Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009

Since Dave and Danica were the only family in town we decided to celebrate Christmas Eve by going to see Avatar. I was disappointed in the story and plot, but I was blown away by the FX and CGI. The story was way too much one dimensional – good guys were way good and bad guys were way bad. Evil corporation and military, it was like a democratic political speech with all the environmental issues thrown in to make me barf. “Fern Gully” on CGI steroids. But then I don’t have strong opinions on things so it was a good movie. The Na'vi chick was kinda hot so I asked Tracy to use more blue eye liner. My bad.

This is not an optical illlusion; everyone in Danica's family is wearing the same PJ's and they don't clash with the Christmas tree.
It was a wild rush to open presents including the elders who join the family fray. Jensen got trains - surprise surprise.

Putting together Lily's kitchen.
Charlie is spreading joy and it is either a dirty diaper or spitup
Jensen and Lily didn't eat their dinner, but later snuck into the candy dish and hid under the cushion cover and giggled and ate their "dinner" until they were caught.

The completed bathroom!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas thoughts 2009

Here is part of the letter I wrote to Don today:

I hope you’re able to enjoy some aspects of a Christmas celebration and remember the Savior and all the hope he brings to the world. Because he conquered death with all may have eternal life and because he paid for our sins, if we repent we can live with Heavenly Father and inherit all he has. That is why I’m happy this Christmas. It is the season of hope, not Obama style hope, but of a real sincere plan of never ending true happiness, charity, and love. This life and world is ugly and tough, as you’re experiencing in Afghanistan. It is full of pain and cold and hunger and suffering and cruelty and sin. The world is designed for us to experience these torments so we will be motivated to strive to have a much better existence in the next life. How would we understand a pain free eternity without suffering pain during this mortal existence? How would we appreciate the companionship and blessings of loved ones unless we experience the loss of a friendship or the death of a close family member? How would we be able to treasure the loving environment of Heavenly Father’s charitable realm unless we slog through this bitter and hard scrabbled world? How would we be able to appreciate stain free white garments unless we experience the cleansing of scarlet sins through repentance and the Atonement? The Savior’s life made all our deepest hopes and joys possible and that is why I’m happy this Christmas. May you feel the elation of hope that is found in the celebration of Christ’s birth this Christmas.We miss you a lot Don and you are constantly in our prayers and thoughts. Have a great Christmas and remember the Savior.

Love, Dad

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thanks to the Family -

Despite the cold weather (-15 going to racquetball in the morning this week) there are a lot of wonderful things that warm my heart this week. It all has to do with the family.

Mom is working three jobs, plus managing the home and me. So with all that spare time on her hands she may be heading off to Peru next month to do some humanitarian work with the native tribes in the Peruvian Amazon basin. Got to love her energy.

Celeste has pulled together a fantastic family picture for this year’s card. The whole thing looks great and Celeste and Brad have really worked hard to help us all look so good. Of course she had great material to work with.

Bryce has been captured by the spirit of Elijah and is going to town in ways I never thought of related to genealogy. He has uncovered about 400 ancestors and many will need their temple work done for them. He even found a Marcia Barrand (I had to gently tell him that Marcia was my grandmother and the all you kids have met her on our travels back and forth from Utah to New Jersey. Way to go Bryce, thanks for bringing the family together.

It is so nice to have Danica and Dave so close, they help us keep our sanity, while she battles three sick kids. She has us over for dinner and between them there is always some fun project they’re working on. Danica has spent hours copying the slides from years ago and is trying to put together each kid’s pictures. Thanks for saving our memories.

With Preston and Tiana, Preston has been helping mom with her web site development. I used to think it would be good to have a plumber or carpenter in the family but it is proving best to have computer savvy and web familiar kids to deal with the age of Twitter.

Don is upholding our family and country as he serves in Afghanistan. I haven’t heard much from him except he likes boot socks and mechanics gloves to protect against the cold weather. I hope no news is good news.

A lot of great things are happening in Austin’s life. His internship is turning into a wonderful experience. They have started giving him so real meaty projects and he has impressed the boss with his attitude and hard work. He has also signed up for a demanding schedule next semester including Biology, Calculus, and Programming. He has also landed a teaching position at BYU – a diving class. I’m sure he is hoping for a pool deck full of attractive coeds so he can help them land a reverse twist. He said he would offer the cutest ones extra attention. He was also invited to join an apartment of social return missionaries from Toronto West. I hear they aren’t gamers so that makes me ever so happy. With all that going on in Austin’s life I will forgive his not keeping up his blog. He isn’t even coming home for Christmas because he wants to stay in Provo and learn a new programming language. Life is good

Thanks to all of you for being such an incredible family.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Where's that boarding pass?

I had an interesting experience returning from Phoenix this week. I was down there to attend a training class and dodge the 4 degree weather in Denver. It was also nice to stay in a hotel where there was a shower in the room. I appreciate that because our bathroom isn’t completed yet and I still don’t have a working shower in the master bath. I think that I will sponsor a party in the shower when it’s finally completed….on second thought maybe we’ll just have a dinner to celebrate.
Anyway, the training class in Phoenix….I forgot how tough it was to sit through two days of listening, stuck to a chair, trying to stay awake for even interesting presentations. I attended with my good friend Larry from Ft. Collins and another work associate from north Denver named Terry.
Terry is a character. He has lead a very rough and tumble life, full of all the worldly pleasures available if one has the time and money. Terry has made good money through his life and so he has feasted at the banquet table of thrills and pleasures. He and I about the same age but he looks 15 years older as he has misused his body fumbling after the tinkling lures of the world. Through all the rust and canker Terry has a good heart. He married about 8 years ago and had his first child shortly there after. That young son has really changed Terry’s heart and he is now very active in his church struggling to swim to the surface after a lifetime of abuse and over indulgence. We have talked a little religion a couple of times and I gave him a Book of Mormon a few years ago. He wasn’t that interested.
After class and while we were sitting in the airport lounge waiting to board, he leaned over to me and asked, “What does Mormonism have to do with Christianity?” Well the question caught me by surprise and I wanted to think a minute about an answer so I cleaned up a few loose papers in my luggage and excused myself for a minute to throw the garbage away. When I came back we had a great conversation about the gospel. He asked about polygamy and I got to talk about prophets. He asked about Joseph Smith and I got to talk about the Book of Mormon and he asked about our Christianity and I got to talk about the Savior and his Atonement. It was great and he was interested this time. Then they announced our flight and I went to board the plane and my boarding pass was missing.
I had accidently thrown it away when I threw the other papers away and had to go digging through the trash bin filled with a half eaten McDonalds Big Mac and a sloppy salad. I finally found the boarding pass with an extra piece of lettuce, the flight attendant gave me a funny look but I was able to fly home. I thought about Terry and no matter how much stain and slop we may acquire in this life if we clean off the old boarding pass through repentance we can take our seat for the ride home. I will have to follow up with Terry.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Feast or famine

Last week was too much activity and craziness and this week there just wasn't all that much going on. We got the floor of the bathroom done finally. I had a good week in sales and my company is offering me a nice check to stay with them for another 5 years. They like my work. I also won a trip to Florida in Jan because last year's sales. I just hope they have diving where we're going. Looking forward to Thanksgiving when almost all of us will be together. Don is looking for boot socks and mechanics gloves for his squad in Afghanistan and the ward to is stepping up to request donations. He says it is very cold over there.
This week was a famine for news.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

One crazy week -

Last Saturday with Celeste’s gentle insisting I took mom to see the play Wicked which was in town. The acting, voices, and staging was incredible. I loved how the story came together and it is always interesting when things are not pure good or pure evil. There are bad characters you can like and good characters you can dislike, sort of like people in life who are not all good or all bad – except for most of the left leaning Democrats – we know they are really bad. I was a little disappointed in the music, there wasn’t anything that captured my humming abilities and so I didn’t leave the theater rolling a song around in my head.

On Sunday the drama started that lead to a whole week worth of craziness around here. A recently baptized new member came over to dinner as well as a missionary who was just released from our area 3 weeks ago and the girl he had baptized the last week of his mission. She had a boyfriend who was getting baptized in one week, but he didn’t attend the dinner. It seems she broke off the relationship with the boyfriend and now she and the missionary are very serious and the baptism of the boyfriend is up in the air. It made for a fun dinner conversation. Latest flash the baptism is on for today and the returned missionary who is now the boyfriend is performing the baptism for the ex-boyfriend.

Then on Monday the parade started. We had the missionary, Chris Larmouth, and a pre missionary from the ward start ripping out our bathroom fixtures to begin the remodeling process. The were banging and crashing and crushing things, then mom’s newly hired cleaning crew shows up to clean the house. On top of that the franchise team from Florida for Preferred Care at home came for the six month visit, and spent a couple of days at the house going through the accounts. There were plumbing issues so all the water in the house was shut off. Then the hot water heater pooped out on us when the water was shut off. There were three camps in the house – one was destroying things, one was trying to clean, and another was trying to conduct business – but we weren’t finished. On the heals of the wrecking crew came the handyman and his wife to get the destroyed bathroom ready for the tile crew. The garage was covered in ripped sheet rock, shower doors, glass mirrors, broken cabinets, and tile pieces. I almost forgot the missionaries who live in the basement who were kind enough to rake up all the leaves in the yard during the week so we had ten bags of leaves to add to the garbage.

Imagine life down one bathroom and a house full of people coming in and out, construction, no hot or running water, conducting a business, and a mound of garbage, but that wasn’t enough. It started so innocently with just a few soft flakes and turned into a massive two day, 2 ft., traffic stopping blizzard. That really compounded things for mom because her care givers couldn’t get to their clients and her phone rang constantly. All of my appointments cancelled and we ended up shoveling snow most of the time. When the garbage man finally came he didn’t take away any of the construction debris and we had to drag the wet snowy junk back into the garage. I don’t need it to ever snow like that again.

We spent Halloween doing the worse thing ever – shopping, for bathroom stuff – tile, vanities, and faucets. Who could have believed that three bathroom faucets could cost over a $1,000. My credit card will never forgive me. The bright spot was visiting with Danica and family and seeing how funny and excited Jensen and Lily were about trick or treating. Lily got an early start when she took her bag for candy over to the bucket of candy to give away and started downloading the chocolate giveaways into her bag – singing and laughing the whole time saying, “Candy, candy, candy……

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's Lucky Seven -

Our seventh grandchild was delivered over the weekend and there is joy over the arrival of this lucky infant. After two weeks of headaches, dizziness, and low levels of critical fluid the doctors decided to help Danica and nature along with a little inducement. About 6 hours after a lunching on patosin Danica delivered a beautiful nearly six pound baby girl named Charlene Hazel McDonald. They are going to call her Charlie for short. She had dark hair and beautiful light skin with a face just like her brother Jensen. I guess that means that the next one will look like Lily. Everything is perfect with Charlie like sleeping through the night and eating well, except a small causality of birth. She has a “windswept” foot which means it flairs out a little too much. That should correct itself with time and is not a worry.

I can’t believe I’m old enough to have seven grandkids until I run head on into taking care of Lily and Jensen for the weekend. I can go biking for several miles (even uphill), play racquetball for 2 plus hours, or swim a full triathlon worth of mileage and come away a little fatigued, but that is nothing compared to watching a 2 and 3 year old for the weekend. It wiped me out and I don’t understand it – but little kids just drain off energy from their care givers. Thank goodness they are cute or it would be twice as much work. How did we ever survive 6 kids with anything leftover for middle age?

I took the kids to the park yesterday and was helping Lily climb on the monkey bars and this boy asked if she was my little girl and I said, “Ohhh.... no, she is my granddaughter”. He said I couldn’t be old enough to have a grandkid. I wanted to buy him an ice cream cone.

I also had a fun missionary experience this week. The missionaries have been working with this one young man for a long time and because of family complications he couldn’t be baptized but they continued to teach him. He was coming over to the house for a lesson and the missionaries were a mess. They had other elders over at the house and were playing risk and arguing with each other. With 15 minutes before the investigator arrived they were fumbling through a pile of CD’s with the BOM on audio and were going to play something for the young man. My father instincts took over and I took away the CD’s told them to find a quiet place to pray for inspiration as to what they should teach. They came back from prayer excited – they had remembered while praying this scripture guide that would be perfect to read with the investigator. I coached them a bit on a few things as the potential member arrived. After the lesson they came in to my office and said the scriptures were perfect and that the young man will be baptized in two weeks.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Don is Deployed

Not much news here except that Don is now in Afghanistan. He has been promoted to 2nd in command in his squad instead of just team lead. He is a little nervous about all the work they need to do and the oncoming winter. He can't get email or internet so he needs your loving prayers and physical letters.
Here is an article about the church in Afghanistan and the military. It is interesting to note that the church meets on Friday there to match the rules of Islam. Gives a new meaning to Friday night dates.

Church News

LDS military district in Afghanistan brings blessings of service

By Michael L. Haller

Public affairs representative, Kabul Afghanistan Military District

Published: Monday, May 18, 2009


Members of the Church continue to enjoy the blessings of the gospel while serving in Afghanistan. There are more than 400 members serving in Afghanistan at more than 40 locations. While they make up only a single district, Latter-day Saint expatriates can be found in virtually all corners of the nation.

"We have been blessed with a special opportunity to serve the Lord in Afghanistan," said Eugene Wikle, president of the Afghanistan Military District. "Our service is needed and appreciated as we serve Him and our respective nations."

Kabul Afghanistan Military District Presidency, from left, Winn Noyes, first counselor, Eugene Wikle, district president, David Andrews, second counselor.

The Afghanistan Military District was created in July 2008 and includes the entire country. It is part of the Middle East/Africa North Area. The Middle East Desk and the Church Military Relations Division maintain contact with the district presidency as they administer the affairs of the Church in Afghanistan.

Latter-day Saints assigned to military, diplomatic or aid and nation-building missions and activities within Afghanistan may find themselves among a large body of Church members or at a remote location. The district includes four military branches and numerous LDS service member groups across the country.

"We've had the blessings of having had LDS chaplains on our district council with the ability to move about the country and meet with fellow saints, as well as others who've taken up the mantle of leadership in assisting Church members when and as needed," President Wikle said.

Bagram Military Branch Members, Interdenominational Chapel, Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

In many areas of the country, Latter-day Saints follow the Islamic traditions of honoring the Sabbath on Friday. "Being a bit adaptive is very necessary to being successful in everything we do to help Afghans," President Wikle said. "While we clearly maintain our standards, we've learned to adjust how and when we meet as both a practical matter and also a matter of respect to our hosts. Such courtesy demonstrates our true desire to be of service and speaks more to the Afghans than almost anything else we might say."

Each week Latter-day Saints receive a devotional message and other important news from the Church through the district presidency. To help relieve some of the stresses of serving in a war zone, they also are provided with DVDs and CD recordings of "Music and the Spoken Word," Church devotionals and general conference through the Church Military Relations Division. The Brigham Young University football team has provided DVDs for members from time to time as well.

Many wards or branches "back home," no matter the country, help provide service men and women with generous amounts of special packages of food, treats and other remembrances from members, friends and families alike.

Service in Afghanistan is challenging. "We encourage each member to stay close to the Lord through daily prayer and scripture reading, and to receive the blessings of the sacrament each week," President Wikle said. "Our active participation in Church services and association with other members of the Church helps strengthen each of us. In this manner, we are a positive example with those whom we serve and with the citizens of Afghanistan."

Members deploying to Afghanistan may contact the Church Military Relations Division at: or call 1-801-240-1931.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Thoughts on Conference -

I have been working with the missionaries as they are teaching a young lady about 26 years old. She remembers Tiana from high school. She was raised strong Catholic and for the last two years has been very active in a Evangelical Christian church where she works with the youth and has made several charitable mission trips to Mexico and South America with that group. She is one that is living the religion she has been taught. A whole new world has opened up to her by teaching her the restored gospel. The first LDS church meeting she attended was a very powerful and spiritually rich Stake Conference two weeks ago and she made a very interesting statement after the meeting. As I’m listening to General Conference this weekend I keep on thinking about what she said.
Her impression was one I have heard from a number of investigators or visitors to our church meetings. Their walk-away impression of an uplifting and spiritual meeting has always bothered and saddened me. To summarize her comment she said, “It seemed like a business meeting. Where was the room for worship?” Her comment just blew me away and I wondered about the disconnect, and are we missing something in our meetings?
I think it is all based on the premise of why we attend church. To many in the Christian world, they attend church to “worship” God. To aid in that practice they employ crosses, ornamentation, gowns and robes, participatory services, and lots of “Praise the Lord”. They attend weekly to drop off their few minutes of worship and praise and once that’s taken care of they can go about and live their own lives. It is good to bow in respect and admiration of Heavenly Father and in the Savior, but is that true worship? Almost sounds like the Rameumpton people in the Book of Mormon.
During our “business meetings” the heart of the reason we gather weekly is to take the sacrament. Instead of bellicose external worship our route is one of very quite and individual reflection of our standing within the family of God. What better path then personal introspection into our discipleship and need for repentance to bring us back into at-one-ment. That is the whole reason of Christ’s passion. The ancillary talks are then designed to allow the spirit to direct our thoughts to ways we can live our lives better and draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Our worship is deep and personal but quiet and reflective. What better way to honor our HF then silently repenting and/or resolving to change our lives for the better. No need for drapes or incense or candles or crosses, just a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I like that kind of worship.
As I watch and enjoy General Conference it is a personal experience of worship as we have the opportunity to put on the whole armor of God and put off the natural man. It is a great opportunity and I’m so glad you all are taking advantage of the treasure of listening to a prophet’s voice. Enjoy conference.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

GO GREEN - Recycle Congress

Whewwww…..We just got back from a fun filled trip to visit Celeste and Brad and family and I had one of those top ten thrills from the party Celeste threw for us on Saturday. Some of you may have heard about it on the news. But first let me ask who turned me in to the White House as being opposed to this administration? When we got to the airport, very late of course, the machine wouldn’t issue my boarding pass. Come to find out I’m on the watch list as a suspected terrorist. The guy at the ticket counter took my ID and had to call in to some Big Brother number and get approval to issue me a boarding pass. He said it was happening more and more now-a-days. My guess it is all those anti Obama emails I like to forward on to you all and the White House is watching and listening. Well listen to this- “Hell hath no fury like a taxpayer ignored.”

We had a great four days visiting with the Baillio’s and we got the royal tour to Ft. McHenry, the inspiration for the Star Spangled Banner, downtown Baltimore, dinner in little Italy, the National Aquarium on the inner harbor, the Smithsonian, the Antietam battlefield, Harper’s Ferry, and several monuments in Washington DC. But the crowning event of the trip was the opportunity to join with thousands, no tens of thousands, no hundreds of thousands marching through the street to protest what is happening to our country and it’s sharp left handed turn into socialism or worse.

I felt 20 years younger as our little family grabbed signs, waved flags, and thronged Pennsylvania Ave to march on the capital building. I grew up in Canada during the Viet Nam War and missed all the fun the Americans were having at protests and marches. Finally now in my mid 50’s I could contribute my voice and spirit to protest against the stupid, scary, and costly policies foisted upon us by this Democratic led government. Wow is it ever fun; I should have done this years ago. The visual banquet was amazing. Lots of people dressed in colonial garb and patriotic shirts displaying American flags and carrying painfully honest but humorous signs.

Joe Wilson was the big hero and Nancy Pelosi and Obama were the goats on most of the signs. Lots of veterans paraded in their hats and insignias. I was so proud of this nation and its citizens that can come together and make their voices heard. The march passed by the Newseum building which is a museum dedicated to Free Speech and a Free Press. On the 12 story structure there is a statement that covers one half of the building. That statement describes how important it is to have the ability to speak out and fight against Tyranny. It was inspiring to march by those words.

We travelled to DC on the Metro and as we approached the city the crowd grew louder and more colorful in the train. They were Americans from all over the county coming to the capital to live an important part of the American Dream. The train came to a stop at the right station and the platform was almost so crowded that the train couldn’t let off the passengers. Masses of people dressed in red, white and blue were chanting “USA! USA! USA!; man it was so thrilling to be there. We took the train down two more stops to visit the WWII Memorial before joining the protest. As we left the train we rode up the escalator with a nice black couple wearing OBAMA t-shirts and talked a little bit. They were headed to a large Black Family Reunion on the mall near the Washington Monument. I asked if they were going to join the big parade and they said “probably not today.” Here is an “only in America” point of interest. The marchers had much better signs and speakers, but the Black Family Reunion had better music and food….so after the rally there were tons of “Tea Party” and “Don’t Tread On Me” t-shirts peacefully chowing down on excellent Southern Fried finger food and Bar-B-Que at the Black Family event. It was a sight to behold; the happy enterprise of capitalism operating so effectively and efficiently. It brought together people of opposite and often violent views to eat and to make a profit. I love America.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Random Week

Nothing major this week, just a collection of random pluses and minus happening this week around the family:

1. My shoulders, arms, and back are killing me from trying to do weights with one of the missionaries staying with us – Elder Larmouth. He has 50 lbs dumbbells and I went along with the name and was dumb enough to think this old body could bench press them. The joke is on me and I can barely lift my arms.
2. To help a care giver out mom is having us watch her dog while she gives care. God must have been in a bad mood when he created Pug dogs – they are just down right ugly and this one stinks and farts constantly and wants to sit in everyone’s lap. Jensen and Lily liked him though; they have no sense of smell.
3. Average week for mom as she teaches on ground classes, on line classes, does counseling, and is working 24X7 trying to herd cats called caregivers into doing what they said they would do. She even has to listen to reasoned adults talk about themselves for 47 minutes. Her nickname is Atlas around here.
4. Congrats goes to Tiana….she landed her dream job of making people beautiful. They mainly do laser hair removal and this guy needs to be your first appointment.
5. Bummer with Austin….Keith doesn’t have room for him on the diving team at BYU this year but wants him next year. After looking at the pictures on Austin’s blog that might not be a bad thing…the pics show the results of a missed Rev 3 ½. Ouch!!!!
6. Congrats to the BYU Cougars who beat #3 ranked Oklahoma 14-13.
7. Don is preparing for a tough assignment in Afghanistan during the chilly months of winter.

Enjoy the Labor Day Holiday and remember that it was hard work and entrepreneurship that built this country, not social giveaways and government control.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It has been a Knock Out week –

The strangest thing happened this week; I was walking this female client out to her car after a late afternoon appointment when this mugger jumped us and I ended up with this black eye… wait it was mom simply tired of me leaving my dishes out and she wanted to punctuate the point…..or could it have been my tender Marine son Don who wanted to handicap our racquetball game at the beginning with a quick shot to my eye with the racquet. You guessed correctly, it was Don leaving me a reminder of his visit. It was great to see him, if only with one eye.
In fact it was great to see all the kids together for the first time in 4 years, even if it was only for an hour brunch. I can’t tell you how much I love my family. You all have taken our feeble efforts to make a few memories and daily scripture study into happy marriages, healthy grandkids, and a positive attitude towards Heavenly Father. You even all vote conservative – a parent couldn’t ask for more. Life is good.
Here are a few pictures from the week.