Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2,000 pounds of Hay

I'm searching for something. Always searching. Some kind of peace. Is it something I'm doing? Something I'm not doing? I can't seem to feel settled. I reach out to people and shut down before they can even reach back. I'm rude, I think, but I don't mean to be. What is wrong with me? There has to be something that isn't. I can't put my finger on anything. 

Then Geoff wakes me up a few minute before I'm ready with a post on Facebook. Chad Hymas is a farmer from Tooele County. I've heard him speak before, a long time ago, before he started to make his living speaking. A big, round bale of hay fell on top of him in his tractor seat. It changed his life. And apparently it also takes 2,000 pounds to change mine.

The first police officer reaches under the one-ton bale of hay and attempts to lift it off of me. Of course, it doesn’t budge. He grabs his flashlight and shines it under the hay into my face. I blink. He yells over his shoulder to his partner, “He’s alive! He’s alive! Help me move the hay.”
Even working together two officers can’t move it – not a fraction of an inch. A thousand pounds each? Of course they can’t move it. 
“Cut the strings,” I whisper. My voice is weak. They can’t hear me.
I am not going to last much longer. If they will just cut the strings, the bale will break apart, and they can drag me out of here.
“Lift, Joe, lift!”
“Just cut the strings,” I mumble, “Please cut the strings.”
“C’mon harder.”
“It’s too heavy! We can’t lift it. We gotta go for help! Hang on Chad, we’ll be right back!” 

I am alone again in the growing darkness. Wonderful painless, peaceful, irresistible sleep beckons. I struggle to remain conscious. One. Two. Three. Four… Where are they? How long does it take for police, fire, ambulance, to arrive? Where is the Coast Guard? Where are the Marines? Where is that one old farmer with enough common sense to just cut the strings? 
The desert air grows chilly as the sky darkens. I grow weaker. Dizziness overcomes me and I begin to drift off into that gray space somewhere between the living and the dead. 
Help finally arrives. One of the police officers bends down so I can see his face. “Hold on! A fire engine is here. There are six men aboard.”
I do the math. Two big, strong cops and six burly firemen must move a ton of dead weight off me. That’s two hundred forty five pounds each. No way can they possibly do that – but somehow, miraculously, they do. A couple of neighbors who have arrived at the scene stand by to catch me. They lower my limp body to the ground where I lie in a broken heap.
Why didn’t they cut the strings? They could have saved a long, tortured hour. 
How heavy is hay? A piece of hay is about the weight of a feather. How many pieces of hay does it take to make two thousand pounds? Lots. That package of sixteen bazillion individual pieces of hay wrapped in a gigantic bundle is a crushing weight. But separated, it would have been nothing. I feel bad saying this, because it makes me sound ungrateful – and I am very grateful to the guys who saved my life that night – but there is a point to be made here, isn’t there?
Is it too big?
Is it overwhelming?
Cut the strings – just cut the strings!
Are you buried under crushing burdens? Projects that are too huge? Schedules that are too complicated? Maybe you are trying to do too much at once – trying to do everything instead of doing something. 
Cut the strings and cut yourself free. Do one thing at a time – and get it DOne. Move “out of the strain of the doing into the peace of the done.”

Monday, July 04, 2016

Girls Camp Talk

Eighteen years ago today, Geoff and I got married and Sealed in the Bountiful Temple. It’s been a crazy awesome adventure since then. Some of you were like 18?! Whoa! And others were like, Ah, I remember 18, 18 was nice. It feels just right to me and I try to enjoy every day as it passes so quickly. I love you, Geoff. 

Our oldest daughter Becca was born 16 years ago in Logan while we were still studying at Utah State. Her brain was damaged by a virus I contracted while pregnant which left her with Cerebral Palsy, Vision and Hearing loss, Developmental Delay and a sensitivity to the Spirit with a smile and a giggle to match. She was followed by two sisters, Emily and Grace who were definitely meant to be with her in our family. They are incredible young ladies. Our family is rounded out by two younger brothers, Landon and Ethan who bring noise and joy and dirt and happiness into our family, just as boys should.

If you’ve talked to me at all, ever, you probably know how much I love Girls Camp. I have always loved Girls Camp… ever since I was a string bean of a Beehive. I mean, I enjoy camping in general, but Girls Camp is so much more than roughing it, getting sunburned, bitten by bugs and trying to stay warm enough to sleep.

Did you know that the first official Girls Camp in the Church was held in 1912? That’s 65 years after the Pioneers first entered the Valley. Now, I tend to think that crossing the plains was like the biggest camping trip of all camping trips and I forget that what they were leaving behind was actually quite civilized. They didn’t live like that all the time. They were definitely roughing it. And that, combined with sheer distance, sickness and all other manner of trials brought them closer to Heavenly Father and cemented fiery testimonies that still reverberate today. So, in 1912, the Liberty Stake in Salt Lake picked a spot way out in the boonies of Murray to build a Girls Camp. I love imagining that Murray was “getting away from it all.” They raised money, $365.27 to be exact, and built a screened structure on a pretty little spot on the Big Cottonwood Creek. They rode a streetcar out to Murray and then hiked for a mile to get there. They had 12 cots with straw mattresses, a coal stove and even a piano out there. One of the girls, Clarissa Johnson, wrote in her journal, “Around the fires in the evenings, sat the camp girls… while they danced and sang and shouted, to music from the cabin… and they whispered and they giggled until sleep had grasped the last one.”

Nothing beats sharing testimonies around a campfire. I imagine the Pioneers did this often. It’s amazing how going out of your comfort zone flips the lens on gospel principles you’ve learned every week in Church and helps you to see them in a new way. Campfire testimonies are the glue that sticks the whole experience together and imprints it on our memories. Jesus told us in D&C 88:63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 

I’d like to quote from an article celebrating the first Girls Camp, A camp with the most basic and simple accommodations can become a sacred space where the Spirit of the Lord is present, where daughters of God put the principles of the gospel into practice, and the glorious blessings of nature are appreciated in happy ways.

Another favorite illustration of this was our Sunrise Hike. As with so many things in life, it began easily enough, gradually got harder and the most difficult part, with the most rocks and the steepest uphill angle came right before the greatest reward. We sat on large, flat rocks overlooking an area they call the Church Without a Roof. There’s a valley that comes in this way and another valley that way and one coming up from behind you. You can see for miles in every direction. And as the earth slowly turned, the light from the sun very slowly overcame the darkness. Everything around us slowly gained back its color and its detail. I couldn’t help but think of my Savior and how He brings light to my life… how He is the light of the world… how everything makes more sense and has more detail when He shows me His way and shines His light on it. And here’s the thing, the Sun always comes back up. No matter how dark the night, how hard the trail we’re walking becomes, Christ always comes when we call, always walks beside us when we ask. It’s amazing what you can hear in the stillness. Later on in Doctrine and Covenants, section 88, in verse 77, we read, Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. 

Sister Elaine S. Dalton said this about Girls Camp, “You learn you really don’t need much to be happy. You leave your makeup and music behind and learn to become self-sufficient. You learn the importance of a strong, healthy body so you can climb mountains… You learn that the scriptures can speak to you personally and you also experience what it feels like to be still and to listen to the song of a bird or to the voice of the Sprit, sometimes for the first time.”

In Becca’s Patriarchal Blessing, we are promised that those that serve her in this life will be blessed, not only in this life, but the one to come. We are promised that we will develop more Christ-like virtues as we reach out to her in love and tenderness, in patience and kindness. If you have ever wondered why I take Becca to camp- this is why. Not only because I benefit from serving her, I get to do that plenty at home and still sleep in my own bed. J But I always stand back in amazement when I watch your girls serve my precious daughter. When they use their strong and healthy bodies to pull her backwards in her wheelchair everywhere they go. Often Bishop Mott is yoked right beside them. We were walking up to dinner one night and Bishop turned to me and said, “Now wait a minute, where’s our girl?” The girls had taken her on their own ahead up to dinner with them. They even helped pull her up a mountain to watch them ride the horses. No easy feat! But she loved every minute… even being co-photographer as Sister Gurney captured so many smiling faces beaming down from saddles. I was on a field trip with one of my boys once and one of the girls in his class said to me, “I just feel so sorry for her. It makes me sad that she can’t do things.” First, I validated her feelings, those are real feelings. And then I encouraged her instead to be grateful for her legs that could walk, her eyes that could see, her voice that could talk. I hope that when I work so hard to get Becca there and they take the opportunity to reach out to her, that that is part of what they learn from her. If she was on this earth only for herself, she wouldn’t still be here. She got to stay to give us the opportunity to elevate our empathy and to celebrate our differences and to bring God’s plan into sharp focus.

Leaving the noise of the world behind and listening to what the Lord has to say to You and being able to share that experience with other Women of Faith and Virtue and getting to know yourself in a new light are all things I love about Girls Camp. Being out in God’s creations with no roof between we and He and knowing that we are one of His most precious creations gets me through the tough days.

I can see why, over 100 years ago and every year since then, we send our daughters (or in my case, take all of them with me) out into the wilderness and welcome them back again being sunburned and tired, but being changed and better and stronger and more able to withstand what the world throws at them. I know that Heavenly Father must cherish this time with His daughters. I know we do as their leaders. Thank you for sharing them with us. I say these things…

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Girls Camp 2015: Heber Valley

Camping with a quadriplegic (I hate this word, but it is accurate) in the mountains is daunting... overwhelming... intimidating... and even scary. I don't think I could have accomplished it by myself no matter how hard I worked. And I worked hard! Having the support of Becca's friends and the other leaders made all the difference. I love working in Young Women with all of these awesome people. We are an incredible team.

Giggling in her bunk. Mom may or may not have been tickling. ;)

When I was packing up, I tried really hard to leave my pride off the list and out of the suitcase. If I was going to be able to do this, I had to be humble. And when it comes to asking for help with Becca, I can be full of pride. I don't usually think of it that way, but let's call it what it is. There's no use sugar coating it. I have a really hard time accepting and asking for help. And just because I tried to leave it out of the suitcase, doesn't mean I didn't still have some left mixed up in the lint in my pocket.

It turns out that the girls LOVED helping Becca. Miss Rockstar must have toted her up and down the hill between mess hall and camp at least as many times as I did and when the two of us did it together... watch out! Her swimmer muscles make her really tough! Her Sidekick was often nearby to help, too. All of the girls took turns feeding her. Her tube used to intimidate me, too. She got it when she was 6 and it was such a blessing to know the calories were getting in without the struggle it was to feed her with a spoon. But these girls were 6 then too, or younger and they have not been doing it for the intervening 9 years. They are brave to do something that doesn't come natural. They were so willing and you should have seen the smiles Becca gave them in thanks! She loves it when someone other than Mom steps in... it's fun and different!

Getting sprayed during the missionary parade. I was waving so they would soak us!

The ropes course was the very first day. There were several areas. I'll have to let my Lofty Little Lady tell you about her experience there. I only got to watch them do the zipline. Some willing missionaries took us up there in their Rzr. Becca and Bishop Mott and I sat in the backseat and we bungeed her wheelchair into the back cargo area. She liked watching her friends do hard things and succeed!

While being hooked by belay to another person, they climbed up a pole that swung back and forth. Then, they had to let go and step onto a rope that was parallel to a rope they held onto with their hands. They sidestepped to a platform where a Senior (she didn't LOOK very senior!) Sister Missionary was waiting. Then she switched the belay so that they could zip across the zipline. The girls said the two hardest parts were stepping from the pole to the ropes and jumping off the platform on the zipline. They did so great! I was so proud of each and every one of them!

We needed a meadow instead of a trail for Singing in the Trees, but it was a beautiful concept. Our twinkling lanterns swinging from our hands, we headed up a trail, grouped together with our ward. We were the last on the trail so the wheelchair didn't have to go as far . They started singing at the other end and the rest of us remained quiet, straining to hear the other wards sing. We heard the 3 or 4 wards before us pretty well. It was fun to sing our song together and it created a really neat spirit to end the first day on. Here's our Song.

Tuesday was a lot of downtime. We did certifications in the morning and I'm ecstatic to report that our girls got so many things done! I hung out with the second years and we talked about purifying water and telling directions with the sun and the stars and what different kinds of clouds mean. It was fun! I'm proud of them for signing so many things off. We also did crafts.

Skit night is such a fun tradition. This year we had a bag of props and a picture of a MormonAd. Ours was an elevator button with the saying, Elevate your thoughts. Our skit was Becca on an elevator with her sister, Lofty Little Lady, and a friend, let's call her Debbie Devilish, voicing her thoughts as a shoulder angel and a shoulder-not-so-angel. Each person that got on, had judgments made about them. As the elevator went up, the thoughts got better. Let's see how many elevator patrons I can remember...

There was LLL's twin who was broken up with via text by a thoughtless boy. She was wrapped in a sleeping bag with a sleeping mask across her forehead. Besides her dramatic tears over "Bob" she got a great laugh as she scarfed her kettle corn in despair.

Three of our newBees portrayed a Grandmother and her two rowdy granddaughters. They poked, pinched and annoyed others on the elevator and even their own grandma!

Miss Rockstar and her Sidekick were the Queen Bee and crony, respectively. They only wear hot pink on Tuesdays and offered to take Becca shopping to help her with her look.

Nacho, Switchy and Blade looked pretty rough on the outside. Sagging and perfecting the gangsta swagger, they turned out to be really sweet to Becca. They shared their pocket taco with her and complimented her. It's the heart, not the image that truly matters.

Our favorite author was busy writing her bestselling book and couldn't be bothered with hygiene, but Becca's thoughts were already raised enough to conclude that her hard work would pay off and that hopefully she would be the recipient of a signed copy.

The last two were musicians. One on the guitar and one on the... funnel. They led us in "If You're Happy and You Know It" before the whole group shouted, "Elevate your thoughts!"

LLL and Debbie, the shoulder angel and not-so-angel, were hilarious! They really hammed it up and had some great lines! And we can't forget the DING! heard on each floor, announcing the elevator's ascension.

Wednesday morning we spent in the pavilion building doing humanitarian aid. Becca felt a little worn down by the constant noise. I wrote letters to missionaries next to the girls using plastic mesh to make baby rattles. Others made beaded geckos and tied fleece blankets.

They allowed an hour for the walk down to the lake. I drove the Becca-mobile with a leader and a girl from another ward who weren't able to do the hike. On the way back, we had more people join us for one reason or another.

When we got to the lake, I was hoping that the missionaries would let Becca ride on the pontoon as we had done before. When they told me no, I pulled my sunglasses back down and wiped the tears out of the corners of my eyes. I kept saying "It's fine" and I wanted to mean it, but I work so hard to include her in everything and it was a huge letdown to be told nothing I could do could include her in the fun on the lake. After a few minutes, the Sister in charge came back out and said that we could indeed ride on the pontoon. Then I cried for a different reason! I'm so grateful that her heart was open and that she could feel Becca's spirit. Lindy and I carried her on and the Bishop and a missionary carried her chair on. She wore her life jacket in her chair which probably felt pretty weird, but she didn't complain!

At first, she just stared at the light sparkling on the water. As more and more people paddled by and shouted up to her, she started looking around and enjoying seeing and hearing her friends paddling and splashing. She LOVED rescuing people, too. We would zoom over to a capsized boat, pull the dripping girls and leaders up onto the pontoon and help them get the canoe drained and back in the water. Our good friend Kyra gave Becca a soggy hug and dripped on her just for the huge smile that Becca gave her. I took about a hundred pictures with Lindy's camera.

The Stake President came up that night and entertained us with his electric guitar. It's gotta feel good to have all of those girls screaming and cheering because you're their favorite rockstar! Becca loved it! And he even played some Collin Raye! Which was then stuck in my head for 2 days... just as it should be.

I worried that doing all of the hiking AND the service project on the last full day of camp would be too much for anyone to handle. It really is a testament to how well we were taken care of that there were still smiles and great attitudes on this day. Lindy and I went on the 5 mile hike while MarKell and Bro G, our priesthood leader, went on the 3 mile hike. Becca stayed in camp with Sherri, our camp director who also happens to be married to said priesthood leader. The hikes were Gorgeous! I forgot how much I love to hike!

One of my Heroes in between two very awesome Beehives. Oh, and the hand of a compulsive photobomber. :D

Testimony meeting has always been my favorite by far. It is such a lovely way to wrap up a great week of hard work, bonding, and spiritual goodness. We started out by going around and sharing who our heroes are. It was the perfect way to bring the Spirit and to move into Testimonies. I talked about Becca being my hero. I really believe that she accepted this life as a calling. Having never been in a body before, her spirit may not have understood everything about it, but I really believe she was given the chance to accept the challenge and she did. My kids and my husband are all my heroes. They have really risen to the challenge it is to take care of their sister and they do it so well! And I couldn't do anything without my Eternal Companion. As crazy as we drive each other, we are the Best team ever! I'm so glad to be Sealed for eternity to this awesome bunch of humans.

Special thanks to MarKell, Lindy, Sherri, Jaime, Sam and Laurie! Thank you for helping me to stretch and for preparing our wonderful girls to give Becca such loving service. Thank you, Bishop Mott for your sacrifice and the love you show our family as well as all of the Young Women who adore you! Thank you, Bro. G for coming up and supporting us and making us laugh. Thanks also to Bro. H for the support and it can't hurt that you got to hang out with your daughter during her very first Girls Camp! A very special thanks to Heber Valley Camp and the inspired way they run their camp and reach out to SO many girls and leaders to truly create a Heavenly experience. And last, but not least our incredibly awesome Stake Leaders, Sisters D, K, M, T, W (and I'm sure a bunch more) who inspired, tickled funny bones and created true heroes for our girls to look up to.


The girl in the middle is supposed to be Chrissy, not Michelle. I don't remember why she is in this picture against the bathroom wall in Blue Ridge Junior High. I have looked and looked and I can't find a picture with Angie, Chrissy and I. We were inseparable for a long time and I can find no photographic proof. You'll just have to take my word for it.

We moved to Arizona the summer before I started fourth grade. One of my Dad's previous bosses had asked him if he would be interested in managing a time share resort he had in the mountains of Arizona. When we got there, my Dad hired 2 secretaries to help him. Brenda and Juanita were the greatest! Juanita's kids were older. Her brother in law drove our bus. Brenda had 2 kids. Angie was my age and Tim was younger. It didn't take long for Angie and I to be close friends. Why her gorgeous self was okay hanging out with awkward me is still a mystery, I mean, look at that picture! But we loved each other and had a great time hanging around the pool and gym at the Roundhouse Resort and at school. We can talk later about how my definition of 'resort' probably means something smaller than yours. It was gorgeous up on our mountain and I miss it a lot!

Angie moved to Colorado at the beginning of high school and I moved to Utah during my Sophomore year. We used to write letters... on paper, in an envelope, with stamps and everything! Eventually, we lost track of each other. Why couldn't facebook have been invented earlier?!

When I was a young mom, my Mom got in touch with Brenda. That is when I found out that Angie had passed away, leaving a young son behind. Pretty soon, Brenda wasn't returning emails and I found out recently, she passed away only two and a half years after Angie. When Chrissy and I reunited on Facebook, I was the one she heard the news from. It was really hanging on me how we didn't know anything except that she had passed away several years ago. I felt like a little fire had been lit in side me and I really wanted to know more about my friend and find some closure. We Latter-Day Saints tend to have a penchant for family history, so I thought I would start there. Angie, Chrissy and I were all Christians who went to 3 different Churches. So, when I typed Angie's full name into the LDS records database, I didn't think she would be there. She was! I sat there staring at her name and dates and couldn't believe I had found her there! As it turns out, her Dad's family is LDS and someone had entered her in there and left their email address on the record. I emailed the address, explaining who I was and I am now in contact with one of her Dad's cousins. 

I begged for pictures of Angie. The cousin put me in touch with Angie's aunt, her Dad's sister. After a few technical glitches, we have been emailing back and forth and she sent me so many wonderful pictures! I will not share them here out of respect for the family, but seeing her happy and as a Mom has really sewn up my heart. There were lots of sad circumstances in her family, but she was loved and she was happy along the way. 

I am so grateful to wonderful family members that were willing to share with me. If you know me, you know I live my life guided almost solely by my heart. It has done my heart good to spend time finding out about such a good friend. Chrissy and I have had a lot of fun talking things over and remembering and looking at pictures. I am so glad that she is now at peace. No more debilitating headaches. I'm sure she misses her son. I can't wait to hear that her Temple work has been done.

I love you, Angie!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Emily's Teen Trip; Day 4

California Academy of Sciences
Aquarium/ Planetarium/ Museum of Natural History

Jabba the Toad

The beach at the end of Golden Gate Park

Goodbye California! <3 p="">

Emily's Teen Trip; Day 3

Oakland Temple
(Closed on Mondays)

Fisherman's Wharf
Boudin (Boo-deen) Bakery. YUM!!
Mom had clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl. 
Em and Dad had chicken salad and club sandwiches.

Pier 39
Awesomely loud!

Mom's is going to be our new chore chart topper. ;)
Rosie the Riveter Built Me.

Battleship Jeremiah O'Brien
Look how heavy those ropes are!

Emily's Teen Trip; Day 2

We went to Church with Lucie and Dan.
Point Reyes Lighthouse.