Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Friend in Minnesota, A One-Eared Cat, A Friend in Oregon and Magic Erasers

It fascinates me how so many seemingly unrelated events can conspire together to change attitudes. Although it probably happens all the time, it is only rarely that I actually recognize it and smile because its like I lived in a good book with twisting plots and subplots.

I spent the last ten hours scrubbing the house we just moved out of from top to bottom in preparation of handing back the keys and finding how much of my deposit I really get back. As I'm scrubbing away on the walls with my magic eraser, my husband walked in the door and I couldn't contain myself, "These are the coolest things in the world!"

The words catch in my throat because three years ago a friend of mine in Minnesota, Denise Gunnell, was talking to me and out of the blue she asked if I had tried Magic Erasers. She told me to try them and I bought them the next week. Well, I thought they were just like any other sponge and was less then impressed.

Then we moved to Oregon and my cat got in a cat fight. Her ear was scratched pretty badly as she adjusted to the new neighborhood cats but she wouldn't leave it alone. Each time it would scab over she would scratch it raw and then flick her ear, splattering blood every where. I took her to the vet a number of times but everything we tried didn't work. No matter how we bandaged her, she'd pull out of it and flick blood on the walls, doors and ceilings. It looked like we had a mass murderer living in our midst.

Finally the vet figure it was cancer and we had the ear amputated. I spent hours wiping up the blood but it wasn't until we got read to move out and I moved bookshelves and other furniture that I discovered thick dried on brown bloody spots all over the place. We tried to wipe them up but they seemed fused to the paint.

Then Sonja, my friend up the street came to help with MAGIC ERASERS. She got them wet and scrubbed back and forth like an eraser (duh!) and voila! the mess was gone. I'm like.. WOW, that is magic- thus the name. So now I'm sold on the product and good friends.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gifts are Distributed So Unfairly!

Have you ever met someone who is a natural athlete, musician or artist? It's like they just have this gift from heaven that gives them a clear vision or steady hand or unique perspective and when you are around them you suddenly realize that you are more normal than you ever imagined?

The scriptures come crashing to mind that we shouldn't compare... i.e. "all truth is independent in that sphere in which it was created" and "to every man is given a gift" but some people truly have more as illustrated by the parable of the talents. Now in the end, whether you have only one or a whole handful of talents you get the same reward, but in the meantime it is humbling when you are feeling pretty good about your three and you sit next to someone that has hundreds.

As you probably know, we just moved and I joined a writing group. Well, we have five members but only three are active. The other scout leader and I are strong writers. (SL is always grammatically accurate with no typos unlike me) but the young mother of five that we meet with is incredible. She makes me laugh every other Wednesday and literally dazzles me with her prose.

Luckily, she is on my side and I feel like I'm improving, just sitting in her shadow. It's a great thing. The same is true for the online critique group I'm with. There are a few members that are awesome- they see things I would never think of. What a gift!

I guess I want to publicly thank those great talents that are helping me along the way and hopefully with enough work I'll grow from three to maybe eight- over the next few years.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

God is a God of Irony

Sorry I haven 't blogged lately- and in fact, when I look at the blogs I've done I've got to say sorry I haven't used my brain lately. It's still there- just so focused on busy-ness it doesn't ever get to slow down and consider the fun stuff- I think they call that pondering.

Well, today the dishes are done, the children are relatively happy and I found a second to write out my insights about the story of Ammon (Alma 15-29- ish). Man, it is interesting stuff! Actually I'm really just writing what occurred to me for the first time in Sunday School but I didn't say because they were running out of time and basically, nobody cared about it but me.

The thing that hit me most today is GOD IS A GOD OF IRONY. Now by irony I don't mean sarcasm or deception but the juxtaposition of opposites to bring deeper clarity to a theme or subject. I suppose that Satan's entire story is ironic in that his attempts to destroy mankind end up time and time again to make us stronger as we resist him and turn to Christ. The story of Abraham sacrificing his son holds incredible irony in that Abraham's father had tried to sacrifice him to an Egyptian God. Both were delivered.

Ammon's story begins with his trip to the Lamanites where he becomes a servant. His legendary experience at the waters of Sebus change the hearts and minds of an entire people with the acts of a SWORD. When the Lamanites join the church by the thousands, they decide to bury the very means of their conversion. As the unrepentant Lamanites gather to fight against these new converts, they decide to bury their weapons and die rather than be tempted to sin. Ammon must stand and watch as hundreds of the people he has taught and loved are slaughtered. We often weep for Alma and Amulek watching the saints at Ammonihah be burnt alive but what of poor Ammon having the ability to protect them but having to stay his hand.

When the enemies see that their work of death changes nothing, they drop their swords and more are converted that day than die. (Hugely IRONIC.) In the end the righteous Lamanites leave and join the Nephites. (Of course, their children become the Stripling Warriors who fight and are not killed like Ammon who was the source of their coming to the gospel.)

There are so many lessons to be learned from this story but the one that hit me today was simply we need to be wary of demonizing objects. In this story a sword was not only an object of protection, miracles and valiance but also of sin, cruelty and oppression. I know everyone has heard it said a million times, so here's one million and one, "It's not what it is, but what you do with it."

In our day this is true of SO many things but the first one that came to mind was the computer. The computer can be a great source of righteousness. With it we can do our genealogy, uplift, communicate with family, search the scriptures and words of the prophets and even reach all the way to Albania to write my wonderful missionary son who I miss more than you can imagine. One the otherhand, it can be the basis for not only hours of wasted time but true addictions and immoral communications that can destroy families and souls. Like the righteous Ammonites, if those addictions are severe, the answer to freedom may lie in burying your computer and never allowing yourself to be tempted again. Scary.

I hope instead that I use my computer like Ammon to strengthen the kingdom and bring souls to Christ because giving up all the benefits it offers would be hard. Really hard.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Day At the Beach

This week my two little nieces from Texas came up to go to EFY with my daughter of the same age. They stayed a few extra days and we decided it would be nice for them to go to the beach. We have only lived in Oregon a year and have been to the coast twice. Once in October which was miserably cold but we expected it and had the entire beach to ourselves. We had a marvelous time exploring and digging in the sand until our fingers lost all feeling.

The other day was last summer and it was warm and pleasant but a bit windy. The children went up to their knees in the water, pretending to contend with the waves but never really making the commitment to actually swim until they gave up and came back blue-lipped. I think that was last August.

Now I warned the girls that the Oregon Coast was cold and they needed to bring a jacket, and I repeated myself until I felt I was nagging. I finally loaded five of my own children and the two nieces and we drove the ninety minutes to the ocean. The ride began nicely enough with songs and stories but within a half an hour my preteen had smacked my eight year old with a ball in the eye accidentally and everyone was feeling claustrophobic and bored.

We finally arrived and headed toward the beach with the sand dunes. At Bob Straub State Park, you park your car behind a little sandbar and walk up a slight hill to the shore. We trudged up the little mound with our feet buring in the hot sand but as soon as we rounded the crest and began descending to the water, we felt a frigid violent wind whipping around us. Across the water was a black mist from the forest fires hundreds of miles north that gave the entire scene this ominous cast. To add to my sense of unrest, there wasn't another soul on the beach.

As the eight of us got closer to the water, the wind began to become more intense. It whipped up the sand and riveled the scene from "the Mummy" feeling like hundreds of bee stings against my skin. My 13 year old son was determined to deny reality and yanked off his shirt, as though we were in southern California, splashing in the water and trying not to cringe. I laid out a blanket and sat with my 17 year old to review his eagle project while the two youngest began making a sand castle with jackets still on. That's when I noticed that one of my neices didn't even bring a jacket and the other brought a very light one. Both were freezing and wrapped up in the blankets we had brought to sit on. I thought they would lighten up and play in the sand or go for a walk but my teenage daughter and the two of them just huddled and shivered for the next 45 minutes. With gas at $4.30 a gallon I was determined that we were going to get our money's worth. We had picnic supplies and I had hoped we would be there for three or four hours. This was supposed to be fun.

At last one of the children suggested we head over to the cheese factory. In mutiny they all agreed and less than an hour after our arrival, the kids were packed in the car ready to go with no regrets. We got home from our excursion hours early despite my suggestions to visit other attractions with everyone exhausted from being chilled, and spent the last day of their short Oregon vacation, watching movies in our family room.

So much for them seeing the sights. I suppose the point of their visit was to see us but it was too bad our day at the beach wasn't, well, a day at the beach.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chance Meetings

So this morning I went aqua-jogging with my friend. As we were in the hot tub we saw the stake president's wife and waved. She jumped in the hot tub with us and we all began talking. Well, of course my visit to the doctor yesterday came up because SHE referred me to him. I'm supposed to follow up with a GP for chronic pain issues but have struggled to find a good one. The children are going to a man in the church but he is very young. Although great with kids, I wasn't confident he would fill my needs. I did go to a wonderful little Vietnamese doctor when I first moved here but he was a worker's comp doc and most of those are scam artists. Even though my visit with him was wonderful, I worried that there were no women or children in his waiting room both times I went- only huge blue collar workers.

Well, there in the hot tub I was talking to Arlene and asked who she went to and she told me that she had found this wonderful little Vietnamese doctor who is so wise. It was the same man, Dr. Vu. I was amazed. I guess the thing that got me the most is I prayed just last night that I would feel like I was getting better answers and this morning I feel I did. I guess Dr. Vu it is.

Then while I'm sitting there, Arlene introduces me to another writer in the area. I'm so excited. She is connected to a big group of women I'm looking forward to meeting. It was a great morning.

Strengthen the Feeble Knees

Hope is a two-edged sword. When it is placed in something that has meaning, it can lift and inspire us to positive outcomes. But when it is puffed up in false dreams of quick, painless solutions, that counterfeit hope can be devastating once it has been dashed.

Well, it is no secret I have very bad knees. With my last pregnancy I was bedridden for much of the time and the muscle atrophy plus the effects of many babies left my knee caps pulled permanently out of place. I went to a number of specialists who were stumped by it until finally one little nurse practitioner, Mary Harms, figured it out.

Actually it is very common for women who have had more then three children, especially those with twins to have this condition. The statistics I remember is that 46% of women will experience patella-femoral syndrome or PFS. Very simply what happens is as your hips widen during the birthing process, the VMO muscle which connects your knees to your hips pulls your knee caps slightly out of their grooves. Instead of bending smoothly, your knee scraps along raw bone and sounds a little like rice krispies when you bend it.

Well, due to a few other health conditions, my PFS has gotten pretty bad. As a matter of fact I usually take the stairs one at a time. One Sunday I was hobbling down the three little steps at the front of the chapel after singing in the choir when a sister noticed my graceless decent and mentioned that she had a knee doctor that worked miracles. Now I think I've read just about everything there is on this subject. I know that for a while they were doing kneecap replacements that weren't very successful and before that they would burn the muscle so it would contract and put the patella back in place- but that lasted only a short while before the weakened muscle left you in a worse predicament. There is another procedure where they try to restructure your leg using the tibia and fibula but the recovery is difficult and the success rate isn't very high. The truth is, there isn't very much that anyone can do. You just try to diet, do isometrics and try not to use your knees too much.

Well, after listening to this woman at church I started hoping that she was right, dreaming that there really might be some simple answer. I made an appointment with the doctor and went to it this morning. I wanted so much for a miracle cure. As I sat explaining my condition to the nurse, reality started oozing in and I became somewhat weepy. Sure enough, the doctor told me everything I already knew. That I needed to lose weight, duh, and do my little exercises every night. (Turning out my feet and doing small leg lifts, twisting my leg inward until I'm pidgeon-toed over and over, and if I'm really brave wall sits with a ball between my legs.)

He said I could go to physical therapy again and that they might have a couple of things I hadn't seen yet but the reality is most true answers don't come in a pill or an operation or even in a priesthood blessing, although they may help a little. Most real solutions come by making good decisions day after day. The blessings build a drop at a time. The healing trickles in over months and years. Both physically and spiritually. Quick fixes are rarely long lasting. Bummer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Family Reunion

On the 4th of July weekend when the rest of you were shooting off fireworks and having a barbeque, I was up in the woods with 60 other Thackerays from all over the west coast. We had the once-every-three-year family reunion. I do have to say that the event was successful for a number of reasons. First, and foremost, is that I never step foot in the kitchen and as a result the food was delicious. We also had the annual horseshoe contest and the winners really were the most atheletic in the bunch, so everybody was fine with it.

One of the major activities we did was a trivia book on the many missions served by those in the family. In the last three generations there have been over forty, which I thought was pretty impressive. If you want to see the activity book, I'll post it on my website, You may be able to adjust it for your reunion if you're planning one. The next night we played jeopardy, using alot of the information they learned from the activity book. It turned out to be a great night.