A Word from Sister Chieko

One of my favorite people, Chieko Okazaki, passed away last week.  I think I was 11 or 12 when she was in the general RS presidency, and used to get so excited when it was her turn to speak in LDS General Conferences — her talks were always interesting, always engaging.  I usually don’t like trite online tributes to people who didn’t really know me, but I came across a quotation from one of her talks (it’s from a BYU devotional, years ago) and it touched me so much that I wanted to share.  Sis. Okazaki was a person with a very strong personal relationship with Christ, and in this passage, she expounds on how women in particular can grow closer to Him:

“Well, my dear sisters, the gospel is the good news that can free us from guilt. We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It’s our faith that he experienced everything- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.
Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that. He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.”


Two weeks ago we returned from our first big vacation as a family that didn’t involve visiting relatives.

Really, this was one of our chief reasons for moving back to Utah — so we could go somewhere else for a change.  This year we decided to visit Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, staying at a campground between the two parks (in a rented trailer!  With heat!).

I’ve decided to be bold and experiment with technology.  Here’s my first stab at creating a slide show via YouTube.  With subtitles!  (No music, however.)

Here are the vital stats:

Number of Junior Ranger patches earned: 2 (Jeffrey wore a jacket proudly displaying all of his ranger patches.  He has four of them now.)

Number of Tourists Jeffrey Personally Warned about the Dangers of Geothermal Features: 4

Bears Sighted: 1 (a grizzly, he’s in the slide show)

Moose Sighted: 5

Wolves Sighted: 0, alas

Coyote Sighted Whom Many Tourists Thought Were Wolves: 3

Eagles Sighted: 2 (one of them was an immature bald eagle, and lifted out of a meadow just as we walked by)

Elk Sighted: oh, who cares?

Bison Sighted: dozens and dozens and dozens

Books Read Out Loud While Driving: 3 (A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead)

U.S. State lisence plates sighted: 48 (we couldn’t get Delaware or West Virginia, although we did see Hawaii, Maine, and Rhode Island).

Marshmallows Toasted by Wimmy: 6

Marshmallows Wimmy managed to take off his toasting fork and eat: 0

Miles hiked: Um . . . perhaps something like twenty, over the course of the week

Times Eleanor complained that her legs hurt: too many to mention

Ice Cream Cones Consumed by Family: 20? 25? I lost track after the third day.

Minutes Eleanor lasted in boring ranger-led lecture about Native American Art: 10

Minutes Jeffrey lasted: 45

Minutes William lasted: 0

Number of four-year-old girls we met on the trail who are also named Eleanor: 1  She and my Eleanor became friends, and held hands for much of our hike, how cute!

Toy moose that William stripped of antlers and fuzzy fur, rendering them into creepy shriveled lumps of pink plastic: 2

Parents who had a great time and are a little sad to be home, although happy to have a comfortable bed once more: 2

Ella by Moonlight

moon-march-9-2008.jpgLast Sunday evening, we were on the way home from a friend’s house, and Eleanor saw something outside her window.

“Look! It’s the moon!”

It was just barely recognizable as the moon, in my opinion — a bright, thin eyelash of a moon, tipped directly upwards towards the sky. The dark side of the moon could be seen clearly above it, a circle of not-quite sky, the color of a faded black T-shirt. It gave me chills.

“Mama, I’m going to fly up to the moon,” said Eleanor seriously, still gazing out the window.

“Oh, on a rocketship?” I asked.

No,” she said firmly. Eleanor is particular about her fantasies. “With my wings.”

“Will you take a walk on the moon when you get there?” Eleanor was puzzled by this question.

“No, I will fly up there with my wings and grab the moon with my two hands,” she explained.

Oh, now I understood — and I was delighted. I couldn’t help but think of the princess in James Thurber’s Many Moons, who insists that the moon is the size of her thumb, is made of gold, and can be worn on a chain around her neck.

On our car ride, Jeffrey and Eleanor continued to chat animatedly about the moon, and said “Goodbye, Moon!” or “There it is again!” as the moon dipped in and out of our view. I was thrilled again, remembering doing just that when I was a child.

As a parent, there are so many happy things I’ve remembered from my own childhood that I’ve gone out of my way to pass on to my kids — the fingerpainting, the digging up of treasured picture books, the carefully preserved Halloween costumes my mother made for me — that I sometimes forget that some of them, like DNA, will be passed down quietly to them, as a matter of course. As gently and quietly as moonlight streaming through a water-streaked window.

If you haven’t read this one, go directly to your library and find it. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.


Many Moons by James Thurber, illus. Louis Slobodkin.  Princess Leonore is ill, and says she won’t get better unless she can have the moon.  Her father the king is in a dither: each of his blustery assistants, including the Astronomer, the Mathematician, and the Magician, insist that the moon is too large and heavy for this to be possible, and recommend a series of solutions, each more comically outlandish than the last.  Only the court jester, who spends time listening to Princess Leonore’s own theories about the moon, can save the day.  This is a big-time classic — renowned author, Caldecott-winning illustrations — and on my personal list of Books That Must Be Read By Age 13.  BUT — and this is a big but — it’s long, so save it for reading aloud (it must be read aloud) until your kid is six or seven.  Or relish it all on your own.

Time Capsule

curryvillage.jpgThis morning Brian spent time doing his latest favorite persuit: shredding papers. (Never is there a man as content and industriously blissful as my Brian with a shiny new gadget.)

He was merrily bzzzzz-ing his way through check stubs from 1998 when he came upon a fat little envelope which contained something fun — a bundle of receipts and a handwritten budget for our honeymoon.

That was back in December of 1999. We went to Yosemite National Park. Trip expenses included:

  • Gas purchased in Salt Lake City for $1.32 a gallon
  • Rental of a cabin in Curry Village for three nights: $194.68
  • The purchase of a dessert called “Obsession” at the Wawona Hotel: $4.25

Yeah, it hasn’t been quite long enough for those prices to seem quaint (except for the gas, maybe). We made our cabin reservations via the Internet, which was considered very cutting-edge and techie then, or at least to our parents. It’s been eight years, but I can still recite the Curry Village Anthem:

Wild strawberry freezes

And fresh mountain breezes

Make Curry the Camp of Delight.