What is success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch

or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived;
That is to have succeeded.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson~


Pine Valley & Jason

Last month Mr. W. had a conference in St. George.  I decided to go with him for a quick, two-night vacation (at least for me).  We had both heard a lot about Pine Valley and the Pine Valley Chapel.  The chapel is the oldest functioning LDS chapel in the world.  We had a little free time on Thursday evening and so we decided to drive out to Pine Valley.

If you have ever driven through any part of southern Utah, you know it consists of dirt, sagebrush and, in the really lush areas, pinion pine.  It generally is a harsh and rugged landscape.  As we headed north of St. George of SR18, we continued to see a lot of red dirt/rock, sagebrush and pinion pine with some lava rock mixed in here and there.  My thoughts of a lush, pastoral, mountain valley were beginning to wain and I concluded that Pine Valley was nothing more than another stark area of southern Utah.  We came to the turn off for Pine Valley, headed east, passed the 'Pine Valley established in 1850 rock marker', went a few more yards up over a rise in the road and then descended upon a breath-taking scene.  Laid out before us were acres of early spring farms with a skinny Main street running through the heart of the valley.  There were pioneer and modern homes to the left and right of Main Street strung along like charms on a bracelet.  The crowning piece was a beautifully maintained white wooden pioneer-era chapel nestled among pines perched on a green lawn.

I thought about how easily we could have missed this high mountain valley.  I thought about the faith that those early pioneers had shown in braving miles and miles of barren landscape in order to find, homestead and remain on this land.  That, instead of becoming bitter towards their prophet who had asked so much, they honored their God and their faith by constructing a beautiful chapel to worship in.  The journey had been worth it.

As we drove home, I thought of my Jason.  He was the child that God sent to me so that I could learn things I didn't know about Nancy.  Picture me and then picture my opposite.  That is Jason.  I spent the first year of his life trying to get through his colic and the next eighteen years trying to get him to hold still.  All of my efforts to get Jason to tie his shoes were in vain.  It wasn't until his 2nd grade teacher offered him 'funny money' (a classroom incentive) in exchange for tied shoes that he kept them tied.  (His wife is now trying to get him to tie them.)  Jason wears his heart on his sleeve.  If he is happy, you know it.  If he is upset (which is rarely), it shows.  We joke that he is our 'Tom Sawyer'.  He has the innate ability to attract a crowd if work is involved.

There is a famous story in my family about Jason.  He was picking cherries for my dad.  I know he viewed it as a service project but my dad viewed it as employment.  My dad takes farming very seriously, it was the bread and butter for our family for many years.  He got on Jason's case about a handful of cherries that Jason had left at the top of the tree (a very tall cherry tree I might add).  Jason looked up at the cherries and asked my dad how much he thought they were worth.  My dad answered that there was probably 25 cents worth of cherries tucked away on that highest limb.  Jason promptly pulled out a quarter, gave it to my dad and said his life was worth more than a quarter's worth of cherries and that he and my dad were even.

If Jason did not see an immediate benefit/application for any task he was asked to do, he didn't do it.  He was impervious to guilt (a skill highly honed on my side of the family and a huge motivator for me - very unhealthy).  Our Pleasant Grove neighbor commented that he thought Jason's name was two words - Jay Son - because that's how he heard me say/yell it outside in our yard.  Jason attracted a variety of friends but never compromised his standards.  His 5th grade teacher said he could be the next David Letterman (that was before we knew all about Letterman).  Jason does not have a mean bone in his body and can make just about anyone laugh.

Because of our differences (of course in my immaturity, I knew I was RIGHT and he needed fixing), there were times that felt like red rock and sagebrush as I struggled to make Jason more like me.  I am embarrassed to admit that there were many times I didn't enjoy Jason (in all of his Jasonness) more and recognize his incredible gifts sooner.  I like to say that our boys (who were 13 months apart) were creative but not criminal (to my knowledge).  The long and short of it is that I just couldn't understand why Jason didn't want to be more like me.

But here is my Pine Valley.  After what often felt like a loonnnggg trip, a lot of one foot in front of the other, fixing doors, holes in the wall, sprinkler heads, wiping up motor oil throughout the house after a disastrous attempt to change the oil himself (in our driveway, ignoring my sage advice/threats) and many other adventures, I have come over the hill to view a scene I had hoped for but had not always had patience for.  An honorable mission to Japan, a temple marriage and fatherhood.  I now see Jason as a kind and loving husband and father.  His tenderness and love for those sweet twin boys is humbling to watch.  It is something that I have hoped for, worked for, prayed for and watched for but sometimes, in the weariness of the trip, I lost sight of.

Oh, Jason still loves the Simpsons (to my distress) and his shoes are often untied but after a long and 'eventful' trek, I think we have both arrived at our Pine Valley.  Young mothers, hold on.  It's hard, really hard but so worth it.  Try to enjoy the sagebrush years because one of these days when you least expect it, you'll come up over the hill to your Pine Valley.