Friday, March 29, 2013

Dark Sabbath

     I cannot remember anything in the scriptures between the crucifixion and burial Friday and the glorious first day of the week.  
     What was it like for them? - the disciples, friends, followers of Jesus, His mother.  He had died a horrible death before their eyes.  He who had been so full of life, who had spoken of eternal life.  He who had commanded the elements, healed the sick, even raised the dead.  Now he was dead.  Hastily buried before the Sabbath came with the setting sun.
     They blindly in their grief no doubt observed their sacred rites and Sabbath obligations, weeping as they did.  Despite the terrible events, they still believed in God and His commandments. They obeyed the law of the Sabbath with aching but faithful hearts.
     Through out the Sabbath they remembered Him, the things He said, the scriptures He quoted.  They reached out to each other to mourn together, to find some comfort in each other.  They talked and wondered.  Remembering His words, His promises.  Repeating. Discussing.  What did He mean?
    He had spoken of rising again.  They believed, but they were practical people and nothing like that had ever happened in all of history, so they must have  wondered and not exactly doubted, but didn't quite understand.  
   I think it was a long, dark even as the sun shone, lonely even in their gathering, sorrowful, do we dare to hope and for what day.  Heavy with sorrow and weeping until their eyes burned and they could weep no more.  for a short time.  and the wrenching tears and choking sobs would begin again.
   In some ways this Sabbath day may have been even harder than the day of the crucifixion. When everything was happening, part of themselves must have been almost numb with the horror of it even as they cried at His feet.   The Sabbath day is a day for quiet reflection.  No work, Few distractions.  Just that awful aching loss and sorrow. 
    It was a long dark day of uncertainty and grief. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Chicks and Easter Bunnies

I hear a local Feed and Pet Supply Store advertising chicks and bunnies for Easter and I cringe.  Before you get a cute little chick, bunny or any other pet, read this and carefully consider. Easter Pets  Living things should not be gotten on a whim and tossed aside when  they grow up and are not so cute or you are tired of taking care of them.   If you get a pet, make a life-long commitment. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Urban Bicycle Safety

      I have been bicycle commuting for a few years now so I thought it was about time to learn how. Andrew and I took an Urban Cycling Safety class offered by Sacramento Transportation Management Agencies  and taught by a certified League of American Bicyclists instructor.  The class was $15 and 6 hours.
      We got off to a rocky start as the classroom that had been arranged for us to begin in was locked.  We could not even get in the building.  That was ok, we just went across the street to a park.  There the freeway noise and the sun glare made the brief power point presentation less effective than otherwise, but each of us received a handbook "Smart Cycling: Traffic Skills 101" with all the power point information and more, so we followed along in the book as well as squinted at the computer screen. 
       One of the first and recurring themes was referring to cycling in traffic as "driving".  This is an important mindset, because bicycles are considered vehicles with the same rights, laws, and responsibilities (but, it is well to remember, not the same power).  Bicyclists are to obey the traffic laws.  If you want to enjoy the privileges of pedestrians - sidewalks and crosswalks -  you should dismount and walk your bike.  (I am just telling you the rules here.) 
        One of the other main things I learned that I have often been doing wrong  was lane positioning.  We tend to think the bike should always ride on the right near the curb.  Not necessarily so.  In the absence of a bike lane (and sometimes when there is one), the cyclist should ride on the right side of the lane going where he wants to go.  If there is a dedicated right turn lane and the cyclist wants to go straight, the cyclist should NOT stay on the far right near the curb, but - after carefully scanning to make sure the way is clear - should shift into the right side of the lane that is continuing straight.  If the lane is for either straight or right turn, the cyclist should move to the center of the lane.  Or sometimes to the left of the lane, allowing right turning vehicles to proceed.  If the cyclist wishes to do a left turn, he should shift lanes until he is in the right side of the left turning lane (if there are multiple lanes) and upon making the turn, move to the right side right lane going his direction. If there is only one lane, the bicyclists moves to the left of the lane to do a left turn.   If the traffic is too heavy to do this safely, or as in my case, the cyclist is just a bit slow, one makes a box turn - proceed straight across the street, then, on the other side, turn and get in the lane going the direction you want to go and cross with the traffic going that way.
        We talked a little about the basic rules.  We learned ABC check.  Before you ride - every time if you don't ride often; once a week if you ride daily, check A - air.  Do the tires have the proper air pressure?  B - Brakes - are the brakes working?  Are the brake pads too worn?  C- Chain, Crank, something else that starts with C, oh yeah, Cassette.  Is the chain too loose or the crank wobbly?  Are the pedals loose?  Is the cassette (the gear sets) clean and moving smoothly?  Q - check your quick release - make sure the wheels are clamped in securely and it's nice to have the quick release lever facing back so that it doesn't catch sticks and such.  One thing, I noticed, if you have your bike worked on at the shop, you might check and make sure you CAN release the quick release, because sometimes they torque down too tight for me.  Another thing they didn't mention in class, but I have had a problem with is check the various bolts around your bike.  They sometimes loosen up with riding. 
        Next it was helmet check.  The helmet should sit down straight on your head with about two finger clearance above your eyes.  Each of the straps come down from your helmet in a V which should go on either side of each ear and come to its  point below the ear - no strap on or rubbing the ear.  That could get old.  The strap should fit under the chin with room to fit two fingers - snug, but not too tight to breathe!
        Soon it was biker's up for a short ride over to a large empty parking lot for skills practice.  But wait!  Not more than a couple of blocks into our ride, one of the bicyclist's tire blew! And blew good.  or rather bad.  So we had our tire changing session early. Although this was a very loose fitting tire compared to some, for the purposes of demonstration, the instructor, Dennis, showed how to use tire levers.  We used the pump I was carrying to show how to pump up the tube and look / listen for the whole.  This was a big one.  Too big to patch.  And we learned why is always a good idea to carry a spare tube. Which this person was not.  Andrew and another student rode to the parking lot where Dennis' partner had driven and got her to come back and take the hapless student to a bike shop to buy tubes.
     Always good to carry - spare tube and patch kit, tire levers, pump (that's a must!), multi-tool.  And it's nice to have some wipes to clean your hands off afterwards.  I also carry thin dish washing gloves to try to keep my hands clean, but they seldom last the whole change out.  And I carry a chain breaker (which Dennis said was not a good one) but have not yet learned to use it.  If my chain breaks, my bike will become a scooter.  I also learned that some biking shoes are comfortable to walk in.  A friend had his bike break down in the country and had to walk miles in biking shoes which was NOT Fun.  A couple of gals in the class had bike shoes that were more comfortable than tennies.  I bike in hiking boots.  Which also work for walking. Not so good for dancing, but then neither am I.
     Actually, Dennis said he rarely patches on the road because it can be a pain. I can testify to that!  I carry both patch kit and tube.  There have been times I have done a very successful patch.  But other times, especially in the dark or bad weather, things have not gone so well.  What many cyclists do is change out the tube, take the bad one home and patch it there.  Dennis saves them up and has a patch party when he has a bunch of them.  Makes sense because the patch glue, like super glue, is seldom usable more than once. Then it glues itself shut or dries out. On the road, you get one tube patched from a tube of glue.  Dennis has patched as many as 25 tubes with one thing of glue in one of his patching sessions.  Once you have patched your tube, you can carry it as a spare.  Another cyclist once told me that after he patches, he blows up the tube pretty full and leaves it overnight to see if it is a good patch, before letting the air out and packing it as a spare.  Dennis said that (either he or his partner) once had a tube with something like a dozen patches on it.
      Eventually the people with the new tube came back, we continued our tire changing lesson, and hit the road again.
      In the parking lot we started with very basic skills.  Starting, riding a straight line, and stopping.  One thing that he mentioned which I think most bicyclist do naturally, is that when you stop in traffic, like for a light, stop in or adjust to the power position - one pedal up with your foot on it ready to push down and the other foot on the ground ready to shove off.  This not only helps you off to a good start, I find it comfortable and restful for my legs.   What you do not want is to slide off in front of your bike seat and stand flat footed astride your bike.  You are not ready to go.
       We practiced gear shifting,  controlled avoidance weaving - remember, riding in traffic, you just cannot go all over the place! quick stops, sharp little rock dodges, and instant turns.  The instant turn is for when some careless or thoughtless driver suddenly turns in front of you and if you don't do something you will crash right into the car.  You may not have time/space to stop, so you turn sharply in the direction the car is going.  That way if you do hit, it will be a glancing blow.  Strangely this instant turn begins with you turning your front wheel the wrong way - toward the car - usually this is left because usually the problem is a right turning car.  By turning your front wheel left you cause your bike to lean right. The moment you have started the turn and lean, you turn sharply right and you will be making a much tighter than usual right turn, putting you parallel to the offending vehicle.  We practiced each maneuver several times and although I made some fairly sharp turns, only once did I successfully stay within the guidelines.  We also practiced looking back over our shoulder to scan for traffic - while maintaining a straight ride.  Must practice both sides, because sometimes you are riding on the left side -as on a one way street.
      It is a good idea to practice each of these maneuvers frequently so that they will be instinctive when you need them.  I think the instant turn is the hardest and therefore, I really should practice.
      I think we spent a couple of hours practicing these skills.  When we returned to the school we were able to get into the classroom. While we ate the lunches we had packed, we watched a little movie about driving (remember? driving) a bicycle in traffic.  
      Thing to know which I did not    - if the street is not wide enough for a bike and a car to travel side by side, it is the bicyclist's right and it is safer if the bike "claims the lane"(Although, not all car drivers know or appreciate that)  Don't go over to the side where the car might try to pass you and either run you into the curb, hit you, or have problems with oncoming traffic. Ride near the middle of the lane.  Thing to watch there - road oil and such.  More of that in the middle of the lane.  So claim your lane, but sort of side middle.  Don't be intimidated.  But if you get a string of cars behind you, pull over just as you would if you were driving a car on a narrow road and collected a string of faster cars behind you.  Now this is great for most bicyclists, but I cruise at 8-10.  If I get up to 12-15, I think I am pretty hot stuff.  I think the fastest I have gone is 17 down hill.  This would not make me popular with motorists.  Fortunately, most streets, most of the time, there is room.
     Use good sense.  Don't tell the coppers, but if the traffic is tight and heavy and maybe there is debris on the side of the road and there are no pedestrians, I ride on the sidewalk. Doesn't happen often.  One thing my son David taught me, is if you are riding on the sidewalk, if there is not clear visibility for any reason - bushes, buildings, whatever, ride at a pedestrian pace - no one is going to be prepared for you to suddenly appear and accidents can happen.
     Remember!  BEWARE the door zone!  Try to ride 3 feet or more from parked cars.  Frankly, I distrust parked cars more than moving ones.  MOST drivers are paying SOME  attention and most drivers are considerate.  People getting out of cars open their doors without a thought.  It can be really bad to have a door open right in front of you! (Try to remember to always look before you open a car door)
      Finally, we rode out through midtown.  Traffic calming circles, stop signs, left turns, railroad tracks.  Classmates dropped off one by one as we reached points closest to where they turn for home.  Andrew and I dropped off at a bicycle shop because he needed new tubes.  I forgot that I wanted to look at mirrors.  A lot of cyclists like them a lot.  One thing, though.  Even if you get a mirror and don't NEED to turn and scan for traffic, it is a good idea to turn your head anyway, because that helps drivers know that you are looking to change lanes.
     An important principle of traffic safety is to be predictable.  Don't play games, do tricks or mess around when driving in traffic.  Let your position and body language, as well as hand signals - yes we talked about and demonstrated them, too - help the car drivers know where you are going to be and what you are likely to do.  You will all be safer and more comfortable.
       A lot of the class was probably basic good sense, but I found it useful.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Lost Tree Story

I gave half my Sunday School class a talk by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, The Atonement and Faith  and asked them to find the story of the tree to share with the other half. Well, I didn't highlight it beforehand, it isn't exactly a story, and although my students are wonderful and kind, I still get a little bit of performance jitters, so I forgot where/what it was exactly.  Sorry, dear young friends!

These young people are so sharp that one of them actually shared the point of the story/comparison without the tree.  Which is that for the Atonement to cleanse our sins, true repentance must take place which does involve a it of suffering. (Not as much as if we don't repentant!)  We can't just say "sorry" and move on.  We need to truly be sorry and to recognize the harm of sin, the separation of us from God and who we want to be, godly sorrow leading to change.  We must have a broken heart and contrite spirit. Good job!

I found it. 

A person who sins is like a tree that bends easily in the wind. On a windy and rainy day, the tree bends so deeply against the ground that the leaves become soiled with mud, like sin. If we focus only on cleaning the leaves, the weakness in the tree that allowed it to bend and soil its leaves may remain. Similarly, a person who is merely sorry to be soiled by sin will sin again in the next high wind. The susceptibility to repetition continues until the tree has been strengthened.

When a person has gone through the process that results in what the scriptures call “a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” the Savior does more than cleanse that person from sin. He gives him or her new strength. That strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father. To be admitted to His presence, we must be more than clean. We must also be changed from a morally weak person who has sinned into a strong person with the spiritual stature to dwell in the presence of God. We must, as the scripture says, become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19). This is what the scripture means in its explanation that a person who has repented of his or her sins will forsake them (see D&C 58:43). Forsaking sins is more than resolving not to repeat them. Forsaking involves a fundamental change in the individual.


With the rest of the world, I have been watching with some interest as Pope Benedict announced his resignation.  

Although I have a strong testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have received personal witness that it is indeed the true church of God on the earth, I respect other religions and honor their members' desires to follow God.  I have always particularly liked the Catholic church.  I understand their claim of authority from the apostle Peter even though I believe that the Priesthood and the authority were lost from the earth. I admire the good work done by Catholics - lay members, priests and nuns, and especially Catholic Charities.  I respect that they stand firm and unchanging in doctrine despite the changes in modern social standards and the pressure to keep up with the times.  While many other churches adjusted their standards, the Catholic church said we cannot change God's laws.  I one time told a former Catholic now Mormon that I have sometimes thought that if I had not been blessed with to be a member of the LDS church, I would probably be Catholic.  She became somewhat upset and asked, "What about infant baptism?!"  I must confess she had me there.  Nonetheless, I have a certain soft spot towards the Catholic church and certainly a kind of fondness and respect for its devotees.

There is something that I have always wondered about.    I have often wondered what it is like for the Pope.  Catholic doctrine is that the Pope is infallible.  The Pope speaks for God.  Many Catholics do not personally accept that in their lives, but how well do I live the counsel that a living prophet has given me?  I willingly believe that many Catholics have sincere belief and faith.  I would think the Pope has too, all his life.  I don’t think they teach personal revelation so much.  They look to their ecclesiastical leaders.  So when you get to the top, to whom to you look up?  When the Pope gets to the top and asks his questions, what happens next?  Does the Lord answer his faith and give him inspiration?  Does Lucifer step in and deceivingly act the part?  Or does nothing happen and the pope is suddenly there alone, wondering “what now?”  No pope has come out and told everyone that they had all been tricked. And I have wondered what their experience is.

In his farewell address POPE Benedict XVI admitted it sometimes felt as if 'God was asleep'– that God was not there, not responsive, not answering. It sounded to me that he blamed his age and weakness for the silence more than that he doubted God or his religion. 

And he did say "sometimes".  So I still don't know.  Probably won't ever as it is not important to my personal salvation.  Unless the Catholic Church is the true church to which I should belong, which I have personal witness it is not.

How grateful I am for revelation!  As weak as I am and as seldom as I have, I have received it.  I know it is real.  I believe when I hear others testify of having received revelation (most of the time).  And ! I can always ask for personal verificaiton!).  I cannot imagine President Monson saying that the heavens are silent.  Even though Joseph Smith Jr went through some ragged spots where He asked where God was hiding during Joseph’s and the Saints horrible trials.  Of course, when he asked, he was answered.  Not the answer he wanted, but answered.  How blessed we are!

I believe in the gift of revelation available to each of us in our sphere of responsibility - if we will ask with a sincere heart and real intent, which includes trying to live the truths we have been given.  I believe that the Priesthood of God was restored to earth.  I believe that Thomas S Monson is a prophet of God, that he and his counselors and the Twelve Apostles do indeed converse with God.  Conversations that are not one-sided.   When they say that Jesus Christ is not only their Savior, but their friend, counselor, guide and ruler, they mean it literally.  And wonderfully enough, we, each of us, can and should enjoy the same privileges in our own behalf and in behalf of those for whom we are responsible.

I am weak in this.  I think that sometimes I am afraid of what the answer might be and don't want to hear it.  I let a great deal of static interfere with the still, small voice.  I need to fine tune my hearing.   Still, there have been times when I clearly received the message.  I have been led, comforted, warned, convinced, and loved.  

God is not asleep.

Happiness at home

  We have been having more and more trouble keeping Happiness at home.  Or the Happiness Twins in the house, rather. Surprisingly, Felicia who I thought was the less adventurous and who is definitely easier to get in the Den of Happiness at night, is the hardest one to contain.  She is sneaky and quick.  She tries harder.  So, yesterday, a beautiful sunny Saturday, she got out.  Joseph opined that it’s about time to give up on keeping them confined to quarters and let Felicity out. She hesitated at first.  Disbelieving or cautious, I am not sure. Then followed an entertaining period while she experimented with this new concept. She asked to be let in.  She went out again,  She came in.  Please let me out.  Really?  It’s ok?  Can I come in, too?  Joseph just kept being the polite door man. Not Felicia - she stayed away.  In fact, we didn’t see much of her.  When I came back from Costco, Felicity was in the window.  Felicia and Velox were in the gutter exchanging insults.  Vel ran over to the still empty house across the street or the Hispanic neighbors next to it, I am not sure.  Felicia sort of ran after her and also spent way too much time in the street.  Then she ran down the street the other way. It really bothered me to see her in the street so much, but no way could I catch her.  When I came home from Women’s Conference this evening. Felicity was home.  Felicia was still out.  the brat. I began to hope she dies a quick merciful death and not sustain painful, lingering, expensive injuries.  After family prayer and scriptures, I did the cat boxes.  (I now usually only do it once a day, at evening as it usually doesn’t seem to get much action at night)  When Felicia is home, she almost always runs into their room and gets up on the cat post to be petted when the cat box cleaner goes in there.  Petting is required.  But at this point, we almost never ever have Felicity    Then I brush my teeth.  Good hygiene and also good for cat catching.  Pretend to not even be thinking about them.  Go in the bathroom, wash your face and brush your teeth.  They think I am playing in the water, I think. Usually, they come running in and get up by the sink.  At some point, I close the door.  We continue to entertain ourselves.  They get their heads all wet biting the water and then shake themselves and I get wet.  not very wet.  When I am done and have petted them a bit, I pick up Felicity and carry her to the Den.  DON’T try to carry them both!  Neither of them like that.  Always carry Felicity.  Felicia will follow.  Believe me, Felicity won’t.  If she gets away now it will be Cat Chase Keep Away for the next half hour. Tonight it was just Felicity and I in the bathroom. Just as I carried her to the bedroom and was shutting the door, little Miss Stay Outside All Day, had Joseph let her in and ran to their room.  Stays out to play all day and just comes home for dinner and bed.  (That’s the other thing.  I fill their food bowls at night when I do the cat box)  So, is this Felicia’s new plan?  Stay out all day being little Miss Independent and just show up for dinner and bedtime?  I am not sure I approve. Not that she cares.