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.