Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Swamp Coolers

I feel the need to complain at length today. Upon my triumphant return from grocery shopping it took less than a second for me to realize it was just as muggy inside my house as it was outside.

For those of us who live in desert areas, swamp coolers are a pretty good alternative to central cooling when looking at it from a financial point of view. However, on days like today the financial benefits aren't exactly outweighed by the problems swamp coolers cause.

For those of you unfamiliar with the workings of a swamp cooler let me quickly explain. The square unit sits upon the the roof where a very large duct leads into the house. When the cooler is being prompted to turn on, water first filters through four very large pads intended to help with the cooling process. When the pads are sufficiently wet the main blower turns on and sends the cool, moist air through the duct and into the house.

This might lead one to naturally assume summertime in the house is a bit on the damp side. One would be correct. I've had to rescue more than one child from their room because they closed the swollen doors and can't get them open. Then there's the food problem. If it's not in the fridge, or a can, or properly sealed, it's gross. Not only is it stale, but a bit gummy too. Not something you want in a cracker or chip. Seriously.

Still, these things can be dealt with, and due to the savings when it comes to money we don't tend to stress too much. I'm afraid the point in which having a swamp cooler becomes unbearable is when the humidity outside rises to such a point we can feel it amplified inside. Then we all feel the ugh!

Like today. I was pretty certain if it became any more humid in the house we'd see rain clouds forming in the hallway. All the floors feel damp, as does any bit of wood. With the increasing humidity outside comes another un-fun fact: no cooling. The air blowing in simply comes out feeling hot rather than cool.

The only way to help alleviate this added humidity is to turn off the water and just let the fan blow. Less humid, but yet again, more hot. Needless to say I'm grumpy. It's hot, it's humid, I'm getting a headache and all the ceiling fans in the world are not making me feel better.

Hey, at least I can admit it. And I can look forward to the day when hubby and I are so rich we can afford the central cooling without worrying about what it's going to cost us to stay below 76 degrees. Good times, people. Good times.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Sweet Tribute

I had the opportunity to speak in our main church meeting today, something I really quite enjoy doing. Last Sunday I posted a story the Lord blessed me with to give to the girls at camp the week before. Today I was asked to share that story with our congregation.

Afterward one girl - I say girl but HELLO! She's 19 now! - that I used to teach in the young women program came up to me afterward. With tears in her eyes she said, "I hate you." We both laughed as she continued to say, "You always make me cry."

Though when she began to cry in earnest I absolutely had to reach over and give her a big hug. "I really miss you," she said, and my heart broke a little. She's been feeling adrift lately, as she's no longer a part of the young women program, but not exactly a full-fledged member of the relief society (for women 18 and older). There's this terrible sort of in-between stage where you finally have to rely on your own testimony and find your way in this crazy world of ours.

We chatted for a few minutes, something we really haven't had a chance to do in a long, long time, and it became time to leave. But her message to me perhaps far outweighed anything I might have given her, for she let me know I meant something to her. And that's a gift I shall treasure always.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Girl's "Time Out"

The constant heat and humidity has been taking it's toll on all our tempers. I've been impressed with how well I've managed (no...seriously!), but could tell my daughter was a few hours away from a serious meltdown. Mom and Dad have been asking a lot of her lately, especially in regards to watching her younger siblings while we attempt to accomplish our various obligations, and I'd been thinking for a while she deserved a little treat.

By the time we got home from visiting a few church members today there were two extra boys on M's hands (friends who'd stopped over to play with my boys) and she looked pretty well done in. When a spider appeared on the ceiling just above her during dinner, I could tell from her complete and total freak out it was time to take her away from the house and see if we couldn't put a smile back on her face.

Granted I'm not much of a last-minute thinker, and our usual thing is to go to the mall (I know, original right?). Instead of wandering through the various stores looking at things we've looked at before, we headed over to the dollar theater. Fortune favored us in the form of a movie M wanted to see and it was only rated PG. So we bought two tickets for "Letters to Juliet."

Definitely a cute movie. There are certain things I would have changed - like less time on her dwindling relationship with one guy and more time on seeing the new relationship form, but still cute. Best of all is M had a good time. She laughed a lot, loved all the mushy lovey stuff, and just plain had fun being out with her mama.

It took me back to an experience I had with my own sweet mama. My younger brother (whom I flippin' adore...just want to make that clear) had been driving me more than a little nuts. Oh come on, that's the top job of a little brother. My mom could see I was at my own patience-limit, grabbed her purse, and told me we were leaving. Next thing I know we're at Hires sipping a root beer in those awesome frosted glasses. I needed that little outing with my mom. I needed that chance to just plain chill.

I'm so grateful for my mother. She is so hard on herself at times, in particular when looking back at how she raised us (as so many of us do), but she has always been exactly what I've needed. So when I see myself doing something for my precious girl that she had done for me, I know I'm being a good mama.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Inspirations July 11, 2010

I spent most of this week at our church's Girl's Camp participating as one of the leaders. It was hard, it was dirty, it was buggy, it was wet, and above all it was beyond awesome!

I was in charge of one of the projects, and decided to do up a little charm bracelet involving the colors which represent the values the young women of our church are given to help guide them through this crazy life.

Not until the last week did I also begin to feel there was a story that needed to go along with the bracelet, something to help make the meaning behind each stone more than just being something pretty to look at. The Lord gifted me with a story I feel needs to be shared far and wide, and so I invite you to pass it on to those you feel might benefit.

The Greatest Treasure

Once upon a time in a land so very far away there are few who even recall it’s name, there lived a King and his beloved daughter, Bethia. At only twelve years old Bethia was all ready considered a great beauty: flawless fair skin, eyes bluer than the sea, hair as dark as night. But more than this, one only had to look into her eyes to see there was a spirit of great strength residing there.

The King worried over the welfare of his daughter, as any father should. He knew the man who would wed her one day needed to be something more than wealthy, of royal birth, or flattering. No, for his precious girl there needed to be a man who knew the value of the gift he had to give.

And so he sent out a decree intended for anyone hopeful to wed the princess.

Let it be known the hand of princess bethia
Is not to be easily won.
Only he who is able present before the king
The greatest treasure to be found
Shall win her hand.

News spread quickly, even in lands so distant they were not known to the King. In only a few months men old and young began to show up, carrying with them jewels and gold and silver, fine silks and linens, even animals so rare some had never been seen before, all in the hopes of pleasing the King. Some brought everything they owned, thinking more wealth would surely buy them the prize of the most beautiful girl known to man – not to mention becoming heir to one of the richest kingdoms.

Yet each eager suitor was turned away. None of them understood what the king meant when he sadly said, “What you have brought is wonderful, but it is not what I am looking for.”

In the meantime Bethia was given a tutor to help her grow in knowledge and understanding. Much of what the King hoped she would learn seemed to come naturally to the young princess. Under the care and gentle teaching of the tutor Bethia grew to be almost as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside.

To the surprise of the kingdom years passed quickly by, hope waxing and waning with every hopeful prince, king, nobleman and even commoner who strutted into the castle grounds, only to leave puzzled, embarrassed, and angry. It wasn’t long before words were passed like vipers, striking at the name of the king whose daughter was too good for the richest and most handsome of men.

As time moved along fewer came calling for the hand of the princess. After all, she couldn’t possibly be as beautiful as the rumors said, thought those who were mildly tempted to try their hand. Why, thought others, should anyone try so hard for a mere woman? It was the king’s decree that got everyone so excited to try. In fact, when one stopped to think about it, king’s daughters were really quite common. There can’t possibly be anything extra special about this one. Such a fuss over nothing.

And so the King and his daughter were forgotten by most who did not live close by. The King mourned for himself and his daughter. Once his hope for a good man who knew what a treasure existed in his girl was thought, by him, to be a good thing. Now he wondered if he’d done them both a disservice. It gave him a lot to think about.

Shortly after the princess’s 18th birthday he noticed Bethia fingering a lovely bracelet on her wrist. It didn’t look familiar. He asked who had given it to her.

“Ben-Ad,” she said, speaking of her tutor. “Aren’t the stones lovely? Each one has a special meaning. He says they remind him of me.”

The King watched as his daughter continued on her way, toying with her new gift.

“Ben-Ad,” he said, wondering if…

What could the meanings behind the gems be? It was unusual for the quiet tutor to honor his charge with a gift, which only served to increase the King’s curiosity, and so he sent for his daughter’s teacher.

Ben-Ad came quickly, bowing his dark head low in reverence of his Master. “Sire, you called for me?”

For several seconds the King scrutinized his servant, trying to really see him for perhaps the first time. He had a pleasing countenance. His dark eyes radiated intelligence, indeed, but there was something more. There was laughter, also in evidence behind a mouth that looked ready to break into a smile. His form was fit, positioned in a stance to show respect, yet he also appeared relaxed, comfortable with himself and his surroundings. Even being inspected by the King didn’t appear to unsettle him.

“You gave my daughter a gift,” he said, and no more. Over his long years of ruling he’d learned you could tell a great deal of the measure of a man by putting him in an uncomfortable position. He was pleased when Ben-Ad at last let the smile escape.

“Yes Sire, I did. I hope it didn’t upset you.”

The King smiled in return. “Not at all. I was simply curious. Bethia said each of the gems had a meaning. I would like you to tell me about them.”

At that moment a door opened and in walked his daughter. She paused at the sight of her teacher standing before the King. Was that a blush suddenly coloring her face? At the same time he saw the tutor’s face briefly flush, and had to stifle his pleasure. Something told him here was a man who might be able to answer his prayers.

Ben-Ad reached a hand into his pocket, grabbed something, and pulled it out. His fingers stretched open just a bit so only his eyes could behold the object. The King watched the young man’s features soften for a brief moment, before he raised his head and asked to approach. A quick glance showed his daughter had not moved an inch.

“I have in my hand eight precious stones,” he began. “Ones your daughter and I have been studying the last few months. The princess asked me one day what I thought the stones meant. I didn’t understand until she began to tell me how the blue ones reminded her of you, and the gold ones of her mother. She even said the green ones make her think of me, her teacher.”

He smiled at his student, and the King watched her face light up.

“I began to think on her question, even then coming up with the idea of making her a gift of the stones. It was my hope that she could be constantly reminded of the beautiful things in her life and in herself.”

Ben-Ad pulled out a small, white stone, almost perfect in its color. He placed it in the hand of the King, who marveled at the beauty of something so tiny. “Your daughter watches you, Sire, and her mother. She sees daily your examples of unending faith and perseverance. Though she may not always understand why you do the things you do, she trusts you implicitly. Her faith in her parents, and others around her, is not to be taken lightly.”

The next stone placed in his hand was blue, the color his daughter said reminded her of him. In their land blue was a sign of royalty, a color he always wore. “This is to help Bethia remember she is the daughter of a king. There are things passed on from father to daughter that connect them in a relationship more precious than all the riches in the world. This father loves her more than she will ever know. At times he asks difficult things of her, like waiting to marry a man who will appreciate who she truly is, even if it means waiting for years. But these things are asked out of love. For she truly deserves someone who is just as willing to wait for her.”

It was extraordinary, the insight this young man had. His own daughter had never gleaned the truth, as the puzzled look on her face showed. Before he could ponder further the next stone was placed in his hand. It was just as small as the others, a shade somewhere between pink and red. It wasn’t very smooth, a bit ragged here and there, but no less beautiful. In fact, the individuality of the stone almost demanded his attention. Certainly there was no other like it here in the kingdom.

“I believe this stone is most like your daughter. It is unique, special, distinctive. Even though she is the daughter of a king, she is not like every other daughter of a king. She has her own irreplaceable gifts, talents, and abilities, her own individual experiences that have worked over the years to make her rare. As we all are rare. There is not one person who is like another, and I believe this is something she should celebrate.”

Ben-Ad smiled as he next placed the light, green gem in the hand of the King. “I have dubbed this one knowledge. Not for myself, Sire, but rather for the knowledge your daughter has gained. She has a teachable spirit and a love for learning. There is no doubt she will continue to educate herself, as she should. I believe we should all strive to learn everything we can in these short, mortal lives of ours. Some of the most beautiful minds on this earth are those open to discovering new things.

“I had to laugh a bit when the princess saw this gem.” Ben-Ad dropped two interlinked, perfectly round orange balls onto the King’s palm. The King laughed out loud, then beckoned for his daughter to come near. Her laughter mingled with his as she caught sight of the gem. Though he’d never understood why, Bethia had never liked the color orange. Seeing it on her lovely bracelet must have been upsetting. She nodded to Ben-Ad to explain.

“Just as the princess might not choose to include this color in anything, we are sometimes asked to make choices that may seem unfair, hurtful, or mean. Sometimes the choices we make are wrong, and we must face the consequences of those wrong choices. Even if she is a princess, she is not perfect. But that’s okay, so long as she learns from her mistakes, and makes the better choice next time.

“Then there are those choices that are hard because others will complain, mock, or cry unjust. Well, that is the choice of others. Yet she must decide how she will act in face of adversity. Will she cave under the pressure and take back her choice? Or will she stick with what she knows is right?”

It didn’t seem real, everything the King was being taught in this simple interview. Not only was he gaining a new insight into his daughter, but also into the incredible mind that had been teaching her for several years. Why had he not paid more attention to this young man?

Next into his hand was placed a yellow stone. It shone bright as the sun.

“This one makes me think of service,” said Ben-Ad. “I cannot help but think of the joy brought to the people we serve. And I cannot help but think of the joy we bring to ourselves when we serve others. I have seen your daughter bring about good works without being asked. I have witnessed the faces of those she serves. They light up. They shine. They glow with happiness. In the process her own countenance shines.”

The next gem to find it’s way onto his hand was violet. It instantly made him think of solemn and sacred things, though he could not say why. What could this gem mean in the eyes of a learned man?

“In this I think of the Lord,” said Ben-Ad in almost a whisper. “I think of how well he stood up for that which is right, even in the face of evil. I think of all the times he quietly went about doing good, teaching good things, and living his life as though he knew those around him were watching.

“Yes there were those who loved and followed him, but there were also those who hated him. Time after time they tried to trick and trap him. Even Satan tempted him when he was at his weakest physically. Yet the Lord never backed down from doing what he knew to be right. He never went back on the things he taught. He is truly our greatest example of courage and integrity.”

All three remained silent for several seconds, pondering on the sacred words just spoken. The King could not hold back the flood of emotion pouring through him. It was as if he was just given a special look at the Lord through someone else’s eyes, and he felt humbled. So lost in his thoughts was the King it took a moment to register the last stone placed in his hand.

It sat atop the others, shining with pure intensity. For this stone men throughout the ages had fought with one another, valued it even over the life of their loved ones, and sought to gain more and more. Over the years the King had begun to hate the sight of this stone, as hopeful suitors brought mounds of it with them, asking to trade them for his daughter.

It was gold. What could gold mean to him other than greed? He looked to the teacher, his teacher, for answers.

“I can see what you are thinking, Sire, and cannot say that I blame you. Let me see if I can’t help change your mind. It’s true gold has often been given away without a thought by those who don’t care to recognize its value. It is hunted by evil men who believe having more will make them happier.

“But I believe in something different. You see, Sire, I believe it is something precious, to be guarded and cherished. I believe it needs to be protected from the evils of the world, and ever cared for so it does not tarnish. I believe this gold represents everything else we’ve been talking about. It is the goodness and virtue within all of us.

“When we keep ourselves pure, unstained, and protected from the evil influences around us, we are more able to shine in the light of the Son, so that others who see us will want to know what makes us glow. However, I also believe this is a lifelong process. Every time we find ourselves discolored, we must work to clean ourselves up and glow again. But one day, if we follow what all the other stones represent, our golden selves will be fit to stand before the Lord.”

For several minutes the King pondered the brightly colored stones in his hand, awed at the gift presented to his daughter. “May I keep these?” he asked in a soft voice, looking up long enough to see the tutor nod before placing them into his robe. When at last he trusted his voice, the King stood and turned to face the two young people. He stepped forward and took his daughter’s face in his hands.

“Ben-Ad has given you a gift like no other,” he whispered, “and me as well. I am looking at you now and can hardly believe my eyes. How is it I have not seen the young woman who stands before me today? You are truly remarkable.”

He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, then wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I have always wanted to give you a husband who would see you to be the greatest treasure. Would it please you, my daughter, if Ben-Ad were to be that husband?”

She trembled, barely able to contain her joy. “Yes, Father.”

He turned to Ben-Ad, whose wide eyes and tight lips expressed wonder, hope, and excitement. The King took his daughter’s hand and placed it in that of her teacher, her friend, her love. The elation shared between the two could hardly match that of his own. At last he’d found a man worthy to wed a princess.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday Inspirations July 4, 2010

I simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to share with you my love for this incredible country. It's true we're in a state of turmoil right now, but it certainly doesn't stop the majority of us from remembering upon what this nation was founded, and who's heavenly guidance helped to make it a refuge for many who have been downtrodden.

There will always be those who will take advantage of the system, and others who think they know a better way, but God's way will always triumph and will happen in His own timing.

At the end of our meeting in church today we all stood to sing the Star-Spangled Banner. More than one eye misted over as the import of the words struck us anew. I'd like to share those words with you now.

Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through thru the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust!"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Independence Day is not about fun fireworks and picnics and sparklers. It is about the battles we have and will continue to fight to ensure this land remains sacred ground for those who would live the life of the free. It is most assuredly the home of the brave.

Happy 4th of July everyone!