Oh Happy Day!
Oh Happy Day!
I was born and raised in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the granddaughter and daughter of a farmer. All of my father’s ancestors were grape growers in Germany, and they still are today. I grew up running through vineyards and helping with the grape and raisin harvests.
Last month when I visited Reedley, there were still grapes on the ground, drying in the sun, turning into delicious raisins. The Sun-Maid raisin plant is just a few miles from my home. For years, my Dad was a Sun-Maid grower.
This is how raisins are made.
Once the grapes are dried in the sun, the paper trays are rolled and placed at the top of the row, so the moisture can even out through all the raisins. Then these rolls are rolled up like cinnamon rolls so they’re easy to pick up and toss into the vineyard wagons.
That was one of our jobs after school every September-October. There is nothing quite as good as warm fresh raisins, still on the stem! And the smell of burning paper trays is the smell of Fall to me. We’d make big piles at the end of each row, then set them on fire and watch the ashes float over the vineyard, still glowing around the edges. I loved growing up on a farm.
This week I was preparing grapes for our missionary reunion. Most of the grapes in our Utah stores are from central California where I grew up. My Dad also grew table grapes, mostly Thompson Seedless. The red seedless weren’t around yet when I was growing up. They are a newer variety that’s become very popular.
As I cut the bunches, I thought I might share some grape tips and etiquette with you, so you’ll never be embarrassed when a grape grower is nearby!First of all, some grapes are better than others. When you’re shopping for grapes, look at the stems. You can tell how long they’ve been in the stores by how fresh the stems look. Find green stems.
If you’re shopping for Thompson Seedless (the green table grapes) look for the ones that are the most yellow. The more yellow, the more sweet.
Now for some etiquette. Never pull a grape off the stem and leave the bunch behind. It’s bad form. If you want some grapes, pull off a small bunch and eat them. Don’t ever leave a bunch looking like this–it’s unsightly. If you find a bad grape on a bunch, cut it off with the stem, don’t pull it off, leaving stem remains. This is not a pleasant sight:
If you are serving grapes, Never pull them off the stems. Again, bad form, and they won’t keep well that way. Keep the stems on the grapes, the stem seals in the goodness. To cut serving size bunches, hold the bunch and clip branches from the top down or from the bottom up, working off the main stems. Keep small bunches intact. Always let people pull their own grapes off the stems.
I think grapes are a pretty perfect food. They are beautiful and bite-sized. They are delicious just about every way you serve them. And when the grape season is over, we have raisins to get us through the rest of the year. Thank you, Heavenly Father for grapes!
General Conference weekends ares always the highlights of the year in April and October. And Fall is my favorite season, so this last weekend was pretty perfect in every way. Oh how I love listening to the words of our Prophet and the Apostles. It was uplifting and edifying. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and I love our church leaders who understand and receive revelation from Heavenly Father, His gift to us.
Last night we had our 3rd Washington Yakima Mission Reunion here in Orem at our Stake Center. It was incredible! More than 200 loved ones came to celebrate and reminisce about the wonderful time we spent in Washington together. It was wonderful. We had rhythm sticks games going on, we distributed wedding gifts to any we’d missed, or any who are engaged (we’ve had 42 marriages since our April reunion!). We recognized who’s attending school where, who’s married, who’s engaged, and who’s working.
For dinner we served J-Dawgs with toppings, watermelon, grapes, chips and everyone brought desserts. It was a magical evening, just like I imagine heaven to be, happily reuniting with dearest friends.
Pres Lewis and each said a few words to these dear friends, encouraging them to be faithful and true to their covenants and to each other.
When we were at the Mission President’s Seminar before we left for Washington, we were told that missionaries were called to serve with a particular mission president, more than to a particular area. At the time, I thought “what a curious statement.” But after meeting our missionaries, I began to feel the truth of that. I also felt that we were called to them because we needed to learn from each of them.
There is not a missionary in our mission that we did not connect with in significant ways. I must say that I wholeheartedly agree with that statement now. They were there for us and we were there for them, like matches made in heaven.
Last night I reminded these friends that we need each other. We were placed in each other’s paths for particular and sometimes sacred reasons. I believe one of the reasons our missionaries are so close is because we communicate with each other all the time. We have a private Facebook group where goings and comings are posted and events are celebrated. We keep in touch and do things together. We are family.
President Joseph Fielding Smith once said, “Why are we drawn towards certain persons, and they to us, as if we had always known each other? Is it a fact that we always have?
We believe that ties formed in this life, will be continued in the life to come; then why not believe that we had similar ties before we came into the world, and that some of them at least, have been resumed in this state of existence?”
These friendships are eternal and dear to me. What a huge unbelievable gift I was given in these 460 faithful and good souls! Here are just a few. The other 100s of photos I took are in an album on Facebook.
Because of our unique assignment, the wonderful powers that be included us in a week of Humanitarian training at the MTC this last week. It was amazing to be back on this campus, learning and preparing again to “go forth.”
We met in a class in T-3 with 3 other couples with Humanitarian assignments. We spent the week being trained by folks from Salt Lake in the LDS Charities and Humanitarian departments. It was so fun. Once upon a time I taught these seminars to Senior missionaries. The principles are still the same, but the resources we have to work with have changed drastically. We belong to a church actively involved in changing lives, on a global scale, and on a personal scale.We are learning how to help alleviate suffering and how to go good in the Lord’s Way.
Here are our new friends:We had a fantastic week. These other couples fly out in a few days. We’ll go home for a week, then return for our Preach My Gospel training on the 14th.
The Johnsons help to coordinate all the Humanitarian missionaries and prepare us to set forth in the world.
While we walked the halls of the MTC, we found the board of Mission Presidents and the Jackmans, who took our place in Yakima.These are the LDS Missions in West Africa and beyond:
Here are all of the languages taught. Afrikaans, which I learned here many years ago, is no longer on the list:
We also walked over to the new buildings that were built and dedicated while we were gone. We went to find Evelyn Maeser, our French tutor there, but just missed seeing her.These are the cubbies where the tutors teach languages remotely. This is our favorite Evelyn:The view of the other new buildings from the 6th floor:The MTC campus is beautifully landscaped and there are open spaces for study and sunshine.
Seeing this sidewalk brought back memories. This is where we dropped Adam and Aaron as they embarked on their missions to Chile. We shed tears here–in happy but hard goodbyes. This time we’ll be the ones leaving them behind, along with Claire and Graham and our adorable grandchildren. It’s never easy, but it’s always good.
The field is white, already to harvest.
This evening these adorable girls from the neighborhood came over. Their Achievement Day class had an assignment to visit someone who could talk to them about quilts and ancestors. I fit that bill pretty well! We had a great time talking about why women make quilts and how they are made, piece by piece, block by block, with love. I told them the reason I make quilts is because quilts are a way I can leave a hug behind after I’m gone. I love it if each of my descendants could have a quilt I made with my hands and with my heart, with them in mind. When I’m not here anymore, they will feel me wrapped around them, loving them still.
I showed them a few of the quilts I’ve been finishing up this week, and then took them upstairs to see a whole lot more.We looked at a few antique quilts and at quilts my grandma made for me. The glorious one spread on the bed is an antique quilt I purchased. There is no name on it, so I am a proxy family member for the lady who stitched it all by hand. I feel her love, even though I don’t know who she was.
The Sunbonnet Sue quilt was made by my Mennonite quilting grandma, Elsa Laemmlen.
I showed them how I put blocks together to make quilts like this Spot quit. You may remember my FTC problem and the fact that I’ve made more than 20 of these for future grandkids and great grandkids! The girls had fun spotting things in the little blocks as I called out each item to search for.The flat silver box under this quilt holds my grandmother’s quilt patterns. We found the one she used to make the Sunbonnet Sue blocks.
I showed them my quilt room in the basement and showed them how fabric is cut. Then they played with some small blocks, creating their own designs. We had fun. These girls talked about quilts they had in their homes and the women who made them. Quilting is a good thing. It brings generations together in loving ways.
Here’s a list of a few things I don’t really care for:
Crisco frosting (most frostings for that matter)
Sports Center commentators
Thinking about where I am in a parking structure
Fake–hair, nails, eyelashes, body parts, smiles
Arrogance or prideful people
People who spend because they can, not because they need
Conflict or contention
Caffeine (actually, I’ve never in my life had a caffeinated drink)
Radio talk show hosts
Movies where cars crash and people are shot
Sitcoms, comedians, or anything with canned laughter
Watching someone else talk while brushing their teeth
Dancing and loud music
Swearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain
Sisterhood is an important thing. These are some of my neighbor sisters. Many of us have raised our kids together. We love and cheer for each other. Today we had our annual Fall retreat at our Sundance cabin. We had a delicious breakfast together, then we visited and got even better acquainted. Many changes happened in the neighborhood while we were away in Washington. There are new sisters to meet and old ones to remember.This was a fun game we played to get better acquainted. We each brought some small thing that represented something about our lives. Mine was the mini quilt and the African fertility doll. It was fun to figure out which item when with which sister.I feel really lucky to be surrounded by so many good women.
Today was a perfect day. I love Fall. I love my garden and I love the produce that just keeps coming all summer long. It will be hard to walk away before the last tomatoes are picked and enjoyed. Our days are numbered and I am savoring these times in the yard with the kids.
I made a pot of garden goodness this afternoon with the tomatoes and yellow squash. I just brown a pound of sausage with some onion, while simmering a pot full of cut up garden-ripe tomatoes. When the tomatoes are cooked down, I add the meat and then cut several squash into the pot. I season this with Italian seasonings and herbs from the garden. I love eating this with a slice of Havarti cheese melted over it. Yum!
We also picked some fruit from Farmer Ron’s orchard across the street. I miss him on days like today, but am grateful his orchard lives on, oblivious of the developers who would take the trees down and bring in more homes or apartments.
Today was perfect. My life is perfect. I am so grateful.
John and I flew to Fresno this week to visit my Dad and Kris in Reedley. He turned 89 on September 20th. I gave him the quilt I finished last week called “Worlds Without End.” Something to remember me by in the coming cooler months.
We celebrated Dad’s birthday with his brothers, Henry and Wilfred.
My brother, Eric, and Kris’s boys, Kendal and Trevor with their families:
Birthday Boy! Dad was born 20 September 1930 in Fresno. He grew up in Reedley.
My homeplace:My mom planted this olive tree when I was about 10 years old. She’d be happy to see it flourishing now.
Dad and I had time to go through more things for his history. I was also able to video record quite a few stories from his life. A lot happens in 89 years.We visited the Reedley Cemetery and found Grandpa and Grandma and Dad’s little sister, Ruth.
Dad says he’s got 10 more years in him. I’m glad for that! I will miss him these next 2 years while we’re away.