Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Twenty Seven Years in the Matrimonial Swim!

Twenty seven years ago today, Mark and I jumped into the matrimonial swim and tied the knot! This was after a ten year courtship. Ten years. Plus twenty seven years of marriage. Wow! It has been a wonderful journey full of love, learning and adventure. Our wedding invitation/book best sums up our story leading to this momentous day. It was entitled, "At Last."

From 1974 ---


Their first date was pleasant and over the years,
they socialized for quite awhile
When it was convenient and easy to do.
Now this was their usual style.

Meg had her music and schooling for law
and Mark had a goal in his mind
To be an M.D., so off to that end-
Toward marriage they seemed disinclined.

There were letters, phone calls, trips and the like-
Non-committal and friendly and great.
But nothing too binding to satisfy both
who wanted a more solid state.

On birthdays or Christmas or Easter or such
Their families and friends all would fret.
And ask Meg in hope, "Did he give you a ring?"
She'd smilingly say, "No, not yet."

But this year at Christmas the ring did appear
And her eyes shone in joy unsurpassed.
The wishing is over - the wedding is near
and the families and friends sigh, "At Last."

To 1984 ---

Thursday, June 21, 1984 was a warm, sunny, beautiful day. We met family and friends at the Salt Lake Temple for our afternoon marriage and sealing.

Yes, there were the funny things that happened that day, like Mark forgetting his tuxedo, being locked out of his house, and finally getting a neighbor with a key to let him in to get it; and me waiting for Mark in the temple for forty-five minutes after the sealing only to realize that I was waiting in the wrong place. Our guests patiently waited for us at the wedding dinner wondering where we were. Hmmmm.

But there were also very serious, wonderful things that happened that day as well.
Wayne M. Beck officiated and gave us some great advice. He spoke of our purpose on earth and the eternal plan of the family. He spoke of the significance of having three witnesses at our ceremony. He related a passage from I John 5:7-8, where John the beloved said, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water and the blood; and these three agree in one." Brother Beck then went on to explain that these three witnesses are present at crucial times in our earthly existence; namely birth, baptism, marriage and death.

Moses 6:59 states: "That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so become of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory."

He encouraged us to be loving, kind and considerate of each other and to live our lives in harmony and balance with the Lord's teachings.

Over the years I have saved various pieces of marital advice with attempts to assimilate them into my life. Here are a few I have gleaned:
Always be yourself. You are one-of-a-kind and attempts to imitate someone else will only dilute you.

Always do your best, not for show or to please someone else, but simply because to do less weakens character.

Accept that you are not perfect and don't fret over mistakes. Just try not to repeat the same ones twice. I'm sure that if you live life with zest, there will always be plenty of new mistakes to be discovered.

Take risks. If you fall down, get up and don't be afraid of falling down again. Only those who do nothing never fall.

Don't take things personally. People are usually too self-centered to slight others intentionally. And even if they do it purposely, the only important thing is how you feel about yourself.

Laugh a lot, particularly at yourself. Others then can't laugh at you but only with you.

Don't be afraid of crying. Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes it hurts so bad you don't think you can go on - but you do. And tears really do help wash away the sorrows.

Then again, sometimes life is so joyful you actually do shed tears of happiness.

Love a lot and not just your new husband. Love friends, love nature, love beauty, love learning, love waking up in the morning, and find work and a worthy cause you can love. Pat Bean, Standard Examiner, 29 June 2002

Zeda Haws had her own Ten Commandments for a Good Marriage:
1. Thou shalt love each other unconditionally.
2. Thou shalt be dedicated to your union and there shall be no secrets.
3. Thou shalt handle money wisely, live within your means, and plan your expenditures together.
4. Thou shalt not over indulge, but do all things in moderation.
5. Thou shalt develop a social life together, but value each of your individual needs.
6. Thou shalt be forgiving and hold no grudges.
7. Thou shalt look at adversity as an opportunity for later laughter and immediate growth.
8. Thou shalt be prepared to give more than you get.
9. Thou shalt be expected, together, to give service and support to your community.
10.Thou shalt raise your children together with love and commitment for they are your immortality.

June is a wonderful month for weddings, especially the 21st which is the first day of summer, the summer solstice, and the longest day of the year. Having attended several weddings this month, I rejoice in the happiness and joy for the new brides and grooms. But along with my smiles comes a long, reflective sigh. I really relate to the words of a poem entitled, The Wedding Reception by Martha P. Taysom:
I've reprinted the words with a few (inserts) of my own.

I sit and watch her.
My pastel punch and thick-iced cake
(On delicate plate)
Balance awkwardly on my knee.

I think of me 12 (or twenty-seven) years before.

Her smile beams
First on this reception guest,
Then that.
Sometimes blushing,
Sometimes laughing,
Always turning
Eyes of admiration to the handsome groom.

Should I tell her?
Tell her of face-downed peanut-buttered bread
On new-mopped floor?
Of a two-year-old stretched out
and kicking angrily
In the grocery store
(And everybody watching)?

Can I tell her
Tell her of the almost-can't cope days?
The lonely evenings
Waiting for bishopric meeting (surgeries)
To end?

Will I tell her?
Tell her of the terrifying cry
Of croup
Deep in night?
Or the quickened step
Of the home teacher
Summoned to help administer
To a feverish brow?
(Or the loss of a child?)

But neither can I share with her
The thrill of a newborn's nose
Bobbing in my neck;
The pride of seeing a six-year-old
Begin to read.

I cannot tell her
Of a husband's gentle touch
On my hand
As we pass briefly
In the chapel foyer.

Standing, I brush away the crumbs
From my not-so-new dress,
And wave a little
To the bride
Across the room.

Ensign, April 2005

I could have never planned, designed or dreamed the things I have experienced in our marriage. It has shaped us into who we are --and we happily choose to continue the swim together!

As Mark and I drove south along Harrison Boulevard to embark upon our honeymoon we couldn't help but laugh when we saw the United Savings Bank marquee (now the Flying J Headquarters)flashing in bright neon lights, "To Mark and Meg,

Thank you, Mark. Thank you for being a wonderful husband and father. I love you. You have enriched my life and made me happy. You are my best friend and confidante. I look forward to celebrating our anniversary today and June 21st for many, many years!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Small Things of Life

For my friends in Ogden

What might one say of small things?

That they are the things that bring few surprises, that cause no sudden rush of emotion, no gasp, nor wonderment, but which give our lives the texture we recognize so well.

The familiar is but its very definition always there;

The familiar is by its repetition rather like a tune we learn as children, stubbornly present; good old 4/4 time or the insistent metre Longfellow used when he wrote Hiawatha.

Lin Yutang, who wrote such charming essays on reading, and drinking tea, and the conditions that offend flowers, asked a much bigger question when he said: what is patriotism but the love of the good things we ate in childhood?

He expected no answer: Rhetorical questions never do;

But he was wrong:

Patriotism is more than that,

But the good things we ate in childhood certainly were good; as were the summers and the friends we had, and everything that lodges in the cobwebby corners of memory.

If you were to ask me how I would like the rest of my life to be, I would say the same. The same friends are the ones I want about me; the same places are the places I want to wake up to.

The world is wide, but it is the corners that are comfortable; so too in our lives small things remain, reassure us.

Moments with friends and family, inconsequential remarks. These things mean the world; they mean the world.

Alexander McCall Smith

Fall Author Event for the Ogden School Foundation

One side note to this, I love meeting new people, making new friends, and exploring different places. That, too, adds to the fabric of my life.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thoughts on My Mom

Sunday was Mother's Day. Fortunately for me, I was able to be with my mom and dad to enjoy their company and express heartfelt sentiments. My parents are now in their eighties. They enjoy good health. They have had wonderful, fulfilling lives, devoting time and effort to their children and grandchildren. I love them for that.

When I was about eight, my mom gave each of the children a notebook and asked us to write down the things we liked and didn't like about her. Today while going through some old files, I found the things I wrote.
What I Like About My Mother
"Mother, I like you because you cook for me and buy me new clothes. And you are so patient with me when I am sick. I love you very much. You are so nice when you let my friends come and play with me. You keep the house so very, very clean. That's the part I like. You cook the best meals I have ever tasted. Sometimes when you leave you get a baby sitter for us. You were very nice when you took us to Grandma's house and when you took us to the college ranch when it was raining. You are nice when you take the time to go to the store and get us kids play things. You take your money for Mrs. Price to clean our house. And you went down to Grand Central and got me this tablet to write this with. You don't have to do it but you give me piano lessons. You got the gas log for us to keep warm. I LOVE YOU."

What I Hate About My Mother
"I don't like it when you don't let me go to places like when you don't let me sleep with Joyce or when you don't let friends sleep with me. I don't like it when you are cross and angry and swear. I don't like it when you ground me. I can't think of any more things except when you won't take us to the store. I don't like it when you make us tend and when you make us do the dishes."
By Meg Southwick (about age 8 or 9)

Do I sense an aversion to work or curtailment on my freedoms? Well, OK. There you have it! The good, the bad, the likes, the hates. After twenty five years of parenting, my list of "What I Like/Hate About My Mother" has changed. Alot.

I look at the timeless gifts wrapped in love that my mother bestowed upon each of her children. My mother has risen above the worldly import of being a person of success and has focused her life on being a person of value. What distinction do I make between a mother of success and a mother of value? A mother of success in a worldly sense does things more for her own gratification or satisfaction whereas a mother of value does things for the good of her family. A mother of success is concerned with end results. A mother of value is concerned with the process. Albert Einstein put it in these terms (and I paraphrase this): "The successful [wo]man takes more out of life than [s]he puts into it; while the [wo]man of value gives more to life than [s]he takes out of it."

I once worked as a prosecutor in Juvenile Court. So many times I found myself wanting to take the kids I filed petitions against (the adult system would call these criminal charges) and parent them. They needed love, guidance, security and direction. Some would never have a healthy chance at life because of the terrible parenting and horrible, dysfunctional homes they were forced to live in. Yes, I am being judgmental in my portrayals because to me, that is exactly what it was. Terrible parenting. Tremendous obstacles with fetal alcohol syndromes, drug addictions at birth, physical and mental abuses in the home, yada yada yada.

My favorite poster in the office said, "Good kids don't just happen." So true. It was extremely evident that kids with total freedoms and no discipline or boundaries as children fell into an upside down V pattern representing total freedoms at the bottom and locked down confinement at the top. Children and youth with few or no boundaries often enter the "system" that forces upon them appropriate behaviors with institutionalized curtailments such as detentions, probation parameters, etc. Many face incarcerations in jails or prisons as adults, representing the tip of the upside down V having little to no freedoms whatsoever.

Contrast that with a V pattern in healthy homes. Good parents give children restricted freedoms until teaching and responsibility safely allow expansions into realms where freedoms are appropriate. Societal patterns and norms are taught along with social appropriateness. Ideally as children grow and mature, the V continues to widen until freedoms are endless because of good choices and responsible behaviors.

Being a person of value, my mom encouraged each of us to excel in something. She devoted many hours of her time in helping us find our passion. For my oldest brother, it was taking care of animals.

We had a family dog, but his interests soon grew to include frogs, fish, lizards, tadpoles, salamanders, turtles, snakes, iguanas, horn toads, etc. My brother turned our furnace room into his personal zoo. My mom had shelves built along the walls and over time, my brother amassed over ten aquariums and terrariums.

One day before school, my brother plugged the floor drain in the washroom and the space under the door with towels. After flooding the floor with water he let his two Caiman alligators swim around. My mom was shocked and not amused. She took my brother out of school to clean up the room and put the alligators away. But she still let him keep them.

Another time, he ordered a red tailed hawk from South America which surprised my mom when it was delivered to our house. Our neighbor helped Edward build a cage for it with wood and chicken wire. "Fluffy" became our family project. We took turns getting fresh meat scraps from George at George's Market to feed him. The meat also fed two piranhas.

When my brother was about ten, he went to Yellowstone with his friend. He asked me to feed his animals with the following note:

Alligator: 8 fish every day. Kind of big but not too big.
Brown turtle: 2 fish
Little turtle: 1 little fish
Green turtle: feed on Saturday 1 little fish
Lizard: 8 ants a day - turn light off at 8 p.m. Turn on at 7 a.m.
Big fish: 5 sprinkles a day
Little fish: pinchful of food - turn light on at 8 a.m.
Mosquito fish: goldfish food
Bring frog cages in.
Do all this and you get a surprise.

My younger brother, Jim, was fascinated with electronics. His room was full of wires, buzzers, CB radios, and the like. He got his HAM radio license at age 13 and communicated with people from all over the US and other countries. He still loves electronics and has enjoyed a very fun, fulfilled life with his hobby. He has been John Densmore's webmaster (drummer and songwriter for "The Doors") for many years.

In the Doctrine and Covenants 60:14 it reads, "I give unto them a commandment thus: Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known." My mom firmly believes if a child has a talent, it is the parent's responsibility to help him/her develop it.

Both my sister and I began taking piano lessons very young. My mom spent hours with us each week on the piano bench, correcting buckling knuckles and counting out rhythms. She spared no expense in getting us the best music teachers she could find. Not only did she drive me thirty-five miles to Salt Lake for my lessons, she also recorded them so that I could listen to my teacher, Gladys Gladstone repeat the lesson, correct any mistakes, phrase the music, and be ready for the next lesson. Her efforts have brought many experiences of untold joy and inner satisfaction to both my sister and I as we have shared this talent with others.

Every Christmas we got, "do-kits". These were briefcases filled with markers, paper, crayons, paste, scissors and a box of Band-aids. Don't all kids love Band-aids? We spent hours projecting together. My favorite room in my house today is the craft room. I think I have passed down to my children the love of paper, markers, crayons, paste, scissors and Band-aids and of course, scrapbook supplies! I pride myself on being able to complete any project without going to the store.

One year modge-podge was all the rage. My mom, being a person of value, decided that our family should get acquainted with the world's greatest artists and their masterpieces. She bought a large book containing fifty of the most revered paintings. For a summer project, we modge-podged the prints onto plywood boards. It took a long time because we had to stain, sand and seal each one. She pasted background information about the painting and artist on the back of the boards then hung them in the basement.

One day in elementary school, my teacher showed us "Sunflowers" by Van Gogh.

She explained how revolutionary he was for his time and such a genius. I quickly raised my hand and said that my mom owned that piece and I could bring it to school to show the class. To this day, he is one of my favorite artists. I cried the day I saw "Starry Night" at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

I am always amazed at the masterful way Jesus Christ dealt with the Pharisees, the scribes, the elders, the sick and afflicted, the needy, the wealthy, the poor, the learned, etc. He loved everyone and served them regardless of rank or status. My mom has similar traits to this. She finds the good in everyone and has always encouraged us to treat people in all walks of life with dignity and respect.

My mom exposed us to cultural and social diversity at a very young age. I am sure we were the only family in the neighborhood who subscribed to "Ebony." We often took Christmas to the poor, clothes to the needy, and music to the lonely. While on vacation, she and my Dad met a girl in Mexico whose dream was to get an education in the U.S. They invited and sponsored Irma to live in the U.S. with us. Frightened and timid, she enrolled at Weber State University, speaking broken English and having difficulty understanding her professors. Imagine the pride of my parents when she not only graduated from WSU with a B.S. degree but continued on to get a Masters Degree from the University of Utah and a PhD from Kansas University. She is now a tenured professor at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo but still "comes home" to be with us for Christmas.

Motherhood is a learning process you never graduate from. It is rich with bounteous, joyful experiences. President Kimball said, "Motherhood is a holy calling, a sacred dedication for carrying out the Lord's work, a consecration and devotion to the rearing and fostering the nurturing of body, mind and spirit of those who kept their first estate and who came to this earth for their second estate to learn and to be tested and to work toward godhood."

Motherhood is not always easy. Children bring such pleasure -- and sometimes grief. The highs are higher and the lows are lower. "Men are that they might have joy." This joy is partly recognized from opposition.

I love my mom and my children. I love my dad and husband, too. I pray for guidance and strength to be a mother of value over a mother of success and wish my mom a Happy Mother's Day!