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.