Not quite Cosplay, but close…




Today was the first day of the volunteer season at This is the Place Heritage Park. I started the season at Andrus Halfway House.  It’s a halfway house because it’s halfway between Traveler’s Rest and Orrin Porter Rockwell’s place near Point of the Mountain.  Supper, Breakfast and Lodging were $1 per day.

I enjoy volunteering at the park.  I get to meet amazing people and it’s a chance to unplug from the electronic world.  That basket is my purse for the day when I’m in character. It contains my lunch, my quilting project, my wallet, car keys, turned off cell phone and glasses. Think of  volunteering as a form of cosplay.  I get to play a woman in the 1850’s and have a venue to do it more than once a year.

Today to start the season, we found the quilt that the volunteers started last season and sorted it out so it’s ready to work on for this year.  I had time between guests to almost finish one star.  It’s fun to talk to the guests.  I love answering questions like “where is the bathroom?” from children and then showing them the washbasin and chamber pot.

I’ve had some great experiences working the park.  One day I had forgotten to turn off my cell phone.  My ringtone at the time was the Tardis landing.  My phone rang and one of the kids in the kitchen with me sparked up and started looking around.  He asked me “Where’s the doctor?” I leaned down and whispered, “Check the orchard, maybe you can still catch him.”  He bolted out the back door.

My favorite experience was being the only person in Brigham’s House on the 24th of July.  For those not familiar with Utah, we don’t celebrate the state founding day in January (also known as the day women lost the vote and a lot of rights).  We celebrate the day that the first Mormon Pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.  This Is the Place Heritage park is on the site where Brigham Young declared “This is the Right Place, Drive on.”  The next day the pioneers were tilling the land and planting potatoes and beans near the rivers.  The pioneer’s turned a Mexican desert into territory of the United States and, after 48.5 years, into a state.  So I found myself alone in the Brigham Young Farmhouse on the 24th of July.  The employee had to leave so he didn’t go into overtime hours.  No guests came into visit.  It was a very different feeling from earlier when the house had been full of guests wanting the history of the building and the people who lived there.

I love how the park is now interactive instead of being a look but don’t touch experience.  Children are invited to participate in chores and any adult is welcome to sit on the front porch and piece the quilt with us.  On a personal note, I love the time to unwind, meet people and help them learn something new.   And somedays, I love having locations that are calm so I can work on my scrap quilt and just think.




The Widow’s mite and volunteering at the food bank.

Saturday we went to work at the Food Bank with my husband’s Masonic Lodge. We were in the warehouse sorting food into categories to be distributed to local distribution  points.  I saw some things which started me thinking (A dangerous pastime I know).  Most of the donations I saw were canned beans. But every once in a while there would be something nice like canned potatoes, carrots, waterchestnuts and even a can of palm hearts.  The palm hearts and a few of the Trader Joe’s cans reminded me of some blogs I’ve read lately about “would you feed your kids what you donate to the food bank.”
The cans I saw from the ethnic section of the grocery store made me wonder if these were things from people’s shelves or were assumptions about the recipients made during a shopping trip.  Although Utah has a high Hispanic population, it’s white males I see when serving at the soup kitchen. In addition, a demographic study done by the University of Utah in 2012 shows that 52% of Utah food bank recipients identify as White, 26% identify as Hispanic and 22% identifying as other.  So if people are purchasing food for the food bank from the Hispanic section, it’s based on a false assumption.  I am hoping though that those items may have been donated from homes where they were being used.

In addition, there were some cans in the donation bins which came from a local church food pantry. I know because the church pantry has their own label. I know the church pantry donates to the state pantry but these were not the bulk donations from the church but single cans which tells me someone who is getting church assistance still donated.  That reminded me of the parable of the widow’s mite.  The widow gave a donation of a mite which is the smallest available coin at that time.  It was all she had.  The Lord Jesus praised her since as a percentage of income, she was giving more than the others.  The others were giving of their excess, she was giving of her all.  I like to think that the cans from Deseret Cannery were some child participating in a school food drive who offered to give up a meal to donate to someone else.

The study I mentioned before from the University of Utah said that many of those at the food bank qualify for food stamps and housing assistance but do not know how to apply.  12% of those collecting food during the survey period were not in what would be considered food distress.  It’s not that they didn’t need the food from the food bank but they answered the survey questions in such a way that they indicated they were not hungry and had other sources of food.  Considering the numbers that the food bank serves, 12% isn’t bad.  And it’s possible that just because they had a food source the previous week, they didn’t have one for the upcoming week.

The final thought I had was the pet food section.  It hadn’t occurred to me that the food bank needs pet food as well as human food. In talking with my daughter who works for a vet, just because people fall on hard times, doesn’t mean they part with their fur or scale children.  A short period without a job shouldn’t mean having to be separated from a trusted 4 legged ally.  And like the other family members, that child needs food too.  If you haven’t volunteered at a soup kitchen, welfare storehouse or food bank, I would encourage you to do so.  It’s an incredible experience helping others.  And it might change your next donation.

Writing prompt 2: Think of a time you spoke up, how did it go?

When I first read this topic, the only thing I could think of was fighting to get my youngest son an education. I was fighting a system that wanted to medicate a child who just needed help reading. I was fighting a resource teacher who told me Dyslexia was a made up disorder.  I had a principal in my corner though.  Now that son is in college and doing well.

The other thing that comes to mind is just a few weeks ago when a man was trying to pull a woman into his car in the street in front of my house.  I jumped up and went to run outside to help and was only stopped by my husband saying, You should really put some clothes on first.  By the time I was dressed the couple was gone.

As a general rule, it’s easier for women to stand up for other people than it is to stand up for themselves.  It’s one of the reasons that women make less in the workforce.  From the first job offer, men will negotiate a higher salary than women will.  However, we will negotiate for each other which is why women make great realtors.  Women will also look for the win-win solution.  Not sure how this devolved from standing up for myself to a generalization on women not standing up for themselves in the workplace.  It may have something to do with the news story tonight on women in Utah making .64 on the dollar to men compared to the .77 on the dollar which is the national average.  As women, we need to know our value and not let others determine that for us.

What do you want to be known for?

When the universe wants to tell you something, it gives you the same message from multiple sources.  So when I have someone flat out ask me “What is your brand?”, followed by the epiphany that my daily journal talks about things at work that don’t even matter to me let alone my posterity, and then have a funeral where the main theme is “He always wanted to be remembered for his giving nature and lived so that is what people would remember.”  It gets me thinking there is a message for me here.

One of the first exercises I was taught in my coaching training is to visualize the perfect day.  This is followed by one where you are in your old age and are passing wisdom to your descendants – what do you want them to remember about you? What lessons do you want to teach them? What mistakes do you want them to avoid?

I think the universe is asking me to step out of my comfort zone and ask those questions again, look at the answers, and align myself with them.  In the words of another message from this last weekend – I’m dancing the steps I’ve memorized but I’m not sure what music is playing and if I’m in time with it.   It’s time to stop moving and listen for the music.

Questionable feedback?

In several cases, I’ve had men tell me that I need to be more friendly, more vulnerable, and warmer when I present in meetings so that I can relate to the audience.  I’ve had women in the same presentations that they were impressed and I had all my facts, figures and analysis together and senior management was impressed with my abilities.

Strangely when men give me this type of feedback I feel taken back to my first week in the BYU EMBA program when one of my fellow students told me I shouldn’t be in the program since I should depend on my husband for support and it was wrong of me to take a spot from a priesthood holder. It shocked me that in 2006 some male could still be that backward.  Fast forward to last month, in the Salt Lake Women book club, we read Women Don’t Ask.  One of the chapters dealt with how management traits which are admired in a man are seen as bullying and aggression when a woman exhibits them.  We expect women to react with emotion and not logic.  We expect men to react with logic and ignore the emotional connection.  However, we then preach the servant leader mentality which would ask men to look at the emotional side and the importance of the relationship in management situations.  So we praise men when they take on feminine traits but we still condemn women for embracing the “masculine” side of their personalities.  I hate when women come across as victims.  We are supposed to be able to ask for what we need and be able to stand our ground.

This leads me to wonder, do I need to pay attention to the “be warmer and friendlier” feedback.  So, what do you do when delivered of questionable feedback?

In my case, I went to neutral parties and asked them for opinions on my interactions with co-workers and social situations.  In all cases, I was asked why I felt I needed the feedback.  I explained the feedback I received and was looking to either validate or discount.  In all cases, I was told they couldn’t see how anyone who knew me could say that.  I did have one person tell me that I do come on as very strong in the first impression and some people are scared of strong women so I might want to look at being softer among strangers.  And that is feedback I can use.


Back to the Communication Blogs – Feedback is a Gift!!!


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A few brave people in our lives will provide tough feedback that appears to attack the core of who we are.  Most times, the feedback will come at a point when we are already feeling pretty low. The reason for the timing isn’t happenstance – it’s because the things we are doing at that moment are the source of the stresses that are causing our own demise. We are affecting others negatively, and they in turn react negatively toward us. 

In my life, there are two people in particular who cared enough about me and my success that they were brutally honest with me about how I was coming across to others. Though I didn’t agree with everything they said, it gave me a new perspective on how my communication style could be creating perceptions that were very different than what I thought.  During the feedback sessions, they told me of others whom I had hurt, or who had a low perception of me. After licking my wounds, I took the opportunity to meet with those other persons to apologize and talk through the negative perceptions. In most cases (but not all) I was able to clear things up, enabling the relationships to move forward.

As those brave souls were talking and providing feedback, I wrote things down. To this day, I refer to my notes to ensure I’m not falling back into old habits.  If I had not acknowledged the issues and my failings, the distrust would have continued and my future actions would just have continued to reinforce the negative story.

(continuing thoughts from a former co-worker Kathryn to a family member)

Another good article on this subject is from Careerealism titled When to Accept (or Reject) Critical Feedback 

I have to admit, there is some feedback I received ages ago and took to heart.  I realized years later that the person in question felt threatened by me and was looking for ways to tear me down and fill me with self-doubt.  I’m still paying for believing him instead of the people who told me I was in a toxic situation.


Another email from Iloilo (but he’s living in Ajuy)


Actually I am online this week. Turns out President thinks this emailing home thing is really important, so he’s instructed us to come down to Iloilo every Monday to do it. Most of this week was just going around delivering relief goods and helping people work on rebuilding their lives. Very enjoyable, very satisfying, but not something I can really rant about for a long time… Things are actually rebuilding in Ajuy really fast. Many of the people here really know how to hit the ground running it seems. Power is still going to be out for quite some time, but much of the running water is back on and many people already have /relatively/ nice shanty homes they’ve built to live in until they can really build their new ones again. I’m actually really impressed by most of the people I’ve seen.

Cooking without power is easy, given that we have a gas stove powered via propane tank. Still no on the laundry, but we asked the Estancia Elders to see if they could try. We’ve been giving relief goods from the Church to members. We try to leave a message with everyone after doing some service for them. And many people appreciate the excuse for a 10 minute break from working after the missionaries have been helping them. We dug out 2 Ne 2, Helaman 5:12, and 3 Ne 13 for a lot of our lessons just after the Typhoon. Lots of stuff in there about withstanding storms and enduring trials to have happiness and stuff.

So yes. That was my week.

And yeah, I’d hold off on mailing for a while yet, because while I’m sure the postal system can get it to Iloilo alright, imagine how much worse the mail looting is right now compared to how it used to be… We haven’t had a problem yet, but right now seems like a dangerous time. People are a bit more desperate than usual.

Mom: So we hear that many sisters have been evacuated. Did they evacuate sisters from Iloilo?

Not that I’ve heard. The south half of the mission wasn’t hit bad at all. There are a few areas that missionaries have been pulled out of, but nobody has been evacuated out of the mission. Actually, a /lot/ of Tacloban missionaries have been relocated to Manilla until they can fix up the area a bit more, and then they’ll be sent back to Tacloban.

Dad: Anything else you need like a multi-tool (leather man)? Or will still need in a month? Water purification? Other camping stuff?

We’re okay on water purification. A leather man could come in handy though. Nothing else I can really think of right now. Usually when we help someone they have enough tools for us to contribute. Right now we’ve hit an awkward lull where many have little temporary homes they need, but don’t have money for the supplies to build their ‘new’ home yet. So until they get supplies there’s not much we can do for many of them…

Mom: So, losing your laundry? Do you need any white shirts or ties? Any other clothes you need from stateside?

I have 3 socks. Not three pairs, three. But it’s okay, I’ll buy a couple of pairs of crappy ones to last until the gold toes can arrive. I’ll leave it up to you guys. If you just wait a month before mailing it or whatever I’ll still be fine. Do what feels right. *shrugs* Shirts, I lost a couple, but I’ve had a couple sitting in my luggage unused because I had this grand idea to go halfway through my mission before digging them out so I could have some fresh ones, so I’m still good. And I’ll gladly accept more ties but I do have plenty. Oh! I can’t remember if I told you to thank Grandma for the soups and stuff she sent, but they were very appreciated. You should tell her that. Foreign food is nice.

Dad says if he starts sending socks he will number them. So Monday is the Grant reunion- any message for the family?

I’m actually probably going to go here in just a sec … Love you all!

Best Letter in the World…


Subject: Look, I’m not dead!!!!

Are you peeps online? Maybe? It’s the wrong day, but maybe you’re on? Or something?

Right now I’m in Iloilo because we have some sort of Mission Tour thing tomorrow. I’ll go back to Ajuy tomorrow. Living the wild life, man. Estimates put us at no power for a month. So I have no idea how emailing is going to work for the next couple weeks. I think later president will tell us how all that will go down. I’ve heard rumor that tonight they’re going to put us in a nice hotel with a hot shower tonight before the mission conference to make us feel better about living without power for the next month.

For the typhoon No evacuation, we were in Ajuy. I have some limited pictures and video. My camera was almost dead and who knows when I’ll be able to charge its battery again, so I’m being careful with pictures and stuff. And I don’t want to take /too/ many pictures of destruction because I don’t want to look like “some punk cano taking pictures while all the people are suffering” y’know? but yeah, I showered in Yolanda. So…. I bathed in the falling rain of the strongest typhoon of recorded history. And not just a quick soap, I’m talking Soap, Shampoo, /and/ Conditioner. It was pretty early on in the storm, but it was far enough in that our fence was gone and the tree in our front yard had split in half and fallen down. So, yeah… Basically I’m amazing. The shower was pretty chilly though.

Actually, our house is in fantastic shape. One small corner of our roof bent up. That’s it. All the houses next to us were hit /way/ worse than we were. Basically all of our members here lost their houses. One month of no power…. Those are basically my statistics from here. I think the biggest reason Ajuy isn’t a /total/ disaster area is that, fundamentally, Ajuy is still a pretty small place. There’s just not enough people there for there to be huge fields of rubble.

76 hours after Yolanda started the APs showed up at our apartment and realized we weren’t dead. Like, during that time we’d been out working and helping people but there was no cell signal and transportation was still crazy, so we were basically just helping out the members in Ajuy and assuming that someone would come to check on us or that we’d just go to District Meeting on Tuesday. Don’t have the yellow vests yet, just working in dirty T-shirts. So yeah, basically, when that email from Uncle David was sent saying all missionaries were okay and accounted for, my entire District was still off the grid. Maybe our Mission President just guessed we were okay and reported that? Or got special revelation telling him not to worry about it? =P I’m glad it comforted you all and such.

The biggest casualty of my personal property is the fact that I had a lot of laundry in Estancia at a little laundromat and I have /no/ idea if I’ll ever get that back. It was mostly P-day clothes, so don’t worry about it too much or anything. Oh, but I freaking need some new socks. Send me those Gold-Toes, please? I should be able to buy new P-day stuff. I was actually going to ask if I can pull some cash out ($300-400) as soon as there’s a working ATM. For now I think I have enough withdrawn that I should be okay. Don’t worry about sending me t-shirts or anything.

And I haven’t seen Estancia, yet but we guessed Estancia would be really bad. They have stronger buildings than us, a lot more concrete than is anywhere in Ajuy, but they’re also closer to the coast. I mean, Ajuy is way close, but the Estancia Banwa can spit into the ocean. And I /might/ still have that laundry. I have no idea. We’re going to ask the Estancia Elders when we see them. If we’re lucky, Elder Gardiner picked ours up when he picked his up, and it’s just sitting in their apartment. Which is probably fine, because they have a /really/ nice apartment on pretty high ground.

Water, yesterday our running water came back on, but for a shorter period than usual and much less pressure. And then nothing this morning. But it’s a work in progress. As far as drinkable water… well, we found a place to get some that swears up and down the water is clean, but we’re thinking bleach, purifiers, and boiling are probably necessary measures. I imagine there will be some disease and stuff, because the flood waters are /not/ clean. At all.

Sunday I was helping a guy rip nails out of wood so he could reuse the wood and nails to build again, and I couldn’t help but think “Man, feels like I’m back at the houses again.” All that construction I did with Dad is coming in useful.

Well, out of time. Love you all! Bye!

When Global is close to home


My son is in Ajuy, Philippines. This means as most Americans ignored brief mentions of Yolanda/Haiyan on the news, our family was rabidly searching the internet for any possible news. The satellite images showed the eye of the storm passing right over his city. We saw on the website from the church sponsoring him that all missionaries in his area were accounted for and safe and I got a great letter from my brother who had people on a different island with their report. Then on Sunday at church I found out that the families of others serving in the Philippines but different areas had letters from the leaders watching over their boys. I was back in worry mode. Then through a connection I found the area leader for Iloilo had sent out a letter but we weren’t included on the email list.
So long story short – my son is alive and safe and in an area with no communication or power. Knowing him, he is helping people to clear trees and clean out mud. He is in the Lord’s service and in His care.

More Human Lessons on communication…


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Mistakes Are a Necessary Part of Life; the Key is to Learn from them

I’ve read before – and truly believe it – that we learn much more from failure than we do from success.  No matter how large a success, it serves only to make us feel good about ourselves for a short time.  The accolades fade quickly and we move on to other business. Mistakes, however, stay with us – either as beauty from improved character or as dirt we never manage to wash off.

In the best scenario when making a mistake, we learn something new and move ourselves toward the path that leads to success. What was it that Edison said regarding his many attempts to invent the light bulb?  “I learned 999 ways not to make a light bulb,” or something like that. He didn’t beat himself up about his mistakes; rather, he embraced them, didn’t repeat them, and moved on.

In the worst scenario, we make the same mistake over and over. Typically, this happens because we refuse to admit we have made a mistake. Perhaps it is because of pride; we think others will think less of us if they know we erred or transgressed against another.

Some people think that admitting mistakes is a show of weakness. I completely disagree with that line of thinking.  The greatest strength of character comes from:

  1. Acknowledging our errors willingly and readily (before we are caught and then have no choice but to admit them)
  2. Apologizing to those whom we have hurt, yet not expecting anything in return now or in the future
  3. Demonstrating that we have learned from our mistake by changing our behavior going forward

The truly important thing here is to realize that people are not stupid; they know when we make mistakes, whether or not we admit them. Even when we are successful at hiding something we’ve done, the act of doing so damages our character.  And that my friend, is clearly visible to everyone, every day of our lives.


Now to add my comments on Kathryn’s thoughts:  Agile teaches us to fail early in the project so that the cost of failure will be lower.  Failing later is much more expensive.  The same is true of many things in life.  Suffering the consequences of failure as a child is generally less damaging than the consequences of the same mistake as an adult.  We harm our children when we don’t let them feel the pain of mistakes.  How will they improve if there is no failure?  How will they get stronger if they don’t know they made a mistake?  I think of the line in Wicked said about the Cowardly Lion – “If she had let him fight his own battles, he wouldn’t be a coward today.”

That isn’t to say we leave them alone to fight the same battle again and again.  Kathryn mentions the worst case being making the same mistake over and over.  Actually, the worst case is making the same mistake over and over and never realizing that is was a mistake.  

This is where the next lesson comes into play…