Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend Church Warrior.....

"The busy man is troubled with but one devil; the idle man by a thousand." -Spanish proverb

It wasn't just a "double" feature in my church line-up this weekend. I ended up with 3 evenings & Sunday morning filled with church meetings. And even with my short attention span, I survived!

I already mentioned (Saturday's blog) President Uchtdorf's talk at the CES (church educational system) Broadcast on Friday night. As you'd expect, he was motivating and uplifting.

Then, Saturday night was the adult session for the Saratoga Stake Conference which is always surprisingly good. Actually I'm not sure whether the evening meetings are better or if I'm more focused (no babies at the adult meeting to distract me - although babies can be a darn cute distraction).

Sunday morning was a live broadcast for 62 stakes in northern California. All the speakers were good, especially President Eyring. His comments on the Lord speaking through his prophets was excellent. President Eyring shared examples from working with several church presidents (but in his humble way). He also pointed out that in his experience he has found that the better he has known the prophets personally the easier it is to believe that these men are called of God. Naysayers might suppose the opposite would be true.

Finally, Brent coaxed me to tag along to the YW "New Beginnings" Fireside which annually welcomes incoming Beehives to the Young Women program. The theme of the fireside was the "Worth of Souls/Soles" and the program used a variety of shoes to help describe the values. It was cute, teenage girl style anyway.

In addition to this hodgepodge of meetings we also fed the missionaries dinner on Sunday which hardly left me any spare time all weekend to get into trouble!

"...Choose you this day whom ye will serve, for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." -Joshua 24:15

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Another DAM Run...

"We'd rather Die Living, than to Live Dying!" -The Wolf Pack Events Motto

"Just go out there and be active" is the tag line for the Wolf Pack Events. Yesterday Andie entered her first race sponsored by Wolf Pack, The Dam Run in Orinda at the San Pablo Dam. This was the 2nd annual Dam Run at that reservoir so I think it is safe to say that The Dam Run in Los Gatos around Lexington Reservoir is still NorCal's original "dam" run!

So while the rest of our Saturday group was leisurely running Lexington/St Joseph's in LG, Andie was out racing in Orinda.

And it was Andie's lucky (okay, more than luck plays into it) day! She won! 1st place Woman Overall! And the best part of her win was the prize. Usually you get a medal or a trophy or a plaque and some recognition, yada, yada. But the Wolf Pack Event winners got new running shoes from Road Runner Sports. Score! What a perfect prize.

With credible prizes like new running shoes, I'm even tempted to enter a Wolf Pack race. Although if I have to take 1st place to get new running shoes the odds are not in my favor. But if I keep at it perhaps by the time I'm in the "80 and over" category I'll have a shot at winning my age group.

In the meantime, I'll just keep trudging along. But congrats to our Wolf Runner Andie! Way to go!

And, FWIW (for what it's worth), all this stuff about wolves reminds me of the famous Rudyard Kipling poem, The Law of the Wolves: "For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack." That seems like a good line to end with!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spiritual Rockstar...

"Man konnte sich daruber argern, aber man ist night verpflicht dazu." -Dieter F. Uchdorf

The German phrase above is a saying that President Uchtdorf's son, Guido, remembers his father using often when they encountered problems. Roughly translated it means: "You could be upset about it, but you are not obligated to be."

The saying reminds me of President Uchtdorf generally. He repeatedly expresses that message of hope. During every challenge we face, by choosing to live the gospel principles and have faith in God, eventually we will triumph.

President Uchtdorf's excellent talks have branded him the reputation of a "favorite" speaker by many! Undoubtably he's got the best accent of any of the Apostles.

I was murmuring about a Friday night Seminary Inservice scheduled last night until I learned President Uchtdorf would be addressing the CES gathering. Instantly, I was on board and planning to attend!

President Uchtdorf's remarks are always kind. He's got a way of phrasing things that I don't feel guilty but I do feel motivated to do better. He promised the Seminary and Institute teachers that we WILL make a difference when we teach the truth with courage and clarity, teach by the Spirit and teach from our hearts.

The best teachers aren't focused on "filling the bucket" as much as "lighting the heart." And, the miracles of technology bring amazing tools to assist us in our work. But, ultimately, to bring the gospel "into" the hearts of youth/others it takes a good teacher.

Sometimes there are variables in teaching Seminary that I really can't control, like tardiness. I know this bothers some teachers endlessly but I think I'm going to take President Uchtdorf's advice: "You could be upset by it, but you are not obligated to be." Whew! Seems like taking that approach could instantly make frustrating things less so! Cool!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Moment of Clarity....

"I am all the ages that I've ever been." -Anne Lamott

I've been connecting with high school girlfriends to set up another ski retreat. So far it's just a group of 5 of us trying to coordinate schedules and once we pick a date we'll expand the invite.

But finding a weekend that works is harder than you might think! The "fly in the oinment" (boy, there's an old saying) is the impending arrival of Kim Brewer's grandson. Which is very exciting, wonderful news, but it makes Kim's availability more tenuous.

Thinking of Kim becoming a Grandmother makes me realize the huge disconnect between how WE (the high school buddies) see ourselves relative to how the world sees us!

The top photo is NOT of any of us. I have no idea who those women are. But they are probably a typical image that comes to mind when you think of Grandmothers. Am I right?

I would argue that my darling friends have fared a little better than those singing grandmothers above, however, we no longer look like the black and white photo at left. But, when we get together, that IS how we still see ourselves! That is honestly how we think we look!

Why? Well, we don't really feel all that different than those goofball girls. At least not until we look in the mirror and wonder why we are looking at our mothers! How does that happen? It's one of the great mysteries of life!

So even if we still try to ski like we're high school jocks (some pull this off better than others), the fact that we've got to vacation between grandchildren's due dates is a bit of a reality check!

"Grandchildren don't make a man feel old . . . it's the thought that he's married to a grandmother." G. Norman Collie

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Think of a Thorn in Your Side...

"You live and learn. At any rate, you live." -Doug Adams

"A thorn in my side" is probably the best way to explain the pain of this single sea urchin spine left in my heel. The final intruder seems to be the only remaining signage of the disastrous kayak expedition I led (ha!) Paige on in the British Virgin Islands last month.

For the record (I'll admit)...what was I thinking?

When I showed Brent the sole dark spine still embedded he offered his surgical prowess to cut it out. Fat chance! It's way too deep to let Brent start gauging around - at least if I value my mobility and want to walk again. I've seen Brent get overly enthused about simple sliver removals!

Skipper Terry thought any remaining spines we couldn't extricate looked small and would either work their way out or eventually dissolve. And he was correct with all but the last lone spine in my heel.

It's not painful all the time. I only notice it when I first wake up and then intermittently, usually when my heel bumps up against something or slides into shoes. Otherwise it seems rather benign.

I'm almost convinced it's staying around as a reminder; so the minute I start considering harebrained ideas as viable options, I'll recall how well listening to my inner idiot fared in the Atlantic ocean.

Perhaps this urchin spine will be my cross to bear, sort of like when the Apostle Paul notes "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh." (2 corinthians 12:7) Somehow Paul takes pleasure, even glories, in his thorn. But I'm not there yet, not even close!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Logan Temple Wedding!

"One of my students wrote me announcing his engagement. 'This is not going to be much of a wedding,' he said, 'but it is going to be a wonderful marriage." -William Lyon Phelps, American educator

So, without much fanfare, Anita Schiller and Robb Terry were married yesterday (1/25/11) in the Logan Utah Temple! I was planning to attend but once they got the okay to be sealed they didn't want to wait any longer (can't blame them there). So there wasn't time for the riff-raff friend to fly in from California.

After their 2 pm appointment and a little drama getting from Ogden to Logan in a big snowstorm, it was official! Our cute little Jewish-Mormon-part-of-the-family-Anitabanita is sealed to Robb (who coincidentally served in South Africa, overlapping with Brent's mission) Terry!

I still remember the day Anita first met Robb in person (almost 2 years ago). They'd become friends online and she decided to fly out to Utah to see whether it was worth investing more energy into the relationship. Anita showed me his profile and we both agreed that based on his photo, there was definitely potential.

But I'm pretty skeptical of the online matching. I thought the picture of Robb that Anita was drooling over might just be a fluke. But just hours after I dropped Anita off at the airport, reminding her that Robb might not be as cute in person, I received her text message that read: "He is SO much better looking in person."

Well, that weekend was the beginning of Robb and Anita's great friendship. They've survived building a home together and uprooting our California girl from Saratoga and it almost seems like they've been buds forever. Which now, after their temple marriage, they can be! Mazel Tov!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Recipe for Fun...

"Books, like friends, should be few and well chosen. Like friends, too, we should return to them again and again for, like true friends, they will never fail us - never cease to instruct - never cloy." -Charles Caleb Colton

Julia Hatch and I could have fun just about anywhere but especially at our old haunts! And even at new stomping grounds!

Yesterday we shopped our way through Santana Row and decided a 50/50 (sweet potato fries & onion strings) at The Counter sounded good. We weren't hungry enough for big burgers and the waitress didn't think we were serious when we told her we wanted to share a kid's meal. But we were dead serious, after all it comes with 2 sliders, one for me and one for Julia!

From lunch it was on to Willow Glen and we thought we might see former librarian, Claire Teel at Hickleebee's. Claire wasn't there but I'm always a sucker for Hicklebee's. There can't be very many independent children's booksellers still standing. I'm not sure how Hicklebee's survives but they seem to thrive...always bringing in top children's authors for book signings.

Spending time with Julia and frequenting old places we used to go with our carloads of kids from Almaden Country School days always brings back happy memories. After an outing with Julia I always add books to my "must read" list, I gain new inspiration on a myriad of subjects, and most of all I feel like I've laughed most of the afternoon! After all, what are friends for? Besides sharing book recommends and kid's meals!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Adult Toolbox!

"It's funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience.

But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendship, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said 'do the best you can with these, they will have to do.' And mostly, against all odds they do." -Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

Anne Lamott is a bit wacky but I sure love a lot of her writing. Lamott is a few years older than I am (definitely a product of the radical 60's) a white woman with long dreadlocks. As a writer, her honesty is refreshing. When Lamott writes about religion you feel her sincerity.

Before she became a church go-er (her Christian church is predominantly black saints in Marin County), Lamott was an alcoholic and finding faith really changed her life. I could fill pages with inspirational Anne Lamott quotes but the one above is definitely one of my favorites!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Misery LOVES Company!

I was planning to write about Sargent Shriver today. Since his funeral was yesterday I've read tributes about his life throughout the week. So, my plan was to comment on 2 aspects I really admire about Sargent Shriver.

First, I was planning to write about Shriver being the driving force behind JFK starting the Peace Corps in 1961. And second, apparently Sargent Shriver attended Mass daily for most of his adult life. That's dedication!

But now, I'm completely distracted after watching a clip of Maria Shriver speaking at her father's funeral. Maria (our former California First Lady, wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, writer, journalist, TV personality) had her remarks about her father typed in a gargantuan sized font. The font was so humongous that only a couple of sentences fit on each page.

I'm thrilled! Obviously, Maria Shriver didn't want to speak while wearing her reading glasses. So, she prepared her text in a notebook, turning pages over and over during her speech. I totally relate to Maria's dilemma. In fact, I did the very same thing the last time I had to speak in church. My church talk was typed so large the organist could probably read it from 20 feet away!

While Maria Shriver and I probably don't have a lot in common it sure makes me feel a whole lot better to see that she is also suffering from presbyopia! If there is one thing I disdain about aging, it's aging eyesight! So this isn't really schadenfreude because I'm not purely taking enjoyment in Maria's troubles. I'm delighting that I'm not alone in my own! Rather, my plight is shared even by the rich and famous! Oh, misery does love company!

And despite the inability Maria and I have to read small text, we would both agree with former President Bill Clinton who noted that Maria's father, Sargent Shriver, was "a man who dedicated his life to serving others!"

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Visiting Teacher to the Rescue...

"The Lord does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other." -President Spencer W. Kimball

There are plenty of inspiring Visiting Teaching stories but sometimes they're a little sappy. But I just read one that is my new favorite. It sheds some humorous light on the concept of helping each other! I'll paraphrase the story below:

One young mom was hosting a Harry Potter themed Birthday Bash for her 10 year old daughter which included making potions. The potion recipes for perfume all called for alcohol and the mom just assumed it was the rubbing variety.

But on party day they had a table filled with Hogwarty named essentials for the craft when on a more careful check of the recipe the mom noticed that the perfume oil called for a "scentless alcohol, like Everclear or Vodka, Do NOT use rubbing alcohol."

Since there was no time to get to the liquor store and back before the dozen girls arrived, the mother immediately thought of her visiting teaching companion.

"Linda, I need Vodka!" the mom pleaded and before she could launch into her bizarre explanation, Linda responded: "How much? I have a liter and can be right over." So, Linda, the gourmet cook, and VT friend, came to the rescue!

The young mom admits that it was a bit of a trivial and possibly inappropriate request but I happen to adore the story. It's probably not every Visiting Teacher that could lend you vodka in a pinch but I love the fact that these women knew each other well enough for one to feel comfortable asking and for the other to be there in a heartbeat. In fact, I guess because it's not your traditional Visiting Teaching Tale is why I like it so much!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Cold of Colds!

Achoo! Yep, I've got a run of the mill common cold! Not really sick enough to stay in bed but sick enough to feel low grade lousy.

I have a hard time hiding it when I'm under the weather because invariably, the second thing that goes is my voice. First, I feel a sore throat coming on and bam, then I get hoarse!

There are plenty of annoying things about laryngitis and one is the simple fact that I can't pretend I'm a-okay since it's a symptom that is quite apparent.

Plus, when people can immediately hear you sound sick you always get gobs of advice. Which is thoughtful but I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes to the common cold.

Brent swears by taking echinacea and zinc and his track record for sick days IS nonexistent. But he's already established that he's bionic so his remedies don't really count for the common folk like me! Others hydrate citrus products by the galloon or down Nyquil by the hour. But I'm not convinced that any of it really staves off symptoms or shortens the duration of the cold anyway.

By and large, I think most colds take leave when they've run they're course. I'm just not sure whether trying to power through makes a cold last longer or not. Alas, there is one thing that always makes me feel momentarily better: a reading of Ogden Nash's clever poem titled "Common Cold".

Go hang yourself, you old M.D.! You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope, Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite, In not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told, My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip; By fever's hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes, That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff; By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught, Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil! Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream, The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds, The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy; The Fuhrer of the Streptococcracy.

Baccilli swarm within my portals, Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientist wise and hoary, In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice, With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber, Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth! Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant, And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish, And you diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds, For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!
-Ogden Nash, The Common Cold

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

After an article appeared in The Wall Street Journal last week about Amy Chua's new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, there was such a brouhaha that I felt compelled to read the book.

It turns out that Chua's memoir is a great book, well written and insightful. She and her Jewish caucasian husband are both law professors at Yale. Her book is the story of being raised by stict immigrant parents, her desire to continue that tradition and the difficulty of doing that in our Western culture.

Unfortunately, in the WSJ it appears as if Chua completely exalts her rigid parenting model (think Chinese) while dissing the more lax style (think Western), hence inciting the backlash of many mothers. But most of the Journal's excerpts were taken somewhat out of context. And the article was titled "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" which did not help assuage the uproar either.

Chua's book, in total, is shocking at times but not nearly as combative as I expected. In fact, part of Chua's journey is learning to deal with a 2nd daughter, LuLu, who wasn't quite as amenable to the tight home regimen as daughter #1. LuLu screams back, tears up her piano sheet music and throws a few tantrums along the way.

Chua notes 3 differences between the mindsets of Chinese and Western parenting. First, Western parents are overly anxious about children's self esteem and constantly reassuring their children that they are terrific & perfect & wonderful regardless of how they might really perform.

Second, Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. Their children should spend their lives making their parents proud. Their children can repay them for all their sacrifices through obedience.

Third, Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore they can override all of their children's own desires and preferences.

Both of Amy Chua's daughters are accomplished and successful (so far) and clearly she has raised them with extremely demanding schedules. Their education, piano and violin lessons and practices, are rigorous and non-negotiable. Their calendars leave very little time for sleepovers, playdates, or just relaxed fun. But Chua concedes that this Type A parenting comes at a price and doesn't work perfectly. But, she'd doesn't regret her tough parenting model and she believes her girls don't either.

The book is a fascinating way to see different parenting styles, albeit some extreme, and note their pros and cons, as well as the value of some compromise too.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Anita's New Acquisitions: Jake & (not so fat) Albert!

Anita is now a package deal! Her Utah to California Road Trip included her 2 new acquisitions: Scottish Terriers, Jake and Albert! And, of course, Robb too! I was excited to see Anita & Robb but a little reluctant that the pups were coming along for the ride.

My worries were all for naught! It turns out, Jake and Albert are cute little yappers! It must be that good AnitaMOMbanita parenting! And, since Bodie and Ernie have broken me in with protocol, I'm almost getting the hang of dog visitors.

When Anita & Robb were at Matt Empey's funeral service I even took Jake for a walk. Actually I walked; Jake pretty much sniffed. Sniffed the asphalt, sniffed the grass, sniffed the dirt, sniffed me. Wow, all that sniffing makes walking extra slow! Jake's cousin, Albert, is too young for long walks at 8 weeks but he was happy to play (supervised) in the front yard.

During their stay, all the neighborhood cats that like to saunter into our lot kept their distance. So that might be one perk to having a dog again, less cats roaming the perimeter. Not that I'm making any plans. I'm just saying...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How Well Have We Loved?

I was touched reading excerpts of President Obama's remarks last Wednesday at the Tucson Memorial Service held to honor those killed and injured in the senseless shooting in Arizona.

I found the entire text online and was further impressed by Obama's poignant comments. When tragedies occur and we suffer sudden loss most of us go through the questions President Obama articulates below:

"We're shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward - but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we've shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order.

We recognize mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame - but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others." President Barack Obama, Tucson Memorial Service, January 13th, 2011

It's an excellent talk and a good reminder. It was a helpful exercise for me to read President Obama's speech and then evaluate my priorities, examine what matters most, and how well I have loved.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Study Abroad Serendipity...

"You don't reach serendipity by plotting a course for it. You have to set out in good faith for elsewhere and lose your bearings ...serendipitously." -John Barth

"Pleasant" surprises are those unexpected, beats your expectations, kinds of serendipity. Paige experienced one this month in London.

The BYU students are divided into multiple wards to attend while living abroad so they don't descend upon the Hyde Park London Ward in droves, overwhelming the members.

Paige was hoping her stars would align to be assigned to the convenient Hyde Park Ward. So, she was disappointed (initially) to learn that her church records would be in the Mitcham Ward which happens to be the furthest distance from the BYU center. While she could have walked to the Hyde Park Ward she now takes the Tube, a train and tram to get out to Mitcham.

But what a change of heart, from a little Saturday grousing to rejoicing on Sunday! It turns out that the Mitcham Ward is inconvenient and a lousy time slot (2-5 pm) BUT Paige gets to teach Primary to adorable black British children.

Paige went from initial frustration over her ward assignment to realizing what a unique experience had come her way. Lessons like this are a big perk of traveling and being willing to stretch out of our comfort zones.

Tourist sights can often be a let down. They may be overcrowded, over hyped or overpriced. On trips it's usually when I get lost exploring that I find the hidden treasures! Those unexpected joys in a different culture are the moments I adore (and remember most) in my travels.

So, as Paige opens her heart to embrace the kids in the Mitcham ward etc. , the more good travel karma should come her way. She's delighted with her opportunity to teach primary and hopefully Paige will have other great adventures in the UK that come about serendipitously!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


"BEHAVIOR - fresh, native, copious, each one for himself or herself,
Nature and the Soul expressed - America and freedom expressed - In it the finest art,
In it pride, cleanliness, sympathy, to have their chance,
In it physique, intellect, faith - in it just as much as to manage an army or a city, or to write a book-perhaps more,
The youth, the laboring person, the poor person, rivalling all the rest - perhaps outdoing the rest,
The effects of the universe no greater than its;
For there is nothing in the whole universe that can be more effective
than a man's or woman's daily behavior can be,
In any position, in any one of These States."
-Walt Whitman

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Blender Wars....

"Will it Blend?" -Tom Dickson, Inventor of the BlendTec blender

I generally arrive a little late to the game (so to speak), hence I wasn't ensnared into the Blender Wars until this week.

But the daily kale and chard in Brent's morning smoothies has destroyed our cheap Oster blender, so Brent insisted we bring in the big guns.

There are pretty much just 2 "big guns" in the blender world, the Vitamix and the BlendTec and I've been doing due diligence this week comparing the 2 machines.

Vitamix has been around longer but BlendTec stole the stage with their "Will It Blend" you tube videos showing them pulverize all sorts of random things: golf balls, a Rubik's cube, even an iphone.

As my research between the 2 brands intensified it only became more confusing which was the superior model. For the most part, the blenders are in a dead heat. One has higher horsepower but it makes more noise. Negligible, nuanced differences.

But we are now the proud owners of a BlendTec Total Blender. And, if you really want to know what sealed the deal for me? Quite honestly, I bought BlendTec over the Vitamix because Tom Dickson, the owner, is a BYU alum and a Mormon. Guess I'm just loyal and I'm also impressed by this wacky LDS inventor!

Infact, maybe BlendTec should try blending a Vitamix in their next YouTube video! In the meantime, we'll be enjoying Jamba Juice quality smoothies right in the comfort of our own home/kitchen!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Raising Children...

Jake Orton is going to be a big brother! Since Kristy is expecting a baby girl in 3 weeks we had a Baby Shower last night.

Glancing around the room made me feel old as these cute young moms are filling their homes with kids and our home has emptied out!

Some moms were talking about "ferberizing" their babies and I had to ask about the lingo! Apparently, ferberizing is a method of getting babies to sleep through the night by extending their cries in small increments each night. The technique was supposedly invented by by Dr. Richard Ferber who calls the "baby training" a healthy approach to teach infants to self soothe.

It sounds like Dr. Ferber is a new Berry Brazelton or Dr. Spock for this generation . Listening to the queries among the young moms about pregnancy, breast feeding, parenting, etc. reminded me of an essay by Anna Quindlen. Quindlen is a Pulitzer prize winning columnist and novelist who I love to read. And, I enjoy her writing the most when it's about home and family. I love the quote below:

"Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything.

One child responds to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome.

To a new parent, the ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself." -Anna Quindlen

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Playing Favorites...

Last Sunday night I went with Brent to the Youth Fireside introducing the 2011 Mutual Theme. I was delighted that they've chosen the 13th Article of Faith for the worldwide theme this year. It's always been my favorite!

The 13th Article of Faith reads: "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul - We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

For me the 13th Article of Faith is a great litmus test. If I'm reading a book or watching a movie that doesn't fall into the virtuous-lovely-good report-praiseworthy category, then I should probably "seek" something else. There are so many uplifting ways to spend my time that it just seems counterproductive when I squander it with things that don't pass the test.

The 13th Article of Faith has also served me well as an invitation to learn more about other faiths. It reminds me that we can find "good" all over the place; that, as a church, we don't have a corner on the market when it comes to goodness. There are wonderful examples of outstanding people with faith promoting stories all over the planet.

It's similar to a President Hinckley quote that I love: "We recognize the good in all people. We recognize the good in all churches, in their efforts to improve mankind and teach principles that lead to good, stable, productive living." Amen to that philosophy! And to my favorite Article of Faith!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 Goals!

Since I was goofing of in the British Virgin Islands on January 1st, I missed making New Year's Resolutions. So, yesterday on 1/11/11, it seemed liked a good date to formally set a couple of goals for the upcoming year.

I'm generally lousy at keeping resolutions if I make a long list. Long lists fall into the same category as long meetings and long talks; hard for me to tolerate!

Plus, if I have multiple goals in multiple categories, it doesn't take very many days before all my good intentions are abandoned. I do much better with a simplified approach.

So, in the interest of keeping things simple I'm using 1 scripture as a touchstone for my 4 daily goals. I'm hoping that by taking on just 4 goals at a time, this model will prove more manageable than longer lists from previous years.

I can't take credit for the idea behind using this scripture as a template. Joe C. Christensen used this scripture in his talk on Resolutions to BYU students in 1994.

Luke 2:52 reads: "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man."

So, the 4 ways or areas that our Savior developed before his ministry are:
1. intellectual (increased in wisdom),
2. physical (increased in stature),
3. social (increased in favor with man), and
4. spiritual (increased in favor with God).

Initially, my first goal is just to make sure I've taken action in each area daily! So, every night I'll run through a mental recall to note my progress (or lack thereof) in each of the 4 areas.

The specific goals in each category are mostly personal so I won't write down the details. But I like the concept, a simple, single (& measurable somewhat) goal for each area. And, I really like using this scripture to help me consider ways that I can also strive to improve (increase) my wisdom/knowledge, my stature/health, and favor with God/spirituality and with man/socially. It seems like an apropos checklist in an ongoing effort to become more Christlike. So, be it therefore resolved!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just Slugging Along!

"You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions.

But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is poured on him.

And right up to the moment when you find yourself dissolving into foam you can still believe you are doing fine." -Wallace Stegner, Crossing To Safely

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stellar Youth & the Leaders Who Love Them...

"We have been born, As Nephi of old,
To goodly parents who love the Lord.
We have been taught and we understand,
That we must do as the Lord commands.

We are as the Army of Helaman, We have been taught in our youth.
And we will be the Lord's missionaries, To bring the world his truth." -Janice Kapp Perry

One powerful moment for me at Bud Wilson's funeral was the Los Gatos Ward Young Men singing "Army of Helaman."

As I watched this eclectic group of young men and their leaders sing (minus their YM President, Bud), it touched me how lucky these boys are to have men like Bud, Jeremy Walton, Dave Rodrigues, etc. who take such an interest in them.

I doubt the youth realize how much their adult leaders care about them and want them to be happy. When the youth struggle and make poor choices, their adult leaders struggle too. They sincerely want to help. I know this from experience, many times over!

I'll never forget being a YW President in LaJolla years ago, and one day out driving I passed one of my Mia Maid girls with her friends and she was smoking. My heart sank! I adored this girl, saw her potential and felt sick wishing I could keep her safe and innocent.

Sometimes I think teenagers feel like their choices only affect them. But that's a fallacy. Decisions, good ones and bad ones, affect everyone that loves them (their parents, their leaders, their friends & family). Of course, parents, leaders, and friends are the first to want to help when youth who've strayed from gospel principles want to put their lives back in order.

So, when our sweet Los Gatos Young Men stood in their matching Raiders ties to honor Bud by singing the guy's part from the EFY Medley my heart soared! These are good boys are they are so lucky to have scores of adults who really care about them!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Funeral for a Friend"

Wayne Paxton Wilson II, August 27th, 1957 - December 31st, 2010

Just 4 days before his 25th wedding anniversary, Bud Wilson passed away (on New Year's Eve). All of us who knew and loved Bud were shocked.

His funeral service yesterday was a wonderful tribute to a good man. Bud's life impacted hundreds of people, especially the youth, and the chapel was packed. Knowing Bud's modesty, I think the large turnout would have surprised him.

Bud was an "Everybody Loves Raymond" kind of guy. He was easy to be around, unpretentious, unassuming, self deprecating. With Bud, he was who he was, and he never tried to be something or someone else. I loved his authenticity.

The youth (who can always detect hypocrisy) found Bud pretty cool...for an adult anyway! Because he didn't put on airs and wasn't preachy he was a Sunday School teacher that most teenagers could tolerate. And he taught scores of them; year after year, including all 3 Knudsen kids at one time or another.

Bud's youngest brother, Matt, used 3 words to describe Bud: generosity, loyalty, and passion. Bud was always generous, giving gifts but also giving of himself and his time. He was incredibly loyal to friends and to his favorite teams (ie. the Oakland Raiders) and passionate about many things (ie. swimming, his dogs, and again, of course, the Raiders).

Bud's other brother, Mitchell, said he always looked up to Bud and admitted that he never figured out exactly why so many people liked Bud. "Frankly," Mitchell noted, "Bud was kind of a crotchety guy but for some reason people were drawn to him." Mitchell's comment was probably one that only a brother could get away with but it was absolutely true. Bud could complain or grouse and yet I still enjoyed being around him! Go figure!

I once heard it said that if you want a large turnout at your funeral, you need to die young. If you live a long life all those friends who might have attended your memorial service have already died!

Well, Bud was young (relatively speaking, since he is my peer!) and the church community was definitely out supporting both Bud and Denise yesterday. Denise has a tough road ahead but she certainly has lots of love from our ward family as she grieves losing her husband and our friend, Bud Wilson. RIP!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How To Read A Poem: A Beginner's Manual

"First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma,
your steel-tipped boots,
or your white-collar misunderstandings.

Do not assume meaning hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
and trust.

Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.

When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don't even notice,
close this manual.

You can now read poetry. -Pamela Spiro Wagner

Friday, January 7, 2011

Be Fluid Like Water...

In the Slatton's Christmas card, Michelle mentions how a concept she learned in the book, The Monkey and the Fish, helped her forge through a busy 2010.

The author, Dave Gibbons, writes about "the art of being water: to be fluid like water, which takes on the shape of whatever container it is placed in."

Michelle's interpretation of this, in her everyday life, meant being open to new things and new ways of doing things and responding exuberantly and artfully to the new circumstances. The Slatton's had an eventful year which included one wedding and an engagement, so Michelle's "be fluid like water" mantra was life changing.

Since everyone experiences change, the "being fluid" concept is probably a great model for all of us. I'm certain it could benefit me! If I can choose between being fluid like water or rigid like a stone wall, how much better off if I can 'go with the flow' of things. My kids would definitely prefer the fluid mother.

I loved Michelle's musings on how the whole notion of being fluid helped her in 2010; taking her places she never imagined and allowing God a chance to have more control over her life. So, in alliance with Michelle, I'm planning to give this "being fluid" concept a try in 2011! Who knows what opportunities might take shape?

"Be Liquid. When you pour water into a glass, it takes the shape of the glass. Pour it into a teapot and it takes the shape of the teapot. Water can flow. Be water. Be liquid." -Dave Gibbons

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Missing Kona...

I should start by unequivocally stating that 'missing Kona' does not imply that I am considering replacing Kona!

But, yes, I have to concede that Kona was a great dog. When I came across this photo of Webb putting socks on Kona, it did make me quite nostalgic.

Our first dog, Torrey, also turned out to be a winner of a family pet only that was after 2 intense years of surviving Torrey's puppy stages. But Kona was pretty great from the get-go.

Australian Shepherds are known as a very smart breed and I always thought Kona was a little too smart for our crew of amateurs. We flew by the seat of our pants in our knowledge and acumen as pet owners.

The 'dog experts' were actually our neighbors and I think they liked Kona more than they liked us! In truth, Kona may have saved the neighbors from procuring their own family pet since Kona was around to entertain their kids. I'm not sure if I bought their line about being on a waiting list for Bernese mountain dogs! 10 years later and that is one long waiting list!

But, back to Kona: Kona was steadfast. You could count on Kona. Her temperament was generally always good spirited. In fact, it was so unlike Kona to not happily greet us that her lethargy was the first clue something was wrong. Yes, Kona you are missed by a someone who isn't really into the whole pet drill. And that is saying A LOT!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Paige's New Crib...

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and
narrow-mindedness." -Mark Twain

Paige is enroute to her new digs at 27 Palace Court in London. She'll join a crew of BYU students for Winter Semester Study Abroad in England. I am very jealous!

The experiences I had during my BYU Study Abroad in Vienna, Austria definitely influenced my life. I have wonderful memories from traveling abroad as a student and my nostalgia has me very excited for Paige.

Traveling abroad is a great teacher; one of the best! While Paige is learning all about London she'll definitely discover things about herself as well.

As Paige embraces the UK culture she'll likely become an avid anglophile. Who could live in England and not fall in love with the Tube, Jane Austen, the Beatles, Shakespeare, Oxford, Dickens, C.S. Lewis, and Harrods, just to name a few. I'm definitely planning to vicariously enjoy her adventures!

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford." -Samuel Johnson

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reality Bites....

A safe return home always feels good, until the reality sets in that the vacation is truly over.

Preparing before a trip is busy but the anticipation awaits. After the trip, there is plenty of catching up and no looming excitement.

Just lots of mail to open, luggage to unload, laundry to sort, and meals to fix. And, with the holidays winding down there are Christmas lights and decorations waiting to be boxed up.

Those hammocks that were so plentiful in the Caribbean seem awfully far away today! Those naps we took on the tramp at the bow of the boat were a luxury indeed!