Monday, January 24, 2011

Tribute to Dad

To My Dad
Ray Pack Nielson
June 14, 1931 - January 14, 2011
Thank you for leaving me a legacy of hard work, integrity, humor, and faithfulness to God. You endured to the end and I know you are now experiencing the joy that comes from life well lived.

It was a wonderful and spiritual experience to be with my dad as he passed away. I couldn't see but I could definitely feel the presence of other people in the room with us. I didn't know who they were but it seemed that they were patiently waiting to help my dad transition to the other side.
My dad had a heart attack about a year before and his health declined steadily from there. He lost the ability to walk in the Fall. A week before his death he was put in a care center. Then it was decided that there was nothing that could be done to give him any quality of life. His IV's and oxygen were removed Friday. My mom and 4 of us 6 siblings were able to be with him for those final hours. We took turns holding his hand and sharing our favorite memories of him --like wrestling on the living room floor and shooting guns at the family ranch. Over the next few hours his heart beat slower and slower. His breaths became more labored and fewer. Then, he didn't take another and then he was gone.
I had the immediate sweet feeling of relief come over me. I embraced the thought of him flying up to heaven with angels, not as an old man, but as the handsome youthful athletic man that my mom married, and SMILING. I can count only a handful of times I saw my dad smiling, growing up. I think by the time I came a long he had endured a lot of hardships, especially financially, and his life didn't turn out the way he probably hoped. But, I picture him now smiling, and realizing that he stayed true and faithful despite the ups and downs of life. I feel like he's watching over me. In a way it neat to realize I have an ally on the other side, pulling for me. I know I had them before, but now I can put that smiling face with the idea. It makes me want to live a little better, be a little kinder, and live up to the example he set for me.My dad's viewing and funeral went really well. It was a happy friend and family reunion. Have you ever had refreshments at a viewing. Only my mom would make a bazillion batches of fudge and insist that everyone take a piece on their way out. During the funeral program we all learned a whole lot about the man that was our Dad. I think my siblings would agree that we were SHOCKED to hear stories from his childhood friend. How come Dad didn't tell us he was expelled from school 4 times? And that he led the cops on a car chase through the country roads of the Uintah Basin? We had to laugh at the description of my dad standing in the back of pick up truck, shooting out the insulators of the telephone poles, while the truck was moving, and hitting every one of his targets. Even though my dad rebelled against Man's Laws, he never rebelled against God's. His best friend testified to all of us kids that he never knew my father to ever take a drink or smoke, be immoral, or even swear. He served a mission to Texas/Louisiana, went to BYU, graduated in Finance, and married my mom in the Salt Lake Temple.
Brandon and I played a violin cello duet, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." Looking back I'm glad that I was able to participate in the program in that way. A few days before, I had sliced my finger on an apple cutter and Brandon had re-dislocated his pinky. Luckily his pinky wasn't super necessary for his playing but my sliced first finger was. I almost bowed out but decided to put on lots of neosporin and hope for the best. It worked out and I'm so glad it did.

Being with my brothers and sisters made me realize how awesome each of them are. We don't get together very often because everyone is spread out from coast to coast. We know now where our rebellious streak comes from-- not just our mom!This is me, Auntie Laura, with my nephews and nieces. They're actually more like my brothers and sisters. I guess I lucked out that way, being the WAY youngest of the family.
Leave it to the little ones to show us how to cope with the death of a loved one--lots of hugs and life goes on.
I'll miss you Dad and think of you when I see all the flags waving in honor of your birthday on Flag Day.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Couch Potatoes

The big event around here is that we got a couch for the basement. The first thing the kids do after school is run downstairs to sit on it. We've all been spending a lot more time down there, playing Wii on it, reading on it, or just sitting and running our hands over it. It has sure spawned a lot more movie nights. I'm afraid we're turning into a family of couch potatoes.

In other news, the kids are now all in music lessons. Brynn is keeping up with violin. Kate has tried everything to get out piano (or any other instrument) but we finally found the right match.

WANTED: Therapist/Musician to teach emotional 9-yr old to make peace with the piano.

We found our man in Brandon, who will also be able to add the fatherly love and fear factor. He got the inspiration for his first lesson from Larry H. Miller's biography. In it there is a story called "The Five-Dollar Job, " where this boy goes to do some yardwork for an old lady and she explains to him that nobody has ever done a five dollar job. This, of course, sets him off for the challenge and through hard work, diligence, and numerous attempts, he finally achieves the 5-dollar job. Kate and Brandon have talked about he story and now have some plan worked out where Kate can earn money according to how well she practices. If there is any kicking or screaming, gnashing of teeth etc. she will owe us! This could fund our early retirement.

Adrie, on the other hand, is so excited to learn the violin, she has been begging us every day to teach her something new. She has learned the proper handling of the bow and the violin and has just worked up to running the bow across the strings. Screech!
I love her enthusiasm and hope it lasts forever.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Great Cuts, Great Reads

Cannon went in for a haircut the other day and while he was admiring his new look in the mirror, the stylist asked me a great question, "Read any good books lately?" She probably didn't know what she was getting into. Okay so, Cannon only had a little bit of hair and I had a lot to talk about. I only mentioned a couple of picks to her but then I remembered-- I have a blog! YOU readers are going to get the full account. Here are my favorite reads of the last few months:

1. Jane Eyre
Loved this book! Thanks to Ms. Bronte for a decades worth of romantic quotes to use inside my Valentines cards, and some of them in French!
Reading that inspired my next pick...

2. The Berlitz Self Teacher: French
I thought learning French would be easy; Isn't it just like Spanish except with way more letters and completely different pronunciation? Yah!--Exactly why it's not easy at all! I'm only on "Lecon 5" so don't expect me to have any conversations with you. But I'm going to keep at it because I just read...

3. Do Hard Things
This is written by teens for teens and I think for everyone, on not succumbing to the cultural plague of low expectations. We can do better! Learn more! Overcome our fears! Live the life that God wants us to live! Have I inspired you? The book inspired me. This next 2 books are about people that overcame HARD things...

4. Joan of Arc
Mark Twain considered this his finest work. I agree! (if it's out of this or Huck Finn) 12 years of research make this an outstanding resource for learning about one of the most amazing characters in history. It is beautifully written.

5. The Glass Castle
This is the true story of a girl who overcame a childhood with some very "eccentric and nomadic" parents (to quote amazon's review) Oddly compelling...I would recommend it to those who are curious about how other people live and the social worky types. (you know who you are.)
After that you might need some therapy of your own so here's the next book.

6. The Anatomy of Peace also The Bonds that Make Us Free
These were life changing books for me. The first is more succinct, in a nutshell, while the other one has a lot of stories of people to illustrate the point. " They both really gets into the science of relationships and how to make PEACE with everyone in your life-- from the guy who just butt in front of you to the guy that you married, even world peace--it hopes. Just a caution--don't read it at the same time as your spouse unless you want him to quote it against you, "So honey, it's sounds like you are in the 'better-than' box today?

7. The Richest Man in Babylon
If the above book is the best book on relationships then this is the best book on Money and Finances! It takes place in Ancient Babylon and through some cool parables and stories it shows you some common sense approaches to living well. But what are riches without health to enjoy them...hence the next couple books...

8. The Seven Pillars of Health; the natural way to feel better for life
Life Changing, seriously. This book is packed with info. from drinking water, to supplements, to coping with stress, living foods vs dead foods, chemicals and food additives to avoid. You'll definitely be checking labels after reading this.

9. Word of Wisdom; a Modern Interpretation
Another life changing book for me.
I'm obviously on a health kick lately, going to classes, etc. But during all of it I decided to check with the ultimate health code: the word of wisdom as found in the scriptures. After reading, I had to ask myself and Brandon who happened to be nearby, "Are we really living this?" There is more to it than just avoiding beer?! BD kindly deferred all my questions to this resource. The book is out of print so you'll have to check your grandma's bookshelves or find it online. The whole version is available for download if you google it. In case you think I'm going a little crazy in the health dept. I am. I also just ordered In Defense of Food. Now, are we ready to kick back with some good old fiction or what?!!!

10. Hunger Games
Looks like my photo disappeared but you know what it looks like. You've probably read it already and wasn't it such a thrill of a read?! If I'd had my way I would have finished the whole series in 3 days. But, as it was, I was constantly interrupted by requests for food, clean clothes, and other mommy duties.

11. Pilgrim's Progress
This one has been around forever--and not just on my bookshelf. I have my book club to thank for suggesting we tackle this one together.
Here is the whole gospel plan of happiness put together in a fun to read allegory. It was probably more entertaining to the pilgrims who didn't have TV to compete with. Brandon would tease me while he sat watching Alias, "How's it going with that Pilgrim's Progress? he he he" Well, I'm proud to say that I finished it AND enjoyed it. Actually I think it would make a great musical. And-- if I want to apply what I learned in Do Hard Things, I might just write one! In French!