Friday, December 31, 2010

Santa & The Helicopter

I was reminded this week about the year Danny took a part-time job for extra Christmas cash with a temp agency. They sent him to Santa school, and he "worked" at the local Lumberjack store. Lumberjack flew him in by helicopter.

Molly was about 14 months old, and we had one car. We all drove to Sacramento Executive Airport together. "Daddy" walked into a conference room at the airport for a "meeting." A few minutes later, "Santa" came out of the conference room unexpectedly, and Molly watched and waved to Santa as he got on the helicopter. Since "Daddy" had to stay for the long meeting, we went home and picked him up later that evening.

Santa had a great time, and would have loved to have done it year after year. However, we weren't at all sure that was a smart thing to do if we wanted to keep the magic alive in our household. By the next year, it would have gotten entirely too complicated. It was very fun while it lasted!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gratitude to Community and Camp Fire

I owe a lot to my community. I also owe a lot to a youth organization, Camp Fire Boys & Girls. My kids grew up to be pretty decent individuals and contributing members of society through their membership in Camp Fire and because of the support of our community.

Our neighborhood is a very interesting place to live. When my kids were small, it was a mixture of retired couples (who treated my children like their own grandchildren), people from various ethnic groups who got a start in our little neighborhood and then moved on to better things, and the gangs. You could not get a more "random" mix of people if they were computer selected at random. As a matter of fact, the high school my kids attended is the most "diverse" high school in the nation (or so I'm told).

It became apparent very quickly that it was either sink or swim with my kids. Either we got them involved in something that taught good principles and kept them out of trouble, or they would be a gang statistic. Thus entered Camp Fire Boys & Girls. Camp Fire takes kids from kindergarten to senior in high school. So my kids literally grew up in Camp Fire.

The kids LOVED Camp Fire camp. Since my husband is not a camper, Camp Fire camp provided a unique experience for my kids that they would not have received any other way. We weren't rich, by any stretch of the imagination, and even though Camp Fire tried to keep their costs down, camp cost times four kids was astronomical. Fortunately, there was the Camp Fire candy sale once a year. If the kids sold enough candy, they earned certain amounts that could be used to help cut the cost of camp. Also, a good portion of the proceeds from the candy sale came right back to the individual clubs. As a leader, if a child wanted to go to camp, I made those funds available to put on their camp bill. This meant that my own kids, as well as the kids in my club, sold HUGE amounts of candy. There were several years in a row that my family sold in excess of 1,000 units as a family. Each of my kids had a personal goal of selling at least 300 units each, and it often exceeded that.

Selling candy was a great experience in itself. My kids all learned to change a $20 bill in kindergarten. They learned how to speak to adults. They learned business skills. They learned how to do a business transaction with a blind person. (Blind people fold each denomination of money a different way so they can tell one from the other.) The kids learned to be aware of their surroundings. We sold a monumental amount of candy in front of Mervyns Department Store. The kids learned to tip off the security guards when they saw shoplifters. They learned to be polite and businesslike. I remember them making jokes during the 1987 floods about selling candy in the rain to get the "sympathy" sale. Many times people would ask the kids what kind of candy THEY liked, and then people would buy the candy and give it back to the kids to eat. We met so many wonderful people selling candy!

To this day, my kids can tell you which neighborhoods bought Camp Fire Mints, and which ones bought Almond Roca and Almond Caramel Clusters. On certain streets, they can point out houses that were a sure sale year after year. They reminisce about how I would wait until they got tired and then say, "One more house, I just know this one is going to be a sale." (Growing up in Reno, I knew that the law of averages dictated that if they hadn't sold any candy for 5 or 6 houses, I had a pretty good chance that the next house would be a sale. If it wasn't, I could usually stall the kids for 2 or 3 more houses before I had mutiny on my hands.)

I'm grateful for Camp Fire, a supportive community, and the Camp Fire law (which goes hand in hand with the LDS Articles of Faith, by the way).

Camp Fire Law

Worship God
Seek Beauty
Give Service
Pursue Knowledge
Be Trustworthy
Hold onto Health
Glorify Work
Be Happy

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snipits of Christmas Memories

I think I was about ten years old when Mom and Dad decided it was time to let me be Santa’s helper for my little sister. They bought Colleen a baby doll–the drink and wet kind. I played with that doll for weeks when Colleen wasn’t around, and I was looking forward to watching her eyes when she saw it for the first time.

Christmas Eve we all gathered around the Christmas tree to open our gifts. Colleen’s doll was sitting right in front of the tree. I looked at the doll, and then I looked at Colleen. I kept waiting for her to pick it up, but she had found something else for her under the tree. Anticipation was killing me. I tried to guide her to the doll, but Dad shook his head. Mom finally told me that I’d better look at the gift tag on the doll. Santa apparently decided that since I’d had so much fun with the doll, it should belong to me. I was thrilled! All thoughts of Colleen with the doll vanished in an instant when I saw that she had something under the tree that delighted her.

The year my older sister, Cheri, went away to Washington to teach school, I couldn’t wait until she came home for Christmas. Up until that time, Cheri had never been much for knitting or crocheting, so what was to come was totally unanticipated. Cheri made a very trendy looking green shawl for me, and I think she’d made one for Colleen, as well. There were also “nose warmers” for us all that were crocheted or knitted and had tassels on the end of them. We had a great time laughing at each other with those things. I saved mine, and years later used it to teach children at church that you can have fun at Christmas without spending a lot of money. One adult teacher, in particular, laughed his head off when I put that nose warmer on!

The year Danny and I were dating, I spent a great deal of time decoupaging little plaques for everyone in the family. I had visited every construction site within walking distance from my apartment to beg for scrap lumber to sand down for the plaques. Fifteen coats of decoupage later, they were finally ready for Christmas. It never occurred to me that they would be too bulky to put in my suitcase on a Greyhound bus to go home for Christmas. Danny, bless his heart, knew that you could ship things by Greyhound (something I didn’t know). It was about 2:00 a.m. one morning when I finally wrapped up the last plaque, and Danny took me to Greyhound to ship them off in advance of my arrival. I had prearranged with Dad to pick them up on the other end.

One year when my kids were small, I went bonkers embroidering dishtowels. I embroidered sets of seven dishtowels for each female in the family. They looked beautiful when they were done, and I was so pleased to be able to give them away.

Danny was the master of freeway finds. Every time a kid needed a new tricycle or bicycle, he’d just keep his eyes open for a freeway find. I took the rust off of quite a number of bikes, painted them, and coerced my next-door neighbor, Harry, into making sure they were in good working order for Christmas.

When the kids were growing up, I used to hide my gifts at Harry and Alma’s house next door, or at Pauline’s house across the street. Then I’d just go to their house to wrap.

When the kids were small, we spent a number of years going to Cheri's home in Dayton, Nevada for Christmas. I don't know why Cheri put up with us all, but she seemed to take everything in stride. Cheri had the perfect house for Christmas. It was an old historic boarding house. She heated it with wood stoves. One room (the red room) was dedicated to a huge pinion pine Christmas tree each year. It just made for an old-fashioned Christmas! We have many memories of Christmas at the boarding house.

As a family, we always did some special "deliveries" each year. We had many fun experiences. I think my favorite memory was the year I accidentally made the delivery to the wrong house! I didn't want to disappoint anyone, so we did "double duty" that year so that BOTH houses received our deliveries.

Christmas Eve we tell the Christmas story, and we have different members of the family fill in parts of the story. We remind the children about the true meaning of Christmas, and why we give gifts. Then, tradition dictates that some of the adults take all the children to "look for Santa." In years past, they couldn't come home until the porch light was turned on, which was the signal that Santa had arrived.

Traditions will be modified to accommodate a growing family. Grown children will also begin their own family traditions. Traditions are fun, and they are good, but they are only as good as the true meaning behind them. I have always loved Christmas because of what it means to me personally. I love celebrating the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I love to ponder on Mary and Joseph, and what they must have been thinking at that special time. Each time I carried a child, I ached for Mary when I thought about her traveling by donkey. I've wondered if Mary and Joseph really understood the colossal proportions of their stamp on the whole human race. While we talk about the awesome privilege of caring for God's only begotten son, we often forget how much adversity and sadness they had to endure. How grateful I am that they were worthy and up to the challenge! How grateful I am that Heavenly Father gave us the most precious gift ever given; His Son.

Note: Pictures from here:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Conversion Story

The Bishop challenged us in Sacrament Meeting today to write our conversion story. My first thought was, "Which one?" I think I've been converted to the gospel in stages. For me, it seems to be an ongoing process.

As a child, prior to the missionaries coming to our home, I spoke with my father on many occasions about God. He answered most of my questions to my satisfaction. There were lingering questions, however, for which he had no answers. One question was, "Where is God?" I was told that God was everywhere, and he had me memorize, "There's not a spot, where God is not." I thought about that statement for several years. It just didn't make any sense to me. When I prayed to God, I talked to Him like a real person. This convoluted description of Him was difficult for me to comprehend. So when the missionaries came and explained that Heavenly Father has a body, it made perfect sense to me, and I was then more amenable to other things that were taught to me. I'll call that the first step of my conversion.

I was not totally convinced about everything when I was baptized. To be painfully honest, I was baptized because I thought it would make my father happy. He had gained a testimony, and he wanted to do this as a family. My older sister and my older brother had already been baptized. Dad wanted Mom and I to be baptized with him. He would never have forced me to do that, but I knew it would make him happy, so I went along with it. As we began to attend church, and I studied more, I gradually accepted other principles of the gospel. It was truly "line upon line, precept upon precept" for me. I'll call that the second step of my conversion.

Seminary was huge for me. My testimony grew by leaps and bounds in seminary. Unfortunately, the stronger my testimony of the gospel became, the more stumbling blocks Satan put in my path. The Young Women's program or "Mutual" was my demise. Some things happened that were totally unacceptable to me. I stopped going to church altogether my senior year of high school, with the exception of seminary. I loved seminary, continued to study, and graduated from seminary. Seminary was the third step of my conversion process.

After seminary, I dropped out of church for 20 years, with the exception of an occasional appearance. Most people would assume that this was a stagnant period for my testimony and my conversion process. Most people would be wrong. I continued to study the scriptures during that 20-year period. In addition to studying gospel principles, I read the Book of Mormon cover to cover six different times in that 20-year period. I'm going on record here by saying that just because someone isn't coming to church, doesn't mean they don't have a testimony, or have "lost" their testimony. That is a huge misconception in the church. I learned many things in that 20-year-period that strengthened my testimony. That was the fourth step in my conversion process.

Shortly after the birth of my last child, some things began to fall into place for me. I had a difficult time getting pregnant that last time, and she is the result of fertility drugs. (Yes, it was a moment of insanity to take fertility drugs when you already have three children, but that's beside the point.) For several months after she was born, I would hold her in my arms and marvel at the blessing that had been given to me. I began to contemplate what I was doing to show Heavenly Father my gratitude for this blessing, as well as all my blessings.

Shortly thereafter, my son wanted to be baptized. The rule in our home was that you had to prove to mom that you really knew what baptism meant and that you had basic gospel principles down prior to being baptized, so this did not always happen at the age of eight. It was different for each child, depending on their knowledge of the gospel and their testimony. My children were all active in Camp Fire Boys and Girls, and I had the kids earn a couple of religious growth awards prior to baptism. I tailored the basic program to fit our needs, and included missionary lessons as part of the requirement. My eight-year-old son wanted to be baptized, so I asked him the standard question, "What can you tell me about the gospel?" I had not planned on listening for 90 minutes while he bore his testimony to me in a very unique and special way. At the end of our discussion, I told him to earn the Camp Fire awards, take the missionary lessons, and he could be baptized. That 90-minute period with my son was a real eye opener for me. I'll even go so far as to say it was "life changing." There were several other things that happened about this time that really stirred my soul. I guess this time period was the fifth stage of my conversion process.

My husband and I were about to celebrate our anniversary. I didn't know what to do for him for our anniversary. Something had been nagging at me for months, but I was afraid to put it into words (even in my own head). I just knew that I was not supposed to buy my husband an anniversary gift, but I couldn't even admit to myself what I was about to do. On our anniversary, in front of our four children, I told my husband that my gift to him was that one year from that day, we would be sealed in the temple. As soon as it was out of my mouth, I almost had a heart attack--or maybe it was finally that "change of heart" I was feeling. The next year my family studied the Book of Mormon cover to cover. We had many challenges as a family, and I had many personal challenges. Satan worked hard on me (and my family), but in the end, he lost, and we won. This very important year was the sixth stage of my conversion process.

In the years since, I've been in a constant state of learning and growing. Callings have made me grow. Ward members have helped me grow. Temple attendance has had a monumental impact on my growth. I've been tempted, but I've remained steady. The greatest temptations came when I was Relief Society President. Satan pulled out everything in his book of tricks--but he lost again. I'm still growing and learning, and I am in the midst of this seventh stage of my conversion process.

I don't know that I can point to any one moment in my life and say, "That was the moment I was converted." For me it truly was line upon line, precept upon precept.

"For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." 2 Nephi 28:30

I know the gospel is true. I know Heavenly Father has a real body. I know His Son, Jesus Christ, is my older brother, my savior, my redeemer, my friend, and my confidant. I guess it really doesn't matter how I know this, or when I learned it. It is what it is, and I know it with all my heart. I say this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dads Are Special

Two of my favorite blogs are written by fathers, who mainly write about their experiences with their children. You can find them here:

and here:

As I read their blogs, I'm oft reminded of experiences with my own Dad.

I was four years old when my parents decided to take the family to San Francisco for a little vacation. I was tiny, so my bed in the hotel room was the bottom dresser drawer which had been pulled out onto the floor. I remember a lot from that trip. Dad convinced a taxi driver to go up and down a few of San Francisco's largest hills to give me a thrill. There was a woman on a street corner selling flowers, and Dad bought a red carnation for me. It was the first time anyone ever bought me a flower, and I felt like a grown up lady. We went to dinner on the wharf, and since Mom and I were not fish eaters, we had Veal Parmesan (which I love to this day).

Dad often danced with his children in the aisles of grocery stores. It was a little game that he played to amuse us--and he always succeeded. He also loved to take his children one at a time to Uncle John's Pancake House for breakfast. He would let us order anything we wanted, and my favorite was pancakes with boysenberry syrup and a chocolate milkshake.

Dad often took me to breakfast at the garbage dump. He would get up early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, pack a sandwich and a banana for me with a thermos full of milk, and while he was unloading the garbage, I would have breakfast in the truck and watch the "garbage dump flies" (seagulls).

Dad loved to work in his yard! He was so patient with me as I tried to "help" him. I'm sure he could have done things much faster if I'd gone in the house and left him alone, but he was ever kind about my attempts at helping.

I turned sweet 16. Dad took me to lunch, and I was introduced to my first Monte Cristo. He bought me a souvenir at the register when we left (which I still have). It is the Christmas story in a miniature book (maybe 2" x 2 "). I felt like a princess.

Dad was a salesman who worked on commission only, and sometimes it was difficult for him to stay motivated. When I was about 17, I bought a stereo from my earnings working at a local furniture store. My younger sister and I would blast 76 Trombones from "The Music Man" first thing in the morning. Dad would march around the living room with us and get his "motivation" for the day to go out and sell life and health insurance. No matter how bad things looked, Dad was always willing to march and laugh with us before he went out the door.

Dad often had appointments in the evening which took him away from the family. He didn't like the time away. He also didn't like to eat alone. If he missed dinner with the family, he would often come in late, grab one of his kids, and we would go with him to a restaurant to eat. I loved that time alone with him. He would listen intently to gibberish I had on my mind. I'm sure there were times when he wanted to shut me up--but he never did.

I have too many memories for this blog post. So to my Dad bloggers, I'd just like to say thanks. Thanks for being Dads. Thanks for being so willing to share your Dad experiences with the rest of us. Thanks for stirring up memories of my own childhood experiences with my Dad, who passed away 25 years ago. I'd like you to know that what you do is really worth it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I've been thinking about a question my Bishop asked me when he told me I was being released as Relief Society President. He asked me what I've learned. There is so much, that I didn't really give him an answer. I've spent the last couple of days mulling over in my mind how I would answer that question now.

Lesson #1: I've learned that no matter how hard a person tries to live gospel principles now, and how completely she/he repents now, that the consequences for past actions still have to be paid. It has been difficult to see people who are struggling so hard to be obedient, yet their lives are so messed up because of actions they took prior to learning the gospel and/or prior to the repentence process. The consequences for past actions must always be paid. The point has been driven home to me so many times, that I'm positive Heavenly Father wants me to pay attention to this. When I make a choice these days, I'm acutely aware that if I mess up, it will come back to bite me in the behind.

Lesson #2: My dad used to say, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." So many times we've nurtured and prayed for people who had such great potential; and so many times we've seen people not live up to that potential and go back to old ways. I've had to remind myself over and over again that they have their agency. Even Heavenly Father can't take away their agency. How our Heavenly Father and Mother must cry for us at times!

Lesson #3: No one really knows what a Bishop or Relief Society President goes through until you have walked in his or her shoes--and unless you've walked in those shoes recently. I've heard from sisters who served 20-30 years ago who were charged with the responsibility of Christmas bazaars and fundraisers who think it must be so easy now. I would have killed for a bazaar or a "dime-a-dip" dinner instead of some of the things we handled. The world is not the same place in 2010 as it was 20-30 years ago. As a result, every Bishop will always have my utmost respect, and every Relief Society President will have my love, compassion, and service.

Lesson #4: Everyone has a story. I don't look at people the same way I used to look at them. Behind every cute, crusty little old lady there is a history. It is never just normal life of marriage and family; there is always something else. Everyone has a story; everyone has trials, adversity, and sadness. In the past when I looked at an elderly woman, or an elderly man, I just saw a long life. Now, I wonder if they buried children, or lost a loved one in a war, or lived through a house fire, or whether they raised a critically ill child. I wonder how much heartache and sadness it took to solidify their marriage and carve the laugh lines in their faces.

Lesson #5: Sometimes we all need kindness. I've never been a demonstrative person. I've never been a hugger. I've never been one to say, "I love you" -- except to a chosen few. I've learned that it's okay to hug and say I love you. I've learned that not only is it okay; but sometimes it is just plain necessary! Sometimes the only way we can help people is to hug them and say, "I love you." Whether I like it, or not, sometimes I need a hug and someone to say, "I love you." Sometimes the person I need to give me a hug and tell me they love me is not in the chosen few.

Lesson #6: I am a survivor. I think I always knew that, but it has been reinforced. I can withstand criticism. I can withstand lack of understanding. I can withstand long hours of worry and insomnia. I can withstand a seemingly endless line of problems presented to me. I can endure to the end.

Lesson #7: My husband is a saint. I always knew that, too, but we sure put it to the test! Not once did he falter in his support of my calling. Not once did he ask me put aside a responsibility in lieu of extra time for the two of us. Not once did he complain about my lack of attention to him or household matters. Not once did he complain about my constant grumpiness caused by pure exhaustion. On the contrary, he always put my needs first. He seemed to know what I needed before I knew.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sweet Release

I'm writing this on Friday night, and Sunday I will be released as Relief Society President. I won't publish this until after the release Sunday. For my non-Mormon readers, each ward (equal to a parish) has a branch of our church women's organization, the Relief Society. The last 3 1/2 years has been quite a learning experience for me. It's been one of the most difficult times of my life, but I've also had some of the sweetest experiences of my life.

As Danny and I sat in the Bishop's office 3 1/2 years ago, the Bishop issued this calling. Danny laughed hysterically, and my mouth dropped to the floor. The Bishop looked at Danny and said, "Well, that's not an appropriate response." Danny explained that his wife doesn't like women--and I reiterated that fact. I've always worked better with men than with women, and I've always found women quite annoying, to say the least. In spite of our initial reaction, I did accept the call. I'm pretty sure that Heavenly Father wanted me to be Relief Society President so that I would learn to love women. After 3 1/2 years, I have learned to love women. Yes, they still annoy me at times--okay, often--but I've learned that if you sift through the pettiness, women really are wonderful people. Women truly are the nurturers of the earth.

I worked with two bishops during my presidency, as we had a Bishopric change. Both men were wonderful to work with, and truly inspired. I seemed to wear out counselors and secretaries. I had two first counselors, four second counselors, and three secretaries. All of these women will forever have my utmost respect and love.

The other night when the Bishop told me that I was being released this Sunday (we have been talking about it for a while now), he asked me what I had learned. There were too many things to pick just one on the spur of the moment. I did tell him what was the best moment of my presidency. There was a sweet little old lady in our ward who was dying. She had never married, and had no living relatives in town. The Bishop and I were called to the Emergency Room one evening. The doctors determined that there was nothing they could do for her but to make her comfortable.

I decided with my counselors that this sweet lady was not going to die alone. My first counselor was out of town, but kept in touch by telephone. Ironically, my first counselor was first in line on our friend's Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and since she was gone, guess who was second in line--and, yes, it did come into play. My second counselor and I, together with another sister in the ward, stayed the night in the hospital.

The next morning, I had a welfare food order to deliver, and then I was supposed to go to work. I delivered the food order, then called my supervisor and told her I wouldn't be in to work. I made some phone calls, and had some sisters in the ward take turns in the hospital so that my counselor and I could get some sleep. I had a very short nap, and was about to head back to the hospital, when I got a call that our sweet friend had passed away. I found it very appropriate that the sister who was with her was our wonderful Stake Relief Society President. (For non-Mormon readers, a stake is the equivalent of a diocese.) When my first counselor got back into town, my entire presidency was involved in dressing our little angel for burial. That was a moment that bonded the four of us forever.

The next two weeks produced a flurry of activity. Her home had to be cleaned out so that it could be remodeled and sold. We organized a whole group of people to go through her home, sort, organize, give away, and toss. Every waking moment when we weren't at our places of employment, or taking care of our families, we were sorting, tossing, and cleaning. We were all exhausted when it was over, but we had come together in the spirit of the Relief Society motto, "Charity Never Faileth."

That is only one experience in a 3 1/2-year period. There were many. I did not accomplish the main goal that I set 3 1/2 years ago. I always said I would be a better Relief Society President if I wasn't working full-time--but Heavenly Father knew I was working when he called me to do this. Looking back, there were other things that we did accomplish. I guess maybe Heavenly Father's goals were not my own. We took the ward through a merge with two other wards. I gained 101 new sisters and their families in that merge. I believe we were quite successful in making those new families feel welcome in our ward. We have huge ward boundaries now, and it has not been easy; but I think we are a pretty cohesive ward now--though not without problems.

I will not know until Sunday who the new Relief Society President and her counselors will be. Maybe I'll add some thoughts at the end after it is announced. I'm quite certain, however, that whoever it is will be the Lord's choice. We have a Bishop who prays long and hard for inspiration. I've joked about how he prays slow--as evidenced in how long it took him to release me after we began talking about it! The Bishop is an inspired man, and I know that whoever he has called is the Lord's choice. This calling is not easy, and whoever the new presidency is, they will have my full sustaining vote, and my full cooperation, respect, and love.

Addendum: The announcement has been made, and the sustaining vote is a done deal. Our new presidency will be wonderful! I'm so pleased! The Bishop may pray slow; but he prays well!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What Constitutes Courage?

UPDATE: As of February 19, 2011, she has lost a total of 144 pounds, which officially puts her at a Body Mass Index (BMI) that qualifies her to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While this is one of her goals, she is still working on the ultimate goal in order to live a long healthy life. WE ARE EXTREMELY PROUD OF HER!



Courage is a lot of things. We talk about soldiers being courageous. We talk about cancer survivors being courageous. We've all seen videos of courageous people who have fought against the odds to do great things with their lives, and we applaud their courage. Courage comes in many forms, and means many things to many people.

Today I'd like to tell you about someone very close to me who is very courageous--my youngest child. I received her permission to tell you her story. My daughter weighed 10 pounds when she was born, and life has not been easy. She has always been overweight. It was years before someone could put a name to it, but they finally discovered she has polycystic ovarian syndrome. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to raise an overweight child keeping self-esteem in tact. Our first priority was to make sure that she became a person who knew who she was on the inside. We walked a tightrope continually, trying to keep her weight down while letting her know that we loved her both inside and out.

She's a 20-year-old adult now. The last 15 months, she has worked very hard to lose the weight that she's been gaining her entire life. In the last 15 months, she has lost 122.2 pounds, and is still dropping. That's courage! That's intestinal fortitude!

She has learned what she must do to become healthy and stay healthy. She's learned how to adjust her eating habits, her exercise program, and her life habits to keep her strong. She has learned skills that will assure her a happy life. That's courage!

We're very proud of her! We've always been proud of her! She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. When I grow up, I want to be just like my youngest daughter.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dancing in the Night

As I sit here staring at the computer screen wondering why it appears so bright, I realize it might have something to do with night dancing. Let me give you a little background prior to last night's "dance."

My husband was diagnosed with sleep apnea at least 20 years ago, but the CPAP machine that was prescribed to help him breathe was a total disaster. In order to give him enough air, the CPAP machine would have to be turned up to the equivalent of driving down the highway at 70 mph with his head stuck out the window. We gave up, bought him an expensive recliner, and we learned how to play musical chairs all night. We began the night dance from bed, to chairs, to bed again. When diabetes was later diagnosed, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because with the loss of weight, the sleep apnea is much better. However, he still finds the recliner in the middle of the night.

I began choking in my sleep a number of years ago. Apparently, I produce an inordinate amount of saliva in my sleep. Choking wakes me up, but then my throat burns for a long time afterward. The only thing that will alleviate the burning is drinking water, and sleeping upright in my recliner. This problem is coupled with the fact that I don't sleep well when it's hot. On the hottest summer nights, I've been found sleeping on the family room floor in front of an open sliding glass door, or even on a cushion on the back step.

So, last night . . .

It had been a pretty hectic day at work, but it is Danny's birthday weekend, so I stifled the urge to come home from work and crash, and the two of us went to a nice dinner alone, and then for a little ride. Unfortunately, the chaos of my day carried over into the evening, and I found myself wide awake until 1:30 a.m. I had no sooner drifted off on my pillow until I was awake choking. Fortunately, the burning in my throat was not as bad as it usually is, and I decided that instead of going to my chair, I would crash on the family room floor because it was hot. Danny came to check on me, and then cozied up to his recliner. Normally, I give myself a little more room in front of the door, but Kaylonnie had a jigsaw puzzle on the card table. I didn't want to put the card table close enough to Danny's chair that he might trip on it in the middle of the night. So I snuggled right in front of the door next to the china cabinet.

I was just beginning to drift off, when I was startled by dog whiskers in my face. I raised up and hit the back of my head hard against the bottom corner of the china cabinet. I moved a few inches away from the china cabinet, which was a good thing, since the dog whiskers appeared in my face periodically for the balance of the night. I appreciate the fact that Oreo loves me enough to check up on me in the middle of the night after I've choked and moved to the floor, but does he have to get right in my face??!!!

It was about 5:30 a.m. when I returned to the bed for two more hours before my day officially began. So here it is, after 11:00 p.m., my head is pounding, my eyes are throbbing, and I'm thinking -- am I ready for another dance?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Buddy Dave

You can tell a lot about a man by the friends he keeps. When I married my husband, I got some pretty good buddies, especially Dave.

Dave was a relatively short, bald-headed, man with a smile that made me feel instantly loved. He never judged me--not even in my young and dumb years. He quietly stood in the wings ready to be of true Christian service every time we called "uncle," which was pretty much every time we worked on a household project.

My husband is a good man with some wonderful qualities--none of them involving a hammer or power tool. Danny and I would try our best to complete a household project and then call Dave to rescue us from ourselves. There is not a single room in our home that doesn't have Dave's stamp on it.

Among the many projects that Dave helped with at our home: A new roof, plumbing problems, ceiling fan installations, kitchen fan installation, kitchen cupboard installation, setting toilets in both bathrooms, and much more. I had painted around the huge valance in my living room several times, and one time I decided it would be easier to paint it if I took it down. It never occurred to me that if I stood on the ladder and took the screws out at one end that it would come crashing to the floor from the other side! I had no idea how heavy the thing was. As it came crashing down, it brought big chunks of the ceiling with it. Time to call Dave. In no time the ceiling was replastered, painted, and the valance was firmly attached.

We built an addition to our home, and that meant curtain rods had to be installed in the family room and in my new bedroom. I actually did a pretty good job of installing them myself. Then I made a crucial mistake. I followed my mother's example and put the curtains up wet so that they wouldn't have to be ironed. The problem was, I had very heavy thermoguard curtains in the bedroom at that time. The extra weight from the water in the drapes sent my curtain rods crashing to the floor--taking huge chunks of plaster from my brand new bedroom walls with it. As I lay on the floor crying like a baby, Danny called Dave.

Then there was my redecorating stage. I watched every show on television about how to redecorate a home on a budget. The time came to build my own headboard. I'm actually pretty good at crafts, and I built a really cool headboard. When it was finished, I looked at it and had an "Oh crap!" moment. It never occurred to me that this huge, heavy headboard would have to be picked up from my living room floor, carried to my bedroom, lifted up, and somehow mounted to my bedroom wall. Yep, time to call Dave.

In addition to his handyman skills, Dave was a master at making me see someone else's viewpoint. He never judged me, but gently guided me. He was a friend to me even when I was my worst self.

One night Danny and I were talking, and Danny made a slip of the tongue and stopped short. I pried and pried until he finally realized he was not going to get any peace until he fessed up to me. There had been a little conspiracy for a number of years between Danny and Dave. Dave had been single for years. At some point, apparently, Danny made Dave promise that if anything happened to Danny, Dave would marry me and take care of me. It never occurred to either one of them that I might have something to say about the matter!

Dave had a gift for remembering my birthday--which is amazing since it falls right before Christmas when everyone is busy. Dave never forgot my birthday. He always gave me a card. In all the years I knew Dave, he never mailed my birthday card. He came by the house and delivered the card himself. He took time out of the busy holiday season to come personally. One year he came when I was putting up the outdoor Christmas lights. I had been standing in the cold for a couple of hours, and was finally finishing up the lights on the orange tree when Dave drove up. Unfortunately, Danny wasn't home. Dave was too much of a gentleman to come in the house when Danny wasn't there, so we stood in the bitter cold under the orange tree and talked until the two of us almost had frost bite!

Dave is now in a happier place. He may have lost his battle with cancer, but I'm sure he's won the hearts of angels. We will miss you, Dave. Keep things stirred up until I get there, will you? God be with you 'till we meet again.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Porter Rockwell Book Reviews

Picture available through Wikipedia. Wikipedia reports copyright has expired.

A while back I wrote a blog post about my fascination with Porter Rockwell, who was the boyhood friend of Joseph Smith and later the body guard for both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (among other things). You can find that post here:

I recently read two books which I will review. The first, Stories from the Life of Porter Rockwell, by John W. Rockwell and Jerry Borrowman, was an interesting quick read. It is written by a descendant of Porter Rockwell, together with an award winning author. The book is a quick read of interesting tidbits about the man. It is remarkably unbiased for having been co-written by a descendant. The stories are quite endearing, as they give the reader a flavor for what life was like in the early days of the church. Some were stories that I had not yet heard about Porter Rockwell. I came away with a better understanding of the man's character, as well as his devotion to the gospel. It whet my appetite to read the biography which I will review next.

The second book I read was Porter Rockwell, A Biography, by Richard Lloyd Dewey. This is a remarkably well documented biography. The book is set up in two parts: a) the biography itself, and b) notes or further information. The notes are every bit as interesting as the biography itself. I found myself stopping at the end of each chapter to read the notes that applied to that particular chapter.

In addition to being an excellent biography of Porter Rockwell, the book is also a valuable resource for learning about the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I came away with a much better understanding of Porter Rockwell the man, as opposed to Porter Rockwell the legend.

As I said in my earlier post, there is a great danger to judging history from our perspective. The life of Porter Rockwell was very rough, but the character of the old west was also very rough. It's simply not fair to just history by the standards of our times. Both books made me feel like I was living in the old west. I must admit that while I admire the tenacity and intestinal fortitude of my fore bearers, I feel extremely blessed to live in the modern era. Unfortunately, we very often take it for granted.

Both books are certainly worth your time, and you will come away with a new understanding of life on the frontier.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Life At Sea

The Marcona Transporter

Milos and Joyce doing the "Bump"

My friend, Joyce, was married to a merchant marine. Milos was out to sea for 9 months, so Joyce came to live with my roommate Renee and me for that time. Joyce received a telegram from Milos that he was going to be docking in San Pedro, California on a Saturday morning and he invited the three of us on the Italian oil tanker, Marcona Transporter, for the weekend. He had received special permission from the captain to have us on the ship. We left work after 5:00 p.m. on Friday night and drove all night.

It was very hot when we left Sacramento, so the three of us were in shorts and crop tops. It was very late when we arrived at Denny's in San Pedro, and it never occurred to three naive females that walking into Denny's in the middle of the night dressed in shorts and crop tops was not a good idea. I'm still wondering how we got out of there alive.

We got to the pier about 2:00 in the morning, as I recall. We didn't want to get a hotel room for just a couple of hours because his ship was coming in at 8:00 a.m. So we "slept" in the car on the pier--rather Renee slept and I kept Joyce from going out of her tree with excitement.

We were treated like princesses on the ship--and our wishes were their command. We ate dinner at the captain's table. We received a personal tour of the ship, including the engine room. We watched a minor oil spill on the deck and an expert crew quickly take care of the problem without any oil getting to the water. We sailed from San Pedro to Redondo Beach and had lunch in an expensive Italian restaurant with a couple of handsome sailors. Then we returned to the ship for more fun while the oil was taken from the ship.

A mild oil spill being contained with sawdust

At some point a Filipino crew member found us and told us we had to leave the ship because the captain said if we waited any longer, it would be too dangerous. Now, bear in mind that I walked up a plank onto this ship, and I assumed I was going to get off the same way. I was quite astounded to find out that I was getting off quite a different way! It never occurred to me that as the oil was taken from the ship, the ship would sit higher on the water. I mean, really, would you have thought about that?!

The Filipino sailor took his belt off (we're not talking safety harness here--we are talking about the belt that held his pants up), tied a rope to the belt, put the belt on me, and then I was lowered from the oil tanker onto a tugboat way far below. Scared the living daylights out of me! I shook for HOURS afterward. I refused at first until it became clear that the captain had ORDERED us off the ship, and we were leaving one way or the other! It was THE most terrifying experience of my life!

I was such a basket case afterwards that I got my own hotel room and ordered room service for the first (and only) time in my life, even though it was way out of line with my budget. I think if I had been anywhere near Milos that night, I would have boxed his ears for getting us into that situation. It took me all night to calm down prior to the trip back to Sacramento!

The moral of the story is: Ask a LOT of questions before trusting a sailor!

Proof I was once "somewhat" skinny.

Milos working in the engine room.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Laurie's Sacrament Meeting Talk August 8, 2010

Some weeks are better than others. There are times when I feel really in tune with the Spirit, and I feel like I’m on the right track. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m serving others. I’m doing missionary work. I’m doing my best to magnify my calling. Then there are those other weeks when I just can’t cope. I come home from work, sit in my chair, put my feet up, and refuse to budge.

I’m not sure why some days and weeks are better than others. I don’t know what makes the difference in my attitude. I do know that when I’m serving the Lord and those around me, I feel better. I think it is all about commitment. How committed am I to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

In the March, 1983, Ensign, President Marion G. Romney talked about commitment and dedication. Speaking about the plan of salvation, he said,

“There is nothing under the heavens of so much importance to you or to me. It is necessary that we are committed to so living as to benefit from this great plan which was devised in the heavens from the beginning for the redemption of the human race and for their salvation and exaltation in the presence of God. Every one of us should make and live up to the required commitment. Regardless of the nature of our daily occupations, we must understand and keep the spirit of and comply with the plan of salvation. We can also affect for good those with whom we serve and otherwise come in contact, to help them find the truth.”

President Romney talked about how Jesus Christ made a total commitment to the will of the Father. He familiarized Himself with the will of Heavenly Father and then communed with Father in prayer. He did that not only to listen to Father’s will, but to gain strength from Father to do His will. He always obeyed Father’s will, even when it was not easy or comfortable.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf told a story in the April, 2009, conference about a plane that went down because of a $.20 light bulb. The indicator light for the nose gear failed to light. The pilots became so preoccupied with trying to figure out what was wrong that they failed to realize the plane was descending toward a swamp below until it was too late and over 100 people were killed. The nose gear was in the proper position, and the plane was in perfect mechanical condition except for a $.20 light bulb. The light bulb didn’t cause the accident, but the crew was focused on something that really didn’t matter instead of focusing on what mattered the most.

Am I focused on the things that matter most? Am I serving the Lord and others around me, or am I putting too much time and energy trying to figure out whether the Bachelorette will pick Roberto or Chris? Or who will win The Next Food Network Star? President Uchtdorf asks what excuses we cling to that keep us from being the kind of husband, father, son, and priesthood holder we should be (and I would add wife, mother, daughter, and sister in Zion) that we should be. Am I getting distracted from my duties? If so, what is hindering me from magnifying my calling? We need balance in life. We need to focus on the things that really matter—the gospel, family, friends, ward members, and others around us. President Uchtdorf reminds us that we cannot and must not allow ourselves to get distracted from our sacred duty. We can’t lose focus on the things that matter most.

In the April, 1996, conference, Elder W. Mack Lawrence of the Seventy said that when he asks stake presidents what their biggest challenges are, they tell him that it is the Saints’ lack of commitment and conversion so they will keep covenants and fulfill callings. We hear the word of God, but we’re not so great with the follow through. Elder Lawrence says that commitment is an outgrowth of conversion to the gospel. Am I truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ?

3 Nephi 27:27 says, in part:

“Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”

Presiding Bishop H. David Burton in a CES Fireside in November, 2008, suggests that what manner of men and women we will be will depend on our devotion and assistance in moving Christ’s kingdom forward. He says that self-discipline is required, along with devotion. He talks about renewing our enthusiasm and that we must never stand still in good works until the Master appears. He also talks about focusing on the things that are essential and not losing sight of our goals. And that when we fail to focus on the right things, it is difficult to be the manner of men and women we want to be.

So how am I doing with my goals? Am I on the right track? Bishop Johnston asked us in ward conference to spend 48 minutes a day doing service. Have I done that? If not, how much time have I wasted? Have I wasted more than 48 minutes a day? I’m going to say yes on any given day. I’m going to say on any given day I’ve wasted more than 48 minutes.

My grandfather used to say, “Take a little, and leave a little.” In other words, if you get some pleasure out of something, give something back. I wrote a whole blog post about that concept recently. Basically, the idea is to remember to appreciate life around us, never take it for granted, and to give something back. We all are so blessed! We have so much to be thankful for! Is 48 minutes per day too much to ask in return for those blessings? Flowers and rainbows ought to at least be worth 48 minutes per day all by themselves!

Self-evaluation is good, and it is necessary. But it’s easy to get discouraged when we do a little self-evaluation. It is also much too easy to say, “Well, I’m never going to be the kind of person I want to be, so I’ll settle for mediocrity.” But nothing is impossible with Heavenly Father’s help. No mountain is too high to climb, and no ocean too large to cross with His help.

Doctrine & Covenants 84:88 says:

“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

I have felt the Spirit in my heart. I have felt angels round about me. He has borne my burdens and made my load lighter. Knowing that, I can’t give up—ever. I must strive to be all that He wants me to be, even if at times it seems like an insurmountable task. I must strive to be a better me. I must, as Bishop Burton talked about, renew that enthusiasm for the gospel. It’s always fun for me to watch new converts after they are baptized. Many of you will remember Steve Goodman who used to live in our ward. Remember what he was like after he was baptized? Remember how he just seemed to soak up the gospel? Do you remember how much enthusiasm he had towards the gospel? Do you remember the quiet service that he gave? I wanted to bottle that enthusiasm and put it in my pantry for a rainy day.

The answer for me is simple. I must be “reconverted” to the gospel so that I can again have that wonderful enthusiasm. I need to make sure that I have total conversion to the gospel so that I will continue to grow, to magnify my calling, and to serve those around me. In order to do that, I need to spend more time studying the scriptures, and I need to spend more time in prayer that goes beyond the ceiling so that like Jesus, I’ll gain the strength to do the will of the Father.

It is my prayer this day that we will all recommit ourselves to the gospel of Jesus Christ, to doing His work, and to obeying the will of Heavenly Father.

This I say in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mom Had Some Eccentricities of Her Own

My mother never wore shoes and rarely left the house. Mom wore "Zorries," which was the original word for "flip flops," which later became "thongs," which was changed to "flip flops" with the advent of a certain item of underwear. There were times when it was 5 degrees below zero, and Mom wore Zorries. She would walk on snow to grab the newspaper in the morning with Zorries. One of the few times she wore shoes was at my grandfather's insistence because she had just left the hospital after having double pneumonia. Her shoe slipped on a wet rock at the lake we were visiting, and she fell in the lake (wonderful for a pneumonia patient). She swore that if she had been wearing Zorries, she would have been fine.

I don't know how this little oddity began. Maybe she just found Zorries comfortable to wear. She had a AAAA narrow foot, and finding shoes to fit was not easy. It could have been that raising four children she didn't have the money for shoes very often, or the inclination to go shopping in light of the fact that she rarely left the house.

I've often wondered if Mom had Agoraphobia (fear of leaving home), or whether she was just very content. Dad did all the grocery shopping because he loved it! He loved getting the best deals and clipping the coupons. He loved talking to all the butchers who he knew from when he sold meat for Swift & Co. Mom never liked to shop for clothes either. So if you don't shop, I guess that narrows down your reasons to leave your home. I don't ever remember her being afraid (or at least she never acted afraid) when she did leave the house -- but then she was not much for complaining and bellyaching either. As a matter of fact, she hated whiners.

Mom had one form of discipline -- the Zorrie. She could flip that Zorrie off her foot in a split second and whack you with it! She rarely whacked more than once -- you got the message. Maybe that's why she wore them. Actually, she had one other form of discipline for my brother, the silent treatment. She discovered that my brother absolutely couldn't stand it if she didn't talk to him.

Swear words (not the vulgar ones) would roll off her tongue quite easily, but she blushed if you said "belly button." Many a family member has tried to figure that one out.

There was Native American ancestry on Mom's side, and she had an uncanny gift for knowing if something was wrong. She had some pretty weird dreams at times, and after my grandfather died, she got really "weirded out" when she began to write a grocery list and realized that it was my grandfather's handwriting. It was a definite "Twilight Zone" moment, and it pretty much freaked her out.

I've always described my Dad as the most eccentric person I've ever met, but I have to admit that Mom would take second place in that contest.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Take a Little and Leave a Little

My grandfather Bernard (Pa) used to say, "Take a little and leave a little." It was expected that if we took enjoyment from camping in the woods, we needed to leave the campsite even better than we found it. Sometimes we would rake pine needles from a trail, or line the path with rocks. It always meant taking more trash out than we brought in. My parents took that to heart and always taught their children to take a little and leave a little.

Pa built a cabin in a beautiful narrow mountain canyon for his children and grandchildren on property that he leased from the power company where he retired. Originally, the property had a beautiful meadow that extended clear to the Carson River. Unfortunatley, a year after he built the cabin, the highway was cut right through the middle of the meadow. Since he was leasing the land from the power company, there were no clear boundary lines for years. After the highway was built, Pa ignored the land between the highway and the river because he didn't want his grandchildren getting hit crossing the highway, and after he passed away, it was assumed the forest service was in charge. Unfortunately, the forest service wasn't taking care of the land, and campers were staying there to fish and camp and leaving their garbage. It became an unsightly garbage dump very quickly because the campers did not "take a little and leave a little."

Do you want to have some fun? We never learned to run when Dad said that -- I'm not sure why -- but it would have been the smart thing to do. On this fateful day, fun meant cleaning up the campground dump across the highway. I'm not even sure Dad realized how much garbage was there! Every time we moved a can, a rat would go scurrying. I believe we hauled three pickup truck loads of garbage out of that little campground. It was a stinking mess!

After it was cleaned up, my siblings and I would go across the highway every weekend and monitor the campers. We would explain to them that it was "our property," and that they could stay there only if they cleaned up their mess because our mean father made us clean up the garbage from the campers. It worked pretty well for a number of years. Eventually, the lease was rewritten to give back that portion of land to the forest service, and they patrolled the area.

The lessons learned from Pa and my parents stuck with us. Danny and I decided to get married at the cabin. We had an outdoor wedding in the middle of December when it was 16 degrees. The cabin was only one room, a bathroom, and a closet -- just a place to get out of the rain. There was carpeting on the floor, however, that had come from my uncle's office -- take a little and leave a little. The decomposed granite that was tracked inside literally ate vacuums. Danny and I each had a vacuum when we were married, and we obviously only needed one. I knew that the cabin vacuum was on its last legs. So Danny and I took the worst of our vacuums to the cabin the day we were married. "Take a little and leave a little."

There was snow on the ground that day so we couldn't drive completely into the cabin. We had to park just off the highway and walk in. Danny, wearing his blue suit, carried the vacuum; and I, wearing my pink formal dress, threw the hose to the vacuum around my neck and proceeded to hike up the meadow towards the cabin. I'm not sure why that seemed strange to my aunt Billie, but she came unglued, ran down the hill, and rescued us from the likes of the vacuum cleaner. Hey, it was just family at my wedding plus my roommates and my husband's best man. I took the most perfect day of my life (outside of the day we were sealed in the temple 17 years later) -- it was not very much to ask that I leave an old vacuum cleaner.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How It All Started

It was my "young and dumb" years. I left home when I was 18 and moved to Sacramento. I was not active in church and had no intention of changing that status. Bitterness on that end abounded. My testimony remained strong (and that is not an oxymoron -- most inactive members are inactive for other reasons, contrary to popular belief). Occasionally, when the desire to go to church would hit, I would slip into the back of the chapel late for Sacrament meeting, and then leave prior to closing prayer to be long gone before anyone noticed me -- or so I thought.

Danny noticed. In fact, Danny notices everything. He wasn't quick enough to catch me, but he managed to get my phone number from a friend of a friend of my roommate, who was a recent convert. He called, found a way to introduce himself, and asked me out. I'm not sure why I said yes, but I did.

Our first date was less than perfect. As a matter of fact, it was awful. Danny had a very bad cold, and should have cancelled. Instead, he picked me up in his old rattletrap Plymouth. The passenger door was broken, so I had to crawl in on the driver's side. He apologized for driving with one contact lens because when he gets a cold, he gets cold sores in his eyes. He took me to see the movie "Earthquake." For the benefit of the younger generation, let me explain that when you see this movie on television, it is NOT the way we experienced it in the theater. There were special sound effects that made loud rumbling noises under your feet that made you feel like you were actually experiencing an earthquake. Danny had no way of knowing that I was born in the worst earthquake Nevada has ever seen, and I'm just superstitious enough to believe that there's a good possibility that with an entrance like that, my exit might just be as dramatic. I was terrified, and he was trying to be a gentleman (or maybe it was the cold), so he didn't even hold my hand.

The second stop on the date was Pizza & Pipes, where there was a real old time Wurlitzer organ salvaged from silent movie days with a live organist. I loved the place, and it remained our favorite pizza place until they finally went out of business when my kids were teenagers. In light of his cold, however, I sat on the opposite side of the table from him, as opposed to sitting next to him, an act which he still has yet to forgive me.

The entire evening, he talked about his ex-wife and his divorce (between nose blows) -- not smart. I went home and told my roommates that he was looking for a wife, and I was NOT interested -- especially since he had been married before, had a son, and was 12 years older than me. I refused to go out with him by avoiding his seemingly endless phone calls for the next eight months.

Eight months later, I walked into the back of the chapel late and exited early. He must have been wearing his running shoes. In order to get away from the church quickly, I agreed to let him call me.

The following Sunday afternoon, he called extremely excited, and his voice was very animated. He wanted to come to my apartment and show me the pictures that he had taken of his 3-year-old son at Sears. I let him come over. As he showed me the pictures of his son, two things happened. I didn't realize it at the time, but I fell in love with this man who so obviously loved this adorable tow-headed little boy. I also fell in love with the tow-headed boy before I ever met him. It would take many months (and many fights) before I would figure all that out, however. I finally figured it out the day a drunk driver hit him and totalled his new Datsun. I had injured my back and was working with a heating pad. When I got the call that he had been hit, I took off at a dead run and ran from my office at 7th and K Streets to the scene of the accident at 5th and P Streets. You can do the math. The next day, he was fine, but I was flat on my back in bed contemplating why in the heck I had done that.

The drama didn't end when I figured out I loved him, however. Danny and I had the stormiest courtship on record. As a matter of fact, we fought more the year before we were married than we have in the last 33 1/2 years of marriage. I gave the engagement ring back three times -- but that's a story for a future post.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Making Memories

An on-line friend, Mike Henneke, wrote a blog that I haven't been able to get out of my mind. You can find it here:

It takes so little time to make a memory, but oh how we fight it. Mike's post reminded me of memories my parents made with me and my siblings, and later with their grandchildren. It reminded me of memories my husband and I have made with our own children. It also triggered a knee jerk for all those times when life seemed too busy to make a memory. I was saddened for those times. What could possibly have been so important? What was I thinking? I'm sure my children don't remember how important it was for me to make that phone call, wash that load of laundry, or rearrange the furniture. They just wanted to go to the park, or have a water fight, or pop popcorn.

Before you all think I was an uncaring parent who never spent time with my children, that's not the case. We made lots of memories together. But is it ever enough? There were also those times when I jokingly told them to go play in the traffic. I remember being tired enough to quote my own mother, "I can't. I have a bone in my leg."

Every parent gets tired -- and who can possibly keep up with the energy of little children -- or even teenagers? There will certainly be times when all parents will be justified in saying, "Hey, take a chill pill." I just hope that in the end of our days we can look back and say, "We really did make some good memories! Remember how much fun we had!"

So here's a reader's challenge: Make a memory this week. If you don't have the time, make the time. Cross off some things on your "to do" list -- you know, the ones you won't care about ten years from now. Nothing is more important than our families.

Ideas for Summer Memories:

Watch a sunset while blowing soap bubbles
Pick berries
Barbeque and make smores
Have a water fight
Go for a picnic (even if it's in the park)
Go to the airport and watch the planes take off and land
Make homemade ice cream
Go to a kid-friendly museum
Take a tour of a local factory
Watch the clouds and look for pictures
Find the north star and the big dipper
Do simple science experiments
Go for a bike ride
Learn a new skill like yo-yo or hula hoop
Play card games or board games
Put a jigsaw puzzle together
Take a historical cemetery tour
Make shadow puppets
Camp in the backyard
Tell ghost stories

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dad Didn't Make 89, But He Does Live On

Dad would have been 89 years old today. Since he died in 1985, I can't even picture Dad at 89. (And it does not seem like 25 years since he died!) I do have quite a collection of pictures in my brain, though.

My claim to family fame is teaching Dad how to eat a hamburger. Dad sold life and health insurance, and sometimes he had appointments during the dinner hour. He didn't like missing dinner with the family, and he hated to eat alone. On those occasions when he missed dinner, he would hijack one of his kids to a restaurant. I must have been about 14 or 15 years old the night Dad decided to take me to the Chocolate Pit. The Chocolate Pit was a friendly coffee shop, or as Dad would have said, "hamburger joint." Dad and I were talking, eating, and enjoying one another's company. He stopped almost mid-sentence and got the funniest look on his face--one of the permanent pictures in my brain. He looked at his hamburger, and then he looked at mine. He said, "How in the heck do you do that?! How do you eat a hamburger without it falling apart?! Mine always falls apart!" I then explained to him that once I pick up my hamburger and begin to eat, I never set it down. If you set it down, it falls apart. I hold my hamburger with my left hand, leaving my right dominant hand to pick up french fries, dip in ketchup (catsup, if you prefer), drink my soda, and use my napkin. Dad was so delighted! (Another permanent brain picture.) He could not believe that I could have figured out this perfect system for neatness. (Those who didn't know my very excentric father, he was a total neat freak!)

I'm sure all of Dad's kids have one particular image: Dad dancing and doing the "goose step" in the grocery store aisle. This was a favorite Dick Janes pastime. There were no video cameras in those days, but they had those big mirrors at the ends of the aisles to discourage shoplifting. Dad delighted in seeing if he could "goose step" without getting caught in the mirrors.

My favorite photograph of Dad is one that I took without his knowledge. My first job after high school was working at Breuner's Furniture Store in Reno. The employee discount allowed me to buy my first stereo--and it was a nice one! I bought excellent quality headphones, with a cord long enough to stretch from the living room down the hall to my bedroom. That way during the day the family could enjoy the stereo, and at night, I could use the headphones to go to sleep to music. I bought my first Johnny Mathis album, and Dad loved it! He had never heard of Johnny Mathis, so he teased me about Johnny Mathis being Nat King Cole's imitator. Dad loved to get up on Sunday morning and cook breakfast. I woke up early one Sunday morning and discovered Dad in the kitchen peeling potatoes for hashbrowns with the headphones on listening to Johnny Mathis. (Picture above.)

Dad's laugh is still with me too. I can still hear him all these years later--and I can see his face getting red and tears running down his face as he laughed. Somewhere at home I have an audio tape that includes his laugh. I haven't listened to it in a long time. It's actually very hard to listen to it.

There is a piece of Dad in all of his children. And at least one of his grandchildren, Ezra, has his mannerisms, which is a little creepy since Dad died when Ezra was 2 years old. Ezra doesn't even remember Dad.

Maybe the reason it doesn't seem like Dad has been gone for 25 years is because he lives on in the stories. Dad was such an excentric character that he has provided literally hundreds of stories for the family history. It's difficult for me to teach a lesson or give a talk in church without using a Dick Janes story. There are just so many ways to use him as an example to teach others! Maybe he really didn't need to live past 64 after all; he had already provided the example and the lessons for his children and grandchildren. We just need to keep telling the stories.

Question to my siblings: Who has the original picture below? The only copy I have was printed on cheap photocopy paper years ago, and it's one of my favorites. If you have it, can you scan it and send it to me?

July 24, 2010 - Update: This missing picture has been found!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Clock Keeps Ticking

Picture from here:

I'm getting old. I know that's not news to those who know me, but I seem to be reminded lately on a daily basis. It's not a bad thing; in fact, I'm rather enjoying the process. There are, however, some stark realizations along the way.

Last night we received last minute free tickets to a minor league baseball game from someone who couldn't use the tickets. My husband, two daughters, one grandson, and I went for a lovely evening in the ballpark. My grandson is about to celebrate his first birthday. He was the best little guy last night! He had a great time watching people, listening to the music, enjoying the fresh air, and bouncing from one person to the next. Long after his normal bedtime he was still grinning and laughing. I had a really good time enjoying both the game and little Joey last night. By the time I got home, though, I was wiped out! I'm barely functioning today after a night's sleep! What happened to the days when I bounced babies at ballparks and then went home to laundry and cleaning and got up the next morning to do it all over again? As we left the ballpark, I watched my pregnant daughter carry Joey on her hip, with a diaper bag strapped to her back. I knew I should offer to carry Joey, but I just didn't think I'd make it to the parking lot without hyperventillating! So I waited until we were halfway to the car and said, "Do you want Dad to carry Joey?" Knowing Dad is 12 years my senior, she declined. I've experienced this same feeling over the last few months with the rest of my grandchildren. I love them to pieces and cherish each moment I'm with them--but, wow, what a revelation as to my lack of stamina.

A couple of months ago I painted my family room and made new drapes. The room required more than one coat, and I actually accepted help with some of the work. It doesn't seem that long ago that I painted that room all by myself in one day with energy to spare.

There are definite advantages in growing older, though. When I speak, people seem to listen more--as if I might really have something worthwhile to say. The irony is that because I'm getting older, I'm also getting more cynical. If people had listened to me 20-30 years ago, they probably would have found solutions to world problems; now I'm part of the problem.

If I make a mistake, people forgive me because they presume "I'm losing it." What's not to forgive in my "matronly" face? Doesn't everybody love a fuzzy-faced, wrinkled granny?

I've decided to embrace my age. I can't change it, so I may as well go along for the ride. Hiding under the covers is not an option, although wrapping myself in bubble wrap when around my grandkids might be. Just kidding! As the clock keeps ticking, I hope I remember to live each day to the fullest. I don't want to waste a moment wishing I were young again. Each new day should be embraced and appreciated. As the old Timex watch slogan goes, "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking."

My Grandfather's Clock

By Henry Clay Work

My Grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor.
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Yet it weighed not a pennyweight more.

It was bought on the morn on the day that he was born,
It was always his treasure and pride.
But it stopped, short, never to go again,
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering,
Tick tock tick tock.
His life’s seconds numbering,
Tick tock tick tock.
But it stopped short,
Never to run again,
When the old man died

In watching its pendulum swing to and fro,
Many hours he had spent when a boy.
And through childhood and manhood, the clock seemed to know,
And to share both his grief and his joy.

For it struck 24 when he entered at the door,
With a blooming and beautiful bride.
But it stopped, short, never to go again,
When the old man died.

My grandfather said that of those he could hire,
Tick tock tick tock,
Not a servant so faithful he’d found.
Tick tock tick tock.
For it kept perfect time,
And it had one desire,
At the close of each day to be wound.

As it kept to its place, not a frown upon its face,
As its hands never hung by its side.
But it stopped, short, never to go again,
When the old man died.

It rang an alarm in the still of the night,
An alarm that for years had been dumb.
And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight,
That his hour of departure had come.

Still the clock kept the time,
Tick tock tick tock,
With a soft and muffled chime,
Tick tock tick tock,
As we silently stood by his side.
But it stopped, short, never to go again,
When the old man died.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Granny's Treasures

When my oldest daughter told me that she would have to adopt children, my heart ached for her, but I knew that everything would somehow be okay. As I had more time to think about it, I wondered if I could love an adopted grandchild the same way I love my other grandchildren. It sounds silly now, but those are the thoughts that went through my mind.

The day Molly and Jim brought Michael home from the hospital, he was one day old. They picked me up at the airport, and we went to breakfast. I needn't have worried. The minute I laid eyes on Michael, I knew he was my grandson.

Last Thanksgiving, I made the mistake of calling Michael "a little poop," when he was teasing his Granny. Little did I know that potty humor had been a topic of conversation prior to our arrival, and Michael decided that Granny and Grandpa were pretty cool because we could say poop. Michael still calls Grandpa "poophead," but he does it with respect and a grin, and at 3 1/2 that's okay.

Michael has a little sister now, Jocelyn. Ironically, the thought crossed my mind again -- could I love her? Were my feelings for Michael just a fluke? Again, I needn't have worried. Molly and Jim sent the pictures above, and I was in love. It took me a few days to get down to see her, but when I finally got there and held her, I didn't want to let go. We got there after midnight, and I held her sleeping in my arms all night. I look forward to teaching Jocelyn a few things to drive her mother crazy too.

Adoption is a wonderful thing. We love our two birth mothers for the unselfish gift they have given us. They have also given these beautiful children great opportunities. I'm so grateful to have these two beautiful children in my family. I'm grateful that Heavenly Father has provided a way for my daughter to have children. I'm grateful for two incredibly wonderful women who gave so unselfishly to their babies and to my family. My heart is full!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Choice

"Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times." -- Aeschylus

A couple of months ago I saw the quote above on Twitter. I was in a really bad mood, which had been building for a couple of months. There had been days on end when I just kept putting one foot in front of the other just to make it through the week. I don't remember who posted that quote, but if I did, I would certain express my gratitude. I wrote it down on a yellow "sticky" note, and taped it to the bottom of my computer screen at work. In the days that followed, I developed a plan to "make myself happy." It turned out that I was not really "unhappy" at all; I just had a bad attitude.

God gave us "agency" to make choices. We generally think about those choices as being between good and evil, but we also have the choice to be happy or unhappy. We've all heard stories about incredibly disadvantaged or disabled people who are joyful and lead productive lives. Their lives are productive because they choose to be happy.

Everyone has a bad day now and then, and that's to be expected. Life is full of peaks and valleys. It's what we do with our lives when we are in the deepest valleys that determine who we are, and where we are going -- maybe even how fast we get to the next mountain peak.

My plan to make myself happy was simple enough. All I had to do was to stop dwelling on a situation that I perceived to be unfair to me. A funny thing happened: as soon as I stopped dwelling on it, the situation evaporated. I realize now that the situation only existed because others were walking on egg shells around me trying to avoid my increasingly bad attitude.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mom's Day--NOT

Being a woman sometimes stinks. Don't stop reading; bear with me here. Women are taught from the time they are born to be the strong ones. Women are supposed to bear the burdens of the world--and do so willingly and without complaint. Men are allowed to complain all they want, but women have to be strong. We have to be the glue that holds our husbands together, the glue that holds our children together, and the glue that holds our families together.

For the most part, learning to be strong for our families is good. We are the nurturers. We are there for the tender moments when our husband and children are hurt, and we can be the one who helps them through the trials in their lives. That can be an extremely rewarding experience.

On the flip side, the inner strength of a mother can become a burden. It may seem as if there isn't enough of Mom to go around. It may feel as if no one understands that Mom is hurting too. Who is there to buoy up Mom? Who is there when Mom is at her wits end or hurt? Oh, Moms don't get hurt, you say? No, Mom's feelings never get hurt. Mom is a rock. Mom has broad shoulders. You can say anything to Mom! Sometimes even Dad forgets that Mom has feelings.

I really hate Mother's Day. It's wrong on so many levels. I used to tell my kids, "If you love me, clean your room and don't fight today." Occasionally, they would clean their rooms for Mother's Day, but the fighting didn't stop until they left home. Correction: I didn't have to listen to them fight anymore after they left home. So the one day of the year that mothers are to be "honored," we spend trying to graciously accept trinkets and tokens of "love" in between sorting out who did what to whom.

Kids: Take a look at your lives and realize that whether you like it or not, what you are is because your parents never gave up. Then look at your own kids and realize that all the nasty things you've thought (and said) about your parents will rest on your own children's lips in just a few short years about you. There's no need to send me a card, or flowers, or a gift. Just stiffle your thoughts the next time you think your mother has done something evil--like maybe given you the advice you asked for, but didn't really want to hear. In 20 years, feel free to steal this post and give it to your kids. It will take that long before you understand.

It's taken years for me to get through Mother's Day without wanting to curl up in the fetal position and stay in bed all day. Maybe that's because I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. While I still have one at home, all my kids are now adults. The last one will be gone when the economy stops tanking. This Mother's Day, maybe I can actually smile--and mean it. I do love my kids; I just hate Mother's Day.