faith, hope & sweetness

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I can’t think of a better weekend than the Saturday after Thanksgiving to attend the temple for the very first time.  Sophie chose Bountiful.  We woke up to a blanket of snow all over the city.  We made it a family affair. We were lucky enough to have “Go UTE” Nana staying with us, so she came too.  After our time in the temple, we headed to Sunshine Cafe for brunch.  Sophie, your faith, hope, and sweetness soften my heart regularly.  We love you so much and I am so grateful to be your mom forever.

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stand your sacred ground

I happened upon Brooke Castillo’s 5-minute emotional makeover last week.  I listen to her podcast regularly but had never heard this podcast.  I decided to give it a try.  I had been feeling a lot of anxiousness lately and thought it would be great to get a handle on it. or understand it. or get to the bottom of it.  or something.

As I went through her steps, I noticed quickly that it wasn’t anxiousness at all, it was fear.  That seemed really clear to me- but what am I afraid of!?  I had done this in the evening.  The next morning, I still recognized the fear-but had no idea what I am actually afraid of.  What is the sentence that I am telling myself that is causing the fear that I am feeling?  I said my prayers, like usual, and pleaded, “please tell me the thought I am holding that is causing my fear.”  I began to journal and the thought came immediately-

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Memories became clear.  Instances, especially growing up, where I was given a strong message…be small, be quiet, blend in, don’t stand out, don’t disrupt.  be small.  I think society, especially in my era, was  IS a strong teacher of this to girls…and some of us are really sensitive to it…and jump in…believing every lie it has to offer.  be small.

I thought about it for a few days.  What do I want to replace that thought with?  What is it’s opposite?  BE LARGE?  BE BIG?  BE BOLD?  maybe.

I ran across a thought (from Brene Brown) that I loved…here (who I didn’t follow by the way, and I am not sure how I got to her page. I follow her now!)IMG_2215

I thought of this photo I took of Kate and Ellie in Southern, CA.  I love their stances against the powerful waves coming their way.  It’s my new phone screen saver.

I look at it over and over again.  Every time I open my phone.  DON’T SHRINK!  Don’t make myself smaller than I am.  Don’t diminish who I am or what I want.  DONT’ PUFF UP!  I am not better than anyone else.  I don’t have anything to prove.  Give and love so that we are all standing together…being us-  STANDING OUR SACRED GROUND.

10 day social media fast

 

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President Russell M Nelson, President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invited the women of the world, (8 years old and up) to participate in a 10-day social media fast.  He said, “I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast. The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you. What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little? I urge you to record and follow through with each impression.”

Although the talk was given Saturday, October 6th, I heard it on October 7th and began my fast on October 8th.  It was meant to interpret individually.  I had already discontinued my use of TWITTER.  I was receiving no benefits from it personally and found that my feed was at least 80% negative, so I quit.  Or actually, attempted to.  As my inactivity requirement was approaching, allowing my account to terminate, I received a notice that there had been activity on my account that re-activated it.  That was not done by me.  (suspicious) I need to go through the process again.

FACEBOOK was another platform that I had been off for quite a while.  Recently I participated in a social media course that taught me a lot of benefits of FACEBOOK.  I am still skeptical but can see how, if used properly, it could be a great resource for me.  It was also really helpful when trying to contact family and friends after my father’s passing.

My personal fast would be centered on INSTAGRAM.  As I said, I began my fast on October 8th.  I fasted from IG for a full 7 days until my father passed away on October 15th.  I was grateful not to have that distraction that week before my dad died.  I was more present with him and all of my family those days.  Although I was 3 days short of the 10-day fast, I began using it again to post about his passing and connect with family.  I felt that I had done enough to re-set my social media outlook.  About a week later I read a post that my friend had written about her experience.  I realized that I had missed the point.

I had neglected to pray much about it…or really reflect on my experience.  I decided to try again, this time observing what the fast was changing for me.  Were my priorities different? Is there a change I want to make? And then record and follow through my impressions (which I am doing now).

MY PERSPECTIVE:

1.) SOCIAL MEDIA IS GOOD.  I believe in the goodness of social media. It is a resource that allows us to connect with people all over the world.  It is a wealth of knowledge, information, friendship, and inspiration.  It is AMAZING!  In church meetings I have attended that have approached the subject recently, the negative sides of these platforms have been the main focus.  I really do have some understanding of the downsides.  I really dislike the manipulation built into each platform, for example.  There is a lot of negative content (which is in my control to follow or not).  Those downsides, for example, have motivated me to discontinue TWITTER use.  They have motivated me to completely restructure how I use FACEBOOK and have also caused me to modify how I use INSTAGRAM as well.  But I really do see many more upsides for me in INSTAGRAM, than I do down. I can reach out to friends quickly.  I can connect with them, learning about what is going on in their lives without occupying too much time like a phone call or personal visit would.  (That does not mean btw that it replaces personal interaction by any means. But can you imagine if you tried to personally connect with every friend you have on social media via phone or in person?)  I believe strongly in documenting and sharing our lives with others…and INSTAGRAM is a great method for that.  I am choosing to focus on the goodness found there.

2.) SOCIAL MEDIA IS SOCIAL.  I was awakened to this by Rowe Timson in her class SERIOUSLY SOCIAL.  Imagine you have been invited to a party at your friend’s home.  Would you stand on the periphery just observing…watching conversations, observing the other invitees without any engagement or not saying a word?  Now I am a bit of an introvert, but I wouldn’t do that.  It’s creepy right?  How many of us behave that way on social media platforms?  Do we scroll through mindlessly observing…pressing a few likes…and then check in minutes later to see if anything had changed?  That is typical and perfectly acceptable in our society…but is it good for us?  I know it isn’t good for me.  I have committed myself to follow people that I would be willing to correspond with and to only go on if I can give my time and attention to actually socializing on social media.  I will be more engaged with the people I follow and those who follow me.   I browsed past IG posts before I took Rowe’s course, and there were several instances when people reached out and commented and I didn’t respond in turn.  I regret that I was distracted and didn’t go back to engage with them…give them the respect they deserve.  I will be more social on these platforms…not for better numbers or to improve algorithms, but to treat people the way I want to be treated.

3.) SOCIAL MEDIA IS A POTENTIAL BUFFER.  This isn’t true for everyone but is very true for me.  I love Jody Moore’s recent description of a buffer (found here).  If you have an extra 45 minutes, I highly recommend listening to that episode!  Basically, I use INSTAGRAM, ice cream, chocolate and eating out to buffer the negative emotions in my life, which is why I have 20 lbs to lose…and have spent too much time mindlessly on my phone.  Mindlessly is the key word there.  There is PLENTY of productivity and creativity that the phone has allowed me to accomplish, but overall my habit was to use it for mindlessness and distraction, unfortunately.

To combat the mindlessness and use social media with intention I have decided to implement new strategies:

  • only log in if I have time to be there with intention– the intention to be SOCIAL
  • notice if I have a purpose to be there…or if I am checking in on social media in order to check out of my real life.
  • participate-posting and adding content that will benefit those who see it and myself
  • being real…by real I don’t mean only talking about my failings, I mean sharing struggle (and triumph!).  I really like pretty pictures, but I don’t want to create an image of perfection and filters. I won’t use “filters” to change my face…but I will definitely continue to use photo editing software to enhance my photography.  (I edited the street sign and electrical wires out of the photo on this post for example)  I will also share methods and information that can benefit others to improve their photography too.  I will be more open and sharing…but NOT dumping all of my problems on the world of IG.  This is a tough balance and one I will keep trying to work on being authentic.

I am really grateful for the invitation to complete this fast.  I am grateful for the time it gave me to look into the faces of those I love.  I am grateful for the new perspective I have and how it will benefit my life.  I will also observe with compassion anyone doing anything different (my children for example), then I am choosing to do.  These changes are what I NEEDED and not necessarily for anyone else.  Have you participated in this fast?   Please post your thoughts or link in the comments.  I would love to learn more from your experience.

grief shared

 

left: Paul Davis, Vance Taylor, Sammy Taylor right: Vance, Irene & Randy Pitzak, mom and Sammy (photos taken by Skip Huntress after the funeral service October 20, 2018)

How do you honor the life of your dad in a 10 minute talk?  It had been a busy week…and actually just overwhelming.  By Thursday night we had made all of the phone calls we needed to make, solidified plans with both the mortuary and cemetery.  Annie, Alex, Mike and his family had arrived.  Everybody had gathered that night for dinner at our house.  We finished the slideshow.  Next on my list was to create the program and to write my talk.  I knew that I wanted to talk about my dad’s generosity.  Unfortunately, the thoughts and stories I wanted to share were not coming to me clearly.  I was exhausted.  I sat down after many of our guests that night had left, and saw that I had a text message from Morena.  She forwarded a letter she had written to my mom, my siblings and me.  She asked me to share it, especially to the children (my dad’s grandchildren).  I knew immediately that it was exactly what I wanted to say at the funeral.  She was an answer to my prayer.

At the viewing, the morning of the funeral, we were greeting friends before the service.  We were all stunned to see Vance with his sweet wife Casey and their daughter Sammy enter the room.  They drove through the night from Sacramento, CA to be there.  Vance is Morena’s youngest child and only son.  He is also a dear friend to our family.  Tears rushed to our eyes the second we saw his face…and love filled our hearts. Driving all that way—and then turning around right after the service to drive back would be a huge sacrifice for anyone, but especially Vance.

When grief is shared…it is lightened and your heart grows stronger.  The love that Morena, Vance, Casey & Sammy shared with us this week will always be remembered.

My talk that includes Morena’s letter:

My dad wrote in his memoir-

“The saddest memory was when one morning my dad left for work and never returned.  No one could believe that he would just up and leave.  There was a lot of heartbreak and tears, coupled with disbelief because we all loved him so much.  There was an effort made to find out what happened, along with inquiries made regarding his whereabouts, but he had totally disappeared.  I remember going outside and sitting on top of the road bank of red Texas clay and crying.  I kept saying it was a mistake and that he wouldn’t leave me, but in the end, I had to accept that it was true.  I don’t know if I ever really got over that hurt.”

He was 4 years old.

This experience molded my dad into the man he became.

He wanted to help those who were down on their luck.

He had such great respect for his mother and the plight of single mothers.

We always knew that family was his first priorityand that we had him forever.

My dad was not a man of great financial means- yet there was always enough to give to those “down on their luck”cars to struggling teenagers, money to hungry college students, rides to stranded hitch-hikers and buying a meal for a hungry mother and her children.  He never talked of any of the service he gavesometimes we were lucky enough to be by his side to quietly observe.  Our home was always open to friendsany day or night.  As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to have three friends live with our family at different times.  My dad wrote of that experience- that he was grateful that those friends trusted us enough to share our home and association.  He loved them as his own.

His respect for motherhood began with “Gertrude Arrington” his mother. He wrote,

“My heart swells with pride to write her name and I doubt if I can do her justice with my pen.  She was one of the most gallant women that ever lived and though she had some shortcomings, I know of no one who could surpass her as a mother.  Our family should always be proud to know that her blood and courage are flowing through our veins.”

Raising 9 children in the depression was a difficult taskraising them as a single mother was an impossible one.  She worked in sewing rooms day and nightand picked fruit and cotton whenever the work was available.  He had a front seat to her struggle and he never forgot it.  We have had friends reach out since my dad’s passing that have shared their experiences of his generosity.  I realized this week that most of these individuals were being raised by single mothers themselves.

Our dear friend Morena asked me to share her experiences of my dad.  We met Morena in Petaluma, CA.  She was a single mom raising three beautiful teenagers: Martha, Kathy & Vance.  Vance and Kathy have muscular dystrophy.  She shared a story with me this week that I didn’t know he was a part of.  Morena used a van to transport her family. Vance and Kathy had to really bend their heads to get in and out of the van because it wasn’t retrofitted. It was difficult for them.  She also had a heavy wooden ramp to get them in and out of the van.

Morena wrote,

“One day he just showed up at my house and told me to call such and such place to make an appointment for the van.  He explained to me that he had talked to some people in the community and had gathered enough funds to get the van retrofitted by a certified dealer, so the kids would not have to strain, trying to avoid hitting their heads.  And just like that, I took the van and had it done and a brand-new pair of very light steel ramps came with it.  We still have those ramps and they continue to be so very useful.  When Eagle Scout project time came for Mike, there was again Bob’s influence and help.  Mike could have chosen from so many projects but he chose to do a concrete ramp for our house so that the kids could get in and out of the house in a safe way.  I know that Bob had much to do with that decision and Mike was very thrilled to do that service for us.  All through the day, there was Bob making sure that everything was being done just right, working along with other men that I am sure he and Mike had recruited and not allowing me to worry about providing food because he brought lots of food and snacks for everyone to enjoy while working on the project.  That cement ramp will forever be a reminder of that beautiful day and of a most kind and generous Bob Miller and his son Mike.  Years later, my daughter Kathy decided to move to Salt Lake City seeking opportunities.  Bob and Connie had already moved to Salt Lake.  I called Bob to let him know that Kathy would be moving there.  Once again, there was Bob looking all over for accessible apartments for Kathy and looking for areas where he thought her needs would be best met.  He found the right apartment and we just had to go there and take care of the paperwork.  In between all these experiences, there were all the many dinners and family gatherings that he always invited us to.  His house was always full of people and he was always cooking some delicious food.  My kids had a very happy teenager hood in-spite of their circumstances in large part because Bob in one way or another was always including them in their family’s activities.  They knew he was a trusted friend who really cared for them.  Now you know some of the things that Bob did for our family.  But most importantly, I wanted your children to know it, so they can always remember what a great legacy their grandfather left them. I am thankful that I know we will see Bob again.”

My dad’s legacy is not in possessionsor worldly acclaim.  Most people don’t know his name.  And we, as his posterity, don’t know all of the good he has done in the world.  What we do know is that he loved us.  We know that family was first for himand forever.  We know to look for those down on their luckand to do something about iteven if all we have to give is a smile, a warm mealor a story of our struggle.  The final paragraph of his memoir states exactly what he expects of us-

“I could write on forever but I think this is the point where all of my family should take over the story and expand on what has been written here.  Your children will appreciate reading it someday and it will be your testimony to them.  I love Mom and all of you with every fiber of my being.  You have all made my life worth living.”

Just as my dad said of his motherI will say of him

My heart swells with pride to say his nameI can’t do justice with my wordsHe was a man of integrity, optimism, kindness, and perseverance. Our family will always be proud to know that his blood and courage are flowing through our veins.

I will be forever grateful for Morena and Vance and the honor they showed to my dad and the friends they have always been.  I hope to be the kind of friends that they are in the world.

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 my dad and Vance- scanned from my parent’s photos: taken at the Petaluma Memorial Day breakfast in the early 90’s

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their last visit- Memorial Day 2018 at my parent’s home

a highly favored friend

SCAN0067dad, Bishop Jim Earp, Steve Lindsey (nephew) @ Dillon Beach in the late 80’s (scan)

Jim Earp was one of my dad’s very favorite people in the world.  I know his words would mean a lot to him-

Yesterday, I received the sad news from Annie Miller that her father and our dear friend, Bob Miller had passed away.

Back in the mid 1980s, I served as a young bishop for our church in Petaluma, CA. Because of our small numbers, we always rejoiced whenever a new family would move into the ward. So, the Sunday that Bob and Connie Miller showed up with their four young kids in tow, I wasted no time bringing them into my office to get acquainted.

It took about a nanosecond to see that Connie was as sweet a person as you would ever come across. Bob was quick to assure me that Connie and the kids would be coming to church, but was careful to leave himself out of that equation.

Somewhere inside my head a little switch flipped and the thought came to me, “OK, so this guy is my next project.”

Fortunately, that is not what followed. What actually happened was that as Sue and I got to know the Millers, we fell in love with them and they became dear friends — the kind that you could invite over at the drop of a hat for dinner or dessert, or to just hang out, play some songs on the guitar and enjoy one another’s company.

Bob had a great sense of humor and enjoyed a good story — and he had a bunch of them stored up from a life that could best be described as “colorful.” He had made a lot of interesting acquaintances along the way. Once, he invited Sue and me to come with him and Connie to see the legendary Charles Brown perform in Berkeley. We got front row seats, listened to some great classic blues and even got to visit with Charles backstage after the show. Turns out, Charles was a close friend with a member of Bob’s family!

He was a great lover of — and quite versed in — music of all kinds, but especially blues, country and bluegrass. He always enjoyed it when I pulled out the guitar and we would all sing some John Denver songs together — which was a bit of a mystery to me why someone who appreciated good music all his life would enjoy my rather modest musical skills — but it was also an honor.

Bob was a born salesman. He had an endless supply of great ideas for selling something and making money. They didn’t always work out, but that never deterred him from pursuing the next opportunity.

I learned early in life that it’s generally not a good idea to mix friendship and business, so I had always studiously avoided opportunities from friends to make a buck. However, Bob has the singular distinction in my entire life of selling me on an idea he had come up with to produce a memorabilia book for Little League baseball players, where they could store their team photos, record their baseball stats and blend it all with some great baseball stories that taught the value of teamwork, sportsmanship and learning the fundamentals with discipline and hard work. We didn’t sell many of them, but I still have a case of those books in my shed — relics of some great memories and our enduring friendship.

Anyone who knew Bob knows how much he loved his family. Connie, Carin, Deedee, Michael and Annie were the center of his universe. I think he always thought he won the jackpot when he won Connie’s heart. She is not only the rebar that has given their family strength, she is the brick and mortar, too. Together, he and Connie raised a wonderful family that has remained close as they have grown up and are now raising families of their own.

 

How grateful I am that during our recent trip to Utah, Sue and I took the opportunity to spend a wonderful afternoon with Bob, Connie, Carin and Dede, and some of their kids. We sensed as we left that it might be the last time we would see Bob in this life.

I have this personal belief that is an extension of my faith — and that is that our closest friendships were forged before we ever came to this earth. That once here, we have the opportunity to renew those relationships and prove them while on this mortal journey.

A friend I met during our BYU days — and have kept all these years — recently described me as a “highly favored” friend — one of less than a handful throughout his entire life. That touched me deeply and confirmed to me that the most valuable work of our lives is found in how well we deal with our family and friends.

I can think of no higher compliment than to say that Bob and Connie Miller are “highly favored” in my life, that I am grateful that they are part of the fabric of our lives, and that I fully expect our friendship to endure not only through the ages, but in the eternities.

Jim Earp

leaving notes for the next guy

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I think these last 5 years are among Danny’s favorite.  We are surrounded by the most generous and loving neighbors and friends.  He loved his association with those serving alongside him.  He became familiar with his Savior in a way that couldn’t happen without his calling as a bishop.  He will miss all of that- but we are excited for quieter Sunday mornings and more family time.

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stand still

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Miles above the earth, flying around 600 mph is where I recently found the insight and inspiration to BE STILL.  I was sitting in the middle seat on our flight home from Washington DC.  Danny and I had enjoyed the most wonderful time.  I was anxious to get home, hug our girls, check on Mozart and dig into the crazy schedule of the coming week.  My book was boring me so I turned to the monitor in front of my seat.  After a few games of Solitaire (and frankly not playing very well) I continued to browse the monitor.  I found TEDtalks, which almost always interest me.  I sat in my seat and listened to THIS talk.

“So, in an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. And in an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.”  -Pico Iyer

I have recognized the value of stillness many many times…a heart of peace after attending the temple, a clear head after a yoga session, prayer, enjoying a quiet walk.  One of the stillness ideas that inspired him was an Internet Sabbath- a full day completely unplugging from electronic devices.  As I listened to him, I was re-energized in taking stillness seriously.  Lately I have felt distracted and busy, feeling like my wheels were spinning at maximum speed, yet I was staying still.  In seat 40F I made some quick decisions to put this into practice in my life and not just recognize it as a good idea.  Some ideas I want to experiment with—

Internet Sabbath- I will turn off electronic devices on Sunday, my family is already with me and it is the weekday I already enjoy recognizing as the Sabbath.

Device schedule- 
wake up-until kids leave for school…leave devices alone and use cell phone on a need basis (no internet browsing)
3:00 p.m. (when the girls get home) and later just use my cell phone as needed (texting, communication, etc…)
9:00 p.m.  turn my devices (iPad and phone) in for the night.  If my phone rings or a text dings attend to it…but other than that leave it alone (aka don’t waste an hour browsing Instagram, Facebook, Pintrest, etc…)

Morning routine-
wake up, do morning pages (I love these and learned this practice from The Artist’s Way and I have let it go lately), prayer and scriptures (study by topic with paper scriptures and journal instead of iPad)
We are going to watch this talk as a family tonight.  What everybody needs as far as creating stillness in their lives is COMPLETELY different.  I look forward to learning what Danny and the girls feel like they can do to apply this for them.  
This morning my scripture study was STILLNESS.  I found Exodus 14:3.  The Lord turned the hearts of the Egyptians against the people of Israel so that they would know that HE is the Lord.  The children of Israel flee with Moses into the wilderness.  They feel trapped, the Egyptians have “marched after them.”  The children of Israel lamented to Moses- they would rather live in servitude to the Egyptian than me killed by them!  Moses gave them the reminder I found on the plane last night-
“Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord…The Lord shall fight for you and ye shall hold your peace.”
I may not walk across the Red Sea on dry ground BUT I will be led, protected and guided if I like Moses-
fear not
stand STILL
SEE the divinity of the Lord

update:  Danny loved the talk but the other girls weren’t sure if they understood it.  They did come up with an idea after we discussed the talk…
Danny- spend more quiet time while driving, find time to step away from his phone
Ellie- create alone time every day
Kate- spend time in the backyard every day
Sophie- spend time reading