The Watchman

The Watchman

Friday, August 31, 2012

Love from Richie

Rick spent a few days in Northern Utah attending meetings.  He came home last night and we were all so excited to see him.  It is amazing how empty our home feels when he isn't here.

While up north, he took some time to visit family, my parents and his brother and family.  When he returned home, he came bearing gifts.  Corn, tomatoes and onions from my dad; Relief Society and Craft manuals from my mother; and hearts from his nephew Richie.

Rick wrote everyone's name on the hearts as Richie gave them to him.

This is my favorite.  Rick told me Richie said "It's for your girlfriend, Uncle Rick."

Richie's story is a story of miracles.  He was born at 24 weeks gestation.  At the time, it was unknown if he would survive or not.  I remember the first time I saw him in the NICU.  He was so tiny, no bigger than his father's hand.  His weight was not measured in pounds, but in ounces and grams.  His skin was so translucent, he appeared as a diagram of blood vessels.  His eyes were still fused closed.  He did not cry and he hardly moved.  I remembered when Hunter was born and in the NICU and the tubes and monitors that ran from his body.  Those were nothing compared to what I saw in that isolette, compared to the tangle of wires and tubes attached to this small body.

It was almost five months before Richie was able to leave the hospital.  This was long past his due date if he had been full term.  By the time he left the hospital, he had reached the lifetime maximum of benefits allowed by health insurance companies, virtually making him uninsurable for the rest of his life.  

Richie's life has not been easy.  Each new task has been delayed and a struggle to learn.  Even now he continues to face daily challenges.  Yet there is about him a spirit of joy and unconditional love.  On a recent trip to Ogden, he was so excited that we were visiting the Air Museum at Hill Air Force Base.  He had to show me all the planes he had acquired at the recent air show.  He even offered to let me some of his beloved planes while we went to the museum.

Over the summer, Richie was able to be baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Most children are baptized at the age of 8, which is considered the age of accountability or the age when a child can truly begin to understand right from wrong and accept responsibility for their own choices and can understand the power and sacredness of the covenant they are entering into with God by being baptized.  Because of Richie's special circumstances, he was not baptized as most children at that age, but had to wait until he could show that he had the necessary understanding of the promises he would make at baptism.  All during the month leading up to his baptismal date, he remind us that it was coming and ask for our reassurance that we would be there.

On the day of his baptism, Richie greeted us at the door to the church.  "I am so excited!" he said over and over.  When the time came for the ordinance, he literally ran to the baptismal font.  What a happy day for his family!!!

I know Richie will continue to struggle with the daily trappings of life.  The road before him is not going to be an easy one.  I also know that his spirit is strong.  The light of love that shines from him will bless many.  He radiates joy and love.  It is impossible to be with him and not feel God's love for all his children.

Brittney in the middle holding Richie, Summer 2002.
He is about 6 months old here, but only about a month
out of the hospital.

Christmas 2002 at Grandma Wixom's house.  She is holding Ben in the red suit and Richie.
Ben is one month younger than Richie.

Wil and Richie celebrating their birthday which are one week apart.
There was a time we wondered if we would ever see this day.

Richie on his baptismal day with Emily, Lela and his sister Faith, July 2012.
He is so excited, the chair can barely hold him.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


I have been going through the emails that Hunter sent home while serving in the Montana Billings Mission compiling them into a single Word document so that I can then print them and put them in his scrapbook of pictures.  It has been so much fun to look back and see how his testimony and confidence grew during those two years.  It was also interesting to note how often the question of Why? would enter into these messages as he struggled to learn and understand and accept from the experiences he was having.

The question of Why? often comes up as I am with my children or participate in my church assignments.  Why does something happen?  Why does someone struggle?  Why do we have to have trials and adversity? Why do bad things sometimes happen to good people and only good seems to happen to others?

Often the only answer I have is that I don't know.  The path we travel is sometimes the result of our own choices, but other times it is the plan of a loving Heavenly Father to guide us and bring us back to live with Him.  I do not know all.  I am mortal and here to learn, but I can believe.  I can believe in the Atonement of Christ.  I can believe in the power of repentance and forgiveness.  I can believe in the joy I feel each time I know I have made a right choice.  I can believe that the trials I have are helping me grow in spirit.  I can believe that all that I experience can be for my good.  I can believe in the power of prayer.  I can believe that Heavenly Father loves me and knows me.  I do not need to know Why?

I can Believe....

Ryan's LDS Quotes

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Have you seen my kitty?

This morning, while returning home from walking Lela to the bus stop, I realized that I had spent a night uninterrupted by our cat trying to crawl in bed with me.  I further realized that I didn't remember seeing the cat at all after returning home from my meeting last night, nor had I tripped over her when I staggered from bed this morning to wake Lela up.

Upon entering the house, I did a quick inspection of all Blink's, the cat, favorite hiding places.  Nothing.

"Emily," I said, "Have you seen Blink this morning?"  "I don't know where she is." was the reply.  "We could hear her meowing last night, but couldn't figure out where she was hiding."

So started a search of our house from top to bottom.  We looked under beds and other furniture, behind furniture, on the tops of furniture, in closets, in cupboards, in every room, and then we looked again.  Still no blink. 

At one point I had thought I heard a meow, but our dog, Daisy, must have thought we had devised a new game and so was running after us and barking drowning out any further cries.  So Daisy was banished to the outside and the television was turned off.  Now Emily and I had every door in the house open and were again searching through the house with our own calls for Blink and our own meows.

Finally there was a response.  Emily was upstairs and said it didn't come from there.  I had been in my bedroom and couldn't tell if it had come from somewhere in the living room or the basement, so Emily ran downstairs and we "meowed" some more till our cries were answered.  Emily ran up the stairs with a virtual lightbulb on over her head, straight to the coffee table in the living room where she lifted the top to reveal Blink.  

We're not sure how Miss Blink got herself inside the table.  It might have been when Lela was doing her homework the night before.  What we do know is that all through the evening and into the early morning hours, while I did laundry, she did not make a sound.  It wasn't until we started calling for her and making our own "meow" noises that she responded.  Maybe she couldn't stand the sound of us butchering her native tongue.  After a drink of water, a bit of kitty kibble and mad race leaping from one dining room chair to the next, all seems back to to the status quo and Emily went off to school knowing Blink will be there when she gets home and mom is off to make a sign that says, "Don't close the lid unless the furniture is cat-free."

Our Favorite Blink Pictures

With Emily as a kitten

Playing with Mr. Bubbles

Napping together

Just hanging out

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Power of Music

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.  - Plato

Back in the day, when I was young and thought I knew everything, including whom I was going to marry, a wise man told me to fill my home with music.  Music, me?  Those two words did not belong in the same sentence.  As a very young girl, I had wanted to join a singing group, but had been asked to leave by the director who considered me tone deaf.  As the oldest of seven, my parents had not felt there was enough money at the time for me to take piano, violin or accordion lessons.  (Thank goodness on the last one.)  My Grandma Cook did teach me the fundamentals of reading music and I learned to pick out melodies on the piano.  This was done in exchange for helping her with her housework on Saturday mornings.

I had always found ways to have music as a part of my life.  I have written before how I loved to listen to my mother as she played the piano and when she accompanied local singers. Broadway musical were a staple in our home - Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Music Man, Oklahoma, Camelot and the list goes on.  When I was in junior high and again in college, I took music theory classes.  Much of the focus was on identifying rhythms and transposing music.  While others struggled, I found it made sense to me.  This was like math, there was a logic and beauty to it.  I could sit for hours and listen to all kinds of music.  Music spoke to my soul.  It helped me make sense of emotions and experiences that were often confusing.  It helped calm me or channel my energy.  Good music made me feel complete.

So how did this counsel change my life.  Each time I dated someone I would pay attention: Did they sing the hymns in church?  What music would they listen to?  I would ask questions: Did they play an instrument?  Did they like musicals?  Did they want to go to a concert?

These questions all factored in to my desire to marry Rick.  With him I found someone who loves music in all its varieties as much as I do.  And our house is filled with music.  It has not been easy, but we have made sure that all of our children play at least one instrument.  Hunter can dance and plays trumpet, baritone, french horn and piano.  I love when he is home and our house is filled with his playing the piano, especially on a Sunday morning.  Wil plays the trombone and most percussion and can play the melody line on the piano in a pinch.  He also can dance.  Jon dances, plays a variety of clarinets and saxophones and the guitar.  Lela plays the violin and the piano.  Emily plays the piano and dances.  All of them sing along with their dad, who can still muddle through on his trumpet and loves to help with piano practice.

But more important than the symphony our family could perform on its own, music has brought us closer together through rehearsals and support at recitals, concerts and just playing together at home.  Together, we have attended plays and concerts and enjoyed watching the same musicals I enjoyed as a child and have added new ones such as Pirates of Penzance, Beauty and the Beast, Stomp and Riverdance.  Through music our children have been blessed with amazing friends who helped them make good choices and avoid many of the pitfalls of adolescence.  They have found that music can calm them when stressed, inspire them and provide inspiration.  They have found a sense of accomplishment as they perfected a difficult song or reached that high note.

Even as I write this, Lela is practicing the piano, singing and Jon is whistling along.  Last night I listened to Lela practicing her violin in one room, Jon in another on his guitar and Emily at the kitchen table doing her homework and singing.  How grateful I am to that wise counsel and to the love of my Heavenly Father that let those words resonate with such power in my soul.

Here are a couple of our current favorites for your enjoyment:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cherish the Year

For 2012, I established "Cherish" as the theme to guide me throughout the year.  With the start of a new school year, I thought I would pull out that word and see how it applies.

The first day of school has always been bittersweet for me.  On one hand I am excited that my children are having new experiences, learning new things, making new friends.  On the other hand, I realize that they are one year older and I am less able to protect and shelter.

This year was especially poignant - our youngest son started college.  Looking back, his first day of kindergarten was the hardest first day of school I have ever experienced.  At the time, he was my baby and I cried for hours.  I had even considered holding him back a year and felt justified in that decision since his birthday is in late July, until a sweet lady, Tamra Schenk, put her arm around me and told me it would be okay.  I am so glad I listened to her.

Jon on his first First Day of School

That year ended up being the craziest, most tumultuous year for our family as I contracted a strep infection that was only resolved nine months later with my tonsils being removed, I experienced a miscarriage, Rick started his Master's Program, Rick changed jobs and the boys contracted head lice during an outbreak at the school.  Still somehow out of all this, Rick and I decided that we really did want another child (the zebra finches didn't fill the house with enough noise), and so we had Lela.  Some how it seems appropriate that this year Lela started her new adventure in intermediate school as her brother started college.

Now I can look back on that time and laugh.  The memories of how we worked together during all the struggles, Taco Tuesdays at Del Taco with the boys while Rick was in school, dance practices and recitals, Halloween costumes made, soccer games with Rick and I coaching three different teams, and so much more - these are the times to cherish. As my children start off to school this year, I hope to help them find the moments that they too can cherish.

Hunter poses during a training activity for the
Resident Hall  Staff at Utah State University

Wil arriving in Japan

Jon ready to start at Dixie State College

Lela can't wait to get out the door

My Sunshine ready for fourth grad

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I Feel Loved

I was privileged last week to receive the Liebster Blog Award.  Now many of you may not have heard of this award as it does not entail me putting on a fancy, designer-name dress; spending hours with make-up and hair consultants, or starving myself for weeks to fit into the previously mentioned dress.  (Let me say thank goodness for that.)  But why this award was so meaningful to me was because it was given to me by a dear friend, Michele at Follow Me Home, who I am sure has no idea of the impact she had on my life at the time.  Although we drifted apart for many years, I am so grateful to have her in my life again through the wonders of Facebook and Blogging.

As a recipient of this award, I have been asked to publically answer a few questions (eleven isn't too many, right?) about myself and my blogging experience.  Please bear with me as I fulfill this obligation.

1. What was the title of your very first post and what was it about?
My first post was entitled "In the Beginning" and it told the story of how my husband proposed to me.

2. How did you come up with the name of your blog?
Our family lives in the most beautiful place on earth - and we are just west of Zion National Park.  I had at first joked about the idea of "Halfway Between Purgatory and Zion", but decided that would only be a reference people from Washington County would understand.  I also liked the way "West of Zion" was a homage to John Steinbeck's East of Eden and felt that it represented how our family was working through life trying to be the best human beings we can be.

3. Do you have an underground blog or does everyone in your world know you write it?
I think those who want to know about it know.  I post on Facebook and Google+.  I have also joined a few blogging communities.  

4. Have you ever had to deal with negative comments?
I feel that everyone has a right to their opinion, but any criticism should be respectful.  If something is meant to be hurtful, I will remove it.

6. Do you think it's important to respond to every comment?
I know when I comment on another blog, I do so without expecting a response.  If I think a reply will add to the discussion or if I am especially touched by something that is shared, then I will reply.  I do appreciate all the support whether on the blog, on Facebook or comments to me personally.  

7. Do you blog for money? If yes, has it been worth it?
I don't blog for money.  I have thought about it, but my life right now is about reducing stress and  pressure not adding to it.

8. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. One day. What would you eat?
I am horribly OCD when it comes to eating.  My breakfast is always a bowl of granola with yogurt instead of milk and fresh fruit.  Lunch is preferably a salad or leftovers, and dinner is meat and vegetables.  I have had to cut back on starches, so that has changed how I eat.

9. Who was your favorite teacher in school and why?
Miss Parrish in first grade.  I don't know why other than I just remember how safe I felt in her classroom.

10. At this moment in your life, are you content?
I have to say yes.  Our family has experienced a lot of upheaval during its existence, so I have learned to look for the positive and work to change the negative.  Feeling like I have some control through my choices helps with contentment.

11. Do you see yourself blogging for the long haul?
I do.  I want to continue to share stories for my children and grandchildren.  I want them to look back and say, "I remember that day!"  I also want them to be able to know us when we weren't mom and dad or when we were new parents so that they can hopefully learn and not be as hard on themselves as we were.  I also want them to remember my parents the way I remember them.

Now for the fun part, I get to name my winners.  These are bloggers that I look to for ideas, for a smile, for upliftment or for thought:  (These are in no particular order other than alphabetical)

Creative Chaos and Utah Garden Blogs (this person does double duty)
Ennis Crew
I Must Be Dreaming
Just My Scrapbook
Life With Allen
Living Life "Single-Handedly"
Ms Fish
Real Scrappy
Shades of Blonde
The Mother Load
The Sparkular Adventures of Susan Vilate and the Lizard

An honorable mention will go to Gone with the Wynns, since I am sure that it does not meet condition 3 below, but is well worth checking out.

I know this feels a little like those chain emails asking you to send a recipe, but I think it is a great way to introduce people to blogs that have had an impact on my life and that I feel are worth checking out.

If you don't want to participate further, I will understand.  I just wanted you to know that the things you have written have touched my life and to say Ich Liebe deinen Blog.

For those of you that want to pass along this award, here are the rules to the new Liebster winners:

1. Please give your most honest (or creative) answers to my eleven questions.

2. Come up with 11 questions of your own. (Make them awesome, and if you get juicy answers, link back to me!)

3. Choose 11 of your favorite bloggers to pass the award onto.  They must have FEWER than 200 followers. 

So here are your 11 questions:

1. Why did you choose to start a blog?

2. How did you choose the name of your blog?

3. If you write about personal experiences, do you have permission from those you write about and what do you do to protect the privacy of those mentioned in your blog?

4. Do you look back and review your older posts?  Do they still make you laugh or cry?

5. What is your all time favorite post and why?

6. Where is your favorite place to eat and your favorite item on the menu?

7. If you had one day all to yourself, what would you do?

8. Does your family follow your blog?  If yes, do you want them to leave comments?

9. Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?

10. When and where do you blog? (ie - the middle of night in bed wearing a flannel nightgown and bunny slippers with Ben and Jerry ;-) )

11. How has your blog evolved since its beginning?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Have Cricut, Will Travel

Last Wednesday, our oldest mentioned that he was stressing over a project for his new job.  For the coming school year, he is going to be an RA (Resident Assistant) assigned to one of the dorms at Utah State University.  This is a good situation for us, since for two years, he has been unable to find a job in the private sector that would mesh with his very time consuming school schedule (most days you can find him in class or in a lab from 7:30 in the morning till 7:30 at night) and we received notice last year that the scholarship that he has used to pay for his housing is no longer being funded as part of federal budget cuts.

The project that had him concerned was the need to create nametags for the bedroom doors for the incoming students.  Since he would not receive his list of residents until Saturday and the doors had to be decorated by Monday and he had no idea if he would have all male residents or one apartment of males (his) and five apartments of females or some mixture in between, he was feeling some pressure to get this accomplished in a limited amount of time.

As part of his RA duties, he had to develop a program plan of activities and socials with a central theme. He chose the theme "Super Team for a Super Year".  Quite appropriate for my son who comes by his nerdiness genetically.  His first thought was to print images of superheroes from the internet, but he started thinking of the time and cost of ink and variety needed to do this.  I suggested we use my Cricut and the Paper Doll Dress-Up cartridge to create generic superheroes that he could use.

While Rick and the other kids helped him pack and move apartments, I cut out paper dolls and their clothes.  After fifteen plus hours of cutting, two blades, a new mat, and I don't know how many hours of putting together once he had the list, this is what he had:

Hunter was really excited with the way these turned out and he said they went
together faster than expected.  He is afraid he may have set the bar too high.

He even did his first bulletin board to match.
So now I wait for the next call and I will respond with Cricut in tow.  Who knew something so simple could make me a super hero in my son's eyes.

And for all of you that may wonder, we utilized as much of each sheet of paper as possible and what we couldn't use we recycled.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Human Coin

Today I find myself hugging my children a little more, sneaking a few extra kisses, holding my husband a little closer and a little tighter, saying "I Love You" even more.  Today I find myself taking a few moments out of a busy schedule to talk with a friend, to smile and wave at a stranger, to enjoy the sunrise.  Today is a day that makes joy sweeter because we have experienced sorrow.

Yesterday my day was touched by death both at the start and at the end.  Both individuals left this life suddenly and too soon by earth standards.  My heart and prayers are with their families.  My faith that life is eternal and that we will be reunited one with another sustains me when faced with the question why.  I was taught that there must needs be opposition in all things; that we would not know joy if we did not also know misery.  That we would not know good if there was no sin.

Today I am blessed to have seen the good in others and to remember the joy those who have left us brought.

I love this quote:

“The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered...We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.” 
  ― Elizabeth Edwards

Today I acknowledge the sadness so that I can also know joy.