10 days in England. Four in London, one in Cambridge, two in York (pronounced Yawk), three just outside of Oxford. I have been to England before, and I have loved it every time. This was Emma’s turn. Her sisters got to go many years ago ( Must keep things equal. Kinda.)

Some things I learned this time:

• All of Europe goes on vacation in August and London is one of their destinations.

• There is no one map of London that serves all of your needs. You need two: one detailed city, and one tube and bus.

• A trip in the summer requires almost two different wardrobes because you just don’t know what kind of weather you may encounter.

• People eat dinner late in Europe. If you go to a restaurant between five and six in the evening, you will have no problem getting a table, and the restaurant/pub will not have run out of Sticky Toffee Pudding yet.

• Airbnb is a mixed bag. Reviews can be misleading because your idea of a comfortable bed may not be everyone else’s. On the other hand, you may end up someplace that is really great (see The Nook in Oxfordshire).

• I thought I liked Cambridge more than Oxford, but I was wrong. Oxford is a beautiful city. Cambridge is quaint.

• WWII was hell for the British.

We went to a couple museums/memorials about the war and went on a walking tour of York where we learned even more about that period of time. I knew the country was bombed by Germany and that Hitler intended to invade, but the exhibits we saw really helped me better appreciate what it must have felt like to be British at that time. It is a short 20 miles from the continent. The country is about the size of the state of Alabama. There they were, minutes from Hitler’s army.


Göering overlooking cliffs at Dover from France.

60,000 civilians were killed. It must have been so frightening to live through. The thing that helped me understand the best was our stop in Coventry. Coventry is….ugly. Much of modern architecture in England is truly hideous – it looks like communist Soviet cement blocks. (Prince Charles called some of the modern architecture “monstrous carbuncles”.) Coventry had the snot beat out of it and it looks it. Years ago we visited Vicksburg Mississippi. We could see that the city had never really recovered from the Civil War. It was a poor and depressing place. Well, Coventry is not poor or depressing, but it does not look like other English cities that sustained damage during the war. Coventry Cathedral, like many other stately building, was utterly destroyed. The damage was too extensive to rebuild, so the ruins were kept as a memorial.



Unlike most other British cities that enduring Nazi bombing, Coventry had a hard time keeping that famous “stiff upper lip”. They had sustained such damage that people were utterly demoralized. Churchill understood how important it was to keep up morale. For that reason the government created the Ministry of Information which was given the responsibility of boosting morale. That is the origin of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster.


Keep Calm and Carry On was the third in a series of posters. The first two were Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory and Freedom is in Peril. The third poster was printed and ready to use when the Nazi’s invaded. It was only a matter of time.

But! We know that Hitler made a Napoleonic mistake. The RAF managed to maintain control of the air over southern England and Hitler turned his attention to Russia. He figured he could come back and get England later. Fatal mistake. So the poster was never used. Copies were found decades later and today we are the happy recipients of the reminder to prevail with equanimity.

People have co-opted the “Keep Calm” slogan. They trivialize it by turning it into such silly things as “Keep Calm and Buy Stuff” and “Keep Calm and Eat Cake”, or worse. Only a people ignorant of history and lulled by ease and imagined security could play such games. For my part, I am grateful that Churchill helped bolster a people already known for their fortitude.

This is no time for ease and comfort. It is a time to dare and endure.

Malaga Cove


I grew up in a spectacularly beautiful place. Today I walked the trails above Malaga Cove and the views were stunning. Growing up, the views did not strike me as they do now. What I remember the most from my youth is the scent of the Hill. Those scents are likely what make my walks around Palos Verdes such a visceral experience. The Hill smells like a combination of eucalyptus, flowers (mock orange was especially prevalent in my youth) and sea air. Some of the undeveloped areas have a scent that I like to call coastal canyon. I smell that scent and I am taken back instantly to my youth. I can recall specific memories of walking through fields, jogging in the early morning fog and hiking down the cliffs to the beach.

When I walk around the Hill these days, those scents pull at me and make me wish for something that no longer exists. When I lived here, there were still open spaces where kids rode dirt bikes and built forts. In one then-undeveloped area, where Paseo La Cresta and Via Coronel met, if you drove through at night, you were likely to disturb a huge owl that liked to sit atop a street sign. There were definitely neighborhoods, generally the Estates and behind the gates in Rolling Hills, where truly wealthy people lived, but back then there were also “normal” areas inhabited by the single-income families of engineers that worked at Hughes, Northrup and TRW. Those days are long over. The empty fields have been filled with wanna-be Tuscan villas and Spanish-style McMansions. Only the 1% can afford to live here. The people are different today than those I grew up around.

Owls were not the only wildlife. Skunks abounded. If you left cat food outdoors, you were likely to attract the little nuisances. Many a night returning home late from work or a date would entail a face-off with a nervous skunk. The Estates and Portuguese Bend had peacocks – magical to me, but terrible pests for many of the residents.

We had one major shopping area on the hill – the Peninsula Center, with a couple of outpost retail centers in Lunada Bay and Malaga Cove. The Peninsula Center was perfect. It had all the basic shops you needed: two grocery stores, stationary stores, a 5 and dime and hardware store, a cheese shop, a bakery, shoe store, shops for clothes, fabric, luggage, jewelry, books and music. There was a Jolly Roger restaurant and my first employer, a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream. The shops were connected by outdoor walkways and courtyards. In the summertime they had arts and crafts festivals. During the holidays, groups would go caroling there and there was a house for Santa to visit and take pictures. Out by Portuguese Bend was Marine Land, a little mini-Sea World. It was a major summer employer for high school students.

When I moved to Palos Verdes from the San Fernando Valley, I did not like the coastal weather. We moved there in the early fall. Fog – it has a smell, did you know? –  came rolling in with the afternoon. It was cold and damp. I had to walk through the low clouds on my way to school. By the time I arrived my hair and clothes were covered with a fine mist. It wreaked havoc with my cowlicks. But I learned to love it. Even more so as an adult. I brought my children here in the summers every year. I wanted them to know and love the ocean. It was no longer the place I grew up, but there was enough still here to create good memories.

This year is a particularly good summer. The weather is warm and the fog is sparse. I look now out the bedroom window to a sky glowing orange where the sun has just gone down. The ocean is black and there is a breeze. Planes in the distance take off from LAX. My summers in the place I grew up have been numbered for a while now. I don’t know how much longer my mother will live here. But it will be okay. I find now, when I return to Texas, that I breathe out a sigh of relief. I welcome the space. The sky. The cows. The lone star flag and the people of the South. It wasn’t supposed to be forever, but it has become home too.




I’ve been thinking lately about when life doesn’t turn out the way you imagined. Giving up cherished dreams and embracing a new reality is hard. But it is also life. What is it John Lennon said? “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Back in the 1960’s Aaron T. Beck developed a cognitive therapy for those experiencing depression. It is called “reframing”.  Patients would recognize their negative thoughts and learn to change them from negative to positive. When they did this it would lessen their depression. This technique has many uses. For instance, it can be used to help with test anxiety, memory problems and with parents having negative thoughts about disabled offspring.


Last Fall a friend from my teen years passed away. She had had children later in life and left behind young daughters. She was a little more mature, relatively anyway for an LDS woman, as well. Before meeting the man that would become her husband, she had dated a man that the whole family loved. He was an engineer and altogether great guy, but she just didn’t think he was the guy for her. The man she ended up marrying was a more difficult personality. He wasn’t a bad person, but he came with some issues that made him harder to embrace, but for her it was the match she had been looking for. They struggled financially. They weren’t destitute, but she often worked and did not enjoy many of the things society thinks is important. Her sister-in-law spoke at her funeral and commented that God cares about the big stuff – do you keep his commandments and your covenants? Do you marry in the right place and then work to keep that marriage intact in the face of internal and external struggle? Do you have children if you are physically capable of it?  Beyond that, it is all little stuff. It doesn’t feel like little stuff – illness, poverty, death – but in the big (eternal) scheme of things, it is. Because when we die and get to the other side, all those little things are gone, but the things that are big – commandments, covenants, marriage and family – that’s all that’s left. Did she ever have to reframe her life? If she was anything like the rest of us mortals, she likely did.

Emily Perl Kingsley wrote a story about planning a vacation to Italy. For her it is an allegory about having a disabled child, but I think it can be an allegory for any “reframing” event:

“You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.”

I have been lucky. The times when I have had to reframe my life have been small. They were disappointments felt big at the time, but in light of the major realignments many people have to make, I recognize now how puny they were. Really.

Reframing your life sounds simple enough, but the name belies the difficulty of the task. It is hard to give up visions of how your life was supposed to be. You have to trust that what it will be can more than compensate for your disappointment.

Surrender to what is.

Let go of what was.

Have faith in what will be.

I can not close out this year without explaining my absence.

I finished classes at the end of July and looked forward to seven weeks of summer. I did not spend my time as I had planned. On August 11 we got a call from Julie that Greg had died. She came home from a weekend trip to find him gone. Words do not do justice to the impact this has had on our lives.


This was my favorite photo of Greg. It was taken the year the girls and I stayed at my Mom’s and took care of Zeus while she and Bob went to Italy. It was October. On a mild weekend evening, Greg, Julie and the kids came up for dinner. I heated up the pool. Greg was always really good with the kids. They loved him and have very fond memories of him.

In October I lost my cousin, Mary. She was a single mom and left behind a 12 year old son, Brendon.


Mary had battled breast cancer for about three years. I was able to deliver her eulogy. It was a group effort really. I asked everyone to give me memories to include.

I think we are still trying to return to “normal”. We’ve just been trying to fit in everyday life and prior commitments while trying to process the body blows and doing what we could (which feels like not nearly enough) to help. As hard as these two deaths have been, I am grateful for the way the family in both instances handled things. I was speaking with a woman today that lost her father recently. Her mother and sister are not handling things well and instead of being a support to one another, they are hurting each other. She is dealing with the stress of losing her father alone.

We sang the hymn today at church that comes from this poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkenss of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

I don’t think I have ever sung that hymn and meant it more.

Neal A. Maxwell said:

“If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are [the] most difficult to do.”

source: judeochristianchurch.com

source: judeochristianchurch.com


I’ve been thinking about time lately.

That photo above…it shows the passage of time, but how much? We really don’t know.

Once, when Rob was just starting his career in the Air Force, I had an answer to a prayer:

“Everything will be okay.”

This was in response to my earnest desire to not spend any more time in Del Rio, TX. And for my hardworking and deserving husband to not have to be a FAIP (First Assignment Instructor Pilot). We had prayed to know what he should do as a career and were very surely directed to the Air Force. He excelled during ROTC. Got Corp Commander as a junior in college. Got Distinguished Graduate (which meant a regular commission instead of the usual reserve officer commission). Got his pilot slot. It was all going according to plan, right?

But then he landed in the pilot training class that would finish at the very end of the fiscal year. When there are not enough fighter aircraft to go around. And what do you get for all your hard work when that happens? Five years as a FAIP in the garden spot of Del Rio with no guarantee that you will get your fighter in the end.

So, yeah, I hated that answer.

This is what followed:

I was called as RS President when I had a 6 month old baby and a husband going to instructor pilot school in San Antonio. I was always alone.

Then the AF decided Rob really wasn’t meant to be an instructor and we waited for months to know where we would go and what he would do. Limbo. Worst thing in the world on a gossipy, small AF base in the middle of nowhere.

Holly was diagnosed with WPW.

We moved to Fort Worth, but all our earthly belongings went to Guam.

Then Holly was diagnosed with Reactive Airway Disease. Which meant she got pneumonia. All. The. Time. I had to learn to recognize when she came down with it, because she never got a fever. That poor little perforated child was constantly getting poked and prodded. Drawing blood from a baby is not fun. The medications she took required that her blood be drawn periodically to make sure she wasn’t overdosing.

Turned out the AF was nothing like ROTC. It’s political, and squadron commanders can be vindictive and little.

I learned it really is a drag when your husband hates his job.

Rob was part of a nuclear mission. That meant he was gone for a week at a time sitting alert. And I was on my own again. I learned to bleed brakes and take apart toilets and mow the lawn and handle tornado warnings and fend off intruders and go to church with little  children and no assistance and work with the young women with two young children always in tow. It was exhausting. And I wasn’t naturally good at any of it.

I often thought back to that “everything will be okay.” I brought it up with God a lot.


So we just carried on.

Then something happened. The Cold War ended. My husband miraculously (truly, it was a miracle) got an early release from the AF and was hired by American Airlines without going a day without work. (I will tell that story another time.)

Everything was finally okay.

It had taken years.

I did not endure with grace. I whined. I endured, but I whined. To God.

What was overwhelming at the time for me, I can now see, was not that big a deal. In the ensuing years, I have watched as several of my friends have struggled with infinitely more difficult trials such a losing their health, and long periods of unemployment. Who have lost their lives or the lives of their children to car accidents, violence, and illness. Some have weathered the storm trusting in God and in the promise that eventually, even if only in the eternities, everything will be okay. They were guided and instructed through their trials by their Father in Heaven. I have watched others, less trusting, or perhaps just angry at the grinding nature of their trials, implode, explode, and they and their families self-destruct. I have learned that:

1. Imploding is a choice. The hardship exists regardless of the individual’s reactions. The implosion only makes matters worse for everyone.

2. Understanding hardships takes perspective. Perspective takes distance. Distance takes time.


I’ve been taking classes online.

This is what happens when you don’t complete your education when you are young.

Granted, I had my challenges. I went away to school upon graduating from high school. Shortly thereafter I got a letter from the man my mother had been with for the previous eight years, and in whose house we lived, that I wasn’t welcome back. He didn’t like me. It wasn’t that I was a bad kid. I was obedient, got decent grades, always had jobs and paid for my clothing, gas, insurance, much of my own food, etc. But I saw through him. He was a bad person. And I had reached a point in my life that he couldn’t manipulate me. So, I was kicked out. Some kids have the where-with-all to be entirely on their own and make it through school. I’m afraid I didn’t. I tried. But it was just too much for me to handle. I didn’t have the discipline or the direction. I also didn’t have a vision. I need vision. Literally. I learn from watching or picturing how something should be. I couldn’t get a picture for my future as far as school was concerned. I wanted a college education, but I just couldn’t see it. So I worked. And then I married. And then I had children. And I am grateful I did. I am not one of those women who wishes she had waited to marry. I really am glad I married and had my children early. I just wish that I could have found a way to get my degree at the same time.

Part of the problem was the things that I was interested in studying were best studied, for me, at a Church school. I really was drawn to the area of Child Development and Family Relations. We were not going to be living near a Church school, however. Rob was going to school in California, and he just needed to get through and start being a provider. And he was going into the Air Force upon graduation. At a later point, I attempted BYU’s online degree program. Then 9/11 happened and our finances were severely affected. When we eventually scratched and clawed our way out of that pit, BYU had changed their online program and I no longer qualified. What to do? Emma was approaching graduation, we would be empty-nesters. I needed something. I thought about nursing. It seemed like a good fit. It was useful, flexible, matched my personality. I never had a feeling like it was the thing for me to do. (My patriarchal blessing said I would know what I should study.) I prayed “if I’m supposed to do this, help me get a good grade in microbiology.” I got A’s. That must be my answer, right? Ha! I was admitted to and began the nursing program and hated my life. So I withdrew. What a LOSER.

A year or so later, I learned about BYU Idaho’s new online degree program. It included a, new to them, Family Studies major. My hang-up now was what do you do with a degree in Marriage and Family Studies when your children are grown? Turns out there are quite a few things a person with a degree in Family Studies can do. I do not know that I will ever earn a cent with a degree. I’m not sure I will ever need to. I just really want the dang degree. I can’t explain it.

So, here I am, taking classes online with BYU-I. I will be at it for another year. I buy frozen food from Costco to keep Rob fed. I take my walks and do my calling. I had to quit singing in choir (darn it, because that was a hard audition for me), but I will get it done. This week is my break between winter and spring semesters. I really just wanted to sleep, or go see Carol in Peru, but instead I will get a tooth crowned and figure out how to work Quick Books. And ready myself before taking the plunge again next Monday when classes start.


This it the Tooth of Time. Rob and I made our way to the top of this peak last summer with the girls of Venture Crew 7701 and two other intrepid leaders. I prepared for months in order to be physically fit enough to make the six-day trek at 7,000 to 9,000 feet of altitude.

I have a bad back, so I was concerned that trudging around a 50 pound pack for a week would be more than I could handle. Turns out that this,


the summit of the Tooth, was what  I could not handle. You see, I have a slight fear of heights. Not in all its possible manifestations, just some. I can fly in planes and hike  a smooth path on the side of a mountain, but put me on uneven, bouldered terrain, and I break into a sweat (and a swear). I think it is because I do not have a very good sense of balance. I am very tall with long arms and legs. I have no sense of a center of gravity. I am like Olive Oyl, Popeye’s damsel in distress, limbs flailing everywhere. At yoga, I am the spinning wind turbine in a room full of graceful tree poses. Namaste.

Experienced hikers say that the last portion of the climb to the summit is a short scramble on the rocks. For me it was clawing and scratching my way up Everest. Once there, I sat safely in the middle, away from the sheer drop surrounding us, while the rest of the group literally scampered about like mountain goats. When I had all I could take of the top, I headed down, on my rear end. Five points of contact! What we had failed to realize is that a bouldered ascent meant an uncharted, free-for-all descent. We foundered on the rocks, and I literally wrecked. As I hyperventilated and sobbed, my kind husband gently guided me back to the trail and we slowly made our way down.

When Jesus was born, his parents took shelter in a stable. That stable was likely a cave, and the manger in which he slept was likewise carved of stone. His life began and ended in hard rock. Indeed, He is called the Rock of our salvation, a sure foundation upon which we can build our lives, but a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” to the disbelieving and disobedient. When Israel wandered in the wilderness, life-sustaining water came forth from a rock.

The paths upon which we find ourselves during our time on this earth are often rocky. And sometimes, as on the top of the Tooth, there is no path, just huge boulders. Is there some meaning in the fact that the words used to illustrate our trials are the same ones used to define the means of our salvation? A divine contraposition? When I clung, shaking and sweating, to that igneous mass as I made my way to the trail which, though I could not see it, surely was there, was he saying “those stones are big, but I am mighty”? In holding on through the trial, clinging to the trial, we cling to Him.

I have had my share of rocks and boulders. I have had to watch while my children encounter their own. Watching those you love as they scale granite can be even harder and just as much a trial of faith. I do not have all the answers, but I trust in this –

I am Messiah,

the King of Zion,

the Rock of Heaven,

which is broad as eternity;

whoso cometh in at the gate

and climbeth up by me

shall never fall

(Moses 7:53)

Texas Women

After observing one daughter’s particular talent, a friend said, “You raised a good girl.”

I get compliments like that all the time. Really. Because my daughters are good. And talented. And kind, and smart.

In an attempt to light-heartedly deflect what I feel is undeserved praise, I often respond with,

 “I take no credit. I take no blame.”

That really is not some clever dissembling to hide some maternal self-regard. No, I honestly feel like God gave me really, really good women as daughters, who would be patient with a deeply flawed person, utterly lacking in natural maternal skills. Once-upon-a-time I didn’t even want children, knowing my own shortcomings. Then I had a change of heart. I still possessed all those shortcomings, try as I might to overcome them. The rougher edges are mostly gone as I have earnestly sought to be a good mother, but I am as yet terribly flawed. I rely on the atonement and the long-suffering of my children to, hopefully, overlook my errors and screw-ups.

Sister Julie Beck once told a story of going to visit a ranch with her mother. The rancher explained that in breeding cattle, it is the aim of the rancher to improve upon successive generations of cattle by producing heifers that are even better specimens than their mothers. Sister Beck’s mother remarked that that is the goal of every mother.

God gave me good girls. Much better specimens than myself. I am grateful.

And I take no credit.





I saved my children’s teeth. My family thinks I’m a freak for doing so. I suppose it is an odd thing to do, like taking your favorite pet to the taxidermist instead of the plot of ground in your back yard.

Hair and teeth and baby clothes, favorite blankets and best-loved books.

Tangible reminders of when they were little and would fold themselves up in your lap while you laughed at that piggy, plump and little, in the very merry middle, or rocked and nursed the little bundle and drank in the smell of her hair and felt her skin so, so soft, or tried to sooth the aching of those tender gums.

Those things don’t bring them back. And, truthfully, I wouldn’t want them back! I love the women they have become! But I do sometimes miss the babies they were.

I tend not to be overly sentimental. Just enough to shed a brief, nostalgic tear before getting on with the business of the day. But, I am not alone!

I have been going through old letters that belonged to Rob’s parents and grandparents. Rob’s grandfather was a sentimental man. He saved love letters from his wife before they were married. Rob’s grandmother, on the other hand,  was NOT the sentimental type. Who would have known she could be so besotted? Amongst the letters was a note from Rob’s mother when she was young. Her father had been away when she lost her first tooth, so she wrote to him of the event and included the tooth. It was taped to the paper. When I opened the letter, the tooth fell out. The tape had dried and the tooth had broken into pieces. He kept that letter and that tooth the rest of his life.

When Caroline was little she fell while playing outside and broke her front tooth. I had to take her to the dentist to get the root pulled out. So I held her and tried to calm her while the dentist yanked out what was left of that incisor. Oh, I felt awful for her. All the pain she had endured cutting that tooth just to lose it prematurely because of some wet cement. I had tried teething rings and ice and Oragel. Nothing worked, and, in the end, all I could do was hold her while she fussed. The image constantly before me while the dentist worked was of those hours spent together in the rocker while she cried because her mouth hurt, and I hurt for her.

Like every new ordeal, the first time is the hardest. By the time Holly and Emma cut teeth, I knew what to expect, and while I felt sorry for them, impotence in the face of their suffering was not so traumatic. After a few years, when in due time the teeth came out, we all rejoiced. Funny…when the teeth come in, there is no blood, but there is weeping and wailing, and when they come out, there is plenty of blood, but it is all eagerness and delight. Time and the ensuing bumps and bruises of life furnish a new perspective.

So, yes, I keep the teeth. And, yes, it’s kind of weird.