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Talks

Originally written on July 25, 2016.

I have long loved to give talks or speak in public.

The first I remember was for a youth speaking event.  As I dimly remember, the talk was well received.

Since then I’ve given lots of talks.  And if you count teaching, many more.

In general I enjoy doing it.  I may get a little nervous, but not too much.  Mostly I will think about the topic for a while, outline some general thoughts and give the talk from there.

This past Sunday I did something different.  Inasmuch as it was a talk from church, I was given a general conference talk to base it on.  I read through it and started thinking.  For some reason I basically wrote it out, even though it was mostly in outline form with points and sub-points.  I also included a number of quotes.

The talk seemed to be well-received, so I think that people got something positive from it.  That makes me feel good.  The only downside was that I started to go over my time allotment and had to be gently reminded.

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Early life in Kansas

My brother and sister were born in Georgia, in July of 1955 and December of 1957 respectively.  I think I have the dates right.

In the last post we had just moved to Kansas from the southeast of the United States.

Somehow my father transitioned in Kansas from selling meats for Swift and Company to hanging draperies.  I believe his father-in-law had something to do with that industry before moving to Georgia, so he might have been the impetus/gateway.

My father’s father — Grandfather Graham — had 3 sisters, as I remember:  Annie, Nancy and Mary or Margaret (I believe).  Interestingly both he and his sister Annie married into the Roeder family.  He had been a manager/supervisor at Swift and Company, which produced meat products.  By the time I got to know him, he had retired from there.  Interestingly he had a basement full of woodworking tools:  Drill press, jig saw, table saws, lathe, and more.  My father, as his only child, inherited them.  I remember that he created some lamps fashioned from both dark and light woods.  Just beautiful.  I don’t remember much about my grandmother:  She was a quiet woman, made great meals and had an older-style washing machine.

My grandfather lived on Freeman Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas just a few houses down from his sister Nancy.  It was she with whom we lived for a while when we moved to Kansas.  She had a 2-story house and a large fenced-in yard, where we would hold July 4th and Thanksgiving celebrations for the extended family.  We would start the latter meals with shrimp cocktail.  Yum.  I also associate her with lasagna, which became my favorite meal for many years.  She and her sister wore colorful dresses, which shrank considerably after they started attending Weight Watchers.  Nancy had married John Oyer some years earlier, but I never met him and she had been a widow for a number of years.

Aunt Nancy seemed to spend a lot of time with Annie.  Aunt Annie and Uncle Albert were kind people and also lived in Kansas City, Kansas not far from Aunt Annie.  Their house had a garage which went down from the street level into the basement level.  I believe I was introduced to 78 rpm records in her attic.  I think my uncle introduced my father to epoxy glue and maybe glue guns:  I believe Dad had mostly used Elmer’s white glue before then.

I don’t remember about Aunt Mary/Margaret.  I seem to remember she had spent time abroad (New Zealand?) and perhaps she spent some time in assisted living facilities?

Disagreements

I have been noticing disagreement a lot more these days.

Each of us is a unique individual with a unique perspective.  The fact that we can agree at all sometimes seems a miracle.  I remember a conversation I had with one of my children on the subject of religion.  Their view of it was nowhere close to mine, but we conversed civilly and listened to each other with respect.  This is how I would expect most adults to communicate, and in general over the ages we have learned to come together on matters of common interest and have been able to reach agreements.  But lately I worry if we have lost that ability, or discarded it willingly, in both religious settings and in political ones.

The very political Kavanaugh hearings have been in the news lately and on several levels they have been discouraging.  There is so much contention in them and in the public’s reaction to them.  I have seen videos, which if they are to be believed, portray people who cannot have a dispassionate, respectful discussion regarding topics raised at the hearings and also are somehow able to continue speaking for minutes on end with hardly a pause for taking a breath.  I have also read of a comedian on the Texas Christian University (TCU) campus, who posted a controversial (to some) sign and seated himself to engage with passerbys.  Apparently this was such a polarizing event, that the administration felt the need to distance themselves from him and, I believe, offered counseling for TCU community members who were negatively affected.

I am involved in a religious community, which has been striving to decide upon a statement of principles and it has been a time of much bickering and infighting.  I thought that these words pointed out the problem and the solution as well:  “For you to unite I must admonish and instruct you, for my will is to have you love one another. As people, you lack the ability to respectfully disagree among one another. You are as Paul and Peter, whose disagreements resulted in jarring and sharp contentions. Nevertheless they both loved me and I loved them. You must do better.”

Do we have the ability to respectfully disagree?  Do those with whom we converse know that we love them even when we do disagree with them?

 

Health

Health has been on my mind more of late.

In general I have been healthy for most of my life.  I have not had to miss work over the years.  I’m thankful for that.

Recently though, I have had a number of issues which plague me.  A year ago my blood pressure spiked out of nowhere and I got loaded up on some more prescription drugs.  More recently it spiked again and the doctor had me discontinue Metformin, which is for blood sugar control (diabetes).

Yesterday I purchased meters to monitor blood pressure and blood sugar.  I took my blood sugar reading today and it was 517!!!.  It should be 130 or lower.  Ugh.  I had noticed my vision didn’t seems so good lately.  That’s been a sign in the past.  So I took a Metformin tablet and will get an appointment with my doctor this week.

Being tired all the time has been my norm for years.  I presume it’s sleep apnea and/or adrenal fatigue:  Both have been mentioned to me in the past.  I’ve tried a CPAP machine with 2 different mouthpieces without success.  So another appointment with my physician is needed (or I should mention this on the same appointment).  I should also ask him about adrenal fatigue.  I wish MD’s were trained more in nutrition.  I think a lot of our conditions could be helped with such advice.

Finally gout has been my infrequent companion in the last decade.  I thought it was caused by sugar, but then came to the conclusion that beef was more likely the culprit.  So my wife and I limited my beef consumption to very little per week and that seemed to work just fine.  Until recently.  Now it’s back, although it’s a bit different.  Typically I experience what seems like a vice on my ankle, which I can’t rearrange to be comfortable.  Then when I arise, I need a crutch to get around.  This time the vice symptoms are there but I can get around.  And this time my medicine, Colchicine, is not helping a lot.

I know a couple of my sons, who have become active in exercising.  I’m happy for them.  I believe that it can help us retain and increase our health.  I’ve seen exercise reduce my blood sugar.  I wish I did more and at this moment could do more.

Perhaps this can help my family, which may experience similar conditions in their life.

 

Religion

Religion has long been a part of my life.

I don’t know why that is, because I don’t remember my parents being particularly religious.  Perhaps I am being too harsh, because I do remember them attending church in Georgia and later in Kansas.

My first memories of religion playing a part of my life, is in Georgia.  We attended a Baptist church there, although I am not sure if we were members of it or not.  After moving to Kansas, we attended a Methodist church in downtown (?) Shawnee.  Later I became friends with Phil Bartlett and wanted to join his Scout troop and get their religious medallion:  Many churches have a special medallion they award their members who are Scouts.  I believe it had a beautiful purple cloth component.  The only problem was:  I was Methodist and Phil’s troop was sponsored by his Presbyterian congregation.  No problem, I just took a course of instruction from the Presbyterian minister (which included the Beatitudes and memorizing the books of the Bible) and was then baptized.

The next memory is attending vacation Bible school and being a writer/editor of the school’s newspaper.  I remember it was in the form of a scroll, which was burned along the edge to simulate it being old.

Somewhere along the way I joined Youth for Christ and attended a Billy Graham conference.

Somewhere between that time and 1968 I got interested in other religions (Buddhism and Zen) and read their books and also books by Christian theologians (Buber, Teilhard, Kirkegaard, etc).

In late 1968 I was a junior in high school and at times brought my Bible to school.  That attracted the attention of a young woman in my physics class (Stephanie) and when I asked her out on a date, she accepted.  We went to see a movie and the conversation turned toward religion.  She told me about resurrection and I talked about reincarnation.  Not long after that she invited me to dinner with her family to meet missionaries from their church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).  I ended up taking 6 lessons from them, believed their testimony and was baptized on November 29, 1968 – almost 50 years ago.

While that church was Christian, it was very different from other Christian churches.  And joining it changed my life in major ways:

  1. Most of my friends and activities revolved around the church.
  2. Less than 2 years later, I graduated from high school and attended 2 semesters at the church’s flagship university – Brigham Young University.
  3. Less than 3 years later, I left to serve as a church missionary for 2 years in Brazil.
  4. Less than a year after returning from the mission, I was married to a high school sweetheart in a church temple in Utah.  The downside of this is that my family was not able to attend, nor were my local high school friends.  On reflection, I wish we had gotten married civilly and then later gone to the temple.
  5. The church taught that large families were preferred, so my wife and I had 5 children in our first 13 years of marriage.  While other couples had more children, or had children more quickly, we had come from smaller families and 5 was a lot for us.

I started learning things which convinced me that the church was not the same as it had been.  So I started studying the history and doctrines of the church, as had been practiced in the early days of Utah and which still were practiced among Fundamentalist Mormons.  Undoubtedly this shift contributed to the divorce from my first wife.  While I never wanted that, it did make possible me meeting and wedding my 2nd wife, and she was content to let me study out these new things.

In 2006 I lost my job of 10 years due to layoffs and found myself, my new wife (Virginia) and youngest son and his wife on the road to Utah.  We made friends in the West with Charles and Becky Olsen, who introduced us to a whole new side of religion/Mormonism in the person of Doug Mendenhall, who had been hosting seminars on spiritual gifts, Zion, and more.   During one of Doug’s seminars he had a guest named Denver Snuffer, who gave a talk in 2007, I believe.  I had been searching for truth among the Fundamentalists, whom I had corresponded with and we had visited, but my wife, Virginia, recognized truth in the words of Denver Snuffer, a lawyer and church member living in the Salt Lake City area.  He helped us see things in our own scriptures, which we had never seen before.  The Book of Mormon, a book of scripture to those who believe in the mission of Joseph Smith, records the rebaptism of thousands of believers on the occasion of Christ’s appearance and new covenant to them after His resurrection.  In similar fashion, Virginia and I were rebaptized in late 2014 in Boise, Idaho.

My religion now consists of personally and as a couple reaching out to Christ and trying to accept His invitation to come unto Him.  Quite a religious journey for the last 60-some years.  And where it will lead to, we will have to wait to see.

Military Service, Part 2

AIT was completely different from BCT.  Instead of being a bachelor, I got to live with Wilma.  Instead of living in a barracks with a bunch of guys, I got to go home to my wife.  And even though we ended up in a mobile home and the barracks were newish, I preferred the trailer.

My training included working with voice radios and morse code.  Some of the voice radios we could carry on our backs, PRC-77 was the designation.  Here’s a view .  Another one was an RT-524, which typically was installed in a jeep or perhaps in fixed position or a trailer (See here).

Those 2 were FM radios but we also got taught to use morse code with AM radios (no pics).  I got up to 18 words per minute, which was respectable.  I enjoyed this training so much that I applied to stay at Fort Gordon to be an instructor, but that was denied.

I believe we also received training on CEOI’s, which was for encryption.  Some of the equipment was used for that, I believe, and because of such I had to qualify for a Secret clearance for classified materials.  If I told you more, …

Training at AIT was much nicer.  We also enjoyed the ward we attended during this time.  It was our first Thanksgiving and Christmas together, which made it even nicer.

It lasted 2-3 months and then we were on our way almost to the other corner of the country – Fort Lewis, Washington just south of Tacoma.

 

Military Service, Part 1

I seem to remember having service in the military as a (possible) goal.  Not sure why.   I think I felt I owed a duty to my country.  Perhaps because my father had served in the Navy CB’s during WWII.

So the way it all came about was that Wilma and I were expecting our first baby by summer of 1974.  The problem was we couldn’t figure out how to afford him/her.  Now this was in the 70’s in the birth capital of the United States, namely Provo, Utah.  Can’t imagine now why we couldn’t figure that out, but we could not.

I looked into getting into ROTC, for they offered a stipend, which would have helped.  However my timing was off.

I looked over the various branches of service for enlisting.  Don’t think I seriously considered the Marines.  And the Navy would have involved too much time away from family.  So it was between the Air Force and the Army and because the Army offered a better “deal” I went with them.  They offered the chance to go to college during work hours 5 times per year.  Sounded good to me:  I already had 2 years of college and figured this was a way to complete my degree.

So, after 2 sessions of college at BYU in 1974 I entered active duty in the United States Army in August, I believe.

Basic Combat Training (BCT) took place at Ft. Knox, Kentucky which was not too far away from Louisville.  I believe it was preceded by some preliminary training/admin of about a week.  Our quarters looked to be WWII-vintage, 2-story wooden barracks.  As I remember they did not look 30 years old, probably because of the years of blood/sweat/tears and wax from trainees engaged in learning discipline through upkeep.

Our time was taken up with lots of PT (Physical Training) or exercises or 2-mile runs, pushups, situps, obstacle course, horizontal ladder and crab walk (I believe).  I had never been much for PT, but I did improve during BCT.  I found out that your hands form blood blisters when you do the horizontal ladder in October in Kentucky in the early morning – very cold bars.  Fun.

I was from a different background from most of the soldiers in my group.  I was LDS, married and 22.  Most were younger and single.  However, I did not have a hard time getting along with them.

About midway through the 8-week training period we had a break and were able to see family.  That was nice.

There was lots of training, shooting, throwing hand grenades, shooting machine guns, marching and learning various military jargon and practices.

Finally we graduated and went to our next phase of training, Advanced Individual Training (AIT).  Because I was selected for the Signal Corps (communications), I went to Fort Gordon, Georgia just outside of Augusta, where the Masters is played.