Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sista Weekend

Anna, Heidi, Marta, Amy, four of the seven sistas

Want a spa vacay that costs less than a massage?
Split the cost of a local Hampton Inn Suite
and do it yourself!

Bring fancy party decor, tons of drinks and a bundle of Felicity DVDs,

treats and homemade citrus scrub (check w/Marta for the recipe.)

Provide a complimentary foot bather ...

... a rainbow of polish,

deep conditioning peppermint oil,

and facial masks for all.
We had a surprise shower afterwards—

Welcome to the sistahood, baby girl!
(It's a great idea to have daughters.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Send the Relief Society!


I'm up to my ears!

Two weeks ago I became president of our church's women's organization—the Relief Society—and I've been buried ever since. Our ward boundaries were realigned and I took over from three different presidents—everybody is new, wondering what their assignments are, and I have piles and piles of lists on my desk. I've only lived here five months, I don't know names, faces or even street names, and I already have a short list of folks who need relief.

But I've got a long list of women who are eager to help. I thought I'd be inundated with problems, and instead I keep getting calls: "I'm home during the day, and I'd love to take a meal to someone." "Is there someone who needs a visit? I'm available in the afternoon." "Let me handle that for you while you get organized." I'm up to my ears with women who are anxious to be engaged in a good cause. Wow!

And I've got a family full of support. Daughters who know the ropes are propping me up, and sons who have watched the action have encouraging words.

Dee has been practicing his new role for years—he already does all the grocery shopping, cooking and laundry. I doubt he'll even notice that I've become a negligent wife. He unloaded a trunk full of paper products, tablecloths and Christmas decorations onto the garage shelves while they wait for an official RS closet. Different group-lets of chatty women gather daily in our living room to discuss our duties, and he smiles pleasantly and heads upstairs.

The main thing I'm missing is you guys. You know how we hang out in our jammies without makeup? You don't even care if I've brushed my teeth! This gang of friends require real clothes and I have to wear shoes to visit them. And I can't do all the talking in my new relationships. I'm going to acquire a new skill—listening. Scary business.

Tomorrow I meet with my presidency for the first time, and I can't wait. (They're my new best friends and I don't even know them yet.) They're talented and willing to share their experience and expertise, and I'm anxious to delegate!

Do you wish you could be my counselor? Here are some issues I need counseling on:
  1. How can we quickly develop a feeling of unity?
  2. Any fun ideas for get-to-know-you activities?
  3. What does/could the president of your organization do to make you feel included?
Counsel away! Advise me on anything you want to—I don't know enough to ask good questions. As you can see, I'm up to my ears!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

True Love

Salzburg, Austria

It's Valentine's—time to think about falling in love.

February 1, 1969, my life started over. I met Dee . . . and Europe. What a brilliant combination!

Salzburg, Austria was the destination for a semester abroad, but our first stop was Paris.

Our hotel, a former train station on the Left Bank, (which has since been transformed into the Musee d'Orsay) had in a huge lobby where we were getting room assignments and sorting through luggage. A few of the girls decided we wanted to go to Folies-Bergere for a midnight show. It was pretty daring for naive 19-year-olds, so we decided to ask some guys from our group to go with us as chaperones. I looked over and recognized Dee and another boy getting off the elevator, so even though we'd never met, I brazenly went over and invited them to come.

Although they were older men (in their 20's) they seemed shocked at my request. Dee's first words to me were, "I don't know. I'll have to ask my companion." His companion??? Whoa. He seemed a touch on the dorky side to me. I found out later they just didn't want to spend any money, and they were intimidated by a large pack of giggly girls going to a striptease joint.

Neither of us had an inkling of what lay ahead for us. Our little worlds had collided and the universe changed course.

Think how many times this has happened over thousands of years, and yet it has only happened to me once. I still wonder how and why I was so lucky! One boy + one girl = 7 kids + 7 kids-in-law + almost 22 grandkids . . . 38 lives changed forever because I walked across that hotel room. (Just ten days later I was Dee's constant companion.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New Persona

I'm wearing a new hat!

Remember last week when I told you about callings? Well, I got a new one—I'm the brand-new Relief Society president in our brand-new ward! I'm excited and overwhelmed and I've got a ton of stuff to learn, so I'll be back in a week or so. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mitt is Impressive: Part Two

I was kind of relieved Mitt didn't mention me by name tonight when he thanked his team. It would have been overwhelming to have all those reporters calling, and intimidating to have all those new readers. Still, I'm glad the voters in Florida had my input.

Just in case the folks in the upcoming caucus states need more convincing, I have additional opining to do.

Mitt may be a gazillionaire, but he's not out of touch with regular life. In fact he may know more of the nitty-gritty than most of us.

His father, George, was born in Mexico, raised in humble circumstances and never graduated from college. He apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter and sold aluminum paint before beginning a career that brought him to the head of American Motors and then the governorship of Michigan. A self-made man, by the time Mitt was a teenager George was able to give his family the best of everything.

Mitt grew up in a ritzy neighborhood and attended private schools. When he got married at age 22, he didn't worry about getting a student loan or paying the pediatrician—but he knew and served people who did.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a lay ministry. That means that everyone in the congregation has a responsibility to serve as a teacher, a youth leader, Relief Society president (our women's charitable organization) organist, blood drive coordinator, whatever.

The Bishop of the ward (congregation) prayerfully chooses people to serve in various capacities for a period of time (usually a couple of years) and calls (asks) them. I've been rotated through dozens of callings, from luncheon chairman, to nursery leader, to girl's camp director to newsletter editor. We get advice from people who have had the calling before us, study the church handbooks, pray for divine help, and learn on the job. It's a fabulous opportunity to build skills and confidence.

From the time they were married, Mitt and Ann Romney served in their ward like everyone else. When Mitt was thirty-four, the father of five young sons and just starting a highly demanding career, he was asked to be Mormon bishop. The fact that he was called speaks of his character and devotion to God. A bishop must be dependable, honest, trustworthy, true to his wife and generous with his time. He also needs a conviction that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and be willing to follow His teachings.

Being a bishop is a full-time job, without pay. Bishops visit and attend to the needs of single moms, widows, the poor, sick and elderly, and administer the church's social welfare program. They listen to problems and counsel members on everything imaginable: marriage, divorce, abortion, adoption, addiction, unemployment and even business disputes. The bishop directs staffing of ward organizations, supervises youth programs, attends activities, oversees finances, records, and building maintenance, teaches, conducts meetings, and trains others in their duties. Plus, he is the spiritual leader, the confessor and confidant, helping his flock change their ways and live Christ-like lives. A bishop does all this, but still keeps his full-time job and tries to be a devoted husband and father. It's tough, and totally impressive.

In Mitt's Boston ward he confronted anti-Mormon sentiment and worked to soothe relations in the community. He directed an outreach program to Hispanic, Portuguese and Southeast Asian converts, including Cambodian and Laotian refugees whose teenagers were joining the church in droves. “I had no idea people lived this way,” he told a counselor, after visiting poverty-stricken immigrants. When kids from his ward became involved with gangs, he went into those neighborhoods regularly, offering support and friendship. Parents came to him for advice.

He was highly motivated and “hands-on,” said a member of his ward. "If somebody’s roof leaked, Bishop Romney would show up with a ladder to fix it. I remember him picking butternut squash and yanking weeds on the church’s communal farm." He distributed that food to ward members in need. The LDS church has an employment program, and Mitt coordinated training and job interviews for people wanting to hire and be hired.

After a few years as bishop he was called as Boston's Stake President overseeing a region similar to a Roman Catholic diocese. That meant he was the clergyman, organization man and defender of the faith over several wards during a period of rapid growth.

Service on school boards or city councils, through charities or churches, benefits the whole community. Time spent with troubled kids (or keeping good kids from getting in trouble,) advising out-of-work parents, helping a couple adopt a baby—these qualify as civic contributions. Mitt Romney has been involved in public service his whole life.

Thirteen years of church leadership gave him vast experience with social, economic and moral dilemmas. He is sometimes seen as a flip-flopper because he doesn't express his beliefs in unequivocal soundbites. A person of compassion might have thoughtful reasons to see both sides of an issue. Here are three situations I know Mitt Romney faced:
  • A young girl close to his family had an illegal abortion, and died because of it.
  • A pregnant woman in his congregation had a life-threatening blood clot and was advised by one doctor to abort the baby to save her life. Another doctor said she didn't need the abortion, that both mother and baby could be saved.
  • A married man he served with in the church confided that he was gay.
"A man who views the world at fifty the same way he did at twenty
has wasted thirty years of his life."
—Muhammad Ali

Mitt and Ann have raised five sons who carry on the Romney tradition. Having money does not guarantee character. (Think of the ultra-rich kids we see on TV and in the tabloids, the drug-addicted kids who are infamous for their bad behavior, adultery, broken families, and prison sentences.) Obviously the Romney's gave their children more than money could buy. It's short-sighted to look at money as their only inheritance.

Like every family, the Romneys have faced hardship: Ann was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, and more recently fought a battle with breast cancer. She credits her husband’s unwavering care and devotion in helping her through these ordeals.

I'm convinced that Mitt Romney is, and always has been a great man. He has balanced his life well, with generous service to God, family and community. I'm impressed.

There's even more to come ...