"...but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." 3 Nephi 22:8







Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cryptology



Nestled among the many exits along the freeway we traveled to Washington D.C. was a sign for the National Cryptologic Museum. Our son had mentioned this museum was a short drive as we talked about what we might like to do in Maryland.  I must admit I had never heard of such a thing.  What in the heck is that, I wondered.  He briefly explained a bit about what was there and mentioned we could probably cover the museum in as little as half an hour, if we were interested.  As I researched on the internet for things to see and do, I must admit I forgot about this museum. But as we passed the sign, my interest grew and on a day when we needed to stay closer to home we went.

This almost ordinary building was hidden from the freeway by the lush green trees and greenery that flows all along the freeway, but was not difficult to find.  There is nothing from the outside of the building that I would consider to say 'come inside and be impressed.'  But I was!

We spent an hour and a half inside this museum and only left because our granddaughter needed to be retrieved from school.  My husband and sweet daughter-in-law and I took turns entertaining our grandson as we looked at the exhibits and listened to the fascinating stories that the docent told about the use of codes and the devices used to break them during the history of our country.  I had no idea.

The tour had already begun but this knowledgeable woman welcomed us in and introduced us to Enigma.  I know, I had never heard of it before.  Certainly never seen one.  Had no idea what this typewriter like device was used for.  But I learned.  It was fascinating to see the tools used to send encrypted messages and to see the devices used for deciphering those messages.  On display were devices used during the Civil War to share military intelligence.  I was totally unaware of the amount of intelligence dating back to that dark time in our nation's history.  Under construction was a display from Revolutionary War days.  Again, I felt so dumb to not realize that military secrets and information have probably been passed in some way for generations of time.

Huge computers were on display which had been used extensively in code breaking.  Some of these computers were used almost extensively by women because the military had commandeered so many of the men for military service.  Seeing the evolution of computers used throughout our nation's history astounded me.  Some were large enough to require rooms to hold them. It was evident that the development of these computers blessed the common man not only because of their use in our National safety, but by allowing technology into our daily lives.

Communication devices were also eye opening to me. On display was a very large, room filling encrypted telephone device used for communication between the president of the United States and the British Prime Minister.  During its use, it was housed in the basement of a very large department store in London, as it required so much space.  The docent told of one man whose entire trunk of his Honda was filled with the equipment needed to allow him to always be able to communicate in code, wherever he went.  Again I could see how the technology has evolved and blessed every day life.

A hall of honor pays tribute to those who have silently served their country, never able to tell others about their work.  But as interesting as that was, the wall of shame captured me.  Here were pictures of some of those who dissatisfied by their circumstances or enticed by money or even seeking for excitement turned to the dark side and for years sold secrets to the enemy.  

A secret code was embedded in quilts to tell abolitionists and slaves where they were safe and where they were not.  The underground railroad transported many to safety. Hobos also followed a code of signs to tell them where they were welcome.

I don't think I have what it takes to work in the intelligence community but their work intrigues me.  I read about Enigma and how it changed the war.  I also read about two of our turncoat countrymen who milked both sides of the system for years.  My ears perk up as I hear about spies and codes. I can't wait to learn more.

I am hooked!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Belonging - Part Three

Snowflakes cascade into my life regularly because of where I live.  They come in different sizes and shapes. When the wind does not blow, the fall gently landing on trees, houses, cars, roads, and sidewalks.  Together they blanket the world with beauty, yet each is truly uniquely beautiful on its own. Elementary science teachers taught me that no two snowflakes are alike.  Each is affected by the things that occur during the course of its lifetime.  God created them to be beautiful.  He intended for them to be unique, because I believe that He had the ability to create them all alike, if that were important.

Heavenly Father also wanted us all to be unique, no two alike.  Yet somewhere along the line, we find out that we are different and it bugs us.  It seems to be so important to look like others, so we struggle to fight the nature of our own bodies and minds to make them be different.  We need to match the way we look, and the way we think, and the way we feel to those around us.  Insecurity governs our shopping trips, our exercise plans, and our diets. We spend many of our waking moments forcing ourselves into the mold that our culture tells us we need to 'pop' out of.

We are a culture of copycats I think.  When a new restaurant opens in my small town, people flock to stand in line to get a chance to try the new food that others are talking about.  For a few months, there isn't an empty seat in the place.  After a few months of booming business, the talk dies down and so does the traffic. It is not uncommon for the doors to forever close within a matter of months as diners return to one of the few restaurants that are chain sponsored or have actually won the battle of time.  It happens again and again.

Shopping is a hobby for many and they want to know where everyone got that cute belt, or dress, or purse.  Someone gets a newer fancier car and we all think we need one too.  Television commercials tell us about the new and improved cell phone, shampoo, skin care product, kitchen gadget, or even surgery, and we can't wait to be the first one to own it.  If we miss out on being the first, when we see others  with their new whatever, it becomes an urgent matter to follow suit.

We can't wait to see the movies that everyone is talking about or read the new #1 best selling book.  Even though our music collection may be huge, we have to snag the newest top ten hit, pronto. We buy into the next get rich quick scheme and the newest fad diet.  Someone I know recently purchased a new washing machine to replace one that had a terminal illness.  Though she cries poverty loud and long, she also replaced her dryer.  It just wouldn't look right if anyone saw that she owned a mismatched set.  (I on the other hand, don't care one bit that my mismatched set just work!)

Mary Ellen Edmunds said that we spend all kinds of money that we don't have, to buy stuff we don't need, to impress other people who don't like us, and then they never come over and see our stuff and get impressed by it anyway.  Could she be right?

I think that Heavenly Father intended that we all be different.  I think that he also wants us to recognize that we are not the same.  What if he also wanted us to accept and appreciate our differences, but also wanted us to embrace and celebrate our differences?  Why can't we have different looks, ideas, thoughts, and feelings?  Why can't we appreciate that our talents, and interests, and skills are different?  Why can't we be just as valuable, as we carry our differences as we are if we are all the same?

I don't see too many people who stand outside in a snow storm, catching each snowflake to analyze it thoroughly, identifying each one's differences and then categorizing them.  Imagine banishing a snowflake from my yard because it is just too different from all the rest.

Yet do we frequently do that  to other people?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Belonging - Part Two

How tragic it is when we do not feel that we belong within our own families!  But, it is probable that nearly everyone has felt that way at least once.  For others it may be more frequent or long lasting.  Within our families, we should find love and acceptance, even though we may not find it anywhere else around us. Yet, within our families we often find so much criticism, correction, and coercion that it is impossible to feel that we belong.

I speak from experience because I was an expert at criticism, correction, and even coercion.  Ask my children and I am sure that they will willingly corroborate this.  I would like to think that I got better at parenting as the years passed, but who is to say for certain.  I did try to learn better skills, prompted often when I found what I was doing wasn't working well.  I needed to learn about agency, and love, and acceptance.  Fortunately, Heavenly Father loved the children that have blessed my life more than I did.  He was a patient teacher as I struggled to find better ways to parent.  I believe that my children are all better at parenting than I was.  What a blessing!

The world is so hard on us as we struggle through high school years.  We are constantly bombarded with so many messages that sorting them out is nearly impossible.  For some reason, the one message we seem to clearly understand is " I am not as good as other people," or "I am not as smart as other people," or "I am not as rich as other people," or "I am not as important or valuable as other people."

These messages of our inadequacy seem to become deeply embedded by high school graduation and we struggle to cast them off for much of our remaining years as we watch others seem to soar through life without a glitch of any kind to impede their path to success. Some appear to breeze through college and land the first fabulous job that comes along, finding themselves on the fast track to success.  From a personal perspective, slogging through college is soon followed by grundles of ignored resumes and failed interviews. The world is confirming our previous held image that others are superior.

Dating for some leads to instant marriage with a soul mate from the preexistence.  Wedded bliss fills their lives as we hear, "We don't argue about anything, ever." (perhaps they lie!)  Our dating perspective may instead be much less positive.  It may not be fun to date and for some it is downright miserable.  There just doesn't seem to be a mate out there that is even a possibility, let alone perfect.  We may find our family life to be contentious and difficult, laden with financial burdens and emotional outbursts.  Again we are reminded that we just aren't 'as good as everyone else.'

People attach to many things during their lives to attempt to satisfy their overwhelming need to belong.  It may be that  we seek belonging through religion, clubs of many kinds, service organizations, or even gangs.  Desperate for validation and belonging we keep searching for that group of people or that one friend or companion who accepts us for ourselves and welcomes us into their world, where we belong.

And we may ask, why am I such a failure?

To Be Continued.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Belonging


Much of the world is starving for acceptance.  Most people want to be loved and cared about for who they are and what they contribute to the world.  I do not know anyone who does not want to feel like they are important to someone. We want to belong and be acknowledge for who we are, what we believe, and what it is that we do.  When people attend a funeral, they typically hear all the wonderful things that this person, who is now dead, did, and wonder what will be said when I am gone.  Will anyone even miss me?  Did my time on this earth really matter to anyone?

We struggle to find acceptance in our own homes and families as children.  When we enter school, the arena expands and we now struggle to find acceptance among peers as well as teachers.  We search for belonging wherever we can find it. We try out different friends, different academic interests, sports, music, art, and other extracurricular activities.  We may try our acting skills in drama or we may simply act out wherever we are, trying desperately to belong.

Brene’ Brown asked a group of eighth grade students to discuss in groups what the meaning of belonging was and then the definition of fitting in.  In her book Daring Greatly, she talks about what these students taught her. These students shared their definitions:

“Belonging is being somewhere you want to be and they want you.  Fitting in is being somewhere you really want to be, but they really don’t care one way or another.

Belonging is being accepted for you.  Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.

I get to be like me if I belong.  I have to be like you to fit in.”

Similar studies verified the wisdom of these students, who also shared how hard it was to fit in at school, but it was much worse when they did not feel like they belonged at home.  This was by far more painful for these eighth graders than not feeling like they belonged with peers or classmates.  They feared not being able to live up to the expectations of their parents.

Ouch! As a parent that really causes me to think and wonder about my lack of skills as I raised my family.  How many million mistakes did I make?  It is no wonder that so many grow up as disturbed adults, finding it difficult to make relationships work.

My parents were strict and from my perspective difficult to please.  They believed firmly in rules as well as hands on punishment.  They said what they meant and they meant what they said.

We had one of the first photoelectric lights in our town on our outdoor lamp.  It came on at dusk and retired at dawn.  For a season my curfew was controlled by the photoelectric light.  I was to be home, in the house before it was on.  Period!  

I lamented my plight to a friend as we walked quickly home, attempting to be in before the light gave its first flicker.  What she said to me was surprising.  "At least your parents care about you!  I wish my parents cared enough about me to set a curfew."  And she meant it! My imagined shackles were an evidence of someone caring about me.  

She didn't feel like she belonged.

To be Continued

Thursday, January 17, 2013

National Aquarium



Nestled in the inner harbor of the Chesapeake Bay is the National Aquarium. The inner harbor is truly beautiful, alive, and bustling with activity and commerce.  I have never been to Baltimore before and found that it was a beautiful city.


Walking toward the National Aquarium.
Our granddaughter poses willingly!

I love visiting aquariums! I can spend hours looking at the underwater creatures that Heavenly Father has created for us.  I think I would love to work in one - but I don't know when my small town will be building one. Each aquarium I have visited has been very different.  Some have been quite small, but that was not the case with this one.

We watched the dolphin show.

It was a really fun show!

Would love to play with the dolphins!









When we got tired, Grandpa bought us all french fries!

Worth every penny!












Studying the jelly fish.

Fascinating creatures.











There was way more to see than we could see in one visit.  It was sad not to get to see it all.  It is impossible to describe the beautiful sunset we saw over the Bay as we walked around the aquarium.  It was amazing.  I would like to see that sunset every night.  

Our evening ended as we descended a very long ramp, several stories, surrounded by a huge aquarium filled with fascinating creatures of the deep. It was as close as I have been to being underwater swimming with the sharks. 

Twas time to leave I am sad to say, but it was another wonderful Maryland adventure!

Chesapeake Bay inner  harbor.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sleigh Ride

Snow gently cascaded around us as Christmas Eve approached, filling our hearts with the realization that we would have a white Christmas. The world was truly beautiful as it was gently frosted in sparkling white flakes. I peered out the windows and peeked out the front door. It was more beautiful to me than any man created snowscape. Christmas Eve was calm and peaceful, indoors as well as out.

I had nowhere to go, so road concerns were truly minimal  for the present and on Christmas day our wintry world sparkled with magic as the sun glistened in the azure sky.  Again I sat at the window, enjoying the wonder of God's magnificent masterpiece. But as travel among our family became inevitable, the wintry roads began to fill my heart with concern.

We traveled to our nearest family to spend our Christmas time with them.  Weeks in advance, plans were made for a day after Christmas adventure. Filled with anticipation, and concerned by the snow, we hurried our departure and traveled in caravan with this family as the snow continued to fill the roadway. Two grandchildren shared our vehicle as we kept in touch by walkie talkie with the truck ahead, leading us to the country and Mountain River Ranch.

Even though I knew we had allotted extra time, the ever falling snow and worsening road conditions pricked at my anxiety. Prayer for our safety occupied a great deal of my mind.  And then suddenly we arrived!

This magical village captured my heart and my imagination as we waited for horse drawn sleighs to arrive to transport us to dinner.  The sleighs were pulled by beautiful pairs of horses, driven by friendly folks, and filled with singing and laughing as we trekked to Meadow Muffin Inn. Bells jingled to the rhythm of the beautifully matched pairs of horses that pulled the sleighs.  The air was crisp and magical as we traversed the trails through dark and wintry world. Lighted log cabins and stuffed visitors greeted us along the trail as we sang "Jingle Bells" into the night. For me it was my first horse drawn sleigh ride.And I loved it!  It was so much fun riding beside my spouse on this magical night.

Arriving at our destination, we headed for the shelter of a large log cabin whose door was being held open for us by a friendly man.  He greeted us and informed us that this was the first sleigh ride of the season.  Until that night, there had not been enough snow.  Horse drawn wagons had been the mode of transport instead.

How quickly my perspective had changed. For hours, I had feared and worried because of the snow.  Suddenly I was instead rejoicing and thanking Heavenly Father for the snow.

We feasted on delicious prime rib and trimmings piled high on large platters served buffet style.  I ate until I was more than full and couldn't even finish my cheesecake.  Talented musicians filled the air with fiddling and picking songs familiar and new.  My three year old granddaughter sat on my lap and joined in song as "Jingle Bells"  filled the air.  After the show, she blew kisses at a handsome young guitarist who had  thoroughly  captured her attention.  Again we piled into a sleigh, this time pulled by the biggest pair of horses I have ever seen.  These beautiful Belgians delivered us safely back to town where we sadly said goodbye to the ranch.

Sunny, cold weather greeted us the next morning and I donned my coat and gloves to ride on the four wheeler doing "cookies." I hung on for dear life, but enjoyed every minute of it! I had a great time riding the four wheeler, pulling the sled with my son and granddaughter.  Their black lab Max, frolicked in the snow, keeping a happy pace as we rode.  Then it was my turn to ride on the sled.  It has been years since I even considered climbing on a sled to be pulled along the ground in the snow.  But I had a really good time and it ended much to quickly.

This time with my family was so wonderful and unforgettable and I am grateful for the lessons I learned as well.  Heavenly Father new that we had planned on this trek for sometime. He knew we would be traveling and He knew that we needed snow.  I came to understand that Heavenly Father could see the big picture and my view is often so limited.  It was a valuable lesson in trusting Him, knowing that He knows and sees more than I do.  I know that I need to exercise more faith and trust in His wisdom and His goodness and rejoice in His mercy.

And love snow!


Monday, January 7, 2013

A Family Christmas

The Christmas season has passed, though the bitter cold and frozen snow remain as reminders that we are in the midst of winter still.  Frozen solid in the ground are the few remainders of our Christmas decorations, waiting to be gathered and tucked away again. What is considered to be normal life eventually returns to most of us at some point and time or another.  The tree comes down and the decorations are stored.  Somewhere we have stashed away the gifts and toys of Christmas.  Needles from the tree, either real or artificial may linger along with a few Christmas goodies,  and the memories.

I had a truly wonderful Christmas this year to add to my list of memories.  We have lived in this house for many years now.  Neither of our two youngest children remember living in any other home nor can they remember having Christmas anywhere else.  We have created our own traditions over those years.  I would be hard pressed to list what those traditions are perhaps because they have become so familiar that they do not stand out in any way.  But they have been ours.

Sad to say the time to change traditions arrived this year as the next generation rises to create the new.

We found ourselves traveling to spend Christmas with some of our family.  Even though it is easier for us to travel in many ways it felt like we took quite a ton of stuff. and I realized first hand why we had stayed home for so many years.

Our family included us in their new traditions as we gathered around the fireplace to talk of Christ and His gifts to us and what we could give in return to Him as expressions of our appreciation and love for His life and sacrifice.  It was a spiritual evening listening to our grandchildren talk of the Savior, His birth and His life, and watching "Mr. Kruger's Christmas," which happens to be one of my very favorites.

The day before Christmas brought children who were so excited that they could hardly sit still and an ever increasing abundance of energy and anticipation.  Snow began to fill the air and cover the ground.  Children donned winter attire to venture into the blanket of white that decorated their world.

Christmas Eve brought new traditions to our family as we gathered to enjoy a favorite Christmas movie and munchies, and the joy of exchanging gifts, purchased for a sibling with care and love.

Our Christmas morning was filled the squeals of delight as children discovered they got just what.

We gathered at the computer to skype with two of our far away families and visited with another by telephone.  It was so wonderful to talk to all my children on Christmas day! I am so grateful for technology that allows us to stay close when we are so far away.

Our day was complete when another family arrived to share our Christmas Day dinner of ham, potatoes and gravy and all the trimmings.  We ate and visited as the snow continued to cascade around us.

Amid the gifts, the toys, the food,  and the mess the joy of family was what Christmas was  all about for me.  I am forever grateful for my family.  They mean everything to me.  They are my examples and my strength.  I need them all.  I love them all.  I miss them all!

We are so blessed to have a Savior who died so that we might live.  He provided the way for us to return to live with Him.  Through our Heavenly Father's plan, we can make covenants in Holy Temples so that our families can be together forever.

What a miracle that is!

I just hope my family gets me raised!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A New Start

How wonderful it is to have a new start once in awhile.  I find that I make so many mistakes in life that it is helpful for me to close the door on some of them and start over with a fresh perspective, new goals, and some new determination.  Everyone isn't interested in setting goals or even New Year's resolutions, but I am a bit goal oriented. I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes when a problem is solved, a goal is reached, or even a job is crossed off my list of things to do. It doesn't feel to me like I get a lot of positive feedback in my life, so I compensate by appreciating my own small successes.This may seem weird to others, but I like feeling that at least I have acknowledged success.

As the New Year approaches, I ponder upon a lot of things.  What went well last year for me,  what I may have accomplished, and what I may not have done so well.  I am not trying to be hard on myself, but analyzing where I want to begin for the new year.  I am not dwelling on the past, but attempting to learn from it.

I hope that over the past year, I made a difference in the lives of each of my family members in some way.  There is no way to be sure of that, but I have tried!  I have spent time in each of their lives.  I have visited them and visited with them, hoping to learn more about who they are and what they want from this life.  I have wept at their sorrows and their joys.  I hope that they each know that they are loved. I have had the privilege of spending time with each of my grandchildren.  I have rocked some, read stories to others, sung  with them all, and even danced. (Thank heavens there are no videos!  I adore every single member of my family.  I hope to be able to do all that I can for any one of them.

I don't always write down my goals or New Year's resolutions.  I may just engrave them in my mind and my heart.  I don't always accomplish them either.  But some I do.  But I like how it feels to be working towards something that is good and worthwhile.  I am still thinking about what I want my goals for 2013 to be.  I have a few in mind, but it may take me a few days to really formulate where I want to go this year.

But I do know that I want to find more joy and be more happy. I want to be less selfish and serve others more.  I want to become better in so many ways. I want to learn to trust Heavenly Father more.  I want to learn how to let go of heartache and resentment. I hope to learn more from life's trials instead of just whining about them.  I want to grow more faith. I want to be less easily offended and much more forgiving.  I also want to learn to trust myself a little bit more.

As I have pondered on my fresh start for a new year, I have thought of The Savior who freely offers me so many fresh starts.  No matter how I mess up, He opens up His arms and welcomes me in and lets me begin again.  Over and over.  Every time.  His goodness and kindness is never ending and everlasting.  His mercy is infinite.  His patience is overwhelming.

And I am grateful!  I lean on Christ every day.  I seek His presence in my life.

I am so blessed to have a Heavenly Father who created a plan for us to return to Him.  I don't consider this life to be easy.  At times I find it hard to believe that I could have actually shouted for joy when His plan was presented.  Perhaps the rejoicing was because Heavenly Father provided us with a Savior, knowing that life would be hard.  I believe that He knew we would struggle, fall, and bruise our knees and our souls.  He knew I needed help. Heavenly Father knew that I could not do it alone. Because without a Savior, I am hopeless!

Through the Atonement of Christ, I can have many new starts, everyday!