What's In This Blog

I created this blog for my journal. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this blog I keep many of the things I come across as a member of the church. I also share my experiences on the ACE Train and getting to work, my experiences in Manteca where we have lived for three years, and other things I think are noticeable.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Documentary Movie Review: *When the Bough Breaks


When the Bough Breaks is a movie that is part of the series Unnatural Causes which was produced for PBS by California Newsreel.  I understand the series is going to be presented again on PBS.  It originally aired in 2008.  For better or worse this series is part of the policy discussion in health care.
I was at a training yesterday, in which the movie was shown and it has me thinking.  Perhaps my previous blog "Racket Sports Make You Smart" was a sarcastic reaction to this movie.
The movie presents data about low birth weight babies.  The statistics show that African American mothers have twice the chance of having a low-birth weight baby as a whit mother.  It indicates the researchers thought this must have been due to difference in socioeconomic class.  However when they ruled this out, the gap became wider rather than narrower.  The movie presented the story of an African American mother, lawyer and successful in terms of things of the world.  However her baby was born just over two pounds if I remember, and was another statistic in this debate.  It pointed out that upper economic classed African American women have babies with lower birth weight than the babies of White women.
They decided this must be something in their genetic code.  However when they looked at recent immigrants from Africa, their babies had the same weight on average as white babies.  However after being in the United States for a generation, then their statistics reflected the African American population at large.  Consequently they concluded it wasn't genetic factors.
They concluded that the reason for the low-birth weight among babies born to African American woman had to be racism.  That racism, over a life time effects the Black women in such away as to make affect the health of their babies.
The movie points out the infant mortality in the United States is not much to be happy about.  It seems the United States ranks 34 overall in the world.  Even taking away the African American babies we still rank around 23.  So the health and risk of low-weight babies is prevalent amongst our entire population, and more prevalent among the African American population.
In our own family, our little Tony was born with low-birth weight.  He was in the hospital for 10 days.  In his case his birth mother was very young.  I also find that drugs may have something to do with low-birth weight.  It seems doing foster care, most or all of our babies have been exposed to drugs.  I wonder if age of the mother and drugs could be factors? Another factor could be multiple births.
During the past year there have been four low-weight babies born among my extended family.  The wife of my nephew had triplets, all of low-birth weight.  They are all doing fine now.  My niece also had a baby who was born too soon.  Unfortunately she lost her baby when he got an infection in the hospital.
Low-birth weight is not confined to babies of African American women.  I wonder if this issues is more complex than just blaming it on racism.  Are their other factors at play with regards to the make up of the African American family that could play a factor as well?

Racket Sports Make You Smart

I attended the Cupertino High School Winter sports awards with Charity after her Senior year of gymnastics.  She was captain of the gymnastics team that had gone to the CCS (for those outside of California that is like gong to State) Championships for two years in a row, after not having qualified for a couple of decades.  They were not he best team at CCS, but they were there.
Charity was never a club gymnast, and schools like Saint Francis which could field entire squads, and alternates with club gymnast would compete for the championship.  Charity would practice during the gymnastics season with the other girls, and she improved from year to year.  But a superstar she was not.  She did have fun.
I was proud of Charity and her accomplishments.  She had been Captain of the varsity for two years, and the JV team for one year.  At the ceremony they would present each team, and then they would honor the scholar athletes.
Some of the gymnasts were also scholar athletes.  However when the badminton team was presented, a very large squad at Cupertino High School, it seems they were all student scholars.  Mighty impressive.  The only thing that was just as equally impressive was the tennis team.
After seeing so many scholars on both the badminton and the tennis teams I could only draw one conclusion, racket sports make you smart.  I don't know what it is about swinging a racket at a ball, or a birdie that increases the brain's capability.  There was no other way to explain it.
I have mentioned this to Miranda, telling her she should get into racket sports as her GPA would increase.  She was come up with other excuses.  For example a high percentage of students participating in racket sports are Asian. However the school were my children attend has a high percentage of Asian students in all sports, and it didn't help the wrestling team or basketball teams.  I think gyms that stink of sweat, might have the opposite effect, but i have done no personal observation of this.
I went to the local school to hit the tennis ball against the rebounding wall they have there.  Miranda went with me and insisted on having a turn.  I think in that five minutes Miranda increased he brain power more than she has in reading any book, or studying any algebra equation.
Because I saw all the kids, young men and young women, who participated in racket sports, and most if not all were scholar athletes, so I must conclude--RACKET SPORTS MAKE YOU SMART.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Music I Like: ***Gladys Knight, Before Me

This C.D. I checked out of the library this week and have enjoyed.  It is dated 2006.  Gladys explains the reason for the title.  "The songs that I did for this album were favorites of mine from yesterday.  As I was getting this music together, the title, BEFORE ME, just rang in my head.  I was moved to pay tribute to those glorious performers who came before me and paved the way for me to be a part of this industry."
This is a selection of jazz songs.  I enjoy jazz music, but it isn't what I normally listen to.  I can usually listen for a while before moving on to something else.  I must admit, I admire Jazz musicians because the chords seem so intricate.
On this album there are two lovely things, Gladys voice, and the band.  We are privileged to hear piano and guitar riffs, saxophone and trumpet solos, as well as an accomplished band in general.  Gladys explains that jazz music was part of her life since her high school days in Atlanta.  Some of my favorites on the C.D. are Stormy Weather, God Bless the Child and Good Morning Heartache. 
Gladys gives thanks,  "My most heartfelt thanks goes out to my Father in Heaven for this most precious gift of song.  And to my brother, Jesus Christ, for his sacrifice that I might live once again in the kingdom of heaven and further use by gifts and blessings to glorify them."  May we all have that same attitude, and I am grateful for talents such as Gladys' that make the world more enjoyable.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Staying Spiritually In Tune

Sometimes in sacrament meeting you hear a concept you want to remember.  And that is what happened today.  Lisa Ure was the speaker.  It is not fair to put a full talk into a couple of paragraphs, but then I am not wanting to restate the whole talk, but just this one concept.
The topic was coming unto Christ by staying spiritually in tune.  Lisa compared this to breathing.  When we breathe we take in oxygen, which goes to every cell of our body.  We also breathe out, expelling carbon dioxide. The average person can hold their breath approximately 30 to 90 seconds.  After that our lower brain will cause the person to pass out.
When we talk about spirituality, breathing oxygen in, can be compared to feasting on the words of God.  So the question remains spiritually what do we give up.  The answer is our own carnal nature.  So we take God's word in, and put off the carnal or natural man. 
It seems Nephi talked about this considerable.  God's arm is always extended, but our own pride (pride in our mental, intellectual or physical abilities) keeps us from realizing our dependence on God's sustaining arm.
I think this is a lesson worth remembering, as I struggle with pride I hope I can remember what it takes to remain spiritually in tune.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lessons from my Children: Miranda; The Little Things are Important

Miranda was the quickest of our babies in coming. We were only at the hospital a couple of hours before she was born. Hers was also the most natural childbirth—there was not time for an epidural. It was a surprise to everyone at home when I called to report Miranda had been born. It seemed Sheri and I had barely left home to go to the hospital. The Fazzinos, who lived around the corner, watched the kids for us while Miranda was born. They were surprised as well, as I was home by ten to relieve them.
    Miranda is a stickler for detail.  It is she who remembers important things, and important dates.  A couple years ago, an February 8, she remembered it was Tony's birthday.  Tony had been our foster child who had come to us as a beautiful preemie baby.  We loved him and were proud of him.  But at two months he went to live with a relative foster home.  Miranda remembered him, and helped us remember him on his birthday.  Better yet, within a couple weeks after his birthday, Tony was returned to us, and he's still with us and we love him.
   But for better or worse I don't always see the little things that Miranda does that makes out family a Heaven on earth.  It is Miranda who fixes dinner when we are all to busy.  It is Miranda who will watch a baby at the last minute, even when she would rather not.
    Miranda and Caleb have recently become dog owners.  Miranda is particular to take care of the little things with the dog, making sure he has water and food, baths and flea medicine.  She gets mad at me if I feed him scraps from the table, as they are not good for his health.
    And that is the lesson Miranda is teaching me--how to be more sensitive to the little things.  I must admit this blog is the hardest for me to write.  I have not learned Miranda's lesson very well.  I am generally the laid back person, and as a result I miss important keys.  Consequently it seems too often I offend Miranda.  She has to put up with a lot living with her "old man."  My philosophy has always been that love would smooth over my faults, and everything would be OK.  However I am learning that sometimes the little things count; sometimes paying attention to them is how love is shown.
    I have a bad habit, especially where Miranda is concerned, of accentuating the negative.  I know better.  As Bing Crosby use to sing:
You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

(To illustrate his last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do
Just when everything looked so dark)

Man, they said we better
Accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No, do not mess with Mister In-Between
Do you hear me, hmm?

(Oh, listen to me children and-a you will hear
About the elininatin' of the negative
And the accent on the positive)
And gather 'round me children if you're willin'
And sit tight while I start reviewin'
The attitude of doin' right

(You've gotta accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between)

You've got to spread joy (up to the maximum)
Bring gloom (down) down to the minimum
Otherwise (otherwise) pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate (well illustrate) my last remark (you got the floor)
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they say (what did they say)
Say when everything looked so dark

Man, they said we better
Accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No! Don't mess with Mister In-Between

Elder M. Russel Ballard quoted different young people about how they follow Christ at the  CES fireside November 2010.  “I show faith in Christ by being consistent and doing the little things that matter most. By reading my scriptures, praying, and trying to love others as Christ would, my faith grows.”  He had asked a series of questions, which are worthy to help us remember to do the little things:

1. Are you happy with the direction of your life and the depth of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
2. Do you love God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind? (See Luke 10:27.)
3. Are you doing the simple things in your everyday life?
a. Are you saying your prayers every morning and every night?
b. Are you reading every day from the holy scriptures?
c. Are you using appropriate language?
d. Are you being honest?
e. Are you living the Word of Wisdom?
4. Are you being kind and thoughtful of the needs of those around you?
5. Are you following the counsel of the Brethren … to avoid completely any kind of pornography?
6. Are you living worthy of a temple recommend?
7. Are you actively participating in your Sunday meetings, especially sacrament meeting—partaking of the sacrament worthily and renewing your covenants with the Lord?

This is a good lesson in looking at whether or not you are doing the things you should be doing.  In doing these things, one will find greater joy.  I have tried to live a Five-star life as presented by Bishop Betts in Ballard Ward—daily prayer, daily scripture study, family and individual; weekly family home evening and journal writing.  That is really six things but makes a good list.  Unfortunately I have come short, but Miranda is on her way to making these habits part of her life.  I need to better follow her example.

   So let me end this blog with an apology.  Miranda, I am sorry sometimes I miss the little things that you do that help our family.  I am sorry I come home, and the first thing I do is point out something I think you should have done.  I will do better.  I appreciate your pointing out that little things are important.  I will be more aware of your contribution.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Marine family day

Tony and I went with Mark to the Marine family day.  Tony, as you can see had a great time.  He went down the slide again and again and again.  He had a free run of the place.  When he was running back to the front of the line, it reminded me of the way Mark use to run. He was so funny looking in the boxing helmet and with the big boxing glove I just had to laugh, even if I was by myself.

He played games, balloon throw with Mark (he was good at throwing and not so good at catching, but the tie he did catch the balloon he was proud) and egg relay in which he carried an egg in a spoon, a pinata break, and the dunk tank.  He kept hitting the target, but not hard enough so finally a Marine hit it as the ball did and dunked whoever was on the seat.

The food was really good, much better than the one we went to a couple of years ago.  I especially enjoyed the barbecued ribs. Tony liked the cake and water melon. 

I was thinking about the last Marine day we went to, when Tony was just small, and realized we didn't go last year.  That was because Mark was in Iraq at the time.  Mark had a relatively safe duty, on a base, helping the other Marines with travel arrangements.  There was one week he accompanied a convoy, and that is where things are still at risk.  But he came home after six months of active duty, and has returned to civilian and reserve life.

Mark introduced me to his next in command in Iraq, a father with two small children.  Mark still has a couple years of reserve duty, and that is what I worry about.  It seems Afghanistan is much scarier than Iraq, and that is where the Marines are now.  Mark's chances of going there are pretty good. I am proud he's willing to serve, but I don't like the risk.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My four sons

Tony's sealing day
Caleb scouting
Tony the ring bearer
Dad and Tony
Jeremy flying
Mark guitaring
Handsome men and a special boy

My three daughters

Charity and Miranda, Natalia's wedding
They are beautiful

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lessons from my Children: Charity; How to Love Unconditionally


I have started each story of the kids with a story of their birth. However after the excitement surrounding the other kids, Charity's birth was pretty normal and undramatic. The only bummer about her as a baby was that the camera we had at the time went on the blink, and so we lost the pictures of her blessing day. All the same we loved her like all the other babies that came in our door.

I guess I advocated for the name, Charity, because I have always sought after this Christ like love, although I have come up short on many occasions. But Charity, for her part her name says it all. She has always been a great example of Christ like love:

And Charity suffereth long, and is kind, and evieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; (Moroni 8:45)

This is a very good description of Charity. I have seen her demonstrate these principles on numerous occasions in her life. When Charity was three months shy of two years old, we moved from Utah to California. I drove the Budget rental truck, while my wife drove the car. I enjoyed the trip, because Charity for much of the trip insisted on riding with me in the truck. I think she had a sense that I was lonely in the truck, and she could provide me with company in this manner. I enjoyed her enthusiasm for the newness of the truck, even if she had to be in her car seat.

A demonstration of her personality was our first visit to a Major League Baseball game shortly after moving to California. We went to an A’s game. We were sitting high up behind the backstop. There were not many with us that high. We had brought spray bottles with us to give us a squirt of water every once in a while to ward off the heat. Charity took one of those spray bottles, and a napkin and proceeded to wash the seats. She washed a couple of rows worth. I don’t know if she watched the game, in fact I don’t remember the score, but I do remember Charity cleaning the seats. She was so cute.

Charity, throughout her schooling has always had a tender heart, and reached out to classmates who may have needed encouragement. Her best friend went through a scary situation with a brain tumor, which required surgery. Charity was available for her friend and did things to include her and help her feel better.

More recently, when we were doing foster care, Charity’s ability to love was manifested. Our first foster child, Rena, slept in the same room as Charity. She was younger and would often have nightmares at night. In those nightmares she would often moan, and kick off her covers. Charity would wake up at all hours of the night, and lovingly put the covers back on her. She and Rena became fast friends, and even though she was only at our house a few weeks, Charity made her stay with us as enjoyable as could be. Charity was in the high school yearbook talking about her experience with foster care and was quoted as saying, "Because they were so easy to love, by the time they left, it was like saying good-bye to one of my own siblings. All these kids wanted and needed was someone in their life that cared about them like my family cared for me, so when they came into our home it was so easy to build a relationship with them."

Charity has always been the best helper around the house. This was more manifest as we were fostering. It was impossible to keep up with everthing. Charity, sensing this, often took it upon herself to do the dishes--not just the basic job, but scrubbing the pots and wiping the counters. She wouldn’t quit until everything is done.

Charity's first real job was at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I enjoyed picking her up, and pulling up a few minutes before she was done at the counter. I could watch her through the window and see her interaction with customers. She always had a smile on her face, and a helping attitude. She developed friends among the regular customers at the store. She has also manifested this caring attitude in other jobs. She is currently a lifeguard.

Charity's enthusiasm for life has been based on one of service and love:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. (Moroni 7: 46-47)

Charity’s example has set a high watermark for me and her siblings. If we can follow her example, we will be more Christ like.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lessons from my Children: Jeremy; Through Practice You Can Overcome

Jeremy at the MTC

When Jeremy was born, our greatest challenge was finding him a name. He was born the day after Natalia’s third birthday.  It was a scheduled delivery. Even so, we still hadn’t decided on a final name for him. It was a struggle. I wanted to call him Jeremy Truck, because I knew he was going to be strong and tough. Sheri forced me to compromise, and we decided on Jeremy Tate.  Jeremy is a family name on my mother’s side.  Her great grandfather Thomas Jeremy was captain of an emigration party, and stake patriarch in the Salt Lake Stake.

I had a very bad cold when Jeremy was born. The OB doctor prescribed some medications for me as I struggled with a stuffed up system.

Jeremy was the longest of our children when he was born. Sheri is very short. As a result he was born bull legged. He had to be fitted for special shoes, which turned his feet out. The shoes also had the special bar to go between which made it so they were attached to each other. This thwarted Jeremy’s mobility. Jeremy hated them; the bar especially. It was heavy and awkward, and had to be dragged around as he crawled or as he began to stand. He couldn’t get around the way he wanted to.

More than the shoes, the thing that helped Jeremy’s feet was his mother’s patience in carefully massaging them. Every time she would change his diaper, she would take time to massage his feet and turn them out. Over time his feet and legs were completely corrected.

Jeremy as a baby was a climber. He taught us patience, as he could get into anything. We had a hard lesson in patience when Jeremy’s baby sister was born a couple years later. Jeremy was jealous of his sister and the attention she got, and didn’t like losing his place as the baby of the family. He climbed on the piano, where we had put a porcelain replica from the “Hansen” collection of a mother praying. Jeremy knocked this off, and it broke, irreparably.

The life lesson I have learned from Jeremy is that through practice, you can overcome. He is much like Heber J. Grant who would quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do—not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our power to do has increased,” and then put those words into practice, guiding his life.

Jeremy, like President Grant was not the greatest of singers. However Jeremy had a great desire to sing. I remember when he came home from Primary one Sunday and let us know his favorite song was “I am a Child of God." He wanted to sing it for us. He was probably three at the time. He sang every word. He also had the rhythm down as well. It’s just, I thought the song had more than one tone, which was how it came out. That was where Jeremy started in his singing ability.

However, he continued to sing whenever he could. He sang in Primary. He sang in school programs. He sang whenever the opportunity presented itself. He would sing with recordings. He would sing in church. He would sing with his stereo. He would also listen to music as well. He used rehearsal C.D.s and rehearsal helps on the computer. He worked hard at learning music.

When in high school he continued to pursue singing. He often sang in two choirs—men’s chorus and advanced 'capella chorus. He also participated in an acapella men’s quintet. He sang in our church choir. He sang in a youth choir for two years in the San Jose area and was the bass leader for a time. He can sing both low tenor, baritone and bass parts. He is much better at hitting the right note than I am, and I have sung in church choirs since I was about 14 years old. (39 years) He has had lead parts in musicals, and it is fun to watch how he learns music, singing parts over and over again with the computer.

The ability to overcome difficulty, and develop our talents was expressed in the Book of Mormon, by the Lord as he counseled Moroni, when he complained that he was not mighty in writing:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12:27)

Jeremy also had a love of sports, and played on several teams.  He loved wrestling, basketball and soccer.  When he arrived at high school, these three sports took place at the same time.  As a result he had to choose.  He was best at soccer, but wanted to play basketball.  He had to work hard.  He wasn’t the best shooter, but because he played so hard, he was a very good defender.  I don’t like to play against him because of that.  I like a little space, which he doesn’t like to give.

Jeremy has exemplified faith and humility in many areas of his life, one of which has been the way he has overcome his weakness in music, and made it a talent.  Another has been his participation in sports.