Sunday, October 26, 2014

I've moved

I started a web page. It's nothing phenomenal, but what good is learning a new thing and never using it?

It is

Many of my posts here are linked to the webpage, but I will most likely only post there from here on out.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ashley Saga Part III

Chapter 1
“Ashley? Ashley, wake up. Ashley!”
Ashley’s eyes slowly opened. For a moment she saw nothing but a bright, overhead light. Slowly her eyes came into focus on the face hovering over her.
“Ashley. Can you hear me?”
Ashley nodded slowly. “Yes.”
“I think you were dreaming.”
Ashley nodded again.
“Was it scary?”
Ashley finally found her voice. “Not exactly. More strange than anything. I dreamed – ”
“Wait. I meant to tell you your sisters are here.”
Ashley’s mind was still a bit clouded. “My sisters?”
“Yes. You know, Debra and … and …” Why could Tiko never remember her name? “and the other one.”
Ashley smiled. One of the things she found most attractive, but also most annoying about Tiko was his apparent inability to remember details like her older sister’s name.
Ashley’s mind was suddenly alert. “Wait a minute! What are you doing here Tiko? This is my house and my room, you have no business being here and the last I remember …” Ashley trailed off. What could she last remember? Suddenly the details of her life were very vague. There was Phillip. She paused, remembering, painfully recalling their short yet adventurous life together. His tragic death still kept her awake at night. She recalled also Cornelius and a courageous journey which resulted in her meeting Tiko, but beyond that … nothing. She wasn’t even sure how she’d gotten home from her last adventure.
“Tiko, did you bring me home?”
“Yes,” he said. “Last night.”
Her face flushed. How could she have gotten herself into this situation? Though she wasn’t exactly sure how she’d gotten into this mess, there was no time like the present to redefine boundaries. After all, he was a nice hobbit/human, but they had only just met. “Tiko,” she began. “I’m not certain how you ended up here, but you should know I’m not the type of girl who brings dates home with me, especially first dates.”
Tiko chuckled, until he caught sight of Ashley’s face. “Are you serious?”
Tiko’s face fell. “The doctor said something like this might happen,” he muttered.
Ashley was still nestled in her bed. Tiko couldn’t very well tell her she’d better take a seat, yet he know the news would be shocking. “What is the last thing you remember?”
Ashley considered, then slowly answered. “Meeting you.”
“That’s the last thing you remember?”
Ashley nodded.
“So everything else – my masterful proposal, our moonlight walks, the trail ride down the Grand Canyon, our wedding, our honeymoon – ”
Tiko nodded. “We were married about a month ago and then we decided to be adventurous and go camping for our honeymoon.” He paused, his voice dropping in volume. “That’s where it happened.”
“What happened?” Ashley knew he was baiting her, but it didn’t matter, she had to know.
Tiko’s gaze turned away from Ashley, as though he were picturing the scene in his mind. “It was overcast when we left, but I didn’t think much of it, even when the clouds broke and the drizzle began. We set up our tent in the rain. In many ways it was highly romantic. You, me, a cozy campfire … but all that was before the snow.”
“Snow? Wait; when did you say we got married?”
 “Yes. Massive amounts of snow. The tent collapsed on us and I was knocked out. When I came to, I couldn’t find you. It took two days for me to locate you and dig you out. You were nearly frozen.”
“Frozen? Like the movie?”
“No sweetheart. Much, much worse. There was no Olaf, no music, no reindeer and no academy awards. There was only you; buried for two days in snow and completely unresponsive when I finally found you.
“I took you to the hospital immediately and they did all they could.” Tiko finally Ashley’s eyes once more. “Ashley, I thought I lost you. You can’t imagine how happy I was when you finally opened your eyes.”
Tiko leaned toward her as if to kiss her. Ashley panicked. Perhaps what he said was true, but she had no recollection of him or of any of it and his advances seemed rather forward. “Didn’t you say my sisters were here?”

Chapter 2
Lottie, Lottie, not a hottie.
Lottie, Lottie, cold and snotty.
Lottie, Lottie, very naughty.
Lottie, Lottie, cannot squatty.
Lottie, Lottie, can’t go potty.
Lottie, Lottie, has no body.
“Really Ashley? It’s like your seven years old again.”
“Sorry,” Ashley answered, “but not much rhymes with ‘Debra’.”
“Zebra,” responded Lottie.
“Are we’re suddenly British?” asked Debra, heatedly.
“It’s lovely to see you both again and have you in our home,” Tiko said, hoping to smooth things over before the situation had a chance to escalate.
Lottie and Debra seemed to respond to the cue. Ashley, in contrast, was annoyed. These were her sisters. And what was with him calling it our home? Was Tiko a con-artist and had come up with the whole story of the hospitalization, avalanche and the two of them falling in love? It wasn’t as though she couldn’t take care of herself, but this was a mind game and she’d had slightly less experience with those.
Using her voice of utmost politeness, Ashley kindly asked, “Tiko, would you excuse us? I’d like to visit with my sisters for a bit.”
He looked hurt, but nodded slowly and headed out into the yard. He’d better not be messing with my zinnias, Ashley thought. She waited until she was certain he was out of earshot, she turned back to her sisters. “What brings you by today?”
Lottie opened her crocodile handbag and pulled an assortment of letters from it. “Mail!!”
“Mail? From whom?”
“Several people.”
Ashley’s mind was still reeling. “Why don’t you read it to me, your voice is so solid.”
Lottie smiled knowingly.
“Some are for me and Debra and some for you. I’ll just read them all.”
Ashley nodded her assent.

“I don’t understand the bunny picture,” Lottie remarked.
“It’s from a past acquaintance - someone who knew me back when I was associated with Bishop Cottontail.”
Neither Lottie nor Debra commented, so it was up to Ashley to propel the conversation forward. “Do you know anything about that guy?”
Debra and Lottie looked at one another and then back to Ashley. Debra spoke first. “Are you joking?”
Ashley hesitated. “No. He claims we dated and got married and that I nearly died on our honeymoon, but I don’t remember anything more than meeting him when he saved me from a trash receptacle.”
For a moment, both sisters stared. It wasn’t like Ashley to joke around, but maybe after the loss of so many of her beloved friends she had finally realized life was short and worked to develop a sense of humor.
“Ashley, do you really not remember him?” Lottie asked. As the oldest sister she often felt responsible for her two younger sisters, but if Ashley genuinely had forgotten Tiko, would there be any way to help her?
Ashley shook her head.
“The doctor said something like this might happen as a result of the accident, but you were doing so well,” Debra claimed. “Try, Ashley, think back and try to remember him.”
Ashley focused intently. “I don’t even remember the accident.” she said.
“What’s the most recent thing you can remember?”
Ashley thought. “My dream last night.”
Debra paused, but only for a moment. “Okay. Why don’t we start there?”

Chapter 3
            “That was really weird,” Debra evaluated.
            “But has nothing to do with your issue,” Lottie reminded them. “Listen, I’m no psychologist, but the logical solution is to recreate your honeymoon, sort of a do-over. Maybe it will trigger your memory and your relationship with Tiko will be restored.”
“Have you lost your mind?” Ashley asked. “That is madness. I couldn’t possibly go away with a man I hardly know.”
“You know him,” Debra reminded her, “you just can’t remember him.”
“How is that better?” Ashley retorted.
“It will be okay. We will come with you.” Lottie offered.
“You and Debra are going to come with me? ON MY HONEYMOON??!!  You’re sick,” Ashley said.
Lottie stood and began pacing the room, as she always did when she had a big idea. “We won’t come with you. We’ll go in disguise … as … as another honeymooning couple –”
“No!” Debra interrupted.
“Why not?”
“Because, Lottie. You and I both know that if we go as a couple I’m going to end up being the man.”
“I can’t help it if your facial features are less feminine than my own.”
“C’mon, Debra. It’s for Ashley. She’s your sister. Do it for Ashley.”
“No way.”
“Please,” begged Ashley. What if Lottie is right and this will bring back my memory.”
Debra hesitated. “Okay fine, but I’m not using a fake man-voice.”
“As I was saying,” Lottie said, “we’ll pose as another couple on our honeymoon. If you get too stressed or need a way out, we’ll be there. We can pretend to meet you and become quite fond of you both. We’ll be your first ‘couple’ friends. Then we can join you for dinner or dancing –”
“If I’m the man, I get to lead while dancing,” Debra interrupted.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” agreed Lottie, turning back to Ashley.
“I don’t know.”
“Come on. I want to see you be brave! Do this for yourself. Aside from the hairy feet and constant necessity to go barefoot, Tiko is a wonderful hobbit-man.”
“Yes, but –”
“We’ll go put on our disguises. You’ll see. Wait right here.”

Within 45 minutes, Debra and Lottie returned. Debra had seemingly grown a substantial black, handlebar mustache and was wearing her stupid, straw hat. Lottie was caked in heavy make-up and wore a pill-box hat covered in feathers with a blue bird perched on top.
“You look like a chicken died on your head,” Ashley evaluated.
“But Tiko will never suspect!” exclaimed Lottie
“The letters you brought mentioned a straw hat and bird hat. Have you worn them before?”
“Jut to your wedding,” admitted Debra.
“My wedding? You wore a bird hat and a stupid, straw hat to my wedding, yet you think Tiko will never suspect? Did I marry an idiot?”
“Men never remember details. Besides, he was too engrossed in you to pay attention to either of us. He won’t remember the hats and he won’t realize it’s us.”
“I still think this is a terrible idea.”
“I promise it will be worth it. We can sit down and make jiffy-pop.”
“Fine, but at the first sign that something is going wrong, I’m out.”
“Agreed,” Debra and Lottie responded together.
“Now go find Tiko to tell him of your plan,” instructed Lottie, “and we’ll meet you up the canyon later on.”

Chapter 4
Several short hours later, Tiko and Ashley were packed and ready to go. Though she knew he would prefer that she sit next to him, Ashley positioned herself as far away as possible on the bench seat. He eyed her, as if to comment, and then decided against it, strapped on his seatbelt, and started the ignition. “Where are we going?”
Ashley pulled out her compass. “27 degrees to the south.”
Tiko checked the display on the dash. “Just south okay?”
Ashley rolled her eyes, and then nodded. The drive was a silent one with the only words being spoken  by Tiko as the two passed the sinister gatekeeper. At last, Tiko slowed to a stop near the pit toilets.
“This is it?” Tiko asked.
Ashley sighed. “I know it isn’t exotic, but it’s shaded … as long as you follow the shade.”
Tiko didn’t respond, but he instead got out and opened the passenger door. Ashley hopped out, hardly acknowledging him. Clearly the weekend was going to be awkward and tension-filled. In silence, the two unloaded their gear and set up the tent. Not a word was spoken as Tiko connected the propane to the two-burner stove. Camp chairs were set up beneath the shade of a nearby tree and still only the sounds of nature filled the air.
“That should be one sign,” Tiko commented.
“Did you see how harmoniously we worked together? We didn’t even need to communicate to get unpacked and set up. That is how synced our minds and souls are.”
Ashley rolled her eyes. “I don’t know that our being able to set up cam demonstrates compatibility. After all, I could have done all of this on my own. You’re only here as an accessory.”
“An accessory?? What did I ever do to you?”
Ashley shook her head. “Nothing. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t vent my frustrations on you.” In a gesture of goodwill she reached out and took his hand. “I’m sorry,” she repeated.
Tiko didn’t answer, but seemed to soften.
For awhile, the two sat and watched the minimal traffic on the two-lane road. At last, a truck pulling a horse trailer pulled up and stopped in a site next to them. An odd-looking couple emerged from the vehicle; an older-looking woman with a feathery hat and a young man with long curly hair and a black mustache.
“Hello,” the woman called eagerly, waving to Tiko and Ashley
Ashley rolled her eyes, but decided to play along, “Hello,” she responded grudgingly.
“Lovely afternoon, isn’t it?”
Tiko spoke this time. “Great afternoon for a honeymoon!” He hoped the encroaching strangers would catch the hint and move along.
His wording must not have been clear enough because the man proceeded to open the door to the saddles and bits while the woman unloaded the horses.
“It’s our honeymoon too!” the women shouted over her shoulder. “We couldn’t be happier, right Timothy?”
Timothy nodded, but didn’t speak.
“How interesting,” Ashley remarked, that you would bring four horses for two riders. It’s almost as though you were expecting to meet another couple.”
The woman laughed nervously. “Oh … well all our horses need exercise, so we usually ride one up the trail and the other down, though now that you mention it, we’d love for you to join us.”
Ashley eyed Tiko. “Sure,” he shrugged. “It’s something to do.”
The two watched as three white steeds and a smaller brown horse were unloaded, saddled, and prepped for the ride.
“This is Nacho,” the woman said, stroking the muzzle of the brown horse, “and Arted, Max and Silver,” she added, gesturing to the other three.
Ashley just nodded. Tiko smiled and started toward Arted. Debra and Lottie, or the man and the woman, got on Max and Silver respectively. That left Nacho for Ashley. Leaning her head against him she whispered, “I think you are the sanest of the lot of us.”
Nacho whinnied in response and Ashley deftly straddled the animals broad back.

Chapter 5
It seemed like hours passed as the trail ride continued. The two couples conversed casually, but Ashley felt nothing. As the seemingly never-ending trail ride continued, Tiko dropped back to join Ashley. “Are you having a good time?”
She nodded.
“It’s nice that they happened to have two extra horses,” Tiko tried again.
Ashley nodded again. Silence fell between them. Ashley could tell Tiko was trying. She could at least meet him half-way.
“Where did we go on our fist date?”
Tiko grinned. “The Dairy Delight.”
“Dairy Delight?”
“Yes. We went bowling and then walked down to the Dairy Delight. We put some coins in the jukebox and played One Directions ‘She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful’.”
Ashley smiled in spite of herself. “So you’re telling me that to make a first impression you took me bowling and then to a local burger joint?”
“I am part Hobbit. We live simply.”
“Did we ever visit the Shire?”
Tiko nodded. “We had a grand reception there after our wedding. The hills were bright green and as the sun set, fireflies emerged.”
“It sounds so beautiful,” Ashley whispered. “I wish I could have seen it.”
“You did. You just don’t remember it.”
Ashley looked ahead. The trail ride was still going on, yet it almost seemed as if they were going in circles because very little progress had been made. “How far are we going?” Ashley called.
The older woman turned in the saddle. “Just until the song ends. I have music on my iPod that plays continuously. When the song ends, Silver knows to turn back.”
“Isn’t there any way to turn them back sooner? I’m getting saddle sore,” Ashley complained.
The woman thought. “They’re an Ubsbleckistanian breed and they only respond to commands in their native language.”

“How do I say stop?”
“Yes. Hoof, Silver!” the woman commanded. Immediately the horse she rode stopped.
“Hoof, Nahco!” Ashley shouted.
“Hoof, Max,” whispered the manly Debra.
“Hoof, Arted,” shouted Tiko.
All the horses stood still, awaiting further command. “Now how do we turn them around?” asked Ashley.
“In Ubsbleckistanian, it’s ‘Ife’,” said bird-headed Debra.
“Ife?” repeated Ashley.
“Yes, like this. Ife, Silver!” The horse the woman rode turned to face the opposite direction.
“Ife Nacho,” hollered Ashley. Immediately, Nacho turned.
“Ife Max,” Debra commanded.
“Ife Arted,” shouted Tiko.
Down the trail, the ride continued. For awhile the new friends continued downward until suddenly Max stumbled and collapsed. Debra-man got off and tried to pull him back to his feet. “He’s broken his leg!” the young man exclaimed.
“Nothing left to do but shoot him,” Ashley said, evaluating the break.
“Don’t be a fool!” the man spat. “It’s a perfectly good horse. We’re not going to shoot it.”
“It can’t walk on three legs. It will starve. It’s the only humane thing to do.”
“How will we get back?” asked the woman, “and what will we do with a dead horse?”
“There are bears around that can consume the carcass.”
“You’re sick,” hissed the woman.
“Hold on, hold on, ladies … and gentleman. I know a thing or two about horses. Let me have a look at him.” Tiko said, dismounting to look at the broken leg. Taking two straight piece of wood and some colorful adhesive, he straightened the leg and splinted it. Working quickly, he finished his task. “That should hold until we get back. We’ll have to double up and take of the saddle so he doesn’t have to carry any extra weight.” Pausing, he looked to Ashley. “May I?”
She debated, and then nodded. More agilely than she thought possible, Tiko swung himself up behind her in the saddle leading the limping Max behind. Ashley had to admit it was strange having him so close, strange, but not entirely undesirable.

Chapter 6
The ride back was agonizingly slow. The sun was low in the sky as they rode back to the enclosure surrounding their camp.
“Can I make dinner for you?” the woman offered. “It’s the least I could do after you saved my horse.
Ashley was physically and emotionally exhausted. It was nice to have someone else offer to cook. Nodding her head, she accepted. Lottie was a tremendous cook and though Ashley was looking forward to dinner, she was anxious because their carefully orchestrated plan was not working. She had enjoyed talking with Tiko on the long, long trail ride, but she still had no recollection of who they had been together.
“How can I help with dinner?” Ashley asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” the woman answered. “I enjoy cooking. Why don’t you and Tiko go sit in the shade?” She motioned to a tree some ways in the distance. “I’ve heard,” she continued, “that it is the tree of revelation and if you sit beneath it for awhile, amazing things will be revealed to you.”
Ashley glared, but – taking her camp chair – she followed Tiko to the tree. For awhile, neither spoke, but instead sat in companionable silence, as a gentle breeze whispered through the leaves.
“How did you propose?” Ashley finally asked.
Tiko didn’t answer right away. Finally he spoke quietly. “We were in a forest, much like this one. I’d gone with you as you returned to the Wetlands to look for the purse of crocodile. Somehow we were led astray by the snarky gatekeeper and ended up in a forest. I wasn’t planning to propose, but a near-death experience led me to believe it might be my only chance.”
“What happened?”
“We were in the woods, deep in the woods, trying to find our way out of the forest. We were so focused on finding our way out that we weren’t paying attention until I felt hot breath on my neck.”
“I’m not much of a lady.”
Tiko smiled, “Not you; the great badger-bear.”
Tiko rolled his eyes. “You can remember a character from an animated film, but you don’t remember us and falling in love?”
“No, it wasn’t Mordu,” continued Tiko, “but it was a huge black bear with gray striping in the fir.”
“Hence the badger-striped bear?”
“Yes. I turned around and there he was, his enormous jaws ready to snap, claws like daggers protruding from his paws.”
“I was afraid it was the end for us, so I told you I loved you and said I wished we had more time and that I had hoped we’d get married and now it looked as though there would never be a chance.”
“You said all that before the bear attacked?”
“No. I said it as I was fighting. I managed one good hit that took out his eye. It didn’t kill him, but it damaged him enough that we were able to get away.”
“Naturally, now he is the bear with the ‘one dead eye’.”
“So we found our way back to the main trail and headed for home. On the drive back, you asked if I was serious about what I had said. I agreed I was. The ring didn’t come until I was able to battle some Orcs, but it did come.”
Ashley looked down. “What would I do with a ring? During many phases of my life I haven’t even had any hands.”
The metal was melted down and forged into the flowers you wear as earrings.”
Ashley didn’t respond. The tale was lovely, a bit soft for her taste, but lovely none-the-less. Yet it did nothing to remind her of who she was. She looked up, scanning the horizon. “Tiko,” she whispered, “is that him? The bear with the one dead eye?”

Tiko followed her gaze. Climbing over the fence, a bag of enormous marshmallows in his paw, was the fattest bear Ashley had ever seen.
“No. That bear has two eyes and from the looks of him, he’s eaten no fewer than four people.”
“Then why are we just sitting here?”
“Look at him,” laughed Tiko. “He can’t even get enough footing to get over the rails.”
“Jazz cakes are ready,” called Lottie, still posing as the newlywed bride.
Diner was delightful. Flavors Ashley had never dreamt of exploded inside her mouth; chocolate chip, blueberry, cocoanut and pineapple. For one of the first times in her life, Ashley felt relaxed, peaceful, and like she was almost royalty.

Chapter 7
At last, all the Jazz cakes were consumed.
“My husband and I were considering a ride after supper,” the woman said, clearing the dishes. “Would you like to join us?”
“A ride?” asked Ashley.
“Through the glen, shooting at targets. My husband has this amazing trick of balancing an apple on his head. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind doing it so that we could shoot the apple off his head.”
The woman’s husband glared.
Ashley sighed. She had enjoyed the afternoon ride and the time with her sisters, but if Tiko really was the man she had fallen in love with, she needed to find out. “I think we’ll decline. After all, Max still needs a good rest.”
“You could double up again, or Timothy won’t be riding anyway since he’ll be holding the apple.”
“Thank you, but no. I think we’d rather take an evening walk. It’s cooled down enough that the weather isn’t too stifling and maybe we’ll see some bats.”
Tiko looked momentarily surprised, and then pleased.
Lottie the bride, studies Ashley’s face. “If you’re sure …”
“Then the tree of revelation worked?”
“No,” Ashley replied, “but even so, I think we’ll refrain.”
Tiko stood and held out his hand to help Ashley to her feet. “Where shall we go?”
“I noticed a park as we drove in. Maybe we should head down that way.”
“To the park?”
Ashley shrugged. “Don’t you sometimes like to go to the park; reflect on your inner child and all that?”
Tiko chuckled.
“Reflect on your inner child? You’ve lost your edge, Ashley.”
Ashley thought about it. Perhaps he was right. If so, this whole weekend had been a terrible idea. All those years of training and sacrifice … and now… was she to be undone by a part hobbit? “Maybe we should skip the walk. This isn’t working. I don’t remember you; I don’t remember us. The only solid memory I have is of me. And you’re right. I’m losing myself. If I lose that, what do I have?”
Tiko stopped walking and turned her toward him. “Don’t give up yet, Ashley. Give it a little more time. Trust me.”
“What if I never remember? What if what you say has happened never really happened. I can’t trust you, I don’t even know you!”
Tiko continued walking, both hands shoved in his pocket. Ashley watched his retreating figure only a few moments and then, finally followed him. She caught up quickly, but didn’t speak and he also seemed to have nothing to say as they strolled, light leaving the valley by degrees. Ashley had no idea what he was thinking, but her thoughts continued to focus on the futility of it all. Why had she agreed to this ridiculous plan? What kept her now from turning around, getting in the car and driving home? He was part hobbit. Surely he was resourceful enough to find a way home and by then she could be long gone. But where would she go? What adventure lay ahead? No, what she needed was closure. If what Tiko said was true, she had to stick it out and find out. And if it was a lie … well he would soon have evidence that she hadn’t really gone soft.
The sun had set completely and a pinkish haze reflected against a sign. Ashley looked ahead, read the sign, reread it, and closed her eyes.
“What is it?” Tiko asked, speaking for the first time in several minutes.

Ashley pointed. Tiko followed the direction of her finger. “Oh, don’t worry about that. You know a cougar would have no defense against you and if something should go awry, I have your back.”
“I remember,” Ashley whispered.
“Tiko, I remember.”
“But how?”
“How many years younger than me are you?”
He hesitated, afraid this was a trick question. “Five.”
“Don’t you think by most accounts that makes me a cougar?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“A cougar who has shown lack of fear toward humans." Ashley shook her head. "I'm that cougar, that fearless cougar. I remember it all. The bear, the shire, the proposal and even the tent collapsing around us. I remember it all, Tiko.”
“Then you remember how in love we were – are.”
“Yes.” Ashley agreed. “And I think it’s time we walked back to our camp and told my sisters to go home.”
“Your sisters?”
“Debra … Lottie … Please don’t tell me you really fell for them being a couple.”
Tiko hesitated. “No,” he agreed at last, “but I know they care for you as sisters should and I hoped if I played along with whatever plan they had devised it would eventually be to our benefit.”
Ashley smiled. “And so it has been.”

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lessons learned from girl's camp

Our church girl's camp was canceled this year. We set up tents in the rain, huddled around a fire beneath a tarp, and left with four inches of snow on the ground. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to load everything up, so we had to return a couple of days later in order to clean up the fallen tents and sodden sleeping bags. I was asked to speak about it in church. This is the extended version of the talk I gave.

Surprisingly, I learned a lot from the 12 hours we spent at girl’s camp. I learned lessons on being prepared, smiling in the face of adversity, but probably the most important lesson was that of obedience.

 In D&C 130:20-21 we read:
 20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
 21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

The first lesson in obedience was before girl’s camp even began. Our ward was assigned to get eight volunteers to go up to the camp area and ready it for camp. It was my plan to go up, but then my husband had to work and my mom was out of town. My sister had her baby and I was suddenly left without a babysitter for my three children. I texted Melody to let her know I wouldn’t be going to the camp cleanup.

The next morning I woke at 6:18, 12 minutes before we were supposed to be leaving to go to clean up the camp. I was still tired and the kids were all asleep in their pajamas and hadn’t had breakfast. Besides, I had let them know I wouldn’t make it. I was off the hook. Then a voice in my head reminded me of something.

One of the challenges I face as a mother is instilling a strong work ethic in my children. We live in the suburbs. There is no need to change irrigation pipes each day. My vegetable garden has roofing material over it so the weeds are minimal and even at harvest time, rows don’t extend for seeming mile after mile. My other gardens are covered in mulch to also keep the weeds down. I have one producing fruit tree. Only one level of our house is finished and needs constant cleaning. At times I feel like all they will ever learn to do in life is pick up their bedrooms, fold laundry, play video games, watch television, and socialize with neighborhood children.

That morning, as I was lying in bed debating whether to go back to sleep or get up, drag my kids out of bed and rush them down to the church, a voice came to me and said something along the lines of, “I have given you a perfect opportunity for your children to serve and to learn the value of hard work. Are you really going to deny them that?” So I got up, got dressed, threw together some edible things and woke the children. We might have been a few minutes late, but we met up with the others and drove up to the camp site.

Once there we spent the first part of the morning removing weeds from the amphitheater. The younger children became disenchanted rather quickly, but the oldest borrowed a shovel and worked the whole time taking down thistles and clumps of grass.  When we had finally finished, we headed up to our own group’s camp site and found the others cutting up deadfall and stacking it for firewood. We helped them for awhile and then, when it seemed there was little left to be done, I packed up my kids and started the journey back home. Little did we know that we wouldn’t reap the benefits of our labors this year. But the immediate blessing given through obedience was that I had a chance to spend the morning with my children doing something productive where we worked together. And, when we stopped at IHOP for breakfast on the way home, it was nice to sit and eat together with no one rushing to get to work or school or soccer practice or a friend’s birthday party. We were filthy and could have been mistaken for transients, but it was one of those moments where for a few minutes life slowed down enough that I could just enjoy it.
            I can’t lie. When we set up all our stuff and then were told to grab only what we could carry and walk away, I was disappointed. The whole drive home I felt the loss of another of the few times in life when I am able to walk away from my other responsibilities and focus only on the  young women and my own relationship with the Lord. I look forward to the chance to get away and commune with the spirit. And in it was just gone. Equally discouraging was the fact that in a couple of days, we would have to go back to clean up the sodden mess. Other leaders had worked for months to prepare for camp, and for what? I know I’m supposed to be an example, but sometimes reality gets the better of me.
            But despite the rain and the cold, when we were asked by leaders to stay and wait it out, we did. Despite my disappointment and despite the hours of preparation, when we were instructed to walk away from it all and go home, we did. And once again, there were blessings given for obedience.
            One of the first is that two days later I traveled with others back up to camp to help clean up. My husband has recently gone back to school. He hates school. He has been working on the same associates degree since high school because he can’t bring himself to get through the course work. This year he reenrolled and was able to get caught up on his homework enough that he was available to go with us to help with the cleanup.
            That same day my son was supposed to enter a 4-H cooking demonstration contest. As I went to bed on Wednesday, I told him it probably wasn’t going to happen for him and that I was sorry, but I didn’t control the elements. Thursday morning, I woke at 5:13 and one of my first thoughts was, he likes soccer. His recipe could be relabeled as something involving soccer, like “soccer snacks”. His old soccer shirt could be folded and used as the placemat for his table setting. There is still time to make this work. So I woke him up and got him started while I gathered the items for his table setting. It came together almost miraculously and he ended up earning a high blue ribbon. We might have made others in the group late leaving by a bit. Sorry.
            A third blessing through obedience was haven’t we been fasting and praying for weeks and months for the precipitation we need in this state? When some came by and encouraged us to pray that the weather would stop, I just thought No! We don’t control the Lord’s timetable. He is blessing us with something we’ve pled for. Even if it comes at an inconvenient time, it is still a great blessing for us. Most blessings we get in this life come when they are best for us, not necessarily when we want them.
            Lastly one of the greatest blessings came yesterday. Giving in to peer pressure, I signed up for a sprint triathlon. It was a race I had finished before, last year, to be exact, but this year there were additional interruptions to my training schedule. I would be lying if I didn’t admit part of it was my own disinterest and lack of motivation, but in the cool hours of the morning if the choice is to work in my yard or to go running, working in the yard is going to win 9 times out of 10. Unlike last year, this year I have taken on more hours at work. My husband has gone back to school and needs academic support. I have more responsibility as the young women’s president. All of these factors mean the need for a greater filter as I attempt to balance my time so it is distributed as necessary to be successful in my employment, nurturing and available for my family, and a profitable servant to the Lord. Sometimes getting out and running, swimming or riding my bike just hasn’t been the priority.
            As I went to bed on Friday night my prayer was just to finish. On Saturday, I got up, ate a small breakfast, packed my gear and got ready to go. At 7:00 I was at the starting line. It was hard, just as hard as I remembered. As I finished the running portion, there were only three people behind me, but my transition included a bathroom break, which put me second to last. I rode along main street, and a couple of times as the road was steep and cars passed, I imagined one of the drivers texting, swerving, and taking me out so I wouldn’t have to finish the race or being pulled under the tires of a passing semi. On my second lap of the biking, the last person passed me and of those that finished the race, I was dead last. It is my goal in life to at some point legitimately use the phrase, “On your left,” but it is likely that would never happen except in the water and then it would be “blubbb, blub, bluuubbb.” Finally I made it to the pool, swam the 400 yards and finished adding 5 minutes to my current best time.
            Just as I had prayed, I finished, and along the way I noticed things; life lessons, we’ll call them. I was not born a natural athlete, and certainly not a runner. From the get go, I start out behind others because despite my effort, I just don’t have it in me. As many, many, many of the other bikers passed me, they offered encouragement such as “Keep it Up!” “You’re doing great!” “You got this.” And even as the last person passed me she commented, “You can do it. You made it past the hill.” As I realized I was very last and there would be no one else watching, I considered turning the corner and taking some of the miles off my course. No one was around to see me. Maybe no one would ever know. But then I noticed that even though I was minutes behind everyone else, the police officers guarding the intersections stayed until I had safely passed by. I was only one biker. It was a Saturday. Certainly there were other things they could have been doing with their time. But they stayed. They waited as I slowly made my progress forward.
            If we imagine life is a great triathlon, we can imagine there are all types of athletes. There are those who were born into perfect circumstances where two parents love one another and were sealed in the temple. Where a father and mother attend church with their children regularly. Where the scriptures are opened and studied daily and at night children are lovingly tucked in following family prayer. We’ll call those individuals the spiritual natural-born athletes. Those are the individuals who, like the bikers that passed me, offer encouragement and support to those of us who are struggling.
            Along the way we will have times when we realize no one is watching and we could reasonably cut corners. No one will know if we cheat on a timecard, click on a few inappropriate videos, or take something that will make us feel better for awhile. Yet, just like in the race, I would know. Cheating is dishonest and the spirit of the Lord cannot abide with one who cannot be true even when no one is watching.

We will meet up with police officers, who have a specific duty or calling to see us safely along our journey. Even though I was last and clearly not one of the better prepared, they stayed to see me safely on. I imagine them to be comparable to our church leaders, those who have been called to see us safely on in our journey. Those who see us struggling, maybe coming in last place, but they don’t give up because they recognize our potential of finishing. I imagine it would have ended quite differently if I had dismounted my bike and sat down at the side of the road, but as long as I was willing to continue working, they remained.
            Yes, we all want to do our best. But what is best for some differs from what is best for others. I remember last year, when I was talking about the triathlon in ward council, the bishop, after hearing the course layout said, “Oh, you’ll be fine.” And all I could think was, You have no idea what it is like to be 70 lbs. overweight. You don’t know what it is to make a decision like this and on your first day of training being sick all day because you ran a ¼ mile. This is a struggle you have never had to face. How can you tell me I’ll be fine?
            As we run our race through life, we will encounter those setbacks; She has no idea what it is to live with a husband who hasn’t had a job in over a year. He doesn’t understand how difficult it is to raise children who seem to have no interest in the gospel. No one knows what it is like to live with depression and how I know my family suffers because I can’t function, but I just can’t seem to change it. He has never had to live with a child with physical or emotional disabilities and doesn’t understand how draining it is at times. But let me remind all of us that even though those around us may not get it from experience, we all know what it is to struggle. One of the greatest parts of God’s plan is that we each have our own unique struggles. Can you imagine what this life would be if all of us had the same strengths and weaknesses? We would never be in a position to help one another out. One of the greatest blessings we have of this race of life is that those of us in the lead can stop and lend a hand to those of us who are struggling even if we don’t exactly understand the struggle. Because after all, we all have the same goal and that is the goal of finishing and attaining exaltation.
And as I said in the beginning, exaltation comes through obedience. Because “there is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Elmo Cake

I'm Heather, and I'm guest blogging today to show you a cake that I made for my son's 2nd birthday. I own the Wilton Elmo shaped cake pan, (although you could certainly do it with an oval pan and cupcakes or something) and had previously made it the traditional way for my first daughter's 2nd birthday. However, I had a really frustrating time actually getting the red frosting that I wanted, and as we all know, that much food coloring starts to taste kind of yucky... Additionally, my husband has really weird food issues (Jello is a form of matter that shouldn't exist in his mind, but flan is delicious but that's another subject entirely), one of which is that he doesn't like food with lots of food coloring. However, he doesn't really know what half his food has in it, so it mostly bothers him if he knows I've made something extra colored. He still won't hear about it when we discuss the fact that cheddar cheese is not naturally yellow, he simply doesn't approve of the children eating colored goldfish, because it must have more coloring than the regular orange ones. :)

Anyway, I didn't really want to go that route again, but I had the fun pan, and my children (and us parents, too, I won't lie) all LOVE The Muppets, so I tried to think what else I could do for a July birthday cake. Fortunately, I had just gotten cherries and strawberries in my produce basket for the week, and I realized strawberry tips are nice and bumpy and fur-like. And cherries are almost black, so I went and bought an orange, and voila! All the colors I needed for Elmo's face. I made a white cake mix and used a light cream cheese frosting to compliment the fruit toppings. My son was so excited, and it was delicious (which I can't really say of the traditional red frosted one his sister got).

Sometimes when I look at the picture, it seems like Elmo's got some sort of stubble/5 o'clock shadow thing going on, and other times it doesn't bother me. :-D If you were really wanting to spend the time and expense, you could fill in all the gaps with smaller bits of strawberries to make him more evenly red, but I was in a bit of a hurry. Also, lest anyone think badly of me, all the tops of the strawberries were chopped and frozen to use in smoothies or strawberry rhubarb crumble.

This used 1 orange, one 1 cake mix, one package cream cheese and some powdered sugar, 5 lbs of strawberries (just to have enough points), and about 1/2 lb of cherries, all split in half.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ordain Women??

I'm not really one to get all political and argumentative, but this is my blog and I can say what I want. Perhaps no one will read it, but as I posted when I first started blogging, this is for me.

In light of what is going on in the media, I've evaluated a lot of my religious convictions and as I've sorted through some things, I've come up with a few thoughts.

As anyone who is not completely off the grid knows, there are several hot topics in the media involving the LDS church. I happen to be a member of said religion. I also happen to be somewhat of a feminist. How on earth could the two coexist without one eventually drowning out the other.

There is only one answer. It has been a struggle. There was a time in my life when the balance was nearly destroyed and as a feminist I was so very angry towards my Heavenly Father. It wasn't when my dad was taken from me and my kids robbed of a grandfather. It wasn't when my father-in-law suffered a massive heart attack and made the man I love most in this world fatherless. It wasn't when a child I was very excited to be carrying slipped away into nothingness. No, those would be natural times.

Instead it was while I was a missionary for the LDS church. I was reading in a book of latter day revelation give to Joseph Smith that later became known as the Doctrine and Covenants. It is section 132 and the verse that was particularly triggering was verse 64, which reads:

 64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.

I'm sure educated minds could argue about my interpretation of this scripture, but as I read it, what I read was that Emma Smith had to agree with plural marriage or she would be cut off and destroyed. DESTROYED???? BECAUSE SHE DIDN'T WANT TO SHARE HER HUSBAND WITH ANOTHER WOMAN?

How could a God consider himself my Heavenly Father if all He wanted for me was to become some man's wife? I was nothing more to him that a species designed to "administer" to my man. I believe the common, present, vernacular is I was nothing more that a tool for making a man great and bringing babies to the earth.

I was so hurt and so enraged. I stopped praying. I stopped working. I stopped reading the scriptures. Essentially I stopped being a missionary and spent several days home, seething. I didn't hate God exactly, but I could no longer abide by the concept that He loved me and wanted what was best for me. Clearly God was a woman-hater.

The natural course of action would have been to call my mission president, tell him about my doubts and have him help me work through it. But he was a man. And I wasn't on the best of terms with his wife because she married him (a man) and seemed so happy to be married (to a man) and to help him fulfill his role in life. She was a main supporting character, but never a lead. So instead I marinated in the juices of anger for a few days. I didn't cry. I didn't lash out. I just stopped.

Then one day, one of the other girls living in our apartment came home. She asked me what was going on. I tried to explain, but as I did, hot tears finally began to fall. Often times when I am upset I get a quavery voice and get all snotty. My voice waivers and my whole face contorts into something unrecognizable. This time there was none of that. This time I spoke with a steady, even voice and the tears that fell were of pure fury.

She looked at me for a few minutes and then said asked if I really believed what I was saying. I considered. I had never doubted God's love for me until then. I didn't really answer her and my mind drifted as she continued speaking. That night, after everyone else had gone to bed, I finally knelt down and sobbed. And I prayed again.

I didn't see angels and I won't go into exactly what happened because it isn't something I can really express logically. But  I cannot doubt that my Heavenly Father is aware of me personally, not as one of his minions of righteous baby-makers/male supporters.

He loves me.

From the very beginning He had a plan so that I could get back to live with Him and others that I've worked so hard to have relationships with in this human existence. I can't answer for Him for everything, but this I do know: In order to get back to him, I don't need to be ordained to the priesthood. It simply isn't my role, not because he has anything against me. It just isn't necessary for me to become all I'm meant to be in this world.

I do not understand everything. I see good people who for one reason or another are uncomfortable with their biological gender. I also see others who want the same blessings I have of a loving, legal relationship with a partner of their choice. It seems almost counter-intuitive that a God who loves us would create us as mortal beings and would set some of us up to fail so miserably.

Some might argue that I am brainwashed by some religious cult. I find that highly unlikely. I'm well educated and have as much culture as my income could afford. I lived in the capital of the world for multiple months and was offered a variety of perspectives on God and His plan for us. I have as much life experience as a middle-aged-contributing-member-of-society could have. I work in an environment where I interact with all types of individuals from a variety of backgrounds.  I do not understand the rationale for everything, but this I do know. God is speaking to the earth through a prophet. The Prophet is God's mouthpiece. If he says that same-gender marriage and women being ordained to the priesthood are not part of God's plan for us, it isn't.


I don't know, but I absolutely intended to live my life in such a way that I can go where He is and ask Him.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dusk - The slightly more adult version of "Little Red Riding Hood".

The night was dark, with not even a sliver of a moon to illuminate the cloud-filled sky. Little Red Riding Hood crouched, huddled beneath the canopy of the giant oak. Clutching her knees to her, she struggled to control her ragged breathing, hoping to mask the sound of her location. She had always known it would end somehow and yet. . . No! She shook herself mentally. There was no time for that, no room for doubt or second guesses.
Drawing in a deep breath, she thought, Calm down, Red. She chuckled. Look what he’d done to her. It was almost as though her given name no longer existed. Closing her eyes, she attempted to go back to that day, the day they’d met. Instead she saw him, sitting comfortably on the floor, cross-legged in front of the fire, easily picking some chords on the strings of his guitar. The image blurred, interrupted by a violent crash, a flash of gray fur, and enormous jaws clamped around the throat of the man she loved. Her eyes sprang open and fear immobilized her once more. It was better to keep her eyes open.
Fixating on the bleakness ahead of her, her mind wandered back. Their meeting had been circumstantial, happenstance, mere chance, a twist of fate. It wasn’t that she - like every other female throughout the world - didn’t enjoy his music, she just didn’t have the obsession of some. When the local radio station advertised the contest for backstage passes and a pre-show reception, naturally she had called in. Even when she correctly answered the trivia questions and the passes were rightfully hers, she had traded them for the front row seats her best friend had spent a month’s wages to buy. Stella would appreciate the passes more and Ginger could experience it vicariously as each detail was conveyed to her afterward.
So the night of the concert, when Stella had unexpectedly been taken to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy, Ginger reluctantly allowed the limousine service to pick her up at her college dormitory and had taken her roommate Brittney as company instead.
Even so, it was unlikely their meeting should have been any more than a polite introduction, him autographing a t-shirt and then, flanked by his body guards, moving on to one of the other 49 people in the room. She could blame her parents - or rather thank them - for the meeting resulting in anything more. A leaf, unable to hold the droplets it carried any longer, released a short, icy stream over Ginger’s shoulders. She shuddered, drew her cloak more tightly around her and listened for any sounds of encroaching danger. There was nothing.
Her mind wandered back. As she had expected, doubtlessly fulfilling the publicity portion of his contract, the musician had dutifully approached her and introduced himself. “Ginger,” she had replied.
He stared, his eyes going from her eyes to her tresses; long, full and with the black shimmer of raven’s wings. He wasn’t the first to question her name, so she knew exactly what he was thinking. “It was what my mother craved all throughout her pregnancy while she carried me; ginger ale, ginger bread, certain dishes of Chinese food.” Stop talking, whispered the voice of reason, but her mouth couldn’t seem to comply. “My father spent so many nights out fetching her latest whim for her that he swore that ‘Ginger’ would be my name.” Smile, shake his hand, and walk away, the voice cautioned more loudly. “It seems ridiculous now, but he couldn’t have known I’d have ink-black hair, I was bald, you see. . . when I was a baby.” QUIT SPEAKING. Finally, the voice of logic pierced her consciousness, but as she always did when nervous and under scrutiny, she’d babbled on, unable to stop.
Mostly he’d just stared as she babbled on, a wicked grin slowly forming at the corners of his mouth. Finally, when she’d finished her empty headed comments, he’d responded. “It’s nice to meet you, Little Red.”
“Ginger,” she’d repeated.
Smiling, he’d walked away.
The memory warmed her as the night grew colder. She wasn’t one to live in the past, but old memories seemed to be the only thing to keep reality at bay, and reality was something she was ill prepared to face in her current state.
“Hey, Red.”
In her mind she heard him almost as if he’d been standing there beside her now. Her ears had burned. She’d hated him then, hated him more than any other being she’d ever met. So what if he was famous, rich, good looking and gifted, he was clearly arrogant and so full of himself he couldn’t even remember her name. She’d looked away, pretending not to hear him.
“I think he means you,” Brittney had prompted.
“That’s not my name.”
“So go tell him that.”
And she had. In a stream of words she was embarrassed to recall, she’d very clearly laid out her name, her exact thoughts on him, and probably her soap-box philosophies of a half a dozen other topics, so it had surprised her when he’d followed her mad ranting with, “Will you stay? After the show, I mean. I never eat beforehand because I get nervous and no one pays to see a show where the main act vomits all over the stage.”
She’d been stunned into silence. Almost involuntarily, she’d nodded. The lonely howl of a wolf brought her out of her reverie and back to her sub-zero reality. It was over then. Deep inside, from that first night they’d shared a meal in his trailer, she had known it could never end well. She was ordinary and he. . . well, he was too, if you discounted the view the world held on him.
Forcing herself back into the past, she thought again of another dinner, this time in lowly-lit restaurant in a distant city to which he had paid her airfare.
“I’m Hunter,” he’d informed her.
“Excuse me?”
“The name you keep calling me, well you and everyone else; it’s a stage name. My real name is Hunter. Hunter Kepling.”
“And yet, you can’t seem to call me Ginger. You can’t imagine what it is to get through airport security when the name on the ticket is ‘Little Red’.” Truthfully she had grown fond of the name, accustomed to the sound of it issuing from his lips.
“Does it really bother you?”
“No. But I want to be certain you know that isn’t truly my name.”
“Yes, Ginger. I am very well aware of your name. In fact it is one of the few names I’ve been unable to get out of my mind.”
“Hunter?” she’d practiced, blushing deeply.
“HUNTER!!!!” Calling out to him was foolish. Her position had just been given away, but if there were any hope, any last remaining chance that he had survived, she wanted to know it. Silence answered her.
Grandmother’s house; it had been their code, just in case a call or text were somehow intercepted. My grandmother is ill. Will you take her some soup? The message would come and she would conceal herself in a dark cloak, slip out into the night, and drive up the canyon to a trail head some distance off the road. From there, she would saddle a horse, who instinctively knew the way, and make her way deep into the forest to a remote dwelling.
They’d been together for over a year before he’d taken her there. It was only later that she’d learned he’d bought the home just to have a place near her where they could be alone together.
It was at her insistence that their relationship remain undisclosed. How would she ever earn her degree with a constant stream of cameras following her to the library while she tried to study? She could only imagine the crowds of reporters blocking her way as she attempted to make it to classes on time. What would the media have made of a private residence where the two of them went to avoid the public?
She knew what the media would make of it. They would call it a love shack, a lover’s retreat, and a myriad of other names that wrongfully labeled their secret location. Surely the portrayal would be of the romantic glow of firelight in each of the rooms, rose petal strewn carpets, soft, downy bed coverings. The thought sickened her. It was nothing like that. Firelight filled only the large fireplace in the living room, providing warmth for cold evenings such as this one. The only strewn rose petals were those that fell naturally from the roses that grew wildly in the grounds surrounding the property. There was indeed a bed, two of them to be precise, but they had never shared either of them.
It was a retreat, but not a lover’s retreat. It was a place where he could cook dinner as she studied for finals. It was a place where they could walk for several miles, talking as they went and never meeting another living being while he photographed wildlife. There, in their retreat, was a kitchen where she could bake bread and combine ingredients for hearty soups while he worked on his music; not the lyrics he performed on the stage, but the music that had to be written because it was his way of expression. One room housed his artwork. It was a skill he only pursued in the confines of the cottage. No party in the world was privy to that side of him. So, to protect its sanctity, it had been their secret.
Only now did she realize how foolish her decision had been. Surely she should have at least told her parents. It wasn’t as though they would make a big deal of it or that they would let the word slip; but she’d insisted that they tell no one and so now there was no one to come for them.
A second wail sounded, long and hollow and was met with a chorus of howling replies. It would come for her now, probably leading the pack. Her scent filled that house as much as his. Perhaps, if she ran now, she could reach the stables before the wolf reached her.
The image she had fought all night forced itself upon her. Neither she nor Hunter had expected the attack when the wolf came crashing in through the large glass doors that led to the back patio, but when it threw itself on Hunter, impulsively, she had reacted. Her attempt to open the jaws clenched around his throat were futile as its carnivorous teeth had been sunk deeply into the jugular vein. Even now, beneath the mud and now constant drizzle of rain, his blood was bright on her hands.
 “Run!” he had managed to gasp before his airway had completely been obstructed with the blood gurgling in his throat. Obediently she had run, fleeing for her safety. It was only now as she sat in the darkness, concealed by the mask of night that she regretted her decision. Foolish as it would have been to meet the certain death that would surely have come to her if she had stayed, how could she live with herself now, knowing she had abandoned him in his darkest hour? What volumes did it speak of her as a person that at the greatest challenge of her life she had turned away and fled in self-preservation? Even so, what use was it if both of them were to die? Her life would go on. She would never love again, of that she was certain, but she could move forward and find new meaning in her solitary existence.
How much time had passed; minutes, hours, there was no way to measure with any certainty. She could go back, but . . .the image of what awaited her was not a memory she wanted forever housed in her mind. Eventually, the authorities would come; questions would follow. . . and with his blood on her hands. . . no one would ever believe that a wolf had forcibly entered the premises and attacked him. Besides, she would be found soon enough and this time she would turn and face the challenge, not cower in fear and run away. As if in response to her thoughts, a twig snapped behind her. Drawing on all of her strength, all of her will, she stood and turned, ready for the wolf or for the authorities or for whatever had come for her.
“Hunter?” It was impossible.
“Red.” He stumbled forward, grabbing the tree for support, nearly dropping the propane lantern he carried.
“But. . . I heard the wolf howling.”
“Wolves run in packs.” Her confusion must have shown in her expression. “When their leader was killed, they mourned his loss.”
“Killed? You mean –“
“It’s not just my name, Red, it’s a title, a means of survival. I AM HUNTER!” He paused, posing as though in the stance of an archer. His expression softened. “Don’t worry. My manager has it all worked out. No one will buy a wolf attack. I’m supposed to meet him at the main road as soon as I can so we can stage a tragic car accident wherein I am critically injured, but triumphantly manage to survive.”
“Do you want to be the driver of the other vehicle? Maybe that could be our chance meeting that led to our quick engagement and long, beautiful romance; that is if you are ready to be introduced to the world.”
There were too many emotions for a single night and Ginger felt herself weakened. “You’re awfully confident for one so nearly dead.”
His chuckle, one of the sounds she favored most in the world, answered her. He stepped forward, using one arm to draw her in, the other to keep pressure against the vein in his neck. His words were low, whispered into her dark tresses. “Gunther, my manager, wanted me to come right away, but I had to find you to make sure you were okay. I’ve been trying to find a way to ask you, but . . . nothing ever came to me, nothing except this certainty; I want you in my life, Red. . .permanently.”
“Hunter, I—”
“You don’t have to decide right now, but if you could drive me back to the road, I’d appreciate it. I think I’m about to pass out.”
Draping his arm across her shoulders, they stumbled through the trees, back toward “grandma’s house” where she could load him on the off road vehicle and drive him carefully out to the main road. Perhaps she would be the driver of the other car, or maybe an innocent bystander. . . creepily standing alone at the side of the road. . . in the dead of night. . . on a two lane road. No. She would have the rest of their married life to meet his public. Tonight she would leave him with Gunther, who would see to his needs, see to the press, and conceal what had really happened this evening.

She would go back to the cottage, haul the carcass out to bury it, sweep up the glass, install bars on all the windows, and wash the blood out of the carpet. In a few days she would purchase a dress and go to him for an intimate ceremony. Then, when he had recovered and was ready to come home, she would be there waiting for him.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sweet treat turkey appetizers

You know how it is. The in-laws are coming over. Your mother-in-law is an amazing cook and you really have nothing to offer but space. The natural solution is to make something that serves both as decoration and as food, because one thing that Thanksgiving is always short on is food.  It doesn't take much, some nutter-butter cookies, Dots or gumdrops, black and white icing, clear tumblers, and some candy corns

1. The first step is to make the turkey bodies by using the black and white icing to make eyes and pupils and then attach the candy-corn beak. It's okay if some of them look a little inbred. They're turkeys. 

2. Next use scissors to cut partially through the gumdrops or dots so that they can sit and adhere to the rim of the glass. 

3. Using the same icing, affix the body to the cup. 

 4. Lastly, fill the cup. The picture shows butter-scotch pudding topped with crushed chocolate cookies, but in reality I served them filled with Jello. I used raspberry and lime (red and green), which makes a brown color and in theory is like raspberry-limeade.

I realize the body and head are disproportionately sized, but one always wants a full-breasted turkey. Also, if you really want to make a showing, you can use licorice at the side of the candy corn to make the gobble.