Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day, 2009

When we moved to Utah, we decided to start a new family tradition of visiting the grave sites of loved ones during the Memorial weekend. As many of my husband's ancestors are buried in the vicinity, this effort is not only meaningful, but extremely easy. In the beginning, we didn't have much more than a name and a general burial location. We made a game of finding the grave markers by offering a dollar to the first child to 'call it'. I'm sure we elicited more than a few stares as our kids ran through the local cemeteries, shouting out family names, in hope of making a few bucks.

Ten years later and we're still making Memorial memories! We even got our seventeen-year-old to join us on a weekend adventure throughout the northern part of the state. I'm sure the offer to go shoot guns with the cousins was the real reason we got all our kids out the door, but it was nice for a little family R&R and the fact that everyone was still getting along on the way home speaks volumes to the good time had by all!

We have become quite comfortable with our Memorial Day circuit and we now know the exact location of our ancestors final resting spots. This allowed us to pay some quick respect and still have time for some of the more distant relatives. Over the years, we have always tried to remember our family stories, highlighting significant values or characteristics of our loved ones. Today, we let the tombstone tell the story as we tried to 'guess' the history memorialized on the stone.

This story had to have been a sad one! The child was born in 1861. Exactly 1 year, nine months and 21 days (specifically recorded on the marker) the child died. Many surrounding grave markers include only a name... and maybe a birth /death date, but these grieving parents went to great lengths to record every day of this child's earthly existence. I am sure that the sentiment chiseled into the bottom section of stone is heart-wrenching, but time has obscured the words and it was impossible to discern the message.

This family also knew a lot of heartache. In 1903 they laid a son to rest. A year later, another son died. Then in 1914 their one-month old daughter joined her brothers. While not directly linked to our family, their story caught my attention because someone had lovingly remembered the children by placing three matching teddy bears beside each marker.

So many grave markers tell no stories. This tombstone whispers a love story meant to stand the test of time. A loving mother and wife who had obviously lived a long and productive life and would be sorely missed but the message also hints of the family's deep faith and spiritual convictions.

We are appreciative of the time spent getting to know our family members. We are grateful for the written histories that help us know these remarkable individuals that paved the way for our life's journeys.

So many stories... so little time.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

My mom died in 2003. She had been sick for a number of years, but I still believed we had many more years ahead of us. I was not prepared for her passing. My kids were still quite young and I was concerned that they would not remember her if I didn't keep her stories alive. Problem was that Mom hadn't gotten around to writing these stories and I hadn't done a very good job of listening all those years when she told them. I wanted my children's children to know this woman and understand the influences that she had had on their generation. How would this be possible with my scant recollection and little documented proof of her efforts? Mom might be gone, but she still had a significant lesson to teach!

First and foremost, she taught me to respect my elders and politely listen to their stories. They really are quite fascinating...even if I've already heard them once or twice before. My kids will tell you that I've already started repeating some of my own stories. Guess what? We keep telling them because they're important!

I also learned that it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to record these stories for future reference. For too many years I looked at the mountain in front of me and was afraid to take the first step. I have no idea when my number will be up. I doubt that I will have climbed the mountain and ascended to the side of blissful knowledge that things are in a state of perfection. Hardly! However, I can hold my head high and say that I started the journey and have loved every meandering side trip that I've taken.

The most amazing lesson that she taught me, and gift that I will carry with me throughout my life is the knowledge that she is still here watching over me. A few months after I started the journey of trying to document my mother's life story, I received a package from a distant cousin. She had come across a spiral-bound notebook in my mother's handwriting. The sticker on the cover indicated that at one time it had cost thirty-seven cents. The pages within this notebook contained the priceless history of my mother, written in her own hand more than thirty years earlier.

Many years ago, Spencer W. Kimball said "What could you do better for your children and your children's children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved? Get a notebook... a journal that will last through all time and maybe the angels may quote from it for Eternity."

As a little girl, mom tried to teach me that the bigger gift isn't always the better gift. She taught me that some of the best gifts don't come from the store. All these years later, and she's still teaching me important lessons. Sometimes a .37 cent notebook can be the gift of a lifetime!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Feliz Cinco de Mayo

In honor of Cinco de Mayo I thought I would share some Hyer comfort food! The recipe comes from dear friends who recently spent three years in Mexico City. I'm sure my rendition tastes nothing like our friend's version, but it is still plate licking good. Left overs are unheard of!

I really meant to share this yesterday, but once again, time got away from me. Maybe you can extend the holiday and celebrate Seis de Mayo!


Mexican Rice
2 roma tomatoes, cut in halves
2 cloves garlic
1 sm chunk on onion and 3 open rings of onion
2 C hot water
1 C long grain rice, dry
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Knorr chicken bouillon
1 3/4 C chicken broth or water
4 stems cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
Fresh or frozen peas and carrots (optional)

Add 2 tomatoes, 1 garlic clove, 1 small chunk of onion to blender. After contents have been added, fill blender to the 1 C mark with water. Blend.

Heat 2 C water to very hot, but not boiling. Pour rice into hot water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Drain rice and rinse well in a colander with cold water. Get as much water out of rice as possible as it will splatter when added to oil. Heat skillet with 1/4 C olive oil. Add 1 clove garlic and 3 rings of onion. Saute for 2 minutes. Spoon rice into skillet. Don't stir rice too much. Cook about 10 minutes.

Rice should start to look opaque, golden brown, and almost crunchy. Garlic and onion should look browned. When oil is on top of rice, drain oil into a heat safe bowl, keeping rice in hot pan. Remove garlic clove and onion rings.

Return rice to heat and add blended tomatoes. Cook 2 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp Knorr chicken bouillon and 1 3/4 C chicken broth or water. Add cilantro stems and lime juice. If adding fresh diced carrots, add now. If adding frozen vegetables, add towards the end of the cooking time.

Simmer, covered for 25-30 minutes. When all the liquid is absorbed, remove the cilantro and fluff rice.

Serves 4-6 people or 3 hungry teenagers!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's Due When?

Is it really May? Wondering where April went. Afraid to blink and find out that summer has already come and gone!

On Friday, child (who shall remain nameless) decided to run for class office. "Oh, and by the way, we need to make two posters before Monday morning." Huh? I didn’t know that I was running for office.

Not to be outdone, child #2 just remembered the term project that is also due Monday. I have no idea how long he’s known about it. All I know is that we’re heading back to the store in search of miscellaneous paraphernalia to create these last minute projects.

I really can't fault the kids. They inherited more than my freckles and hair color.

I'm tired just thinking about how we'll be spending our entire weekend!