A short conversation at bedtime

Allison familyphotos 0614 065

R: Why is it called a dresser?

Me: I don’t know.

R: If it is called a dresser, it should have dresses. *starts laughing*

Me. Yup.

R: And if it has shirts it should be a shirter, and if it has pants it should be a panter, and if it has socks it should be a socker…

Me: *changing diaper* Mm-hmm.

R: …and if it has shoes it should be a shoer, and if it has sweaters it should be a sweaterer, and if it has swimsuits it should be a swimsuiter…

Children are nothing if not creative.

It’s the Little Things That Make a Difference


A few months ago, Bonnie had a bit of a rough day. Admittedly, that description doesn’t really narrow things down much, but I don’t remember the exact circumstances. She was probably frustrated or feeling overwhelmed. As we were sitting in bed, I was messing around on the computer, and she was looking at her phone (don’t judge. You can’t have a deep conversation every night). Anyway, I came across some youtube videos that had us both laughing our heads off. The only one I can remember specifically is the one at the top.

In the grand scheme of things, there’s probably not a lot of value in the massive number of ridiculous, mindless videos on the internet, but a good laugh was something we both needed. I think there’s a kind of beauty to the idea that even something silly and small can be just what someone needs.

This sort of thing translates very well into a good approach when we’re trying to offer comfort to those who are struggling. People often ask Bonnie and me what they can do, looking for some big (or small) way that they can change our lives for the better. While there have been a few instances where we needed a big thing (moving comes to mind), the truth is that there usually isn’t anything they can do to actually change our situation. Most of the time that will be the case. Instead, the things that I remember and the things that mean a lot to me are usually the small things:

– People saying hi to me – not the “pity-eyes” sort of greeting, but a real friendly hello.

– People who talk about things other than cancer, college and kids. (I considered spelling all three of those with a “k” so they would underscore the alliteration, but that would make an unfortunate acronym).

– Basically anyone who acts like I’m still a normal person and not a project.

In essence, I’m finding that small gestures make a difference. As I was writing this, I remembered a story that President Eyring told in the Oct. 2010 general conference:

Once I was at the hospital bedside of my father as he seemed near death. I heard a commotion among the nurses in the hallway. Suddenly, President Spencer W. Kimball walked into the room and sat in a chair on the opposite side of the bed from me. I thought to myself, “Now here is my chance to watch and listen to a master at going to those in pain and suffering.”

President Kimball said a few words of greeting, asked my father if he had received a priesthood blessing, and then, when Dad said that he had, the prophet sat back in his chair.

I waited for a demonstration of the comforting skills I felt I lacked and so much needed. After perhaps five minutes of watching the two of them simply smiling silently at each other, I saw President Kimball rise and say, “Henry, I think I’ll go before we tire you.”

“I thought I had missed the lesson, but it came later. In a quiet moment with Dad after he recovered enough to go home, our conversation turned to the visit by President Kimball. Dad said quietly, “Of all the visits I had, that visit I had from him lifted my spirits the most.”

I think I finally get this story. President Kimball didn’t come in trying to say the right thing. He wasn’t there with some idea about the perfect thing to say to buoy up Henry’s spirit and faith. He also didn’t make him give detailed explanations of his diagnosis and condition. He just came as a friend to see someone that he cared about.

Fine then, I guess I won’t be mad anymore

Hymn book

The other day I was super annoyed at someone. Actually, I was beyond that. I was furious with them. My rage burned with the heat of a thousand suns. I was mentally plotting ways to shun them and cut them out of my life.

Sunday morning rolls around and I quickly threw in something in my prayers about helping me forgive this person. Ask and ye shall receive, right? The last song in Sacrament meeting rolls around, and it was one of the few that I can’t immediately hum the tune: “Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses.”

If you’re like me, you’re sitting there thinking, “I’ve seen the title of that before.” I was expecting something like “Oh Say, What is Truth?” with a sort of huzzah for the Restoration theme. Not so. Here is the first verse to this obscure hymn:

Truth reflects upon our senses;
Gospel light reveals to some.
If there still should be offenses,
Woe to them by whom they come!
Judge not, that ye be not judged,
Was the counsel Jesus gave;
Measure given, large or grudged,
Just the same you must receive.

I sort of missed the first verse while I was distracted by kids, but I caught the last few lines and skimmed the rest, while singing verse two:

Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,”
For ’tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.

And, since I’m dense and tend to resist relatively clear messages from Deity, there are three more verses:

Once I said unto another,
“In thine eye there is a mote;
If thou art a friend, a brother,
Hold, and let me pull it out.”
But I could not see it fairly,
For my sight was very dim.
When I came to search more clearly,
In mine eye there was a beam.

If I love my brother dearer,
And his mote I would erase,
Then the light should shine the clearer,
For the eye’s a tender place.
Others I have oft reproved
For an object like a mote;
Now I wish this beam removed;
Oh, that tears would wash it out!

Charity and love are healing;
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble
When I think upon the beam.

The moral here is that you shouldn’t pray for things you don’t want.* Also for you ward music directors there, pick a weird hymn once in a while. Sometimes if we haven’t heard it a million times then we’ll be more likely to listen to the words.
*Technically I did want to forgive this person, just not right away.

The Future is Bright

Allison familyphotos 0614 018Tonight I’m sitting here in Palmyra. It has been a series of long days. On Saturday, we were packing, but a friend also took some nice pictures of our family. I picked that one of R, because I doubt most of us can remember the last time we were that happy and excited.

On Monday we were finishing up packing our house and trying to get on the road. Things took way longer than planned, so we drove until  2:00am on Monday to get to Cleveland, and then dr0ve a bunch more today. I’ll post about the trip more as I go along, but first I want to write this down. On Sunday, sacrament meeting went a little short. When that happened, Bonnie leaned over to me and said, “well, you’re up.”

At first I laughed and said, “yeah, right,” but sure enough Bishop Francis called on me and a few other people to share our testimonies. Sharing my testimony in sacrament meeting is my favorite. If by favorite you mean something I hate.

I really do enjoy talking in front of groups, but for some reason I don’t enjoy sharing my testimony in the big, formalized setting of sacrament meeting. Happily, I had been thinking about some worthwhile topics already, so I had some ideas of what to say. Here’s basically what I said:

[Disclaimer: I tell some stories that may or may not be strictly true. For me, that’s okay. Much like the scriptures, it’s sometimes more important to get what you’re supposed to get out of a story than to worry about if it happened exactly that way or not.]

I’ve been thinking about my first mission president a bit lately. His name was Walter J. Plumb III. He was a great man. He was a little crazy. And he was rich, so he could indulge some of the crazy, but he was also a fantastic person.

To help you understand the kind of person that he was, I’ll tell a few stories. First, he loved cars. His car of choice was a Porsche 911 Turbo. He saw a scene in some movie where a fast car went up a steep hill and got some air. He decided to try it, so he took one of his Porsches to a really steep hill in Salt Lake. He gunned the engine and got some air at the top, but when the car came down all the guts fell out of it and it was totaled. Seeing how wrecked his car was, he just called a tow service, took it to the dealer, and traded it in for a new one the same day.

He was also very generous with his money. One Christmas he took the mission van with the trailer hooked up and went to a toy store. He grabbed an associate and said, “just fill up the car with  one or two of everything.”

After the car and trailer were filled with toys, he took the AP’s and said, “Elders, where are the children? Let’s go find them and give them some toys.” He then spent the rest of the day handing out toys to kids in Rochester.

He was also famous for having a bunch of sayings that he would repeat. For lack of a better word I’ll call them catch-phrases. “Elders, where’s a gym? Anywhere you are. Just do some push-ups on the sidewalk.”

Of course, the most important and famous saying of his was “The future is bright.” which sometimes got expanded to something like, “Elders, future is so bright it’s practically blinding.”

The further I’ve gotten from that experience, the more I’ve realized how true that statement is. The future is bright. No matter what happens to us, no matter what trials and hardships we face, the future is bright. Pain and sorrow will be healed. Wrongs will be righted. We will be made whole again, because of the Atonement of Christ. He suffered so that he would understand us and be able to comfort us in our trials. Christ is our future, and that future is bright.

I think L needs sensitivity training…

IMG_1251Whenever I hear the phrase “sensitivity training,” I think of an old ad campaign for Reebok. Do any of you remember “Terry Tate, office linebacker?” He would run around tackling people for doing annoying things at the office. In one episode he gets in trouble for what he says to a guy and has to go to a ridiculous sensitivity training.

If our family were run like a business, L would spend her life talking to HR. Being a four-year-old, she doesn’t really have a filter on what she says, so in the last few months there have been a slew of awkward and insensitive questions and comments.

With me, she tends to stick to unkind comments about my weight:

“Dad’s fat, Mom’s thin, I’m little.”

“Dad, don’t eat all of those or you’ll get really fat.”

I’m not even fat or anything. I have maybe a little paunch, but I’m not fat. Of course, my weight isn’t the only part of my appearance which falls under her merciless gaze:

“Don’t put that on! You’ll break it because your head is way too big!”

…Thanks for dredging up my childhood insecurities honey.

Bonnie is not immune to this. In her case L usually leaves her appearance alone, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

“Dad, you’re smart right?” “Sure.” “But Mom’s not smart though, right?”

“Here Mom,” *hands her a stick* “It’s a present for you before you die.”

Anyone have a good response to that? Because I don’t know what etiquette demands for the “here’s a little something for you until you die” kind of present.

Friends and neighbors aren’t immune to the questions and observations either. We had a couple over for dinner who didn’t have any children. I don’t know if it’s by choice or not, but I prefer not to ask. L, on the other hand, piped up almost immediately with “do you have a baby in your tummy?”

Even strangers are often impaled by the queries of my child. When we were out on a walk, we were passed by a Native American guy with long hair. L piped up, “Is that a boy or a girl?”

“It’s a boy, L.”

“But why does he have long hair like a princess?”

Why indeed.