Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gratitude Day #22 - Those Who Have Served Our Family - 22 Nov 2017

Today I am grateful for those who have served me and our family.
I'm going to piggyback off of my post yesterday on my gratitude for my trials. For, as we experienced different trials in our lives, there were those standing beside us to help us and hold us up through those trials.
I learned how to serve others through the examples of my parents. Mom somehow knew when someone said "I'm fine" that there was something more going on. She spent so much time helping others to can or sew, helping with their children, or listening to them talk. And, being the mother she was, she didn't sugarcoat anything.
Not one thing.
Dad was the same way. He may not have had the instincts mom had, but he served when someone needed help moving a refrigerator, fixing a stove, putting on a roof, etc.
I had good teachers.
As an adult, I have been the recipient of caring hearts and hands through the trials mentioned yesterday.
When I've gone into labor, or had an operation, there were loving friends and family ready to help me in any way they could. Though I would prepare ahead with freezer meals, getting the house in order, and keeping on top of laundry, they came to fill in the gaps and give me some rest.
When my mom passed away, Kerry and I had just bought two bushels of pears to can. They were laying on newspapers in the basement waiting for a couple of more days of ripening.
Then, Mom died. The last thing on my mind was those pears.
Marva Rogers and the late Pat Shearer Hellman came to my house, loaded up those pears, along with canning jars and lids, and brought them back a day later ready to put on the shelf.
When son Peter was in a head-on collision, my life came to a grinding halt. I found out about it on the way to southern Ohio where I was to teach a class. The hospital called, and I turned around. I could remember no one's number, but called the one that popped into my head -- Carrousel Magic. Our friends owned it, and key people in my church worked there. The word went out, they contacted Kerry and other vital people.
When I arrived at the hospital, I had a crowd of people waiting to hold me up. Peter was not expected to live, and we were not facing this crisis alone.
He did live. And, was hospitalized in a touch and go situation for a month. People from my church went into action to help keep some normalcy in the lives of my other children. They picked them up from after-school activities, took them to piano lessons, and helped with meals.
Andrea Nelson Clark brought me a jar of homemade chicken noodle soup so I could get a break from hospital food. It was manna from heaven.
Cheryl Talaga somehow got into my house and left a tub of cabbage and noodles with chicken breasts. It was manna from heaven.
The late Gene Sampson never seemed to leave our side. I was at the hospital nearly every hour. I tried to sleep in an uncomfortable chair. Sometimes my neck would be stiff when my head fell over. I could feel someone gently propping me back up, and covering me with a blanket.
It was Gene. Sometimes I would open one eye just a little bit, sensing someone was standing beside me.
It was Gene.
A stranger consoled me. Each morning about 5:00 am, I returned from the hospital to get my children off to seminary and school, and to update the answering machine message. I did this so people could get a fresh update and not worry about calling and bothering us. I also listened to any message people left.
One morning, I was listening to them when a voice I didn't recognize came on. This tender, soft-spoken woman said that she didn't know who Peter was...if he was my husband or my brother or my son...but, she was going to pray for him and me that day. And, that if she knew who I was she would have brought me some collard greens with ham hocks and cornbread. But, she told me not to lose hope. She offered a prayer, said her goodbyes, and hung up.
She was exactly what I needed that day. God sent her to me when she misdialed a number.
When our two premie grandsons were born about 10 1/2 months apart, the Ronald McDonald House served our family, as well as the local restaurants who donated food to help out weary families. One of the babies was hospitalized the same time an Amish family was also staying night and day with their child. In came the Amish foods! We all had common fears, and common faith.
I truly learned to serve when I raised a family. It's all about giving and not always getting. But, today I am the recipient of their care and service to me and Kerry. Harmony R. Lauritzen has a benevolent heart, and makes sure I'm up-to-date on technology needs. She, along with Jordan C. Lauritzenand Erik Lauritzen have done a turnabout, for they are now looking out for us. They all call frequently to check on us.
Jordan and Erik were here the night we learned of Peter's death. I honestly don't know what we would have done without them. They helped us think straight when our minds wanted to do anything but think. And, in the middle of it all, Andrea Nelson Clark dropped by with a six-pack of Kleenex. Having lost a son herself, she knew the first thing that was needed.
And you, my genealogy and Facebook friends have served me in a way you may not realize. I have been inspired by the good things you say and do. Others, such as Thomas MacEntee and Lisa Alzo calmed my troubled heart when my computer decided to die just hours before the SoCal Genealogy Jamboree began. There was no fixing the old computer, so I had to buy a new one and set it up with little time to spare. They walked me through some technical glitches, and I made it with about 15 minutes to spare. I can add Cyndi Ingle to this list, too. She has walked me through several things through the years.
Others have given me answers they didn't have to give when I PM'd them. They took time with me, and time is a precious commodity.
I don't know that I have ever served as much as I have been served. There are kindnesses that still abound today. Linda Dawson Fiatoa has brought me beautiful piano-themed handmade items. Waunita Wharton has made things for my grandchildren. Countless friends, such as Karen Enck Keck have listened to me whine.
And, Mr. Kerry has served me like no other. He's had to do things that you never want to think about when you're holding hands and falling in love.
So, today I am grateful for the myriads of friends, neighbors, and family who have been there to anticipate our needs when we are in a crisis and hold us up. I could begin to list you all, but would run out of time and space if I tried.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Today I am grateful for my trials.

What?

Yes. I am grateful my life has not been smooth-sailing for 62 years. For, if it had been, I would not have known the difference between pure joy and ultimate grief.

There is opposition in all things.

I've had my share of physical trials. And, they are no more than many of you have. But, other trials have pulled me up by my neck and helped me realize how precious each individual on this earth is.

It took my mother seven years to die. She had her first heart attack on the day Elvis Presley died. And no, it wasn't because of news of his death. I was living with her and dad just outside of Washington, DC and preparing for my upcoming marriage. One night, I heard her in the bathroom all night. In the morning, I couldn't get the door open, for her feet were blocking it.

I yelled for dad, and we called EMS. It was then that we learned she had suffered a heart attack during the night. I kept my sisters in Ohio informed of her status during the many hours dad and I spent at the hospital.

Mom would never quite be the same again. Strokes and more heart attacks would follow, but she lived long enough to see all of her grandchildren.

Having children has been and is a trial that I never could have imagined. From the sleepless nights to the frets about schoolwork to the runaway to the head-on collision one of them suffered made for lots of anxious moments.

Trials also plagued my adult children, which also affected us. We had two grandchildren born at 27 weeks, and another one later at 28 weeks. I had never held a baby that small, and was scared he would fall through the crook of my arm.

Now, why am I grateful for these things?

Well, I wasn't necessarily grateful at the time I was going through them. But, hindsight giving us a clearer view of things has helped me to realize that I am the person I am today because of them.

I know how to mourn with those who mourn...because I have lost loved ones.

I know how to offer comfort to the parent of a wayward child, because I have experienced the grief that comes with that.

I know how to give hope and encouragement to those who are anxious with a loved one in the hospital, because I have shed tears in hospital hallways, too.

Trials have brought me to my knees in fervent prayer as I sought answers that didn't seem to be clear to me at the time.

Trials have brought me to anger, to pacing the floor, to shouting into my pillow or on to Kerry's chest.

And, all of these have brought me to a place where I have a better understanding that pain is part of life. And...that we can make it through that pain.

If, we choose.
Grandson Justin was born at 28 weeks gestation.

Grandson Jayden was born at 27 weeks gestation.

Mother Ida Clemens with grandson Peter.

Son Peter was in a head-on collision three months after graduation.

I have broken my feet nine times!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Gratitude Day #20 - My Parents' Journals - 20 Nov 2017

Today I am grateful for my parents' journals they left behind.

Mom and dad were not real educated, but they were two of the smartest people I have ever known. The grammar police would have tremendous anxiety reading through their journals.

But, I can read behind the lines.

Their journals were written many years after events happened; probably during the 1970's. The LDS Church had been emphasizing to all members how important it was to submit four-generation pedigree charts throughout the 1960's. In doing theirs, mom and dad began to reconstruct their own lives.

Here is an example from my dad's:
"My Memory of Yesterdays
By Chester L. Clemens

I was born of goodly parents at Lawton, Carter County Kentucky and lived in that area as well as I remember for two or three years before moving to Olive Hill KY. Which was about four miles from Lawton and my father had a job at the brickyard and I remember carrying his lunch to him at the brickyard along with my brother Dewey who was two years older than I was.

The thing that brings back my memory so much was my younger sister Betty when she was burned so bad by a pot of beans falling off the heating stove in the living room, as well as I remember the stove had a bright chrome plated ring around the bottom of it and Betty my sister was rocking in a rocking chair close to the stove and each time she would rock the chair she would touch the stove with her foot and after doing that for several minutes the pot of beans finally fell off the stove and burned her awfully bad over most of her body and of course the doctors was not trained to treat severe burns in those days and the most the doctor could do for her was to give her Morphine to ease the pain till she died, We lived on Clark hill at that time, a part of Olive Hill."

It took little Betty three days to die. I can only imagine the pain her mother felt for her, as well as her older sister Mary, who must have lived with some measure of guilt throughout her life.

My sister Betty is named for the little one who died.

Dad also recorded his experience during the Battle of Blair Mountain (look it up!) in West Virginia. When the PBS special aired, I contacted them and told them I had my dad's journal, which was a first-hand account of being there.

They asked for permission to put it on their site. Of course!

Later on, as I transcribed these journals into genealogy programs, and on to FamilySearch, I recalled how my mom's journal helped me in achieve my credentials as an Accredited Genealogist.

I was to choose a family where person #1 on a pedigree chart would be born no later than 1875. For some reason, I chose my hardest family. I don't know why I didn't choose an easier one.

One of my requirements was to list the source documentation for each person on that pedigree. I went to work, citing all along the way. Until...I reached a county where there no court records.

I was stymied. This was twenty years ago. What was I going to do?

My dad was living with us at the time. He asked me why I was so puzzled, and I told him about the record loss. He smiled, and said he knew all about it. Hmmm...how did he know?

"Because our family burned it down".

He seemed rather proud of the fact, but it left me without needed information...until I re-read mom's journal.

In there, she recorded information about her grandparents, and great-grandparents. She had known them all, and they had lived next to her for many years.

And, she had their vital information.

I explained this during my submission, and they understood. One of them had been an expert on Kentucky research, and knew the county I was referring to. He then suggested looking at school records.

I did. And, that became a presentation that I give quite often.

So, mom and dad's feeble efforts at keeping a journal provided a wealth of information for me to draw from years later.
A page from mom's journal

A depiction of mom's first cook stove

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Gratitude Day #19 - Family Gatherings and Celebrations - 19 Nov 2017

Today I am grateful for family celebrations and gatherings.

It was forty years ago today that friends threw a wedding shower for me. I thought for sure I had scanned the photos from that event, and will be nervous until I locate them.

But, friends from the Washington DC area put on a wonderful wedding shower for me. And, forty years later I am still using the things they gave to me!

I still have the recipe box filled with their favorite recipes. I have aprons, towels (yes, 40-year old towels!), and other cherished items from that day when friends gathered to get me started on married life.

I am grateful for the momentous occasions we have celebrated in my own family's life:
My parents' 50th wedding anniversary
Kerry's parents 50th wedding anniversary
My sisters' anniversaries
The blessings (christenings) of each of our children
The baptisms of each of our children
The college graduations and gatherings

I could go on and on...and so could you.

Each of these events I've mentioned bring back a flood of memories as we commemorated the birth or the choices or the achievements of a beloved family member or friend.

We definitely believe in celebrating milestone events. And, there's always food. There has to be food.

I'm grateful for the gatherings that tie us and bind us closer together. Just looking through the few photos I attached brought back warm feelings as I recalled the event.

But today, I'm thinking about a 22-year old girl who was being showered with gifts as she began a brand new phase of her life.
Peggy being baptized by her dad, Chester Clemens

Kerry's retirement day, Apr 2010

Peter was baptized in Utah

Harmony's blessing dress was made by her grandmother Shirley Lauritzen

Jordan was the first to receive a college degree

Erik's baptism day brought his grandparents from Utah.  They attended every birth and baptism.

Chester and Ida Clemens were married 50 years.

Orson and Shirley Lauritzen were married 50 years.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gratitude Day #18 - My Talents and Abilities - 18 Nov 2017

Today I am grateful for my talents and abilities, and my sense of humor.

I feel truly blessed because of my talents. Probably the most visible one is the musical talent I have possessed all of my life. My parents saw that talent when I was only four years old, and made the sacrifices necessary to improve on that talent.

I will be forever grateful to them for their sacrifices. Let me include a snippet of a blogpost I wrote about it.

"For as long as I can remember, I have played the piano. Music was always part of my home. My dad played records that contained beautiful music all the time. I believe my talent comes through my dad. My poor mom had no rhythm and couldn't really sing very well at all. But that didn't matter - she sang anyway.

Dad could always keep time very well. His dream was to have been a conductor in a symphony - but that wasn't to be. Perhaps if he'd had musical training, he would have enjoyed it even more.

My sisters were/are all musical. But, when they were growing up in the hills of Kentucky and the hollers of West Virginia, mom and dad just didn't have the money for any musical lessons for them. None of them can play any musical instrument at all. But when the four of us sing, we blend perfectly in several harmonies.

My parents got me a little piano for Christmas when I was four years old. That year, I was pounding out "Joy to the World". My mom often said that was the only Christmas music we had that year. Through the years, I learned how to play a few more songs on that little piano. I still have it to this day.

I put Mr. Eddie in the picture with it so you could see the relative size of it. Mr. Eddie weighs 8 lbs. It's not much bigger than him.

I even played for the children's organization at church for several years right after I got that piano. We had our Primary meetings on Saturday mornings, when it was hard to get some of the other adults out to the church. For awhile, all I could really play was "The Golden Plates" - so that's what we sang for a long time.

My dad was a refrigeration/air conditioning repairman, a skill he learned in the Navy and continued on with more training here. One day, he was repairing an appliance for a woman who taught piano lessons in her basement. He listened for awhile, and asked if she took on new students. She said she did.

About that same time, a lady in our ward was selling her piano. She was getting a new one from her mother, who lived in California. They lived in Danville, a town a few miles away from here.

On the night of my birthday in 1963, I heard a vehicle pull into our driveway. I didn't think too much about it, for I thought it was probably one of my sisters dropping by. Or, since dad was bishop, that it might be someone who needed to talk to him. He did stand at the door and talk to someone for a few minutes.

Then, some furniture was moved, and in rolled my birthday present! My best birthday present I've ever received! My "new" piano!!!! At 8 years old, I thought I was the richest girl on the planet.

I played and played and played. And in the fall, I began my lessons. That was a different experience, for I had played by ear for many years. Now, I was going to have to learn to discipline myself to play the notes written on the paper. It was harder than you can imagine.

My piano lessons began at $1 per week. Mom and dad always found that dollar for me. However, after a few years, my teacher had to raise it to $1.25. That was a different story. We didn't know if I could continue or not. But, dad was determined to provide lessons for me. There were a few weeks (probably more than a few) where I paid in coins, after digging through couch cushions, coat pockets, etc. But, we always found it. And, we always found it again when the cost went to $1.50.

I tried to make sure I kept up with my practicing, for I knew how hard it was on mom and dad to pay for those lessons.

That piano "base" led me on to play many more instruments. When I was in marching band, I found it easy to pick up an instrument and begin to play. String instruments were a bit harder for me, but eventually I could play many of them, too. In my mind, I would picture the piano keyboard, then the notes would be clearer to me on another instrument.

How can I ever show my gratitude for mom and dad's sacrifice? By keeping up what they took the time, money and effort to see that I had in my young life. That sacrifice has led me to play for countless weddings, funerals, Christmas gatherings, family gatherings, and years and years of Church meetings.

It also paved the way for each of my own children to enjoy music. While they were at home, they filled our home with music - good music. They had their lessons on my old piano, and the sacrifice was hard for us, too. But, how I loved hearing them play and work out the melody on a song they had never seen before. How I loved seeing them go on to play other instruments. And how I LOVED when we gathered around the piano and sang as a family. Our six voices blended and harmonized, just like with me and my sisters.

My piano is still in my home and is still being used. It's a little rougher for the wear. It has some battle scars. It's a bit out of tune. But oh, how I love that piano - for the joy I had in playing and accomplishing a difficult piece - and for the comfort it brought me in times of sadness."

I have included the pictures of that precious piano.

I am also grateful for other talents, such as listening. When I am talking to someone, there is no one else who is more important than the person in front of me. When they have me, they have all of me.

I am grateful for my ability to speak in front of others, sometimes hundreds or thousands, without fear.

Growing up in the LDS Church, we begin our first "talks" in front of our peer group at age three. Opportunities for speaking and teaching followed me all through my growing up years, into adulthood and up to the present. When I speak in front of six or six hundred, there is no fear. They will both get the same quality program.

And, we'll have fun while we're together.

I think I can throw a gift of discernment in there, too. I get that from my mom. She could immediately size up a situation or a person, and was never wrong in her assessment. I believe I have that quality, too.

Other talents are there that may not be so visible. Others have been lifesaving. I could put a good meal on the table when it looked like we didn't have much.

Someone once asked me if I ever had fear in front of others, whether it be musically or in speaking. Nope. I just look at everyone in the audience as a potential relative!