Sunday, November 1, 2009

Canby hits the big-time!

I never thought we'd ever see a movie theater in Canby. But it's now open across from thriftway. Cool.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

On Being Released From the Bishopric

Today, after five years and two months, I was released from my calling as first counselor to Bishop R. Kelly Porter in our ward who was also released. We served well together, which is not to say the burden was equal because he had the much, much heavier load.

It feels weird at the moment, but I know I will get over it. I do not have a new calling, yet, but that is just fine. During the two hours after sacrament meeting and in the hour after the meeting block, I felt lost with nothing to do. I'd given my binder and keys to the new counselor. I feel a bit naked without them.

For the past five years I've sat to Kelly's right as we (along with four second counselors, three ward clerks and three executive secretaries over the years) have been the ward leadership. Our main goal, among other things, was to not to lose any young men and get them on missions through a strong Young Men/Scouting program. We put a similar emphasis on the young women. While we were not 100% successful, we did very well in our youth programs and had the very best scouting program in the stake for a while. Our youth program is the best in the stake and the youth going through it are top-notch. We do not have any serious problems with our kids, and they are inclusive of each other and get along nearly perfectly. We do not take all the credit, but we put the best people in position we could and supported them and the youth as a bishopric at every activity including Mutual each week.

Bishop Porter was an extraordinary bishop for being just a common guy. He put his heart and soul in to his calling and honestly did the best he could. He tried mightily to energize our missionary program and reactivate many but we had minimal success. Still, we did what we could to spread the Gospel in this part of the vineyard. Bishop Porter was kind, patient and long-suffering. I never once saw him get upset at anything or anyone. Only a couple times could I detect he was frustrated. He spent countless hours reaching out to the struggling and the poor, especially. He was temple-focused and our ward is well-known at the temple. We strived to always meet our stake assignments in whatever form they took. We were obedient. Our ward is known for its kindness and the way we embrace newcomers. We feel good about all of these things.

My service was enjoyable. I had a much better experience this time around than last when I was only 29, had been a member of the Church for only six years and my leadership experience amounted to several years service as YM president. I had no clue what I was doing or what or how to be a bishop's counselor. And it got off on a very rough note when my dad had a heart attack and died as I was being sustained in sacrament meeting. I did not know how to balance work, church, a young family, and outside interests. The result was much of the burden fell to Mom. I have always regretted that. After a little over a year, I was released when our Young Men's program was in trouble trying to raise funds to go to a distant Church scouting jamboree. I was installed as YM president again to fix that, which we did. But I always regretted I was not more successful, at least in my mind, as a bishop's counselor.

This time around I felt more comfortable. I was older, wiser, more mature, more experienced, the kids were gone, and I was, thus, more relaxed. Staffing organizations and calling people to serve scared me the first time around. This time I merely asked if they would do what we wanted them to do. Nearly everyone accepted and those that couldn't or didn't, I did not pressure but had compansion for. That approach made all the difference for me. Kelly taught me that we are engaged in a marathon, not a sprint. The longer view made setbacks more easy to deal with. The fact I had engaged in marathon racewalking as hobby also made me realize this.

I take a bit of proper pride in being responsible for the organization of each sacrament meeting for the past four years. it was a duty that was never-ending and relentless in that each week it was expected to have a well-organized, thoughtful program of speakers that conveyed an interesting and tmely Gospel message that uplifted, rather than chastized. I feel I did this as well as i could and we received comments often that our sacrment meetings were very reverent and spiritfilled.

I asked Kelly today why he wanted me to serve as his first counselor as we did not know each other particularly well before. We had served together overseeing the Teacher's quorum and I was his home teacher. He said he was impressed with my love for the youth, my ability to teach principles well, my common-sense approach to things, that I balanced his weaknesses (I question this), and I had been recommended by Bishop Burnett who preceded him as I had serve well as his ward clerk for many years. He then prayed about it and felt that he should request I serve with him. I felt both honored and humble at these comments. We had never talked about this before.

The past five years has gone quickly. Both Kelly and I feel that it is time for a change. Our ward struggled for the past 18 months since the transfer of a quarter of our membership to Oregon City wards. We have finally stabilized the organizations and the feelings of loss are finally in the past for most everyone. It has not been easy. We were running like a well-oiled machine when the transfer occurred and we felt like it was a train wreck when it occurred. It tested our faith to a certain extent. But we persevered. It is now time for a new bishop and counselors to carry on as is the norm in the Church.

This time now is especially necessary for me to support Momand help in caring for my mother in her time of failing health. Once again the burden of my absence has fallen on her, and it is time for me to do what I can in this difficult situation of my mom's decline. But I am a true believer of the scripture of Ecclessiastes 3 that there is a time for everything in its due time. It is now time for me to devote time to family. The Church will continue on just fine without me in a ward leadership role. I am not vain in needing to be in charge. I tried to serve well in leadership roles for most of the over 30 years we have lived in the ward. I do not mind taking a bit of break to do other important work.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Much Needed Getaway

For Christmas the kids got us gift certificates for Skamania Lodge (thank you!), an upscale resort in the Columbia Gorge. After nearly nine months, we finally got a chance to use them. Mom has been burned-out from taking care of Grandma Hazel. She desperately needed a break. After what seemed like months, we finally settled on a weekend where we could both get away.
It was a wonderful trip! It's been ages since just the two of us were able to both be gone from work, church, grandma, other obilgations, etc. at the same time. We first drove to Hood River and took a four-hour train excursion on the Mt. Hood Railway up the Hood River valley to Parkdale, about two-thirds of the way to Mt. Hood. This is something we've both wanted to do. The train follows the Hood River through the many orchards that are heavy with fruit this time of year (mostly pears and apples). Our traincar was half full of Japanese tourists which was quite amusing to listen to and watch. In Parkdale, a town a lot like a Aurora, we had lunch of local fruit and Tillamook ice cream cones, and visited a museum. The sway of the traincar was very relaxing and most of the passengers were subdued or asleep on the 90 minute ride back down.
When we got back to Hood River, we drove out into the countryside to some lavender and fruit farms and got local produce. We returned and walked around the vibrant downtown area looking for a place to have an early dinner. Unfortunately, all the restaurants we were interested in didn't open until later. So we finally found a place that served crepes, which sounded good. When we went to order, they said the kitchen closed for dinner and crepes were only available for luunch. Rats! Who's ever heard of a restaurant with a smaller dinner menu? Tired of walking and as this was a pub, we settled for fish and chips and a salmon burger while others around us in the outdoor eating area guzzled great quantities of beer.
We then drove down the gorge to Skamania Lodge. Crossing the Columbia River at the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, we had to wait for what seemed like an hour while the lady in front of us searched her purse, her vehicle, under the seats, etc. to find enouhg change for the $1.00 toll. Cars behind us started honking. Finally she poured a handful of change into the hand of the tolltaker. When I handed him a $1 bill, he smiled big and said with relief, "Thanks!" with much emphasis.
The lodge is nestled inthe trees above the Columbia. It is a beautiful lodge and the room was spacious. After a stroll around the grounds and out on the golf course, we spent most of the time just sitting outside on a very warm night watching the view and the people until after dark. One lady gushed and cooed over a chihuahua puppy someone had for what seemed like forever. Enough already! Later, we saw and heard the same lady using the same words and tone to gush and coo over a baby for about the same amount of time. No difference!
The next morning we had the full blown brunch, which is more food than anyone could eat. It is a spendy meal, but to die for, which we practically did after gorging ourselve on the dessert buffet after gorging on the breakfast buffet. I could have eaten a hundred huckleberry creme brulees.
Fully sated, we headed up the gorge on the Washington side of the Columbia, something I had never done. The two-lane road is certainly different than the freeway on the Oregon side. there are some interesting viewpoints to see the majesty of the Columbia gorge.

We went to the Maryhill museum, which is full of art. I had always wanted to go there as it is literally out in the middle of nowhere. Mom had been there in grade school. It was facinating, and had a wonderful traveling exhibit of Ansel Adams photography. It is quite a place and well worth the modest $7 admission.

Just down the road is a replica of Stonehenge, built by the same man who built the Maryhill mansion. He is buried at this site just off from the monument. Interesting place. Again, not near anything else, just there, overlooking the mighty Columbia.

We crossed over the river and headed home making a stop at the familiar Bonneville dam. We spent a great deal of time at the fish hatchery watching the seventy-year-old, 600 pound sturgeon in the pond and salmon packed into the returning gates ready to spawn.
All and all it was a relaxing trip to a part of Oregon and Washington neither of us had spent a lot of time in. Unfortunately we are back to the daily grind and now it is a distant memory. We need another, soon. Thanks, kids, for facilitating for a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Scout Camp 2009

As M used to say, according to my hypothesis and calculations, or in my case after looking back at my day planners, this was my eighth year attending scount camp for the full week over the years. This year we were at beautiful Camp Baldwin on the east side of Mt. Hood. I hadn't been to Baldwin for many years and all I could remember was the dust. It's still there, big poofs of it every step you take...except all of it that came back with me.

This year I had just 5 boys, younger ones as the older guys in our troop are going to a high adventure camp in Washington. I went because our scoutmaster's wife just had a baby and the other scout leasders that could go are going on the high adventure. Included in our group was a non-member and two kids with disabilites. We went with Troop 400 from Canby 2nd Ward who had 5 young guys go, including only two from their ward, two from Utah who were the nephews of their scoutmaster and one non-member from another troop who missed his summer camp. All the kids meshed instantly in the parking lot before leaving. They were a great group. Steve Langford, the scoutmaster for 400 is great. No problems at all...except about a million yellow jackets. I avoided getting stung but four of our group were not so lucky.

I spent most of the week sheparding our two autistic kids - making sure they were where they needed to be when they needed to be there and doing what they needed to be doing. My plan was to make sure they were buddied up and attended the same merit badge classes and activities at the same time, but that was short-lived when they scheduled all different things except one merit badge. So each day I'd start out with both, drop one at the nature center, take the other to snorkeling, then back to the nature center to check on that one, then back to the lake to pick up the snorkeler and get him to woodcarving, the back to the nature center to make sure he didn't wander off between classes, then back to woodcarving to make sure he got to the rifle range, at which time I'd take a bit of a break, then gather them all up and go back to camp for lunch, then start over again for the afternoon sessions. By the end of the day I was pooped.

But it was all worth it as they both earned three merit badges and some partials that can easily be completed back here at home. One also earned his BSA Snorkeling card and made the dime club in riflery (five shots inside of the area of a dime.) They were thrilled and so were there parents when they got home.
Once again, I couldn't be prouder of our kids. They were fun, obedient, helpful, etc. Just no problems. I spent five days helping one of our guys at horsemanship, a very difficult merit badge that he could complete but he did the hard thngs and had a great experience that he has not stopped talking about. I learned a lot about horses, myself (ask me to name 15 parts of a horse, 7 parts of a saddle and 3 parts of a bridle and five breeds, etc.)

The weather was great on day one but got progressively colder and windier as the week went on as it was downright cold the last night. Still, we didn't get rained on so it was alright.

One kid from Troop 400 went fishing for the first time and caught a 12 inch rainbow trout, which we cleaned, cooked and ate. the nice thing about Camp Baldwin is you cook your food in camp and have to clean up afterward so it keeps the kids busy from 7 in the morning until 10 at night. Very little free time to get into trouble and they are ready to sleep when night comes.
Despite having a good sleeping pad, it's not as easy as it once was to sleep on a hard surface (platform tents) for a week, but it was worth. Nevertheless, it was a great week and well worth it be with great kids having funs and being able to teach them about scouting things.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Youth Conference

This year we were asked to put on a ward youth conference rather than the stake doing one. We could do it alone or with another ward. At first our kids wanted to go with another ward at the coast, but when that fell through, they wanted to do it with another ward in the stake. When that fell through, we had to come up with something on our own. In a Bishop's Youth Committee, someone suggested we do a COPE course (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience). We looked into it and found one in Salem near the Enchanted Forest that is sponsored by a world-wide youth ministry. We contacted them and found the price to be more than we could afford. But we asked if we could send a group of volunteers down to do service work in exchange for time on the course. Surprisingly, they agreed and earlier in the year we sent 40 people down who worked 4 to 8 hours on projects they had. They were so impressed with the work they gave us a half-day free per person on the course for use for our youth conference.

This past weekend we had just about the perfect ward conference. It is probably the most successful event I've been involved in in over 30 years working with youth groups. Our BYC planned it and the kids organized all aspects of it. It was super fun, super hard, super exhausting, a super experience and super spiritual.
Let me first say that the kids that we have in the young men and young women groups are the finest collective kids we've ever had in the ward. For sure there have been some great kids go through our program (mine included) but there have been a number of stinkers from time to time in most groups. Not this one. All of our kids get along, support each other, are polite, helpful, courteous, obedient, reverent, etc (Boy Scout law traits) and have no cliques. They rally around each other and are great to be around, easy to teach, and teachable.
Thus, everyone was on time and 25 youth and 6 adult leaders left Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. for Salem. Arriving at 9:00 at the course, the broke us into three teams of teams (ours was the Funky Maroon Bats (G0 Bats!). Each team had a staff facilitator. Ours was Luba from the Ukraine, a great young lady! We did team building exercises for about an hour first.

Team-building marble roll relay

Then we hit the low course which are challenges just off the ground. These required teamwork, physical exertion, balance (my downfall), faith in your teammates, cooperation and mental challenges to figure out the best way to accomplish the task (often without talking or blindfolded, etc.). The leader for each challenge was a different young person each time (adults were to follow, not lead).

Low course

At 12:30 we had a short half-hour lunch and then hit the high course. High meant relatively hight. At least 20 feet up and often 35 to 40 feet up. Safety was first rate. We all had climbing harnesses, were locked in to safety lines above us and were belayed by teammates when climbing. I'm not fond of heights but after the first high course I had complete confidence in the equipment, training and my teammates and the facilitator. We did the high obstacle course first which really helped our team as we were fresh. The team that did it last at the end of the day struggled more because they were pooped. Our one special needs kid struggled on the papmer pole (40-foot high telephone-type pole with a 9-inch disk on top that you had to climb, then stand on, then leap off!). He stop at every step saying he couldn't go on but his team encourage him all the way to the top and then he managed to stand up and leap off. they all cheered mightliy for him! So many gospel principles in just this one action!

High obstacle course

Balancing - about 35 feet up!

After a debriefing, we left at 5:30 after a full 8 hours on the course. The kids were beat but thrilled. We went to a family's house who used to live in our ward but now live on a hill overlooking the Enchanted Forest at the same exit on the freeway. they have a tremendousn view of the valley and Cascade mountains. Up there we had a bar-b-que dinner. After dinner, Sis. Charlotte Laughlin (oldest daughter of former stake president Jim Bean) came a put a fabulous fireside. She is a returned missionary, sealed in the temple, has 8 kids, is a super multi-talented musician and just happens to be a triathlete in her spare time (she's done the Hawaiian Ironman). She spent half a day on the high course with the kids so she got to know them and understood what they had experience. She tailored her talk to that experience. She spoke on the three most important things she thinks kids in the church need: good friends who lift you up, not pull you down, daily scripture study, recognizing the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and having a personal relationship with the Savior. (Yes, that's four but she through in the good friends for good measure.) Her examples and stories were memorable, especially when she tied them all together when she had to deal with the knowledge before the birth of her last child that it wouldn't live much beyond birth (5 weeks in fact). It was a powerful fireside that had the kids riveted.

We then brought the kids back to Canby where the girls spent the night at the Iranagas and the boys at the bishops' place. We then convened at the church early for an outdoor breakfast of scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausages, and juice. we had the classic moment when everyone was seated on the lawn next to the church when - the sprinklers all came on! It was a mad dash of screaming kids trying to avoid being drenched! Classic!. We salvaged breakfast (it didn't get wet) and then had a couple hours of workshops on the theme of the conference - being one of the believers. Sis. Mikkelsen taught about purity and the atonement; Br. Crum taught about charity; Sis Gordon the former stake YW pres. taught about faith; and stake Pres. Counselor Parker taught about bridling our tongue.

Last was an hour testimony meeting that was very spiritual. Not the typical girls camp or stake youth conference testimony meeting where the kids talk about the friends and apologize for how they behaved or for offending someone, but real testimonies of what they had experienced and knew to be true based on the weekend. It was spiritually touching.

Our kids are amazing and, as the bishop said, the Church will be in good hands with our kids as leaders. I do not doubt that. It couldn't have been a better youth conference. My face is sore from smiling for two straight days (as well as a few other muscles not used much - I was the oldest guy there and kept up pretty well if I say so myself!).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

How was your 4th?

Mine was great! Morning golf , preparing food, time with the family and grandkids, General Canby Day parade, fun at the park, BBQ at Michelle & Greg's, music from their neighbors, fun in the street, and neighborhood fireworks. A great day to celebrate our independence to say the least!