Monday, October 31, 2011

George Clooney and I....

George Clooney once made the following statement: "I would rather have a rectal examination on live TV by a fellow with cold hands than have a Facebook page.”

Who knew George Clooney and I had anything in common? In fact, I think he feels a little stronger about Facebook than I do! Mostly I'm just too lazy for Facebook.

Not only do I not have Facebook but I have never played Angry Birds either. But now I hear Google+ is the new gig that is supposed to make Facebook passé. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get up to date or up to speed and join Facebook or Google+. Sometimes living in a bubble isn’t too bad!

“I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time. I would never say the people on it are losers, but that’s only because I’m polite. People say ‘but Betty, Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends.’ Well at my age, if I wanna connect with old friends, I need a Ouija Board. Needless to say, we didn’t have Facebook when I was growing up. We had phonebook, but you wouldn’t waste an afternoon with it.” -Betty White on Saturday Night Live, May 2010

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Facing Fears...

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.

You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." -Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my favorite first ladies! She was always a champion of facing our fears. Personally I’m much better at this in theory than practice.

The Gospel Doctrine lesson I’m teaching today has a scripture from 2nd Timothy 1:7 that says: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

We might not get to all the lesson material in class but I like this concept that striving to live with the spirit is the best antidote to fear. I guess I should practice it more and preach it less!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Yesterday I was the Seminary substitute teacher since Jeremy Walton was out of town. It was fun to be back, even temporarily. Starting your day with the high schoolers is always a treat.

We have really cute youth in the Los Gatos Seminary. I’m so impressed with how valiant they are despite all the pressures in high school to party and drink, etc.

This year the youth are studying the Old Testament which is one of my favorite years of curriculum because of the great stories. They’re currently in Exodus so they’re learning all about Moses.

Rabbi Harold Kushner has a book called Overcoming Life’s Disappointments, that is a great book to read for insight into Moses. We often forget that the same Moses who parted the Red Sea and worked so many miracles also suffered many disappointments. Moses deals with frustration and rejection. A lot. He fails but perseveres. And he isn’t bitter.

Rabbi Kushner believes that Moses is a misunderstood man. He thinks one of the great lessons we can learn from Moses is that we can fail but not consider ourselves failures.

I got off on a Moses tangent (in Seminary and here too) but you can see how I’m missing out, not teaching regularly. But Seminary was a good ride while it lasted and subbing yesterday just reminded me that I was lucky to have it for a calling for a few years.

Friday, October 28, 2011

So Much Depends...

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

-William Carlos Williams

I learned this poem as a kid and I’ve always liked it. There is something about the dangling words and the opening line “so much depends” that make it nice to recite.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mitt as a Lay Leader....

The New York Times printed an interesting article last weekend on Mitt’s service as a leader in the Mormon church. It was fun to read because Mitt served as bishop of the Belmont Ward when we lived there. Hence, nearly everyone quoted in the article were friends or acquaintances from the 1980’s when we lived in Boston.

One story really touched me about the counsel Mitt gave a 19 year old college student who was struggling with addictions and had strayed from his Mormon faith.

This young man met with Mitt, who was the Boston Stake President at the time, about whether he could get back on track to serve a mission, which was something he wanted to do.

The young man had lied to President Romney in the past insisting he was eligible to serve when he wasn’t actually worthy. At this meeting he confessed and fully expected to be condemned for his dishonest behavior.

But, the words of counsel President Romney offered surprised the young man and he has never forgotten them. Quoting the young man, here is the advice Romney gave:

“He told me that, as human beings, our work isn’t measured by taking the sum of our good deeds and the sum of our bad deeds, and seeing how things even out,” recalled Mr. Clark, now 37, sober and working as a filmmaker in Utah. “He said, ‘The only thing you need to think about is: Are you trying to improve, are you trying to do better? And if you are, then you’re a saint.’”

I like that story! All the political hoopla and rhetoric can get so crazy but these are the kinds of stories that tell me what someone is like. I think it speaks well of Mitt’s character and leadership. And it’s a memorable moment is the life of a young man who turned his life around, served a mission and hasn’t forgotten Mitt’s advice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Black and White....

“I began dividing life in absolutes... things and people were either perfectly bad, or perfectly good, and when life didn’t obey this black-and-white rule, when things or people were complex and contradictory, I pretended otherwise.

I turned every defeat into a disaster, every success into an epic triumph, and separated all people into heroes or villains. Unable to bear ambiguity, I built a barricade of delusions against it.” -J. R. Moehringer

While there are certain absolutes and some things in life that are clearly black and white with no wiggle room, black and white thinking can also be a problem for areas where shades of gray are appropriate.

I learned about a psychoanalytic term in class called splitting that reminds me of the quote above. Splitting can be a normal developmental process in toddlers or a defensive one as well. For example, a child who sees a babysitter as all bad because she won’t give him candy is splitting. The process of splitting may also be called all or nothing thinking in psychology. Whatever it’s called, beware of processing people or information or life into such distinct categories.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Worship for the Soul....

"The story is told of a South American tribe that went on a long march, day after day, when all of a sudden they would stop walking, sit down to rest for a while, and then make camp for a couple of days before going any farther. They explained that they needed the time to rest so that their souls could catch up with them.”

The Sabbath is our version of stopping to let our souls catch up with us. Over the years I’ve come to rely on Sundays and I’ve found that the change of pace is good for me in lots of ways.

I missed church on 10/16 (due to the marathon) but made it to church on 10/23. I briefly considered staying home since I’m battling a whopper of a cold and the incessant coughing and laryngitis make it not-so-fun to be in public.

Even today, the cold hasn’t completely run it’s course but I’m glad I didn’t let it keep me home from church on Sunday. Gospel Doctrine was great (and I can say that in all humility because I wasn’t the teacher) and so was Relief Society. And, best of all, for Sacrament Meeting it was the annual Primary Program! My favorite meeting of the year!

Besides, I had a greater appreciation for the block of meetings since I’d missed out on a church experience the week before. There was a classy nonmember lady from Los Gatos who was visiting (mostly out of curiosity) and I sat with her during Sunday School and Relief Society. During the lessons, our class discussions were interesting and respectful and it seemed like our visitor felt a good spirit. I know it made me feel proud to be a member. And grateful too!

Monday, October 24, 2011

It Could Always Be Worse...

Andie’s fiasco with her hair extensions (see yesterday’s blog) reminded me of the Jewish folk tale about the man with a large family who visits his rabbi because the noise and chaos of his home life is driving him crazy.

The rabbi tells the man to put his chickens and ducks inside the family hut but when he does the noise gets worse so he returns to the rabbi.

On his second visit, the rabbi suggests that the man should put their goat inside the hut and once again, the man leaves, quite confused, but does as instructed.

When the man returns to complain the rabbi merely responds by telling him to bring their cow inside the family hut. Once again, the frustrated man complies.

By now their tiny home is more crowded and noisy than ever before so the man finally goes back to the rabbi and insists that his problem has gotten so much worse. He questions the rabbi’s counsel and the rabbi. And this time the rabbi simply tells the man to put all the animals back outside which the man quickly goes home to do.

That night the man and his family have the most perfect night of rest. The next day the man rushes to tell the rabbi that he finally had some peace and quiet. And the rabbi smiled and told the man that the next time he thought he had it bad, he should remember that it could always be worse.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener...

The Grass is Always Greener! Or, The Hair is Always Thicker!

We’ve had a little “the grass is always greener” situation here on the home front and to make sure we don’t miss out on the lesson, I’ll recap the story, with permission from the main character. The title of the story is “Hair Extensions Gone Awry!”

Andie’s hair has never been thick and it’s never gotten particularly long. But when Andie toyed with the idea of hair extensions I thought it sounded ridiculous. But who listens to me?

Seriously, though, Andie’s a beautiful girl and I think the whole concept of expensive hair extensions is lame. My apologies if you’re reading this and you have hair extensions. I’m sure yours are lovely.

But, my logic didn’t sway Andie and I guess my vote didn’t carry as much weight as the stylist. So, on went the hair extensions and the result was not what Andie had expected. Although you couldn’t argue with the fact that her hair was suddenly long (very long) and she suddenly had lots of it. But it looked more like a wig for a Halloween costume than anything natural. Oops!

Suddenly the only thing Andie wanted, desperately more than anything else, was her own head of hair back. And, after one trip to the salon to see if cutting the extensions shorter would redeem the look, she was convinced that the hair extensions had to go. Which was no small feat to remove them either. After Brent and I tried unsuccessfully (cosmetologists we aren’t), Andie had to have them professionally removed.

So, it was quite a fiasco and an expensive way to learn that sometimes when the grass/hair looks greener/fuller on the other side, it just wouldn’t really look good on us.

Andie has a newfound appreciation of her own hair now. And, I doubt she’ll have any desire to try hair extensions ever again!

So, the moral of the story (besides not getting hair extensions) is to be happy with who you are! Be yourself! And, of course, ...always listen to your mother!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

11th out of 16,444!

"Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.” -Patti Sue Plummer

We found out what Paige is made of at her half marathon performance at Nike. Speed!

Paige looks pretty happy running along the Nike course but she was even more delighted when the race results were posted! She ended up taking 2nd place in her age group; to be clear that is 2nd out of 3064 runners.

And, even more incredible, Paige was 11th overall! That’s 11th out of 16,444 runners racing the half marathon.

Paige’s PR (personal record) time for a half marathon is now 1:29.35. And, Nike is not an easy or flat course so she was hustling up those hills! But not so fast she couldn’t smile for the camera! Congrats to Paigey pants!

Friday, October 21, 2011

World’s Oldest Marathon Runner...

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” -C.S. Lewis

The same day I was running 26 miles in San Francisco, Fauja Singh was running 26 miles in Canada at the Toronto Marathon. And Singh happens to be....well, 100 years old! Incredible!

He finished the course and the Wall Street Journal says he’ll now hold a spot in the Guinness Book of Records for being the world’s oldest marathon runner.

The Toronto race was his 8th full marathon and this guy didn’t even start running marathon distance until he was 89 years old. Think of anyone you know in their 80’s running a mile, let alone 26 and it give you some perspective how unbelievable this is!

In 2003 (let see, he was probably 92) he ran the Toronto marathon in 5 hours, 40 minutes. That’s an amazing time for a guy that old! Clearly first in his age group (likely the only one in his age group for most events). I’m very inspired!

“Once you're over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.” -Charles Schultz

Thursday, October 20, 2011

5 Star Houseguests!

5 Stars! A 5 star hotel experience tries to insure the visitor's stay is remarkable in every way. Which got me hotels ever rank their guests?

While I certainly don’t run a 5 star bed & breakfast, last week I entertained five 5 star visitors. From Thursday through Sunday, Linda Dunn brought her mother/daughter entourage to the Bar Area and we loved connecting with them. Linda has them well trained; they are the epitome of 5 star houseguests.

In the photo Linda's holding her 6 week-old granddaughter, Madison, with Emi on the far left. To Linda’s right are her two darling daughter in-laws, Whitney and Mindy.

The Dunns are incredibly appreciative company! If you give them toast, they’ll rave about the wonderful breakfast. If you inflate an aero bed, they act like they’re sleeping in the lap of luxury. They wander the house calling it an art gallery, then cruise through town acting like Los Gatos is the coolest place ever.

Linda has always been effusive in her praise and now she’s got Emi, Whit, and Mindy lavishing compliments too. I thought keeping them around longer might be great for my self esteem. Or perhaps my ego would get too big their reviews are so rave!

But company that is grateful is definitely much more fun to have around. We’d love to have the Dunn crew come every year!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pain is Temporary, Quitting is Forever....

“To a runner, a side stitch is like a car alarm. It signifies something is wrong, but you ignore it until it goes away.” -Anonymous

My bothersome knee pain whenever I increase mileage got bad enough to enlist a doctor’s advice. Before I ran the full marathon I thought I’d better make sure I wasn’t going to do some permanent damage.

The orthopedist was pretty pragmatic (my type for sure) and diagnosed my knee pain as “patellofemoral knee syndrome” with a slight chance of a stress fracture. He thought I could run through it, unless of course, I couldn’t. If it got terrible we’d do an MRI and see if it was fractured.

After running 26 miles I think it’s safe to say that his conclusion of “runner’s knee” was accurate (sans stress fracture). I’m tough but I don’t think I could keep cruising along if it was fractured. Patellofemoral knee syndrome (also aptly known as runner’s knee) is basically just inflammation. Lots of icing and taking Aleve seems to help.

I was pretty exact on following the doctor’s orders (obedience all the way!) and I do think it made a big difference. I ran the first 8 miles of the marathon without any pain (which was a big improvement over recent runs).

In clever irony when the knee pain kicked in during the Nike course I must have overcompensated something in my stride and suddenly my right leg quad felt terrible. It felt like the classic if-it’s-not-one-thing, it’s-another frustration. I’m sure I looked ridiculous hobbling along in my slow but steady gait but looking back I am so glad I powered through. The “pain is temporary, quitting is forever” mantra inspired me not to stop. Hooray for motivating slogans!

Post race I’m now more motivated to use the foam roller, stretch, and strengthen my patella so I can increase mileage in the future and not be forced to run in pain. While it’s doable to do (run in pain, that is), it isn’t fun, so I’m going to try to tackle these darn knee issues for good this time!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The A Team...

Photo: the flyer we to pin to our t-shirt backs to race in.

It doesn’t do justice to our Nike race without acknowledging the inspiration behind the A Team: Ashley Barth & Aiden Bryan. As two shining examples of leukemia survivors, we are grateful for fundraisers like The Nike Women’s Marathon, which donates millions of dollars to aid leukemia research.

I had two emotional moments on Sunday that reminded me what the race is all about. First, just after mile 24, I saw Ashley and Evan Barth cheering me on. Seeing Ashley standing along the side of the course, healthy and happy, gave me a tremendous boost as well as a big lump in my throat.

Ashley’s recovery has been incredible. It’s easy to forget that just 5 years ago Ashley was on a full regimen of chemo, steroids, losing all her hair, and learning that she “can be scared and brave at the same time.” Ashley’s get-through-treatment slogan became a rally cry for the Knudsens. Whenever we encounter something fearful, the mantra that helped Ashley has continued to inspire us.

Then, after the race at our impromptu A Team potluck dinner, Aiden came busting into the Smith’s backyard with a burst of energy and all smiles. Watching Aiden at the potluck as he played with the younger kids and teased with the adults was my second sweet reminder.

So the Nike event consists of running, but in addition to the fun race, over 118 million dollars have been donated for leukemia research. Hopefully one day they’ll find a cure. And, one day we can cheer Aiden and Ashley on if they ever decide to run a marathon. In the meantime, they are both thriving, and ultimately, that’s far more important than any running event.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Running Matriach...

“And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” -Erica Jong

It’s a little risky to attempt to run with this young fit crowd. Obviously I can’t keep up with them. But what if I hadn’t tried? I’d have missed out meeting a darling bunch of cute runners, who are kind enough to let me tag-along!

The Nike Marathon yesterday was a challenge but also a blast. It’s not an easy course but the SF scenic route is spectacular. The “A Team” had seventeen runners in our group this year (not everyone was around when we took this group shot) which might be our biggest team ever (although we definitely missed Andie, Anita, and Amy Touchet this year).

It’s a bummer that the Nike race is on a Sunday and it’s a raucous event for the Sabbath, but there is a part of the marathon that is kind of spiritual for me. Sometimes I feel quite emotional along the course. There are inspiring people and touching signs and I feel a lot of inner emotion well up at random times along the way. In fact, maybe if I didn’t get so emotional I could run faster. There’s a thought!

Anyway, I think most of the “A Team” had races that they were happy with. Especially Paige, who might have finished in the top 25 (we’re still awaiting the official results). And I was happy that I ran the whole way and never walked (albeit slowly). I’m also happy to call these girls my friends. Their friendship is a blessing in my life!

“The Perfect Run: The wind at your back, the sun in front of you, and your friends at your side.” -Aaron Douglas Trimble

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Run to BE...

The Nike Women’s Marathon (& Half) is upon us again. I think the “A” Team has run this the last 6, maybe 7 years in a row.

The theme is pretty much the same as last year: "I Run to Be..."

It’s always fun to see all the reasons women run Nike (see below):

I Run to be Fierce.
I Run to be Powerful.
I Run to be Sexy.
I Run to be Strong.
I Run to be Fit.
I Run to be Me.
I Run to be Peaceful.
I run to be Healthy and Feel Good.
I Run to be an Inspired.
I Run to be with My Thoughts.
I Run to be Connected.
I Run to be Part of it All.

And off we go....

Saturday, October 15, 2011 is perfected by death

“Knowledge by suffering entereth,
And life is perfected by Death." -Elizabeth Barrett Browning

One of the great ironies to me about funerals: it isn’t until people pass away that you learn so many insights into their character and personalities.

Maybe it’s because I’m aging but I find funerals inspiring. Technically, I guess we are all aging but sometimes the cadence quickens as you get closer to the “seniors” category.

Anyway, I leave funerals with a desire to be better in many of my roles (as a mother, as a friend, as a sister, a daughter, and maybe one day a grandmother, too).

There is something really touching about hearing grandchildren share tender memories. At Carol Holland’s funeral yesterday it was sweet to hear Connor and Alex read letters from Hermana Holland and Elder Langlois (Carol’s two missionary grandkids). Sara Langlois, Paige’s former volleyball teammate, spoke on behalf of all the grandchildren and shared darling comments.

Funerals give us a glimpse of people at other stages of life or in other relationships. I always leave feeling sorry I haven’t known the deceased longer or better but grateful that our paths crossed, so my my life was enriched by knowing them.

“You give me a kiss, you give me a hug.
You smile when you see me too.
I wish every child in the whole wide world.
Had a grandmother, just like you."
- Grandmother song, by Nellie Sorenson, recited at Carol Holland’s funeral by Sara Langlois in tribute to her grandmother.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Since feeling is first...

We were learning about emotions yesterday in class and as we talked about “feelings,” it reminded me of this e.e. cummings poem. I love his clever metaphors to point out that emotions dictate our actions (or at least they should). The good ones anyway...

"since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
- the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think no parenthesis."
-e.e. cummings

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Zucchini Bread, Donuts, & Carol Holland...

When people die I tend to package up and store a fond memory that becomes my reference point when they come to mind.

There will always be two treats that remind me of Carol Holland, who passed away on Sunday: 1. zucchini bread, and, 2. coffee & donuts!

First, the zucchini bread. Brent and Webb were Kaye and Carol’s home teachers and after visits, they’d always return home with a loaf. Zucchini bread was almost a staple in the Holland’s kitchen. Carol often showed up at social events bringing along her signature zucchini bread. I knew her health was declining when she no longer felt up to making it.

Now, the coffee and donuts memory sort of lives in infamy from a testimony faux pas Carol made while speaking in church, probably a decade ago. She was describing a service project her extended family did every year for the holidays. The tradition, Carol explained, after they dropped off the presents at this charitable organization, was to "come back to the house for coffee and donuts."

Wait, coffee and donuts? Carol isn’t a coffee drinker and even if she were, it isn’t a comment you’d offhandedly share from the podium in Sacrament meeting, since coffee is verboten in our Word of Wisdom health code. So, Carol meant to say hot chocolate and donuts, but somehow the word coffee slipped out.

Initially no one reacted but Carol immediately caught her error and then it became hilarious watching her try to finagle her way out. First she was a bit dubious: "Did I just say coffee and donuts?" Carol looked dumbfounded. "We don’t drink coffee,” she insisted. "I don’t know where that came from.” And on it went.

Carol's earnest, and a little defensive, commentary was a classic Sacrament meeting moment and everyone attending that Sunday won’t forget it. We were all laughing (hopefully with Carol) about the Holland’s coffee and donuts Christmas tradition. Then poor Carol got teased about it years after her talk but whenever it came up in conversation she was a good sport and usually reiterated her confusion: “Coffee and donuts?” she'd say still perplexed. "I just don’t know where that came from?”

Near the end of Carol’s life, her family had a hard time getting her to eat, she never had much of an appetite. So it seems a little ironic that two fond memories I’ll recall when I think of Sister Holland were both about food. Giving zucchini bread was her trademark, a loving gesture, and the coffee and donuts error makes her endearing on another level.

As I think about it, most of us will be remembered for the stories we leave behind. For me, these two Carol Holland tales will always make me smile.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Off Topic Verbosity...

Off Topic Verbosity! This is a bonafide (I did not make this up) condition. It has been noted that aging adults often suffer from not picking up on the emotional cues of a listener and can speak, well, nauseam on topics completely unrelated to the conversation at hand!

I think I know people who aren’t even aging who suffer from this syndrome! And the worst combination is when these people get behind a pulpit.

But a Canadian study did affirm that it is older people who ramble off topic more than younger adults. The study attributes this problem to a decline in their ability to inhibit irrelevant information in their memory system as they age.

There is other research that suggests that it’s not because older people can’t control their speech, but suspects that the goal of speech changes as we age, and older people are more interested in finding significance from life events.

Still, this tendency for some older adults to drift to irrelevant topics during conversation has me afraid of aging. As if not being able to read without glasses isn’t bad enough, now I have to worry about incessant off topic verbosity too! Yikes!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mission Bound.....

“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.” -George Bernard Shaw

It was so nice to be invited and included in Michael Hodgman’s setting apart as a missionary last night.

Today he is officially Elder Hodgman and will go by that name for the next two years serving the Lord in Brazil. I guess he’ll technically go by the Portuguese version of Elder Hodgman, but you get the idea.

I should have taken a picture of Michael looking tall and handsome and already invoking a cute missionary smile. Since I didn’t get any pictures I liked this google image showing the priesthood ordination.

Watching this group of men I admire lay there hands on Michael’s head while President Hodgman set his son apart as a missionary is a touching experience! The priesthood is powerful and I’m grateful to have opportunities like this to see it in action!

I read a book once where a nonmember described Mormon missionaries as young men who, while in the process of converting others, usually become true believers themselves. And, she was partly right. While the goal of a mission is certainly to bless the lives of people all over the world, hopefully by sharing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, missionaries often solidify their own conversion while reaching out to others.

As Michael works hard and is obedient, his testimony will grow and he’ll return in two years with confidence and maturity. It’s amazing to watch the transformation of missionaries and especially when you’ve known them most of their lives. I’ve had other Seminary students serve missions but Michael is the first (and probably only one unless Jenae serves a mission) that I taught all four years of high school.

In high school Michael grew at least a foot his freshman year. So now his physical growth may be complete but during the next year (or two) his spiritual growth will soar! It’s one of the miracles of missionary work!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Testimony Bingo...

I have to confess. Yesterday during our Fast and Testimony Meeting I tested the Testimony Bingo App that my friend, Ann Williams, had showed me in New York.

For just 99 cents I downloaded a bingo game on my phone that randomly places phrases on the bingo card like:
-Priesthood Restoration
-Mission Story
-Thomas Monson is a prophet
-I love my family
-For those of you who don’t know me...

Then, when someone shared their testimony at church, I would check off my scorecard over any of the those phrases that were pronounced. And, yes I did score Bingo. Twice!

It was probably a little disrespectful. But I will say that I had to pay very close attention to all the the testimonies that were shared. So, it may not be very kosher to play Testimony Bingo during Sacrament meeting, but it was rather entertaining. And, it did make me stop and think about what constitutes an appropriate testimony and what things are simply need-to-share-commentaries or friend-a-monies, etc..

While our ward always has a few people who get off track with the intention of the meeting, overall our ward members are pretty good about trying to stick to bearing a true testimony. I rarely attend church in Los Gatos Ward where I don’t feel a good spirit in the meeting; even on days like yesterday when I’m misbehaving and playing bingo!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Far be it that I should repine...

It is what it is. If you think about it, that’s a pretty good line. I can think of lots of life experiences where giving utterance to those 5 simple words could really help my acceptance of things.

Typically I want to change things that aren’t to my liking, but there are a lot of things I don’t have the power to change or fix or solve. Ultimately, when I get dealt a bum card, I might just have to suck it up!

The poet, Anne Bradstreet, lost a huge collection of books when her home burned down. Her loss inspired a poem, simply titled: "Upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666." Instead of choosing grief or anger because of her tragedy, Bradstreet chooses instead to look toward God.

"And when I could no longer look,
I blest His grace that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so 'twas just.
It was his own; it was not mine.
Far be it that I should repine.” -Anne Bradstreet

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bible Stories....

A teacher was telling her class about whales. The teacher pointed out that it would be physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though whales are very large mammals their throats are very small.

One little girl raised her hand and stated that couldn’t be true because Jonah had been swallowed by a whale. The teacher was a little irritated and reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible.

The little girl didn’t back down. “When I get to heaven,” she said, “I will ask Jonah.”

The teacher replied, “What if Jonah isn’t in heaven? What if Jonah went to hell?”

And the little girl simply said, “Well, then, you can ask him!”

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sticks and Stones...

Child Development

As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs
and sauntered off the beaches into forests
working up some irregular verbs for their
first conversation, so three-year-old children
enter the phase of name calling.

Every day a new one arrives and is added
to the repertoire. You Dumb Goopyhead,
You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor
(a kind of Navaho ring to that one)
they yell from knee level, their little mugs
flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out
in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying
to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.

They are just tormenting their fellow squirts.
or going after the attention of the giants
way up there with their cocktails and bad breath
talking baritone nonsense to other giants,
waiting to call them names after thanking
them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.

The mature save their hothead invective
for things: an errant hammer, tire chains,
or receding trains missed by seconds,
though they know in their adult hearts,
even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed
for his appalling behavior,
that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids,
their wives are Dopey Dopeheads
and that they themselves are Mr. Sillypants."
-Billy Collins

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Dent in the Universe....

When Steve Jobs passed away yesterday, it seemed ironic that we were texting each other the news on our Apple iPhones.

Steve’s death, at age 56, of pancreatic cancer, is so sad. His incredible brilliance couldn't save him, his fortune couldn’t buy him a break from terminal pancreatic cancer, ultimately this amazing visionary couldn’t thwart off his own mortality.

When Jobs resigned in August (blog post 8/25/2011) and I learned Walter Isaacson had a biography coming out in November that Jobs had actually sanctioned, I knew he must be close to the end. Rumors of his poor health were rampant and Jobs just didn’t seem like the type to leave Apple (or endorse a biography) unless his days were numbered.

When Jobs unveiled one of his new products (I think the iTouch) he said Apple’s goal was “to put a dent in the universe.” News of his death yesterday certainly did the same. Judging from the sheer volume of news articles, stories, and media coverage, the impact of Steve Jobs life is truly extraordinary.

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me...Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful...that’s what matters to me.” -Steve Jobs

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mentally Healthy?

I’ve wondered if there’s a test to determine if someone is mentally healthy. Obviously, we have depression checklists where displaying a certain number of symptoms, especially over a long period of time, is an indicator that someone should seek profession help. But what about a checklist to show strong mental health?

Well, I've discovered just such a list! It was put together by Dr. Jonathan Shedler. It’s interesting to read and rate yourself. Clearly no one would score perfectly but the more statements I can answer affirmatively, the more sane I should be. I found it was an enlightening exercise! Read on and rate your own mental health...

- Is able to use his/her talents, abilities, and energy effectively and productively.

-Enjoys challenges; takes pleasure in accomplishing things.

- Is capable of sustaining a meaningful relationship characterized by genuine intimacy and caring.

- Finds meaning in belonging and contributing to a larger community (e.g. organization, church, neighborhood).

- Is able to find meaning and fulfillment in guiding, mentoring, or nurturing others.

-Is empathetic; is sensitive and responsive to other people’s needs and feelings.

-Is able to assert him/herself effectively and appropriately when necessary.

-Appreciates and responds to humor.

-Is capable of hearing information that is emotionally threatening (ie., that challenges cherished beliefs, perceptions, and self perceptions) and can use and benefit from it.

-Appears to have come to terms with painful experiences from the past; has found meaning in and grown from such experiences.

-Is articulate; can express self well in words.

-Has an active and satisfying sex life.

-Appear comfortable and at ease in social situations.

-Generally finds contentment and happiness in life’s activities.

- Tend to express affect appropriate in quality and intensity to the situation at hand.

- Has the capacity to recognize alternative viewpoints, even in matters that stir up strong feelings.

- Has moral and ethical standards and strives to live up to them.

- Is creative; is able to see things or approach problems in novel ways.

- Tends to be conscientious and responsible.

- Is psychologically insightful; is able to understand self and others in subtle and sophisticated ways.

- Is able to find meaning and satisfaction in the pursuit of long-term goals and ambitions.

- Is able to form close and lasting friendships characterized by mutual support and sharing of experiences.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bang Head Here...

Going back to graduate school late in life, as it turns out, is not as easy as I thought.

I love my classes, my professors are great, the master’s program is impressive, and Santa Clara is a wonderful school. The only problem, it seems, is that I didn’t expect so much homework! Or, maybe I just forgot that out-of-class assignments are part of the package (whoops!). The reading is overwhelming. And just a little intimidating.

I don’t consider myself a slow reader but now I realize it’s probably because for the last thirty years I haven’t been reading textbooks. Comprehending the plot in a novel and comprehending textbook details are completely different animals.

I spent most of my entire day yesterday reading, rereading and finally rereading the reread. Details just escape my 52 year old brain, they go in and then go right out again. Hence, the need to read articles three times until they make sense.

The sheer volume of reading assignments is so daunting it’s causing me anxiety. And if I don’t get a handle on the anxiety, then I’ll be the one who needs a therapist rather than the one who is training to become a therapist!

I’m counting on things getting a bit more manageable once I get back into the whole school routine. After all, it has been quite an absence!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wow! A Star Valley Temple...

When I hear that temples will dot the earth, I usually think internationally. But on Saturday, President Monson announced a temple in Star Valley, Wyoming. Who’d have thought?

When my grandparents bought their ranch in Star Valley in the late 60’s, it never would have entered their minds that a temple would one day be built in Star Valley.

The town of Etna, the location of Nano and Poppy’s 360 acre Silver Aspen Ranch, is probably the smallest town in Star Valley. Etna’s population was around 200 residents thirty years ago and it hasn’t changed much. Afton is the largest town in Star Valley and it only has around 1200 residents.

Just beyond Etna about ten miles is Alpine Junction where the Snake River, the Salt River, and the Greys River meet. And, Jackson Hole, while not technically in Star Valley, keeps lots of tourists driving through Star Valley en route to Jackson Hole.

I’m anxious to find out the exact location for the Star Valley Temple. This terrain is my old stomping ground from childhood. My grandparents usually spent about half their week at the ranch and half in Salt Lake City. And most weeks, they’d stop by our house at the mouth of Parley’s Canyon, to see if any of the grandkids wanted to come along on any given week. During the summer months, we’d go up at a moment’s notice, tossing a few outfits into a bag and off we went.

My ranching memories of horses, cattle, fencing, and rodeos, were all formed in Star Valley. And certainly the coldest winters I ever spent were snowmobiling at the ranch in temperatures well below zero.

I loved President Monson’s big smile when he announced the Star Valley Temple and quipped that he’d plan to dedicate that temple since the Star Valley area has great fishing! It also has great people. Like my grandparents, residents of Star Valley are hard working, honest and authentic.

The Silver Aspen Ranch is still around and still owned by Nano and Poppy’s kids and grandkids (us!). Soon, with a temple nearby, we might have to visit the ranch more often!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

influenced by others...

“We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the color of our moral character, from those who are around us.” -John Locke, English philosopher

I’ll admit it, I’m vulnerable to being influenced by others.

Fortunately I feel surrounded in my life by good influences! Whew! In addition to the influence of friends and acquaintances, I love to soak up advice from our church leadership twice a year during General Conferences sessions.

Watching General Conference is a little like going to a nice buffet meal where I wish I could enjoy the food over a longer period of time instead of everything all at once. Hearing the apostles testify within a weekend is a rich experience, so much so, that it usually takes the full six months between sessions to digest and process all their talks.

Yesterday I was able to watch both sessions almost live. Even with taking notes, I’d be hard pressed to delineate who spoke on which topic, but I can definitely remember feeling the spirit during the talks.

I’ve felt good men and women speak truth on numerous occasions and I’m grateful that truth inspires me. If we are going to develop our moral character from people around us, it certainly behooves me to steer clear of negative influences and seek out the best. And, it doesn’t get much better than our prophet, President Monson, and his apostles. What a great opportunity we have to listen and learn such remarkable leaders! And more to come today...

“Some wisdom you must learn from one who’s wise.” -Euripides

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What kind of mother ARE you?

Julia Hatch has a great mommy tale that she and I bounce off each other whenever there's an opportunity to use the climatic story line.

Basically you need to know that Julia's oldest daughter, Emily, was born with a nurturing spirit. Emily was that child who is mature beyond her years. When Emily was in high school she would clean Julia’s house or fix dinner. Just because. Who does things like that as a teenager?

Anyway, when Emily was just two, the Hatch family expanded. Emily's little brother, Andy, was born. Julia, was doing her best to meet all the new demands on her time.

So, one day when Andy was crying Julia was hustling about in hopes of getting one more thing done before she stopped to feed Andy. Suddenly Julia felt a tug on her pants and looked down to see Emily looking very sternly at her. In her loudest voice Emily scolded: "What kind of Mother ARE you? Your baby needs you!" Emily's reprimand stopped Julia dead in her tracks.

Julia immediately thought: What kind of mother am I that my 2 year-old needs to set my priorities straight?

Of course when Julia shared the story with me years after the fact we both laughed at motherly Emily looking out for Andy. And we've both recited Emily’s famous line if we were neglecting any of Hatch/Knudsen kids. For example, if Julia showed up late to one of her kids performances or sports games, I’d just say: “Hey, what kind of mother are you?”

It’s a funny story but also a good reminder to sometimes stop and rethink our priorities too. It can also be edited to things like: "What kind of a friend/daughter/son/spouse/etc. are you?"