“I don't know all the answers but I'll do my best to live up to the rising that won't let me rest” - Jason Deere

The other day I was listening to a radio show while driving to an appointment that discusses current topics and situations over the globe. I was listening while they talked about the situation in Darfur. Over the last few years I wished I could do something about it, anything.... just as long as it would help someone. But I have allowed my life and my problems to keep me distracted. I have allowed my life to pull me along and whisper softly in my ear - “ You are too busy..., You need help...,You have so much to do...., You cannot survive if you try to do more..., etc...” So I pray for these people... and I do nothing. While some would say that a prayer is better than nothing, a prayer rarely feed the starving and saves the malnourished. It rarely stands as a shield in front of the gun and the knife of a person fills with hatred, ignorance, and free agency. I had kidded myself or at least convinced myself that I was doing all that I could. But then I listened to this radio program.

I listened to these beautiful women talk about a world of people like me. People who allow bad things to happen and do nothing. People who even in small ways could have done something and still do nothing. I will admit that the more I listened the more I felt the hot prickles of shame. I pulled over to the side of the road and just sat there and cried. My own problems, the problems that I feel are so overwhelming, painful and so difficult that I can't get past them seemed so small... so insignificant... and yes, even the big ones seemed almost petty.

Then one of the women mentioned the Rwandan massacre. She mentioned that she didn't know it was going on at the time it happened because she was young and 'busy'. So she did nothing because she knew nothing- not one inkling that it was going on. She then mentioned that she hadn't been busy with anything really important in 1994. And for a brief moment I could not breath. I had always thought that this massacre happened when I was a baby or a young girl. As a historian (OK, I only pretend to be a historian), I have focused so much on prehistory, the beginnings of history and then the beginning of medieval times. I have focused on certain countries and certain people and the things that have caught my fancy. My history knowledge mostly ends at WWII. Yes, I can name US presidents and some of what each of them have done. I can mention some stuff like the Cold War and the Berlin Wall and can converse on a semi- intelligent and informed basis on them. That's about it though. But I was an adult in 1994. I was graduating from high school and finding a place to live. I was ditching school, getting good grades, performing in theater both in and out of school, and desperately trying to hold myself together. I was working three jobs, trying to control the anger and sorrow I felt towards my parents and my upbringing. I had met my future husband and was embarking on a career path that would change my life. And at the same time, approx 800,000 people were dying- hacked to death. And I knew nothing and I did nothing. For over one million people, that was a year that cannot be forgotten. They lost their family, their health, their security and their lives. It is estimated that twenty percent of the population died. What would it have been like to be part of the other eighty percent? I can't fathom. I sit here and write this and try... and I just can't. Not knowing seems like such a lousy excuse for failing to do something...even something small. But I cannot blame myself alone. Almost no one did anything to stop this. I am an American. I have been told by my media and by my church so many times that I live in God's favored land... that I am so blessed to live in the best country in the world. That we are a superpower and the “world's policemen” and yet... we did nothing. Nothing at all.

For the last several years, I have believed in a quote I heard in some of my early medical education classes – 'With knowledge comes responsibility'. Well, I can do nothing about what happened in Rwanda. But I am alive now. I have hands that are strong and willing to work... and Darfur is still happening. So far, almost 3 million people have died. People are dying daily from sickness, malnutrition, trauma. And it appears in some ways that they are the lucky ones. They no longer have to worry about seeing their children kills in front of their eyes. They no longer have to fear rape and pain. They no longer have to fear death. Those who are still alive and pray probably ask for many things... I wonder if they pray for the opportunity to live for another day. This conflict began in 2003 and is still going on.... Almost half a million people are displaced and driven from their homes with no where to go.

I drove to my appointment, completed it, and returned to my car. I made a promise to myself and Heavenly Father that I would do something. I have a family, a son who needs me and no money. My health is also shaky. Coming up with something I could do that would be meaningful- even if it was only meaningful to the Father and me in the sense that my contribution would be too small to make a difference on its own. It would be meaningful because I made it... because I did something... and because if enough of us did something, it would make a difference. So what could I do?

I started hunting in my spare moments. My blackberry never seemed to leave my hand. It followed me to the bathroom, to the dinner table... frankly I was hard pressed to put it down while driving. But here is what I found.

1. China is a business partner with Sudan. Because of this relationship, the UN Security Council is unable to pass any resolution that actually causes Sudan hardship- China will not allow it.

2. The leaders of the countries in this world have a lousy notion of sovereignty (usually defined as the idea that a country can do whatever it wants within its own borders. That notion can clearly be allowed to go too far.

So, I decided to try and not buy anything made in China. I doubt anyone will notice. I have noticed because it has already caused me some problems. I was just getting ready to purchased some plastic storage bins and a filing cabinet. I can't- I cannot seem to find any anywhere in this country that have not been made in China. Reading packaging on things that are not food is a new tasks for me. But I am determined to figure it out. Do I think that I will be perfect at this? No. I am sure that I will make compromises for something that I truly feel we need and can't find anywhere else. But I am determined. It doesn't feel like enough, but I think it is a start...

If you have read this post, you now have the knowledge. With knowledge comes responsibility. We as a human race but also Heavenly Father's beloved children have a responsibility, nae, an obligation to do something! What will you do?


Scripture Study: Pearl of Great Price Moses 1:35

Sometimes I feel like I am just another ant on this planet rushing around and killing myself with work- much of which isn't eternally useful. So sometimes I feel myself get lost in the scriptures because I can sit and do 'nothing'... OK, well maybe not nothing :) A few days ago, I just randomly picked them up and flipped to the back. Moses chapter one fell open and I began to read. One verse really stuck out at me:

35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

I have thought about it in quiet moments over the last few days. No matter how busy and infinitely small I feel... "all things are numbered unto me".

No one is alone- no matter how much we feel that we are. Our lives and souls are known. We are great spiritual beings who are dealing with the difficulty of being a human being. What a great thought!


Some Snapshots of Life on Gondwana

Gondwana was one of two huge land masses on this planet hundreds of years ago. The first large land mass (Pangaea) split into two large super-continents and Gondwana was the more southern of the two. It included land from current-day Australia, South America and more and this mass was located mostly inside the Antarctic Circle. The climate there at the time of Gondwana was very different from the climate that we envision Antarctica having today. The polar regions were warmer (Earth as a whole was warmer during the Cretaceous Era) as deduced through studies of oxygen isotopes and types of plant life. And the very uneven distribution of the large land masses would have forced ocean air currents and seasonal winds to flow farther across the southern polar area than in our current-day which would have kept the water temperature warmer as well. In fact, some studies suggest that there were no ice caps and even some large forests that covered the land all the way to the South Pole. However, before we think of a beautiful almost perfect paradise, it must be remembered that while the surface of the Earth has changed over millions of years, the axis tilt of the earth has not changed and so this beautiful and not-quite-as-cold-as-we-had-imagined area would also have a polar night. (a period of darkness due to the earth's tilt away from the sun that can last weeks or months.) This would still make Gondwana an area that would make survival for the frail impossible- and even the hardy would have quite a challenge.

Studying history has been something that I have enjoyed for as long as I can remember. It became one of my favorite and easiest subjects at school and I have spent more hours than I can estimate of my life delving into the known facts and interpretation of someone else's life. Evolution, while I think considered a 'science only' by many, clearly is a way of seeing history as well- a history of the growth of life as it were. There are those that see evolution as a theory that stands against and opposes creationism... and therefore is false, evil and must be opposed by anyone that believes in Heavenly Father or a divine creator. I have never seen evolution in this light. In fact, the more I study it, the stronger my testimony of a brilliant, creative and loving Father becomes. My study of Gondwana was such a journey. Learning about the world and the rise and fall of some of the Father's great creations that came in their time and season and are now gone is a study of ourselves and our true worth. It was also a testimony to me of the knowledge that all of his creations- from dinosaurs to beasts to us- was clearly carefully planned and each of us is known to the Father.

So here is just a taste of what you can find it you start looking into the fauna that inhabited this world.... I have included images, but of course all of these images are educated guesses on what the creature actually looked like. I have also added clarification on how each animal got its name- an (*) means that they were named to honor those who found them and not using the typical Greek or Latin.

1. Koolasuchus (*)– This was a amphibian that lived on the part of Gondwana now known as Australia. It was carnivorous and fed on turtles, crayfish, and other prey. This particular animal is notable for two reasons: it was one of the largest of its class with a huge head compared to its weak body and limbs and it also managed to survive longer than most of its close relations who lived farther north. This animal could be 16 feet long but was only about one foot high. It could reach up to 1000 lbs so it must have been a very formidable predator in the water. It would have been not quite been as formidable on land as he would have been weaker and slower than most of the land inhabitants.

2. Cryolophosaurus (cold crest lizard) - This is the first carnivorous dinosaur to ever be discovered on the continent of modern day Antarctica. It is estimated to have been approx. 21 feet long and 1000 lbs. This dinosaur was very difficult to classify because it has some traits that are classified as primitive by paleontologists and it have some which are considered advanced. At one time it was considered the earliest known member of the Tetanuran group, but time and more study have suggested that this animal is more closely related to Dilophosaurus.

3. Muttaburrasaurus ( Muttaburra lizard ) - This dinosaur lived on the continent we now call Australia. It is related to Iguanodon and averaged around fifteen feet in height, twenty three feet in length, and 1-4 tons. It appears to have had the capability of moving on either all four legs or just the back two. Its food supply appears to have been mostly tough vegetation and it has a spiked thumb, which might have come in handy for threatening others or for something as silly as possibly picking debris from its teeth. At this stage, we don't know...

4. Mapusaurus (earth lizard) - These animals have remains that have been found in the land that is now known as Argentina and is related to the Giganotosaurus. This is a huge dinosaur by any standard with some specimens measuring over 40 feet in length and 3000 lbs. These were large meat hunters and debate is currently raging about whether these dinosaurs hunted in groups like wolves or alone or simply in a blundering mob. Because of large fossil finds of this dinosaur, some paleontologists are suggesting that only by having a social group of these animals could they have hunted huge prey such as Argentinosaurus- past theory has held that large meat eating dinosaurs lived and hunted alone.

5. Argentinosaurus (silver lizard) - This is a dinosaur that still remains much of a mystery as few fossils/bones have been found. Its continental place of residence is now known as South America. Estimates on body size are approx 100-125 feet long and 110 tons and have been made on these pieces as no complete dinosaur has been found. It is guessed to be the heaviest sauropod known to man currently. Its existence was only discovered in the 1990's.

6. Megaraptor (giant thief) – This dinosaur is mostly known for its huge one foot long claw that could be found on its hands. It has the most distinctive hand of any other animal in its scientific group and was fairly advanced for a animal living at its time. It could grow to approx 26 feet long, 13 feet tall, and was one of the smartest dinosaurs you could find. This probably made him a very, very dangerous predator. Fossils for it can be found on the continent of South America.

7. Dicynodon (double-dog tooth) – This guy is really cool because he only has two teeth. His canines are still there (and quite large I might add), but the rest of his teeth had developed into a rather thick bill/beak/mouth. So it looks like he had a horned mouth with two small tusks. It is guessed that he used his beak to eat vegetation rather like a turtle while using the tusks to possibly dig up roots from the ground. It averaged around 3 ½ feet in length and remains have been found in modern day South Africa, Russia, China, and Tanzania.

8. Rebbachisaurus (Rebbach lizard) - This dinosaur is a massive plant eater that is from the sauropod family- long neck, small head and a long tail. It is distinctive from its relations by an unusually tall,'ruffled' or ridged back. It seems to have lived in Northern Africa due to fossil concentrations there. They averaged 66 feet in length and were around 30 feet tall. Due to there size and from the fossil record, it is believed that they walked on all fours.

There are so many that are documented - the world was truly full of life at that time. But we as a race know so little about these creatures that came before us... and when it comes to the 'southern' dinosaurs and other fauna we know even less. Some of that is the fault of proximity. Living on the pieces of Laurasia, many paleontologists here naturally focus on the 'northern' animals. Our newspapers will put more focus on news that concerns the finds of fossils that are geologically closer. And our books do tend to focus on 'northern' dinosaurs so as kids grow up, we continue the cycle. If the dinosaurs they knew and played with while growing up were all 'northern' breeds, those will be the breeds that they know and are most exited and interested in introducing to their children. Some fault can also be placed on the idea that many southern dinosaurs are relatively new discoveries- last few decades- while there have been very new northern dinosaur discoveries recently.

I really enjoyed looking at these dinosaurs. I found some fun books that I really enjoyed looking at that I ordered from looking on-line (no one of seven local libraries had anything except for a passing glance on Gondwana and all the dinosaur books I could find didn't have even one 'southern' animal. If I hadn't stumbled across the poster that sent me on my search to discover Gondwana, I probably would have thought that I had a pretty good basic knowledge of prehistoric dinosaurs and animals. I now know that would be incorrect opinion.). I also managed to watch a few excellent BBC video documentaries (Walking with Monsters and Walking with Dinosaurs) on prehistory animals and they were 'spot on' - I really loved them and found myself enthralled watching the creatures living out a story line that was written today, but could easily have been the story of so many of the animals living then.

So this was a fun journey. A journey that I think I might continue in my spare time. I have found a new enthusiasm for prehistoric animals and their world than I have felt in a while. My enthusiasm combined with Bug's curiosity open the promise of a lot of fun with dinosaurs and prehistoric beasts for a while to come.


Learning about Gondwana...

I went and got my quarterly blood draw last week.  I actually have a good time getting that done most of the time because I tend to go alone and so it is like a little break from all my pressing responsibilities.  I can talk, eat a piece of candy, and even read a book if I wish.  You always have to check in first with Lois who is always so awesome and has the coolest office.  While she was helping me get all checked in this last week, I noticed a new large poster in her office.  It had the word 'Gondwana' in huge letters on the top and then lots of pictures of dinosaurs.  I hadn't any idea what the word meant... I knew it wasn't the name of a dinosaur that I had ever heard of (and Bug is getting pretty expert at those particular animals) and I thought that the name for the large land mass before the continents divided was Pangaea. So I decided to find out.

It turns out that Gondwana is the name of a large land mass... Just not the whole huge one piece land mass that is named Pangaea.  The mass that is now called Gondwana (and originally called Gondwanaland) was formed when the super-continent Pangaea fractured into two large and roughly equal pieces.  Gondwana is the southern piece that had the lands that are named Arabia, the india subcontinent, Antarctica, Australia, South America, Madagascar and New Zealand.  Most of these land masses have stayed in the southern hemisphere over the centuries, but Arabia and the Indian subcontinent have moved to the northern hemisphere. This is a very simplified version of a tale that took millions of years.    This continent began to form after Pangaea fractured during the Jurrasic era and it also began to fracture itself later in the same era.

Gondwana in its time was the continent to be on. It was teeming with prehistoric life and throughout its history, the animals and plants that inhabited it that were often very different from the animals and plants on the other land masses. There were a diversity of fish- forms of lungfish, ray-finned fishes and plants, but the diversity of dinosaurs is pretty astonishing. This land mass had some of the pretty well known dinosaurs (Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus), but it also was home to many unique species that developed during and after the fracturing of Gondwana. Among those species that could only be found on this super-continent are Abelisaurus, Megaraptor, Giganotosaurus. Titanosaurs, Argentinosaurus, Mapusaurus, Muttaburrasaurus and Cryolophosaurus. And they are joined by the only dinosaur that has had remains found on the continent Antarctica which is Cryolophosaurus. (see pic)

While I was looking through pages of pages of documentation, I realized that most of the dinosaurs that I have heard of and are in the books most commonly found at the local library are 'Northern' Dinosaurs. While the dinosaurs and fauna from the northern land mass called Laurasia are very well known even to people who are not really interested in dinosaurs, most of the 'southern' species are unknown to a great portion of the world. However, this is changing. Places like Australia are becoming proud of their unique heritage and attempting to buy a toy T-Rex there can be quite a trial these days.

So I set out to find out about the inhabitants and the plants of Gondwana- it sounded like great fun and it was! What is so cool is that there is so much information about the world out there- more than any human could ever know- and it is all so fascinating and evidence in my mind of a divine plan and a brilliant, creative Father. What an amazing miracle life is- just brilliant, beautiful, peculiar and amazing!


Moving in the World with Death...

I had a difficult day yesterday so I went for a walk on the beach when I had an opportunity. Edgar Allen Crow died a few hours after his most recent appointment with Birds Acre and I found out that Terry, Bug's first in home helper just died of cirrhosis of the liver. The last 8-10 months have really had a lot of death filling them. Even though the fox has been unable to steal a chicken, they are old and slowly dying. My friend Sarah Drew passed away on Easter and my grandmother Jocelyn Carlile passed away last Halloween. We have had a goose die, a few pet rodents, and now a raven that we felt so confident of his recovery.

So I went for a walk on the beach to try and allow my mind to focus on the good and allow myself to grieve for the difficulties and emotions that I had filling my brain. One thing seemed very clear while I was slowly walking along the water line – death was there too. Everywhere I looked, I seemed to see a deceased baby crab.

It was so painful to see such a small creature- so tiny and beautiful – lying still with the sun bleaching its shell.

The shells were empty- even the ones that were not broken- which most of them were not broken. It looked as if a hand had just put the crab down and they peacefully died.

Some were in different levels of bleaching- from the very soft fragile and white newly deceased crabs to the hard, crackly and even more fragile orange shells.

While I found myself crying thinking about everything. I found myself feeling so joyful. Death is so temporary. It seems so fearful because we as human beings do not understand it. But looking at these small creatures, I mourned them and my other griefs while feeling the security and certainty knowing that Heavenly Father knows all. Not one of these crabs died without his knowledge. Every one of my griefs and sorrows is known.

Sometimes, life is more certain and beautiful than we realize. Even in death, there is beauty and peace.


Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?.......

So many things in life are unexpected. As much as we plan ahead for what we want in our lives, we can never truly plan for everything unexpected that can happen. This last month brought a blessing and an irritant that I think had really important life lessons for me attached. It brought Edgar.

I am not really sure when Edgar truly 'arrived'. And I think it was a while before we as a family realized that it was the same bird that was hanging out in the yard... and that it was truly hanging out and not just a casual visitor. He was beautiful and sleek and just handsome bird- raven I think. Cocky and self assured, he would visit the chicken's bowl, drink from the duck 'pond' and hang out with the donkey. Two weeks later, Bug managed to trick him and was actually able to pick him up. Edgar promptly bit Bug's ear with his two inch long bill. To give Bug credit, he didn't let go of the bird- he just yelled until I made the raven let go. Watching the raven for a few days, I really felt that there was nothing really 'wrong' with him, but his acceptance of human proximity as well as two other problems did finally convince me that he does have a problem. So the last 'problem'- when he ended up in a fight with a few chickens and was clearly losing and not really able to fight- to me was the last straw. I entered the fight and scooped him up and with my family's help locked him up with food in our goose house. I then stripped off all my clothing and took the coldest shower that I have had in a long time in my front yard as he was covered with mites and so I, in turn, was also.

That evening I started research – the fact that he was covered in vermin absolutely terrified me. I have come to see that as a sign of a pretty, pretty sick being. All I could find was information on rabies and West Nile Virus- both of which he clearly didn't fit the signs or symptoms of. I had called a few days before to a bird sanctuary called 'Birds Acre' and had not received a call back so today I was a little more insistent and spoke with one of their volunteers (Ralph). He was awesome and seemed very knowledgeable. After speaking with him, he thought that it might be better for me to call a place called 'Avian Haven' so I did. The experience was so different. I spoke with the manager Diane who neatly ignored my questions and very quickly made arrangements to have Edgar leave and go to their facility. What I found interesting was that I truly sensed that she really wanted what she felt was right for the bird, but her communication and immediate dismissal of my concerns really left me feeling very uncomfortable sending him there. I spent more time talking with Ralph at Birds Acre and we agreed to work together with a veterinarian and their staff to help Edgar. When I told Diane about my decision to place Edgar at Birds Acre, her response was pretty bad. Our whole conversation was filled with guilt ridden controlling sentences- “You've chosen to send him where? Why ever would you make such a bad decision?”, or “Well, if you are OK with him slowly starving to death you can do that”. By the time I got off the phone with her I was pretty firmly convinced that I had made the right choice. Avian Haven sounds like a phenomenal place, but if the individuals that work there can't develop people skills, I think very few people who are genuinely concerned about a bird will send for them. I know that I can't imagine trying to work with them again and certainly can't in good conscience recommend them. (I later found out that many people have had the same exact complaint about Avian Haven which I find really, really sad.... how do they get donations to help the birds if they put so many people off?)

So “Edgar Allen Crow”- as my husband has named him from a past literary reference -(will be changed to Lenore is Edgar is a girl) has a big day ahead of him tomorrow between a vet visit and a trip to Birds Acre. The blessings we have received are several fold. We have had the amazing opportunity to look at a raven and study it closely over the last few weeks. We were able to use him for homeschooling lessons for Brock and ourselves (what does he eat, does he need this?, etc...) I have felt some gratification that I am pleasing Heavenly Father because I am taking the time to care for his creature who needs help. And I have never really been in the position of having to make a decision that means (quite literally life or death) to another person or animal. Yes, I am a parent and make very important decisions everyday that will affect my son's living. But the responsibility to research and make the right choice for this beautiful animal that needed my help was something I haven't had often. I have rarely had to have an animal put down – they have died in their sleep or something else has happened. The choice as to whether they lived or died in most instances was taken out of my hands. The weight of this responsibility gave me the courage to advocate on Edgar's behalf to a very intimidating person- that is, sticking to my decision in the face of ridicule, guilt induction, and threats is not my strong suit or something that I am good at. I managed to do it though which is a big deal for me. I also managed to not get angry- which is really amazing for me right now.

So I am going to sleep tonight feeling the satisfaction that I have done the right thing for my new friend Edgar. I am hoping that between the vet and the bird rehabilitation place, he will be able to be released into the wild again soon- his family' tends to hang out daily in the trees... they haven't abandoned him even though he is hurt or sick. (Keep your fingers crossed that the vet will not cost too, too much.) We are helping him in the least invasive way we could find in the hopes that he could keep his life, his dignity, and his home and family. I think we have done the impossible in the sense that while the title of this post is unsolvable and has been since Lewis Carroll wrote it, I have taken the improbable task of helping Edgar and I have managed to get it started myself. I did it thoughtfully and did not allow myself to be bullied or pushed into a decision that felt wrong. Stay tuned- I am hoping that he will be able to fly away in the next few weeks.... so lets see what happens...


History of a Song: August - “As We Take the Sacrament”

This hymn is a common one that is sung during LDS sacrament services and is one of the few hymns that Mormons use that is truly ' a homegrown' product- both the lyrics and the music are written by practicing Mormons. This particular hymn is #169 in the 1985 English LDS Church Hymnal.

The lyrics to this song were written by Lee Tom Perry, who was born in 1951. He is the son of an high ranking LDS religious leader (L Tom Perry). When he was in his late teens, he served a two year LDS mission in Japan and later was an associate dean of the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. He has worked in a variety of callings in the Mormon church including mission president in California and as a stake president. He is also considered an LDS academic who has written or co-authored a few books including “Righteous Influence: What Every Leader Should Know about Drawing on the Powers of Heaven”, “Real -Time Strategy:Improvising Team-Based Planning for a Fast -Changing World”, and “Offensive Strategy:Forging a New Competitiveness in the Fires of Head-To- Head Competition.” Some of his speeches while working at BYU were quite popular and can be found in a readable format online.

Daniel Lyman Carter wrote the music for this hymn and he was born in 1955. He is primarily a LDS composer/songwriter and has a few songs to his credit including the discussed one and “A Young Man Prepared”. He has received commissions from church leader to compose music for special celebrations such as the Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1997. he had contributed several compositions to Mormon church magazines and his works have been performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and other groups throughout the Mormon church. He has also contributed articles on music to church magazines and he also taught and spoke several times at regional LDS Church music workshops. He also started a Choral group that performed for around a decade throughout regional Mormon areas and which put out a CD titles “Come Unto Him – Music by Dan Carter”. He has over 350 pieces of music in print and he continues to write and compose as well as publish.

This song is rarely heard except for the sacrament portion of the LDS church meeting, but it is one of my favorites. I am sort of biased though because the whole sacrament portion of the meeting is the best time for me at church. A few minutes of quiet to just think and remember the savior when I am sitting up and sort of awake- that can't be beaten. So what do you think of this song... many people I know at church do not like it which is a shame (well, I think so : ) Does this song give you any particular emotions one way or another? What are your thoughts...?