Monday, February 28, 2011

The Curious Chemist...

"He always pulled you in the room and wanted to know how you were doing and what your future plans were. He was interested in every one of us and wanted to learn everything about our lives." -Howard Bennion's comment about his uncle, Henry Eyring.

Howard Bennion is a cute elderly man in our ward that my kids probably don't remember. He's 84 years old and Brent and I get a big kick out of his obsession with Apple products. As a former engineer, Howard's retirement hobby seems to be technology; he's adept on his computer, has the latest iphone, tons of apps (and unlike me he actually uses them), and emails his grandkids. The only thing Howard doesn't do is text message.

We gave Howard a ride to the Oakland Temple on Saturday and he kept us entertained up and back. I knew Howard was related to our Apostle and member of the First Presidency, Henry B. Eyring, so I asked him about that connection. It turns out that President Eyring (who Howard calls Hal) is his cousin which makes Howard's uncle the famous scientist who taught at Princeton, Henry Eyring.

Henry Eyring (the father of Apostle Eyring) was a brilliant chemist who is renowned for his studies of chemical reaction rates. Many expected him to win a Nobel prize.

When Howard reminisced about his Uncle Henry the first thing he noted was the interest his uncle had for all of the kids in the extended family (reread opening quote here). I found this touching, and beyond that, I think there is a great lesson here.

Professor Henry Eyring's interest in other people, his curiosity to learn all about others is a quality I notice in so many people I admire. It's an attribute that really impresses me!

It's particularly interesting relative to Professor Eyring because often people in science professions get a bad rap for aloofness or maybe they just aren't usually noted for their people skills. Clearly this was not the case with Henry Eyring since his nephew vividly recalls Professor Eyring's inquisitions and desire to know all about his nieces and nephews.

"Taking an interest in what others are thinking and doing is often a much more powerful form of encouragement than praise." -Robert Martin

Sunday, February 27, 2011

With great power, comes great responsibility...

"With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility." -the Spider-Man charge

When the Seminary material I'm teaching the youth on a given week collides with lessons I personally need it feels fortuitous, uncanny in a good way.

In class this week we studied Sections 109 and 110 in the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 109 is the Dedicatory Prayer for the Kirtland Temple and Section 110 is the record of the Lord's appearance at the Kirtland Temple as well as Moses, Elias, and Elijah.

In class we talked a lot about receiving our temple endowment and the power that comes from going to the temple. We made a list (with some help from quotes by General Authorities) of examples of the great power we can receive in the temple.

Our list certainly isn't inclusive, but it's a good start:
- the power of enlightenment
- the power of testimony
- the power of understanding
- the power to thwart the forces of evil
- the power to use our gifts and capabilities with increased effectiveness
- the power to overcome sin and stand in holy places
- the power to strengthen our families

As I mulled over the list, it occurred to me that while I do a decent job at getting to the temple (generally monthly), I could do much better at seeking out these specific powers. Obviously I'm in need of any and all special powers I can gain spiritually, if nothing else, just to counter the temporal doofus I can be! But, hey, if you think about it, Peter Parker was sort of goofy without his Spider-man powers too.

Well, yesterday we attended the Oakland Temple as Los Gatos Ward members in conjunction with our Ward Conference this weekend. Because of our Seminary lessons, I was more contemplative during the endowment session, thinking about promised powers, and it definitely heightened my experience.

The saints in Kirtland, Ohio in 1836 were so stalwart and practically lived in squalor while they focused everything on building the house of the Lord. The saints made huge sacrifices to ensure the temple was completed. I have a renewed sense of what a great blessing it is to have opportunities to visit temples. As well as the responsibility (ah, there is always a catch!) that comes along with that privilege!

"For of him unto whom much is given much is required." -Doctrine & Covenants 82:3 (our Scripture Mastery equivalent to the Spider-Man charge)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The 50/50 Teaser....

All week long the Bay Area newspapers have predicted a 50/50 chance of snow this weekend. When the meteorologists give it 50/50 odds my 'cup half full' outlook naturally leads me to the conclusion that it will snow.

A cold front from Alaska is definitely coming our way. Whether we get the actual snow here on the valley floor depends on whether 'the perfect storm' ingredients all come together.

Or, in weather lingo, the cold front would "need to pick up moisture as it loops over the ocean off the Pacific Northwest before arriving."

It would be the first snow here in 35 years. Apparently it was 1976 when the last snowflakes fell in the Silicon Valley.

As a general rule, I'm not a big fan of cold weather, therefore, I'm not inclined to pray for snow. Ordinarily. However, when a climate that never precipitates anything more dramatic than rainstorms suddenly includes snow in the forecast, it seems extraordinary! And, anything extraordinary calls for celebration and I'm always inclined to celebrate!

So, even though what I am desperately praying for is summer and warm weather, after all the hullabaloo the media has generated with these claims of snow, I do hope we get our mega snowstorm (albeit I just want it to snow today and be gone tomorrow, no need to drag it out!).

If it doesn't snow this weekend, there will be lots of disappointed little kids and perhaps even some disappointed big kids (like me) who do like to see history in the making. Even if it means tolerating a nippy temperature. So, bring on the snow and promptly thereafter let's usher in an early spring season!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Handiwork around the House...

Brent's "tools of trade" are not the carpentry sort. When it comes to handyman jobs he is ready to tackle the job...with his tube of Gorilla Glue.

It's not that Brent CAN'T build or fix things, it's simply that he prefers not too. What Brent prefers, is hiring someone else to do the job.

Because I'm more reluctant to hire services (think cheap), I'll occasionally take a crack at things before I bring in the big guns. My track record for my efforts has mixed results. Okay, maybe I'm overstating my prowess.

Anyway, I'm probably best at furniture assembly. Especially when furniture comes with detailed directions. I'll copiously study and follow each step meticulously.

I've put together plenty of IKEA gizmos for college kids and Pottery Barn furniture too. It's kind of therapeutic. For me, not for Brent. Furniture assembly would not be his idea of relaxation. In fact, Brent pretty much ignores directions unless (or should I say when) trouble arises. Then he'll take a glance at the manual. Although sometimes this is too late!

Anyway, there's a lazy susan shelf unit in our kitchen pantry that has been stained and cracked since we first moved to Los Gatos. For years I've been looking for replacement parts. I finally realized I'd have to take the whole thing apart just to figure out what parts I actually needed. So, once I got the contraption disassembled I starting searching online.

I ordered new parts and crossed my fingers I'd still remember how to put it all back together when the parts arrived in 2 weeks. They came and ...I conquered! Yes! Only now I can't figure out why it took me so long to get around to fixing it! It's a big improvement.

And, Brent even offered his assistance while I was putting it back together. Although he was probably relieved that I didn't take him up on the offer.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The 1st Robot Marathon!

"Runners. Yeah, we're different." -Adidas

An Adidas campaign 10 years ago featured great magazine ads with runners doing weird stuff that anyone who runs would recognize but non-runners can't quite relate to. For example, guys putting vaseline on thighs & nipples for chafing, squatting behind trees in a long trail run, stretching while waiting in lines, etc. Different as in "odd."

It seems we now have some runners that are different as in "robotic." A technology company in Japan is hosting the world's first marathon for robots! In the article I read only 5 robots had entered the event, but, hey, you've got to start somewhere.

The race kicks off today, February 24th, and it's open only to androids with two legs. The robots will make 422 laps around a 100 meter indoor track to cover 26 miles! This reminds me of when Paige ran a 5K on the indoor Rotary Track in a New York City Invitational and set the Los Gatos High School record (which she may still hold). The rotary track was small and I think Paige had to race around 25 laps which boggles the minds of 100 yard dash sprinters.

Race organizers expect the Robot Marathon to last 4 days which will put the robots at the finish line on February 27th, the day their human counterparts run in the Toyko Marathon. It's a relief to my ego to know that while I may be slow at least I can beat robots!

I'm so excited to get wind of this Robot Marathon. A few robots from the Knudsen collection might want to sign up for next year and start training! And may the best "Robot" win!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Going to the Dogs...

Bodie and Ernie have opened the floodgates! We've managed company coming to visit us for 30 years and until Webb and Anna's pups christened our place our house guests were always the human sort.

I think their cute little beagles put a spell on the property. Suddenly all our visitors happen to have dogs!

Perhaps Ernie and Bodie are advertising: The Knudsen Hotel has this weird lady who claims she isn't a 'dog person' but her bark is much bigger than her bite! Plus, it's a dog's disneyland here on Alpine Avenue: cats to terrorize to the north and south, room to roam, and weather to frolic in the sunshine (at least when it isn't raining!).

Or maybe Ernie and Bodie lobby our visitors to bring along their dogs to train and condition the proprietors to better accommodate canine guests. Then by the next time Ernie and Bodie come to town our Zagat's dog ratings will have soared.

It was never my goal in life to own and operate a 5 star pet property but I have to admit that every dog guest so far has exceeded my expectations (although the bar was pretty low). Our newest dog addition, Halle, pitched up yesterday with Bo and Kira McNally. Halle (think actress Halle Berry) rhymes with McNally (rhyming: cute with a dog, not with a child - in my humble opinion) and looks like a mash-up of Bodie & Ernie.

I'll need to get our camera out because Halle is an adorable 4 year old Beagle (and Bo & Kira are adorable newlyweds). The math doesn't compute (4 year-old dog, 7 months married but I guess Halle and Kira were a package deal for Bo).

The McNally's are moving from New York to Palo Alto and staying with us while they find a place to rent. Gosh, if they find an apartment that won't accept dogs maybe Halle will have to stay with us indefinitely. Halle moves in with the empty nesters... stranger things have happened!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Body Language!

"Every physician, at one time or another is struck by the sheer elegance and intricacy of the human body. But, few laypersons get a chance to experience such wonder. This exhibit is a rare opportunity for the layperson to share in this privileged view of ourselves." -Dr. Neil S. Wagner, M.D., UCLA Medical Center

On Saturday, we went to "Body Worlds" at the San Jose Tech Museum. Developed by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the exhibit features individual organs and entire bodies of preserved human specimens.

The cadavers have been through a process called "plastination." The key goal of the show is nicely worded in the Body Worlds brochure: "For the medical enlightenment and appreciation of lay people."

The same things that make the Body Worlds display compelling (real bodies in real poses) are the same things that make it controversial. But I thought it was respectful and definitely educational.

We saw livers that were calcified and ruined by alcohol consumption and lungs that were dark and shrunken by cigarette smoke. The correlation between our lifestyle choices and our bodies was very apparent.

The exhibit overall was actually smaller than I expected and while impressive it wasn't amazing. But it absolutely gave me a renewed respect for these incredible machines, our human bodies. I'm more inclined to live a healthier life in both diet and exercise after seeing "cause and effect" consequences on actual bodies.

And, the miracle of the human body is more indelibly imprinted on my psyche. After viewing our internal organs and understanding the specific functions of each organ, it's mind-boggle astonishing to me that anyone could view the intricate detail of our bodies and not see the influence of a higher power!

"The glory of God is found in the human fully alive. The human body is essential to our humanity - to our personhood - and any growth in the understanding and knowledge of our human body leads to a greater appreciation of our dignity as human persons." -Father Richard Benson, St. John's Seminary, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Monday, February 21, 2011

If A Tree Falls In A Singles Ward....

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

The philosophical riddle above always drives me a little crazy. Does "sound" only exist when there are ears to hear it?

However, if a tree falls in a singles ward (this is my non riddle) you will hear it! Loud and clear. You'll hear it because it will be the only noise in the room!

I don't get out to singles wards on a regular basis but took the opportunity to make a guest appearance at the Stanford 2nd Ward yesterday. I'd heard rumors of VIP speakers!

Actually, our own Andie Knudsen was on the program to speak on the topic "Draw Near Unto Me" (scripture reference in Doctrine and Covenants 88:63).

The first thing I noticed in Sacrament Meeting was the silence! It wasn't a deafening silence but a reverent one...although it was a little eerie. I'm so used to church in family wards with plenty of sound, not irreverence exactly, just....little people noise. Okay, sometimes big people too (sometimes I'm might even be the guilty party). Or, as our Primary leaders in Los Gatos clarified in our meeting yesterday, our Primary kids don't have a reverence problem, just an exuberance one!

Stanford 2nd Ward reminded me of when I was a docent on Temple Square. When I was in college I volunteered once a week and gave tours back in the day before they called Sister Missionaries like "The Amy" Harmer to serve as full time Temple Square missionaries. So, part of my tour guide spiel in the Tabernacle included noting the great acoustics and even having a visitor drop a pin that we could hear it from the other end of the building. "So quiet you can hear a pin drop" is practically the only line I can remember from my docent days!

Anyway, Andie was an excellent public speaker. In fact, maybe the silence at church was simply because everyone was in awe! Just kidding, but it was a great talk. Even without any background noise.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Dream Deferred

Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up,
Like a raisin in the sun.

Or fester like a sore - -
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over - -
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
-Langston Hughes

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's Not Rocket Science...

"The Lone Ranger and Tonto are camping in the desert, set up their tent, and are asleep. Some hours later, The Lone Ranger wakes his faithful friend.

"Tonto, look up and tell me what you see."
Tonto replies, "Me see millions of stars."
"What does that tell you?" asks The Lone Ranger.

Tonto ponders for a minute. "Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, it's evident the Lord is all powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What it tell you, Kemo Sabi?"

"Tonto, you dummy, someone has stolen our tent!"

Just like Tonto, sometimes I miss the obvious! The answer is right in front of me and I miss it because it's just too easy!

Case in point: We have 2 pool pumps that siphon the water off the cover when it rains. Since it's been pouring all week the pump is critical to keep the water from getting too heavy on the cover.

Brent noticed the pump wasn't working, did a little troubleshooting, had no success, and brought out the back-up pump. The alternate pump wasn't working either! Talk about an odd coincidence. What are the chances that both pumps would break down on the same day?

Well, it seemed unlikely but we've had worse luck with appliances, so we just figured we were unlucky! Bad Pool Pump Karma at the Knudsens!

So, Brent enlisted my help with the rising water problem. I fiddled with the pumps, tightened this and that, tripped the GFI electrical switch, and I struck out. I started heaving gallons of rainwater off the slowly sinking inverted pool cover with a bucket. This didn't solve the pump mystery but alleviated some build up and bought us some time.

Then, I ordered a new pump for overnight delivery. And just for good measure I mentioned to our pool guy, Andy, that he might want to check the pumps, just in case Brent and I overlooked anything.

Well, it didn't take Andy long to determine our problem. When both pumps seemed kaput, Andy's brain (unlike my astute mind) told him that this made no sense. So, no higher education Andy checks the hose and ta-da, leaves are clogged inside and the water is getting stuck at that point!

Andy gets the leaves out and the water comes gushing through! Crisis averted! While Brent and I focused on the technical pump mechanism, Andy simply double checked the hose and immediately solved the problem!

Well, there are plenty of messages I can glean from our pool pump experience. One obvious lesson is to always make sure I haven't missed an obvious solution to a problem!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cleansing Her Palate...

You've gotta love our sophisticated London girl! After she arrived in England, Paige was hoping someone (aka Mom) would send her Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Blueberries because (and I'll quote her directly) "I always need a little something sweet to cleanse my palate after dinner."

Cleanse Her Palate? Who knew? Is this the same girl who wasn't all that fond of chocolate before the Holland family indoctrinated her on the difference between Milky Way and Godiva?

Yes, it seems that Paige has become a bit of a chocolate snob. While I am definitely not a connoisseur when it comes to chocolate, I have read that dark is healthier than milk or white chocolate. Apparently it has more antioxidants. Of course so does broccoli. And spinach. Maybe I should send Paige some broccoli and spinach. And, in an effort to help Paige keep her palate cleansed I guess I should dip those veggies in dark chocolate!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Sacrament Meeting Soundbite...

"Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by." -2nd verse

I've probably sung the lyrics to "Count Your Blessings" thousands of times. Yet, I heard a clever disclaimer right after it was the congregational hymn between speakers at Sacrament Meeting that gave me a new visual.

The Glass family (cute young mom & dad w/2 adorable daughters) moved into the Los Gatos ward last month and they were giving their official new-to-the-ward talks.

Juston Glass spoke right after we sang "Count Your Blessings" and noted that the words say "every doubt will fly." He pointed out that while "flying" doesn't technically mean they'll be gone, they'll certainly be lighter (if they can fly, of course).

It's just a simple observation on the lyrics but his comment struck me enough that all week I've visualized any doubts (or troubles) I have with wings, flying overhead. Then, picturing this in my mind's eye makes me laugh and it's hard to be upset about trivial doubts and troubles when I'm laughing. Which confirms it works (sort of).

If Juston's soundbite was the only thing I took away from Sacrament meeting it would have been worth my attendance (for my new visual alone). Fortunately, the rest of the meeting was also good.

Justin Bryan (yep, 2 Justin speakers, although Juston Glass spells it with an "o") gave an interesting and very Justin-like perspective on how we are all aliens (tongue in cheek)! And Nani Glass gave a great talk on the Word of Wisdom. Nani's a nutrition major and she focused on how practical our health code is relative to her school studies.

So, definitely one of the blessings I've been counting this week is the spiritual nourishment I get from church! Even just little soundbites! So, have I been "singing as the days go by?" Perhaps, though not in public!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Good Samaritans on Steroids....

For Bookgroup last night we read "The Day The World Came To Town" by Jim DeFede. The book showcases the wonderful people in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, Canada who open their doors and their hearts to over 6500 people when 38 airplanes were rerouted on 9/11 after all America airspace was closed down.

Gander itself only has a population of around 10,000 people and the stories of this community stepping in to help the stranded passengers is touching. I recommend the book to anyone, especially if you like reading about charity in action.

With all the tragic stories that came out of 9/11, some of the books published were too heartbreaking to read. But this book brings out the tremendous "good" that sometimes comes out of "evil."

It shows a side to tragedy when people rescue strangers in need without any motivation for gain or recognition. It shows the very best of humanity!

I was inspired by the compassion and warmth of the citizens of Gander. Their generous response made me stop and consider how I might have reacted. Would I be willing to drop whatever I was doing to help? Would Los Gatos, as a community, 3 times the size of Gander, reach out to others if we were in a similar position? Is our pace here too busy?

It also made me pause to think about the stranded passengers; an eclectic group of people thrown together who bond from the experience. But, again, if I'd been on one of those flights would I have been as resilient? Appreciative? Would I express my gratitude to the Gander residents for their service? Or would I whine and complain?

A quote from the book's introduction sums up how fabulous this community was: "They placed their lives on hold for a group of strangers and asked for nothing in return. They affirmed the basic goodness of man at a time when it was easy to doubt such humanity existed. If the terrorists had hoped their attacks would reveal the weaknesses in western society, the events in Gander proved it's strength." -Jim Defede

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Power of Example...

"Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you." -Robert Fulghum

It turns out that children both listen AND watch what the adults are doing! Andie and I had a classic Emily Bryan moment over the weekend that proves this theory.

We were en route to Trader Joes with Emily along for the ride in the back seat. Since Emily was listening to the ABC's CD, Andie and I were catching up on her life in Palo Alto, completely unaware that Emily could even hear our conversation. As Andie told me about their house guest from Brazil, Andie mentioned that they were kind of trying to fellowship her and noted that she had a Book of Mormon.

All of a sudden, our back seat companion perked up on hearing the book title, piped in and exclaimed: "Hey, my Mom reads the Book of Mormon!"

Until Emily's little announcement we weren't aware she was even listening to us so let that be a warning if you don't think 3 and a half year olds soak up your conversations! And, I think Jennifer is going to be thrilled to learn that Emily is watching her enough to notice Jennifer's reading material! We came home and had Emily tell the Bishop what her Mom is reading and he was impressed!

Emily's little voice when she had information to add to our dialogue was so dang cute (as always). Now if I want to make Andie smile all I have to do is send her the simple text message "my Mom reads the Book of Mormon" and we'll both have a laugh!

So, one take-away from Emily's declaration: get caught reading good things (children may be watching) and make sure your conversations are kosher to be overheard by little people!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saint Valentine on Campus...

Here's a roundabout Valentine's story from my college years. After transferring from BYU to the University of Utah I ran into my high school girlfriend, Crystal, at the library. In updating each other I noted a few dates I'd been on with a Sigma Chi named Brent.

"Brent Knudsen," Crystal laughed. "You two are perfect for each other." And then she explained why and what was so funny.

Crystal recalled passing Brent the previous Valentines day on campus. Brent stopped her, excitedly opened his backpack filled with Valentines, scribbled a note to Crystal and handed it off.

Crystal claims she honestly remembered thinking "that is exactly the kind of quirky thing my friend, Kathryn, would do!" So Crystal believes she had the "two peas in a pod" pegged before we ever knew one another existed!

When Crystal shared her clairvoyant tale I quibbled that she was both wrong and right. While it IS true that I'm always up for commemorating any/all occasions, my celebratory ways are not quite so public. In other words, I might mail you a Valentine but I'm not bold enough to impersonate Saint Valentine walking across campus handing out cards (just to be clear!).

Crystal's Valentine exchange with Brent and her noting our similarities is something I've thought about over the years. Because while Crystal dubbed Brent as the "guy version" of me, she was only accurate on a few levels. Turns out we've got similarities but we're pretty different too. Which happily has worked out just fine! So, here's a limerick for my Valentine, and apparently, sometimes, my twin:

There once was a Saint named Brent,
And Valentines the guy always sent.
Then my good friend she declared,
"Though you're both somewhat impaired,
For each other you surely were meant!" -K2

*(the photo isn't great but validates my argument that Brent's more gregarious. Here he is trying to haul his reluctant wife to the dance floor!)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

From Portugal to Andora...

Chuck and Liz Walton received news that the Portugal Porto Mission they preside over will be combined with the Portugal Lisbon Mission in July. The Waltons will have served 2 years of their 3 year mission call.

So, just as you'd expect of Chuck and Liz, they expressed a willingness to serve in any capacity they might be needed for that 3rd year.

And, it appears that they are needed as the first proselyting/leadership couple in the African nation of Angola! Angola is part of the Mozambique Mission because both countries speak Portuguese but they are on opposite sides of the African continent.

Last October the Apostle, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, offered a dedicatory prayer in Angola for the preaching of the gospel and a few missionaries from Mozambique were transferred there. When Chuck and Liz arrive in July 2011 they will oversee the missionaries and the branches (currently 4 but growing) that have already formed in Angola.

It's fun to read Liz's email updates on the missionary work and church growth in Portugal. The members in Portugal are working hard to prepare for a temple in their country (announced in the October General Conference). But in a few months, Liz's reports will be coming out of Africa instead of Portugal but no doubt they'll be just as inspiring.

Liz has such a good attitude and I've come to believe through her emails (and ALL missionaries who write) that part of the "mantle of the call" as a missionary is optimism no matter how difficult the work might be! Liz always plays up the blessings and positive aspects of their circumstances and minimizes the challenges. It's not a bad model for life really!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Shedding the Light of the Sun..."

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." -Maya Angelou

When I'm around Nan Hunter she makes me feel like I'm as important as anyone on the planet. Nan never fails to ask about every one of my kids (by name) and wants a full report on their life.

Last week I caught up with Nan at Lizzie's baby shower. Nan always gives me a renewed sense of purpose and a desire to be a better person. She is genuinely one of the most exemplary people I know. Nan radiates sunshine wherever she goes!

"If a man is to shed the light of the sun upon other men, he must first of all have it within himself." -Romain Rolland

Friday, February 11, 2011

Naaman the Leper...

"And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?" -2nd Kings 5:13

Naaman the leper is one of my favorite Old Testament stories. And I've been thinking about the government recommendation to eat less (from yesterday's blog), relative to Naaman's plight.

Naaman is an army general who wants to be cured of his leprosy and is insulted when Elisha sends a servant out to tell him to bath in the river Jordan 7 times. No magic potions, no complex surgery, no pomp and circumstance, just a remedy that Naaman himself needed to perform.

The story is found in 2nd Kings Chapter 5 and sure enough, after Naaman whines about the simplicity of Elisha's method (among other things), he does bathe in the Jordan River and his leprosy is cured.

So, while it feels more challenging for me to "eat less" than for Naaman to "bath 7 times" both guidelines are rooted in the person (Naaman or myself) ultimately being the one with the control over an ailment. Even though we'd both prefer a fancier diagnosis or plan of attack that doesn't involve something that sounds so, well,... simple.

In fact, I think this analogy, this concept of a basic or a simple approach holding our answer/solution, is manifest in my life in temporal and spiritual ways over and over again. And, by simple I don't mean "easy," I mean "not complicated."

But, like Naaman, I generally act like I'd be willing to do something greater, so... why am I not willing to do something simple! Just "food" for thought!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Eat Less!

The US Department of Agriculture revised their Dietary Guidelines booklet for the first time since 2005.

And this year they've added a recommendation to maintain health. It's the boldest nutrition advice they've given over the years. The new booklet encourages Americans to ...(drumroll, please)... "Enjoy their food but eat less."

"Eat less" there's a concept! While I shouldn't really need the federal government to tell me common sensical things, I'm encouraged that they are finally acknowledging the obesity issues plaguing our country.

Apparently, in past versions of the dietary guidelines the government has not wanted to anger the food lobbyists so they'd side step. Of course.

Kudos to Michelle Obama for putting our country's obesity epidemic in the spotlight. Portion sizes are out of control and we (I include myself in this problem) have become a gluttonous people!

I read a cool slogan that someone came up with: "Eat Less, Exercise More, Eliminate Nighttime Treats, And Restrain Yourself! It's ELEMENTARY!" Not a bad motto to commit to memory! Although when I get right down to it, sometimes (usually) it's the elementary, the most basic stuff that throws me off.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

5 Love Languages...

"We cannot rely on our native tongue if our spouse does not understand it. If we want them to feel the love we are trying to communicate, we must express it in his or her primary love language." -Gary Chapman

For Relief Society Enrichment we had presentations on the 5 Love Languages, a concept developed by Gary Chapman, Ph.D.

Chapman believes that most of us use 1 of 5 ways to express emotional love. While each "love language" is used by many people he believes that most people speak 1 primary language of the 5 and as we understand which language someone else may speak, it helps us understand them better (our spouse, our children, our friends or extended family).

We had 5 top notch women explain the 5 languages (summarized below):
1. Words of Affirmation
Pam Calvert talked about how powerful words are and what a difference it can make when we use positive words. People really respond to compliments, especially sincere ones.

2. Quality Time
Tia talked about investing in a relationship by our attention, refusing to interrupt or give advise (just listening). One of the natural (and wonderful) by-products of quality activities is that they provide a memory bank from which to draw in the years ahead.

3. Receiving Gifts
Julie Moore talked about gifts. Gifts don't need to be expensive but meaningful. Thoughtful things given can be a symbolic representation of our love.

4. Acts of Service
Pat Tate talked about love being a verb; serving others by lifting burdens or rescuing them. Service might involve doing things for your spouse (or whomever) that you know they'd like, especially when it isn't our favorite thing to do.

5. Physical Touch.
Julie Holland talked about physical touch and how small and simple things can make or break a relationship. She shared ideas for the importance of physical touch with children, teenagers, friends and spouses.

It was another Jamie Walton inspired production which is code for a 5 Star Enrichment Evening. Jamie is so gifted in the fine art of displays and decor, she makes it look easy. But I'm not fooled, I know how much effort is usually involved just to make things look easy! It was a "lovely" evening, with lots of food for thought and real food/treats to enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jenny Kissed Me!

"JENNY kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me."
- by Leigh Hunt

I've always loved this poem! It's got a whimsical rhythm and was probably one of the first poems I committed to memory because it was so fun to recite.

Leigh Hunt was a English writer and he was friends with the writer Thomas Carlyle. "Jenny" in the poem is often said to be Carlyle's wife Jane. Supposedly Leigh Hunt had been bed ridden with influenza for an extended period. When Hunt finally recovered and went to visit the Carlyles, Jenny (Jane?) leaped up and kissed him. I have no idea whether Hunt ever collaborated this version of poem's inspiration but it makes a cute story.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Water, Water, Everywhere!

"Water is the only drink for a wise man." -Henry David Thoreau

I'm trying to become a heavy drinker. Of water, that is! I'm well aware of all the purported health benefits of drinking lots of water but it still trips me up, year after year.

Drinking enough water is one of my "I know better than I do" issues. I know it's an essential nutrient. I know I should gulp through a recommended 64 ounces per day. I know it's good for my skin, my metabolism, my digestion, my health generally. But I do have a hard time with implementation.

So I'm on a bit of a quest. I'm trying really hard to drink a minimum of 8 glasses a day. To pull off this heroic (for me) feat, I purchased a fine looking pitcher that I'm filling with H2O every morning. Then, I use the pitcher to refill my state-of-the-art Bobble (thanks Anna!) water bottle. At the end of the day, it keeps me honest since I can see how much I drank versus estimating a guess.

So far, I'm doing okay. But I've had to build up to my target amount. Initially it wasn't exactly torture but it wasn't enticing either. I didn't enjoy the taste of water at first, too many years of soda consumption to detox from! But after a week into this gig I'm actually starting to like drinking plain old water. Although my restroom pit stops have increased but that's probably more information than you want!

I don't know if my "Just Drink It" water campaign will be the panacea I'm banking on but it certainly can't hurt. Three cheers for good hydration!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Praying Democratic Community...

"We realized we had only one alternative and that was God himself." -Jose Henriquez

Rescued Chilean miner, Jose Henriquez, spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D. C. (President Obama was there) on Thursday, sharing his faith and the spiritual experiences of the miners while they were trapped for 52 days.

Despite their different religions the miners began to pray together and found that prayer strengthened and revived the group.

They prayed daily for a miracle. The first 17 days they had no outside contact and very little food or water. And, as you'd expect, there were tensions among the miners.

But Henriquez talked about how the miners resolved conflicts. He stated: "This democratic community was not a secular community but a praying, democratic community."

I was fascinated by that quote because we've been talking in Seminary about democracy and the divine guidance behind our American Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Like the miners, the founders of this country were not trying to establish a secular democratic community but a praying democratic community.

Henriquez also said that a turning point for the miners was obtaining small Bibles through the tubes the rescue workers sent food and supplies. Each Bible had one of the miner's names inscribed on the cover.

I loved the symmetry between Henriquez's comments and the divine inspiration upon which our nation was founded. I suppose that technically speaking the United States was meant, through our Constitution, to be a republic versus a democracy but the point I'm making is the prayerful mindset the miners shared with America's founding fathers.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sadie makes her Debut!

"Every child begins the world again." -Henry David Thoreau

Sadie Hart, daughter of Miss Nelson (aka Stacy Hart) has arrived, just 15 months after her big brother Hayden!

Some of Stacy's good parenting skills could be attributed to the Knudsens! Not by our example, we just gave Stace gobs of practice! At one time or another we've probably all tried her patience (one essential mothering trait).

First, Miss Nelson was the fabulous 5th grade teacher for Webb's 1st year at Almaden Country School. She's got plenty of hilarious Webb stories up her sleeve. It was a fun year, a good class of kids, and Webb was definitely one of Stacy's most spirited students!

Then during Paige's 3rd grade year, Miss Nelson took over for Mrs. Singer during maternity leave. Paige's class was another high energy, raucous crew further developing Miss Nelson's stamina!

Andie and I think it's poignant that Miss Nelson is exactly halfway between Andie's age and my age (almost 12 years each way). So, we both consider Stace a close friend and confidant. Or, you could say, Andie's big sis & K2's little sis!

Brent probably put Stacy through the ultimate tests! Anyone who can survive the PCG pace, constant change in flights, meetings, and plans, and remain unflappable deserves a medal. And big bonuses! Stacy was a loyal, hard working employee on the PCG team and is dearly missed in San Francisco!

Betwixt and between her interaction with the rest of the Knudsens, Stacy was my dedicated running buddy! We both ran our first marathon together; I've logged lots of miles with Stace at my side. We've had fun trips to San Diego (another marathon), NYC (North Castle party days), and co-hosted many PCG parties.

So, as Stace uses all those skills she honed during her surviving-the-crazy-Knudsens years, she's bound to be an extraordinary Mom! Hayden and Sadie are lucky kiddos! Congratulations to the Harts on their growing family!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hires Big H Burgers, Fries, & Bishop Hale!

When I was a teenager my Bishop in the Parley's 3rd Ward, Don Hale, was the owner of the Hires Big H restaurant chain. Bishop Hale passed away last Saturday at the age of 93.

His classic burger, "The Big H" became so popular that Don Hale's death was noted in the Utah newspapers, all commenting on Bishop Hale's good business acumen and his tireless work ethic!

In a book Bishop Hale co-wrote with his son, Mark, "Opportunity Knocks Twice, Living More Successfully," they echo Henry Ford's classic quote that: "There are two kinds of people - those who think they can and those who think they cannot - and they are both right." Bishop Hale was definitely the kind who thought he could, ...and he did!

When customers would ask whether the "H" in Hires Big H stood for Hires, hamburgers, or Hale, Don would smile and simply answer with "let's just say it's one of those."

Even as a youth I could sense something special about Bishop Hale. His demeanor made a distinct impression on me. I remember his kindness and his encouragement about living a gospel centered life. When he served as our Parley's Ward Bishop I felt his sincerity in his devotion to the call.

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune mentioned that Bishop Hale's wife, Shirley, died back in 2004 and the paper quoted a great line Don Hale said of his wife: "I made the living, but Shirley made the living worthwhile." Gotta love any guy who feels that way about his spouse! Just a solid guy and a life well lived, fwiw!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Doctrine & Covenants Trivia...

In a true serendipitous moment our Seminary class made an interesting (albeit inconsequential) discovery. But, it's one of those clever coincidences that seems worth noting.

We found that there is only one section in the entire Doctrine and Covenants that has the same amount of verses in the section as the section number. For a trivia nut like me this is very cool information. Completely useless but cool nonetheless!

Obviously, you've probably figured out (thanks to the help of the Disney Dalmatians) that it's Section 101 with 101 verses!

It's like Golden Birthdays (ie. the year I turned 24 since my birthday is June 24th) but with Scriptures! So, Section 101 is the Golden Section!

Today we are studying the 2nd half of Section 101 so I'm sporting a gold(ish) sweater, bringing in Golden Grahams cereal for breakfast, and planning to sing "The Golden Plates" (Primary song). Then we'll dig into our Golden Section (101) to mine for some nuggets or golden truths in the scriptures!

As you can see, I'll attempt anything to liven up these darling but sleep deprived teenagers! And, yes, I realize this class description sounds like someone who has way too much free time on her hands!

Maybe the only thing the Seminary kids will remember from class today is how many verses are in Section 101 but sometimes seemingly useless information comes in handy at random times. You just never know.