Praying for Lindbergh

One of the projects I’m working on is compiling the autobiography of my grandma, Leola Jex Freshwater Curtis, who died when I was 13. She’s a hero of mine, and I’m touched by her writings. She wrote enough stories and letters about her life to fill a book, but never compiled it into one work. I’ve already hit 50,000 words, and there’s a lot more to compile. Anyhow, here’s a sample she shares about the night Charles Lindbergh made his historic flight in a one-man plane. She was a young girl at the time, and was staying with her Grandma, Louisa Watling Jex.

 

I was at Grandma’s house the night Lindbergh flew across the ocean. I still remember her prayer that night. As she asked a blessing on the food, she also talked to the Lord about watching over this brave boy, alone over the great ocean. “Please help the young flier Lindbergh to get across the ocean in his plane,” she said, “and help him to return safely.”

I can still see the tears rolling down her cheeks. I marveled that she could care so much about someone she didn’t even know.

I felt so sure Heavenly Father would watch over that plane, even if he had to reach down from heaven to hold the plane up in case the pilot got sleepy.

That night Grandma made me a little nest on my side of the feather bed. She always made a little round place just for me, so I wouldn’t fall off the bed and so I would not roll onto her side. Then she explained to me how big the ocean was and told me it had taken three weeks for them to cross it in a boat, and here was this boy all alone with no one to keep him awake. We talked awhile about how hard it would be to guide a plane when it was dark, with no lights, and all that water under him. If he went to sleep the plane would fall in the water, and there would be no one to get him out. He had to stay awake many hours and there was no one there to help him, or to wake him if he got sleepy.
“He’s such a boy,” Grandma said.

Nobody could have been happier than we were when we got the news that Lindy had landed safely. I brought in the paper that showed him getting out of his plane. All the people were crowded around so glad to see him. That night when it was my turn to say the prayer, Grandma said, “Remember dear, to thank Heavenly Father for taking that boy safely across the ocean.”

I remembered. I knew Grandma’s prayer helped him, and the prayers of many others.

Good Morning, Morning Glory

Here’s a little snippet from my Grandma Curtis’s writings. Remember how I mentioned before that her motivation in writing was to make people happy? Well, I thought this was a fun little example.

This morning, as I noticed the morning glories wrapped around the other plants in my flower garden, I straightened them out a little, so they would fill the empty places with their pretty dark pink flowers, and not choke out more tender plants. I always liked Morning Glories. They grew so easily, and once you got a start, they’d come back every year from dropped seeds.

One day I had been helping my Mom weed her garden. The ground was still wet from the rain the night before. It was soft and easy to walk on, or even to kneel on, and the weeds came out of it with just a gentle tug. Besides, it smelled good, all full of green things growing, and flowers blooming. It was like everthing had been washed new and green.
Mom told me to pull up the stray Morning Glories, but I left a few by the post. She thought that was all right. We were just wrapping them around the post when we heard someone coming down the sidewalk.

He spoke in such a cheerful way. His voice seemed full of smiles and happiness, almost as if he had discovered a treasure of some kind. It boomed out:
“Good Morning, Morning Glory,” he said.

Mom and I looked at each other, and I had to duck my head to keep from smiling because he was looking right at my Mom, like she might be the Morning Glory.
“Top of the morning to you, my dear little Morning Glory,” he went on, “and isn’t it a beautiful day?”

“It is that,” Mom was saying, and she was smiling at her early caller, who by then had come down the path to where we were working. I could see he was carrying a suitcase of some kind, and I knew he was a door to door salesman.

Mom let him talk a few minutes about the products he was selling, then she said what she always did, “I know they must be really nice, and I wouldn’t mind having them, the only trouble is, no money.”

Mom always said it in a way they knew it to be true, so they hardly ever argued. But this was a nice man, even if he was middle-aged and kind of shabby looking. He still had the nicest smile and the cheeriest voice. I remember how he kind of touched his hat, like men did for ladies in those days, as if to show respect, and smiling as much as ever he still said, “But it was a pleasure to meet you, all the same, my lovely, Morning Glory.”

At the supper time that night as we gathered around the table, each of us telling the interesting things that had happened to us during the day, I had to tell our Dad how the stranger had admired our Mom and called her a Morning Glory.

He looked at her. She was kind of blushing, or maybe it only seemed that way, Mom always had pretty pink cheeks. Dad kind of grunted, half-disgusted. I wished he would say she was his morning glory, too, but he just thought it was foolish.

Mom didn’t let that bother her. She told her sisters about it, and had a good time thinking how they could still be thought beautiful even after four or five children, and all the hard life they had been through. Mom said how wonderful it was that a funny little man like that, could still want to make someone else happy.
I thought at the time that he was a pretty smart salesman. Maybe with some, it would work, too. Just get a person feeling happier about life, and just maybe they would buy something.

Since I’m older now, I think like my Mom did, that he didn’t have much himself. Maybe it made him feel happier to give someone a compliment. It didn’t cost him a thing. It made my Mom feel kind of special all day… maybe even kind of special for the rest of her life. Do you know why I think so?
Because many times, in the years that followed, even after she was an invalid in a bed, she’d call out to any of us, “Well, Good Morning!” and there’d be such a note of happiness and cheer in her voice that we knew she really meant it.

Sometimes, just for me, she’d add the rest of the sentence, “Good morning, Morning Glory,” and we’d both smile, remembering.

Sometimes, when you give a gift like that to someone, you just never know how long it will last, or how many lives it will touch. It is a lovely morning.

My Musical Journey: The Message

When I was nine, my sister Ria had piano lessons. Being the little brother, I thought I should be able to have piano lessons, too. To me it looked like fun, and I wanted a turn. So mom signed me up.

A lady in our neighborhood, who was also in our ward, taught many kids piano lessons, and for only $3 a week, it was a pretty good way to go, though I didn’t find out until later what a generous teacher I had to charge such a small fee for those valuable lessons.

The lessons were fun, and I learned all the basic musical terms and skills, and obtained a very basic piano proficiency. By the time I had been taking lessons for a year, however, I was tired of practicing, and after a few weeks of dragging my feet, I stopped going to piano lessons.

Years went by, and I didn’t touch my piano books. They were a thing of the past, and any time I considered playing, I remembered how boring practice was, so from the time I stopped the lessons, I stopped playing the piano entirely.

As a young man of fourteen, I loved listening to music while drifting off to sleep. I would stick in a favorite cassette and let it play through to the end. However long it took me to fall asleep, I would always get completely wrapped up in the music. As I made a habit of this, I soon found that the mere act of turning on music and closing my eyes did something to me. It was as if the sounds were wrapping around me, filling me. I don’t know how to describe it, but that simple, quiet music had an overwhelming effect on my whole system.

It was at that time that I came to a realization of the power of music – just a few simple notes, played at just the right… well, everything! The tempo was perfect, the notes were perfect, played at the perfect volume at just the right moments. What was it about this mix of sounds that drew a person in so completely? Was it the flawless skill of the artist, or was it something independent of the musician? Did the music itself somehow convey the sense of completeness and power that I felt?

Much of the music I listened to was religious music, and the powerful feelings I felt while listening to that music were always accompanied by an intense spiritual high that made me want to be better, do more good, and reach out more to bless the lives of more people. But a lot of the music I listened to was simple New Age music, which at that time was sometimes called Easy Listening music.

One night, while listening to some of this gentle music, I felt something unique – or I heard something, but with my feelings rather than my ears. It was as if someone or something was sending a clear message through while my mind and heart were in such a susceptible state. The message was simply this: “You can give this gift to others.”

I lay motionless, still wrapped in the feelings and power of the music. The words had been clear. You can give this gift to others. What gift? Music? The ability to play music? The feelings that the music expressed? Though the message had been clear, I didn’t know for sure what it meant.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was time to go beyond simply listening to and enjoying music. I needed to make music.

But how? I didn’t play any musical instruments, and my voice was nasally and boisterous. I would have to learn to play an instrument. A flute? A brass instrument? I didn’t have any instruments, and I didn’t have access to any instruments – except…

Yes. The piano. The family had a piano. I would would get out my old lesson books and start learning to play first thing after school the next day.

This entry is originally from…

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Celebrity(???) Look-a-like

Okay, so you’ve all probably heard of Celebrity look-a-likes.  If you look around, you can find them everywhere.  In our new neighborhood, we’ve already found Dick Van Dyke and Julie De Azevedo.  In our old neighborhood, we had a perfect Mitt Romney.  Patrick Swayze was one of the missionaries in my mission.

Have you ever wondered what celebrity you look like?

I don’t have to wonder.

I know.
Continue reading Celebrity(???) Look-a-like

How to Revolutionize the Course of the Universe

talltab1It was a very dull day at at the bookstore as I leaned against the counter, chin in hands, waiting for something to happen.  One of my coworkers stood only a few feet away, bored as I was.
talltab1“So,” I said, trying to break the monotony, “What should I do to revolutionize the course of the world today?”
talltab1He thought a moment.  “Got any bombs?  You could always blow up an important building somewhere.”
talltab1“That’s true.  But I don’t have any bombs.  Besides, that’s a bad thing, and there are plenty of bad things going on all the time.  I need to find something good to do.”
talltab1“That’s true,” he replied.  Then we both fell back into silence.

talltab1I began thinking more about our conversation.  What could one do to revolutionize the course of the world?  What about the universe?  Could one person effect the destiny of the universe?
talltab1There have been many people who have changed the course of life on this planet; Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.  George Washington led a revolutionary war that led to the foundation of what might be considered the most powerful nation in world history.  But did those things change the destiny of the universe?
talltab1It occurred to me that the person who best fit that description would have to be Jesus Christ.  Not only did he save the destiny of every person who would ever live, but He provided a way for us to become like His Father.
talltab1Now there’s a new approach to the question.  If I have potential to become like my Father in Heaven, then certainly I have power to effect the destiny of the universe.
So I guess the next question would have to be, what can I do today to best effect that progress?  Of course, a response as broad as “live the gospel” wasn’t really a sufficient, since I had been striving to do that my whole life.
talltab1Then I realized that I was in the process of beginning one of the major aspects of the perfecting process.  I was about to get married in the temple.  I decided that maybe the best thing I could do to work toward that goal would be to strengthen my relationship with Jenni.  How could I do that?  That question is easy.  I could be kind and loving to her.
talltab1I looked around the store.  Everything was quiet, normal, ordinary.  Customers came in and left.  Employees straightened bookshelves or stood patiently waiting for something to happen.  I had a date with Jenni scheduled for that night.  I decided that tonight I would change the course of the universe – I would show love and kindness towards her.

Tribute: I Love You, Dad!

Lunch Bucket and Grandpa

talltab1If someone had asked me in grade school what my dad did, I would probably have told them that my dad is a fisherman.  I didn’t know what he did for work, but I did know that he was a fisherman in his free time.  It was his favorite pastime, and he was really good at it.  He didn’t much go for worm fishing, and he certainly was never big on plopping the line in the water and sitting back waiting for the line to pull.  Dad was a fly fisher.

talltab1He loved fishing the rivers, outsmarting the fish using strategy and skill rather than passive chance.  With fly fishing on a river, the fisher must cast the line upstream, getting the fly to float unsuspectingly over the best part of the fishing hole.
talltab1Dad also tied his own flies.  This was itself quite a skill, as it took the most precise thread-work.  He had a cool fly-tying kit, as well as materials for making flies, such as threads, feathers, animal fur, or whatever was necessary for the desired effect.  The idea is to emulate as close as possible the look of a real fly.  I remember him making Cadiss flies, Mayflies, and even ants and grasshoppers.

talltab1He still fly-fishes and makes his own flies today.

talltab1I remember one particular fishing trip when I was young where we Continue reading Tribute: I Love You, Dad!

Minute Memories: My Grandpa

talltabI don’t know if playing music by ear is a gift that can be inherited, but if it is, I can’t take full credit for what I have learned.  I have a long ancestral line of musicians, including trumpeters, harmonica players, singers, band leaders, songwriters, whistlers, and of course, piano players.
talltabMy Grandpa Hathaway played the piano by ear.  I never asked him what kind of technique he used to learn what he played, but I have vivid memories of watching his fingers dance across the keys as the sounds of Beautiful Dreamer and Memories filled my grandparents’ living room.  Their house always had a classic, well-cared for style, with curio-cabinets and intricate mementos of their lives and era.  The piano was situated in the tightest corner of their beautiful living room, with only enough room for the piano and a player, but the music carried throughout the whole house.
talltabNot only did Grandpa teach himself to play that piano, he essentially put the thing together himself – at least after taking it completely apart.  When he and Grandma bought it, they wanted to put it in the downstairs living room, but their stairway was too narrow for a full-size piano.  So Grandpa disassembled the whole thing – with every key removed, and took it down into the living room in pieces.
talltabGrandma hassled him that he would never be able to get the thing back together, but he did, and it is still there today.  I suppose that piano will stay with the house forever.
talltabWe had a piano in our living room, too, though we didn’t have to take it apart to get it there.  I was fourteen when I decided I was going to really learn to play the piano, and that year Grandma and Grandpa Hathaway came for Thanksgiving Dinner.
talltabDuring those contented hours between the feast and the serving of pie, I found myself Continue reading Minute Memories: My Grandpa

Tribute: I Love You, Mom!

Tis the season to feel guilty,
falalalalaaaa-la-la-la-la.
Mourning that the house is filthy,
falalalalaaaa-la-la-la-la.
Screaming kids and lazy father,
falala-lalala-la-la-la.
Makes me wonder why I bother,
falalalala-la-la-la-laaaaa!

Now that mother’s day’s approaching,
falalalalaaaa-la-la-la-la.
Listen to the old-folks’ coaching,
falalalalaaaa-la-la-la-la.
Think of all your rotten mistakes
falala-lalala-la-la-la.
Work, and just ignore the back-aches
falalalala-la-la-la-laaaaa!

Spare me.

Every year I hear the wonderful things about mothers, and I love it, but every year I hear mothers complain because it makes them feel so terribly inadequate.
I think it’s sad that mothers hearing about how wonderful mothers are makes them feel guilty.  Of course they feel inadequate!  They’re are inadequate.
Has any mother really been adequate to Continue reading Tribute: I Love You, Mom!

Journals and Diaries: Ideas for Keeping it Fun!

I have been keeping a daily journal for about sixteen years now, and I love doing it.  One of the things that keeps me at it is using variety in my journal-keeping methods.  Here are some examples:

Traditional Methods

1. Keep a small pocket notebook with you wherever you go, and when an idea of something to mention in your journal comes to you, jot down a word or two that will remind you of the incident so you can write about it in your journal later.
2. Write a memory of something that happened long ago.  Remember that it probably won’t make a difference in the next generation if you wrote it the same day or years later.
3. Write about something funny that happened recently.
4. Write about something someone else did recently.

Creative Methods

1. Draw a cartoon, sketch, or simple painting of the event(s) of the day in your journal.  Write what the picture represents, and be sure to Continue reading Journals and Diaries: Ideas for Keeping it Fun!