Trojan Horse

 

February 17, 2019

I wrote last week of getting a cold. Now I think that spring gave me a Trojan horse and I fell for it. There was a lovely warming spell before this last spate of cold and snow. It convinced my snowdrops to sprout with hundreds of tiny white bells out in the garden. I picked some and brought them in to smell the delicate aroma and to enjoy their beauty. Ordinarily, I am attacked by spring fever about March when everything blossoms. I think I got early spring fever from those flowers.

So enticing but I’ve been coughing and sniffling since. Just taken in by what looked innocent and lovely but turned out to be a kind of poison to me. From Wikipedia: “Metaphorically, a “Trojan Horse” has come to mean any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or place. A malicious computer program which tricks users into willingly running it is also called a “Trojan horse.” Today I saw that my junk pile in my outlook was getting quite large, so I thought I’d delete it. But, afraid maybe something I want crept in, I looked at what had been culled from Outlook. I had no idea what I was missing and will be happy to keep missing.

How many times I was invited to become a driver for Uber. Beauties from Europe and Asia were offered for a click. Medicines, schemes of all kinds, some innocent, some lurking to seduce the weak and foolish. I wonder how anyone could want to see more of these offerings, but the number tells me they must get revenue.

I am more and more offended by pop-ups when I am doing my chosen computer work, disturbing my concentration without my invitation. When I can find the x, I delete them, but I’ve lost time doing it. So far, my blog seems to be safe.

Serious Trojan horses are not just viruses but cell phones and games that remove people from their friends and family to a screen that may be “free” but can cost relationships. I have been happier since Gary and I agreed that dinner time was conversation time, not device time. Not that we have such sparkling conversations with both of us living almost the same life in the same house for so long.

I am happy to have some magazines and a newspaper that promote a wider perspective. The local nightly news is decidedly local and gives shallow background. So these outside sources help with more balance and depth. I read the weekly Time magazine along with monthly Smithsonian, National Geographic, and others. I especially like a Deseret News weekly that arrives on Saturday with the Church News. Along with a couple of other sources, I read quite a lot, really, except that a lifetime of teaching English makes me extremely fast, so even a lot of other magazines don’t dent my productive time too much.

Those Trojan horses are out there everywhere. The whole world seems to be taking for granted that certain moral values don’t count. Theft, lying, treachery, using others, selfishness, depravity, drugs and all the seven sins are out there portrayed in ways that excuse the sinners because they’re nice inside or have something good about them even though they’re basically slobs. Yes, I believe in repentance and in change. I believe that in general a man should not have to live with a past he has put away from him. (But we don’t allow repentance for child molesters.) I see examples of inhumanity everywhere, and it comes into the homes loaded with the ability to toughen our own humanity.

Trouble is, I don’t want to go hunker down in the basement with crossword puzzles because of the dangers of living in this world. Those Greek Trojan horses would not have caused Troy to fall if someone had just been careful enough to examine what was being offered, look inside carefully to see if it was safe to bring it into the city (or mind or home) and to discover a dangerous truth. PMA

 

 

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Control?

February 10, 2019

The forecast was for snow at 3:30. It started snowing at 5 p.m.  Not so bad when storms don’t run by our rules. We spend our winter days frequently looking at the forecast. There’s no sense in it. What will happen will happen whether we know in advance or not. Maybe knowing the forecast gives us some sense of control.

We’re essentially helpless about the weather except for knowing what to wear in it. We’re helpless about some kinds of illness. Here I am with a cold and I tried to eat well and do everything to avoid it. We’re helpless about other earthly events such as floods, fire, and earthquakes. Seems that no matter where we choose to live, we’re vulnerable.

Yet we are also amazingly in control.  I was just remembering how hard it used to be to start a car in the cold before electronic ignition. I remember driving without power steering. I remember being worried when the weather was hot in the mountains because the radiator might boil.

The refrigerator keeps things cold. The furnace has automatic settings. We turn on the gas log so don’t have to sweep out the ashes. In theaters you don’t have to wait and reload a reel to see a movie. The gasoline pump turns itself off when you’re full. The grocery store scans the amounts and prints out the totals which we then pay for with our card.

The bank is accessible by computer. The speakers at church have microphones. We have wash and wear clothing! I recall ironing Gary’s shirts for years. And here’s another miracle: disposable diapers. How many loads of cloth diapers did I wash and fold before plastic became affordable?

All of these amenities, however, can’t really overcome human stupidity. We still need to review bank statements and avoid scams and learn to hang up on more and more frequent callers who want to sell us something. We still need to drive carefully on snowy streets and avoid running red lights. We still need to pay attention and not text while driving.

Self-driving cars are rapidly coming to the marketplace. That ought to reduce a lot of insurance expenses. I see new products in the grocery store that seem to promise that the microwave and a trash can will be all we’ll need in the kitchen. Yet I’ve also seen pictures of the plastic and other detritus that’s clogging the ocean. It’s no wonder the earth will be burned at the end. All the junk will have to be turned to ashes.

That’s the yin and yang of life. We win some and lose some. There’s just about equal bad and good in life no matter how careful and well prepared we are. Our grandson Seth is at home in Tennessee seeing an oncologist and learning how to do things like walking and computing and living normally again. He is doing very well for having had a brain tumor removed just weeks ago.

There’s another yin and yang. The ability to restore the life and function of a bright young man as opposed to medicine’s ability to keep people alive who don’t even want to be. The Chinese were afraid of starving from overpopulation, so instituted the one-child law. But now they allow two children, the birth rate may still not be able to keep the aging population from starving even though so many people were prevented or aborted. Whatever we mortals do, it’s dangerous to someone somewhere. We come back to trying to control things, but the snow will come down or not. I’m glad that I truly believe that whatever happens to us, eventually, it will be for our good. We’re here to learn and grow and nothing will prevent that in our lifetime. PMA

TRUTH?

February 3, 2019

“’Lies are coming at the American public in torrents—raining down on them everywhere they turn,’ wrote Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post.” This quote is from a Deseret News article “What is Truth?” examining how quickly people are increasing acceptance of various forms of lying such as “calling in sick,” “exaggerating the facts” of a personal story to make it more interesting, telling untruths to a teacher to help a child get out of trouble or “inflating a resume” for effect. Political lying is almost expected. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary word of the year, post-truth, used as a noun, says Lee McIntyre, a philosopher, “is not mere lying; it’s a form of political manipulation . . . trying to get somebody not to care about what’s true because you’re putting ideology in front of reality.”

Yet don’t we still teach children not to lie? Don’t we still know the difference between truth and falsity in the fabric of our lives? The above everyday “adjustments” of the truth to obtain something that is false are not really bad, are they?  From the article is a statement from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Every violation of truth injures not just the liar but is ‘a stab at the health of human society.’”

Is it old-fashioned to believe that personal honor resides in truth? Just today I told a truth that was the truth but not the whole truth, rationalizing it for my own self-image. That’s one reason I wanted to write about truth in my blog. Is it okay to lie about something to make someone feel better? To use accurate words to give an inaccurate picture?  I remember an actress going backstage after a terrible performance by another actress saying, “What a performance!  What a performance!” She didn’t reveal her real opinion. The effect was a lie.

How often do we do this? I suppose that worrying about slips and subtleties is an indication, at least, of a respect for TRUTH, but allowing ourselves to convey something false has got to get to be a habit. How long do we massage truth before we don’t know the difference?

Because I believe truth exists, that it is “eternal, unchanged evermore,” I need to respect it more in my own life. Does it count as having a clean floor if I use a cloth with my foot to clean up the floor marks when I know someone’s coming to visit?  If it looks clean, is it clean? Do I have to run the steam cleaner to make it really clean?  Obviously, this kind of worry would soon drive anyone crazy. Truth has some latitude. My kitchen does not have to have the germ-free status of a hospital room. In fact, research says we thrive on some germiness. The advent of Clorox wipes has made us less able to cope with germs.

The point is that truth is indeed slippery. We negotiate constantly in social situations because sometimes we really do treat truth as “. . .a form of political manipulation . . . trying to get somebody not to care about what’s true because you’re putting ideology in front of reality.” We assuage feelings, putting love before truth. In fact, some of our most selfish responses could be telling the “truth” that would cause injury to another.

What, then, is truth? In looking at the political lies being thrown at us, dividing us for purposes of power rather than benevolence, I suppose we’re all being manipulated, but I’m not sure that it’s only the public liars who are at fault. After all, if I manipulate truth, it’s usually because of loving someone, reluctance to harm or embarrass, trying to encourage progress. Is telling something I would like to be true the same as a lie?  Beats me. PMA

 

Lying

CENTER

qust
QINGDAO UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY   PRC

January 27, 2019

Some speakers from Provo at a meeting we attended last night were wondering why our city is named “Centerville.”  I wrote a note I’m not sure they saw replying, “Centerville is the Center of the Universe.”  I added that for almost a quarter century it has been our center of our universe just as, for them, the center of the universe is Provo. The center of the universe is where our home is.

People from all over the world read my weekly essay. For them the center of the universe may be where they are living now or, perhaps, where their parents live or where they grew up.

When we taught English at Qingdao University of Science and Technology in 2004 and 05, our center was QUST, our little apartment on campus with amenities the students didn’t have. We had on-demand hot water in a bathroom tank for showers. To wash dishes in warm water, we had to carry it from the bathroom sink or shower. And we had a tiny washing machine that used only cold water. There was a back porch where we hung wet clothes to dry. This place was only for two people. The same area for students would house six students in bunk beds. And they would have hot water for showering only at certain times of day. To get hot water for drinking, they would go to a place with potable water available by going there with their jug and, I recall, for a fee.

Still, QUST was our center for almost a year. We invited students to come almost any evening to converse in English with us. Some came who were not English majors although they were not allowed to attend our classes unless they were majors. That meant that most of those who came were young women English majors because they outnumbered the men by about 10 to 1. We were not always at home. We went to different events we were asked to on campus and a few times on another campus of another university.

We didn’t meet a single student that we didn’t like. We loved them. It was like having family when they came to our apartment. So it was our center.

Another center was our apartment in the state of Washington where we spent 18 months on our mission together. It was comfortable and well equipped. Enough to invite students to a monthly dinner at our places just to converse and to feel they were at home with us. We loved those evenings. We loved every Young Adult we were in contact with through Institute and Home Evenings and Activities. Once we went to a party in a home by a lake. I met someone new to the area who, when I told her why we old people were there said, “So you just go to parties and eat?” I had to agree that the description was fairly accurate, although we also taught classes. That area became our home, our center, because we kind of adopted these young people—I always leaned towards the shy, the ones who might not fit in as well, the ones who needed a kind of parental influence. That kind of activity centered us.

Now we are living again in Centerville, we have ways to connect with others in our neighborhood and in our church “ward” as well as through callings. It’s the center of our universe in that it is where we have not just the two of us, but, besides actual family who are busy with their own families, a Family Home Evening Group of about 14 to 18 people who meet each Monday night at different homes to discuss some articles from the Ensign magazine and to just love one another. Not because we are alike, but really disparate except that we have been invited in by our membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are family, so each Monday we meet at a place that for about 90 minutes or so becomes the center of the universe. PMA

Again

January 20, 2019

In 2030 Salt Lake City will again host the Winter Olympics. That’s a long time from now, but we did it in 2002 and still have much of the infrastructure available. Plus, unlike many venues, our winter sports areas are relatively near the host city. It doesn’t take several hours to reach any of our sites as it often does with other cities. That’s a real selling point.

I loved the 2002 Olympics though I only watched it on TV except for seeing the torch relay in person. Never attended a live contest, never hosted or was a guide. Kandee Allen worked on the Olympics opening and closing dancing.

I remember how exciting it was to us as we’d drive from Centerville into Salt Lake City. The largest buildings had posters depicting winter sports, giant billboards covering the windows with see-through fabric onto which had been printed photos. And the feeling in the city as we had so many visitors from so many different places was electric.

Olympic Torch

We were asked to keep our Christmas lights up until it was all over so that all our suburbs and close towns could add to the glow. Anyone who drove through our neighborhoods could see our participation. It wasn’t just an event; it was an excitement.

This was our first time of hearing about Mitt Romney who turned our staggering program into success because of his ability to organize and get it done. When he ran for president, we voted for him. Now he’s one of our senators. We remember Mitt.

Some of the amenities we offered to participants were guides and hosts who spoke their language. From my experiences in France, I know how welcoming it is to hear that. Because of our extensive missionary program, just about everybody could have the help of a very good speaker of the language. The city hosted events just for athletes and those they worked with. Ethnic foods were supplied. Volunteers would act as tour guides.

A more oppressive aspect was the constant patrolling of our valley, of every venue, by helicopters and jets, constantly looking for possible trouble and terror attempts. There was a police presence everywhere. But it felt good to know we were being vigilantly protected. There were traffic jams and some accidents, of course, but the news we received was that our Olympics was really tops. And it made our winter resorts a common goal when others all over the world saw what we had.

So, we wanted to do it again, even better!  No one asked me whether we should bid, but Gary and I are for it. To have again that experience of driving in on the freeway, with the whole city lighted up, to feel that enthusiasm pouring from everyone, to host the athletes of the world was a lifetime high point. In 2030 Gary will only be 91! We’re looking forward to it. PMA

Momentum

January 13, 2019

Momentum seems to be the principle that governs our lives most of the time. Week follows week with patterns established and varied only somewhat. We meet each other and ask how things are going. For the most part, it’s a regulation answer, “fine” or “we’re good.” But in one moment the whole world can seem to change. For us this week, it was the notification that our grandson Seth had a brain tumor and was taken to the hospital in Idaho Falls for surgery. His parents Becky Sue and Jess Evans flew there. He’s doing well, but will go home to Tennessee for further treatment.

That incident has changed my focus this week. We have been taking it for granted that a young, healthy student at BYU-I was just going to continue his studies as planned. Now he’ll be delayed somewhat because of this event, slipping into essentially a different time frame because schools operate on semesters, and the surgery has postponed the sequence.

The cosmic motion continues as we follow our paths, and sometimes it is just such a kink that brings us into spheres that will change our lives permanently. For instance, we had hoped for a senior mission to Alaska, but were called to Seattle. This opportunity was better than we had hoped because it placed us near my sister Susanne for 18 months. Susanne and I had mostly lived apart since I left home for college at age 18. We lived far from each other, had families, and when we did meet, it was usually as a family vacation with our mother and sister Beth and her family. Neither of us was affluent enough to afford air fare for visits, so our contact was mostly through letters and finally through e-mail.

Once Gary and I were called to Seattle, the whole world got smaller because Susanne lives in Renton. Gradually, we found ourselves spending our preparation day evenings with Sue and her partner Dennis and three dogs. We’d have dinner and talk, watch a movie and talk, sometimes play board games and talk or go out and the patio and talk. You get the picture. After all those years, our friendship blossomed. Yes, I have another sister who lives in St. George, and we have not had such a chance to be with her, to our detriment. But we did find a particularly delightful relationship with a sister because we were called to Seattle.

Now, I’m talking about a thoroughly wonderful change, not illness, but the principal seems to be that these unexpected events result in permanent blessings. I’m hoping that Seth’s setback will turn into a blessing for him.

In fact, I expect it will be so. Sometimes the roadblocks turn into adventures because we are jarred out of the momentum of our lives into something unexpected that may be scary but also may be delightful. I have had such things happen in my life enough to convince me that the pattern in God’s mind is much better than the one in ours and it will all work out. PMA

Taking Poison

January 6, 2019

One of the concerns of starting a new year is cleaning up the junk of the old one. Yes, the Christmas decorations are now hidden away. The extra goodies eaten or disposed of. The now plain house showing the dirty windows and fingermarks. Thoughts of spring cleaning coming more frequently. Just putting last year behind is a project without getting out the cleaning pads. And we need to put away the emotional past too by forgiving.

There is a saying that refusing to forgive someone is like taking poison and hoping the enemy dies. Holding grudges is just that damaging. So what better occasion than a new year to scrub away resentments, grudges, envy, the pricklings of social intercourse, even the gossip that may be shadowing the chance for a better relationship.

Forgiving is not forgetting, really. We need to protect ourselves from further injury if someone has done us wrong and might do it again. Still, the best forgetting is to do away with the angry feelings, the barriers of hurt that might prevent a better future relationship. To forget those resentful feelings is to get rid of a past injury, to heal it or put it in the trash, to free ourselves of inner cankers that can contribute to anxiety or even fear.

For instance, the family is the place to learn about everything socially important. Friends with more than one boy tell me that small boys can’t pass each other in the hallway without a punch or wrestling hold. Girls often tear each other down verbally. Yet to teach siblings to forgive is to give them tools for a lifetime. Sometimes it’s hard for a mother to see her favorite keepsake broken by thoughtlessness. Yes, it’s a sad loss and she should show it. But to bring it up later to remind the child he or she is clumsy is not to forgive.

Who received which inheritance upon the death of a parent can cause real resentment for years. It can prevent the possible flourishing of family ties if that injured feeling is sustained—and it can be for decades! That tea set “meant” for one but distributed to another can really damage cousinly relations.

Scripture says that those who permanently change their ways will have their sins forgiven, and not only that, but the Lord will not remember them. Part of forgiving is avoiding “beating someone over the head with a club called the past.” To be aware of the past, yet behave as if the wrongs hadn’t happened at all is the most mentally healthy and kind way for people to live, according to studies.

A story I don’t know the source of has Jesus and Mary walking around in heaven. He says, “That man is a real miracle. He rose from being the most evil and destructive person to a very good and generous man.”  His mother says, “What wrongs did he do?”  Jesus answers, “I forgot.” PMA

Cold-Turkey

 

We listen to our local FM classical music station. In mid-December, they start adding Christmas music, adding to the number of plays daily until before Christmas, it’s wall-to-wall carols from every land. We love that. But the day after Christmas, they quit cold-turkey. I suppose we have had enough. We got to go to the annual Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra on Temple Square program with 21,998 or so people, so that gave us a big dose.

Our New Year’s bash will begin at 8:00 p.m. with a potluck dinner with our Family Home Evening group of about 14 or so. We will enjoy watching the ball fall in New York City at our 10:00 p.m., say goodbye and go home. We’re all getting tired sooner and certainly don’t want to celebrate into the wee hours, then drive home hoping a DUI doesn’t bash us. Gary and I will probably be asleep when the fire crackers and fireworks start.

I remember wanting to stay up until midnight. We’d grab some pots and clang on them and feel we were really celebrating. Our kids did too. I still have a pot with a dent in it from exuberant wielding of a wooden spoon.

Time to make resolutions. My yoga classes that have gotten smaller and smaller into December will suddenly be too crowded in January. Happens every year. Then, inevitably, we just lose steam as life crowds in and rudely shoulders our good plans aside.

Diets, new gym outfits, day planners, earlier calls from the alarm clock, projects started: it’s all a New Year’s hope to do better in 2019. And why not? It’s good to have impetus.

It’s snowing very lightly. A peaceful Sunday evening. The Christmas stuff is still around, and wouldn’t you know, some very cold weather is predicted so I’ll freeze my fingers as I take down the porch décor. Then the whole house looks so plain with all the decorations down that it’s hard to remember how wonderful and fancy it all looked at the beginning of December.

Well, the music quit cold-turkey. The decorations have to be stored in the garage. The flocking from the tree has to be vacuumed up. That’s like life as we have gone from having our first child, Eric, December 23. Now that was a Christmas gift that keeps on giving. We got three more children and had all the fun and excitement. Now our grandchildren are almost grown up. A grandson engaged to be married in April.

It’s the rhythm of life, for we take down one era, then have an entirely new one to get used to. So much for staying up late. Age does have the privilege of quiet enjoyments and sweet memories. Sound too tame? Wait awhile. We like it this way. PMA

 

 

Years

 

December 23, 2018

Gary and I have been happily married for most of 55 years. I say this in honesty because I can’t believe any couple could spend 55 years in perfect bliss. Often, the times Gary and I have been closest are when we were faced with challenges such as when Gary lost his job, when we sent our children on missions (not so much worry as concern), when we started a retail store that failed, when pets died, when our daughter Lisa died, in China for a year while we taught English at QUST Qingdao University of Science and Technology (still have the T shirts), on our mission to Seattle Washington.

In other words, most of the time we had challenges, we grew from them and grew closer as we faced them together. Sometimes we had clashes, differences in goals and forgiven events that we don’t have to rehash. But they were very stressful. Still, we held on because we had promised and because, as Gary says, “I repent easily and Penny forgives easily.” (The easilys are his terms, not mine.)

Why would we pretend that in 55 years we had not both acted selfishly, in a mean way, and sometimes almost hated each other? Neither of us had had a father figure to teach us how a successful marriage goes. I was 8 when my father died. Gary’s father was a traveling salesman who was kind of “extra” in the family because he was usually away from home five days a week. His wife and kids conducted life around a man who was almost a visitor.

So we had to work it out by trial and error. Mostly it was great, but there were serious exceptions. Yet there’s no point in going into them because they’re gone. I believe that the greatest disservice we could do with our kids is pretend that marriage doesn’t have problems. We see too many couples splitting up because they’ve run into road blocks and think it’s all over. Because they’ve grown apart and don’t like each other anymore, they think divorce is the answer. Yet statistics say that, aside from abuse, most people who have basic values in common and are willing to try to change can find what they’re looking for in the marriage they already have. Sure saves the kids a lot of trauma.

Still, old J. Golden Kimball was right when he said, “If the perfect man married the perfect woman, he’d shoot her within six weeks if she hadn’t poisoned him first!” The point of heterosexual marriage, besides children, is learning to deal with a gender that doesn’t match, is hard to understand, and just thinks differently (which often translates as “wrong”). We ask, “How can he/she think that way?” As we change and adapt to that other gender, we’re rich with experience, adventure and insight, not to say often perplexed.

We’re now coping with health issues and inability to do things and go places as we used to. How we used to love to go camping. I was happy with a tent and a campground with a table and outhouses. Gary needed a real bed and niceties, so we went from a Triple A Springbar tent to a tent trailer up to a 20+-foot house trailer and back. We actually slept in a tent again at our family camp at the end of July! Sometimes the nicest evening we can think of is to turn on the gas log, listen to the radio music, and read (Gary plays cell phone games) with a game of gin rummy sneaked in. Pretty tame, but it suits us. We’ll take the little pleasures, among which is we’re still each other’s best friend. Though the days fly by with that big question mark looming: how long will this last? We mostly enjoy the time we’re here together. We’ve got eternity next. PMA

Attached is the annual Christmas Song by collaborators Michael F Moody and Penelope Moody Allen. Hope you can play or have it played to enjoy it.

20181111R Christ’s Steadfast Love

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BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH