Saturday, October 30, 2010

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night....

It is a dark and stormy night.

The kids are out trick-or-treating with rain streaming off the sides of their umbrellas.

Mr. Cool is dressed like M.C. Hammer (of course) and refuses to don a coat. It might cramp his style. I ask myself, Would marching around like that in the rain even be WORTH it, for a fun-size Snickers? I doubt it. There’s only one letter’s difference between T-R-E-A-T and T-H-R-E-A-T, I muse.

I recline on the sofa with an Agatha Christie novel. Perfect! Although my front door waits, brightly lit, for any spooks brave enough to climb up our driveway in the rain, the bell hasn’t yet rung. The house is deathly still.

* * * * *

It was a dark and stormy night.

But then the rain dried up, the kids were warm, the house was full of laughter and shrieks. Jeff put up the decorations I forgot. We gave out all our candy to a record number of trick-or-treaters. Our kids came home happily laden with copious amounts of sugar. They also brought home dozens of friends to play games and watch movies afterward. Who would have guessed?

See how quickly even the darkest night and dreariest storm can turn itself around?
—A life lesson, to be sure.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Give Us This Day...

Snow?! ?

It's the first snowfall of the season, and this morning we woke up to a yard that seemed magically transformed into a winter wonderland. As soon as the weather outside turns colder, I turn to warmth on the inside — homemade soup, fresh-baked bread, and similar creature comforts.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice soup, Tomato-Corn Chowder, Potato Leek.
Southwestern Winter Chili with ground turkey, black beans, red peppers and butternut squash. The colors, the flavors, the warmth...fill me in a way summer never can.

To accompany all that soupy goodness, my friend Eowyn's delicious bread recipe has become a staple in our home. Branching out over the past few weeks, I've experimented several times with a version of this amazing no-knead bread. And already this week (yes, it's Wednesday) I've baked this delectable classic white bread not once, but three times.

Scrounging for another favorite recipe yesterday, I stumbled across a favorite quote -- about both bread AND snow:
"When we eat the good bread, we are eating months of sunlight, weeks of rain and snow from the sky, richness out of the earth....It all becomes a part of us. We should be great—each of us radiant, full of music and full of stories. Able to run the way clouds do, able to dance like the snow and the rain. But nobody takes time to think that he eats all these things and that sun, rain, snow are all a part of himself."
—from Dobry by Monica Shannon

And once again I'm reminded why I love baking and eating such goodness every day. Happy winter, everybody! Here's hoping the goodness of true, family, friends and faith...brightens your days and lifts your spirits, warming you from the inside until the very last frost melts away.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Know Where's Susan's Going to Be...

Nearly sixteen years ago, I gave birth to a baby girl. This was both precious and poignant, because this time I was giving birth without my mother. When I delivered our first child, my mom (then courageously battling breast cancer) was right there in the delivery room, feeding me ice chips, placing cool rags on my forehead, and literally breathing with me through the contractions. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through another baby now that she was gone.

But this birth had been almost easy -- our little princess seemed to pop out after just two pushes! It was almost as if someone had swooped down from heaven and placed her in my arms. We called our families to spread the news. Then they whisked her off to the nursery and wheeled me into the recovery room for a long winter’s nap.

As I was just waking up, still groggy, I remember hearing the hospital room door squeak open. I slowly turned to see who it was, and there stood my Dad! I have no idea how he managed to get there so fast, how many people he had to pay off at the airport to get him on the first flight out, but at a time when I was missing Mom and feeling very much alone, to have my Dad just magically appear at the hospital was about my favorite surprise ever. And I’ll never forget his first sentence: He said, “I knew where Susan (my mom) was going to be this morning, and I wanted to be here too.” As soon as he said that, I had no doubt that she was. I knew she had been there easing my labor and delivery, but this time from the other side of the veil.

* * * * *

I came to understand my dad's sentence a little more deeply last week. My adorable Aunt Elen, full of unstoppable energy and always warm and wonderful, finally passed away. I was stunned. I honestly didn’t think the cancer would beat her. I saw her just a few weeks earlier, and she looked amazing! Gorgeous white hair, periwinkle jacket, sparkling eyes. She had battled breast cancer three separate times over the past 25 years.

She is the one who, having recently survived breast cancer herself, knew just what to do when my mom was diagnosed. She took her wig-shopping, prosthesis shopping, and offered tons of experienced advice. She came over and cleaned her house, made up a month’s worth of meals and stocked her freezer, was a bonafide angel.

So when I got word that her funeral was Thursday, I immediately started making arrangements to be there. It was at the worst possible time (what death is ever convenient?) —right in the middle of one of my watercolor classes. It took me hours to find, bribe, train and prep a substitute. But I felt this incredible pull — I just knew I had to be there!

I loved every minute of the funeral from the moment I walked in the door. It was wonderful seeing cousins, uncles, aunts and old friends I hadn’t seen for years and years. Familiar faces, long lost and beloved. The room where the family gathered was filled to overflowing with affection and deep respect.

Each one of her children spoke -- each painted a different aspect of her character, like brushstrokes on a painting, until the portrait felt complete. Each spoke with faith, courage, and powerful testimony. Having lost my own mother nearly 19 years ago, I could identify with the feeling of stepping up to that microphone and wanting -- needing -- to share three salient points: That Mother was an amazing and courageous saint. That sensing her cross the veil to the other side was a sacred experience. And that we will see her again.

As I drank in their words, I nodded. I knew. The feeling in the room was akin to exultant as we listened and celebrated a life well lived. And then it came back to me, that line my dad said to me when our baby girl was born: “I knew where Susan was going to be this morning, and I wanted to be here too.”

I remembered how much it meant to me to see my cousins at my mother’s funeral...especially the one who drove through the night from California. I wanted to be there for my cousins at their time of loss. I wanted to honor my wonderful aunt, pay my respects, and add my Amen. But I realized at that moment that yet another thought had driven me with an unconscious and unprecedented urgency: “I know where Susan (my mom) is going to be that morning, and I want to be there too.”

Silently, I let a question, a cry, leave my heart: “Are you here, Mom?” An unmistakable, warm and tingly flood came over me at that instant, and I knew that she was. Of COURSE she was at her wonderful sister’s funeral! And what if I had missed a chance to be with her?

* * * * *

Today we went to church. I sat quietly in the back trying to keep the kids quiet. But I couldn’t help thinking of a wonderful Loved One who died over two thousand years ago, and lives! Someone we adore. And my heart formed a similar sentence: I know where the Savior is going to be this morning, and I want to be there too. Attending church with that frame of mind made a difference for me. I felt jubilant. I knew He was there for me. I felt His presence. And His love. And I was filled. What if I had missed that chance to be with Him?

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Three Favorite Love Stories

I have three favorite love stories. They’re all true, of course. They’re always better if they’re true. But these three are so great they almost seem like fiction. I honestly couldn’t have made them up this magical. The first, of course, is mine. You can read one tiny (but exciting) part of it here.

The second is my friend Rosie’s. I swoon whenever I think of it! Rosie and Ford met online and found an immediate connection, with so much in common...but before they could exchange any contact information, or even their real names, the clock struck midnight and her account expired! It appeared that this Cinderella and Prince Charming would never meet. But Rosie is the host of Afternoon Classics on KBYU-FM. Ford enjoys classical music and tuned into the station...and literally fell in love with the sound of her voice! (See, I told youswoon!) He heard her name, wondered if she were the woman he’d met online (she was!), and contacted her through the radio station. They were destined to be together!

The third belongs to a sweet, elderly couple in the house next door. He was a cowboy...and then a soldier in World War II. He fought on Utah Beach, and at the Battle of the Bulge. He helped liberate a small village in France. And met a lovely young lady there named Micheline. Something about this beautiful French girl must have struck him to the core, because not long after the war ended, he returned to France, and asked her to marry him! She said yes, and they traveled all over Europe together before settling the house next door! Their story is so knight-in-shining-armor for me: The conquering hero frees the village and rescues the fair maiden and they ride off in the sunset together. So romantic!

Sadly, my knight-in-shining-armor next-door neighbor (everyone should have one!) passed away over the weekend. He is deeply missed. But the good news is, this dear little man is finally reunited with his beautiful Micheline, who died a few years earlier. This time he’s crossed more than an ocean to be with her, and they’re headed for an honest-to-goodness happily ever after!

I'd love to hear one of your favorite love stories.

p.s. I know I've been away forever. I haven't posted for over four months. But coming up soon...the big reason why! Stay tuned.