Days for Girls Love from Utah

My dear friends, Melissa Clark and Wendy Barton are with Celeste Mergens today in Utah, where more than 5000 DfG kits will be assembled, breaking a Guinness World Record.  What they have done to prepare for this day is almost incomprehensible.  Imagine the numbers of the parts and pieces, each made and assembled with love by women all over the valley.  I am thrilled and proud to know these women and to cheer them on from Yakima.

Today I cried a bit as I heard this video clip, sharing their DfG love from Utah:


Here we are today, doing our little part in the WYM.  This is the group in Wenatchee, with some of our missionaries:2017-9-7 Utah DfG doTerra Event (4).JPG


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Grace Laemmlen, teaching at Washington School in Leitersberg, Maryland 1955-1956

Washington School Maryland123

My mother, Grace Laemmlen, was a school teacher.  After she and my dad married in June 1954, they traveled to Hagerstown, Maryland where my dad served for two years as the administrator of the hospital at Brook Lane Farm.  As a Mennonite, he was a conscientious objector and this was part of his 2 year voluntary service.   My mother found this teaching position nearby in Leitersburg at the Washington School.

Washington School Maryland MAP

Here are some wonderful photos of my mom and her school room and the beautiful children she taught.Washington School Maryland121Washington School Maryland138Washington School Maryland118Washington School Maryland119Washington School Maryland120

My mother had perfect penmanship.  Washington School Maryland124Washington School Maryland125Washington School Maryland127Washington School Maryland128Washington School Maryland129

The Pigley-Wigley StoreWashington School Maryland132Washington School Maryland135

I love these three class pictures.  They give me a feel for the wiggly children mom taught!Washington School Maryland130Washington School Maryland134Washington School Maryland139

Here are a few newspaper articles that mention mom as a teacher in Leitersburg in 1955/1956:

Laemmlen, Grace Hagerstown teacher 27 Jan 1956Laemmlen, Grace Hagerstown teacher Hopi Indians 1956 1Laemmlen, Grace Hagerstown teacher Hopi Indians 1956 2

Here is a look at the Washington School back then:

Washington School Maryland126Washington School Maryland140Washington School Maryland136Washington School Maryland131

Today this beautiful school is a well-known haunted house, having been abandoned long ago by school children.  How much better to hear happy children’s voices in the hallways, than frightened ones.Leitersburg School 2

I loved growing up with a mom who was a school teacher.  She taught me to read before I went to Kindergarten.  When I was older I loved helping her set up her classroom every year before school started.  She taught 3rd grade for years in Orange Cove, California at the Sheridan Elementary School.  Then for several years she supervised student teachers for Pacific College in Fresno.  She was a wonderful teacher and a mentor for teachers.

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A New Mission Car

After 2 years of driving this wonderful Highlander, we hit 50,000 miles and we were told we’d have to trade it in before the value dropped.  This car has served us well, as we’ve driven all over central Washington.  MapQuest tells me it’s 2,500 miles from San Francisco to New York City.  In 2 years, we’ve traveled equivalent of TWENTY cross-country trips!2017-7-30 Sunday (1)Approaching 50,000:2017-7-31 Monday Office (1)So they brought us a new car last month.  Another Highlander, this one is a blue-ish color.  Here is our car lineup–our first mission car, the new mission car, and the Acura MDX we brought with us from home.

2017-8-1 Cars (1)

Let me describe the features in our new Mission car.

We have leather seats and seat warmers this time. We also have a key-less starter. The car key (it’s really a fob) just has to be in the area (in our pocket or close by) to get into the car or to start it. You put you foot on the break and push a start button. Wow. It also has a radar feature. If you cross the center or side lines, it beeps at you to make sure you’re awake. And if there’s a car in your blind spot, the side mirrors flash a warning.

If you’re using cruise control, and you come up on a slower-moving vehicle, it slows you down automatically. It’s sensitive to what’s going on around you. It feels safer, but highly digital/technical. When you stop at a light and the car idles, after 3-4 seconds, the engine cuts to almost silence (it sounds like it turns off). I suppose it’s doing something to save gas or exhaust fumes.

It’s a comfortable nice car. But even with all of these snazzy features, my favorite feature is the shelf under the dash board where I can put my stuff–sun glasses, lip gloss, napkins, floss, receipts to turn in, and the gas cards. I love the shelf most of all.


How we pack when we go on the road:2017-8-14 zEvening, Kneip Hospital (2)We are usually on the road most of the month, going to where our missionaries are. What a blessing to be so comfortable as we travel!

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Cecilia Samuel Paul, LDS Pioneer in Eket, Nigeria

2Nig167In 1984 Mary Ellen Edmunds and I went on a grand adventure.  We went to live in a village called Eket in Cross River State (which is now in the Ikwa Ibom State), Nigeria.  We were sent by the Thrasher Research Fund to conduct a child health project in the villages of the surrounding areas.

When we arrived, we met our neighbor, Cecilia Samuel Paul, who would become our mentor and our dearest friend.  She lived in the mud home next to our cement block “Palace.”  Cecilia knew English and we were able to learn from her about surviving in Africa in a time when we had no running water, electricity, or many of the things we were accustomed to.  It was one of the happiest times of my life.  I was Cecilia’s neighbor in Eket for almost 3 years.

Here is her home.  Samuel, her husband is blowing bubbles with her children:2Nig285

This week, I received a Facebook message from a man in Eket who said he was a young boy when I lived there.  We lived and worked along side LDS Missionary couples.  This man told me I was there in 1986 when he was baptized.  His first message said, “You visited our family in Atabong Road, Eket & taught us how to make pastries!  I still have recipe u gave us!  Samuel Dickson Paul died years ago.”

When I read the words about Samuel (pronounced Sam-well), my heart fell.  Samuel was Cecilia’s husband.  Images and memories of Samuel and Cecilia and their family came flooding into my mind and have occupied places there ever since.  It has been more than 30 years, and yet it feels like yesterday that I walked and talked with my friends in Eket Main Town.

When this man told me the date of his baptism in 1986, I went to my Nigeria journal and found my entry for that day.  I was not a missionary in Nigeria.  I was a village health worker, training other village health workers.  We did not attend all of the baptisms with the missionaries because we were working, although we attended church together.   I wanted to see what I was doing on that day in 1986.

Here is the journal/letter entry I wrote that very day about Samuel and Cecilia to my dear friend, Mary Ellen, who had returned home in 1984:


With living conditions as hard as they were, it was not easy to stay in contact with Cecilia over the years.  After a year or two of being home, we lost contact.  Mail service was bad and unreliable.  It was not possible then to stay in touch with each other.

But this week, I have found Cecilia again!!  My friend messaged me, “I met them after 3 hours of asking at every door in 2 streets.  How she brightened when I said you sent her greetings!  Neighbours came to listen as she told if your kindness! It was though you were visiting her!”

My heart is so happy.  I have found Cecilia!  Here she is, today, my dear dear friend, Cecilia with her son, Edwin:

I want you to meet this pioneer woman, who taught me how to thrive in a place called Eket.  She is my sister, my mentor and my dear friend.


Cecilia with her children, Edwin, Helen, Dora holding a young friend

Here is Cecilia’s home where they added on a room:Nig016New mud, inside and out:2Nig243The finished addition:Nig019

Daughter, Violet, making gari, their main food from cassava, with Dora and Helen and their brother, Sunday:Nig0282Nig469Nig127  2Nig226Nig1282Nig437Fish for dinner!!2Nig147

2Nig233Samuel was climbing palm trees to harvest palm fruit which would be made into palm oil for cooking.2Nig235When we arrived in Eket, we attended the Eket Branch in Samuel and Cecilia’s home.  We sat, cramped on borrowed benches of various sizes, into one room, about 20 or 30 of us.  There was love in that room as we sang the hymns of the restoration with the most beautiful musical variations, accompanied by drums and led by an energetic chorister who started us by saying, “One, Two, Ready, Go!”  We shared our testimonies of Jesus Christ and his love for us, no matter where we lived.  Our faith grew here, in this little room.Nig096Within a year, we moved into a new church building across the road.  Samuel was our Branch President.  I was the Relief Society President and Young Women’s leader.  Our numbers grew as friends and families joined us.  It was a happy exciting time to be a member of the Church in Eket.2Nig431Here is our new building:2Nig295This week I learned that there are now 5 Stakes in the areas where we taught 30 years ago.  Eket has its own Stake, as well as  Ikot Akpatek,  Ikot Akpaden,  Ikot Eyo, and Etinan. This is one of the fastest growing areas of the Church in Africa.  It is unbelievable to me that these little villages are now filled with church members, wards and stakes!2Nig296Cecilia was a teacher.  She helped us train village health workers in more than 25 villages during the next 3 years.  These village health workers taught women lessons about health, nutrition, sanitation, and well-being.2Nig3002Nig3342Nig337We weighed and measured children and watched them progress.2Nig3382Nig346Hundreds of women graduated from our classes.  They were able to share the education they received with their families and friends, and their children were blessed.2Nig347

On one of my visits to Lagos to meet with the Minister of Health, I took Cecilia along.  It was the first time she flew in an airplane.  2Nig221These were happy days for me and for Cecilia.  2Nig3762Nig4102Nig411Cecilia’s life has been difficult.  She is a Pioneer.   She has blessed the lives of many many women and children.  And she has blessed my life.  I am a different person because of Cecilia.  I miss her and honor her, and this week I have been THRILLED to see her beautiful face again.


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The Exchange–Your Children and Mine

2017-8-8 Elder Kiser Family (15).JPG

My life is filled with amazing young men and young women who are willing to leave home and family for 18 months to 2 years so they can help others feel joy and come closer to Jesus Christ and learn of His gospel and doctrine.  That’s no small thing in today’s world.  They not only give up being with friends and family, they live out of 2 suitcases, assigned to places they’ve never been, living with companions they’ve never met.  They talk to strangers, every day, in every sort of weather.  They do hundreds of hours of community service (from dancing with Alzheimer’s patients in care centers to pulling weeds in hot prickly places so children’s bike tires aren’t punctured).

They study the life of Jesus Christ and study scriptures every day.  They interact with people of all faiths, backgrounds and personalities.  They are welcomed into homes and they have doors slammed in their faces.  They learn from other points of view and share what they know to be true.  Some do all this in another language.

They also learn how to live away from their moms, managing their time, doing their own laundry and cooking, and getting around town without devices connected to the internet. They learn how to work hard.  They have only one preparation day a week where they can take care of their own needs like shopping or doing laundry or writing letters or emails home.

These young folks learn how to set goals and achieve them.  They learn how to speak to individuals, groups, and even crowds.  They learn to think critically and question things they don’t understand.  They become readers and students, gospel scholars and friends.

They develop social skills and manners.  They learn telephone etiquette and how to write thank you notes.  They learn to exercise and eat well.  They learn how to travel and appreciate differences.  They learn to clean toilets and wash their own cars.  Some learn how to ride bikes all over again.  Every day, every hour, they are learning and changing.

All these things they do without their Moms.  During the last 2 years, I’ve become a Mom to hundreds of these amazing young people.  I watch them come, scared, homesick,  awkward, lonely, timid and hopeful, and I see them go home bright, bold and strong.

This month, 23 of my mission children will return home to their parents and 29 more will leave their families to come here.  Those who go are not the same people they were when they arrived here.  They come and they change.  And they change me.  They stretch my heart out.  My life becomes larger because they are in it; I feel more filled with love and hope and goodness.

Today was a day when a good sized group of them returned home to their families, to their Moms.  It’s the Exchange.  Yours for mine and mine for yours.  For 18 to 24 months, I’ve been a Mom, a Teacher, a Cheerleader, a Confident, a Nurse, a Grammar Nazi, a Chef, and a Distributor of Hugs.  And then the day comes when they return home.

It’s a bittersweet day for me, today in Yakima, as photos come into my phone of airport reunions and embraces I can’t feel from here.  I love these missionaries and what they do and who they become.  I love them with all my heart.

I pray every day that I will change just a little bit as each one of them changes.  They are a gift to this world, and to me.  If you ever see one of these good souls, I hope you’ll sit down with them and listen to what they have to say.  Ask them what they learned while they were away.  Ask them how they changed.  And pay attention to what they say.  They speak truth and they have had some remarkable experiences.

There are not many things that would entice me to leave my own children for 3 years to be here with yours, but this is an Exchange that has become a treasure to me.  Thank you for sharing.

2017-8-8 Elder King Family

“I promise you that as you lift those around you, the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, will lift you up. If you will only believe and incline your heart to our Beloved Father, He will place within you a peace that surpasses understanding. He will give you joy. May each of you always remember this.”     –President Uchtdorf

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A Red Letter Day in a White Coat. Student Doctor Adam Lewis

2017-7-29 KCU White Coat CeremonyThis morning in Kansas City, Adam, our firstborn was welcomed into the medical world at Kansas City University.  During the White Coat Ceremony, each new medical student receives their white coat, a huge honor.  He is finally on his path!2017-7-29 Adam White Coat Ceremony KCU (3)Adam (Waldo) is smack dab in the center of this picture:2017-7-29 Adam White Coat Ceremony KCU (4)Here is is accepting his coat, before the faculty put it on him:2017-7-29 Adam White Coat Ceremony KCU (2)I am so proud.  Adam is a bright light of goodness wherever he goes.2017-7-29 Adam White Coat Ceremony KCU (5)There are a few BYU Grads who were accepted at KCU, including his brother-in-law, Jared Bodine holding Clark’s cute little cousin Reese in the pink:2017-7-29 Adam White Coat Ceremony KCU (6)

This is mostly how  Adam lives in my mind.  My how the years have gone by.  Now he’s a Father and I’m a grandmother and he’ll be a doctor someday.

Lewis, Adam with hose

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A Visit from Roger & Jeanne Minert

2017-7-21 Whistlin Pete's with McBeans (52)

This morning we stopped at Johnson’s Fruit Stand for delicious cherries, apricots, plumcots and peaches.  I love the feel of this family fruit farm.  We also picked up a warm cherry pie and some oatmeal pear cookies, our favorites!  We had company coming!2017-7-17 Monday Office (7).JPG2017-7-21 Whistlin Pete's with McBeans (47)2017-7-21 Whistlin Pete's with McBeans (50)

This evening our guests arrived–Roger and Jeanne Minert from Orem and her sister, Lori and husband Oscar from Kennewick.  We had a wonderful evening visiting, and catching up on things at home and in the world out there.2017-7-21 zMinerts Visit (1)

In September of 2003 I registered for a German paleography class at BYU.  Roger was my professor.  That was the beginning of a huge shift in my world.  Roger taught me how to read old German handwriting, opening to me the world of my ancestors.

I went on to take every class Roger taught at BYU, and I became a full time student for the next 10 years, studying primarily Family History and Church History, but also German, and all sorts of Religion classes.  My world grew in ways I never could have imagined!  I owe much of the Family History world I live in to Roger Minert.

In 2009 John and I traveled to Berlin, Zwickau, Poland, Nurmberg, Auschwitz, Birkenau and throughout Germany with Roger and Jeanne.  He went with me to meet with the archivists and town historians in my ancestral home town in Grossgartach.  I am not the same because of what he has taught me and helped me to do.  We had a great reunion.

2017-7-21 zMinerts Visit (4)Roger brought me a copy of his latest publication:2017-7-21 zMinerts Visit.JPG2017-7-21 zMinerts Visit (8)2017-7-21 zMinerts Visit (16)2017-7-21 zMinerts Visit (19)

It was a pretty perfect evening.  I stayed up late looking at German records, just because I know how.  I’m so grateful for that!

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