Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kids Wall Art ~ TOO FUN!!! A MUST SEE!!

Art can capture a moment, a feeling, a delight or a help you hold onto a memory.
Our daughter-in-law is such a remarkable artist!!

I just wanted to give all of my very savvy friends a head’s up. Matt’s wife, Amy Abney, is a fabulous artist. If you have never seen the lifelike rendition she painted for us of BJ you need to come over and see it if you are in town. You would swear he is looking right into your eyes.
Amy can basically paint anything, but her first love is children’s art and she now has a website up and running. If you are looking for whimsical, visually stimulating artwork for your kids’ rooms, I have the solution!! Even if you aren’t in the market for anything right now you should take a look because you will ENJOY looking and you never know when someone might say they are looking for something like that and then you can come to their rescue and tell them where to go (in a nice way, of course)… send them to the site:

Be sure to click on the different links and scroll down to see samples of what she paints. I’m rather partial to her alien line. Cute, cute, cute. Enjoy!! Love to all!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Communication at the Speed of Light

We are busy people… probably TOO busy. Yet, I haven’t a clue what I could possibly leave out since there are so many things that I feel like I should do, that I seldom find time to do. So, whenever we have lessons at chruch on gratitude and people raise their hands with all of the obvious answers of being grateful for love, family, gospel, prophets, temples, freedom, and so on, I say a hardy, “Amen.” And then I raise my hand and tell everyone that I am grateful modern electronic technology. That’s the absolute truth. I do it every time. I LOVE email, blogs, cell phones, voicemail, online photo albums, FACEBOOK, and the like. I’ve even learned how to text.

The thing that I love best about all of the above is that I can use them completely on my own terms and my own timetable. I read my email (and reply) when it suits me. The same applies for voicemail or checking out my FACEBOOK pages. And while I was sleeping, or teaching or traveling or whatever… someone left me a message or a link or some information that I need or want and when I get to where and/or when I want to look at it or listen to it, I am free to do so, even if it is in the middle of the night!

When our son, BJ, was so ill with leukemia, there were well over a hundred people who wanted to know how he was doing. Blogs did not yet exist as that would have been the best, I think. But I used email to stay in touch with everyone, even people in my own family, neighborhood and ward. It made it so that I did not have to repeat all the details over and over (which I could have never endured) and everyone knew what was happening, how they could help, what prayers were needed, etc. The support that poured in and enveloped us like a comfortable quilt carried us through the most difficult days of our lives. I wrote everything out once (which became my only journal of those times) and I clicked on all of the addresses and “poof” people all over the country (and even a couple out of the country) were thinking of us and our sweet BJ. I cannot tell you how much their reply emails helped us on several different levels.

From I reconnected with a few of my dearest friends in high school… and thirty years after our glory days, we met up in Hawaii for eight days of heaven on earth. We all remain in touch today and wish for matching schedules that would allow us to go to Hawaii again!

I’ve hooked up with former classmates, ward members and friends from the past through FACEBOOK and find it useful in keeping up with all of them (including family members). I also think part of the spirit of Elijah is being fulfilled as connection after connection occurs all over the world.
~ "Malachi 4: 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD; 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers..." It’s a wonderful thing.

So, yes, I’m grateful for electronic technology. However, it can’t take the place of the personal touch. Just yesterday I went visiting teaching and gave my sister a card that read on the cover, “In this fast-paced, busy world, when you need friend, just pick up the phone and call me…”

Inside it said: “And leave a message after the beep.”

Saturday, March 14, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: A Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl

I finished A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life And Death Of My Husband, Danny Pearl
by Mariane Pearl the other day. In some ways it reminds me of Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Both take place mostly in Pakistan and both are so powerful that you reflect on them for days and even weeks to come. Both have some rough language but it was nearly transparent to me as the heart-wrenching frustrations in each story resulting in such words were so overwhelming that I hardly noticed the harsh and sometimes foul words, normally foreign to me. (And in both cases, I listened to the book on CD driving to and from work over the course of a couple of weeks. I still consider them books that I "read").

I remember when this occurred as the world held it's breath for five long weeks, sending up prayers in many languages for Danny's safe return. He was a reporter and the South Asia Bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. Danny put himself in harm's way to shed some light to the side of the news that might bring about world understanding. Instead, in this instance, it brought a type of horror that proved to be both universal and yet painfully personal for his wife, Mariane, who was pregnant with their first child, a son.

On January 23, 2002, on his way to what he thought was an interview at a village restaurant in Karachi, Pearl was kidnapped by the militant group, "The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty." This group claimed Danny (of Jewish heritage and an American) was a CIA agent. Before he left for the interview, he told Mariane that he might be late for dinner. He never returned.

Mariane's riveting account of realizing her husband was missing and working to help the authorities piece it all together, leading up to Danny's eventual and brutal murder will leave you forever changed. Mariane is also an award-winning journalist and shares a very detailed step-by-step account of what took place. Surprisingly, interwoven throughout every page of the book, is a love story so intimate, intense and tender that you'll find often yourself smiling and feeling very privileged to "know" these remarkable people, including those surrounding Mariane during this difficult time ... each with their own "mighty heart."

The book on CD is read by Mariane. You really need to concentrate to understand her as she was born of an Afro-Chinese-Cuban mother and Dutch-Jewish father in France. She is a practicing Buddist. Mariane was raised in Paris and has a very unique accent. It's a good thing that you have to listen so carefully as you want to catch every detail and no one else would ever be able to tell the story as she does. It's a story I shall not soon forget. It makes you grateful and also sad but leaves you in awe of the courage of so many of our brothers and sisters half-way around the world, especially Mariane, whose heart is every bit as mighty as her husband's.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Missionary Puzzle

Saturday night I spoke in the adult session of Stake Conference. If you already heard me speak this might not interest you or then again, maybe it might because I included a couple things I MEANT to say but since I didn't look at my paper that much, I forgot and wish I hadn't but I can't "go there" ~ just need to feel that how I said it was what was needed overall). I had ten minutes and used it all up. IF I wasn't so busy (ANWA writers conference all that day, etc.) AND IF I wasn't such a procrastinator and had actually practiced it a time or two before stake conference, I would have been able to actually give it the way I wanted but whatever... I'd love your feedback anyway.

So, here’s a VERY condensed version of my talk:

I teach 2nd grade and my students love to do puzzles. It’s more fun to do them with someone and as each person places their piece in the correct spot and a picture unfolds, it can be very gratifying.

When I was told the topic was “Missionary Work” because they had heard great things about me, I was quite surprised and wondered if I had ever really been very successful as a missionary. Then the Lord showed me my kids doing puzzles and that I’m a piece of the puzzle. Just like the kids, you might not see the results with those early pieces… but as each one adds their piece to the table it’s easy to see that more than one person has a piece to offer. And even more importantly, sometimes it’s almost impossible to fit a particular piece in until some of the surrounding pieces are in place.

Missionary work is a puzzle. [I then went on to tell about Sun Wei’s visit from China and taking her to church, the visitor’s center, home teaching, and how she used her pocket translator to read the Ensign, etc.]. As part of her “American Experience” I was allowed to “expose” her to our religion, and so I “exposed” her! She didn’t want to leave. She wanted to stay with us and enjoy “typical American life” because she "liked it very much." I think it was the spirit that she was feeling.

[I also told about experiences I had when I was a “Stake Missionary” WAY BACK WHEN. I had a sister companion in the ward. Our calling was to the less active sisters ~ there were 11 of them in our ward and they became our visiting teaching beat – YES, 11 sisters].

As we got to know these sisters I came to realize that they were the hidden treasures of the ward. They were wonderful and talented women. We began to lay down our puzzle pieces.

One sister loved old Westerns so out of the blue I suggested a slumber party. The three of us spent the night at her house, stayed up watching old Westerns, eating junk food and had a wonderful time. We kidnapped her for breakfast on her birthday, gave her a “year supply” box for a gift. (Turned out to be 12 bags of black jelly beans, her favorite, each bag labeled by month). She got a kick out of that.

We “heart-attacked” the front yard of another sister on her birthday and hid in the bushes to see her surprise until the automatic sprinklers turned on! So much fun!!

[I spoke of other experiences with other women and some neighbors - too detailed to share here].

Little by little, as we added our puzzle pieces and got to know these sisters it became easier to see where another piece might fit. And for many of these sisters we may never know if their puzzle is yet complete. But the important thing is that we put our piece on the table.

It’s sad when wards divide and you think you will have the same amount of contact with the ward members as before (especially when no one even moved) but more often than not we get busy with our new ward and new callings and except for a quick hello at stake functions, don’t see each other very much.

But today, I see one of those sisters as our ward leaves the building and hers enters. Was I the reason she chose to return to church activity? No, but I was a piece of the puzzle. Many other people added their puzzle pieces over the years.

Another sister whose teenage son we taught told us firmly this was his passion and she would not be participating, so we just became friends instead. Later her younger son also joined and both served missions, adding their puzzle pieces. She is now a baptized member with a temple recommend. She was surrounded by wonderful neighbors who also added their puzzle pieces long after the ward divided.

One day we had a knock on the door. “Hi. I’m Jesse. Do you remember me? I used to live across the street. I’m 23 now and have moved back to AZ. I always remembered your family and how it felt to be in your home and I joined the church a year ago.”

And so the puzzles go… In closing, I’d like to suggest some puzzle pieces that you don’t want to overlook: Have fun; make friends; follow the spirit and sometimes, you have to try another way to fit the piece into the puzzle. Just don’t be the piece that’s missing! Bring your piece to the table of missionary work and see a beautiful life come together… now… or sometime in the future.

I put down my puzzle pieces and forever changed and enriched my life. Got a puzzle piece? Wanna’ play?