Monday, November 5, 2007

The Girls From Fugal 189

Good roommates sure make college more fun, not to mention heightening the probability of success. It was a great pleasure and a lot of fun to meet Mary's roommates - the girl's from 189. Katie, Jill, Kaitlin, Sarah, and Christina (even though she's always "working the do") are all wonderful, happy, smart, beautiful, talented girls. Each is so different yet they fit together like an exquisite puzzle.
We walked to Ward Conference together on Sunday morning. Rodger - ever carrying the camera - found a photo op right outside the conference center. With the trees turning and mirrored windows in the background the result was quite beautiful (girls and environment). Sorry to Christina that she's not in the picture, it's part of the required sacrifice to serve as RS President at such a young age. I'm sure there are compensating blessings.
Later that night at Ward Prayer it was 189's turn to introduce themselves. Apparently creativity had been lacking in the intro's in prior weeks but that ended this night. The girls used the song "YMCA" with their own lyrics to wow the crowd and effectively tout a bit of the personality of each one. After they were done the young man conducting the meeting commented, "the bar has effectively been raised!"

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Worry About Mary?

When I informed a friend a couple months ago that Mary was leaving for college, she said, "You must be worried!" "Worried?," I asked. "Well, kids go to college and some get in trouble," she said. "No, I'm really not worried at all." I suppose part of the lack of concern centered around the fact that Mary would attend BYU but most of it originated with what Mary is - the essence of Mary - goodness. When I couldn't stand not seeing her any longer, I left PA to travel to Utah and be with her (and others of my children) to verify my beliefs. Faith is believing in things you can't see, WHICH ARE TRUE. Faith can become knowledge through persistent experience so it's not like I "believe" Mary is a great person - I know it.
When I opened the door to my dorm room all those years ago to see Jeanne standing outside, she radiated. Good paintings draw your eyes to important parts of the canvass. Jeanne was a very good painting. Light streamed out of her eyes and her smile was convincing and contagious. Mary has always had those same traits, as you can see. Pictures paint a thousand words so I'll spare you the reading.
I remember the first time Mary and I ran together. Byron Shaffer had convinced me to run with him in the morinings so he could lose some weight, we would do about 2 1/2 miles three mornings a week. On the off mornings I'd go by myself and quicken the pace some. One morning Mary asked if she could come along. She was young, and she was small, but she was good. The most noticeable thing about her on that first outing was her mental capacity. It was not easy for her to keep up, but there was no way she would let that be an issue. Her will power has always been intense and powerful. I look up to her for that. After a couple days in Utah she asked, "dad, can you front me $15 so I can run in a race?" "Honey, you just got over pneumonia. Are you ready to run a 5k?" "Yes!" There never is any point arguing with her. She knows herself, even though she sometimes pushes too hard (strictly in my opinion). She met a new friend and ran a decent time and finished with a smile. I went to the finish line and waited for her to cross. After a while, I called her cell phone. "Where are you, I'm at the finish line?" "I'm at the finish line too!" There were two 5k's in Provo that day. I had gone to the wrong finish line, but finally caught up to her to get the above, post-race photo.
Another significant reason not to worry about Mary is that she has wonderful friends. Perhaps chief among them is her cousin Kelsey. Kelsey is an inspiration to all of us. She has endured more than the rest of us ever will and she smiles and laughs and believes. Kristen is another who has chosen the right without the benefit of influences most of us had. She is a pioneer of sorts, leading the way for a new generation. It was so interesting standing on the field at an inter-mural soccer game Friday night. There must have been thousands of participants across campus. I just thought, "what a different place this is - what a great place - where students are engaged in healthy pursuits at 10p on Friday night." All those good influences soothe a father's soul.

The PA Conundrum

Jeanne and I ask ourselves more and more lately why we live in Pennsylvania. Of course there is no definite answer why we came here in the first place. It's true we believe that God led us here for some reason or purpose and we believe we should fulfill that mission. Without a specific calling it's hard to know when and if the mission has been completed. It is also true that Annie and Kelly and Addison and Laynie and another up and coming grandchild live here, which could be answer enough to the question, "why Pennsylvania?"
But there certainly exist compelling reasons to perhaps seek opportunity in the west. Note four of those reasons in the above picture. Although we have completely forgiven Jake for turning down the perfect job in Pennsylvania and have furthermore recognized, by virtue of his callings in the ward, that it is possible he and Becca were actually "needed" in Utah, it doesn't make it any easier to have them living so far away. Returning from Utah this past month was the hardest return trip of my life. I rarely get very emotional about important things (like leaving children behind or sending kids on missions or to college) although I am perfectly capable of having deeply emotional experiences during entertaining movies (like - say - Evan Almighty), but leaving Utah this time was genuinely difficult and emotional. It felt almost "wrong" to be going home.
Fate has somehow dictated that four of our six children currently reside in Utah. So much for Casey's theory that central Pennsylvania is a black hole and NOTHING ESCAPES. Sometimes it seems the only things that haven't escaped are Jeanne and I. Being with Casey and Bill as they rough-housed and joked around made me miss the very home that seemed wrong to return to. How does one keep a a house a home when the principle elements of that home voluntarily and purposefully dismiss themselves leaving mere echoes of the past instead of moments in the present?
That being said, my trip to Utah was spectacular! Being with Mary and Casey and Bill and Rochelle and Jake and Becca and the kids and other good friends like Kelsey, Kristen, Jo Ann Hickman and the Holley girls, etc. was just GREAT! We shopped, we ate together, we visited, we laughed, we went to movies together and basically just loved being with each other. Funny how you could take those moments for granted when you all live in the same house. It reminded me to try my hardest to cherish every moment I have left with Emily. On the way out to Utah I completed a book called "Miracle in the Andies." It was an emotional account of a South American rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andies at 12,000 feet and how many survived the ordeal for 75 days! One of the lasting impressions was an observation by the author, a survivor of the crash, that the experience taught him to cherish every moment in life and never take any moment for granted. I'm hoping my Utah trip will teach me that, including not to take any of the remaining PA moments, however many that may be, for granted.