Monday, November 29, 2010

On His Way

It's official: my green-eyed baby boy is now a full-grown missionary.  He doesn't report to the Mission Training Center until Wednesday afternoon, but he is on his way--literally.

28 Nov 2010: Jacob with his siblings, Sarah and Dylan.

Yesterday he gave his farewell talk in sacrament meeting.  His topic was--what else--missionary work.  He was nervous and emotional, but he did a great job.

The entire family: Sarah, Mary, Jacob, Ed, and Dylan.  (Dylan's sleeves are too long
because he had to borrow one of Jacob's shirts, since Dylan loaned his own shirt to his cousin Julien.)

The event was even more exciting because Jacob was surrounded by family and friends.  All the family members who attended church with us filled up 4 whole rows of benches!

Jacob with his grandparents, Kathy and Myron.

After the meeting, Jacob was enveloped with hugs and well-wishing and beaming smiles.  All the members of our ward at church have become close friends to us and like an extended family for Jacob.  Everyone is so excited that he made the decision to serve a mission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jacob with his Aunt Karla (left) and Aunt Dana.

After the meeting ended and the visiting died down a bit, all family members and a few of Jacob's closest friends were ushered into the high council room.  It's a large room, but it was wall-to-wall people.  There, Jacob was set apart as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Our stake president, President Shumway, gave Jacob a beautiful blessing.  It was a very sacred experience.

Jacob is surrounded by family, with Aunt Karla's crew on the left and Aunt Dana's clan on the right.

After church, everyone came back to our house for a dinner of grilled chicken, salad, rolls, and french fries, served up by our resident chef, Ed.  Then Karla's family packed up their bags and headed back down the mountain toward home. 

Jacob with his cousin Elyssa and her husband Ross.  They missed Jacob's talk because Elyssa was sick.
Dylan made the handmade scarf for Jacob.

Unfortunately, it had been snowing heavily all day and the roads were becoming slick.  They found one road closed due to weather conditions, and the other closed due to a fatal accident involving a tractor-trailer.  They turned back and waited out the situation at Jeff and Dana's house, since they knew we were busily preparing to travel the next morning ourselves.

Jacob opens a card and finds a gift from Karla and her children.

We were up late, doing laundry and packing, and then we were up again very early today.  I got only 4 hours of sleep myself.  Nonetheless, by 8:00 this morning Ed, Jacob, and I were loaded up in Ed's diesel one-ton truck and on our way to Provo, Utah.

North of Flagstaff, traveling the highway to Page, Arizona, we paused at a rest stop to see the deep canyons on the far eastern edge of the Grand Canyon.  It's hard to tell how awesome they are from the picture above.

Before long, we'd reached the small town of Page on the southern shores of Lake Powell, and the bright blue waters of the lake were stretched out before us. 

We crossed this bridge over the lake, above Glen Canyon Dam.  Lake Powell was once a gorgeous canyon towering over this section of the Colorado River, but after the dam was built the canyon filled with water, and Lake Powell was born.

Once we'd crossed the bridge and drove onto the northern shore, we found ourselves in the state of Utah, Jacob's new home for the next few weeks!

One stop we knew we had to make was in Manti, Utah.  When Ed was a child of 10 or 11, he was sealed to his parents and siblings in the Manti Temple, but he's never been back since then.  We decided it was time he returned to the place where his family was united for eternity.

I had never seen this temple at all, and I was amazed by it's imposing magnificence.  It's a 4-story, towering work of beauty that was completed by Mormon settlers in 1885!  The lyrics "A mighty fortress is our God, a tower of strength ne'er failing," kept echoing through my mind.

Ed and Jacob at the entrance of the Manti Temple. 
It was closed, as all temples are closed on Monday evenings for family night.

Mary and Ed at the temple doors.  It was bitter cold, down to 2 degress below zero at one point!

Mother and son outside the temple, enjoying their last few days together.

Our room at the Best Western Cotton Tree Hotel in Provo, Utah.
($40 per night on!)

We were blessed with a lovely day for our trip, despite the previous day's snow and predictions of more snow today.  Instead, we had clear skies, open roads, and only a few light flurries until we hit a storm just south of Provo.  And even that storm moved away from us in a very short time.  Ed called it a miracle.

Jacob studies his scriptures in our hotel room.

 It was a long trip, but I will forever treasure the memories we're making today.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Passing of Roof Kitty

22 June 1994: 6-week-old Tabitha

On May 8, 1994, our cat Kudu delivered a litter of six adorable little kittens.  Among them was a sweet female we called Chocolate Milk.  When Kudu died mysteriously while we were on vacation (the kittens were ony about 5 weeks old at that time), we decided to keep two of her babies.  We kept a male we named Gomez and the female called Chocolate Milk.  We renamed her Tabitha.

22 Apr 1995: Tabitha with her first litter of kittens

Tabitha was only 11 months old when she had her first litter of kittens.  About 6 months later she had a second litter.  We kept a couple of her babies from those litters, but Tabitha outlived them all.  We had her spayed after two litters, and she settled in as our resident hunter. 

We often found her offerings of mice and birds displayed just outside the front door.  One time I nudged a dead mouse with my toe, only to find he was very much alive as he sprang up and raced past me into the house.  There was much noice and confusion as we excitedly urged him back toward the front door.  Eventually he returned to the great outdoors.

26 Aug 1998: 8-year-old Sarah with Tabitha (age 4)

Tabitha was also a beloved pet.  She was quiet and calm and patient with her human kids.  She was cuddled and cossetted and well loved over the 16 years of her life.

In 2004 we got a new puppy, a Jack Russell terrier we named Astro. On his first day with us, Astro immediately cornered Tabitha and got his face mauled for his hyperactive efforts. Tabitha fled the house and took up residence on our roof, refusing to come inside the house for the next 5 years, even though Astro moved to Mesa in 2006 to live with the kids' great grandma Helen.

23 Nov 2008: Tabitha the Roof Cat, still hale and hearty at age 14

Last winter Tabitha finally deigned to come indoors for a couple of months.  The bitter cold weather was getting to be too much for her old bones.  Once the weather warmed up, though, she went right back to the roof.

When Ed joined our family this summer, he was horrified by Tabitha's rooftop living conditions and insisted that she must come down.  Sarah coaxed her into a small shed on our property, and Tabitha found she enjoyed being on the ground again.  Soon she forged a truce with our 3-year-old dog, Diego, and claimed her own corner of the front porch.  (In truth, Tabitha was the boss, and Diego knew it.) 

Tabitha this morning, at peace and ready to go home

Over the past year, old age was beginning to settle in.  Tabitha's appetite diminished and she no longer kept her coat clean and glossy.  She lost weight and became downright bony.  Even so, she seemed to feel well and was still able to climb trees and run free.

Yesterday, though, she took a turn for the worse.  She could no longer eat, her legs were weak and wobbly, and she seemed disoriented.  Sarah, our budding vet tech, knew Tabitha had reached the end of her long journey, so she brought her into the house to spend her last hours surrounded by warmth and love.  Tabitha rested all night on Sarah's bedroom floor, peaceful and breathing comfortably.

Today: Dylan at Tabitha's resting place in the backyard

Sarah couldn't bear to see Tabitha like this, but she also couldn't bring herself to take her to be put to sleep.  Ed and Jacob bundled Tabitha up warmly and drove her to the veterinarian early this morning, and they were with her when she drew her last breath.  She was surrounded by her loved ones until the end.  That's as it should be.

We will miss our Tabitha kitty, the roof cat.  But we know her spirit is young and free again, and I suspect we will meet again one day.  Rest in peace, Tabby girl.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jacob's Turn

Dylan (age 13), Jacob (age 19), Mary, and Ed in front of the Snowflake Temple.

One week ago today, on Veteran's Day, my son Jacob went through the temple for his first time.  It was an incredible, emotional experience as I watched him take this major step in his life.  Sometimes it's hard to accept that he's no longer the green-eyed toddler who used to fit so sweetly on my lap.  He still loves a good hug, though!

Jacob reports to the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah, in just 13 days from today!  I'm trying to wrap my mind around that fact, but I still don't think it has sunk in completely.
Jacob with his Aunt Karla and his mom, Mary.

Attending the temple to receive blessings and make covenants with the Lord is something all missionaries do before they report to their missions.  It is a very special event for which they long prepare in order to be worthy to participate.  I'm so proud of Jacob for the choices he has made that led him to this point in his life.

The day was made even more special by the presence of many family members and friends who joined us in the temple.  Several good people from our ward came to be with us, many of whom have watched Jacob grow up and provided love and support to him over the years. 

Jacob with his cousins Genevieve (left) and Elyssa, and their husbands Scott (left) and Ross.

We are especially grateful for the family members who traveled all the way from Mesa (a 3-hour drive) to spend a single day celebrating with us before returning home that evening.  My sister, Jacob's Aunt Karla, made the trip with her two oldest daughters, Genevieve and Elyssa, as well as Genevieve's husband Scott and Elyssa's husband Ross.  It was very special to Jacob to have his aunt and cousins with him for this event.

We were also pleased to have his grandparents (my dad and step-mom) join us.  Jacob's sister Sarah and brother Dylan were unable to accompany us inside the temple since they haven't been through the temple themselves yet, but they were both there for Jacob nonetheless.

Jacob with his grandparents, Kathy and Myron.

Sarah met us at the temple so she could tend Genevieve and Scott's three young children--Brooke, Jaycee, and Max (who had traveled here with them)--while Scott and Genevieve were in the temple with us.  Sarah is in heaven when she's caring for toddlers and babies.

As for Dylan, it just so happened that the youth of our ward had planned a trip to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead on the very same morning Jacob was attending his first temple session.  Thus Dylan rode to the temple with us and then met up with the youth group to do baptisms while we adults were upstairs in Jacob's session.  The youth completed their work about an hour before we finished, so Dylan simply waited on the temple grounds for us.  It worked out very well!
Jacob with Rob and A'Lece.

Among the friends who joined us were Rob and A'Lece.  Jacob had asked Rob to be his escort while in the temple, showing him where to go and helping him learn what to do.  Jacob has known Rob since his elementary school years, when he became good friends with Rob's two oldest sons, Bryn and Kyle.  It's only a matter of months before Bryn leaves on his own mission.
Table for sixteen!

When we left the temple around 12:30, we all headed over for a Mexican lunch at Cocina de Eva (Kitchen of Eva, or Eva's Kitchen) in Snowflake.  I can only speak for myself, but my mini-chimi was yummy!  We made quite a crowd, but we enjoyed an hour and a half of visiting and laughing.
A'Lece, Rob, Jacob, and Dylan wait for their food to arrive.

Elyssa, Ross, and Sarah enjoy chips and salsa.  Yes, Sarah was with us!

Ed entertains baby Max while Max's parents Scott and Genevieve look on.

I thought I got pictures of Scott and Genevieve's daughters, 5-year-old Brooke and 3-year-old Jaycee, but I somehow just missed them in every shot.  I got a couple of good pictures of 8-month-old Max, though!

Soon-to-be Elder Jacob Carter

The time for Jacob's mission is drawing closer very quickly!  Before we know it, we'll be packed up and on our way to Utah to deliver him to the MTC.  It's an exciting time for our family.

I'm so proud of you, my son! 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Long-Awaited Day

4 Nov 2010 - Ed and Mary in front of the Snowflake Arizona Temple.

This past Thursday, November 4th, was a big day for Ed and me.  For the first time, Ed entered the temple to make sacred covenants with the Lord and receive the special blessings offered there.  It was an amazing spiritual experience for both of us.

I first entered the temple in Mesa, Arizona, for the same purpose 27 years ago, on March 24, 1983.  It doesn't feel like it was really that long ago!  I have been back many, many times over the years, but I am so thrilled to finally have a husband who can attend the temple with me.  At the end of Ed's first temple experience on Thursday, it was wonderful to sit in the beautiful Celestial room together, holding hands and absorbing the peaceful spirit.

For those of us who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is one of the most sacred places on earth.  Not only do we make covenants and receive blessings for ourselves there, but we also return often to perform ordinances for our kindred dead, such as baptisms.  We believe the Lord wants all people to enjoy the blessings of obedience to His commandments, even those who never had the opportunity to hear or accept the gospel during their lifetimes. 

Ed and Eugene ham it up on the temple grounds.

Since it was Ed's first time to go through the temple, he asked our friend Eugene to be his escort.  Eugene and his wife Wyndie were happy to be a part of this momentous event, and they rode along to Snowflake with us.  Eugene had never been asked to be an escort in the temple before, so this was a good opportunity to get in some practice at it.  In less than a year, the oldest of Eugene and Wyndie's three teenage sons will be heading out to serve a mission, and prior to his departure he will attend the temple for his first time, with Eugene as his escort.

This coming Thursday morning, Veteran's Day, our son Jacob will also have his first temple experience.  All newly called missionaries go through the temple before heading off into the mission field.  I know it hasn't fully sunk into my brain yet, but in just 24 days Jacob reports to the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah.  Then he'll be off to serve in the California Santa Rosa Mission for 2 years.     

Wyndie and Eugene joined us at the temple.

Our friends Rob and A'Lece also joined us at the temple, coming along to support Ed on this special occasion.  Being worthy to go to the temple is something we Mormons prepare for and look forward to for a long time, often from our youth, so it is a big step in our lives.  I'm so proud of Ed for making this goal a priority in his life.

By the time we all left the temple, it was after 9:00 p.m. and most of the small town of Snowflake had gone to bed.  However, we found an Arby's that was still open.  Eugene, Wyndie, Rob, A'Lece, Ed, and I went there for dinner and enjoyed the spirit of friendship for the rest of the evening.  It was truly a great day for us.

Eugene had a good time posing us for pictures on the temple grounds.

As significant as this day was, it was one more step on the path to a day that will be even more important to us.  Ed and I were married civilly on May 21st.  It was an "as long as you both shall live" promise of marriage.  In the LDS church, we believe the Lord intends for families to be together forever, and marriage sealings are another ordinance performed in our temples. 

On our first anniversary, Ed and I plan to return to the Snowflake Temple to be sealed in eternal marriage.  I can't even express how much we look forward to that blessed day.  Now that will be a day of great celebration!