Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween

Our Halloween always begins with picking out the costumes. We have strict rules about changing minds once the decision has been made. So here are the final results:

McKayla, the groovy witch. With Simplicity Patterns on sale for $.99, I was willing to actually buy a pattern rather than slopping my way through the costume. I think using an actual pattern paid off. McKayla was happy, so I am happy. Hopefully this will be worn again by McKayla and maybe some of the others. It was really cool and McKayla feels like a rock star when she wears it.

Madison is Vidia, Tinkerbell's nemesis. If you haven't seen The Tinkerbell Movie yet (it came out on 10/28) then you probably do not know who she is. If you have, then you know that this is a really cool costume. Because she is a brand-new Disney character, there is no pattern yet so we had to base it on pictures. I think it turned out pretty well and here is the picture that we based it on. Madison loved being Vidia because she likes being a little sassy.

Continuing with The Tinkerbell Movie, Maya was Fira. This is the fairy who gives the light to the fireflies. A little history here. Last year in soccer, Maya was on the Fireflies. She was extremely upset that she was not on the princess, mermaid, butterfly, ladybug, or pixie team. We desperately searched for something that would heal her broken heart. There in the Princess book was Fira. She was kind of the right color and did have a slight relationship to fireflies. So that was Maya's inspiration for the season. In reality, she is a fairy all done up in pink. But we know she is Fira.

One last homage to the new movie, Monterey was Prilla. As you can tell this fairy movie was greatly anticipated by our family. Obsessive might be a better description. Anyway, Monterey wanted to be a purple fairy and a princess. Prilla was as close as we could find. The outfits in the movie are all based on plants and leaves and flowers, hence the extra greenery.

Halloween actually started for us on Monday night when we went to the ward party for Ryan's parents. Here we found his boss Dean in a departure from his normalcy in a funky wig. Ryan wanted to capture it for posterity . . . and everyone at work. This was a good dress-rehearsal because it forced me to have the costumes sewn in time and the rest of the week went much better.

On Thursday, Monterey had her Tiny Tot Halloween Party. I brought the cupcakes and worked the kitchen preparing the sixty plates for lunch with corn dogs, chicken nuggets, chips, string cheese, jello jigglers, veggies and dip, and watermelon. Later that night, we went to visit Ryan's grandmother (who has Alzheimer and lives in a local facility) in our costumes. The staff and residents got a kick out of the girls and I was quite proud that the little ones allowed the very old ladies to stroke their cheeks and hug and kiss them without being weirded out. We went into her room and every other minute I had to explain: "You have a son Tommy. He has a son Ryan. I am his wife. These are our children. These are your great-grand-daughters." She was not having a good day. She seemed to enjoy the visit and enjoyed the big girls singing their Halloween songs, but did not get the relationship. Oh well, we tried. We stopped by Ryan's work to visit his coworkers, but arrived a little late so only saw a few people.

On Friday morning, we started with the Kindergarten Parade. They were all so cute. We loved watching the kids parade through the school. Afterwards, Monterey and I went to Panera for bagels and hot chocolate. In the rush to get ready, I missed breakfast completely.

Afterwards, we went to hit the party circuit with all the trimmings, activities, friends and trick-or treating we could handle. I left the red-eye in one picture because it made the girls look like the kids from Village of the Damned and I could not resist.

The last picture is our combined candy stash (before McKayla got home with hers. She hung out with best friend Tierney.) So double what you see in the picture to give you an idea of out take for the week. I have to separate the chocolate from the non-chocolate, otherwise the chocolate begins to develop an odd smell. Also, it makes it a little easier to find your favorites. The big girls like the non-chocolate with all the sour gummies and skittles. The rest of us start with the best and work our way down. Monterey loves the lollipops. She unwraps, tosses the wrapper on the floor (is it the baby syndrome?) takes about 30 seconds worth of licks and then throws it away. At least I have taught her that the sticky lollipop ends up IN the trash can. I say go for it. That is why the candy is gone in a reasonable amount of time.

By the way, I only made the orange cupcakes with sprinkles and candy corn. Every other impressive treat was handmade by two friends, Tabitha and Kodi. So even though I would LOVE to take credit for it, I CAN'T.

I can't believe October is over.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Am I shallow or too emotionally attached to Target?

Here I am, on Friday morning, with my list of things I need:
a white T-shirt (for Tiny Tots to tie-dye for the upcoming field trip)
a cheap purse, cheap cosmetics, candy bars, and a birthday card (for a birthday Madison is going to on Sat. We have found that a cute little purse holding favorite candy bars, a couple of lip glosses and some nail polish is a very popular gift.)
Hot Cheetos individual bags (in a bag of 12) and oranges (for McK's soccer snacks)
2 princess crowns (because the big girls want to be princess fairies for Halloween and for some reason we cannot find any of their dozen crowns because if I step on one in the dark I must throw it away after the tribal dance and verbal tirade.)

SO . . . where can I go to get all that stuff? I could either run to Target and Stater Bros. But I was not in the mood to go to two stores. I could go to Super Walmart. But I hate going their unless I am desperate because it is so huge and customer service stinks. So where can I go? I know, I am going to check out the new Super Target. Monterey was with me and we were going to have a blast.

We get one of the nifty new carts and head on off to the dollar section. Lots of cheap cosmetics, check. Princess crowns, oh happy day!

Next the purse section. Let's see, where is the clearance section. Searching, searching, searching. Excuse me, where is the clearance section? I need one cute purse that is on clearance. Where could you be my pretty? I ask. "We don't have a clearance section" said the girls behind the jewelry counter. "We haven't been open long enough to clearance anything." Okay. Do I pay twenty plus dollars for something that I can get at the regular Target for five? Just walk away. It is okay. It is not their fault and someday they will have a clearance section and that is the important thing.

White T-shirt. They never have plain white t-shirts for girls. Head to the boys' section. I find one for 6.99. Seems a little high. I check out the underwear section and find nicer, thicker ones in a pack of four for 6.99. What to do? I only need one. I buy the pack of four. I will donate the three for parents who forget. (Size 5-6, just in case one of you readers are forgetting it as we speak.) CHECK.

Groceries. I search high. I search low. Hot Cheetos are pretty much a staple. They must be here somewhere. I check the chips section. I check the snack section. One of the employees suggests the seasonal section. I see Nacho Cheese Doritos. I see variety packs. But no Hot Cheetos. Oh well. They will live on another chip that does not burn a hole through their intestines. Grudgingly grab the variety pack. Check (kind of.)

Fruit. How wonderful that Target has fresh fruit. Look at that bakery section and the meat section. Isn't it wonderful. Oranges . . . where are the bags of oranges. No bags. Oh, well I can but them individually. Grab my plastic bag. $.99 each. They must be kidding. I am NOT paying a dollar for each orange. I walk away.

I ditch the chip pack. Since I have to go to the store anyway, I might as well get the ones that will burn through intestines and make my daughter happy.

I look at the card section. I am not in the mood. I have to go to regular Target anyway. Proceed to Check Out. "Did you find everything you were looking for?" asks the newly trained clerk in her brand new Target shirt. "Yes, thank you" I answer with a smile.

I come home. Grab three balls of frozen chocolate chip cookie dough and play some computer games. I lay down on the couch with a blanket and watch a couple Daily Shows that I am behind on. Holly calls. Tells me about her sick kids and our friend dealing with an emergency c-section in which she delivers a 7 month preemie who will probably be in the hospital for at least two weeks. You know REAL problems. She says I sound tired (or sad, I can't remember now.) I explain that my expectations for Super Target were so high and I am just so depressed that it was not everything I dreamed of.

I start laughing. I have comparably no problems at all, but I have to sit around wasting time and eating frozen cookie dough to get out of my funk of Super Target not being the store of my dreams?

Thanks Holly for getting me out of my funk and realizing that maybe other people in the world are suffering just a little bit more than I am.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Clarification of MY "Very Personal Views"

I need to clarify: I have no problems with voting for Prop 8. I did not need anyone to tell me how to vote. I signed the original petition to put it on the ballot as a "just-in-case" precaution when it was known that the ruling would would issued just days before the deadline to put it on the Nov. ballot. As I read the CA Supreme Court decision, I was just as determined. I have no issue with the principle. I truly believe that gender is eternal AND it has more significance than just merely what section of a store you shop in or a box you check on a form. I believe that attached to this gender are characteristics, biological and sociological, as well as spiritual. The act of giving birth has been the most sacred and spiritual experience of my life as I was privileged to be a co-creator of life. No populist movement is going to change the fact that only egg and sperm can create a life. As far as I am concerned, this is not only biology, but spiritual in nature.

My "very personal" issue is with the actively campaigning aspect. It is a difficult thing for me to put myself in a confrontational position. I NEVER questioned how I would vote. I only had to buck up to the idea of putting myself in a position that others would identify me as a stereotypical anti-gay person. I do not see myself as someone who is intolerant or full of hate. When "the opposition" characterizes "Yes on 8" people this way it hits me in a sensitive spot. So for me personally, it was difficult to sign on to be an aggressive campaigner. I am not a "bumper sticker person." I am not a "sign in the front yard person." I am not a "neighborhood canvasing type of person." This is far out of my comfort zone. That sums up my personal struggle with this issue.

While I am here, I will answer the questions that I skipped in the initial post since my house is clean (relatively) and my family is fed (for now.)

Is marriage a right? There are rights and there are privileges. Education is a right in California. In all other 49 states it is a privilege. That means that if you take a class in Education and the Law in any other state, after each case is discussed the professor will say: "except in California." That also means that in the other 49 states they can withhold education if a minor is arrested or pregnant. In California, those same minors must be afforded the same educational rights as all other students. I taught in a LA County Juvenile Detention Camp for three years. It was their right to receive an education. I believe marriage is a privilege, just like a drivers license is a privilege. There are necessary prohibitions attached to both of those privileges. For example, a blind person can not get a drivers license. Is this discriminatory? Yes, if having a drivers license was a right, you bet. One must have access to a car to get a license to pass the test. One must maintain their car registration and insurance to continue their valid license. Is this discriminatory toward poor people? Yes. Marriage is different, of course. But the government does not have to provide us with a spouse if we cannot find one ourselves. The government does exclude certain people from marrying. Is this discriminatory? Yes. Because marriage is a privilege, not a right.

Is marriage a civil right? Laws that have prohibited unions between racial groups have been struck down in the last century. This is the justification in the CA Supreme Court Decision. Which leads to the next question: Can being gay be made equivalent to being a different race? Is the battle between same gender couples and the Jim Crow laws of the past equivalent? Again the CA Supreme Court ruled that they are and the dissenters viewed them as two different issues. Both sides made valid points about the history of discrimination parallels between the Civil Rights struggle and the struggle of homosexuality. But is that enough to justify the change? I do not think sexual preference is the same thing as skin color.

Lastly, can a group of 4 justices change a definition of a word? It is unprecedented. We add more words to the dictionary constantly. The term blog is very recent. But an attempt to redefine marriage or male or female or water or sky? It is a very strange linguistic phenomena. We add words to the dictionary when we want to increase vocabulary due to societal changes or technology or discoveries. We do not redefine. So, come up with a different word. Oh, that is right "domestic partnerships" is the new term. That word was felt to be inferior to the word marriage. Only by four justices, not the other three. I do not believe in redefining words. I believe in adding new words to clarify, not changing the old ones.

So I hope this helps. I truly wish I was more articulate, had a better vocabulary, and had all the time in the world to express my views. Unfortunately, I have not been so blessed. So hopefully this helps better explain my views. Sorry to anyone who got the impression that I was teetering on the edge of the issue.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Very Personal Views

I feel the need to address the issue of Proposition 8. However I cannot possibly give a simple declaration of how I will vote or what my stand is without giving all the background. So grab a snack and get comfy. My view on this issue is so highly personal that I have struggled with whether or not to post it. I am not sure how I can, but I will try.

First of all, when the decision was given by the courts, I immediately skipped the commentary and went straight to the actual California Supreme Court Decision. It was 172 pages and took me a week to read. I found that the judges were not "activist" but were very methodical in rendering their opinion. The three dissenting jurist were just as thoughtful. It came down to this, in my opinion: Is marriage a right? Is it a civil right? Can being gay be likened unto racial discrimination? Can a word be redefined? Those were the questions that I felt the decision and the dissension hinged upon. This was in May. (I have an opinion about every one of those questions, but my house is a mess and my children need to be fed so maybe later I will share those opinions.)

In June, our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a letter to be read in all congregations throughout California. Here is the letter:

The following letter was sent from the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Church leaders in California to be read to all congregations on 29 June 2008:

Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families

In March 2000 California voters overwhelmingly approved a state law providing that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court recently reversed this vote of the people. On November 4, 2 008, Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that will now restore the March 2000 definition of marriage approved by the voters.

The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.

A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.

We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.

We were at my nephew's missionary farewell in Lancaster when I heard it. I cringed. I did not want to be a part of this fight. A fight that we may not win. A fight that might mean that I could alienate friends and family. A fight that might be won and yet, someday, be overturned in the courts again. But in our church we hold a very bold belief. We believe that the President of our church is a prophet. Just like Moses or Noah or Abraham. We believe that Jesus Christ is the head of our church and that our prophet is His mouthpiece. When a letter comes from the First Presidency, we treat it as if it is from God. Ryan and I discussed it and both felt that even though we did not want to do it, we would follow the prophet.

I see it this way. If I were alive in the time of Noah, would I want to be on the ark with him or drowning in the water? If I were alive in the time of Moses, would I want to be in the Tabernacle seeing the face of God or worshipping at a golden calf? The whole point of studying the scriptures is to learn from them. What do I learn from reading the scriptures? Always be on the side of the prophet. I might not understand why. I might not be able to reconcile my personal feelings with what I have been asked to do. I do know that if I am on the side of God's mouthpiece, I will be on God's side. This is a bold claim. Understanding my feelings about this is necessary in understanding me. I believe that Thomas S. Monson is God's prophet on earth today and by following his words, I can return to live with my Father in Heaven and partake in endless happiness. So that was our resolve. To follow the prophet.

We did not hear much in the first couple of months. Then one day, our bishop called and asked me to go to a meeting. I knew what was going to be asked and I did not want to go. I said I would out of obedience. The whole time driving to the building I was crying. I did not want to do this. I am not a person who is intolerant. I do not hate people. I do not believe in denying people the opportunity to be happy. I have good friends, associates, neighbors, and relatives who are wonderful people and who are gay. I do not want to stand against any of them. My daughters' teachers, who are gay, have been wonderful teachers. They have never taught them anything inappropriate. I do not want to draw a line in the sand and be asked to choose: "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, achoose you bthis day whom ye will cserve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell" (Joshua 24:15)

I do not want to lose a single friend, neighbor, family member, coworker, or anyone over this issue. I cried the whole way to the meeting. But, I went. I went out of obedience and my desire to always be on the side of the living prophet.

In that first meeting, we were told of the efforts we were being asked to make. Door-to-door canvasing, which was not bad, because all we were supposed to do was to ask how people would vote. There was not to be any "convincing." I could handle that. Before the night was over, I was recruited to be a "recorder." I would take all the information from people canvasing the neighborhoods and input it into the computer.

I went out and walked my neighborhood on three Saturdays. Everything was pleasant. A couple of people remarked that I should not be asking such a personal question. I agreed with them that it was personal, so they did not have to answer. They did anyway. A few people were upset that I was disturbing their Saturday morning and they did not like solicitors. I was pleasant and thanked them for their time. The vast majority were very pleasant and we left every door with pleasant exchanges, regardless of how they were voting.

As everyone turned in the walking sheets, I recorded the information into the computer. It was interesting to me that this is an issue that crosses party lines. As many democrats as republicans and independents were for or against it. Age was a bigger difference. Most older people felt like marriage should be between and man and woman and younger people thought it should be open to everyone. But even this was not absolute. The oldest person I met, in this process, had a lesbian daughter that she wanted to have the option of getting married. It amazed me that there is no absolute demographic on this. I have worked hard at imputing this information.

There is a lot of information on this issue being spread through media and personal contact. Some of the stances sounds reasonable. Other seems extreme. We could play the "what if . . ." game forever. If Proposition 8 passes, then ___________. I do not like engaging in this conversation. I do not know if any of us really knows the ramification of the passage. One argument has to do with teaching children about same gender marriage in schools. I have heard people say that marriage must be taught in schools. Having taught K through 12 and holding an administrative credential, I can safely say that I never once taught marriage to any of my students. I was lucky to be able to teach my students to read and write and calculate. There was never a mandate that said I had to teach marriage in any grade. However, if I wanted to teach about it, I could teach about it whether Proposition 8 passes or not. Now, I cannot predict what will happen down the line. Maybe it would make a difference. We could speculate on it all day long and never come to anything decisive.

We sustain our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson as a prophet, seer and revelator. This means that he has specific duties to testify of Christ, to reveal God's will to us and to be able to "see" the consequences of actions. For example, we can all see the pebble splashing into the water, and then the ripples. He sees the ripples beforehand. After we see the ripples, then we can say "oh, that is what he meant." So with all the "What If" speculation, I believe that President Monson does know the ripples and that is why we have been asked to fight this fight.

Our belief in the eternal nature of gender, the eternal nature of marriage and families, and the eternal nature of procreation are deep beliefs. The Proclamation of the Family explains. They are foundational to our beliefs and provide the context for who we are, where we came from, why we are here on this earth, and what will happen after we die. The very reason for why we need redemption from sin through Jesus Christ is so we can continue in this eternal progression. And rest assured, we all need to repent and forgive and be kind to others and to choose the right. We do not believe homosexuals will burn in hell. We believe that we are all brothers and sisters and children of our Heavenly Father who loves us all the same.

I do not personally believe homosexuality is a choice. I have known too many who have suffered for the position they are in. The anguish over family and friend rejection, the loneliness of not having anyone take care of them as they aged, the longing for children, the guilt, the disease, the prejudice. I am speaking personally now when I say that none of these dear friends would have chosen that path. Some have died in genuine fear over their Judgement. So do I know the answers? No. I do not pretend to know. [Ryan thinks that I was a little unclear here. Although I believe same-gender attraction is not a choice, how one acts on those feelings is a choice. One can always choose how one will respond to feelings, cravings, and desires.]

So what do I know? I know a living prophet told me to do something. I am not being asked to die for my beliefs. I am not being asked to pack everything I own and leave and walk across the desert. I am not being asked to sell everything I own and give the money away. I am not being asked to build an ark. I am simply being asked to vote yes and to give my time and means to this cause. Will I lose friends? I sure hope not. Will I lose family? I really, really hope not.

I believe in tolerance, but I also believe that tolerance is a two-way street. Our 11th Article of Faith states: We claim the aprivilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the bdictates of our own cconscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them dworship how, where, or what they may.

Lately the discussion seems to be "you must be accepting of my beliefs, but I do not have to accept yours." As I read the almost daily comments on the local newspaper's website, I see very little tolerance for religious beliefs. I pray that we can all be tolerant. Unfortunately, this is one issue that seems to be butting heads. If the religion believes that homosexuality is a sin, then it is being intolerant and so it must change? If gay rights is a civil rights issue, does it trump religious rights? If it does, then bye-bye to the first amendment. That should give everyone a chill down their back.

Whether or not Proposition 8 passes or not, this is an issue that will not go away. This is the comment I left on Lillie's Blog: To those who hope Propostion 8 does not pass: you would be better off if it did. Should this right be limited to Californians or opened to all Americans? If you are a believer that it is a right, then you should want it for everyone, not just Californians. If Prop 8 passes, the courts will be forced to rule and the topic will have a faster path to the Supreme Court - THE ultimate law of the land. If Prop 8 does not pass it will take much longer - even decades - for each and every state to pass or rule on this. The Supreme Court is the fastest path to passage. So think about it: Are you willing to sacrifice a battle to win a war? Yes on Prop 8 is actually best for everyone.

I believe that eventually the Supreme Court will rule on this and then whatever they decide will be the law of the land.

This is an article I like: LA Times

This is from the church website: The Divine Institution of Marriage

By the way, there are many Mormons with varied beliefs. Some talk all day about how important Prop 8 is, but have not donated a dime or spent one minute on the campaign. I know a member who donated a lot of money who plans on voting no for personal beliefs. I know many good members who are still undecided. I know some that will definitely vote no. The majority that I know are torn but are trying to make the best decision they can. Some see this as purely political. Some see it as purely moral. Some see it as a matter of obedience. Some see it as a legal issue. Some see it as a "voice of the people" versus the courts issue. In other words, we are still thinking people and no one takes their bishop into the voting booth. It will come down to our own individual integrity for our own personal beliefs and our vote will be between ourselves and God.

We all have different beliefs, backgrounds, intellects, and experiences. No one wants to be thought of as hateful or intolerant. But, I will follow the prophet and have faith that it is right. Come what may.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

NBA Outdoors

The Outdoors NBA pre-season tournament featuring the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets was held in Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. Ryan wanted those tickets badly. Yeah, it would be cool to go. So we bought as soon as they went on sale on Ticketmaster. It was tons of fun. The outdoor setting was unique and it never got stinky. I have been to those games before and no matter how well the ventilation is, if you have decent seats you start wanting to spray glade all around.

I was never a Shaquille O'Neil fan when he was young. The young, cocky, rookie who thinks everything should revolve around him never is attractive in a player. Show a little respect to the legends. Then Shaq came to LA and I saw him evolve into a team player. I was very happy with him when he graciously left LA after the craziness with Phil and Kobe and won a championship in Miami. Now that he is with the Suns, I admire the way he plays with the team in mind and takes his trades and moves in stride, not taking for granted the others on the team.

So it was really fun to him play. He truly is gargantuan. Just seeing him on the court with the others was amazing. The other players looked like little kids.

In Relief Society on Sunday, we were talking about how to foster a friendship with our spouse*. One sister mentioned going out and just having fun. I can check that one off.

*Maya tried to talk her way into going by mentioning that she plays basketball everyday at recess and she is the only girls that plays AND mom bought peanut M&Ms to snack on and she loved those. Life can be so unfair.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

General Conference Oct 2008

This weekend was our semiannual General Conference. Two of my favorite talks were from Elder David A. Bednar and President Eyring.

Elder Bednar spoke about prayer. Here is part of the talk that I like:

During our service at Brigham Young University–Idaho, Sister Bednar and I frequently hosted General Authorities in our home. Our family learned an important lesson about meaningful prayer as we knelt to pray one evening with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Earlier in the day Sister Bednar and I had been informed about the unexpected death of a dear friend, and our immediate desire was to pray for the surviving spouse and children. As I invited my wife to offer the prayer, the member of the Twelve, unaware of the tragedy, graciously suggested that in the prayer Sister Bednar express only appreciation for blessings received and ask for nothing. His counsel was similar to Alma’s instruction to the members of the ancient Church “to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:39). Given the unexpected tragedy, requesting blessings for our friends initially seemed to us more urgent than expressing thanks.

Sister Bednar responded in faith to the direction she received. She thanked Heavenly Father for meaningful and memorable experiences with this dear friend. She communicated sincere gratitude for the Holy Ghost as the Comforter and for the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to face adversity and to serve others. Most importantly, she expressed appreciation for the plan of salvation, for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for His Resurrection, and for the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel which make it possible for families to be together forever.

Our family learned from that experience a great lesson about the power of thankfulness in meaningful prayer. Because of and through that prayer, our family was blessed with inspiration about a number of issues that were pressing upon our minds and stirring in our hearts. We learned that our gratefulness for the plan of happiness and for the Savior’s mission of salvation provided needed reassurance and strengthened our confidence that all would be well with our dear friends. We also received insights concerning the things about which we should pray and appropriately ask in faith.

The most meaningful and spiritual prayers I have experienced contained many expressions of thanks and few, if any, requests. As I am blessed now to pray with apostles and prophets, I find among these modern-day leaders of the Savior’s Church the same characteristic that describes Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon: these are men whose hearts swell with thanksgiving to God for the many privileges and blessings which He bestows upon His people (see Alma 48:12). Also, they do not multiply many words, for it is given unto them what they should pray, and they are filled with desire (see 3 Nephi 19:24). The prayers of prophets are childlike in their simplicity and powerful because of their sincerity.

As we strive to make our prayers more meaningful, we should remember that “in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:21). Let me recommend that periodically you and I offer a prayer in which we only give thanks and express gratitude. Ask for nothing; simply let our souls rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of our hearts.

I like this story because when my father died, my mom called my at about 5:30 in the morning to let me know. It was too early to get up, but I could not get back to sleep. I laid in bed not quite knowing what to do, so I started to pray. I started with the basics of gratitude, like I always do, maybe a little more heartfelt. I started to move into the things I needed. I almost said "please bless me with peace" when I realized I already had. That turned to gratitude for giving me peace. I almost said "please bless me to have a healthy baby" (Maya was 14 days overdue when I had her 10 hours after the funeral) when I realized that I had already been blessed with knowledge that everything would be fine. I almost said "please bless my family" when I realized we had all been blessed with knowledge, peace, comfort, and understanding. Each time I though of something that I needed or that my family needed, I realized that we had already been blessed with it. I prayed for 45 minutes that morning and it was all about how thankful I was. I did not set out to do that. But in that moment, what could have been the saddest day of my life, I was at peace and had a more clear view of my blessing than at any other time of my life. I had been blessed with knowledge, peace, and another gift of the spirit: gratitude. The song "Count Your Many Blessings" now has a totally different meaning to me.

President Eyring's talk was about Unity. Here are some of the parts I liked.

Some Relief Society sisters recently prayed together as they prepared to visit for the first time a young widow whose husband died suddenly. They wanted to know what to do and how to work together to help prepare the home for family and friends who would come at the time of the funeral. They needed to know what words of comfort they could speak for the Lord. An answer to their prayer came. When they arrived at the house, each sister moved to complete a task. The house was ready so quickly that some sisters regretted not being able to do more. Words of comfort were spoken which fit perfectly together. They had given the Lord’s service as one, hearts knit together.

You have seen evidence, as I have, that we are moving toward becoming one. The miracle of unity is being granted to us as we pray and work for it in the Lord’s way. Our hearts will be knit together in unity. God has promised that blessing to His faithful Saints whatever their differences in background and whatever conflict rages around them. He was praying for us as well as His disciples when He asked His Father that we might be one.1

The reason that we pray and ask for that blessing is the same reason the Father is granting it. We know from experience that joy comes when we are blessed with unity. We yearn, as spirit children of our Heavenly Father, for that joy which we once had with Him in the life before this one. His desire is to grant us that sacred wish for unity out of His love for us.

He cannot grant it to us as individuals. The joy of unity He wants so much to give us is not solitary. We must seek it and qualify for it with others. It is not surprising then that God urges us to gather so that He can bless us. He wants us to gather into families. He has established classes, wards, and branches and commanded us to meet together often. In those gatherings, which God has designed for us, lies our great opportunity. We can pray and work for the unity that will bring us joy and multiply our power to serve.

One of those principles is revelation. Revelation is the only way we can know how to follow the will of the Lord together. It requires light from above. The Holy Ghost will testify to our hearts, and the hearts of those gathered around with us, what He would have us do. And it is by keeping His commandments that we can have our hearts knit together as one.

A second principle to guide our progress to become one is to be humble. Pride is the great enemy of unity. You have seen and felt its terrible effects. Just days ago I watched as two people—good people—began with a mild disagreement. It started as a discussion of what was true but became a contest about who was right. Voices become gradually louder. Faces became a little more flushed. Instead of talking about the issue, people began talking about themselves, giving evidence why their view, given their great ability and background, was more likely to be right.

You would have felt alarm as I did. We have seen the life-destroying effects of such tragic conflict. You and I know people who left the fellowship of the Saints over injured pride.

Happily I am seeing more and more skillful peacemakers who calm troubled waters before harm is done. You could be one of those peacemakers, whether you are in the conflict or an observer.

One way I have seen it done is to search for anything on which we agree. To be that peacemaker, you need to have the simple faith that as children of God, with all our differences, it is likely that in a strong position we take, there will be elements of truth. The great peacemaker, the restorer of unity, is the one who finds a way to help people see the truth they share. That truth they share is always greater and more important to them than their differences. You can help yourself and others to see that common ground if you ask for help from God and then act. He will answer your prayer to help restore peace, as He has mine.

That same principle applies as we build unity with people who are from vastly different backgrounds. The children of God have more in common than they have differences. And even the differences can be seen as an opportunity. God will help us see a difference in someone else not as a source of irritation but as a contribution. The Lord can help you see and value what another person brings which you lack. More than once the Lord has helped me see His kindness in giving me association with someone whose difference from me was just the help I needed. That has been the Lord’s way of adding something I lacked to serve Him better.

That leads to another principle of unity. It is to speak well of each other. Think of the last time you were asked what you thought about how someone else was doing in your family or in the Church. It happened to me more than once in the past week. Now, there are times we must judge others. Sometimes we are required to pronounce such judgments. But more often we can make a choice. For instance, suppose someone asks you what you think of the new bishop.

We must follow that same principle as the Lord gathers more and more people who are not like us. What will become more obvious to us is that the Atonement brings the same changes in all of us. We become disciples who are meek, loving, easy to be entreated, and at the same time fearless and faithful in all things.

I loved this talk because as introspective as you can be, at some point you have to deal with other people. I think that we can purify our own heart all day long, but it is in the interaction with other people, who we cannot control that determines if we can actually apply the Christlike principles. Unity is so important. Not only in couples and families, not only in wards and stakes, not only in schools and work places, not only in communities and countries. But with God. I think, ultimately, the reason for unity is to avoid contention, which keeps us from feeling the spirit. If we always have feelings of unity and we are united with God, we will have His Spirit to be with us always. Peace and love and happiness 24/7.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Competitive Soccer Begins

We met the day with a little nervousness and a lot of excitement. I really do love soccer season. As busy as we can be, it is exciting to see the girls love the competition and camaraderie.

Since all three games were at exactly the same time, we had to have a plan. Since McK and Mad were having their first games, we decided that the younger girls should have a bye. They still wore their uniforms in an effort to show solidarity and soccer spirit (and that is their favorite part of playing soccer anyway.) They brought out their camera to take pictures along side of me. It is a little orange party favor. They must have taken a thousand pictures, but unfortunately, none of them came out.

Mad's game was first and we found a corner where we could see both games. Mad was out the first quarter and then played defensive, then offensive, and then midfield. Her coach wants them to experience all positions. I wasn't keen at first, but they ended up winning with a 4-1 score so I guess it wasn't a problem. She did well and engaged in a few scrambles for the ball. She made her kicks and played all her positions well. Go Mutiny!

McK was promised that she would not have to play goalie after she overstated that she did not want to play that position ( she secretly does like it.) Unfortunately, the girl who was supposed to played goalie mysteriously developed food poisoning. (I am trying to make an insinuation that there was something devious going on, but there wasn't. I am too transparent to be good at that.) Anyway, her coach called her to duty (his daughter and McK played on the same team last year so he knew she could do it.) So McK played three quarters as goalie and one on defense. The only goal the other team scored was when she was out. Not that it was that goalie's fault, but at least McK did not have to deal with it. So the Boca Jrs. won their game 4-1. Go Boca Jrs!

Here is a picture of the beautiful clouds. Maya wanted me to take that picture just in case hers did not turn out.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Our New Cousin & Visit with Friends

Kym Caress-Knight had the baby!
Lincoln Christopher Knight was born today, Oct 1st at 3:11 this morning. He weighed in at 8 lbs 1 oz and is 21 inches long.

I was fortunate to be able to visit them all in the hospital this morning in between drop offs and pick ups. We are all so happy about our new nephew and cousin. The girls want to call him Link (as in Linc) like the character in Hairspray. They promised to clear it through Kym and Chris first. He is cute and already has chubby cheeks and the cutest newborn cry I have ever heard: at the end of each little spurt, he has a little whistle. I don't know how long that will last, but it is so precious. The girls are itching to go see him, so we will squeeze in a short visit on Friday.

After the visit, I picked up three out of the four girls for Mad's doctor appt. While picking up Maya, I saw her carrying Clifford. Hooray!!! She has been trying since the first day of school to get to take Clifford home. She was so happy and we cheered for her. That, of course, meant that we had to take Clifford everywhere: the Doctor's office, visiting our friends at there resort, Panera for dinner and to bed. Just so Monterey would not feel left out, she found a blue bunny and then had to take her everywhere as well.

As mentioned before, we visited friends at their resort. The Liddiard family, from Valencia, came to visit. Madison and their Megan are one week apart and were always friends. Maya and their Madeline are three months apart. And Monterey and their Dana are also three months apart. Dana is the one shown with the girls. We lived one street away and Madison always laments that only if we had stayed her and Megan would have been best friends and bosom buddies. Sorry Madison.

They enjoyed their late afternoon romp in the pool and water slide and fountains. Just as they were getting going the battery in the camera died so I did not get the shots of everyone like I wanted. Oh well, you get the idea.

We had gone out to dinner with the parents, Dionne and Dennis. Ryan managed to get a round of golf in with Dennis. The kids played together while the adults were at dinner. Although we would have wanted to spend more time with them, I think we did pretty well considering we have school (lucky them have a week for "Fall Break") and soccer practice and homework and doctor and dentist appointments not to mention a new baby cousin and a dozen other little details called "life." Hopefully we will see them again very soon (about six weeks is the plan for now.)