Saturday, January 24, 2015

Larry the Babe Magnet

Dear Readers,
Larry is doing much better! He's out of intensive care and on the mend. Thank you so much for your prayers.
I know that all of you will see many tender mercies in your life too. Among them, dear friends and family like you.

The Babe Magnet


Men and women interact with children in very different ways.  Larry's "childish ways" are a case in point.

Daddy Daycare
I remember when our middle daughter was a baby. I was teaching when she was born in February and had to finish the last few weeks of school after my month's maternity leave. Larry changed to the swing shift so he could be at home with her when I was at school.
He used the time wisely, including working on our cars to keep them on the road. One day I came home to find him on his back under the car talking softly to himself while he worked. After saying "Hey Hon, I'm home," I went in to the crib to check on what I was sure was a sleeping baby. It was empty!  Rushing back outside I frantically asked about the whereabouts of our child!
"Don't worry.  She's right here with me." He said.  I scrunched down to find her on a blanket, looking up wide eyed, at the underside of a car next to her father. He wasn't talking to himself when I first walked up. He was  explaining auto repair to a baby while he worked.
When I think back on it I'm reminded how mechanically handy she still is after all these years.

Another time, same baby, and I should have known.
I came in from work. Elizabeth was sleeping peacefully in her crib. When she woke up I fed her and then got a terrible shock when I went to change her diaper. Black and blue marks went up and down both sides of her little body from armpit to waist!!  I screamed!
Larry came rushing in. "What the heck's the matter!? he said.
"The baby's all black and blue!" I told him frantically.  "Hurry! We've got to get her to the doctor!"
He looked, sighed, and then said as he went back out through the door, "Geez, don't get all excited Hon. That's just axle grease."

The Baby Whisperer
Have you ever met an infant or toddler having a meltdown? Something has gone terribly wrong in their little lives. Too much of something for sure. Routine upset by travel maybe, or too many strange relatives holding them. Too much commotion or too few naps.  Whatever.  In any case they are off on a crying, screaming jag of epic proportions and no amount of Mommy comforting will help. Often this is done in the most public or embarrassing places, like your mother-in-law's.
At our house Larry was always the cure.
He has a really deep "man voice." I'd hand him the screamer. He'd hold said child in his big man arms and start talking really softly right in their ear. Right through the noise he'd keep whispering using those really low tones. After a bit, the kicking and screaming would start to quiet.  Then after a few more minutes of baritone whispering he'd hand back a sleeping but exhausted child. I've even seen him do this with babies that weren't even ours. Their mothers were always grateful and amazed.
It never failed. What a lifesaver.

When he was younger and more spry, Larry's preferred place of relaxation after work was lying on the rug in front of the TV.  I guess this was a childhood habit. He would lie on his side with a soda in front of him close enough to reach the controls. No remotes back then you know.
At first there he'd be, all alone. In a few minutes a dog would come to lie down for petting. Then a small child to climb up on his hip to sit on top. Then another dog and another child. More children until any that were in the house showed up. All jockeying for a prime spot. He'd just lie there watching television, becoming a human monkey bars. It never failed.

I once saw this same method used to teach a lesson in Primary to a class of 8 year olds. Our Primary at the time was so huge his class was relegated to the church kitchen. It was my job to check on all the classes so I walked by and looked through the little glass window in the door.  Larry was sitting at the table, manual in front of him. The snack he always insisted on bringing was at the ready on the counter nearby. "Grasshoppers and blood" he called them.  Green, cream filled mint sandwich cookies and a jug of red fruit punch it was. After Sacrament you could count on kids in the hall asking excitedly if there would be grasshoppers and blood in class today.  Anyway, I looked in and he was reading the lesson out loud straight from the book. We'd just had a teacher meeting that talked about no snacks and not reading from the manual. Children were climbing all over him. One kid who was draped on his head reached over it to point at the lesson. "No way, Brother Wagher. See, it says so right here."  Everybody looked to see if that was right and Brother Wagher had it wrong again.
It was strange how all of them seemed to be focusing on the lesson though. Every kid was hanging on a shoulder or climbing up his back and looking at the lesson in the manual at the same time. I decided they must be getting the idea somehow and walked away shaking my head.

Sacrament meeting was always the same in that ward. We would sit down as the chapel was filling up.  A boy in Larry's class would come and stand facing him, toes to toes and almost nose to nose since Larry was sitting. He'd just stand there, inches away, staring right into Larry's face until the prelude music started. No talking or facial expression whatsoever. Then he'd go sit with his own family. It was a greeting of some sort that I never understood.
That boy grew up and served a mission though. So reading from the manual didn't mess him up too much I guess.

Another time and another kid in his class. We were in the church foyer. Larry had an eight year old slung over his hip like a sack of coal. He was feeling the wall with one hand and holding on to the kid with the other. "What are you doing?" I asked him. "Looking for a soft place in this wall to put Scotty's head through." he replied.
I guess Scotty had misbehaved in class.
Not to worry. Scotty turned out alright too.

Men sure interact with children differently than women do.
A whole lot of kids today are missing that in their lives.
That man thing.
I'm thinking it might be something important.


Friday, January 23, 2015

A Burp Can Be Forever

This is another old post I'm trying to remove the most glaring errors from. See...there's a sentence ending in a preposition again.

A Burp Can Be Forever

Even though it pains me, I have to admit that television can sometimes be a blessing. 
I usually think it’s a waste of time, at best.  But then there is Conference, with its eternal truths.  And yesterday I watched that wonderful old musical “Fiddler On the Roof.” 
You know the film……..about Tevye…….. the Jewish milkman in Russia, during the cruel days of czarist persecution. He explains how he and his people survive all their hardships through an inspiring song called “Tradition.” It reminded me of a Relief Society lesson I once taught on that same subject. The lesson urged us to develop traditions in our families so they could become ties that bind us to each other for eternity. 
I agree. I remember using a spool of thread to wind, over and over again, around the clasped hands of a sister. This was to show how something as small as a thread, if wound enough times, is as strong as any rope in holding things together.
Nowadays though, holding things together isn’t as easy as it used to be. Our lives are very different from that of a milkman living in a small village centuries ago. Not simple for sure. In fact complicated and stressed might be more accurate. Everybody in the family is on a demanding schedule, even the kids. 
What with work, school, church, sports, scouts, etc. who has time for tradition?
Well, the relief society lesson said we should make time if we want to be linked to each other forever. And with a little pondering, as the Good Book says, we can see opportunities all around us.

The key here is to think small and to remember the thread. 

It’s just not true that meaningful family traditions have to be elaborate or expensive rituals reserved for holidays or vacations. Sometimes the most everyday occasions become the most remembered.

One sister told me about a simple tradition that’s become the favorite of her whole family. 
It came about quite by accident.
It seems that one day while shopping she ran across some bright lime green plastic plates and tumblers. They were on clearance for 50 cents each. She bought a bunch of them thinking they’d be good for barbeques and picnics. Instead, it turned out that in a moment of divine inspiration, those neon green dishes were brought out one night when someone in the family did something worth a little celebration. She happened to have some root beer on hand and served it in the tumblers along with a toast to the honoree.
Well, after that, if anybody in the family won a race or earned an “A,” or got a first job or a long awaited promotion, or learned to tie their shoes, whatever……. those lime green plastic plates came out. When the family came home and saw the “green” table they knew somebody had a little victory of some kind to celebrate. This smart mom also made it a habit to keep a few bottles of root beer hidden away for just these occasions. After the family gathered and prayed, someone was chosen to lead the toast.  Well, one time, the eight year old son was to do the toasting.  He had sneaked a couple of swallows of root beer before the prayer.

So,  he made his little congratulatory speech,  stood and raised his green plastic tumbler. Just as he proudly declared, “To Sally….for finally getting an “A” in science"…..a long, loud, root beer burp came rolling out. "BRaaaaaaaaaaaack!" 

Everybody laughed of course.
But sadly for our dear sister a family tradition had been born.
Now, at every celebration, the one giving the toast says…… “To blank……..for doing a wonderful thing ........BRaaaaaaaaaaaaack!"!

The whole family always roars with laughter. The first child who went away to college said this was the thing she missed most about her family.  
Her younger brother said that whenever he hears someone burp, no matter where he is, he thinks about home and feels honored.

Traditions……ties that bind…….threads in the tapestry of family.
Sometimes the simplest things can mean the most.
Pancakes on Saturday mornings. 
Watching the college game with Dad and giving that special, goofy cheer at every touchdown. 
Notes of encouragement in a shirt pocket or backpack. 
The most recently valiant family member being given the spoon and bowl to lick after someone makes chocolate frosting.
Popcorn and a Disney flick on Friday nights. 
A special song for cheering up, reading books aloud in the car on long trips, a wife’s secret code of a handful of Starburst candies placed in a husband’s briefcase, a hundred other small, everyday traditions. 

The trick is to repeat them, like the thread, until they have the power to bind.

Traditions. A single, simple thread, wound over and over again. Strong stuff.

Who knew that a burp could be forever?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Messy Diapers

Dear Readers,
I'm revising some old posts to correct just some of the many errors and typos. This is one of them.

Our oldest daughter lived for a time in the Pacific Northwest, far from her family in the desert.
She had graduated from college and was starting to build a career with a large company near Seattle.

Then she met her eternal companion at a singles ward volleyball game and they married, somewhat late in life by Mormon standards. Both were anxious to have children and build a home for them that would last forever.
Our family was especially grateful when they found each other. We hoped it would stop the nightly phone calls.
You see, before they met, Larry and I vividly remember frequent long distance wailings from this daughter about ticking biological clocks and how age 29 was the end of all possibility for marriage and a posterity. Whenever the phone rang at our house in the evening Larry would say “Is it whining in Seattle?”

Well, our child got her heart’s desire, and then some, concerning that marriage and posterity thing.
Twins came close on the heels of a son and a daughter.

She then assumed that all her troubles were over now that she'd been blessed with what she'd wanted for such a long time.
But it turned out that life was still quite a challenge in those early days of motherhood.
To say the least.

It seems that being pregnant with twins while caring for a husband and two young children is hard. Who knew?
While she was carrying the twins we did what we could to help at truly desperate times. We were 1,800 miles away, after all, but we flew in an eighteen year old sister for a few weeks in the summer, for example, when "Whining" was too baby-big even to bend over to clean the bathtub.
According to this visiting sibling, people actually pointed and stared at pregnant sister when she went out in public.
“Look at that lady’s stomach!” someone once cried out before they could remember their manners.
One day, a kind woman came up to say knowingly, “Twins, Dear? Hang in there.”

Well, they were blessed with healthy girls.
We all went to give aid and comfort right after the twins were born, but soon had to leave them on their own to care for themselves and four children under the age of five.

Yes, heartfelt prayers had been answered, and the dream came true. But life still turned out to be a challenge.
Isn't that always just the way?

One day our daughter was feeling particularly overwhelmed.
Her existence seemed to be an endless round of dirty diapers and preschooler tantrums.
She began to question the choices she’d made.
Whatever happened to the career she had been educated for?
What happened to her body in such a short time?
What about her hair? Why did it look like this?
Where were her real clothes like high heels and designer suits?
Who were all these little people and why didn’t they speak English?
You get the picture.

It so happened that right in the midst of all this angst she began to think of the Relief Society lesson she had heard on the previous Sunday. At least what she could remember hearing of it while juggling babies on both knees.
The lesson was about the second coming of Christ.
The questions asked were about personal readiness for that great future event.
The teacher wanted the sisters to think about their lives and how they spent their time. “If the Savior came back today, what would He find you doing?” she asked. “If He walked in on you today, unannounced, would you be okay with that?”

As she was thinking about this she gazed around her messy house.
There were kids’ toys everywhere, graham cracker crumbs scattered from the front door to the back, and two babies sitting in their rockers suddenly beginning to smell suspicious.
She went to them to check the situation and found that both had apparently had too much apple juice, resulting in a diaper mess of such gigantic proportions that it spilled out onto the rockers, up their backs and into their hair!
She decided to think later.

These babies needed an entire bath right now, even though she’d just bathed them that morning. Diaper wipes would not be anywhere near adequate for this situation.
So she carted the rockers into the bathroom, knelt down by the tub and began to bathe the babies. Her three year old followed hot on her heels to watch the show.

Tears of frustration began to well up in her eyes as she knelt there.
The three year old began hopping back and forth over her legs while singing.
She began thinking again……“My house is a mess! My kids are a mess! I’m a mess!
I was supposed to be doing great things with my life by now! If the Savior came back today He’d find me and my college degree in a messy house on my knees next to a bathtub washing two poopy babies with a three year old hopping back and forth over my legs singing “Mommy’s gross…Mommy’s gross!”

As she soaped the squirming twins the truth came to her, of course, and she began to cry in earnest.
(I didn’t raise stupid kids you know.)

She realized that what she was doing with her life at that exact moment would be acceptable to the Savior.

She was trying to build an eternal home and family.

She decided that the Son of God might even possibly say something to her that was distinctly positive….like… “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Feeling much better about many things she said a silent thank you prayer for the Relief Society lesson.

As she finished with the last baby she turned her attention to her three year old son. “Honey, why are you singing Mommy’s gross? That’s not very nice.”
“Because you are gross, Mommy, he replied. “Look at your feet!”
She looked.
Both feet, clad in white tennis shoes were resting right in the middle of a dirty diaper.

Now she needed a bath.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Special Place in Heaven

One of my favorite high school teachers once told me about a treasured  "teaching moment."
It seems that Hector, a senior gangbanger in her 7th period class, had a problem. He was lying on the floor one day looking up at the ceiling waiting for the bell to ring. She went over to investigate.
"What's up, Hector?" she asked as she looked down at him.
"Well, Miss, I've been thinking about all the stuff you've been saying about life and s#*@.   And I don't think it'll work for me.  Because sometimes I just like to do bad things."
"I understand," she replied, nodding sympathetically.  "But Hector, don't forget about the rule."
She continued patiently, "And remember that I had nothing to do with making that rule either. It just IS.  It always has been."
"What rule?" Hector asked.
"You can't do bad things and feel good." she told him.
Hector paused for a minute and let out a long, sad, sigh.
Then he replied thoughtfully, "Damn."

That being said, I would like to express gratitude for two extraordinary women. One of them just mentioned.

They are both young teachers in their 30's, who have already given well over a decade each in service to young people. They've taught in barrio elementary schools, special education classes, and most recently as big city high school teachers. They labor tirelessly, year after year, for the welfare of hundreds, if not thousands of the rising generation. They use their amazing talents, endless love, not endless means, and every ounce of their energy to bless the lives of the young people who walk into their classrooms each day.

Beside their jobs in public school, both teach early morning seminary. They get out of bed in the wee hours before dawn to seek the truth.  They study, pray, and fast for light. They know this is a sacred call from the Lord.  They do everything in their power to help arm those most valiant spirits, the ones saved for the last days.

Their contribution to the sum total of good in this world simply cannot be measured.

I'd like to share just a bit of what I mean.

Once I ran across a little note on one of these teacher's desks and asked about it's cryptic message. In childish writing it said.
"Thank you very much for the chews." It was signed Fernando.
I asked about it and was told that the class was working on sounding out words for spelling and that's how it sounded to him.
"Okay," I said, "but what does it mean."
She reluctantly explained. "Well, you know that Track and Field Day is a big deal for the kids each spring.  The day before ours Nando was obviously sad.  I asked why. He said that when the coach was signing kids up for events he told them everybody had to wear real shoes to be in the meet. No flip flops or sandals. District insurance or something.  Nando was all excited to sign up for the 100 yard dash and the relay which he was sure he could win.  But he only had sandals. He didn't own any other shoes.  He was so disappointed.  So, that night I bought him some athletic shoes and socks. I had to guess on the size. I came to work a little early, parked on the side of the street I knew he would take to school, called him over when I spotted him, and gave him the shoes and socks. I did it on the down low so he wouldn't be embarassed. He wrote me a note. Isn't it sweet?"

I recall another time one of them was teaching a Special Ed high school class.  The kids were trying to meet the requirements for graduation.  One student needed credit for PE. The PE coach had made accomodations but a mile run was still required. This girl was often made fun of for her physical awkwardness. She'd given up the idea of being able to pass PE and graduate because she felt running a mile in the time allowed was impossible. She'd tried and there was no way it was going to happen.
Well, this teacher took the student in question and the rest of the class out to the track.
"You can do this," she told her.  "It's not impossible! You just need to work hard.  We'll all help."
At first the class sat grumbling on the bleachers and cheered halfheartedly at the teacher's insistance.
"She's a hopeless nerd," someone said.
But finally, after days of sweaty effort, the teacher, this girl, and all the other students were found back out on the track one last time. All of them were running beside and backwards in front of this young lady as she painfully plodded along.
Along the way they shouted, "You can do this! Don't you dare give up! Think about graduation! Just take one more step! One more step!  JUST ONE MORE!
And when that student finally crossed the finish line her classmates didn't need to be told to cheer. She might still be a nerd but now she was "their" nerd. And maybe even, just a little, a friend.
She did something she thought was impossible.
And everybody learned lessons that will last a lifetime.

The nightly news is full of reports of tragedies involving lost teenagers.
But I know a whole bunch of "found" teens who've accomplished some extraordinary things. Big things.
They've been taught.
For instance, some can singlehandedly organize and run a successful Red Cross blood drive. They can accomodate large organizations of  1000 people or more. I'm not kidding!  I know where to find several seventeen-year-olds who can do this. Just imagine the skill set needed to pull this off.
A lot of them can direct every detail of a large and complicated talent show, from music cues to ticket sales. They can put on homecoming rallies and events that get televised on the nightly news. Scores of them know how to organize and execute parades, proms, dances, assemblies, ceremonies of all kinds, banquets, luncheons and charitable fund raisers.
Need to raise money fast? I know of teenagers who can round up a $1000 or so for charity in a couple of weeks. Legally too. Need a nice luncheon for the emergency faculty meeting day after tomorrow? 98 people? No problem. Call the kids in Student Council. Need popcorn to sell? Hot dogs, bottled water, or nachos for hundreds?  Call the StuCo kids. The food will be there and the themed decorations will be color co-ordinated. They'll serve and clean up too if you ask them.
Do you suppose an employer might have a use for people who can do things like this?

Hundreds of these same Title I school kids also have been introduced to the doors that can open up in their lives if they attend college. They might be the first generation in their family born in this country, but somehow they now believe in amazing possibilities.  They believe that if they work hard and never quit, even they have a real shot at the American dream. And the dream might start at a university.
You see, someone lit a spark in their lives.
They were taught that poverty isn't inevitable.
And they've also been taught how to fill out and send in college applications and scholarship forms. Sometimes the first step is the hardest, you know. Many have sent them in and been accepted. Sometimes the only ones in their families ever to have done so.

This is just a hint at the good accomplished at the hands and hearts of these remarkable young women.

Both of these extraordinary people are leaving teaching at the end of this year.
At least as a profession. And at least for a time.
The loss to their schools and to the education of children in their district isn't possible to calculate.

They are leaving for a good reason though.
They plan to seek renewal and growth. To explore, recharge, and sharpen the saw. They're leaving to see what other wonderful things Heavenly Father has in mind for them. And what other contributions they might make.

Well, I for one, pray that he has joy and happiness beyond their wildest dreams in mind.
I hope they get to see the world on a magic carpet. I hope they have the "Big Year" of a lifetime!
No one I've ever met deserves it more.

And may there be a special place in heaven reserved for them later.
A long, long, time later.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Many Hearts Died, Pierced Through With Deep Wounds

I must speak boldly.
Hard words are all I have because I'm angry.
There will be nothing lighthearted in this post. So if you need a lift today don't look for it here.
Please understand.

I'm angry because of a conversation I had with a woman about pornography. She actually laughed and made light of this horrendous problem with the offhand remark, "Boys will be boys."

Well, what are boys supposed to be anyway?

For one thing I believe that boys and men are supposed to be protectors and defenders of all that have been entrusted to them.

I remember seeing an old western movie once. In it there was a scene about a never to be broken Indian creed. A strong young brave explains to an outsider, "No warrior ever eats until he is certain that the pots of all the widows and orphans are full of meat."
I think of ranchers and farmers coming home after a day that began before dawn, tired and hungry. But they would never dream of food and rest for themselves until the animals in their care were safe and fed.
My mind goes to that legendary shout of a crew on a sinking ship, "Man the lifeboats! Women and children first!"

I believe that men, who are often physically stronger, are supposed to use that strength to protect what Heavenly Father has entrusted to them.
And men are supposed to teach their sons that the role of protector is one of the hallmarks of true manhood.

As a high school teacher I saw so many of my students, full of promise and possibility, fall prey to the countless lies Satan tells about pornography. One lie is that porn is victimless.
One boy actually said to me one day, "Aw, Mz Dub, lighten up. Nobody gets hurt."

Let me assure you, young man, everybody involved gets hurt.

Here's just a few TRUE things about porn.

Many of the women in this awful business were sexually abused as young girls. This was usually done by men who were supposed to defend and protect them from harm. Sometimes even by those who should have given their lives for them if necessary.
They suffered almost indescribable pain in body and spirit. Their childhood was stolen. What should have been a time of joy and growth became a hell of fear and betrayal.
Often these men, the ones who were supposed to protect them, were involved with pornography.

When these girls became young women they sometimes tried to deal with their pain by using drugs and alcohol. I saw some of them. This often led to more sexual abuse at the hands of their peers. Then they possibly had to deal with the health issues that come with this life.  Herpes, genital warts, and syphillus, are still around today. And seeking treatment for these is something a 15 year old girl finds humiliating I can assure you.
And then there's unplanned pregnancy. And abortion.

"Aw, Mz Dub, nobody gets hurt," my young friend said.

Sure.  Look into the eyes and broken heart of a 14 year old who's had an abortion and tell me nobody's hurt.

The porn industry recruits from broken young women like this. They're an easy target because they feel worthless. They believe themselves to be objects,  "things,"  barely human, put on earth only to be used by selfish men.
Those same men who were put on earth to act as their protectors.

And make no mistake about it.

Anyone who consumes pornography in any of it's slick, disguised ugliness is one of those young girls' abusers.
He is there, standing by, watching, while a life is destroyed.
He makes no move to protect or defend.
He makes no move to act like a man.

If you or someone you love is involved in pornography, please know there is hope. It can stop. There is forgiveness.
Christ paid the price.

But you must want to change. You must want to be free.

I leave you with this thought from one of the apostles of the Lord.

Russell Ballard said in a recent conference.

"I testify to you, that your body, mind, and spirit can be transformed, cleansed, and made whole, and you will be freed."

Also from the scriptures.
Isaiah 1:18
Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord.  Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool.

I would like to recommend the Addiction Recovery website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints.

Truth is found there. It tells of the forgiveness made possible by Christ's Atonement.
Help is found there. Step by step, one day at a time help.
Please seek it if you or someone you care about suffers because of this terrible plague.