Sunday, December 4, 2011

Joy to the World

I cannot think of Christmas without thinking of the music that abounds during this season. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Joy to the World,” “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains,” "The First Noel," "Jingle Bells," “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and many, many more come immediately to mind. More than any time of year, I find myself ready to “make a joyful noise” all over the place! This truly is the season of joy. We celebrate the miracle of a baby, born in the humblest of circumstances, who came to save us all. What greater reason is there to have and express joy?

I hope you each make the time for the quiet moments of pondering that will allow you to feel the true joy of Christmas. Then, I invite you to make a joyful noise all around you. Make a joyful noise as you pray meaningfully to your Father in heaven, for your own needs and for the needs of those you know and love. Make a joyful noise as you share your testimony when prompted by the Holy Ghost. Make a joyful noise as you seek out those in need (whether that need is one of food or of a loving, thoughtful gesture) and seek to fill those needs. Make a joyful noise as you spend quality time with your family and friends, discussing the real reason we are so joyful at this time of year. Make a joyful noise as you mend quarrels and forgive offenses. Make a joyful noise as you seek ways to serve more throughout the year. And by all means, make a joyful noise as you sing all the beautiful songs that tell of our Savior's birth. The music we make, whether on- or off-key, is always beautiful when it expresses the deepest feelings of our heart.

With much love to you all this Christmas season,

Sister Jennifer Ort

Some of my faves:

En español - 'Los Peces en el Río' - this talks about how even the fishes in the river are excited about the birth of the baby Jesus

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fear 101

Fear has been on my mind a lot recently. I have had several conversations with friends recently who have shared their fears with me. None of these were huge, life-threatening fears. Instead, they were struggling with small fears--fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of disapproval--that kept them from doing the good things that would ultimately bring them peace and happiness. With that on my mind, I chose "fear" as the subject of the last lesson I taught in Relief Society. In spite of the fact that the topic had been on my mind for several weeks, I was completely unprepared for the FABulous discussion that resulted. I don’t want to forget this fantastic discussion, so I decided to write out what I can remember from my notes.

First, we discussed what fear is. We had a very long list that included the expected (scared, afraid, worry, pain) and the unexpected (physical response, respect, opposite of love). We considered the different kinds of fear: fear of law, fear of consequences or punishment, fear of imminent, physical danger, fear that is worry or nervousness, fear that demonstrates a lack of faith, and fear that is godly. There are several examples in the scriptures that demonstrate different kinds of fear. In the garden of Eden, Adam disobeyed God and was afraid (Genesis 3:10). According to the Bible Dictionary (P. 672 in the LDS version of the Holy Bible), "Sin destroys that feeling of confidence God’s child should feel in a loving Father, and produces instead a feeling of shame and guilt. Ever since the Fall, God has been teaching men not to fear, but with penitence to ask forgiveness in full confidence of receiving it."

There are other examples of fear in the scriptures. When I think of scriptural examples, Jonah comes to mind. God commanded him to warn the people of Ninevah, who were truly wicked. But, like Adam, Jonah tried to hide, forgetting that there is no hiding from God. But, after only a few days, Jonah, who in is heart truly feared God (in the sense that he respected him, worshiped him), turned to the Lord and was given another chance. It is encouraging to me that the Lord allowed Jonah to do his work, even though he didn’t answer the call perfectly on the first try.
Another well known example of showing courage, in spite of fear, is Esther. The wife of a temperamental king, Esther had good reason to fear for her life. The king decreed that anyone who came to him without being summoned might be put to death. Esther exercised her faith, fasted and prayed, and, in the end, saved her people.

I don’t think most of us will be in the position of having God himself command us to warn a nation of rotten, scary people or to plead for our lives in front of a king who is known for chopping off heads when he’s in a bad mood. However, I do think we are often in the position of needing to speak up to someone who is near us and may need our warning voice. I do think we are in the position of having to say hard things to people we care about or to people who may be in a position of authority over us. I also think that how we respond to the smaller, daily fears—speaking in front of a group of people, saying a prayer at church, calling a church sister we don’t know to check on her, walking into church when we’ve been gone a while, walking into any new place where we know no one, the list could go on forever—will teach us and prepare us to face the bigger fears, when we are faced with something we don’t believe we can possibly overcome.

So, we have to consider, what is fear supposed to teach us and what has God commanded us to do with our fear? Here’s a brief list:

>Don’t fear man more than God (D & C 3:6-7)
>Fear NOT to do good (D & C 6:33-37)
>Speak the word without fear (Phillippians 1:14 + chapter heading)
>Serve God with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 12:28)
>Perfect love casteth out fear( Moroni 8:16 / 1 John 4:18)

One of the sisters, Sister Bradshaw, shared a fantastic experience that really touched me and seemed to perfectly illustrate what we need to learn about fear. She told us that her son had been very afraid of water and did not want to go swimming until she got him a pair of floaties. Once he understood that the floaties would keep him above water, he grew to love swimming at the pool. One day, he was going a little too fast and slipped on the edge of the pool, fell in and went under the water. There may have been an instance where Susan could have chosen to panic, to teach her son that this was scary, but she stayed calm and let the floaties do their job. He slipped, he went under, but in just a few seconds, the floaties brought him right back up so his head was above water. I was amazed at her wisdom and her calm reaction. She taught her son to stay calm, have faith in the floaties that would lift him back up.

What a brilliant example for us to follow! Mortality can really be a bumpy road. We hear often that this life is a “test,” and that we are here to learn and progress. When we slip and fall (whether this is dealing with a crisis or simply forgetting, for a time, to trust in God), what are the floaties that will lift us back up? Another brief list:

>the standard answers to everything: pray, read the scriptures, go to church (obvious,but still true)
>the example of others
>the memory of a better time, or a time when you received peace, comfort or testimony
>service – uplifting in even the darkest times
>___________ (fill in the blank)

After this discussion, I find myself looking on fear as a tool. Fear can warn me of true danger, physical or spiritual. Fear can help me build my faith and prioritize. Am I wasting my energy fearing things that will ultimately make me a better person?

Final thought, from Elder F. Enzio Busche:
“It takes courage and commitment to follow the promptings of the Spirit because they may frighten us as they lead us to walk along new paths, sometimes paths that no one has walked before, paths of the second mile, of acting totally differently from how worldly people act. For instance, we may be prompted to smile when someone offends us, to give love where others give hate, to say thank you where others would not find anything to be thankful for, to accept jobs that others would be too proud to do, to apologize where others would defend themselves, and to do all the seemingly crazy things that the Spirit prompts a righteous, honest, listening heart to do” (“The Only Real Treasure,” New Era, Dec. 1979, p. 5).

Perfect love casteth out fear (1 John 4:18)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ainsley's Big Spring

This has been a very eventful spring for Ainsley!
First, she turned 13! Here are a few shots from her party:

Ainsley + delicious chocolate cake made by Grandma Judy

Ainsley + Cake + Candles + Friends

Party Guests:

Jarom showing off:

Ainsley + Presents

After we dispensed with the cake and presents, we broke out the nail polish! It was a load of fun to paint nails with such a large group, but I am afraid there are no pictures of the melee. You'll have to use your imagination!

After the excellent birthday, Ainsley had an orchestra concert:

The 7th Grade Orchestra played very well. Here is a video of Dragon Hunter, their final piece:

Finally, Ainsley was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. Congratulations Ainsley!

Ainsley + Allison

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chloe's Big Day

May 27, 2011: Burke Elementary Fifth Grade Graduation

Chloe before school, ready to knock'em dead:

As usual, Chloe was ready right on time, so we even had time to take more than one picture!

The Fifth Grade Procession

Mr. Klapmeyer was the MC for the event. First, he introduced the Burke Honor Choir. This year's fifth grade class was the first to have the opportunity to audition for the honor choir. Next year's choir has been chosen, and so the incoming fourth graders got to perform with the graduating fifth grade choir. Ms. Potter, the music teacher, has created a really great program for our kids! They opened with "Watch As We Walk On Our Way."

Mr. Klapmeyer shared a few thoughts before the certificates were presented to the students:

One by one, each teacher introduced their class and presented a certificate to each student. Mr. Norgren's remarks:

Chloe received her certificate in record time (or maybe the photographer needs some training. . . or a tripod to hold the camera steady)

Chloe exits, stage left

Chloe zooms back to her seat

Mr. Wadlow, Assistant Principal, shares a few thoughts:

The Honor Choir closed with "Eye of the Tiger," which has become a theme song for the Burke Elementary Tigers

The After Party in Mr. Norgren's room:

The Graduate

The Graduate and The Teacher

The Graduate and The Brother

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Aftermath of Holly's Most Magnificent Wreck

Holly had her first, real bike wreck over Easter weekend. It was quite traumatic all around but she got some great wounds to show off. Sadly, the pictures seem pale compared to real life, but you get the idea.

This is Holly a couple of hours after the wreck, still pitiful, but no longer bloody.

The morning after - her eye was quite swollen and difficult to open, but not too bruised.

The most impressive eyebrow

Three days post-wreck, the bruises are very impressive - a lovely, ghoulish green that does not photograph well. You can see, however, that Holly is feeling fine now.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Good Old Days

As I was contemplating another summer working (probably) at minimum wage, I decided to look up my old blogs from the Wal-mart days. I can't say I miss working at Wal-mart but it did offer endlessly entertaining people-watching. Here's the first blog I wrote about working at Wal-mart:

I have a new job. I am a cashier at Wal-Mart. It's not exactly a career move, but it works for our family for now. Having spent so much time raising kids over the last ten years, I have led quite a sheltered life. My new job has been quite a surprise. I kept telling myself to have a good attitude and quit being so snobby (like, "I went to college for this? why did I bother?") and appreciate what is. Well, to my surprise, I have enjoyed my new job (so far). It has its moments but it is fairly busy and my co-workers are nice.

Of course, the part I was really unprepared for are the customers! When I am the customer, I usually aim to be friendly but not too chatty. I mean, why would a cashier I've never seen before want to know my life story or all about my health conditions or anything else? What I had forgotten after years of being a mommy is that there are SO many different types of people in this world and they are all interesting! I started keeping a list of some of my favorites. Not all can be posted in this blog, but I thought it would be fun to post a few. Here's a start to my list:

Wal-Mart's most interesting customers:

#1: Mommy gone wild: Early, early on Easter morning, a happy but harried mother came through my line. Her cart was overflowing with Easter stuff--toys, candy, plastic eggs of every variety. . . While I was helping the person in front of her, she began to unload her cart onto the belt. Then she told me that she had already done her "main" Easter shopping but just came back to get a few special things (seriously, there was a mountain of stuff overflowing her shopping cart) but she left her checkbook at home. She insisted she lived only 3 minutes from the store and she needed to run home and stay with her kids and her husband would come to the store with the checkbook and be there before I was done ringing it all up. What to do? Well, the manager said I could suspend the transaction if she didn't make it back by the time I was done. So, I rang everything up--it took at least 20 minutes. Remember, she had already filled the belt/counter/place with stuff and still had a full cart. I had to ring up and then keep unloading her cart and ringing up the rest of it. It took FOREVER and the grand total was $699 and change! And did she come back?? or her husband?? Of course not! I think maybe she was a little crazy perhaps. . . at least, I kind of hope so! Why else would you fill a cart with $700 worth of stuff and then just leave? All that time wasted and you still don't have what you wanted (if she had every really planned to buy it!. Then again, did she meet some terrible end? Was attacked by a nefarious creature on her way home? only the shadow knows. . . .

#2: Playstation Playboy: Okay, early on in my shift last Saturday, I seemed to have a lot of electronics going through my register. If you are not familiar with wal-mart's policies, they will no longer let you walk around the store with electronics in your cart. If you want something, you have to pay for it in the electronics department or have an employee carry it up to the front for you. So, I had a nice little pile of digital cameras and other paraphernalia sitting at my register waiting for customers to come claim and pay for them. They bring me a playstation 3 (I had no idea there was more than 1!) and point to the man who is going to buy it - - seriously, I'm pretty sure he's an actor I've seen on Law and Order SVU playing one of the criminals. He had the look of the quiet, dangerous type. Like, he's nice and quiet and everyone thinks he's harmless but by the end of the show, you find out he's a serial rapist or something (yet another reason I should NOT watch crime shows - - everyone starts to look like a criminal to me!). ANYway, the playstation rang up for $700! WOW! I had no idea! I thought these were toys - - $700??? plus a service plan and sales tax and the total came to $765.90. . . and he paid in cash. . . and I don't mean he handed me several hundred dollar bills. It was a thick stack of fifties, twenties, tens, etc. I have an odd sort of respect (or is it fear?) for someone who can hang on to that much cash. I get nervous carrying more than $20 cash around in my purse.

And from a later blog:

The Winner! and. . . Proper Shopping Attire

Current mood:cheerful
Too add to my earlier list of interesting customers. . . this man wins the award for "Most Interesting Customer":

A man comes up to me at my register holding a package of fluorescent light bulbs. He gives off the "odd" vibe immediately--he's middle aged, long gray hair, wearing all green, with a green coat on a very warm day, hands are shaking just a bit--but he definitely appears harmless. He says, "I wonder if you can help me." I smile and try to put him at ease since he is clearly nervous and/or upset about something--it must be a really big deal if he needs my help! He continues, "I scanned these lights bulbs on one of the machines to find out how much they are and when I scan them, the machine says they are 13 watt bulbs, but the package says they are 15 watt bulbs." He pauses and looks at me expectantly. ??? I'm stumped so I offer to scan it for him. My register shows me the price but not the bulb wattage--too small of a display, I guess. . . or perhaps just a display intended to show the PRICE and not a full description? I explain to him that the package is surely correct. If the price scanner showed it as a 13 watt bulb, it was probably just a typographical error or a problem with the display (I assume? who uses a price scanner for anything but to find out. . . the PRICE?). He looks at me again, clearly he is deeply troubled about this, and says, "I just don't know what I should do?" Now I am really stumped? I've given it my best shot! What else can I offer? I assure him they are 15 watt bulbs and he finally decides to buy them. THANK GOODNESS! A little more light in his home can only be a good thing!

now. . . on to another important topic:
Proper Shopping Attire

1. Fishnets are discouraged under any circumstances.

2. Bare midriffs on persons who weigh in excess of 300 pounds are strictly prohibited. For that matter, unless you are within 25 pounds of your ideal weight, you should adopt a firm "no bare mid section" rule right away!

3. T-shirts with logos from the "Million Dollar Fantasy Ranch" are discouraged at all times--but especially when buying condoms and/or KY jelly. . .
3a. If you really have no other shirts, then please cover the logo so the cashier will not embarrass him/herself by laughing uncontrollably.

4. Formal attire (such as a prom dress or tuxedos) may be worn at your own risk, but we recommend that you avoid the beer/liquor aisle (spills happen there all the time--wonder why?).

5. Cleavage is limited to a maximum of 2 inches unless your cup size is larger than an F (in which case, common sense says not showing cleavage is nearly impossible!).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Break

Monday - heading out of the city in lovely spring weather:

First order of business: taming baby goats

Here are Nibble's quadruplets playing. Keep an eye out around :15-:20 where one of the babies flops backwards over the log.

and more playing. I recommend you watch without sound, so you won't have to listen to the wind (and the goofy background conversation that adds nothing to the video)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Festival of Strings

Just like the Pageant of Bands, the Festival of Strings is a concert for all orchestra students, grades 5-12. With the orchestra, even more than the bands, the progress the students make each year is VERY noticeable. Ainsley is only in seventh grade, yet she has improved tremendously! Here is a taste:

Fifth Grade

Sixth Grade (look for the cute redhead whenever Mr. Molina faces the students on the right)

Sixth Grade, Song Two

Seventh Grade (Ainsley is just to Mr. Molina's left)playing Shenandoah

Seventh Grade, Song Two

Ruskin High School Orchestra - Something to look forward to!

Pageant of Bands

Every spring we look forward to the Pageant of Bands. All of our school bands, from 5th through 12th grade, perform at the same concert. It is really a great opportunity to see how far the student musicians can progress in just a few short years. When I was the parent of a fifth grader, listening to the high school band gave me hope that it would not always be so painful! Now, as a parent of an 8th grader, I am surprised at how far my son (and his classmates) have come! And there is still room to grow.

Fifth Grade - Ode To Joy: One thing that was especially impressive this year was the SIZE of the bands. The Pageant of Bands was moved to the high school to accommodate a larger crowd and more students due to the reorganization of our district last year. So, instead of four schools-worth of fifth graders playing together, eight schools were combined. The fifth grade band was huge!

8th & 9th Grade - His Honor March: In this song, Jarom is playing the marimba. It's the first time we've been able to really see and hear him play on the marimba. He's played it many times, just usually at the back and very softly.

Triumphal Overture - Jarom plays the timpani in this song. Wow - we can see and hear him again! Mr. Tope, the director, mentioned before this song that many students had volunteered to learn a new instrument so their band would have better instrumentation. The young man playing the tuba (easily visible in a red sweater when I focus on Jarom in the video) is one of them, as well as the young women on bass clarinet.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each Other

Just this morning, I read a great blog about arguing fairly in a relationship. It really hit home because often, in the heat of anger, I find myself resorting to tactics that I would not approve of normally. Shortly after reading the blog, I read about Congresswoman Gwen Moore's remarks last night in the debate over funding for Planned Parenthood. I can't find a full and direct quote directly from Congresswoman Moore, but Michelle Malkin summarized it here:

"Wisconsin Democrat Rep. Gwen Moore argued that abortion was better for unplanned babies than a life 'eating Ramen noodles' or 'mayonnaise sandwiches.'"

I went searching for the whole bit, wanting to see if I could find all of Congresswoman Moore's comments and put them in context. I could not find it in the time I have right now. I was really frustrated that I could only find catty responses to her remarks. I did find a nice biography about her that shows that she herself has struggled through life. She has also dedicated many years fighting to become a voice to those who are often ignored. She is not an awful, ignorant woman. She may have said something a bit ridiculous to make a point, but there is much to admire about this woman. It bothers me that she has been reduced to one ridiculous soundbite, so people (the blogosphere, the reporters, individuals who chitchat about it) spend their time ridiculing her comment rather than discussing the actual issue, which I *think* is, "is it right for the federal government to fund Planned Parenthood?"

One of the things that frequently bothers me in our political debates is the complete descent into nastiness and the complete disregard for decorum and civility. If we cannot ever see another point of view, we are in danger of being easily misled or misguided. If I can see and understand another person's point of view, then I can determine for myself whether I disagree or agree - but I will not be misled by my emotions or my prejudice. If I can promote my own ideas, without degrading anothers, then I know my ideas are worth promoting. Enough for now - out of time!