Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Ant Miracle - The Family From Yosemite 2015

Christmas 2015
The Family From Yosemite
The Ant Miracle
by Martha Reynders Blair

The weather was warming up and unfortunately Tom and Janna had the Chickenpox. I was regretting not having had them vaccinated. The vaccine hadn't been out for very long when they were little and because of that my very cautious doctor did not recommend them getting vaccinated.  He was worried and wanted to see if there were any reports of reactions over the coming years. I agreed, but now I wasn’t so sure. They were both miserable with what seemed to be exceptionally bad cases or at least worse than anything I had previously endured with my older children.

I tell this only because it just added to my discouragement that day - the day of the ants.  Don’t get me wrong, I've dealt with ants many a day.  It seemed they would show up every year when spring would come.  Busy and industrious they would enter my home in search of water and food.  They were the little black ants - sugar ants they called them.

I had learned to control them. I was too worried about money to consider pest control. Funny though, when we moved to our new home Hughie insisted on pest control because the ants started filing in about a year later, just like they always did.  But we could afford it then so I didn't argue and I've been very happy and content to keep them at bay.  A spray around the house every couple of months seems to do the trick, but I digress; back when I was “in-control” I used “Terro” - a product a friend turned me on to that saved my life from sweet eating ants.  Granted, I had to live with the ants marching in for a period of time, but eventually they stopped.  Once I found a trail, I would place the poison in a discrete location while the toxin worked its magic.  That was the routine - set it out and wait.

I had been waiting approximately three weeks for the parade to stop and it did one day - abruptly. With no black ants in sight I thought,“One less thing for me to worry about.” I was so happy and pleased about the situation because I was in the midst of Chickenpox quarantine. But that very night I was up late after everyone else had gone to bed.  As I cleaned the kitchen, all of a sudden I saw an ant on the wall, coming up from behind the stove.  I soon had a great appreciation for little black ants. Their docile trail that filed quietly straight to my poison unaware were nothing compared to the aggressive red ant I now stared at. It was searching and my “Terro” wasn't anything it was interested in.  I figured it must have come from the same access point the black ants had obviously cleared, wherever that was; and at that late hour there was no pulling out the stove to look. More red ants came right behind their leader, searching, filing, and searching.  I tried to wipe them up and they didn't let me do it easily.  They were fighting mad, mean, and malicious, “You get out of my way! I’m here to stay!” was ringing in my ears in spite of their silent menace.

What was I going to do?  It was late at night.  There was no point going out in the darkness looking for bug spray.  I was tired.  I had sick children.  I didn't have a remedy. Standing there in frustration and torment the Spirit whispered, “You can pray about it?” I paused, I thought; a light went on in my mind and yet I was doubtful at the solution that had presented.  I was so upset about my circumstances because I knew ants would be all over my kitchen and maybe the entire house by morning if I just let it go.  But I really didn't have any other options.

After a final swipe and still seeing more red ants perilously marching in from Mojave, I went to my bedroom.  I knelt down and pleaded to my Heavenly Father.  I told him about my situation; how my husband was asleep and would be leaving for work early the next morning; how I wasn't in a position to leave the house because of my children being in the middle of full-blown Chickenpox.  I needed help now not later.  Sure I could desperately get pest control the next day, but not before an ultimate takeover of red ants had ensued.  “Please Heavenly Father, take these ants away. Please, please, please, please, please!  You’re my only hope and I need help.”

I admit I wasn't too believing as I finally crawled into bed.  In fact, I fully expected to wake up to disaster, but one thing I did know - the Spirit had prompted me to pray.  I could not deny that and I did believe that if the Spirit told me to pray I should do it and I did and I hoped my nightmare would be gone or at least the army of ants somehow held at bay until I could get some help.

Why did I doubt?  God parted the Red Sea when the children of Israel needed it in their escape from Egypt. Mary Fielding Smith’s ox was healed when she needed its help to cross the rugged plains west to the promised Zion. The scriptures and others have testified of miracles - so yes, I believed it was possible that God could help me, but I really only hoped that God would answer my plea. I just wasn't certain.  I guess it was easier to read about the experience of others than to think that it could really happen to me here and now.

You cannot imagine my reaction as I got up the next morning and slowly approached my kitchen.  I tiptoed.  I peeked.  Looking not only once, but twice, and three times in amazement.  “Ask and ye shall receive,” is what exactly went through my mind. There was no sign of any ants in spite of how aggressive they had been the night before and in spite of my doubt.  I was so grateful they were gone. Needless to say, it was a tender mercy of a miracle, my life was so much easier as I endured our family Chickenpox epidemic and happily it was my last.  After ten years of trials my pediatrician was finally on-board for the vaccination so Sam never got the Chickenpox.

One other side note, I claimed those ants were marching in from Mojave, but a better guess would have been the dirt lot right across the street.  I found out they were even closer than that.  One day while talking to my neighbor he asked me if I ever got any red ants? As he complained, he explained it was a constant issue for him and his wife.  I could clearly see he was very burdened by an incessant plague.  But happily I said, “Only one time and I haven’t had a problem since.”  And I never have.

"Many miracles happen every day in the work of our Church and in the lives of our members. Many of you have witnessed miracles, perhaps more than you realize.
A miracle has been defined as “a beneficial event brought about through divine power that mortals do not understand and of themselves cannot duplicate.'"

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Time to Evaluate

Wishing this was true!

calories dont count_blog button

I wrote last February that I've been trying to lose weight.  Nothing new there, I'm always trying to lose weight  Happily it's working this time. I lost about 11 lbs. earlier this year and then in late July I joined Weight Watchers with the urging of my friend Lisa.  We went together.  I have lost another 30 lbs. and counting.  I still have a long way to go.  My feet are feeling a little better.  I definitely feel stronger.  Wish it could come off faster, but I'll take it.

Looking forward to 2016.  It's still a goal to lose more weight in the new year.  It has been a great struggle and obvious it's going to be life long. The struggle won't stop when it's off or if for some reason it does stop - I'll let you know. We'll see what the new year brings and starting Tuesday, Weight Watchers is unveiling a new program.  Hoping for continued help.  I've met some great people.  More evaluation and resolutions to come. 'Tis the season!

Thursday, October 22, 2015


If you haven't heard already, Janna is getting married.  She got engaged the very day she left home in August and now her wedding day is looming before us.  She's not here to plan, but we try. SUU, where Janna and her fiance, Eric, are attending school, had a fall break.  Happily they were home last weekend.  We had a bridal shower and were also able to  get some things squared away for the wedding.

I don't know what your definition of  MOMZILLA is, but I look at it as me simply stressing out which I can easily do.  I'm notorious for over thinking things instead of making a simple choice.  I easily get overwhelmed with options.  Anyway, we went to The Farmer's Wife and saw Joy who helped us put some flowers together for the wedding.  I started asking questions and I think my girls were getting concerned as they gave me a glare when I began to ask yet another question after what they thought was turning into an interrogation.  I caught my folly and quickly tried to smooth things over by explaining that I was just trying to understand it all and in my attempt may have turned into MOMZILLA.  I apologized.  I admit my stress level was somewhat mounting, but Joy in her joyful way reassured me that she understood where I was coming from. She said, "I've met MOMZILLA, and you're not her."

Yeah, thanks Joy for understanding and thank you for relieving the pressure about the flowers. She knew what she was doing and made it easy for us in spite of how I behaved. Thanks too for Sharon and Eric's mom, Linda, who are putting together the family dinner.  I have so many other people helping us in so many ways.  Now, if I can just not get stressed out keeping track of all my help MOMZILLA just might not rear her ugly head between now and December 19th.


Thursday, October 15, 2015


I have been working more and more on family history.  At there is a section for each person titled "memories". I've been adding a few memories as they come to me for my ancestors. This whole process made me think of our Family From Yosemite stories. They are usually based on a memory and we write about them making them into "bigger" stories. I keep thinking we're missing out on stories that are small or are one liners that can say so much about our family and bring us closer together. We've attempted drawing cartoons and I'm sure that will continue.  I will share a snippet of a story here  that as a grandma I found quite endearing.  I hope we can write more of these "smaller" memories to add to our storybook with the idea "that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass." (Alma 37:6) The great thing being the bigger picture of who we  are.  We are living daily together and striving to do better with eternity in mind - FAMILIES ARE FOREVER.

This one is in honor of the upcoming holiday - Halloween.


One morning Cassie and Dexter stopped by on their way to school.  It was fall, things were starting to get a little cooler, and Dexter obviously had Halloween on his mind a good month in advance.

"Grandma! Grandma!" he shouted as he came running up to me breathlessly. "I know what Forest was for Halloween last year!"

"Really! What?" I said wide-eyed not really knowing what he was going to say.

"A mustache!" was his reply and I immediately knew what picture he must have seen to have prompted him to say such a thing.

I quickly responded with, "I think you're right!"

If I were a 5 year old, I would have thought Forest was a mustache for Halloween too.

Looking forward to the big day!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

On The Program

Last Christmas we had the Jingle Bell Challenge. It's a way for our family to promote health and fitness. Billy made T-shirts, we had prizes, lots of activity and cheerleading. It was fun! Hopefully we'll be more fit for it. We looked at this as the first annual event.

Having the Jingle Bell Challenge gave Rick some fodder in creating his submission to The Family From Yosemite stories (another annual holiday tradition). It's a self-deprecating saga of what so many of us go through concerning food. Our T-shirts said, "On The Program" this year and Rick's title is the same. I myself am on the program and am hopefully making 2015 my year to lose the weight. The challenge and the story have helped encourage me along with lots of prayer and support from the family. It's Valentine's Day and I've been on the program for a month. I've lost 10 lbs. It's a start. I'm sharing Rick's story today because I and the rest of my family continue to be On The Program

Fruit heart clipart

On The Program
by Richard H. Blair
December 29, 2014 - The Family From Yosemite

Any organization, culture, or family in the process of time develops a shared vocabulary.  In the context of these groups some words take on special and unique meanings that are not immediately obvious to outsiders.  This process is certainly active in the Blair home.

Last year for his Family From Yosemite submission my Dad chronicled many of the so-called “Blairisms” that our family has created through the years.  Today I’d like to focus on one of them... “The Program".

To define it most simply, The Program is healthful living through proper diet and regular exercise.  However, you’d rarely, if ever, hear someone from the family say “I’m on a diet”…that’s because we never just diet...we go on the program.

Growing up, I didn't realize that no one knew what this was. Telling someone you weren't going to have any desert because you were on The Program would usually trigger a puzzled stare along with the question, "What's The Program?"

I mentioned before that The Program is more than just dieting, it's also more the just exercise, or even both together. Diet and exercise are for wimps, the program is something more, something harder, not to be attempted by the faint of heart.

In reality it's just diet and exercise, but this elitist attitude for me is the essence of the program.

Anyone can diet and exercise, but not everyone can do The Program, and since I am on the Program, I’m not just anybody.  Arrogant?  Maybe, but a little self-confidence to provide a mental edge is huge.

What makes the program harder is the same thing that makes it difficult to sustain.  This elitism I spoke of propels it to extreme and aggressive levels. Kick moderation out the door, and and welcome austerity with a big hug, The Program is an all-or-nothing do-or-die proposition.

It may sound hard to believe, but on more than one occasion in my life I've said aloud "I'll never eat a piece of candy again."  I've meant it every time too. You should hear me, "I'm gonna do it this time, never again, I'm back on the program!

ike the Nephite pride cycle, you can always bet with 100 percent certainty that things are going to turn out badly in the end.   Failure is inevitable, and then the bold promises start anew.  For every commitment to live clean, there's a Del Taco chicken soft taco waiting around the corner.

A favorite comedian of mine, Jim Gaffigan, summed up the Blair Program nicely when he spoke about his own personal fitness aspirations:

"Occasionally, I do workout, and I'm one of those people whenever I do workout, I immediately have grand plans...'I'm gonna work out every day.'

Then the next day I'm like, 'Well, not EVERY day. I gotta let my muscles breathe a little. I'll work out every OTHER day.'... then the next day I'm like, 'Eh, I'm happy with the way I look.'"

Its the grand plans that cause us to falter.  My list of failed commitments is pretty long.
No fast food ever again, going vegetarian, going vegan, gonna exercise everyday, for real no caffeine. Only plant-based whole-foods. Gluten free, dairy free, no more junk food, and this time I mean it.  "I'm back on The Program."...well for a little while at least.

I'm not the only one.  Just this week, upon arrival at Mom and Dad's I found a pledge posted by Sam on the refrigerator:

No Sugar
Absolutely no fast food
Workout 5 times a week
Eat more fruit

I reminded Sam of this while he was reaching for his second handful of chocolate almonds, and all I got back was an eye roll.  Next time maybe Sam should try writing his goals on his heart instead of the fridge.

The hard truth is that I have no room to criticize. I've fallen off the wagon more than once over the years and my wife Wendy has had a front row view of all my weirdness.

Most recently in anticipation of the inaugural Jingle Bell Challenge I went through a whole series of back on the program delusions...I'm not gonna eat a single piece of Candy this Halloween-failed. Ok then, I'm not gonna overdo it on Thanksgiving, it's all about portion control, just one plate and I'm done-failed. Well, dang, then now I'm not gonna have a single treat on Thanksgiving-I ate half a pie.

Wendy's seen firsthand my manic swings between eating like a Buddhist Monk to cramming so much cake in my face that I feel like turning in my temple recommend.  If only I had her iron will, or maybe if I wasn't such a nut. At any rate, Wendy has always had much more moderate sensibilities when it comes to food.

As a case in point, let's look at my behavior this past Halloween. Several weeks out I told Wendy of my aspirations to go treat free. I think already doubting my resolve, I explained my solution was to remove any source of temptation and not have Wendy buy any candy at all. Negotiations started out badly with Wendy affirming that she wasn't  calling off Halloween for my sake. Her solution was "just don't eat all of it". I countered with "OK, go ahead and buy it, but keep it hidden and don't tell me under any conditions where you've put it." A few days later without Wendy's knowledge I was rummaging through the back of every cupboard in the house looking for the hidden cache so I could get my fix.

I did eventually find it and now angry at myself I blame Wendy...this is your fault, I wouldn't eat this junk if you wouldn't buy it, you did this to me.  I'm sorry, I know I'm wrong, tomorrow I'll start over.

Then the day starts fresh, things will be different today, but it's Halloween, maybe just one, the kids have so much, and I love Almond Joys. Just one more, ok last one, this is it, just these last three; I can't believe I ate all that, I wasn't going to have any, and now I've lost track, I'm ashamed, but tomorrow I can start fresh.

It's a new day, the mania hits me again: "Wendy, we need to throw away all of the Halloween Candy...or maybe you can hide it all from me."  Again, the obvious reply, "Maybe you just need to control yourself."

Well, instead maybe I’ll enjoy what I've got here, and once it's all gone, then I can start fresh tomorrow, tomorrow I'll be back on the program.

And the cycle continues, good for a time...until something...the weekend, a family visit, the drive through because I'm in a hurry, it's the holidays, tonight I just don't care, wow, those Costco muffins look good, if it's not one thing it's another, and there's always tomorrow. . . tomorrow I'm back on the program.

Do not ignore the Word of Wisdom,
for that may cost you
the “great treasures of knowledge,
even hidden treasures”
promised to those who keep it. 
And good health is an added blessing.

– Elder Boyd K. Packer, 
Ensign, November 1994, p. 61

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Hugh and I were married in the Los Angeles Temple 39 years ago today.  It's even a Thursday this year and we were married on a Thursday evening and then had a reception the next day.  No photos at the temple - it was dark outside.

We celebrated this year having dinner a few days early with the kids.  It was a nice evening together. Most years we have celebrated by simply going to the temple.

Next year is the big 40.  I would love it if our entire family could get together sometime that year and actually get a photo all together, but Tom may well be deployed and I suppose a million other things could get in the way.  One thing I've learned over the years is learn to go with the flow.  Sometimes you just can't make things happen. (You can tell I'm setting myself up for failure on this one.) A shout out to everyone - let's get photos done wherever we're at and just put them all together for the record for The Family From Yosemite book.  Let's make it happen by Christmas 2016, I hope, I hope, I hope!

"True love
has no happy endings
because true love
never ends."

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Life of Susan

God saw her getting tired,
a cure not meant to be.
So He put His arms around her
and whispered . . .
"Come with me."

Susan Buell Corliss - Summer 2012
November 27, 1952 to January 28, 2015

Today was the funeral service for my cousin Susan.  She will be missed by many family and friends.  Susan was not quite eight months my senior.  She was in an accident approximately eight years ago which left her bedridden.  She always hoped she would walk again, but her physical abilities in the long run were more on the decline than improvement.  

We learn from our struggles and this accident affected not only Susan, but all those around here. It was a trying time for many.  But through these struggles she was able to see her three daughters married and one grandson come into the world. She also bought a home and made choices in decorating it.  So in spite of the struggles over the years there were happy and exciting times too.

I love Susan.  We didn't see a lot of each other, but those times we did provided us with lasting happy memories we share together.  As young girls, we played.  As teenagers, we danced and tried desperately to get a tan.  As women, we had the common bond in being wives and mothers.  Our visits were short, but we always picked up where we left off.

Susan was an artist, a designer.  She always had a great eye putting clothes together and decorating her home.  She was always hospitable and kind and very generous.  I find her three daughter to be the same.  She taught them well.  They are all beautiful loving women.

Susan will be missed, but the consolation is that she's in a better place, free from the pain and suffering of this world.  She had said before she passed that she was ready to be with her Savior and other family who had passed before her. I'm happy she felt ready to move on.

One little story to share about Susan:  I went to visit her in Redlands many years ago.  My oldest, Ricky, was very young then. We went shopping together and Susan picked out an outfit for Ricky to wear to church.  It was dark dress pants with a pinstriped jacket, white shirt, and a tie.  I think Superman must have been the rage at the time.  I remember Ricky looking in the mirror at himself in the department store.  He was so pleased with his appearance and he was beaming from ear to ear as he smiled at himself, and then he said to me, "Mommy, look!  I look like Clark Kent."  We were so grateful for the gift and Susan was so happy to put a big smile on a little boy's face.

Janna went with me to attend the services today.  I was grateful to have her along. (She has her own little story meeting up with Susan in South Carolina when she was only six-months old. We had a wonderful time - more hospitality and kindness from Susan.) After the service, we stopped by Susan's home visiting with family and meeting many others who meant so much to Susan.  It was a celebration of Susan's life - hospitality, love, friendliness, and food.  Her influence will continue.  I have no doubt.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go

Tom, Haley, and Forest are living in Watertown, New York. They are pictured visiting a historical site from the War of 1812. Tom couldn't believe seeing Lake Ontario frozen over and people out ice fishing. You know he's going to have to try that. These Californian's are having new, different, and fun experiences. We're happy they made it to New York, but we're missing them.

Janna's home! With Tom and family having left, our spirits were brightened with Janna's homecoming. She served 18-months in the Florida Orlando Mission. She's home for now and we're happy to have her back.

"I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,
Over mountain or plain or sea;
I'll say what you want me to say, dear Lord;
I'll be what you want me to be."

Mary Brown

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Parenting: Touching the Hearts of Our Youth

(The words used in this video come from Elder Robert D. Hales general conference talk, "Our Duty to God:  The Mission of Parents and Leaders to the Rising Generation," April 2010. 

I remember when I was a mother of young children and my daughter, Rebecca, was talking to me. I was doing something else as she chatted and I nodded my head at all the right places through the conversation. At least I think they were the right places.  I thought I was listening to her, but she too (as in the video) grabbed my head and gently turned my face toward her and said, "Mommy, you need to look at me when I talk to you."

In contrast, when Becky was even younger, I had a moment with just the two of us.  Reading was an evening ritual with the whole family on our king size bed, but for some reason Becky and I were alone, just the two of us.  We sat there together on the bed.  It was a long time with me just reading book after book, after book and in one sweet moment she crawled up even closer to me and she quietly whispered, "I love you Mommy." I think I said, "I love you too."  But what I do remember is being so overcome by the Spirit.  I felt her words so strongly when she said - I love you.  In that moment, I knew that simply reading to her and being with her, meant something to her. It meant something to me. It takes time to have such moments - moments that really last forever. Becky and me, together, reading together all snuggled on the bed. I just kept reading.

"Family time is sacred time
and should be
protected and respected.
We urge our members to show
devotion to their families.”

President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them,” Ensign, May 2012, 9.