Tuesday, December 21, 2021

“Learning and studying out of the best books will help us overcome our challenges”

“Learning and studying out of the best books will help us overcome our challenges”
Darrel L. Hammon
December 2021

In the Doctrine and Covenants 88:118, the Lord taught….”teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seeking learning, even by study and also by faith” (see also Doctrine and Covenants 90:15).

On Monday morning, I was reading and studying from my most favorite book, the Book of Mormon. I was re-reading the informative letters between Captain Moroni, the Chief Captain over all the armies; and Pahoran, the Chief Judge and Governor of the land. Moroni was direct and to the point. This was a time of great war and internal turmoil between the Lamanites and the Nephites. Not only were these two great leaders fighting the Lamanites, but they were also trying to combat the internal political strife caused by the King-men.

As I read these two letters again, I thought to myself, “What am I supposed to learn from this to help me today?” It came to me: What Moroni and Pahoran were attempting to do was to deliver themselves from some very bad political and war situations. In fact, it was so grievous that the armies were suffering, Pahoran had been ousted from the Capitol, and the Lamanites were destroying everything around them.

While our own personal situation may not be as extreme as they were suffering, people around the world are experiencing exactly those things. The pandemic has created such havoc, some perceived, some conjured up, but mostly real.

After reading and studying these two letters that were preserved for our time, I knew exactly why Mormon inserted them into “the most correct book.” They were written to help us break out of slumps or very bad situations, especially those in which we currently find ourselves.

The following are concepts/principles that I learned:

We must be obedient to the commandments of God and adhere to the His word.
Being obedient to God’s commandments was my number one takeaway. For those who have read this passage and others understand that disobedience to God’s commandments creates so many issues. When we blatantly disobey the commandments, God’s blessings may not come as readily as they need to come. Early on in the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Lehi says to his family, “…Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandment, ye shall prosper in the land” (1 Nephi 2:20), and this promise is repeated several time throughout the book.

We must not be slothful in our actions and daily doings.
When I read this passage, I could not help but think of the movie Zootopia and the incredible funny scene with the sloth at the DMV. I have now seen it many times and still laugh aloud. Slothful means lazy, indolent. Some of us have not cleaned our houses or apartments since the pandemic emerged from its dark abyss. Some have even failed to wash or even change their clothes. Really? Of course, many people were a bit slothful even before the pandemic, and now the pandemic has become the reason de jour for everyone’s slothfulness—and pretty much any other challenge. Being slothful does not really become us.

We must not forget all the wonderful things that we have received like blessings and overcoming other challenges.
Oh, the challenges of forgetfulness and not remembering. And it isn’t just the mature people of the world who experience this challenge. During challenging times, we “forget” about the good times, the blessings, and the miracles that have occurred in our lives. They simply slide out of vision when bad things begin to happen to us, many of them during burdensome times. It is imperative during these challenging times that we remember the good that has happened in our lives, the times we were blessed, especially during the dark times in our lives.

We must not sit in idleness.
During the pandemic, many of us were cloistered at home, some of us did not have a job, and others just sat around home doing nothing, even though so many tasks needed to be done. Moroni called this “idleness.” In essence, idleness is doing nothing when something ought to be done. The term “hanging out” comes to my mind. So many people have said to me when I have asked, “What have you been doing these days?” “Oh,” they say, “just hanging out.” I want to say, “What are you accomplishing?” The answer would probably be “nothing,” “nada.” I am not saying that hanging out is all bad. Sometimes, we need some downtime. But not all day or all week or for several weeks.

We must be up and doing and bestir ourselves.
I love this phrase Captain Moroni used, “Be up and doing.” That is diametrical opposed to idleness.” “Bestir” means “make physical and mental effort; exert or rouse oneself” (See Google search for “bestir” meaning in English). It is reminiscent of “be up and doing.” Some people have said to me, “Ah, I just cannot motivate myself.” Ironically, when we are up and doing good things or doing that project that has needed to be done for ages motivates us, propels us forward. Most good things occur because we “rouse ourselves” to do something. We have alarms on our phones to “rouse” us to do something at a particular time. Others have someone call them to help them remember. We can make a mental effort to do something, but it is the actual physical getting up and doing by our personal bestirring ourselves. We must remember how powerful our choices can be.

We must clean the inward vessel
What is the “inward vessel”? It is that which is inside of us. It is the core from which all transpires. We can read all the self-help books we want. We can watch or listen to all of the positivity podcasts there are. We can even listen to people all day who tell us to rise up and do more. But what must happen first is that cleansing from within us, the rooting out of the negativity and the “bad vibes” that doth beset us. Yes, it will take some doing and help along the way. The ultimate and most important choice is ours, ours alone, to get us going.

We must show a true spirit of freedom.
Freedom is not just a political thing. We sometimes hold ourselves hostage from our inability to choose, our inactions, our slothful ways of not doing anything. Our addictions hold us hostages. Our negative thoughts hold us hostage. Anything that causes us to do not move forward and accomplish our goals holds us hostage. We are free when we allow ourselves to move forward, onward and upward.

We must have exceeding faith and patience in our tribulations.
This is definitely a challenging one. Tribulations, burdens, and challenges in our lives somehow put us in a vulnerable state and cause us anxiety. We feel helpless and do not know what to do. Having faith that these challenges will pass is important. Mormon describes this important choice: “The Lord did strengthen that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience” (Mosiah 24:15). I cannot tell you how many I have read this passage and others like it when tribulations and challenges came gushing over me like waves in an ocean. It has always given me comfort and the will—yes, the faith—to “submit cheerfully.”

We must rejoice in the greatness of hearts of those around us.
I do not know about you, but we have had so many people in our circle of influence and people we do not know who have posted positive things, sent us notes and texts and even letters, pulled us aside and talked to us. Many have brought us goodies and treats. These things have cheered us up and propelled us to do the same. People around us make an enormous difference, and we must rejoice with them because of the greatness of their hearts and their efforts to make things better.

We must put our trust in God.

I love to trust in God. He has helped us, blessed us, motivated us, and loved us in so many ways throughout our lives. We know He loves us. We are His children. He wants us to succeed and wants to help us. Often, though, He has to nudge us in ways that help us re-align ourselves with Him and His plan for us. We call it the “covenant path.” He has given us the way to follow. That is what we have to do. If we love Him, we must trust Him and do what He has asked us to do. When we put our trust in Him, He will gently guide us in the right way.

We must resist evil.
There is so much evil in the world today. I dislike watching the news and seeing what people do to other people, the rampant drug—legal and illegal—use, the shameless proliferation of pornography and all its ills, the increase in bullying and fraud, the persistent and careless taking of lives for whatever reason, the degradation of families and the roles of parents in families, the disrespect of people’s property, the stealing of anything that is not tied down, the ongoing destructive behavior and actions, and a host of other insidious evils that ravage the earth. This. All. Must. Stop! If not, we will have to bear the burdens of more tribulations, challenges, destruction, and plagues.

We must counsel with others and make a plan to overcome the challenges.
Doing anything alone is often taxing. Moroni and Pahoran were at odds with each other, but they counseled together and decided the best course of action, which proved successful in the end. We, too, must counsel with our spouses, our families, our clergy, or someone whom we trust. Develop a plan together to drag yourself out of destructive situations, self-induced slothfulness, and other challenges. Making and completing worthwhile and change-oriented goals are still in vogue. If there is something in your life that does not allow you to progress and grow and develop into someone you want to be or need to be, then ask for help to accomplish those tasks. There are lots of us all out there who are here to help.

We must not judge others.
One of the most important principles that I learned from reading these two Book of Mormon letters was not judging others. Our society is so inclined to judge others, whether we know them or not. Social media promulgates this type of judgement. People post things, say things, write things that are not true or have trappings of truthfulness but are lies that somehow people believe. We judge people by how they look, what clothes they wear, how many posts they have, where they live, how much money they make, and the color of their skin. Christ was very specific when He taught, “Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall by judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measure to you again” (3 Nephi 14:1-2; Matthew 7:1-2). Jesus Christ Himself declared, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).

Reading and studying good books will always help us find truth. Of course, finding truth is important, but implementing it in appropriate ways is even better. Moroni’s and Pahoran’s letters helped me understand what I need to do in challenging times. These letters propel me to be better, do better, and become a better person than I have been—whether in calm times or challenging times.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas

We have been busy this year as it has been a full year since we returned from the California Riverside Mission. After purchasing a patio home in a 55+ community at the end of December 2020, my brother Brad came and renovated the place. We moved in officially in April 2021. We have met some incredible people who live here in this community.

Joanne's collection of snowmen

We had a wonderful mission reunion in April with over 200 of our former missionaries. Only about 115 had said they were coming. The word went out, and you all know what happens with social media and texting. It was so good to see all of them and reminisce about the mission and hear what is happening in their lives. Many of them have stopped by with their families, fiancés, and wives and babies. What a treat it is to see them in a different setting and environment. Most of them are going to school, working, and trying to progress in this ever-changing world.

April 2021 Mission Reunion Photo

We were able to spend some time with Hailey, Joseph, Clark, and Avonlea. We went to Riverfront Park in Spokane, played games, watched movies, read stories together, walked the Eastern Washington University Campus, and had an entertaining time with them. Clark and Avonlea are growing up too quickly.

Joseph and Clark
Hailey, Joanne, and Avonlea

It is had been delightful being close to Anna Rose, Christiaan, Emiline, and William. We had the privilege of watching Emiline grow into a star softball pitcher and William play his heart out in soccer. Plus, they both had piano recitals, which were delightful because of the musical growth in both of them. It has been fun to spend time and play games together.

Emiline and Grandma

Grandma and Grandpa, William, and Emiline

The Johnson Family at a recent wedding reception

In August, we also spent some time at Bear Lake with two of our senior missionary couples, Kerry and Marlene Shirley and Alan and Shelly Glaus. The Shirleys own the cabin, and we had such a great time, sitting on the deck overlooking Bear Lake, playing miniature golf (Joanne and I won!), playing lots and lots of games, taking walks and photos, watching the sun set and rise, eating great food, and enjoying each other’s company. It is always a delight to be with great people.

Darrel and Joanne, Kerry and Marlene Shirley, and Alan and Shelly Glaus

We trundled to St. George at the end of September and spent a couple of days with some of the senior missionaries who served with us in the Caribbean Area/Dominican Republic. What a delight to see them! We participated in workshops, went to the new Family History Center, had a picnic in the pavilion by the new temple, and went to “The Count of Monte Cristo” at Tuacahn. It was one of the coldest nights we have spent in a long time. It was a good thing we had brought coats, gloves, and a blanket. It was a very chilly night. The play was well done, and we enjoyed it thoroughly, despite the cold wind blowing across our backs.

The Caribbean group at the historic Pine Valley Church

One of the highlights this year was a delightful evening and dinner at John and Jana Mullen’s home in north Salt Lake in October. They had also invited Mel and Linda Reeves and Paul and Karen Smart. We all served as mission presidents and spouses in the California Riverside Mission and represent four generations of missionaries who served there.

Darrel and Joanne Hammon, John and Jana Mullen,
Paul and Karen Smart, Mel and Linda Reeves 

Having been with all these missionaries, young and more mature, and doing service in any capacity have taught us the important principle of eternal friends and staying in touch.

We spent a wonderful Thanksgiving with our daughter Anna Rose, Christiaan, Emiline, and William; Joanne's brother John, his wife LaWane and daughter Nicole; and Christiaan's mother Heather. Lots of delicious food and wonderful people we love dearly! 

Thanksgiving at Anna Rose and Christiaan's house

Joanne continues to work as an accessioner at LabCorp and is having an enjoyable time working with blood samples and being the only LabCorp person in the entire Revere Health Building in Provo. She contracted COVID at the end of October although we have had both vaccinations and were waiting for the booster. She is able to sew periodically and is currently working on a quilt that she took with her on our mission but didn’t see the light of day for three years.

Christmas tree and star in Pioneer Park Provo

Darrel designated November as his “poetry month,” and posted an original poem, most of them having been written in November, each day. He had an exciting time posting the poems although some of them were posted much later in the day than he expected. You can read them all at http://darrelhammon.blogspot.com/.

Pioneer Park Provo

Darrel began volunteering at the Provo City Center Temple. What a privilege it is to serve in the temple. Plus, he resurrected his leadership and life coaching business and is having an enjoyable time with a variety of clients who are doing or wanting to do so many things.

Provo City Temple

We do hope you all experience an incredible and enjoyable Christmas and holiday season, one filled with joy, happiness, and love for all people. We love you and wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Blown glass bulb from the Oregon coast

 Merry Christmas and 

Happy Holiday to All!

Tuesday, November 30, 2021


Poem Day 30--Final day for the November poetry month

The following poem comes from an experience I had years ago in Menan, Idaho, that ended up as an essay not shared with many. After Joanne and I read Elizabeth Acevedo's Clap When You Land, I knew I needed to do what Acevedo did: Construct the story in narrative poetic form. It's rather long but worth the read. Grab your tissues because you will need them....


In the dark night, a car lleno de niños
full of children
and a father
skid sideway,
smash into a cement embankment,
as the car attempts to round the curb.

The police arrive, red lights flashing,
only to find two young children already dead,
one almost dead who dies
en route to the hospital.

The other three children
and their father
are rushed to the nearby hospital
along the banks of the Snake River.
My call comes early the next morning.

A lump races to my throat,
sticks there like Elmer’s glue in your palm,
and the words “Why?” Why? Why?”
hang on my lips like shreds of cheese
from a hot pizza and cling there,
too afraid to leave and be exposed
to an unwanted answer.

I rush to the hospital,
see their diminutive mother,
standing alone and frail,
who rushes into my arms,
sobbing, shaking from grief, repeating
Mi Mario. Mi Juanita! Mi Benjamin!”
I ask her about the other three niños
and her husband.

We quietly go from room to room.
In one room, her husband is hooked up 
to tube after tube,
wire after wire, in a coma
from whence there is ultimately no return.
Eduardo lies with a broken collar bone
and badly cut up mouth and lips.
Graciela, the oldest, is covered with bruises,
her arm is in a cast,
her hair tangled around her face,
now laced with a scowl,
one that will remain
for some time, maybe even years.

The nurse enters, whispers to me
the little boy is crying for me.
For me? Why not his mother?
I follow the nurse, the words “why”
still on my lips, still stuck,
still unwilling to come out.

His room is dark, quiet,
a whir of machines interrupting
the dark with their sounds and lights.

The nurse tells me they amputated the right leg
just below the knee and even contemplated
taking the other but refrained.

A small white bowl of Jell-O
sits undisturbed by his bed stand.
The nurse said he has not touched any food,
even refused, but that he needs to eat something.
“Will you try to feed him?” she asks quietly.

Bulmarito, estoy aquí” I am here.
I whisper quietly, not wanting to interrupt his peace.
The niño, only eight, looks up at me
through those big butterfly eyes, tries to smile.
Me patita me duele,” My foot hurts,
he whispers through chapped and puffy lips.

I touch his forehead, too warmish,
sweep a couple of black curls out of his eyes.
His small brown face is soft
with no scratches or bruises.
A sense of both pain and peace
rest on his brown cheeks.

I lift a spoon half full of Jell-O.
Hay que comer un poquito, Bulmarito,”
“You have to eat just a little,” I say,
lifting the spoon to his lips.

Poco a poco, little by little,
he slurps bite after bite,
quietly using his tongue and teeth
until each spoonful is gone,
swallowing carefully
until nothing remains in the bowl.

I sit the bowl back on the little table.
I look back at Bulmarito,
so tiny and brown in that big bed,
covered with white blankets and white sheets.

Mi… patita… me… duele…!
My foot hurts!  
he keeps repeating,
Slower slower
until those big eye lashes close shut,
too tired to keep open.

I just stare at him,
wonder about his future,
his family’s future,
more so about tomorrow,
while my own tears stream down my cheeks
and land plentifully on the white blanket.

I then smooth out the blanket
where his right leg should have been.


Monday, November 29, 2021

I am a connoisseur of potatoes

Poem Day 29

Thanks to https://www.idahofb.org/ for the use of the photo of Idaho spuds.

I am a connoisseur of potatoes

Potatoes or spuds grow naturally in Idaho.
Sometimes, I think someone planted them
there right after the volcanic ash turned into
this deep rich soil that loves potatoes,
coos them to grow big and delicious
and grow they do, feeling right at home
with hot days and cool high desert evenings.

I picked spuds as a kid, filling
those rubberized wired baskets x 2
for about seven cents a sack.
Our lunches probably cost us more
than what we made, but the moon pies were great,
washed down with Shasta Tiki Punch.

I have eaten potatoes in so many ways—
baked, fried, cut up in French fries drenched
in olive oil and sprinkled with ranch powder
and baked in the oven, au gratin, cheesy potatoes,
fake potatoes made from pearl flakes,
(on gloomy days renamed funeral potatoes),
boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy,
hash browns, crinkle cut, potato chips,
and even raw potatoes with lots of salt
when you are hungry out moving
sprinkler pipe on a sweltering day.

On wet lines, you could literally bury your hand
deep into the sandy soil, feel around
for a new potato, gently freeing it
from its root, not disturbing the others,
wash it off in the sprinkler water, probably not as sanitary
as mother would have liked, pulled out
your Morton mini-salt shaker,
kept in your back pocket for opportune times
like these, sprinkling on an appropriate amount of salt,
and biting into it, savoring and mincing a bit
the crispness and raw flavor of spuds.

I have to say, though, baked potatoes are my favorite,
topped with all the accoutrements of fine dining:
chili, onions, cheese, sometimes broccoli or cauliflower,
some butter but mostly ranch dressing, a smidge
of sour cream, with a boiled egg cut delicately
and sprinkled on top of the whole potato.
Of course, I never liked the skins—
I know where they have been.
Some say the skins are the best part…Really?
These people must be from another planet.

I just like the white fluffy innards of baked Russets
with all those ingredient smooshed together.
There is something about the delicate naturalness
of spuds, no matter how you cook them.
I guess you could say I am a connoisseur of potatoes,
commonly known as spuds in eastern Idaho.

Photo by Dennis Hammon of Dennis Hammon Photograph
The Menan Buttes: a view from Rexburg

Sunday, November 28, 2021

We can learn a lot in Church...

Poem Day 28

Sunset over the Church

We can learn a lot in Church....

We can learn a lot in Church
by listening a bit even with masks.

We can learn that life is not always fun
and delightful and cheerful.

Challenging things plop into our lives
way more times than we want.

We need to pour out our hearts
to God, especially in the most challenging times.

Falling short seems to be the natural way
for most of us, but there is always a way
to climb out of the abyss that we often fall into.

We must be grateful for all that comes to us—
good things and things not as good as we want them.

Our children need tender loving care,
even though their behavior overwhelms us.

The Lord needs us to shine every day
and during the most challenging times.
That’s when we grow and develop
and become better than we were.

We have to believe, have faith, strive
with all our might, mind, and strength.

Learning comes during challenging times
and hardships much to our chagrin and moaning.

It all works out in the end.


We have to just endure to the end—
the end of the hardship,
the end of the challenge,
the end of our lives, knowing
and hoping the challenging times will end.

Hardships have no beginning or end dates.

We need to “let our hearts be comforted;
yea, rejoice evermore,

and in everything give thanks”—
all the time “waiting patiently on the Lord.”

His timeline is not ours.

We must see a far off and remember
why we chose to come to earth.

We must come to understand
“all these things shall give thee experience,
and shall be for thy good.”

It’s a good thing we have time
to contemplate and think
about these things
“with great earnestness”
and letting ourselves
“cheerfully do all things
that lie in our power…”
and then let the Lord do all the rest.

It’s the only way.

End of lesson.

Doorway in Chichen Itza

Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Putting Up of the Christmas Tree After Thanksgiving

Poem Day 27

The Putting Up of the Christmas Tree After Thanksgiving

Today we put up the Christmas tree,
wrapped the new lights around each limb,
made sure each had lights, except one branch
that we skipped over for some reason,
not out of disrespect but from sure
forgetfulness and carelessness.
We recognized our error
three quarters way up the tree.

Too late to make a change, we promised
to place some of the best ornaments
to make up for our blunder
It’s been four years since
we gathered our own
personal ornaments and collections,
all perfectly stored or encased
dusty or Styrofoam boxes.

All have special significance,
gathered over the last forty plus years
from places we have been or visited.
Putting on the ornaments takes
the longest time because each one has a story.
We select each one, reminisce about it
for just a moment before we carefully place it.
Some have their special place on the tree.

Our most precious are the homemade ones
Joanne made when we were poor college students
and after, each with a date or others
like her 1990 counted cross stitched stocking
stands among the elite
or the Christmas tree made
with tiny wood thimbles,
wrapped Christmas fabric.

Of course, how can you not hang
Anna Rose’s grade school potpourri-filled
heart with her picture in the middle
or Hailey’s first grade picture, wrapped 
in a green fluff piping wreath with a bow?
Grandmother Boltz’s unique ceramic bears
dangle from many limb.
One of Joanne’s favorites

is a mesh wire ball full of potpourri
from Joanne’s sister’s wedding,
some fifty years ago.
On some of our travels,
we attempted to find ornaments
like the Maid of Mist from Niagara Falls;
the national monument, enshrouded in gold,
from Washington, D.C.; one with Kansas’ sunflowers

in picture of a typical farm;
a piece of jade encased in red cording
from Dalian, China; the Tillamook Rock
and a blue blown glass ornament from Oregon;
even a cowboy snowman from Montana;
and so many others that make up our tree.
Then, we carefully place a gold
Angel Moroni atop the tree,

facing east, waiting for that final day.
To finalize the tradition,
Joanne places her quilted tree skirt
around the tree to guard it and keep it warm.
Now, for at least a month, we will sit
in the evenings and stare at the tree,
wrapped in lights and memories,
and bask in the goodness of life.

Friday, November 26, 2021


Poem Day 26

Provo sunset reflecting on Maple Mountain
the day after Thanksgiving 2021


Perhaps, it is the night sounds,
the ones that beckon us or drive us
deeper between the wind-dried sheets.

Perhaps, it the soft music billowing
from downstairs on grandma’s phonograph
or the quiet breezes outside,
the window wide open in early summer
to catch their coolness and memories.

Perhaps, it is just me, trying to see
through the darkness, thinking of past times,
the cooing of barn pigeons on the roof tops,
the whistle of the window through the cottonwoods,
or even the overhead flight of mallards.

Tonight, though, I lie tranquil, hoping
to hear the past seeping in
through the cracks in the walls,
a soft creak of the stairs,
even a brushing of weeping willows
on the window, now shut tight.

But it is quiet as if someone
is holding her breath, waiting
for the right moment to exhale.

Sunset in Provo, Utah, day after Thanksgiving 2021

Thursday, November 25, 2021

My Psalm at Thanksgiving

Poem Day 25--Happy Thanksgiving!

The Darrel and Joanne Hammon Family

My Psalm at Thanksgiving

The day we call Thanksgiving comes just once a year
although we should celebrate giving thanks every day.
Each day my prayers are long, sometimes longer
when more blessings come and I feel the need.
Blessings arrive in so many ways, some subtle,
some grandiose, some as every day gifts.

For me, my blessings are plentiful and powerful reminders.

I am always thankful my for dear Joanne
for her 42 years and counting of putting up with me
and her consistent love and those sly smiles.

Our daughters Anna Rose and Hailey,
both miracles from a loving Heavenly Father,
for our sweet memories as we moved from place to place,
new adventures for everyone and their adaptability
to new situations, trying to fit in, and adjusting,
no matter where we were and now their own adventures
with their doting husbands and our sweet grandchildren.

My brothers and sisters and the many memories
I have of and with them, each of us
with our own version of the memory.

The knowledge I can repent and be forgiven
because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
The words of pure truth and revelations
from modern-day apostles and prophets.
The knowledge and understanding of the covenant path.

Our missionaries who have become part of our family
and still stay connected in a variety of ways.
Our missionary friends from the Caribbean
whose lives and examples made us better.

Our callings and those whom we serve or have served.
Our friends throughout the world who keep in touch.

Temples that allow me a peek into eternity
and a life that could be ours if we are obedient.

For our health that keeps changing and moving along,
despite the aging process that we tolerate.

For learning Spanish long ago in Chile
and being able to communicate in two languages.
Our ability to volunteer and help others.

For real Idaho potatoes in any form,
particularly baked potatoes and all the trimmings.
For pork chops; red licorice; ice cream,
pretty much any flavor, but especially
mint chocolate chip and lemon sherbet.
For Kit Kats, Lemon Heads, pie a la mode.

For clouds, sunsets and sunrises, mountains, streams,
seasons, and a camera to take pictures of all those.

The ability to dress in a suit and tie once in a while.
The privilege to read and write to anyone.
The daily opportunity to always smile
at the craziness the world offers us.

More particularly, knowing who and whose I really am
and why I am as we trundle through this world,
trying to progress, grow, and become better.

And so many, many more that trickle and often flood in each day.
Thanksgiving should not be just one day but 365 days
and all the hours and minutes in between.

I am truly thankful for all that I have and will have.

Thanks to Dennis Hammon for taking this
incredible photo of the Idaho Falls Temple!



Wednesday, November 24, 2021

My Mother Made Me

Poem Day 24

My Mother Made Me

My Mother made me
take social dance as a junior.
When I questioned her why—
at least a dozen times,
causing her anger to singe my ears—
she said, You will need to know
how someday, trust me.”

Like a dutiful son that I was,
I signed up for the class—grudgingly, hesitating.
The registrar raised her eyebrows just a little.
I nodded, grimacing at my plight,
sealed for the semester,
trying to convince myself it was okay
since it still counted as P.E.

While my friends took real PE, played
b-ball on the other side of the divider in the gym,
I learned to dance the two-step, the fox trot,
the waltz, the polka with—catch this—
girls, not the prettiest in the batch but passable.
I had to touch them—hand in their hand,
my hand on their waist or the small of their back,
our bodies ostensibly moving with the music.

At first, my shyness caught me by surprise,
and I didn’t look my partner in the eye,
just at my feet, whispering
and simultaneously counting
1 2 together and 1 2 together.

Sometimes the bouncing stopped across the way,
several eyes peering around the great divide.
We heard snickers, then bouncing again,
amid uproarious laughter.
I kept counting and looking down
at my size 12 feet stuffed in Tony Llamas.

By midterm, I tore my ligaments, skiing
an out-of-sync polka at Kelly’s Canyon in the dark.
I told the ski patrol snow snakes grabbed me
from behind, pulled me down
and twisted my ankles for good measure.

For a couple of weeks, I sat on the hard bleachers,
watching the dancers cavort on our side of the gym.
Once my walking cast was on, I charged forward,
not minding too much the dancing, the attention.
I could actually dance in a cast.

Then a substitute took over for a week,
saw my cast, cooed dismay at my bum luck.
Wincing like it hurt, I shook my head and succumbed
to the opportunity, didn’t say a word,
just slipped around the corner of the divider
and danced my own dance—
shooting hoops with the boys.


Tuesday, November 23, 2021


Poem Day 23


Miracles swoop down at times;
other times, they drizzle in
like early morning rains in the mountains.

Still other times, it seems they linger
somewhere in the dense fog and forest,
not showing themselves, hiding from us

like children playing hide n’ seek.
They are there, but we cannot see them
or feel them or smell them.

Yet, they are there, all around us.
We often do not recognize them
because we seek Moses or Enoch-like miracles:

the parting of the great Red Sea
or mountains being moved from here to there,
even the appearance of angels.

We fail to see the small ones,
not getting hit on our bike,
receiving a letter from an estranged child,

or fresh apple pie on your doorstep,
or even a call out of the blue
at the very moment you are having a bad day.

They are there, usually, right before our eyes.
When we look with open eyes,
perhaps even our spiritual eyes,

the fog dissipates and the clouds lift,
and they appear, almost magically,
hanging thickly on every branch and scattered

on the ground like fall leaves and pine cones.
We can gently reach down
and scoop up as many as we would like.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Gathering

Poem Day 22

Photo from iStock

The Gathering

When I was younger, working for Bud,
a single man over sixty, he had me gather
the cows and calves for branding
in the spring on my red and silver Hodaka 100,
sometimes louder than the cows wanted to hear.

They heard me coming before they saw me
and knew I meant business.
The Herefords, including the bolly-faced ones,
looked at me, then looked at each other,
knowing the gathering was coming
and headed haphazardly in bunches
for the corrals off in the distance.

It didn’t take me long to maneuver them
to where they needed to go.
Even some of the stragglers balked
at first until I rounded on them,
pushing them forward.

Soon, they were all congregated
in the corrals, bellering, stamping about.
Then the separation of the calves
from their mommas began,
and the bellering reached a noisy
crescendo, heard clear over to Cottle’s
hundreds of acres and a fence line away.

We lassoed them one by one,
dragged them into a pen, held them tight,
inoculated, tagged, dehorned them,
and completed other life-changing tasks.

The branding seemed simple enough
with an iron hot from a burning heap of coals.

Once the brand was burned
into the flesh, we released them
back to their mothers, still bellering,
still stamping around, now mad
as they smelled the burned flesh,
reminiscent of their own branding,
now emerging and burning in their minds.

It dawned on me that branding
would not have been necessary
if thieves weren’t always lurking about,
trying to steal calves that weren’t theirs.

Ironically, the brands protect them
from being taken clandestinely away
from their mothers and the ranch.

After we finished the many hours of branding,
coals doused with water, everything put away,
we watched the herd from the pole fence
in the corner of the corral,
listening to the mamma cows
as they munched fresh bales of hay,
scattered along the bottom of the manger,
while their little ones skipped and skittered
around the corral, frolicking through freshly laid straw
as if nothing had just happened to them at all.

Photo by Wallshaven


Overcoming Challenges

Poem Day 21

Overcoming Challenges

Some challenges in our lives stream
like Netflix movies, some in full length
and vivid color, others like short films,
black and white and rather dull,
still powerful,
still mind bending,
still threatening
our very lives and progress.

Over time, we try to tear ourselves
from the invasive onslaught
of terrifying and smoldering scenes,
some too close to the real thing,
others reminding us of our pasts
that we had purposely buried deep
in the recesses of our minds.

But somehow we still sit there in the dark,
inclined in those comfortable chairs,
munching buttered popcorn and eating red licorice,
all the while the streaming continues.

We promise ourselves we will shut it off
when the scenes become too lifelike.

We close our eyes, hoping the images
will cease for just a brief moment
for us to catch our breath
and then erase themselves forever.

For some reasons, we stay put,
sit alone in the dark,
suffering through it all, knowing
that we should not be here.

Then, the light suddenly flickers on,
and someone opens up the door wide,
allowing slivers of light to enter,
breaking the trance we are in.

At that moment, we realize it is our time
to climb out of the abyss we find ourselves in.

With some effort, we press pause,
then even more determined,
press the off button,
clamor out of our seats,
quickly toss the debris of our lives
into the huge overflowing cans
as we leave the theater of our past,
hoping, just hoping, and finally knowing
that we are leaving behind the darkness
of the past, entering the light of the present,
and moving on into full light and joy of the future.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Ode to Education…Learning

Poem Day 20

Ode to Education…Learning

Surely, it starts at birth, “mewling and puking,”
grows with each new diaper change
clamors once more when words drip
haphazardly with each passing week
Until Kinder begs the little ones,
motions for them to come, especially
the gifted ones already alphabetized
and number and word smart.

Who cares about treats and curfews
when Shakespeare and Neruda,
Angelou, Hughes, and even Keats bask
without forgiveness and repercussions,
toying with 7th and 8th graders,
their swirling minds, often too preoccupied
with hormones, pop music, and that other stuff?

Soon—oh, please!—the high school years,
filled with gushings of nothingness,
and cars, girls, dances, cars, video
and football games—all too ephemeral.

When poetry seeps into young minds
and creates anguish, sometimes feelings
of osmosis, feelings of why me when they read
the drowning words of Plath and her ilk.

Why not sit quietly in your seats, absorbing
Chaucer, Safford, Poe, and even Wordsworth?
Throw in some Dickinson, e.e. cummings
with a dash of Whitman, Yeats, and Dylan Thomas—
and then you feel the glorious rhythm of words
and cadences, dripping, swirling, curling beneath
your feet like the tortoiseshell cat you inherited.

Finally, your education learning becomes yours by choice.

Instead of Thomas’ Do not go gentle in that good night”
and death grabbing at your ankles, try on
with relish do not go gentle into learning, 
along a creek bank or cloistered in a stand of quakies,
or even in a meadow loaded with a herd of deer.

Go gangbusters, pell mell, screaming
at top of your lungs like you did when playing
“No bears out tonight” with your friends and cousins,
remembering that learning is glorious and kind and good
allowing it to seep soothingly into your soul, cleansing it
from all those other trappings, often forced learning.

Hence, learn on and take captive all tidbits
you sense will warm you when you are old
and can’t see or hear or taste….

Friday, November 19, 2021

Holding Hands

Poem Day 19

Holding Hands

Holding hands comes early in our lives,
the first our mothers and then our fathers

who tenderly caress our tiny soft hands,
counting our little fingers with their thumbs,

humming a lullaby that soothes us.
When we are older, learning to walk,

off balance and wobbly, they again hold our hands,
carefully not to squeeze hard, allowing us

a bit of freedom to explore around the house.
During the pre-teen and through the teenage years,

our mothers hold our hands when we are asleep
when we won’t pull away because to us,

it isn’t cool to hold hands with our mothers.
The reversal begins too soon for some of us,

when our mothers or fathers now wobbly and off balance
need their hands held to walk to and from places.

Soon, way too soon, our parents lie subdued
in their beds, surrounded by family

family pictures, and other remembrances.
We hold their hand, squeezing periodically,

letting them know that we love and appreciate them.
During these days as we watch them grow closer

to passing over to another life, their new life,
we yearn for the days when it was they

who held our hands, gently caressing them,
holding us just firm enough, so if we did fall,

they would be there to swoop us up,
wrap us in their arms, smile, and coo!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Brilliance in the Middle of the Night

Poem Day 18--

Brilliance in the Middle of the Night

Does one ever tire of stepping off
the ledge of the balcony
or the sidewalk curb, narrowly

missing the passing Chevy Lumina,
once dented by a six-year-old bike
with training wheels. Surely,

my mother would disapprove
of my expense account, chuck full
of lunches at the Lariat

and always the extra at the end—
the lemon meringue or the cinnamon apple
a la mode. Isn't it

a shame to dip chocolates
on a Friday night only to be awakened
in the middle of the night—

something about a cavorting appendix
and three incisions to suck out
the inflamed organ, no good in or out

but death to a pig without one.
I find it odd to listen
on quiet nights, straining to hear stars

fall from grace or see
one streak across the sky.
Surely they know better than to burst

and die like my daughter's appendix
on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Surely
they understood the consequences

of light, a burst, a fading slowly
into the universe, the ultimate loss
of innocence and brilliance, sometimes
simultaneous and the love-struck kid

who names it for the girl in third period
who thinks of him only as the brainiac
with the best notes and homework.

Why couldn't it just fade over time,
lessening the blow and the sudden hole to fill
by darkness and slight twist of the telescope?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Greatness: The Common Lot of Man and Woman

Poem Day 17--

Peeking at majesty

Greatness: The Common Lot of Man and Woman

Some are afraid of knowing
too much, perhaps too little.
Some shrink away, afraid
of what others might think
about them.
Others do nothing, hoping
that life will not touch them.
Many shine in school,
on the playing field,
in the bright lights
of the world,
thinking that greatness
has enveloped them,
allowed them to become someone.

What we don’t know
because, perhaps,
we do not want to know
is others shine, too—
In the confines of their own rooms,
laden with microscopes,
computers, shelves of used books,
pencils and pens,
writing and drawing paper,
and brothers or sisters.
They help the poor, the needy,
read to neighbors,
take food to shut ins,
write letters to those who
need words of comfort and peace,
be kind and gracious.

We read in the scriptures
about lights under a bushel basket,
talents hidden low in the dirt,
withdrawing within ourselves.
We can fill ourselves with knowledge
of what we really can become,
of who we need to be
in this life to prepare for another life,
of whose we really are,
for we are truly His….

Once we know who we really are,
no longer will our talents be hidden.
We will reach out to others.
Our lights will shine forth.
Then we shall see afar off,
knowing what He knows,
seeing what He sees,
feeling what He feels,
becoming what He is.
Truly then, and only then,
We will be great.

Sand path along the beach


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Simplicity of Life

Poem Day 16

The Simplicity of Life

Some people make life way too challenging,
too overwhelming, too large for one
to even comprehend any of it.

Or maybe it’s the internet,
the magazines, the photoshoots,
the blogs, the incessant whining of commentators
of day-time cable or news channels and podcasts
that shout out the horrendous stories and news
that have ostensibly happened to this person
or that person or Instagram posts
that seem so glamorous and far-fetched simultaneously.

Photoshop has added this and that,
a pinch of more highliner and rosy skin,
thinned out some bumps and excess
of whatever might be deemed as excessive,
even added a tone or two, made gray
and wrinkles disappear at a mere click of the thumb,
created an image or smoothness
that truly doesn’t reflect anything
or anyone in real life but creating
a fictitious image of what could be if….

So many apps surreptitiously meld
the lines of reality and fiction,
fake and truth to the point of what is really real?

Whatever happened to the simplicity of life
without all of the distractions, distortions, and disturbances?
Have we come as far as to dim the truth
by telling tell a tall tale, fashioning a hyperbole
or even hyping nothing but air and nonsense
to capture more “likes” than anyone else?

Perhaps, we should bag the many lenses
of extravagance to a single lens of reality
and a sense of wholeness and goodness,
not caked with the layers of density and excess.

Perhaps, the simplicity of life is exactly that:
simplicity of doing and seeing,
no tiers of who’s who or what’s what
but mere deposits of good-old fashion
of what is still real and true and moral.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Random, Simple Blessings

Poem Day 15--"Random, Simple Blessings" emerged after we heard the Carter Family speak in Church. Sister Carter talked about her five-year-old son who said prayers similar to what happens in the poem. 

Random, Simple Blessings

He prayed again last night, the five-year-old,
at dinner, prayed for his brother and sister,
for his parents, his friends, the family dog
and then began his random thanking
for his toys, air to breath, marbles,
apples but not peas, his bike,
the soft blanket his grandmother gave him,
the sun, kindergarten, playing tic-tac-toe
in the cul-de-sac near his house,
his new dinosaur shirt, ice cream
and homemade cookies (chocolate chip),
Coco from a movie he had just watched,
a telephone call from his grandparents
who live far away, his new socks with yellow toes,
Curious George, homemade raspberries jam, and rolls.

He did say amen and climbed into bed.

At first I was irritated that he prayed
for such random things.
I dimmed the lights and stood
in the doorway, watched him close his eyes
and fall asleep, content with his day.
I remembered his prayer and being thankful
for so many everyday things.

When I contemplated each one,
carefully, from the eyes of a five-year-old,
a hole opened in my heart,
tears streamed down my cheek,
my mind was enlightened.
They were not just random things.

They were simple things, yes,
even simple blessings of the mundane,
yet individual things that created happiness
in my five-year-old, about who he was
and what lay around the house
and within his sphere of influence,
minute as they might have seemed to me.
They were his everyday things,
his everyday blessings, his alone—
and maybe mine as well.

At that very moment, I thought of my simple things,
my simple blessings, and they grew
suddenly large and important in my eyes
and in my heart, causing both see
and feel wonderment and happiness
for the simple, enriching blessings that fill my life
with happiness every single day—
all because of a five-year-old boy’s
seemingly random prayer turned revelatory.