Friday, October 31, 2008

The Best Gift

Thank you, Amanda, for your post that brought up this memory.

Mildred was an accomplished pianist and insisted, up to the end of her life, on playing every Sunday in church, regardless of how much it hurt. She started as a child, playing in Sunday School (when it used to be a separate meeting) at the age of 11.

But in high school she had a different dream. She wanted to play the violin. The closest she ever came to it was playing a friend's violin after school. Her request to take violin lessons were denied because "she played the piano and that's all she needed".

One year, somewhere around 15 years ago, while the kids were all still living at home, I had an inspiration. I bought her a student violin for Christmas, had it sent to a friend's house, and stored in in the storage locker. This was in June.

It's not too hard for me to keep a secret for six months, but as time went by the word spread. Her co-workers knew, the kids all knew, friends all knew. The only one who didn't know what Mildred.

Her reaction that Christmas morning was priceless. She took lessons and loved playing it, but unfortunately her carpal tunnel problems eventually made it too painful.

It was truly the best gift I've ever given.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Setting Apart

This will be a long post. It is inspired by something that Elder Perkins mentioned at our recent Stake Conference.

When I left on my mission to Switzerland I had been a member of the Church for a year and two weeks. I had a firm testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel but very little practical knowledge about how to LIVE like a member. I don't mean things like the Word of Wisdom, more like what a missionary did, what a mission president was, etc.

In those days there was a house across North Temple from Temple Square, called the Mission Home (now where the Conference Center is). All missionaries went there for one week. At the end of that week, those who were going to the Language Training Mission got on a bus for Provo (subject for another post) and those who were not got on a bus for the airport.

Many things happened that week, most of which have been changed for today's missionary. One was that everyone went to the Salt Lake Temple on Wednesday. Many missionaries arrived in Salt Lake unendowed because they just couldn't get to a temple before. Actually, we went twice. In between the two sessions we went up to the Assembly Hall and asked a General Authority any question we had ever had about the temple or any other Gospel subject.

Another important thing that happened was we all got set apart as missionaries. Now, of course, that is done by the Stake President. In those days the Stake President did not have the authority.

Unless we had made other arrangements we were all "assigned" a General Authority to set us apart. I believe that Alma Sonne was the one who did the bulk of these ordinances and that he was the one I was assigned to.

I told my companion (not in conjunction with the setting apart assignment) that it was a fond desire of my heart to somehow meet Elder LeGrand Richards, whose book A Marvelous Work and a Wonder had been responsible for my conversion (I will talk more about that in another post). He (my companion) said "Well why don't you just ask him to set you apart".

Understand, I had grown up a military brat. In that context you just didn't ask to have one of the generals meet with you for anything, so I was flabbergasted at the mere idea. Anyway, my companion made the call, and the arrangements were made.

When you first entered the Mission Home there was a big "living room", which was the place where the family said goodbye to the missionary. Around the walls of that room were pictures and short biographies of almost all the Mission Presidents. Of course, mine was one of the ones that was missing.

So here I was, truly a Stranger in a Strand Land, knowing nothing about what was in store for me, or even those who would be in charge.

Now comes the amazing part. I went out and bought a new copy of A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. We went to Elder Richard's office at the appointed time. He took my paperwork and glanced at it and said: "Oh, my granddaughter is your Mission President's wife".


We talked about a lot of things, especially about being a missionary, and about President Nelson (who was the grandson of Joseph Fielding Smith) and his family. Then he set me apart, autographed my book, and we were done.

The Yorke Corner

Thinking about this weekend's Stake Conference up here made me think of when our family was very small. We move to the Bay Area from Orem, Utah, with just Ruth. Five months later we moved from a town house in Fremont to a house in San Leandro.

The San Leandro Stake was so vibrant that it had to have Stake Conference in the pre-remodelled Interstake Center. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is the building next to the Oakland Temple, and home of the Oakland Temple Pageant.

Our 'spot' was front row all the way to the right, and we sat there for the years we were in the San Leandro First Ward. Stake President Richard Crockett, who was also the doctor who delivered Paul, Rachel and David, told me once that it warmed his heart to see our little family always there.

Halloween Dance?

Okay, when Cameron, one of my kindergarten grandsons, started talking about going to the Halloween dance last Friday at school, I thought he was just confused.

So Saturday I asked him what he got at his party, expecting to hear about all the candy he hauled in.

Nope, they had a dance. He didn't dance with any girls, only with Hunter, his best friend.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Children Should Appreciate This

We just got out of Stake Conference. Elder Shumway of the Seventy was one of the visiting General Authorities (Elder Perkins was the other), and in his remarks he told this story:

"Joseph Smith had a very good friend, Anson Call. Some of you may be related to him (Anson Call->Anson Bowen Call->Mary Theresa Call Hurst->Florence Hurst Wendel->Mildred Wendel Yorke->you) (Now the rest of what he said I am going to quote directly from Anson Call, A Short Life's Sketch, rather than from Elder Shumway):

"In conversation with Colonel Wilson of Jackson county who had been bragging of driving out the Mormons, told them not to go to far west because he was going to drive the Mormons out there too, (as he did), on a steam boat Anson replied that if you will stop a moment or two I will tell you the way it can be done, (stopping Joe Smiths career) for there, is but one way of accomplishing it. "What is that, Sir?" Wilson said. Anson answered, "Dethrone the almighty and Joe's career is ended and never until then."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Stand-Up Comedian

When David was in about 2nd grade he was the class clown. Okay, he probably didn't stand up to do his routine or he would have gotten in more trouble. The first we heard of this was at some parent-teacher meeting when she told us she had restricted David's joke telling to certain times of the day.

Fair Warning

If you know me, I might mention you in my blog. For my children, especially, this may be embarrassing. Oh well :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ping Pong, a Lesson in Life

When I was but a lad, and we lived in France, they built a youth center across the street from the front gate of the housing area. They had ping pong tables. For anyone who thinks there probably was no life before video games, well, ping pong was it. Well, that and smooching.

Anyway, I learned a very interesting lesson in life that I have never forgotten. When I played ping pong with someone better than I was, I played better. A lot better. When I played with someone who was not as good as I was, I played worse. Not a lot worse, but I got sloppy.

I've seen this put another way, which is more clever than I could come up with: It's Harder to Soar With Eagles When You Work With Turkeys.

It's true!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Two Vacations

I had this idea a while ago for two really fun vacations. Now mind you, I have no idea what the respective moms and dads would think of this, but here it is anyway.

I would like to take all of our grandsons for a combined trip to Disneyland: Sam, Brenden, Wyatt, Cameron, Ian, Aiden and Deakin. Fly them all in, rent a van and stuff them all in our hotel room.

Then take all of our granddaughters and do the same: Arminda, Lara, Sarah, Breanna.

Wouldn't that be fun? I think so.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kim's Korean BBQ

Emma (my mother-in-law) has a friend and former (art) student named Mary who lately has been coming over on Saturday afternoons and painting with her. Mary's fiancé, John, has been the unknown quantity until yesterday, when he came with Mary.

John is delightful. He's a little older, well-traveled, well-spoken and very outgoing.

We all decided to go out to their favorite Koren restaurant, Kim's. Sally and I had passed it many times and it was kind of on our list of places to try some day.

It turned out that John and Mary are practically members of the family there. They knew the owners, Chou and Joe, plus half the customers that came in. It was a bit like Cheers, where "Everybody Knows Your Face".

We spent the evening eating good Korean food, laughing, talking, SINGING karaoke, and John and I had a delightful time grousing about the state of the nation and indeed the world.

I don't know if we'll go back, because the food didn't totally agree with either of us, but we've made some new friends.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Why

I have successfully resisted the blog movement up to this point, more because of lack of time and mental energy than anything else. More and more though friends and family send me to their blog as a substitute for their personal attention. I hope I don't get to that point, though if it works for them that is fine.

At the same time I have had for many years the desire to leave behind something in the way of a personal history. I have, as I'm sure so many others have, started it many times. Maybe by using this electronic medium which I use so much in my life I will be more likely to keep it up.

I have read parts of many personal histories, or journals, and have been inspired by many of them. Like most people, I think, I find nothing remarkable in my life story. But I know that's not really the case, that there will be those of my descendants who will be interested, and who will read.

I plan on several different types of posts. Some will be short thoughts that have come to mind, others will be photographs, others will be philosophy, others will be sections of my life as they come to mind, others will be poetry.

Poetry? Robert Bly in his book Iron John talks about how men often start writing poetry at age 50. I've done that, and some of it is pretty awful, and some of it is very personal and some of it I really like.

The title of this blog at the starting point is Stranger in a Strange Land. This is not only a phrase used in the Bible but the title of a renowned science-fiction novel written by Robert Heinlein. The book has had an influence in my life. And, ultimately, we are all Strangers in this Strange Land called Life.