands on deck is what it requires.  No messing around.  No lolly gagging in the galley.  No time for shoddy work or not giving an honest day of labor for honest wages.  If we are going to fix this country, it will take Americans, and not our president, to do the work.  Think of it this way.

I am a mere American, but I can make a difference by saying "I can."  A-mere-I-can.  A few million mere "I-cans" can change the culture of our country.  Do we want to be the same America that put the first man on the moon?  Think of this.  Kennedy wanted America to land on the moon.  He was hyped up about it and wanted to do it before Russia did so NASA went to work.  It hadn't been done before, but America was brave, America was valiant, America had spirit, and smart men and women figured out how to make it happen.  It was accomplished.  If America can put a man on the moon, it can stop the proverbial bloodshed spewing from everyone's mouths.  It can quell the rising anger in an offended heart.  It can stop the impudent acts of the selfish.  It can ask for guidance from our elderly.  We can bring manners back, we can bring propriety back, we can bring America back.  We don't all have to agree--we just have to be willing to love each other as Americans whether or not we agree.  And we have to love our country more than we disagree with one another.  And doing that, the first step I really feel, requires us to ALL get behind President Trump.  He needs our prayers.  His family needs our prayers.  Our country needs our prayers.  We need to invite God back into this land.  We need to find a way to live in harmony with each other the way we used to.  It has never been as it is now and we must take our country back.

I love America.  I feel I won the lottery every day of my life because I was born here, because I live here, and because I'm happy here.  Can't we all decide we feel the same?  Would you really rather live outside her borders?  I certainly wouldn't want to.  So I'm signing my own executive orders today.  Starting today, there are some things that just simply need to end:

1.  Fake reality and fake news.
2.  Gossip and judging.
3.  Entitlements.
4.  Lack of manners and propriety.
5.  Closed-mindedness and being un-American.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Don't Go and Box Jesus Up with the Christmas Ornaments: #LIGHTtheWORLD All Year Long

Many inches of snow fell where I live this Christmas weekend.  It was silent and perfect.  A magnificently white Christmas.  This morning the sun is melting what the snow plows left behind on the roads and the trees are sparkly and wrapped up in perfectly white fluff.  It looks exactly as the world should look on the day after Christmas.  A happy sun and a glistening earth that must be rejoicing because it by itself knows we have a Savior and a way back to God, a way to repent and be made clean again, a Heavenly Father who loves us eternally and completely.  Why wouldn't the earth rejoice when Christ Himself is the one who made it?    

The #LIGHTtheWORLD campaign has been a great experiment.  Many participated in small and large ways.  Some did it quietly and kept the exercises to themselves, while others posted on social media and shared their thoughts and experiences.  I did a little of both.  Some topics I chose to blog about, some I wanted to keep just to myself, and some I shared with my family and friends only.  

There isn't a #LIGHTtheWORLD day on the advent calendar today for December 26.  I woke up this morning a little melancholy about not having a "day" to choose an action for or come up with one of my own, but I decided I could indeed make up one of my own.  For me it will be #LIGHTtheWORLD by keeping the fire alight in your soul and in your life.  Don't let it end with the advent calendar.  Don't stop focusing on Jesus Christ just because Christmas is "over" for another year.  

I learned many things by participating in the campaign designed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It was a terrific experience for me.  I learned many new things by thinking of broader ways that the various daily themes applied to me, to our family, and to the world.  I chose to dig a little deeper and do a little stretching.  Some days I simply reflected and studied more, and other days were more of a big experience.  

Today on December 26, I am wondering if the Lighting of the World will continue.  It should.  It needs to.  Did we only participate because it was a good thing to do during Christmas?  On what level did we commit to more closely align ourselves with Christ and His teachings?  For the things that we did that were a little difficult for us, are we committed to change or will we quickly go back to our "natural man" ways?  Was our commitment to the #LIGHTtheWORLD campaign broad and inclusive to all our brothers and sisters, a.k.a, the world, or did it only apply to our small circles of family and friends?  

Personally, I noticed some things that I thought were a speck sad.  People writing about the #LIGHTtheWORLD campaign and focusing on Christ, but also refusing to say hello or be kind to certain people.  Still there were others who appeared to be using the campaign to get ahead in social circles---the 'look-at-me" mentality of "aren't I the greatest person ever born," instead of really making it about Jesus.  In recent years I've noticed a trend of the socially politicizing of Christmas gifts and Christmas cards.  There are people who send cards every year to family and loved ones and the ones who take some people off the list one year, but put them back on the list the next year.  I guess it's a good way to know where you stand with some people, whether or not you got a card that particular year.  Many people don't send cards at all anymore.  I guess it's a tradition that has become expensive and tedious and some feel it's old-fashioned.  I think it's a grand tradition that should never die and it's one of my favorite parts about the season, the getting and sending of cards.  

Most importantly, I noticed many beautiful things around me this Christmas time.  Maybe it was simply because I was consciously choosing to look for those good things.  I learned of tremendous acts of sacrifice and service at the school where my daughter teaches; things that I'm pretty sure would never have happened at the schools my own children attended.  I am grateful for the service given to my son and his new wife 1200 miles away when they needed help replacing a dead car battery and my son was sick and needed a blessing.  My own youngest sister came to my aid when I needed help running errands because I wasn't well enough to drive.  A friend in my neighborhood took me to the store and shared her time and sense of humor with me.  Many people from my church congregation offered love and support when I fell ill a few weeks ago.  And out in the world of holiday hustle and berry-colored bustle, I witnessed things by total strangers that will last in my memory for a very long time.  

I guess what's on my mind today is what will I do to continue to Light the World?  I don't ever want to fall in line with society and box Jesus up with the tree and the lights, only to pull Him out and back into my life for a few weeks again next December.  I don't want to be like the people who profess to be followers of Jesus during Christmas, but when there aren't any excuses to drop off goodies, they go back to ignorance and intolerance.  It's none of my business what you will choose to do.  I am only in charge of myself and my commitment to Christ and His Gospel.  I can only be who I am and try to become better by applying the atonement of Jesus Christ.  I can only try to have integrity by being sincere in my actions and interactions.  I guess some people might be offended by this, but I don't use Christmas to get ahead in social circles.  For me and for my family, Christmas is about Jesus.  

For me, Christmas is also about integrity.  It's about doing what you say you're going to do.  It's about not giving up when the crowds in the tall and spacious building and the devil himself are laughing at you.  It's about looking to the ultimate example of the One who finished gloriously what He started and what the Father asked Him to do.  Because They loved us and still love us, God called Jesus to perform the ultimate assignment ever given and Jesus did not shrink.  He did not let us down.  He was true to the end and He is still being true.  Some people don't believe this, but He does actually expect the same from you and me.  God expects us to be true.  He expects us to win.  He expects us to try.  And He knows we can because He has given us the Way, the Truth, and the Life in His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

My hope and prayer for myself, my family, and the world is that we will continue, or start in the first place, to focus on Jesus Christ and His gospel.  The whole point of even being here at all is not about us---it's about Him.  It's about serving Him by serving others, honoring Him by respecting and honoring others, loving Him by loving others, and repenting and seeking forgiveness and also forgiving others.  The mistake we make is judging others, their motives, and their hearts.  Nobody knows another person's heart except God and Christ.  Why are we so hard on each other then?  One wrong word said in error or in honest ignorance means a lifetime of condemnation in some circles, but God and Christ are pleading with us to repent truly and humbly and then we are forgiven freely?   No wonder the world crucified Jesus.  I used to wonder how that could happen, but the older I get, the more I see how it did.  

We choose every day which side of the fence we walk on and how closely we travel alongside that same fence.  Are we trying to straddle the line with one foot in both camps?  I personally don't believe in fence sitting and I don't much care for people who do.  I know who is the leader of fence sitting and it's not Jesus.  

On this December 26, 2016, I know that I want to continue to Light the World, even if it's in my own heart, my own home, my own marriage, and my own family.  I made a covenant when I was baptized that I would do so.  I'm not even close to being perfect and I'm grateful that perfection is not required in mortality.  But a pure heart, a soft heart, and clean hands are what are required and they're completely and totally achievable in this earthly life.  One more new year is around the corner and with the excitement and personal strength that has come to my life from #LIGHTtheWO#RLD, I will promise to keep the light afire in my heart and in my life.  And I hope you will, too.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD: With Homemade Maple Syrup

Today is about teaching others.  I can't teach you directly, but I can share another recipe.  This one is for homemade maple syrup.  It is so good and so easy, you will never buy syrup again and your family will beg you not to.

We have always made our own syrup because when I was a kid, my dad always made our syrup.  I never had store-bought syrup unless we ate breakfast at a restaurant or somebody else's house.  I didn't ever like to order pancakes out because I hated how the syrup tasted and especially how it was always cold.  It is my opinion that syrup should always be warm and preferably homemade.

Homemade Maple Syrup

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple extract

Mix the sugar and water together over medium heat and slowly bring to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and add the vanilla and maple extracts.
Serve warm over waffles or pancakes.
Store in the refrigerator.

When you've shopped and worked and planned for Christmas and you somehow managed to forget what to make for dinner, whip up some homemade pancakes and freshly made syrup.  Served with a glass of ice cold milk, it's sure to be a winner!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD: God Won't Be Handing Out Participation Trophies

Last Christmas our family went to the assisted-living center where Grandma lives to play Christmas music with my husband's nephew and his little family.  We'd had such a good time playing bluegrass-style Christmas music and entertaining the residents that lived there.  After the music was finished we went back to her small apartment for a little visit.  Little William who was 7 then, sat studying the little figures Grandma placed underneath her TV.  William said to me, "Gina--look.  This elf isn't even trying that hard."  When he repeated to the others what he had told me, the room erupted in laughter.  The child was 7 and he knew what "not even trying very hard" looked like.  It looked like this elf.

Children might be small and young, but they want to learn and they want to be good at things.  Most want to do their best and excel in their school work, music lessons, and sports activities.  Most kids know that it takes work to be good at something, to learn the song on the piano and  play for the recital, or to score well on the math test.  Children want to be good and they crave boundaries and guidelines to help them succeed at being good.  They naturally seek limits and desire approval for a job well done.  Honest children don't want praise for something they don't deserve and they're happy to congratulate their buddies.

Somewhere along the way our society got lost on its quest to be good and succeed.  Our society has decided that winning and losing isn't fair to the ones losing and waters down the success of the winner.  Participation trophies are given out to everyone, even if nothing was done to earn it.  If everyone gets a trophy, then how does a trophy at all even mean anything to anyone?  It doesn't.  Only one team should get the winning trophy and nobody should get a trophy if they didn't help the team to win.  It's actually good because the winners offer inspiration to others.  If someone wants to win a gold medal in the Olympics, they'd better not be racking up the participation trophies.

I teach Sunday School with my daughter.  Our class is made up of 15 kids that are 14 to 15 years old.  They're really good kids.  They respect and like each other and I'm impressed with the way they really do seem to care about each other.  But, they like to talk.  A lot.  Sometimes it's hard to get them to settle down to give the lesson.  We've been offering to make homemade cinnamon rolls if they would earn them.  We've only been teaching their class for last two months and we wanted to bring them a homemade treat before the year ended, but we asked that they earn it by showing respect and really participating in the lesson.  Last week, one boy even put it in his Google Calendar on his phone that today would be "cinnamon rolls in Sunday School day."  The problem is, they didn't earn them.
Today this same boy saw us before Sunday School started.  "Did you bring the cinnamon rolls?" he wanted to know.  "I'm not coming if you didn't," he threatened.

I said, "okay, here is something for you to think about and then when you find out whether or not we brought the cinnamon rolls, maybe you'll understand.  Do you think I'm a capitalist or a socialist?  And, are you a capitalist or a socialist?"  The poor kid said, "I don't have a clue what those words even mean."

Sunday School time had come and the kids were coming into the classroom.  They wanted to know if we had the goodies.  So I asked them, "do you think I'm a capitalist or a socialist?"  They were confused.  I said, "socialists want things they didn't earn just because they want them and they make threats when they don't get their way.  Capitalists know that you only get what you earn--nothing more and nothing less, but if you work hard, you can be as successful as you like."  They had the answer.  We had not brought the treats.  "You didn't earn them," my daughter explained.  She added, "they take pretty much the whole day to make, so why would I spend my entire Saturday making something you didn't earn?  The good news is you have one more chance since next week is our last week together as a class.  Be good today and we get cinnamon rolls next week."  The class participated, they were quiet and respectful, and humble even.  It worked.  Lesson learned.

Children were and are important to Jesus.  He called for children to come and be blessed by him.  He told his disciples to "let the little children come unto me," even though He was exhausted and had been ministering all day.  I've often wondered what He might have said to those children on those occasions.  It couldn't have been blessings and prayers only.  It had to also have been positive encouragement, too.

Encouragement is part of ministering.  We wouldn't take dinner to a sick friend and tell them scary stories about other people with their illness.  No.  We would take the lovely, hot, made-with-love meal to our friend and offer encouragement and positive words, expressing our faith and offering to pray for them, telling them they're not in this alone and offering our support.

I think sometimes we miss the encouragement part of ministering, especially to children.  How many parents pay for lavish vacations and high-tech gadgets, but don't have family home evening or family prayer?  Mothers won't stop to listen to the stories their children tell after school, but they spend hours talking on the phone to their friends.  They spend hours on the PTA project, but don't read scriptures with their children.  Parents can be so caught up in their own lives and responsibilities that don't even notice when something isn't quite right with their kids.

I think when Jesus blessed the children that He also told them, "you can do it!  I believe in you!  Keep working hard!  It's good to be smart!"  Why wouldn't He tell them that?  In Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants it reads:  "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth."  It also says, "But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth."

What does this mean for parents?  What it means is that parenting is not for the lazy.  It's hard work if it's done right---downright exhausting to be honest.  It means staying up all night to answer a confused child's questions if that's what is required.  It means putting spouse first and children second and friends and neighbors are way down on the list after parents and other family.  It means being an example of working hard, having worthy expectations of children, showing an outpouring of love and respect, and doing everything in our power to help children become who their Heavenly Father wants them to be.  Because they are not our children---they are His.  We have a responsibility to God for what we do with His children.

Making it back to live with God and Jesus is not impossible to do.  But it doesn't just happen.  I promise you that on Judgement Day, we will all not be rewarded with Celestial Glory as a "participation trophy" and God is not going to let us all in to the highest kingdom because He "doesn't want to hurt our feelings."  He is God.  He has laws and commandments that must be kept.  He requires us to be worthy to enter His presence.  He demands that we are clean.  He's realistic.  He knows we're not perfect and that we'll mess up and that is why He blessed the world with the gift of His Son all those many years ago on Christmas Eve, so that we could have a way to be redeemed, a way to repent, a way to be forgiven.

If we don't want to get a big, sad, sorry surprise on Judgement Day because the cinnamon rolls aren't being passed out to everyone, then we'd better start learning some hard lessons now.  We won't be able to abide a celestial law for eternity if we can't abide one now for a few hours. How can we be expected to even be comfortable in that setting if we're uncomfortable keeping the commandments now?  William knew that the little green elf wasn't trying that hard and why?  Because his parents are teaching him that he needs to work for and earn what he wants in life and that it is possible to set and achieve goals.  And it's good to be smart.  It's a righteous desire to want to be intelligent.

While we're at it, let me make one more suggestion.  We should really get rid of the term "over-achiever."  It demonizes achievement.  When was achieving anything a bad thing?  If you set a goal, work hard, and make your dream come true, how is that over achieving?  It's ACHIEVING.  I think the term came from jealous people who never achieve anything at all.  They had to find a way to make themselves feel better about all of their participation trophies so they came up with a way to shed a negative light on the hard work and sacrifice some people make to work hard to achieve great things and make their dreams come true.  Let's remember that God is not a mediocre god.  He is a god of excellence.  He glories in intelligence, excellence, and achievement.  It's the way the Gospel is set up.  To reward those who trust Him, His Son, and His Plan, and work really hard to follow Him.  It is possible.  Christ showed how it is to be done.  God doesn't play tricks.  If He says we can do something, we ought to believe Him.  The cinnamon rolls taste a whole lot better when they're earned.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD: Trust Your Guide on the Treacherous Trail

Three years ago for Christmas, our family went on an adventure to the Dominican Republic where our son had served his mission for our church.  It was an amazing, forever life-changing trip.  We saw such beautiful people and breath-taking scenery, ate such delicious food I never wanted to come home, and swam in a turquoise sea.  One of the things we did was ride horses to see a waterfall.   We needed horses and guides to take us on the treacherous trail.  The waterfall was nestled deep in the forested jungle at the end of a dangerous trail that crossed a river twice and was covered in clay and giant, slippery rocks.

It was a beautiful, sunny, Caribbean morning.  The humidity was 100% and the heat was 85 degrees.    We left the hotel and hired a little broken-down taxi to take us to where the horses were.  After seeing the horses and meeting the guides, we paid our pesos and were ready to go.  I was a little concerned because the horses were skinny, without any shoes, and only blankets tied on with ropes instead of saddles.  Our guides were small, sweet, Dominican men with big, happy smiles.  They chose the horses for each of us and who would be our guides.  Soon we were each on our horses, ready for the trail.

At first the trail was just a steady, even slope.  Quickly the terrain changed and the trail was very steep, with large and smooth stones covered in wet clay.  It was very slippery.  I was feeling terribly guilty that we were on these horses while the little guides were trudging through the slippery mud and on the clay-covered stones.  They just smiled and gently followed the horses, whistling once in a while, or swatting the horses on the backside with a bundle of grass.

We crossed the river and the horses stopped to take a long drink.  It was pleasant and cool there in the river, but soon it was time to make the ascent back up the slippery trail.  In some places the trail was almost a vertical slope, it was so steep.  Large, jagged rocks covered with sticky clay looked like a disaster to me.  The horses lunged forward to keep our weight properly balanced.  They knew the trail and exactly where to hug the edges, where to gather speed to gain momentum, and where to take it slowly and carefully.  The guides were not leading the horses.  The horses were in front with the guides behind.  The guides were simply encouraging the horses in a loving way with kissing sounds and swats on the behind with their plumes of grass.  The horses just needed the positive encouragement to get up the rough and rocky mountain.

We finally reached what appeared to be our destination, only to have the guides show us the waterfall, still off in the distance.  We were told the horses could go no further and we would have to hike the rest of the way.  When we saw the trail before us, a straight decline of very steep and muddy rocks, I started to wonder how this was going to happen.  The guides said they would go the rest of the way with us, to help us on the dangerous trail.  We were not accustomed to it, but they seemed to glide over the danger with ease.

My little guide (named Papa) was in tune with me needing some extra help.  We had been staying on the coast where the heat was not as intense and there was a steady ocean breeze, but here in the mountains, it was intensely hot with nauseating humidity.  My heart was truly pounding like it was going to jump out of my chest.  Papa held my hand the whole way down the trail.  He moved things out of my way and pointed to the safer places to put my feet.  Papa was an old man with ragged clothes, but he smiled bigger than I have ever seen and kept calling me Senorita.

We reached the waterfall at the bottom of the slope and spent some time there wading in the pools beneath it.  It was truly beautiful.  A prettier picture than I have ever seen in National Geographic.  Even the pictures we took do not do it justice.  Our guides held our shoes for us while we went wading and rested.  They knew we needed our strength to get back up the mountain.  Soon we finished our picture taking and swimming and knew it was time to start the climb.  It was hard for me, but my family was patient as I needed to stop many times to catch my breath.  John was concerned and tried to help me, but he was new to the territory and needed his own guide for help.  Papa kept stopping and forcing me to rest.  He waved leaves over me to help cool me off.  I told him in my very limited Spanish that I had a heart condition and he immediately took even more care to help me rest and wait.  Finally, we made it back to the horses and had to start the journey back the way we had come, over the slippery, steep mountains.

It was an exhilarating experience to be so close to danger.  It was both terrifying and exciting to know that if any one of us fell off our horse, we would probably be killed.  We were in a third-world country, tucked away deeply in the jungle, and hours away from Santo Domingo and any hospital.  Even though I am prone to be anxious, I never worried while on that horse.  I trusted him and I trusted Papa.  They both knew the way.  I wasn't anxious for my family because I trusted their horses and their guides.  I also trusted God.   I felt deep humility in that place, with our new friends, surrounded by the Lord's creations.  They had made me feel safe.

A lot people have helped me to walk at different times in my life.  My parents helped me when I was a baby learning to walk.  A kind land-lady helped me to the hospital when I fell and broke my arm. Whenever I've been in the hospital to have a baby or surgery, the nurses have helped me to walk.  Last year I had two hip surgeries, 3 months apart, and I needed a lot of help to walk with crutches and therapy to get well.  And no, they were not hip replacements--I'm too young for that actually.  It was reconstructive surgery for defective joints.  Worse than hip replacements.  I've had trouble with a heart problem that causes me to lose consciousness and I need help to get up and to a chair.  I've had kind strangers help me to my car when I wasn't feeling well in a public place.  Just a few days ago, my sweet husband came to my aid and helped me walk to the car to go home from church.  I'm so grateful for all the kind people in my life and that I've met through trial and hardship that have helped me to walk---both literally and figuratively.  

The One who helps me walk the most is Jesus Christ.  It is comforting to know that He knows the trails I've walked and the paths I'm walking now.  He knows about all my struggles.  He is kind to me and doesn't judge me because of any physical limitations.  Jesus gives me strength to walk the road as a Christian wife and mother in this increasingly unkind and judgmental world.  He's proud of me when I accomplish anything with eternal merit.  He's cheering me on and wants me to make it.  Like little Papa, he never leaves my side and won't, until my journey here is through.  He will see me to the end of the trail, the glorious waterfall and epic vistas.  He will carry me when I can't walk and provides the sure-footed horse for me to ride upon over the rocky and slippery slopes.  He knows the way because He has already been there before.

The most important part of this is that Jesus will never, ever drag me up or down the trail.  He will never force me to my destination.  It is up to me to choose Him.  If I accept the horse God has blessed me with, which is His perfect Plan of Salvation, and I trust the Guide behind the horse, I am destined to reach my goal safely and soundly.  If I reject the horse and the guide, I am sure to fail.  And it's not a race.  That day in the D.R., sometimes one person and their horse and guide were in front of the others and sometimes they were in the back.  We all need a little more help at times.  It only matters that we're on the right trail of making correct choices and honoring our covenants, keeping our promises we made to God and Christ before we were even born.

Little Papa helped me reach the waterfall safely.  It was a taxing and exciting journey, but we made it. Together.  And my husband and children made it, too.  We were all there together.  God cannot force us to Heaven and we can't force our families.  We can only love and honor God and His Perfect Son, keep our promises to them, and keep on working our way to them.  We have the best guide, a perfect guide.  Jesus Christ.  He won't let us fail, IF we choose Him and His gospel.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

#LIGHTtheWORLD: Corny Corn Chowder Recipe---to Die For!

Jesus indeed fed the hungry.  He did it miraculously with only a few loaves and fishes.  It's one of my very favorite bible tellings.  Food is such a beautiful metaphor.  We need it.  We crave it.  We love it or hate it.  It takes effort to prepare good and beautiful food.  It's at the center of our gatherings.  I especially look forward to lovely, warm things on cold and blustery days like we're having here in Utah.  The temperature dropped, the trees became frozen over with a little snow, and the coats came out of their plastic dry-cleaning wrappers.

I love how a simple, humble supper can warm the coldest little bodies.  When you come home from school or work or a busy day of doctor appointments, isn't it wonderful to be able to sit down to some hearty soup and good bread?  I think it's the secret of the culinary world---good soup and very good bread.  Today I want to share with you one of our family's very favorite recipes.  It's actually my very own, created by me, myself, and I.  I share it with you for this Christmas time.

Gina's Corny Corn Chowder
1 lb. bacon, fried and crumbled
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 quart chicken stock
1 can evaporated milk
5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cans (15-oz.) sweet corn, drained
2 cans (15-oz.) creamed corn
fresh salt and pepper
1 tsp. Frank's hot sauce
2 cups medium sharp cheddar cheese, grated

In a large dutch oven, cook the bacon until nice and crisp enough to crumble; drain.
Using the bacon drippings, cook the onion until translucent (4 or 5 minutes) and then drain.  
Remove bacon fat from dutch oven and return to the stove.
To the dutch oven add the chicken stock, canned milk, potatoes, onion, crumbled bacon, salt and pepper, and hot sauce. 
Cook on low to medium heat until potatoes are tender, stirring periodically.
Add the corn and creamed corn and hot sauce.
Add more chicken stock until the thickness is the way you like it---we like ours nice and thick.
Turn heat off and stir in the grated cheese and wait until melted.  
Scoop into bowls or even bread bowls and garnish with extra cheese and bacon.

 This is really easy to make and doesn't take very long.  I always start the bacon cooking and while it's doing its thing, I chop the onions, then the potatoes, and grate the cheese.  It seems to all come together in about 45 minutes and is worth the wait.  Your family will be glad you didn't settle for takeout!  I hope you like it!  #LIGHTtheWORLD and #MerryChristmas!