Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 24, 2010

The teeth look good but they must be uncomfortable. She wore them to the wedding and baptism, but when we saw her in her neighborhood it was au natural--really, it only involves a few teeth. Most people are missing one or two at least, but the front ones show. I understand. I could tell her some things about wearing a partial plate. I've had one for over 55 years, and one little blackberry seed can drive you nuts until you can get to a private place and dig it out.
Blackberries (moras) are for sale along the highway. That's also where they grow and are picked. We got a little box, really little box—less than a quart, and a quart of jam for about 12 bucks. Steep, but worth it. Yummy on the WalMart cheese cake ($4). Maria of Bollenar gave us a big bag of plums/prunes from her yard. They are potent. It only takes one or two to get things moving. We gave most of them to the other couple in the office.

The wedding was nice in a Chilean way. The Branch Pres didn't bring his keys and couldn't open the parking lot. He doesn't have a car and forgets. So all of Marisol's people arrive in cars and jam the street trying to park. The wedding was outside on the grass in the shade, but the branch didn't show until later. The government minister/lady waited patiently, smiling and shuffling her papers and rubber stamps.

When we finally got under way there were twice as many people (50ish) as chairs covered with white shrouds and ribbons. The fake flowers from the podium served as décor. The ID cards of bride, groom, witnesses, etc. were presented and checked. The government lady went on and on, reading from her government book, finally giving the couple a blue government passport-like booklet to prove their status and allowing them to kiss and us to clap. Her three grown, really big, boys got in on the hugging before we went inside. It really was sweet.

Now the government lady was gone and the branch president took over. We sang, prayed, and he spoke for a time and a portion of eternity about being married for all time and eternity. The non member husband, sons and family/friends listened patiently. They are really nice people and quickly became our close friends inasmuch as we hugged each other at least a dozen times. Then off to the social hall for some refreshments. It was festooned with four white crepe paper streamers and a half dozen balloons attached to the ceiling. Someone had gone all out.

My personal deacon, Helaman, made a dozen trips from the refreshment table to BJ and me bringing, one at a time, one each of all the varieties of tiny sandwiches, empanadas, cakes, and drinks. Delicious. Really. Ham, cheese, chicken, tuna, avocado, bacon and something. The table was emptied in a few minutes, but next day in the neighborhood Marisol was distributing big pieces of cake to all the street and we just happened to be there. About half the active branch lives on that one little hundred yard street or one lane pasaje (passage). The last two converts live next door across the street from three LDS families—good missionaries.

One of them, Ingrid Lopez, rode with us Saturday into central Santiago to an ancient business district now devoted to fabrics and sewing. The garment district of Santiago. You can't imagine the number and variety of stores, street vendors, booths, stuff and such in this several block area, all devoted to sewing. Ingrid is Mom's personal seamstress now. She is covering a sofabed, making a lined plum colored Sunday suit, a skirt, blouse, kitchen curtains and more. The fabric was dirt cheap--$12 for 5 yards of 70” wide good quality, heavy duty upholstery material. A few bucks for the clothing and drapes. We hope Ingrid's labor is correspondingly priced. No written estimate. Not even a verbal estimate. Later some ties for me and maybe a suit before I go home.

I've got to leave you for a while. We are going to get Ingrid to come to our apartment and measure for the drapes. She really is a nice talented 39ish good looking blondish fashion plate who sews for a living from her tiny, typically Chilean house. It is furnished with a sewing machine, cutting table and chair. Some ancient paint and tin. I'm not sure where her deacon son Sebastian sits.

She is the YW pres and brought along to the shopping trip, 18 year old Alejandra, Mom's chorister and bosom buddy. At the market place I bought everyone a cold drink and on the way home for the baptism Mom treated at McDonald's.

The baptism was nice. Again, we arrived a few minutes early, and the parking lot was locked. I never carry my precious key except to piano lessons on Wednesday. Luckily, we were the only ones driving that day, so no problem. Forty people/one car. I had prepared a 6 page double spaced talk on the Holy Ghost by plagiarizing from 5 or 6 church manuals.

I'd get them in Spanish then find an English version in the office or on the internet; choose some lines from the English; copy them from the Spanish; string them together with a few sentences of my own; get Elder Iglesias (Florida, Cuban, non-Spanish speaker before his mission) to proof read and correct; practice aloud and sweat it out. It turned out pretty good. They said they understood and my pronunciation was good; and the Branch President leaned over and said Excellente. He must have really liked it because he repeated almost everything I had said in his talk after the baptism.

It's been a busy week and a very busy weekend. Today we went to a satellite-broadcast-40-stake conference for Southern Chile. We heard most of it in English and especially loved Elder Packer's talk. He has been to Chile several times and reminisced, speaking extemporaneously and personally about inspiration through the Holy Ghost. I don't know how the translator managed, but we soaked it up. He told of choosing a new stake president in Germany early in his aspostleship. He didn't speak German at all. Long story short: “how did I know who the Lord wanted to lead that stake? Angels told me. Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.” We love that old man. We were there the day he was made an apostle.

Ingrid brought along her neighbor and friend Fresia who was baptized last month. We picked them up, brought them to our place, measured the drapes, showed fotos, ate Great Value cheesecake with Chilean strawberry topping and spent a pleasant two hours. They are very nice. We are getting integrated into the branch. We have visited the neighborhood several times lately, and have finally gotten a dinner invitation to someone's home—two actually, theoretically—no firm dates.

Monday, Feb. 21
Our branch is called Las Lomas=the hills. Most of the branch is on a medium size hill with a buena vista of Maipu to the west and of Santiago to the north and east. Stunning views on a clear day. It should be prime property for the rich and famous, except that to the south it overlooks the old city landfill and nobody wanted to build there so property was cheap and the poorest neighborhood in town grew in bits and pieces from the dump on that lovely lonely hill.

Now there are nice roads around the hill and parks, always with horses grazing among the soccer games. The dump is closed and is used for ferias three times a week. The people are more decent than their houses would lead you to believe. In fact, they are the salt of the earth, happy, contented, dedicated to the Lord and His church to which they all walk together a kilometer or so each way every time it is open. We love them dearly. If you saw only their houses you would think they were sad and poor. If you see them, you would never think that. They are rich in the treasures that matter.

Speaking of ferias, on the way to conference Sunday we saw what must be the world's largest feria. That's an outdoor flea market or fair (no rides or side shows) that comes regularly to a designated place. City planners build wide boulevards with parklike medians for the purpose, closing traffic as necessary. Anyone and everyone can buy or sell anything and everything. And they come from as far as they can walk to do it. A few drive but where can they park? The city sends garbage crews to clean up the leftovers when it is over. There are mountains of leftovers.

It was strung out along the railroad right of way and its frontage roads and the 4 lane Avenida Cinco de Abril and its frontage roads for half a mile in four directions on all sides of the streets and tracks, filling parking lots and adjacent neighborhoods with colorful vendor tents by the thousands and a crowd to match. That was to and from conference. At 7pm when we picked up Ingrid and Fresia there was hardly any evidence of it. Come again next Sunday. It's an event.

This morning in our apartment building we were treated to the sounds of a brand new baby crying. That reminds me of a story.

Baby Gods

Our first two children were born in Logan in a hospital that had had some problems with infections. They were simply being very careful when they said I couldn't go anywhere near my wife, or the delivery room, or our babies. I waited in a smoky room with other nervous people also waiting for the big announcement, which came through a little speaker in the ceiling. Mr. Pack? Congratulations. About an hour ago your wife gave birth to a 7 pound 9 ounce baby boy. Click. Silence. That's it?

It wasn't exactly the thrill I expected it to be. I felt left out. Later that day I got to see our son—through the nursery glass. A few days later I actually got to touch him when the nurse handed him to me outside the hospital as we were leaving. Same scenario when Beth was born. They were dear to me, but I missed out on their births.

Then we finished school, got a real job, moved to Salt Lake and were soon expecting Jenny. New doctor, new hospital, new attitude toward childbirth and fathers and a new experience for me. How new and powerful I couldn't have imagined.

We took the Lamaze classes, watched the childbirth film (without passing out like my neighbor did-wimp), learned to breathe and count. I thought I was ready. When the time came to put on the green scrub suit I was nervously excited. I'm going to see my own baby come into the world and take her first breath. Did I say her? We didn't know in those days until the doctor said There she is, Miss America, 1988.

She came, but she wasn't exactly beautiful. All bloody and cheesy and grey. And not breathing. The doctor laid her on BJ's belly and went about his work below for what seemed like ages. Is something wrong? Is she alive? What's happening? I was scared. Seconds dragged into eternity.

Then the nurse picked her up by the heels, wiped her off, squeegied out her mouth. All of a sudden, she gasped, gurgled, wiggled, kicked, screamed and turned pink. She was alive! What a relief. AND what a revelation. I suddenly realized that this wasn't just my baby or our baby. We helped; the doctor helped; but none of us had the power to give her life. She wasn't just our baby. She was God's baby. She was a baby God.

A Baby God!! From that moment on I could never think of my children the same. They're Baby Gods! I could never think of any other children the same. Baby Gods. My eyes had been opened. My heart had been opened. I had truly had a revelation. I am a child of God! You are a child of God! I already knew that, but now I can never forget it. Then I got to repeat the experience twice more when Emily and Amanda were born. What a blessing for a dad.

Do you know how hard it's going to be to be in Chile and not in Forrest General Hospital when Baby Boy Scott comes to our family? We have been in the hospital, BJ sometimes in the delivery room, for the birth of every one of our nietas. We're putting you all on notice. We want to SKYPE with you from the waiting room if not from the delivery room. Bribe the nurses if you have to. Take a computer to the nursery. Smuggle in Blackberries. Do what you must. We will set up at the office where we have a strong internet hookup.

Now, we children of God are growing up and slowly becoming like Our Father. Someday we will actually be like Him, thanks to His Son and their great plan, the plan of happiness, the plan of salvation, the plan of life, eternal life, life with God, life like God, families forever, our family.

I love you Babies, Gods to be.

A related incident. I had a seminary student whose middle aged mother and BJ were expecting at the same time, had the same LDS doctor, and were in the hospital in labor the same day as above. The mother had a heart problem, and every day the daughter would use my office phone to call home before class and make sure she was all right. She was afraid her mother was going to die. Seriously.

So we are at the LDS hospital in SLC having Jenny and Sister XXX (Smith, I think) is across the hall having very difficult labor. For hours she has made no progress and is exhausting herself. Her heart is in peril. Her daughter asks if we can give her a blessing. Dr. Stobbe and I lay our hands on exhausted Mom-to-be and start to give her a sacred priesthood blessing.

For some reason I open my eyes just in time to see her belly rise up and roll over. As we say Amen the nurse says let's go, she's delivering. Mother and baby and fearful, faithful daughter--all well. Seminary teacher blessed by their faith.

Tuesday, Feb. 22
At home waiting for a repairman who was supposed to come last week. Then today between 9 and 12. It's 2:07. He came at 10:30, looked at the job, said something and left. We thought he said he would be back in a few minutes. We have to wait. We have to be here when/if he works. We don't know who to call or what to say. Times like these are frustrating. We have work to do, places to go, people to see. He only comes to the building one day a week. Miss him today—wait another week or two or. . . ?

He never came back, so after work I did it myself. No biggie. Just some plastering from an old water leak when we first moved in. I'm tired of waiting—six months. He just missed out on some income. It is really hard to get reliable workers. Worse than at home. And there is no sheetrock mud. You buy powdered plaster, mix it yourself and hurry before it sets in 20 minutes or less.
Thursday, Feb. 24 at Bollenar for piano
Last night after piano at our branch was interesting. We had Mutual with YW and YM. The Branch Pres got frustrated with the YM because they wanted to play and he wanted to lecture. He finally sent them out and sat down with me, the only rep from the YM presidency to ask what I thought. The only thing I could say is that they like to play. He started pouring his heart out to me about things in the branch, and asking my advice. His methods aren't working and I don't know how to advise him.
I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANY. I DON'T SPEAK SPANISH. He said I spoke very well, but I demurred. I can carry on a very simple conversation, but I can't discuss ideas or answer many questions. And I don't understand anything in Sacrament Meeting. At the mention of Sacrament Meeting he commented on my talk at the baptism last week and said he wanted me to give the same talk to the whole branch. I guess he really did like it. He said it was very clear and understandable and to the point and was something the whole branch needed to hear. That's because it came from Preach My Gospel, True to the Faith, Gospel Principles, and the Aaronic Priesthood lesson manual 3. Not my words. All plagiarized. I just spoke them. I guess I can do that again. This Sunday.

He said that my not learning Spanish as fast as I'd like is like him and his wife trying to have a baby. I'm not sure if he said two years or twelve years (dos or doce?), but he said we were both learning patience. I hope we both get 'er done soon.

The funeral procession we saw today consisted of a white Toyota station wagon/hearse with flowers piled on top, followed by a taxi, a sedan, and a white bus. We were having lunch in the car at the side of a plaza. Across the plaza was a green gate into which the cars went. The bus pulled up in front of us and six or eight mourners in their jeans, with their backpacks, snacks and babies, got out and followed. We're not sure if they were going into a church or a cemetery. We had to move on without paying our respects.

I just slapped my first Chilean mosquito. There are lots of flies out here in the country. It's called Ruta Queso—the Cheese Road—dairy country—beautiful farms and herds. And we have had some minor ant infestations in our apartment and one big brown bug that might have been called a water bug in the South. Insects have not been a problem for us here.

I'm sending this as is. 9 pm in Bollenar. Piano over for this week.

Love and Hugs and Kisses and all Good Wishes. . . . . . . . . .loooooong prayer. amen

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 16, 2011

Begun Feb. 10, 2011:
It doesn't rain here in the summer at all, not a drop, and they do not have thunderstorms. In the winter and in the south it rains a lot, and in the mountains they have thunderstorms occasionally. So how do you explain the flashing sky, the booming explosions and the downpour of rain yesterday in the middle of summer in Maipu and much of Santiago?

Normally confident three year old Matilda was scared out of her wits and ran crying for Papa Papa. All the teenagers and most of the adults came running out from piano and YM, etc. to see this wonder. Sister Cantreras said this was the first time she had ever seen such a thing in all her thirty-something years. Next day it was front page, full page news. How can it be winter in Chile in the summer it said.

BJ and I receive it as a tender mercy from Father Above just for us misplaced Mississippians. Is that super-ego or what? Would He alter the weather so drastically just for us, when we didn't even ask for it? I don't know, but I loved every drop and boom and flash. I accept the gift, thank You.

BJ couldn't come out right away, but it lasted and returned again later last night and again most of today, without the donder and blitzen. We and the parched earth rejoiced even if the locals were mystified. I have a list of things we miss. I need to add afternoon summer thunderstorms. Who knew?

Imagine the cacophony I'm exposed to with 7 keyboards going all at once. Some are kids who just want to make sounds. Some are recognizable LDS tunes. Tonight we are in Bollanar again with a Sunday sized crowd, members, neighbors, townsfolk. Elder Jensen is working with one group; BJ with another. We had extra students, but not keyboards and blew a transformer on one, so people are standing and watching. If they are lucky, they'll get a turn later. A mother is helping her teen age son. She plays a little.

Bj gave them a Heath bar and when she reached to pick up the wrapper and throw it in the trash the sister jumped up, said no and something about remembering, smoothed it out and put it in her music book. A keepsake. I'm having a ball watching from the sacrament table; BJ is wearing herself out and loving it. Tomorrow we can sleep late. And order more teclados (keyboards) from the generous Harmon Foundation. Actually, we order from church distribution and the Foundation pays for them.

Mornings have been a trial for me lately. I wake up but can't get up until I get a jolt of Advil and a heat treatment (a microwaved sock full of rice) for my sciatic nerve. I literally can't walk for about an hour; then it gets tolerably better and the day goes OK if I don't sit too long at a time. [PS: it's much better, now, thank you.]

BJ's doctor doesn't treat backs but recommended a good spine surgeon who speaks some English. Did he say Surgeon? After the appointment she said, in no uncertain terms, that if anyone comes towards either one of us with a scalpel we'll be on the next plane North. We'll tell you which airport.

Our car has been making cute little tire-squeeling noises when we go over speed bumps (there are hundreds of them instead of traffic cops, tickets, speed limit signs, etc.) and white traffic lines. Then they got louder, more often, then continuous and annoying, then horrible and no longer cute. This over a couple of weeks. It sounded dangerous. Yup he said. The man at Goodyear said the whole front suspension needed to be replaced. With genuine original Mazda factory parts imported from Germany it would be near $6000US, more than we paid for the car.

White Knights to the rescue. Elder Cummings and Elder Barlow went on-line and on the phone and before the day was done they had negotiated a $600 deal for the most critical repairs using parts from a non-German factory somewhere on the planet, probably not far from here. It drives much smoother and perfectly quiet now, and comes with a 90 day warranty, including towing 5 times. Why that? Membership has its privileges; ownership has its costs. I'll pay, and ride. And in the bargain I have a new friend at Goodyear: Carlos. I like him; he likes my money. I don't even miss the cute little squeels. I also got new limpiaparabrises (windshield wipers), before winter really starts.

One of my fun jobs is making redneck freezer doors. The missionary fridges (read: cheep) have flimsy plastic freezer doors which invariably break off. A pizza box serves for a while. The pres said buy a truckload and replace them. I said let me try something first. With a roll of duct tape and a panel of 3cm foam insulation I can produce 6 functional doors for a few pesos. I tested them for several weeks. They last at least that long.

A fringe benefit is that they only fit if the freezer is defrosted every month or so. That will be a mission revolution. So far no complaints. Now the whole fridge doesn't freeze over. We saved thousands of Brother Huntsman's tithing for another purpose.

When the expense or the savings is big I say it comes from Brother Huntsman's tithing. When the expense or savings is small I say it is from the widow's tithing. They are equally important and blessed. This week's story is about Tithing and the Typewriter. Later.
…....A little later:

The Typewriter and The Tithing

I learned to type on a Royal School Model typewriter with blank keys. Eleventh grade, Logan High, 1958. No letters or numbers; just black keys and a chart on the wall showing where the letters were. We were to look at the chart and tell our fingers where to reach. Don't look at your fingers. I still don't, Mr. Sorensen. Most of the time. But I can't remember what is above the numbers, so I cheat and sneak a peek. ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _ +

I talked too much to the row of flirty girls behind us, didn't get very good grades, made a ton of mistakes, but it might just be the most useful class I ever took. You wouldn't be reading this story but for that class. And I wouldn't be here on a mission with a lifetime of church service behind me without a valuable lesson related to that Royal typewriter.

1966. I was in graduate school at USU, finishing a Master's Degree in English. I thought I was becoming an English Professor. I'm glad I didn't. I had a much better career with the Church Educational System. We had been married three years or more and money was tight. With two little kids BJ couldn't work and my income was slim as a graduate teaching assistant. We had to get student loans and pinch the pennies until Mr. Lincoln cried out in pain. I was saving a little money to buy a typewriter to do my thesis. I couldn't afford to hire it done. Besides, I like doing my own.

Actually, I wasn't so much saving money as stealing it. From the Lord. When dear Bishop Jenkins (Logan 11th Ward, later patriarch of River Heights Stake) called us into his office after Sunday School, he didn't accuse me of such. Instead, with tears in his eyes he noted that we hadn't been paying our tithing lately. He said he knew we needed all the blessings we could get and that the Lord was unable to open the windows and let them pour out. He wanted us to have all the blessings we needed.

I don't even remember him asking us to repent. But I could not have not. His love was so sincere and motivating I reached for my wallet, took out the bills I was going to spend on the typewriter. We paid our tithing. We'd start saving again. We wanted those heavenly windows to swing wide.

It didn't take even a week. We were listening to the Swap Shop on radio KVNU and heard an ad for a used typewriter, cheap. We called, went to look, and lo and behold. There was my old friend Royal, with beautiful blank black keys. The lady said no one wanted it because they couldn't type without seeing the letters. Therefore she had lowered the price to only a few dollars to get rid of it. A match made in heaven.

The windows unlatched and swung and out poured a blessing that has never ceased. Neither have we. By the way, you don't pay tithing with money; you pay it with faith. Just do it. Prove me, says He.

The new girl at the post office hasn't learned that she is not supposed to smile and be helpful. True. If you do better than your peers you'll never get ahead, but getting ahead is not in the program here. Social/economic levels are pretty well set in stone. She recognizes us as we come from the street and starts hauling packages from the back room. The other six workers watch without admiration.

They are nice people and will talk to us. Sometimes the security guard is helpful if we have a lot of stuff to carry out. One of them finally admitted to being a member of the church. Chileans are closely guarded and cautious. Not just at the post office.

Andres Toledo once told us that the difference between his country and ours was a matter of trust. In the US we assume people will do what they say or are obligated or paid to do. We are free to move about physically, socially and economically. We assume that while we are gone our house and family will be safe and still there when we come back. We generally assume people are and will tell the truth, no thumbprints required. Politicians excepted. We are not afraid to disclose information about ourselves, such as our religion, political party, personal preferences, family details, work history, on and on and on. We unconsciously feel a level of trust to allow all of that. We expect it. We count on it, and most of the time it works. Thank God.

When a crafty document forger who was a “good” member of the church blew his cover and “accidentally” blew up a bishop and was found to have scammed and embarrassed the church and some General Authorities by making and selling important “documents” about the early history of the church, many people were shattered. Their trust was violated. Their faith was compromised.

After the dust settled and the ugly truth came to light, President Hinckley admitted that we had been sadly fooled, but that the church would always choose to operate in a climate of trust, albeit with more caution. I like to operate in that climate. This one makes me very uncomfortable. Carlos gave me a price for fixing my car. No written estimate. No certainty what he would really fix or how much it would finally cost. So far my trust has been validated. I count him a true friend. So far.

But there is a valid reason for this discomfort. Within memory of people your age Chile endured two totalitarian dictatorships, violent revolutions, brutal military rule, collapsed economies, quaking fear every moment. Things we never have experienced nor can we imagine. I can't tell the whole history; you can look that up. Chileans are still suspicious and don't trust anything or anyone because for many years they couldn't.

People by the thousands disappeared. “Disappeared” became an official explanation. Your father could disappear and no one knew why or where or if he would ever come back or who would be next or why or when or whatever. You couldn't trust the cops. You couldn't trust the military. You couldn't trust the government. You couldn't trust the money. You couldn't trust your neighbor. You couldn't trust anyone or anything.

It takes a long time to heal from shattered trust. Ask the parents of teenagers or the victims of marital infidelity. It seems it may take generations for this whole country to heal. In the process lips are sealed, walls and fences are built, multiple locks installed, big dogs posted, security guards stand in every doorway of every business and government office. It's better, but not healed. I think it more a matter of national paranoia than of crime rates. But it is real and palpable to us visitors.

The economy seems stable, even healthy. New houses by the thousands are being built in safe and colorful crowded subdivisions. If you've never had a house a 900 square foot box sharing a wall with the next door neighbor and a postage stamp yard looks like paradise. Add a job, a new subway system, modern grocery stores stocked with at least two of everything, paid vacations to the beach, free health care and a social security system and you have a 21st century rebuilt/rebuilding democracy where almost everyone votes and election day is a national holiday when nobody has to work. Trust and hope are being restored one peso at a time.

$1,000 pesos, or one mil peso, is about $2 US, but the exchange rate has gone down about 20 pesos per dollar and gas has gone up at least that much per liter, so our expenses are rising. Then add the car. Still our expenses are less than when we lived at home. We have low rent, no phone bill-land or cell, no cable or satellite, lower insurance, no income taxes, one car we don't drive nearly as far, plentiful cheap fresh fruit, no trips to Hudson's or Dirt Cheap(that accounts for most of the savings), no movies, not much restaurant eating (McDee does not count as a restaurant), no stuff to buy or maintain, no travel trailer or vacationing (the few motels here are called houses for love making), no Hudson's or Dirt Cheap, and only two mouths. Did I mention no Hudson's or Dirt Cheap?

It's a mixed blessing. We're loving it and at the same time longing to feed 20 or 30 of our loved ones every/other Sunday. I think the other couples we work with feel the same, so this week we are preparing lunch on two days for about 20 zone and district leaders each day. Everyone eagerly volunteered to cook or buy food. A member feeds the missionaries lunch every day in every ward, but the RS or SS (Sociedad Socorro) don't cater the zone meetings. We're bringing a dozen watermelons, peaches, nectarines, grapes. Our twice a week trips to the campo (countryside) yield bounteous harvests.

We've found a man who sells raw milk. He delivers it around Bollaner where we go for piano on Thurs. He delivers early in the morning; we go late in the afternoon and will have to go to his farm, with our own containers, cooler and ice, and when we get home boil and refrigerate it. Next morning—cold fresh milk. I'm thinking it will be worth it. They say to use it within three days; then it starts to sour. That's about two liters a day. We can handle that. Mom says I might have to handle it alone.

Sunday afternoon
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and not a conversation heart to be found. Lots of chocolate boxes and some chocolate hearts and plastic roses. Street vendors making and hawking huge crepe paper flowers and balloon hearts. I did find a small display of cards the other day. I need to get it translated before it goes public. I don't want to embarrass myself, and BJ. Hope the fresh flower vendors are out again tomorrow.

Today at church she took candy bars taped to red-heart-lace doilies (is that really a word?). The response was puzzlement. Each time, she had to explain why she was doing this. You know, tomorrow is the Day of Love. This little “happy” is because I love you. Ooooh ya! (borrowed from the Germans?) Brightly beams an appreciative/bemused smile. The sisters took off the candy and tape and smoothed out the doilies to save. Rosa, one of Mom's students, somewhat over 39, reached into her purse and gave BJ a crocheted bookmark with a heart in the middle. Sweetness.

Back a few chapters I said new teeth, wedding, baptism. It's happening this week. The wedding is Friday night, Marisol (similar in age to Rosa) and her lifetime beloved companion; the baptism Saturday afternoon. The whole branch will be there (eventually) to hear me give my first talk in Spanish. I've got to find a good one and memorize it. Today I was prepared to teach the Aaronic Priesthood lesson, but it wasn't my week. Skip that one and prepare another. I get an extra week because next week is stake conference, by satellite with a dozen other stakes, maybe all of Chile. I don't know. I also don't know about the teeth.

Families are again out on the playground after a cool wet week. I think the kids had cabin fever. No school til March. They are especially active today. A young family of five walks by licking pink heart-shaped ice cream on a stick. They've got the spirit. One maturish woman seems to console another and the husband of the consoler brings a drink of juice for the consolee. Somewhere they are singing Happy Birthday. Good neighbors.

Remember we found a Marshall's/Ross outlet? We went there the other day, borrowed a parking place from the high-rise Holiday Inn Express, and found it shuttered and almost empty. A few bolts of cloth someone is storing there. Salvage here means picking up stuff from the side of the road or after the feria. Bitterness.

BJ is also a little bummed/frustrated/bitter that with all the fine stores she can't find anything she likes in her size. Believe me, she's looked at every piece in every store. I was there. Skirts, blouses, shirts, suits. She's still looking for the right pair of medium lift shoes. Espadrilles just won't do; this one is too tight on the toes; this one is too sandalish; this one doesn't come in black; this one is too spindly; this one too frumpy. Have a little sympathy. For both of us.

We got a bundle of love notes/Feliz Cumplea~nos cards from the grands, thanks to Jenny. Thanks to everyone. We loved them and the other reading material which we are now devouring for the second time. Kids say the darnedest things in the cutest ways.

Jonathan wanted to know if we had had any missionary oprataties. Every day everywhere we go, JJ.

Jack says sorry the pictures in this card are not real. Me too. So send me a real one buddy.

Self designated Favorite Grandson Sam says 50, right? Oh well, you look 50 to me. Close enough.

Caroline and Linds can't believe I'm 29. I can't either, but thanks.

Maddie still proclaims us the best grandparents in the whole wide world. We won't argue the point.

Matthew is proud of us for setting a good example for the little kids. Including you big boy/little man.

Emma generously regifted the birthday card we sent her, redecorated with the entire box of crayons. Creative, Colorful and beautiful, just like you girl.

Sophie filled the margins with XXXXs and OOOOOs and hearts. Same to you, sweetheart.

Ava drew a picture--me with a perfectly round, perfectly bald Charlie Brown head, and Gramma young and beautiful. You got it right Ava (with mom's help). We love you too.

Ella loves to see us on Skype. We love to see you, too bouncy girl. Can't get it to work today.

The bottom line, by Maddie. It's hard to think your getting older, because you look so young.

Reo Grover promised me that this mission would add ten years to my life. I just turned 69. I already feel 79. Thanks a lot Reo!

Poem of the week: composed January 2011, by BJP

He came to earth to show us the way;
He suffered all pain our sins to pay;

He healed the sick, made the blind to see;
Can't we but serve Him faithfully?

Can we treat our brothers with love divine?
Can we search for the lonely, the sad and find

Those in need of a helping hand?
We promise to serve all those we can;

Following on the path He trod;
Bearing witness of the Son of God.

Always He helps us to find our way;
When we've not listened and've gone astray.

Well He knows us and deeply He cares;
Ever our burden He gladly bears.

He is our Savior just the same;
Forever we praise His Holy name.

Please know of my love Lord;
I give you my word:

I will try harder to truly serve you;
Eternally grateful for all that you do.

OK, I'm puttin' this in a Coke bottle and throwing it into the blue Pacific. Hope it gets to you soon. Grapes are 35 cent pound today. Hope they come down a little soon. They'll be hitting the US in a few weeks, but they won't be 35 cent. Ha.


Friday, February 4, 2011

February 4, 2011

I guess she was a beauty in her day, but her day is past and gone. She's blonde (bleached?), about my age, half my size and bent over the same direction I'm headed, but no matter; it's summer and the beach is calling, (the sun is going down on her, but it's high noon at the beach), and that neon red bikini in her hand might be just the ticket to draw all the men's eyes to her wrinkly old body. She's gonna drive 'em crazy with lustful thoughts. I know I'm a little crazy just watching her shop, as I wait for BJ to try on shoes. BJ is not nearly so decisive. Gotta admire the little old lady's pluck. Maybe the guys at the beach will admire her for that.

The Achilles tendon is still sore. Little relief from the meds, and they can't get her into therapy until Feb 8. One nice thing. We can get her prescription refilled just by asking the pharmacist. (Well, I've asked three and none of them have it in stock.) We may have to get some of our US meds refilled that way if our shipment doesn't arrive before we run out. So far we have had no health problems related to our pre-existing conditions. Hope we don't need any serious care in the next year. They talk a good game, but I'm not sure they really deliver. I'd rather not test the system. If it is like other systems here, you could die waiting.

With our new ID card we finally got the car ownership registered to us, after three trips to the Notaria. Now wait three weeks for the documents to come in the mail. The Notaria is more than just a person who verifies your signature. It is another layer of beaurocracy. It takes a whole three story building and dozens of employees and tables full of rubber stamps and everyone's thumbprints just to document a transaction. Count on a couple hours minimum. There were only 11 people in line ahead of us. Not bad.

Then at the end; Surprise! You owe $160 in taxes. Oh, no one ever told you. No, we don't take Visa or checks or US dollars, but there is a cash machine about two blocks from here. Too bad, the bank closes at two and the cash machine is broken. Look, there's a money changer man down the street. I guess that's why I've been carrying this $100 bill in my wallet these 5 months. Still I'm $40 short. Thank heavens for the nice guy selling us the car. He loans me the difference just to get the deal done and the car out of his name. Don't worry about it he says.

The silver lining? As we picked him up from the US Embassy where he works, we look across the street, and lo and behold, there is a little store that says they have outlet clothing from Marshall's and Ross. They appear to be closed and we can't find a parking place. Another adventure for another day.

A sweet adventure took us to a little country town about an hours drive from the office Thursday pm. Because we had never been there, sweet Elder Acosta, the AP who goes home in six weeks, insisted on accompanying us. He really didn't need to, but they are so protective of us. We love it.

Anyway, there are some people there in a 25 member branch who took piano lessons from the previous couple, had continued on their own at home and needed some additional lessons. They requested Sister Pack to come. She did. Two of them (and a pet goat—more later) showed up and she spent an hour and a half with them. The twelve year old girl leads the sacrament meeting music thanks to the training she got from the McCowns but is not quite ready to play in church. The older woman is an eager learner and may be the branch pianist soon.

I stayed in the foyer carrying on a long disjointed “Spanish” conversation with a 30 something, single, returned missionary, electrician who was waiting for an English class the Elders were going to teach. One of the Elders went into the chapel for a few minutes and came out exclaiming, you should see what is happening in there. It is amazing! Sister Pack is teaching them at full throttle without speaking more than a word or two of Spanish, and they understand her. I can't believe it.

Believe it. It's called the interpretation of tongues. It is a gift of the spirit. God needs those people to understand and learn and He makes it happen. Every week BJ reports to me the marvel of it. It is truly humbling. We may never master the language, but no matter, The Master opens the minds and hearts of the people. We don't know what they hear. We hear what we say. They seem to hear more. Not just with their ears. You are right Elder Smart, it is amazing.

About the goat. Just a little kid really. He came with some human kids who come to play soccor every time the church gate is opened. They had him on a rope, but let him loose, and he headed straight for the church door. When they caught up to him, he was startled and dropped something on the doorstep. Another day in the countryside. A nonmember boy in the group took a couple of piano lessons before and wants to resume. We figure the goat was there to get mom and the boy together. Mysterious ways.

We got a key to our branch building. We weren't asking for a key. Just wanted to get in to teach piano on Wed. Two weeks in a row they said someone would open it but didn't. Then we heard there was a new policy that the buildings couldn't be open before 8pm and only if the bishop or branch president was in the building. Then the stake president denied such a policy. We were confused.

So Sunday we were called out of Sunday School to meet with the branch presidency and the other missionaries for a very confidential, don't breathe a word of this, nothing leaves this room converso. After half an hour they handed us a key which we must never divulge nor reveal nor loan nor duplicate nor transport out of the country. We are welcome to teach piano; they want us to do so, etc. etc. Here's the short of it. We called the assistants, they called Pres King, he called the stake president, he called the branch president, he called us on the carpet and gave us a key. Forgive and forget.

Today was my birthday. I got to do something I've never done before. I carved a wooden leg for Elder Dorius. Well, not for him personally. I found a stand-up fan with three legs. They have no fan. Now they have a fan with a wooden leg and I have a happy blister on my finger. I got well wishes from the office elders, and Kevin's comp Andres Toledo came by to bring me a “cake”, but we can't get internet or skype to work.

I tried to buy internet yesterday with the help of Elder Dorius and his Spanish skills. It looked like we were about to consumate the deal, when the salesgirl asked for my Chilean bank account number. I no have. You no can buy. We went to four places trying to buy minutes for my prepaid wireless stick, but just got the run around, so today I bought another stick with 30 days free ($40) service, but I can't get it to work. Poor signal tonight. Try again tomorrow.

Poor signal today too. Not enough power to load my email or open any tabs, so I'll write stories. Tomorrow I'm going to try getting a bank account.

no bank account; no internet, so. . . . I am at the office. Now it is Fri the 5th. Got to get this sent.

Just heard that Mom's brother Bob in Arkansas died following heart surgery following a heart attack yesterday.  We are sad.  Mom stayed home today.  He became a bornagainexMormonChristian and it was difficult to talk to him and relate to him because they thought very differently about things. We visited him a couple of times, but could not have a comfortable conversation or relationship. That has always been sad for BJ. She and Bobby were two years apart and grew up happily together. She went one way, he another.

Quick report: last night we went back to the little Bollenar Branch 75 kilometers away for piano. Seven students, 3 spouses, eight soccer players, two missionaries, (no goats this week) and a bag of peaches made for a great three hours. Two of the soccer players said they want to start learning. We weren't expecting this. WOW! We'll have to get more books and keyboards. Kevin says that word spread about the kind Gringa piano teacher who gives free music lessons. One of the new students has studied at a music conservatory and will soon be ready to play in church. Elder Jensen has been here almost 8 months, playing in church, building a choir, getting BJ and her class together. Now he can leave and leave a legacy. The whole town will be singing and playing.

Now for story time. BJ wrote this for my birthday:

When I met my sweetheart years ago,
He was a missionary in the army of the Lord.
A wonderful spirit he did carry;
Who could know that we would marry?

I did not know him;
How could that be?
But a very familiar spirit was he.

Could we have met a long time ago?
Maybe, before this life our friendship did grow.
Yes, I knew him;
That I know.

Could we have talked and planned of things to be?
Was there a sweet friendship between him and me?

I don't remember,
But my spirit says Yes.
He was my dear friend.
Of that I can attest.

I left 37 days before him;
From Christmas 'til February first.
We promised to find each other,
Somewhere in this big wide earth.

The Church will be the tie that binds,
Were the last words he said to me.
We'll both live worthily,
And someday we'll find each other;
You will see.

So I knew that the future would bring to pass,
Looking and finding each other at last.

I had to leave for my birth on the earth;
I wondered what would be:
Could we look to the future;
Could our paths cross somewhere?
I wish I could see.
I'll keep myself worthy,
To meet him someday;
This I promise;
This I pray.

So. . .When I saw him as a missionary,
The spirit spoke to me;
This is who you've been looking for,
But a missionary he must be.

Now, for the rest of the story, from Blair:

True, I was a missionary when I met Grandma, but she wasn't Grandma then, she was Betty Jane Forsyth and I was Elder Pack, so how did we end up together on a mission here in Chile almost 50 years later?

Missionaries can't date or dance or be alone with girls or call them on the telephone. They must lock their hearts to the opposite but still attractive humans. Missionaries have to stay at least an arm's length away from girls, and surely can't get married or engaged. (However, I knew a sister missionary who had a date on her mission and before the day was over she was engaged. I'll tell that story later. Our story is not quite so dramatic. Or is it?)

I was a district leader in the Florida Mission with six months left when President Lyman sent me to Jacksonville to train a greenie and be on a bike instead of in a car. No leadership, no car and a green companion who didn't know anything. I felt like I was being punished, but it turned out to be the best six months of my mission. Elder Toone became my favorite companion, and we worked hard and had good success and great converts. Because of my connection to one Florida Forsyth family, I have reconnected with some of them years later. That's a story called “The Thirteen Year Delinquent From ?????? Street”. Later. I'm very grateful for that time and those people. Eventually Elder Toone and I got a brand new 1963 American Motors Rambler—ugly brown.

And I got a bonus missionary blessing. During that six months, in fact from day one, I noticed with interest a young woman like no other I had ever seen. I didn't know that she had noticed me with similar interest. Now let me assure you that we both keep our distance and adhered very strictly to all the mission rules. We just watched each other from a distance, without disclosing anything to each other. We never called, never dated, were very careful not be alone, and I focused very intently on my mission.

It was full disclosure to each of our mothers and to President Lyman, all of whom counseled us to wait until my mission was over to make any moves or say anything to each other. In every monthly interview President Lyman asked the missionaries if they had met any girls they liked; had they been on any dates; had they called on the phone; had they spent any time alone; had they done anything they shouldn't have with each other?? Every month I said, “yes”, “no”,“no”, “no”, “no”. He was very straightforward with me. He said I was on my honor and if I or she did any of those things I was to call him immediately and I would be in a new area of the mission by morning, and no one would be the wiser, except me. We didn't, so I didn't have to, and neither did he.

It would have been hard not to notice her. She was everywhere in the Jacksonville 3rd Ward . And she was very easy on the eyes, which, by the way they do not poke out at the MTC. You lock your heart, but you get to keep your eyes. If she had held the priesthood she would have been the bishop. When I came into Sunday School (back in the day, we had three separate meetings on Sunday: Priesthood Meeting at 8:00, Sunday School at 10:00, and Sacrament Meeting at 6:00 or 7:00) she was leading the music, teaching the practice hymns (I miss that); she taught the young adult Sunday School class; she was the Young Women's President, and chairman of the Bishop's youth missionary committee. At Sacrament Meeting there she was leading the music and/or the choir or giving a talk, and she played the piano at baptisms and other occasions. Of course she was at choir practice and Mutual. Everywhere I went she was there.

Except when we went to her house for dinner about once a month for fried chicken and strawberry cake. She was never there. I thought she had to work, but later found out that she simply left before we came to avoid being too close. That may have been her mother's idea. Sadie Belle said, if he comes in the front door you go out the back; if he comes up the front stairs (at church) you go down the back ones. So we never had sit down time together and never really talked except greeting and leaving.

She later said she thought I was nice—to all the girls. I learned that she had been to BYU for a while, came home to work and get ready for a mission, and had received her temple endowments and bishop's interview. She was going on a mission. There was one girl, Marie Welch about 15, who said she was really worried about Betty Jane because she didn't even have a boyfriend and would be an old maid when she got home from her mission. She'll never get married. Not to worry, Marie.

I worked hard, kept my mind on my business, and had the best time of my whole mission, keeping her tucked away in the back of my mind. I only mentioned her once in my journal and never talked about her with Elder Toone. We just went to work every day and the Lord blessed us.

I loved Joe Toone. He was a big red headed farm boy who left a football scholarship to go on a mission and didn't have any time to waste. He also didn't waste any money on such things as dry cleaning. He saved enough money on his mission to buy a car when he got home. Sadly, he died of a heart attack in his forties. As far as I knew Betty Jane Forsyth was going on a mission. And I was going home.

In those days your mission president released you and sent you home. I was finishing my mission about the time President Lyman finished his, early July, so I didn't get a formal release interview. He released me by phone. My parents and brothers were coming to get me and drive around the country on the way home to Utah. About two weeks before they arrived I asked Sister Forsyth if maybe she could get off work one day and her family and mine could spend the day together. Could I? Would I?? Name the day!! I'll clear my schedule. I had no idea what a welcome prospect this was for her. I was looking forward to it too. Nervous, but. . . glad.

I was released and replaced on Friday, my family came and we left for a downstate trip to Cypress Gardens. Sunday we were back in time for Sacrament Meeting. Bishop Greene didn't know that my father NEVER spoke in church and asked him to speak on short notice. He did good. Betty Jane invited me to go to a fireside with the youth. We did. Not really a date. But awkward. I'm with these people just like last week, but now I'm not a missionary. What do they think I'm up to? Exactly why missionaries are counseled to go home immediately.

Monday was the big day. My family of three brothers and her parents & one brother. We spent the day at Sea World and Saint Augustine walking around the sights and talking. In the afternoon we lounged about the motel pool, never even getting in the water because we were so absorbed in each other. She even scratched my back, a sure way to a man's heart. I mustered up enough courage to ask my dad if I could take his brand new 1963 Ford Falcon station wagon for a movie and a hamburger with Betty Jane. Our first date. Three days post-mission.

I was pretty green and awkward, but we had a good time and accidentally kissed as she reached for her root beer just as I turned to say something to her. Our lips collided, and---what could we do? I was smitten. Admiration was quickly turning into something more romantic. I took her home—another little kiss on the porch, and I said, I love you. She said, no you don't. We left it there.

The next day she went back to work and I got in the overloaded blue compact wagon with my parents and three brothers for a month on the road, seeing the sights of the east coast and the Mormon historical sites from New York to Utah. I began writing letters. Every day. She got one the day after I left and started answering them. Where could she send them to me?

We were going to stay a couple of days with my father's sister, Edith, a locally known artist, who lived near New York City. When we arrived Aunt Edith started teasing me about the perfumed mail waiting for me at her house. I didn't mind the teasing and couldn't wait to read the mail. Included was a nice 8 by 10 glossy of Betty Jane which kept me company for the rest of the trip and at college. For whatever reason I had left my photo with her, too. Good thinking.

For the next three months our letters crossed in the mail somewhere over Kansas. Actually, it was two trains passing; we didn't use airmail. It cost extra. Regular postage went up to 3cents about then. I think air mail was 8 cents. There was no such thing as email or Skype and we never called on the phone. I never even thought of it. My family didn't use long distance unless someone died. No one did. Just a letter every night after work or school. Mushy stuff. Mine perfumed with sagebrush; hers more flowery. I always wrote with green ink. We have those letters in the attic somewhere.

This was July August September. October General Conference was coming and her family was driving to Salt Lake City for conference. We arranged a rendezvous for 10/4. I was in love. I was in college. I was poor. I didn't even have a car. She was going on a mission, or was she? She hadn't mentioned it in her letters. And I didn't want to ask.

I walked to the Logan Temple several times a week after classes and really enjoyed my time there. I was praying about her and asking if I should ask her to marry me. What? You've had one date. You've known each other less than a year, most of which you were a missionary. You are virtual strangers. You come from different ends of the country, ta, da da, ta da.. I'm not listening.

It was a big decision and not easily made, but with reassurance from an experience/ warning/assurance in the temple one afternoon, I made up my mind. No doubt. On ten-four, the 4th of October, I would ask. She arrived. Our families had dinner together. Next day we went to Temple Square for the morning session, watched conference at home in the afternoon (more k-i-s-s-i-n-g; Tommy said we made him sick) and went bowling in the evening. She beat me at bowling, pool and every game we played. I was just a bit nervous. She was tranquilo as they say here. She didn't know what I was planning.

Next day we went to Temple Square and listened from the outside because we couldn't get in the tabernacle. As we sat in the sunshine between the tabernacle and the north visitor's center we raised our hands to sustain two new apostles: Thomas S. Monson, and Boyd K. Packer, in that order, so as I write Elder Monson is President Monson and Elder Packer is President of the Quorum of The Twelve.

After priesthood meeting that night I was to pick her up to go to a Florida Mission reunion. On my way to the motel where her family was staying I stopped at a pay phone to call my parents and tell them of my intentions. It would have been more thoughtful to ask their advice and blessing, but I wasn't thinking about them. They were surprised to say the least, but I didn't have time to discuss the matter. My love awaited.

In the car outside her motel room I asked if she would like to become Mrs. Pack. She said she would, but shouldn't we ask her parents first? OK. In the motel room with her father, mother and 14 year old Tommy, when I laid out the proposal Sadie Belle Forsyth, struggling to get up on her crippled flebitis legs, came face to face with me and simply asked: Are you clean?

It was the most important and amazing interview of my life. One question. Yes or no answer. Are you clean, Elder Pack?—that's how her mother knew me. I've been interviewed by General Authorities before my mission, when I was set apart for my mission, when I was hired for CES, when I was called to the stake presidency twice. I've sat before dozens of bishops and stake presidents and answered the standard questions, but none have had the impact of that simple, straightforward, single question everyone in the room clearly understood.

I am forever grateful that I did not need to hesitate or think what to say or fear the consequences of my answer. Simple question. Simple answer. Interview over. Hugs, tears, congratulations. I have always been impressed by that powerful, brave interview by a mother who had devoted her life to teaching her little girl and helping her remain chaste and pure. I'm glad my mother did the same. I'm glad we listened to our mothers. Bless 'em. I think they are proud of us.

So we had the weekend together, but I had to be back at school in Logan and her family was turning back to Florida. We fit a lot into that weekend, including a trip to the jewelry story of my boyhood ward member, Sylvan Eugene Needham, for visible proof to show to the folks back home. I proposed with my Seminary graduation pin, and hadn't thought much about a diamond ring. My first buy-now pay-later purchase. For prompt payments over the next year BJ also got a nice pearl pendant necklace and I got the girl of my dreams. Sweet deal.

Three more months of daily letters. More mush. More sagebrush and flowery spray stuff. Now, looking back, with the internet matching people up without ever meeting, I realize how easy it would have been to exaggerate ourselves or keep something hidden from the other. We didn't do that. Our letters were frank and honest and we got acquainted the best we could.

We were still strangers when we got married, but what we did know about each other was the truth. No surprises. Except that men are different from women and marriage takes a lot of work. I had three younger brothers, no sisters, and didn't know much about the gentler gender. It was a steep learning curve for me.

By mail our mothers planned a nice wedding and reception for us for December 27, our choice, not our parents'. Again, I was not very thoughtful of my parents or hers. Her family had to make another trip to Utah. My parents thought we were rushing things. We were.

We didn't want to wait until the next summer. So what that we didn't have jobs or money or a place to live? It would all work out. It did. The wedding was wonderful, but we had to wait in the temple for 50+ couples to be married that day, and by the time the reception was over we were completely worn out. It was so foggy as we left the reception that I had to open the car door (1956 Chevy, our first) to see the white lines below me.

Our weekend honeymoon to the World Motor Hotel in Salt Lake was restful and sweet. We went to a Jerry Lewis (of telethon fame) movie the next night (Mom fell asleep), then to my parents, then to Logan to our first apartment, which I had found and paid for somehow ($40 a month). It was January in Logan, Utah. Cold and snowy.

We lived up the hill from the city park which had an ice skating rink in the flooded baseball field. At night we lay in our attic bed with the windows raised, the snow blowing in, listening to the sounds of skaters and music, the light from the Logan Temple providing our night light. We loved it. It was a magical time. Two kids together forever. She changed my life forever.

Now here we are again, 47 years later, together as missionaries in the Chile Santiago West Mission. When we were first interviewed by President Stevens and his counselor, our son Kevin, it dawned on me that Betty Jane had at some time put her mission plans on the shelf back in Jacksonville, Florida, and had never gone. She had gone with me instead. She had moved to Utah. She had left her family, friends, job, ward, and all her comfort zone to go on another kind of mission.

From that moment in the stake president's office I have thought of this as HER mission. And I get to go along and be her companion. The Lord called her and let me go, too. I doubt that she would have ever chosen to come to Chile or any foreign country for that matter. It has been a big adjustment. At least as big as getting married. More difficult in some ways.

When we got married we learned that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. We speak different languages, have different cultures, expectations, ways of thinking and talking. It takes a while to learn each other's language and create a new culture together. It's a challenge, but it's definitely worth it.

We are again learning another language and culture, not our own. Not familiar. Not always comfortable. We are strangers in a strange land, but not to each other. Not anymore. Now we are more together than we have ever been. Not just 24/7, but in heart and mind and purpose. And here I am again, writing (almost) daily about her mission, our mission, the Lord's mission for us.

Ask me if I think it's worth it.

I'm glad she waited until now to go on her mission, so I could go with her.

LUV Grammy and Gramps

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today, February 1st is our Dad's birthday.  Dad, we celebrate your life today even though there are many miles between us.  Enjoy your carrot cake!  We love you and wish you a very Happy Birthday!  Enjoy this little photo trip down memory lane.

 Phil Pack Family- SLC Train Depot, July 10, 1961

 Written by Phil Pack: 
"Phil's & Jessene's little boy, Blair.  This must have been late Spring of 1949. 
He looked just like this when I saw him in October 1949."

 Written by Phil Pack: 
"Picture of Blair Pack taken last Summer (1949)
when Phil & Jessene vacationed at Zion Canyon."

 Phil Pack Family- Bountiful, August 1977

 Written by Blair: 
"Here's a ten year old shot of us at Gramps farm near Ogden
where we love to go ride horses, roast weiners, play in the
hay loft and generally have a rowdy good time."

 Phil Pack Family

 Phil Pack Family- Logan, 1948

Written by Blair: 
"This is my favorite mug shot, but Mom hates it with a passion. 
The Deseret News took it when I got a scholarship to U.S.U. 
I now have three sets of dimples and three chins instead of just two. 
I think this was the first picture I really smiled for - cheezz."


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 26, 2011

Kevin's favorite cologne is Polo Black, mine is Bonfire Black. Today (1/20/11) I got to use my portable Red-neck paper shredder, Dad's Document Destruction Device, Copihue matches. I love the smell of a good bonfire. All over me. There is a fire pit in the parking lot of the church/office where they do barbeques. I got to burn old financial records all day long in my jeans, tee shirt, and work boots. I was in redneck heaven, and I'll get to do it again next week. I have a little repair shop and some tools. Yippppeeeee! I think our mission is unlike any other in the world, but then I'm unlike any other missionary in the world.

I've always felt like I was different from other people. I was right. So are you. Isn't it amazing? How does He do it? He has billions of children created in His own image and every one is unique. I marvel and wonder. I guess He could have used a few patterns and molds and saved Himself some trouble, but for some reason He understands He didn't make any two alike. On purpose. What purpose?

He wants us all to become like Him, but as I understand it we will be our unique selves in the spirit world, and in the resurrection and the millennium and in the Celestial Kingdom and throughout eternity. Then we will be able to have “increase” or spirit children the same as Him. Will they all be uniquely different, too? How is it so? A mystery. A marvel. I love it. I just don't comprehend it.

I suppose every teenager feels like they don't exactly fit in. I felt that way for 40+ years. When am I going to grow up and be like all the others? NEVER. For a long time I thought I must have a rebellious streak that made me feel different. Even as a bishop and stake president I felt that I didn't do things the way others did or were “supposed” to. I was right. And I finally owned that it was OK. It's not an aberration. It is not a mistake. It is not rebellion. THIS IS ME. HELLO WORLD.

Of course there are some things Father expects us to conform to. His laws. The laws. He obeys them too. That's why He is God. What if He wasn't always honest? Could you trust anything He said? What if He were unchaste? Would that give you an excuse? Aren't we trying to be like Him? What if He tricked Joseph Smith into writing “revelations?” What if He takes a break and doesn't hear all the prayers tonight? What if He doesn't really know everything? What if He doesn't know ME well enough to have paid for all my sins, suffering, grief, pain, sorrow, stupidity? What if I do something He didn't anticipate and therefore did not atone for? If He is not perfect He cannot be God. I wouldn't worship Him, would you? Who would want to be like Him?

So, He is perfect. And Father says we must become perfect even as He is and that we can through the Savior. And the Savior says we must be one as He and The Father are one. One and Perfect and Unique. It boggles my mind. I don't doubt it—I don't understand it.

This is not my only question. Next week is my 69th birthday. I spent half those years in front of Seminary and Institute classes as a professional gospel doctrine teacher, the one with all the answers, right? Wrong? I'm the one with some really solid answers, some probably so's, some could be's, some I wonder about that too, some Nope's, and a ton of I don't know's. I should feel like such a failure. But no. I still have faith.

My faith has grown stronger the longer I ponder. Questions don't have to produce doubts. They can just as well help us develop faith. If we knew all the answers imagine what church meetings and classes would be like. BOORRRING! Oh you thought they were boring now? What if no one had to think or wonder or suppose or imagine or question?

For me one of the most exhilarating spiritual experiences is thinking, wondering, pondering, exploring, stretching my understanding, expanding my vision, imagining, visualizing, enlarging the possibilities. I can no longer read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover without stopping. I've done that and it was a good thing. I'm glad I did it a few times. Then I slowed down and had a different experience. I like it better.

Some people seem to think they know everything. You know one, too? Well, this is what I say. People who think they know everything really irritate those of us who do. Here's another from my favorite bumper sticker. Eschew obfuscation. Look that one up. In the meantime, keep it simple. I don't like a lot of commentary. The Institute manuals have enough for me and they are trustworthy sources. An earlier General Authority said he would rather drink from the fountain than downstream where the water is muddied by a lot of opinions. Everyone has an opinion.

Someday I hope to know all things and understand all things, but for now it is enough for me to know some things. One of them is what Nephi said: I know God loves His children, but I do not know the meaning of all things. The other is that in a coming day all things shall be revealed, things above the earth, things under the earth, things past and things present, etc.

Don't allow the things you don't know to overshadow the things you do know. Have faith.

Today's sermon was brought to you by the makers of Copihue Fosforos. Try one; you might lite it.

Tues Enero 25

Now for the news. Saturday we had a sweet baptism in the branch. The grandmother of one of my Aaronic Priesthood boys has been receiving missionaries for over five years, but hadn't received their message or a testimony of her own. We have some really good people as missionaries in the branch, some of our favorites. They reached her heart.

We have known her as a member of the Gospel Essentials class, but we can't carry on a conversation, so all we knew was that she was not a member and came every Sunday. When we heard that Fresia was going to be baptized we weren't sure who Fresia was. When we put two and two together it was exciting, and when we learned she was John's (not Juan) grandmother that made it all the more.

Half the branch came, but not at the announced time. Hermana BJ got there at 6:30 to play prelude. Two elders were there. About 7:00 two more came, and at 7:10 President and Sister King arrived. They knew Fresia already. They attend all the baptisms they can. Then two more elders with two teenish boys in jeans and teeshirts. That made 10 of us but no Fresia.

Slowly the crowd grew and refreshments began to arrive with the Relief Society sisters. Elder Madsen asked if I could take him and the Relief Society pres to go get someone. I thought it would be Fresia. We returned with a key they needed. No one but me seemed too concerned that Fresia wasn't among the thirty or so attending her baptism. Elder Granda called her and calmed me with assurances that she was still getting ready and would be along shortly.

I'm not sure how she arrived, but she did, along with some more teenagers, investigators, and missionaries. She obviously has friends in the branch and beyond and has been well fellowshipped. I got to be a testigo again—that's a witness. It wasn't until after the baptism as we waited, not so long this time, for her to dress, that I began to learn of her relationships and connections.

It was a sweet time and I hardly noticed when 9:00 pm came and passed. The refreshment table was groaning under a good $50 worth of cakes, “pies”, sodas, cookies. I was on a sugar high and had to leave early at 9:30 to get some real supper. The party was going strong.

Fresia was baptized by immersion in water about 8:30, then immersed in love for another hour or more, then by the Holy Ghost on Sunday, and by fire as far as I could tell. Her testimony sounded that way. I like hearing the new convert bear her/his testimony as the final speaker at their own baptism, even if I don't understand their words. The feelings are fresh and powerful.

Before the baptism I put out 35 new hymnbooks without saying anything to anyone. A kind soul from back home asked me to use some of her money to do something the branch needed. They really needed. Thank you for your generosity. Sunday, I watched the chorister pick up her new book, turn it over and over, smell it, open it and gently smooth out the right pages and grin from ear to ear before she got up to lead. I couldn't see the others behind me, but her response was enough for me. There were about 40 people at church. They each had a perfect new book. After the meeting, someone brought all the old, ratty, coverless himnarios up and stacked them on the riser. The gift was perfect and well received.

It's 10:30. The playground is still abuzz. This afternoon as I took out the trash two pre-teen girls peeked around the corner and softly said hello hello hello. I repeated and said how are you? Smiles all around. When people warm up they love to show off their three word English vocabulary. Today as I bought completos (think hot dogs buried under guacamole and mayo) an old woman laughingly said words in English after I said them in Spanish.

Yesterday and today were very tiring and tomorrow will be another 12 hour shift. I'm going to bed.

I'm almost finished with a story about how Betty Jane Forsyth morphed into Hermana Pack of Maipu, Chile. She is working on another poem, but I think I'll just send this as is and the stories next time.


Wednesday (1/26/11) at the church while BJ teaches piano. This week and last we have had trouble getting into the building. Pablo said he would open for us at 5 last week. He didn't. We waited almost an hour and left. This week we asked for a key and got put off. Selinda said one of her boys would get a key and open at 5, but we got a call this morning from her husband saying something about no key until 8pm. The assistants assisted us in getting keys from a friend in the ward. We are in. We have the feeling the branch president doesn't understand or value this service as one of our called assignments from the First Presidency. The assistants are going to talk to him. We could teach somewhere else on Wednesday nite.

Tomorrow we take the piano class to a little branch in the little town of Bollanar about an hour and a half away. The president described it as remote. The previous couple taught piano out there and there is a group of people who have keyboards and want more lessons. It sounds good. They all work all day and can't meet until 8pm so we won't be home early. Elder Jensen will be there to translate and help. We hope it goes well.

Produce market report: tomatoes less than 20 cents/lb; beautiful ripe peaches 25 cent/lb; ripe pineapples three for $2; watermelons $1, $2, $3; huge too-ripe corn ten for a buck. Only one stand had cherries this week and no one had apricots or strawberries. We've been there enough that vendors recognize us and hawk us. I don't understand all they say, but I think they're glad to see us because we spend about ten bucks a week. We spread it out among different vendors. Only one had decent, not overripe bananas, and one has delicious black olives. He lets us taste one before we buy; sometimes they taste different and we don't buy. His shelled walnuts are pricy; we paid $4 for a half pound, but he's the only nut man. Maybe they're off season. When you visit we will take you shopping; you will love it. When Kevin and Jenny come it will be grape season and you can eat all you want for little money.

We got our official CARNET identification cards! So what? Well, now we can sign contracts. We can finally own our own car and get a toll pass for the freeway and a bank account and an internet plan. This prepaid one is too slow and weak. We'll pay the price for good service. I like the way WE (USofA) do business. There is no culture of efficiency here. Hire lots of people to do as little as possible in as much time as they can possibly take without really being helpful, then tell people to go somewhere else, you can't stamp their hand at this window. Just venting. There are worse places.

Summer arrived. It is hot and muggy and the promise is for 6-8 more weeks of the same. But, once in a while there is a cool cloudy day to give relief and most nights are pretty cool by morning. In our very nice 5 story apartment building I see nary an AC unit. The other day almost every apartment had their cooling systems turned up to the max—five windows, curtain billowing.

Today we got FIVE letters. Never happened. The Christmas mail is arriving. Thank you all. We love you beyond words. Life is good. Live it well.

LUV LUV LUV Grammy and Gramps, aka Elder Blair and Hermana Betty Jane Pack

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 18, 2011

The doctor at Indice Clinic/Hospital looked and sounded like a younger version of President Uchtdorf, but Mom handled it pretty well and didn't swoon. He spoke good English, learned at a French school, and said to her, you may speak English. He hardly spoke to me. She has Achilles tendonitis inflammation, painful but not debilitating. Slow to heal; of unknown origin. The first course of treatment, while he is on a three week vacation, is an anti-inflammatory patch, daily pain meds, and physical therapy. He also recommended she wear a higher heel to take the stretch out of her tendon, so today we went shoe shopping and she found a cute pair she liked. Hope it helps.

At the hospital, hardly any waiting at all, we only had to go to four different places, they were very nice, but they changed Mom's name to Jane Tack Betty. Cute, don't you think? We're having to have new name tags made: HERMANA BETTY, just like Mississippi. Here the women introduce themselves by first name only, because to say all four names confuses us poor North Americans. I still can't explain it. They have an extra last name, and women don't take/ or may add their husband's last name—Betty Jane Forsyth O'Neal del Pack. Sometimes the last last name is abbreviated by its initial-P. or A. or J. Ask Kevin Blair Pack, F.

It's Saturday night after laundry, (with no dryer our apartment looks like a weekend ghost convention), preparing our Sunday lessons, vacuuming, going to the produce market, (cherries are waning, but grapes are coming in at 90 cents a pound, but will drop in coming weeks), and the mall. Not nearly as crowded as before Christmas. Yesterday we ate at a stand-alone McDonald's which was empty. The food had been cooked in anticipation of customers, so when we showed up we got it, hard and stale. I took mine back and got another one just like the first.

One girl on the playground calls to another: “nina, nina”, which means girl child or daughter, but is used instead of hey you, whatever your name is. Parents also call their children to them by calling “nina” or “nino”, unless they are mad. I don't know what they say then, but we hear almost no anger, impatience, scolding or arguing. Parents call: kids come. We haven't heard even a hint of a domestic dispute, no slamming doors, shouting, squealing tires, broken glass. Good neighborhood.

Mom may become an internet junkie. Last night and this morning she spent two hours each surfing news and department store sites. The other day she was home alone and Skyped all by herself. She is learning to use a mouse and cursor, where we all had to start, and navigates pretty well. She's found her news source. We really miss the news.

This week paying bills I hit it just right at one bank and went straight to the window without waiting for anyone, and yesterday we had to wait only an hour to pay our rent. One hour to serve 22 people. We and the office elders and the good citizens waste a lot of time waiting in line. The economy could benefit from some cultural and administrative adjustments. Are we the only ones complaining?

The Christmas mail is still coming by the truck load. Well not exactly. I think they have a box or bag they fill with our mail each day at the sorting facility. That much and no more. The rest will eventually get to you. The maximum volume seems to be the same every day. The truck it comes in is about the size of a minivan. Then next day there will be nothing. Somebody got tired of all this foreign mail. Let 'em wait. We know how to get their cabritos (another word for kids, or kids).

We are well, in a better state of mind than last week. That's all I'm going to report. Instead of a long email, included is a long story, and a short one, the same story in fact, and Mom's weekly poem.

Poem of the week:


I think I'm getting older.
I forgot to check today;
Couldn't recall where my purse was,
That I had put away.

Why did I come into this room?
I know there was a reason.
Is this part of the saying,
To everything there is a season?

I forgot to turn the water off,
Because my phone began to ring.
Was there somewhere I should be,
And something I should bring?

Oh! Someone's knocking at the door;
My neighbor's come to call.
I can't remember her name;
It'll come to me in a while.

My granddaughter tells me,
Grandma, it's me, Emma;
Not Sophie, not Ella, not Ava.
Who else could it be?

I know who she is;
I can still see.
It's that there are so many;
The count is seventeen.

My cup runneth over,
With eighteen on the way.
I'm the luckiest, most blessed person alive;
What else can I say?

But I AM getting older;
It is plain to see,
My walk is not as steady,
As it used to be.

Never mind the wrinkles,
The wobbles and the aches;
I' m still as happy as can be;
What difference does it make?

Hermana Jane Tack Betty, age 69, January 10, 2011, Santiago, Chile
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------(The long and the short of it. Same story twice)


I'm not a very good driver's ed teacher. That should be no surprise because I'm the kid who wrecked the prophet's car. No, I'm not proud of it, but I'll never forget it. When my kids became teenagers and wanted to get their licenses to drive I thought I'd save 75 bucks, times five, and teach them myself. I'm a pretty good driver; I've never had a serious accident—except that one.

I required them to log 100 hours practice at the wheel with one of their parents on board giving helpful tips, like LOOK OUT!! DIDN'T YOU SEE THAT GUY? They had to parallel park, drive a stick shift, and learn to properly merge onto the freeway. My dad took me to the fairgrounds parking lot and taught me how to do and undo a skid on the ice. Cool. But there is no ice where we live. While we did their practice driving we never had a scrape of any kind. White knuckles, sudden stops, close calls and coronaries, but no actual bodily damage to car, driver, or parent.

So each in turn finished the course, passed the required Mississippi driving tests and got his or her official certificate to cruise--anytime, anywhere, with anyone in the car. Not exactly. We still put some limits on who, when and where, trying to be wise guardians and save innocent lives.

But they reminded Dad now and then that his own driving record was not unblemished. Come on kids, it was only a little scrape on the driver's side door. OK, it was the whole door. Alright, both doors. Details. They never let you forget.

We put an insurance card, phone numbers, a comforting note about the relative value of people and things, in the glove box, in an envelope “In Case You Have an Accident.” They did. Each, within a few weeks of finishing The Most Comprehensive Driver's Education Course in the Entire Civilized World, had a wreck with the family car. No blood, some bruises to body, ego (mine), and the old Ford/Dodge/Chevy station wagon/van. Since our policy was not to buy them a car of their own, this meant we were all without transportation for a while—a daily reminder of their folly.

Speaking of reminders: Dad, tell us again about the time You Wrecked the Prophet's Car. You were about our age, right? Close, I was eighteen, getting ready to go on a mission. Banking some cash the summer before I left. So it was a long time ago and those youthful misjudgments need to be forgiven and forgotten.

I've never met anyone else who Wrecked the Prophet's Car. Surely, I'm the only one stupid enough to do that. I thought I was doomed to the depths of a bottomless pit. But instead, He forgave me. He forgave me. I was forgiven, on the spot, by President McKay himself, face to face, person to person, prophet to trembling-with-fear teenager.

Right Dad, so don't you think you could, you should, you must forgive us? The Lord and His Prophets may forgive whom they will forgive, but of you, Dad, it is required to forgive all men—and teenagers, especially your own flesh and blood, right?.

Was there blood? No, but there was a lot of sweat and tears and my veins were full of ice. Yours would be too, if you had Wrecked the Prophet's Car. You'd feel like running as fast as you could, as far as you could.

Well, why didn't you? I considered it. The world record mile run had just been shattered beyond belief, under 4:00 minutes. Not humanly possible, for me anyway, the chubby, non-athletic, pitiful boy who Wrecked the Prophet's Car--just ten minutes before he was due to drive it (he was near ninety then) away from the Hotel Utah where he lived the last few years of his life. Ten minutes at 4:00 minutes per mile. . .mmmmm. . .I could be two and a half miles from here before my hero appears from his 9th floor suite and the jig is up for you, kid. You are not going to get the penny-a-car safe driving bonus this month, pal. For sure, he's not going to give you his usual 25 cent tip. Hey, that was real coin in those days. I only made four times that in an hour.

He really was my hero. When I turned 11 and became a Boy Scout, one of the first events of my illustrious stage career was to be in an all-church dance festival. No, it wasn't at the Nauvoo Parade Grounds; and no, Joseph and Brigham did not attend. It was at BYU, two hours bus ride from Logan, and President McKay was there just to see me dance. Well, me and ten thousand other kids from the whole church (read: Utah and Idaho).

We got there early, practiced in the hot summer sun, waited for others to practice in the hotter afternoon sun. It was a long day for a tired kid with no water or sunscreen, and by the time we did our dance (read: callisthenics; you know-- jumping Jacks, side-straddle hops, push-ups) I was ready to hit the road in the back seat of the bus, if I could beat the bigger kids to it. Not likely.

Anyway, after all the dances, they announced that the new Prophet, President David O. McKay was there and wanted to shake hands with each one of us. What? It's after nine o'clock and we've got a ten hour bus ride ahead of us. How long is this going to take? Well, it took a long time, standing in a long line with nothing to eat or drink. This sunburned Boy Scout wished he had been better prepared. I couldn't wait for this torture to be over.

Finally, when the line turned, I could see, at the other end of the football field, our destination. Is this what they mean by a five mile hike? Then, as I crossed the fifty yard line I could see the kids step up onto a stage and shake hands with a white-haired old man. An OLD MAN? I endured all this to shake hands with an old man? It took a couple more first downs, but my attitude began to change. He's been out in the sun all day, too; he probably doesn't have anything to eat or drink either. I'll bet he's tireder than I am. Why is he doing this?

Gradually, it started to dawn on me. He was enjoying it. He said something to every kid. He had the kindest smile, the most interesting face and the most amazing head of shiny white hair. And he was Big. My dad was over 6'3”; this guy—excuse me—this prophet of God outweighed my dad by 50 pounds and was not fat; he looked fit at 80-something. Why would he do this? Oh, I get it. He has to shake all these other hands so he can get to me. Yeah, that's it. Not. Maybe I've been waiting all this time so I can shake His hand and touch a prophet of God and hear his voice speak to me in person. Yeah, that's it. That's pretty cool. Wow! I'm almost next.

I did. And I never forgot it. That's why it was so gut wrenching 6 years later to realize: you just smashed the driver's side of President McKay's brand new shiny black Cadillac. When he called for it an hour ago someone had washed and waxed it down in the four-level underground parking garage where I was a valet parking guy, driving hundreds of cars of every make and sticker price every day. What an amazing job for a teenager in 1960. I was Kookie Burns in person. (Ask someone as old as me who Kookie Burns was. Hint: 77 Sunset Strip.) What a stomach dropping, gut wrenching, spine melting moment. From stardust to dirtbag in a flash, or a CRASH.

Do you know what an awful noise one big Cadillac rippppppping a four foot gash in another big Cadillac makes? Everybody for a block heard it and came rubber necking. That kid just Wrecked the Prophet's Car! What an idiot. Man, is he in trouble. Here comes the boss; he heard it too. Mr. Newman didn't say much: just, get back to work it's rush hour. I'll call for you when President McKay comes in about 10 minutes.

Do you know how long ten minutes can be? Not long enough. Eternity couldn't be much longer. On the other hand, in an instant—it seemed—as I was bringing up a car in the elevator, I pulled out and there they were. Mr. Newman, President McKay, and THE PROPHET'S CAR. It looked worse than I remembered it and Mr. Newman was not smiling as he saw me and motioned me to come take my licking.

I tucked my whipped-puppy tail between my legs, laid back my ears, lowered my head and started on that long lonesome one-way path to outer darkness. Then I looked up. President McKay was stepping toward me with his arms widespread. He was coming at me. . . to HUG me. As he wrapped his ample arms around my sorry self I felt as if I were in the arms of Jesus. And when he said, don't worry son; I'll take care of it; I always buy an extra set of fenders and doors, I thought I had died and gone to heaven, in a good way. In an amazing way. Unforgettable. Forgiven.

Do you know what it feels like to be forgiven? I do. And I'll never forget it because I wrecked the prophet's car and he said don't worry, I'll take care of it. Glory be. He paid for my mistake and forgave me. He and the Savior.

Will you please forgive me? I forgive you. He does, too. He took care of it all. I know it.

10 Enero 2011, Elder Blair Pack (Gramps), Santiago (Maipu), Chile


Same story, Short version:

In 1960, a year before my mission, I was working at the Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City as a valet parking attendant. I took cars down the elevator to the underground parking garage and returned them to the surface when the owners came for them and gratefully put a coin in my palm, after checking the fenders and doors. It was a great job. I was in teen heaven.

One day at mid-day rush hour President David O. McKay, who was then living on the ninth floor of the hotel, called for his car to be ready at 1:00. About ten to one I was turning another car around in the driveway and smashed both driver side doors of his shiny black Cadillac with another big Cadillac.

I wanted to run away as fast as I could, but the boss, Mr. Newman, heard the crash and he came running instead. He told me to get back to work until President McKay came for his car, which he soon did.

As I came out of the elevator with a customer's car I saw Mr. Newman showing President McKay the damage. He motioned me over, and I went to them expecting to be reprimanded severely. Instead, President McKay opened his arms and hugged me saying, “Don't worry son. I'll take care of it. I always buy extra fenders and doors.”

I felt like I was in the arms of the Savior. I felt the unbelievable joy of being forgiven. I was relieved beyond expectation, and I have never forgotten the feeling. It didn't matter that I lost my penny-a-car safety bonus or that I didn't get the usual 25 cent tip from President McKay. His forgiveness meant everything to me.

A few years earlier, as a new Boy Scout, I had met President McKay and had the honor of shaking his hand following an all-church dance festival at BYU. It had been a long hot day and I wasn't very excited about waiting in a long line to shake an old man's hand. But as I got closer the excitement grew and it turned out to be an unforgettable experience.

President McKay was my boyhood hero, and the fact that I wrecked his car has been a bittersweet memory all these years. I hate what I did to his car, but I cherish how he frankly forgave me. It has helped me look forward without fear to meeting Jesus Christ and being embraced and lovingly forgiven by Him. This has been an important part of my lifelong testimony of the Savior and His prophets. I love them both.

12 Enero 2011, Santiago, Chile, Blair Philip Pack, M., age 68


Jan. 18th

A couple more things. We both taught our lessons this week, with uncertain results, but we keep preparing and trying. We would love to speak passable Spanish before Kevin and them come in March. We note slow progress; maybe there is hope. A little.

Today going to and coming from the coast with the mail, we saw where sunflower oil comes from. Endless acres of brilliant yellow heads all turned toward the sun. Stunning. They also grow canola and corn oil, but I haven't seen any soybeans. They use a lot of oil in their diet. The days are crystal clear and hot. But in the shade it is tolerable and at night there is a lovely breeze to cool everything down. On the highest mountains we can still see snow or glaciers, on a smog free day. The fruit trees and vegetables love it. They just keep growing and growing and growing.

Good news! I get to work with my dear friend, (expresident) Hector Cerda in Young Men; we're first and second or second and first counselors in the branch YM. We've also heard that he is the new Stake YM Pres. His family just returned from a beach vacation. Most of the branch seems to have gone to the beach. We wondered how they did it without a car. Today we saw how.

The little yellow school buses (minivans) in one of my fotos have a second life in the summer. We saw dozens of them stacked and packed with all the people they could cram inside and all the stuff they could pile on top, (stretch your imagination) headed west. Then back to the east, empty. Many employers give paid vacations and the self employed just close up shop and leave for a while. A national tradition. We're glad they get to take a nice vacation with their families, maybe the neighbors, too, from the looks of some of the vans.

The beat goes on. We're pretty well settled in. More stories in future editions. I'm working on about a dozen. This is the only life history I'm going to write. Tell us one of your favorite stories. OK?

We love and cherish you all.

LUV LUV LUV ALL IT TAKES IS LOVE. From: Grandma and Gramps (and the Beatles)