A Mother’s Job

“A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.”
— Dorothy Canfield Fisher

I am grateful to be the mother of a strong capable independent daughter.

2015-6 Claire, Greg Olson Art (9)

Dorothy Canfield Fisher

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Will it smother her??

2018-5-2 DfG flannel (6)Whenever I have a free minute, I throw some Days for Girls flannel in the wash.  Today I washed, dried and folded somewhere between 30 and 40 bolts while we planned missionary transfers.  We’ve been on the road for the last month or so, so this was a delightful day for me, at home.

After one of my trips to empty the dryer and load the washer, I returned to the office where John and his assistants were at work.  One of them keeps a little red book in his shirt pocket where he often writes things Pres Lewis says, like big vocabulary words, or like quotes he wants to remember.  Today I caught him writing this in his notebook:2018-5-2 Transfer Planning (4)What a lovely demise that would be!!2018-5-2 DfG flannel (3)2018-5-2 DfG flannel (2)In the coming weeks and months, this flannel will be cut and sewn into feminine hygiene pads for girls in developing countries.  Most of this batch will be going into the most rural corners of Zimbabwe, where it will bless the lives of hundreds of beautiful girls.  Just the thought of it makes me So Happy.2018-5-2 DfG flannel (5)A fallen pile.  Yikes.  Glad I was out of the way!2018-5-4 Transfer Planning Day 3 (6)

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Ensign Frank Blair asked the right question

I listened recently to a talk given by Elder Larry Y. Wilson.  He told the story of Ensign Frank Blair during the Korean War.

Ensign Frank Blair

During the Korean War, Ensign Frank Blair served on a troop transport ship stationed in Japan. The ship wasn’t large enough to have a formal chaplain, so the captain asked Brother Blair to be the ship’s informal chaplain, having observed that the young man was a person of faith and principle, highly respected by the whole crew.

Ensign Blair wrote: “Our ship was caught in a huge typhoon. The waves were about 45 feet high. I was on watch … during which time one of our three engines stopped working and a crack in the centerline of the ship was reported. We had two remaining engines, one of which was only functioning at half power. We were in serious trouble.”

Ensign Blair finished his watch and was getting into bed when the captain knocked on his door. He asked, “Would you please pray for this ship?” Of course, Ensign Blair agreed to do so.

At that point, Ensign Blair could have simply prayed, “Heavenly Father, please bless our ship and keep us safe,” and then gone to bed. Instead, he prayed to know if there was something he could do to help ensure the safety of the ship. In response to Brother Blair’s prayer, the Holy Ghost prompted him to go to the bridge, speak with the captain, and learn more. He found that the captain was trying to determine how fast to run the ship’s remaining engines. Ensign Blair returned to his cabin to pray again.

He prayed, “What can I do to help address the problem with the engines?”

In response, the Holy Ghost whispered that he needed to walk around the ship and observe to gather more information. He again returned to the captain and asked for permission to walk around the deck. Then, with a lifeline tied around his waist, he went out into the storm.

Ensign Frank Blair on ship

Standing on the stern, he observed the giant propellers as they came out of the water when the ship crested a wave. Only one was working fully, and it was spinning very fast. After these observations, Ensign Blair once again prayed. The clear answer he received was that the remaining good engine was under too much strain and needed to be slowed down. So he returned to the captain and made that recommendation. The captain was surprised, telling him that the ship’s engineer had just suggested the opposite—that they increase the speed of the good engine in order to outrun the storm. Nevertheless, the captain chose to follow Ensign Blair’s suggestion and slowed the engine down. By dawn the ship was safely in calm waters.

Only two hours later, the good engine stopped working altogether. With half power in the remaining engine, the ship was able to limp into port.

The captain said to Ensign Blair, “If we had not slowed that engine when we did, we would have lost it in the middle of the storm.”

Without that engine, there would have been no way to steer. The ship would have overturned and been sunk. The captain thanked the young LDS officer and said he believed that following Ensign Blair’s spiritual impressions had saved the ship and its crew.

Ensign Blair did not just ask the Lord to solve his problem. He asked what he could do to be part of the solution. Likewise we might ask, “Lord, what do I need to do to be part of the solution?” Instead of just listing our problems in prayer and asking the Lord to solve them, we ought to be seeking more proactive ways of receiving the Lord’s help and committing to act according to the Spirit’s guidance.

You can read or listen to the entire talk here:


I can’t stop thinking about this story, and how I can be better about praying to be a part of the solution, rather than just turning things over to God to take care of.  I do that a lot.  I will work on being better at this.

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Nobody else can

Fred Rogers

From Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers, pp. 30-31

Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most other-oriented geniuses I’ve ever known. His music comes from a place very deep within his being. During a master class, Yo-Yo gently led young cellists into understandings about their instruments, their music, and their “selves” which, some of them told me later, they would carry with them forever.

I can still see the face of one young man who had just finished playing a movement of a Brahms cello sonata when Yo-Yo said, “Nobody else can make the sound you make.” Of course, he meant it as a compliment to the young man; nevertheless, he meant that also for everyone in the class. Nobody else can make the sound you make. Nobody can choose to make that particular sound in that particular way.

Nobody else can live the life you live. And even though no human being is perfect, we always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to life.

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Meeting Harriet Matilda Barker Smuin

Smuin, Harriet Matilda Barker

For the last 2.5 years, the time I have to do family history research has been limited.  In my spare minutes, I’ve been adding photos and stories to FamilySearch, where others can find them.  I’ve added more than 2100 “Memories” to my gallery there.  More than 450 of those are stories and histories I’ve written or compiled.  I do this late at night, or between meetings. It’s like a reward for me–to go into another world I love with people I’ve loved but never known.

I’ve also been praying that stories and ancestors would come to me, because I don’t have time to go find them.  So many miracles have happened since I started praying for that about 6 months ago–I’ve started a notebook just to keep track of them.

Today another miracle happened.  I met my Great-grandmother Harriet Matilda Barker Smuin for the first time.  I saw her face.  Yesterday someone like me posted her photo.  I have been searching for her for years.  Interestingly, about 3 or 4 weeks ago I started praying specifically to find a photo of her.  I know God answers prayers.  I know our family members who have gone before us know us and love us still.  This photo is a sweet reminder that the bonds of family continue beyond the grave and when we turn our hearts to our fathers and mothers, they turn their hearts to us.


Here are some To Do lists I found in my desk piles.  You will see both lists have “Find Harriet” on them.

An earlier post from my Family History Blog, “Ann’s Stories”


Here are some pictures of Harriet’s siblings.  She looks like family!Barker siblings,Barker sisters Amy, Sarah Ellen and Lenora

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Christmas Traditions Bless our Families

2018-1-6 Traditions CMS.JPGIn the last 6 weeks or so, I’ve visited with about 170 missionaries who were away from home this Christmas.  I asked them to write down for me 2 of their family’s favorite Christmas traditions.  Actually, with most of them, I had them describe a typical Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the home where they grew up.

I loved every visit!  I learned all kinds of things about them, about their families, and about the kinds of things that matter most.  We talked about advent calendars, cutting trees, decorating trees, special ornaments, music and caroling, treats like cookies and candies and eggnog, looking at neighborhood lights, playing games, watching certain movies, going to grandma’s, special dinner menus, gift exchanges–some white elephant exchanges, some with hidden gifts or codes to figure out.   Many take trips to the Dollar Store, or receive the same gifts year after year from grandparents or loved ones.

Other activities included sleigh rides, PJ races, goose hunting, skating or skiing, hiding gifts, puppet shows, talent shows, gingerbread houses, sleepovers, setting up Nativity collections, and reading special Christmas stories.

I learned about extended family gatherings and food traditions through the generations.  All kinds of meals are served:  ham, turkey, prime rib, enchiladas and tamales, pizza, clam chowder, fondue, tacos, or food from ancestral homelands.  Some sit on the floor on a blanket and have a candlelight “Jerusalem Dinner” with foods eaten in Jesus’ day.

Some told of doing secret Santa gifts, or door bell ditching gifts for those in need.  Many visited old folks’ homes and widows.  One family shovels the snow of all the sidewalks in their neighborhood every Christmas morning before they open their own gifts.  Some give gifts to Jesus.  One family did a Christmas Jar, saving all their spare change through the year, then they delivered the full jar to a needy family.

For most, Christmas Eve includes opening new PJs and reading or acting out the Nativity Story with their families or extended families. It’s a sacred time, remembering the beautiful reason for this season.

Christmas morning breakfasts were also varied:  egg casseroles, baked French toast, sticky buns, crepes, cinnamon rolls, waffles, omelettes, cold cereal and orange rolls are favorite traditions.

As I listened for hours and hours, day after day, I was impressed by how important family traditions are in holding our families together.  Every now and again, I’d ask someone what the best gift they ever received was.  I was always surprised at the difficulty of that question, after talking about their family traditions, which just flowed out of their memories, non-stop.  Many couldn’t even name or remember a favorite gift!

For years I have focused way too much attention on the gifts, trying to be a perfect gift-giver.  I can see now that the favorite memories lie in the family traditions that hold us together.  This year, I had each of our kids make a list of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions.  I loved all the things they mentioned.  It gave me a glimpse of what matters most to them.

I think in coming years, I’ll spend a little more of my time focusing on these things that matter most as we celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Our Lewis Family Traditions

Stockings first, then presents
Sticky buns for breakfast Christmas morning
Not going down until after 9:00 a.m.
Eating out on Christmas Eve
Sub for Santa shopping
Putting up lights on the house and bushes
Hanging ornaments on the tree
Fruit in our stockings
Doorbell ditching gifts for others
Reading the scriptures on Christmas Eve
The Christmas countdown calendar
Christmas Eve Family History gifts

Shopping for a real tree
Setting up a million Nativities
Mexican food on Christmas Eve
Sticky buns
Special family gifts on Christmas Eve
Staying in bed until 9:00!
Lounge clothes on Christmas
German Weinachtspyramide with candles
The “wrapping room” and a hidden key
Dad and the video camera Christmas morning
Writing a letter to Santa every year
Getting a return note from Santa telling us how good we were and what to do better (practice the piano more!)

Christmas Eve, the house was always only lit by candles and the spinning Weinachtspyramide
Looking through the hole in the banister to see the gifts
Each of us had our own place to open our gifts
We always have a live Christmas tree and decorate it together
Sticky buns Christmas morning
Amazing stockings with fruit in the toe
Mom’s Christmas Eve presents for us are The Best
Cookies: Spritz, Braetzlie, Snowballs
Delivering Soup to our older neighbors
Doorbell ditching Christmas gifts
Mexican food on Christmas Eve
Setting up the Nativities
Delivering Nativity pieces each night to other families (doorbell ditching)
Searching for the wrapping room key
Doing a puzzle on Christmas Day and timing how long it takes

Reading the Nativity Story in the Bible
Reenacting the Nativity as a family with costumes
Mom’s special family history Christmas Eve gifts to the kids
Awesome, overflowing Christmas stockings
Sticky buns
Nativity Collection Display
Picking out a live tree as a family
Video taping the kids as they come down the stairs at 9:00 a.m.

Live tree with special ornaments from all over the world
Setting up dozens of international Nativities from our travels
An overnight trip to Salt Lake, staying in a hotel with the kids, shopping and eating out
Going out for Mexican food on Christmas Eve
Reading and acting out the Nativity Story Christmas Eve
Special Family History gifts for each child Christmas Eve
Letters to Santa, treats for the reindeer
Wrapping every single gift in the stockings
Stolen and hot cocoa on cold nights
Sacred Christmas Music starting the day after Halloween
Lots of children’s Christmas books

Now we’ve added Heidi and Graham to our family!

Stocking gifts
Family vacations rather than gifts every couple of years
Gift exchange themes: “the gift that keeps giving” or “a gift of an experience”
Sub for Santa delivering
Christmas jammies
No presents wrapped!

Visiting the Live Nativity in the Calgary Heritage Park
Chinese take-out on Christmas Eve so mom didn’t have to cook
Special dishes. The mugs had little pictures that would uncover as you drank from them
Sundance Lake Christmas Party and skating
Little Town model game
Secret Santa gifts
Skiing on Christmas Day (when I was the only child left at home)

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A Birthday in Yakima!

2018-1-5 z Doc of Christ (29)

It’s a new year and I’m a new age.  I was born on 5 January 1959.  Today I turn 59.  I think that’s a golden birthday, of sorts!

2017 was a wonderful year.  Most of my life is recorded daily on our Mission Blog (2000+ posts) so for now, I don’t often have time to write much here.  In 6 months we return home to our family and friends in Orem.  It’s hard to believe how time is flying by.  This week we Skyped with the couple who will be replacing us.  How well I remember the feelings and anticipation of 3 years ago as we looked forward to coming to Yakima.  It will be hard to step away from this place and the people we love here, and especially the missionaries.

This evening I got a Skype call from a room full of those missionaries in Utah who sang Happy Birthday to me.  We talked about the reunions we’ll have when we get home, and my heart started to race with joy at the thought of it.

I am so grateful for every single loved one surrounding me–here, at home, from my past, and from our missionaries and their families now.  We live in a wonderful time when tools like Facebook alert friends of birthdays.  100s of messages poured in all day today from all over the world.  I’ve heard from childhood friends, Reedley High friends, Book Club friends, neighbors, ward members, my friends in Africa and Germany, and family members.  What a gift it is to be connected!  Today has felt like a little bit of heaven on earth.  My love and thanks to each of you!


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