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!