Sunday, February 28, 2016

Through God's Eyes

I got to give a talk in Sacrament meeting today. I was asked to use Elder Renlund's talk from last October's conference as the basis for my remarks. It was entitled "Through God's Eyes."  It made me think a lot this week about how I see people. I think I'll put my talk here, then another day, I want to post about a conversation I had with a brother after the meeting.

My talk: 
Elder Renlund was called to serve as a member of the 12 Apostles last fall during General Conference. As he began his talk, he spoke of how, when he was much younger, he’d been called as a bishop, and his older (and much wiser brother) phoned him to say, “You need to know that the Lord hasn’t called you for anything you have done. In your case, it is probably in spite of what you have done. The Lord has called you for what He needs to do through you, and that will happen only if you do it His way.”  Elder Renlund went on to say that he recognized the wisdom in this advice, and that he felt it applied even more today, with his call as a member of the 12 Apostles.

          The focus of his talk was to emphasize how important it is for us to train our spirits to see everyone we serve as the son or daughter of our Father in Heaven. REALLY see them that way. He pointed out that his experience with “missionary service was that when a missionary realizes that the call to be a missionary isn’t about themselves, but it is about the Lord, His work, and Heavenly Father’s children,” then TRUE service begins. 

          God is truly our Father. Anyone here who has been blessed to be a parent can understand how parent eyes are different than other people’s eyes. I’ve been teaching school for 21 years. I’m astonished that it has been that long, but I always say that my 20 years of being a mother before I became a teacher is what trained me to manage large groups of small children. Some days, though, I can find myself getting very impatient with some of my students. They act like kids!! I mean…Seriously? Then, I take a deep breath, remember that they are only nine years old, and I calm down. I also remind them of the procedures and rules we’ve established, I hold them responsible for their actions, and I try to use a calm voice. 

          It totally reminds me of how our Father in Heaven tries to deal with us, His unruly children here on earth. We have the scriptures to remind us of the procedures and rules that are established. We have the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. See how these rules and procedures build on each other, so that for each group of children, and each period of our earthly existence, our Father has taught us the right way to act, and what we should be doing, and what we should not be doing? And, even today, we have the Ensign magazine that publishes the most recent statements from our modern day prophets, so that we might study and remind ourselves of how we should act. It’s just like school---we get unruly, we get reminded of how we should calm down and behave.

          Elder Renlund went on to say that our service in the church isn’t about us, it is about the people we serve, and how vital it is that we maintain a conscious remembrance that they are beloved spirit sons and daughters of heavenly parents, and have a divine nature and destiny.  When we can see others as their loved ones see them, our perspective is altered.

          I occasionally run into my students “out there” in the world, like when I’m grocery shopping. I’m always taken aback by how they are just little children, when I see them with their families around town. I know I shouldn’t be amazed, but sometimes, they and I may have locked horns at school so often, that I inflate them into someone with more power than they ought to have over me. But, encountering a student with their mom in the cereal aisle will always jolt me back to the reality that, in fact, they are a little child. And they are beloved by their parents, and are precious and dear to them. This is good for me. I need to always be kind. I need to teach them writing and reading, but it goes so much better when I am a kind, considerate person. I get entrusted with people’s treasures; it’s important that I remember that.

          We are surrounded every day by treasures---God’s treasures. We knew each other in the premortal world. We need to remember that we are spirit brothers and sisters. I grew up in a very small community that was populated by mostly relatives. Seriously, my mother had dozens and dozens of cousins. My father’s family was large, too, and so about half the people I associated with in my childhood were related to me in some way. I tell you this because it meant that I mostly knew only people who looked a lot like me, and lived a life very similar to mine, and culturally were very much like me. It was easy to learn the doctrine of our premortal relatedness, because my mortal life was about the same.

          When we were married, Br. Frome was in the Navy and we lived in San Diego for about 12 years, and 10 years were in one ward. I had a wonderful time in my neighborhood there, because it was filled with people from all walks of life, and whose ancestors had come from a variety of nations. I learned so much! We shared food, music, and it was obvious to me that they loved their children as much as I loved mine. 

        While we lived there, there were refugee groups from Viet Nam, and then from Laos who settled in our neighborhood, to add to our polyglot world. Church was similar---it was very different looking than the ward where I’d grown up. Rather than the familiar Swedish/Swiss/German/English faces of my childhood, I was surrounded by Filipino, Japanese, Hispanic, African-American, Samoan, and, of course, some Swiss/Swedish/German/English faces and names. And we were all brothers and sisters. We ended up with a branch of Laotian members associated with our ward. These people had been helped by LDS missionaries in the refugee camps in Asia, and when they were resettled in California, they sought out the church in gratitude. We were truly all children of the same loving Father.

        We had to help them in many ways. For instance, because most of them had come from a very rural way of life, we needed to teach them that indoor plumbing was to be used in the city: don't just go around to the alley, and stand there to do your business--go to a bathroom. Use diapers for your babies. However, once when I stopped by to pick up a girl to go to Young Women, I walked in to find everyone at dinner. This meal was served on a large, woven mat on the floor. Everyone sat criss-cross on the edges, and ate from communal bowls that were spread out in the center. They did own a small table, but it was used for the children to do homework, and to hold their television (which was watched in order to learn "good English" I was told.) There was absolutely no need for anyone to teach them that Americans ate dinner seated on chairs around a table. Their mealtime custom was just fine. In fact, their house was immaculately clean. You couldn't have eaten off my floor...The point is: there are many right ways to do many things. But we need to look at people through God's eyes, so that we don't confuse the ways in which we need to "help" people.
  In Mosiah 18:8-10 it says: 
 8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; 

 9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

          We have no better way to honor our Father in Heaven than to remember always that we are all brothers and sisters, and we need to see other through His eyes. We must not look at one another to criticize or judge or condemn. But we must look and strive to see the worth of their souls. Reach out to other people. Smile more, speak kindly, serve people with no expectation of an earthly reward.  Love one another.   

         Mormon, in Moroni 7:48, admonished, 
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son Jesus Christ.    

Monday, February 22, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me..Soon

Yes, yes, tomorrow, February 23rd, is my birthday. I had to really concentrate to not write "2/23/53/ on the board tonight, because I'm so accustomed to writing my birth date on things. There are a lot of exciting things to look forward to tomorrow!

First, my students have been quite persistent this year on wanting to know how old I am. I've made it a policy since I began teaching, 21 years ago, to make them do the math to find out how old I am. I just write the year of my birth on the white board, and then they have to do the subtraction to find out. Every single year, since I started, someone has announced, "You're older than my grandma!"  Yes, and you're younger than my grandchildren! I've always taught 4th grade, so the students are always nine year olds, and they don't have good filters.

I had my saddest birthday at age 7. My aunt made me a cake that had a fashion doll in the center, with her "wearing" the cake as a ball gown. My other aunt made me a new dress---not handed down! My sisters threw me a party. (I got a little bottle of Jergen's  But, I was SO SAD. All I remember from the party was standing in the kitchen talking to my mom on the phone, crying because I wanted her home. However...she had just given birth, two days prior, to my little sister, so she couldn't come home from the hospital, yet.

I decided long ago to celebrate my own day in my own way, and just enjoy it! If anyone else remembers, then it is just gravy on top of my own fun. It's easier that way. A couple of times, in the long ago past,  I've allowed myself to let other people make or break my birthday, and that is just not okay. It's MY birthday, I'll have a great time!

I don't understand why people won't celebrate birthdays. To me, it is just so much fun. It's the one day each year that I get to be totally self-centered! I can be happy I'm here on earth, and I call it ME DAY!  Here are some photos to celebrate me:

 Sister Connie is combing my "hair." I'm probably 6 or 7 months old.

"Driving" the tractor. On the farm, they start us young doing chores.

 This is the summer after the sad birthday. I'm holding our baby sister, Lorene,  who was born on Feb. 21st. Notice my Annie Oakley shirt. I wore it, and the vest, and the six-shooters as often as possible.

 Ah, the troubles we had before digital photography. This is my fifth grade school picture. Unfortunate timing for a laugh. My mom bought them, anyway. Sigh.

 Here I am in the botanical gardens in Balboa Park, San Diego. It was a lovely day, 42 years ago, almost exactly.

 My mom, Skye, and I, as I headed off for an algebra class at night school. Spring of 1985.

This is hiking up a canyon in Ventura County, Sycamore Canyon. We liked to go here. 1992-ish.

 Tidepools along the Cali coast, on our way back home from a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, 1991.
(No, I was not the stunt double in "Fatal Attraction.")

 This was my first graduation, in 1993, from Cal State Northridge.

This was the graduation from UNLV, 2013 with my Master's degree.

 This is last summer, at the ocean, in San Diego county. 
This is where I'd love to be every single the ocean.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Only Eight More Months Till October 15th

Oh, deer! In the fall, bulls of this 
species - aka the wapiti - fight for harems 
that can number up to 60.

This was a clue on Jeopardy last month. It was the $1000 clue, so I assume it was expected to be difficult. But, I was surprised when no contestant could give the answer.  None of the three were from the west, so maybe that figured into it, too. Of course, this Wyoming girl knew immediately the correct response was "What is an elk?" 

Elk were a common feature of my childhood. Every year, October 15th was a school holiday. Why? It was the opening day of Elk Hunting Season. Seriously?? A school holiday for that?? Well, let me explain.

First, most people were going to go hunting for an elk, and the best day to go is opening day, because after that, the elk figure out that people are out in the woods looking for them, and they move up to the high ground.   

Second, going hunting wasn't merely a hobby--it put food on the table. A grown bull elk can weigh over 700 pounds. When it was cut up, and put in the freezer, it constituted half of our family's meat for the year. Elk meat is lower in fat than beef, and, as a child, I could tell no difference. I'm sure, as an adult, I'd know which was beef, and which was elk, but in my mother's kitchen, an elk roast served with potatoes and gravy, or elk stew with potatoes and carrots and her homemade bread, were gobbled up as quickly as any beef entree

I say it wasn't just a hobby, but it was a way of life. People came from all over the country to our mountain valley just to hunt elk. In Wyoming, it was required that hunters from any other state had to be accompanied by a licensed Wyoming hunter as a guide. If you were lucky enough to have your name drawn in the annual lottery for an out-of-state hunting license, then you also needed to hire someone to take you out in the mountains (especially the designated wilderness) to go on that hunt. Many people in my home town earned significant money each fall by working with a licensed outfitter (such as CoolGuy's brothers) and guiding hunters.  

And, even if you weren't wishing to trudge around in the snow and cold with an enthusiastic out-of-stater, many people lived in our valley because hunting and fishing was excellent there, and they enjoyed hunting. It was their hobby...their passion...something they anticipated all year. 

Elk are one of those big challenge animals, too. Imagine you're out in the mountains, pursuing it in the snow, up and down steep canyons, using your bugling skills to call a frisky bull over your direction, so it will be within range. Sure, you could shoot it across the canyon, but then you've got to trudge all the way down and then up the other side to collect your prize. And once, you've got it cut up and ready to pack out, you'll be exhausted. So, you need to be reasonable about where you plan to drop your trophy.

Or so I've see, in my entire life, I've never gone elk hunting. I've listened to the stories. I've seen my dad, my sisters, brothers, uncles, and brothers-in-law, get all the gear ready, and pack their saddles, and their lunches, and adjust the sights on their rifles, and pack all their bullets, knives, etc. etc. But, I was always the one who'd stay home and milk the cows, while they set off in the predawn chill with the horses loaded in the back of the truck. I was thrilled for them when they returned late at night with their treasures of antlers and hides, and quarters of meat. But, no way did I have any desire---EVER---to go out there and join the hunt. 

A) I don't like to kill anything but bugs.
B) It's freezing cold on October 15 at 7000 feet in the Rocky Mountains.
C) There's usually snow on the ground--lots of it. This isn't a pleasant ride up the hill with the wildflowers blooming.

So, I appreciated October 15th as a school vacation. Actually, we usually had two days off. I mean, even our teachers went hunting. No one would have come to school, so they just scheduled a holiday. And I appreciated eating the delicious food my mother cooked from the elk my dad harvested every year. I came to understand, as I grew older, that my dad was probably born in the wrong century. He didn't go hunting out of obligation to provide for his family. After all, we raised cattle and chickens and pigs. But he went hunting from some primal need deep in his soul to go out and challenge the wilderness just like his father and  grandfather had done. 

My great-grandfather was an actual mountain-man guy. He spent his time up in the mountains trapping furs and hunting. He was born in the late 1800's and, although he could farm, he preferred hunting and trapping. He actually had a homestead once, and my dad used to tell us how his "Bomp" had sold it for a $20 gold piece so he could get a "stake" to go back out in the mountains. Whenever we'd drive past that particular farm, along the river, my dad would sigh, and remind us of that story. 

So, February 15th, only eight more months till elk season starts. It doesn't matter where I live, or how old I get, October 15 always gives my brain a jog.

The two people on the right are my father's parents. They were at an elk hunting camp. I don't know why there isn't snow on the ground. Maybe winter started late that year. This is one of only three photos I've seen of them. Another photo has him straddling  dead elk, while she stands next to him admiringly. They had both died by the time my dad was eight years old.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Our Furry Child, Jed

I'm writing here some of the stories that I've written in my "writer's notebook" that I use in school with my students. This time, I chose from the "Things" column--as in "People", "Places", and "Things."  Although, I do understand how the students felt it wasn't quite right that a pet should be considered a "thing."  And, I do agree, because so many of our pets--well, all of them, pretty much--were more like a member of the family than just a "thing."

We got Jed in Idaho when one of our children's teachers needed a new home for her dog. She was moving into an apartment, I believe, and it wasn't a good space for a big dog. We had lost our previous wonderful dog, Annie, about two years prior when she laid down in the yard one afternoon and just died. It was really traumatic. Turned out she had a growth on one of her heart valves, and, at that exact moment, it had grown large enough to obstruct the rhythmic beating of her heart, and she couldn't live anymore. We really missed her, and when the opportunity to get another dog--a grown, potty-trained one--came into our lives, we grabbed it up.

We were very blessed to experience Jed, (he came with his name, too.) He was a Golden Retriever. And, in case you didn't know, they are the Dog of All Dogs! Whenever you see a commercial, and it has a Golden Retriever in it, the subtext of that is "This product is the very finest product your family will ever have, and you MUST get it for your family, because we have a Golden Retriever in the ad--it's a sign!"

Here is what I wrote about our dear Jedster:

When you have a dog, you really get a new member of your family--It's not just a pet. Our dog Jed was definitely just another kid in our house. He was so sad to be left home alone (or even left outside) that he'd howl and carry on like he had his paw stuck under a parked car's tire!

One day, I was substitute teaching at the middle school some of our children attended, just a few blocks from our house. Since I was the P.E. teacher that day, I was outside on the field all alone just before the students came out. As I listened to the breeze blowing gently through the eucalyptus trees that lined the playground, I suddenly realized that I could also hear Jed howling forlornly off in our backyard! Good Grief! Did he do that all day long when no one was home? Our poor neighbors...

The best, (or worst) example of how dogs are just awesome is how Jed "obeyed" us at night. We let him sleep in the house, because he loved us so much. Plus, the howling... He sometimes slept in one of the kids' rooms, or on the rug in front of the couch in the living room. We'd go off to bed, and he'd wag his tail against the floor as if to say, "Good night! I'll be a good doggy all night, here on the rug."

One morning, I woke up before my alarm rang. So, as I lay there in bed, I could hear what happened in the living room. The alarm went off. I heard Jed groan a little as he stretched and stood up. I could hear the couch frame squeak, as he stepped off onto the floor. His legs and hips creaked a little, and I heard him sigh. Then, I got out of bed, and walked around the corner into the living room. Jed looked up at me, from his cozy place on the floor and wagged his tail, and smiled his doggy smile at me as if to say, "I've been a good doggy all night! See here I am sleeping on the floor, just like you said to."

However, behind him, I could see the dent in the couch cushion where his body had been, still warm, with some golden hair stuck to it. The same color fur as the "good doggy, Jed."

The End

The idea of writing a narrative is to tell a story. You are not to simply describe your pet, or tell why you chose or love that particular pet, but you are to tell a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. It gets hard to explain to students, when they just want to tell you all about their pet, where and when they got it, what it can do, why they love it so much. But, when I can show them an example, it helps them to realize the difference between a story and just information. 

Here are a few photos of the fabulous Jed.