Saturday, February 14, 2015

On The Program

Last Christmas we had the Jingle Bell Challenge. It's a way for our family to promote health and fitness. Billy made T-shirts, we had prizes, lots of activity and cheerleading. It was fun! Hopefully we'll be more fit for it. We looked at this as the first annual event.

Having the Jingle Bell Challenge gave Rick some fodder in creating his submission to The Family From Yosemite stories (another annual holiday tradition). It's a self-deprecating saga of what so many of us go through concerning food. Our T-shirts said, "On The Program" this year and Rick's title is the same. I myself am on the program and am hopefully making 2015 my year to lose the weight. The challenge and the story have helped encourage me along with lots of prayer and support from the family. It's Valentine's Day and I've been on the program for a month. I've lost 10 lbs. It's a start. I'm sharing Rick's story today because I and the rest of my family continue to be On The Program

Fruit heart clipart

On The Program
by Richard H. Blair
December 29, 2014 - The Family From Yosemite

Any organization, culture, or family in the process of time develops a shared vocabulary.  In the context of these groups some words take on special and unique meanings that are not immediately obvious to outsiders.  This process is certainly active in the Blair home.

Last year for his Family From Yosemite submission my Dad chronicled many of the so-called “Blairisms” that our family has created through the years.  Today I’d like to focus on one of them... “The Program".

To define it most simply, The Program is healthful living through proper diet and regular exercise.  However, you’d rarely, if ever, hear someone from the family say “I’m on a diet”…that’s because we never just diet...we go on the program.

Growing up, I didn't realize that no one knew what this was. Telling someone you weren't going to have any desert because you were on The Program would usually trigger a puzzled stare along with the question, "What's The Program?"

I mentioned before that The Program is more than just dieting, it's also more the just exercise, or even both together. Diet and exercise are for wimps, the program is something more, something harder, not to be attempted by the faint of heart.

In reality it's just diet and exercise, but this elitist attitude for me is the essence of the program.

Anyone can diet and exercise, but not everyone can do The Program, and since I am on the Program, I’m not just anybody.  Arrogant?  Maybe, but a little self-confidence to provide a mental edge is huge.

What makes the program harder is the same thing that makes it difficult to sustain.  This elitism I spoke of propels it to extreme and aggressive levels. Kick moderation out the door, and and welcome austerity with a big hug, The Program is an all-or-nothing do-or-die proposition.

It may sound hard to believe, but on more than one occasion in my life I've said aloud "I'll never eat a piece of candy again."  I've meant it every time too. You should hear me, "I'm gonna do it this time, never again, I'm back on the program!

ike the Nephite pride cycle, you can always bet with 100 percent certainty that things are going to turn out badly in the end.   Failure is inevitable, and then the bold promises start anew.  For every commitment to live clean, there's a Del Taco chicken soft taco waiting around the corner.

A favorite comedian of mine, Jim Gaffigan, summed up the Blair Program nicely when he spoke about his own personal fitness aspirations:

"Occasionally, I do workout, and I'm one of those people whenever I do workout, I immediately have grand plans...'I'm gonna work out every day.'

Then the next day I'm like, 'Well, not EVERY day. I gotta let my muscles breathe a little. I'll work out every OTHER day.'... then the next day I'm like, 'Eh, I'm happy with the way I look.'"

Its the grand plans that cause us to falter.  My list of failed commitments is pretty long.
No fast food ever again, going vegetarian, going vegan, gonna exercise everyday, for real no caffeine. Only plant-based whole-foods. Gluten free, dairy free, no more junk food, and this time I mean it.  "I'm back on The Program."...well for a little while at least.

I'm not the only one.  Just this week, upon arrival at Mom and Dad's I found a pledge posted by Sam on the refrigerator:

No Sugar
Absolutely no fast food
Workout 5 times a week
Eat more fruit

I reminded Sam of this while he was reaching for his second handful of chocolate almonds, and all I got back was an eye roll.  Next time maybe Sam should try writing his goals on his heart instead of the fridge.

The hard truth is that I have no room to criticize. I've fallen off the wagon more than once over the years and my wife Wendy has had a front row view of all my weirdness.

Most recently in anticipation of the inaugural Jingle Bell Challenge I went through a whole series of back on the program delusions...I'm not gonna eat a single piece of Candy this Halloween-failed. Ok then, I'm not gonna overdo it on Thanksgiving, it's all about portion control, just one plate and I'm done-failed. Well, dang, then now I'm not gonna have a single treat on Thanksgiving-I ate half a pie.

Wendy's seen firsthand my manic swings between eating like a Buddhist Monk to cramming so much cake in my face that I feel like turning in my temple recommend.  If only I had her iron will, or maybe if I wasn't such a nut. At any rate, Wendy has always had much more moderate sensibilities when it comes to food.

As a case in point, let's look at my behavior this past Halloween. Several weeks out I told Wendy of my aspirations to go treat free. I think already doubting my resolve, I explained my solution was to remove any source of temptation and not have Wendy buy any candy at all. Negotiations started out badly with Wendy affirming that she wasn't  calling off Halloween for my sake. Her solution was "just don't eat all of it". I countered with "OK, go ahead and buy it, but keep it hidden and don't tell me under any conditions where you've put it." A few days later without Wendy's knowledge I was rummaging through the back of every cupboard in the house looking for the hidden cache so I could get my fix.

I did eventually find it and now angry at myself I blame Wendy...this is your fault, I wouldn't eat this junk if you wouldn't buy it, you did this to me.  I'm sorry, I know I'm wrong, tomorrow I'll start over.

Then the day starts fresh, things will be different today, but it's Halloween, maybe just one, the kids have so much, and I love Almond Joys. Just one more, ok last one, this is it, just these last three; I can't believe I ate all that, I wasn't going to have any, and now I've lost track, I'm ashamed, but tomorrow I can start fresh.

It's a new day, the mania hits me again: "Wendy, we need to throw away all of the Halloween Candy...or maybe you can hide it all from me."  Again, the obvious reply, "Maybe you just need to control yourself."

Well, instead maybe I’ll enjoy what I've got here, and once it's all gone, then I can start fresh tomorrow, tomorrow I'll be back on the program.

And the cycle continues, good for a time...until something...the weekend, a family visit, the drive through because I'm in a hurry, it's the holidays, tonight I just don't care, wow, those Costco muffins look good, if it's not one thing it's another, and there's always tomorrow. . . tomorrow I'm back on the program.

Do not ignore the Word of Wisdom,
for that may cost you
the “great treasures of knowledge,
even hidden treasures”
promised to those who keep it. 
And good health is an added blessing.

– Elder Boyd K. Packer, 
Ensign, November 1994, p. 61

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Hugh and I were married in the Los Angeles Temple 39 years ago today.  It's even a Thursday this year and we were married on a Thursday evening and then had a reception the next day.  No photos at the temple - it was dark outside.

We celebrated this year having dinner a few days early with the kids.  It was a nice evening together. Most years we have celebrated by simply going to the temple.

Next year is the big 40.  I would love it if our entire family could get together sometime that year and actually get a photo all together, but Tom may well be deployed and I suppose a million other things could get in the way.  One thing I've learned over the years is learn to go with the flow.  Sometimes you just can't make things happen. (You can tell I'm setting myself up for failure on this one.) A shout out to everyone - let's get photos done wherever we're at and just put them all together for the record for The Family From Yosemite book.  Let's make it happen by Christmas 2016, I hope, I hope, I hope!

"True love
has no happy endings
because true love
never ends."

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Life of Susan

God saw her getting tired,
a cure not meant to be.
So He put His arms around her
and whispered . . .
"Come with me."

Susan Buell Corliss - Summer 2012
November 27, 1952 to January 28, 2015

Today was the funeral service for my cousin Susan.  She will be missed by many family and friends.  Susan was not quite eight months my senior.  She was in an accident approximately eight years ago which left her bedridden.  She always hoped she would walk again, but her physical abilities in the long run were more on the decline than improvement.  

We learn from our struggles and this accident affected not only Susan, but all those around here. It was a trying time for many.  But through these struggles she was able to see her three daughters married and one grandson come into the world. She also bought a home and made choices in decorating it.  So in spite of the struggles over the years there were happy and exciting times too.

I love Susan.  We didn't see a lot of each other, but those times we did provided us with lasting happy memories we share together.  As young girls, we played.  As teenagers, we danced and tried desperately to get a tan.  As women, we had the common bond in being wives and mothers.  Our visits were short, but we always picked up where we left off.

Susan was an artist, a designer.  She always had a great eye putting clothes together and decorating her home.  She was always hospitable and kind and very generous.  I find her three daughter to be the same.  She taught them well.  They are all beautiful loving women.

Susan will be missed, but the consolation is that she's in a better place, free from the pain and suffering of this world.  She had said before she passed that she was ready to be with her Savior and other family who had passed before her. I'm happy she felt ready to move on.

One little story to share about Susan:  I went to visit her in Redlands many years ago.  My oldest, Ricky, was very young then. We went shopping together and Susan picked out an outfit for Ricky to wear to church.  It was dark dress pants with a pinstriped jacket, white shirt, and a tie.  I think Superman must have been the rage at the time.  I remember Ricky looking in the mirror at himself in the department store.  He was so pleased with his appearance and he was beaming from ear to ear as he smiled at himself, and then he said to me, "Mommy, look!  I look like Clark Kent."  We were so grateful for the gift and Susan was so happy to put a big smile on a little boy's face.

Janna went with me to attend the services today.  I was grateful to have her along. (She has her own little story meeting up with Susan in South Carolina when she was only six-months old. We had a wonderful time - more hospitality and kindness from Susan.) After the service, we stopped by Susan's home visiting with family and meeting many others who meant so much to Susan.  It was a celebration of Susan's life - hospitality, love, friendliness, and food.  Her influence will continue.  I have no doubt.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go

Tom, Haley, and Forest are living in Watertown, New York. They are pictured visiting a historical site from the War of 1812. Tom couldn't believe seeing Lake Ontario frozen over and people out ice fishing. You know he's going to have to try that. These Californian's are having new, different, and fun experiences. We're happy they made it to New York, but we're missing them.

Janna's home! With Tom and family having left, our spirits were brightened with Janna's homecoming. She served 18-months in the Florida Orlando Mission. She's home for now and we're happy to have her back.

"I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,
Over mountain or plain or sea;
I'll say what you want me to say, dear Lord;
I'll be what you want me to be."

Mary Brown

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Parenting: Touching the Hearts of Our Youth

(The words used in this video come from Elder Robert D. Hales general conference talk, "Our Duty to God:  The Mission of Parents and Leaders to the Rising Generation," April 2010. 

I remember when I was a mother of young children and my daughter, Rebecca, was talking to me. I was doing something else as she chatted and I nodded my head at all the right places through the conversation. At least I think they were the right places.  I thought I was listening to her, but she too (as in the video) grabbed my head and gently turned my face toward her and said, "Mommy, you need to look at me when I talk to you."

In contrast, when Becky was even younger, I had a moment with just the two of us.  Reading was an evening ritual with the whole family on our king size bed, but for some reason Becky and I were alone, just the two of us.  We sat there together on the bed.  It was a long time with me just reading book after book, after book and in one sweet moment she crawled up even closer to me and she quietly whispered, "I love you Mommy." I think I said, "I love you too."  But what I do remember is being so overcome by the Spirit.  I felt her words so strongly when she said - I love you.  In that moment, I knew that simply reading to her and being with her, meant something to her. It meant something to me. It takes time to have such moments - moments that really last forever. Becky and me, together, reading together all snuggled on the bed. I just kept reading.

"Family time is sacred time
and should be
protected and respected.
We urge our members to show
devotion to their families.”

President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them,” Ensign, May 2012, 9.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I've been off the bandwagon for a while for various reasons, but a new year is approaching and I want to get back on.  I'd like to think I'll do some post about my doings, but I'm worried about my busyness.  I guess I've got a writers block or something and my stifling ability at the computer isn't helping.  But I do have a lot of fodder from our family's storybook - The Family From Yosemite.  I have mostly put up my own writings except for a select few, but in the coming year (if nothing else) I plan to include some Family From Yosemite stories from other family members (with permission, of course).  I am also indexing as of late and I'm so thrilled with my new scope on family history.  Anyway, my point is as I look to 2015 as a year of family history pursuits.  I am going to search my memories of the past and try and record the simple things that could easily be lost if not recorded.

I reviewed my posts for goals for 2014.  My lack of review was an indicator of the new year.  I didn't have much to say. That's probably an indicator of how my year started and went.  I said, "I'd lose weight."  I did not.  I've gained.  I said, "I would be more thankful." - which I started in Thanksgiving of 2013.  I did keep a Thankful Journal through the year.  Here's the goals for 2015:

I will continue a Thankful Journal in 2015.  It's been helpful to me and I know I can be even more thankful.
  • I claim I will lose weight in 2015 - Hoping our Jingle Bell Challenge will be a kick start. 
  • I will work on family history in 2015 particularly with blogging and indexing, but searching too.
  • Janna will be home early in the new year and no doubt moving on later in the year. Sharing some time with her after being gone for a year and a half is important to me.
Happy New Year!  I'm back on the wagon.

"Always bear in mind
that your own resolution to succeed
is more important than any other."
Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"But That's Not What My Teacher Said"

compass Vector Clipart illustration

After my last post about being busy, I fell sick the very next day.  I'm still recovering as I write and I write with permission from Sam.

After laying in bed for two days with a high fever it finally came down and so naturally I felt a little better.  I decided I would do a few things that day even though I was still sick.  The biggest priority was going to the doctor, but I also had some errands that involved taking kids where they needed to go with me just staying in the car.

I had just finished picking up my prescription of horse pill antibiotics when Sam jumped in the car for his ride home and announced, "I gotta go shopping!"

"Shopping!  Can't it wait!"

"No, I need a compass!"

"A compass.  Your dad has one at home.  You've used it before."  I know he knows this and yet I'm repeating it because I don't want to buy a compass.

Sam said, "Not that kind of compass (as in Scouting).  I'm talking a compass for Geometry."

"Oh, didn't I tell you to get one of those when we were buying the protractor earlier in the school year?  I told you you would need one."

"You never said that!  Besides, it wasn't on the list then and now he wants us to have one."

How come I'm the only one that remembers these conversations that supposedly never happen. I'm amazed once again at my wisdom and here I sit thinking about how I could have saved a buck at the beginning of the year when all the school supplies were discounted.  You might even think we owned one already being that this is the last of my seven children to take Geometry.  Where are those compasses?  I don't know!  Probably upstairs in my kiddie art bag.  Surely a few have survived, but I'm not looking.  I just drive hopelessly ahead to Staples.

I just keep thinking how we could have made this purchase in August when I was at least feeling a little more chipper.  I admit my illness has given me this angst. This whole thing is reminiscent of everyone one of my children at age five when my creditability with anything academia would go out the window.  In there eyes I use to know everything, now nothing.  Each of them in turn would come home from kindergarten and explain something to me about what their teacher wanted.  I admit sometimes I don't know what teachers want, but I've been around the block with teachers, kids, and yes, I even use to go to school.  Sometimes I actually know what is expected.  I then in turn explain to my child what the teacher "really" meant when they said that and they will look up at me with confident eyes and say, "But that's not what my teacher said."

So here I go again with a sixteen year old.  I start to question my abilities.  I think back, "I got a B+ in Trig (my highest math class when I went to college). Ya, Ya, I know I'm right on this math stuff,"  as I try to convince myself I'm not crazy as to why we didn't purchase a compass earlier.

I could have sent Sam in with money, but I usually use my debit card these days and didn't have enough cash on me to buy anything.  I thought I was just going to pick him up from school so I wasn't prepared for this errand.  I'm delirious with the idea that I have to get out of the car.  I look like I just rolled out of bed and I had.  I was wearing what I slept in.  I get out of the car and put on my coat hoping to cover up my obvious weirdness.  I don't look that good in public anyway, but I know I've taken "disheveled" to a whole new level.  I'm slow moving, but when we get inside the store I quickly dart to the carts. Sam corrects my action saying, "Mom, we don't need one of those.  We're just getting a compass."

I keep following him and leave the cart behind knowing that made sense, but then I argue, "Yeah, but I might need it to stay steady."  I love shopping carts.  I refer to them as a friendly "pretend walker".  I am definitely more sure footed with one.

We wander a bit looking around and Sam finds the compasses before I do.  I catch up with him and look at the varying products.  At this point, I'm wishing I was in Walmart as I view the prices, but I picked Staples because I knew it would be easier to maneuver.  It was a smart trade-off considering how I felt.  They had an array to pick from that's for sure.  I felt good when he selected one for only $12.  I can't believe I'm saying that.  I still made a face when he showed me his selection thinking it was a ridiculous price to pay.  He said, "Why are you mad?"

"Mad, I'm not mad!  I'm sick and in public at Stables - that's what I am."

I had already turned to head out. We were standing in a crowd of people in a row of school supplies, but as soon as they heard my words, "I'm sick" the crowd divided like the the parting of the Red Sea.  People hovered over to the sides with all the stickers, pens, and whatever product was directly in front of them; providing a convenient path for our departure.  We exited quickly to say the least and I clearly knew we were more of a scene then I cared to own up to.

Today Sam is at school with his compass. I'm at home still sick.  Welcome to my lifeMy day to day living is what it's all about. I'll be picking Sam up again at 2:30 p.m. again. I'm sure another adventure awaits us.
 "Trust yourself. 
You know more than you think you do."

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Silver Lining

 School Clip Art

I have had it hard lately.  "Busy" is the reality of my situation.  Consequently, I haven't worked much this school year.  November, I only went in one day, but I jumped back into December with a couple of days early in the month.  It was pouring down rain which can be incredibly miserable because it's then designated as inclement weather and the kids have to stay in class.

I had to go to several classrooms throughout the day because I was the resource teacher servicing kids who needed extra help, but I knew when I got to their classes I would run into a few teachers with the feeling of, "What do I do now?  These kids need a break!" I'm there to help and I boldly asked if they'd like me to do a few songs and maybe a story - a phoney recess so to speak or as one teacher has referred to me as "a vacation from the teacher".  Even the hardened 5th graders who wouldn't be caught dead doing such antics happily followed my lead.

Yeah! I came home and shouted, "I love it when people love Mrs. Blair!"  I needed that boost because I wasn't too motivated to work and I really ought to.  I'll do more in the new year.  School can be very hard on Mrs. Blair some days.  Happily, I had two great days in spite of stormy weather.  I found a silver lining in the darkest of clouds with a song.
"Those who wish to sing
will always find a song."
--Swedish Proverb

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

School and Skin

I'm back in school - two ways.  One, I'm taking a watercolor class at the college.  I'm almost three weeks in and really enjoying it.  I look every semester at the course catalog with the idea of taking a class, but I rarely sign up. I'm glad this one fit my schedule. I'm also subbing again for the new school year.  I had a slow start, but I'm back on track.

Last week I was in a Resource class. Children with specific needs rotate in and out of the classroom or sometimes I go to their class to be helpful. I didn't expect to hear this from a 1st grader I was servicing that afternoon. He was distracted by the appearance of my arm as he sat next to me. In bewilderment he said, "How come you're so spotted?"  I lifted my arm and looked at it and then rubbed my hand over it back and forth, thinking, and knowing full well I didn't have the beautiful rich brown skin he had. I said, "Well, I guess . . . because I'm just old."  Granted, I was a bit freckled in my youth, but I'm more spotted now than ever; not to mention some scarring from doctors trying to clear my skin of unfortunate growths that have come on with aging; and needless to say I'm bumpy, quick with a rash or sunburn.  He turned and went on with his work after my matter-of-fact answer seemed to suffice.

Leave it to a 6-year old to be frank and honest with his questions.  I wasn't offended.  I admit I'm more speckled than most. When I fill out a form that asks for my race I check:  Caucasian, but after that conversation I felt like a new breed of people with my different shades of brown dotting my skin. I continued helping him with his reading.  It wasn't just my skin he was quick to notice, but he was quick to observe in his school work too.  He did a great job with his assignment and then off he went, back to class.

"Be who you are and say what you feel
because those who mind don't matter
and those who matter don't mind."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Eulogy - William Burton Reynders

I'm finally putting this up. I was delirious composing and typing my dad's eulogy at 4 a.m. the day of his funeral. I certainly didn't cover it all, but I hoped it would be a tribute to his life, his love of God, his family, and his fellowman.

William Burton Reynders Eulogy
presented by Martha Reynders Blair at his funeral
Friday, August 8, 2014

My father has suffered in many ways in recent years and especially in the last month, but we know he has moved on to a better place.  As a representative of our family, I would like to publicly acknowledge our gratitude for my father’s caregiver, Teresa Espinoza, and her family. Teresa was outstanding in her service, always choosing excellence, and full of charity. Thank you, Teresa.

There are many relatives who have preceded my father in death, but I will mention just a few - 1st his wife, Dorothy McMullin, two of his grandchildren, and most recently his sister, Betty, who passed away on July 25th.  Poppy is survived by his children - myself, Martha, and my husband, Houston Blair; Mark and JoLinda Reynders of Clovis, California; Beth and David Lockhart of Hope Mills, North Carolina; and Adam and Sally Reynders of Holladay, Utah.  He has 19 living grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and many other friends and family who are here today. Thank you for coming.

My grandparent’s, Dee Allen Reynders and Martha Ann Thaxton, were both from Michigan. They were married on June 23, 1917.  Together they had five children.  My father, William Burton Reynders was the youngest. He went by Billy or Bill in those day, and in later years was affectionately referred to as “Poppy” or “Coach”.  He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 11, 1927.  Interestingly, his oldest brother, Jim, shared the same birthday of June 11th..

On Christmas Day 1927 this blossoming family met with great tragedy. Martha Ann Thaxton Reynders died of consumption or what we now call TB or tuberculosis.  Jim was 9, Betty 7, Doris 5, Robert 3, and my father, Bill, who was only 6 months old.  These children all found out later in life that they too once had TB.  My father had scarring in his lungs and was never able to donate blood because of it.

I have great compassion in thinking that my dad was not raised or cared for by his mother.  The nurturing experience that a mother can give was lost to him. There were others that stepped in and tried to compensate, but he keenly felt this loss.  Even though Christmas was the celebrated birth of our Savior he still had a bit of sorrow each year knowing his mother had passed on that day. He never showed it or talked about it, but kept it to himself.  I was older when I learned this information looking on a family pedigree chart. "What a trial!" I thought, "Not to be nurtured by your own mother."  It was a sad thing indeed, but I am hopeful she greeted him in death along with many other family and friends awaiting.

After the death of their mother, the children were separated and lived with other family members for a time; but eventually they came back together under one roof.  My father grew up attending the Central Christian Church.  He was raised in a home that promoted Christianity, service, sports, music, art, and education.

Their family formed a band performing in nursing homes. We have a photograph where my dad is pictured sitting at a snare drum with his other siblings and his father, but he also learned to play the piano and bravely sang participating in choirs and the like.

My dad was definitely skillful in sports.  He really was outstanding.  He attended Union High School where his father taught school. He participated in track and field, tennis, basketball, and football.  He left high school; too young to join the Navy, but he did it anyway with his friends, actually enlisting on D-Day during World War II.  He wasn’t in for very long because the war was soon over.  He came home and finished high school at Union High in 1947. He joined the Navy again during the Korean conflict. While he was in the military he actually had the opportunity to represent the Navy playing football at Treasure Island in San Francisco.

My dad’s sister mentioned to my mother’s brother that she had a brother serving in the Navy and wondered if he knew anyone that could write him.  My mother’s brother said, “I’ve got a sister that could write your brother.

Long story short, my parents started writing each other.  Eventually they met in California, as they walked together to greet my mother’s parents who were waiting in the distance, my mother could see her mother’s lips whispering to her father, “He’s too short for Dorothy.”  My father was the tallest in his family, but even so he barely reached the height of my mother. Obviously height was not a deal breaker, but one of the big common draws for both my parents was that they were both athletic. My parents were very competitive.  My dad was surprised that someone could actually beat him at tennis.  They both enjoyed watching sports and participating in them. It was something they shared together throughout the years.

My mother gave my father a Book of Mormon.  He read it while out at sea.  He knew the book was true.  When he saw her again, he said, “I want to be baptized.”  Later, after his baptism they were married on June 22,1951.  A year later they were sealed in the Mesa Arizona Temple.  Over time four children were born, myself - Martha, Mark, Beth, and Adam. Interestingly, my father named his two daughters after women he felt had most influenced him in his life.  I, Martha, was named after his mother and my sister, Beth, was named after his father’s sister, Aunt Beth.  She had a set of twins six-months older than my dad and he spent a lot of time in their home during his growing up years.

Like my parents, our family participated in sports, Scouting, and lots of activities at school, but my father knew life wasn’t just about sports and fun activities.  I remember my mother made up some signs for each of our bedrooms.  My dad brought them to each room and pinned them on a bulletin board as an affirmation to aim high.  The sign listed three goals:  “Mission, College, Temple Marriage”.

Our household was loud, and as boisterous as we all were it was still a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house that strived to teach and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Like Nephi of old, I can truly say “I was born of goodly parents.”

In our home for family home evenings we found ourselves often performing. Yes, we had family home evening lessons, but it seemed that everyone took a turn singing or playing the piano; except for my mother.  I’m not sure why she was exempt, but my dad participated.  He had a piano repertoire that consisted of “America the Beautiful”, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, and the “Happy Farmer”.  It didn’t stop there.  He would get up and serenade us with an old Christian tune from his youth “I Love to Tell the Story”.

I remember family home evenings.  I felt the Spirit; and because I was taught in my home and developed a testimony of the importance of family home evening; I have carried it through to the next generation and now I see it with my own children with their children.  Traditions of truth are tools that teach. Proverbs 22:6 reads, Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

I saw my father fulfill priesthood responsibilities daily with home teaching, missionary work, temple work, family history, teaching, and service  He gave us father’s blessings and blessings when we were sick. My father wasn’t perfect, but he tried to live the gospel and tried to always set an example.

My father worked in aerospace for 40 years, but there were times when he was laid off.  I remember my father being off for several months sometimes. There was one stretch that went for four months.  He even took up painting portraits. I can remember him cutting up vegetables into a pot of something which was our standard dinner with homemade bread. These times were frugal times.  I am sure my parents were concerned.  I am sure being unemployed can be a little depressing, but I really wasn’t fully aware of their worry; maybe because I just didn’t understand all the responsibilities of adulthood, but I also felt at peace in spite of these trials.

One day, I went into my parents bedroom and saw my father kneeling next to his bed praying.  I exited quietly and went to the dining room where my mother was sitting.  I told her that I saw daddy praying and why was he praying in the middle of the day?  She informed me that I shouldn’t disturb him that he was praying for a job.  I might not have been aware of adult responsibilities, but I was aware of the time and I watched the clock.  I didn’t know how long my dad had been on his knees, but since I observed him in his room praying I knew it had been at least an hour. Wow!  Praying in the middle of the day and praying for so long?! I was out on the patio occupying myself, the backdoor to the house was visibly ajar. I had been thinking about this situation.  I was watching. I was listening.  I heard the phone ring.  My mother picked it up.  I heard her say, “Yes, just a minute.” She went down the hall and got my father.  My father quickly came to the phone.  He picked it up and said, “I’ll be right there.” And he walked out the door.  I went in the house and said, “Where’s Daddy going?”  She replied, “He got a job.”  I was so amazed by that.  I’m sure it was faith promoting to my parents, but it was really a tender mercy for me also witnessing faith in action, to be there, to see it, to feel it.  God hears and answers prayers.  I knew my parents knew it and I knew it.; and as you can see, I’ve always remembered it.

My dad coached Little League for many years. He coached his sons and many other young men in the sport.  Surprisingly, he didn’t play it in high school and it was his first love of sports.  He also taught tennis.  He coached football and basketball.  I’m sure these kids called him “Coach”, but that’s not really how he got the name.  At a ward basketball game, my dad was watching, but wasn’t the “Coach”.  If you have ever set with my dad at a game, he’s definitely shouting from the sidelines.  He’s pulling his hair out in anguish at all the mistakes he sees and you can bet he’s telling you about it.  He was giving his advice from the sidelines while the boys were playing.  Those teenage boys really didn’t want to hear what my dad had to say to them so it was more a derogatory comment of “Okay, Coach!  Sure, Coach!” My dad took it in stride and was happy to be called “Coach” which eventually became a name of endearment.

My father was very passionate about sports.  He would get frustrated with kids that wouldn’t follow his instructions.  He’d tell me about situations referring to extraordinarily talented kids and say, “If they’d just do what I say, they’d make a touchdown every time.”  “If they’d just do what I say, they’d make a basket every time.”  If they’d just do what I say, they’d get it over the net, they’d get a home run.” - and on and on. Maybe my dad was a little bit over the top when it came to his delivery from the sideline, but I have to give my dad some credit. He was really very gifted and had a lot of knowledge and skill. One legendary story we tell in our family happened  when I was in high school. We had an event called the “Stake Olympics”.  The church utilized the college for many of the competitions - swimming, track, etc.  One of the events was tennis.  My dad was working that day, but wanted to participate.  He got there just in time for the competition. He didn’t have time to change his clothes coming straight from work.  He was wearing his worn-out, grubby, long-legged, long-sleeved dungarees.  He couldn’t be cool dressed like that  - “not cool” in that he had to be really hot in those clothes, and “not cool” because he looked absolutely ridiculous; and to top it off he had on his steel-toed boots.  He didn’t have his racket, but borrowed one from someone at the event.  He won! He was absolutely amazing! Over 40 years old running the tennis court in that get-up with steel-toed boots. He won the whole thing. Maybe there wasn’t any “real” competition, but like I said - He won and he was absolutely amazing.

My father’s patriarchal blessing says he is a man ‘without guile”.  He was honest and forthright. His intent was not to hurt others, but to help them - in spite of his gruff exterior that he often exhibited.  We all know if you asked him how he was, he’d respond with, “Terrible!”  I asked him about that one time trying to explain to him that he was being negative instead of positive, but he countered that he was being honest.  He really didn’t feel very good.

One special thing my parents did together before they got too sick, was serve a mission.  My mom wanted to go to Nauvoo - where they performed and gave tours to tourist about the Church’s history there and my dad wanted to proselyte.  They got the best of both worlds first serving in Canton, IL for six months and then another six months in Nauvoo.  They enjoyed both situations. My father gave tours at the temple lot.  (There’s a temple there now, of course, but at the time it was the lot or, in other words, the location of where the original Nauvoo Temple stood.)  My dad would give a history of the site telling people about the persecution of the Saints and how the temple had been burned down, not to mention his testimony of this latter-day work.  But like always there is a special Spirit when it comes to temples.  My dad was on sacred ground.  When he came home from his mission he was quite emotional when he said these words, “I don’t know if I was for Nauvoo or if Nauvoo was for me.” Meaning - I went there to serve, but I got so much out of it. It was, no doubt, a humbling and sanctifying experience to serve there as a missionary in such a unique way.

I have heard from many people who have shared stories of home teaching and missionary experiences with my father.  I certainly can’t share them all, but I’d like to share one that represents my father’s doings in this area.  Our friend, Charlie Shackett, use to be a Lancaster resident many years ago. It’s an understatement when I say, Charlie loves baseball.  He’s played it his whole life, but he also looks on baseball in a very special way because of how he joined the Church.  With his permission I share with you this afternoon an excerpt from a talk he gave at a stake conference in 1995:

"The most important role that baseball has played in my life has not been the many wonderful lessons learned about good sportsmanship, setting and teaching goals, winning and losing, competition, interpersonal skills, and working as a team, but what has been most critically important has been the relationships that have influenced my life and the opportunity I’ve had to influence others through this great sport.

When my career began in little league I had an inspired and visionary coach that could see the potential in every individual player.  He made sure that we also saw it within ourselves.  Had it not been for this special and spiritual gift that my coach possessed, I would not have been chosen to play on the team. For you see, I wasn’t nearly as huge and well built for my age as you see me now.  I was rather on the small side, and not so sure what kind of ballplayer I could become.  My coach not only knew what kind of ballplayer I could be, but he knew what kind of person I could become.

His name was . . . “Bill” Reynders.  We just called him “Coach” . . . What he did for me was not just teach me sound fundamentals of the game at an early age, but he remembered me over ten years later in a moment of prayerful inspiration to send the missionaries to my home to teach me the fundamentals of this sacred Gospel.

From the moment the missionaries walked in my door and started to teach this troubled and confused nineteen year old about his desperate need for the Gospel, I knew that my life would never be the same.  After the first discussion I learned the steps of prayer for the first time in my life and was challenged by the missionaries to get on my knees in the solitude of my room before I went to bed, and ask Heavenly Father in the name of His Son Jesus Christ if the Gospel was true.  They promised me, without a doubt in their voice, that I would know that God lived, I would feel the presence of His spirit, and I would receive an answer in my heart to my sincere prayer.  They were right.  Through my first experience of prayer I gained a testimony that God did live, that Jesus was my Savior, and that the Gospel was true.  It proved to be one of my most spiritual and sacred experiences I have ever had in my life.

The next day when the missionaries heard of my experience, they were overjoyed to tears, and from that day began pumping me with daily discussions as quickly and powerfully as humanly possible.  I guess I was what they termed “Golden,” and in Southern California in the mid-seventies golden investigators were hard to come by.

In a matter of weeks I was challenged and ready for baptism.  As the two wonderful missionaries were verbally sparring as to which one would have the honors of baptizing me, I received a little inspiration of my own.  I looked up the number of my long lost “Coach” and gave him a call.  “Coach,” I said, “this is Charlie Shackett and I understand that you were the one that sent the Mormons over to see me.”  He was quiet and didn’t know how to respond.  “Coach, are you responsible for the Mormon missionaries coming over to my house?” I asked again.

He responded, “Well, yes Charlie, I did.”

I proudly asked, “Coach, I would like to know if you’re not too busy this Saturday if you would consider doing me the honor of baptizing me into the Church?”

Coach, not knowing what had transpired over the past few weeks was emotionally taken, but he responded, “I would love to.”

My life was changed by an inspired man that followed the prompting of the Spirit, that took a risk, and influenced a life.  Within two years of my baptism, I was teaching the Gospel to the wonderful Japanese people and had the opportunity to take many “Golden Investigators” down into the waters of baptism.

Shortly after my mission, I married my beautiful wife, Kim, in the Los Angeles Temple . . . [and I’ll add here - raising six children].  He continues . . .

We can make a difference in the lives of others.  How are we influencing those we interact with daily in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our callings, at our work, and in our lives?  I truly believe that what is really going to matter when we stand before God to account for how we lived our life, will be the influence for good that we have made in the lives of others while on this earth, and for the times that we followed the prompting of the Spirit, without fear of man and for the love of God and mankind."

At my mother’s funeral I said in one word that my mother was a “teacher”.  My father was a teacher too, but all in all, in one word, I would say my father was a “missionary”.  He once told me that he knew a girl that was a Mormon in Michigan.  He said, “She never shared anything about the gospel with me, but I’d like to think I would have listened if she had.”  My dad, didn’t like the idea of anyone not knowing the truth. He wanted everyone to have the joy the gospel brings. He was truly a champion for Christ even though dementia and old age took its toll on his body in the end.

In closing, I’d like to read the words of the song my father learned in his youth. I mentioned it earlier and I feel it tells his story, for he truly loved telling the story of Christ. (The words are by A. Katherine Hankey.  I’ll be sharing the 1st and 2nd verses followed by the refrain:)

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me;
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.

“Poppy, I love you!”

In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.
"No one can make you feel inferior, without your consent."
Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘This Is My Story,’ 1937