Monday, November 16, 2020

First Snow

For those who have heard the poem and seen the photos, here is the text of the poem: "First Snow" for your reading enjoyment. Be sure to read it aloud. You can follow along on with the video on YouTube.

First Snow

It seems lately that one day it is gorgeous
with lots of sun, and the next day,
clouds, cold, and flurries that drown out
summer and picnics and laziness outside.
While we mumble about this new fascination
of the onset of winter among other things,
the first snow cleanses the air, forces
the unsavory particles from the sky to the ground,
creating a sense of newness of white
and clarity in the air and in our minds,
especially if we take a brisk walk in the early morning
after the white stuff finds its way onto the lawns,
still green, the water ways, ducks’ backs, roses, and trees.

The shimmering of the mountains as the sun floats
over them, seeing the snow for the first time,
brightens everything, making us a bit giddy,
allowing us to bask in both the brisk and beauty
of the glimmering of snow and the coldness
of the water in the streams and ponds, caked on the sides
with snow-covered greenery and ice dangling
on fallen branches, brown and gold leaves, and logs.
High in the sky, the Canadian geese are out
marauding around, honking at each other
and every wing snapping in perfect cadence
to wherever they are going.

I just stand on the pond’s edge, listening
to the gurgling and the greenheads milling around
with a cadre of other duck breeds.
Although my fingers are a bit chilly,
I am warm with my vest beneath my coat
and stocking cap on my head,
my feet snug in warm socks and new boots.

I snap a few pictures, holding the camera
just so to capture the glistening
and the quietness of the snow-laden branches,
reminiscing of times past in Idaho
with my brothers and sisters, snowball fights,
snow forts, and inner tubes pulled by tractors
and then lounging afterwards by the fireplace hearth,
a hot cup of chocolate in hand, laced
with tiny marshmallows simmering
and dissolving into the chocolate,
creating a pause in my thoughts
of the future and yesterday simultaneously.

Darrel L. Hammon
November 14, 2020

Monday, November 2, 2020

Are you ready to be first-time parents?

Not long ago, I was visiting with two of our friends who were preparing for their first baby reveal about what first-time parents ought to know before the baby comes and even after. They were curious as to what to expect. I told them I would do a little research.

So, what does one do to research this information? You ask experienced parents, especially those who just had a baby! I used Facebook as my research tool and posted this question: “What would be your top three things/principles first-time parents ought to know?”

I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of answers I received from recent first-time parents, parents with eight children, and grandparents. Once I read and reviewed the information, I have categorized them in 15 categories, directly from other parents and grandparents who have been in your shoes.

Here they are, first-time parents:

Love them

This was the number one answer for most respondents. A father of twins, Carl, said, “Recognize that love is infinite and grows with each child.” It will be really challenging not to love your new baby. I remember seeing Anna Rose and Hailey, our daughters, for the first time after they were born, and we loved them instantly. In actuality, though, the moment you find out that your spouse is going to have a baby your love begins and grows and grows. According to Amy, a mother of several daughters and one son, “Be prepared to love like you’ve never loved before….Babies also need to FEEL love and lots of it.”

Do your very best.

The one thing most everyone agreed on is this: You are going to make mistakes. I know that is a challenging concept to accept, but it is the truth. Do not worry about the “should-have-done-it-this-way.” There really are lots of correct ways, many of them you will learn along the way. Your child will love you even though may make a mistake. They probably will not realize it. Just move on from that mistake and do what you know you need to do. Great parenting comes from doing your best and improving every day.

Relax and enjoy the experience.

One mother Kristen astutely wrote, “If you have to choose between a nap and a shower, it’s okay to choose the nap.” Joanne, my wonderful wife, wrote: “Take time to record the memories.” Write in your journal or even buy a journal or a baby book for your baby and record the moments. Often, you will be holding your new baby in the new rocking chair or recliner, and all you want to do is just hold the baby, nothing else. That is okay. There will be a constant nagging in the back of your mind that there are things to be done. These times will not last forever. Just sit back and enjoy that sweet baby.

Understand that every baby is different.

Sandra, one of my high school classmates, reminisced, “I thought I knew everything until I had my 8th child. She was nothing like the rest. It was like starting completely over!” Focus on your child and know they will be different than the rest of your children and anyone else’s. There is nothing wrong with that. Some will need more cuddling than others; some will drink more milk; others may cry more or smile more or….a thousand other differences. Be accepting of those differences.

Seek to establish a family-centered child and not a child-center family.

Another mother Kandi gave this counsel. “The family is truly the center, not necessarily the children. The children need to learn to be part of a family and have responsibilities and consequences. Amazingly, when we work as a family team, everyone learns their role and how to grow and develop their talents with the help of their siblings.” Yes, it is easy to just focus on just your baby and nothing else. Please create the environment so they know they are part of a family, even an extended family.

Know that you can never prepare enough but “tis enough.”

Because of the inordinate number of books, the Internet, etc., you will have lots of first-time parent material to read and ponder. But when the little one arrives, it is as if you did not read or listen to a word. You look at your baby and say, maybe a wee bit exasperated, “I have no idea what to do!” Well, that is truly a frustrating moment. We were the same way. We had read the books, but we felt so unprepared. But the moment Anna Rose, our first, was placed in Joanne’s arms, she knew exactly what to do. That mother instinct kicked in immediately. It was a marvel to watch. One father, Chris, a young man we knew in Miles City, Montana, said, “Nobody is ever truly ready for the first children. There are lots of trials by fire….experience is the best teacher.” Just remember: You will be enough.

Be prepared to be tired, probably even exhausted.

Many mothers responded how tiring it was being a first-time mother. One of the grandmothers who responded, Therese, commented: “It’s okay if you don’t get the dishes done after each meal. Try to relax.” Babies are time consuming. With diapers, feeding, changing their clothes, holding them, just watching them, etc. takes time and great amounts of energy. These new babies are literally 24/7 beings and need attention all the time. You will be tired. So, take time and rest when they are resting. Do not think you have to do all these things while they are resting. Rest when they rest!

Listen to some advice but not all of it.

Once you announce you are going to have a baby, the advice and counsel will be delivered to you in dump trucks and several data dumps in your email box, Messenger, text, and other social media sources. Listen to some of it, but do not listen to all of it. There are thousands and thousands of books on parenting—some good, some bad, some mediocre. One mother, Nicole, wrote: “Listen to your own parental instincts rather than what your family, friends, Google, or the latest parenting book tells you….Find what works for YOU and your child.”

Know you are still an individual.

Sometimes first-time parents feel they lose their identity with a new baby in the home. People coo over the babies, bring them gifts, and then—maybe—they say something to the parents and ask them how they are doing. Jennifer, a mother of an autistic child, wisely wrote: “Don't forget to take time every day to do something that makes you, YOU. Take a bath, read a book, write in your journal. Maybe you'll only get five minutes, but it's five minutes where you get to be completely yourself.” The key is that you still have an identity, and it also needs to be fed.

Do not be afraid of what you are about to do.

There is always a fear that lingers prior to your first-born coming. Some sound advice comes from Brandy, a mother of three boys: “Give yourself more patience than criticism.” A fairly new mother, Candace, wrote: “Having children will change you in a way you never imagined. It will bring the worst and best out of you leaving—hopefully—a more perfect person full of compassion, understanding, patience, and charity.” If you enter this phase of life with fear, it will dissipate if you remember why you decided to have a baby. Yes, changes will occur. Yes, your body and emotions change. The key hinges, though, on knowing that these little ones will help us learn new lessons, help us grow and mature, and develop in positive ways. Thus, do not be afraid; rather, be anticipatory and grow from this incredible experience.

Do not compare yourself to other moms and the corollary is do not compare your children to other children.

Every child is different, yours included. Our oldest did not walk until she was 14 months old. We wondered what was wrong with her—what was wrong with us! She was bright, she could say a few words, she was attentive, but she did not walk. One day at Church, she was standing by her mother and me, holding on to both of my hands and watching the other kids her age and younger walking. She looked at them and then at us, let go of my hands, and began walking. Just. Like. That. One mother from Springville, Utah, Natalie, wrote: “You are the perfect parents for your children. Be your best self for your kids and don’t worry what other parents are doing.”

Read and talk to your children often.

One of my former basketball players, Darcy, said, “Talk to your babies a lot when they are little. Then, when they can talk, listen to everything they want to talk about. When they become teens, they will be more likely to talk to you when they need your help.” We loved reading with and to our children. When Joanne was in the hospital for two months when she was pregnant with our oldest, I read the Hobbit to both of them, Joanne in the hospital and Anna Rose in the womb. When Anna Rose began to grow, she loved being read to and still loves the Hobbit.

Remember to do the basics.

Several respondents reminded us of the basics of first-time parents. Leonr from Puerto Rico shared some counsel from her pediatrician daughter: “If you feed your baby with a bottle, don’t lay him/her down with the bottle of milk against a pillow because this may cause ear infections. Try to keep his head raised.” Many said, “Buy lots of diapers and burp cloths.” Pam wrote: “Pray every day for patience, kindness, love, safety, acceptance, help, strength, courage.”

Be the best father.

As first-time fathers, we know that it is the mothers who seem to do the bulk of the work with the babies. Be cognizant of that and try to help in any way you can. Do the housework, wash the dishes, put in a few loads of laundry. Do not wait to be asked. Also, you may want to take some time after the baby is down for a nap or right after they go to sleep and just rubbed your wife’s feet, back, shoulders, etc. Be attentive and observant to her needs. Remember: If it is your wife’s challenge, it is your challenge, too. This baby is yours together.  

Your life will change.

Starting a family will change you, and you may never be the same. Amy, one of the moms, counseled, “Nothing can really prepare you for the ways your life and your heart will never be the same. It’s also the hardest thing and can be quite overwhelming. You will experience sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, self-doubt and if you’re breastfeeding, this can be extremely painful and difficult, but you will know how to love them because that comes naturally.” But as a new father, Joseph, wrote: “You and your spouse may be sleep deprived, but as long as you support each other, take every opportunity to rest, keep an eye on each other’s emotions, you will learn to enjoy every moment.” Thus, change can be a learning experience.


Overall, being first-time parents can be challenging, yes, even hard at times. But the counsel that a OBGYN doctor, Liz (our niece), gave is profound: “It’s easy to look back on your life with young kids with rose-colored glasses and wish about all the things you ‘should have done’ and offer advice. Despite this when you are in it all the work still needs to get done and a lot of the time it’s hard. It’s ok that it’s hard, it’s ok that you hate it some days, it’s ok to be unhappy and not want to ‘relish’ every all-nighter, diaper explosion, tantrum, etc. Do your best, love them and know that they won’t be small forever, and eventually you’ll be able to look back with your rose-colored glasses and think that it wasn’t that hard.”

We wish you well, first-time parents. Do your best! And remember that you are you and will do just fine. Please have some fun being a first-time parent. 

Good luck! 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Majestic Sandstone and Limestone Rock Formations in the Valley of Fire

The illustrious group of senior missionaries who served in the Dominican Republic/
Caribbean Area with us. We had a wonderful time with them a few weeks ago. 

For some reason, I love rocks. I took a geology class several years ago at Boise State University to fulfill a general education assignment. I used to know the names of rocks and time periods and all that, but I have forgotten what all those are. We went on a few field trips outside of Boise to witness rock formations and how in ancient times new rocks oozed into older rocks because of heat and things, creating these magnificent colorful rock formations. Despite my forgetfulness, it was fascinating—thus, my love for rocks and what they represent and how they came to be.

You can imagine my amazement when a group of former senior missionaries from the Caribbean Area and the Dominican Republic congregated at the Valley of Fire, just north of Las Vegas and south of St. George, Utah. The red sandstone rocks were stunning!

According to the Valley of Fire state park website—see“The Valley of Fire consists of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in gray and tan limestone mountains.  The sandstone is from the Jurassic period and is the remnant of the sand left behind by the wind after inland seas subsided and the land rose.”

The Jurassic period was a long time ago. When you look around, you wonder how it could have been covered with an inland sea. Where did the water go? I am sure there is a reason for all this but not the space to write about it here. So….

We stopped at the Visitor’s Center to read a bit about the Valley of Fire. There, we saw about 14 head of mountain sheep, scurrying up the jagged rocks. I didn’t have my long lense or I would have taken pictures of them. What stoic animals! You have to wonder about the creation and how they were placed in this part of the world or whether they just migrated from somewhere and decided they love rock climbing, jumping easily from rock ledge to rock ledge; foraging for bits and pieces of precious green sprigs growing stoically out of rock croppings; searching for water to quench their thirst; or majestically standing on the top of sheer rocks and peeks, thinking they are kings/queens of the mountains.

Now, had it not been over 100% and admonished by the park rangers not to go out hiking and wandering about because of the heat, we would have been hiking around, taking more and more pictures, and basking in the enormous beauty of these incredible sandstone outcroppings.

Of course, the best part was being with our dear friends from the Caribbean and knowing the love we have for them and who they are. They are definitely great examples to Joanne and me. We hope we can be like they are when we grow up.

I placed even more pictures on my Facebook page: if you would like to see more of the photos. I would suggest that you go when it is cooler so you can get out and hike around a bit. No matter the season, be sure to take lots of water, sunscreen, snacks, and an extra battery for your camera as you will want to take hundreds of pictures. If you are like me, you cannot take too many photos.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Bursting of Fall

We have gone on a couple of fall drives in the past couple of weeks. We love fall. We love the colors. We love the majesty of it all. The following words came to me at I see these incredible views, mostly from a far. 

The bursting of fall

Fall mostly comes quickly, usually after school starts

and daylight savings time nears

its reluctant entry into our lives.

The sides of steep and sloping mountains


and deep and shallow ravines burst

into reds, oranges, burnt sienna, and yellows.


sometimes meshed like yarn in a kaleidoscope tie.

Often, we stop along the road in a safe place


or on a dirt road that runs up to a locked gate or fence, laden

with a rusted chain and lock, brittle weeds, or sagging fence line.


The fences are generally high, hopefully keeping the deer

from bounding over and onto the busy road, especially at night.


Some are great leapers and make it across,

only to face oncoming traffic and death.

I love the reds and oranges the most,

their vibrancy overwhelming my sense of calm and revelry.


I sometimes wonder, though, who decided on the colors,

the majesty of it all flowing so perfectly and decidedly


in the eternal equation of time—first, one day at 98 degrees,

then the next plummeting to 32 at night,


thwarting all living sap from flowing anywhere,

causing the various shades of colors and extravagant hues.


It is the night coldness in the dark and behind the scenes

that creates the flagrancy of colors on hillsides in the day


and in ravines and between green pines and golden quakies.

I still ease out of traffic onto the shoulder and dirt roads,


close to the fence, rock-laden paths, thistles, and grass,

just to be alone with creative colors and their Creator.


Darrel L. Hammon

September 2020

Sunday, September 6, 2020

How Great Thou Art--Reminiscing the greatness of God in our lives!

I just listened to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s version of “How Great Thou Art.” As I listened and watched them sing, listened to the orchestra’s incredible music, and watched the various images that depicted why God is great,” I thought I should share some of those images why I feel God is Great and pen a few lines why I feel this on this beautiful Sabbath Day!

God is great and His creations have had a lasting effect on my life and the lives of my family. 

The first time I think of when I recognized His Greatness was when we used to fish Birch Creek in Idaho. I remember standing on the banks of the little creek, which I thought was huge when I was eight. It was so quiet with a slight breeze rustling through some of the trees that lined certain portions of the creek. I stood there with a fishing pole in hand and worms in an old Band aid can, alone but not alone along a small creek meandering through that vastness of sagebrush, a few trees, and mountains on both sides of the valley.

Other times happened when my father and I fished on Rainey Creek, which flowed into the mighty Snake River. I was with my father when we witnessed a cow elk and her twins trying to escape us on the other side of the creek. She was trying with her might to get those two little ones up the hill and out of sight of us. We just watched quietly on banks, beneath some bushes, as she cajoled and finally convinced them to climb that steep mountain. They finally did, scrambling away and out of sight.

Still another time when Joanne and I were serving in the Dominican Republic and visited the great Caribbean and just watched sunsets, and enjoyed the beach and that famously beautiful blueish turquoise water, something that was so foreign to us having grown up in Idaho.


The Volcán Osorno in southern Chile is one of those majestic creations. I remember as a young missionary, standing on the banks of Lake Llanquihue and marveling at its beauty. When Joanne and I returned to visit Chile in 2009, I had to stop and have Joanne witness the same incredible view. We almost missed it, but dusk was just settling, and we captured the glorious essence of Volcán Osorno as we stood there holding hands as the sun gently, reluctantly slid beyond the horizon.

Still another was the event when Elder Neil L. Andersen, a modern-day Apostle, visited our mission with Elder Jörge Klebingat of the Seventy and Elder Kevin K. Miskin, Area Authority Seventy


The Tetons are one of those great sights that millions of people have seen and experienced. Every time I have seen them, I just stand in awe and wonder “how” and “why.” And then it hits me: It the majesty of it all.  


The Idaho Falls Temple is another sign of the Greatness of God. All temples are signs of His great majesty and wonder—yes, even the Lord’s sacred house. 

Flowers—how can I leave them out. I love flowers in their different arrays and creative bouquets scattered across the world. Can one question the majesty of God? They were designed by divine and loving hands. I am sure that Heavenly Mother had some say in all this. It is all too beautiful to not have our Heavenly Mother’s eternal eye on all this. I can see her gentle, kind smile, and a slight nod of love as the daisies and lilies wave their dainty heads toward Her.


Probably the greatest feeling of  how Great God is was when we were sealed in the Idaho Falls Temple. Yes, we were young, but we knew what kind of marriage we wanted. We waited a long time before Heavenly Father blessed with with two incredibly talented and beautiful daughters, Anna Rose and Hailey. They are a blessing to our lives.

Joanne and Darrel wedding

Of course, the greatest example of God being Great is the eternal principle of families! We may not have been around them as much as they would have liked or we would like. We love our family more than anything else in the world!

Yes, God is Great! The Choir finishes with these testimonial and powerful statements: “How great Thou art, how great Thou Art.” Those words continue to reverberate through my very soul as I contemplate how great He has been in my life!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Basking in the beauty of Bear Lake and reminiscing with friends from the mission!

You have to get up early to see this kind of sunset!

Finishing and returning home from a mission can be a challenging thing! Joanne and I are experiencing this challenge, leaving behind what we had been doing for the past three years. Yes, we have a journal. Yes, we have pictures. Yes, we have a binder full of wonderful miracle stories. Yes, we kept all of your training presentations...and on and on. But being with the missionaries one minute and then not seeing them for a while can cause some consternation. 

Here is the entire group sans a few who came late or left early!
Incredible missionaries and young people!

Elder McConahay, Sisters Brown and Freeman, Elder Jackson. Elders Rich, Hite, and Staley

So along come reunions, events where you can see and talk to your missionaries who have also returned home, some recently, some two or more years ago. According to many of them, they are still transitioning. 

From the balcony of the cabin

Recently, Elder and Sister Shirley invited us along with a host of returned missionaries from the California Riverside Mission to join them at their cabin in Bear Lake. 

Shirley's cabin in Bear Lake--gorgeous views!

It sits just west of the lake in Garden City and overlooks the vast blue of Bear Lake. 

Los Hammon and Los Shirley!

A bunch at the beach with E. Mackay who happened up the group!

It's quiet there, away from the fray of Bear Lake Boulevard and the constant--and sometimes irritating--hum of boats and those awfully noisy water do.

Sisters Hindman and Brown
Sisters Hindman and Brown!

Las Hermanas Kaiser and Smyer!

Elders Jackson, Rowe, and McConahay. 

Over a three-day period, 36 former missionaries motored up the dirt roads to the Shirley's cabin. Some spent the night; others came a long distance just to spend some time, eating, chatting, reminiscing, playing a little basketball, renewing old friendships, playing in Bear Lake, learning first names, going on walks in the early morning light, standing or sitting on the deck and watching the sun rise in the east, meeting missionaries they didn't know in the mission field, and seeing people not dressed in white shirts and ties and skirts, or just sitting in chairs and watching what was going on and basking in the goodness and the comfortability of it all.

Elders Staley and Hite!

Elder Shirley: "Elder Jackson, here is the paddle. Be careful with it."

Ah, the kneeling Hermana Brown!

So, every minute was a pretty lively time and some quiet time contemplating and watching.  

Elder and Sister Thorne came by for lunch with Elder Shirley!

Aren't you supposed to sit, kneel, lie, or stand on this kind of board?

Hermana Frehner, Elder Emry, Sister Foster, and Elder McConahay
at the beach. Thanks, Sister Shirley, for the photo!

Sister Cienna Dorny brought her guitar that she has learned to play since coming home. She sang and played for us. 

Sister Cienna Dorny and her guitar!

Elder Sanchez with Elders Staley and Jacobs in the background!
Thanks, Sister Shirley, for the photo!

Sister Freeman

The food was delicious-- Taco salad, hotcakes, fruit, hot dogs, cookies, chips, chicken salad on croissants, and Sister Shirley's famous mint brownies.

And the hot dog BBQers: Elders Hallows and Hunt

Cannot be a picnic without hot dogs.

What's a reunion without food? Sisters Schmutz, Sands, Kaiser, Andersen, and Durham,

From above

They pitched tents and hammocks to sleep in, some on rocks, others on grass, and others among the bushes and flora and fauna.

Elder Michael Rich very comfortable in his hammock!

Night lights make beautiful stars!

They parked their cars in every nook and corner they could find or was allowable.

Thanks, Sister Shirley, for the photo!

Sisters Hindman and Schmutz

Sisters Sands, Hunt (Peterson), and Stettler

Ah, yes, they shared one bathroom and were very polite about all this. 

Las Hermanas Kaiser and Smyer!

Sisters Tanner, Dyer, and Corder

Sister Morgan

The newlyweds: Mr. and Mrs. Casper!

When Joanne and I left early Saturday morning after saying goodbye to those who were up, it felt lonely driving down the road again as we worked our way to Idaho, a wedding, and a class reunion. 

Sister Wilde, Elder Carlisle, and Sister Adams

The Hammons with Sister Fortin

Sisters Sands, Dorny, Morgan, Dyer, Andersen, Tanner, Hammon, and Hunt (Peterson)!
Thanks, Sister Shirley, for the photo!

It was a privilege to see them all. And we all promised to make time to join again from wherever we were.
L-R: Hermanas Stettler, Kaiser, Smyer, Cardiel, Schmutz, and Brown--all Spanish speaker!

Sisters Andersen and Durham, happy to be on the swing!

Hermana Cardiel

We love being with these missionaries!