Thursday, December 22, 2011

Been a bit busy...

This year has been so, so, so, so, so busy!  I've neglected my blogging.  I've neglected my digital scrapbooking.  I've neglected my family.  I've neglected my home.  So, what have I been doing? part of the requirements for the University of Utah Graduate School, I had to take two consecutive semesters of full time coursework.  So, in Spring and Fall, I was full time in the PhD program.  It was three classes a semester...which doesn't sound like a lot, but at the PhD level, it is a ton of work.  I learned a lot, and I survived.  I'm done with that now, and I look forward to getting back to a bit more of a "normal" schedule for this year.

I'm taking one course in the spring, and trust me, that will seem like a cake walk after this past semester.  For those who want to know "how much longer I have," that is a difficult question to answer.  It's not like being an undergrad where you have 124 hours to complete and a relatively regimented curriculum.  In a PhD program, you must complete your coursework (5 more classes to go for those who are counting).  You then must study for, take and pass your comprehensive exams.  I will study for several months.  After that, I have to write a dissertation proposal and finish my research and writing for my dissertation.  That is the great unknown...depending on the research topic.  So, I'm shooting for 2015 or 2016.  I know that seems like forever, but it's not.

I have a wonderful job that is always throwing me new challenges and opportunities.  I have three teens still at home.  I have a lovely grandbaby.  I have a lot to keep me busy in addition to the PhD work.

Did I mention that I am on three volunteer boards (like I don't have enough to do!)  I was honored to be asked to sit on the Alumni Board of Directors for my alma mater, Bradley University.  This requires regular travel back to Illinois for board meetings.  The board is a wonderful group of people who really care about the university, and it's a great honor to be a part of it!  I also work with my local of my favorite, favorite jobs in the whole world.  I'm also on our Council level PTA (one level up from local).  This is more administrative than anything else, and all in all, it doesn't take too much time.  My season heats up with PTA next month because I'm the Legislative VP and our legislature meets for 10 crazy weeks starting in January.  I'm amazed at how accessible our state legislators are.  I'm sure there is more to come on that front.

My husband and kids have tolerated me this past year.  Let's just say that sometimes I don't manage stress well.  I researched and wrote SO MUCH this year.  I haven't added them up yet, but I know that I cranked out well over a hundred pages (probably closer to 150 pages) of original work.  That is a lot.

In addition to my academic, volunteer and work stuff...we had a new grandbaby born.  We took a major family vacation to Arkansas and Tennessee (WAY FUN!), Dean and I went to Jamaica for my dear friend's wedding, Dean and the kids went on a road trip to New Mexico. Dean's grandpa passed away.  Dean's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been battling that.  Dean was released from the bishopric.

Yes, we have been busy.  But through it all, we are so very, very blessed.  We know the origin of all our blessings is our God!  We are so thankful for our temporal and spiritual blessings!  We're looking forward to a blessed new year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Thanksgiving is All About

I don't want this post be sound self-aggrandizing because that is not my intent.  I had an idea, I sold some people on the idea, and a whole bunch of people executed on the idea.  So, although I had the idea....I don't take credit for the success of this project.

After I went to the Utah PTA Convention this year, I talked to my friend, Stephanie, who is the President about how we should start a student association.  In the middle and high schools, PTA can be a PTSA.  She agreed, and we went to work.  I'm not going to lie...this project has taken more thought and time than I imagined that it would.  But because Stephanie is so passionate about it, it's been very successful.

Each month we've had an after school  meeting for our students, and we have about 40 kids attend each time.

For the month of November, I thought we should do a service project.  We talked about different options.  We thought we could get a bus and take kids to work at the Utah Food Bank.  We looked into group service opportunities through United Way.  Then I suggest that we have a food drive....but not just any food drive.  At Mount Jordan Middle School in Sandy, Utah, we have almost 50% of our students on reduced or free lunch.  This measure is significant because it is related to parents' income.  We have some families in need, and we didn't have to look too far to find who had the greatest need.

So, here was what we did.  We worked with administrators to identify 10 families in our school who were in need.  Our Vice Principal, Matt Watts, was a ROCK STAR!  He placed countless calls and relentlessly tracked people down.  We wanted people to 1) agree to accept the donation; and 2) agree to pick it up at the school at a designated time.  We didn't want the PTA moms to know anything about the families in need.  We'd considered delivering the food in person, but working through the administrators provided privacy and confidentiality for the families.   Matt was calling people all the way up until the day of, and I know that he stayed at the school until 6:00 PM on Tuesday when the last packet was picked up.

On Monday, November 14th, we had an assembly, and we "kicked off" our food drive.  The homeroom classes had a competition (which made it more fun).  In 5 short days of donating, we had enough food to feed 11 families (our final count).  We got private donations for pies, turkeys, potatoes and rolls.

On Tuesday (the last day of school before the break), we got our PTSA kids to stay AFTER school.  We sorted food, decorated boxes, filled the boxes and put a craft project (made by the kids) and nice plastic silverware (with a homemade napkin holder) in the boxes.  We also made sure that each family had a roasting pan, some Stove Top and gravy. 

I was blown away by the support.  The PTA moms showed up in full force to sort food and manage certain groups of kids.  Countless students and teachers donated food.  Based on personal calls from Stephanie, we had 11 turkeys donated.  And the best thing....the kids really love doing this kind of thing.  In fact, when we asked them the kind of things that they wanted to do, they mentioned that they WANTED to do a service project....WANTED.  These are 7th, 8th and 9th graders.  Can I tell you how happy that makes me!

In my political behavior class, we've read literature on political socialization, political participation and involvement.  You know, I firmly believe that kids WANT to help.  They just have to be given an opportunity to do so.  I talked with Dominique a few times about how this food was staying in our Mount Jordan family....for those who really needed it.  She got the significance of that.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with a donation to the Utah Food Bank.  However, I think when the kids know that their efforts are benefiting people they know (even though they don't know who), it means more to them.

In all of the things that I've done and been a part of, I'm really proud of this Student Association that we've started in our PTSA.  We are requirement to get in (except annual dues, and we have scholarships for those who can't afford the $4.00).  We respect the kids and their ideas.  When we ask them how they want THEIR organization to be, and we are amazed at the great ideas they have!  We should all give our kids more credit!  Who knows how these experiences might influence a kid at a later time in life.  I firmly believe that we have to model the behavior for them or they won't know how to participate in meaningful ways.  Sure, they get this in their families and churches, but they spend MOST of their waking hours during the week at their school.  It is here where they can make a difference and where, I believe, they want to make a difference.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oh, how I loved the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics

In a few short months, we will be celebrating the TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the Olympics in SLC.  What an AMAZING time! I was never so proud to be from Salt Lake City as I was during the Olympics.  We really got that one right!  I lived downtown in SLC at the time...I mean right in the thick of things, and it was awesome.

I remember that I got back from a trip one night, and as I was driving home, I thought, "Why is everyone waiting for the bus this late at night?"  They weren't waiting for the bus....they were waiting for the Olympic torch to pass by.  I high tailed it home, dumped off my luggage and ran out the front door of my apartment complex.  I stood with my neighbors and cheered as a runner ran on MY street.  Amazing! 

I have so many wonderful, wonderful memories of the 2002 Olympics.  My office is a mini-shrine to those games.  I have a big picture of downtown all decked out, some commemorative photos of winter sports taken in historic Utah geological landmarks and an abstract picture that was part of the arts displays.  People who haven't experienced an Olympics first hand might not even be aware of the arts movement that is part of the Olympics.

On Monday, our local middle school kicked off our "Student Success Week."  We do this every year, and it's is such an important program to our PTA.  We try to educate our 12, 13 and 14 year olds about their options for college and careers.  This program is run by one of our most passionate and dedicated PTA moms.  This year, we were able to get Olympic Gold Medalist, Derek Parra, to speak to our middle school students.

Most of them were too young to remember the games, but his story was one that is timeless and relevant to all age groups.  I really can't do his story justice, so if you have a few minutes, click>> here<< to read about his life.  What was relevant to our school's demographic was this....Derek grew up poor.  His parents were divorced.  He is a Mexican-American (his self-description).  Right there, this describes a large part of our student body.  He grew up at the rollerskating rink trying to pinch pennies to buy a snack after he paid for his admission and rental...again....most of the kids at our middle school have frequented our local roller rink.  They love it!  It's kind of a dive, but who cares! 

He talked about growing up with his dad and his brother and not having sports equipment and having to "make due" with what they could come up with.  He talks about eating Mac 'n Cheese. 

When he was 17, he moved to Florida to train with a real skating coach.  He paid room and board and quickly learned the ways of life.  His coach was not going to give him a free ride.  He had to pay rent, pay for his own food...and ride everywhere on his bicycle.  He found out on day 1 that the practice facility was 32 miles away.  He found out shortly thereafter that he had to get a he did at McDonald's.  He had no money during the first two weeks that he waited for his paycheck, so he ate the "aged out" sandwiches out of the garbage.

His story, however, is not one of sadness.  It is one of hope and perseverance.  He told the kids that he has only "won" a couple of times in his life but that his failures taught him so much.

 In 2002, the world watched as he broke the record in the Men's 1500 Speed Skating event.  The world smiled and cried as he jumped up and down on the podium and received his Gold medal.  Derek is a great patriot, and he spoke openly about his experiences with 9/11 and his patriotic feelings about being an Olympian, winning the Gold medal and singing...with great pride...the National Anthem.

 I cried at the assembly.  I'm guessing (although I don't know for sure) that some teachers probably did to.  He is such a NICE guy.  Honestly, we chatted it up before the assembly, and he was totally normal and approachable.  He let the kids HANDLE his Olympic medals:  one Silver and one Gold. He showed the video of his winning race, and the kids all clapped and hooted for him.

Can I tell you how awesome it is to be part of a PTA organization that can bring these experiences to our kids!  How awesome it is to be a resident of Utah where I experienced that proverbial "once in a lifetime" Olympic Games in MY town.  How awesome it is to know that the spirit of the Olympics is alive and well and remembered.  And how awesome it is to know men like Derek Parra make a difference in the world.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Can we call her "Mom"?

Yesterday I was at a PTA meeting at the middle school, and our meeting ended about the same time school ended.  Dominique came into the teacher's lounge where we were meeting, and she must have called me by name.  One of the PTA ladies asked, "Your daughter calls you by your first name?"  I paused for a second (mainly because I hadn't heard her refer to me by name) and said, "Oh, yes, she is my step-daughter."  Honestly, I think that the woman thought I was a progressive mom having my kids call me by my first name, but that was not the case. 

All of my kids call me Wendy.  This is my preference.  When Dean and I married, the kids were ages 5, 7, 9 and 11.  Dominique and Elle both asked Dean, "Can we call her 'Mom'?"  Wow.  That question was an interesting one for me.  I had a step-mother (and still do), and I always called her by her first name.  To me, the title of Mom is somehow special and sacred.  I know that may sound silly, but I only had one mom, and Kathy was my step-mom.

So, when the girls asked if they could call me mom, out of deference to their mother, I said that I thought they should call me Wendy.  It works out well for us, and I think it is the right thing to do.  I'm now "Grandma Wendy" to little Layla, and I have my kids call my mom "Grandma Rosemary" (mainly because they have a bunch of grandparents.)  They call my dad "Grandpa Gene" and my step-mom "Grandma Kathy."

One time a few years ago, the kids' great-grandfather pulled me aside and said, "I really think you should have the kids call you "mom"."  He meant well.  His point was that I was "more of a mother to them than their birth mother ever was."  I know that.  They know that.  We don't need to go confusing everything by instituting title changes that would just complicate things.

If someone says, "Give this to your mom" or "will you tell your mom....," they don't correct that person and blurt out "She's my STEP-MOM."  However, when they introduce me to people (their friends, for instance) they will say, "This is my step-mom, Wendy."  I'm cool with all of that.  I go out of my way not to refer to myself (to them) as their "mom."  I refer to myself at their parent.

Why do I do this?  Well, part of it is because I know how much it would have hurt my mother to call another woman "mom."  Part of it is that I really love my own step-mother and didn't need to call her "mom" to have a great relationship with her.  Part of it is that out of deference for their mother, I think it is the right thing to do.  And if you know me, you know how little I think of their birth mother these days.  However, that doesn't diminish the fact that the *is* their biological mother and for a period in their lives *was* a great mom to them.

I've never felt that I needed to be validated with a title.  I know who I am to them.  I am their mom.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Angels All Around Us

I was up late tonight scanning some family pictures, and I came upon a few pictures from a trip that I made with my mom and my nephew to the Lincoln Memorial in Springfield, Illinois.

Wooohooo...look at that hair...and don't I look oh, so attractive in those jeans.  My nephew, Cory, is probably 11 or 12 in this that puts this at 8 or 9 years ago...definitely before I was married.  I was surprised that Cory had never been to the Lincoln's Tomb.  You touch his nose for good luck...which also means that a billion germs are on that schnoz. 
As we went into the actual tomb where Lincoln, Mary Todd and three of their children, I told Cory that you had to speak in a whisper out of respect for the dead.  He understood, and he was very respectful.  This is him with his serious face in front of a statute of Lincoln. 
As you can see from the top photo, there are grand staircases that allow you access to the top of the monument.  We climbed to the top of the stairs and while we were up there, Cory said, "Do you hear that Aunt Wendy?"

Me:  "Hear what?"
Cory: "Zoom, Zoom.  There are angels all around us right now.  Can't you hear them?"
Me: Silence.

You know, I didn't hear or feel the angels, but I firmly believe that he did.  The oddest thing was that he had never, ever said anything like that to me before under any circumstance.  Is there any doubt in my mind that there are angels that guard Lincoln's Tomb.  Not one whit or tittle of doubt.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Antelope Island

I have been wanting to take the girls to the Great Salt Lake for a long time.  I was 50/50 on whether or not I wanted to go this past weekend.  Then I found out that they were having a little festival out on the island, and that sealed the deal for me.  And bonus....they had a place to do horse-back riding.
This was our first glimpse of the bison.  
Then we found some closer to the road.
 Then they had to cross the road....
 Then we got to the ranch, and our guide (DJ) got our horses saddled up.  This is Dom's horse.  His name is Maverick because he was in the Mel Gibson movie with the same name.
This is Elle on Navajo.  He was in the movie Far and Away with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
We took a 90 minute ride up the trail.  It took us a bit to get adjusted to our horses, but once the girls got the hang of it, it was just a lot of fun! 
I have about 15 pictures that look like this.  Can I tell you that the ride would have been much more enjoyable if I had not been lugging my big old camera.
This was the pinnacle (literally) of our ride.  It's difficult to tell, bu the view is really, really awesome.  When we went down the hill, DJ told Dom and Elle to lean back, and use the stirrups to balance and hold on to the reigns.  Dom was holding on for dear life, and he had the reigns too tight.  She said, "Why won't he go?"  I said, "Do you have the reigns pulled back so he thinks you should be stopped?"  She said, "Oh....that."
All along the way there were thousands and thousands of beautiful sunflowers.  It was SO picturesque!
After our ride, we went to the other side of the island and took pictures along the way.
And more bison....
And more sunflowers.....

Then we went to the Stampede Festival and ate some carb-loaded, fried food.  The girls really wanted to dip their toes in the Great Salt Lake.
On the way to "the beach," we saw a few of the balloons that flew that evening.  
This is one of my favorite pictures....
We got to the west side of the island as the sun was going down.  I haven't altered any of these pictures...
Here they the sun is going the Great Salt Lake.  They are probably about 1/4 mile away from where I'm standing.  
I love this picture.

I love living in Utah; it is so unbelievably beautiful!  This whole state is a testament to God's great creations!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

School Days

Over the summer, my mom gave me many old pictures of her, and I noticed that the official school pictures had "School Days" (followed by the school year) printed a the bottom.

Like:  Rosemary Leonetti
         School Days 1954-1955

They don't do that any more...for whatever reason.

We've made it a tradition at our house to take first day of school pics every year!  This is the 8th school year that I've sent the kids on their merry way for first day of school excitement.

This year is Mariah's "last first day of high school."  Seriously?  I can hardly believe it.

Here are those "school days" smiles for 2011-2012.  It's going to be one heck of a year! 

Saturday, August 13, 2011


In the urban dictionary, it says the following about the word "sumbitch": 
Lazy redneck slang for son of a bitch. Rednecks are just to lazy to say the entire phrase, "son of a bitch".
Practical application: "Hey Pa, thar a goes that thar sumbitch! Lets go git heem, Jr.!"
My mother told me two stories about the word "sumbitch" that was just too good not to share.  Let me set the scene for you....early 1950s, central mom is living with her Uncle Frank who was born in Italy and emigrated to America.  Mom said that the word "sumbitch" was used frequently in the house.  While Uncle Frank probably didn't qualify as a redneck, he probably slurred "son-of-a-bitch" together to produce the word "sumbitch."  
My mom was in Kindergarten, and she had been given 50 cents with which to buy candy.  She chose to buy a heaping bag of black jelly beans:  her favorite. Of course, she took the overflowing bag with her to school so that she could enjoy the delicacy all day long.  Back then (and even when I was in elementary),  the desks had "lids" that opened.  They looked like some variant of the picture on the left.  You were supposed to store your books and supplies in your desk.  Well, my mom put her bag strategically inside of the bowels of the desk so that she could ever so slightly lift the lid and sneak out those black jelly beans.  She planned a day of indulgence.  Of course, the teacher caught her sneaking her jelly beans, so she took the bag which my mother said to her Kindergarten teacher, "You sumbitch!"  
The teacher did not think too much of this, so she took my mother out of the classroom and proceed to smack her little hand with the ruler.  Yes, back in the day, teachers could smack and spank kids.  It was quite common.  I remember my Kindergarten teacher going after a kid with a ruler.  He deserved it, too. 
As mom was being smacked, she kept saying, "You sumbitch!  You sumbitch!  You sumbitch!"  My guess is that she knew it was a bad word but she probably didn't know what it meant.  
In frustration, the teacher sent her home.  (I know...sounds weird, but she did.)  Then she followed her home...I'm sure to make sure she got there OK and also to inform the family what my mother had done.  When she got home, mom turned to her one last time and said, "You sumbitch!"  

Oh my goodness, that story makes me laugh and laugh and laugh!  You've got to hear my mom tell it to get the full effect.

The second story also has to do with the famous Leonetti and Gazza expletive.  

A neighbor of my mother's named Edna promised mom that she would give her a bag of candy if she "stopped saying that bad word."  Again, I doubt that my mom knew that the word was bad or what it meant.  She, of course, agreed.  The next day when Edna came home from work, she kept her promise and brought the young Rosemary a bag of candy.

My mom opened the bag, took a gander inside and said, "You sumbitch, I don't like that kind!"

Bawahhhahahhhhaaa!  I couldn't stop laughing when she told me that story. 

Out of the mouth of babes, eh?

On a side note, I remember Edna.  She was an eccentric old woman by the time I was a little girl.  She loved dolls and had a house full of them.  She gave me one once.  It was a gypsy doll.  I can't think of anything more appropriate because Edna reminded me of an old, Bohemian lady.  I know that the neighbors really tried to help Uncle Frank and Aunt Mary with my mom.  Edna tried to be a positive adult figure in my mom's life when she was really young.  Aunt Mary was sick and couldn't always be the kind of mom that a little girl needed. 

I remember when Edna died.  Hers was the first funeral I ever attended.  It freaked me out.  I don't think I attended a funeral after that until I was on my mission.  And I attended a lot of them on my mission.  We were at dinner tonight (my mom, my sister and me), and my sister also remembers Edna's funeral.  It was an event that neither of us have ever forgotten.  

And for the long as we're sharing family stories.  Julie....I still think you stole my Billy Joel Glass Houses Album.  You won't convince me otherwise.  :-p

Sunday, July 24, 2011

She has an old soul....

On June 27th, Layla Rae Davis was born.  What a day!  On Sunday night, Elise and Bradley had been over for dinner.  At about 9:30 PM ALL of the girls (Mariah, Elle and Dominique) wanted to go sleep over with Bradley and Elise.  Poor Elise never did go to sleep that night.  She started having contractions, and she went into the hospital in the wee small hours of the morning.  Later that morning, Dean went to pick the girls up and took Mariah up to the hospital to wait.

I think I had 6 meetings that day.  I started moving meetings off of my calendar because I knew that this was the day that the baby would be born.  Mercifully, I was home that day (not traveling). 

After a long day, the doctor decided that there were some questions about the baby's condition and that it was safest to take her c-section.  Dominique and I were at Harmon's getting cake, cupcakes, flowers...and all of that stuff when we got the call from Bradley.  We started making calls and hustling as quickly as we could out of there.  Dominique, Elle and I arrived with goodies in hand to the waiting room.  Less than 10 minutes later, we were able to see Layla for the very first time through the window of the nursery.

She is a BEAUTIFUL baby girl.  She weighted only 5 pounds, 4 oz, and she was 18 1/2 inches long.  Did I mention how beautiful she is?  Wow!  What a little blessing.

Here are a few pictures either taken on the day of her birth or within the first 24 hours.  Did I mention that she has an old soul?  This is only my opinion, of course, but the first time I held her, I thought that.  I still do.  I love to hold her and look at her.  She's a wiggler when she's awake.  She's a beauty when she's sleeping...but then again...I'm kind of biased!

Can you tell how much we all lover her??? 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On this day in 1993....

The following is a journal entry from my mission journal. 

Wendy S. Danley
Austria Vienna Mission
Zagreb, Croatia

July 14, 1993

Well, this has been the scariest night of my life.  I actually felt that I was going to be seriously injured or possibly die.  It was such a feeling of “out-of-my-control,” and I was scared.  I was really, really scared.  I hate to be out of control of a situation. 

Let me back track a little bit.  Sister Platt and I went to Karlovac today for the first time.  The elders there had planned a nice fireside for the members and non-members.  We took the 3:30 PM bus out of Zagreb and arrived in Karlovac at the bus station at about 4:10 PM.  Elder Summers and Elder Van Woerkam took us to the centar of town where the Serbian church had been destroyed.  I mean—it was destroyed.  The steeple still stood, but the place had been gutted out an only partial walls were left standing.  We entered in the back way and took pictures.  Then between the church and an apartment building, we walked through a pile of trash that appeared as if it has been thrown out the windows.  Refugees inhabit those apartments.  The stench was quite unpleasant, and we walked quickly to the exit—which was a wooden plank over a pile of glass and dirt. 

Then on to the street board.  The street board looks awesome, and we really had some success.  I met a great girl named Maja—more on her later.

Well, we set up for the fireside at the Klub 90—a little dig in the center of town which I think functions as the city hall.  The fireside was OK.  The music was beautiful, but honestly (and I make this out to be nothing more or less than it really was), the Spirit of God was not there.  I know this will probably sound like just another good additive to the story, but in all sincerity, I did not feel the Spirit—at all.  President Valek kept on talking and talking.  You could say that he was much like Ammon when he was teaching King Lamoni---teaching everything from Adam (literally) to Ezra Taft Benson.  It was way long and boring.  About 8:35 PM or so, I heard the first bomb go off.

It sounded exactly like how it sounds at the 4th of July when they light off those industrial fireworks.  The sound is pretty ingrained in me.  Oh well, I never much liked going to the fireworks anyway.  In my mind I thought, “So this is the bombing that they talk about here in Karlovac.”  It sounded pretty close, but it really didn’t bother me too bad.  I honestly thought it was normal.  It wasn’t normal.

I looked at Colson, and he looked a little “concerned.”  Ivancica grabbed my hand.  Then two more bombs went off, and I really knew this was abnormal.  Ivancica squeezed my hand tighter and tighter.  Almost simultaneously, everyone stood up and Sharp said, “We need to get outta here.”  There’s no telling this girl twice.  I headed directly for my bag and headed out the door.  There was a younger man at the fireside who seemed to know what to do.

The sirens went off before we got to the door.  Sister Platt and I were both so anxious to get out of the door that we both got our bags stuck, and it made it difficult for us.  That was the source of much comical relief later (but not then).  Some one was yelling “hajd’ brzo! Brzo!”  Which means, “go, fast, fast.”

Some source made me run relatively fast, and we turned the corner at the left.  Sister Platt was hauling.  I turned back and no one was there.  FREAK!  I thought the elders would be following us. 

I was not going without the elders.  I yelled for Sister Platt to come back.  There was a shoe store with an all-glass front and several people were just gathered in the entrance to the store.  We were like a bunch of scared rabbits with nowhere to go.

[July 15] next day (I was too tired to finish this last night)

So, we all gathered in together.  I was huddled right next to Elder Colson, and he was scared, too.  The glass front of the store window looked pretty uninviting to random bombs.  It seemed like we stood there forever.  It got worse and worse every time I heard the sound of a bomb being launched.  I felt unprotected and unsafe just standing there on the street.  My heart was racing, but my mind was zooming at 200 km/hr.  I thought, “This is not supposed to happen on your mission.” 

Finally, someone got the idea to break the store window and take shelter inside.  Daniel (a man) kept yelling, “Ne s rukom!”  Good thing I understand Croatian!  That means, “Not with the hand.”  Colson kicked the window hard four times and it didn’t bust.  He was carrying and overnight carry on bag which was like a suit bag (garment bag).  He shoved it through the window and glass shattered everywhere.  We climbed through the broken glass and scampered to find a place to hide.  Unfortunately, there was no basement.  We ran behind a big, tall set of shelves where they stock the shoes.  The store looked like this:

We laid there as the bombs kept going off.  Colson said, “Are you OK, Sister Platt?”  She said yes and then asked if I was OK.  I indicated that I was.  The I said, “Elder Colson, I know this sounds strange, but I feel safer with the priesthood here.  Are you worthy?”

“Yes, I am,” he replied, “ and proud of it!” Colson said, “It’s OK to be proud of it, isn’t it?”  Sister Platt said, “In this case, yes!”  My voice was all shaky, but I was still able to laugh.

Three little girls who had been playing nearby at a friend’s house joined us in our shoe storage area.  The bombs kept up, and we immediately had to lie down.  One little girl, Senka, was especially upset.  She was crying and kept saying things about her mom and dad.  Daniel came over and told her that this was a war and this was life.  He then told her she should stop crying.  That, of course, didn’t help.

I put my arms around her and hugged this little girl whom I did not know.  I said to Sister Platt, “Everything is going to be OK.  I feel the Spirit, and I’m calm inside.”  She said, “I’m calm inside, too.”  My body was shaking, but my spirit was calm.  I can’t explain it.  I was very scared, but I knew everything would be OK.  I told Senka that everything would be fine.  She still was not comforted.  I found out that she is only 12 years old.  Wow.  That put everything into perspective for me.  No wonder she was so scared.

I asked her if she believed in Jesus.  She said yes.  I asked her if she believed in God.  She said yes.  I asked her if we could say a prayer together.  She agreed.  We all knelt right there in our little fortress of shoes---me Sister Platt, Senka and her two little friends.

I said the prayer.  I pleaded with Heavenly Father to help us have the Spirit with us that we wouldn’t be afraid [sic] and that we would all be safe.  I asked God to bless Senka’s mom and dad, too.  During the prayer, there was a lot of yelling going on between Daniel and the elders.  I’m sure they were trying to figure out what to do.  After the prayer, little Senka was a little better.  She breathed deeply as if to release tension from her 12-year- old little body.  She ceased to cry.  I felt better.  I know our prayers were heard.  I know it.

The elders came in and said that they were going to find a safer place, and they went to look for a bomb shelter.  Sister Platt said, “I have a game.”  We all sat in a circle and played a gesture game she knew called “Oy!”  It was fun, and it took the girls’ minds off of the bombing which seemed to stop for the moment. 

The girls pleaded with us to take them out of Karlovac.  It sure did pull at my heartstrings.  Colson came back and said in a soft voice, “Sharp went to get the Halgren’s car, and yuo two are leaving with them.  It’ll be about two minutes!  Be ready!”  The girls understood English perfectly, and they knew we were going to leave them.  They started to cry and ask us to take them.  Senka asked, “Do you have two cars?”  I told her that we only had one, but she would be OK.  We kept playing the game to distract them.

I said to Senka, “See this name tag (referring to my missionary tag)?  This means we’re missionaries for Jesus Christ, and God doesn’t want us to die.”

Shortly after that, Daniel came in and told us all to run for the bomb shelter.  We got to the store entrance and the elders were saying, “Don’t run!”  Then I looked to the right and here came Elder Sharp driving the Halgren’s car down this empty street.

He looked funny.  He turned the car around, and we all jumped in.  The Halgrens are pretty slow going.  No one was getting in the car.  Sister Platt went to get in, and I got in the other side and so did Zeljko (at the same time).  We butted heads in the middle.  I couldn’t figure out if we looked more like a war movie or the 3 Stooges---probably the later!  Without humor, this would have been a lot more stressful for me.

I said to Elder Sharp, “If I never told you before, I love you, Elder Sharp!”  He flashed a big Sharp grin and went back over to the other elders.  Then Brother Halgren was messing with the dumb car lock for the steering wheel.  It seemed to take forever, but it was probably only 30 seconds.  I kept saying, “Go! Go!  Please, Go!”  I remember President Robert Halmi standing on the sidewalk telling us to Go!  He looked pretty anxious.  Finally we left, and I started singing, “Come, Come Ye Saints.”  Once again---comic relief.  We finally got out of Karlovac, and we approached a tollbooth---they waved us through and said, “bez karte” which means “without card”—as in “don’t stop”!  We didn’t, and for the first time in my life, I was thankful that Brother Halgren drives like a bat out of hell.  We cruised.  Finally, I was relieved when I knew we were out of danger.

We talked about it all the way home.  After dropping off Zeljko, the Halgrens dropped us off.  We were safely home within 25 minutes.  Karlovac isn’t very far away from here, and my entire perspective has changed.  Boy!  We sure did pick a good day.  I can’t imagine living in that mess.  The pictures that Sister Platt and I had taken suddenly had meaning.  They weren’t just there for missionaries to take pictures.  They were real. 

People lived there, and some had even died there.  It’s all real!

Ohhhh!  I came home and called Elder Benson.  He listened and said, “That’s a great story and all, Sister Danley, but get off the phone, I’m calling President.”  Elder Colson called President from the bomb shelter in Karlovac where they had moved to.  Poor Pres.  He got it bad, and I’m sure his night was a little restless.

This morning the elders called and said that Pres was pulling them out.  Good thing.  The bombing lasted all night long.  The elders stayed in the bomb shelter until 1:00 AM when things calmed down a little.  They went back to their apartment, and the shelling resumed.  They said the shelling lasted until 6:30 AM this morning.

They are going to take pictures, and then they’re leaving. 

Akkk!  Well.  I love my mission.  I love the Lord, and I live His work.  I know he hears and answers prayers.  The Spirit is real.  I’m thankful for all of my many blessings. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Letting go of things does not mean letting go of the memories...

Seven and a half years ago, my dear friend, Wendy Sue Huntsman unexpectedly passed away.  I was devastated.  I met Wendy in 1996...not long after I moved to Utah.  We were co-workers at the University of Utah, but more importantly, she became one of my closest friends.  We shared a physical office space, and we shared many of the details of our lives.

I give Wendy full credit for forwarding me a job posting in 1997.  I applied for that job, and I still have it 14 years later.  I have had a wonderful career.  I give Wendy all of the credit for that.

Our relationship grew into a friendship outside of office hours. One of the things we loved to do was make handmade holiday cards.  We bought rubber stamps and hundreds of dollars in supplies to support our craft habit.  We would hole up at Wendy's kitchen table ALL DAY.  Seriously,  I remember one time when we sent her husband, Doug, out for lunch AND dinner so that we didn't have to move.  We got up only to eat and go to the bathroom.  We had SO.MUCH.FUN....and so many great memories.

We started creating "card worthy" St. Patrick's Day and 4th of July just because we loved making cards so much.

When I left the U in 1998, we still continued to craft. We joined the big league crafters and went to stamp conventions in Las Vegas!  We'd fly down on Southwest, stay in a crappy hotel and buy lots of stuff to support our habit of stamping.

I never realized how much I cherished Wendy's friendship until she passed.  Her death hit me quite hard.  There were many times after her passing that I wanted to pick up the phone and tell her something.  It was tough realizing that she wasn't there.  So, I took to just talking out loud to her.  I believe that our spirits leave our bodies and exist still.  I believe that our bodies will some day be resurrected and reunited with our spirits.  It made sense to me that Wendy was out there somewhere.  So, I just started talking to her.  That really helped.

I haven't made holiday cards since Wendy's passing.  I felt that it wouldn't be the same without her, and I didn't want to betray such a wonderful memory that I have with her.  That was "our thing."  How could I ever do that activity with someone else.

I've held on to my stamps for all of these years.  Every once in a while, the kids pull them out and do something with them, but they clearly don't have the passion for the craft (or obsession) that I once had.

A few weeks ago, I was with a co-worker who, I found, loves to craft AND does some rubber stamping.  I knew when we had our conversation that it was finally time.  I went through my stamps today, and I sent about 20 of them off to her.  I felt like, for the first time, I could part with them because someone would love and appreciate them.  I didn't give all of them away; I still have quite a stash.  I couldn't quite part with the ones that still had some tender memories attached.  I told myself that I would "try" to make Christmas cards this year. (I have NO idea how I will accomplish that unless I start this JULY.) But I told myself I would try to jump back on the wagon.

Giving away my stamps is not giving away my memories of Wendy.  If anything, it is passing along the good times and joys that we had so others can make their own memories.

I love you, Wend!  I'll see you on the flip side!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Surfer Girl

Last Saturday, Mariah and I were in San Diego, and we headed to the beach for lunch.  Mariah was instantly enamoured with the beach.  She decided that she really wanted to surf, and so she did.
 Her instructor was Charlie, and he was great!
 All lessons start on dry ground.
 Photo op while still dry.  The pier makes a great backdrop.
 Mariah and Charlie
 Going in!
That girl got up on her very first try...which is unbelievable.  The next several pictures are a play-by-play of that first time up on the board!

 Notice that HUGE smile! 
 Most of the 90 minute lesson looked like the next three pictures...a great attempt to get on the board and "something happened."  She *really* wanted to get on that board, and she used all of her athleticism to try and get up as often as she could.

On this turn, the board clonked her in the head.  That couldn't have felt good!

 So, they got out of the water and moved down several yards to find some waves that were a bit more tame.
Charlie watching the waves to find her a good one...usually then he would "push" her into the wave so she didn't have to paddle too much.
This next series is one of those "nearly got up on the board" times.  Me and the photographer were on the shore cheering her on!

You me here in the background say, "Oh, shoot."  I was pulling for her every time she tried to get up on the board.  I knew it was hard, and I knew that she was getting tired.

Cool shot with birds in the background.
This next series is her second time up on the board!!!!!!

...and I caught it on video.....

And she ended on a great note with one final time up on the board...

She absolutely loved this experience!  She said again and again that it was her favorite part of the weekend.  I have a feeling this won't be her last time surfing.