Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Peace to the Children; Peace to the troubled soul; Peace on Earth - Monmouth 3rd Ward Sacrament Christmas program

The primary children first sang two songs, "Samuel tells of baby Jesus" and "Picture a Christmas" from the Primary songbook.


We have heard it said that Christmas is for children.  Not only do our little ones feel joyful anticipation for Christmas presents, they also join their elders in celebrating the miraculous birth of our savior.  We have seen that in the songs our Primary children presented this morning.  Through these songs the children gain testimonies of the scriptures, and through them they express their faith in the miraculous birth and life of our Savior.

Because Jesus entered the world as a poor and lowly baby, he is approachable by all, though he is the creator of Heaven and Earth.  Our children understand that he loves each one of us, personally, regardless of our station in life.  And our children understand that this little baby was in need of the protection and comfort of loving parents, just as they are.  And no matter how old we grow, we can still feel in ourselves that longing to be enfolded in the loving arms of our Father in Heaven, and to be embraced by the Savior Jesus Christ.

It is fitting, then, that among our Christmas songs which acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas, so many of them are prayers for peace, greetings of peace, or lullabies sung in peaceful tones, to remind us that we are Children of God, and that he will not forget us.

The choir will sing three lullabies of peace: “Still, Still, “Dona Nobis Pacem”, and “Jesus Lord at Thy Birth”.   When the choir sings “The Nativity Song”, please join in on verses 3 through 5, using the paper that was handed out.

Still, still, still 
(Austrian Carol, Norman Luboff arrangement
Lyrics by Marilyn Keith and Alan Bergman)

Still, still, still, one can hear the falling snow.
For all is hushed the world is sleeping,
Holy Star its vigil keeping
Still, still, still, one can hear the falling snow

Sleep, sleep, sleep, tis the eve of our Savior's birth.
The night is peaceful all around you, 
Close your eyes, let sleep surround you,
Sleep, sleep, sleep, tis the eve of our Savior's birth

Dream, dream, dream, of the joyous day to come,
While guardian angels without number
Watch you as you sweetly slumber,
Dream, dream, dream, of the joyous day to come.

Dona Nobis Pacem (Traditional round)

Translates to the prayer, "Grant us Peace"

Jesus Lord at thy Birth (Sally DeFord)

Jesus, Lord, at they birth, 
The heavens are singing a lullaby, 
Legions of angels are watching nigh,
Jesus, Lord, at they birth,
Not a cradle is found for thy bed,
But a manger of hay in its stead, 
Where the cattle may feed, must suffice for thy need,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, 
The shepherds adore thee on bended knee,
Wise men shall hasten to worship thee,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, 
Neither sliver nor gold crowns thy head,
But thy Father hath crowned thee instead
With His glory and light, with His mercy and might,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Jesus, Lord, at they birth, 
With shepherds and wise men we seek thy face, 
And join with the angels to sing thy praise,
Jesus, Lord, at they birth, 
Not the treasures of earth do we bring,
But to honor thee, Savior and King,
Now and ever thou art enthroned in our hearts,
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus Lord, at thy birth

The Nativity Song  (LDS Primary Songbook, Kelsey Graham)

1. This is the season beloved of the year.
Sing a rhyme; Christmastime soon will be here.
Tell the true story of Jesus' birth,
When, as a baby, he came to the earth.
2. This is the new star, shining so bright,
Lighting the world on that first Christmas night.
This is the angel proclaiming the birth,
Singing "Hosanna!" and "Peace on the earth!"
3. This is the stable, shelter so bare;
Cattle and oxen first welcomed him there.
This is the manger, sweet hay for a bed,
Waiting for Jesus to cradle his head.
4. These are the shepherds, humble and mild,
Hast'ning to worship the heavenly child.
These are the wise men who followed the star,
Frankincense, gold, and myrrh brought from afar.
5. See the sweet mother, Mary so fair,
Joseph, who guided the donkey with care.
See the dear baby of Bethlehem,
Little Lord Jesus, the Savior of men.

This Nativity Song we just sang contains all the key elements of the story of Jesus Birth:  The star, the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, the stable and manger, Mary, and Joseph.  It is a great song for teaching the story to children, and it reminds us that this is a true story.  Why is it important to teach this story?

Perhaps Nephi said it best.  “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

The nativity story and even our modern Christmas traditions point our minds to the plan of salvation and the atoning sacrifice of God’s Only Begotten Son.  

The candy cane reminds us of the humble shepherds who were witnesses to the miracle in the stable.  And that Jesus himself offers to be our Shepherd, leading us in peaceful valleys, and seeking after us when we are lost.

The traditional Christmas colors red and white, remind us that the Lord said, Come now, and let us reason together.  Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Evergreen trees, like our Christmas trees, hold on to their leaves year round, showing the strength of life through the harshest winters.  Truly we can have hope in the redeeming and enabling power of the savior, through all of life’s difficulties and through eternity.

These symbols remind us that this little baby is the promised Savior of our souls, bringing us peace greater than the challenges of life.  These next songs do likewise.  First, Sophie Bevans and Jessica Steed will present a piano duet, “O Holy Night.”  Then Gretchen Mitchell will join the choir singing “He Sent His Son.”  And the choir will sing “The First Noel”, arranged with our sacramental hymn, “Jesus Once of Humble Birth.”

O Holy Night

Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

He Sent His Son (Mabel Jones Gabbott and Michael Finlinson Moody)

How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?
He sent his Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness.
How could the Father show the world the pathway we should go?
He sent his Son to walk with men on earth, that we may know.
How could the Father tell the world of sacrifice, of death?
He sent his Son to die for us and rise with living breath.
What does the Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say?
Have faith, have hope, live like his Son, help others on their way.
What does he ask? Live like his Son.

The First Noel / Jesus Once of Humble Birth (traditional) (Parley P. Pratt)

1. The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay,
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
2. They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the East beyond them far,
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel!
Born is the King of Israel!
1. Jesus, once of humble birth,
Now in glory comes to earth.
Once he suffered grief and pain;
Now he comes on earth to reign.
Now he comes on earth to reign.


Jesus once of humble birth, now in glory comes to earth.  This refers to another mission of the promised Messiah, that he will return to the earth in all his glory and usher in a millenium of peace, where he will rule and reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  This peace will extend to all the world, and all Christians long for this promised day.  Isaiah records the Lord’s promise for this future time:

In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.  For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.  

And significantly, we are promised, "And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children."

The herald Angels echo this in their proclamation to the shepherds: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."  And in our hymn, “Joy to the World”, Isaac Watts writes:

No more will sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He’ll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found.

The choir will now sing, “Joy to the World”, followed by “Peace Peace”.  After the choir sings two verses of Peace Peace, let us join in, singing with all our hearts, “Silent Night.”

Joy to the World (Lyrics by Isaac Watts altered by William Phelps; music by Handel)

1. Joy to the world, the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev'ry heart prepare him room,
And Saints and angels sing,
And Saints and angels sing,
And Saints, and Saints and angels sing.
2. Rejoice! Rejoice when Jesus reigns,
And Saints their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
3. No more will sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He'll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found,
Far as the curse was found,
Far as, far as the curse was found.
4. Rejoice! Rejoice in the Most High,
While Israel spreads abroad
Like stars that glitter in the sky,
And ever worship God,
And ever worship God,
And ever, and ever worship God.
Peace, Peace (Words by Rick and Sylvia Powell, Arranged by Fred Bock)

Peace, peace, peace on earth
And good will to all
This is a time for joy,
This is a time for love.
Now let us all sing together
Of peace, peace, peace on earth

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Marion Lake 2013

This may not be entertaining, informative, or even interesting, but it’s a special experience i want to remember.  There are so many thoughts and experiences trying to get out that it is not likely this record will be very readable to start with, but I need to write before I forget.

Friday and Saturday, August 9 and 10, was the long-awaited backpacking trip with Lilli. Both of us overscheduled, we had this one opportunity to get out and enjoy a trip together.  We planned to go to Marion Lake again.  This is where we went last year about the end of August, and had such a struggle getting to the Lake.  

I’m such a slowpoke getting ready for anything, and even though I was prepping for it a week or so in advance, we were not ready to get out the door until after 11 am.  The weather has been so consistently dry and warm the last few weeks, but I did remember to check the forecast and noticed that it included a call for thunderstorms (30% chance, as they say), both Friday and Saturday.  For that I made sure to add in rain ponchos, but otherwise didn’t think much of it.

Wendy arranged for us to meet her mom on the highway near our trailhead to get a dragon-head prop which barely fit into the car with our backpacks, and made us laugh a little.  We visited for a few minutes and then, nearing 3 pm, we started up the road to the trailhead only to be reminded by a sign that we needed parking passes.  We went back to Detroit. I called Wendy and let her know that because we were so late getting started today we would want to enjoy a full day on Saturday, so we might not report in to her until as late as 7 pm.

We arrived at the trailhead and prepared to depart.  It was about 4 pm when we got on the trail.  We had done better preparation for what Lilli should be carrying, and a little practice hiking - though not as much as last year.  We started out strong; the sun was shining.

From early in the day I caught myself initiating many “disputations” with her, or pursuing them when she started them up  Contradictions, arguments, etc.  As the “adult” I often feel my children should be grateful when I correct them when they misunderstand something or mis-state something.  Like the rest of my Children, Lilli doesn’t seem to appreciate this service I provide, but follows the example I set and she corrects me right back.  I committed to her early in the day that I would curb my argumentative behavior.  I had some success at that, but mostly remembered after the fact, and apologized.

We headed into the forest and soon noticed the forest got extremely dark - much more than it should before 5 pm.  I knew a thunderhead was passing over.  We started to hear thunder in the distance, which was frightening to Lilli.  I told her about Lehi’s dream, and about the darkness and about the beautiful tree of life with the white fruit.

There were moments when the lightning struck close and she would scream and say she wants to go home.  We stopped walking a few times.  I sang Hymns to her and we prayed together once.   I do worry that she doesn’t have the confidence to pray herself, buI think it will come.  Teh wind blew needles out of the tops of the trees onto us - I thought it was rain every time it happened, but then I told her it was the fiery darts of the adversary.  She had enough concerns in her mind that I don’t think she cared what my lessons were at this point.

The most frightening thing for me was the wind.  Yes, Lightning can be dangerous, but I figured as long as we were surrounded by tall trees in every direction, the danger for us was relatively low.  But at one point we heard a tree fall, and that got me worried and alarmed her.  A few minutes later I saw that we were heading into an area with younger, more slender trees, and that they were swaying violently at the top.  We retreated back a few yards, though I didn’t tell her what I was worried about.   I said a prayer in my heart, and when I felt assured, we went forward.

Meanwhile, the rain was finally making its way through all the fir needles to start wetting us.  I was a little slow getting out our pack covers and our rain ponchos.  I couldn’t find mine the first few places I looked in the pack, so i got more and more wet.

Eventually we came to Ann lake, and there was still plenty of lightning nearby.  I didn’t want to pass by the small open area yet, so we went into an area of thick foliage and stayed out of the rain for a bit.  

As the rain and lightning tapered, we continued our trip and arrived at Marion lake.  At Ann Lake there was a little tent beside the trail.  I exchanged greetings.  It was a woman who started on the trail just a few minutes before us.  I’ll tell you about that later.  Another good analogy to sharing the gospel.

The weather was clearing, so we considered going around the lake.  But we were tired, and we couldn’t easily find the trail, so we stayed on the near end of the lake - the only area I had explored to this point. We found a flat place to put the tent which had a log nearby to set out our things and use as a table.  There was also a laundry line close by.  The storm was gone, but the rain was still dripping heavily off the trees, so I tried to keep the rain fly on top of the tent while I set it up - normally you put it on afterward.  In the process of getting the tent up and the beds out of the packs and into the tents, I managed to get distracted and let Lillis bag get a bit dripped on before it went into the tent.  Oops. So I let her have mine and I slept in hers.

We made dinner - hot chocolate to start, so we could warm up, followed by mashed potatoes, then a canned pasta thing which was kind of gross.  Our bodies were warming up.  Lilli wanted to get in her sleeping bag, so i let her do that while i did dishes and tried to prep our camp for the possibilities of rain and critters in the night.  I made one more pan of mashed potatoes and shared it with her through a small utility door.

We arrived at camp around six or six 30 and she was in bed probably by 8:00  and I was in by 9:30.  We had taken more than 2 hours to get to camp because of delays by the weather.

Eventually I got myself ready for bed.  She had been reading “voyage of the dawn treader” on my phone.   I found out right away that there was a lump in the middle of my bed.  My mattress seemed too thin, and it was the slippery one, and the surface on my side of the tent sloped enough to get me off that lump in the middle of the bed anyway.  Worse than that was the fact that the bag Lilli brought was not a mummy bag, so my shoulders were cold until sometime later I decided to put on my damp sweatshirt.  About 2:30 I prayed for just one more miracle today, that I could sleep, and I did - for four hours.  I did read to her for a while til she fell asleep around 10:30.  At about midnight a frog was crawling in our rain ponchos, which were sheltering our boots.  I didn’t know what it was at first and assumed it was a rodent or marsupial trying to get into our things.  The plastic was loud and woke me up, and in turn I woke up Lilli when I was trying to scare the intruder away.

Saturday morning was beautiful.  The sun came out and warmed things up comfortably in our shaded camp.  Some college-age guys had come in late the night before (they were one of the many reasons I couldn’t sleep) and one of them took a bath naked in the lake where Lilli could see.  She turned away and didn’t freak out.  We had oatmeal, hot cocoa and sausage for breakfast.  We got all our dishes done, played frisbee, and went fishing right by our tent for a while.  Actually, I think I did dishes while she fished - and I would come down and help her from time to time.  We aired our packs out, which had been under plastic during the night.  Eventually we were done with our fishing practice (no bites - not surprising) and ready to go on to another activity.  

We packed up everything as if we were ready to leave, except left the tent standing and and put all our gear into it except our daypacks.   That way we could come back to the tent for shelter if needed.

We took our lunch and our poles and went around the north side of the lake for the first time.  We saw that there are many more good campsites, and many of them were occupied.  We debated (each other) about how far to go.  I wanted to get clear around to the east end. We didn’t make it to the northeast corner, but close.  We found a place which might be interesting to fish.  And got out where we could see the sky and found that it was beginning to look threatening.  And we found that Lilli’s sandals had come loose and were not on her daypack where they should be.  We prayed to find them, and between that and the weather, decided not to fish but to return to camp.  

Lilli was quite concerned about the weather, and I don’t know if it was fear, inspiration, or good judgement, but she insisted and pushed/dragged me back to camp.  My map says our hike was 1.35 miles one way.  Without a pack she’s almost faster than me, but we’re pretty well matched.  On the return we found her sandals.  As we walked, like Friday, the humidity began to climb and we knew a storm was coming.

As we got within five minutes of our camp, we considered stopping to fish. Where we stood we could see the thunderstorm active in the west, and that the weather was moving from east to west.  The storm was trying to spread back to us upwind, but we remained just out of its reach.  Whatever was coming from the east was out of our visibility.  We decided to return to the tent.  As we arrived it was starting to sprinkle, and the sound of thunder was growing closer.  There wasn’t much wind, though.

We got into the tent - even had time to take off our boots and put them inside, in the corners.  There were several close thunder cracks, and then the wind picked up sharply and chilled the tent considerably.  Lilli could see the lake, and said, Dad, fish are jumping!

I turned to look and saw that the wind was whipping up the lake, and there were splashes that defied explanation.  She said, “are those apples?”  Then a few of the apples landed in the camp and I saw that what we had was golf-ball sized hail.  This was one of the scariest moments of the trip for me.  I had no idea whether our tent would hold out hailstones that big.  I thought they might pierce right through, so Lilli and I put our daypacks on our heads, huddled close and prayed for protection.  Eventually enough stones had hit our tent and bounced off that the fear was gone and we giggled a bit.  We looked outside in awe.

This lasted a minute or two.  As it moved off to the west we could hear the thunderous sound of the hail mixed with the thunder of lightning.  It sounded like a thousand horses running through the forest.  There was a convenient intermission where we went out and picked up some giant hailstones and got some great pictures.  Then some sprinkles started, so we got back in.  Then a “regular” hail storm came and nearly buried the big hail stones.  That was incredibly loud in the tent, and it got quite cold.  We got our sleeping bags out and got into them as the temperature kept dropping.  The hail lasted five minutes or so and the rain continued on for an hour.  The whole storm had us in the tent for about two hours.

The ground became saturated and the floor of the tent became icy cold.  That’s what got me into my bag.  We read some more from dawn treader.

When it eventually died down we loaded up our packs, got out of the tent and put it away and started down the trail. It was probably about five oclock.  About an hour later than we had hoped.
The trail was amazing.  There was a mixture of pine sprigs and hailstones making a Christmas carpet that smelled nice.

Eventually we got to the car, and found it damaged.  Dents in the metal and cracks in the windshield.  Mine seemed to be the most damaged vehicle, though I did see some evidence on others.  

OK, what did I forget to tell?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Loss of Henry Hill, and the Gain for the Rest of Us

We, the school board, made the decision to “close” Henry Hill, one of our four elementary schools.  The facts are pretty harsh: the education budget shrinks while the mandated services rise.  Three schools are sufficient to facilitate the population.  The economy has been poor, and there is no light at the end of the narrow tunnel for education funding.  There is also no evidence that lawmakers at both state and federal levels will ever understand that no organization – educational or otherwise – can operate effectively given the spiderweb of constraints that have been institutionalized.

The suggestion was initially bold and bright, and at the same time heretical.  This is not the kind of conversation we were accustomed to having, but the priorities make sense.  Classroom funds up, administration expenses down.  However, I grossly underestimated the resistance to the idea that would be felt in the community.  To me, school A vs. school B makes little difference.  They have the same stripe, and I would have generally trusted any administration of any district I might live in to determine how many schools are needed.

But that is not at all how the families feel who attend that school that is targeted for closure.  They seem to take that building and its educational environment as an integral part of their neighborhood and community.  I am beginning to see that my absence of feeling for that aspect of the asset is a personal defect in my character and in my understanding of what community means.  Even so, I guess that more people feel the way I do than the number who feel attached to a particular place for their children to get their education.

That means there is something special and different about the Henry Hill neighborhood, and I believe it is tied intimately with the fact that it is somewhat an immigrant neighborhood.  One of the well-spoken representatives of the parents’ community from that school admitted that for him, as a Caucasian native Oregonian, which school his kids attend was not as big an issue.  But he passionately explained the vital function the school performs for the immigrant community.

There's much I don't know about here.

Perhaps the high density of immigrants in this school  – matching their neighborhoods – offers them the security of likeness or sameness.  Perhaps the safety and social well-being they feel at this school comes from a certain amount of isolation from the larger culture of Monmouth and Independence.  That special sense of community emanating from the school building is special, good and admirable.  But at the same time it may be a sign that this little community may be isolating its children from some of the influences that will better prepare them for life.  

I don’t know well enough to judge.

But I believe if likeness and sameness have been part of the ingredients to the feeling of community surrounding that school, it is no less a value, and no less a miracle.

I remember a special community I was a part of for three years.  It was called Wyview, and it was a trailer park – married student housing at BYU.  It was filled with several hundred families with a thousand things in common: we were Mormons; we were young, married, college students, most with children, but none with teenagers; all poor, or humble enough to live in 40-year old drafty, leaky trailers – not manufactured homes, mind you – but with tin siding and actual wheels.

This was a special neighborhood, and a special time of life for me.  I felt security and friendship in that neighborhood; entertainment was plentiful, safe, and cheap, with walks, playgrounds, potlucks and outdoor games.  We worshipped together; studied together; played together, and served each other – like when a blizzard dumped two feet in one night, or the power went out for a day, or when anyone was sick, or busy, or sad.  The women especially were in tune with all the other families.

There is no direct comparison to the neighborhoods in Independence around the Henry Hill School, because the Wyview neighborhood was, by definition, temporary.  None of us would be living there if we graduated, took an absence from school, or allowed one of our children to advance past the age of 11.  Those where the rules.  We would be leaving it behind after only a few years and we all knew it.  But this much I can learn from my experience there that compares to the grief our district is experiencing today: I LOVED that neighborhood, and I miss it.  It was incredibly easy to get to know and love any of my neighbors, however briefly we might share a stretch of grass, a driveway and a laundry.   It was easy because of our similarities, and the many friendships planted there sprouted up quickly and have endured for years.

In South Independence, I suppose that children walk together with their friends to the Henry Hill school, and perhaps with their parents also, chatting and supporting each other in life and parenthood, and in their unique position in our local American culture.  I suppose that when families gather to watch their children in school events there is a broad sense of family that is greater than the sum of the homes.  I suppose that friendly teachers encourage trust and feelings of security in children and their parents.  That is admirable and desirable, and we should each as individuals be seeking that kind of community in any school we attend or work in, any church we participate in, and in the sporting and other clubs we support after work and after school. 

Unfortunately – speaking for myself – I have never developed that sense of community anywhere else I have lived since Wyview.  At least not based in a geographical neighborhood.  But I feel a similar sense of belonging with my colleagues at work, my associates on the school board, in my fellow worshipers at Church and in the performing arts booster club at the high school.

The sense of community that I personally feel from each of these associations is borne somewhat out of our sameness, but more so out of our common struggles, joint sacrifices, and shared accomplishments.  I have grown to appreciate and love people with whom I have very little in common except a narrow band of interests in our lives. 

In these associations it is me that has been changed, and it is my sense of connection to the community that has grown.  I have learned to respect gay people; I have learned to understand people whose first language is not English – not only their words, but as much as possible their perspectives; I have learned that small towns and large cities have completely different mechanisms for community, and that Portland is farther away from me than a small town in northern Idaho.

I have learned to trust people I consider "rich" because they have more than I do, and give successful people a chance to like me in my mismatched clothing, with my poor posture and drowsy disposition; I have learned that I don’t have much talent, but I have admired the creative minds of others and I have gained an ability to recognize the talents in the people around me that I need to rely on.  I experienced the joy giving money and food to people who asked, even though at first I felt unsure about how much they would appreciate my gift.

I have learned to forgive people in authority whose judgment I disagreed with, and more importantly, perhaps, I learned to trust myself enough to speak out and tell them that I disagree.   I have been offended and have had to cool down, and I have been humbled by the forgiveness of near strangers whom I offended in my fear and haste.  I have been touched by people’s concern for me, and I have tried to stretch my heart and reach out to others outside the comfort zone of people who are just like me.  

In attempting to associate with people different from me I have learned that fear is the unnecessary anticipation of imaginary pains.  I have learned that others also struggle with fear, and that I have not yet grown to the level of understanding they deserve.  

I’m going on and on in my private musings without being interesting to anyone not inside my head – so I’ll get to this point: community does not originate with a school or a neighborhood, it originates with people. 

And it will not die with the changes to a neighborhood or changes in the patterns of our lives.  But we CAN kill the sense of community with or without a school or a park or a church or path.  We have that capability.  All it takes is for us, the humans in this thing called community, to determine we will cease to reach out, that we will stop participating, that we will act in anger and vengeance, that we will stick with our own kind, that we will fear the future and cling to the past.

Years after leaving that treasured home at BYU, I returned, and found the trailers gone.  In the place of the rusty boxes with grass around each home, there were three-story apartment buildings – twelve units per building.  There was new blacktop on roads that didn’t even follow the same paths the old roads had; There were far more families, and fewer playgrounds.  My brother and his wife were living just a hundred yards over and 30 feet up from where Wendy and I had lived with our two little girls.  He didn’t know his neighbors.

Miraculously, a familiar tree – don’t ask me the variety, but I would call it a shade tree, nearly as broad as it was tall – still stood  in the spot that had been a sort of communal front yard, between our home and the Shurtz home.  As I write this I remember our children playing together; us relaxing and chatting together; helping each other move furniture. A couple of times we organized “block party” style community events. 

I miss those days and I miss that neighborhood.  It will never be back.  But the friends I made there will always be in my heart; the beauty I felt there I will always recognize when I see it in a new place; the lessons I learned there have changed me for the better.

If I failed to bring those gifts from that special community to the new communities I have been a part of, then I have failed indeed.

And that’s what I hope from the families of Henry Hill.  Will you please, please, bring that sense of community that you have been so blessed with and impart it to the other schools you will be attending?   You have not been robbed of your community school.  In fact, you have been kidnapped from it.  We have stolen you, that truly special treasure, meaning a group of people who know what a beautiful community is, and we are taking you with us into our other schools.   You are the seeds of a garden of human goodness, and I hope and pray that you will grow and spread your love to your new school communities.  

Yes, it’s corny, but it’s sincere . . .

I know we have a lot of work to do to nourish the transplanted roots; but I trust in the quality of your characters.  You have such great value.  Not only can we not afford to lose any of you, we cannot afford not to learn what you have to teach.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 Boyack's Annual Report

Hello everyone, and Happy Holidays to all from the Willamette Valley, the Christmas tree capital of the USA! Have you got your tree yet?  We’re still browsing the dozens of farms within driving range of our house, and also the Christmas sections of the local home improvement stores, where quality plastic trees are grown.  Back in the day, we could never have considered an artificial tree.  Blasphemy!  A fresh Christmas tree was part of our holiday religion, along with homemade chocolates and this Christmas letter, mailed out before January and on physical paper.  But, just as all of you have seen in your lives, my priorities have drifted as I have struggled to find time to decorate and festivate between creating my holiday Pandora stations and hiding from my children.

So a plastic tree may be anti-Oregonian, but would definitely allow more time for eating the chocolate I intended to put in my kids’ stockings.  The decision is not made for this year, but we do already own a small auxiliary plastic tree which we bought on sale after Christmas a few years back. Putting this one up early takes the pressure off the timing of when to buy the real tree. 

Now for the news:
Our family has been growing this year!

Kimber and Ray brought baby Ben into the family, and not to be out-done, McKay brought Myles in.  He is not as beautiful as Ben, but he’s definitely bigger, so she gets points.  They were married the week of Thanksgiving.  After the ceremony, Kimber said to me, “Dad: two down, three to go!”  I’m not sure that was a joyous thought!  They’re all so young!  Gary Huxford, an admired friend, gave me the perspective I really needed: “Don’t think of it as losing a daughter, think of it as gaining a bathroom!”

The other kids will in fact find the bathroom competition less fierce.  But on the downside, McKay was one of our better bathroom cleaners.

It has definitely been hard letting go, especially since the distance will be much farther than with Kimber.  Last month in our family prayer I mentioned McKay’s upcoming wedding and began to cry.  Then the kids began laughing at me, and I began laughing at myself, while still crying.  Then Chad, who recently had oral surgery and finds smiling painful, began chiming in to the now stalled prayer, “Ha ha . . . ow!  Stop it! . . . Ha ha . . . ow!”  The situation became increasingly desperate, as I was now laughing at Chad as well as myself.  The sanctity of the family prayer was at stake.  Knowing I wasn’t going to get the job done, I begged, in a laugh-cry-choke-pray sort of squawk, “someone please take over for me!”

After a few more seconds of unsuccessfully stifled giggles, Wendy had enough composure to grab the controls and drag the prayer across the finish line before the fuel tank exploded.

Speaking of laughter, I have often postulated that God must have a sense of humor.  To my mind that has been proved this week.  On Monday as we were setting up the wedding it rained something like five inches – enough to overwhelm the drainage trench and sump pump at our house (not the worst of the problems around town), and pretty soon half the wedding prep volunteers became flood control volunteers.  The always-amazing Jessops saved the day with sandbags from the city, and luck / God saved the Jessops from 7500 volts. 

Then on the Wedding day we had the start of regular drizzling November day.  Expectations for photos outside the temple were low, but – miracle of miracles! – the sun was blazing after the temple ceremony!  We got everyone outside, from babies to grannies, and just as the first photo was shot, we went into the soak cycle.  God has great comic timing!  Alexa Tadlock, in the great Mabee tradition, said, “well, it is a WET-ing, isn’t it?”

McKay and Myles honeymooned their way from Oregon to New Mexico, where they will be living for the next few months while he finishes up school.  He’s a great kid and we’re glad to have him in the family.  I don’t think he knows what he’s gotten himself into yet.

Prior to her Wedding in November, Mckay’s year included education at the Oregon School of Massage and a job at Jamba Juice.  I had never heard of Jamba Juice before McKay worked there.  Now the nice young ladies on the night shift know me as McKay’s dad and Chad as her sister.  They also know that a “Chad Special” is a Berry Upbeet with Daily Vitamin and Weight Burner boosters.

Chad has earned a reputation for consistency this year.  He put himself on a controlled, healthy, balanced diet, and has never departed from it.  He lost 80 pounds and is by far the fittest person in the family.  If we’re having desert and he wants to cheat, he will simply ask to smell our treats.  There was a day he worried me though: he picked up two M&Ms off the table, and just when I thought he was going to break his commitment, he put them up his nostrils and shot them at his sister.  What a relief.

Besides being consistently healthy, Chad is also consistently fun.   He composed the great song, “Let those poopies out!” in honor of our little friend Case, who was potty training this year and had trouble “letting go”. 
Between the music and the fitness, he also has time for fashion consulting. 

“Dad, pull out your shirt!  You look like a dork with your shirt tucked in.  Don’t wear black socks with athletic shoes!  Don’t wear dress shoes with jeans!”

He probably wouldn’t want me wearing dress shoes with athletic shorts either.  I think I’m going to need his coaching for a long time.  He is far more aware than I am of what looks good or bad.  Then again you should have seen him dressed as “super fan”, or wearing Hannah’s “Party Pants”, or getting his back waxed.

In the spring Chad and Lilli and Hannah all participated in the High School production of “Honk, Jr.” (the ugly duckling story).  It was his first and probably last high school musical. He did a great job as a happy, mellow-but-not-stoned frog.  Lilli was a duckling and Hannah was some other kind of bird, and she was very birdlike.

She was very eel-like when she was in the “Little Mermaid, Jr.” this fall.  She is still a great singer and now has an important role in the musical “Once upon a Mattress”.  We’ll tell you more about that next year.  She wouldn’t want me making a big deal out of it.  Apparently I’m a bit of a stage parent.  But hey, I haven’t driven her to American Idol auditions yet, so I think I’m a model of restraint!

Hannah has been a great sister to everyone, and is usually helpful in all the right ways.  She is happy all the time and is the only teenager I’ve ever been well-acquainted with who has the ability to laugh at herself.  She makes friends easily, and met a really nice boy while we were camping at the coast.  The story starts out kind of romantically, where they found each other because they were randomly using the same radio channel on the walkie talkies.  Pretty soon Zach bicycled over with a big group of friends who all wanted to meet Hannah.  There were all about 8 years old, but Hannah made them feel all grown up.

She was given a ukulele last Christmas, and Chad gave her some lessons, but so far she prefers the piano.  In the spring they had a community talent show, and she sang and played the piano.  Chad rocked the house with Bohemian Rhapsody on the ukulele, and Lillian competed with her dance teacher doing a tap dance.  Surprise of the night was that Lillian came home with first place!

Lilli is doing great!  She’s our only home school student at the moment.  She studies, works, pretends, plays, dances and sings her way through the day.  OK, I’m being generous about the “work” part of that equation, but it does happen occasionally. 

She and I did an overnight backpacking trip in August, and she was an absolutely delightful partner.  Here are a few of her observations during that trip, during which she talked almost constantly:
* (store stop) Dad, change your shoes before someone sees you!
* (in selecting a hat, which I thought was to keep the sun off) I need to look adventurous and cool!
* (as we’re driving to the trailhead) I’m so excited . . . I’m losing my excitement . . . real fast . . . OK, I got some excitement back!
* (during the hike in) I’m not having fun at all.  The backpack is not fun, just running around and climbing boulders will be fun.  . . . And fishing, and playing with other kids.
* (after taking many, many, stops on the hike in) I’m an adventurer!  I only take important stops!  . . . well, NOW I do.
* Dad!  Your legs are longer than mine!  I’m short if you haven’t noticed!  Take shorter steps and fewer of them!
* I’m going to list everything that hurts! (and she did)
On the hike out we were both commenting on how much quicker the hike was going than on the way in.  I said, well, it’s downhill and our packs are lighter.  She said, “yes, and I’m not complaining the whole way like I did on the way in.”  Truer words were never spoken!  I hope to go on many more hikes with Lilli and whoever else will go over the next 30 years!

Lilli helped me get ready for a big hike in Northern Idaho with Jim and Ethan Hewitt.  The three of us packed to some secluded lakes at around the 7500-foot level.  Granite and quartz boulders; pine and aspen; wild plants of a million varieties including celery and several kinds of berries.  Clear lakes and relatively blue skies – there was a lot of smoke from forest fires, but it was thinner at our elevation; warm days and cool nights; lots of fish biting; great food created by Chef Jim.  And plenty of strenuous exercise, for those who like that sort of thing.

Aside from my backpacking adventures, several of my Saturdays were occupied with the Front Entry Safety Project.  I poured a concrete walkway from the front porch to the driveway, replaced the stairway and added railings, and trimmed and painted the porch.  I had to think long and hard about it, but I decided that nine years after building the porch it was not too soon to finish the job. 

I hate to admit it but I had put off the walkway job for several years for one reason or another.  Three years ago Hannah broke her foot on the stepping stones that were there but I still didn’t get it done.  I sorta kinda had the intention to do it this year, but then Wendy tore her Achilles tendon the same way Hannah got hurt, and that changed everything.  Only by getting on it quickly could I possibly prevent the injury that was likely coming next . . . probably to my right eye since Wendy is left handed and she is the daughter of a boxer.

Wendy had a great year and was as busy as ever.  Her additional commitment this year was CET (Children’s Educational Theater).  She taught technical classes and was the technical director for six shows.  Lilli was able to attend this camp too.  Hannah I went and helped with set construction and it was a good family experience.

She designed the sets for the high school productions again this year.  My favorite was Cinderella.  She is a stickler for detail, and probably 300 man-hours of painting went into it.  Cinderella’s home was vividly painted, and it would rotate out and become a shop or disappear altogether.  It is great to see the community coming out to support these shows and the high school kids getting great experience.

We both enjoy taking in theatrical performances, and luckily we live close enough to Portland to go see the Broadway touring series that comes there.  We saw some fun shows this year, and they provide some inspiration for Wendy’s sets and lighting ideas.  In October we were realizing we might not have much chance to celebrate our anniversary because of the timing of McKay’s wedding.   So we agreed we would just skip it this year – just go out to dinner or something.  But THEN I heard that Sweeney Todd was playing at Portland Center Stage, and, knowing this is one of Wendy’s favorite shows, I took the opportunity to be sneaky!  . . . In a good way, for once.

So I took the day off work and peeked into her calendar to be sure I wouldn’t disrupt her schedule too much, and I took her to Portland without telling her what we were going to see.  She wasn’t very cooperative at first.  She thought she might be heading to an art exhibit or Ice Capades, (not sure why she’d drag her feet for those, but anyways . . . ) she screamed with delight when she saw the sign for Sweeney Todd, and I knew that I HAD SCORED!  It’s not every day a couple gets to enjoy such deep and ugly irony, and we thoroughly loved it.  Brutal abuse, retribution, bloody murders, beautiful music, and a barber shop.  You might say it’s barBERic!  Ha ha!

We did eventually get around to buying each other anniversary presents: his and hers cordless drills!  And it was HER idea!  I LOVE this woman!

In June we went to the Canon Beach sandcastle competition.  Several of our kids were participants on the Jessop team.  The 4 day trip started out to be a very wet one, but eventually dried out.  Myles came to visit McKay and get to know us a little better; Chad bicycled up and down the coast; I ate a LOT of marshmallows. 

It was baby Ben’s first camping trip and he had fun!   Kimber is such a sweet mom, and Ray is a loving daddy!  They are building a solid family, and he is a lucky boy with so much extended family close by.  He is a funny kid!  He is now 9 months old and finally has his first two teeth.  But meanwhile he is already walking.  He is a little shy and both his conversations and his complaints are subdued. 

Kimber shares her amazing talents in sewing, dancing, writing and art, and makes us all happy.  Raymond is now a bus-driver – the perfect job for a gentle, giant, mechanically minded guy who needs a little fallback from software writing.  He made a game for the Android phone, called Space Chaser.  It is pretty cool because you control the ship by tilting the phone.  He had some problems with it at first – he said it had a memory leak.  I know all about memory leaks.  That’s why I have to carry my blackberry wherever I go, because mine leaks like a sieve and the only way I will follow through on a great idea or even a promise is if I create a reminder.  But Ray is not forgetful and neither is his spaceship.  I think a memory leak in programming is where you forget to put something away after you used it.  That is also a problem I have, but not as commonly as misplacing things.

In June I came out of a store and could not find the car.  I checked the blackberry, but I had not left a note saying where it was.  Noticing my confusion, several people walked up to me and said, “Is THAT your car?”  It was parked innocently 30 yards away in the store’s driveway, where even at my most sleepy and distracted I wouldn’t have left it.  There must be a malfunction. 

I suspect the air conditioning.    

You see, if you arrive at your destination while an interesting story is playing on talk radio, you have to put the car in neutral and leave the car running to enjoy the air conditioning while you listen to the end of the story.  This is an older model, and the radio and air conditioning not integrated to the parking brake, and thus the car was able to roll away from the place where I parked it.

After the November election I have given up listening to talk radio.  Problem solved.

So there you have it, the most newsworthy events of our family’s year neatly summarized in one letter. 
May you have a joyful and peaceful Christmas and a successful new year!

John, Wendy, and Family

And a bonus tip for your quality holiday: when you buy your fresh Christmas tree, be sure to give it a fresh cut to keep it green, and then look at the newly exposed wood for the Made in Oregon insignia.