Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Celebrating Our Silver Anniversary

David and I recently celebrated our 25th anniversary. We are quite proud of ourselves for reaching this milestone and feel grateful for our family and our life together, even with all of its ups and downs over the years.

Wedding photo
Our children at the wedding
I've been thinking all fall about the first time we went camping. It was Labor Day weekend, and  Shannon's 4th birthday. He had his children for the weekend, and offered to watch mine while I went to get my hair cut. When we got to his house, he was busily preparing to go camping for the weekend and invited us to go. We hadn't been dating for very long so while I was getting my hair cut I thought of all the reasons why we shouldn't go. But when I got back I couldn't resist the pleas of six children and David.

"But I don't have any camping equipment," I said at one point.
"Doesn't matter," he said, "I have everything all packed. All you need are some pillows and blankets for you and your kids." He had borrowed his roommate's truck and pop-up tent trailer for the weekend. So after a stop at my apartment, and a quick trip to the grocery store for some last minute items, we headed to a nearby canyon.

While the children were having fun playing together and running around the campsite, David and I started setting up camp. Then we made a horrifying discovery: he forgot the key to the trailer! That meant that everything in the trailer (all the food, the beds, etc.) were safely locked away and we couldn't get to them. We discussed what we should do, including going back home, but the kids begged us to stay. We decided we could make it work . . . until we realized that we didn't have any matches for a fire! Fortunately some people were camping nearby and graciously let us have some matches when we explained our predicament.

We had fun sitting around the campfire, which was something new for my children, telling stories and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. When it came time for bed, we decided to have the 3 boys sleep together under a tree with 2 of the blankets and pillows. David and I put the 3 little girls between us and tried to get comfortable in the back of the pickup. It was icy! We eventually gave that up. The girls and I ended up sleeping in the cab, and David slept on the ground by the campfire. It was a long, cold night.

I liked David's sense of adventure and willingness to make the best out of a bad situation. Our children also had a good time together (it was our first joint outing). After that memorable trip we dated more seriously and ended up marrying two months later. It was the beginning of many camping adventures together.

We had a small wedding ceremony with just a few friends and family in attendance. I don't suppose that any one who was there really believed that we could make this family work. We had so many strikes against us, including very little money, broken and blended family issues, as well as David's health problems that included bad knees not to mention the undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

So often our life together has resembled that camping trip. There were many times when we wondered if we would make it, but quitting never seemed like the right thing to do. We have had our share of unexpected events that have demanded some creative solutions to the problems.

And so here we are: David is doing much better at controlling his disorder, our relationship is better than it has ever been, and our children are happy, healthy, productive adults raising their own families. We are proud of each of them and our 18 grandchildren.

The words of the Thanksgiving hymn come to mind:

Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom his earth rejoices;
Who, from our mother's arms,
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.

Oh, may our bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
And blessed peace to cheer us,
And keep us in his love,
And guide us day and night,
And free us from all ills,
Protect us by his might.

Our family through the years:
Our first family portrait
With all the children
Just before the oldest left home
At Jeff's wedding in 2008
At Katie's wedding in 2009

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Fishing Trip Observation

David and I went fishing one last time for the season. Although it was overcast and chilly, and the fishing was slow, David was more relaxed and able to enjoy the peaceful day. The depression that has had him in its grip all summer and fall is finally loosening its hold. We don't know why exactly, but we're grateful that it is and that David can find more enjoyment in life.
The dogs had a good time running around and kept us entertained. When Sunny, our toy poodle, get tired of the running he likes to curl up in my bag for a nap.
Sunny napping

Lucy, our lab/pointer mix, is still afraid of the water. We thought she'd outgrow her fear and take to the water as her breed is known to do. But no; she still refuses to get wet above her knees.

She and David were playing a game of fetch when the stick landed in the water, just outside of her comfort zone. She wanted that stick!

Pacing and whining
She stood on the rocks at the shoreline and stretched as far as she could. She went in up to her knees and tried to reach for it, but no luck. The stick was within easy reach if she would go just a little further in, but she wouldn't do it. Instead, she paced along the shore and whined and paced again.
So close but so far away 
Stretching as far as possible 
Even though the stick was moving closer to shore, she wouldn't reach for it. I finally coaxed her, and sweet success!
She retrieved it and pranced around happily.
Lucy enjoying her stick

Isn't that how we behave on occasion? So often a goal is within reach if we'll just stretch a little and move outside our comfort zone. That's when we need encouragement and support from those who can see what's ahead better than we can.
I also spent some time reading a new book about the history and purpose of Relief Society. I enjoyed reading about this organization and liked what Eliza R. Snow, an early leader, had to say, "Let them seek for wisdom instead of power and they will have all the power they have wisdom to exercise." The book also discussed the importance of unity and cooperation. I appreciated this excerpt from the Proclamation on the Family: "Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities." David and I have found that using these principles are absolutely vital in our efforts to understand and keep this disorder under control.
Like Lucy and her stick, it was only when we finally put aside our fears and pride that we were able to work together much more effectively to reach our goal of stability and peace.

On the family front: Happy Halloween!
From our party last weekend: 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Day of Fishing and Relaxation

The sun was shining, the skies were blue, and the temps mild. David and I loaded up the car with fishing gear, food, and the dogs. We headed out to our favorite fishing spot at Lost Creek for a day of fishing and relaxation.

I have been frustrated with a bad case of writers block and hoped a change of scenery would help. While David set up his fishing gear, the dogs and I took a long walk in the surrounding foothills. The weather and lighting was just right to play around with photography. I feel my muse returning.

Golden Aspens


A little sign I saw among the sagebrush and trees

scrub oak leaves

The fishing has been really slow all summer and fall. We think it's because the spring and summer were so wet that there was an abundance of feed, and the fish were interested in bait and worms. Whatever the reason, David was a bit frustrated because he only had a few nibbles and one catch. I took a sip of juice and met up with a bee who had the same idea. OWWW!

David contemplating where to throw in his line

A little thicket with the beginning of fall colors

Lucy among some weeds
David is still working through some depression, but he's taking the right dosage of medicine, avoiding triggers as much as possible, and working hard to keep it from overrunning his life. He recently started working at a condominium where he does light maintenance work and can set his own time and pace. We're grateful for it.

On the family front:
We visited our son Ben and his family for my birthday in September. David had a bad case of travel anxiety before we left, to the point where I seriously considered leaving him home. Fortunately, once we were on our way he calmed down, and we had a nice three hour drive north. I forgot my camera in my haste to get going! We enjoyed a relaxing visit, were excited to see their new home, and had fun playing with the grandchildren (ages 5, 4, 2, and 6 months). When four-year-old Hailee found out it was my birthday, she said, "Where are your presents? She giggled when I said, "You're my present!" I don't think she believed me, but seeing them settled and happy was the best present I could ask for.

I had a nice chat with Soldier Brian recently when he was home on mid-tour leave. He had a great time relaxing and being with his wife and three young children (3, 18 months, 7 months). "They've grown so much since I've been away!" he said. Brian puts in long hours, but he says it helps the time pass quickly. We'll be glad when he's back home to stay. 

Our Mexican branch of the family are also doing very well. I've been able to call them regularly. I'm so grateful they now have cell phone service. They recently began attending their local ward, and they all tell me how much happier they are. Thirteen-year-old Zachary says, "It's changed our family for the better." I hear it in their voices, and I believe him.

We're having a halloween party next weekend for the family here in the valley. I can't wait!

When I get tired and discouraged I am learning to change my thinking and count my blessings instead. And, truthfully, even with our challenges, we have much to be grateful for.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Mount Timpanogos

We had a busy summer filled with short outings, family get-togethers, as well as working around the house, and on his beloved hot rod.  David worked through a lot of depression this summer, but he did a great job of keeping it together especially when we went to family events.

The problem: Toward the end of June, when he was on his way to work at 6:00 a.m., he swerved in front of a highway patrolman. We don't know if he was momentarily distracted or hit something in the road. The patrolman pulled him over, called in five (5!) other troopers, and had him do a field sobriety test (even though there was no evidence of alcohol on him or in the car). He failed the test because his knees are so bad he isn't able to walk in a straight line. But he did volunteer to a blood test. Then, when they looked in the car they found a small bottle with a few of his prescription meds. He has a hard time pronouncing the names under the best of circumstances, and since he was talking slowly and slurring his words a little (he does that when he's extra stressed), they accused him of being in possession of controlled substances. David told them he was bipolar and what the medications were for, but that didn't stop them from handcuffing him and taking him to the highway patrol headquarters for three (3!) hours. Eventually they took him to the county jail where the intake officer (who knows him from the gym) helped get him released in as short a time as possible. Oh, and our car was towed and impounded, which cost us a bundle of money. Fortunately he was able to get his drivers license back without any problem, and they have yet to file a complaint. But it has been hanging over our heads, wondering what is going to happen with this episode.
     David was so good during the episode and cooperated with the patrolmen, but it took a real toll on his emotional health. "I didn't even swear!" he said. He knew he had to stay calm to keep the situation from escalating. The aftermath, though, was a deep depression because he was afraid to take more than the bare minimum of his medicine.
     Am I mad? Oh, yes! Even though he wasn't "acting out," they made no effort to take his bipolar into consideration. David managed to stay calm and in control of himself, with no thanks to the patrolmen. But so often with this disorder, that doesn't happen and tragedy results. I told the local NAMI chapter about what happened; they were sympathetic, but there wasn't much they could do except refer me to a lawyer in case we need it. This episode is exactly why more highway patrolmen, police officers, and other public servants need to know how to interact with those who have mental health issues and take the crisis intervention team training. I don't care if it costs the department extra money; field officers need to know how to help the people they come in contact with, including those with mental illness. Sometimes when I think about this experience I shudder to think about how easily it could have turned bad.

David has also had severe knee problems, and his hands have been hurting badly. I'm sure his part-time job aggravates the problems he's having. He went to the dr. and found that he has arthritis in both of his knees and carpal tunnel in both of his wrists. The dr. gave him some cortisone shots in both areas, and while it has helped, he still hurts.

What helped: He had a check-up with his dr., who made it clear he needed to take all of his medicine, including zyprexa, lithium, and his sleeping medicine temazepam. Since then, he's slowly coming out of the depression. Another thing that helped was a visit with some friends from our ward who let him know they understand and care about him. They also left him with a priesthood blessing. It was just what he needed to give him extra strength to fight this disorder. After that, David made the deliberate decision to go to family, ward, and work parties and to socialize as much as he was able. I admire his determination.

Summer highlights: One of the highlights was a weekend trip to Manti, Utah for my nephew's wedding at the end of July. We decided to make a weekend of it, and enjoyed the drive there that took us through mountainous and rural countryside. We found the last available motel room in town, which happily coincided with being the same one my sister and her family were at. It had originally been a small apartment, separate from the rest of the motel, and still had the feel of being from an earlier era; we loved the solitude of it. The wedding was beautiful, and the officiator gave the bridal couple some great counsel about the importance of working together.

Even though I was limping badly (the week before this trip I had jumped into the shallow end of a pool with too much enthusiasm, and severely bruised my heel), we had a good time exploring Main Street and its local vendors. One of our finds was a small restaurant that featured an in-store bakery as well as ice cream treats. The pastries were melt-in-the-mouth fresh. And so good we decided we'll take another trip there just for the donuts. David does so much better in a small town atmosphere that I wish we could move to one for his sake. We liked the area, and he kept saying, "Can we move here?" On the way home we took a back road through the mountains and enjoyed the vista.

We also had several family get-togethers, went to a family reunion, ward campout, and a (partial) family campout. While he enjoyed these experiences, he didn't really get the full measure of fun and satisfaction from them. We're hoping he has turned the corner from this latest round of depression.

Mount Timp

Currant Creek Reservoir

Currant Creek


Manti, Utah

Manti Temple

Manti Temple at night

Friday, August 12, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Forward

A few weeks ago we took two of our grandchildren on an overnight fishing trip to Lost Creek Reservoir, a favorite place when our children were young. When the reservoir was drained and strengthened a number of years ago, they did away with overnight camping and campfires. It was the end of an era for our family. However, below the dam is a campground that is still open, even though fires are prohibited. We were delighted to discover that we had the whole campground to ourselves.

When we walked around the campground, I thought of past camping trips to the area. One episode that happened before David was diagnosed stood out in my memory. There had been a family reunion scheduled nearby, and at the last minute David had a major anxiety attack and refused to go. I was not going to miss out on the chance to visit with my family members, so I repacked my car (instead of the truck and camper we were going to use), gathered up my four children who were going, and left David at home for the weekend. I have to admit it was a frightening thing to do, I'm grateful David was more or less OK when we came home, and I'm glad I went. After the reunion (and a good cry when everyone else had gone home), we decided we wanted to camp out another night and ended up at Lost Creek. That's when we discovered the reservoir had been drained. It was only a marginally successful experience because I was so worried about David's state of mind and didn't know what to do.

Fast forward more than ten years later. The reservoir is clean, quiet, and restored to its former beauty. David has accepted his diagnosis, adjusted to his medicine, and courageously and valiantly learned how to control his disorder. The four children I had with me that day are now married with families of their own.

I keep thinking about this episode because so often when we are in the middle of a trial, we wonder if it will ever end, and we expect the worst. But if we will keep doing our best and take it one day at a time, things work out. And often, it turns out that our darkest fears never materialize. For instance, a friend commented recently about the fears we faced as a society during the Cold War when bomb shelters were being built and we had drills in school about what to do if there was a nuclear blast. Happily, much of the hysteria of the time has ended, and although the theme of fear still exists in different ways, I believe that we will find our fears to be groundless even though it doesn't seem so right now.

When I find myself starting to fret and worry about David, family, society, the government, etc., I need to remember that there really is a loving Father who sees the beginning from the end and who will guide us if we let Him.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Faith of My Fathers

Last weekend we spent the day at Bear Lake helping to launch Katie and Kevin and his parents' new boat. We enjoyed the company, the boat, and the lake. Bear Lake County, Idaho, is where some of my ancestors settled in the 1860s. I thought of them as we played.

My grandmother's parents were Mormon emigrants who came from Switzerland. They left everything they had for their beliefs. Her father died when she was very young, leaving her mother to raise the family alone. She endured a great many trials, including the death of two of her children, but she found solace by serving in the temple. I admire her faithfulness even during heartbreaking trials.

My grandfather's parents were Danish emigrants who came to the area after crossing the plains as part of the Mormon exodus.  My great-grandmother was 16 years old when she crossed the plains and left us a detailed account of her experience. One of my favorite stories was about a prairie fire that came close to the wagon train. She wrote that they offered a prayer, and then unyoked the oxen and drove them in the opposite direction so they wouldn't stampede, then the leader of the pioneer company stood on a wagon tongue and said, "We are not here to be destroyed." He pointed to a small cloud not much bigger than a man's hand and said, "there is our deliverance." She said, "At that same moment there was a terrific peal of thunder and flash of lightning, and rain poured down. We thanked the Lord for our deliverance, and went on our way rejoicing." 

They knew they were being watched over and protected, and so often I have felt that same loving watchcare.

Recently words from her journal were quoted on "Music and the Spoken Word" where she described the journey: "Every day was about the same, only the farther we got, the more rough and rocky the road seemed to be. Sometimes we would find some old Indian sandals and tied them under our shoes to ease our feet a little. Sometimes we would sing a verse or two of "Come, Come Ye Saints."
I appreciate the reminder that though "rough and rocky the road," strength and comfort will come.

I love the words to the hymn:
"Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
Tis not so, all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward,
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take;
Our God will never us forsake,
And soon we'll have this tale to tell,
All is well! All is well!"

Because of its high elevation the winters are long and cold. During the first winter the settlers nearly starved, and many left. My great-grandfather chose to stay and help build the community. I appreciate his perseverance and the sacrifices he made to raise his family in that  beautiful mountain valley.

Granddaughter Jenna 

David and Jon

David and I 

Katie's family

Granddaughter Sierra
Jon's family

Friday, July 1, 2011

Taking Some R&R

Sometimes when I start to feel stressed, the words to a poem by William Wordsworth come to mind:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

Earlier this week I had the privilege of going with the managing editor to a meeting with the magazine's General Authority advisor, Elder Kikuchi. A very kind and intelligent man, he gave us great direction and counsel for the magazine. Then he said, "I think we hurry too much, and it isn't good for us. Take the time to slow down, appreciate nature more, and meditate." It was a good reminder.

We have had a busy summer so far, with David adjusting to working part-time and fussing with his beloved hot rod.

Helping David with his hot rod
And I have been busy with work, cub scouts (so much fun!), and working on various and sundry projects, including some more knitting, and planting a garden. We also had great visits with my sisters and a niece, and with my nephew. When my sisters were here over Memorial Day weekend we met up and reconnected with one of our cousins, and also went to a "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast.

At the Tabernacle on Temple Square

We took our annual visit to the red rock country of central and southern Utah the weekend before Memorial Day. We went to the San Rafael Swell and enjoyed spectacular scenery. The weather had been cool and wet all through the spring, but the desert was just right, even with a few rain showers thrown in for good measure. We hiked, relaxed, and thought of those people who had lived in the area centuries before. 
The rain showers refreshed the land and brought the flowers into bloom. 
And so it is with us. We need both sunshine and rain in our lives in order to grow and flourish.
Trips to the desert always puts life into perspective for me.

Calf Canyon

Petroglyphs at Buckhorn Wash

The Wedge overlooking the San Rafael River also known as the Little Grand Canyon

Sunset in the San Rafael Swell

After the rain

Desert flowers after a rain