Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

November 27, 2009

'Twas the night after turkey and this turkey's stuffed...

Another annual feast of the Curran pilgrims has come to pass, this time with two kids traveling to our East Coast Summerhays clan for hosting. We had our new Tucker son-in-law and his three kids to help make up the difference - and good belch was had by all! Colleen and I were counting the dishes we crowded all on one designer paper plate and eight was enough! Let's see...Sweet Potato surprise by Shannon and Ryan, Turkeys by Tucker/Currans(one smelled bad so that one was shot), String Bean Casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Stuffing by Colleen, Steamed Corn and Butternut Squash Cubes and Pecan/Maple Glazed Baby Carrots by Yours Truly and Frog-Eye Salad by Nos Dois! Chega, basta!

Then came the desserts! New Zealand Trifle by Darlene and Quinn, Baked Apple Pie by Shannon and Ryan - and Pumpkin, Pumpkin Cheesecake and Pecan ala Costco! Deeeeelish! But we forgot to invite the Indians! Dang! Hope no one goes on the warpath. But we are thankful, truly thankful for family, faith, friends and so many blessings - and now here's a little essay on my version of where we get some of "Thanks/Welcome" language traditions...

"Now that I’m older and 'wiser', I have a lot more questions than answers. Like why do we say 'Thank you' and 'Your welcome'? Or is it 'You’re Welcome'? And who or what is welcome anyway? These are two of the most commonly used phrases of appreciation and courtesy in the English language, but yet the way they are used almost defies reason. I know you’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, so let’s get into it.

"Yes, let’s talk about these phrases literally, what they might have been before they got into our language as abbreviations, and whether digging into their histories might take the mystery and even a little tiredness out them. And who cares anyway? Look, language is dynamic; but in being so, maybe some former meaning can get lost, and lost meaning is like a hot dog without a bun.

"Maybe when we say “Thank you” or just “Thanks” or even “Thank you very much” – (and there are other variations like “Thanks a bunch”, “Thanks ever so”, “Many thanks”, “Thanks a lot”, “Thanks Muchly” if you get my drivel) – there is a small linguistic incongruity. The way it is written, it literally could be an imperative, a command, by which we are telling someone to “Thank” themselves? “Oh go thank yourself!” “Thank You(rself!” Ludicrous, yes, because the other meaning has been with us for so long.

"So how did we get the phrase 'Thank you'? That may be pretty self-evident if you think about it. Somewhere along the progressive line of language development, something got left out. How about an 'I' or a 'We' on the front end, that after too much use just got dropped as being an understood pronoun. I know people who leave out pronouns all the time in my local church culture. 'Grateful to have you here today.' How hard would it be to put those pronouns back into the phrase and say 'I thank you'? Wouldn’t we feel like we were talking antiquated English, the language of cabbages and kings? So we have shortened it to 'Thank you'. At least it’s not as confusing as being in Hawaii, where the Hawaiian word for “Thanks” is written on the flap of every trash receptacle – 'Mahalo!' Tourists think it’s the local word for 'Garbage'!

"But it’s the reciprocal response to the thanks that really gets me. Is someone really 'Welcome' for saying 'Thanks'? How does the word 'Welcome' get into the response? 'You are so welcome' or 'You are very welcome' or 'You are most welcome'! Many people use these phrases unwittingly, yet so fervently gushy, thinking they are really emphasizing and underscoring their recognition of the thanks being given to them. It all tries to be so genuine – but is so gosh-awful gooey when you think about it. And it makes no sense either. But then is all language supposed to make sense? Can we say just about anything and have it be ok as long as we all agree on its shared meaning? I'd just as leave think so, say many a Canadian. See?

"What might have been lost or dropped from this phrase to make it what is today, a weird and wacky, though oh-so-typical response? How about 'Your thanks are welcome', with the 'thanks are' left out? This way there is no more confusion as to whether it’s “your” or “you’re”. Surprise!! It’s the possessive 'your', not the contraction of 'you' and 'are'. So nobody is really 'welcome', right? But somebody’s 'thanks' are.

"Remember Mr. Miyagi of 'Karate Kid' fame? When Daniel-san thanked him, he only muttered that subdued 'Welcome'. But it isn’t the same 'Welcome!' we use when inviting someone into our house. Does anybody say that very much anyway? Unless you’re a greeter at Walmart? Well, it is kind of warm and fuzzy. Or maybe we confuse the 'Welcome' response with 'You are welcome here!' How about 'Much obliged'? Now there’s an abbreviated form of 'I am much obliged or obligated to you.”' In Brazil, they say, 'Muito Obrigado' or just 'Obrigado', from which 'Obligated' comes. Wow, bet you're impressed now!

"And then there’s always the occasion when I thank someone, and they say 'You bet.' Now where did that come from? 'You bet your welcome?' What’s up with that? Or maybe it’s a shortened version of 'You bet your life!' from that crazy tv show of the ‘50s. I don’t know for sure, but when I moved to Utah from Hawaii, nobody said the “W” word. 'You bet!' has got to be the State idiom! One day after making the great voyage across the Pacific, I was in the local thrift store shopping for some cheap mainland duds for my transplanted waifs. I walked by a big old friendly clerk-type guy, who, after we made eye contact, just grinned and said 'You bet!' And I hadn’t even said anything yet! I’m still trying to figure that one out. And then there’s the Latinos with their 'De nada!’ 'It’s nothing.' Yeah, that still works.

"Now I know you had all this figured out long before I got here, instead of following my convoluted theory trail. And what’s my point anyway? Maybe just a greater recognition of the language we use everyday that we never think about and which has become more idiomatic and less literal. We shorten language in so many ways. Do we lose anything by doing so? Doesn’t language just represent thoughts and emotions anyway, a sequence of sounds and scratches that stands for things we all agree on, as I mentioned before? And maybe the most important thing we can get out of this silly little linguistic exercise is that we feel and express our 'Thanks' at all, and often, and from the heart. We can’t lose by thanking others for the many little things done for us – and to the Creator for the many big things, including life itself on this beautiful planet. It’s a gratitude attitude. Oh yeah, and Happy Thanksgiving! I thank you."

November 24, 2009

Real Salt Lake's MSL soccer champs and "hocker"!

I haven't watched a full professional soccer game ever in my life, either on tv or in real life. But I was constrained to watch it all Sunday night, even enjoyed it with two OTs and game-deciding penalty kicks, as my home state Utah's pro team Real Salt Lake beat the highly touted Beckham-Donovan tandem and LA Galaxy for the MLS championship. This victory was even more personal because three of my kids, Erin, Shannon and Conn, work for RSL's corporate sponsor Xango, and Conn even got to go on a Xango bus to Seattle to catch the victory at the stadium and even relive a few memories of a family trip there when he was a kid. Erin watched the final kick with me while we enjoyed a warm, crackling fireplace.

Conn was our only soccer player as a kid, the only one in the family who even wanted to do that running and kicking thing, so we supported him till he got too tall and lead-footed to look natural out there among the shorter set. Soccer has always been hard for me to watch. I was also reminded of my soccer daze in junior high and other related memories, and my epiphany one night listening to the radio - how could I make soccer more interesting for me? And hockey too, since I had a daughter Caitilin marry a Swedish-speaking hockey puck, Kurt Summerhays, who had grown up on the ice. So I combined the name and the actions to come up with what follows...

"Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like why is sports talk radio so lame sometimes? So I’m riding down the street one day after work listening to my favorite drive-time end-of-work-day ad nauseum local sports roundup/talk-show/trivia show. It’s open-phone Friday and anything goes. He suggests people call in about the local college Spring football scrimmages, will Tiger Woods win another (ho-hum) Master‘s tournament, anything related to hockey or soccer, and what is your favorite Campbell’s soup. Since I couldn’t decide on my favorite soup, or maybe just didn’t want to reveal something that personal to the listening audience, I had an idea for a call-in about hockey and soccer.

"Since I really hate hockey and was never very good at soccer, my mind shifted gears as I picked up freeway speed, and I wondered if there was room in the galaxy for a new sport, a hybrid of hockey and soccer. I pondered. I mused. I went back to those painful days in Junior High when as a budding soccer fullback, I couldn’t kick the ball 20 feet while guys much smaller and faster than I could make it sail a mile. And it was so embarrassing to come flying at that ball and miss it completely with one leg up in the air as I watched someone else kick it past me. And those grassy face burns! I never got the hang of a head butt on a flying ball either.

"I don’t mind watching a World Cup game or so every four years. But I get so exhausted watching those guys run that field, that I have to get up for a drink every five minutes – yet I’m afraid to leave the tv because someone might actually score a goal and I might miss the only point in the whole game and hear some sportscaster get his shot at fame by yelling GOOOOAALLLLLL!!!! A goal is almost anticlimactic and antithetical to all that running around, though. And this is the most popular sport in the world? If you count how many countries deem it their primary sports pastime, yes. But I don’t get it. I lived in Brazil for a few years and it was big. Pele big! World champs big! Kids started kicking things in the air before they could walk. My oldest son spent a few years in Ireland and it rivals beer drinking there. Pub ball they call it. He now flies to any big match in the world to be a part of it.

"But I think that the difference between Americans and the rest of the world with regard to soccer is this - we are not raised kicking a ball around with our feet, no matter how nimble or dainty it makes us. But rather we learn to play ball with our hands – baseball, football, basketball, where we make connections with people in a game of catch, or where we see points scored more quickly. And maybe there’s a message in there about the world’s greatest industrial power – we didn’t do it with our feet!

"We’re a hands-on society where we knuckle down, get a handle on things, don’t fumble the ball, throw a touchdown, pitch a strike, or shoot a basket with nothing but net. We are the supreme ball handlers – and dropping the ball or having to punt the ball is a metaphor for messing up. The only thing we do with our feet is dance – and yes, you guys that dance the samba and tango and rumba – well, I’m sure it helps your soccer game, but mostly shows off your hip swivel. And while swiveling is not our forte, we can do it in a pinch in the games of football, basketball and baseball – that IS our dance!

"And hockey? Canadian, eh? No comment. OK, I’ll comment. Once in a while I might accidently and unavoidably glimpse a game while careening though the tv channels – but I move on as quickly as possible. And my youngest daughter married a hockey player, to boot!!! I might give it five seconds – the game, not their marriage. But I really don’t get it at all. It’s just pummeling and clobbering to me, and that’s why they need all that gear. Just way too much uniform for the size of that little black thing.

"Where’d they get that game piece anyway? And why the name PUCK? Isn’t that the name of some Shakespearean character? I can’t even follow it. I never see it go into the net. And the rink is just too small. I think that’s why they fight so much, the way animals act when they get all caged up and live in too small of an area, right? And I think a goal in this game is really just incidental to the fighting, because it seems to me that that’s what the fans really want to see. I think the guys should just wear speedos and make it more graceful and gracious out there – just see how much fighting they’d do then!

"So my response to a topic on hockey and soccer, though I was too chicken to call in at the time, is to suggest that they create a new sport and call it HOCKER! My game of hocker would be played on a soccer-size ice rink so the skaters can really have room to move around and thus eliminate the claustrophobic need to battle each other. They wouldn’t get so tired running up and down the field either and I could watch it longer without getting so worn out too. I would retain the sticks, do away with the puck, which you’d never see anyway, and just keep the soccer ball, maybe make it red so you could actually follow it around the rink. A soccer ball being maneuvered with a hockey stick on ice could be fun and freaky too if it started bouncing around. It would be a lot faster than running, unencumbered with heavy gear. Just soccer uniforms with helmets and shin guards. Yes, maybe speedos with knee pads.

"And instead of pummeling to express their machismo, there’d be a lot of spitting. Thus the name Hocker – because I’m sure these guys could hock up some big ones! Maybe even use the biggest one as a tie-breaker! Maybe a distance spit for extra points. At least there’d be a lot more scoring. Hocker. Now there’s a game I could get into. I get all choked up just thinking about it. Excuse me while I hock up a big one - “Oh, sorry, Officer, didn’t see your car out the window there. You’re going to give me a ticket for hocking on your windshield? I think I've got some hocker cleaner in here somewhere...”

November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day ponderings and Vietnam...

Many sobering thoughts today as it marks not only a day of solemn Veteran remembrance, but also a week of military mayhem at Fort Hood(where I happen to have a nephew, Owen Fitzsimmons stationed by the way), all ala Allah Akbar fanatic Nidal Malik Hasan - and the execution last night of former soldier gone crazy, John Allen Muhammed, DC sniper, where I grew up and identified with all the deadly locations seven years ago. Senseless loss of life, perpetrated upon innocent citizens by deranged and to me Satanically evil people.

Forgive my lack of political correctness, but I do believe in the existence of Satan and his demon unembodied hordes, cast out upon this earth from a pre-mortal council where they refused to comply with God's plan of salvation and free agency, rejected the pre-mortal Savior Jehovah and his willingness to die for us, Lucifer wanting to save us all by force and have the glory for himself alone. And so they are here to try and tempt and test our allegiance to the right, instilled in us by the Light of Christ, which we were all given to lead us to truth. These men mentioned above gave in to other evil voices and drowned out that light - and justice will be meted out - but with too many good lives cut short and hearts broken.

It was also the 20th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, a major victory over Satan and his attempt for so long to try to control and subjugate many people's freedom with the old Iron Curtain, no longer there, thanks to President Reagan and many others who put the pressure on Gorbechev. But Satan doesn't stop trying to kill people's spirits and agency as well as their bodies in retaliation for not being able to have a physical body himself. I was in Berlin in 1967, part of a BYU show group, visiting bases in Europe. It was something to wake up and look out the train to see armed Commie guards with their German Shepherd dogs, sniffing around my window outside while I was entering the only free zone in East Germany to do a performance for the troops.

But without trying to demean the solemnity of the aforesaid remarks, well meant and intended, let me turn now to a little lighter subject matter, still military-minded. I never served, though in college I did do two tours of duty, those singing tours, one to bases in the Far East and then that one I mentioned to bases in Europe, two different summers while I was finishing my education in English at BYU. What follows is my take on that unique kind of military experience I call "Almost Vietnam"...

"Now that I’m older and 'wiser', I have a lot more questions than answers. Like what happened with me and the military? They never wanted me. Well actually, during the Vietnam War, I was in school and my draft board was loaded with eager boot camp wannabees in Montgomery County, Maryland, so I never got the call. I just stayed in school and took my legal deferments, got a masters degree. But I did serve in another way. And I don’t want to recite yet one more Vietnam story; there have been so many. And mine won’t make the big screen nor be called anything heroic. No, I was never there – but almost. Hey, maybe I can start a new genre of narrative, the “Almost Vietnamers”.

"It was in the Summer of ’65 and a sweltering summer it was where I was going. I was part of a 12-person performing group from BYU in Provo, Utah, selected to entertain troops at US military installations throughout the Orient for three months , kind of a USO type show, but sponsored by the DOD. (But that’s on the QT, FYI, OK?) Vietnam was on our itinerary when we got our initial invitation and travel orders. I especially enjoyed the Bubonic Plague shot we had to have, among the other hypodermic invasions we were subjected to. I would rather have had the Plague frankly, instead of the recovery from that shot – the fever, the stiff and sore arm, the knowledge that I was now carrying a centuries old disease in my body, started by rats.

"But as our departure date got closer, the fighting escalated into the famous Tet Offensive, and Vietnam got cut from the schedule. It was a sad day for us all, of course, but we got over it in about three seconds, still remembering the sting of that one shot we would live to tell our grandkids about. We should have gotten a medal just for taking that shot. But maybe our beautiful girls would have been too distractive to those guys over there anyway. I mean, after all, they did have a war to fight and we didn’t want them to lose an ounce of concentration. And then we guys in the show might have gotten shot just for being too ugly. Glad Bob Hope was around to fill in for us.

"So while we didn’t get to put our faces in the line of fire, our pride in our troops and our gratitude for not being in their foxholes increased everywhere we went on our tour of other Pacific bases. We always encountered men who were either going to or coming from Vietnam, whether it was at a missile base where we were changing clothes in the cafeteria freezers or on a hillside makeshift stage where we swallowed flies and mosquitoes to the tune of “Lida Rose” from Music Man

"For example, we were doing a hospital show at Clark Air Base in the Phillippines about half way through our tour. The audience was a very appreciative group of GIs with cool casts on, dapper head bandages, and some were in very souped-up wheelchairs. Since our show was straight out of Disney, they were totally respectful. No skuzzy skin show here. No barroom cat-calls. One of our girls, Patti Peterson, went on to star in a “spic and span” tv sci-fi, “Land of the Giants”. Two other singers in the show, Sally Flynn and Sandi Jensen, became an integral part of the Lawrence Welk Show for the duration, with squeaky clean bubbles and all. And I joined up with The Lettermen a few years later, a conservative, middle-of-the-road singing group also known as America’s most romantic trio, thanks to a recommendation from Janie Thompson, our show producer, director and pianist - and a BYU legend. I even got to record a #1 hit, "Hurt So Bad" in 1969...which didn't hurt too bad.

"Anyway, after the show, we all visited with individual members of the audience, to shake hands and show them how humble, down to earth, and self-effacing we really were. Then we were invited to come up to the hospital itself and talk to some of the guys who were so wounded, they couldn’t attend. Now Vietnam was getting up close and personal. We were going to talk to the very guys who had just been there, who had almost made the ultimate sacrifice, who had taken the hits and put it all on the line – for me, a student with a draft deferment! But I told you about that already. College was a battle ground enough for me!

"So with this guilt trip firmly in hand, I took Patti with me, as we all split up to walk down the halls and peek in some rooms to see if we could lift any spirits - a daunting task when you don’t have piano accompaniment. One of the rooms we went into had four guys in it, all in beds, with varying degrees of bandages and arm slings and legs raised in those…leg-raiser things. They were pretty beat up. What could we possibly say to them? We felt so puny and inadequate in our efforts to comfort and cheer. “So how’s it going?” Great opener! We could see how it was going! Of course they only had eyes for Patti, so the pressure was off me and she did all the talking.

"After a little more small talk, we both gushed our meager patriotic thanks, knowing we didn’t have the words to cover this kind of encounter. We were speaking for all of America, and we were doing a pretty sorry job of it, stumbling and bumbling and mumbling along. They must have thought so too, because the more we searched for the right words, the more their polite smiles became tight-lipped winces, until they couldn’t stifle their laughter any longer. Patti and I looked at each other, feeling like fast-fizzling failures, wondering how to exit gracefully.

"Finally, one of them relieved our awkwardness with some of his own. 'We appreciate your visit very much,' he half-choked. 'But maybe we ought to clear something up. See the guy with the head bandage? He fell off a truck here on the base while delivering laundry. Those two guys with the arm and leg casts got banged up in a base football game. Me, I got in a fight with a parachute. None of us has been to ‘Nam’ yet.'

"We listened in mute humiliation, and then in slowly mounting frustrated realization. We should have laughed along with them, but we had just bared our souls and left our proverbial guts out on the floor. The best we could do was to back out of the door without another word, heads down with appropriate bowing and groveling, but still leave them with a memorable little ditty that goes kind of like this: A one and a two and a… “Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly…..” . Their shuffles and grunts and attempts to stand up for the National Anthem was worth it all. It's ok guys, we still love you!"

November 3, 2009

Fruity stories and Grampa's Grapple juice...

I spent an interesting day outside last week, anticipating below zero temps, and in that last minute panic seeing so much unharvested fruit in the yard, apples and grapes mostly. So in addition to unhooking the hose and sweeping some leaves up, I decided to pick whatever apples I could get off the trees and then pick all the green grapes that were hiding under those leafy vines. And there was a ton!

After an hour or two of gathering, I spent the rest of the evening in the kitchen, steaming and juicing grapes, and juicing red and yellow apples. Got about six pitchers of a mix I call Grampa's Grapple juice - and it really is good. Now it's been in the fridge for a week, with only Shane's taking a pitcher full, I hope it doesn't ferment and I get in trouble for illegal beverage distilling. We hadn't done much with the apples in the past, but did do more of the grape harvesting. But this year, the trees were so full, and still are, just had to try to make something out of them, inspired by Colleen's efforts with some of them on Conference weekend with apple sauce.

When we were in Hawaii, I loved harvesting and planting, usually in that order - because we always had coconuts and breadfruit in abundance. But had to plant papaya and bananas, even tried mangoes once, but were told they would take seven years to mature. Will never forget my efforts with bananas, fantasizing about my own big leafy plants and finding out we could buy them at the BYUH farm. So one Saturday, I headed over in my station wagon and came home with some big banana plants hanging out my back station wagon door. Forget those high-priced Chiquitas we got through many middle men from South America!

Our next door neighbor, Aaron Lim, was the farm manager, so he was the first one I went to to show off my fruity trophies, though of course there were no bunches on them yet. But I could dream, couldn't I? He came over to see how I had dug deep holes for these thick trunks and put enough water in them to start the growing process. And while I was admiring the new look in my garden, with those wondrous big leaves just greening up the place, Aaron asked for my machete. Ok, I thought - but why? The next thing I knew, he was whacking and hacking at my big leafy beauties like a mad man, chopping every last leaf off, till all that was left were ugly and non-picturesque stumps. I was all about plant aesthetics.

As I looked at him in disbelief, not knowing whether to get my own machete. assume the fencing position and shout "Engarde!" or just slump to the ground and blubber like a baby, he gave me some fast farm expertise, free of charge. He said that the plants would not root well if all the nutrients had to feed the leaves at the top, and that the leaves had to be chopped off so the stumps could take root, grow the leaves back, but also produce nice bunches. Which made a bunch of sense to me, after I got over my initial urge to kill. So eventually, the plants flowered and fruited nice bunches, and our papayas also did the same. And while we lived there in that Garden of Eden, we able to at least enjoy the "fruits" of our labors for a few years, once we got the hang of that Adam and Eve thing.

But back to our Orem yard for a big finale. We have had our fruit loops! We used to have apricots, three sprouting trees of them right out our front door - making such a mess in the front yard, we had to take them out. But I loved them. Then there were the cherry trees next to the carport - good for climbing on the roof and fixing the swamp cooler, but producing cherries so full of worms, we couldn't eat them. But we have burned many a cut-down branch in the fireplace in memory over the years. We had plums too, which stopped growing except for this year, when one small plum tree pretending to be a bush produced a gazillion. Our one good peach tree also gave us some gorgeous, tasty orbs this year, before the pesky birds could put their beaky marks on them.

Ah the harvest! What a great time of year. We did little to plant over the years, and didn't have much luck at that, spraying and praying now and then. But though we have been harvesting more than planting. I'm grateful for the chance to grow and harvest. "Whatever ye sow, that shall ye also reap." Well, we're still mostly learning how to sow when possible, hoping our harvest won't be rotten and sour - metaphorically speaking. Because if "we are sowing, daily sowing, countless deeds of good and ill", I don't have much hope for a great harvest - don't think I've sown much good but have certainly reaped from the efforts of others. Of course, my kids are my best products, a big joint effort with Colleen, who did all the work - and fortunately they got her good looks as a bonus. As for me, it's back to the briar patch to see if I can salvage anything to eat.

November 1, 2009

Tender mercies and family history...a letter.

Hey family!

Don Fenn gave a good lesson in Priesthood I wanted to pass along, with some related family history too, about how to heal the wounds of life we all have from time to time, some more serious than others, referring to the recent losses of John Montrose and Dorine Jesperson. And He first quoted a scripture in Helaman 5:12, to emphasize who the real Healer of our wounds is:

"And now my sons, remember, remember(interesting he says that twice), that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, Who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build, they cannot fall."

Don emphasized that it isn't just the devil that causes us wounds in life, but life has its own tests for all of us, allowed by God to challenge us and strengthen us, so we can be more refined to live with Him. But if Satan is in our lives in any way, we also get the message here how we can withstand him, because although he is a part of our existence, we don't have to live with him or his influence if we choose to follow the Savior and accept His atonement in our lives. Light and darkness can't exist together.

Then he asked us to share how the Lord has intervened in our lives in tender mercies, the little things or maybe bigger ones by which the Lord has blessed us in some way. He shared one about his recent thought that he should have a burial plot, since he's getting on in age(but doesn't look or act it yet). He was out driving around in Provo and had an impression that said "Stop at the cemetery." He ignored it, but after it came more times, he stopped at the Provo Cemetery, to find they had been trying to reach him because they had some plots under the name of Thomas Fenn and wanted to know if he was related, because the plots were going to be sold otherwise for $1400. Donn Fenn said Thomas was his great grandfather - and with verification, he got both plots for $25 instead of $1400. He listened to the still small voice. But we hope he won't need those plots anytime soon.

(I was talking to Celestia Montrose outside church today, asking her how things were going without John. She looked radiant and happy, but said it was so hard. She said, maybe they needed him over there for some work to do, but she thought he was doing a lot of good work here too. I told her that's why I don't work so hard on this side of the veil so they won't take me too soon or need me over there right away. Ha!)

Mom has often said how she had impressions to go home or act quickly about some of you kids at times, which eventually spared you physical harm or even death at times. One was when Conn was eating a bottle of Fluoride and she felt she had to go home from teaching at BYU-Hawaii to get there in time to make him choke them out and save him. She said she saved Conn and Sean from killing each other in a machete fight because of a prompting too. I told her to write down the other times for you to read someday soon.

Incidently, I was up late watching Channel 21 last night and the BYU-Hawaii women were playing Hilo in volleyball. It took me back to when I was there and used to write sports stories about our women, especially a national championship game with Hilo on the mainland, when I traveled with them. I often catch BYUH-related stories now and then, Jim Smith's chorus performances, a recent labor missionary story, special talks and ceremonies at PCC. Lots of nostalgia. And with what inspiration did we get to Hawaii?

While watching tha game, my mind went further back to when I was working in Falls Church, VA at ADS Audio as a writer and producer of radio and tv public service spots for government agencies and national associations. We were struggling financially as always, and I was praying for answers - and one night as I stayed late in the office working on something, I heard a voice in my head say, "You must struggle but I will sustain you." From then on, that helped me make more sense out of my struggles.

I had also been praying a lot about my future with that company and thinking I should really be working in an environment of ethnic groups and different cultures. I had been reading a lot about cultural anthropology at that time, was really interested in that area of study, but didn't know how to get into it. It was shortly after that that a call came from my old friend Taylor Macdonald, then at BYU-Hawaii, wondering if I knew anyone who would want to interview for a job in student activities at BYUH. I said" Yes, me!" I had just lost my job there too, because of a cutback in BiCentennial spending. I passed the interviews, among many other candidates, and got the job in short order, a real answer to prayer, to live and work among 30 different cultures and languages.

But we had only been in our townhouse for 10 months, our first house, and wondered how we could sell it that fast when there were others in our little complex in Centerville, VA that had been on sale for months. We fasted and prayed - and a week before we had to be gone to Hawaii, one of the Sterlings who had lived across the street from us in Pimmit Hills/Falls Church area had just gotten married and was looking for a house - and while driving around our townhouse complex, saw our "For Sale By Owner" sign in our window and caught me as I was crossing the street coming from a going-away party for us by a neighbor.

We showed them the house right then, they loved it, and bought it within the week - and though we only made a small profit on it, at least we didn't lose anything, sold it fast, in time, and to friends to boot - another answer to prayer. Mom was in a minor car accident at that time too, right when we were giving our neighbors little Church BiCentennial presentations about the Book of Mormon every week or so. She was not hurt seriously and we were able to get all packed and on our way to Hawaii in August 1976, and take a job in there that answered a prayer and helped us grow in ways we never would have otherwise. Yes, we had challenges too - and things weren't always easy there.

But it changed our lives, taught us so much about the world Church and I had the chance to serve as a bishop and help over 50 members get to the temple - and maybe that's why I was there, who knows. We all grew in some way, some in many ways. But we feel there were a lot of tender mercies and a lot of intervention from the Lord in our lives to bless us in time of need, because we trying to do the right thing, flawed and failed humans that we were, dealing with our own weaknesses and shortcomings - but still trying.

And finally, getting into this house in Orem where we've lived for 23+ years was another answer to prayer. Our belongings were coming from Hawaii, it was the end of the summer, and we had no place to live yet - and no one would rent to a family with eight kids. We prayed and fasted. I had seen a house available earlier in the summer in the paper while we were living in BYU housing, but they wanted too much down. Then one night, I walked the streets of Provo, praying out loud, crying, desperate for help. I took a paper out of the dispenser and saw the same house, now available for nothing down. I called the next day and the realtor's wife answered and verified it was nothing down, and showed us this house. It looked perfect, 5 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, especially compared to our little cinder block Moana Street house - and we said we'd take it,

Then Steve Black, the realtor, called back and said there had been a mistake and it wasn't nothing down, but $2500 down. We cried again, feeling lost - but mom called her dad, who said, bless his heart, that he'd give us the $2500. We did a lease option with Harvey Black the owner, and started moving in. Then Harvey's wife, Susan Easton Black, tried to throw us out, thinking we had duped her recently widowed husband(Anne died in this house of cancer and that were just going to be squatters of some sort. But son Steve Black intervened, told us not to worry because we had already given him the money and to move in, that things were ok.

A few years later when the lease option was up and we couldn't buy the house yet, our good friends Ivan and Judy Keller from McLean Ward days bought the house for us, let us stay until we could buy it, using some of Grampa Fitz's inheritance money when he died - and then buy it at the original market price rather than increasing the price. Ivan had been befriended by my mother when he lived in DC, an older bachelor who had found comfort in my parents' home until he found his wife. Once again we were blessed so much by good people - and here we are still, having struggled mightily to keep the house, and now blessed with mom's job and hard work mostly which allows us to keep it and furnish it and have it for you kids to gather in or live in at times. (And a big thanks to Shane and Sharon and boys today for raking up apples in the backyard - and to Conn for raking leaves recently too - still lots to do yet though)

Hope that gives you some food for thought, some inspiring family history maybe not written down yet for you, and to remember, as Brother Fenn mentioned Brother Bradfield, our wonderful patriarch, used to tell him - "I just do the little things - pray, read the scriptures, go the church, serve others, keep the commandments - and listen." Thanks Don for a good lesson - and thanks kids for your lives and your love, to our mom especially. Let's hold this team together and make any corrections and adjustments we need to - and remember, the Savior is the Rock upon which to continually build and rebuild our lives, with broken hearts and contrite spirits, with joy and gladness, with gratitude and service - and not let Satan win by distracting and deceiving us, or robbing us of time or virtue, or... "And others will he pacify and lull them into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well -- and thus the devil cheateth their souls and leadeth them away carefully down to hell" as Nephi warns us in 2 Nephi 28:21. No, let's really not let that happen.

Love, Dad