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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Do-Gooders on a Mission

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other.”
– George Eliot

What if life could be like this?

Call me a hopeless dreamer, but I think it could.

Like Amélie, we can spread our simple pleasures and all of life's beauties around, even to those who seem like they wouldn't be able to view beauty the way the rest of us do.

I happen to think things are lovely when they're glowing with virtue. What's more virtuous than a generous action?

What if they made it so you could play a certain game like this with a cheat code?

If you don't like excessive YouTube clips, I'm sorry, but isn't it funny that a commercial, for of all things, Coca-Cola, could illustrate a point so well?

"You're gonna be remembered for the things that you say and do."

It's true, you know. By our fruits, or, what we produce, you and I will be remembered.

Life's simple pleasures are a two-way street. We can do simple things, give people simple joys that will make life better. Better for us, and better for others.

How `bout it? Let's be do-gooders on a mission. It takes some creativity, that is, creative self-insertion: "Hmm. What would I want if I were (insert name here)? What if I were sad or scared or apathetic or ______? What if I were emoting what this person is emoting? What would be just the ticket to making my life, or even just my mood more lovely?"

Let's let our virtuous, happy joy in helping people shine through everything we do; let it shine through every sentence we write, every good work we can think up.

They're called good works because it takes work. But like with most work, it pays off and leaves a sense of tired satisfaction.

Spending your days in the company of many different people teaches you something: Some people are hard to reach

They're full of prickles. It's hard to want to help them.

You know what? We should try anyway. Let's be sure to catalog it too, so we don't forget.

(If you'd like, you can report back to me via my comments/email how it goes. This would be splendorous.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spy Moves, Humble Abode, Dad's Birthday: BYU Game Just for Him

For travel to be delightful, one must have a good place to leave and return to.
- Frederick B. Wilcox

The life of an Investigator/Traveler has its ups and downs

There’s one useful and underrated skill you might need if you decide it’s the life for you. You already have it if your parents put you in ballet when you were a kid.

(Look Natty! I loved you then too.)

You probably got lots of practice walking on your toes in such ballet classes. Or if you just dressed up in tights, a leotard, and ballet slippers every day, you can't help it, tiptoeing around comes easily to you.

This has its advantages. Now you can sneak around and not throw off people's grooves.

(Don't throw off his groove!
Beware of the groove..... the groove. [That one was for you Shay!])

When you walk, being spritely or jaunty has its advantages. You can be sneaky

Random side note: I love to watch the way people walk. Not just sneaky spy moves, but also strutting around like John Travolta on
Saturday Night Fever, power walking, prancing, and model walks

(walk off!)

You name it. People's walks are great, kids' included. If my children are spritely and skip around merrily, it’ll be so adorable; I think I’ll flip.

People's Distinct walks: Just one of life's fab things nobody talks about.

The ability to walk around unnoticed is one of the many handy skills you didn’t know would come in handy in life. I hope I’ve opened your eyes.

Unfortunately, detectives' and world travelers' lives aren't just filled with jauntily strutting about. We've gotta deal with lots of colorful people

Life can get stressful

We're going to want some place awesome to come back to for our hideout.

How about a library?

Beauty and the Beast style with a Sherlock Holmes-like study would be all a P.I. would need. I mean, sure... a little kitchen and bathroom tacked onto the back are probably a good idea too, but I can't think of much else.

Said library must have a secret door behind one of the bookshelves that opens up when you push on a certain book

This will lead to a passageway that can be used for quick getaways.

Ok, so I gave away my secret, sort of. But you don't know the right book in this very large library that you'll need to push on, do you?

What if the secret passageway lead to this?

Or what if it was the only way to get here?
Forgive me, I watched/read too many movies and books as a kid about little girls who run away to gardens where they plant lots of flowers.

I wanted my own flower cottage, where my life as a hermit could be complete

I almost forgot! For the P.I. hideout, there needs to be a separate office with a chair that spins. (My house will have lots of chairs that spin, because I may or may not be immature enough to spin on them for fun when no one is looking.) That way, when someone walks in, you can have your chair facing the wall, then turn it dramatically and say, "I've been expecting you."

So I have this friend, no relation, who’s like a total room design addict (...weirdo.) She watches Extreme Makeover Home Edition in awe of the room designs, jealous of the stuff in the kids’ rooms (...such a crazy. I don’t know why I stay friends with her, I really don’t.) She goes to Ikea and nearly hyperventilates from all the ideas she gets (...sort of like that time she went to a Jazz game and was only 5 feet away from Deron Williams and got this overwhelming urge to leap out onto the court. This girl should probably seek help. She frequently has these sorts of psychotic ideas.)

She gets old issues of Better Homes and Gardens and home design magazines for 15 cents from the library, and I happen to know she watched Trading Spaces for fun when she was a kid while other kids were watching the Disney Channel.

Said friend has so many room ideas, it would be a gigantic mega-caboodle. But this kooky obsession comes in handy, cause there are lots of fun ideas for a hideaway.

One place that's like a caboodle is ANTHROPOLOGIE. That place has room schizophrenia. Me too. I love that the rooms are always changing from Indian and Bohemian
to Silky/Cozy, to Antique old style.
Yeah, I pretty much love room changes.

The store always has something rad hanging from the ceilings. Most of the time it's bobbles. This is Christmasy and happy, but why should you just have bobbles and ceiling decorations during Christmas?

My cukoo friend practically passes out with giddiness in this store from over-stimulation. Do not go in there with her. You have been warned.

Shelby wants this Ikea room:

And check this one out:

How about a bed that's like a surf shack with a slide so you can slide out of bed in the morning?
(It's from this site, they've got some cool ones.)

A friend of mine, Mandy Greeff, has "love lists" which contain her simple pleasures and favorite things. She has cataloged her favorite room ideas, many of which come from kids' rooms. We agree, kids' rooms rock. (Thanks Mandy, for this post's inspiration!)

Speaking of kid themes, Disney gives us tons of great ideas (other than just Beauty and the Beast libraries.)

I always wanted the Peter Pan Nursery, especially the window seat complete with window

If you've ever seen Swiss Family Robinson
you'll get where I'm coming from with the Disney thing.

There's this fantastic treehouse that has everything you could ever need in it if you're stranded on an island being hunted by pirates
I want a roof that opens with a hatch so I can see the stars, just like the one on that movie.

Speaking of which, who wouldn't want to sleep here just one night?

Beach houses are good for a getaway, but treehouses are paradise for kids. Especially when they’ve got zip lines coming out of them. No kidding, this was like Little Kaitlin/Little Shayna’s paradise

We liked it when there was irrigation water at the bottom and we got to go zooming down in our swim suits. Our hands would get these calloused blisters on them from going on the zip line so much, but it was totally worth it. All the Smith cousins loved to go on the zip line.

And did I mention the tree house? I wish I had a picture. It had a heater and a sink, plus a secret passageway or two. It had a deck and two ladders (One that cranked up and down so you could put it up to keep people you didn’t want to come up out, the other a rope ladder that folded up and could be blocked by a piece of wood.)

It was the coolest. Can adults still like to play in tree houses without being considered foolish? I hope so, cause me and my Dad would be all over it if we ever found a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse in real life to play in. (There's one at Disneyland, but it's more like a museum, plus they changed it to Tarzan's treehouse cause they're lame.)

If I could, I'd get Dad a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse for his birthday. That movie is one of his favorites of all time, and I know he wants that treehouse even more than I do.

But Dad's such a down to earth guy, he never complains about a thing. He doesn't ask for much in life, just BYU tickets.... and I can't think of much else. He loves his birthday because every year, there's a BYU football game right afterward (sometimes even the day of!)

Every year we do our best to make his birthdays special.

I never know what to buy him because he never asks for anything. He lives in a house full of females who can tend to get kind of moody. And you know what? He doesn't even complain or ask for something cool for his birthday.

He doesn't ever buy stuff for just himself, which is weird to us Smith ladies. We like treating ourselves, even if it's just once in a while.

Not Dad. He'll buy food sometimes, but it's usually to share. He also doesn't buy his own clothes. If it weren't for the clothes the women in his life buy for him, he'd only have free T-shirts from BYU games and a couple cheap pairs of Walmart jeans.

Since Dad never brags about himself, I will, since he's such an awesome guy.

Dad went to New Orleans to help build homes for flood victims. He was in the paper because of it, it was quite the humanitarian project.

Dad Worked with

Dad teaches us to work hard, like he does

We loved being carried on his shoulders when we were little

He teaches us to dance

Dad likes to have fun... he loves to ride roller coasters (his girls do too!)

He likes the great outdoors

He fishes whenever he can.

Dad was in the Olympics!

He was at Soldier Hollow

He took his family there.

They had so much fun tubing

He didn't even mind when they were moody teenagers who hid from cameras.

Dad's proud of his girls

Happy Birthday Dad! Sorry this is late. I'm glad you got to watch your team play and win last night.

(And Dad, I'm glad you got to eat some really good sushi. I hope you liked the blue and white BYU balloons.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Lovely, Pleasurable Interview with My Great (Both ways) Aunt, Lavina Harper

What is the food that you most remember eating from your childhood?

My mother's hot biscuits

How long since you've eaten them?

In the Southeastern part of North Carolina, it was a given that people would eat homemade biscuits, sometimes three times a meal. The last time I ate them was when I was with (Kait's Aunt, Christy's Mom) Pam in North Carolina visiting my cousin Delma and her husband Jim. She makes wonderful biscuits.

What is the most beautiful flower, do you think?

My favorite in Hawaii was the yellow plumeria

The prettiest is a rose

Do you have a favorite quote of inspiration? If so, what is it?

As events happen, quotes or sayings pop into my mind. I can't think of a particular one... My father had many victorian sayings... "There's more than one way of beating the Devil around the stump" (meaning there's more than one way to do something.)

I still use them, particularly with my sisters because they can relate to them
Aunt Lavina with her friend, Winifred Morse and my Grandma, Neva Harper Smith

What sorts of things did you, Grandma Smith, and your other sisters do together when you were younger?

We played a lot with our cousins. We had three sets of cousins, aunts, and uncles within walking distance in a rural community. We played "Prisoner's Base." Neva was very good, she was Eagle Eye. I remember that I had to go stand in jail in the corner; I was crying.

We played volleyball and basketball and hide and seek outside. We'd make up plays and act them out on our porch.

Aunt Lavina grew up in Nahunta, North Carolina. This is a picture of the church house there.

My Father took us swimming. In the evenings, we played "Blind Man's Bluff." We were pleased when our father played.

My sisters liked to play with cutout dolls.

In the summertime, we'd draw pictures in the sand around our house, then grade each other with letter grades.

We would go barefoot and put our feet in the soil, and have a "little house" around our feet.

Aunt Lavina told me she wrote memories like these down about each of her sisters that she gave to them on their birthdays. Later, I got to see them. Here is the one she wrote about Grandma Neva:

Do you have a favorite actor and/or acress? If so, who?

Bette Davis is excellent
I enjoyed Jimmy Stewart - - It's a Wonderful Life - it's not Christmas without it
Audrey Hepburn
Greer Garson
Henry Fonda
Alan Ladd
Gary Cooper in High Noon (I don't usually enjoy westerns, but I did enjoy him in that.)

Could you please share with us a scripture? It doesn't need to be a favorite, just one you think should be shared.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding (Proverbs 3:5.) This was an old MIA (Mutual Improvement Association) theme.

The 23rd Psalm "The Lord is my Shepherd."

From the Joseph Smith Wentworth Letters, my mission theme:

The standard of truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing... (... Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame. But the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and dependent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, until the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah will say, "The work is done.")
It's not a scripture, but it is very good. It's fulfilled as missionaries go throughout the world.

What is the most comfortable type of weather to you?

The low 80's, high 70's, like Hawaii. I like the humidity, it's kind to your skin.

(She mentioned before this that she can be comfortable anywhere. But her skin does feel uncomfortable to this day due to the dryness of Utah.)

What is a memory that stands out in your mind from your teaching experiences?

When I taught in Junior High, my favorite grade to teach was the 8th grade. One day, I was trying to teach them some manners. I was late for class, and when I got there, the whole class stood up at the same time and said, "Good Morning, Miss Harper."

(We both chuckle at this.) It was so funny!

At BYU Hawaii, one of my classes was very small, about six people. I could tell they hadn't read. I told them to come back when they had. I then went into my office. One student came in and she said, "I know you were disappointed in us today Sister Harper."

It was very nice that she was sensitive to that.

In Hawaii, the 30th of May was Lei Day. Many of the students would wear leis to class. It was a very nice, fragrant custom

I had a young man in my class who got a 'D.' He came in after and wanted me to change it. He swore at me and said, "I will get it changed."

A couple of years later, at graduation time, the faculty would leave and usually shake hands with the graduates. He came through the line, shook my hand, and said, "Thank you, Sister Harper." This helped to ease a sore spot. It seemed he had forgiven me.

Of course, no one can offend you, you just let yourself be offended.

What do you remember best about your mother and father?

I don't even remember them telling us they loved us, but it never crossed my mind. They showed it. I know they were proud of us, I wouldn't have done anything to make them ashamed of me.

We walked to school. My father always wanted us to walk together. He wanted us to be supportive of each other, to be loyal to each other.

He was very loyal of his own family. He had five brothers and two sisters. Just before he died he said, "let my brothers and sister know."

My sisters and I are close. I think he would be pleased. I can't imagine not talking to or writing to my siblings.

My Grandma Neva, Aunt Lavina, Aunt Wilma, Aunt Vivian, and Aunt Lettie

Cali and I would like to know: Where did the glass balls come from?

Here they are, in case you're wondering what we're talking about...
They are attached to Japanese fishing nets. They wash up on the shores of the pacific ocean. Usually when there is a storm, they wash up. They're from the beaches of Hawaii
Becky's Nick (Kait's cousin) loved to roll the biggest one up and down the floor. They're pretty sturdy.

(Wow. Cali, we knew it would be a good story!)

Aunt Lavina has not just lived in Hawaii, she's traveled all over the world. She has been to 54 countries, and all 50 states.

In the hallway of her apartment, this map is hanging on the wall:
The Pins are sticking in the places she's been

The ones that have little flags are the places she's lived

Are any of the places you've visited your favorite?

People always ask me that, I can't really say. I can say the most spectacular:

The Taj Mahal

The Pyramids

The Great Wall of China

Machu Picchu

Other places were beautiful, these were just the most spectacular.

To see the moon or sun rise or set out of the ocean is really spectacular as well

Could you please tell us some memories from your time in Hawaii?
A close-up of Aunt Lavina's map. The flag is where she lived in Hawaii, the pins where she's visited.

Aunt Lavina's time in Hawaii
Laie 1st Ward, July 1988
Aunt Lavina with Julia Cawer, April 1987

I worked in the Hawaii temple
Those were special times. It was busy, I was teaching full time and usually had a stake or ward calling.

While in Hawaii, I had the opportunity to go to Kalaupapa, a Leper colony. You had to have a permit from the health department to go. We could not take the sacrament, because those who were preparing it were lepers.

(She has pages written about this in her personal history. If I had had the time, I would have read more. Even the little I heard was fascinating.)

Aunt Lavina's Hawaiian quilt was used as a backdrop during a book signing
Isn't it just a lovely quilt?

Is there any advice you could share with us about traveling and showing respect for different cultures?

Elder Oaks said it best, we should learn enough so that our actions: the food we eat, the things we do, don't offend.

The Food?

My friend married a French woman. She could not understand the candied yams at Thanksgiving. It was almost offensive to her to have that sweet of a food with Turkey and the other foods.

(Again on respecting other cultures...)

It's always a matter of emphasizing the positive. I had a cousin with seven children, many of whom went on missions. She used to say, "when you go on a mission don't complain, even about the weather. Let the natives do that."

It goes along with negativism. People don't like you to be critical of their home. They might be critical of it themselves, but they don't want to hear others do it.

To sum up, be respectful of the customs of other people, even though they're strange to you; emphasize the positive.

What is the best tasting food you've had during your travels?

I don't mind trying new foods. My visiting teaching companion is from India. She just made me Dosas

I like them. I quite like a variety of things. A particular food that I miss from Hawaii is papaya. You can't get a good papaya here
(You can buy good mango or pineapple, but not papaya.)

To say a specific food, in a specific country, I couldn't say.

Is there a place that you've never been that you'd still like to visit?

I would've liked to have taken the train ride from Beijing, China to Moskow
Transiberian Route Map (Found Here)

Also, the train ride across Canada. I've seen much of Canada, but I know that is a wonderful ride.

I'd also have liked to have seen more of Africa, I think.

What is your favorite color?
Probably navy-blue, but I like some reds. (These are the colors I like for dress.) Pink is a pretty color too, and my house has warm colors.

Do you have a favorite song?
I love the hymns of the church - usually there's one for any occasion.

I have a very bad habit of humming. My neighbor calls me "The Hummer."

One woman said in the store, "What are you humming? Maybe I can join you!"

Are there any specific tender mercies or simple pleasures you enjoy that you'd like to share with us?
It doesn't take a lot to make me happy. Many of the tender mercies have come from other people. When I was in Hawaii, I had surgeries twice. One was for Thyroid Cancer. It was Christmas Eve. I had worked to get my grades in, and then gone to the hospital to have my surgery.

When I woke up from my surgery, Neva was there. She leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. She had flown over to be with me. Then she flew back to be home for Christmas.

Early Christmas morning, I woke up lonely, sort of apathetic (this is one of the effects of anesthesia.) I heard a knock at the door. It was one of my students, a little Filipino girl. She stood there with a pink carnation.
She said, "Merry Christmas, Sister Harper!"

I wasn't lonely anymore.

Before the surgery, the surgeon told me to bring in a necklace that I liked, and he would make the incision to match the necklace.

This was a very thoughtful thing for him to have done.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us, any words of wisdom, or anything else you'd like us to remember?

I really do think there's great merit in being positive. People who are negative are hard to be around. You don't have to be oblivious or have your head in the sand, but there are a lot of good things in life.

In the 5th Grade, when we did state reports, my hand shot up the fastest to choose the state I wanted. I chose Hawaii, of course. I knew my Aunt Lavina could help me with lots of interesting things to add to my report.

I was right! She lent me leis, gave me shells and a lovely wooden dish to put them in
I still have them!

I can also remember her sending me postcards and letters in envelopes with stamps for my stamp collection. They were always beautiful, exotic looking stamps.

Everyone in our family has at least one good memory of Aunt Lavina. It was great hearing them shared at her 75th birthday a few years back. She's very special to us.

Aunt Lavina was very good at being interviewed. I could just taste those buttery biscuits and smell the yellow plumeria and fragrant leis.

This is Aunt Lavina with Santa
She told me she signed up to have her picture taken with Santa, but he came when she was in her nightgown.

She was so kind to let me use her pictures.

Thank you, thank you, Aunt Lavina. It has most definitely been a pleasure.

Aunt Lavina's Collage:

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