Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Roots (and Yours) from the Ground Up...

Yesterday I did something that I have been wanting to do for ages, which is to meet with one of the Family History Consultants from church to learn more about researching my ancestors on the computer.  What a fascinating experience!  This is something I definitely want to do again.

Meeting with an LDS Family History Consultant is a service available to anyone who is interested in genealogy.   Because this lovely lady is a friend, she felt comfortable coming to my house and guiding me on my own computer for about 2 hours.  But there are Family History Libraries ALL over the place, which are open to the pubic, along with the expertise of someone who can help you--free of charge.

By the time Carol left, I was tired, but I felt so jazzed and like I had accomplished a lot.  We began at the site and proceeded from there.  Even though the genealogical work in my family has been spotty, it is probably still more than in a lot of families.  After learning the basics, I was able to see my family tree emerge right before my eyes.  I've had my maternal grandpa and uncles on both sides do some family history, but a lot of what I saw was also the product of others like me who have set aside a few minutes here and there to do indexing.  As I mentioned in another post, indexing is entering data on from old records such as census sheets, war registrations, birth and death certificates, etc.

(Click on any image to see the full-sized version)

As I clicked on the little brown arrows that you see in the image above, I saw more and more generations appear.  Before I knew it, I was 12 generations back on my paternal grandmother's line.  Because I have a rare copy of a book on family history in this line (the Bunn line,) I was able to verify whether some of this information was correct.

If you're LDS, you also understand the eternal significance of this kind of work, because we believe in forever families when the proper work has been done in temples.  That is the main purpose of temples, to seal families together for eternity.  Since first going to the temple in 1992, I have always gone through for a deceased person that I did not know.  This is still very important, because I discovered that a lot of my family's temple work was already done because of the efforts of others.  Still, I have always wanted to go through for a relative of my own.

My first step was to look up my mother's parents, both of whom passed away in 2008.  I discovered that their temple work was 100% ready to do, but none had been done.  This is something I want to pursue.

A picture of my great grandmother and her 4 daughters.  My grandmother is 2nd from the right. 

 A famous family picture--the 7 sisters of one of my great-great grandfathers (great aunts to my great-grandmother in the photo above it.)

I love both of these pictures.  For some reason, I feel very bonded to the women in my family on both my mother's and father's sides.  Perhaps it is because there is a special closeness between women and between sisters that I see in both of these images.

Family history can definitely feel overwhelming.  It is a pursuit that we all know is important, but it also feels like there is no conclusion.  It feels this way, but it isn't necessarily true.  I never wanted to even try researching my family history when I was teaching because the idea of being engaged in 2 exhausting activities sounded really unattractive.  But one of the realizations I came to yesterday was that with the right guidance you can accomplish more than you think you can.  

If you are LDS and want to not only research your family, but also want to see what temple work has been done for them, that carries its own set of responsibilities.  (Especially if you are the only temple-attending person in your whole family, like me.)  And that is fine.  It IS our responsibility.  I think that is why I was so incredibly relieved to see much more work had been done than I ever expected, some of it way before I was born.

One set of  great-great-great grandparents on my paternal grandmother's line.  Lucy Hollister Bunn and Delavan Bunn.  Amazingly, all of their temple work was done decades ago.  By who, I don't know.

So it was great to have a really solid jumping off point!  I got the same tingling feeling that I got on the day that I opened up a box of family photos from my dad's mother that I had never seen before back in 2005.  All of  black and white stern faces where in there, staring back up at me, and yet, I didn't feel like they were strangers.  If anything, I felt an instant connection.

There is something incredibly special about learning more about your ancestors.  We all long to be a part of a group, and what better group to belong to than a family?  Each has its own history, its own special stories, its own role in America or other country, and even its own shame.  All of these things helped to shape them and, therefore, helped to shape their decisions.  Eventually, they help to shape us.  If this is something that you are even remotely interested in, I urge you to pursue it.  Your local family history consultants are waiting to help you!  Heck, you might even find out that you're related to my family, and I think they are pretty cool.

If you are ready to start, click HERE to see where you can get free and very willing help.  You will be amazed at what you find.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Most Valuable Library...

Yesterday was a great day from start to finish.   I'm thrilled that my Relief Society lesson went well even though my time was cut short.  Because I've been trying to be more diligent with my own scripture reading, it was easy to talk about the different it makes in our lives.  I know it has in mine.

During my preparation, I came across 2 wonderful videos, which I shared during the lesson.  Both are from the talks of LDS apostles, both are very powerful.  Several ladies wanted to know where I got them, so I'm posting them here.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the King James Bible:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the Book of Mormon:

Both of these videos bring tears to my eyes as I think about the sacrifices of many to make these books available to us.  They work in tandem to teach us about the Gospel, and how great they are.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Celebrating Womanhood...

I just finished my lesson for Relief Society this Sunday.  I simply love teaching the sisters at church.  And I'm constantly amazed at how much I learn as their teacher.  It is a calling that I take very seriously and I begin preparing way ahead of time because I owe it to them to give them a well thought out lesson.

As I sighed a big sigh of relief--Whew! I'm done!--I was also a thinking about how much I love the fact that the LDS church is constantly celebrating womanhood.  I just love that, because I love being a woman and all that it means--a daughter, a sister, a cousin and, especially, a wife.

The other day I was going through some videos for the youth and came across this short one called Deep Beauty, based on a talk by Elaine S. Dalton.  I wish I could've shown this to my little girls in my classroom.  I saw what they were up against in a world that is constantly distorting the definition of beauty, making them think that being immodest and dressing beyond their years is the way to be attractive and gain a sense of self-worth.

This short video truly shows what real beauty is.  How lucky I feel to be married to someone who values these qualities in a woman:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy Mama's Day...A Tribute to My Mom

Yesterday was Mother's Day, and even though I wasn't able to talk to my mom for very long on the phone (she was hosting the CA family for a BBQ) we were able to chat for a couple of minutes.  Sacrament meeting at church was wholly dedicated to mothers and women in general and it got me thinking about the important women in my life, including future mothers, like my adorable niece in the picture above.

Despite the fact that I feel incredible love towards my niece and nephew, and that I know I played a major role in the lives of nearly 300 kids during my teaching career, I won't pretend that I know what it actually means to be a mother.  There is a special bond that is reserved for mothers and children that nothing else can replace.  I do know, however, that I have been on the receiving end of that bond and have had the privilege to witness it in abundance.

I come from a long line of very strong women, either because that is their natural personality, or because Life's circumstances required it of them.  There have been a lot of single mothers in my family on both sides--resulting from divorce, separation, or widowhood.  As a result, I was not exposed to the day-to-day dynamics of a lot of functioning marriages, but I was exposed to extremely dedicated mothers.  I saw the lengths that women will go to in order to protect and provide for their children, and the power of Woman with a capital W.

Naturally, the best example of this would be my own mother. The child of immigrant parents from Mexico, she moved to CA with them at the age of 7 and would eventually become the oldest of 4.  A typical teenager in the 1950's, she met and married my dad at 23 and helped him build a successful furniture business. After trying, unsuccessfully, to have kids for 5 years, she had me when she was 28 and my brother at 30.  At the age of 31 she was a single mother.  I was 2 and 10 months, my brother was 10 months.  And even though my dad supported us financially for a short time, all of the daily parental responsibilities fell on my mom.

Her life has been 100% dedicated to my brother and me.  She raised us with high standards in education, signed us up for sports, music and voice lessons; volunteered at our schools, did mother-child preschool, Indian Maidens, and Boy Scouts.  We read together every single night--without fail--while one of us sat in her lap and one of us combed (and pulled) her hair.  (I wish we had pictures.)  She hosted birthday parties and sleepovers, helped with fundraisers and field trips, and rarely had a chance to focus on her own needs.  Her sense of self was totally defined in knowing that she was providing her kids with a good childhood, one that was as balanced as possible.

My brother and I learned the value of money from my mom.  We knew we didn't have a lot, but we never felt deprived.  We never--Never--asked for extras at the grocery store or whined when we didn't get what we wanted, simply because we never wanted.  My mom talked to us like we were adults without overwhelming us because she respected us enough to tell us the truth.  We knew when times were lean and we understood why. She took in kids to babysit after school and we learned the value of patience and sharing, which isn't easy when you have 4-5 kids that you didn't necessarily choose to be in your house rummaging through your toys. 

When my mom decided to go back to earn her college degree at the age of 40, my brother and I became latch-key kids.  We didn't question it and we didn't take advantage of our lack of supervision because we understood that even this decision was made to improve our lives.  Thus the importance of higher education was instilled.  When she chose her career path, it was a choice again defined by motherhood.  She knew that being a teacher would give her vacations that aligned with ours.  My brother and I would fall asleep to the sound of her typewriter, cranking out one school paper after another, rarely even beginning before 9 o'clock at night. 

Despite being a single-parent family, the importance of family and where we came from was always emphasized, whether that meant getting together with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, or taking multiple trips to Chihuahua, Mexico to visit the extended family.  My brother and I loved those trips, and we learned that the importance of family super-ceded many transitory things in life.

We learned to love music by listening to her records and attending inexpensive concerts.  The songs of Elvis Presley,  John Denver, and the Carpenters have become like old friends that I frequently still revisit. We went to musicals produced by local high schools and universities, learning how to be a good audience member as well as appreciate what we were watching and hearing.

My mom saw us through the tough growing up years.  She helped us with school projects, heard about school crushes, nursed us through childhood illnesses, witnessed our disappointments, and endured our years of teenage angst.  She attended every parent conference, every school concert, every game, every carnival, every recital.  She was our advocate against unfairness and our staunchest defender because she trusted us.  We had no allowance and no curfew for that same reason. She knew that if we asked for something it was out of need, and that we could be trusted with our friends because she knew who they were.

We learned about discipline and respect of our elders.  There was love and communication, but there were also boundaries.  Yet, we rarely felt restricted.  As a teacher who created boundaries in the classroom, I've seen firsthand how much children actually appreciate knowing their perimeters.

She taught us about God and Jesus Christ.  We attended mass weekly and, though we didn't fully understand the abstractness of a higher power, we respected the fact that one existed. When we were introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, she made sure that the decisions to be baptized were our own, personal, choices.  To this day she confesses that she "raised us on her knees" and that joining the Church is one of the best decisions she made as a mother.  The importance of the family unit and its eternal role are taught in a way she always wanted us to comprehend.

When I graduated from high school and was accepted to Brigham Young University she was working full time as a teacher.  As a student I never had to take out one loan or work while going to school.  Only when I graduated did I understand completely her system for squirreling away money and teacher bonuses (when those existed) to pay for my tuition, books, and rent.  My brother took a less direct route to college, but when he did, he knew that the same support I had was also available to him if he chose.

From her example I learned the importance of being a self-sufficient, independent woman.  I also learned the importance of self-respect.  Self-respect,  combined with the love I have always felt from my family, helped me to create the "better single than settle" philosophy that served me well until I met my sweet husband at the age of 37.

And now? My mom can say that 100% of her kids are college grads, me with a Bachelor's Degree and teaching credential, Jonathan with 3, (yes, three) Bachelor's Degrees.  100% of her kids are married, happy, home-owners, independent and settled.  Two precious grandchildren are the results of these unions.

Would she say that the blood, sweat and many tears were worth it?  I know she would.

And what do I say?  Thank you, Mom.  And I love you.  Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Recipe for the Garden of Daily Living

It is a beautiful Thursday up here in the Pacific Northwest!  I hope everyone is having a great day.  After spending some time with several different lovely ladies today, I came home to find this cute email from my mom.  I try to post my own personal and original thoughts as much as possible here, but this was too great not to share.


First, come to the garden alone while the dew
 is still on the roses.

 1.  Peace of mind 
2.  Peace of heart
 3.  Peace of soul  

 1.  Squash gossip          
2.  Squash indifference
 3.  Squash grumbling   
 4.  Squash selfishness   


  1.  Lettuce be faithful                       
2.  Lettuce be kind                         
3.  Lettuce be patient                     
4.  Lettuce really love one another

1.  Turnip for meetings           
2.  Turnip for service              
3.  Turnip to help one another

1.  Thyme for God           
2.  Thyme for each other 
3.  Thyme for family       
4.  Thyme for friends       

Now, water freely and patiently watch your garden grow.  
There is much fruit in your garden because you reap what you sow.

~May we all plant such a garden in our own lives~

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Day in the Temple...

(Click photo to see the full-sized version)
Yesterday was the day.  For the first time since 2002 I went to the temple.  What a wonderful day!

When I wrote my last post I still did not have someone to go with, but there was a voice inside of me that said not to worry about it, it would work itself out, and it did.  On Sunday, my good friend and neighbor, Diane, came up to me at church and asked it I had found someone to go with me.  When I said no, she said she wanted to go.  I had a very short list of who I wanted to share this experience with, and she was definitely on it, so I was very glad that she offered!

As I told Diane's husband, Steve, when I went to pick her up yesterday morning, I think I was more nervous yesterday than the first time I went to the temple back in 1993.  And I was.  I woke up  with butterflies in my stomach and zipped around the house attending to the pets and morning chores.  My stomach was doing such flip-flops that for a blink of an eye I even considered postponing until another day.  Just a blink, mind you.  I was in the middle of making the bed when the thought entered, but another, stronger, thought came immediately after which told me that it was the Adversary trying to bring me down.  I felt impressed to stop what I was doing that second and get on my knees and ask Heavenly Father to watch over me that day, to give me peace and focus and the knowledge that I was doing the right thing.  Satan is strong, but there is someone who is much stronger if we ask for His help.

The feeling that came over me is indescribable.  The jitters went away, the butterflies flew out of my tummy, and I just felt a calming peace envelope me.  Answers to prayers are not always immediate, but it was this time. 

An hour later, after taking a head count of the pets, I picked up Diane at 8:30am.  That 55 mile drive down to Lake Oswego went very quickly because we just talked and talked and talked.  Before we knew it, we were there!

Unlike the Los Angeles Temple, which, although very big, does not have a large area inside for unendowed people to wait, the Portland Temple does.  Diane also showed me a lovely indoor atrium that is very unique and available for families to take pictures in after a wedding or family sealing.  Perfect for our many months of inclement weather.

Then it was time to go in.  As I went through the session and absorbed the beautiful words I was reminded of the sacredness of the temple experience.  And there is something about being in the temple that makes you feel like you've left the world behind for just a little while.  We all need that once in a while.

The inside of the Portland Temple is beautiful and serene, as all temples are.  That's the word for the entire experience--serene.  Most people have a special kinship with the temple that is closest to them, and I really felt that yesterday.  Actually, I felt that when I visited it last Friday even just walking around the grounds.  And, now that I know that there are 3 temples in Washington (although the one in Portland is still the closest,) I look forward to visiting them too one day.

After the session it was time for lunch, then Diane and I went back to Deseret Bookstore and looked around for about 15 minutes.  It is such a fun place to visit, and that location is the closest one to us.  Then we got in the car and returned to our little city in Southern Washington.

There are so many feelings and thoughts that went through my mind and my heart yesterday that are too personal to share on a  blog, but, suffice it to say, it could not have been more perfect.  From the weather, to the timing, to my companion for the day, it was all just right.

Last night I was looking at the pictures I took of the temple last Friday and one that I had not paid much attention to before caught my eye.  I started playing with the light levels on iPhoto and it quickly evolved into the image that is at the top of this post.  The sun is in the right spot, the light is the hitting the spires in just the right way--all symbolic of my day yesterday with everything falling right into place.  What better picture to put in our house than one I took myself that perfectly represents my feelings while visiting such a beautiful, special place.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Visiting the Portland Temple...

This week I got my temple recommend renewed for the first time in about 10 years.  Those of you who are LDS understand the importance of that.  And if you are not, I'll tell you that it is a momentous thing if you're of the Mormon faith.  My reasons for not having one went hand in hand with the fact that I was inactive for a while, but I always felt that there would come a day when I would return to church and, therefore, return to the temple once again.  Happily, that day is here.

The temple is a beautiful place, inside and out.  The work that is done there for those who have passed before us is sacred and special and, we believe, necessary.  And, contrary to negative reports, available to everyone.  Of course there are certain steps that are required, but they are very achievable. Like the phrase "where much is given, much is required," I think it makes perfect sense.  And the blessings of attending the temple are abundant.

So, with my recommend in hand signed by my bishop and stake president, I drove the 55 miles down to Lake Oswego, Oregon.  My plan was to visit the nearby Deseret Bookstore/Distribution Center  and buy what I needed and then drive the half mile to the temple and take some pictures and absorb the specialness of actually going inside in a few days.  I didn't want to rush the experience.

The 2 ladies who helped me at Deseret were wonderful.  I wish I knew what my face looked like when I walked in, because one of them came up to me and said "You look like you're looking for something."  She and another lady gave me an hour of their time as I tried on temple dresses and bought the necessities.  Despite the fact that I was there by myself, I didn't feel alone in the process.  And on Tuesday, when I actually go to the temple and do a session (maybe 2,) there will be wonderful people inside to guide me as I refresh my memory.

I need to take a moment to give a shout-out to my wonderful husband, Eric, who has been extremely supportive.  I feel very, very lucky.  Because let's face it, if he wasn't supportive, it would be very challenging.  There are plenty of non-LDS spouses who aren't.  Fortunately, he's a stellar person, and I would expect nothing less from him.  What can I say?  My husband is awesome.

After spending a total of 3 hours at Deseret and getting some so-so teriyaki to fend off the hunger pangs, I drove to the temple.  I had never seen it up close, and had only seen it once from a distance while on the freeway.

Talk about maximum dramatic effect.  After driving down a long tree-lined road, the road forks.  In the middle of the fork is the temple, surrounded by nature in all its glory.  I had to take a picture of the first glimpse:

Believe me, the picture does not do it justice.

After parking the car, I got out and walked around, soaking in the breath-taking beauty of the temple's aesthetics.  I took pictures from every angle while the weather teased me with alternating clouds and sunshine every few minutes.  Thank goodness I could preserve the day.  A great, great day.  Even the horrendous traffic on the way home (that nearly doubled my travel time) couldn't bring me down off my cloud.

I'm counting the days until Tuesday when I return and do a session.  The first of many.

Enjoy my pictures!  I touched them up a little to make them sharper, but the greens and blues are just as they were yesterday.  Click on them to see full-sized.  The view is so stunning, it is hard to take a bad picture!  =)