Friday, May 19, 2017

My Daughter: High School Graduate

I'm so very proud of my daughter.

"What's next?" you ask. She has been accepted at BYU-Idaho, and will attend there in the fall. She plans to study elementary education and would like to teach second or third grade. This summer she will be busy working and saving and getting ready to leave the nest and make her own way in the world. I have no doubts that she will do well.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Stormy Adventure

Yesterday afternoon, it was just about time for me to head to the school to walk my younger boys home, and it was starting to rain. I grabbed my rain jacket, and contemplated grabbing an umbrella, but my good, big, sturdy one has been missing (I might need to add that to the list of things stolen when the van was vandalized?) and the only one I have available is a cheap, wimpy one with two spokes broken that turns inside out with a good breeze unless angled just right. I decided to skip the umbrella and just put up the hood of my rain jacket. Then I stepped out onto the porch.

In the time I had been putting on my jacket and contemplating bringing an umbrella, the gentle rain had turned into a torrential downpour! Lightning flashed, thunder roared continuously, and pea sized hailstones were pelting the grass. I didn't want to go out in that! Hoping that the storm would pass quickly and praying that my children would stay safe, I waited there on the porch watching the hail cover the grass.

A few minutes later, John appeared and dashed to join me on the porch. It hadn't been raining when he left school, and, naturally, he didn't have a jacket with him. He was sopping wet from head to toe, and his arms were covered in tiny bruises from the hail. After a minute or two, he disappeared inside and then reappeared wearing a heavy, hooded snow coat, and he volunteered to go get the younger boys. I didn't know if they would have been dismissed from the school with the weather as it was, but I suggested that the pavilion at the park might be a good refuge from the storm if they were walking - they could stay at least until it stopped hailing. With the heavy coat to cushion him from the pelting of the hail, John bravely set off into the storm once again in search of his brothers. I wondered if the van was safe parked as it was on the street, getting pelted with hail.

After he had gone, my cell phone dinged with a message from the school, asking parents to pick up their children from the gym. I hoped that Josh and Peter were safe in the gym and that John would figure out where they were, or at least find a safe place to be. I wished that John was in the habit of having his cell phone with him so I could contact him.

A few minutes later I received a text from Hannah, who does have her cell phone, and does use it regularly. She was still at the school and wondered if I could come pick her up. I told her to stay where she was, and I would come pick her up when I could. It was still hailing.

Then John returned. He told me he had encountered his brothers as they had left the school and were starting on the way home, but had left them at the pavilion. Josh didn't have a jacket at all, and Peter's fleece jacket wasn't waterproof and didn't have a hood. I looked out into the grey storm, felt the chill breeze and heard the rumbling thunder. I needed to get my children.

John and I raced for the van. I started the engine, turned the wipers to full speed, and we set off towards the park. It was only a five minute walk away. But it was a scary drive as the road was buried under rivers of water. I worried that there would be places so deep the car would founder, but we made it to the park. Josh and Peter saw us and raced from the shelter of the pavilion to the van. As they climbed in, I noticed that the part of the park that was designed to be a water shed - an area where we occasionally go sledding in winter, had turned into a lake. Fun. I turned the car around and then we set off for the high school. By then, I think the hail had stopped, but the rain was still coming down in torrents.

The drive to the high school was scary too. At one point another car passed going the opposite direction sending a wave that shook my van, and blurred my vision for a few seconds. We reached the school safely and picked up Hannah and made the return trek home through the rain that was starting to ease slightly.

When we arrived at home, I parked the car in the garage and we made our way around to the house, wading through the lake that had accumulated in the front yard and covered the walk way to the front door. Once inside, the boys and I shed our sopping shoes, and I made the boys change out of their soaking wet clothes. It wasn't until then that I took a deep breath and relaxed. My children were home and safe. I didn't need to go anywhere else today. The storm was easing, and Steven should make it home with no difficulties in a couple hours.

The entire adventure only lasted about half and hour, but it was definitely an adventure. It wasn't until this morning as I was browsing friends' posts on Facebook that I realized how blessed I was. In other areas, the hail stones were the size of golf balls or larger and left dents in car hoods, penetrated car windshields, and broke building windows and skylights leaving buildings open to flooding in the heavy rain. See news stories: and and

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Hannah's Senior Solo: Londonderry Duet

Thursday evening was Hannah's final high school orchestra concert. As part of that, she got to perform a senior solo, and she chose to perform a variation of "Danny Boy" that I arranged earlier this year. I call it "Londonderry Duet". I got to accompany her on the piano as she played her viola. (It's amazing to me that playing something in a high school auditorium is so much more intimidating to me than playing in a chapel at church, but it is. When I sat down afterwards, my hands were shaking terribly.) Hannah did a fantastic job combining her acting skills with her viola playing skills. Unfortunately, I didn't record the actual performance, but we did film a practice so she could show it to her conductor for approval.

If you are interested, you can see the piano sheet music and the viola music.

One of the challenges of this time of year is that there is so much going on. Joshua had a band concert the same evening, and Peter had scouts that night. So I went with Hannah to her concert so I could play for her. John accompanied Josh to his concert, and Steven took Peter to scouts. I'm glad that Josh's school is within easy walking distance!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Spring One Acts

Wednesday evening, the curtains opened for Northlenn High School's Spring One Acts. Both Hannah and John participated, although in different productions.

Hannah was in a play called, "4 A.M." in which several people are portrayed at 4:00 in the morning. Hannah played Juliet, a girl wondering whether or not to text her boyfriend at that hour, as well as an officer who came about the monster under the bed.

John played Eugene Spooner, a seedy farmer with some attitude, in "A Play With Words".


They both did a fantastic job!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Self-Reliance Talk

A week ago, I received a phone call from one of the counselors in the bishopric. He told me one of the people who was supposed to give a talk on Sunday wouldn't be able to, and he wondered if I would be willing to speak. I said yes... and spent the remainder of the week studying, praying, pondering, writing, and revising. I felt guided as I worked on it. This is the talk I ended up giving on April 30, 2017:

In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln passed the Homestead Act. This act allowed American citizens to receive 160 acres of government land. All they had to do to get this land was pay a fee, improve the land by building a dwelling and cultivating it and reside continually on that land for five years. When the five years were up, the land was theirs. When I imagine those early homesteaders setting out to tame the frontier, I picture people like Laura Ingalls’ family of “Little House on the Prairie” fame. (Hers were some of my favorite books when I was a little girl.) These were people who lived some distance from civilization. The nearest neighbors were miles away, and it might have taken hours or even days to reach the nearest grocery store. They needed to be self-reliant.

These were people who had the ability to provide for themselves – they acquired the skills and knowledge they needed to survive. When they needed something, they figured out how to make it or do it themselves. They made their own bread, soap and candles. They sewed their own clothes, they grew their own food – or they hunted or gathered it.

They were committed – They couldn’t look to others to do everything for them; they had to take personal responsibility to make the necessary improvements and to prove they could survive on the land. Those who endured for the five years got to keep the land, but they had to be persistent; they couldn’t give up when times got hard.

Successful homesteaders also had to be willing to put forth the necessary effort. They worked and they worked hard. Their survival depended on it.

Another example of people who were self-reliant was the early Mormon pioneers. When the saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young counseled the Latter-day Saints to do all they could to provide the temporal necessities of life for themselves and their families.

A long way from civilization, their promised land--their refuge--was a desert - a barren waste land. It was doubted they could grow an ear of corn! But those early saints set out to provide for themselves and for those who would follow. The Saints came west to escape the persecutions that had driven them out of Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. They had nowhere else to go, and they were committed to making themselves a home in what would later be named Utah. They didn’t look to the government (that had essentially kicked them out) to provide them food or build them roads. They took care of themselves. They learned to “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!”

Over the years that followed, Brigham Young encouraged the Saints to learn skills that would give them the ability to take care of all their needs. For example, some Relief Society sisters were encouraged to go back east to get medical degrees so they could return to serve as nurses and midwives and to teach others those skills as well. (see here for reference)

Those early saints also had to put forth effort to provide for their needs. They built homes and roads and businesses. They grew crops and gardens. Relief Society sisters sewed their own clothes, and stored wheat. Brigham Young even encouraged the sisters to raise silk worms so they might be able to have silk for their dresses. They worked hard to make the desert blossom as the rose.

Today, a hundred and fifty years or so later, we live in a world that is a little different from that of those early pioneers, and yet, the principle of self-reliance remains the same. In the Church handbook, we learn that “Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family.”

So the first thing we need is the ability to provide for ourselves and our families. In order to do that, we need at least two things: health, or physical ability, and an education, or mental ability.

What do we need to do to have good health? We need to obey the Word of Wisdom: eat nutritious food, exercise, control our weight, get adequate sleep, avoid addictions. We should practice good sanitation and hygiene and get adequate mental and dental care. The handbook adds that we should strive to cultivate good relationships with family members and others.

Another thing we can do to promote good health is follow the Boy Scout Motto, “Be Prepared”. We can learn first aid and basic medical skills. Like the pioneer sisters that earned medical degrees so they could serve and teach others, we can learn good health practices. We can learn what conditions we can safely diagnose and treat at home and when we need to see a doctor.

We also need to gain an education. We need to develop the skills to be able to provide for ourselves – and teach them to our children. Before I left home, my mother made sure I knew how to follow a recipe and wash dishes. She taught me to wash laundry and vacuum. I had lessons on money management and manners. More importantly, I learned how to learn: when my dishwasher stopped working properly, I knew where to go to learn what I needed to do to fix it.

President Hinckley said, “The learning process is endless. We must read, we must observe, we must assimilate, and we must ponder that to which we expose our minds. . . . There is nothing quite as invigorating as being able to evaluate and then solve a difficult problem, to grapple with something that seems almost unsolvable and then find a resolution. [Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing for Something (New York: Times Books, 2000), 62]

Learning is an eternal principal. We are taught to seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (D&C 118:88) We are taught that whatever knowledge we gain in this life gives us an advantage in the world to come. (D&C 130:19) It also gives us an advantage in this life. Get as much education as you can! We have a wonderful opportunity in the Pathway program to get a college degree. Everyone I’ve talked to who has participated in the program has loved it.

Elder Robert D Hales said, “Education prepares you for better employment opportunities. It puts you in a better position to serve and to bless those around you. It will set you on a path of lifelong learning. It will strengthen you to fight against ignorance and error. As Joseph Smith taught: ‘Knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is. … In knowledge there is power.’ ‘To be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.’ Education will prepare you for what is ahead…”

The second part of becoming self-reliant is commitment. To me, commitment means being willing to do whatever is necessary to make something happen. It means taking personal responsibility, and enduring to the end.

Every mature adult should be personally responsible for his or her own situation, emotions, and well being. The responsibility to provide for our needs is no longer our parents’ responsibility and it’s not our children’s responsibility. It’s not the government’s job to take care of us, or the bishop’s job. We are ultimately responsible for our own needs. The Lord gave us to be agents unto ourselves (D&C29:39), to act, and not to be acted upon. (2 Ne 2:26)

There is a story Marion G Romney quoted about some flocks ofseagulls in Florida. They were starving even though the fishing was good, because for generations these gulls had depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from their nets, but then the fleet moved away. These gulls had never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and instead of teaching their children to fish, they led them to the shrimp nets. When the nets were gone, the gulls starved. Let us not be like these gulls. Let’s not depend on others to the point where we forget how to provide for ourselves!

When we commit to take personal responsibility, it means we manage our finances. We create a budget and live within our means. We don’t spend more than we make. We avoid going into debt. We put aside some money each month, build up food storage, plant a garden so when hard times come, (when the shrimp fleet moves or the government cuts benefits) we are prepared, we can still take care of ourselves.

Commitment also means enduring to the end. Those homesteaders had to reside on their land for five years to show that they could survive in the long haul before they received the title to the land. Brothers and sisters, we need to commit to taking care of ourselves for the long haul.

You remember the story of Joseph in Egypt when Pharaoh had a dream. In his dream, there were seven fat cows, and then seven skinny cows came and ate the fat cows. And then there were seven good ears of corn, and then seven thin ears came up and devoured the good ears. Joseph interpreted the dream and said that there were going to be seven years of plenty, but then would come seven years of famine and the years of plenty would be forgotten. The key to surviving the famine was to store up a fifth of the food during the years of plenty so they would have it during the years of famine, and Joseph got the job of heading up that project. We know how the story goes on; that Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to get food, and the whole family was reunited and ended up surviving the famine, living in Egypt. What would have happened if Joseph had not been committed to this project? What if he had only saved food for the first three or four years and then assumed they had enough? What would have happened to him and the Egyptians and Joseph’s family- all the house of Israel during those seven years of famine? (See Genesis 41-45)

When we have times of plenty in our lives, we need to use our extra wisely. Save for a rainy day. Put money away for when the time comes that you need to retire and can’t earn money any more. Prepare and strive to take care of yourself for as long as you can.

The third part of being self-reliant is effort. Self Reliance isn’t easy; we need to work at it. It is important that we learn to work.

In her “Little House” books, Laura Ingalls describes all sorts of work they did on their farm. Everyone in the family had to do their part. They got up early with the sun and worked hard all day planting, harvesting, hunting, gathering, providing the things they needed, but they also enjoyed the fruits of their labors. Laura said that she loved to listen to her pa play his fiddle on winter evenings because he was too tired from farm work to play during the summertime.

In the church, we are taught the importance of work. The Lord said, “Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.” (D&C 42:42)

When he introduced the Church welfare program in 1936, President Heber J Grant said, “Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership.”

We need to work. We should prepare for and select a suitable occupation that will provide for our own and our family’s needs. We should strive to become skilled at what we do. We should give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Our Heavenly Father asks only that we do the best we can- that we work according to our full capacity, however great or small that may be.”

I was asked to speak on the temporal aspects of self reliance, but early on in my preparation, I came across the scripture in D&C 29:34 which says, “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.”

When we are working towards being temporally self-reliant – gaining the ability, the commitment, and putting forth the effort to provide for our needs and those of our families, we are becoming more spiritually self reliant as well.

On we learn, “When we are self-reliant, we use the blessings and abilities God has given us to care for ourselves and our families and find solutions to our own problems. As we become self-reliant, we are also better able to serve and care for others.”

One of the things that I remember from my years of schooling is something called Maslow’s Hierarchy. It’s a diagram that looks like a triangle or a pyramid. Inside the pyramid are different layers depicting different types of needs. Maslow’s theory was that people need to satisfy certain basic needs before they can concern themselves with higher level needs.  On the bottom level are basic physiological needs – things like water, food, shelter, sleep – things we can’t survive without. The next level is safety needs – our need for security, stability, just our need to feel safe. Above that come our psychological needs – our need to be loved and to belong, and then our need for self-respect and to be esteemed. At the top of the pyramid is what Maslow called self-actualization, or where we achieve our full potential. It is at this level that we can look beyond ourselves and reach out to others to lift them. 

As we become temporally self-reliant, we meet our lower, basic needs and that makes it easier to focus on our spiritual needs.

When I was a missionary in Brazil, I served in some areas where there were a lot of very poor people. Some of them had spent their whole lives so focused on working to have food to eat that they never learned to read. Without the ability provided by a basic education, it was very hard for some of these people to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon because they couldn’t read it for themselves. It took tremendous faith for them to commit to paying their tithing when they didn’t know how they were going to pay for their next meal. When all their effort was going into just getting food on the table and paying the rent, it was hard to find time and energy to serve in callings and find ways bless the lives of others.

As Elder Robert D Hales said, “Only when we are self-reliant can we truly emulate the Savior in serving and blessing others.” And that’s our ultimate goal in this life, isn’t it?

Remember the parable of the sheep and the goats? In the last days the Lord will gather all the people and he will sit on his throne to judge them and he’ll separate the sheep on his right from the goats on his left.

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. … And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me… [the wicked] shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matt 25:34-36, 40,46)

I realize that I’ve talked a lot about the ideal today. There are some who, through no fault of their own, are not able to take care of themselves because of health or mental conditions. To you I would share a quote I learned many years ago by Edward Everett Hale. He says, “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

Brothers and Sisters, let us do all we can to become self-reliant. Let us strive for the ability, the commitment and put forth the effort to provide the necessities of life for ourselves and our families. I hope as you listen to the talks and the lessons that will be taught today, that you will find some aspect of your life that you could improve to become more self-reliant. Whether that is taking a class to learn a new skill, or deciding to do better at sticking to your budget, or teaching your children to work, I believe we all have something we could do better. May we take care of our own needs so far as we are capable so that we can better emulate and serve the Lord, I pray. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Monday, May 1, 2017

Reaching a Milestone?

Yesterday, Steven and I took Steven's car for a short drive. We didn't go far - just a few miles north, a quick u-turn and back again. But just before we got home again, we were able to pull over to take this picture. 😊

Thursday, April 27, 2017

I Need Thee Every Hour Duet

Hannah and I played a duet in Sacrament Meeting last Sunday - Hannah on the viola and I played the piano. The song was "I Need Thee Every Hour" and it was my own arrangement! I started working on it back in January or February, and Steven mentioned it to the sister in our ward who is in charge of scheduling musical numbers, and she scheduled it, so I had to finish it! I thought it turned out really well, and I wish we had recorded it, but we didn't. Maybe someday.

In the mean time however...

Here is a link to a midi file so you can get a rough idea of what it was kind of supposed to sound like.

And if you really are interested, here are links to the piano sheet music and the viola sheet music.