Monday, December 27, 2010

Will It Matter In Five Years?

It was about a year ago that I read a blog by Dian Thomas titled, “This New Year—Live a Designer Life.” She listed ten things she was going to do during the 2010 New Year to accomplish specific goals to make her life what she wanted it to be. Initially, I thought “YES! This is what I am going to do, too!” I immediately set about coming up with my list of ten things. I think my enthusiasm lasted all of two minutes (if that).

Then I felt very tired.

Defeated, I put away Dian’s blog for some other time.

I never got back to it.

It wasn’t that I forgot; it just always made me tired to think about it.

This morning, I read yet another article in the newspaper about making New Year’s resolutions. I almost just skipped it, saying to myself, “Making resolutions is a sure-fire guarantee that I will utterly fail at every single thing I list!” Perhaps the word resolution carries a negative connotation of compulsion which causes me to instinctively resist.

But, I read the article anyway, and decided that they (writers Linda and Richard Eyre) wisely offered a common sense approach to making resolutions. They suggested that resolutions should be our priorities; and that to know whether something is worth doing well, ask the following three questions:

Will it matter in five years?

Do I need it?

Can I simplify it?

Then they suggest that three is the magic number when it comes to resolutions or focusing on priorities. Juggling three balls is relatively easy, they say; four balls are many times more difficult. The mind, they point out, can stay consistently conscious of three items. With four or more, some are always overlooked or forgotten.

The Eyers then tell us that the highest, deepest, and truest priorities of life fit into the three categories, family, work, and self. (“Self” includes service and interests.)

Each day we are to spend just five minutes deciding on the single most important thing we can do that day for our family, for work, and for ourselves. We are to list these three choose-to-dos before listing any have-to-dos. Thinking hard enough to establish one single priority for each day, they assure us, will cause our minds to stay aware of all three priorities all day long.

It sounds just simple enough and easy enough to be doable! I felt optimistic, not tired!!

To read their entire article, “Our Resolutions Ought to Be Our Priorities,” go to:
http://www.deseretnews.com/site/staff/10023/Linda-Eyre.html

Friday, December 24, 2010

People Like That

“Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

— Mark Twain


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that person is crazy."

— Dave Barry

Monday, December 13, 2010

Outriggers for My Canoe

Maintaining perspective and equilibrium in daily life is not easy. My very small canoe on the vast ocean of life is easily rocked, swamped, or capsized. I recognize that my vulnerable vessel needs outriggers. Outriggers on a canoe are somewhat like training wheels on a bicycle. The difference is a bicyclist soon outgrows his need for training wheels, while the most experienced sailor of a small craft on the ocean is wise enough to know that he will never outgrow his need for outriggers on his boat.

The best outriggers that help me maintain perspective and equilibrium on a daily basis can be found through contemplating the truths in the scriptures and drawing inspiration from the words and lives of those who have overcome the world, or who are “fighting the good fight.” Their admirable examples help me to try a little harder to be a little better.

For example, I feel encouraged and stronger and able to meet the challenges of the day as I contemplate the strength and wisdom of Mother Teresa:

Words to Live By:

People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are honest, people may cheat you.
Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Give the world your best and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It never was between you and them anyway.
~Mother Teresa~

With God at my side -- since this is all about Him and me -- I can let go of hurt feelings, I can be kind, I can chose to be happy, I can notice His blessings and be grateful for them, I can be a blessing to others, and thus, I will find more joy (and safety) in my journey.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Win The War On Germs

The following is from Prevention Magazine, and may actually keep you and your family healthier:

You may scrub your toilet and countertops until they shine, but these ten scary new bacteria breeding grounds require just as much attention.

Germs (the catchall name for bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms) are everywhere--at home, in the office, even in your car. Luckily, about 99% of them can't harm us. But the other 1% can be annoying, uncomfortable, or downright scary: Most of these pathogens are either viral or bacterial and can cause everything from a runny nose to a potentially life-threatening infection.

You may think you know the obvious places that germs propagate--the doctor's office, the soles of your shoes--but many more germ-friendly locales are completely unexpected yet no less dangerous. We uncovered a host of surprising new spots where germs like to lurk, and offer easy solutions to keep you and your family safe and healthy.




That metal aeration screen at the end of the faucet is a total germ magnet.
Running water keeps the screen moist, an ideal condition for bacteria growth. Because tap water is far from sterile, if you accidentally touch the screen with dirty fingers or food, bacteria can grow on the faucet . . . . Over time, bacteria build up and form a wall of pathogens called biofilm that sticks to the screen. Eventually, that biofilm may even be big enough to break off and get onto your food or dishes.

Keep It Clean: Once a week, remove the screen and soak it in a diluted bleach solution--follow the directions on the label. Replace the screen, and let the water run a few minutes before using.





2. Garbage Disposal
Bacteria from last night’s dinner could end up on today’s food and utensils if you’re not careful.
In fact, there are often more than 500,000 bacteria in the kitchen sink--about 1,000 times more than the average toilet has. Although the metal part of the disposal produces ions that can help kill germs, they still love to grow on the crevices in and around the slimy rubber stopper. That means your disposal can become party central for bacteria, contaminating whatever touches it--dishes, utensils, even your hands.

Keep It Clean: At least once a week, clean the disposal's rubber stopper with a diluted bleach solution--soap and water aren't enough.



3. Welcome Mat
It serves to greet not only your guests but also all the bugs on the bottoms of their shoes.
In fact, one study found that nearly 96% of shoe soles had traces of coliform, which includes fecal bacteria. The area near your front door is one of the dirtiest in the house. Once bacteria plant their stakes in your mat, anytime you walk on it, you give them a free ride into your home.

Keep It Clean: Spray the doormat once a week with a fabric-safe disinfectant (such as Lysol Disinfectant Spray). Leave shoes at the door, and avoid resting bags and groceries on the mat, too




4. Vacuum Cleaner
It’s all in the bag—including spreadable germs.
Vacuums--including the brushes and bags--are like meals-on-wheels for bacteria. You suck in all this bacteria and food, creating an atmosphere for growth. In a study, 13% of all vacuum cleaner brushes tested positive for E. coli, which means you could spread it around the house each time you use the appliance.

Keep It Clean: Change your vacuum bag frequently, and do so outdoors to avoid the cloud of bacteria that filters into the air. (Vacuum bags that feature antibacterial linings are best, and are available for many major brands.) Clean the cavity of a bagless vacuum with diluted bleach and let it air-dry.




5. Dish Towel
You know a sponge can harbor nasty germs, but dish towels are just as dangerous.
A recent study of hundreds of homes across the United States found that about 7% of kitchen towels were contaminated with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), the difficult-to-treat staph bacteria that can cause life-threatening skin infections. Dish towels also rated tops for dangerous strains of E. coli and other bacteria. We often use towels to wipe up spills, says Reynolds, then reuse before washing them, which spreads germs.

Keep It Clean: Stick to paper towels to clean countertops, and save the dishrag to dry just-washed pots and plates. Change towels or launder at least twice a week in hot water and bleach.




6. Car Dashboard
This is your vehicle's second-most-common spot for bacteria and mold.
Here’s why: When air—which carries mold spores and bacteria—gets sucked in through the vents, it's often drawn to the dashboard, where it can deposit the spores and germs. Because the dashboard receives the most sun and tends to stay warm, it's prime for growth. (The number one germ zone? Food spills.)

Keep It Clean: Regularly swipe the inside of your car with disinfecting wipes. Be more vigilant during allergy season—about 20 million Americans are affected by asthma, which is caused in part by an allergic reaction to mold.




7. Soap Dispensers
About 25% of public restroom dispensers are contaminated by fecal bacteria.
Soap that harbors bacteria may sound ironic, but that’s exactly what a recent study found. Most of these containers are never cleaned, so bacteria grows as the soap scum builds up. And the bottoms are touched by dirty hands, so there's a continuous culture going on feeding millions of bacteria.

Keep It Clean: Be sure to scrub hands thoroughly for 15 to 20 seconds with plenty of hot water--and if you have an alcohol gel disinfectant, use that, too.




8. Restaurant Ketchup Bottle
Those condiments on the tabletop are grimier than you think.
It's the rare eatery that regularly bleaches down condiment containers. And the reality is that many people don't wash their hands before eating, says Reynolds. So while you may be diligent, the guy who poured the ketchup before you may not have been, which means his germs are now on your fries.

Keep It Clean: Squirt hand sanitizer on the outside of the bottle or use a disinfectant wipe before you grab it. Holding the bottle with a napkin won't help--they're porous, so microorganisms can walk right through, says Reynolds.






9. Refrigerator Seal
Do you scrub the inside of your fridge? It’s not enough.
A University of Arizona survey of 160 homes in three US cities found that the seal around the fridge tested positive 83% of the time for common molds. The mold can spread every time the refrigerator door opens--exposing anyone who's susceptible to allergies and potentially contaminating the food.

Keep It Clean: Wipe fridge seals at least once a week with a diluted bleach solution or disinfectant.



10. Cell Phone
Drop your cell any place that’s convenient? Read this first.
Several studies on cell phones and PDAs found that they carry tons of bacteria, including staph (which can cause skin infections), pseudomonas (eye infections), and salmonella (stomach ailments). Many electronic devices are sheathed in leather or vinyl cases, which provide plenty of creases and crevices for germs to hide.

Keep It Clean: Use a disinfecting wipe a few times a week, and be conscious of where you rest personal items



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Try Opening a Can with Your Teeth?

I have a theory that nobody on the planet ever opens a can of food of any kind any more with a can opener. (Cans with poptops may have made can openers obsolete.)

That’s why the art of making a good can opener is a lost art.

I once had an excellent can opener. It worked great. In other words, it opened cans without much effort on my part. I took it for granted. When other people complained that their can openers didn’t work, I suggested that maybe they needed to get a new one. More often than not, those folks would claim that it WAS a new one! I was skeptical.

And then, one day in a moment of cavalier optimism, I gave away my trusty can opener to someone who needed one. I then happily went out and got a new one for myself. I bought a generic, inexpensive model. When the new one operated in a stiff manner, I gave it a shot of oil. I was disappointed when it never quite limbered up…. Or successfully cut open a can on the first try. Or the second try, or …. I decided it was defective. You get what you pay for, you know. So I bought another new can opener—a name brand—at a higher price. It performed no better than the cheap one! I strained and worked up a sweat while trying to open a mere can of tuna. But, mostly I began to avoid opening cans. This high class model was as defective as the cheap one.

That’s when I came to the conclusion that no one was opening cans any more. If people really wanted and needed to open a can with a can opener, and the can opener didn’t work, they would complain to the manufacturer, they’d complain to the Better Business Bureau, they’d scream and yell for a congressional investigation, they'd at least return it to the store they got it from—right? Apparently none of that happened.

Of course, there always was a possibility that somewhere good can openers still existed. But, I already knew that they didn’t sell them at WalMart or Bed, Bath, and Beyond!

As I contemplated starving to death while staring at a pantry full of canned goods or opening a can with my teeth or a hammer and chisel, I decided to try one last time to find a can opener that actually opened cans. I went to the nearby restaurant supply store and bought the one they carried.

I held my breath as I used it for the first time. I feared that all of the can openers on the planet were defective. WOW! It was like magic! A child could have used it—or an old woman with arthritis in her hands! It almost worked by itself! I have probably opened at least a dozen cans since buying it a week or so ago. And every time I get the same thrill. This morning Em used it for the first time. She turned to me with an amazed, ecstatic expression: WOW! she said. She couldn’t believe the difference.

Anyone need a new can opener? I’d be happy to pick one up for you and spread the joy around. :D

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

“Bill and Ted’s Joke and Spencer’s Big Lie”



In 1989, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” hit the movie screens across America. If I recall correctly, it was an instant favorite among American teenagers. I, however, was horrified with it because even though I recognized that the movie was a huge joke about two impossibly stupid American teens, I knew that fans of Bill and Ted would end up mimicking the two stars—in other words, making the movie a “how-to” cult flick upon which to pattern their own behavior. I was in despair when my own teenagers became addicted to Bill and Ted’s favorite word, “dude.”
Bill: Be excellent to each other.[room murmurs appreciatively]Ted: Party on, dudes![room approves]
Bill: [to Ted]
Good one, dude.
[Bill and Ted are in Ancient Greece]
Bill: [approaching Socrates]
How's it going? I'm Bill, this is Ted. We're from the future.
Socrates: Socrates.
Ted:
[whispering to Bill]
Now what?
Bill: I dunno. Philosophize with him!
Ted:
[clears his throat, to Socrates]
"All we are is dust in the wind," dude.[Socrates gives them a blank stare]
Bill: [scoops up a pile of dust from the basin before them and lets it run out of his hand]
Dust.[he blows the remainder away]Bill: Wind.
Ted:
[points at Socrates]
Dude.[Socrates gasps]
At that time, I naively attempted to ban the use of that word in my presence by my own children. Alas, to no avail. It was a lost cause. Now, twenty years later, “dude” still has not died a natural death. Unfortunately, to this day, when anyone in my presence punctuates his conversation with, “dude,” I still shudder involuntarily, and the specters of Bill and Ted, the two most clueless teens who ever lived, flash across my mind.

“Imitation is the sincerest flattery,” goes the famous quote. I wonder: what did the kids really admire in Bill and Ted? It couldn’t have been how smart they were. Did kids imitate them because they were basically harmless; essentially good guys; dumb but lovable?




Now, I am similarly puzzled by the popularity of the “Psych” TV series. Season five is due to begin in November. Last night, I decided to watch a past episode to see if I might like to join its crowd of fans. I watched only the first 10-15 minutes of the first episode of season four. I quit watching at that point because I felt intensely uncomfortable with the main character, Spencer. Everything he did was in support of the big lie that he was a psychic. How could I endorse that? In order to keep the lie alive, he has to keep manipulating the truth. One lie leads to the next one and on and on. In real life, eventually but inevitably, the truth will come to light.

My thought was, why doesn’t Spencer just become a real detective and get some respect for his powers of observation? Yes, I know that if he confesses the lie there will be a price to pay. So, this show justifies a continuing lie because the anticipated punishment would not fit the crime. So, the premise of the show essentially teaches that lying is necessary and harmless if it’s for a good cause. All’s well that ends well. Is this a true principle?

Another thought I had was, “why is this program about a guy scamming everyone now in its 5th season?” What does that say about the audience? Do they like the idea of purposely (and semi-successfully) attempting to deceive other people? Do they envy him? Do they wish they could be him? What is it that they admire and want to imitate? What happens to us and our sense of right and wrong when we hope that a character “wins” by cheating? Is watching this show “harmless” fun?

Monday, October 18, 2010

When the bright lights go out....



I just learned that incandescent bulbs will be banned in the US when the lights go out on December 31, 2013. All we will have then is those annoying florescent bulbs that start out dim when you turn them on, and then take a minute to warm up to slightly brighter than dim. Poor old Thomas Edison is spinning in his grave. He’s spinning so fast he looks like one of those silly twirly florescent bulbs.

About a month ago, I became so annoyed at the dim light cast by a twirly bulb in a table lamp, that I unscrewed the dumb thing and threw it in the trash and replaced it with a 60 watt incandescent bulb. I have rejoiced every day since then when I’ve turned on the light and had instant bright light flood the room. I have even felt smarter and more alive and happier as a result of the brightness.

After January 1, 2014, the cartoon of a guy with an incandescent light bulb over his head will undoubtedly be used to suggest that the guy is old and stuck in his ways, not that he just had a stroke of brilliance. On the other hand, the 2014 cartoon of a guy with a twirly florescent bulb over his head will not convey brilliance, but, rather, confusion. Terminal confusion. I think confusion is what occurred in Congress when they passed this silly law. I can picture the Senators and Congressmen all with twirly bulbs over their heads on the day that they passed this legislation into law, congratulating one another for saving the planet from Edison’s invention. And things are getting dimmer and dimmer by the day back there in Washington DC.

Back in the 70s, Jimmy Carter saved the planet with a nationwide 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. We had to suffer with this annoying law for 20 years. Will we have to suffer with twirly bulbs for 20 years before someone decides that enough is enough? *sigh*

I wonder if stock-piling soon-to-be contraband incandescent bulbs will be punishable by law? What about buying or selling them on the black market? No worries: No punishment could be worse than living with twirly bulbs!

I wonder how many incandescent bulbs I will need to stockpile to keep me feeling smarter, more alive, and happier for the next twenty years….






Monday, October 11, 2010

"Seen Any Good Flicks Lately?"

A week or so ago in the Deseret News, there was an article in the entertainment section about the Catholic Church’s movie rating system. I was especially interested to read the article because many years ago—probably when they first began reviewing movies—I accidentally stumbled across a book of their movie ratings at a bookstore, and bought it. I used the book to evaluate movies that we might rent from the nearby (“Now and Then”) video store in Simi. However, when newer movies appeared in the video store, I needed an updated book to continue to advise me on family-friendly films. And, although I have often browsed in bookstores to find such a book, I have never again serendipitously stumbled across one. Of course, where one door closes, another one often opens. And in this case, I was extremely pleased to find an excellent substitute for the Catholic movie reviews: Focus on the Family’s “Plugged-In” online movie reviews. “Plugged-In” quite strictly critiques the content of available films.
(See: http://www.pluggedinonline.com/movies/) If you are concerned about whether a movie meets the 13th Article of Faith criteria of “virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy,” this website is definitely useful.

Getting back to the Deseret News article, I was happy to learn that the Catholic Church movie reviews can also be accessed online through their website: http://www.usccb.org. Their reviews are another point of view and not in any way carbon copies of the reviews appearing on “Plugged-In,” so it is worth your time to check both sites to determine if you really want to watch any particular film. What I especially liked in the Catholic website was their lists of “Top Ten Movies” of the year and “Top Ten Family Films.” Currently online are their lists for 2009 and extending as far back as 1965.

Their top ten picks of “family films” for the year 2009 were:
1. Astro Boy
2. Bandslam
3. A Christmas Carol (animated, Jim Carrey)
4. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
5. Hannah Montana the Movie
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
7. Monsters vs. Aliens
8. Ponyo
9. The Princess and the Frog
10. Shorts

Their more “adult” or general selections for Top Ten movies of 2009 included:
1. The Blind Side
3. Fantastic Mr. Fox
6. Invictus
7. Julie & Julia
8. Star Trek (the prequel)
9. Up
10. Where the Wild things Are

Did you raise your eyebrows, as I did, at some of their selections or their classifications? For instance, why did “Harry Potter” end up on the OK for kids list, and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Up” on the better for ‘adults’ list? Noticing such odd or puzzling decisions on their part, I decided that, when in doubt about their evaluations, it probably would be wise to check “Plugged-In” too, just to be on the safe side, or to get a second opinion.

The primary reason I was interested in the Top Ten lists is The Knight rarely takes me to the movies. We only go if I insist on it—which I rarely do. Instead, The Knight likes to buy DVDs. And the ones he buys, sad-but-true, are frequently unappealing to me. So, potentially, I’ve missed a great many “good” movies. I also think DVDs are vastly overpriced. I personally cannot justify spending $10-$20 on a DVD as long as the Dollar Theater is still operating down in Provo. AND, I recently discovered that movies are available to rent for a week at a time for $1.00 from the public library!

So. Armed with my lists of Top Ten Movies, I have begun checking out movies from the public library. None of the movies I’ve brought home have been movies that The Knight would have selected, so I’ve resigned myself to watching them by myself. Some of the Top Tens that I’ve watched so far:

—Julie &; Julia
—The Visitor
—I Am David
—Au Revoir Les Enfants (French film)
—In America
—Secret Lives (a documentary on The Holocaust)
—The City Ember
and, next on the docket is “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.”

Amazingly, I actually cajoled The Knight into watching “The City Ember” with me on Friday night. He was surprised that he’d never heard of it, since it was science fiction. I was pleased that there were no offensive words, nor suggestive scenes, nor gratuitous violence. Happily, The Knight mostly liked it, too, even though it “started out slow”—I think what that means is nothing blew up in the entire movie! LOL

Monday, October 4, 2010

Implications from Conference


Saturday morning when President Monson announced 5 new temples to be built, my first reaction was “Whoa!!!— That must mean that the Church has not been hit too hard by the recession!” I had been wondering lately about reduced tithing funds because of people out of work—surely, I thought, the Church will have to cut back on building projects. Obviously, I was greatly mistaken.

I also thought that the locations of the new temples were interesting. Indianapolis was fun to hear of. I’m sure that people we know in West Lafayette were cheering: no more need to plan trips to the Chicago Temple! When we lived there, we had to travel to the Washington DC Temple—a 13-hour trip. Tijuana was interesting to me because the San Diego Temple is so close to Tijuana. Now there will be no more need to cross the border which is a huge hassle. The new one in the Philippines will be their third temple—that is amazing! The one in Portugal means no more need to travel to Madrid. The one in Hartford Connecticut means no more need to travel to Boston. I can’t help but contemplate the causes of future limited travel abilities. I also recognize that the Saints in each of those locations have to be sufficiently numerous and faithful to merit a temple. Wow! “The Caravan moves on!”

Speaking of temples . . . and temple work, I have lots of names ready and need lots of proxies—let me know if you can do some. Thanks! :D
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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Continue in Patience













Can anybody get too much of President Uchtdorf? If so, I've not met them. His Conference messages of yesterday and today have resonated with everyone I've spoken to.
The above video is the most recent of the postings in "Mormon Messages" on lds.org. Hooray for President Uchtdorf!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

General Conference--HOORAY!



I am excited to listen to Conference to hear the Word of the Lord! It's an absolutely glorious October morning in the mountains.













Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Looking Up


Last night we set up the telescope on the front porch and looked at Jupiter and its four major moons. (Of course our view wasn’t like the above picture at all!!)


Jupiter is closer to the earth right now than it has been since 1963, nearly 50 years ago. If you go outside after 9 p.m. tonight and look toward the East, that very bright star—the only thing brighter will be the nearly full moon—is Jupiter. If you have really good eyesight, Uranus is a dim, bluish-green star, just above Jupiter—within the same binocular field.





Last night, the moons were actually lined up in a perfectly straight line with two moons on each side of Jupiter--similar to the above photo--only better!! Emily’s eyesight is pretty good (better than mine), and she could actually see the band across Jupiter--I could see a faint shadow.






By Saturday [Friday, actually!], all four moons will be clustered on one side of Jupiter.









Monday, September 20, 2010

"Different" and "Rougher"


A week ago Sunday, there was a Regional Stake Conference broadcast (140 Stakes in Utah Valley and Heber Valley). The concluding speaker, Boyd K Packer, said, “things are going to be different from now on—things will be rougher for us than they were for the pioneers.” This remark followed Jeffrey Holland’s recounting of two rather dramatic pioneer stories. In turn, Jeffrey Holland’s talk followed two other talks which were about strengthening our testimonies and doing even better than we currently are in our faith and obedience.

For the past week, I have thought a lot about “different” and “rougher.” If Elder Packer’s talk had been a stand-alone talk, it may not have had the same impact as it actually had. Put together with the other talks, his statement was made more significant, and vice versa. Taken as a whole, the bottom line message (to me) from the conference seemed to be “your levels of faith, obedience, and testimony may have been fairly adequate up to this point, but today’s levels will not be sufficient for tomorrow’s challenges.”

As I’ve contemplated what he meant by “different,” I hardly know what to imagine or expect because things have been increasingly “different” over my whole lifetime. To become dramatically more “different” than today’s measure of “the-way-things-are” suggests (for one thing) that evil and wickedness will become significantly more rampant. “Rougher” seems to suggest physical challenges, and yet I think Elder Packer said that these “rougher” challenges will be more than physical.

So, not knowing specifically what to prepare for to face “different” and “rougher,” my only alternative at this juncture is to: (1) remember the inspiring faith and obedience of the pioneers and follow their examples, (2) purposefully increase my own personal faith and obedience, thereby strengthening my testimony. Thus fortified, the Holy Ghost will be able to tell me in the very hour what specific things I should do, and I will be able to recognize and confidently heed His voice while I am facing all of the “different” and “rougher” challenges that lie in my path.

That should keep me busy for a while. :D

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Out-Witting the "Super-Bugs"




The headlines this week sounded the alarm about deadly antibiotic-resistant “super bugs” that have emerged from India and in recent weeks have shown up in California, Illinois, and Massachusetts.

Albeit, this current alarm is somewhat reminiscent of the H1N1 (“swine flu”) alarm from last year—which, in the end (as you may recall), turned out to be a lot of unnecessary hysteria.

Nevertheless, cautionary hygiene measures are not only a wise choice, but could even make a life-and-death difference. So, wash your hands! For Pete’s sake (and yours too), wash your hands!! Soap and running water are remarkably effective in washing away those sneaky invisible bugs that lurk on every surface. And, after you have washed, go ahead and use some of that “hand sanitizer” glop, too. It can’t hurt.

However… Ahem: The truth about hand sanitizers is that they only might help . . . a little. I recently read a study on the effectiveness of hand sanitizers that found “no statistical proof” that they actually help to fight the bugs.

Unfortunately, some people erroneously think that the hand sanitizer glop is just as good as—or better than—soap and water. This is definitely not the case. Worse yet: it might even give its user a false sense of security, so that he consistently skips really washing his hands and uses this potentially ineffective glop instead. Now, think about that “health care professional” you recently visited who actually used hand sanitizer instead of soap and water! Yikes!

Now there’s a real reason for alarm!

Are you courageous enough to ask your doctor or nurse to use soap and water before they touch you to take your pulse or blood pressure or temperature or listen to your heart and lungs with their stethoscopes? And speaking of their stethoscopes, you should also ask them when they last cleaned that stethoscope! Someone did a study on stethoscopes and found them to be incredibly germy things.

Having said all that, here is another truth: washing your hands and glopping on hand sanitizers will not protect you from air-borne bugs. Cold and flu viruses are definitely air-borne.

If you have a cold or the flu you can protect others, of course, by capturing the bugs that you cough and sneeze out by using a handkerchief or your elbow sleeve. But, to keep from succumbing to those air-borne bugs in the first place, you will need to bolster your immune system.

Yes. I’m sure you know where this is heading—having repeatedly heard me on this topic. It’s hard to argue with success, however, and I speak from experience (my whole life I have been prone to getting colds, flu, and pneumonia—until I began taking Vitamin D-3). Vitamin D is essential to your immune system, and nearly all Americans are Vitamin D-deficient. The old 400 IU RDA is now known to be laughably, ridiculously low. The new cautious recommendation is 1000 IUs for children (under the age of 12) and 2000 IUs for adults. To overdose on Vitamin D, you would have to take more than 20 times that amount every day for years. Humans make at least 10,000 units of vitamin D within 30 minutes of full body exposure to the sun. If you have little, or no, sun exposure you will need to take at least 5,000 IU per day.

To learn more, go to “vitamindcouncil.org”
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hooray for September!


Hooray for September! I've decided that for me August is the second most odious month in the year: long and hot and miserable. January is the first most odious--long and dark and cold. Don't you just love the picture (above) which now graces my desktop?
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Sunday, August 29, 2010

SMILE!

The following "For Better or For Worse" comic strip was in this morning's newspaper.



























I thought, how sweet little children can be. And how easy to put a smile on a mommy's heart.
I, of course, feel really really old now, because I am nearly as old as my grandmother was when I lived with my grandparents during the summer I graduated from high school.
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hollywood's Breach




The other evening, the Knight and I watched “Breach,” a 2007 movie which I had wanted to see for quite a long time. The movie is based on the true story of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent, convicted of spying for the Soviet Union / Russia for more than two decades.

Alas, the movie lacked 3 key elements which the Knight especially enjoys in movies: lots of stuff blowing up, lots of car chases, and lots of people getting the tar kicked out of them. You know, gratuitous special effects violence. (LOL) Nevertheless, even with none of that, the two-hour production was nerve-wrackingly tense. We knew from the first few minutes of the movie what the outcome was going to be, but it was still tense.

My interpretation of the film was that it was an interesting study of pride and anger. Agent Hanssen was angry because he felt that his keen intelligence and brillant work were neither sufficiently recognized nor justly rewarded by the FBI. As a consequence, he sold out to the Russians for big bucks as his way of punishing the FBI for dissing him. Ultimately, his pride and anger became a self-destruct-mechanism—first, it slowly pulled him apart as he lived two different lives, and then it triggered his final traitorous act which resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. It was a sad, cautionary tale about pride and anger.

Hollywood, however, was not satisfied with a psychological portrait of Robert Hanssen the traitor along with a chronicle of the careful work done by the FBI to nail the guy. The screenplay writers and the director decided that they needed to spice up the story for the big screen by adding a few fictitious elements, namely, “sexual perversions” and religious hypocrisy or fanaticism (Catholic). And, Hollywood style, they also felt the need to make political commentary. Several major scenes were entirely fictional, as listed in Wikipedia:

• The real O'Neill knew going in that Hanssen was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. There was no cover story about sexual perversions, and no dramatic meeting where O'Neill learned the truth.


• There was no extensive contact outside the office between O'Neill and Hanssen as portrayed in the film (the O'Neills visiting the Hanssens, the Hanssens dropping by O'Neill's apartment). However, Hanssen did take O'Neill to church.


• The scene where Hanssen takes O'Neill out into the woods and drunkenly fires his pistol is fictional.


• Unlike in the movie, O'Neill never saw Hanssen after the arrest.

In my opinion, all of the scenes depicting sexual and religious “deviancy” were distasteful and added nothing of value to the movie. On the contrary: these scenes detracted from the story and its presentation, and distorted the truth. These scenes could have been deleted and some more accurate parts added, along with some terrific acting, to result in a more powerful story. Truth need not be fictionalized to make it compelling. Resorting to cheap sensationalism and an appeal to anti-religion sentiments were unnecessary.

As the distasteful and repulsive scenes transpired, it was as if obnoxious commercials were interrupting the story. During those scenes I began thinking about the writers and the director, and the ax they were obviously grinding, as well as their cynical opinions of American movie-goers. They obviously did not want anyone to leave the theater with any feelings of respect for the FBI, since the movie included scenes that belittled the FBI, in general, and suggested that the FBI itself could be blamed for Hanssen’s actions. Hollywood apparently also believes that religiously-minded people are dangerous or mentally unstable—they definitely are not “normal.”

“TKKM JXX WDK IVA.”

My new favorite brain game is solving the cryptoquips that appear in each day’s morning newspaper. It usually takes me less than ten minutes to solve a puzzle, which is a lot of fun to figure out. I can actually feel my brain shifting into high gear—it’s exhilarating! Once I’ve solved the puzzle, I always end up with a smile on my face because the quip is a clever play on words.

This morning’s cryptoquip was:

“Since that poor hammerhead lacked any companionship, I suppose you could call it a lone shark.”

Some others this week included:

“When a chicken farmer needs to urge folks to take action, I would assume he eggs them on.”

“If somebody were obsessed with snaps and zippers, that may be characterized as a fasten-ation.”

Here is one you might like to try to solve (I put an underline mark between each word, because otherwise it all looks like it runs together):

AJ_ VA_ PJW_ WJ_ IKW _V _AMKKZLPI _WLETKW,

L_ AEQLRRGKZ_ JP _WDK _ZVADRJVQZ_ WDK_ GLPK

“TKKM_ JXX_ WDK_ IVA.” Clue: A equals S. [See solution in comments.]


Brain games keep our minds limber and working. Without challenges, our brains literally wither and die. Our brain power doesn’t have to decline with age if we keep learning new things.

Try it, you may just like it!


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Monday, August 23, 2010

CRUISING

Just in time for our Alaskan cruise, I bought the Knight a “travel blazer” and two short sleeved light blue dress shirts to go with it. The blazer was navy blue with gold buttons and about a dozen inside pockets (thus it was a “travel” blazer for holding miscellaneous documents, etc.). He looked really [really, really] cool wearing a blue shirt and the navy blue blazer. He was cleancut, neat, debonair, suave. James Bond had nothing on him!!

Our cruise line, on the other hand, boasted its “Freestyle” style. Everything was “freestyle.”—meals, dress code, etc. “Nice casual” was mentioned somewhere in their brochure. But even on dress-up night, dressing-up was strictly optional (and very few made the effort). “Freestyle dining” meant eat whenever and wherever you liked, wearing whatever you liked (within reason—a cover-up over your bikini was suggested).

Maybe half of the people on the cruise tried to maintain “nice casual.” The other half (or more) wore sloppy attire—stuff that was more appropriate to working in the yard or vegging out in front of the TV during a long weekend at home. I was a little surprised at how sloppy some people looked.

Actually, I was appalled.

It bothered me a little.

Okay. It bothered me a lot.

I criticized myself for these feelings.

And then I read something that helped me understand why I felt the way I did. The author said:

“There are many ways of showing respect to ourselves and those around us. Minding our bodies is one of them, and certainly not a minor consideration. We all know that we can offend others with our bodies. We do that with the way we look, the way they smell, and what we do with and to them. Thus we all need to become conversant with the civility of body management, which begins with good basic grooming habits. When we take good care of our bodies and our appearance we implicitly validate who we are. We look at ourselves as deserving of attention and act upon that feeling. As we are being good to ourselves, we also show that we consider others important. Behind that attention to our grooming are the goals of appearing at our best on the stage of everyday life and of being as pleasant a presence for others as we can.

“Essential to good grooming are a clean and odor-free body, recently washed hair, finger- and toenails in perfect order, a close shave, well-applied makeup, if worn, and clean teeth and fresh breath. Also essential are clean and unrumpled clothes, well-kept shoes, unfrayed socks, and run-free stockings. Good grooming is simply good maintenance.

“When we are well groomed, we often experience a sense of both physical and psychological well-being. We feel good, and we feel good about ourselves. When this happens, we are better disposed toward others, treat them better, and are thus better treated in return.” [From Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni]

Having read the above three paragraphs, I understood my feelings of discomfort while in the company of people who didn’t seem to care how they looked, nor considered whether they were offensive in dress, or manner or behavior. (Yes, they displayed other incivilities as well.)

I am sure that the cruise line gave up, as a lost cause, on trying to encourage “nice casual” and thus gave in to “freestyle” sloppy. I, of course, will definitely avoid cruising with “Freestyle” cruises in the future.

Having said that, I want to return to how I felt about the Knight when he was wearing his travel blazer and light blue shirt. I felt pleased to be in his company. I felt respect for him. I felt joy and gratitude about being his companion. I felt special. He was special.

If he looked that way every day, I would be flattered that he took the time and effort to look well groomed even if he wasn’t going anywhere. I have never appreciated the snaggly unshaved look. I don’t think any man is “sexy” who neglects to shower and shave or dress neatly. Or get his hair cut before he looks like a hippy.

Concerning at-home slovenliness, P.M. Forni said: “If it’s hard to do the grooming just for yourself, do it for those who share your home. No one will be physically closer to you for a longer time than your companion, your spouse, and your family. Make sure that your body care is such that it adds to their pleasure in being with you. … Being civil to your family is one of the most concrete ways to show them that we love them. Love is not simply made of feeling. Real love is made of doing.”

Sounds good to me!




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Thursday, August 5, 2010

I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.

Today’s newspaper contained mostly bad news. But, then, that is the way of newspapers. There are so many depressing developments, one can’t help but notice the dramatic deepening of darkness across the world. Many people purposely avoid reading the news (or watching it on TV) because it is disturbing. I sympathize with their desire to look the other way. However, there is that admonition to “watch”:

“What I say unto one I say unto all: Watch, for the adversary spreadeth his dominions, and darkness reigneth.” (DC 82:5)

Keeping one eye on your adversary at all times seems to be a wise strategy so as to guard against any surprise attacks. And, of course, with the other eye, we are supposed to be focusing on light and truth in order to stay strong and fit for an inevitable battle. At least, that is the way I have interpreted the admonition to “watch” for most of my life.

But I think I’ve been wrong. Keeping a constant eye on darkness can result in a debilitating despair that declares that all is lost and defeat is inevitable. The Adversary, of course, wants us to think he is winning; that the ultimate victory is already in his hand. Unfortunately, our news media aid him in that illusion.

After reading some of the current depressing news this morning, I then read some of the good news in the Mormon Times section of the paper. I felt ever so much better—even optimistic! Even happy! I read of people who are doing good things, exercising faith, combating evil in inspired ways, making the world a better place. I read the insightful views of others who are using the challenges and adversities of this world to become better people, to do a good work. I was uplifted and strengthened. So I had a new thought: if we focus on light and truth with both eyes, we will still be prepared for the surprise attacks. Perhaps even much better prepared because we will feel hope and courage to continue in faith, to be valiant.

[Do you need a boost in your optimism and enthusiasm? Click on the image of Christ in the right column to go to Mormon Times.com. Among many great articles, I recommend Wayne Brickey’s article, “Iron hath entered his soul.”]


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Sunday, August 1, 2010

How Low Is Too Low?



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I am continually amazed at the low quality of so much of TV programming. It's not just so "mediocre" that it is an insult to one's intelligence-- although that would be sufficient reason to complain. Some of the new programs promised to begin next month look to be worse than the worst currently showing.


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"How low can you go?" used to be the challenge in doing the "limbo" (for those too young to know--the limbo is a "dance" from the West Indies where you "dance" under a stick that progressively gets lower and lower). Today, striving to get as low as possible seems to be Hollywood's most earnestly sought goal.


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How low is too low???
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

TIME AND A QUESTION



I hate to be boring and predictable… But didn’t July just zoom by super fast? I know, I know: I was babbling about June going by too fast a few blogs ago. So, I suppose August will vanish super fast too.

Is there is a scripture about time speeding up? Isn’t there?

I don’t think that the phrase “Days will be shortened” (see Matthew 24 and Mark 13) refers to time speeding up. I think it refers to having fewer total days.

August just might end up dragging by. Waiting for school to start. Waiting for the hot weather to end. Waiting for the next birthday party (a zillion birthdays in August—and September—and October …)… or, maybe, waiting for the birthday parties to be OVER. (HaHa)

Einstein thought that time could be slowed down (or stopped?) by going as fast as the speed of light. Hmmm. OK.

So, to speed time up, does that entail going at the speed of darkness??

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Read Your Blog; Did You Read Mine?

Earlier this month, Chris blogged:

“I was telling my wife today that I felt sad that I really didn't know my mom or my dad too well. I mean, I know who they are and some of the things that they do, but I really don’t know them. And, it seems that the only way I get to know them better is by reading their blogs.”

Chris, of course, has hit the nail on the head. It takes real interest and effort to know and understand another person—even our own family members. Nevertheless, in reading blogs, sometimes we have to take some time to “read between the lines” in order to “see” the real person. A quick, impatient, disinterested skimming will yield little or nothing.

In choosing as my blog address, “speak that I may see thee,” I wanted to convey the truth that it is through the things that we say that we reveal ourselves. Each of us wants to be known, understood, and valued for who we really are. Robert Frost penned a short little poem about that need:

We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone find us really out.

’Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

Interestingly, when someone is truly interested in us and what we have to say, and they show it, then we are much more likely to reciprocate. We will be more motivated to really know, understand, and value them, and what they have to say. “We love him, because he first loved us.”

I read some insightful words this morning about loving that could have been about the higher uses of blogging:

“Loving ... [or blogging] ... has a lot of sharing in it. ‘I saw something beautiful—look with me!’ ‘I heard something funny, laugh with me.’ ‘I have discovered a new fact, isn’t it interesting?’ ‘Something terrible has happened, grieve with me.’ ‘Or marvelous—rejoice with me’ – and let me enjoy with you what you have seen, heard, or learned. I will listen while you explain what I don’t yet understand. I want to hear what you care about.’”

To “connect” with others requires time and emotion. It requires generosity of spirit and the ability to take yourself from the center of the picture sometimes and put someone else there. We do that when we read and enjoy one another’s blogs. And say so.

I read your blog; did you read mine?

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Summertime Fun--Makes Me Smile




CARDIFF-BY-THE-SEA, Calif. — Predawn pranksters have surrounded a roadside surfer statue with a papier mache model of a great white shark that appeared to be swallowing it whole.

Crowds of gawkers and photographers gathered around the 16-foot creation after the sun rose on Saturday.

The bronze statue has been the target of a series of gags in recent years. It has been bedecked with bras, skirts and witch hats so many times that locals have come to call it "The Cardiff Kook."

"This is the biggest and best so far," retired Navy dentist Bob Olson, 66, told the Los Angeles Times. "I don't know how anyone will outdo this, but I'm sure they'll try."

San Diego County sheriff's Lt. Tony Ray said no criminal report was filed because there was no damage to the statue.

"It wasn't considered vandalism because there wasn't any permanent defacing," Ray told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The $120,000 sculpture called "Magic Carpet Ride" was commissioned by the Cardiff Botanical Society in 2007.




Funny!

I suspect the shark was created by a team of college students--perhaps art students and/or engineering students. Such a project may have taken weeks to finish and it would have been hard to keep it a "secret." Certainly, others would have noticed this project going on! It probably took at least 4 people to transport it and set it up.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dolly's ... WHAT?



This morning The Knight asked me which biography I was working on. So, referring to my grandparents, I said, “Dolly and Fernow.” As I heard myself say it, it almost sounded like “Dolly’s Inferno” or “Dante’s Inferno”! The Knight heard the same thing, and laughed. The reference, of course, was to Dante’s “Inferno”—part of Dante’s epic poem, “The Divine Comedy.” The word “inferno” is Italian for Hell.



Now I shall never be able to say "Dolly and Fernow" without thinking of my poor grandmother being married to . . . Hell!



Why was my poor grandfather given such a sad name?



(I think Fernow actually was a place in Sweden--perhaps it was the place where his father was born.....)

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Speaking Philosophically



“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” (—Quoth Shakespeare’s Juliet)

While, it may not be as poetic a phrase, the question today is: “What’s in a number?”

The Knight has been alternately bemused and incredulous at his New Number: 68.

Twice 34?

Wasn’t that just yesterday?

Thirty-four. The age of endless possibilities.

Sixty-eight. Two-thirds of the way (and a smidge) to the “age of a tree.”

Robert Browning cheerily contemplated aging with these famous words:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made….

. . . All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recall;
Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
What entered into thee,
That was, is, and shall be:
Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.

Look not thou down but up!
To uses of a cup….
But I need, now as then,
Thee, God, who mouldest men….
So, take, and use thy work:
Amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o’ the stuff, what warpings past the aim!
My times be in thy hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!

So, I repeat: what’s in a number?

For a man of faith, his age, at any given time, is merely a bench mark.


A bench mark is a surveyor’s mark made on a permanent landmark of known position and altitude. It is used as a reference point in determining other altitudes.
What's your altitude?
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Friday, July 9, 2010

Art of Work--Work of Art



In this morning’s paper, was an article on the artist, Arnold Friberg, who died recently (his viewing is today in SLC).

The article quoted Friberg: “When I was a little kid, I mowed lawns. Instead of just pushing the lawnmower around the middle, I got down and edged. I had a little whiskbroom, and I lined up the edges and corners. It was just inborn in me, I had to do extra. The word spread very quickly. I always had work to do. … You always have to do extra. That is the principle of success no matter what field you are in. It’s so simple, nobody will believe it. You give more than you get paid for. All my life, I’ve given twice what they’ve paid for. This keeps you growing. Then your prices, I’ve found, go up almost by themselves [your pay goes up as a result of your extra efforts].”

I read Friberg’s comment with interest on many levels. I remember being a little kid on a farm, who was expected to work, and my sometimes poor attitude toward work. I remember my own children, as they were growing up, and their attitudes. I watch my grandchildren work, and notice their attitudes. While growing up, I also observed the missionaries in Minnesota and noticed that the “good” missionaries (the memorable, admirable ones) willingly worked hard, while some others (the forgettable ones) sloughed off and didn’t put forth much effort. The same thing could be seen in the student nurses of my acquaintance.

Friberg was right about the “principle of success” being based on one’s choice to do more than is expected. The Savior also taught that principle to his disciples. He told them that after someone has compelled you to go one mile with him, go a second mile—an extra mile—with him.

You go that “extra mile” for yourself, for your own self-respect. When you go the extra mile, you no longer are a “slave” or a “servant” or merely an “employee.” You are a free agent. But it is also more than that. You are declaring yourself to be more than ordinary. You are achieving excellence of character as you give more of yourself.

I can image that the Savior also told his disciples that they should “whistle while they worked” —be cheerful— during that first mile, for He knew that they, then, would involuntarily break into joyful singing during the “extra mile.”



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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

From the Dust: Ashes and Fathers

Yesterday, I heard a voice “speaking from the dust.” Actually it was my own voice from years gone by. The dust was on an old journal that I’d not looked at it in some time. As I browsed through the pages, I was amazed at how much I’d forgotten.

My journal entries today are more cryptic, less detailed. So, this means that much more is going unsaid now.

Nine years ago this week (July 9, 2001)—according to said journal— The Knight went to California to collect his father’s ashes so that he could bury them in Wyoming. This little saga was reminiscent (in my mind) of the movie “Smoke Signals,” in which Victor, with his cousin Thomas, travels to Arizona from Idaho to collect his father’s remains. In the final scene of the movie, Victor throws his father’s ashes into the river from a bridge. The best part of the movie is that scene. Victor’s actions are accompanied by the sounds of Indian drums and sorrow-singing and the voice of Thomas in a soliloquy on “Fathers.”

I told The Knight that when he obtained them, that he should throw his own father’s ashes from a bridge into a river, and have Andy do the drums and sorrow-singing. The Knight thought that I was being cruel and disrespectful of the dead. I really wasn’t. I thought it would be poetic and memorable. The grandchildren and great grandchildren could also be there on the bridge to witness the ceremony.

Just picture it: a summer morning, the sun glinting through the trees and sparkling on the water, the sounds of birdsong and rushing water, the silent gathering of family on the foot bridge over the Provo River, Andy providing the heart-beat drum like the sound of many hearts beating and the voice singing of ancient sorrows, and then the soliloquy of Thomas:

How do we forgive our fathers?
Maybe in a dream?
Do we forgive our fathers for leavin’ us too often—
Or forever—when we were little?
Maybe for scarin’ us with unexpected rage—
Or makin’ us nervous because
There never seemed to be any rage there at all?
Do we forgive our fathers for marryin’—
Or not marryin’—our mothers?
For divorcing—or not divorcing—our mothers?
And shall we forgive them for pushin’—
Or leanin’?
For shuttin’ doors?—
Or speakin’ through walls?—
Or never speakin’?—
Or never being silent?

Do we forgive our fathers in our age—
Or in theirs?—
Or in their deaths, sayin’ it to them—
Or not sayin’ it?
If we forgive our fathers—
What is left?

As the ashes float out from the bridge onto the waters and then out of sight around a bend in the river, the gathering on the bridge bids him farewell until they meet again.

Poetic.

Memorable.

Never happened.

The reality was stark in comparison.

Although, I suppose The Knight and his two sons would tell you it was poetic and memorable in its own way—The Knight did the sorrow-singing (I am told), and a copy of the song was buried with the ashes.

In a cold, wind-swept valley of the Tetons, it was a small, lonely gathering in a neglected, mostly forgotten cemetery as the whispering of the wind in the dry grasses sighed farewell.



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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Holy Cow! It's July!


I was just now going to shut down my computer when I realized that my computer wallpaper was still the June Calendar page.

Holy Cow! (I thought) How did it get to be July?

I didn't get enough of June! and now July is one-tenth gone already!

So, I quickly found the July calendar page and downloaded it.

Do you like it?

It makes me happy!



Four Birthdays this month: Christina, Aislyn, The Knight, and Ethan.

And it's America's birthday, too!

:)



Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer!

Photographer Max Alexander is credited with this photo of Stonehenge taken at Summer Solstice.



I was awake this morning at 5:38 a.m. to welcome the first day of summer.
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5:38 a.m. was the exact moment of Summer Solstice-- meaning that the earth's northern axis is tilted as far toward the sun as it gets. In other words, the sun is at its northern-most point in the sky for the year. We are as far away from winter as we can get.
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At 5:38 a.m. a robin was near my open window to herald this momentous occasion with his cheerful song. He had been anticipating this moment for several days. On Sunday morning he began his rehearsals at 4:30 a.m. There were other robins in the neighborhood who were doing the same thing, but their calls sounded like far-away echos of my yard's soloist.
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I remember other summer mornings when the pre-dawn warblings were a veritable symphony--hundreds of birds shouting joy to the approaching sun. Minnesota and Indiana summer mornings were incredible that way.
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Celebrate Summer Solstice! Thank Heavenly Father for birdsong.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Adventure versus Pleasing Others

By now, everyone has heard the story of sixteen year old Abby Sunderland whose attempt to sail solo around the world came to an abrupt ending a few days ago after the mast on her sailboat broke off during a storm in the Indian Ocean.

So, now there is a debate raging about whether Abby’s parents are guilty of child endangerment for allowing her to attempt such a dangerous feat. Some critics of the Sunderlands feel that the parents should be prosecuted and, at the very least, be forced to pay restituition for the costs involved in their daughter’s rescue at sea. The Sunderlands maintain that Abby is a trained, experienced, and able sailor—comparable to other expert sailors, regardless of age.

Should 16-year-olds be banned from sailing around the world simply because of their age?

If my parents had set me adrift on the ocean in a sailboat at the age of sixteen, it probably would have been a prosecutable crime because I had no training, no experience, couldn’t swim, and was afraid of water! And that was only part of it: I was also afraid of my own shadow!

Obviously there are great differences among 16-year-olds, and they shouldn’t be stereotyped and judged simply because of their ages.


I applaud Abby for her courage and determination. I applaud her parents for doing all they could to make sure she was as prepared as she could be, and for having the courage to let her go. If Abby’s parents had been easily swayed by others’ negative opinions, their wishy-washy example would have made Abby less courageous, more fearful.


Our lives should not be wasted in trying to please everyone, or in being fearful of criticism. No matter what you do, someone will try to find something to criticize.

One of my life-long favorite Aesop’s Fables is:

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?"

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: "See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides."

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along."

Well, the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said:

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?"

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

"That will teach you," said an old man who had followed them:
Please all, and you will please none!


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Saturday, June 12, 2010

TOGETHER WING TO WING

The Knight and I were present when a Provo Temple Presidency member recently shared some of Elder Richard G. Scott’s teachings about the marriage sealing. He said that in the next life the Lord will ask couples married in the Temple if they still want to spend the rest of Eternity together. Their answers will be honored.

A day or so later, the Knight and I had a conversation about that. The Knight said, “I hope you will say, ‘Yes.’” I said, “I hope you will say, ‘Yes,’ too.”

My thought was: we have been married for forty-three years; we share a lot of history together, not to mention children and grandchildren. I cannot imagine turning my back on all that, and choosing to throw it away. Just the thought of not being together as a family or having missing family members is just too sad for words. Would I seriously consider spending eternity with a stranger or alone? What a horrible thought.

Of course, we have had to weather some rough times during those 43 years—as happens in every marriage. And undoubtedly there will yet be some bumpy roads ahead.

Some time ago, I reworded a poem by Robert Frost. To me it is about choosing to be together for eternity:

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But [we] have speed far greater. [We] can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And [we] were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that [we] may go where [we] will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That [we] may have the power of standing still-
Off any still or moving thing [we] say.
Two such as [we] with such a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once [we] are agreed
That our lives for now and forevermore
Are together wing to wing, and oar to oar.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I WOULD BITE HER TOO!

In today’s newspaper was an article that caught my attention. The title was: “Plugged-in parents may be alienating their own kids.” The article was from the New York Times; it began with the following incident:

“While waiting for an elevator at the … Mall near her home in Virginia recently, Janice Im, who works in early-childhood development, witnessed a troubling incident between a young boy and his mother.

“The boy, who… was about 2 ½ years old, made repeated attempts to talk to his mother, but she wouldn’t look up from her BlackBerry.

“He’s like, ‘Mama? Mama? Mama?’ And then he starts tapping her leg. And she goes, ‘Just wait a second. Just wait a second.’

“Finally, he was so frustrated, that “he goes, ‘Ahhhh!’ and tries to bite her leg.”

The article goes on to say that MIT has been studying how parental use of technology affects children and young adults. They found that feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition are widespread.

Near the end of the article the author took another tack: Parents who pay attention to their children, talking and explaining things to them, and responding to their questions “remain the bedrock of early childhood learning.” Parents who supply a language-rich environment for their children help them develop a wide vocabulary, and that helps them learn to read.

The question posed at the end of the article was whether the parents’ use of smartphones, (and other technologies that employ screens) etc. will be a detriment to their children’s intellectual development.

My reaction was: While the child’s intellectual development is a legitimate concern, I think the child’s “feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition” should be the deeper concern. The little boy becoming frustrated and trying to bite his mother, demonstrates that when this parent ignores her child’s repeated entreaties, the impact on the child is a profound psychological and emotional one. That is scarier than anything. And heart-breaking.

Another thought: the parent who is addicted to the various technologies may need “intervention” to get them back in touch with real life… and their most valuable possession—their child.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nudnik Alert!!!

Weird words are fun. When we lived in Indiana, one radio guy used to have a “weird word of the day.” Bill O’Reilly of the “O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News has a word of the day. And, kids love inventing words: “krickle”!

When we lived in Simi Valley, I took a Voice and Diction Speech Class at Moorpark College. One of my fellow students, who always sat next to me in class, was a Jewish woman who was probably in her late twenties or early thirties.

One day, while chatting with me, she used the word “schlepping” in a sentence. “What’s ‘schlepping’?” I asked.

She was taken aback. “You don’t know what ‘schlepping’ is? Everybody uses that word! It’s Yiddish….”

I knew I’d undoubtedly heard the word once or twice, but as far as I was concerned, it was slang. And since I studiously avoided using slang, I’d felt no need to know what ‘schlepping’ meant. I had a vague notion that its meaning might be similar to ‘wasting one’s time wandering the shopping malls with other time-wasters’ – like packs of teenagers do during the summertime; and the teenagers themselves (in my lexicon) were “schleps.”

I remembered this conversation this morning while I was browsing through the most recent Reader’s Digest and stopped to look at the “Word Power” list. All seventeen words were Yiddish. Number 13 was ‘Schlep’—(meaning haul): “Lois schlepped the newspapers to the recycling center….”

I was curious to see if I was familiar with any of the other 16 Yiddish words. Amazingly I was! I knew “yenta” (busybody) and “mazel tov” (best wishes)—from Fiddler on the Roof, “oy vey” (oh woe), “kibitz” (offering opinions) and “bubkes” (nothing)—think Bupkis, as in the dice game. I’ve also seen “chutzpah” frequently—I thought it was equivalent to being “cheeky” (it actually means gall), but it is pronounced hoot-spuh not chuts-paw.

Hmmm. I probably won’t be slipping any of the above into my conversations anytime soon. The rest of the selections included:

-kvetch (complain)

-zaftig (pleasantly plump)

-plotz (collapse)

-meshuga (daffy)

-nebbish (milquetoast)

-tchotchke (knickknack)

-schnorrer (moocher)

-mensch (honorable person)

-shamus (detective)

-nudnik (a bore) pronounced “nood-nick”

Of the 17, I think I liked ‘nudnik’ the best, and might actually use it some time. It sounds like a word that Chris might have invented!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Seeing "Through a glass darkly"--Our Mortal Condition (or, we need all the help we can get)

The other day, Shy and Katscratchme were discussing issues with regard to dealing with their spouses. The following article offers some interesting insights for spouses and as well as for other relationships. The Knight and I enjoyed a discussion of the article as we were driving somewhere to do some CSM thing recently. The article appeared in Meridian Magazine within the last month or so. It is definitely food for thought.


Will I Ever Receive His Image in My Countenance?By H. Wallace Goddard


Alma surrendered his civil leadership so that he could minister to the spiritual well-being of the people. He traveled the cities and villages giving the polished message recorded in Alma 5. Though Alma did not have the technology to deliver his speech to all the people at once, he did deliver the same powerful invitation to people all over the land. I think of this as one of the earliest recorded General Conference addresses.

In Alma’s great speech to the people, he suggested that one of the evidences of spiritual re-birth is to have Jesus’ image in our countenances (Alma 5:14). I have been both inspired and burdened by that expectation. I want to radiate like Jesus. I want people to see Him in me. But, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see any hint of His remarkable goodness. I see tired eyes and a profusion of wrinkles.

Since I have a great talent for self-accusation, I have assumed that I am not really spiritually reborn. I may have had powerful spiritual experiences, I may love Him dearly, but my cankered soul has not yet yielded to the mighty change.

New Revelation

I am grateful for the opportunity I have of teaching Institute in the Little Rock area. When it came time for us to study Alma’s great plea for spiritual renewal, I begged God to open my mind and heart so I could understand his meaning. I studied and pondered. I continued to love the chapter but still felt more accused than encouraged by Alma’s description of the changed soul.

It wasn’t until we were in the middle of the lesson on a Wednesday evening in early March in the Relief Society room of the chapel that God gave the answer I had sought. Suddenly God made the connection between Alma’s words and the practical reality.

The Background

The world’s best scholar on marriage is arguably John Gottman. I have read and studied his books. I regularly use his materials in both writing and teaching.

In Relationship Cure (2001), Gottman suggested that many ordinary behaviors are really bids for connection. When I ask Nancy if she would like to go to Home Depot with me, I am not requesting help with loading lumber. I am really telling her that I love to be with her and would be delighted to have her accompany me to one of my favorite places. I am making a bid for connection.

Very often we miss the significance of these invitations. Maybe Nancy asks me if I would like to take a walk with her. If I am in a foul mood, I might respond: “Are you saying that I am a lazy slob, that I need more exercise, and you don’t approve of my reading newsmagazines?”

YIKES! We can be so absorbed in our own thoughts and feelings that we hardly see a partner’s loving intent. We respond to invitation with insult. When we respond to a bid for connection in such a harsh way, Gottman calls it “turning against.”

I might respond to Nancy’s invitation in a gentler, but still self-focused way. I might shrug, sigh, and announce with non-verbals that I really don’t want to go. Gottman calls this “turning away.” I suspect that we do a lot of this with family and friends. They invite us into their lives and we shrug them off.

There is a third alternative. Imagine that, in response to Nancy’s invitation, I say, “I love doing things with you, Dear.” Maybe I jump up and join her in a walk. Yet my warm response does not require that I take the walk. Maybe my back is hurting or I’m in the middle of something pressing. But I can respond to a bid for connection by “turning toward” Nancy. Maybe I say, “I love doing things with you, Dear. I just need to finish this project, but as soon as I’m done, let’s spend some time together.” I can respond to her message of love by offering a message of love. I can turn toward her whole-heartedly and appreciatively. I can embrace her invitation.

As I thought about “turning toward,” it seemed that maybe that is exactly what Alma meant when he asked if we have Jesus’ image in our countenance. I think he means that we welcome their invitation into their lives, and offer grace, goodness, and appreciation in return. Turning toward people may be the sign that Jesus is in our hearts and souls.

Jesus as the Perfect Model

Jesus life was filled with turning toward His confused and troubled siblings. One of my favorite examples is Jesus’ dealings with the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). While Simon and his hard-hearted buddies judged and condemned both Jesus and the woman, Jesus “turned to the woman,” pointed out her generosity of spirit and “said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven” (v. 48).

At least ten times in scripture we are told that, in spite of our wickedness, “his hand is stretched out still.” That is His attitude, His posture, His stance. He is reaching for us—even when He has reason to turn away or turn against us. In Elder Maxwell’s powerful words: “His relentless redemptiveness exceeds [our] recurring wrongs” (“Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King,” Ensign, May 1976, 26).

He is always turning toward us whether we turn toward Him, turn away from Him, or turn against Him. When we, like Him, turn lovingly and redemptively toward our brothers and sisters, then we have His image in our countenance.

The older meaning of the word countenance included far more than our facial expression; it meant our bearing or behavior. Thus God invites us to turn squarely toward the people in our lives, to see them redemptively—as He does, and to stand ready to serve them gladly.

When a neighbor needs help with a home repair, I can turn toward that neighbor and that need. When a friend seems burdened, I can turn squarely toward him and open my arms. When a fellow saint is not living up to my ideal of gospel standards, I can avoid turning against with scolding and lectures or turning away with an attitude of judgment, and instead turn toward that child of God with love and encouragement. When someone irritates or offends me, I can turn toward that person with acceptance and forgiveness.

That is what He would do. That is what He would have me do to radiate more of what He is.

An Irony and Trap Along the Way

As we read about turning toward others, we may instinctively think of others’ failures to do that for us. We may wish that our parents, spouses, bosses, co-workers, and friends had His image in their countenances! Yet Alma did not ask whether the people around us have experienced the mighty change; he asked whether we had. In His ministry, Jesus—our model--was gracious and redemptive with both those who were gracious and those who were not. He asks that we turn toward others regardless of whether they turn toward us, turn away from us, or turn against us.

In family relations, this is a terribly important idea. I often hear people tell me that they have tried everything to get their spouses engaged and involved in their marriages. I readily grant that some spouses are remote and inflexible. I have also observed that many of us really haven’t tried everything. We have tried the thing that we think should work and we have done it over and over again in spite of its demonstrated ineffectiveness. We get frustrated and we blame the failure on recalcitrant spouses.

For example, I can get mad at my beloved Nancy for being so engaged in Relief Society work that I feel neglected. But getting mad at her is not an effective way of pulling her into my life. If I can adopt the mind of Christ, I know that I should approach her humbly, kindly, and lovingly: “Sweetheart, when you get so involved in Relief Society, I feel left out. I miss you. I get lonely. I would like to do more things with you.”

Rather than conclude that our spouses are hopelessly dull when they do not respond to our bids for connection, we can refine, clarify, and sweeten our invitations. In other words, we can repent. Repenting ourselves is always better than condemning our spouses. It is also more consistent with Jesus’ commands.

At the same time, we can work to be more sensitive to our spouses’ bids for connection. They may be inviting us into our lives in ways we fail to recognize. We can pray for Heaven to give us discerning eyes so that we see and appreciate our spouses’ invitations.

Turning Toward

When my dear wife invites me to take a walk, I plan to jump up and take her hand. And when Jesus reaches towards me with enlightenment, an invitation, or any opportunity to more deeply connect, I plan to fully turn toward Him instead of mentally sighing and turning toward a book, a TV program, or a hobby.

Someday I hope to develop His image in my countenance. I now know how.