Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Cheer

Partial view of our backyard
Today is Christmas and it’s snowing outside. Here in our community we are really having a White Christmas. It snowed for five or six hours Monday, then it snowed for nearly that same amount of time on Tuesday, and now today we have that same amount being predicted. It makes for a truly winter, wonderland outside.

We followed our tradition of going to my son’s home for Christmas breakfast of orange juice, sourdough hotcakes and waffles, eggs, bacon, and little smokies. We love to gather together with as many of the family that can come to enjoy breakfast together and see what the kids are all excited about. Today was a little sparse mostly because of the weather. We have followed this tradition since their oldest child was a little tike—now she is married and the other four are growing up. It is still fun to be together on Christmas morning.

Down our street -- the wind was blowing and it was snowing but the pix doesn't show that

When we were serving our mission to Brazil, we decided to bring our traditional breakfast to the Elders who were serving in our area—there were about 8 of them. I had taken my sourdough start with me to Brazil by drying it into little chips. I mixed equal parts of milk and flour and added the chips and waited overnight then, voila! we had our sourdough starter with which to make the batter. We bought about 3 dozen eggs, got a ham which we sliced and warmed in the oven, and made the orange juice. Even though it was a hot summer day in Brazil, we had an enjoyable time together and I had no time to feel homesick. We have fond memories of that wonderful day in Brazil.
I pray that your day was as peaceful and full of joy as mine has been.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stupor of Thought--or What?

I have had ideas that I wanted to post, but somehow I just couldn't sit down and do it. And then I realized that the last time I posted was election day. That was the day I cried when it became certain who our new president was going to be.

I think I got stuck because of my fears. I decided that I must have faith, because perfect faith casteth off all fear. So, since the election I have been praying for myself, that I could accept the new president of our country. I have also been praying for him to accept guidance and direction from the Lord to do what is right for our country.

I have also been dismayed about the backlash from California's Proposition 8. I do not understand how "No on Prop 8'ers" could say we are hateful, meaning those who want to have marriage defined as the union of a husband and a wife, when it is they who are behaving in such a hateful manner. Everything is all backwards.

It is all in the name: marriage. The way I see it, the term "marriage" was copywrited long ago by God. If I created a new drink and wanted to call it "coca cola" I'd be hauled into court straight away. If I created a new shoe and decided to call it "nike" the same thing would happen. So, why can't they who want to live in a different style relationship create their own name? I fully understand their desire to have the rights extended to married couples, but they have been granted these rights in many states. I could see them fight to be granted these rights in all states without usurping the name “marriage” and changing the laws which would have far reaching consequences. Some of these consequences we know, but many that we would come face to face with if we are forced to go down that road.

We who are followers of the Lord and His Son, Jesus Christ; we who read the scriptures and desire to pattern our lives after righteous principles; we who are striving to live the commandments; we must all stand together and be united in the cause of righteousness. If we don't stand together, we will fall separately, one by one. No one wants that to happen, except maybe our enemies.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A November Memory

On this day, November 4th, some years ago, I potty trained my youngest child, A. I had purchased the book, “Training your child in Less than a Day.” Her second birthday was to be on November 8th, and I selected this day because it would be a day when I had no outside duties or obligations, a day when it was just the two of us here at home (until the other five kiddos came home from school). I read, no I studied the book and wrote down the pertinent steps and information I needed to make it happen.

My goal was to just train her for the daytime, as I felt that would be wonderful to have her out of daytime diapers. I had no expectations of her being able to control her bowel movements and figured that we would work on that as necessary. I found a doll that wet at a local thrift store, so I could demonstrate to her what was expected when she sat on the potty. As it turned out, I could have used a doll she already had, because instead of putting water into the doll, I just held a saturated piece of paper towel, which I surreptitiously squeezed to produce a little puddle in the potty.

I purchased the treats, especially lots of her favorite juices. You see, the idea is to give them plenty of liquid so they have to urinate often. I purchased the large, oversized (more easy to push down and pull up), thick (for absorption) training pants. There was to be no phone calls, no TV, no radio, no reading—just myself and my child interacting all day, especially focused on learning to use the potty.

I started as soon as the older kiddos were out the door to go to school. We started out in the kitchen, as the book suggested. I did the demonstration with the doll to show her what was expected of her. I repeated to her the steps she was expected to learn and so we began.

However, as the day progressed, I realized I had to be flexible and adapt to my child in order to be successful. She roamed about the house, and so I roamed with her. She loved every minute of it. At one point, she went into one of the bedrooms and patted the floor as an invitation for me to sit with her—and I did.

She began to use the potty. In the beginning I would put my hands over her little hands to guide them as she pulled down the oversized training pants. She was so proud to “perform” and even happier still when she began to pull up her pants by herself. She emptied the contents of the potty into the toilet and proudly flushed the toilet. She loved the treats and the drinks that came afterward.

When there were “accidents” we would practice. Oh, she really didn’t like that part. The book suggested that we go to various points in the house and I went through the dialog that consisted of the steps she was learning. I would say, when you need to go potty, you go to the bathroom (and we would be rushing to the bathroom), then you push down your pants, then you sit on your potty, then you pull up your pants (again, with my help), empty the potty, and flush the toilet. Then we would go to another part of the house and go through the “practice session” again. Yes, she bawled her head off while we were doing this, but I ignored that. I was gentle and loving, never talked in a loud or offensive voice to her, just very firm but pleasant. I was with her every step of the way, with my hands on her hands to perform each step so she got the idea. I modified this part too, since the book suggested many more times than I ever actually did. I think the most I ever did was two “practice” sessions for every “accident.”

During this time, I was so tempted to quit. It was the day after the elections that year, and I was curious as to the election results. I missed talking on the phone. I missed being able to listen to the radio. However, I would ask myself if I wanted to change diapers for another year, and that would spur me on. Now this also was in the days when disposable diapers were a new thing, and I could not justify the expense of buying disposables for anything but trips and other limited occasions. I was dealing with washing, drying, and folding diapers, so I was very motivated.

Other than the “practice” sessions, A was just as happy as a lark to have her mother’s focused attention and she loved that I was so happy with her progress. Because, trust me, I was so proud of her and the quick way she was learning. She felt my genuine feelings of love and joy and pride in what she was accomplishing. It was a day of total bonding for the two of us.

After working at this for four hours, with no let up, we were both exhausted and ready for a nap. We both slept deeply that afternoon. After we both awakened, we continued on. By the time the kiddos returned home, she was well on her way to being completely trained. I do mean completely. Other than a few accidents here and there during the next few days, she was capable of going to the bathroom on her own, including emptying the potty and flushing the toilet. From that day forward, she never woke up wet in the morning. She was also trained with her bowel movements as well.

She knew that she had accomplished something monumental and she knew that I knew that her accomplishment was incredible. In addition, we two had developed a strong bond. It was so worth the effort. Oh yes, I wondered if I would be required to provide treats forever. However, that part of it just seemed to take care of itself. In the days following the “big day” she would ask for a treat every once in a while. If she asked, she got it. But the asking dwindled and disappeared altogether within a day or two and that was the end of that.

I have to share this anecdote in connection with this significant event. A little background: A has a cousin, T, whose birthday is three days later than her own. T walked when she was 7 months old. Now I realize that it was just a difference in their developmental progress, but when A didn’t walk until she was past 14 months old, it created a little bit of a pang when we would travel home for visits. So a few weeks later, when the family was all together for Thanksgiving dinner, just barely two-year-old A announced to me that she needed to use the bathroom. I stayed in my seat and told her to go ahead, which she did. She had graduated to pretty little panties by this time and she performed flawlessly. My brother-in-law immediately turned to my sister and said something to the effect that T needed to be trained. Shame on me, but my heart swelled with joy at my little girl’s new-found independence.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I got tagged

Hmm! I just about forgot that I had been tagged. So here goes.

8 TV Shows I like to watch:I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, even though I have a lot of stuff recorded on the DVR. When I watch this is what I like:

1. Monk
2. Medium
3. Color Splash
4. Myles of Style
5. Reba Re-runs
6. Star Trek Voyager re-runs
7. Biggest Loser
8. Design Star
9. Matlock re-runs
10. Murder She Wrote re-runs

8 restaurants I like to eat at:

1. Sizzler
2. Chuck-a-Rama
3. Outback
4. The Greenery
5. Maddox
6. Olive Garden
7. The Cheesecake Factory
8. El Matador

8 things that happened today:

1. Followed my morning ritual of lemon water, then vitamins and yogurt.
2. Bounced on the mini-trampoline for 20 minutes.
3. Indexed one batch of California 1920 Census on computer.
4. Received a weight vest in the mail – good to develop strong bones by wearing one hour every day, five days a week.
5. Drank my energy drink for lunch
6. Drove to Roy for some line dancing
7. Spent a good bit of time on the phone helping a friend
8. Started reading blogs and remembered I had been tagged by my dear daughter-in-law.

8 things I'm looking forward to:

1. Having this election over.
2. Continued freedoms and liberties, which I’m concerned might be yanked away from us.
3. To be able to continue to live within our means, meaning not having the cost of living go through the roof.
4. Becoming more comfortable with my new stake job of coordinating the stake indexers.
5. Thanksgiving tradition of pie night and finger foods with my family
6. Enjoying more common, ordinary days like we have taken for granted all our lives.
7. Making it a habit to jump on the mini-tramp.
8. Sharing more Brazil memories on my blog.

8 people I tag:

If you are reading this blog, consider yourself tagged unless that is you have already done it.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Thoughts

And God Said “No”

I asked God to take away my pride,
And God said, “No.”
He said it was not for Him to take away,
But for me to give up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole,
And God said, “No.”
He said her spirit is whole,
Her body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience,
And God said, “No.”
He said that patience is a by-product of tribulation.
It isn’t granted, it’s earned.

I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said, “No.”
He said He gives us blessings;
Happiness is up to me.
I asked God to spare me pain,
And God said, “No.”
He said suffering draws you apart from worldly cares
And brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow,
And God said, “No.”
He said I must grow on my own,
But He will prune me to make me fruitful.

I asked God if He loves me,
And God said, “Yes.”
He gave me His only Son who died for me,
And I will be in Heaven someday because I believe.
I asked God to help me love others
As much as He loves me.

And God said,
“Ah, finally you have the idea.”

Author: Anonymous (to me)

I was going through some of my papers and found this poem and decided it was perfect for a Sunday post. I must say that I agree with the philosophy underlying the words of the poem. Struggles with adversity are never easy, but it is when I have been struggling that I have grown closer to my Heavenly Father. As much as I dislike adversity I would never give up the truths I have learned while dealing with it in my life.


Today we traveled to Syracuse (Utah) to participate in the ordaining of my grandson, E, to the Aaronic Priesthood. He is 12 years old now, and this is surely a milestone in his life. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining and leaves gently falling from the trees. We took a few moments to take pictures and afterwards the children took advantage of all the crisp, newly fallen leaves. The children threw the leaves around with great gusto. They took such sheer joy in the pleasantness of the day and the opportunity to abandon themselves to the task of being free spirits for the moment. It was a joy to watch them and hard for me not to want to participate myself. I must admit I did enjoy kicking through the leaves as we walked to our car.

Congratulations, E, we are proud of you for the fine person that you are.


Friday, October 24, 2008

More Memories of Brazil

Traffic in Brazil is crazy. I was very happy that we were on foot most of the time, walking to and from the Mission Office, to the grocery store, and to Church services. When we wanted to go to the Mall, we walked three or four blocks to the Metro. Sometimes we would hop on the bus to bring us home from the grocery store, since they allowed the seniors in Brazil to ride free.

I’ll never forget the day we got on one of the buses, sure that it was headed over the bridge to take us close to our apartment. At the last minute the bus made a left turn instead of going straight. We got out of our seats and stood next to the bus driver, but he just kept right on going. I was trying to count the blocks and keep track so we could find our way back. All the while I was chattering excitedly to my dear husband. Of course, it was in English and the bus driver had no idea what we were talking about, but if I were a gambler I would take bets that he knew exactly what the problem was and that we wanted off.

I was really distressed when he made a right turn and I was losing track of where we were. When he finally stopped to let us off, I thought we were hopelessly lost. We got off the bus and I turned to go back the way we had come. However, my dear husband turned to go in the opposite direction. It seems once we got off that he recognized where he was. As part of his job in taking care of the mission finances, he had to walk to various banks to take care of financial transactions. We had actually ended up at another entrance to the Metro station. We just didn’t save ourselves many footsteps that day, as it was probably about the same distance as if we had walked home from the grocery store in the first place.

The streets in Sao Paulo are not quite laid out in nice, square blocks. The city is about 450 years old, and the streets just take off here and there and meander all over the place, many times with no rhyme or reason and made me think they might have begun as cow trails.

Left turns are not allowed according to the law, but the drivers here take all kinds of crazy chances. They’ll create a third lane, where there is no third lane if it suits them. They’ll motion to you that they are going to pull in front of you and then they do it and boy, you better back off. The motorcyclists in Sao Paulo are everywhere and they are a protected species. They take full advantage of that fact—they buzz between cars, whipping around here and there. You better not hit one, because even if it isn’t your fault, it’s your fault. Their motorcycles are much smaller than the huge ones you find in this country.

Brazilian drivers are very gutsy and don’t obey the law much at all. The police here don’t really pick people up, they just take pictures of someone speeding or doing some other whacky thing and send you a ticket in the mail. There are so many people on the roads that they don’t think they are ever going to get caught. President U was a very confident driver. In order to drive in Brazil, you have to be somewhat aggressive and confident. I assure you that President U didn’t ever break the law. He didn’t have a depth perception problem like I do, and many times I had to close my eyes, almost expecting to hear the crunch of our fender, but it never happened. The Lord surely watched over him and us. Except for a little showing of white knuckles, I got along well as a passenger.

We lived close to an intersection and many times I would see a car race up to the stop sign, toot the horn and race on through. They expected that little horn honk to let you know that they intended to race through the intersection and the clear message was stay. the. heck. out. of. the. way. I saw drivers go through red lights in much the same way.

Though many, many people have cars in Sao Paulo (it is a HUGE city), there are also many families who don’t own a vehicle at all and use their feet or the public transportation system to get around. Imagine that, teenagers, no car of your own in Brazil. We are very fortunate and somewhat spoiled here in the USA.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Family Fun Continued

I promised I would write more about our fun family and our beloved grandchildren. I'm wondering if I should give all 19 of them pseudo-names to ensure their privacy. Well, I guess I can make them up as I go along. If I just call them by their initial for now, you'll understand that I can't just call them any old thing.

You may recall from yesterday that most of us were gathered together enjoying each other's company on Sunday, celebrating E's birthday.

We laughed at the antics of the kids, especially A, who shall hereafter be called Yodina (her parents use Yoda, but I just have to feminize it for her in my blog and to distinguish between her and her brother, A). She had just learned a new thing that very day. Whenever we would say honk honk, she would reply with beep beep. She holds her mouth in the cutest little way when she says it, and it just tickles me to see it.

E, the birthday boy, showed us his football posters. He loves football, but is also very good at baseball as a catcher. His cousin, R, who had his birthday cake and ice cream get together last Sunday, is great at football as well. He is on his Junior High Football team and does a bang up job. He is on the field a majority of the time when they play. When the team is on the offense, he is a running back. When they are playing defense, he is a linebacker. They have one more game to play on October 30th and then they’ll go into playoffs.

I love to see my grandchildren enjoying each other’s company. Yodina loves to go from cousin to cousin—she loves them all. Yodina’s brother, “A”, who I shall call Yoda, loves the boys and was enjoying the freedom of playing outside in my daughters fenced-in yard. Yoda is mildly autistic and did not want his time outside to end, even when it was so dark he couldn’t see where he was going. They soon had to leave for home, as he was protesting with a “melt down.”

E’s sister, C, let me read her Patriarchal Blessing—it was so right on in describing her as a sweet, loving daughter of God. She has the sweetest spirit and is always so helpful and kind.

My oldest granddaughter and her new husband were there, and we loved visiting with them. He just got a great job working with the Frontrunner and Trax. He loves it and they really like him. His prior job required him to drive long distances and travel at a moment’s notice, so this is great for him, especially with gas prices so high.

J’s daughter, N, has bony growths on the outside of her feet (located about where the widest part of the foot is). This makes wearing shoes somewhat problematic. She does well in flip flops, but we are about to enter cooler, non-flip flop weather. I hope there are some shoes designed so that she won’t have too much problem this winter. She loves to play soccer, but that causes pressure on both sides of her feet and results in pain for her. However, she is not ready to give up soccer. I’m praying that by next year the extra bony tissue will be dissolved and that it will be a non-issue.

As I said before, Families are Wonderful!


Monday, October 20, 2008

Fun with the Family

We were all together yesterday, celebrating E's 12th birthday. It's such fun to have most of the family around, especially when we get to reminiscing about the good old days. My son, J, made the remark that his neighbor had alarms on his house to keep his kids “in.” In the course of the conversation about how unusual that was, J remarked how easy it was to get out of his room at night. We have two finished bedrooms downstairs and when he’d want to go on an adventure with his friends, he’d pop the window out, make his escape and be free as a bird. All the while I’m thinking that he is safe and sound at home.

Sighhhhhh! I really tried my best. One night I remembered a question I wanted to ask him. He had just retired for the night, or so I thought. I knocked on his door and got no answer. So I knocked a little louder. Still no answer. Hmmmm! So I loudly spoke his name as I knocked even louder. You guessed it—there was still no answer and I began to get very suspicious. I tried the door, but he had it locked. So I dug out my trusty nail and unlocked the door (so easy to do with the kind of locks we had). Sure enough, the room was empty and the window was sitting on the floor awaiting his return. I made myself comfortable and waited until he came home.

He told me that he knew he was busted when he saw the light on. Well, he came in sheepishly and endured my lecture. From what he said last night, there were other times, when I didn’t happen to catch him at it.

Luckily he was and is loving and respectful. He loves to tease as his three little daughters and his wife can testify to. He is also very good at debate, though he never took a class in it. He just has made debating into an art.

Families are wonderful. I'll post more tomorrow about my family.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Our Neighborhood in Brazil

My dear husband standing in front of our apartment building. At the top, you can see the roof. The two windows to his left were our front room and bedroom (green shutters) windows. Notice the grafiti on our building. It was there when we arrived, still there when we left with more red graffiti added to it. Grafiti is a problem in Brazil.
Notice the small business to the right of my dear husband. In Brazil there are many small businesses located in and among homes. Thank goodness for the zoning restrictions we have here in the USA, we found there was a reason for them.

Most people in Sao Paulo have bars on their windows and doors. They also have gated garages or front yards. For example, the door to our building was always locked and barred. We had a little telephone-type connection in the kitchen where we could ask who was at the door and if we recognized who it was we could push a little button that would release the barred outer door and allow them access into the building. However, we spent most of our time in the living room and it just seemed easier to look out the window or open our apartment door and look to see who wanted in. Running into the kitchen seemed illogical most of the time, so I only used it if I happened to be in the kitchen when it rang.

Many times we would have peddlers who rang all the apartment bells, hoping to be let by one of the tenants into the building. What peddlers, you ask? Well, most people depend on propane to fuel their gas ranges (the tanks are like the ones here in the USA so popular for outdoor barbecues). We also bought drinking water, since Brazil’s water is not treated and cannot be used for drinking purposes (unless you wanted to be a daredevil and risk illness from ingesting parasites and what have you). So, quite often people would come by and want to know if anyone in the building wanted to purchase gas or water, or even cleaning supplies. Sometimes it would be the postman with a package for someone. He couldn't leave it unless the door was opened for him, since it wouldn't fit through the mail slot.

We lived in Apartment #1 on the first floor; on the second floor was Apartments 2, 3, and 4, with #4 being directly above us; on the third floor was Apartments 5, 6, and 7, with #7 being directly above #4 and was where the Elders had an apartment. There was a roof above the third floor, where we could hang clothes to dry.

Sao Paulo has very polluted air which would always leave a layer of black, greasy grime on all exposed surfaces. This made constant cleaning necessary. I would clean our floors nearly every evening to keep ahead of the grime. It was also necessary to clean the stairs of our apartment building every two weeks. Right after we moved in we participated in a meeting with the “Apartment Manager” (we later found out that he was not, in fact, the Apartment Manager, but was merely acting as a liaison between the owner and the renters).

It seemed that each apartment was supposed to take a turn at cleaning the stairs, but there wasn’t a firm schedule, so no one was taking responsibility. We knew nothing about the need for us to do this cleaning until this meeting. The bottom line was that the stairs weren’t getting cleaned on a regular basis. Someone suggested each apartment paying a prorated amount and hire someone to come in and clean it. Elder Davie, representing their apartment, was not interested in that option. The Elders are given a monthly allowance that was barely enough to cover groceries, bus and metro fare, and personal expenses, so they were loathe to spend any of it for someone to do work that they could handle themselves. He suggested that each apartment be assigned a specific time to take a turn. He said that then we would each be committed to accomplish the task rather than just expecting someone else to do it. They liked his suggestion and decided to try it out.

Some of the other tenants wondered about us taking a turn because of our age, but we indicated that we would be glad to take our turn. After the meeting, they asked if anyone had anything to add. I asked Elder Davie to translate for me to tell them that we liked our neighbors and our apartment and that we wanted to do our part to keep the stairs clean. Some of the discussion had been a little bit testy and I think this helped to smooth feelings since they were all smiling after this comment.

After the meeting ended, one of the tenants, a nice lady named Cida who lived directly above us, gave me a hug and said something. Elder Davie interpreted for her and told me she said that she liked having us for neighbors. She was a delightful neighbor and we enjoyed her friendship and hated to see her move out mid-way during our mission.

Cleaning the stairs was quite a process as we were to find out. Right outside our apartment door, in a compartment in the very small foyer was a great, big, looong hose. We would unwind this hose and carry it up the stairs all the way to the roof. We would sweep and scrub the floor of the roof and then rinse it with the hose and squeegie it dry, pushing the excess water into the drains provided for that purpose. Then we would do the same to each tier of stairs, scrubbing, rinsing, squeegieing (is that a word?) and then wiping the stairs with dry cloths (that at the bottom would be quite wet) as we worked our way down each tier. I usually did the drying part, since that seemed to be the easiest for me as we worked our way down. Then we would scrub and rinse the sidewalk outside the front of the apartment building, scooting the water to the curb to be carried away. Afterwards, we would drain the very long hose and wind it up and store it back it its compartment once again.

We were always teamed up with the Elders, and that made it easier for us. Our turn came around about once every month-and-a half or so, so it wasn’t too much of a burden. About the last couple of months of our mission, it was decided by someone (no meeting this time, just a decision handed down) that a person would be hired to do this work and that each tenant would have an additional small amount added to the utilities bill that we all shared (for the common areas of the building). In a way it was nice to have someone else just do the work and not have to worry about it anymore.
More to come about our neighborhood in Brazil at a later time.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Our Delightful Saturday

My first daughter’s birthday was yesterday, 28 September. We celebrated the occasion by going to Salt Lake City’s new Cheesecake Factory to enjoy Lunch/Dinner together. There were seven of us, including myself, both my daughters, the birthday girl’s mother-in-law and sister-in-law, and her two friends. Since we were planning to attend the Women’s session of General Conference afterwards, I asked her why she had chosen a restaurant so far away from the Conference Center’s North Temple location. She answered that she just really wanted to eat there. After we had selected our food and was served, I knew why. They have such a variety of food and it was

After we had finished enjoying our repast, we headed out for the Conference Center. We found parking and quickly began our four-block trek. What a sight it was to see women of all kinds and shapes and sizes converging upon that beautiful building from every direction. We passed a burley but bewildered guy walking against the tide of womanity (I think I just coined a new word) who asked us where all the women were going. We enlightened him quickly and continued on our way.

My birthday daughter and her friend went on ahead, while daughter #2 and I were plodding along a little more slowly, since I have knees that I have to baby so that I can continue my addiction of line dancing. Actually we got behind early on as we had to negotiate three tiers of stairs.

Now here is my version of what happened during our four-block sprint (don’t I wish it was a sprint). We stopped at crosswalk and waited for the light to change, when it did, the first two lanes of cars stopped; the third lane was empty. I took one step toward the crosswalk when a car suddenly appeared in the third lane going for broke. In the next instant, three things took place simultaneously: 1) I perceived the movement of the car and stopped on a dime; 2) the car’s breaks squealed to a stop; and 3) my daughter threw out her arm to stop my forward movement. She was sure that I was only seconds away from disaster and that she had saved my life. At no time was I in danger, but I couldn’t convince her of that. My heart wasn’t even beating faster because it really wasn’t a near miss. If you read her blog you may read a much different scenario. But this is my story and I’m sticking to it (since it is the truth). Except that I admit my heart WAS probably beating a bit faster than normal, but only due to the “sprinting.”

She really got ticked off at me when I joked that if I got wiped out I wouldn’t haven’t to endure the stupidity of our Nation’s plan for this ridiculous economic bailout which I am totally against. There are just so many other better alternatives. But I digress.

We made it to the Conference Center in one piece, took our seats and enjoyed being part of the spirit of that wonderful occasion. What a joy it is to have all my six children live in this area so that we can enjoy getting together occasionally for events like this. Family is forever, and I am so grateful for the love that I have for mine and that they love each other and us.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Thoughts

Today the Primary children presented our Sacrament Meeting Program. Tears sprang into my eyes as I listened to our Primary President begin the program. Almost three months ago on 7 July 2008, she was in a very serious bicycle-truck accident. She was riding her bike to work when she was hit with a truck making a left turn. It is a miracle that she lived. It is also a miracle that she had no head (helmets do make a difference, thank you very much) or internal injuries—but she did sustain many broken bones. She suffered compound fractures of her left leg and right arm, a crushed left hip socket, broken bones in her left hand and fingers, two crushed vertebra, and a broken nose. She looked pretty bad in the beginning and was told that she would not be able to stand for three months, in order for the crushed hip socket to mend, and that the whole process would take a year.

The worst blow was that the driver of the truck had just cancelled his insurance. Not only was she called upon to endure many surgeries, spend time in the hospital and rehabilitation center, face the fact that she would never run marathons again, and be away from her work as a beautician, but she also had to face the financial hardships this all would bring.

She has my admiration. I know she had times when she struggled with her emotions, but she has surmounted all the hardships and she is healing so rapidly. She sets healing goals now instead of marathon goals, and she is making those goals. The community has had several fund raisers to alleviate some of the financial burden for the family. One family opened their one-level home so she could leave the Rehabilitation Center on 19 August 2008. This brightened her life in two ways: it alleviated the financial burden but it also brightened her days to be staying in a bright cheerful home that was across the street from her own home. She has since been able to return to her own split-level home, drive a car, and is out of a wheelchair and onto crutches.

Tears came as well, when the nursery class sang the first song: “I am a Child of God.” These little ones are all under the age of three and they sang it well. They knew the words and they carried the tune and it was wonderful to watch them. That was the beginning of a very spiritual experience for the congregation, as we watched and listened to class after class give their thoughts about Jesus and His love for us.

It has been a wonderful Sunday. Tomorrow I will tell you all about yesterday.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Name is Gloria, and I’m Addicted to Line Dancing

My sister, J, got me started line dancing about ten years ago. My husband and I had travelled to visit my widowed mother and my sister and brother-in-law, who were snowbirds in a community where the temperatures are much milder. So, during six months of the year, while we were struggling with cold temperatures, and ice, and snow, they were digging in their yards and taking care of their flowers and generally enjoying all that goes along with mild temperatures.

My sister had started line dancing in order to do the exercising that she was admonished to do. She loved it and at some point the teacher had to quit, and J took over as the leader rather than abandon the line dancing that she had learned to love. My mother was always telling me about how J loved the line dancing and how fun it was for her, so I wanted to go watch her group do their dances.

I was just getting over a bad case of plantar faciitis ([pronounced fashee - eye – tiss] and I do hope you don’t ever have to know what that is, because it is a very painful foot problem). When I first arrived at the Senior Center where they were dancing, she invited me to dance with them. “Oh no,” I said, “I’ll just sit here and watch.”

Famous last words, as the cliché goes. I watched them dance and listened to the beat of the lively music, but not for long. I could not bear to just sit there watching, so I got up and started dancing with them (the heck with the sore feet). I found that I was having so much fun, that I didn’t even notice the feet. Luckily I caught on to the steps quite easily and really enjoyed moving in time with the beat of the music.

When we left to return home, J told me to look up the Senior Center near me to see if they offered Line Dancing. So I called the nearest center in my area, and found out that they did not have line dancing, so I checked out the next closest Senior Center and they did. I showed up one day to begin my line dancing adventure and that has changed my life forever.

I learned the steps to many dances and gained many new friends in the process. I did so well that my sister kept saying, “You could teach.” Well, I didn’t think that was possible at all. In the meantime, I’d occasionally check our local Senior Center to see if they had ever started a line dancing class and the answer was always “no.”

I had the idea that maybe I could convince someone from the group I was dancing with to come out and instruct a class locally. So I called to make my inquiry and when I got the customary “No”, I asked if they would start a class if there was a teacher available to lead it. The Center Director jumped to the conclusion that I was talking about myself and began to talk in that direction. She seemed very amenable to starting a class and began to discuss a possible time. At that moment, my sister’s words rang in my head that I could teach and so in a moment of weakness I agreed to lead a class. Thus it was that we settled on having a Thursday night class after the once-a-week dinner and entertainment.

I was nervous and scared and wondered what in the world had I gotten myself in to. I began our little line dancing class, and every Thursday night for weeks and, yes, even months, I would think that maybe no one would come. Sometimes I would be so nervous that I would even pray for no one to be there. However, there was always a loyal group there. Once we started dancing, we would all have such a good time that I would wonder why I was so nervous.

Soon, class participants began asking for more classes and so the classes expanded to Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and Thursday evening. Somewhere along the way I lost my nervousness and realized that we had all become very good friends and we just had a good time together.

I was still traveling to attend line dancing classes at nearby Senior Centers on the days that I wasn’t leading a class locally. About six years ago, one of the instructors at a nearby Senior Center decided it would be fun for all the Centers to get together for an annual Line Dancing Jamboree. That is just what we did. The various groups would perform original line dances that none of the other clubs knew and the rest of us were the audience. Also at various times, the whole group of dancers would get up all together and do dances we all knew. It was fun, it was exhilarating, and we were exposed to some fun dances that we wanted to learn.

When I left with my husband to serve an 18-month mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil, one of my friends from one of the other centers agreed to come and lead our group until my sister arrived in the area for her summer sojourn. J had been line dancing with her granddaughter, S, with whom she lived during the summer. They would get out in S’s garage and would line dance for their exercise. After J started leading the classes, she encouraged her daughter, SE, to come and start dancing with them. By the time I returned from our mission, J, and S, and SE, were leading the various classes.

J has since become a permanent resident in this area and is no longer a snowbird. I am leader of just one of the classes (it is so much more relaxing to just dance than lead) and J and S and SE lead the other classes here and in nearby Senior Centers.

We just held our sixth annual Jamboree last Wednesday. We had six groups from nearby Senior Centers participating. Since September 17th was Constitution Day, we felt it would be fitting to dress in combinations of red, white, and blue in honor of our great country. The local newspaper came to take pictures, and, of course, we were all taking pictures of each other.

Line dancing is good exercise not only for the body, but also the mind. Some of the dances can be quite intricate and require quick thinking. I like to think that it is just another way to avoid some of the fuzzy thinking that passes for "Senior Moments." Not that I don't have senior moments, good grief I had them long before I became a senior. I like to think that I don't have nearly as many as I would without an active mind.

I just realized I should have taken a picture of the food. We had an array of finger foods that would tempt the palate of even the most discriminate gourmet. I have never been gung ho about taking pictures in the past, but now I’m beginning to take a great interest in it, so I can share them in my blog. But I’m just getting the hang of picture taking, so unfortunately the only picture of the food I have is in my memory. I’ll do better next time.

Pictured below are three line dancing buddies from our group:

More good line dancing friends:

Even more of the good friends I have made since discovering the line dancing world. E on the left front in the red shirt and white tie, took over the three classes I was leading before we left on our mission to Brazil. I will be forever thankful to her for keeping the group going so that it did not die.

One of the groups doing one of their "original" dances (original meaning a dance not familiar to the other groups):

This is our group of teachers--I am the second from the right in the back row. I assure you I was wearing a blue and white striped shirt with red embroidered on the front. I was disappointed that it looks quite gray in the picture. My sister is also wearing a blue and white striped top and is sitting in the front row, first on the left. I apologize that the picture is a little fuzzy, but it was the one someone took for me using my camera.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In Honor of My Mom

This is the sixth anniversary of the day my Mother left this life at the age of 89. I will always miss her. To this day, there are times when I’m trying to remember things that she would know that my first thought is to ask her. My second thought is that she is no longer here to ask and I sigh. She loved to learn though she was compelled to drop out of school after the eighth grade. My Grandfather didn’t believe in education, especially for girls. I sometimes wonder what my Mother could have achieved had she had the opportunity to go on with her formal education. I always admired her zest for life, her curiosity, her willingness to stand up for what was right, and for all that she taught me.

She loved to write and express herself. In honor of her considerable talent, I am going to post her writings about the day the thrashers came. I enjoyed it and I hope you do as well.

The Day the Thrashers Came

My father had a fair sized wheat field that he planted each year. In due time the heads of wheat filled, out waving to and fro in the warm summer sun. Then at last the time came when it was mature, then Dad would cut it and it would be bound by the binding machine into sheaves. These sheaves were then placed two or three together, with the wheat heads on top and resting on their cut ends.

The sheaves were left a few days like this. Dad would then hitch up his beloved horses, May and Doll, to the wagon, and he and my brothers would drive to the field. The sheaves were loaded, and hauled to the barn yard. It took many trips before all was gathered. There was a real art to the building of the stack. The sheaves had to be placed just so to build a good, even pile. Some men developed a real knack for this and were well known for this ability. I guess my dad was pretty good at every phase of the operation, for he had been doing work like this all his life. His father had taught him as a young lad to work at his side.

Other farmers in Pleasant View had wheat also, as did men in Lake View, Orem, and Grand View. Each had to get his order in, well in advance, for the thrasher. Dad would be assigned a certain date, so we all knew well ahead of time when the great day would be.

Dad's neighbors would come to help, and my dad would go help them when it was their turn. Mother would start her food preparation, days ahead, for it was customary for the women to serve a huge dinner to the men who worked on the threshing of the wheat. This dinner always seemed even better than Christmas, for the men worked hard and needed plenty of good food. There was also a bit of friendly competition among the wives concerning these dinners. There would be huge plates of meat, mounds of mashed potatoes, all kinds of pickles, preserves, and vegetables; then there were pies piled high with whipped cream, and delicious cakes! And don't forget the biscuits with sweet yellow butter. We children could hardly wait, for sugar was a scarce item at our home and we didn't often get desserts.

But, oh! The wonder of the operation of the huge machine! It would be drawn into our yard fairly early on the big day; the men would tighten a big wide belt, and make other mysterious and necessary adjustments and connections. There was always a contingent of young people, (and some older!) who showed up from round about, to watch the fascinating procedure. My little sister, Zora, and I would hang on the fence, wondering if they ever would get started. Then there would be a great roaring; the engine had been started! A chugging, grinding sound would fill the air and the huge belt would start to move. From a wheel at the engine, the belt made its trip to connect somewhere in the body of the giant, then back again to the engine. It made a huge loop that was continuous, though it crossed at the center for a reason unknown to us, but no doubt was necessary.

Up near the top and at the front of the wondrous machine, some sharp pointed spikes moved. Now a man on the top of our stack of wheat would spear a sheaf of wheat on the tines of a pitch fork. He would throw the bundle onto a wide canvas that moved continuously on a slant upwards to where the spikes were. They caught the sheaves and they were drawn inexorably into the maw of the voracious machine.

photo by Violet Christenson c1949, copyright Elroy Christenson 1999

Somewhere inside the body of this marvelous monster, a process of chewing and separation took place. A pipe-like appendage stuck out low from one side, where a man standing on the ground could reach it. A burlap gunny sack was attached to its mouth. The golden kernels of wheat poured in a stream into the sack.

photo by Violet Christenson c1949, copyright Elroy Christenson 1999
When it was almost full, the sack was removed by a worker who immediately attached another sack to the spout. The full one was then tied firmly with twine, then set in a growing pile of other sacks each bearing its precious burden.

photo by Violet Christenson c1949, copyright Elroy Christenson 1999

As this process went on here at the side, another part of the machine's digestion was being taken care of from the top and back. Another pipe, larger by far, grew out of about the center top. It curved and extended some distance rearward; it was hinged in some fashion so as to be swung back and forth, enabling the man tending this part of the operation to control the stream of chaff spewing from it. A wind mill effect was somehow achieved from inside, blowing the straw with considerable force. The huge pipe swung in a manner that allowed the man operating it, to build a uniform stack of straw, which slowly grew higher and higher. Particles of chaff filled the air, laying a clean, fragrant dusting over everything and everyone in the vicinity.

What a thrill for two wide eyed little girls, who kept well out of the way because of a healthy fear, but would run to watch in turn each fascinating operation of the marvelous monster.

At last, about noon the engine was shut off. The belt stopped moving and the roaring noise came to a stop. The men wiped their dusty faces and washed up where mother had provided a pan and lots of warm water, soap, and towels. Several neighbor women came to help set the plates, silver, and cups on the table, which consisted of long boards, supported by saw horses and covered with table cloths, sheets, or whatever would serve. The seats were devised by propping more boards on stumps or boxes. We children ate in a separate place but we got our share of the good food.

After lunch the men would go back to the job. The noise would start, the blowing chaff commenced and continued until the stack of wheat was gone, being replaced with more sacks of grain and another high pile of shiny straw. The women cleared away all the food and did the dishes. I suppose my mother was glad when it was over, but we children could hardly wait for the next time the thrashers would come. Dean Ekins, Harry Zobell, and Sylven Zobell operated this fabulous machine.

One of the rewards of the day, was when our mattress ticks were filled with the fragrant, new straw. For awhile we almost needed a ladder to climb into bed, but as the days and weeks went by they became flatter and flatter. We were quite ready for the new straw by the following year.

No more do we see the huge machine or hear the roaring noise. Gone are the sights and sounds and smells that made such a memorable experience. But as long as we do have our memories, we can resurrect if only faintly, the wonders and glories of the marvelous thrashing machine.


I am grateful that my Mother took the time to write these precious memories down, so that we can visualize the industry, the unity, and the productivity of bygone days. I also feel a flavor of the camaraderie and love these people seemed to have for each other and for their lives. I want to give my thanks to Elroy Christensen who gave me permission to use his family’s pictures of the thrashers. Though the year these pictures were taken was 1949, it seems to be about the same type of operation that my Mom describes of the thrasher’s operation of the 1920’s.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Sc - Hairy Tale

Before we left on our mission to Brazil, I knew I had to make a decision about my hair. Let me tell you the sad story about my hair.

My whole life my hair has been fine and thin—I call it skinny hair. It seems like I have been one of those people who have bad hair days almost every day. I know, I know! It probably hasn’t been nearly as bad as all that, but honestly I just never have had the knack of fixing my own hair.

When I was very young, my Mom used to put my hair into braids and sometimes even ringlets and she could make it look good. However, when I reached the age when I took over the management of my hair, it all went downhill. Why couldn’t I have had the innate, natural-born instinct of creating wonderful hair styles like my granddaughter?

The only time I felt really good about my hair was during the years when I could afford to go to a salon and have it done professionally. Oh, that was great. All I had to do was to preserve the style until the following week, when it would be done again. But styles change and the French Twist became yesterday’s style, and more casual hairstyles became the norm and somehow in the shuffle I went back to bad hair days. I would spend an enormous amount of time washing it, drying it, putting it up in rollers, or using a curling iron and it looked pretty mediocre to me. Why is it that I can lose hair so easily but not pounds? Is there no justice?

So here we were, making preparations to go to Brazil to serve a mission. I knew that my days would be very full and that I would not have oodles of time to spend doing my own hair, nor would I have the luxury of taking the time to go to a salon to have it done.

My solution was to buy a hairpiece. It was great—I loved it. I would put my own hair in a little pony tail and clip it up. Then all I had to do was curl my bangs, slip the hair piece into place and it looked good with relative ease. The color was a good match, and it made me look like I had lots of nice HAIR--life was good.

About midway through our mission, I realized that there was less and less hair to curl for my bangs and it was bad hair days all over again. I was comforting myself one day, thinking that it was only my bangs that were growing so sparse. To bolster my flagging spirits over my hair, I used the mirror and took a good look at the back of my head, expecting to see……….of all things, hair! What I saw really freaked me out—I could see my hair had greatly thinned back there as well.

This picture is of me wearing the wig (which should have been the second picture--see explanation at the end):

Only those who have experienced this can really understand the total dismay (read PANIC) that I felt. It is somehow okay for a man to be bald, but not a woman. I’m sure some of you fellers may totally disagree with that statement, but you have to admit that baldness in men is much more tolerated than in women.

I pondered and stewed and in the end I ordered two identical wigs with a short, curly hair style. When they came and I started wearing them, I received so many compliments. I felt certain that people had to accurately guess my secret, though I told only President U. and the Elders who worked in the office with us. I never told them not to “tell” and I don’t know whether they did or not, but I never spoke of it again. I just wore my wig and went on with the work.

Having two facilitated keeping them clean. At night I kept my wig on a wig form and the last thing I did before leaving for the office was put it on my head. There were times when I would be walking out the door without it, but my dear husband would remind me. The minute we came home after being at the office all day, the wig came off. Oh, it felt so good to be free of it!

Wearing a wig is not for the timid. If anyone came to the door unexpectedly, I automatically ran to put it on before opening the door. Once, someone rang the doorbell in the middle of the night. Still half asleep, I jumped out of bed and flew to the wig. There I was, standing before the mirror IN THE DARK, wildly trying to slap it on my head, and I just couldn’t get it on straight for the life of me. I’m sure I had the thing sideways or backwards. I don’t know how long I would have gone on struggling to get the wig into place if my husband hadn’t awakened at my commotion to ask me what I thought I was doing. He hadn’t heard the bell, but he certainly heard me huffing and muttering as I twisted and strained trying to get that thing on my head just so. The sound of his voice woke me up enough to realize that it didn’t matter who rang the darn bell, for not on your life would I be answering it in the dead of the night. (It was much like one of those V8 moments.) I’m sure it was some kids on a lark, ringing the bells as they went by just to create havoc.

I wore the wig for the entire last six months of our mission, but after arriving home from Brazil, I took the wig off and left it off except for wearing it to Church a couple of times. But, I had had it! I was finished! done! kaput! I felt smothered and I couldn’t even scratch when my head itched—and it was itchy a lot. I’d get it on just so, but it would start slipping a little here and there as I moved around and it seemed as though it might slip right off my head at any moment. There just had to be a better, more comfortable way.

My aforementioned-granddaughter was in training to become a professional stylist, so I went to her and she cut my hair. I remember her reaction when I pulled the wig off my head; she was steeled for the worst. It wasn’t nearly as bad to her as she had been visualizing. I was ready for acceptance of the hairy situation, grateful for the hair that I had, and grateful that a little of it grew back.

From then on, I started wearing it curled under. I liked it, but I couldn’t tolerate the blah gray. So I started having it colored. All my life I’ve been blonde, but I was told it would look better to go brunette. So, now I’m a brunette with a very casual hairstyle. I look quite a bit different than the “me” I have always been, and I’ve had even close friends not recognize me. That is quite startling! Oh well, I’m comfortable and I look decent when I see myself in the mirror. I have to keep a reign on my thoughts when I find extra hair in my brush and/or comb, for I don’t have hair to spare. But I decided I’m not going to stress about it. I’m just going to do the best I can and leave the rest up to the tender mercies of the Lord.

This picture is of me with the hairpiece, just before I got the wigs (which should have been the first picture.

Well, I got the pictures I wanted in here, except they are in the wrong order. I have been wrestling around with it and I give up. I also cropped both pictures, but the original picture of one of them came in instead (I know not why) and I haven't learned how to delete pictures yet. I just learned how to add them. There's always something new to learn.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Thoughts

The Lord's commandments are not restrictions or obstacles, but a flight plan for life that offers a safe and direct path to Heavenly Father.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf


I love this thought for I believe it to be true. Long ago I heard it said that the commandments are not hurtful just because they are commandments, they are given to us by the Lord because those things are all hurtful if we break them. As we strive to discipline ourselves to follow the commandments, our lives improve.

Our very thoughts begin this process of discipline. If we live by the commandments to the best of our ability we will be happy in this life and in the life to come. Furthermore, as we strive to live them, our ability to do so will increase.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Plumbing Adventures in Brazil

Brazil’s sewer system cannot handle paper of any kind. I probably plugged it up the day we arrived at the airport as I didn’t know then what the practice is there. I carefully used one of those disposable covers that you carry in your purse and blissfully unaware of the “rules”, flushed it all away. I have no idea whether or not there were warning signs posted as to this observance, since they would have been written in Portuguese.

So I soon learned that after toilet use in Brazil, the (ahem) used toilet tissue is placed in a little covered container lined with a plastic grocery bag (what did the world do before the invention of the plastic grocery bag?). Notice that I did mention that this container is COVERED. Thankfully, the garbage was picked up three times a week.

Our apartment was quite comfortable, though like most homes and apartments in that country, we had no furnace nor hot water. Whenever we needed hot water, we heated it on the propane stove. We did have a device that was installed in the shower that heats the water, for which we were so grateful.

However, our shower did not work properly for us in the beginning of our sojourn in Brazil. It would take as long as 15 minutes before we could get the water pressure up to the point where it would activate the little device that heated the water. The Elders were our Guardian Angels in so many ways, so they tried their hand at making it work without success. They finally decided that they would have to follow President U’s advice and call a plumber.

They looked in the telephone directory and got hold of a plumber that night. Even though it was a Friday night, the “plumber” promised to come at 9AM the next morning. Arrangements were made for the Elders to be on hand when the plumber came, to translate and to make sure they didn’t take advantage of us.

The plumber and his helper (I think it was his son) came about 10AM. The Elders (there were three Elders in this particular companionship and from hereon I will refer to them as the three amigos) came downstairs from their apartment as we let the “plumbers” in. The “plumber” went into the bathroom and just stared at the shower then he started a very long dialog with the three amigos in Portuguese. I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t just start fixing the problem.

After some discussion, Elder D. told us that the plumber was explaining that he would have to break into the ceramic-tiled cement walls and replace the whole piping system and that it would cost $R580 reais (pronounced hay-eyes). I told Elder D. to tell him that we couldn’t do that without getting permission from the owner of the building and the Mission President’s okay. When Elder D. started explaining that to him, he started talking some more and the translation was that he would look at it and probably fix it for “a little less” than what he had just quoted. So then he asked for a kitchen knife (to use as a screw driver). Elder D. got a one of our sharp knives and one of our little table knifes (the kitchen utensils are much smaller and flimsier than the American variety).

The (ahem) “plumber” attempted to remove the screw with the sharp knife and promptly abandoned it and turned to the little table knife. When he tried to turn the screw, the tip end of the table knife promptly broke. How's that for creating confidence in one's ability? He didn't even apologize for our broken knife. The “plumber” then went out to his car and brought in a couple of tools. I was wondering why he hadn’t brought them in with him from the beginning since he was a “plumber”, but I digress.

He finally was able to disassemble the problem faucet assembly with the appropriate tools. He then said he could fix it for $R150 reais. I was not impressed at all and after a little conversation in English, we ended up paying him $R10 reais for his trouble and Elder D. told him we would get back to him after we made a decision (read “don’t call us, we’ll call you”).

Elder D. had watched closely what Mr. Plumber was doing and figured that the three amigos could pick up the part themselves at a hardware store after they shopped for groceries, then they would fix it themselves. However, as fate would have it, the hardware store was closed when the three amigos arrived there. So we found out in one fell swoop that there is one thing worse than no hot water for a shower and that is no water at all.

At that point, my dear missionary husband and Elder D. (missionaries always go in twosomes, or occasionally a threesome) went after drinking water, as we were nearly out of that as well. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that we were advised not to drink the tap water in Brazil, as they don’t treat it at all. There are little businesses every few blocks that sell nothing but drinking water in big blue containers.

They paid for the water and arranged to have it delivered, then went over to the mission office to take care of some business. They ran into one of the Elders who used to live in this apartment before we arrived. He still happened to have part of the faucet assembly that they had replaced when it broke on them. The happy end of this saga is that the three amigos were able to reinstall the assembly and get the water turned back on. When we turned the shower faucet on, we instantly had wonderful, warm water. We gratefully enjoyed warm showers later that night.

Our joy was to be short lived, though. It soon became apparent to us that it still was not working properly. The water started coming out a little too hot or it wouldn’t heat at all. For a time, we got along by working the knob ever so carefully, and at last we would get it just right. My dear husband had a knack for it, and he would get it working, take his shower, then he’d leave it running for me and I’d hop in for my shower. However, it came to a point where we had two choices—cold or blistering hot. My dear husband preferred the cold, but I have always preferred a nice, steamy hot shower, but not quite that hot. I would stand to the side, lather up, and swiftly dance into and out of the water as fast as I could in order to rinse off. No small feat in that tiny shower stall.

The opportunity to get the shower fixed finally arrived unexpectedly. We were talking in the mission office during our weekly meeting, and I thought to bring up the subject of our fickle shower. President U. said that there was a plumber in the building at that moment and that he'd see if he would go over to our apartment and take a look at it. And that is what happened. They found the important working part was not fitting properly and was broken to boot. They replaced the part and voila! the shower worked perfectly. The cost: $R10 reais for the part.

How grateful we were for that tender mercy from the Lord.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cake Adventures

Last week I was asked to make a cake for a neighbor. No big deal, you ask? The answer is it turned out to be a very big deal for me. You see, I haven’t done any baking like that for a lot of years. I can hear you wondering why. Well, I’ll tell you why.

My husband has Type II Diabetes, which he controls quite easily with diet and a small amount of Glucophage. I don’t eat sweets either because of other health issues, so neither of us needs the temptation of having sweet things in the house.

I had almost forgotten my commitment and when I remembered I was at home without transportation, without a cake mix in the house, without powdered sugar for frosting, and furthermore I couldn’t find the recipe my Mother-in-law had given me years ago for a quick, easy and moist chocolate cake. First thing I did was call my daughter to confirm the recipe from my memory. Check.

Luckily I found that I had all the ingredients and I easily whomped up the cake and put it in the oven to bake. Next problem to deal with was the frosting. In looking for the cake recipe, I had discovered a frosting recipe that I had in my book which my Mother-in-law had also shared with me many years ago. I had never used the recipe, but I had the ingredients for it: 1 cup white sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, a cube plus two Tbsp of real butter, and ¼ cup milk. I had no choice, so I placed all the ingredients into my pan, brought it to a full boil and boiled it for a minute per the instructions. Next it said to beat the mixture until it thickened, so I did. It took about seven minutes and it thickened right up just like it should. I was feeling pretty good about how it was turning out. But…my celebrating was a little premature.

Just as I finished the frosting, the cake came out of the oven and it looked beautiful. Oh, I chortled to myself, things are going so well. I decided to let the cake cool for a while before I attempted frosting it. Sounds reasonable, right? Wrong!

After just a very short time I came back to find that the frosting was more on the solid side than just thickened. Since the cake was still warm, I thought I would just push ahead and I put three blobs of frosting on my beautiful cake and attempted to spread it. I quickly could see that it would destroy the cake to proceed with that effort. So I lifted two of the blobs off, along with a fair amount of crumbs from the cake.

I was in trouble, but there was nothing for me to do but keep pressing forward. I gingerly smoothed the first small blob as best as I could do it without ripping up the cake. I then proceeded to roll out small amounts of the frosting into thin layers and began placing them on the cake like some jigsaw puzzle. It was looking pretty bad because I could not control the shape of each rolled section. I looked at the clock and realized that I had one hour to be finished with this project—I couldn’t just start all over again. I said a fervent prayer for help and continued on. I rolled and placed those rolled-out pieces on my cake until it was all covered.

It didn’t look very good even when all the disjointed “pieces” were in place, for it resembled something like a road map. Now if this had been for the family, I could have gotten away with the looks of it. But this was not for the family and so more had to be done. I pondered for a moment then the thought came to me to heat a large stainless steel serving spoon on the top burner of the stove. I moved the hot spoon over small sections of the frosted cake, which helped to weld the jigsaw pieces of frosting together—this took four or five times of heating and smoothing. It helped a whole lot toward having a more cohesive look, but I wasn’t totally satisfied.

I remembered that I had some chocolate chips in the freezer and so I placed those little hummers here and there on the cake at the most strategic spots until it looked like it was supposed to be that way. It was acceptable to me, and I was so grateful for an answered prayer. I had been in a very bad spot and I had been delivered out of it.

I wanted so badly to taste the frosting to make sure it was good, but I have an allergy to cane sugar and I knew it was everywhere present in this creation. However, my neighbor told me later that it was good. She said that the frosting tasted like the old-fashioned homemade candy we used to make called Penuche.

It was a matter of honoring the recipient of the cake—I wanted it to be my best. It mattered only to me in the whole scheme of things, yet the Lord heard and answered my prayer. It confirmed to me that the Lord watches over us and blesses us individually according to our faith. A miracle is a miracle and I knew this was a small, but important miracle for me. I’m grateful that the tender mercies of the Lord are real.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Sunday Thoughts

“Fear not, I am with thee, Oh be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, Omnipotent hand.”

3rd verse from Hymn “How Firm a Foundation”

~ ~ ~ ~

Our Sunday School teacher had us sing this hymn today and it brought back a sacred memory that I would like to share with you:

We were about 2-1/2 months away from finishing our mission when I first started having episodes of extreme arrhythmia. The first incident occurred during a little trip to Ilha Bela (Ill-yuh Bell-uh), Brazil (which I will write about at a later time). We stayed overnight at Campos Do Jordao, which reminded me of Park City, Utah. I awakened during the night with my heart pounding hard, with a skipped beat every third beat. I got up and prayed, then paced a little, got a drink of water, did some deep breathing, waited a bit while praying some more and it finally resolved. I crawled back into bed, scared and exhausted. I was fine the next morning and so I said nothing to the others, not even my husband, who had slept through the whole thing.

We continued on to Ilha Bela and though I had a little cloud of concern hanging over me, we had a great time there with no more incidents with my heart. We spent several days and returned home, happy and tired.

Over the next few weeks, the episodes showed up intermittently and for longer periods of time. I finally had to let my husband know of the problem and we made an appointment with a Brazilian doctor who spoke English (I will also have to write about that visit and subsequent tests). He prescribed an extremely toxic medication for me. My Spirit was screaming inside at me not to take this drug into my body, BUT I was in Brazil, I was scared, my husband was scared, and my children were scared (though I didn’t share with them the whole picture). So I took the medication.

The episodes would often begin the minute I laid my head on the pillow to go to sleep. So, I discovered that I could control them to a large degree by singing Church Hymns in my mind until I would go to sleep. I felt pretty good about my progress, especially since I was being able to sleep quite peacefully through the night. The doctor had sent me to a lab for some tests, one of which was to wear the Holter Monitor for 24 hours. This monitor records your heart beat non-stop during that time. I took the results of all the tests with me when we went in for a follow-up visit.

The doctor reviewed the tests, and after pointing out a couple of “runs” he told me how bad that was, and let me know in no uncertain terms that it could be fatal. He explained that during the episodes, the top of my heart was not beating in sync with the bottom portion—termed Atrial Fibrillation. A couple of runs compared to several hours of runs seemed quite an improvement to me, however, from that time on, the hymn singing in my mind ceased to be helpful. Night after night the arrhythmia would go on and on with the length of time of the episodes increasing as time went on. I would have to get up and pace the floor or sit in the living room trying to read to distract myself. Oftentimes my dear husband would get up with me and just hold me while I suffered through the exhausting and continual “runs”.

After I had taken the medication for about a month, we fasted and prayed and both came to the conclusion that the medication was not only NOT helping me, but was exacerbating the original symptoms and so I quit taking it. However, it was in my system. This drug is not like most drugs, in that once you quit they wash out. This drug is meant to build up in the tissues and stay there (it’s all a bit technical and I still don’t understand it, except it took me a very long time to detoxify from it). NOTE: Just for the record, the cardiologist that I consulted in the United States after we returned, said that that particular medication is highly toxic and one that they use when they have exhausted ALL other avenues. He agreed that our decision to quit taking it was correct.

I really thought that I might die before we left Brazil. I made my husband promise me that if that happened, he would get my body out of the country immediately. When someone dies in Brazil they bury them the next day because they do not do any embalming. I was afraid that I would die and they would force my dear husband to bury me there.

One night as I sat by myself, trying to overcome my anxiety and fear, I said a fervent prayer to my Father in Heaven. I specifically asked Him for help to cope and assurance that I would be able live to return home to my family. As I ended my prayer, the words of the third verse of “How Firm a Foundation” played in my mind. I knew that it was a direct answer to my prayer. I was not sure at the time of the name of the hymn, I just knew it was one of the hymns. When I figured out the name of the hymn I realized that it was not even one of my favorite hymns, but the words were in my subconscious and the Lord used them to send me a wonderful message of hope and comfort.
Since returning home I have recovered from these debilitating episodes, but "How Firm a Foundation" remains a very beloved and dear hymn to me now.

Friday, September 5, 2008

More Adventures with Portuguese

After we had been in Brazil for four or five months, Bishop Nigri’s son, Daniel, started begging to have us teach him English, which meant me. Finally we decided that maybe we could give up part of our P-day (Saturday) and “teach” him English. He had purchased some sort of program so that he could learn English and so I used that—it wasn’t very helpful to me, but I blundered through the best I could. The first couple of Saturdays it was just Daniel, but as it was noised around what we were doing, the class grew. I realized I had to have a better kind of lesson plan, so I took the Portuguese Lessons we had been given at the MTC, and retyped them into a Portuguese to English format. I also worked a lot on English pronunciation. My dear husband was such a support in this and helped with everything but actually teaching the Saturday lessons.

There we were, two English-speaking missionaries teaching English to these dear Portuguese-speaking Brazilians. We couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand us, but we forged ahead with our English lessons each Saturday. I always thought that they might get tired and quit coming, but they never gave up on us. Some were members of the ward, but there were also non-members who had found out about the English lessons and participated as well.

Before leaving the MTC in Provo, I had been drawn to a Portuguese-to-English picture dictionary book that I thought could help us learn the Portuguese language. Little did I know how valuable it would be to us in teaching our little class. However, I did get myself into a fix several times trying to explain complex stuff, like the dictionary page containing all things relating to cars. Just try explaining windshield wipers, ice, heaters, and de-foggers. Many Brazilians do not even own cars in the first place, and while Brazil gets cold in the winter, they never get snow or ice. I’m not certain they ever fully understood my efforts to explain ice and snow and scraping ice off the windshields. I drew many pictures on the blackboard that day and we all laughed a lot. I was laughing at myself and the hole I was digging and couldn’t seem to get out of. They were probably laughing at my corny antics and my silly laugh.

We loved every one of those who attended our little English class and still have fond memories of them. When it came time for us to leave Brazil, they threw us a party, bringing gifts and food for us. They practiced and learned to sing one of the hymns in English and serenaded us. We were very touched at this outpouring of their love for us.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Adventures in Learning Portuguese Language

Our efforts at learning Portuguese were interesting. We had been tutored over the phone a couple of days a week for a couple of months prior to leaving for Brazil. President U. arranged for Claudia, an English-speaking Brazilian to tutor me, my husband and his wife. We had all the lessons in a book and a computer program as well. But since our brains are older they are not quite as pliable as they used to be, and the learning came slow for us—especially for my dear husband. I caught on to the pronunciation of the language, however, and could read it quite well. I didn’t know the meaning of the words, but I could read it.

I remember the Sunday the first month we were there, someone handed me a scripture to read for the class—I was excited because I could do that. So when it came time, I read the scripture from my Portuguese scriptures quite competently. Oh the Relief Society sisters got so excited, they exclaimed to the Elders that they could easily communicate with me by writing notes. They were so disappointed when the Elders had to explain that it wouldn’t help.

I finally learned enough Portuguese to communicate in a limited way in the mission office. When the Elders were gone, if my husband answered the phone and the person at the other end of the line spoke in Portuguese, he’d thrust the phone at me. I could convey to the caller that the Elders were out and tell them when they’d be back. I could take their name and number if they would take the time to give it to me. Because the office elders spoke both languages, my dear husband was able to complete his office assignments without learning the language.

I'll write more as we had many adventures with the language in Brazil.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Our Rodeo Adventure in Brazil

One of the most interesting days was spent on our first Preparation Day after reaching Brazil. We arrived in Brazil on Tuesday, being able to rest after a short visit to the mission office. We stayed with the Mission President and his wife until our apartment was available. On Wednesday, we started right in training in the office procedures and we were ready for some rest and relaxation. This is the highlights of that day:

We went to a Rodeo in Jacarei with the Mission President and his wife on 17 July 2004, the first Saturday that we were in Brazil. You need to know that when it is summer here it is winter in Brazil. They don’t have snow or freezing temperatures during their winter, but it can get very cold--I suppose because of the humidity. The day was sunny and temperatures were mild. As we traveled to Jacarei, we passed areas with green rolling hills and fields laid out in rows of growing vegetables—it reminded me of Iowa. I was especially amazed at the huge anthills that dotted the sides of the highway--some must have been nearly as tall as I am. I was curious to see the size of ants they contained, but we didn’t stop to investigate.

We entered the Rodeo grounds and found that they had vendors selling everything you can think of—food, western clothing (lots of leather coats and sweaters, but their sizes are smaller than U.S. sizes), crafts, embroidery work, etc. We had fun looking at the various shops and their goods. They had one vender there who did carving—he had done one of The Last Supper that was just beautiful, about 15” X 40” that would cost about $125 American dollars. He was carving on one that was huge, maybe 7 or 8 feet long and 2 to 3 feet wide. The Mission President had him do a carving for him (about 12” X 4”) with his name. We watched him in fascination to see him do such magnificent work so quickly. It took about 30 minutes plus a little longer to polish it up and put the stain and shellac on it.

Truth be told, I was ready to leave about 5PM, but the Mission President is a rodeo fan and the rodeo wasn’t slated to start until 8PM, so we stayed. As soon as the sun went down it got very cold and it was a very long evening for us as we waited. Because I wasn’t familiar with Brazilian temperatures and I didn’t realize we would be staying all evening, I had worn just a light jacket. It was no match for the very cold wind that was constantly blowing.

We finally discovered an auction of horses going on and went inside that sheltered area. It was much warmer in there and furthermore they served free drinks (hard, soft, and plain water), plus free snacks. I was so comfortable in there and it was fun to listen to the auctioneer as he auctioned off the horses. I suppose we didn’t really belong in there, but it was such a relief to be out of the cold night air. I’m sure they give the free stuff to those who are bidding on the horses as an incentive to stay and buy. I hated to leave there, since I would have to go back to paying 1 real (pronounced hay-all and is like a Brazilian dollar) for bottled water, and I hated to go back out into the cold. But it was getting close to 8PM, so we left the warmth and shelter of the auction tent to find the rodeo arena.

We found the stands and selected our seats; we could have sat anywhere at that time because there were so many empty seats. And then we waited and waited, sitting on those hard, cold seats with the constant wind as our companion. We ended up waiting for more than an hour because the rodeo didn’t start until about 9PM. As we waited more and more people straggled in, finally filling most of the seats.

It was the weirdest rodeo I have ever attended. The cowboys came marching out on foot and the announcer introduced each one. Then he gave a very, very long prayer—in Portuguese, of course. I actually wasn’t positive that it was a prayer for sure until the Mission President (who spoke fluent Portuguese) verified that it was. How nice that Brazilians aren’t afraid to begin a Rodeo with prayer.

Then the announcer worked on the crowds. He had the people sitting on each side competing with one another to see who could shout the loudest—in Portuguese, of course. That went on for a while and then finally they started the actual rodeo. A cowboy would come out of the chute on a bull, and we would watch for 4 to 8 seconds while the bull bucked him around until he was bucked off. Then we would have a very long wait until they finally got the next cowboy out on his bull. We finally left at 10PM. I was like a block of ice and was so glad to leave. I think the Mission President was as disappointed in the rodeo as I was—it was nothing like the Rodeos we have here in the USA. I actually think they only had a few bulls to work with.

Unfortunately, we found out the following Monday that the Mission President's spare tire had been stolen during the time we were at the rodeo, probably by the guys who parked his car. He had left his keys with them and so they had free access to the tool required to take it off. When we came back to get the car the guy maneuvered him so that he did not see the back of the vehicle (the tire mounts underneath). He finally noticed that it was missing when he got home. Unfortunately, there is a lot of theft in Brazil.

It was quite an adventure and I really did enjoy the day with the exception of the cold. I did get a lot smarter about layering clothes so that I could stay warm on outings.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Souvenirs from Brazil

I ran across this message written for the benefit of our loved ones just before we left Brazil. I thought it might be well to share it here. I truly feel that our mission to Brazil was a time of much growth for me. I know that it was a time of sacrifice for our children as well and we became more aware of their love for us. We are grateful that Families are Forever and we are especially grateful for our family. Here, then, is our “gift” to them from Brazil:


We thought and wondered and prayed about bringing souvenirs and gifts home for all of our family. We really didn’t know what you would like and didn’t want to fill up our bags with meaningless trinkets. So we are following President Hinckley’s ten suggestions for gifts to take back home--these are the things that we have learned while serving here in Brazil:

* We bring to you a greater knowledge and love of God, our Eternal Father, and His son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We have a firm testimony that they know and love us individually and bless us according to our individual needs.

* We have developed an even deeper knowledge and love for the scriptures, the word of the Lord. Personal messages of inspiration, hope, and love are embedded in the scriptures for each one of us. They have inspired us and they will continue to inspire and direct our lives because we will never stop reading and searching the scriptures. We especially love the Book of Mormon which is another testament of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We love reading the Book of Mormon and will be finished reading it by the end of this year as our Prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, has asked us to do. We have been reading it verse by verse, first in English, then in Portuguese.

* We have an increased love for our children and grandchildren. We have been humbled at the love and service and support that has been provided us. We are so grateful for this blessing in our lives of a wonderful family.

* We grew to love the people in Brazil, and to appreciate their culture. We discovered that they are warm, caring, and wonderful people—both in our Belém Ward and the neighbors who greeted us each day as we walked to and from the Mission Office. We learned much from them, especially that our Heavenly Father loves all His children no matter what part of the world they come from. We learned that even without becoming fluent in their language, they loved us and made us feel welcome and needed. We also loved associating with the Elders and Sisters who qualified themselves to serve our Heavenly Father by laboring in the mission field. We watched their diligent efforts as they planned and worked to bring the gospel to those who are searching for the truth. We especially appreciated the Elders who helped us so much both in the office and with personal endeavors. They helped make calls to arrange for services and appointments that we have needed and could not accomplish on our own because we didn’t have enough language skills. We learned that the happiest missionaries are those who work hard and put forth every effort to be successful. They love and enjoy what they are doing and enjoy their associations with one another. It was such a treat to see their joy as they interacted during conferences, transfers, and other occasions when they were together.

* We have gained an appreciation for hard work and the rewards of serving our Heavenly Father. As President Hinckley has said, “Nothing happens unless we work.” When we first arrived, I wanted to turn around and go back home. I am grateful that we stayed for we learned much and grew from sacrificing for the Lord and His children. We have especially gained a greater appreciation for our great country and what it offers us. In spite of the difficulties and struggles that the United States of America may have, it still is the greatest country in the land.

* We have received the assurance that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is always available to us. We have discovered that sometimes it is necessary to be still and listen to that quiet, still small voice. We have appreciated the guidance and direction we have received, especially in the quiet hours of the night when fear was making its stand. We want each one of you to know how important it is to live so that we can have the Holy Spirit as our companion. The comfort and peace that came through this association made all the difference in the world to us (especially me) all during our mission.

* The next gift is the blessing of teamwork. We worked as a team both at home and at the office which brought us peace and contentment and deepened our love for one another. What joy it is to know that we are united in our desire to love and serve the Lord.

* We have learned the value of personal virtue. We have always known that we can, to a large extent, control the thoughts that occupy center stage in our minds. There is much comfort in that knowledge, in addition to a great sense of empowerment. Agency, or the right to choose, was God’s gift to us from the beginning. That agency begins with the thoughts we choose. Therefore, choosing to surround ourselves with an environment filled with wholesome reading material, sights, sounds or conversation provides us with a firm foundation on which to build integrity and virtue.

* The faith to act. Faith begins with hope and ends with charity, or the pure love of God. Real faith leads us to righteous action. We discovered that it is so much more satisfying to act in righteous ways, rather than to re-act to negative consequences occuring at times as a result of our choices and at other times because of outside circumstances.

* The humility to pray. We have power available to us that is greater than we can ever imagine. The Lord is there for us. We know that He guides us. He magnifies us. He protects us always if we let Him. He has always been there for us our whole lives, but He has especially blessed our lives during our mission. We will never stop praying for we know it is our very lifeline.

These are special gifts that we would like to pass on to each member of our family, for they will last for eternity. We are still continuing to work on them every day and are grateful for the joy and success that we have had. We are grateful for the success and joy that we see in your lives. May each one of us commit daily to live these gifts to the fullest, so that we can endure to the end in righteousness.


It was nice to review these thoughts that were recorded while we were yet on Brazilian soil. Our mission changed us in ways that yet endure. We learned things about ourselves that we could have discovered in no other way.