Friday, March 30, 2012

Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice!

The First Presidency: President Eyring, our Prophet Thomas S. Monson, and President Uchtdorf
It's that time of year again!  My favorite weekends are General Conference Weekends.  On those weekends, I get to attend church at home, in my jammies, usually curled up with my cat, Jack, with an afghan over me, and a large box of Kleenex next to me.

Starting Saturday, March 31st, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is holding General Conference in Salt Lake City.  Leaders of the church speak throughout four general sessions which are broadcast to the 14 million plus Latter-day Saints throughout the world

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be performing during the Sunday morning broadcast (and perhaps other sessions as well).  In addition, other local choirs often sing for the Saturday sessions.  They are usually just as spectacular, musically speaking.

You can watch via BYU-TV, or on-line at and a host of other ways, which you can easily look up on  The general sessions begin at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., MST Saturday and Sunday (that's 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Pacific Time).

There are no regular Sunday services in LDS meetinghouses during conference, which means that church organists and Sunday School teachers, like me, get a Sunday off!  (Insert my hearty wooo-hooo here!) It also means being really wonderfully spiritually fed for two days by excellent speakers - people I truly love and admire.

President Monson usually speaks in the opening session on Saturday, as well as the opening and closing sessions on Sunday (April 1st).  We sustain him as a prophet of God.  (Now, aren't you the least bit curious about that?  Come on, admit it!  Wouldn't you like to know what a Prophet sounds like?)
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Like the apostles at the time of Christ, Mormon apostles are rarely called from among those with religious or theological training. One was a pilot, another a heart surgeon, and others were educators, businessmen and lawyers.

In a commentary on, James Faulconer, a professor of religious understanding at Brigham Young University, explains the role of an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their primary duty, which is outlined in the New Testament and other Latter-day Saint scripture.
“The most important part of what they do as apostles is the testimony that they bear of the reality that Jesus is Christ, the Messiah,” Faulconer says. “His resurrection was the first testimony to the world of his messiahship. The apostles' testimonies spread that first and fundamental testimony. Beyond whatever else the Church might need contemporary apostles to do, that witness to the Church and to the world is their first responsibility.”
“Theological training isn't needed for their primary responsibility: witnessing,” Faulconer adds. “Training for that comes from their life experiences: they have seen and felt the results of Christian life, both in their own lives and in the lives of those they've worked with in their callings as lay ministers in the Church.”
 These apostles will share their witness of Jesus Christ with the world, as well as speak on a variety of other spiritual topics, during next week’s general conference (held every April and October).

Anyway, I know where I will be this coming weekend.  Jack and I will be curled up together, enjoying watching and hearing General Conference together, and basking in the wonderful spirit that it brings to our home.

Read James Faulconer’s commentary at

"Today is not different from ages past. The Lord does not love the people of our day any less than in past times. One of the glorious messages of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ is that God continues to speak to His children! He is not hidden in the heavens but speaks today as He did in ancient days."
—President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Why Do We Need Prophets?", Liahona, Mar. 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Whole Lotta Shakin'?

Acapulco Ward Talent Show
According to our man in the field, Elder Nils, he didn't feel any 7.4 earthquake last week!  He writes:
Nah, I didn´t even feel the earthquake, we were walking in the street...when we got a call from prez asking us if we were OK. We were pretty confused, seeing as how we didn´t feel anything.
We called all the missionaries, all are good, a few of them got a little shaken up but nothing big. My comp was kinda bummed, he´s been in quite a few earthquakes now and still hasn´t felt anything. 
I'm grateful there was no cause for alarm, and am not terribly surprised that they didn't feel much being 100 miles away from the epicenter and moving.

Nils further writes:
We´ve definitely had a fun week here though. Our zone is leading the mission...We baptized 28 people in our zone this last month, which is pretty good. I told the assistants that our secret to success is that the zone leaders are so amazing. [Ha! Nils is a Zone Leader. Very funny, Nils!]
We had a giant ward activity which was a lot more successful then we expected. We gave a tour of the building and each organization explained what they do and shared a message.

We ended the activity with a talent show from the ward. Which was really fun, a lot of Mexican dances, singing, and all sort of cool stuff. Everyone loved it. The place was more full then it usually is for stake conference.
It looks like the church is thriving in Acapulco.  I think their ward talent show looks a lot like our talent shows here.

How fun.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Most Interesting Cat...

Jack O'Neill Meow Thai Evensen
I can hear the voice-over in my head:

The most interesting cat in the world isn't content to nap.  He reads Saint-ExupĂ©ry in the original French.  He enjoys Disney films.  He likes to take long walks along the beach.  When he chases a mouse, the mouse feels honored to be caught.

Hummingbirds visit him just to chat.  He only drinks bottled Evian water.  He is a gourmet cook.  He adores opera.  Fleas don't bite him out of respect.

Jack being distracted for a minute

He collects modern art.

He and Schroedinger's Cat, Walter, were college roommates and BFFs. [He recently heard a rumor that Walter was dead, followed by another rumor that Walter was alive.  Hmmmm.]

Jack posing for the camera

His fur is silky and is always groomed perfectly.  Lady cats travel long distances just to get a glimpse of his fabulous whiskers. 
He is... the most interesting cat in the world.
He is my Jack.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

'Til We Meet Again, Barbara

Barbara Sander Randall Klein
January 16, 1923 - March 16, 2012
We laid my dear friend Barbara Klein to rest on Saturday.  Boy, I'm going to miss her!  She was a light in my life and a good friend.  I could always count on Barbara for chicken soup when I was sick, and a partner in crime when there was a program. lesson, or other fun to be had.

Maybe it's hard for some people to understand how you can have a good friend who is older than your parents. (Or, older than my parents would have been if they were still around.)  I think when you find someone wonderful like Barbara in your life, well, age just doesn't matter a bit.
This was taken long before the service began.  Later, the chapel was filled to overflowing with people and flowers
What can I say about Barbara?  She was an amazing woman.  She bore four children, buried one of them and her husband (both within a short time of each other), raised a couple of motherless grandkids, served as a Ward Relief Society President, and as a Stake Relief Society President - for 11 years! - and was an example of loving service.

Barbara was still teaching the adult Sunday School class in our ward up until last fall. She was sharp as can be, and had a good sense of humor.

Barbara was interested in people and the world around her, and certainly interesting.  She decided to go to college after she had her family and earned a degree in education.  Her love of books led to her founding a women's book club back in the 1950s.  Belles Lettres is still going strong today.

Barbara was an avid, and excellent, quilter.  Her children decided it was fitting to put some of these wonderful quilts on display for the funeral.
Barbara's Priceless Quilts were on display
Then they mentioned that this was just a tiny fraction of the quilts Barbara had actually made in her lifetime.  Most of the beautiful quilts, lovingly and painstakingly made, were given away throughout the years.
These are just a small sample of all the quilts she pieced in her day
In addition, Barbara was a proficient seamstress.  She was exacting in her execution of any sewing project, as well as an artist.  According to her grandchildren, her clothing never looked "homemade".
They were all beautifully done
The sheer volume of quilts on display blew me away.  Although I'm not a quilter, or a seamstress, I am well aware how long these things take to make.  The hours involved in some of these, alone, are enough to make someone shy away from such a task.  But Barbara never shied away from anything difficult. In the same way she created beautiful quilts, she created a beautiful life - with strength and courage.
Family and Friends after the service

Vocal Soloist Ginny and her husband
There were two beautiful vocal soloists who performed as part of the service: Barbara's good friend Patsy Arrington's son performed "The Greatest of These Is Love".  Patsy passed away a few years ago.  (As I watched Bradley perform, I thought, Oh!  I wonder if Barbara and Patsy have seen each other again yet?!  I'm sure there were many reunions this week!)  Another friend, Ginny, sang "Going Home".

Barbara loved good music.  In fact, when she decided, at age 88, to pen a little play for the Relief Society birthday celebration, she asked Ginny to supply the music for the event.  The two were good friends.
Barbara and the cast of "Nauvoo Women"
Barbara didn't just write a play, she starred in it, and made the costumes. It's funny, but I never quite realized how short Barbara was until I saw the pictures of us together (above).  She was just such a wonderful and strong  personality that it was easy to forget how small and frail her body really was.

I tried catching some photos of people milling about, and they didn't turn out as nicely as I had hoped.  I hope everyone forgives me.  I know it was a stressful event for the family.

Barbara had 4 children, 17 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.  She is survived by her 2nd husband, Bill, who is ill and could not attend the service.

I'll love you forever, my dear dear friend.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Barbara's Last Luncheon

The KOA gang: Emma, Sabrina, Barbara, Danika, Carmen and Veronica
Friday was Barbara's last day before taking off on maternity leave.  All us office ladies took her out to lunch in honor of the occasion.  We went to a little hole-in-the wall place just across the border of East L.A. in Los Angeles proper.  It's in Boyle Heights, not far off Cesar Chavez Boulevard, and only about 10 minutes from where we work.
This is the restaurant - a Mexican establishment called Ciros.
It's a tiny place but the service is wonderful and the food is truly heavenly!

You can see how overcast the sky is.  We were expecting another rainstorm over the coming weekend.  When it finally hit on Sunday, it rained all day long!
I'm going to miss Barbara while she's off on leave!
 This was Barb's last day for a few months as she goes off on maternity leave.  I will be a lone woman in my corner of the building once she is gone!    The ladies over in Corporate - on the other side of the building - have promised to come visiting every now and then so I don't get lonely.  I'm stocking my candy dish with chocolate to make sure that happens!
I ordered carnitas tacos.  There was so much food, I barely was able to finish one of them. 
There were plenty of chips, green salsa and a salsa that was just huge chunks of avocados on the table.  The chunks of fresh avocados were so wonderful. I mashed them a little on my plate and added a healthy dose of the green salsa.  Yum!  Everything was so tasty!

I love carnitas - that's roast pork for all you non-Spanish speakers!  (Hey, I can at least order in Spanish, but that's about the extent of my espanol!)  I think it's the Norwegian in me that loves the roast pork.  It's crispy and delicious.  Just yummy!  And there was lots of it. You can see how generous the portions are.  The tacos were so huge I couldn't pick them up to eat them.

We have a good group of women at our company.  I really enjoy working with them, and lunching with them is always a lot of fun, too!

It won't be long now until the baby comes.  Next up:  The baby shower, coming at the end of the month!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Moments of Reflection

I had fun playing with a photo of one of my friends.  I think it turned out well.  

What do you think?  

I think she looks like a heroine right out of Jane Austen.

However, I suppose that begs that question: Would you WANT to be a Jane Austen heroine?  I mean, in those days, marrying well was your only hope of bettering yourself, or providing for your future.

Heaven help you if you were a talented female in those days!  Your opportunities to develop talents, especially in areas of math and science, or even business, would have been few, if any.  Women who ran businesses were by and large considered "loose" and would be shunned by society.

Even today, there are places in the world where women are severely limited as to what they can do to provide for themselves, or in being able to gain an education.

I am often reminded how lucky I am to have a good education, the opportunity to earn a living and take care of myself, and be able to come and go (even drive a car!) as I please.

Besides, in Jane Austen's time there was no Tylenol, Aspirin, allergy medications, decent hospital care, prenatal care or air conditioning.  

However nostalgic I occasionally get for the past, these simple, and often totally taken for granted, blessings of modern day every day life make me realize I wouldn't make a very good 19th century woman.  It also makes me thankful for the women who have gone before me.

Thanks, ladies!  I hope someday to thank you personally for all you have suffered so I could be born NOW and enjoy what I enjoy of modern life.

And my apologies to Miss Austen.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Max, King of All He Surveys

Max overseeing the festivities
I really love cats.  I do.  I enjoy everything about them.  One of my favorite kitties, of all my friends Maura and Jackie's brood, is a guy named Max.  Max has personality plus.  Or perhaps I should say PUUURRRRRsonality plus.

At a recent social gathering, he was the life of the party.  Well, let's just say he TRIED to be the life of the party, and often succeeded.  What a funny little guy.  He really enjoyed all the people and excitement.
Max checking out the birthday cake
Max checking out the presents

...and snooping

...and snooping (Hey, this present isn't for ME!)
...And snooping some more
I came home with Max fur all over my trousers.  He was a VERY attentive host!

Good old Max.Max is always a lot of fun to have around.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Acapulco News

Coconuts, anyone?
I'm happy to report after yesterday's massive earthquake in Mexico, that the missionaries in that area are all accounted for and doing fine.  I'm sure they all have some rattled nerves, though!

I can't wait to hear the stories in the weekly newsletter.  Elder Nils finally sent a batch of new pictures in last week's post, so we can get a glimpse of his life in Acapulco.  Well, life in Acapulco before the quake, that is.  Here he is (above) with his companion eating fresh coconuts.  Looks good!
Vanesa (age 9) and her family with the Elders
Vanesa is one of their most recent converts.  The elders taught her a few lessons to prepare her for her baptism.  Her family is slated to be sealed in the temple next week.  What a wonderful blessing!
Beautiful Acapulco
So, here they are, our Elder Nils and Elder Odell, posing, against that spectacular view... oh, you poor guys, you had to be called to serve here!  How do you stand it every day?  It must be so horrible!

At this point in my post, I wish there was a sarcasm font.  You know, a type font that would clue people in that the stuff they are reading was meant sarcastically. 

So, obviously I don't think being in Acapulco is a chore.  Don't send the hate mail.  I was being sarcastic.  In truth, it looks pretty darn amazing.  And I live in Southern California, so I know from amazing.  (I also know from earthquakes, living in So Cal.  I know that even though you are fine and the house may be fine, it takes a while to get over it.  Still, Nils' dad points out that these missionaries are young and probably thought the whole earthquake thing was fun and exciting.  I'm just glad there doesn't seem to be any loss of life that we know of so far.  So, I'll just shut up now.)

But then, I see where Nils has written:
I think it's 90 today, but in our house it feels like 70, what with the ocean breeze and all.  Did I tell you that we are setting up a hammock in the house this next week?  I'll send you some pictures.  Man, the mission is just so tough.
Maybe Elder Nils needs a sarcasm font, too!  Ha.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy March - April Birthdays

A Big Happy Birthday to our friends with March - and April birthdays.  We had a party on St. Patrick's Day to celebrate Maura, Paula, and Lisa's big days.

Even though the weather outside was frightful, we had a terrific time, as usual.  There was a lot of laughter.

Lots of Laughter.

LOTS of it.
Party-goers watching the present-opening ceremonies
Birthday Girl Paula wore an appropriately green St Patrick's Day shirt
Barbara participated from Virginia

"Every Life Should Have Nine Cats"
Maura with the best sign ever - for an owner of  9 cats!
The funny thing about having a party in a home with 9 cats, is how the cats react to having hordes of people descend upon their home.

We are loud, laughing, silly, cat-loving hordes, too!

It's pretty simple, really:  There are the outgoing, life of the party cats. There are the "we think you may be up to no good, but we'll wait and see" cats.  There are cats who simply hide under the bed and wait until the hordes go away.

Max is a life of the party cat (more on him in a later post).  He had such a good time, party animal that he is, he wore himself out.  He finally found a comfortable lap and conked out.
Max found a comfortable lap
It was a lot of fun to see everyone.  I had a great time!  I love visiting with all the people - and with all the animals.  Jack's little sister Lucky lives here.  She was glad to have an update on how her brother was doing.  She is a little, shy, sweetheart who looks very much like her brother.

After seeing all the huge cats that live here, my Jack seemed pretty tiny when I got home!  However, he's still the best cat ever in the hugs and kisses department.  I think I'll keep him!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy - Belated - St. Patrick's Day!

The Myrtle tree in my neighborhood
 I don't think anyone, including the Irish, have as much fun with St. Patrick's Day as Americans do!  We usually go all out, wearing green, eating corned beef and cabbage, pinching folks who aren't wearing green, and generally having a fun time with it. 

This year, my St. Patrick's day (the 17th) was rained out.  The above photo shows the darkened sky as I was on my way to work on Friday (the 16th).  It was already sprinkling as I left the house.  (I love that big pink blossomed tree, by the way.  I think it's a Myrtle.  If I'm wrong, please let me know!  We have lots of them around where I live.)

Blossoming trees on the way to work.
First thing I noticed in leaving the house, was that the light was "off" and all the sidewalks were wet.  It wasn't really raining, though.  Just misting and threatening rain. 

The darkened sky is just not usual, especially after our change to Daylight Savings Time last weekend.   Ooooh.  Can I take a minute to say how much I HATE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME?

I really do. 

Probably because I'm from Arizona and, being rational folk, we don't do that time changing thing there.  But, I digress...

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  St. Patrick's day. 

We were expecting a big rainstorm to hit by Saturday.

My St. Patrick's Day decorations at work
It did. 

As I  traveled up to North Hills to a party, I kept hitting patches of rain here and there.   And it was cold and windy!  Really cold.  However, in comparing notes with folks at the party who have relatives in Illinois and Ohio, it appears our temps on Saturday were way lower than theirs!  So, I guess I'm justified in saying it was cold, cold - not just cold for here!  Weird, huh?

So, Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone - even if it is a little late.  I hope you all had a terrific weekend, whether you celebrated St. Patrick's Day or not.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Getting Close!

Barb at 35 weeks
My long-suffering friend and co-worker, Barbara, has been a good sport about my attempts to follow her pregnancy via my blog.  Here she is at 35 weeks. 

She keeps complaining that she looks terrible and is cranky.  However, I think she looks great.  And cranky?  Not really.  I see her nearly every day, and I think she's been in a very positive and cheerful mood since she first broke the news to us so many moons ago.  Which is pretty darn amazing.
Now, that's a Baby Bump!
It won't be long now.  According to a medical website I accessed, birth normally occurs at 40 weeks, although a normal range is from 37-42.  In other words, this baby is coming soon!  We estimate anywhere from 2 weeks, to a month from now, although I think her actual due date is in 3 weeks.

I suppose we'll see.

In the meantime, Barbara's little girl is moving, kicking, and growing - right on schedule! 

I've been told I will have to get a Whooping Cough (pertussis?) shot or I can't hold the baby.  I guess I'd better get right on that.

A part of me wonders if this little girl, currently waiting on the other side of the veil from mortality, is getting excited too?  Do you think she's a little nervous about getting a body and going through her earthlife experience here?

I don't know about everyone else, but I'm getting excited about meeting this child. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Monster Lurks

I should be saying "Beware the Ides of March" this morning!  Instead I'll just say, "Beware the Attack Cat".

Here is Jack "helping" me put away the groceries in the pantry.  He is playing he's the grocery-bag-attacking-monster.  He is very good at this. You know the monster is just waiting...waiting...waiting for that right moment to attack!

I have to be prepared!  That flying leap could come at any time.
The grocery bag monster lurks
He is a very patient monster.

He will get you every time.  When you least expect it. 

Leaping out to scare you.

And making you giggle.

Watch out!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Zona Costa Azul

The Azure Coast Zone - Acapulco, Mexico
March, 2012
Our missionary, Elder Nils, is still in Mexico and doing great.  He recently sent this photo of his Mission Zone conference.  That's Nils seated 2nd from the left.  His recent comments are right.  He is ridiculously tanned.  Being Scandivanian, we are all usually pretty pale as a family.

The mission president and his wife are seated to the right of center, while Elder Tenorio, the visiting general authority and his wife, are next to them on the left.  Elder Nils had to lead this meeting and was very nervous.

However, he writes:
Directing the meeting was really fun.  You don't realize how easy it is to forget Spanish until you go to direct a meeting in front of a general authority.  But it went really well.  Elder Tenorio is an amazing guy, with amazing stories.
Looking at the photo, it's easy to spot the gringos, isn't it?  I had to chuckle.  But this is a fine looking bunch of handsome, dedicated and hard-working young men.  In case you didn't know, or had forgotten, all these young men (age 19 and up) serve for 2 years at their own expense.

These young kids, wherever they may be serving in the world (young women age 21 and up can serve as well) are my heroes.  The work isn't always easy, but it's tremendously rewarding to teach people, and see lives change for the better.

Elder Nils passed his first year mark in January and is on the slide towards home.  As a Zone Leader, he keeps very busy!  This photo was taken at the Zona Costa Azul Zone Conference they held last week in Acapulco.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Aunt Betty

Betty Lynn today, well, actually last week...
If Maura’s Aunt Betty looked vaguely familiar to you from the birthday party slide show (see my post titled Surprise of March 8th), it’s because she’s Betty Lynn, the actress who played Thelma Lou on 26 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show from 1961-1966.
Aunt Betty as Thelma Lou
I really need to mention here that my mother loved the Andy Griffith Show and would catch it in reruns in the middle of the day in the early 70s. If I called her at the wrong time during the day, she’d answer, “Can you call back? I’m watching my show”. She told me at the time that she identified with the long-suffering Aunt Bea.

I was young, and disregarded the implications of that remark.  Now I realize she felt lonely and unappreciated!  Well, you know, you grow.
Okay, you still don’t remember Thelma Lou? Then let me add that Thelma Lou was Barney Fife’s girlfriend on the show. She was the perfectly sweet and ever patient girlfriend to the neurotic Barney, played by Don Knotts.

Remember now?

She’s apparently alive and well and living in North Carolina!

In addition to The Andy Griffith Show, Maura and Marcy's Aunt Betty (according to the IMDB – I love the IMDB) also appeared in guest spots on TV shows like Matlock, Barnaby Jones, Little House on the Prairie, Mod Squad, My Three Sons and Family Affair.

Jonesing for the 60s yet?

Good seeing you alive and well, Aunt Betty!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Scenic Taiwan

I have to admit I know very little about Asia in general, and almost nothing about the island nation of Taiwan.  However, as my niece-in-law Holly comes from Taiwan, and I work with a lot of nice folks originally from Taiwan, I'm trying to learn more.  I thought, if you are anything like me, you would enjoy seeing some of these pictures of Taiwan.  It's really a beautiful place.
Train ticket from Pingtung to Kaohsiung
 First, we'll get a train ticket.  The above is a train ticket from Pingtung to Kaohsiung on the coast.  This is for an ultra-modern, high speed train.  The fare is somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.50 U.S.  Not bad!
The island of Taiwan lies off the southeastern coast of China, across the Taiwan Strait.  The shape of the main island of Taiwan is similar to a sweet potato and so the people of Taiwan sometimes call themselves "Children of the Sweet Potato".  Some people also think it looks like a whale.

Guess it depends on your perspective.
Portuguese explorers who sailed past it in the 16th century called the land, "Formosa", which means "beautiful" in Portuguese.  (Eo nun fallo Portuguese! - I don't speak Portuguese -  I think I spelled that right, but who knows?  However, if you DO know, please email me the correct spelling.  Thank you very much.)
The main island's eastern two-thirds are filled with rugged mountains.  The plains in the west are  home to most of Taiwan's 23 million plus inhabitants.

Daniel took these pictures on the car trips they made into the countryside with his family.  It does look very beautiful!

I believe the city shot was taken not far from where Holly's parents live.  They own a hardware store.

My nephew Daniel cautions that road signs can be misleading on Taiwan.  The above signs show both K'aolang and Gaulang.  Both are the same place.  Often English transliterations of place names are not standardized.  It can be confusing.

Still, Taiwan seems like a very delightful place. I wish I could tell you more about the places in these photos, but alas, my knowledge is still scant.  However, I will say that knowing so many people from Taiwan makes it a lot more real to me now, and seeing the pictures is so much fun.

This mini-vacation has been brought to you by my nephew Daniel!