Friday, June 12, 2015


I spent a lot of time digging today.  The front yard of the house needs extensive rehabilitation after a large tree was removed last year.  Half of the front yard was covered almost completely in thistles, dandelions, and clover.

You can't just pull up dandelions and thistles; their roots are deep and tough. You've got to dig them out, and dirty feet, sweaty brow, and tired back should be expected.  Clover is sort of a 50/50 deal.  Sometimes it comes up pretty easily, but sometimes you've got to dig.  It also blends in relatively well. Its short and green, and it can be easy to convince yourself that it isn't really a problem.  But if you ignore it too long--because, you tell yourself, it isn't actually a big deal--it will take over, and soon dominated by clover.

Then there are daisies.  There's some debate out there over whether they're weeds or flowers.  If it helps you to know where I stand on the issue, daisies were one of the primary flowers at my wedding.  But it isn't lost on me that my grandpa the rancher paid my mom for every daisy plant she got rid of.  I think, in the right context and quantity, daisies can be a delight and add a bit of beauty. You have to make sure you keep them in check, however, or they'll use up all your resources and choke out the things that provide genuine sustenance.

As I dug up weeds today and accidentally damaged a few small patches of grass in the process, I had a thought I've had many times in life, starting when I was a small child helping with our family's vegetable garden: it hardly seems fair that its so easy to rip up the good stuff, and so hard to remove the greedy weeds.  But I think its a fair lesson in reality.  The good traits and qualities, all the things we want to have and be, take cultivation and care.  They're easily choked out, especially at first.  It takes cultivation, care, and commitment to have the good stuff grow, and to keep the counterproductive and destructive things at bay.  When the weeds flourish, its a sign of neglect or misdirection.  And if we get lazy, stop being vigilant in pursuing good soil and weeding regularly, those good things can be overwhelmed and pushed out surprisingly quickly.  That may be a hard reality, but the natural man is what he is, and kicking against the pricks gets you nothing but sore toes.

Some flaws and missteps are like those thistles:  sticking out like a sore thumb, clearly prickly, obvious to us and everybody else that they're a problem.  We usually start there, digging deeply to try to get rid of the most painful problems first.  Most people manage to be patient and kind with us in this stage, because, at some point or another, each of us has found out what it feels like to have our hands torn up trying to dig out those thistles.  Its slow, its tiring, and it can make a terrible mess.  Seeing us struggle with those things inspires compassion in most decent people.

A lot of our personal weaknesses are like the dandelions.  For a little while, while everything is bright and sunny yellow, we may be able to convince ourselves that they aren't actually problems.  Maybe they really are flowers and not weeds.  But if we fail to address them quickly, soon the seeds of their destructiveness are flying everywhere, taking over our lives, and all too often drifting into our neighbors yards and starting to choke out their lawn, too.  At this point, often times our neighbors struggle to be patient with us.  Any fool could've seen the problem was there, they think.  Its not like it was hiding, and now I've got to clean up this mess that I didn't do anything to create.  Still, others do manage to be patient with us.  Everybody has their down times, they think--its not like I've never had dandelions.  I've been taking care of my lawn, so I'll just spread a little Weed N Feed and everything will be fine, no big deal.  We don't get to pick the reactions of others.  Maybe the second one is the more Christlike one.  We can say the first person should know better and that its their moral obligation to be patient with us--and that may, in fact be true. The irony in us saying that is that, obviously, then we should know that its our moral obligation to be patient with their impatience, especially if we've caused them a headache in the first place.

We often expect demand kindness, patience and non-judgmental behavior from others, then criticize them for failing to live up to our expectations, and fail to see the irony.

Which leads me to the clover.  Clover isn't obvious and painful like thistles, or glaring and fast-moving like dandelions.  Its roots aren't as deep as either;  rather, its roots are wide.  Its similar in color to healthy grass, and its easy to not notice it at first--our neighbors may not notice it all.  Our lives are often full of shallow, creeping behaviors that don't do us a lot of explicit harm--that, in fact, may be known only to us and those closest to us--but that prevent us from living as fully and as deeply as we otherwise could.  We often even like these behaviors--we may have convinced ourselves that they're an integral part of who we are.  But deep down, some part of us knows we keep them only because they're easier, or because our vanity is wounded by the idea that we may need to give up these "little" things that we don't think are hurting us or anyone.  Slowly, but quite surely, they can creep along, taking over more and more of who we should be.  Sooner or later, if we're to be the people the Lord would have us be, we're going to have to pull them out and let them go.  But they blend in enough that we can go years, or even decades, convincing ourselves that they aren't really weeds at all.

And then there are the daisies.  They can be beautiful.  Often they are things that, not only don't seem to be a problem, but that others compliment us on.  We all like to be noticed and appreciated.  But if our self-worth gets wrapped up in things that are ultimately ephemeral, we can easily end up allowing our lives to be overrun with things of little value while things of true substance wither away from a lack of resources and cultivation.

It is an affliction of human nature to get lost in other people's weeds. It isn't our job to clean them up, so we aren't overwhelmed by them, and pointing them out helps to distract us from the hard work of digging up the noxious weeds in our own gardens.  So if you find yourself neck-deep in someone else's weeds telling them where to dig, its probably time to turn and tend to your own dandelions and clover.  And if someone who isn't supposed to be there is pointing out your weeds, don't retort in kind;  get to work.  Because no matter how uncomfortable the message or how inappropriate the messenger, if its true you should address it.  You will gain more than you can imagine by having the humility to accept and act upon truth even when it comes in the most annoying or uncomfortable way possible.  Even if he's being a bonehead and has no business commenting, if he's right, listen and get to work.  If you're lucky, responding with humility and kindness may even shock him into silence and get him weeding his own garden.  A humble example is always exponentially more powerful than an angry/annoyed rant.

And yes, I see the irony.

Monday, June 8, 2015


We went on an adventure last month.  Its been a long time (about 3 1/2 years long) since we went that many thousands of miles for that long, but thankfully the kids are all still the fabulous travelers they were way back when.  We just went as far as aunt Jen's house the first day, and man alive were my kids excited to see their cousins!  Thanks to relative proximity (and the fact that these cousins stayed with us when they'd come visit California), my kids feel really connected to hers and feel right at home at her house.  We were only there one night, but there were many games of various varieties and lots of laughing and giggling.  I'm glad they're only 6 hours away--we need to make that trip more often.  We kept Jen and Paul up too late talking, and hopefully we can be better about talking to them regularly so they don't have to put up with us so long. ;)  It made me remember how much I loved it when they would come stay at our house.

The next day we did the big push from Pleasant Grove to Visalia via Las Vegas/I-15.  Its a remarkably boring drive, but thankfully Cove Fort is along the way and makes a nice pit stop.  The kids enjoyed exploring the Fort and outbuildings.  Keira especially liked the view from on top:

 The current director there was an Elder Clark (no relation), and he and Doug actually had a really interesting family history and personal history/career arc conversation.  I think we'll remember him.  Also, in one of the rooms there was a heavy hide coat that looked just like the one of Grandpa Pierce's that has been the subject of much horse vs. cow debate in our family, so I asked if he knew what it was.  Turns out, it was a horse that had died in the dead of winter, when his coat was much longer and thicker than usual.  Probably no one cares other than me, but it was fun to figure it out.

We pushed on to Visalia and auntie Manda's house.  She had turned her family room into a huge kid bunkhouse.  That was the last time I had to interact much with my kids the whole time we were at our house.  They were so excited to see her and all her kids that they were pretty much done with me and Doug.  Amanda stayed up talking with us till 3am, which was an excellent reminder of why we both miss her so much.  She's a great sister.  She proved that the next day by giving everyone much needed haircuts!
 Keilana and I both desperately needed clothes, so she took us shopping, too, and we found Keilana some adorable dresses to wear for the summer.

It was hard to get any of the kids out of the pool and spa.  It really wasn't even hot while we were there, but they swam every second they could.

 Saturday was the main reason we came to California: Grandpa Barnes' 90th birthday party.  It was good fun, but busy.  Lots of people, so we didn't actually spend a ton of time visiting with Grandpa.  We had a gift Doug had put together for him that hadn't actually arrived on Saturday, so we carved out a good chunk of the day on Monday to spend with him, just our little family.  He got a big kick out of the photo book Doug made, and we discovered where one of the kids' favorite talents came from:

 One of the things I've always loved best about Doug's grandparents is their wonderful sense of humor.  Hopefully this photo will, in years to come, help the kids remember how much Grandpa loved having them around.  We spent most of the afternoon doing what we've always done at Grandpa's house:  listening to fun stories, looking at photos, reminiscing about family.  Grandpa is a great story teller.
My picture seems to have vanished, but Saturday evening after the party, we were able to meet the Meiks in Hanford for a little (or a lot) Superior Dairy ice cream and catching up.  They will always be some of my favorite people, and a part of my heart will always be set aside for them as "best friends".  I did a lot of my growing up in the years that they were friends and examples to me.  It was wonderful to spend all evening catching up and reminiscing.   And, I mean, I'll take just about any excuse to eat Superior Dairy ice cream, so there's that.

On Sunday, we spent the day celebrating Christa's 30th birthday with family and a few friends.
 There is no more appropriate way to celebrate Christina than with a pool party :).  And while most of her own kids aren't fishes, I'm afraid, a lot of her nieces and nephews are, and were happy to celebrate  with her.  Since it was only in the 70s, I felt no particular need to get in the pool myself.  Watching most of the 20 or so cousins enjoy each other's company really made me wish there were some way we could live close to my family and Doug's.  I spent the day talking with Brad, Jennifer, Christina, Rachel, Chuck and Katy, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude all over again.  I know a lot of people who don't have one good, solid family to rely on, and I have two.  I don't know why I've been so fortunate, but I am very, very thankful.

Monday evening, after visiting with Grandpa and making a quick stop at Katy's to see all the upgrades they've done on the house, we started to head over to Lindsay.  Driving down Prosperity toward the mountains, pulling up to the Lindsay stoplight on 137, that's when I started to feel at home.  Doug grew up in Tulare, spent several years living in Visalia, but those places were never "mine".  The east side of the valley, along the mountains and foothills, is where I spent my time.  Not just in Lindsay, but driving and exploring in the foothills and mountains.  It was a little strange to drive past our old house, go by McDermont, the park, the pool.  The older kids barely remember any of it.  The younger ones don't at all.  But so much of who I am a mother, all my own memories as a young mother, are formed around these places.  But they aren't mine any more, and it was both a relief and a sadness that settled on me at that realization.

And then we pulled up to the Ashcraft's house, and I felt at home all over again.  It felt good to see those smiling faces, the Ashcrafts and the Cregors, welcoming us to this place where we had always felt so loved.  Birthday parties, Family Home Evenings, baby showers--it felt like a second home in many ways.  The kids were bigger, and there were a few more of them, but otherwise it felt very much the same.

 I know the kids couldn't possibly remember too much, but they picked up as if they'd never left.  Because those were the kinds of friends we had in Lindsay, and it was delightful to be reminded that they are just as wonderful as we remember.

Tuesday we said our goodbyes to Amanda and the VanderArk cousins, and headed to Mimi and Papa's house to visit for a couple of hours before starting back.  We drove to Papa Clark's house that evening, and the next day he took us all to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Keira had been soooooo excited to see the sea otters (and to be quite honest, it was awesome to see her light up and squeal with glee when we went to see them first), but she decided the aquarium had some other cool stuff, too.

 We also lucked out that Uncle Tim had to be in Hollister for work, so Amanda and the kids rode up with him and went to the aquarium all day with us, and then auntie Manda and Papa Clark took all the kiddos to the beach while Doug and I got to explore on our own.  We both tend to believe that the central California coast, from just north of Monterey to just south of Pismo, is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Thursday we headed up to Sacramento, one of our favorite vacation haunts when we lived in California.  Old Town is full of fun shops.  And a lot of candy stores, which Dylan was pretty jazzed about.
 (Photo credit: Keilana)

 One of our very favorite things about Sacramento is the railroad museum.  The older kids did remember this a bit, but it was all new to the younger ones, and Kylie especially really got into it.
We'll definitely be doing this again the next time we go to California, and hopefully adding Sutter's Fort and the Crocker Art Gallery.  We also didn't have time to make it up to the big trees or Moro Rock, or any of the thousand other places we love so much in the Sierras, but hopefully it won't be nearly 4 years before we make it back again.

Thursday night, we headed over the hill to Reno, where my uncle Kenny took us in for the night (side note: which he did cheerfully despite the fact that we got stuck behind a major wreck on the pass and didn't make it to his house til a little after 11).  He chatted with us into the wee hours of the morning, and told my kids a bed time story that came from Umpy (his dad, my Grandpa Umphrey).  It was one I'd never heard, though I'd heard my grandpa tell a lot of stories--he was a fabulous story teller.  I love those connections that keep the people we love alive in little ways.  The last time I'd seen him was when my grandma passed away last year, so it was nice to be together again in happier circumstances.

We marathoned it home from Reno on Friday, and were home just over 24 hours before heading to Yaya's house for Memorial Day. . . . .