Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cemetery Restoration in Memory of Jason

Yesterday, November 22nd, was ten years since Jason died. We had wanted to do something special to remember him and we decided on a family service project.

Bill's 3rd and 4th great-grandparents are buried in a cemetery at the New Bethany Church in Buford. Their graves were moved there in 1956 by the Corps of Engineers when they were building Lake Lanier. Littleberry Hutchins, his wife Sarah Burford, and her parents Thomas Burford and Mary Wade were all buried on the family farm, which is now at the bottom of the lake somewhere. A total of 51 graves were moved from the farm cemetery to New Bethany, but only the four are marked. Over the years, the plot has fallen into considerable disrepair. We decided that fixing it up would be a way to remember Jason and to honor the ancestors at the same time.

We had done some preliminary planning and made a couple of trips up there in preparation. Then yesterday, we had Bill's brother-in law Leroy, his nephew Greg, wife Judy and their three children, Caroline, Kate, and Lizzie, all come up to help get started on the work. We also had a distant cousin Clarence Burford, and his wife and daughter, drive all the way down from Dalton. I have become acquainted with him through the internet as we have shared genealogy information. He is also descended from Thomas Burford, through one of his sons. We really enjoyed meeting him. He volunteered to pick up the wrought iron fence, have it sandblasted, repainted, repaired and put back up. Needless to say, we were thrilled with the offer. He has been concerned about the condition of the plot since he found out about it a couple of years ago, but his health has not allowed him to do anything. He is doing better and has a friend in the business who can help him with this. Our biggest concern had been what to do about the fence so this is a real answer to the problem.

The family chipped in and we cleared weeds, piled up trash, cleaned the stones, removed the fence for Clarence to pick up, tilled the soil so it could be leveled. We took one trailer load of trash to the dump. By 2:00, we had done what we could do on day 1.

Once the fence is back in, we can finish what we started. We will finish the soil leveling, put down a weed barrier, then cover with gravel. We will probably built a little brick wall on the downhill side to keep the rock in place. We still need to do more cleaning on the stones. There are still two broken stones and we talked about ways to repair them. We mentioned putting in a couple of bushes where there is some space in two of the corners.

It turned out to be a wonderful day. The weather was cool, but sunny, actually good working weather. We got a lot done in a short time and enjoyed being. We remembered some Jason stories and enjoyed sharing them. The girls were also amazed to learn that Thomas was their 6th great-grandfather and that he was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. There is even a plaque on his stone about it.

All in all, it has been a good way to remember Jason. We look forward to our next work day when we will try to finish up the major part of the work.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Ashby spends the night

Lisa and David have a five-day outing coming up right after Thanksgiving with his company. Grandpa and Grandma get to be baby-sitters. They decided that we needed to do a trial run to make sure Ashby was going to be OK spending the night. Needless to say, we were more than happy to accommodate the trial.

Lisa brought Ashby and all her bags over late on Friday afternoon. We spent some time playing and Lisa put her down in the Pak-n-Play crib we have. Then she went off to have an evening with David. By the way, it turns out he had told her they could do anything she wanted to do, even go into town and stay at a hotel to get away. And her choice? To go to the Gladiators game! The Gladiators are a minor league hockey team here in Gwinnett County and she absolutely loves going to the games. I get such a kick out of her - she really likes the fights. Who would have thought my girly-girl would have such a thing for violence!

Anyway, we had the best evening with Ashby. She wakes up smiling. After feeding her, she loves to play, look at books, chatter, and laugh. She did have a fussy time when it was time for another nap. She would doze off and then wake herself up crying. Fortunately it didn't last too long. Actually, I finally just went ahead and fed her a little early. She was so tired, she fell asleep in my arms after taking half the bottle. She slept that way for a while, then woke up and was ready to play some more. Grandpa had his turn playing with her. Here they are playing with her purple elephant, one of her favorite toys. When you pull his (that is, the elephant's!) nose, one of three songs plays.
When she started getting really sleepy again, we let her finish the bottle, then put her down. This time it didn't take long for her to fall asleep. That was about 10:30. We didn't hear from her again until 9:00 the next morning. Not a bad night's sleep for a 4 month old! That is her normal routine - sleeping for nine or more hours at night.
After feeding her, she and I were playing on the floor when Mommy arrived to take her back home. We had other things planned for the day and her parents wanted her back. Even so, the "trial" was a complete success. Now we can hardly wait for our chance to keep her for five days!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Talking in Sacrament Meetings

Well, I got caught today - I had to speak in two wards! When I was serving in the Stake Relief Society, I was often asked by a member of the high council to accompany him as the second speaker. However, for the last year and a half I have not been asked. Well, one of them figured out that I still had a stake calling and that meant I was eligible to be asked.

So, today I had to speak at two wards. My stake has gone to the policy of having the high councilmen speak at each unit that meets in a building. It is a good plan because of the distances that have to be traveled. This way one trip will take care of two meetings. However, it also means that you have to give a talk twice.

The thing is, I write out a talk completely. That way I have a record of what I talked about. Then when I give the talk, I speak it rather than read it, so there is still the element of the spirit directing. The first talk went fine, but when it was time for the second, I was kind of curious about what I was going to say. Fortunately, that one went fine, too, but they were not exactly the same talk.

I was assigned to use a First Presidency Message from October 2000 by President James E. Faust entitled "Our Search for Happiness." It was a great article and a pretty easy topic. I was also able to include some discussion of my public affairs calling, as service was one of the things President Faust talked about.

The Stake President also happened to be attending both of those wards today, so hopefully he won't suggest to anyone else that I am available. With luck, I can slip into obscurity again for another year and a half!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

City Council Meetings - Finally finished!

Bill and I attended the city council meeting in Loganville on Thursday. We don't even live there, but as part of my public affairs calling, I had asked the cities in our stake to issue proclamations naming November Month of the Family. The governor had previously signed a similar proclamation, as he has done for the last few years. We wanted it to have a bigger impact in our local area.

It wasn't difficult to get the cities to agree to issue the proclamations. A phone call and then some follow-up emails pretty much took care of it. I had to send each city a proposed copy of the proclamation, which was the same as the state proclamation except the city name instead of the state in the text. They were all willing to support the family so it wasn't much of a controversial issue.

Where possible, we asked a bishop from that city, or a counselor, to receive the proclamation. We also encouraged as many members as possible to attend the meeting to show support for the family. These things are usually done at the beginning of the council meeting. The mayor introduces the proclamation and invites a representative of the requesting organization to receive it.

We had a total of 8 cities and I participated in three of the presentations. Lawrenceville was unable to add it to the agenda for a city council meeting because the agenda was already too full. That mayor invited me to come to his office and receive it there. He suggested a picture in front of his bookcases of family pictures - that seemed the perfect place for a famiy proclamation to be given.

I also attended the Dacula meeting, as that is my ward. Loganville was the last one and because of some communication problems with the city, we didn't know until late in the afternoon that they were presenting the proclamation. By then, the bishop was unable to attend. So, Bill and I went to receive it. I was asked to explain briefly about why we had requested it and about the importance of families.

All in all, it has been a successful event. The wards that participated have come away excited about the connection with their community leaders. I got a note from the counselor in the stake presidency yesterday about how enthused the bishops were at their meeting the other night. He looked forward to doing it again next year and making it better.

I am glad to have a positive result from this. There were moments when I felt like I was pushing an elephant who didn't want to go. No one refused, but they didn't always seem to be interested. The result for public affairs has been positive all the way around. As a result of visiting with some of the mayors, we have already found some service projects.

Even so, it feels great to have the worry about having someone show up at each of these meetings finally over. I will think about it tomorrow! or next September, maybe.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Babysitting Ashby

I don't mind telling you that this grandmother business is just about the best thing there is! Today was David and Lisa's third wedding anniversary, so they wanted to go out to dinner. Fortunately, they ask Grandma first to be babysitter.

Ashby and I had the best time. She cried when mom and dad left, but she was really tired. I let her cry herself to sleep and when she woke up later, she was ready to eat. She does enjoy eating! I was watching Law & Order at the time, and she was glued to the TV while she ate. So maybe she will be as big a fan as I am!!!

After eating, we had our play time. She is so happy and laughs and chatters. She has learned to grip her rattle and can really make it go. After about an hour, she was ready for another nap. I just laid her in her crib and in a few minutes, she was sound asleep.

Unfortunately, the parents returned before she woke up again. Oh, well. I will have another day!

We are so happy that they are nearby so we get the chance to babysit often. Ashby gets cuter everyday. You will have to go to their website to see pictures. They just posted her 3 month old picture with the elephant.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Food Banks

I had an interesting evening on Thursday. As Director of Public Affairs for the Lilburn Stake, I am involved with community events. My Community Relations Assistant, Briane Adams, has set up a partnership between the wards in our stake and the food banks in our area. The kick-off meeting was held Thursday at the Bishop's Storehouse in Tucker.

We had three of the food banks represented by five people. Suzy Bus, the director of the Gwinnett County Help-Line, was also there. She is the one who has been working with Briane to make the connections with the food banks. In addition, the bishops or counselors from the wards were in attendance to meet the food bank directors. John Hopkins, manager of the storehouse, and President Johnson of the stake presidency, also were there.

We started with an introductory meeting where Briane gave a short talk about the church and our welfare program. He introduced everyone and explained about the initial $500 food donation that would be made to each of the food banks. He also talked about our desires for this to be a successful, ongoing partnership.

John then talked a little more about the storehouse and how things are organized and run. He then led a tour of the facility. We started in the bishop's storehouse where the food bank people could see the kinds of commodities that are available. The drypack cannery was next and we talked a little about our food storage program.

What really caught their interest was the tour into the warehouse where all the foodstuffs for both the storehouse and the drypack are stored. They were amazed at the quantity of food stored. But, they were awestruck at the humanitarian supplies. The stacks of generators got the first comments. The cleaning kits, hygiene kits, tents, tarps, tools, etc., led to a very nice discussion about the things the church does in times of emergency.

One of the men said that he had come to the meeting with some hesitation, not knowing what he might be getting into with the LDS church, but he was blown away with what the church has been doing and with the incredible preparation that has been done. The same man shared later that the night before he had attended a bible study group and when he mentioned the meeting he was going to the next night, he got quite a few negative warnings. He was anxious for next week's bible study so he could set the record straight.

All of the food bank directors seemed excited about the prospect of working with the church members. The bishops that were there, but whose food banks could not attend, asked if they could bring those people for a private tour once they had established contact. Of course, John said they were welcome at any time. Later, John said that this was the first time he had ever been part of this kind of community meeting in the 12 years he has worked at the storehouse and he was so excited about the prospects. Hopefully, this will become an example of what other stakes in Atlanta can do.

We all left really excited about the positive feeling that we felt at the meeting. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of some great relationships. One of our goals is to build our involvement in the community and this seems as though it will be a wonderful way to do that. There are always poor among us who have needs, but we don't really do any kind of outreach programs. By partnering with these groups that are good at what they do, we can share what we do well. I hope the members catch the vision of what an impact they can have just by donating food on a regular basis.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thinking of Jason on his birthday

We just had a great extended weekend in Balsam, North Carolina, with Lisa, David, & Ashby. Tuesday was our last day and as Lisa and David took off, I felt overwhelmingly sad. I went and sat in the porch swing on the front porch, looking out over the beautiful mountains with the fall leaves in brilliant color. Bill walked over and sensed I was having one of "those moments." After letting him know that I was thinking of Jason, he sat with me. It would have been Jason's 31st birthday.

We talked about some of our best memories of him. Bill told of how proud he was of Jason the summer he worked on staff at Woodruff Boy Scout Camp. He had been late to be added to the staff and so was given the least favorite job at camp - cleaning the mess hall. Bill arrived a little early one Saturday to pick him up for a night at home and watched as Jason stood by the garbage and helped the younger scouts clean their plates. He smiled the whole time, giving attention to each scout as he came by. He worked hard, never "messing" around, and Bill's heart puffed up with pride as he watched him. Apparantly the adult staff noticed as well, as they soon gave him assignments with greater responsibility.

My memories tend to be more of when he was little. I remember holding him on my arm when he was just a year or so old. I can still remember the way his leg felt as I held him. He was always a skinny one and there was a certain feel to his legs. He stayed thin as he grew up, but was not scrawny. In fact, those legs became very muscular, making him a great runner.

We talked about many other memories, cried together, and laughed as we always do when we begin to talk about Jason stories. It will be ten years in November since we lost him, but he continues to fill our lives. We feel very blessed to have been chosen as parents for such a wonderful young man, who touched so many lives during his short 21 years.

We love and miss you, Jason!