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In the morning, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I could not vote for him. He is not the stunning businessman that many claim him to be – he has regularly stiffed contractors and left whole enterprises in flames. He treats those with whom he disagrees with a contempt that encourages the worst in people. He did not win a majority of Republican votes in the primaries, and he did not win a majority of votes in the general election (and yes, I still stand by the electoral college), and yet, he won.

I stayed up late on November 8 to watch the election returns. I, like most people, I think, believed that someone else would be our next president. I first was surprised when he won Florida. Then stunned when he won Ohio. And finally dumbfounded when Wisconsin went his way. That was the point at which I thought, “He’s going to do this…He’s going to win.” The networks all held off on Pennsylvania and Michigan. It’s like they just didn’t want to admit it – that Donald Trump had just won the presidency, but they finally capitulated to the inevitable.

Now, that night was not one of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth for me, because the other candidate was this woman.

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Hillary Clinton. I should have been excited by the prospect of the first female president, but I wasn’t, because it was her. If I couldn’t vote for Trump, I absolutely would not vote for Hillary Clinton. The woman who tried to publicly destroy the victims of her husband’s abuse. The woman who ignored requests for additional security from our diplomats in Benghazi and then tried to blame their deaths on some silly video. The woman for whom security protocol does not matter because the rules just don’t apply to her. The woman who will defame and bully people as political payback for her friends and to cover up her own misdeeds.

So I voted third party. I agonized for weeks. I watched as friends tied themselves in self-deceiving knots as they attempted to turn Trump into a moral giant at worst, or the lesser-of-two-evils at best. When I finally came to the conclusion that voting my conscience meant voting third party, I felt absolute peace about the whole awful mess – whoever would win, would win. The funny thing is, I was condemned by my mental-contortionist friends on the right before the election (I was called the “Queen of Arrogance” and passive-aggressive  by two women – ha!), and then denounced by the left afterwards. Save for defending people’s right to make their voice heard through a third party vote, I was utterly detached from the election once I felt confirmed in my choice. It made for an interesting election night. As the results came in with Trump sweeping up electoral votes, my reaction was a mixture of shock and dismay: “Oh my gosh, he’s going to win,”  and glee, “Oh my gosh, she’s going to lose!”

And so, tomorrow, Donald Trump becomes President Trump – tacky, tweeting, bullying, destabilizing, trash-talking, misogynist Donald Trump. The left is beside itself. Sick to their stomach over it. I might be too if it weren’t for one thing they don’t understand: I, and many other conservatives, have been sick to our stomach for a long time. We felt sick when the Clintons abused their positions. We felt sick to see the presidency brought low by a man who suborned perjury to hide his intern giving him blow jobs in the oval office. We felt sick watching a left-leaning media make excuses for them both. We felt sick every time Obama, ignorant of all the facts, jumped to conclusions over and over that endangered the well-being of police officers. We felt sick when we saw our government literally stand by and watch Americans get killed in Benghazi. We have felt sick for a long, long time. To all my Democrat friends I say, welcome to our world.

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We arrived in Fort Worth in January 1990 driving a white VW bug and a red and white bus. It was cold and flat and windy, but it was a city and not the truck stop that Del Rio had been. Rob would be flying the B-52 at Carswell AFB. We could look forward to 3-5 years there before the Air Force moved us to a new base. But something happened along the way. The Cold War ended and so did the Air Force’s need for B-52 pilots. Rob got an early out and began flying for American Airlines and what was supposed to be a temporary home turned into a permanent residence.

What I did not initially understand about the state, I came to love. The people are fiercely independent. They are part western and part southern – the best of both worlds. They love their state, something you begin to understand when you visit the Alamo. It’s hot in the summer. So hot you want to cry. And there are wild flowers, and sunsets, and thunderstorms. And then the calm after the storm.

We bought some land with a small house on it where we could have chickens and cows. We had honey bees for a time. There was a well with naturally soft water that actually tasted sweet. There was also a temperamental septic system that we often cursed. We had pecan trees and oaks, and the squirrels would leap from tree to ground to tree. There were hawks and rabbits and sometimes possums and coyotes. When the weather was pleasant, or we just had a lot of dead wood to dispose of, we would have bonfires. We lived close to the church and often used our house for gatherings – socials, scouts, youth activities.

I remodeled the house and turned it from a ranch home into a little cottage.

We lived through droughts and floods. (Literal and figurative!) We made friends. We raised our children together. We took them to the lake in the summer and carpooled to art classes and music lessons during the school year. We watched them grow up and marry. We celebrated their milestones, made food for their weddings and mourned at their funerals.

In the evenings, we would sit in our living room and look out the window to our pasture.

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I have traded that view for something new and different. Not something I was expecting at all. The something new feels right. But 26 years is a lot of life to leave behind. And as I consider the new and different, I wonder what the next 26 years will have in store for me.

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After the children of Israel escaped Egypt, instead of immediately going to the promised land, they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. They were in limbo: an intermediate state or condition. I am in limbo. A little, Provo, studio-apartment limbo. My old house, not quite sold, my hoped-for home, not quite mine, and the state of both in question due to factors outside our control. So I am waiting out these 1%, first-world problems (truly, for there are millions of people displaced and suffering unimaginable pain in this world, and I think to complain?) trying to figure out what lessons I can learn from this period in my life.

Lesson 1: Politics can bring out the worst in people. If they aren’t insulting, they are condescending. If you disagree with them, you must be stupid or naive. Or both. They believe that if you saw just one more poorly-written screed, then surely you would change your mind and vote just like them. So be civil always and respect differences of opinion. That does not mean to always be silent. Sometimes we must speak up, but do so in a way that can never bring reproach. Be a light.

Lesson 2: Some things are worse than a liberal SCOTUS. I am uncertain about many things, but not about who I am voting for. When we first moved to Texas, Ann Richards was running for governor. Her Republican opponent was Clayton Williams. A more obnoxious bubba you never saw. He did not deserve to hold public office. I declined to vote for either because I disagreed with Ann Richards’ stand on most issues. The world didn’t end and Ann Richards lasted just one term. Since her time in office, Texas has been served by three good, (one very colorful) conservative governors. Hillary Clinton will become the president. She is horribly corrupt. Horribly. Her abuse of power and disregard for the lives of those who serve this country is enough to make you cry. It will not be pretty. Her opponent, Donald Trump, is an ignorant, non-conservative, misogynist bigot. His ardent followers are bullies who mistake nationalistic rhetoric for patriotism. He has a toxic effect on people – he reinforces vulgarity and coarseness in public discourse. Many who would not normally support him, do so now and make excuses for his behavior and his words and hold him up as an example of great business acumen. I fear his effect on civil society.

Lesson 3: Living close to a temple is really nice. I can see the Provo City Center temple from my apartment window. I have been to the temple almost every week. I love it. It is a refuge from the ugliness of the election and the uncertainty of my status as a resident of Utah. I ran into Melissa Dalton Bradford there. She is an author that I stumbled upon some time ago. I read her books and blog. She is a talented writer and has lived an interesting life. She lost a son in a tragic accident and her writings have given me a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the grieving process. Losing your parent after a long life is something we expect. But losing a loved one who is still relatively young or a child – that is a whole different kind of sorrow. Anyway, it was a pleasure to meet her. So glad I had lost my earrings and gone back to the temple to find them! Tender mercies.

Lesson 4: When you don’t feel like going to church, go anyway. Just. Go. Holly and Gared are out of town this weekend. Rob is flying. That meant I would be going to church alone. I was tempted to just go to sacrament and skip the rest, but I am glad I stayed. We studied Elder Holland’s talk from April 2016 conference. I needed that. He quotes Hebrews:  “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” Now, I do not have a “great fight of afflictions”, but this whole process of being in limbo and wondering if these sale and acquisition transactions are going to actual go through, it is trying for me. I start to wonder, “Did I hear correctly the answer to those prayers? Can I trust God?” The lesson was a reminder to me that, as Elder Holland says:

the first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—that’s the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. That love is the foundation stone of eternity, and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life.

So, whatever the outcome of our efforts to move out of this state of limbo, God knows the end from the beginning and has a plan. And, yes, I can trust Him.

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Wang Deshun

Watch this. Really.

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As in “thoroughly cooked”. I received my degree on July 20, 2016. Did you know that the traditional use of the word graduate was in passive voice? One “is graduated from” university – as though the university is giving birth to an alumnus. Either way…a process begun 35 years ago came to an end at long last. So many detours. I began as a student at BYU in Provo. On a whim, I joined a young woman I had only known for a couple of months in attending a semester at BYU-Hawaii. I am so grateful for that experience. I returned at the end of the semester to a very different life and home and job. I kind of had to re-evaluate my life at that point. Continuing with school seemed monumental. I flirted with the idea of traveling, then my traveling companion had a sudden change of plans. I started going out with Rob and my life took a turn. By the time I returned to school in earnest, I had a daughter married, one in college and one about to graduate from high school. My life had taken me from California, where I though I would live my whole life, after all, there is no life east of Pacific Coast Highway, to Texas. I homeschooled my daughters all the way through high school. NO ONE homeschooled where and when I grew up. Only weirdos would do such a thing. Yup, I turned out to be one of them.

I was sooooo unprepared for college when I was 18. I remember the drive up to Utah. James Ottesen drove us in his truck. I sat between him and his best pal, Ed Formica. We left when it was still dark and arrived in Provo in the evening. I roomed with my friend from home, Saskia Scow. We lived in Deseret Towers on the same floor with Dianne Dain and Carol Stansel, also from Palos Verdes. Those dorms have been demolished and new ones stand in their place now. The next morning after arriving, while lying in bed – my eyes still closed – I could hear people moving about. I thought, “Who’s up so early?” Ha! I forgot I was at BYU! I thought I was still home. I opened my eyes and had a moment of fear. BYU was huge. And the kids that I knew there had all come from relative privilege. I was a fish out of water. I tried to live my life like them, but I really needed to have found my own way instead of adopting theirs. I just didn’t know how to do that or who to emulate. (I do better when I have examples to teach me.)

There were some things, however, that were really good for me at school: regular meals at the cafeteria – I ate pretty healthy when left to my own devices at a cafeteria; regular exercise – I took an aerobics class. I liked it so much that I would attend classes other than my own; a smoke-free, wholesome atmosphere; cheap student football tickets and on-campus entertainment.

My road to a degree was circuitous to say the least, but it ended up leading me to exactly the degree that was right for me. I remember reading my patriarchal blessing through my life and thinking, “Who is this person? I do not recognize her.” Who knew I had to wait 35 years to meet her.

I have been taking a class on the socialization of individuals. We look at the whole macrosystem’s and chronosystem’s influence. This week, we have discussed gender – that horrible construct of feminist theory. According to that theory, sex is biological, but gender is expressed. I think that feminist theory is riddled with contradictions. On the one hand, we are supposedly socialized into “male” or “female” behavior. Yet a man may choose to express himself as a female and a female as a male – and those feelings of wanting to express him or herself that way is beyond his/her control. How can that be if we are socialized into our genders and society forces men and women to behave, and view the opposite sex, in certain ways? I’m sure they have a convoluted answer for that that creates even more contradictions. That’s the beauty of feminist theory. It doesn’t have to make sense.

Anyway, we had a prompt this week about gender characteristics in light of science and the Proclamation. I had these thoughts:

Many people believe that all gender differences are socialized. However, research on the brains of males and females consistently reveal structural differences in how men’s and women’s brains work. Research also concludes that in addition to biological difference, men and women also display cognitive differences. It is important to remember that not only are there differences between sexes, but there is variation within sexes, which explains things like “tomboys”. In general, males are more aggressive and have greater visual-spatial ability. In general, females have greater verbal ability. 

I believe that when the Proclamation speaks of gender differences, it is speaking more of responsibilities and not behaviors. If we look at the words we use to describe the Savior (meek, compassionate), they are descriptors that our society usually identifies as “female”. I believe that the Proclamation, in contrasting the sexes, is speaking of areas of responsibility, with men presiding, providing, and protecting and women nurturing, and not gender attributes as it relates to socialized or innate behavior.

Where the Proclamation speaks of divine nature, it does so apart from the directives about responsibilities of mothers and fathers:

ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

I think our having a divine nature and destiny has more to do with our divine heritage and destiny as “heirs of eternal life” and less to do with gender differences. And by saying that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose”, the prophets are clarifying that gender, as it is understood today, is not something that is expressed outside of biological sex. Our identity and eternal purpose is tied to our sex/gender. Elder Ballard confirms that pronouncement: 

Men are given stewardship over the sacred ordinances of the priesthood. To women, God gives stewardship over bestowing and nurturing mortal life, including providing physical bodies for God’s spirit children and guiding those children toward a knowledge of gospel truths. These stewardships, equally sacred and important, do not involve any false ideas about domination or subordination. Each stewardship is essential for the spiritual progression of all family members—parents and children alike.

These stewardships are eternal and tied to our eternal identity as males and females, men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers.  The Proclamation declares we are an eternal, divine complement of stewardships, not gendered characteristics.

 

 

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Yesterday I officially completed my internship as a United Families legislative intern. As a legislative intern, I researched bills and issues relating to the family that were before the Utah legislature. I met with representatives (mostly) and some senators to inform them of what we knew of the various matters of business before them.

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I attended committee meetings and testified in favor of bills.

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I met with the Attorney General and shared with him bills that UFI was tracking. I attended a weekly family coalition meeting as well as a townhall for the city of Layton. I assisted at a booth at BYU-Provo’s Civic Engagement workshop. (And if anyone from BYU is reading, your Civic Engagement minor, well, it’s kind of weak. It pains me to say that because I bleed blue, but your smaller sister-school to the north has an Advocacy major with some real teeth in it. Call them up and learn something from them.) The thing I really liked was writing fact sheets. Legislators really will use the information (always backed by studies) that is on those fact sheets. We heard representatives use the information contained in them on the floor of the house. I learned a lot about tone, and I learned a lot about building relationships. Laura has been expert at that.

I also went to the UN.

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Family Studies students read A Sacred Duty as part of their Advocacy class. We become familiar with the intimidation and coercion that family-friendly countries face from the western world. We also learn that NGOs that support the natural family also face some stiff opposition.

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At the UN, UFI gives presentations, called parallel and side events, where we discuss issues concerning families and things that we can do to strengthen them. This year for our parallel presentations, we teamed up with Fight The New Drug and focused on the dangers of pornography and its link to human trafficking. Our side event featured talks about trends in marriage and child bearing, parental rights and the impact that fathers have in the lives of their daughters. That last topic was presented by Brother Rarick. He does something unique at the UN. So much of what we hear there is negative. Every bad thing going on in the world, every injustice, every barbarous act of cruelty – it can be overwhelming. And every day there are people who are trying to change and destroy that which we know to be God ordained. It’s important to remember that they are children of our Heavenly Father, and they think they are doing good, but often their efforts are terribly misguided. And too often their efforts only compound the problems our world faces. And it physically weighs on you. At least it weighs on me. But Brother Rarick comes and shows us the value of men in society. He brings the spirit into what is otherwise a spiritless space. He reminds visitors that there is something good in family and fatherhood. And people’s hearts are touched. The BYU-Idaho students that attended also bring that spirit with them. They are good and pure and guileless and brave. They are valiant warriors for the family.

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Much of our time at the UN is spent on mission visits. We meet with representatives from various countries, especially those trying to maintain their values and culture, and which clash with the agenda of western nations.

One of the things that UFI does to help these nations resist the pressure they are under to conform is give them the Negotiating Guide which is a catalog of family friendly consensus language found in UN documents. Countries can use this language to protect their interests.

When we meet with representatives, we are often faced with skepticism. These people have been lied to over and over. Western women claiming to support the family come offering help, and then they pull a bait and switch. You can see their distrust in their body language. I met with a woman from a north African country – arms crossed, disbelief written across her face. You could hear her thoughts: Who are these women and what are they trying sell? It took several minutes, but when she finally believed we were friendly, she opened up and told us of the pressure they are under constantly from the west. It is not uncommon for them to say that they ask for immunizations but all they get is condoms and abortions. Because that is where modern-day feminism has brought us. Feminism believes women need to be freed from the home and child bearing, that these things keep women from living a self-actualized life. They believe that in order to have true equality with men, they must be like men and deny that which makes them uniquely female – the godly power to create mortal life.

My patriarchal blessing talks about my education preparing me to be a mother in Zion. When I resumed my education that had been put on a shelf 30 years earlier, I didn’t know how that could be realized, since I was a middle-aged woman whose children were grown and gone from the house, but Advocacy class helped me understand what the Lord meant. My call, however, to be a mother in Zion is not unique to me.

In 1998, President Hinckley said, “Now there is an added challenge for you sisters of this day. Never before, at least not in our generation, have the forces of evil been so blatant, so brazen, so aggressive as they are today…. If anyone can change the dismal situation into which we are sliding, it is you. Rise up, O women of Zion, rise to the great challenge which faces you.”

And from President Boyd K. Packer we heard, ““We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out…

“We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous…

Today, let me add that we need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world.”

Last of all President Russell M. Nelson has called us to be “women who can detect deception in all of its forms… women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity…women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.”

Something I realized while at the UN is that the work of protecting the family is a responsibility we all, male and female, share. But the work of combating radical feminism is the work of mothers in Zion. It is women that have distorted a righteous desire for equality under the law and given us modern day feminism with its slavish adherence to abortion, its denigration of men, its disdain for religion and its totalitarian tactics, and it is women that need to fix this.

“Rise up, O women of Zion, rise to the great challenge which faces you.”

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I was pregnant with Caroline while Rob was at field training. It was the first time we were separated for any period of time. I was working in the shoe department at the May Co. I felt so weirdly alone those weeks while Rob was in San Antonio. I had never lived on my own before. The house was really quiet. I planned something fun every week to pass the time.  A little something to look forward to that kept me going. One of those weeks I went to Denver to visit Rob’s parents. I was rather pampered. Gretchen sewed maternity dresses for me. Something about the altitude made me extra sleepy. I took naps every day. It was also the summer of the Night Stalker. There was a serial killer in Los Angeles. I was afraid to open the windows at night. It was so hot and we did not have air conditioning. One of my cats lost the tip of her tail one day while I was at work. The other cat would freak me out by hanging from the screen on the kitchen window when he wanted to be let into the house in the middle of the night. The way the Night Stalker (aka Richard Ramirez) was caught was an exciting story. A survivor was able to give a description of him. The sketch was in all the papers and on the news. It was everywhere. He was recognized and ordinary citizens in East Los Angeles chased him down, subdued him and handed him over to the police.

Rob and Tori December 1985

Caroline was supposed to come in January, but she set the precedent for my early births. Everything about having Caroline was a learning experience. First she was supposed to come at the end of January. Then, when I was about four months along, the doctor determined I was farther along than they had thought. I must have had a period while pregnant. So my date was moved up to the beginning of January. Everyone made fun of our lousy planning. We would miss having her as a tax write-off that year. I had cramps throughout my pregnancy. They made me nervous because I had had a miscarriage several months before. Another lovely aspects of my pregnancy: I gained 20 pounds in my fourth month. Nice. The nurse thought the scale was broken and took me to another to double check. No, it was not broken, I had just eaten like a pig. I worked right up to Christmas Eve, then started my maternity leave. Saskia and her mother-in-law planned a lovely baby shower for me. We had it just a couple days after Christmas and then I went into labor on the 29th. It was a Sunday. I was at church (we went to the single’s ward to hear a friend’s missionary homecoming talk – I can’t even remember who it was, I was so distracted with contractions). We went to dinner at the Session’s home. I didn’t eat because I hoped, rather than knew, that I was in labor. It was an odd labor. The contractions were two minutes apart from the very start, but very mild. NOT what we had been taught to expect. Finally we went to the hospital. They saw two minute apart contractions and admitted me immediately. Mistake. They should have sent me home, but I was dilated with contractions coming every two minutes. They thought I was moving quickly. Nope. I labored for over 24 hours. I’m sure things would have gone much quicker if I had been at home, but none of us realized that I was just an oddball when it comes to labor. By the morning the doc decided to administer pitocin to speed things up. Ugh. It worked. I was hooked up to every contraption. Everyone in the world started showing up to witness. Margaret dubbed it the “stadium birth”. By that afternoon I was pushing and Caroline arrived around 4 pm.

Caroline blessing day

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We named Caroline after my sister. Carrie had been named after my grandmother, Caroline (Leilani) Dias. There are very few photos of Caroline as a newborn. We did not have a camera. These days everyone has a camera on their phone so there is no missing any moment. We missed documenting a lot of early moments with Caroline until we got a camera.

We brought Caroline home to a little duplex in San Pedro. We loved that little home. It was built in true Craftsman style. It was only one bedroom, but there was a large walk-in closet off the dining room. We put her crib in there and it was quiet and warm. I had one moment of tears. We brought her home and lay her in the cradle at the foot of our bed and I cried, “I don’t know how to do this.” I was afraid of messing up. And I did. So I prayed that God would make up for my shortcomings and that Caroline would be resilient.

Easter 1986

Easter 1986

I look back on my time with Caroline, when it was just the two of us at home, with great fondness. She was a lot of fun. We played hide and seek. She made up funny words and made funny faces when you fed her things like refried beans (but she would keep opening her mouth for more!). She was a loved and welcomed first grand and great-grandchild. She loved the water. We lived in a cabana in PVE for a little while. She would strip and put on floaties and jump in the pool. Fearless. Back then, before airbags, you could put children in car seats in the front seat of the car. I would put Caroline in the passenger seat next to me and point things out to her as we would drive around the hill. She loved to see the ocean. “Wadoo” was her word for it. Zoompts for balloons (yeah, can’t explain that one).

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a tea party to meet great-grandma’s friends

Amagansett August 1986

cocktail hour in Amagansett

When Caroline was really little, I would put her in a baby carrier on my chest and take her to do my errands. She would get all warm and limp and fall asleep. I loved how she smelled. And she would sigh in her sleep. She was an easy baby. We also would take long walks around San Pedro. I loved living there – hearing the ships in the harbor, the Craftsman style homes, the history of a town built by fishermen and seafarers with Greek and Yugoslavian and Italian names.

First Christmas 1986

first Christmas

First birthday with ggpa and ggma 1986

first birthday with the great-grands

When I was in the hospital, my dad came to visit. He brought a gift of a white porcelain elephant figurine. It’s trunk was raised – a symbol of good fortune. I didn’t know that at the time, and kind of looked at my dad with a “most people give blankets” expression. He explained the meaning, which I found very touching, and have continued the practice with each of my girls when they had their first children.

Caroline turns 30 this year. How did 30 years go by so quickly? It just seems like yesterday that she was a baby, a toddler, a little girl with a lisp. I am so proud of the woman she has become. She is smart, creative, brave and a wonderful mother – a Proverbs 31 woman…

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

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Easter 2015

Happy birthday to the woman who made me a mother.

I had to write a metaphor for my family of origin for a class. I always find those assignments to be especially difficult. One object does not define us. We changed too much with time. Even though we have been through the wringer, I do not want to define us entirely by our past, especially since we all have worked to put that (mostly) behind us. Of course you can’t ever totally do that because we are each individually and collectively a sum total of our experiences.

Anyway, I woke up in the middle of the night and knew what I needed to liken our family unto…

We started as a pound cake.

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A simple enough family consisting of my mom and dad and brother and sister. But then my parents divorced. I don’t care what these people who say that they are “consciously uncoupling” but remain “best friends” say about the “friendly” divorce. Divorce will always leave scars. It did with us.

We were broken.

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Then Walter came along. True story: I have a beloved uncle whose name is Walter. His nickname, what his parents and siblings called him, was Babe because he was the baby in the family. (He also happened to be the “runt” of the litter. But he went on to get a Ph.D and become a great college professor. This I know because I had a friend who happened to have him as her German teacher.) Anyway, we grew up calling him Uncle Babe, but he really did not like it. He wanted to be called Walter. We tried and failed. I finally told him that we have too many negative associations with that name and that is why we struggled with his name. So sad because for him, the name is associated with a much loved uncle – the brother of my grandmother. Long story short, he is very understanding of our need to call him Uncle Babe.

So, then came Walter. What a disappointing piece of humanity. A smart man – English was his second language but he spoke like a native – but it was all utterly wasted. He was just filled with hate and misery and wanted to make everyone else feel like him. I truly believed he wanted to destroy us. If divorce broke us, Walter was intent on smashing us.

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Family Systems Theory describes the roles that family members take on or have placed upon them when there is serious dysfunction present. Those roles were very evident in our family after Walter came along. Gratefully, my mom finally left for good after we were grown and gone.

Some time later, Bob came back into my mom’s life. They had gone out back when we were young, and pre-Walter. Bob is a truly kind and generous man. I think we would have patched ourselves together without him, but with him we were transformed. Now we are a trifle. A trifle is made of layers of pound cake, berries, custard and whipped cream. Our broken-up pieces of pound cake have been mixed with new family members – spouses, in-laws, children and grandchildren – and over all of that a smooth, creamy custard sauce has been poured. The custard has seeped into all the pound cake and filled in all the empty spaces. Bob is that custard. He has helped make our pound cake something entirely new, and we helped to transform him as well.

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He called my mom out of the blue. After all those years. I think John told her if she didn’t marry him, he would. I’m just grateful he called. Thank you, Bob.

10 days in England. Four in London, one in Cambridge, two in York (pronounced Yawk), three just outside of Oxford. I have been to England before, and I have loved it every time. This was Emma’s turn. Her sisters got to go many years ago ( Must keep things equal. Kinda.)

Some things I learned this time:

• All of Europe goes on vacation in August and London is one of their destinations.

• There is no one map of London that serves all of your needs. You need two: one detailed city, and one tube and bus.

• A trip in the summer requires almost two different wardrobes because you just don’t know what kind of weather you may encounter.

• People eat dinner late in Europe. If you go to a restaurant between five and six in the evening, you will have no problem getting a table, and the restaurant/pub will not have run out of Sticky Toffee Pudding yet.

• Airbnb is a mixed bag. Reviews can be misleading because your idea of a comfortable bed may not be everyone else’s. On the other hand, you may end up someplace that is really great (see The Nook in Oxfordshire).

• I thought I liked Cambridge more than Oxford, but I was wrong. Oxford is a beautiful city. Cambridge is quaint.

• WWII was hell for the British.

We went to a couple museums/memorials about the war and went on a walking tour of York where we learned even more about that period of time. I knew the country was bombed by Germany and that Hitler intended to invade, but the exhibits we saw really helped me better appreciate what it must have felt like to be British at that time. It is a short 20 miles from the continent. The country is about the size of the state of Alabama. There they were, minutes from Hitler’s army.

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Göering overlooking cliffs at Dover from France.

60,000 civilians were killed. It must have been so frightening to live through. The thing that helped me understand the best was our stop in Coventry. Coventry is….ugly. Much of modern architecture in England is truly hideous – it looks like communist Soviet cement blocks. (Prince Charles called some of the modern architecture “monstrous carbuncles”.) Coventry had the snot beat out of it and it looks it. Years ago we visited Vicksburg Mississippi. We could see that the city had never really recovered from the Civil War. It was a poor and depressing place. Well, Coventry is not poor or depressing, but it does not look like other English cities that sustained damage during the war. Coventry Cathedral, like many other stately building, was utterly destroyed. The damage was too extensive to rebuild, so the ruins were kept as a memorial.

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Unlike most other British cities that enduring Nazi bombing, Coventry had a hard time keeping that famous “stiff upper lip”. They had sustained such damage that people were utterly demoralized. Churchill understood how important it was to keep up morale. For that reason the government created the Ministry of Information which was given the responsibility of boosting morale. That is the origin of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster.

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Keep Calm and Carry On was the third in a series of posters. The first two were Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory and Freedom is in Peril. The third poster was printed and ready to use when the Nazi’s invaded. It was only a matter of time.

But! We know that Hitler made a Napoleonic mistake. The RAF managed to maintain control of the air over southern England and Hitler turned his attention to Russia. He figured he could come back and get England later. Fatal mistake. So the poster was never used. Copies were found decades later and today we are the happy recipients of the reminder to prevail with equanimity.

People have co-opted the “Keep Calm” slogan. They trivialize it by turning it into such silly things as “Keep Calm and Buy Stuff” and “Keep Calm and Eat Cake”, or worse. Only a people ignorant of history and lulled by ease and imagined security could play such games. For my part, I am grateful that Churchill helped bolster a people already known for their fortitude.

This is no time for ease and comfort. It is a time to dare and endure.