Monday, August 10, 2009

Whatever Floats Your Boat, er, um, Raft

I thought you'd enjoy seeing these pictures from yesterday's adventure. Dad wanted to go floating down the Provo River for his birthday, so yesterday we had all the aunts and uncles and cousins come down, and we borrowed some tubes and rafts and decided to go for it. It was absolutely gorgeous, and a perfect day! Aunt Angie was so cold her teeth we chattering by the time we got out. (She probably doesn't have enough insulation!) I wasn't very good at steering...Dad had to climb onto the back of our raft and row for us! Jordan and Eliza flipped over three times. The one at the end was pretty scary. Jordan was holding on (for dear life) to a cord in the middle of the river, and Eliza went floating away, but Dad waded back in and caught her. Luckily everyone made it back safe and we all had a really fun time. We wished you could have been here.

We went back to the house afterward and grilled burgers. Grandmother made homemade ice cream for dessert. And of course both aunts made Texas Sheetcake. (But you don't like that, do you?) Anyway, it was an awesome party and everybody wants to make that our new tradition. It was fun for me to realize (watching the aunts and cousins so excited to see a couple of deer in the yard, watching the kids ride the zip line, seeing them run downstairs to watch a movie) that our house is a great place to host a gathering, and an especially fun place for the cousins to come. They don't make it down this way very often, but I think it's pretty magical when they do.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

99 Red Balloons...Plus hundreds of Pink, Blue, Green, and Yellow Ones

Jeremiah acted in a television commercial this week. (They auditioned over 120 kids from talent agencies, and then called him — because they remembered something else they'd seen him in!) It was so much fun being on the set with him, partway up the canyon, out in the breezy countryside. Plus, who doesn't get a lift from all these balloons?

Everyone was kind and kid-friendly, and there was no drinking or swearing on the set. A project manned by BYU students is the best possible scenario for a kid who loves to act. He had a terrific experience.

Watch for this little guy on your t.v. screen between conference sessions in October....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Whatever it takes...

Okay, so I'm downstairs helping Jeremiah clean his bedroom, mindlessly placing shirts on hangers, and suddenly I notice that he's singing...

I hope they call Josh on a mission
When he has grown an inch or two
For sure by then I will be ready
To take his i-pod and move into his bedroom!


I guess whatever it takes to get a kid excited about his brother serving a mission is good enough for me.

* But don't tell Josh! *

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Josh's Story...and the story that inspired it

Faster Than a Speeding Doughnut

“Seven glazed doughnuts, please.”
The dimly lit glass gets colder as those words echo ominously throughout the store. The plastic-gloved hand swoops, taking one doughnut at a time, carefully placing a glazed into a white paper sack for the police man. The shadow of the massive hand looms closer like a vulture’s circling path each time a doughnut is taken. The comfort of a companion has been taken. I suffer with the dueling sentiments of rejection and relief.
“That’s five, six...”
The glass grows colder as I try to shrink into nothingness. I block out all senses, too afraid to remain conscious. When reality returns, I’m on top of the counter. In a bag. With a mustache peering down at me, hungrily.
“Thanks. See you tomorrow.”
As the officer’s behemoth hairy hand reaches for the bag, the chime of the door’s bell alerts a new patron’s entrance. The officer turns to wave, knocking over the bag in his own clumsiness. The contents of the bag is scattered. I fall onto the floor...landing painfully upright. The room spins. When everything decides to become steady, I realize what’s happening. This is my lucky break. I begin my escape.
The gentle breath of fresh air coming in through the open door is more inviting than ever before. I roll toward the door. I keep on rolling, in greater haste than I’ve ever felt the need. The heavy footsteps of my pursuer follow closely behind. The checkered tile turns into a blur as I quicken my pace. I am reaching about 600 rpms when the metal bump of the door jamb hurls me into the sky. FREEDOM!
The landing was softer than I expected. Until the giant shoe of my assailant landed right behind me. The thundering footsteps keep a steady pace as I attempt to flee. This one must be a smoker, because he’s already panting, harder than a 600-pound woman climbing stairs. I get to a hill, and hurl myself down towards my destination: the river. The two participants in this involuntary race are neck-and-neck.
I am so focused on what’s behind me that I fail to see the wall just ahead, and skid into it...slowed down substantially. Our opposite-of-friend takes advantage of the situation and catches up. In a fluid motion, the hand of the officer reaches down and grabs me right out of my path. I sit, horrified at the scene that begins to unfold. Moments away from my inescapable doom, the gruff mustache twitching in excitement, I see the jaw set wide, the teeth glistening, the tongue dripping, get a whiff of smoker’s breath, I utter one last prayer. All of a sudden, a sharp inhale and a powerful exhale. A sneeze, rendering this large man useless. Suddenly, allergies become a doughnut’s best friend. I fall to the ground, yet again, and roll off the top of the bridge into the river, floating blissfully away.

. . . . . . .

Isn't he a terrific writer? He gets it from his dad. You know, they say that our best writing is usually born out of our own experience, such is the case with this one, to be sure. Here's the rest of the story:

The day after Josh got his license, he was pulled over for going 70 in a 35. Yep, that's double the speed limit. Reckless driving. And probably suspension of newly acquired license. The officer asks for his registration and he doesn't even know where it is. He finally locates it, and the officer asks why it doesn't match the name on the insurance. "Oh", says Josh weakly, "it was registered by my uncle, Rodney Dansie."

"Rodney Dansie?" asks the cop." I have a brother-in-law named Jesse Rodney Dansie. Any relation?"

"J.R? Yeah, I know him. He's our cousin."

"Well, since you're a shirt-tail relative, I'm going to let you off the hook this time. But I am calling your parents." (Which is how we came to know this story!)

So...some danger, some speeding, headed toward doomsday, and a miraculous rescue! THAT's where Josh got the inspiration for his great doughnut story! And I think it was just frightening enough to curb his speeding habit!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Petrichor and More...

Ah, Petrichor! The smell of rain falling on dry ground. Wafting through my window right now. I breathe deep, and am reminded of goodness. The earth, sea, and sky in one gigantic inhale.

Jeremiah just came upstairs in his fresh-out-of-the-shower underwear, crying because he couldn’t find the dog. He had looked everywhere, inside and out, and it was beginning to feel like a Winn-Dixie moment. We stepped onto the porch, thunder and lightning crashing, water pouring out of the storm drains like spring run-off. We called for him, whistled...heard nothing. We pictured him huddled somewhere, shivering, too frightened and wet to find his way home.

Then we heard a distant yelp. Sounded like it came from out back. We ran to the back door and called for him, whistled...heard nothing. Then one more little yelp. Sounded like maybe he was stuck somewhere. As I went to put on some shoes and a jacket to go look for him, we heard the yelp again, closer. Could it be?

Then a figurative bolt of lightning hit Jeremiah: I think he’s in the garage! So we opened the door...and there he was: safe, warm, and dry. Jeremiah picked him up and buried his nose in his fur, then carried him down to bed.

I wonder if there’s a word for the cozy scent of clean boy holding dry dog? Because they could market it. They really could. A combination of friendship, relief and joy.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

No one goes unnoticed in HIs eyes.

Our 16-year-old son blessed the sacrament for the first time today. Just a few minutes earlier, a young couple gave their newborn daughter a name and a blessing. Suddenly I was reminded of a day, more than seven years ago, that was poignant and pivotal for me. I hadn't thought about this experience for, literally, years. But somehow the sweetness of seeing Josh up there blessing the sacrament, willingly and worthily, along with the sweetness and joy of this couple presenting their baby girl both to the ward and the Lord, culminated in a rich flashback experience that I felt compelled to share.

Seven and a half years ago we had a baby that was stillborn. (You can read more about that experience here.) The following Sunday I was well enough to go to church, but wasn't sure I was ready to greet the throngs of people there, didn't want them fussing over me and talking about the stillbirth, no matter how much I loved them all. Yet I felt this almost desperate longing to go to church and take the sacrament. So my friend Cari helped me look up the meeting times for a ward in Monrovia, and away I went, all by myself. I just wanted to be invisible, anonymous. I was hoping to slip in unnoticed, get lost in the sea of faces, and worship.

It wasn't a fast Sunday, but for some reason right between the opening announcements and the sacrament a young couple stood up to bless their newborn baby. There it was, the very thing I was trying to escape, staring me right in the face. The depth of my sadness, coupled with the shock of seeing that baby being blessed, was so intense it felt like someone stabbed me right through the heart with a knife. I felt actual physical pain.

But then came the sacrament. As I pondered the Savior and sought his peace, the most amazing feeling swept over me. It was almost like "there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yet...there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy."
Comfort. Healing. Peace. Not only was my pain swept away; I felt enveloped in love.

I don't remember ever feeling as grateful for the sacrament as I did at that moment. I wish I could have that poignant and powerful an experience every week. But I know the sacrament is the most important part of our Sunday worship. I wept as I saw Josh up there blessing the bread and water for the first time. And I'll always remember that amazing Sunday when I learned that no one goes unnoticed in His eyes.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Jeremiah's Bedtime Story

A Hundredfold
a fable of sacrifice

Once upon a time there was a boy named Jeremiah. He lived with his family in a big white house at the foot of a mountain. One day Jeremiah took his dog, Sawyer, for a walk in the woods. They followed the trail up the canyon, all the while searching for little treasures like rocks and feathers and pebbles. Before they knew it they had gone deeper into the woods than they’d ever journeyed before, and they were just about to turn back when they were greeted by a strange little man with a long, scraggly beard. He had just appeared, slightly ahead of them on the trail, and said he had something to offer them. He stretched out a gnarly hand holding a small acorn that had apparently fallen from a great oak tree. He said he needed some help, and would be willing to give them this acorn in exchange.

“No thanks -- I have plenty of acorns at home.” But the little man said it was a magic acorn. “Yeah, right” said Jeremiah. “There’s no such thing as a magic acorn. Everybody knows that.” But the little man insisted that this magic acorn had amazing powers. “I’ll trade it to you for everything that’s in your pocket right now.” Jeremiah felt in his pocket and pulled out three pennies. “Here,” he said, “This is all I have.” And he was amazed that the little man accepted his tiny offering of three pennies in exchange for his so-called magic acorn. “Thank you,” said the little man, “You will not regret this choice. You will be rewarded a hundredfold.” “A Thunderbolt?” asked Jeremiah. “I don’t need a thunderbolt.” “No,” laughed the little man. “A hundredfold. That means a hundred times whatever you gave me. That is the power the magic acorn holds.”

“In fact,” he continued, “For as long as you hold this magic acorn, whenever you give away all that you have to help another, you’ll be rewarded a hundredfold.” Jeremiah wasn’t sure whether he believed the little man or not,but at least three pennies didn’t seem like too much to give away. He stuffed the acorn into his pocket and the little man disappeared back into the bushes. Jeremiah and Sawyer turned around and headed toward home. As they walked away, they heard the little man chanting:

Be it silver or be it gold
We’ll give you a hundredfold.
He who offers all he hath
Will be rewarded on the path.

As they came to a sharp bend in the trail, suddenly there was a clap of thunder and something small tapped him lightly on the head. “Oh, no -- it’s raining!” Jeremiah held tight to Sawyer’s leash. “Let’s run!” But suddenly they were caught in a downpour. They stood still and watched in amazement as a shower of pennies fell all around them. The pennies dropped to the ground with a clatter of jingles and jangles and sparkled all over the trail at their feet. Jeremiah stooped to his knees and counted the pennies one by one -- there were exactly 300! He gathered all the pennies and stuffed them in his pockets till they bulged. Walking a little slower now, Jeremiah and Sawyer continued down the trail with a clang-sh-sh-ching as the pennies bounced in his pockets.

Nearing the entrance to the trail, Jeremiah and his dog were approached by a little girl. She was lost and cold, and needed something to eat. Jeremiah thought of the warm house and warm supper his mother had waiting for him, and wanted to help the little girl. He reached into his pockets and pulled out huge handfuls of pennies. Her eyes were round with surprise and delight as she held out her scarf to catch the copper coins. Jeremiah loved seeing the little girl smile.

Their steps were lighter as they reached the end of the trail and headed toward home. When they rounded the corner to turn onto their street, a huge gust of wind came up and the trees started to rustle and bend, sending their leaves floating to the ground. Looking closer, Jeremiah discovered they weren’t leaves at all, but dollar bills. Suddenly the little man’s song echoed in his head:

Be it silver or be it gold
We’ll give you a hundredfold.
He who offers all he hath
Will be rewarded on the path.

Sawyer immediately caught one in his mouth and started to chew it to shreds, as he does typically does with any stray paper, but Jeremiah caught it away and started gathering the dollar bills -- all 300 of them. He stuffed them in his pockets, and then when they wouldn't hold any more he stuffed them inside his shirt and tucked them in his sleeves and up under his pant legs. As they finished their walk home, he looked like a scarecrow, with dollar-bills peeking like straw out from under his sleeves and ankles, up around his neck and out of his pockets.

When he walked into the house, his two older siblings immediately swarmed around him, wondering where he got all that cash. “Jeremiah, remember you owe me that $10 you took out of my room last month?” “Jeremiah, that’s not fair! Give me back the money I gave you for helping me baby-sit last week.” “Jeremiah, what’s a little kid going to do with that much cash? I owe Mom and Dad so much money I’ll never be able to get my driver’s license.” Jeremiah rolled the acorn through his fingers. “Here!” he replied, suddenly realizing how desperately his siblings wanted and maybe even needed that money. “I don’t want it any more. You can have it all!” And he left Josh and Jordan to divide the $300 between them. Suddenly he was their hero.

That night before he went to bed he searched for a perfect place to hide the magic acorn. No place seemed secure enough somehow. Besides, he wanted to put it where he could see it, rather than hidden in a drawer somewhere. So he decided to leave it on his night stand, and he went to sleep with his dog curled up at the foot of his bed. In his dreams he saw the little man from the forest dancing and chanting:

Be it silver or be it gold
We’ll give you a hundredfold.
He who offers all he hath
Will be rewarded on the path.

The next morning he woke up noticing that his pillow felt a little strange -- almost crunchy. He pounded it with his fist, hoping it would return to its squishy self so he could go back to sleep for another half hour, but no luck. Finally he got up and looked inside the pillowcase and it was stuffed with $100 bills. Three hundred $100 bills! He did a quick calculation in his head: That’s $30,000!. Still in a bit of shock, he ran upstairs dragging the pillowcase behind him. He thought of all the things he could do with $30,000 -- how many bikes, Lego sets, and trips to Disneyland would that buy?

His mom and dad were upstairs going through the bills. They looked a little bit worried and stressed. Suddenly Jeremiah got a wonderful idea: He could give the money to Mom and Dad to pay off the remodeling in the basement. His parents looked at him in utter disbelief as he emptied his pillowcase onto the kitchen table. His mom started to cry and his Dad told him what a huge help that would be to the whole family. They hugged him tight and thanked him with all their hearts, promising that if there were any left over they would go on a family vacation this summer.

Jeremiah got ready for school, and then as he was loading up his backpack, he remembered the magic acorn on his night stand. He went back downstairs to grab it, and it had disappeared! How could that happen? He hadn’t even showed it to anyone, or told them how special it was. Why would anyone take a silly little acorn? then he noticed Sawyer in the corner chewing on something -- it was the magic acorn! “No, Sawyer!” he called out, and ran over to pull it out of his mouth. Sawyer thought it was a game and ran away, hoping Jeremiah would chase him. By the time Jeremiah caught up with him Sawyer had already started to bury it in the ground...what was left of it. Jeremiah gave up. He sat down on the porch with his head in his hands, thinking his magic acorn -- and all it could bring to him -- was lost forever.

“Jeremiah,” his mom called out the front door. “You need to start walking down the hill now or you’ll be late for school.” Obediently he picked up his backpack and trudged down the driveway, thinking all the while about everything he’d given up, and how none of it could possibly come back to him now. Then he thought about how happy he’d made the little girl, his siblings, and his parents. And he remembered that the whole adventure had started when he gave away just three pennies. He shrugged his shoulders and resigned himself to his penniless state, deciding that all tolled, it was still worth it.

Just as he walked to the edge of the driveway, a large armored truck pulled into the cul-de-sac. It was from Far West Bank. The driver rolled down his window. “Are you Jeremiah Parkin?” Jeremiah nodded, awestruck. “I have a delivery for you.” The next thing he knew, Jeremiah was watching the driver of the armored truck loading stacks and stacks of money into his bedroom. It was stacked on all the shelves in his closet, in piles under his bed, and even covered the windowsill. Three million dollars!

He walked outside, then broke into a run so he wouldn’t be late for school. All of a sudden he nearly bumped right into the strange little man he met in the woods yesterday. “How did it happen?” Jeremiah asked the little man. “I didn’t even have the acorn any more. My dog chewed it up and buried it.” “Ah, replied the little man with a smile. It wasn’t the acorn at all, was it? I gave you something far more valuable than a magic acorn yesterday -- a nugget of wisdom.” Jeremiah looked puzzled, so the man began to chant again:

Be it silver or be it gold
We’ll give you a hundredfold.
He who offers all he hath
Will be rewarded on the path.

“Was it true?” asked the little man. Jeremiah reviewed the events of the past day and nodded enthusiastically. “It’s still true. It’s always true -- with or without the acorn. And it’s true no matter what you give.” So from that moment on, Jeremiah looked for every opportunity to give away all that he had -- not just money and things, but his time and his talents and his smile and his love. It all came back to him a hundredfold. And he was the happiest boy that ever lived.

“Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
–Malachi 3:10