Monday, August 23, 2010

Grampa's Feigned Helplesses - brings the best out in Gramma and our Son!

Just WHO is getting FOXED?
I think the phrase is "Crazy like a Fox!"

In our family, dexterity and physical skill is highly prized.   Like the German people revere a fine mechanic, a world class wood carver or a craftsman on an assembly line -- the Howe family near worship's Grampa Milo's bicycle repair expertise and Grampa John Miller's trimphant achievement patiently hammering a squashed French horn back into fully formed existence--and taking the time to actually learn how to play it well.

Some families cherish academic achievement.  We value genius from the wrist down. Being handy is a whole lot more praised among the Howes than being smart.

Gramma Rosie jokes to anyone who will listen that all the "technical skill" passed Grampa (me) by and landed in Jeff's hands. (with a little on the side, just for her)  Oh, little does she know.   I've avoided the temptation to build fine furniture or tinker with our vastly complex, computerized automobile--and concentrated my tactile expertise wholly and completely into the mastery of desk top publishing, video production and Microsoft office software on my computer.

(Our son has devoted much of his professional training to those same skills--so we have much to talk about)

Now to the payoff--

I'm convinced that Tom Sawyer enlisted all that fence painting support from his little buddies in Missouri by faking a broken hand, or a blind eye and deaf ear.

I've discovered on the last two especially, that all I have to do is buy the put-together-kit from Walmart or Shopko--and the good genes kick in.   Rosie will read the plans, the blue prints, keep track of every screw and bolt just for the challenge of it.  Then the mighty Jeff shows up.  She feeds him instructions and screws.  He handles he tools and boom boom crunch crunch new projects get done!

I'm afraid that if I put my oar in--feelings get hurt, there's shouting, differences of opinion get magnified.

I do best getting the project complete by retiring from the field--sitting at the edge and doing something completely unrelated like writing this post.

Did I mention they put together my new table in jig time--and not a cross word was spoken.

All I really have to do now is show my appreciation

P.S.  Feigned helplessness is great for complex paperwork--if you can weaken enough to enjoy it!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How can you go to Finishing School only twice a year?

Perfectly Perfect Posture!
I have a new young friend. I'll call her Cat.  She is older of two daughters of a business associate.  During a recent promotion,  Cat and I got quite well acquainted.  I couldn't leave til the time was right.  She couldn't leave til her Mom and Dad packed up the van and rolled off into the sunset.  We were stuck, and she decided I was her new geriatic best friend.

What do you talk about with a pint sized courtesan.  With Cat, it was way too early for sex--most inappropriate-- Pretty early for boys, but she had favorites.  We talked about school, clothes, make up and church.  Cat is very outgoing--has a great future ahead of her--already has modeled her great mom at the early age of eight.

I learned to my quiet sadness that she only went to church twice a year: Christmas and Easter with her folks--and it really wasn't even a proper church.  It was the gym of their church school.  More of a community gathering, really.

My mind went forward to the next day when I would be attending church at my H2W (Holladay 2nd Ward)  Another sweet little friend named Beth would be there again, as she was every Sunday in a kind of Finishing School--knocking off the rough edges and becoming steeped in scripture and doctrine that would serve her the rest of her life.

Time was in the world that several exclusive Finishing Schools flourished, taking young women in their late teens and early twenties in hand to polish and mold them into what politically correct young women should be--following a conservative recipe that stressed class, understated culture, polite, courteous manner and always proper posture.

Church is like that-- a finishing school for our spirits.

My now dear Father in Law once asked me rather gruffly, "Why do you Mormons go to Church so much?

It's not just church--It's Weekly Family Home Evening, Temple attendance, Mutual in the middle of the week, Home teaching, Welfare farm, Campouts, Scouts, Cubs and a host of gatherings to help Finish our souls.

I couldn't help reflect on what's available to us in the Kingdom and what my precocious young friend Cat has available to her in the two times every year she makes a ceremonial visit to see and be seen at her church.

If life is measured by one opportunity cost against another, Beth and Cat will be able to measure themselves against that standard. Who will be found wanting?  By the time she is 21, Beth will have attended enough "church" to become thoroughly grounded in the arts and crafts of solid motherhood, wifery and scholarship.  She will be able to raise children to the Lord and share her background that has literally taken all her life to produce.

Cat's parents may be able to afford the last minute cramming, spit and polish of a Finishing Experience for her.  They may set the same wonderful parental example for Cat that Beth gets from her folks--but at twice a year, what kind of spiritual finishing will she really have?  It is for this opportunity cost that I gently share whenever I can.  I imagine Cat's change of heart as she immerses herself in what the Kingdom has to offer and I look for ways to interest her and others like her in this great gospel. JWC

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"There'll be Pay Day, Some Day!" Billy Sunday

If you sow the wind you eventually will reap the whirlwind

When you're young you seem invinceable.  If there is no one to tell you no! or wait! every little thing can be covered by plastic!

J. Reuben Clark's comment on interest:  If you understand it, you harness it to work for you...if you don't, you pay it, to your detriment.
J. Reuben Clark Jr.

"Interest [on debt] never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits nor travels; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours. ... Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you"  LDS Conference Report, Apr. 1938:103.

Einstein said the most important invention in the 20th century was compound interest.

Companies, law firms, collection agencies and up until recently mortgage companies want you to spend and spend.  You want to charge it--run up the bills, especially education loans.

Budget? You don't need no stinkin' budget.  Makes WAY too much sense!

A young married couple I know split the sheets because, among other reasons, they were way too deeply in debt. Neither one of them could say no! (and neither one of them could get in the last word!)

An officiator in the Bountiful temple said it best to a long married couple who was getting sealed for time and all eternity: "How you deal with money together will be in large measure how successfully you show your love."

He started out trying to help her get every THING she wanted when she wanted it.  She wanted what she wanted when she wanted it.  They fell out of trust when she repeatedly charged large batches of cosmetics for resale to please a sibling--and let them sit while he had to pay the bill month after month.  She left the marriage to borrow several thousand from a brother in law.  He got so frustrated he rammed his fist through their bedroom door.  Together they started teaching a youth Sunday School class.  Working extra shifts on Sunday to cover mounting bills led to her refusal to let him go to their Bishop out of shame.

Looking over his shoulder he would not have bought the house that went into foreclosure for her.  He would have gently, lovingly enforced their stay in a little, affordable apartment until he had finished his education.  He would have dropped out, paid his tuition bill and saved money as he paid his tithing. Instead he has learned as she has learned to deal with loud insistent attorneys, collection agencies and judges.

The paltry thousand dollars it costs to declare bankrupcy and stop the drumbeat of pressure seems like such a small price to pay.

If the couple had loved one another t'would be sad that rampant selfishness and massive debt destroyed all that.   Fortunately for them it was just a trial marriage of two immature youngsters who still had a lot to learn!  JWC

Why Complain? Avoiding the First Person Singular!

Thorn stuck in your paw?
"I'm so Hot!!!" Gramma Rosie complains.  "Are you using the first person?" say I.

"You don't care if I'm alive or dead, do you?" she shouts back and stalks off.  Fortunately the "burn" passes like a summer storm.

She cranks up a couple more fans--and we get back to the business of sweltering.  It's near the end of August and the swamp cooler is humming night and day.

Why do we complain, anyway?

Stephen Covey sets aside time on family hikes---3 minutes every mile or so to "hear" complaints.  He says it "gets the negative out of their system and they can go on having unburdened themselves  (Eventually the complaint sessions dissolve into laughter)

H. Wallace Goddard, Ph.D. teaches that that a complaint is another bid for connection.  It's like asking your wife to join you on a trip to Home Depot.  It's cuz you want to be with her, not that you really expect her to measure, cut and carry.

After tempers had cooled and time had passed, I asked Gramma Rosie what she had expected me to say; what she was hoping for from me.  She took a cold look at the question and launched into a discussion of my accident, last Friday at the Sugar House DI.  When paramedics responded to my fall off a stationary bike, cracking my head and wrenching my back, they turned to Gramma Rosie.  "Was he dizzy or heat overwhelmed?" they asked.  She was not aware of either.

She did know about my colossal bad judgement in trying to mount a bike and dismount wearing the klunky post surgical shoes the VA podiatry department had velcroed on my feet over the compression wrappings from knee to toe.  But paramedics aren't equipped to deal with just bad judgement in the field.

The Sweltering Suffering we go through every year about this time is just another test.  We rarely complain when it's too cold.  We just turn up the thermostat or put on another sweater. 

I've likely made a mistake imposing the NO FIRST PERSON rule during the superheated months of July and August.  A more sympathetic quiet understanding or that mournful sound you make with your mouth when you sympathize would not go amiss.

We all tend to hobble along on verbal crutches--The most common one is the ubiquitous, "Have a Nice Day!" usually uttered by high school kids as cashiers at one store or another.  I love to stop them cold with, "And suppose I have other plans?"  Most don't know what to say in response.  No real sentiment, no real listening going on. No real brain activity--just verbal automatic pilot. 

Telemarketers will ask for Rosemary Howe.  That's a dead giveaway that its a telemarketer, so I ask the Breaking question, "Do you know her?"  Stops 'em every time.

The function of a comic is to listen--really listen, understand the nature and intent of the comment and then turn it on it's ear with an adroit turn of phrase.   Most comics are extremely quick.  Most people are not only slow they're gliding along on life from verbal crutch to verbal crutch.

Teaching in the church is filled with some distrubing conventions.  As a Gospel Doctrine Teacher I got into the thick of things asking people to compare and contrast.  Most senior citizens (the bulk of the members of our ward) left compare and contrast back at the starting gate for entrance into a good college back in the 60s.

Most of what passes for thinking, especially among Grampas and Grammas  is verbal crutch reactions.  They've gotten by without thinking for so long, that they depend on emotion, how it sounds and if it is harmless to get along in life.  Thomas Paine would have had a hard time rattling his saber of rhetoric and raising a revolution among the complacent senior set in our neighborhood.  Propsperity has turned our brains to mush.  No wonder so many hereabouts die of Alzheimers or Dimentia.

The poor senior who has left with doing word find on a dinner date with his wife--could no more sustain glittering witty dinner conversation that fly to the moon backward his bed socks on.

Why complain?  Nobody wants to hear you complain!  So why do it?  You need, you need!   Find another way to need.

It's said that no less than President Richard Nixon had built in a reflex action. If he was really mad at you, his Quaker mother had taught him to fall back on generosity.   The more upset he was at you in person the more times he offered another cup of coffee in Presidential china, or tossed you another set of presidential gold cufflinks.  The recipient of all this presidential courtesy would think they're riding high only to be shot down by a henchman after---with some nice parting gifts.

Merrill Osmond's used to keep a good sized cookie tin filled with rich, thick beautifully decorated cookies,  in a big drawer of his executive desk when he was President of the Osmond Studio where he oversaw the video taping of the old Donnie and Marie Show  (1976-79).  The cookies had a purpose.  Merrill hated confrontation (who doesn't) so when he thought someone needed firing, he would invite him/her into his big office with "the executioner".  The conversation (as with Nixon) would center on the victim's accomplishments.  Praise was lavished.  Everything was positive until the sign was given, "Hey, you want a cookie?" The tin would be opened and the END COOKIE wouild be offered. The henchman would get proof positive that after the meeting, the final check should be cut and the firing should take place as privately and definitely as possible.

(When I left the Osmonds (or they left me) the last time in Branson, I bought a big tin of cookies and gave them to Merrill at our last meeting.  We both knew what it meant and had a good laugh over it.  One technique exposed happily.

Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Golden Plates,  protested to whomever would listen that he hadn't left the church, the church left him.  (In fact he became the caretaker of the Kirtland Temple when the bulk of the saints went west to Nauvoo.

Gramma Rosie, who makes a good case for continuing her complaint tradition, says that I (and other male spouses) need to observe conditions more closely.  If you can tell the EMTs that your spouse was complaining of (fill in the blank______________)  She's all for honest and open communication.   I guess I'd like to hear some thinking going on.  Avoiding the 1st person singular makes you work--and thereby overcome Alzheimers and Dimentia for one more day.

Bob Dole had this technique down!   You may remember during the campaign of 1996 he simply referred to himself in the third person as in, "Bob Dole will represent you; Bob Dole feels your pain; Bob Dole has been around the block and Bob Dole knows how to serve!  Maybe his mother had challenged him not to complain..and never use the first person.  Makes you think,  yes? JWC

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Monitoring the Body Grampuncular Extraordinarie

I've seriously thought about giving all my shoes away!

In Bible times one way to determine a man's relative wealth was to count the numbers of pairs of shoes he owned.  

About a month ago, my feet turned into squishy basketballs. My shower shoes were the only ones that would fit to go to church.  My normal size 11s suddenly gave way to size 15s.

Swollen Orange Feet at 6:12 AM

 Though the swelling burst skin on one toe--the extra water weight has made it even more challenging to get socks on. (A pedicure would likely not go amiss) It doesn't cause me any pain, but it's, well, inconvenient.  The orange color of the feet is a spray-on tan that went terribly wrong (lol)  The numbers are the digital time (AM), date and temperature on top and the current weight below.  Though I have been a blogger,  graphic designer, writer, musician and man of stage and screen, I find medical research strangely attractive when it comes to my own body GRAMPUNCULAR.  As with design and production, finding out and fixing what needs attention so that the final outcome is first rate matters a lot to me.  I love a well crafted Excel spreadsheet, for example..  Today, I begin a quest to regain my former somewhat flabby and unathletic form--with UNSWOLLEN FEET, hopefully.

A little research on the Internet and I discovered that to solve the problem, all I needed to do was ingest less Salt, avoid sunburn, elevate my feet and crank out quite a bit more exercise. When the heart functions to improve circulation, the water would drain from the feet at the cellular level--and I would be cured.

Sorry, no such simplistic luck!

Meet my doctors:

Dr. Rojas, a native of Argentina, left,  is the supervisor of the Blue Clinic at the George E. Walen Memorial Veterans Hospital.  She gets help in a teaching hospital from interns like Dr. Ligia.Onofrei who speaks a perfectly unaccented English is from Romania and did her medical school in Denver, Colorado.

(OK, a medical prankster of sorts, I plead guilty as with this photoshopped joke and faux memo)  It appears with a little more instruction in my Clausonian training blog:  Santa's Cosmic Sleigh, Howe to Build Your Own North Pole.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Purity is Vastly Underrated!

I went to heaven for a few minutes soon after noon today.

Peter and Shauna, dear friends of Gramma Rosie and me, had seven children with other spouses before they married a few more than a dozen years ago.   He had moved to Utah from a prosperous Real Estate Career.  She was going to school after her doctor husband left her and their three children.

The first of Shauna and Peter's youngest is Cole.  He and his brothers Noah and Jackson are beginning to come of age.

In our neighborhood when your young man reaches his twelfth birthday he becomes a man.  As the boy, Jesus, taught the elders in the temple in Jerusalem at twelve, a young Jewish boy is Bar Mitsfaed.  A young Mormon boy of the same age is interviewed to see if he is worthy and willing to accept the responsibilities for the confirmation of the Aaronic Priesthood in the office of a Deacon.

By the time Cole turned 12 he believed he was ready and our Bishop put his name before the congregation, who voted unanimously in favor to support the young man in his new responsibilities.  You see, we know Cole.  We know he's ready for this next big step.  Since he was baptised and confirmed four years ago, Cole has stood before the congregation in Fast and Testimony meeting and offered his beliefs in simple, pure, loving ways.   There are many other boys his age in our congregation, but Cole has always stood out as a pure soul.

He's not a goody two shoes.  His purity does not come from a "Look at Me" self centered demand for attention.  He is just pure. He has always been a kid who wants to do the right thing for the right reason--as long as I've known him.

Last week, the full Deacon's Quorum led by both it's several adult advisors and it's peer Presidency swooped down on the Primary (by prearrangement) and honored Cole (as they do every other 12 year old boy) and escorted him out of the Primary and up to the room where the Deacon's Quorum holds its meetings.  It was a simple but highly symbolic calling out that like Paul, Cole was done with childish things.   That day he became a man.

It is Cole's father's privilege to ordain him--but Peter was in Nigeria on business--bringing green industry to the third world.  Peter was way out of town after our block of meetings last week--so Cole went ordainless.  When he got up this morning, he begged his father to make arrangements to ordain him BEFORE the Sacrament Meeting so he could pass the sacrament for the first time.   It just didn't happen.   These things follow tribal time tables...and the ordination traditionally is done AFTER the Three Meeting Block.

So, Cole sat on the sidelines this morning, the first time in priesthood meeting, champing at the bit, knowing that this would be the last time he attended priesthood meeting without being ordained.   At Sacrament Meeting, Cole watched especially carefully as his new quorums of young men blessed and passed  the emblems of the sacrament.  Next week, surely, he would be among those who serve.

Now to heaven.

At noon I had returned to the building after a visit down the street to the care center where services are held for the ailing and dying.   Big Bill Gassner, my friend for more than seven years conducts the services--with another great friend Jerry Curtis.  There were nearly ten in the congregation this morning, and that in spite of a broken elevator.  It's been nearly four years since I've been to a service--and Bill called on me to play the piano and bear my testimony.  (I haven't played piano for a meeting for nine months since my little stroke last November 22nd)

In the lobby waiting for the Bishop was Peter.   We hadn't visited since his return from Nigeria. (He travels back and forth between Holladay and his third world outreach in Africa)  It is dangerous but noble work.  As we visited, Peter said in passing, "I hope you'll come stand in the circle with us for Cole's ordination."  I was so moved.  This kind of invitation only comes to those as close as family--and while I had assumed I was, I was so pleased that THEY thought so to!  We pray for Peter and his family, especially when he is out of town.  I so hope he will succeed in bringing his green technology, jobs and western advantages to this deserving country.

I approached Cole and put my gentle arm around his shoulder.  "Cole, " I whispered, "Your sweet dad has asked me to join the circle when we ordain you a Deacon.  Are you OK with that?"

"Oh, yes!" he replied, his face shining up into mine.   This young puppetteer and football player, this natural, gentle leader of the youngest of the three brothers was ready for the next big step in his life.

We gathered in the good Bishop's office and the ordinance was done.   There were a few tears in both the Father and the Son--sniffles, really--and what was said is known only to us and to God.   That is my report on my visit to Heaven early this afternoon.

It is said that Jesus, at twelve, in the temple explaining the Law to the elders, was ready to govern Israel--but his earthly father, Joseph helped him understand that he ought to wait a while and grow up some.

Several months ago, Cole again bore his simple, sweet testimony and Sister Marge followed the young man to the pulpit.  She and her husband have had more than their share of challenges with little men in their family.  "How do you raise young men llike Cole, she asked.  " Would somebody please tell me how?"

This pure young man still is mischevious some times; he enjoys a good joke and good fun--but like Jesus must have been at his age, he can be serious and understand "the weightier matters of the law!"

On the day he was approved by the Congregation, he took the pulpit again, serious, slim and grown in a black suit and silk tie to bear his testimony.  I published the three or four lines with other, adult, testimony nuggets in the Sacrament Meeting Program this morning.  As you read these simple, you may understand the pure soul who spoke them barely a week ago:

"I am grateful to be able to receive the priesthood, so grateful for the love of my father and mother, for the example of my brothers and sisters and the young men of this ward.  I am grateful that Jesus Christ sacrificed his body for us,"  So said my young friend, Cole.

What is the cost of such purity in a young man?  What are his uses in the plans of the Lord. Like other boy prophets Samuel, David, Nephi, Mormon and Joseph Smith before him, Cole underrstands something of how  The Holy Ghost can work through such an one.  Purity like that is Vastly Underrated! .JWC