Sunday, March 24, 2013

It Wasn't All About Me

When we began applying for the open position at BYU back in 1997, I felt like Heavenly Father blessed us along the way and helped things fall into place so that we could make the change.  I felt like it was a blessing from God when we received the job offer in June of 1998.  But we found ourselves in a position of needing to sell our house quickly and at the same time needing to find a new house in Utah.  We got our house in Louisville ready to sell and put it on the market, but didn't receive much interest.  And we scheduled a trip in early July for Kathy and I to go to Utah to begin looking for a house here.  We found ourselves needing to buy a new house in Utah while still owning one in Kentucky.  We spent about five days in Utah looking at houses with a realtor.  We couldn't find anything within our price range.  Near the end of that week my parents offered to give us some money so we could go a little higher on our purchase price.  We also heard from our realtor in Kentucky that there were two offers on our house out there.  We accepted the best offer on our old house and put in an offer for the house we currently live in in Orem.  Everything was falling into place.  At the time I felt like this was all happening to bless me in my career and in my life.  But as I look back, I now realize that there was much much more to the miracle of our coming here to Orem, Utah.

Joe was a student at BYU and had been living off campus in Provo.  When we moved to Orem, he decided to live with us to save money.  He began attending the Young Single Adult Ward in our Stake.  It didn't take long for him to become interested in the Ward Relief Society President, Andrea Hill.  I can't remember how long he pursued her, but finally she agreed to marry him.  We feel so blessed to have Andy in our family and love their five children so much.  How could this have happened if we hadn't made the move to BYU?  The miracle was about more than me.

When Ben applied to BYU as a transfer student from Utah Valley College, he was turned down.  I remember calling an admission's counselor to ask what Ben could do to make his application more competitive.  He said, "We didn't know he was your son. We try to be supportive of our faculty when their children apply to BYU."  He said he would take another look at Ben's application and get back to me.  A few days later he called and told me that they couldn't admit Ben for fall semester, but they could for winter semester.  Ben transferred to BYU and after a lot of hard work got his degree in animation and ended up at Pixar.  What if I had not been faculty at BYU?  The miracle was about more than me.

I can't think of anything specifically about being here that helped Sarah, Betsy, and Hannah.  They all met their spouses at BYU and that could have happened anyway because they all lived off campus in Provo.

Abby attended Timpanogos High School, just a half mile from our house in Orem.  That is where she met and started dating Kameron.  He left on his mission soon after he graduated and though Abby was no longer writing to Kam when he returned, they did eventually get together again and are now happily married.  Abby has a good job at BYU.  She was hired to a full-time position in Conferences and Workshops at a time when there was a hiring freeze at BYU and only rare exceptions were granted to hire.  Steve Taggart, who was the Director of Conferences and Workshops, gave Abby a strong recommendation for the job.  I got to know him when we were both Bishops in the BYU First Stake.  He got to know Abby when she was friends with his daughter, Jenny.  His willingness to put in a good word for Abby likely made the difference in her being hired.  The miracle was about more than me.

Caleb developed a curved spine during his growth spurt.  In November of last year he had spinal fusion surgery to get it fixed.  This was major surgery.  He was able to have the procedure performed at Primary Children's Medical Center where he received excellent care.  Thanks to the health insurance that I have through my work at BYU, the cost of the surgery was almost all covered.  We could not have afforded the surgery without the insurance.  Caleb is healing well.  He recently received his mission call to the Texas Lubbock Mission speaking Spanish.  He has had a strong cadre of great friends in our ward and in his school who have helped him prepare for this important call.  He has also had great church leaders and seminary teachers who helped.  The miracle was about more than me.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I Like to Look for Rainbows

After I was released from the High Council, Kathy and I were called to team-teach the Valiant 11 class in our ward's Primary.  This class includes all of the boys and girls who were 11 years old at the beginning of the year.  We have eleven students if all attend.  We teach our lesson during the second hour of church and then go with the class to Sharing Time for the third hour.  As our students turn twelve years old, they go to Priesthood Meeting or Young Womens during the third hour.  Our last student to turn twelve had his birthday in early August, so we don't go to Sharing Time anymore.  Instead we go to Relief Society or Priesthood meeting during the third hour.  That will change in January when we get a new batch of eleven-year-olds.

We have been signing When I am Baptized in Sharing Time.  I think all of the wards are learning this for their Sacrament Meeting Program.  I love this song and can't keep the tears back whenever I sing it.  I has such a simple message.

"I like to look for rainbows whenever there is rain."  Who doesn't love the majesty of a great big rainbow extending across the sky after a rainstorm?  A couple of years ago, I remember we had a double rainbow after one storm.  I took a picture of it with my phone.  Here it is.

"And ponder on the beauty of an earth made clean again."  We haven't had much rain this past year so whenever we do get some, it is noteworthy.  We had a storm the other night.  I went out on the back deck to see (and hear) it.  What struck me the most was the wonderful smell.  I love the smell of a wet earth when it rains.

"I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain.  I want to be the best I can and live with God again."  I do want to be the best I can and to live with God again.

"I know when I am baptized my wrongs are washed away, And I can be forgiven and improve myself each day."  We got to attend Mia's baptism a couple of weeks ago.  I remember how much her face beamed as she came into the room dressed in white.  Her face beamed even more when she came up out of the water.  I am grateful for the atonement of Jesus Christ that allows our sins to be washed away.  I am also grateful that we can live with God again and that families are forever.

"I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain.  I want to be the best I can and live with God again."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Embarrassing Moments

Life is full of embarrassing moments.  Don't let them get you down.  I had one last Tuesday on my morning run.  I was running down 4th East on brand new asphalt.  It was a great surface for running. I could see ahead the machine that lays the asphalt parked on the side of the road.  They hadn't finished the whole road and must have left it there overnight.  So when I came to the machine I shifted over to the sidewalk and ran on it.  When I got passed the machine, I started to shift back to the road.  My toe caught a crack and I started to fall forward.  I put my hands out to catch my fall which hurt the palms of my hands a lot and then I rotated further forward and smacked my chin on the road.  That hurt too.  The worst thing about this was that Cherilyn Burr (Caleb's friend Cameron's mother) was running just on the other side of the road.  She saw the whole thing.  It's funny how embarrassment can be worse than physical pain.  She asked me if I was ok.  I said I was and then walked back home to check on my wounds.  Nothing was hurt too bad.  My chin swelled up and now has a scrape on it, but it should be fine in a few days.

Thankfully, I have forgotten most of my embarrassing moments.  I do remember a traumatic experience when I sang in the glee club in third grade.  We were singing for parents at the Christmas concert.  I was prepared to be the backup soloist for the solos in We Three Kings of Orient Are.  I had to memorize all three verses in case one of the actual soloists got sick.  As luck would have it, the kid that was supposed to sing the third solo (Myrrh is mine. It's bitter perfume...) got sick.  So I  had to step in and sing.  Well, when my turn came I opened my mouth and started to sing.  On about the third note, I hit it wrong (sharp or something), and just stopped singing.  There I stood, looking at the director, not singing a word through the rest of the solo.  I was mortified.

My advice is to learn to laugh at yourself during these moments.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Beauty of Doing It Yourself

I was just reading some recent family-member blogs and came across Russell's discussion about the negatives associated with doing projects yourself rather than paying someone else to do it.  I fully understand his viewpoint, but, I will still continue to do the projects myself whenever I can.

Each time I attempt something new and successfully complete the project I reinforce the thinking, "I can do anything."  This can carry over into all aspects of life.  Just yesterday, Kathy asked me to make a lightbox-type thingy that she could use for tracing quilting patterns.  She wanted a sheet of Plexiglass supported in such a way they she could slide her OTT-LITE underneath to illuminate the pattern.  Here is the final product:

The hardest part was figuring out what to use to support the Plexiglass.  We thought about just screwing on some pegs cut from 2X4s at each corner, but Kathy said she would prefer to be able to disassemble the lightbox in case she ever takes it somewhere.  So I walked up and down aisles at Home Depot hoping for inspiration.  Then I thought about the beauty of wing nuts.  I had considered cutting up a long L-shaped aluminum threshold for the sides.  I could use wing nuts for easy assembly and dis-assembly.  But I ran into a problem with my idea.  The threshold would only raise the Plexiglass 2 3/4" off the table and the OTT-LITE was 3 1/2" thick.  So I went over to the wood aisle and found a 1" X 1" square dowel that was 36" long.  By placing this dowel between the Plexiglass and the threshold, I was able to raise the whole thing enough that the lite would fit under it.

This project only required two trips to Home Depot.  Most of mine require at least three.  It took about 2 hours to drill the holes, cut the threshold and wooden dowel, and assemble everything.  The Plexiglass sheet was $20.  The threshold was $9.  The wooden dowel was $2.  The screws, washers, and wing nuts were $8.  Total cost, $39.  We probably could have found something to buy pre-made for $20.  I don't think I saved time or money.  But I did have fun solving the problems and creating the product.  I can do anything!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Church Service

This morning in our High Council meeting we were talking about reasons why people sometimes decide to stop attending church.  One of the High  Councilors said that his oldest son has not been very engaged in the Church and wondered if it was because when he (the High Councilor) was serving in three Bishoprics he too often let it be known at home that he wasn't excited or happy to be spending so much time with is calling.  He fears that his son inherited this negative attitude about the Church from him.

My first calling in the Church as an adult was President of the Base Section in the ward choir of my BYU singles ward.  Back then I was trying very hard to be a base even though we all know I am a tenor.  I don't remember much about how well I served in that calling.

After my mission, Kathy and I got married and moved to Provo so I could continue my schooling.  We eventually made our way to Wymount Terrace, a married-student housing complex on campus.  I remember being called to serve as Second Counselor in the Sunday School Presidency.  I don't remember any other callings while we lived in Wymount Terrace. There were probably a few others since we lived there for three years.  I think by then I had developed a desire to magnify my callings to the best of my ability.  My mission to Korea helped a lot in that regard.

When we moved to San Francisco for my Ph.D. program, I received new opportunities to serve.  The only calling I remember from those four years was Counselor in the Elder's Quorum Presidency.  I served with President Milt Brinton, who later became a surgeon, and then later I served with President Kent Wood, who later became a dentist and whose son, Dan, is good friends with Betsy and Russell.

In Iowa, where I did my postdoc, I remember serving again as a Counselor in the Elder's Quorum.  The President was Monte Crandall, who was doing a residency in OB/GYN.

In Kentucky, I was called to be an early morning Seminary teacher.  The early hours were hard, and the kids were often noisy, but I absolutely loved that calling.  I love to teach and I loved the spirit I felt from these faithful high school freshmen and sophomores.  That calling ended when I was called to be a Counselor in the Bishopric working with Bishop Lyle Stucki.  Here is where I began to really learn about Church administration, about relying on the Spirit to confirm feelings about extending callings to others, about being a leader.  I learned so much from Bishop Stucki.  He was so good at delegating responsibilities. I knew that if I didn't fulfill the assignments given to me nobody would.  Somewhere in there I served as the High Priest Group Leader, and then was called by President Norton to be the Bishop of the Louisville 2nd Ward.  What a growing experience that was!  During that calling, I tried to not neglect Kathy and our children.  I hope I was successful.  I truly loved that calling and hope my children could sense that.  I don't know if I ever explicitly talked with them about the joy I received from serving.

When we moved to Utah, I was called to be the Teacher's Quorum Adviser.  That was a neat, but difficult, calling.  I had eighteen young 14-15 year-olds to teach and to do activities with.  I still keep track of those boys even 12 years later.  Many have gone on missions, some are inactive, one is dead. My next calling was as a High Councilor in the BYU 1st Stake.  My first assignment was to be the Stake Mission President.  That was an interesting calling since our wards were virtually 100% members with just a few non-members.  After about a year in this calling, the Church eliminated Stake Missions and I was out of an assignment.  I was then assigned to work with the Stake Institute.  I also worked with the BYU 164th Ward and Bishop Brad Anderson.  As my three years as a High Councilor came to an end, Kathy and I were asked to meet with President Bailey, presumably so I could be released.  I knew something was up when President Bailey asked to meet with me alone first.  He asked my about my worthiness, and then invited Kathy in to the interview.  Then he called me to be the Bishop of the BYU 130th Ward.  I loved that calling.  I received so much strength and renewing from interacting with those faithful young single adults.  By then, Abby and Caleb were the only children still at home.  I tried to involve them (and Kathy) in my calling by bringing them to Ward Prayer each Sunday evening.  I also tried to not let this responsibility take me away from home too much.  I hope Abby and Caleb know how much I enjoyed serving in this calling.

This posting is getting too long.  After being released as Bishop, I was called to serve as a High Councilor in the Windsor Stake.  In fact, I met with President Dunaway and received that calling the same day that I was released as Bishop.  I have served in this calling for six and a half years.  Today I will be released.  I don't know what will come next, but I know something will come and it will be the right thing for me because I believe that we truly are called of God.  I am such a better person because of all the opportunities I have had to serve.  I am grateful for a Church that allows its members to grow through service.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


When our family was young we always had worries about money.  Though I was gratefully employed, there never seemed to be enough for all our needs.  Because Kathy was a Registered Nurse, she was  able to find part-time work that paid a pretty good wage.  Thanks to her, we were able to make ends meet.  During that time, we never seemed to be able to save much money.  As Ben and Joe got closer to missionary age we should have been saving for those expenses, but just couldn't.  I don't know how we figured to cover that cost.  One day I was in the Physiology Department Office when I overheard the secretary talking on the phone to someone who was looking for a faculty member that could substitute for an up-coming medical license examination preparation course.  Apparently, this guy was scheduled to teach for two days in Chicago about endocrinology and gastrointestinal physiology, but his wife had taken sick and he needed someone to cover for him.  A company named National Medical School Review sponsored the examination preparation course and paid pretty good money to their instructors.  Just so happens that endocrinology and gastrointestinal physiology were the two topics I taught in our medical physiology course.  To this day, I do not know why the call came to the Department of Physiology at the University of Louisville or why I was there to overhear the phone call.  I view it as a miracle.  I ended up substituting for this guy in Chicago and continued to teach for National Medical School Review (later sold to Kaplan Medical) for the next 10 years.  I would make about 10 trips each year, usually on the weekends, to teach two 8-hour days of review material.  This  additional income allowed us to pay for Ben's and Joe's missions, including the six or seven months they were both out at the same time.  It was a bitter-sweet experience.  Bitter when I had to leave home for the teaching trips, but sweet when I got paid.  I ended up teaching in courses in California, Chicago, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, D.C, and several Caribbean islands.  I was truly blessed with this opportunity and thank Heavenly Father for His goodness.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kathy's Brush with Cancer

It was almost 15 years ago that Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Prior to that, whenever I heard that a woman had been diagnosed with breast cancer my first thought was, "Well, she will be dead soon."  So you can imagine how I felt when Kathy received her diagnosis.  The pathology report on the tumor was not very comforting.  It said that there was already evidence that cancer cells had broken into the lymph vessels.  The deadly thing about cancer is that it spreads through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body where new tumors can start.  The accumulation of many tumors gradually sucks the life out of the healthy cells in the body.  I went to the medical library at the university where I worked and checked out two thick books about breast cancer.  I took them home and devoured them.  I was looking for something in the books that would tell me Kathy would be okay.  Unfortunately, the books didn't give me much comfort.  The best news that I found was that Kathy's tumor was fairly small in size and smaller tumors where correlated with better survival.  I also found that whether or not cancer cells could be found in the lymph nodes under the arm was important for prognosis.  If no cancer was found in the lymph nodes, that was good.  The more lymph nodes that had cancer, the worse the outlook for survival.  One day in church, I had a thought that went something like this, "You are looking in the wrong books for comfort.  You should be looking in the scriptures."  This helped me realize that the true comfort I was seeking would come from the Holy Ghost, not from reading medical books.

I remember feeling a sense of complete peace on the morning of Kathy's surgery.  I had gotten up early and had gotten ready so Kathy and her mother could get ready.  While I waited for them downstairs in the kitchen, I realized that all of the fears and worries that I had been experiencing for the past three weeks (since the diagnosis) were gone.  Instead, I felt nothing but peace.  That feeling stayed with me all morning throughout the 4 and a half hours of Kathy's surgery.  I wasn't sure what the peace meant, but have since come to realize that it was the Holy Ghost letting me know that all would be well.

The first good news we got in this whole affair came early in the morning two days after Kathy had the surgery to remove her right breast.  She was in the hospital and I was at home with the kids.  She called me about 6:00 AM.  One of the residents that worked in the oncology unit had seen the pathology report from the lymph nodes (taken from under Kathy's right arm).  He literally ran into Kathy's room to tell her that no cancer had been found in any of the 22 lymph nodes that were examined.  Kathy immediately called me and relayed the good news.  I was so relieved.  I had had two nights of nightmares about the pathology report coming back really bad.

This was not the end of the story.  Kathy had a long recovery from the surgery and still had to have chemotherapy.  Maybe I'll blog about that another day.  But she did gradually recover.  The hair she lost during chemotherapy gradually came back.  She gradually regained her strength.  Though I would never wish this experience on anybody, I learned a lot of lessons from this ordeal.  And I know Kathy did too.  This whole account has been from my view point.  Maybe someday Kathy will write about it from her viewpoint.  The two most important lessons I learned was 1) how important Kathy is to me, and 2) that Heavenly Father is aware of us individually.