Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Serving an ASL Mission #Embark

Everything is kinda weird over here with our house completely turned upside-down with our many construction projects and house repairs.  But we are happily moving along, spending lots of time in close quarters, and trying to do our best to continue the most important things that make us who we are as a family!

One of those things is family home evening...the other is singing loudly to the 2011 Muppet Movie, which we only recently discovered!  It's brought us some fun memories!

But I'm hear to talk about the family home evening that we had last night.  Scarlett stayed home sick from school, so in the afternoon, I asked if she'd like to help give our FHE lesson that night.  

We had recently received another mission letter from Aunt Emmalee who served an ASL mission in the Phoenix, AZ area!

Since sign language is another thing our family is way in to, I asked Scarlett if she would like to learn to sign her testimony and share it with our family during FHE tonight.  She was very excited to do this!  

First, she wrote out a brief testimony in her own words.  Then we tried signing it using the signs we already know.  (She knew a bunch of church words, because they're learning to sign "I Know That My Savior Loves Me" in Primary right now.)  The other words we looked up real quick googling ASL + the word.  One sign that was new to us was "the Articles of Faith," which you'll see is signed by making an "a" followed by an "f" on the palm of your hand.

Anyway, we here's Scarlett's testimony:

We really enjoyed learning about Emmalee's mission experience and her great faith was evident.  I liked that she told the kids that she had wanted to serve a mission from an early age and as a result she did a lot through out her life to prepare herself, by studying  the scriptures, attending Seminary and Institute, and, in her words, "paying the price" to know for herself that the church is true.

In college, she was excitedly anticipating serving a mission when a friend cautioned her to make sure serving a mission was the right thing to do.  Emmalee asked the Lord in prayer if she should serve a mission.  The answer came.  The Lord assured Emmalee that she should serve a mission, and that she would serve, not just for the sake of serving a mission, but she would serve THE LORD'S mission.

Emmalee served in ASL areas and was also sent to serve on a Navajo Reservation, where she taught in Navajo and served where President Kimball did on his mission.

I love how Emmalee said, "I never thought a little deaf girl would learn how to speak Navajo, but I did.  We would sing in Navajo to share our messages."

She closed by encouraging our children to study the core doctrines of the church, to know them, and to share them.  She said, "Wherever you go, ask the Lord to help you know why you were sent to that area.  He will show you."

I love having so many examples of missionaries in our family who set a great example for our children!  Emmalee's commitment to prepare to serve the Lord from a young age and then her faith to humbly follow where the Lord would lead is a great example to us!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

50 Shades of Lies

I watched a brief clip of 50 Shades of Grey last night on Jimmy Fallon, so I could be a little more informed about the book/movie before giving my opinion. In the scene, the female is renegotiating the terms of her sexual contract with the male. They are sitting very far from each other at a dinner table. He says, “…so you’re saying that you want to leave (the relationship)?” She says, “Yes.” He says, “But your body is telling me something different.” So, let me get this straight. “Your words are telling me No. This stack of papers that you refuse to sign is telling me no. But your body, which is sitting far away from me in a modest/retreating pose, is TELLING ME YES.” This IS rape talk, if I’ve ever heard it…and yes, I’ve heard it. I cannot imagine anyone who has actually been victimized or abused or mistreated or manipulated into staying in an unhealthy intimate relationship could ever stomach a movie like this. Out of respect for myself and any other woman out there who has ever been victimized I will speak up and say, don’t see this movie.

Don’t buy into the lie that this is normal, good, acceptable behavior among “consenting” adults. Don’t buy into the lie that seeing this movie won’t damage YOUR OWN SELF-ESTEEM and change the way you feel you are perceived by men and society. Don’t buy into the lie that this movie’s acceptance by society won’t severely jeopardize a woman’s credibility when she SAYS NO (and lower the chances of her NO being respected and accepted by her aggressor).

Celebrating and glorifying the rape mentality, casting women’s bodies as “things” that can be “contractually signed over” to men for a period of time, will (and does) harm our society. Women and girls are sold into sex slavery every day, and I find it deeply saddening and offensive that as a culture we would seek entertainment in a practice that, in reality, enslaves and damages the lives of so many women, children, and men both here and abroad. Don’t tell the lie. Don’t sell the lie. DON’T BUY THE LIE.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Chocolate Law

As I've mentioned, our house is under some pretty major stress with multiple construction and repair projects going on simultaneously.

I'm learning just why God's house is a house of order...and ours should be too.  It's hard when things are not in order.  Among other things, I'm not able to spend as much time teaching and preparing special lessons for my family, because we are instead in a season of work right now, very temporal work.  And work has its own opportunities to teach and learn.

Anyway, I have wanted to do a mission map for our family for a while now, so last week, as I was cleaning up some atlases that Honor had been playing with, I decided to email our family and ask them to send a letter to our children talking about the missions they have served (both formal and informal)...where and when they served, what they did to prepare, and any lessons learned.

Last night, for FHE, we read the first letter, which came from my sister-in-law Renae.
We didn't tell the children who sent the letter at first.  We made it a mystery for them to solve.

Renae shared how she prepared in specific ways and some really memorable stories of faith.

She said that in Brazil, where she served, instead of knocking on doors, she would stand outside of the gate and clap loudly.  (The children enjoyed learning how to clap loudly!)

One fun detail that she shared was "Lei o Chokito" which was a rule she and her companions had for each other.  Whenever they were caught not using Portuguese or talking about home (when it was not P-day or they were not asked to do so by a Brazilian) then you had to buy your companion a candy bar called "Chokito"!  It's literally the Chokito Law!

I had hidden a Hershey's candy bar (which I had on hand) in the room earlier.  So the children had to find it first.  Then we played our own version of The Chocolate Law.  We sat in a circle and asked each other questions.  If anyone responded by using the words I or Me (or mentioned anyone's name) then we all called out "Chokito!!" and everyone ELSE in the circle got a piece of the candy bar.

The kids really enjoyed learning about Aunt Renae's missionary experience, marking where she served on our map, and playing the Chokito Law game.

I have to laugh, because I couldn't find the map that I had originally planned to use, and the one we ended up using has these words across the top, "We find out where conditions are the worst--the places where other are not going--and that's where we want to be."

I don't know whose slogan that is, but it can sure be said of the missionaries who go out across the world to places both desirable and suffering to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Updating Your Family Media Rules

Do you have a family media plan?  It's a set of guidelines that your family follows to determine how media will be used in your home.  During the summertime, as a family, we sat down and filled out this Family Media Plan Worksheet to determine what rules will guide how we use media as a family.

Following the suggestion to update family media rules often, we sat down as a family at dinner last night and reviewed, clarified, and restated our family media plan.  I allowed the children to tell me what they remember about our family media plan, and they were able to recall key points.

It's been six months since we created our media plan, and we can already see a need to remind us all what the rules are and re-explore the "why" behind these family rules.  

During our family meeting, we decided to add a specific rule about passwords, which we are hoping will help us in the future by putting it into play now.  Starting in the 4th grade, our schools provide children with iPads, so we felt a pressing need to address how that school iPad will be subject to our house rules--well in advance of Guy receiving it this coming fall.  

We also talked about how our main goal for our family is that each of us will grow to become responsible (from a young age) for protecting our own hearts from the things we will see and hear online and in the world.  

CLICK HERE to access the Family Media Plan Worksheet that we use.

Monday, January 26, 2015

...to be a wonderful Father.

I went to a baby shower over the weekend for my friend, who is having a baby boy.

Scarlett wrote the following card for the expected little boy:

I love that her "wish" for the baby is that he will grow up to "be a wonderful father!"

Being a parent, loving, teaching, and providing for your children is the most worthwhile goal, and I'm so glad that my child feels that this is a noble (and normal) wish to wish for a baby's future as well.  The Family Proclamation teaches us that, "The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife."...and that "Children are an heritage of the Lord."

I love my children.  And I'm glad to see that they are beginning to see the pattern of family that God desires for all of His children, that it is not just about "having cute babies" but it is about raising righteous, happy, well-adjusted people who grow up to become good and loving parents as well. It is God's plan, and it is glorious!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

For a Really Bad Day

My sister Dawn gave me this "unbirthday" gift with the instruction to only open it on a really "bad day". Just having it sitting on my shelf has gotten me through most of January, and there have not been any truly rotten days. My kids will say, "Mom, are you having a bad day yet? Let's open the gift now!" My goal is to not open the gift at all this year, and I think I might make it, because every time I see the present it just seems to wink at me and say, "You're not beat yet, keep going, Mama!" And I wink back and say, "You're right." I'll laugh some day if I open it and realize there's nothing in it, but of course it's filled with my sister's love. Thanks, Dawn!!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Oh, 2015!

If the first few weeks of 2015 has been an indication of what's to come, this is going to be a different kind of year for our family.  Thanks to fate and some plans of our own, we are knee (or neck) DEEP in construction over at our house.

Steve, ever the handy man, and our team of designers and helpers have been hard at work, dreaming and scheming ways to make our house our own.  It's been fun, but I'm sure it's about to get challenging...especially given the fact that we currently do not have a staircase going up to the kids' rooms!  

We've never had a situation like this before, where we have so many home construction projects going on at once, but I'm sure we'll make memories doing it together as a family...as a team.

I'm working hard on my own personal goals, and that along with being a Mom and all of the personal responsibilities that I have are keeping me pretty busy.  But the few goals that I have set for myself this year have already served me well a few times over.  So I happy about the direction in which I am heading.  Remember:

“One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.” 
― Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tony Chestnut

Finally, the day has come. My kids are going back to school and I'm bawling. It's been a very long holiday for us, with lots of family time, ending in a funeral for a great, great man. I hurried and tried to think of something profound to say as my children walked out the door this morning. All I could think of was "remember who you are!" And Autumn says in all seriousness, "Oh yeah, I remember, Toe-knee Chest-nut!"

"Tony Chestnut" is a joke my Uncle Johnny used frequently to get a laugh.  He'd say, "Hey, what's your name?"  The person would answer, and then he'd say, no, you're name is "Toe-knee Chest-nut!" and he'd point to the person's toe, knee, chest, and noggin.  The joke was just so silly, you couldn't help but laugh.

What a blessing to take time out of our busy lives to remember who we are, who our people are, and who we are in relation to them.  And to Autumn, this morning, she was Toe-knee Chest-nut!
To Tony Chestnut!!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

1985 LDS Hymnbook

Back in 1985, when the church published the new hymnbooks, our ward didn't have the money to buy all new ones for the whole congregation, so families were asked by the Bishop at the time (my grandpa) to consider purchasing a hymnbook for their family's use.  If you could donate just one, great.  If you could donate more, then do it!  Donated books were inscribed (by my Mom) with the person or family's name and the year: 1986.

It was such a special and wonderful thing to see these new green books appear in the pews!  And we were instructed on more than one occasion from the pulpit on how these books were to be treated.  They were to be used carefully and stored "spine-down" to prevent wear and tear.

Over the years, we have often enjoyed flipping to the front page of the hymnbooks to see whose name is inscribed in the front.  Sometimes the people have moved away or passed on and are remembered with fondness.  Sometimes, the person whose name is there, we haven't seen in a while and we're reminded to seek after their welfare.  Sometimes, the name we see is our own.

So, we're sitting in church this morning, in my home ward, with two of my three sisters, and my sister Dawn realizes that the hymnbook that my daughter is using is the one donated by my parents in behalf of my sisters Dawn and Cara back in 1986.  We took this silly photo just for fun, and remembered all the good times we had together around these books, and flipped through the other hymnbooks nearby looking for more familiar names...a ritual!

Now whenever I visit a chapel and see hymnbooks that are tattered and excessively worn, I get kind of irritated, I guess, and I think, this ward clearly didn't donate these hymnbooks themselves!  If they had, they'd be treating their books like the special gifts they are.  Even now when I go home, our hymnbooks which are now nearly 30 years old, are still in very nice condition, with careful repairs made when needed, and stored spine-down.

I recently heard that new hymnbooks are in the works for the church.  I'm guessing that the financial affairs of wards are different now, and maybe most people will just access the new hymnbooks on their devices, but oh, how there'll always be a place in my heart for these hymnals, bought at personal, financial sacrifice, by members of the Great Lorain Ward!

PS - It's my sisters Cara's 40th Birthday today!
Happy Birthday, Cara!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Uncle Johnny

In my last post, my first post (of the new year) I mentioned that some stories end while others are just beginning.  

One final chapter in our family's history closed officially on Tuesday of this week when my Uncle Johnny died.

At the age of 94, Johnny Ourednik lived a very full life.  An extraordinary life, really.   Kind, generous, a friend to all, a beloved protector of children, a servant of the humble, the disabled, and the fatherless. He was a true angel walking the earth. A true hero. He and his wife Patsy have changed our family forever for the better. Although I know this much to be true about him, probably much of his story cannot be told by me, because I only know part of it, the part that touched me personally and connected with my Mother.  But the faces in the photo above, most of them passed away now, could tell his story very well, I'd imagine.

The people in the picture above are my family.  My Grandma in the glasses seated on the right, my Grandfather next to her, who I never knew because he died when my Mother was a 4-month old baby.  My great-aunt Carol, the child whose back is to us.  And Johnny, front and center, and his wife Patsy who has his arm around Johnny.

There's so much to tell about these great people, as I said before, gathered on this one occasion, eating outside, at a table set so nicely, celebrating the September birthdays in our family...which would include Johnny's.

Johnny and Patsy were my Mom's Godparents.  When my Grandma became widowed with an infant, Johnny and Patsy stepped in and played the role of loving guardian in more ways than I probably know.

Most famously, Johnny took my Mom into town to visit Santa Claus, and when she needed her diaper changed, he simply passed her into the woman's bathroom to the attendant, and the baby was passed back out to him when she was clean again.  

But those aren't the stories that I remember personally.  What I remember always about Johnny is that Johnny always told jokes.  Hundreds of them.

And humor was a magical gift that our family most definitely needed in the face of such tragedy.  I'm sure Johnny developed that gift as his own coping mechanism.  His son Jeffrey was born with a disease (which he later died from) that caused him to spend all of his years confined to a wheelchair.  I remember visiting them as a child and being slightly uncomfortable with Jeffrey's condition.  Johnny told joke after joke, which had punchlines usually set up or told by Jeffrey, which had us all laughing and feeling good before long.

I can't imagine how unselfish a person must be to always be turning the conversation toward the comfort of others.

My favorite memory from that time was that Johnny had a drawer in his back room full of wonderful (to me) treasures.  Sometimes he'd tell us to go back and get his harmonica, and we would.  And he would play all sorts of fun tunes.  This was when we discovered his "laughing box".  It was a small sound box that emitted the most outrageous laughter when turned on.

Somehow, we ended up with this box.  At that time, I owned a beloved doll called "Baby Soft Sounds".  She too had a voice box that made sweet, lovely baby gurgling noises.  One night, my sister and I switched the baby noise box out for the laughing box.  We laughed so hard every time someone new discovered our "laughing" doll.

Four years ago, I interviewed Patsy and Johnny and compiled their favorite jokes in a joke book that I gave to my family for Christmas.  I'm so that I did!  To have his jokes to read and remember is priceless.

Another thing I'll remember about Johnny is how generous he was in all ways.  This was a small demonstration of his generosity, but it happened so often it must be noted, that whenever we visited him, as we said good-bye, he'd press a dollar or some coins into our hands as we parted.  He still does this when my children visit him, and he, as far as I know, was not a wealthy man.

And speaking of children.  His love for them knows no bounds.  I recently called him The Baby Whisperer, because he is so good with babies in particular.

In the last two years, we've dubbed Honor "his girlfriend" because they've been such sweet friends together.  

Here he is letting her steal some fries off of his plate.  

And when we would visit, Johnny often loved to let Honor climb on or push around his walker.  They were just adorable together!

He is always thinking of others' happiness.  That is what is just so magical about him.

This year, we wanted to make a special gift for Johnny and Patsy, so as a family, we found our favorite kid jokes and compiled them in a book.  My children illustrated the pages with pictures to go with each joke.  We had such a good time writing this book and did it over a couple of weeks.  When it was finished, my children would proudly tell their jokes to their friends, over and over again.  And I realized before long, that our gift to Johnny was actually a gift to us.  We laughed more than he probably ever would at these jokes...and again, Johnny and his jokes, were bringing us joy.

This is the first time that I really considered what a powerful thing it is to be able to laugh and to make others laugh.  To remain childlike.  What a gift.

At Thanksgiving, we made it a priority to hand-deliver our joke book to Johnny and Patsy.  They sat and read the jokes aloud with the kids and laughed, although I'm sure we didn't come up with anything they hadn't heard a million times before.  Then we sang them a few songs.  Honor ate the chocolate out of their candy-dishes like a mad-woman.  And then Johnny sang us some of the songs that he knew as a kid.  We felt the spirit that night very strong.  As we drove out of town, we all just felt a goodness and contentedness inside that was undeniable.

Hearing that he had died, I was even more glad that we had gone to visit them so much in the last few years...even though they live 5 hours away from us, we've been able to build our relationship with them through visits and phone calls and letters.

This is a rather incomplete tribute, but I wanted to get something written down, before we head off to his funeral in the coming days.

I said that this chapter, Johnny's chapter, was closing, but really I hope it never ends.  I hope that knowing Johnny has changed me enough to want to bring laughter into the lives of others from here on out, and to value laughter a little more than I have in my life thus far.  To think of other's happiness above my own.  To love with a generosity of spirit that I've rarely seen in others.  I look forward to remembering Johnny with my family this weekend, and I hope that we can all emulate his legacy in the year ahead.