Monday, August 31, 2009

Ben's Letters Home / Lloyd

Ben has finished up at the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts (PCPA) and this summer we enjoyed watching him as a “paid” actor in PCPA/Theaterfest productions of Les Misérables and the Music Man.

He was accepted into the theater program at Cal Berkley as a junior, and last Monday with the help of Ellen and Jason he moved into his new apartment. When I called Ben that night he was sitting on his apartment floor putting together the new furniture and wondering about classes.

The department told him to “come as you are, we’ll figure out classes when you arrive.” That’s because he had to audition for placement—everything in the performing arts is on demonstrated merit. No pressure! But PCPA gave him great preparation.

Judy’s home from Utah and has been on the phone daily with Ben working out all kinds of details and getting reports. I’ve felt restless for new adventure. Always happens when my kids leave for missions or start a new chapter in their lives.

Ben’s first play involvement may be an experimental musical, Dead Boys, a collaborative production between director/choreographer Joe Goode and composer Holcombe Waller. Ben says in one of his Facebook postings, “I don't think we're in Music Man country anymore, Toto.” Judging from the things I’ve seen on the internet by Goode and Waller, he’s correct. I have to say that after reading their bios, his parents are both excited and apprehensive about what Ben’s getting into.

Driving to see Ben perform at Berkley will be more of an adventure than going to Santa Maria or Solvang. Interesting, even after they’ve left home, new chapters and experiences in our children’s lives, both happy and sad, so intimately include us.

I would call the following, “Letters Home,” except they’re not letters but Facebook postings, and they weren’t sent specifically to us, his parents, but put out for all his Facebook friends. Though fairly public, we’re glad to get them. Many of Judy’s phone calls were to fill in the details. Thank you, Facebook.

Ben Abbott 's heart is full and bursting with goodbyes. Farewell friends, colleagues, mentors, and even places. Now five hours of sleep and throwing myself forward i.e.: moving to Berkeley. August 24 at 2:14am

Ben Abbott is all moved into Berkeley. Now he just needs to figure out all this school stuff before it starts tomorrow. August 25 at 10:35am

Ben Abbott just got handed a communist newspaper. Ah Berkeley. August 26 at 10:57am

Great Comment You might read it so you'll know what kind of answers your teachers wil be looking for. Sometimes it works... August 26 at 12:23pm

Ben Abbott had to audition to get into modern dance and he got in! I enjoyded a dance audition for once rather than feeling like I was drowning. Thank you PCPA! Couldn't have done it without you August 26 at 6:34pm

Ben Abbott auditioned and got into Advanced Acting. Yay! I love it at an audition when they say, "that was great. Do you happen to have any Shakespeare?" Thu at 6:56pm

Ben Abbott It's especially cool when you can say, "sure, how about some Coriolanus?" Thank you Patricia Troxel. Fri at 1:05am

Ben Abbott Is off to audition for "Dead Boys. a premiere freak folk musical by Joe Goode and composed by Holcombe Waller." I don't think we're in Music Man country anymore, Toto. Fri at 7:48pm

Ben Abbott got a callback! woot! Sat at 1:08am

Ben Abbott
It's called Dead Boys. It's billed as a premiere freaky folk musical. It's a new play, so I auditioned for the writer/director and the composer. We'll see how tomorrow goes. Sat at 1:20am

Ben Abbott I guess I had a good callback. I was called at 1:30 and he kept me there reading and singing until 5:45. Yesterday at 12:44am

Ben Abbott oh sunday afternoon naps, how I've missed you. Yesterday at 4:30pm

Ben Abbott ok, so wait...I get both Saturday and Sunday off...but I have to go to school on Monday?? Is that how this works? 4 hours ago
To keep current on Ben's school days and career just ask him to be a friend on Facebook. Tell him that his dad referred you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My time in Utah

Last Monday I was with the Smalleys as they buried their little stillborn son, Joseph James, in the Kaysville Cemetery. When this first happened, the doctor told them they could bury him, or the hospital would take care of it for them; it was up to them. They really didn't know what to do, but in the blessing Emily received the night before she went in to deliver, she was told she would know clearly what was the best thing to do.

We went in to the hospital at 7:30 on Thursday, Aug. 21, and we were there all day as she labored, just like with all her other babies--IV in the hand and all. About noon the pain was getting very bad and she had to have an epidural. She was ready to deliver about 5:00 pm and had to push half a dozen times until the baby was born--unlike her other deliveries, it was a silent delivery room. It was some time during that awful day when it did become very clear that this too was one of her children and she needed to respect his little body and actually treat him as a full member of their family. And she knew they needed to bury him themselves and not just let the hospital "take care of it."Here is the tiny casket in the part of the cemetery for babies.When Troy called the mortuary, they said they would discount all their fees, including this little casket and they didn't charge them anything (although we saw a bill that had the usual fees of $4200 taken off).

Besides me and the Smalleys, also Joy and Don and their family came and Aaron and Marrisse and their family and Marrisse's mother and Troy's sister-in-law, Tifffany. We sang, "Families Can Be Together Forever," and Joy gave the opening prayer. Then Emily spoke and told why they decided to have this service and read this quote from Joseph Smith:

(At the funeral of 2-year-old Marian Lyon) " my leisure moments I have meditated upon the uncertainty of human life, and asked the question, why is it that infants, innocent children, are taken away from us? The strongest reasons that present themselves to my mind are these: This world is a very wicked world; and it...grows more wicked and corrupt...The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again...

"The only difference between the old and young dying is, one lives longer in heaven and eternal light and glory than the other, and is freed a little sooner from this miserable, wicked world. Notwithstanding all this glory, we for a moment lose sight of it, and mourn the loss, but we do not mourn as those without hope.

"A question may be asked--Will mothers have their children in eternity? Yes! Yes! Mothers, you shall have your children; for they shall have eternal life, for their debt is paid."

After this quote, Emily showed the remembrance box that the ladies of SHARE brought to her in the hospital. This was a group of two women who had also lost babies during pregnancy and a female professional photographer that came and dressed the baby and took pictures and made up this box for her.
Inside are the receiving blanket he was wrapped in right after birth; the name card they usually put into the bassinet telling his weight (7 oz.), his length (6 1/2 inches), and his name, etc.; a hat they put on him (but was too big so they had to put on a littler one), a tiny teddy bear they wrapped up with him, a ring symbolizing eternity, and a pin showing the size of a tiny baby's feet.Here is the outside of the box. It looks like homemade paper and was very pretty.

After Emily's talk, we sang the first and fourth verses of "O My Father," then Troy dedicated the grave. We ended with "I Am a Child of God," and a closing prayer by Marrisse.

The next two pictures show the balloon launch. Emily gave all the children there (14 of them) a helium balloon and told them to fill it with their love and happy thoughts and let it go to send them all up to their brother and cousin, Joseph.

This is Andrew after the service, carrying the tiny casket back to the car that would take it to the funeral home overnight then bring it back for burial the next day.Afterwards, we all went back to the Smalley's house where the Relief Society had prepared this amazing dinner for us. Emily said, talk about feeling loved. She said she felt very good and glad they had this service; that it really seemed the right thing to do. It allowed the kids to participate and everybody to experience closure. It was a good thing she felt that way because that was also the day her milk came in and she's having to deal with that for the next few days.

As for me, I was SO grateful I could be there--for me as much as for them. As hard as it all was, the Spirit was very close during much of this time and it was very sweet.

We can get caught up in lots of distractions in this world, but something like this reminds us what is important and what really matters in this life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tomorrow's my Monday / Lloyd

Sunday's & Monday's are my days off, so tomorrow's my Monday.

Judy's been in Kaysville, Utah with Smalley's as they've worked through having a stillborn son. It's been quite a week for everyone. Tonight they had a private funeral service with local family members and dinner support from the Relief Society. Bless the sisters of the Relief Society.

Saturday I had scheduled time off to go to the Fresno Temple, but the hospital held me over. They've started mandatory overtimes again--partly because of California's furlough policy for state workers: 3 days a month without pay. And the hospital has been denying most worker requests for scheduled time off, so folks just call in sick--especially on weekends.

Fortunately a colleague came in to take my place at 2:15 am on Saturday--that was better than working until 7 am. It was late, so I just cleaned up, and drove straight to Fresno. About 90 minutes out I pulled into a rest stop to sleep because I couldn't keep my eyes open. But I arrived at 8:40 am. At one point during a session I must have dozed because a friend touched my arm, and I stood right up--the only patron in the room standing.

I did get to participate in three endowment sessions, including one in Spanish, and a sealing session. Mostly I was alert. Temple worship just seems to anchor my soul. This was especially important to me when I couldn't be with Smalley's.

This past week Ben's been getting himself ready for Cal Berkley. He did a great job sorting through things and leaving very few personal items at home. Today Jason, Ellen, and Anna convoyed with him in their red truck and were soooo helpful not only getting his stuff up there but also helping him process all the furniture decisions at IKEA. I cleaned up Ben's room. It's now ready for visitors--especially for Ben.

Tomorrow is my Monday with all its connotations. But Judy will also be home, and that'll be wonderful.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ben singing "If you Could Hie to Kolob" / Lloyd

Shirley Thomas scheduled Ben to sing in church, but each time there was a complication and he was postponed. Then Judy found herself in Utah the one Sunday that Ben could perform--just before leaving home for UC Berkley.

Ellen video taped his warm up before church and Jason put it on YouTube for Judy and the family.

I love this hymn.

If you could hie to Kolob

1. If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?

2. Or see the grand beginning,
Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation,
Where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers,
"No man has found 'pure space,'
Nor seen the outside curtains,
Where nothing has a place."

3. The works of God continue,
And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression
Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter;
There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit;
There is no end to race.

4. There is no end to virtue;
There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom;
There is no end to light.
There is no end to union;
There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood;
There is no end to truth.

5. There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.
There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.

Text: William W. Phelps, 1792-1872

I also enjoy the following coral presentation of the same hymn:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Becoming Age 65--Very Different From Thinking Of It In The Future / Lloyd

Sunday I turned 65, and that’s a milestone age whose meaning is very different experienced than contemplated as a future event.

During WWI church leaders encouraged my grandfather to enlist in the military rather than go on a mission. He retired early at age 55 so he and my grandmother could have a formal mission experience before he died. He passed away 15 years later at age 70. Their service in the Northwestern mission was a significant event for their relationship. On several occasions when Elder Franklin D. Richards, their mission president, and his wife met Judy and me they never failed to comment on what great and faithful missionaries Israel and Clara Abbott had been.

My father served a two-year mission before his WWII military duty in the Pacific, and after he retired at age 63 he served two senior missions: one with my mother and after my mother passed away, a second with my stepmother. My father died at age 78. Judy, Kristen, and I visited mother and dad in New Jersey and saw first hand how meaningful the experience was for them. The stories from England with Dad and Renee’ demonstrate great faithfulness and service.

Today I am 65 and my worldly circumstances recommend that I work another 15 years so I can retire from state service and better be able to provide for our needs once I stop working. Good medical insurance has become increasingly important to us.

Our children have urged, instead, that I retire sooner and with their financial backing serve a church mission with Judy. They say that with such a large family to support us we shouldn’t worry about finances but serve missions and provide other church service while we still have our health and energy. That could require more humility and faith than I have. I’m not eager to be dependent on my children. But these promptings have helped me realize that I’d actually ruled out the possibility of serving a senior mission.

But now I’ve turned 65, and given all the mail about it we've been receiving, it seems to be a matter of public record. In addition to signing up for Medicare, we need to fully consider the options for our immediate future before rheumatoid arthritis and other early developing physical maladies deny our ability to serve.

We’ve been so busy raising our family and recovering from one set back or another through the years that unexamined considerations of the ability, or even desire, to serve a senior mission have snuck up on us. Perhaps our example will be a cautionary tale to our children about the importance of addressing important goals and long-range financial planning now.

I will ask our bishop about age and health qualifications to serve a senior mission; types of senior missionary service needed, and projected costs. Then I can check with my employer about the requirements for taking an administrative leave from work so Judy and I can serve before age and physical health issues close the mission door to us.

Even if we’re looking at a couple of years in the future, without gathering the facts and going to the Lord for timing and direction, going on a mission will just pass us by. And that would be a shame to break an Abbott tradition established by very faithful parents and grandparents.

Some milestones are more sobering than others, more shocking into action. Turning age 65 has been one of them. Additionally, children sensitive to the spirit and not bashful about speaking up have been very helpful.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Marilyn / Judy

This is an email I just sent to my favorite sister, Marilyn (pictured above at Aspen Grove with her daughter, Teri and some of her family):

Marilyn, Hope you have a wonderful day! I sent you a card but you may not get it in time and let me tell you why. I meant to mail it last Saturday and went out to do a few errands, including stopping at the post office.

But Ben's car is in the shop and he's had to drive the red one the past few days. I was driving it that day and had to make sure I got back in time for him to leave for Santa Maria. Anyway, I noticed it only had about a quarter tank of gas and I thought I'd be nice for him and fill it up.

At the gas station the pump kept stopping and wouldn't work. I managed to put about 3 gallons in it and then I got so frustrated that I called out the service station attendant to come help me. He tried it and said, "Is the tank already full?" Because that was what the pump was acting like. "No," I assured him. But just in case, I turned on the motor to look at the gas gage again. Sure enough, just above quarter of a tank. He tried the pump some more and it still wouldn't work. Then, I noticed that I was looking at the TEMPERATURE gage and not the gas gage (which was on the other side of the steering wheel). Uh oh. How embarrassing!!

The attendant didn't even say anything; he just walked away. By that time I'd managed to cram $14 worth of gas into the already full tank. Also, by then I had no time left to mail your card because I had to get right back so Ben could take the car.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, and I'm sorry your card is late.
Love, Judy

(Am I the only one these kinds of things happen to?)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ben's Hair / Judy

I'M BACK!!! Sweet Ellen and smart Jason are here helping me with putting up pictures and they will even tell me how to write between the images. Yayyy!!!

So away we are some pictures that I took a couple weeks ago. They are Ben's before and after pictures with his haircut. He had to have long hair and muttonchops when he was in "Les Mis," but for "Music Man" he could have short hair and just side burns.

The first two are the "before" pix.

It was so long he could make a pony tail. And he hated his muttonchops.

And of course after the haircut.

And this is Ben being skeptical about my bag of water. When we were in Cambria, we saw many of the shops had these bags over their door and when I asked what they were for, the clerks said they kept the flies out. I don't know why it works, but I tried it since we don't have screens on the back door, and it really does work. We can leave these doors open for quite a while and not get flies. However, one day they were open all day and we did get a few then.

Friday, August 7, 2009

How, Then, Can We Feel Justified If We Shrink From Our Duty Because Of A Minor Discomfort Or Inconvenience? / Lloyd

Sometime before I was twelve I remember asking my mother why there weren't more Mormon actors. We had been talking about the well known Mormon actress Loraine Day. My mother’s reply was consistent with her feelings about the importance of the Sabbath, which we observed in our home while I was growing up. She replied, “Because actors must often work on Sundays.” Period!

All my life I have fought to be able to attend church services and to build a protective hedge around the entire Sunday. So many times my life has been diverted from the wrong course I was taking because of clear prompts I received during sacrament service. Just as often I've perceived prompts to take beneficial actions I hadn't considered before.

Judy says that Sabbath worship is so fundamental to my life, who I am, that I would not be able to understand when baptized members of the Church, covenant people of God, chose otherwise or were more or less casual about church attendance. It's true. I don't understand. It is so sad.

Our family has been greatly blessed because Judy and I felt united in the importance of celebrating the Sabbath and making whatever sacrifice we needed to attend church with our family and then strive to nurture the Spirit from church throughout the day. Monday's come all too soon. Of course we would want those same blessings for all our children and their children.

The following excerpt from the Ensign expresses much better than I can this feeling I have:
“One incident in the Prophet’s life had a powerful influence on me as a young man:
“At a late hour of the night Joseph was lying down and slumbering heavily from weariness. . . . A few moments later an infuriated mob burst the door open and . . . seized him and were dragging him from the house when Emma screamed. . . .
“. . . A group gathered . . . to hold a council . . .
After the council was concluded, the leading mobocrats declared that they would not kill him but would strip him naked and whip and tear his flesh. . .  They thrust a reeking tar paddle into his face and attempted to force it down his throat . . .
“After they left Joseph, he attempted to rise, but fell back again from pain and exhaustion. He succeeded, however, in tearing the tar away from his face so that he could breathe freely. . .  
“Securing some covering for his person, the Prophet entered the house, and spent the night in cleansing his body and dressing his wounds . . .
“The next morning, being the Sabbath, the people assembled at the usual hour of worship. With them came some of the mobbers . . .
“With his flesh all bruised and scarred, Joseph went to the meeting and stood before the congregation, facing his assailants of the previous night calmly and manfully. He preached a powerful sermon and on the same day baptized three believers into the Church.”
“I cannot begin to imagine the pain and discomfort the Prophet Joseph must have endured. He had ample excuse not to preach the following morning, but this and many other experiences of similar or worse consequence did not cause him to shrink from his responsibility. How, then, can we feel justified if we shrink from our duty because of a minor discomfort or inconvenience? (Michael John U. Teh, “Confidence in the Presence of God,” Ensign, Jan 2009, 28–30)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"For The Strength Of The Hills" Was Written About The Vaudois Mountains In Switzerland--Who Knew? / Lloyd

Yesterday's post, Our early pioneers put their lives on the line because of their religious witness, referenced a verse from the Hymn "For the Strength of the Hills." The following is a great comment from Uchenna & Jen Paul. Didn't want you to miss it--Lloyd

It's interesting - at home we were discussing the hymn, For the Strength of the Hills, last Sunday and researched a little about it.

Though it first appeared in our LDS Hymnal in 1950, we learned that it was written by Felicia Hemans, who died in 1835 in Europe, so she probably hadn't heard of the church. The original poem was called "Hymn of the Vaudois Mountaineers in times of persecution," and the hills refer to the Vaudois Mountains in Switzerland (see "Our Latter-Day Hymns:The Stories and the Messages" by Karen Lynn Davidson).

The origins of the Vaudois Mountaineers, also called the Waldenses, is debated; some claim they were conservatives of the early Christian church and were driven into the wilderness because they wouldn't bow to the Roman power taking over the church and introducing doctrines they felt were contrary to the truth.

Modern scholars say they started in France in the 1100's and were denounced as heretics. During the Reformation they joined with the new protestant faith.

The bottom line is to see paralells between the persecution they endured and the ones that Mormon pioneers had to endure hundreds of years later, which makes it resonate with us. Modern day pioneers may also have to endure persecution, though in different forms.

--Uchenna & Jen

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Our Early Pioneers Put Their Lives On The Line Because Of Their Religious Witness / Lloyd

In Church Sunday we were singing a hymn about pioneers (Hymn #35, For the Strength of the Hills) and I wasn't paying too much attention until the second verse:

At the hands of foul oppressors, 
We've borne and suffered long,

Thou hast been our help in weakness, 
And thy pow'r hath made us strong.

Amid ruthless foes outnumbered, 
In weariness we trod.

At that moment I realized that "pioneers" within the Mormon experience were more than trailblazers who led the way to colonizing the Intermountain West. 

After accepting the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith about the reality of God the Father and Jesus Christ and joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our "pioneers" were then hunted down and sometimes killed and often deprived of peace, freedom, and material belongings by angry and ruthless enemies. Our people were driven from the United States and eventually found some safety in the Intermountain West.

Without an appreciation for the reality of Satan, this persecution seems totally unmotivated and irrational. Even persecutors were without insight into their bizarre behavior.

But when people violate the fundamental moral and ethical principles defined within the Ten Commandments they find themselves in Satan's power, and he jerks them through episodes of intense unrest, contention, and anger, even murderous rage--also defeat, hopelessness, and despair.

Violators of the Ten Commandments, especially the law regarding sexual conduct, commonly demonstrate an over-the-top enmity towards religious and ethical people who speak up against morally inappropriate behavior. Consider the outcome for John the Baptist when he criticized Herod's unlawful marriage to Herodias (Mark 6: 16-29).

Our pioneers were all potential martyrs like any ancient and modern prophet who has been called upon by God to witness that disaster follows the evil practices of a society unraveling morally. In this same sense faithful members of the Church today share this fate with the early Mormon pioneers, whose courage, faith, and sacrifices we acknowledge and celebrate each 24th of July.

Pres. Boyd K. Packer states our circumstance clearly:

Sometimes we are asked why we do not recognize this conduct as a diverse and acceptable lifestyle. This we cannot do. We did not make the laws; they were made in heaven “before the foundation of the world” (D&C 132:5; D&C 124:41; see also Alma 22:13). We are servants only.

Just as with the prophets in ancient times, we have been “consecrated priests and teachers of this people, … [responsible to] magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence” (Jacob 1:18–19).

We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you (see Heb. 12:6–9; Rom. 3:19; Hel. 15:3;D&C 95:1.

You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy.

We did not make the rules; they were revealed as commandments. We did not cause nor can we prevent the consequences if you disobey the moral laws (see D&C 101:78). In spite of criticism or opposition, we must teach and we must warn.

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Have a Baby / Lloyd

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