The Watchman

The Watchman

Monday, April 30, 2012

Inspiration at 30 cents a Pound

As those of you who follow this blog know, I love to scrapbook.  It is an easy way for me to feel creative, crafty and productive in one fell swoop, with the added benefit that my children also find enjoyment from the results.  It has been a way for me to meet some incredible people and has cemented my belief that it is a small world after all.

As you also know, I have a lot of scrapbooking to catch up on.  If you only look at the time Rick and I have been together, that's 26 years.  For Christmas I did put together an 8x8 scrapbook for each child with some of my favorite pictures of each. (Christmas (Scrapbook Project) Wrap-up).  I also did one for Rick and I that had our childhoods up to our wedding.  The single book each of  my older children received paled in comparison with the multiple 8x10 volumes they used to posses before our fire.

I know that these books mean a lot to each child, but the whole process for me was one not only one of creating something meaningful for my children, but of remembering all that was lost.  I had tried earlier to work on an album from the past, and again, even though the children were excited to see it, for me it was emotionally draining and I don't think I would have been able to do it if I hadn't been with my scrapbooking support group.

So my projects lately have been current photos: last summer's trip to Montana, swim meets, hiking in Bryce and the Grand Canyon.  All were post-fire activities.  This fulfilled my need to create, but did not stir emotional turmoil.

Lately though, those boxes of pictures have been weighing heavy on my mind.  Every time I turned around it seemed I was being reminded that pictures stored on a computer or in a box did no good in helping us remember the good times.  Why take the picture and do nothing with it?  Also, how ungrateful was I being to all those who looked through their own albums and computers to find pictures of my family for me to help replace what was lost, if I then just left them in a box?

Just like any other project that you dread, I was able to find multiple reasons to delay doing what I knew I needed to do.  And like any other project that is put off, the idea of the project made the whole thing seem too overwhelming to even start.  But then came a casual post on Facebook from our sweet Nataly.  She posted that she had been able to find "stinking adorable" scrapbook paper for $1 a pound.  Somehow, this post finagled in to me driving to Cedar City, taking Nataly and Cari to lunch, and then we hit the scrapbook store.  And we had so much fun!!!

Four hours later, I  had thirty pounds of coordinated paper and diecuts for $10, since, BONUS!, the price had been reduced to 30 cents a pound  and I was also able to pick up many other super kits that normally range from $50 to $60 a piece for only $10 each.  Since it was a warehouse sale, we were literally in the back of the store looking through shipping boxes galore.  Every time we would turn around we would see something new.  Most important, we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Now I was inspired!! So Friday, I sorted paper and then I pulled out my pictures.  I spent the rest of the day on Friday and few hours each Saturday and Sunday putting pictures to paper and then into an album.  I have now covered the years 1986 to 1992.  I need to get through 1993 so that Wil is born before Nataly comes home to check out the results of our shopping expedition.

Scrapbooking these pictures has been fun because not only am I remembering the good times the pictures illustrate, but I also remember the fun we had finding a specific piece of paper or diecut.  Here are some of the layouts I have completed:

Rick leaving on his mission.  I was working on redoing his mission album when our house burned.  But by looking at these pictures, is it any wonder I waited for him?  He is so cute.

This is what is left of our wedding album.  Glad my father-in-law had these.  Hopefully more will turn up eventually.  What do I think when I look at these?  Boy we were young!!!

Rick's Grandpa Jones died the day after we returned from our honeymoon.  He was such a kind and steadfast man.  He  was a chemist, so it makes me wonder if Hunter doesn't come by that naturally.

Hunter's first trip to Monterey.  The start of a love affair with all things marine.

Happy Two!!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

And He's Off...

Our morning started quite early this morning.  Actually I am not sure I even slept very much last night.  I was too worried about missing the phone ring because today was one of the days that parents of missionaries look forward to - the phone call from the airport.

I will admit that while I was excited to talk to Hunter, and yes I didn't sleep much the night before either, it wasn't with the same anticipation that I had to talk to Wil.  I am sure it had something to do with Hunter being in the MTC for only two weeks, while Wil has been there two months.  Also, Hunter had been away at school the whole year before and I was working, so I knew he was gone, but it wasn't the daily quietness of a house sans Wil that I face now.

So I was prepared with my list of questions, went to bed and made sure the alarms were set, turned up the volume on the phone just in case, woke up on my own at 3:30 AM, had everyone else assembled by 4:30 AM, and then we waited.  And we waited.  And we waited.  Wil had indicated he would call between 4:30 and 5 AM since the flight out of Salt Lake City was at 6.  By 5:15 we were all getting a little anxious and by 5:25, we were about to give up hope.  Then the phone finally rang.  Seems like in the two months time at the MTC, Wil managed to forget our area code.  He had to call directory assistance to find us and since our number is not listed, it meant Grandma got a very early surprise phone call.  Too bad I wasn't prepared and filming as all this was explained, because the eye rolls and head shaking was so priceless.

Needless to say, the conversation was very short, because by the time he reached us, they were boarding his flight.  We did get to say we love you and he told us he loved us, so while all the questions may not have been answered, the important things were said.

Another result of all this is that I have been thinking a lot this morning about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, specifically about prayer and the atonement.

Just as our family prepared to talk to Wil by making a list of questions, arising early, and in the case of his girlfriend - driving many miles; all our efforts could have been for naught if the call had not been received.  How often I wonder does our Heavenly Father sit waiting for us to reach out to Him.  Just as we were prepared with encouragement and love for Wil as he left for Japan, our Heavenly Father is waiting to give us love, support and council through life if we but put forth the effort to make that connection through prayer.

As parents, Rick and I include our desires for our children in our personal prayers.  Whether it be for help during finals, overcoming a personal struggle or protection while travelling; we have faith that Heavenly Father is listening and that His Will will be done.  We do this for our children because we love them.  Yet I know that the love I have for my children pales in comparison to the love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for each of us.  The greatest prayer of intercession was offered on our behalf by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Through His efforts, I know that I will be resurrected and that I can repent of my sins and have eternal life.

This is the message that Wil, aka Elder Wixom, is taking to share with the people of Japan.  It is a message of service and love.  It is a message of hope and comfort.  It is a message of peace.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Random Thoughts

So I have been thinking about a few things recently.  In fact, I think the thoughts have been like a pinball bouncing around in my head to the point that even my dreams have been pretty erratic bouncing from one thing to another and leaving me confused on waking.

Last week I went to lunch with a dear friend (aka 1) and she shared with me a story regarding a mutual friend (aka 2).  It seems my friend 1 had been to an event where friend 2's husband was present.  During the conversation the topic of budgeting came up and this husband started to brag how he provided friend 2 an allowance for household expenses and when he felt she had been "bad", he would reduce the amount of money he provided her and then see if she could run the household on the lesser amount of money to teach her a lesson.  I was horrified that this individual who is a respected member of his community would feel that this was appropriate behavior in a marriage and not emotional abuse.

It made me think of my own marriage and yet again appreciate how blessed I am to have Rick.  When we got married, we were so young.  I look at our oldest son Hunter and realize that he is the age Rick was when Hunter was born.  I know that when Rick and I married, we had no concept of what marriage really meant.  What we did have was a solid friendship and respect for each other and a commitment to create an eternal PARTNERSHIP.

I recently finished reading The Vow.  I haven't seen the movie, but I am sure it will be a date night selection at some point.  Two things struck me from this book:

1. While trying to rebuild their marriage after the accident, things did not start working until they started being partners and developing shared memories that provided the emotional ties that hold a relationship together.  They also built their marriage on the firm foundation in their mutual faith in God.

2. They both felt strongly that their experience had made them stronger and was a gift from God and in order to show their appreciation to Him, they needed to share it to uplift and strengthen others.

The idea that sharing our faith promoting experiences is not unfamiliar to me.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, once a month I have the opportunity during our worship service to hear of the faith promoting experiences of others and if impressed to do so, share my own experiences.  The experience of sharing and talking about faith is not uncomfortable  to me in a religious setting, but I am trying to learn how to share my experiences of faith outside of my local congregation in the hope that others might find strength in Jesus Christ.

I recently had the opportunity to write to Wil's mission president in Japan as a way of providing him some background on this young man whom he will soon meet.  I struggled for quite a few weeks on what I should tell him about this special son of mine.  Wil is a probably the most private of all my children; don't make a fuss is his motto.  What I realized was that by going to Sendai Japan, Wil is going to an area of the world where he will have a unique empathy for the people he meets who have lost everything.  Wil has always been extra aware of the needs of others, but I have witnessed that part of his personality grow in the year and a half since our fire.  I wanted to share with the mission president Wil's own words about that time and how it had changed him as a human being, so I included a copy of Wil's essay, The Worst Day, that I have previously posted on this blog with the letter.  I wanted this man, whom I believe is called by God to lead the mission, to understand that there may be times that Wil is more withdrawn and there may be times that he is more passionate about helping.

Since writing that letter, a story was shared with me regarding one of the young men Wil mentored in the Special Needs Mutual (Youth Group).  This young man was so excited to see Wil sing with the choir during the LDS General Conference that he was inspired to step out of his shell and offer a special prayer at the Youth Group's next meeting.  Again, I  received affirmation that when we step outside of ourselves and act in faith, we will not only receive blessings, but we will become the tool the Lord needs to bless others.

I often find inspiration from the strength of others.  A lifelong mentor/friend shared the blog "Living Life 'Single-Handedly'' with us.  I have found Katy Pluim's story of life inspiring.  Her openness as she shares the challenges she faces as she learns to do things a new way is humbling to me.  Her post entitled, "Why I will never watch Soul Surfer again..." resonated in a profound way with me.

We are routinely reminded of the terror of the house fire and what we have lost.  Even today as Emily's school class was heading outside, someone mentioned that they smelled smoke and Emily's head popped up and she started looking around.  I am sure her heart was racing just a little faster, as was mine.  Instead of dwelling on the loss, we have chosen to focus on what a counselor advised - For everything we remember we lost, we also need to think of something we have had good that came from the fire.  This has helped all of us, especially the girls, remember how we have been blessed.

Looking back now, after being in our new home for a year, I am amazed at how we have grown.  At dinner recently, Emily mentioned how much she was missing a particular doll.  She said that she wished she had a time machine so she could go back and stop the man from setting the fire.  We asked her if there had not been a fire how would she imagine our life today.  As we talked about it as a family, many things were mentioned that we could say were a blessing that had come to us because of the fire and the love and support of our Heavenly Father as witnessed through our community.  By the end of the dinner, Emily realized that while she may not have that special doll, she has the memories and she has other dolls now that are just as special.

Later on as I was again talking to my friend, she said something that I felt was truly important - Too often when we lose someone or something, we stop talking about them because we are afraid it will hurt too much to talk about it.  But, said my wise friend, by not talking about those things, we stop remembering them and when we lose the memories and the emotions that made them special is when we really lose them.

I think that is part of why I blog.  I don't hold any preconceptions that I will be able to inspire people like Kim and Kricket Carpenter or Katy Pluim, but I want to hold on to the memories and have something for my children to look back on.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Job is Parent

Two things happened last week that serve as reminder on the need to be careful and cautious when using the internet.

The first was a post on Facebook from a friend who caught her preteen son texting and talking on his cell phone with someone he had "met" through an online game.  Her response was the same as mine would have been in a similar circumstance - cell phone taken away and online gaming privileges suspended for a time.  It was a good thing, since her son continued to receive messages from this individual.

I was surprised by the response of one individual who chastised my friend for her response to the situation.  She felt that the child was being punished for something he didn't realize was wrong.  My friend's response was the best.  She reiterated that she is his mother and as such it is her job to protect her children.  A lesson has been given and hopefully learned so that behavior can change.

I too feel that it is my responsibility to protect my children from predators.  Too often I have seen through my job that the "horror stories" are true.  Online a predator can be anyone or any age they want to be.  They are skilled at creating wedges between parents and children.  Manipulation is their forte.

The second incident involved the owner of a online email group that I belong to.   The owner sent an email to the group attaching a message she had received via her personal Facebook account.  She stated that she did not have time to check out this individual who was asking for help from the group and was wondering if anyone else could.  The message contained enough personal information to make it feel genuine, but she was concerned it was being sent to her personal account and not to the group.

A five minute Google Search of the individual was able to confirm every "fact" contained in the message along with even more personal information.  I was also able to determine that this individual had contacted other groups asking for similar aid.  All this information was openly available on the internet to anyone to learn.  I was also able to provide her with a way this individual was able to identify her personally as the group owner in order to send a personal message.

I was reminded of a similar situation with a cousin who had been scammed by a caller who knew quite a bit of personal information about her.  She was blaming it all on Facebook, but I was able to show her in the same type of Google search how all the information was able to be found without accessing Facebook.

In our house, we have established rules that are kept by the computer.  Our children, even the teenagers, have agreed to abide by these rules.  In order to have a Facebook account, my children were required to provide us with their login and password information, and to include us as their "friend."  I have only used the password twice in 4 years to login to a child's account.  Once was when a child was using the account inappropriately and the other was when a child's account had obviously been hacked.  We have the same requirement for their personal email accounts and cell phones as well.  Our computers are kept in public areas of the home where they can be monitored.  Also, browsing history is routinely checked and monitored to see if it is regularly deleted (BIG RED FLAG).

Our children know they are not to accept friend requests from individuals they do not personally know in the real world without checking with us as parents first.  This has allowed them to meet extended family members.  The younger children are not allowed to play online games except with their friends in the real world and the older children are not to engage in conversations with individuals they do not know outside of those related to the game.  No personal information such as phone numbers, email  or home addresses are to ever be provided to unknown individuals.  Facebook privacy settings are to Friends Only in most options and routinely checked to make sure an update to Facebook has not changed them.

I routinely conduct Google searches on our family members to find out what information is accessible on the internet.  Believe it or not, this is always changing as more and more newspapers, government agencies and other groups digitize their records.  Recently, I was able to find an article on my father from the 1960s and my husband's aunt's wedding announcement from 1959.  (Her maiden name was Ann Wixom)  Our children have been taught to be careful what they post as status updates, what pictures they share and what Facebook Groups they join.  A digital footprint is almost impossible to erase and what is thought of as funny today may not be so funny in a year.

The State of Utah has provided a great program, NetSafe Utah, that is age appropriate to aid individuals in their desire to keep their children and themselves safe when online.  (Link here)  I would highly recommend it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Did you really say that?

I want to give fair warning that this post is going to be a little bit of a rant.  Well actually, probably more than a little bit.

My sweetheart came home last night and related the following story to me:

A friend of ours is helping organize an Easter Egg Hunt and brunch.  This event is designed to allow families to gather together, the kids to have fun searching for eggs left by the Easter Bunny and the adults to spend time together chatting and enjoying each others company.  It is the kind of event where you don't have to have children to participate, just bring a brunch dish to share.  It is the kind of event like many others being planned for this holiday weekend.  In fact, I will be going to one such event myself today.

Why the need for the rant you may ask?  Well as Paul Harvey would say, "Here's the rest of the story"  The fact that this event is scheduled to be held on Sunday morning (see brunch) had our friend being told that she is not Christian.  

"Say what!", I responded when Rick told me this.  I knew I must have misunderstood.  There is no way anyone who knows our friend would ever use that label in describing her.  In fact, she would not divulge the name of the individual who used the term even for those of us willing to take up her cause and defend her to someone so ignorant.  She only related the story because she was so shocked and hurt by the words.  Yes people, words can hurt and the fact that this incident was related and not brushed off lets me know how much it did hurt.

I have known my friend for almost eight years.  I have never known her to be anything but gracious.  Even though we do not belong to the same religion, she never fails to ask about my children.  She was excited for us when our eldest came home from his mission and when our second son received his mission call to Japan.  I have seen her reach out to others time and again, even when I knew she was going through her own personal trials.  She knows the importance of community and service to the community and those around her.  Many times I have seen her brush off an ill thought remark and continue to offer aid to the individual.  I have so much respect for this woman.

The term Christian means all that is noble, and good and Christ-like.  At this time of year I find myself reflecting more often on the life of Jesus Christ and His teachings.  Last week I was able to listen to those I sustain as my religious leaders discuss many of these same topics.  Here are some of the things that I feel I can do to show that I am a disciple (follower) of Christ:

1. Christ taught that we are all sons and daughters of God.  (The parable of the Good Samaritan and his teaching of the woman at the well.)  He also instructed that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, but the second greatest commandment is to love thy neighbor as thyself.   Differences in race, sex, ethnic background or religion should be irrelevant.

2. Christ taught us not to judge one another.  He said that he who is without sin should cast the first stone.  During the recent LDS General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (one of my personal favorites to listen to) shared this quote he had seen on a bumper sticker, "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you."  Jesus taught that none of us are perfect. And as President Uchtdorf illustrated, differences do not equate as wrong doing.

3. Christ showed compassion for all.  Not only did He suffer for my sins so that through His Atonement I can receive Eternal Life, but even as He hung on the cross he showed compassion for the thief hanging beside Him when He promised this man that they would be together in Paradise and He made sure His mother would be comforted and cared for by asking His beloved Apostle John to see to her.  If Christ could show compassion at a time, how can I not show compassion as well?

4.  Christ taught us to serve.  From helping at a wedding to insure there was enough refreshment for all to washing the feet of the Apostles, He showed that no man should place himself above another.  We cannot do it all alone and neither can our neighbor.  Sometimes service is not convenient (Stilling the storm-tossed sea) and sometimes we may be tired (Blessing the children), but service still needs to occur.

5.  Christ taught us to forgive.  He did not say that we must continue to let ourselves be hurt, but we must forgive.  He understood that oft times individuals hurt us not out of intent, but out of ignorance.  The process of forgiveness is one that will bring us closer to God.

So Happy Easter Everyone!  Whether we revere Jesus Christ as our Savior or as  a prophet or as a great intellect and philosopher, may we all take some time to ponder His teachings and how their application can better our daily lives.  And may the Easter Bunny leave many chocolate filled eggs at whatever egg hunt you attend!

Monday, April 2, 2012

What a Weekend!!!

To say that my weekend was like riding a rollercoaster; ie an emotional rollercoaster, would be an understatement.

In a previous post, I mentioned that our son Wil is currently in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) preparing to serve a mission in Japan.  He let us know a couple of weeks ago that he would be singing with a choir from the MTC during the Saturday afternoon session of the LDS General Conference.  As I shared that knowledge with others, I was asked if I now planned on getting tickets to the session so we could be there.  I knew that that was not something I would do for the following reasons:

1. Wil is now Elder Wixom.  We said our goodbyes to him on February 22 and we have all adjusted to having him apart from us.  I did not want to upset that balance by having him experience all those emotions of separating again.

2. For myself, I knew that being in the same building with him and not being able to talk to him or hug him would be more than I could handle.

3. I didn't want him to be distracted from the experience by looking for his family in the congregation.

So we chose to go to Ogden and watch Conference with my family just as we always do.  Only this year, there were more family members at my parents for that Saturday afternoon session - almost all my siblings and their families, including my brother from Colorado.

As the opening song, Glory To God on High, started we were all glued to the television.  First one of the girls said "There's his hair and his eyebrows".  His girlfriend told me she started yelling, "There's his nose! There's his nose!" and scared her mother.  I have to say, the screaming was kind of loud at my parents house too and startled my sister's friend and his daughter.  But the camera cut quickly away and we never got a good look at him.  This happened a number of times through the song, until the very end and then we got to see our dear Elder Wixom in profile for what was a very long time.  By then I was crying, his sisters were crying, his grandma was crying and even a few of aunts shed some tears.  How nice to know that he was healthy and still had a good haircut.
Elder Wixom is the first Elder in the row next to the Sister missionary.
So here is where the mom who really misses her son part of me kicked in.  After the opening song, I went downstairs where we were recording it on another television.  From then on, everytime the choir sang, I would sit as close to the television as possible and when I saw my boy, I would touch his image on the screen.  I don't want to sound like I regret his choice, because I know it is the right thing for him to do and I have a strong testimony of missionary work and how it can change people's lives.  But I am a mom and I miss my son.

Neither my sister's friend nor his daughter understood why we were so excited to see Wil.  Afterall, he was only in Provo.  Didn't we get to see him or at least talk/text him?  We were able to explain more about the sacrifice that a mission truly is for the individual and their family.  That the last time we saw Wil was when he entered the MTC and in most cases a parent would not see their child again for two years and except for the possible phone calls from the airport, on Christmas and Mother's Day, there is no communication except for weekly letters or emails and even those are not guaranteed depending on where the individual is serving.  The opportunity to see Wil sing with this choir was an added bonus that most do not get to experience.

I loved this talk from the October 2011 session of the LDS General Conference, Missionaries Are a Treasure of the Church.  It became even more meaningful when Wil was called to serve his mission in Japan.

As we watched the choir sing, we noticed that they would scan down the rows of the choir, but quickly cut away just as they showed Wil.  We knew he was in the second row and since we have friends that sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and are usually seated in these lower rows, we also knew that these rows are not as frequently shown, so we were grateful for the glimpses we had.

As the last song played, Rick commented that he had seen on Twitter that Elder David Archuleta, formerly of American Idol and much more, was also singing with the choir.  Sure enough, there he was right in front of   Wil.  So we got a bonus - pictures on the internet, pictures in the paper, all referencing Elder Archuleta, but with our sweet William in the image as well.  For me as a scrapbooker all I can say is BONUS!!!!  Again Nataly made me smile when she commented to a friend that she hadn't even noticed Elder Archuleta until I pointed him out, she only had eyes for Wil.

Conference was amazing as always.  So many things were said that reassured us, inspired us and challenged us to do better.  My sisters and I had our girls night out with our mom while the men attendend the Saturday evening session of conference and my little girls had a sleepover with their cousins.  We had a big Sunday dinner with my family and got to meet my sister's friend.  All in all a very good weekend full of joy and sadness, touched by the Holy Spirit.  All the things that give life purpose.

When we got home there was a letter waiting addressed to Ann Wixom aka Mom from my Elder Wixom.  In it he said, "So I don't thing I ever got homesick.  I mean I miss home still, but I never got physically sick from it.  I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing, but I'm going to say it's good.  I'd rather not be sick, if that's okay?.....Since you'll get this after conference, if you saw me, I hope I looked good."

Yep, he looked good and he sounds good.