Tag Archives: Newfoundland

Little Birds

house_sparrow_1

Photo courtesy of https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Sparrow/id

It was very calm in our yard this morning. Not like yesterday. Yesterday when I took the dogs out, there were dozens of birds out there chirping loudly and making an unholy racket in the Palo Verde and pecan trees. I assumed that our local Cooper’s hawk had caught another pigeon and was eating it on the roof again, and went back inside. A few minutes later, the dogs wanted to go out again, and amidst the avian din they went to the wooden fence and began whining and scratching. As I approached, I could hear a fluttering but could not see where it was coming from. I peeked over the gate, and saw a house sparrow frantically trying to free itself: it’s leg had slipped between the upright slats in the fence and it was trapped upside down. I ran to the door and called Steve to come out, and then gently held the bird while my husband figured out how to free it. I cupped it in my hand for a moment for it to catch its breath, then released it on the nearby brick wall. It quickly flew away, harbouring a slightly bloody leg but apparently none the worse for its harrowing experience.

In some of the Irish parts of Newfoundland it was customary to follow the ancient traditions of Wren Day on St. Stephen’s Day, known by most people today as Boxing Day. In Avondale, Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, the boys would “visit each house in their community on St. Stephen’s Day, chanting [the lyrics to the song The Wren] while carrying an evergreen branch which was decorated with ribbons and feathers.”

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,

St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the firs,

Although he was little his honour was great,

Rise up, young ladies and give us a treat.

Up with the kettle and down with the pan

A penny or two to bury the wren.

With a pocket full o’money and a cellar full o’beer,

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

Another version can be found here.

In the oldest forms of the Irish, Welsh, French, Spanish, Norse, and English tradition and well into the 20th century, an actual bird was hunted by wrenboys on St. Stephen’s Day. The captured wren was tied to the wrenboy leader’s staff or a net would be put on a pitchfork. It would be sometimes kept alive. There are many theories about where it started and why, but none that I will detail here.

Another avian tradition associated with St. Stephen’s Day was the Christmas Side Hunt, a yearly event where hunters would compete to see who could bring in the highest number of birds and small game. There was no expectation that any of these creatures would be eaten; it was purely for sport.

In 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, who, along with many others, was concerned about declining bird populations, proposed a new holiday tradition, which has come to be known as the Christmas Bird Count. Instead of killing birds and counting them, volunteers survey designated areas for species and numbers. Today, tens of thousands of people participate across North America, and this citizen science is used to determine the health of bird populations and to inform conservation efforts for species at risk.

These are some of the things I was pondering as I helped free the house sparrow from my fence yesterday. And then I remembered an admonition from our church leaders to our primary children long ago, written in song:

1. Don’t kill the little birds,
That sing on bush and tree,
All thro’ the summer days,
Their sweetest melody.
Don’t shoot the little birds!
The earth is God’s estate,
And He provideth food
For small as well as great.
2. Don’t kill the little birds,
Their plumage wings the air,
Their trill at early morn
Makes music ev’rywhere. …
Think of the good they do
In all the orchards ’round;
No hurtful insects thrive
Where robins most abound.
little-birds

Indeed, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke at length about this topic and others in the October 1978 General Conference his talk Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live:

I read at the priesthood meeting at the last conference the words to the verse of the song years ago, “Don’t Kill the Little Birds,” with which I was familiar when I was a child growing up in Arizona. I found many young boys around my age who, with their flippers and their slings, destroyed many birds.

In Primary and Sunday School we sang the song:

Don’t kill the little birds

That sing on bush and tree,

All thro’ the summer days,

Their sweetest melody.

As I was talking to the young men at that time all over the world, I felt that I should say something more along this line.

I suppose in every country in the world there are beautiful little birds with their beautiful plumage and their attractive songs.

I remember that my predecessor, President Joseph Fielding Smith, was a protector of these feathered and other wild life creatures.

While President Smith at one time was in the Wasatch Mountain Area, he befriended the creatures from the hill and forest. He composed four little verses as follows, and opposite each he drew a little picture. Of the mountain squirrel first, he wrote:

This is little Chopper Squirrel

Up in the mountains high.

He begs us for some grains of corn,

With thanks he says goodbye.

And then the bat was next:

This is little Tommy Bat

Who flies around at night.

He eats the bugs and ‘skeeters’ too,

Which is a thing quite right.

Then he came to the deer:

This is little Bambi Deer

Who comes to the cabin homes.

She licks the salt we feed to her,

And on the mountain roams.

And then the birds:

This, our little feathered friend

Who sings for us all day.

When comes the winter and the cold,

He wisely flies away.

Now, I also would like to add some of my feelings concerning the unnecessary shedding of blood and destruction of life. I think that every soul should be impressed by the sentiments that have been expressed here by the prophets.

And not less with reference to the killing of innocent birds is the wildlife of our country that live upon the vermin that are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is a shame, in my opinion. I think that this principle should extend not only to the bird life but to the life of all animals. For that purpose I read the scripture where the Lord gave us all the animals. Seemingly, he thought it was important that all these animals be on the earth for our use and encouragement.

President Joseph F. Smith said, “When I visited, a few years ago, the Yellowstone National Park, and saw in the streams and the beautiful lakes, birds swimming quite fearless of man, allowing passers-by to approach them as closely almost as tame birds, and apprehending no fear of them, and when I saw droves of beautiful deer [feeding] along the side of the road, as fearless of the presence of men as any domestic animal, it filled my heart with a degree of peace and joy that seemed to be almost a foretaste of that period hoped for when there shall be none to hurt and none to molest in all the land, especially among all the inhabitants of Zion. These same birds, if they were to visit other regions, inhabited by man, would, on account of their tameness, doubtless become more easily a prey to the gunner. The same may be said of those beautiful creatures—the deer and the antelope. If they should wander out of the park, beyond the protection that is established there for these animals, they would become, of course, an easy prey to those who were seeking their lives. I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men—and they still exist among us—who enjoy what is, to them, the ‘sport’ of hunting birds and slaying them by the hundreds, and who will come in after a day’s sport, boasting of how many harmless birds they have had the skill to slaughter, and day after day, during the season when it is lawful for men to hunt and kill (the birds having had a season of protection and not apprehending danger) go out by scores or hundreds, and you may hear their guns early in the morning on the day of the opening, as if great armies had met in battle; and the terrible work of slaughtering the innocent birds goes on.

“I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939, pp. 265–66.)

One of the poets stated in this connection:

Take not away the life you cannot give,

For all things have an equal right to live.

—and I might add there also, because God gave it to them, and they were to be used only, as I understand, for food and to supply the needs of men.

Let us be mindful, every day, of the small and simple ways we can show thanks and gratitude to our Heavenly Father for the countless ways He has beautified our world. One little bird may not seem like much, but as another children’s song tells us, His love for us is indicated by His love for even the smallest bird.

1. God sees the little sparrow fall,
it meets his tender view;
if God so loves the little birds,
I know he loves me too.

Refrain:
He loves me too, he loves me too,
I know loves me too;
because he loves the little things,
I know loves me too.

2. He paints the lily of the field,
perfumes each lily bell;
if he so loves the little flow’rs,
I know he loves me well. [Refrain]

3. God made the little birds and flow’rs,
and all things large and small;
he’ll not forget his little ones,
I know he loves them all. [Refrain]

All in a Name

What’s in a name? you might ask yourself sometimes. I know I ask myself that question as I do family history work. You run across stories – written and oral – about how those with this surname are intelligent and those with that surname are stubborn. How this person is ‘just like the Deans’ or that person is ‘just like the Ivanys’.

The topic came up at a family reunion I attended last summer. My first cousins once removed were reminiscing about all those who were not there and all those who had gone before, including my paternal grandfather, Alex Dean. About how mild and gentle he was, how all the Dean men were like that once. At my parents’ 40th anniversary party my father’s youngest sister commented in her toast that my dad was just like their dad – she had never heard my father raise his voice, and she had never heard her father raise his voice.

I am not a Dean. I mean, I am a Dean, but I am not ‘just like the Deans’.

I suppose I’m more like how family lore describes one of my fifth great-grandfathers. Some people say the story is made up, but there is a family legend that says that he almost met his end in the 1800s when he got into an all-too-common argument, and the others, having yet again had enough of his mouth, tied him up and threw him into the bottom of a boat that was then set adrift. By some hope and a prayer, it washed ashore on the last little piece of land between Newfoundland and Ireland, and so that is where he settled and raised about ten or twelve children. Or so the story goes.

While I can possess a little of that hot-headedness, I have learned to control it most of the time. Someone once told me that I had a very quick temper. I told them that actually I have a very long temper – it takes me a long time to get angry but when it goes, it goes.

But this progenitor of mine had another important trait that I also seem to have inherited. Resilience. The ability to take something, no matter how bad it might be, and turn it to something good. The author Brandon Sanderson writes in one of his fantasy books how curses and blessings come in pairs. If temper is my curse, then resilience is my blessing.

In my church, we call each other by the terms Brother and Sister. The local leaders are called Bishops or Presidents, volunteer positions that one does not volunteer for but agree to accept if asked, if that makes sense. Local leaders, depending on the needs of the area and the type of unit they preside over, generally hold these positions for three to five years; area leaders for five to ten years. Instead of calling them Bro. Smith, for example, we call them Bishop Smith or Pres. Smith. Even after they no longer hold the leadership position, it is customary to continue calling them by those terms.

Which brings me to my husband.

Back home, he is known simply by his first name at church. I have watched people walk down the hallway, greeting person after person with ‘Good morning, Brother’, and then they reach my husband and it’s “Good morning, S.” It doesn’t happen when we go to church in Newfoundland or when we visit other congregations in our travels. But it happens in our own congregation and in his former congregation. No judgment here. Just an observation.

Now we find ourselves overseas in a place where he was a local leader many years ago. And here, he is still called President. His name is revered here. He is a legend. The people love him. He is greeted with smiles and cries of ‘Ah! President!”

He’s the same person here as there.

All in a name, I guess.

 

 

Jack

The old house stands empty near the intersection of Bar Road and what is now called ‘Trinity Drive’. The open door of the traditional Newfoundland-style square home with the low roof swings diligently back and forth in the breeze as I watch, reminding me of Jack, a man I never met and whose last name I did not know until a few weeks ago, but who plays an unforgettable role in my childhood memories.

You see, the only memories I have of this short and stocky man are of him dressed in his red and purple checked flannel shirt and grey-green overalls and rubber boots and blue hat with the ear-flaps, a shovel in his hand, either digging in the ditch in front of his house or taking a break from digging in the ditch in front of his house. I didn’t know if he was married, had children, lived alone, had pets. I didn’t know how old he was, what his last name was, what he did for a living. I don’t even know when he died. The only thing I know is that whatever this man was, whoever this man was, he left a legacy behind. It’s a somewhat small legacy, and probably only important to me, but a legacy, a gift handed down from one generation to the next, nonetheless.

You see, Jack’s ditch never overflowed. His pipes never clogged. His trench rarely had to be redug by the Department of Highways. No overgrown weeds or scraggly alders dared make their appearance. No rocks, frost-hoven from a cold winter, or mud, loosened by spring rains, blocked the steady flow of water in front of Jack’s house. At the first sign of rain or storm or spring thaw there was Jack with his trusty shovel, diligently ensuring that his small part of the world was free from flood and debris.

I can’t help but wonder if some of the devastation caused by Hurricane Igor could have been avoided if there had been more Jacks around.

And I can’t help but wonder what childhood memory I would have instead of falling into a sewer ditch in Cornerbrook with my brother. Not one of my more pleasant memories, I can assure you. Neither of us had listened after being told repeatedly by mother and father and great-aunt and great-uncle to stay away from the ditch and our camper, which was parked parallel to the ditch. Not heeding anyone’s word and fully believing that nothing bad was going to happen to us, my brother and I decided that it would be great fun to jump on the bumper of the camper and promptly slipped off and fell – actually, rolled – into the sewer ditch. Crying and reeking and dying of shame, we shuffled our way into Aunt Anna’s and Uncle Cec’s house, where we were quickly admonished, ridiculed, bathed at arm’s length, soothed with hugs and given bananas. (Looking back, I think the bananas were a desperate ploy to get us to stop bawling so much, as it is very hard to screech when your mouth is full.) After all was said and done, Uncle Cec took me on his lap in his old armchair and gave me a good talking to about listening to adults, and then gave me a little burgundy box filled with scripture cards. I spent many hours diligently reading those cards and rearranging them and sorting them in different ways – alphabetical, biblical order, by colour….I still have them.

If only Jack had lived in Cornerbrook.

The memory of his diligence is Jack’s legacy to me. His diligence in that mere two feet by twenty feet ditch kept his little parcel of earth free from whatever vagaries Mother Nature threw his way. Everytime I pass by his ditch I am reminded that there are so many things I could be more diligent about. Prayer and scripture study are two that come immediately to mind, but there are other things, too. I could be more prepared for emergencies. I could keep more food in my house. I could learn how to be more self-sufficient with home and car repairs. The list goes on. I just need to be more diligent in being diligent.

Jack’s ditch is slowly filling in. The garden is overgrown. The windows in the house are broken. The paint is peeling. Yet, however small it may be, Jack’s legacy lives.

Reflections on a life well lived (Revised from eulogy written August 9, 2011)

“I wonder what she’ll think of me?”

This is the question my Nan, Hazel Ivany, asked me just a few short weeks before entering the Dr. G.B. Cross Memorial Hospital, on a night she was sure she was going to die in the Miraquinn Manor Senior’s Home in Hickman’s Harbour. She was thinking about her mother, Edith Gertrude Luther Ivany, a woman she barely remembered except for a few brief anecdotes told to her by her father, Elam, and siblings Anna, Eric and Myrtle, her mother having died when Nan was but two years old. The one Nan told most often was how her mother had dropped her one Sunday morning walking to church on an icy road in Ireland’s Eye, and her mother’s cries of “Elam! Elam! I killed the baby!” The only words I know for sure that my great-grandmother spoke.

I was younger than my daughter, Amber, is now when I became interested in learning about my family tree and first asked Nan to tell me about her mother. For seventeen years her reply was always, “See, my mother died when I was only a baby, so I don’t know anything about her.” And for seventeen years I replied, “Nan, you must know something about her.” Then, about four years ago as Nan and I were looking through her earliest photo album, she asked me why I kept asking about her mother. I told her that she was the only one left who knew anything about her, and that when she was gone there would be no one to keep her mother’s memory alive. She looked at me for a long moment, then pointed to a picture in the album and started telling me all about the people in the photo – who they were, who they were related to, what she knew about them. By the end of the day we had discovered over a dozen people that she knew who were related to her mother. And so, Nan was completely surprised a few weeks later to learn that the little bit of information she gave me that day helped me to find her mother’s parents and two of her grandparents, information that she had forgotten or never knew. And she was astounded when I told her that someone in England had traced one of those people back over 900 years, and that we were all descended from a man named Peganus Trenchard who was the feudal lord of the Isle of Wight off the coast of England around the year 1100, and that he orginally came from Normandy. “If I had known you could find out all that, I might have tried to remember more years ago,” she said wistfully.

You see, Nan was a very resolute and determined person. Some might even call her stubborn. She had clear ideas of what was right and wrong, of proper behaviour, of the way things should be.

So, everything in her home had a place. I remember being asked time and again as a young girl to get a can of Carnation condensed milk from the pantry in the old house in Petley. It was always in the same place, on the shelf above the canned fruit, and next to the Fussell’s Cream. The same brand of powdered lemonade was always in Nan’s fridge, probably mixed in the same bottle it had been mixed in ever since I can remember. After all, what was a visit to Nan’s without having lemonade?

A life-long Anglican, she went to church at All Saints in Petley whenever she could, and tried to heed the words of her father to “Never leave your seat empty.” (The only words I know for sure that my great-grandfather spoke.) Both times she went to Ontario to visit me she went to church with us, in the Walkerton Ontario Branch. She was grateful when my husband Steve and I had devotionals with her for all but two Sundays – the first and the last – that she was in the hospital. She loved hearing Steve pray, and not a visit went by that she did not ask for him to say a prayer with her. She was so pleased that he holds the priesthood in our church, and was grateful for every prayer he said with her. “That man there is a good man, Pamela. And it’s about time you found a good man,” she told me just days before her death.

Nan had clear ideas on what proper dress should be. She rarely left her house without looking proper, something else instilled in her by her father, a man who, it is said, never left his house without wearing a shirt and tie. She said to Amber and me once after someone had dropped by wearing a very revealing shirt, “One thing I like about you coming here is that you don’t let your bosoms all hang out.”

Nan set an example for many of us to follow with our children and grandchildren. She really tried to live up to the example that her step-mother, who we all called Aunt Elfie, set. She did her best to help raise one of her grandchildren to help out her daughter. My own mother had that as an example to follow, as did other of her children. She took each of her grandchildren and their spouses, her great-grandchildren and step-grandchildren and almost-grandchildren and treated them all the same, loving and accepting each one. She was deeply saddened when there was conflict in the family, and felt much grief over choices we made and any part she played in it. But perhaps the person she was most disappointed in was herself. She felt that my Uncle Derek’s death – he drowned at age sixteen – was her fault because she had not heeded the premonitions she had felt about him going swimming that fateful summer. She felt that Pop could never forgive her for the way his life ended, alone in a nursing home, far from home and friends and family, suffering from advanced Alzeimer’s. In the end, however, because of things she said to me in the mornings I spent with her in the hospital, I believe she made her peace with them and with herself.

But there was a lighter side to Nan, too. She loved a good game of cards. She played every chance she could get, looking forward to Saturday night games of 120s with my Mom and Dad, and just smiling at me when I made us lose the game – again – but still insisting that she and I be partners. For her it wasn’t about winning; it was about playing the game and having fun. I will never forget one Saturday evening one fall when my parents were gone on a cruise. Nan hadn’t been feeling well, and had already lived well past the two scant years the doctors had given her after her surgery to remove her bowels. I had gone to visit her and, as was her custom, we were playing cards. Suddenly, she threw her cards on the table, looked at me with disgust, and exclaimed, “Well, I guess I’m going to have buy Christmas gifts after all since I’m not dead yet!” She loved to read, and read a book my cousin Holly had given her five times before going on to other books. She loved to travel. She and Pop travelled all over Newfoundland with her half-brother Ralph and his friend, Netta, and since Pop had always said that someday they were going to go somewhere, she made the trip to Ontario twice. She loved music, and missed the sound of Pop’s old accordion and Pop singing hymns, especially his favourite, ‘There is a name most sweet on earth, a name most sweet in heaven’. She loved a good practical joke, even though she tried not to let on that she did. She loved it when Pop teased her. And in Nan’s earliest photo album is one special picture. She had a twinkle in her eye as she asked me if I knew who the person was. I looked at it for a moment before telling her that I wasn’t sure, but the person must be related because he looked like an Ivany. She took great delight in telling me that it was not a man, but her and the schoolteacher who lived with them, “dressed up for devilment in Eric’s clothes.”

And knitting. Could Nan ever knit! She made sweaters for each of her living children one year when they were very young. I think we all still have them, passed down from mothers or fathers to daughters and sons and then to grandchildren. Three generations wearing those same hand-knit sweaters, Nan’s loving touch carrying through the years. Quilts and blankets for all her children and grandchildren, hold the evidence of her care for us, many of them lovingly stitched with our names and the dates they were given. Nan, in her eighties, was still knitting, up until about six months ago, still showing her love by the work of her hands. She missed it dearly. Hats, mitts, vamps, scarfs. And in her later years, dishrags. Dishrags by the dozens. Some people ask for big gifts for Christmas, but not me. Whenever Nan asked me what I wanted, I told her I wanted the same thing I want every year – dishrags. “Haven’t you got some left?”, she would say. “Yes,” I would reply, “but you can never have enough dishrags.” Truth is, I was saving up. Living away from home for so long, sometimes it was the little things that reminded me of who I am and that I am loved. Doing dishes with Nan’s dishrags, knowing they were made with love just for me, is something I look forward to. I asked for them every Christmas, every birthday, because I had to save up. With those dishrags in my hands every day, how could I ever forget that I am loved?

And so, Nan, you now know the answer to your question. I imagine your mother thinks that you did your very best to live a good life, to love your family, to love God. And while we are sad that you aren’t here with us any more, I imagine that you are now in the midst of a joyous reunion with your husband, your sons, your parents, your brothers and sisters. We will miss you, but we will see you again. Until then, I, for one, will always ask myself, “I wonder what she’ll think of me.”

Rest in peace, Nan. 1927-2011

Sleeves

“You’re Mormon, aren’t ya?” I was asked today. “I could tell from some of the things you’ve said.”

I had no idea I was so transparent.

This question was asked by a new colleague of just a few weeks, a Pentecostal woman who attended Bible College and learned about many faiths there in one of her courses, and whose family has been welcoming the missionaries into their home for spiritual discussions for years. She knows what Mormons believe, because she has taken the time to find out.

When I first joined the church I don’t think anybody could have told that I was a Latter Day Saint just by looking at me. So what has happened in the past ten years that someone I just met a few days ago can see my faith on my sleeve?

Is it that I don’t drink alcohol? A conversation in the staffroom a few days ago involved comments about how much a colleague was looking forward to having a drink that evening. I was told that after a rough and busy week I must be looking forward to that, too. I replied that actually, I don’t drink, and haven’t had a drink in years. But that’s not unusual, is it?

Is it that I don’t drink tea or coffee? I often have herbal tea or hot chocolate during recess or breaks, and don’t particularly advertise that I’m drinking chamomile tea whileveryone else is drinking Red Rose. Having a hot drink during a break is a part of Newfoundland traditional culture that is a hard habit to break. So, me sitting at the table sipping hot tea with everyone else is not unusual, is it?

Is it that I don’t wear revealing clothing? No spaghetti straps, no halter tops, no shorts, no low-cut blouses. All this could be considered just clothing that is not appropriate for working in a school setting. Surely, my choice of clothing is not unusual, is it?

The woman who asked me “You’re Mormon, aren’t ya?” knew very little about me beyond these things. Yet, she was able to tell that I am a Latter Day Saint. How?

I don’t think I’m that different from other people I know. I don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, but I have been known to let loose a rude word or two on occasion. In that aspect I am in good company – J. Golden Kimball was an early member and eventual leader of the church who was known for his struggle to overcome his ‘cowboy mouth’.  One story goes that after a woman asked him why her good, helpful and kind brother died suddenly instead of her lazy good-for-nothing one, he replied, “Sister, do you know what it is?  It’s God’s will. God doesn’t want that jackass brother of yours any more than you do.”

I don’t eat meat. Neither did one of our latter-day prophets. But many, if not most, Latter Day Saints do. It is the staple of any casserole, that quintessential Mormon dish. Why am I not mistaken for a Seventh Day Adventist, many of whom *are* vegetarians?

It can’t be the number of children I have. With only one soon-to-be nineteen year old daughter of my own after four long-term relationships and a new marriage of almost a year, and now one six year old step-daughter, I certainly don’t fit the stereotypical Mormon model of a houseful of children. I am no Marie Osmond with eight children in tow.

I didn’t go to BYU. I am not a Cougars fan. I have never been to most church historic sites. I don’t live in Utah.

So what is it?

I have no idea. But what I do know is this: I have changed.  I am not the same person I was ten years ago. Joseph Smith once called himself a ‘rough stone rolling.’ He said, “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else…all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304). In many ways, I feel as Joseph did. The trials and tribulations, sadness and sorrow, hurt and heartache of the past ten years has slowly chipped off many of my rough edges, and I am gradually being smoothed like the pebbles on a beach into something marvellous and wonderful. I have a long way to go, but I can’t help but think that this is the slow process of ‘being in the world, but not of the world’ that our church leaders talk about, becoming refined into someone better than I was, someone whose potential only the Lord and my Heavenly Father could foresee.

My beliefs have become an integral part of who I am, so much so that someone who knows what Mormons believe can tell that I am a Latter-Day Saint by what I say. Perhaps this is what is meant by the term ‘true conversion’.

Despite the challenges life throws at me, my testimony does not waiver. I know Joseph is a prophet, I know the Book of Mormon is scripture, I know the temple holds many blessings for those who believe. My faith is on my sleeve, where all can see. And where those who know what to look for can ask, “You’re Mormon, aren’t ya? I could tell from some of the things you’ve said.”

A Time of Firsts

My step-daughter and then-fiance took their first trip to Newfoundland last summer, to attend our wedding. For her birthday, I put together a photo book of her trip for her. The trip was filled with many firsts for us all, including my and my husband’s first kiss. Ever. My step-daughter thought it was pretty funny.  I hope you enjoy the book.

Not the Perfect Man

January: I met a guy. Well…I met THE guy, although I didn’t know it at the time. Call it coincidence, call it karma, call it destiny…call it what you will, but I was more than a little surprised to find out that not only was the guy a writer, but that I had read one of his articles a number of years ago and used it as research for a project I was working on back then. We had so many things in common.

February: Wrote a children’s book about the guy’s daughter, based on a video by her uncle called “Looking for Monsters.” It was a big hit with her and with the 425 students I was teaching at the time. The story itself came to me at one in the morning, when I awoke suddenly with the story already in my head. I decided to illustrate it using watercolours, even though I had never used watercolours – or done anything other than fingerpainting – before. “Boy, she sure knows how to get a guy”, my future mother-in-law commented. Also realized on the 20th that he was THE guy – he just didn’t know it yet.

March: How do two people have a serious relationship from 1800 miles apart? By talking on the phone for two to nine hours a day and sending hundreds of emails, that’s how! The guy says, without realizing it, “One thing I have learned from loving you is that….” I didn’t let on that he had said it, but inside I was jumping for joy.

April: Went to visit the guy and stay with his parents for a week. He was a perfect gentleman – even paying for (and using) two hotel rooms. His daughter leapt into my arms and wouldn’t let go. We went to the Washington DC Temple on the 6th. On the way he very nervously told me that he loved me. I said, “I know. You already told me.” And smiled. Later that day he asked me to marry him.

May: We decided to get married in June. My mother was surprised to find that I planned on making my own wedding dress. “But you don’t sew!” she exclaimed. “Not yet!” I replied. We also discovered that our mothers had already met. His had asked mine for directions to see puffins near here while his parents were on vacation two years ago.

June: The big day arrived. The moment of truth – our first kiss. In front of many of those we love in my parents’ backyard. My gentleman. Not that I really remember much, as I had spent the day before the wedding in the hospital and was taking lots of pain medication. He was there beside me the whole day.

July: There was a July this year? More hospitals. More pain meds. More forgotten days as a result. More being waited on hand and foot.

August: Medical issues continued, and still he was by my side. The end of the month brought many poignant moments as I prepared to return home, and he reassured me that things would be okay.

September: Back home, a new school year approached. More medical issues. He spent every moment possible talking via skype, playing endless games of online scrabble, and figuring out how to play board games when we were 1800 miles apart.

October: Enough is enough, he said, as medical issues continued, and arranged for me to see doctors there, who actually did figure out what was wrong and what I needed to do to fix it.

November: He was more than caring and supportive as I returned to work in a school…preparing for a concert, a musical and in the middle of report card season. Perspective, sanity, encouragement…he offered them all.

December: In the face of immense trials for his daughter and our entire family he kept a cool head, remained patient, and went about doing what needed to be done.

Sounds like the perfect man, doesn’t he?

He’s not.

At this time of year I am reminded that my love is not the perfect man as I, along with countless others, celebrate the birth of Christ, the only perfect man to have walked this earth. And I am grateful that my love is not perfect, because I am not perfect either.

My love is not the perfect man, but he is the perfect man for me because he treats me as the daughter of God that I am.