Saturday, February 7, 2015

Just an Average Pioneer Woman

            When considering the lives of our pioneer heritage, how often have we declared, “I would have been a horrible pioneer;” or perhaps, “I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to go through what the pioneers endured.”  We oftentimes make these comments in the abstract, or in consideration of a single difficult aspect of their lives on the frontier of our rustic Utah.  However, it’s when we take the time to truly study the details of the lives of specific pioneers that we are able to view their simple lives as majestic—not with pity, but with true praise, admiration and gratitude.
            One remarkably faithful pioneer woman in our family was Lydia Pilch.  By pioneer standards Lydia would be considered “just an average pioneer.”  Lydia joined the church in England with her husband Thomas Thrower.  Their family life in England was happy and fulfilling.  However, Thomas wanted more than anything to join the saints in Zion.  His health was poor and family members chastised him for continuing to yearn for this.  In 1862 at the age of 53 he decided to emigrate to Utah with Lydia and two of his children.  One cousin commented, “Tom, you are a fool for starting on such a long journey you will never live to reach Utah.”  His determined reply was, “That doesn’t matter, my family will be there.”  Tom’s words proved prophetic—he died on the plains near Laramie, Wyoming.  At the time of his death, he courageously declared, “Whether I live or die, I’m glad I started this journey so that my family can be in Zion.”  As family members we love this story of faith and courage and grim determination. But perhaps the more poignant story is that of his wife Lydia and all that she endured.  Against this backdrop, it’s easy to lose sight of what she experienced. Her husband Thomas gave his life for what he believed—all she did was live. It’s the body of her life experiences that causes us to marvel and admire this woman as something more than just average.
Before immigrating to Utah, Lydia buried two infant children in England—Ester and John.  Thomas had become ill with pneumonia on the trek to Utah, presumably related in part to exposure to the cold weather.  She lovingly nursed him until the moment he died.  Her talent as a nurse on the stark plains of Wyoming portended a skill-set which later in life proved something to bless the lives of others on many occasions. 
She arrived in Salt Lake City on October 1, 1862 with two small girls having walked almost the entire way across the plains.  A month later she found herself working for Jehu Blackburn on his sheep ranch, seven miles outside Minersville, Utah.  Shortly thereafter, she became his fourth wife.  Lydia tried in every way to live the principles of the gospel, even polygamy on a remote ranch in the harsh environment of Utah’s high mountain desert.  It’s this part of her life that causes us to marvel at her faith and commitment to family.  The description of the grueling work she routinely performed on a daily basis is mind-boggling to us accustomed the every modern convenience.  The women and children cared for a “small” herd of 35 cows, producing 40 lbs. of cheese every 20 days and churning butter by hand.  They additionally processed the wool from the much larger herd of sheep, which meant hours and hours of back-breaking labor, washing, drying, picking, spinning and weaving wool.  The number of mouths to feed meant that bread needed to be baked daily.  The arduous work demanded of Lydia did not interfere with her true gift of nursing others in poor health. 
 Following the death of Lydia’s second husband, at the age of 60, she nursed the wife of James McKnight, the bishop of Minersville, until her death.  Shortly thereafter she married Brother McKnight, a kindly man who demanded that his family love and respect Lydia.  She considered this marriage one of her greatest joys and blessings.  There was no hotel in Minersville at that time and the McKnight’s had a large home, with spare rooms, which they rented out.  Again, this presented tremendous physical challenges for Lydia.  Brother McKnight was raising a number of small grandchildren who had been orphaned. At the age of 60, Lydia took on the responsibility of managing a large home and raising young children who desperately needed her tender care. Despite the grueling work associated with these responsibilities, Lydia considered this a “great joy and blessing” in her life.  Her children and step-children remembered her in glowing terms. “She taught [us] to see the true values in life.  She taught [us] to see dirt, for she said, ‘if you see dirt, you will clean it up.’  She taught [us] to be brave—that life was work and that through work and doing one’s duty comes joy.” 
Even though Lydia Pilch will never be recognized as one of Utah’s prominent or great pioneers, she lived a self-less life, dedicated to others—a life that when carefully examined causes us to pause and see her as anything but average.  Her life when measured objectively by physical and emotional challenges can only be seen as a triumphant representation of faith and service.  An examination of what she endured with joy and gratitude reminds us that, in deed, we are not the equal of even an average pioneer woman.   

Monday, April 21, 2014

Yeah, She's Kind of a Big Deal.

Darcee successfully completed her second Boston Marathon and was pretty disappointed with her time--3 hours and 58 minutes.   She had leg cramps at mile 11 and was almost forced to drop out of the race.  In true Darcee form, she gutted it out and proved to all, her raw grit and determination by finishing.  

I reminded her of my experience at age 24 when  I was in the best shape of my life and came to understand that I would never have what it takes to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I took the PT test for the military in ROTC and could do nearly 200 push-ups in 2 minutes and 100 sit-ups in 2 minutes, but my 2 mile run was less than stellar.  At the time, an ROTC friend of mine was training to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I casually mentioned  to him, "Maybe I should train with you and qualify as well."  His response shocked me, "Dude, you might be somewhat athletic, but you don't have what it takes to qualify for the Boston Marathon--you're too heavy and much too slow."  I was dumbfounded. I reasoned: It's just running. How hard can it be?  After all, it's just a long race.  At the time, I had just successfully completed 4 years of college wrestling.  I ran every day to maintain my weight. I weighed 175-180 lbs. and could bench nearly 300 lbs.  I had no problem regularly running 3-5 miles.  He explained, "It's not about how strong you are, or even how fit you are; it's about running fast for a very long period of time. Sorry to say, but not everyone can do that--no matter how athletic they might be.  I just don't see you running well enough to qualify." I was more than a little perturbed, so I got a copy of the qualifying standards of the Boston Marathon in 1981, ostensibly to prove him wrong.  I was in awe at what it took to just qualify.

Out of curiosity and just for fun I ran in a couple of 10K races.  My times were awful. The qualifying times haven't changed much since 1981.  They were ridiculously hard in 1981 and they are even more so now.

After her race today, I reassured her, "Darc, most of us would be elated to even have a chance to compete in the Boston Marathon. The likelihood of me qualifying are somewhere between nil and remote."  To confirm my thoughts on this, I looked up the qualifying standards for the 2014 Boston Marathon which are listed below:

Age     Men     Women
18-34   3:05       3:35
35-39   3:10       3:40
40-44   3:15       3:45
45-49   3:25       3:55
50-54   3:30       4:00
55-59   3:40       4:10
60-64   3:55       4:25
65-69   4:10       4:40
70-74   4:25       4:55
75-79   4:40       5:10
80+      4:55       5:25

Visually impaired: 5:00

I think she felt a little better after we talked about the qualifying times.  I reminded her about my first and only marathon--the most venerable Leavenworth Marathon--Oktoberfest (where drinking dark ale is as much of the event as running) and that I officially retired from the sport following this event.  Although my time was an embarrassing 5 hours and 5 minutes, I was entirely satisfied with my time--enough so that I felt comfortable retiring.  I thought, "Yep, check that one off my list and move on to something a little more pleasurable and interesting."  As we reviewed the qualifying standards, Darcee astutely noted that with a time of 5 hours and 5 minutes, I would need to be either visually impaired or a 75 year-old woman in order to qualify. 

Yeah, she's kind of a big deal, having qualified for the Boston Marathon the last 3 years! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

When in Doubt, Whip it Out

Some of you might be uncomfortable, slightly disturbed or intrigued by the title of this blog post. Look no further, for I have a perfectly normal explanation.

Its something my Dad says constantly.

Not sure if you know someone, but you think you do and you're too far away to be sure?
When in doubt, whip it out! (your hand for the wave)

Not sure if you are supposed to be dancing on the dance floor?
When in doubt, whip it out! (your dance moves of course)

Not sure if you should buy that new Arcteryx jacket, those skis, the 6-man tent, some running shoes and a new fishing pole when you're at REI?
When in doubt, whip it out! (your credit card)

Not sure if you should antagonize the lady at the hot chocolate stand with a weird and slightly inappropriate joke?
When in doubt, whip it out! (your obviously funny jokes)

I could go on, but you get the idea.

My Dad is clearly a man of few, put poignant words.
A man willing to do and say what most shy away from.
He has and will go where no one is comfortable with the level of awkwardness, personal safety, inappropriate dance moves and adrenaline. 

He is ... the Wolverine on steroids.

A "normal" Wolverine would attack a bear with confidence, climb a mountain with nothing but a Viagra to help with the altitude sickness, and enjoy flexing its claws and muscles in front of nothing but the sun and its natural surroundings. 

My Dad/Wolverine would attack that bear with confidence and while he finished him off, he would recite Og Mandino, several weird unhumorous "jokes of the day," from his iPad and some of his most macho family mottos (Scratch and Claw! Big Dogs to the Top, etc)

My Dad/Wolverine not only takes the Viagra with gusto, but feels no shame when spooning with my husband in a two-man tent halfway up Rainier.

My Dad/Wolverine surely enjoys flexing his muscles and claws in front of nobody. But what he enjoys most is flexing those muscles and claws in front of EVERYBODY, but especially the SheWolf. No amount of flattery gets old for the Wolverine. You see, if its true ... its not bragging.

He can take down 30 year olds in Jiu Jitsu tournaments and then come home and proudly show off his gorgeous flower arrangements at church.
He can climb, bike, ski, ride, fish and hike every surface of the planet and then come home and still have time to chase his grandkids and play "chubby dwarves."
He can starve himself to make weight for wrestling tournaments and then come home and suggest another Diners, Drive-ins and Dives restaurant.
He is generous, fair, smart, silly, interesting, weird, funny, awkward, tough, tender, strong, and his personal favorite, romantic.

He is clearly not your average Wolverine.
And today is the pinnacle of his Birthday Month, his actual birthday. 

Happy Birthday to the greatest Dad/Grandpa/Wolverine we know!
My kids can say it better than I can:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guitars and Hot Girls!

To celebrate Shea's 24th birthday I thought I would share a story from his youth regarding something he truly loves--his guitar.

When Shea was a young man I insisted that he play a musical instrument. He had refused to play any instrument in the school band, or take piano lessons.  So, in an effort to help him appreciate music I bought him an electric guitar for his 12th birthday and signed him up for guitar lessons.  He was initially an uninspired music student.  However, he was dutiful to practice--which is to say, when I would hound him, he would reluctantly practice.  That is until one magical day, when Shea was practicing his guitar in the den and one of Sydney's very cute (and slightly older than Shea) girlfriends peeked into the den and exclaimed, "Shea, I didn't know you played the guitar?!" Embarrassed, Shea apologized, "Yeah, but I'm not very good yet."  "I think you're great!", she gushed.  I could see the magical wheels of opposite-sex-attraction-logic immediately and inescapably start to crank in Shea's head: This is a very hot girl.  She likes boys who can play the guitar.  I can play the guitar.  If I can learn to really rock a guitar, hot girls will like me.  From that moment, it was GAME ON with the guitar for Shea!  Seriously, I don't ever again remember pleading with Shea to practice his guitar.  He knew what was at stake--hot girls!

Shea was born 24 years ago today.  He has been such a joy for our family.  He is very motivated to succeed in life.  He is well spoken and relates in a genuine fashion with others. Shea, like his mother, is an excellent listener, which makes him an excellent conversationalist. 

As a member of the Honors Program at Utah Valley University, he works hard at his studies and has such a bright future ahead of him.  We are anxious to see everything that life has in store for him.  This past year he has been doing research for a psychology professor whose paper was chosen for presentation at an international conference in Stockholm, Sweden.  Shea was invited to attend this conference as a reward for all of his hard work.  To say we are pleased as punch would be an understatement.

I am proud of his successful completion of his mission to Raleigh, North Carolina and know that he worked hard as a missionary.  In many ways serving a state-side mission is harder than serving in a foreign country.  Shea worked hard and exhibited a great attitude.  Since his return from his mission, he has been singularly dedicated to his studies, which gives us great confidence about this future, and his ability to earn a living and be an excellent provider for his family.  He's such a winner and has been everything that any parent could possibly hope for in a son. 

Despite the crazy hair and surly attitude of Shea's adolescence, at his core, he was always a very obedient and helpful young man.  He earned his Eagle Scout (totally on his own) and did his assigned chores.  And while Shea loathed some of the crazy adventures that I forced him into as a young man, one of my greatest joys is that he now wants to hang out with me, and that he actually looks forward to our amazing and physically challenging adventures.   We started sailing lessons last year and are hopeful this summer will provide lots of opportunities for sailing, climbing and fishing, not to mention a very memorable trip to Stockholm to help Shea celebrate his commitment to academic excellence. 

So, on this special day, it's time for a very Happy Birthday Shout Out to a handsome young man that still understands, the boy who can rock the guitar gets hot girls!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Best For Last?

Talking with Lil D on New Year's Day reminded me how much I have missed her this past year, and so a blog post about my ruminations of a most remarkable daughter seems necessary.

I hate to launch into a major family argument, but every family battles with hurt feelings, jealousies and frustration over how the youngest child is treated.  This age old dilemma has been compounded for our family because Lil D bears my name.  While her siblings point to this as an obvious sign of favoritism, Lil D reminds them that being saddled with the name of a balding, middle-aged, socially  awkward man who is entirely lacking an appropriate filter has been no picnic, regardless of the superior moniker with which she was blessed.  For example, consider the challenges of A Boy Named Sue in Johnny Cash's blockbuster hit from 1969.  Darel has borne her burden remarkably well.  To be sure, her name presented challenges in school along with serious questions from friends,  "Are you okay having a boy's name?" "What's it like having your dad's name?  And the best of all, "What's wrong with your dad?!" One specific experience while a student at BYU illustrated this problem:  Darel attempted to register for a Women's Studies class and was denied entry, supposedly because the registrar assumed she was a male student. 

Despite the disadvantage of going through life with a male name, the weight of which must surely feel like a boat anchor at times, she has excelled at everything she has attempted.   She is spoken to by everyone because she speaks to everyone.  She counts everyone as her friend because she is friendly with everyone. And she is loved by everyone because she loves everyone. Her siblings have noticed (read here criticized) a certain naiveté quality about her that borders on ignorance; but it is this very quality that people find so endearing, and which creates an approachability that intimidates none, and attracts all.  This might help explain her election victory as ASB President in high school, and her selection as Homecoming Queen.  While she is beautiful and smart, this does not begin to explain why she was so popular in high school, and in life.   She is unpretentious and works hard to appear prosaic, even though she has literally traveled the globe.  She genuinely loves people and it shows.   She is smart enough to have doors opened, and humble enough to appreciate her opportunities.

Following Shea's graduation and departure for college, Darel was left as an only child in our home for several years.  While her siblings were missed, Sheila and I enjoyed the one-on-one time we had with Darel.  She would meet us every Friday night for date night and have dinner with us at restaurants all over town.  Thus, she is accustomed to fine food and is not intimidated by any dining establishment's environment.  We can only apologize to her siblings that Darel enjoyed a remarkable three year run as toast of the town and our special guest for many intimate evenings. 

One of my favorite qualities about Lil D is how much she loves being at home and chilling with her siblings.  She is a remarkable aunt to her nieces and nephews, especially Keith.  He loved her because she spent time with him and just loved him.  I will forever cherish the image of Keith, begging Darel, "Diwol, can I ride your tail?" And then watching "Diwol" pull the grandkids around the house on the hardwood and tile floors on her blanket.  They all love her because she is one of them. 

She has immeasurable gifts, but sometimes finds herself anxious over whether she has the ability to succeed.  I think she realized she was in for a very challenging adventure when she entered the MTC.  As we approached the entrance to the MTC, she pleaded, "Dad, don't drive into the drive just yet.   I'm not ready!  Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into?!"  It was separation anxiety in overdrive.   I reminded her, "Daniel walked into the lions' den and didn't fear; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked into the fiery furnace and did not doubt; and Joseph Smith accepted the challenge of translating of golden plates with complete confidence, despite not knowing anything about Reformed Egyptian!  Surely, you can walk into the MTC, a place where you will be loved and welcomed.  Never doubt!  Never fear!  Always have courage!"  Her reply spoke legions to me, "Okay, I can do this!", which she kept repeating as we dropped her off.  I have never been more proud of her.  Well, that was until I began to receive her letters from the Philippines and it became clear that her fear was not about leaving home, but rather the very real challenge of living in a foreign country and having to speak a strange language without her parents to guide her and protect her.   It's not just the deprivation of physical comforts, it's the stark cultural differences, the inability to communicate and the wild culinary adventures that have imposed on Darel the need to mature very quickly.

I think back to our first trip to Paris when Lil D was still in junior high school and I realized then her adaptability and vulnerability, all at once.  Upon arrival, we immediately set out for the Arc de Triomphe.  The intent was to find a restaurant and have lunch on the Champs de  Elysee. We had been in Paris for less than an hour and we lost her. She simply disappeared. Sheila and were panicked. Paris is a very big and scary place.  We were all combing the shops, cafes and streets where we last saw her.  She casually reappeared 30 minutes later sporting a very stylish scarf.  "Where have you been?" I demanded. "And where, and how, did you buy that scarf?"  "Oh, its easy Dad, you just find something you like and give them some money and they give you back your change.  You don't even have to speak the language!"  Yes, in a word, naive! But also courageous!

Sheila and I have commented over the years what a special child Darel is.  She is so natural with people and makes friends easily.  I'm sure this is helping her tremendously as a missionary.  We can see different, but equally special qualities in all of our children.  We have been so blessed in our home life and in our family relationships.  I loved going to Darcee's basketball games and seeing how tenacious she was on the court.  This gift is continuing to bless her life and her family.  I have loved talking politics, languages and world geography with Chelsea, and was thrilled when she had the courage to follow her dream and go to grad school in London.  Sydney was a joy to watch in soccer and basketball.  She has more natural talent than just about anyone I know.   She makes me laugh, and her enthusiasm for life and her willingness to try everything continues to amaze and inspire me.  One of my great privileges in life was to coach my son Shea in wrestling.  I know it was hard for him, but I think we both learned a lot.  He is smart and motivated to succeed with so many amazing opportunities on the horizon. I think it's clear that I love all of my children equally, but in different ways.  I feel that I have enjoyed special relationships and experiences with each of them.  And so, naturally I get defensive when they argue about whose Dad's favorite. In the end, Darel's argument is hard to refute, "It's obvious Mom and Dad saved the best for last and that's why I got Dad's name!"  I don't know about that, but I do know that Darel, like her siblings, is a most remarkably talented, beautiful and gifted child, of whom we could not be more proud. 

Darel's missionary picture

 The sibs
 This smile says it all!
At the temple with Lil D.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Update on Deeds

Sister Smart recently passed her sixth month in the mission field!
In the past six months Sister Smart has experienced:
Dengue Fever
Cockroaches in her bed
Bug bites everywhere

That said, Sister Smart never complains and approaches each challenge with a positive attitude.
More importantly, she has represented the Lord honorably and we're so proud of our missionary!

Hopefully she doesn't come home looking too much like her namesake in the hair (or lack thereof) department.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sister Splityourpants

I probably won't do an update on Darel every week, but after peeing my pants twice before finishing her last letter, I couldn't help but share some more D-quotes.

"I am actually going to miss the MTC. It is like my safety net and it is the last few weeks before I am an international citizen (aka showering with buckets, getting my flesh eaten alive by mosquitoes, having to SYL 24/7 and eating rice for every meal - although that one I am looking forward too). But I am committed once I get to the Pines that I will NOT speak English, I am not afraid to look dumb so that is one good thing."

"So I have to tell you some stories from this week:
1. Strebs and I were teaching Nico (our investigator) and we had decided to not take notes and of course I had to write some words on my hands. And I was literally reading off my hand and laughing simultaneously because I straight up felt like Mulan. "Think before you snack...act." Strebs and I quoted it for like the rest of the day.

2. I have eaten so many rice krispies this week and I am now starting to get acid reflux, I remember this happened to me freshman year, but I cant stop because BYU krispies are da bomb! I seriously have like 2 or 3 every meal, I don't really like krisps but for some reason here its like crack cocaine!

3. I don't know why I ever wanted to learn a language, it is the most frustrating thing in the world, but I keep having to remind myself that its what I wanted and once I get it down I will be really happy I did.

4. Brother Pearce told Strebel and I he knew why we got called to the Pines - because we are exactly like Philipinos. AKA loud and in your face. Also Brother Pearce thanked me during coaching time (one on one) for having so much enthusiasm throughout the day. He said my excitement was contagious which is a lot coming from him because you could probably compare him to Jack from A Nightmare Before Christmas. We sing, "This is Halloween," every time he walks in the door. I love him but he shows NO emotion ever so Strebel and I made it a goal to make him smile once a day in class and we usually succeed.

5. I am the kickball master. Our whole zone started playing kickball and it has been so much fun, although I slog like a troglodyte to the bases to get there. I try and kick it as far as possible so I can have more time to run/walk.

6. My watch is the bomb. Seriously mom I love it, its like a little reflective mirror so I can easily check to see if I have anything in my teeth after I eat."

Another good week from Sister Deeds as you can tell. She leaves for the Philippines a week from tomorrow which is super exciting. Can't wait to see how she survives out there in San Pablo!