Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is She or Isn't She?

The older kids used to tell Deborah she was dead. I guess she believed them, because she would come to us, crying about it :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas, 2008

Christmas is really hard these days. I am torn between spending it with my children and spending it with my wife. I wish I didn't have to make that choice, but there it is.

For reasons that I won't go into right now (no, I'm not dying), I have chosen this year to spend Christmas and New Year's with my children. I am happily going to be able to do that in two stops; Mary and Mark will be in Houston the week before Christmas and Deborah will be there for the whole holiday.

So a week from tomorrow, the 15th, I will be flying to Houston. Mary and Mark will already be there and Deborah comes in the next day. I'll get to know Ian, finally.

The day after Christmas I will fly to Salt Lake City. I would like to be able to spend Deborah's birthday on the 27th with her, but I just couldn't make the flights and my budget work out.

I am planning on staying with Paul and Melina, as long as I don't have too severe a reaction to their cat. I don't know what Plan B is on that front.

Paul and Melina have something planned for New Year's Eve, so that night everyone else is having a party, probably at Rachel and Tim's. I will spend other time with the girls too, I just don't have it figured out yet.

Then I go home on the 2nd, Friday.

I am really looking forward to seeing everyone, though I also feel bad about not being with Sally and Emma on their first Christmas without Walt. But as Art Williams used to say, "All you can do is all you can do".

One other thing came up which almost scuttled the trip. I just found out (minutes from pressing the "Buy this plane ticket" button) that I am being moved to a different project at work, and that I might have to stick around to get trained on it. Luckily, that got ironed out.

I wish could come bearing Christmas gifts for everyone, but not this time. I am working on a sorta hand-made gift for the kids, one per kid, but I'm afraid it won't be finished in time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bonnie in France

I had two favorite cousins, Ginny May on my mom's side and Bonnie on my dad's side.

I spent part of my mission in the south of France, not on the Riviera. I spent time on the Riviera as well, but this one summer I was farther west than that.

My cousin Bonnie got a job there! She spent a summer as (if I remember correctly) something along the lines of a chambermaid at a resort hotel on the Mediterranean.

I got the opportunity to spend some time with her, which was really a lot of fun.

All I Ever Wanted To Be Was A Dad

Even as a teenager, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a dad.

Of course I went through all the usual stuff that young boys went through in those days, cowboy, fireman, astronaut. But they were all childhood dreams that passed.

I used to even pick babies up out of shopping carts and play with them. You could do that in those days, and moms didn't mind. The best I can do now is to make faces and try to get a smile.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Conference on Short Wave

I had found out from Elder LeGrand Richards that Sister Nelson, my Mission Mom, was his granddaughter. But I didn't find out until later that Present (Joseph Fielding) Nelson was Joseph Fielding Smith's grandson.

So he had spent his whole life among the General Authorities and knew a good many of them.

I was odd man in the mission two different times and also served in the city of Geneva for three months. The Mission Home, located in Chambésy, had a short-wave radio in the family section, and the missionaries in the Mission Home and in Genève were invited to listen to General Conference on the short wave radio. At 2:00 o'clock in the morning.

I only remember getting to do that once, but it was so special being there and doing that. President Nelson could tell us just by the sound of the voice who was speaking.

In trouble with Homeland Security

We were in a real rush to get Emma to the airport for her trip to Salt Lake City and I ended up dropping Sally, Emma and all her stuff at the curb while I parked.

The plan was that we would push her in a wheelchair right up to the gate, then leave her in the good hands of the Delta folks.

I was so rushed when I parked the car that I forgot to do what I had planned to do, which was to empty my pockets of everything that was suspicious, especially my Swiss Army Knife.

So we got to the security checkpoint, I dutifully emptied my pockets into the little basket, and they dutifully told me I couldn't take the knife in.

In a panic now, because I didn't want Sally to have to push that wheelchair up the ramp, and not having time to take it back out to the car, I tipped up a garbage can and stashed it underneath.

On the way back I retrieved it, thinking all was fine. Well, it wasn't. I got nabbed by a very stern security guard who told me that was "artfully concealing a banned item" :(

But he let me go "this time".

Thanksgiving at the LTM

When I was there in the fall of 1967 it wasn't called the Missionary Training Center, it was the Language Training Mission.

These days all the missionaries pass through the MTC, but then you got one week's worth of training in Salt Lake and if you were going to an English-speaking mission, or there was no language training for your mission, you just left after the one week.

The LTM was in a building called Knight-Magnum hall, on the very south-eastern corner of campus. It had been a residence hall (dorm) in it's day, but didn't have enough living space for all the missionaries being trained, as there had to be classrooms. So my district lived around the corner in a house on 9th East.

Well, my group got to spend Christmas in the mission field, but Thanksgiving in the LTM.

We had sloppy-joes.

The Mormon Church in Pittsburgh

I had made plans to stop off in Pennsylvania to see my mother's family on the way home from my mission.

At that point the only ones who lived there that I really knew that still drove were my Aunt Jay and Uncle Allan. They came out to the Pittsburgh airport to pick me up and on the ride back to the farm they were so excited about the Mormon Church in the area.

We drove past it, and it was a Reorganized chapel :)

Azteca Coffee

In the Spring on 1975 when I was theoretically going to graduate from Brigham Young University (I ended up not, short one class), my parents came to Provo to attend the graduation ceremony.

They wanted to take us out to dinner and we chose a restaurant that we had never been to (we were very poor) called (and I hope I'm remembering this right) El Azteca.

El Azteca was one block off the south end of campus on the second floor of a small building on the corner. You had to live in the area to know it was there.

Well after dinner my parents wanted a cup of coffee. My dad asked the waitress, who gave him a puzzled look and said "Let me go check".

She came back some time later and told him "We used to have some coffee, but it spoiled!"

Only in Utah.

I understand, by the way, that it takes a long time for coffee to spoil :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Coffee and Cigarettes

At one point while Paul was on his mission I was working two full-time jobs and was dead tired all the time.

In one of my letters to him I said, jokingly, that it was hard working the two jobs and that if it weren't for the coffee and cigarettes I'd have a real problem.

Now Paul had spent his whole life with me and knew that I joked about odd things.

So for whatever reason he told his Mission President, who called my Stake President, who called my Bishop, who called ME.


The Frog

We had been out to dinner with our good friends Tom and Addie Kay Hartsinck. When we were on the way home suddenly Tom started screaming for me to pull the car over and stop. I did, and he got out about as fast as I could have imagined.

A big frog had gotten into the car and was climbing up his leg, inside his pants. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Choir Practice

At one point when most of the kids had left home Mary saw the birds lined up on a power line and called them thereafter "Choir Practice". I still think of that when I see a bunch of birds on a wire.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Okay, getting your tonsils out isn't exactly what one would call fun. The baloney about eating all the ice cream you want afterward is a great idea, except that your throat hurts so bad you don't want to eat ice cream. At least that's the way it was with me.

But two things stood out for me, and obviously meant a lot, since I still remember them. The first was that my father came and stayed in the hospital with me, and we played cribbage. The second was that he bought me a miniature red railroad lantern, that I still have.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I saw some chestnuts for sale in Safeway the other day and it reminded me of one of my fond memories of Paris.

First, I should explain that the chestnuts mentioned in Chestnuts roasting on an open fire were all wiped out in the United States many decades ago due to some kind of tree fungus.

But when we lived in Paris we found chestnut vendors all over the place. They had huge roasting carts, probably 3 feet across, with big metal wheels and handles so they could move them. The chestnuts roasted on a bed of coals.

When you bought some they took a piece of newspaper and rolled it into a cone, then filled it with the (very) hot chestnuts. In my memory that cost 1 new franc, which was about 20 cents. The smell was heavenly and the taste divine.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Followup to my Boyhood Dream

I passed my General Class license exam on Thursday. I didn't think I would have time to study enough, but I did. There is just one more level to go, Amateur Extra. I'm not even precisely sure what the added benefits are to an Amateur Extra license as compared to a General license, but having the General license as compared to the Technician license allows me to do the High Frequency broadcasting that can take one around the world.

In the mean time I am waiting for my first ham radio to arrive; it should be here on Friday. I got my call sign this morning, it is KE7YBP. Or, as a ham would say it, Kilo Echo 7 Yankee Bravo Papa :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Boyhood Dream Come True

I realize that this will not resonate with many people. Everyone has dreams that come from their childhood, and that one person's dream can be pretty much blah to someone else. This is about one of my dreams.

Many years ago we were either living with or visiting my mom's family in Pennsylvania. I was able to spend some time with my cousin David May, who was a ham radio operator (K3MUA). I remember him putting the microphone into my hand and telling me to talk. I did, and it was fun, and he was impressed that I didn't clam up as did most people.

From that day forward I have wanted to get my ham license. I stabbed at it a few times, but frankly was scared of having to learn Morse Code to pass the test.

Then, in February, 2007, the Morse Code requirement was dropped.

I finally took the plunge. The stake started up a Technician Class (the first of three license classes) class, which I started attending. Then I really got the bug, studied a lot, took the practice tests, and finally, last night, passed the real test.

I'm a ham. I'm happy. My boyhood dream has come true.

Last night after passing I told the examiner what it meant to me, and he announced it to the whole club, who had gathered for their monthly meeting. They clapped and cheered for me :)

I am studying real hard to pass the General Class test on Thursday, before the last of the nine classes starts, so that I can go to the class with two licenses in my hand. That would be sweet!

I'm a ham!!!

In the Packers' Driveway

Our BYU ward, the 86th, was amazing in the number of General Authority children and grandchildren that were members of it. We had a couple of Boyd K Packer's children, James E Talmadge's granddaughter, A Theodore Tuttle's son, and others.

I got close to Dave Packer because he was in the very next dorm room from mine. I took advantage of this friendship by going to his house in Salt Lake a couple of times.

One time I went was with Mildred, then my fiancee, and Joy, my soon-to-be-sister-in-law. Okay, I admit it, I was showing off. The weather was terrible and we should have just pushed straight through to Provo. In those days the freeway over the pass between Salt Lake County and Utah County was called the "Point of the Mountain" and was spoken of with fear and trembling.

We pulled into the Packer's driveway, rang the doorbell, and were greeted by Elder Packer himself. Dave (and Laurel, also in our ward) were not home. We got back into the the car (a VW, of course) and tried to drive out and found that we were by then snowbound. Back to the door to ask for some help. And to my (and Mildred's) delight we were pushed out of the snow by the Apostle himself.

As we drove away Joy said "Who was that?" :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wild Rides

I was driving a friend's pickup truck in the rain the other day, hauling Ashley's washer and dryer to their new owners. I chose Bigelow Gulch because I didn't feel like tackling the freeway. As I peered out intently I remembered two other wild, scary rides.

The first was many years ago when Paul was in high school. For some reason I never did understand (a friend of a friend of the family was going to make it run?) they had to haul a Volkswagen bug from Union City to Redwood City, and in a fit of mental illness I agreed to basically sit in the bug and "steer" it. Which means that Paul and Ben were in the front car and I was alone in the VW they were towing.

The deal was that if I needed them to stop I would flash my lights and/or honk my horn. It wasn't until we were careening down the road that I found out that: a) the horn didn't work, and b) the lights didn't work. I tried slewing from side to side, I tried braking, I tried everything I could think of. Nothing worked.

That was one of the most frightening things I have ever done.

We got where we were going in one piece, by the way. I don't know how.

The second was when Rachel and Tim asked me to help them move from Tacoma to Sacramento. I thought that meant that I would be packing and unpacking the truck, but no, it meant that I was DRIVING the truck. In the rain. And the snow. And towing one of their cars. I was terrified, especially going over the mountains that separate Oregon from California.

We got where we were going in one piece, by the way. I don't know how.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Short Order

The other day Cameron arrived about the time we were having breakfast. Sally had decided on French Toast, Cameron decided on cereal. "No, Cameron, we're having French Toast".

That brought back pleasant memories of cooking short-order Saturday breakfast for my family every once in a while. I had done it for the staff of the scout camp I cooked for one summer, and it was a lot of fun.

Well short-order cooking for my 9 was fun, too, and a lot of work, and a lot of mess.

Am I My Father

I don't know. Well, no, I'm not. But every time I see myself in the mirror, I see him.

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.