Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hailey Hammon Keller: BYU Graduate 2010

Friday was Hailey’s graduation from Brigham Young University-Provo (BYU). What a thrill it was to watch her walk across the age with her husband Joseph! Although she finished her coursework in December, she decided to wait and walk with Joseph in April.

For parents, having one graduate from college is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the child’s life as we see and remember it. Hailey has truly been a wonderful daughter. She did extremely well in high school, participating in tennis (state all three years), speech and drama (state all three years), and several plays, including a play at Miles Community College. Her switch from speech to “mime” was unforeseen and unpredictable, but she excelled in it, winning second place in the state tournament her senior year with her now famous “bouncing ball” routine.

Like Anna Rose, Hailey graduated from high school with having completed one year’s worth of college credits. While she wanted to trundle off to the university early, Hailey came with us to Cheyenne and enrolled in the Mass Media program at Laramie County Community College. She did well at the College and in her chosen field. Her phenomenal writing skills propelled her toward writing for the national-award winning College newspaper Wingspan. As a result, she ultimately received the “Journalist of the Year” Award, which was a fitting bestowal, particularly to those of us who know Hailey and her delightful style of writing.

Having graduated from Laramie County Community College, she was accepted at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo as a transfer student and was ultimately accepted in the Communications Department where she focused on the Public Relations program. During an interview for a job on BYU’s campus, the interviewer said that Hailey’s portfolio from the Mass Media program was “one of the best” he had ever seen.

Hailey’s engaging personality has always been one of her best assets. She makes friends easily, and her smile and “delicious” laugh is intoxicating. One of her other assets is that she makes people feel comfortable when they are around her. Plus, she is a leader—always has been and always will be.

While we were here in Provo, Hailey and I went on a “daddy-daughter” date to the movie Sherlock Holmes. It was fun to be with her. When she was younger, we always went on daddy-daughter dates. She and Anna Rose would alternate weeks. We either went to the museum or to a movie or to ice cream. It was always their pick as to where we would go. When I went to visit my parents in Quartzsite, Arizona, when they play snowbirds, I would either take one of the girls or the whole family. We enjoyed being together, taking walks out in the desert, negotiating for some trinket in Mexico, sauntering through acres and acres of flea markets in Quartzsite, or eating date shakes on one of the date farms around Yuma.

I could write piles and piles of stuff about Hailey and why I am proud of her. But the number one reason is that I love her, and I enjoy being her father and watching her grow and develop. It seems that her teenage years zipped by so rapidly. But when I think about all of things that she did during those times, I have to wonder when she found time to complete them all.

Hailey, congratulations! At 21, you are a college and university graduate are married to a great young man. Together you will continue to grow and develop even more talents. I know you expect to do that, I know that your Mother and I expect that, and I know that Heavenly Father expects you to rise to your birthright and become the Queen you are destined to become.

I love you tons and tons.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crayons Used to Come in Plain Brown and Green or Bus Barns Are Off Limits to First Graders

Before my first year of school, we moved from Idaho Falls to Menan, about 18 miles north of Idaho Falls. Since I arrived just after school had finished, I missed the opportunity to go to summer kindergarten. My mother told me it was all right because I was from the big city and I had an older brother and sister who taught me everything they knew when they came home from school. So we spent the summer roaming the woods in back of Hunting’s, riding bikes to and from Spring Creek, finding pop bottles, and trading them at the Menan Store for winner suckers, penny candy, and Big Hunks.

Summer fled by, like all summers do, and school lurked closer and closer until the day arrived. We purchased our new school duds at JC Penny, either the one where my great-aunt Enid worked or the old JC Penny in downtown Idaho Falls.

I remember getting my shots, and tearing off the scab on the corner of the kitchen cabinet when I didn’t turn quickly enough to get away from my brother. It hurt so badly I thought I was going to die. Nonetheless, the ripped scab did not deter my mother from taking me to school that first day. With me in school, it meant three of her six children gone between 8:00 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., surely a great relief to her.

Because of where we lived and because of our school district’s propensity to bus everyone everywhere for every grade, it touched me to start my educational career at Lewisville Elementary, an elementary school about three or four miles from Menan. I did not mind the opportunity to ride the bus. I had never ridden the bus, and the ride sounded like an adventure. The adventure lasted about four days.

The first day of school at Lewisville Elementary was full of discoveries, my first being my sister Telecia being assigned to another elementary, just a couple of blocks from my house. The thoughts of staying there alone without someone I knew caused me enough anxiety. I did what most first graders did—I started crying and moaning about Telecia having to go to another school. I just couldn’t take being left alone. Mrs. Williamson, the principal, stepped up and let my mother know that she could change Telecia to Lewisville Elementary. That assuaged my crying for a bit.

Of course, Telecia was not particularly happy that she had to stay at Lewisville with her little brother. Somehow my crying created a sense of sisterly love to exude from her, and she reluctantly stayed. I think I forgot about her after a couple of days after I became entrenched in the educational process. Unfortunately for Telecia, she had to stay for the entire school year.

Mrs. Williams, my first grade teacher led me to my desk, the old wood bench kind, ornate steel legs and a flip top desk. We had about five or six in a row. One of our first assignments was to color a picture. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any Crayons. The schools didn’t offer lists then so we usually waited until after the first day to see what we all needed and then headed to the store to buy the goods.

Since I wanted to participate in the lesson, I turned around to the kid behind me and asked to borrow a Crayon. He let me have a green or brown one, one of the six he had. He introduced himself as Jon Poulter, also from Menan. Because of that crayon we became good friends throughout our entire school career.

In first grade, I learned to read about Dick and Jane, play army with my friends, slapping our thighs as we rode our pseudo ponies hard around the playground; venture in “the Grove,” a huge stand of trees between the church and the school; play T-ball with our class; watch one of the girls tromp through the barrow pit in snow up to her waist because she didn’t want to ride the bus; participate in a Christmas play; stay in my seat on the bus; and call mom on the school phone because I had stay after for not obeying (I received a “ticket” for straying beyond the boundaries of first graders and lining my “men” on the bus barn wall. Hey, I could still see the rock school house, and there were no buses in the bus barn. So, Mr. Third Grader Ticket Giver, what was the problem?).

Now when you go to the store, you have your choice of 64 or 94 Crayons, and I suspect you would really have to dig to find a plain green or brown in them. I think Jon is in Las Vegas without his pack of Crayons. Jon, if you read this: Thanks for loaning me one of your Crayons. It helped me acclimate to first grade.

Finally, I have only two caveats for first graders: don’t ever play by the bus barn and take plenty of Crayons the first day. Just think of all the friends you’ll make.

Happy Birthday, Joanne

It's Joanne's birthday today! She is absolutely incredible and the best thing about my life. Here are some memories/comments--mostly truncated:
The YSA dance in Rexburg, our first meeting—Thanks to Ruth Hathaway for introducing us.
Our first date in Church—Menan 1st Ward.
Our move to Boise and Boise State.
The wonderful Boise 6th Ward—Ice cream raids, floating the Boise River, picking fruit in Emmett, serving the Ward members and them serving us during Joanne’s awful pregnancies.
The long wait for the girls to come and how wonderful they were.
Mountain Home Jr. High School—9th graders, girls basketball (8th B) and a perfect season and pizza in Boise. (What’s a key, Mr. Hammon?) What phenomenal young women.
The move back to Idaho Falls and family.
Templeview Ward and the gorgeous Idaho Falls Temple
The High Council.
The move to Lewiston, Idaho…growing anything.
Lewis-Clark State College
Spokane Temple trips
Move to Miles City, Montana.
Miles Community College
Custer County High School—basketball, volleyball, tennis, speech and drama, graduation
Glendive Stake and lots of travel—Young Men, Young Women, High Council
Martin’s Cove—incredibly spiritual experience
AR’s graduation from high school and Miles Community College
Move to Cheyenne, Wyoming
AR’s wedding
Laramie County Community College
Buffalo Ridge Ward
YSA Branch—lots of activities
AR’s graduation from BYU
Hailey’s graduation from Laramie County Community College
Hailey’s wedding
Missionary couple and YSA.
The many temples we have visited.
H’s wedding
H’s graduation from BYU
And many, many, many more things.
All the happiness, all of the positiveness, all of love—Joanne, my beautiful bride.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Holding Your Mouth Just Right

This is the "poem" version of catching my first fish. Enjoy!

Holding Your Mouth Just Right

At six, I still hadn’t caught a fish,
not even one. But I was determined
my drought would turn to rainbows,
sometime in July on Birch Creek.

As spring slipped into summer,
we headed out late one night,
stuffed ourselves in sleeping bags,
cramped in tents,
and waited for sunrise.
Next morning, while others sat
on army-green camp stools,
poking the fire with green willows,
waiting breakfast, I stuffed
my band-aid box full
of night crawlers, headed downstream,
but not too far from camp.

Dad had said once that to catch fish
you had to hold your mouth just right.
I couldn’t figure out what that meant;
so just out of sight of camp,
I kneeled behind a big sage
brush, let the words tumble out,
and prayed to God
that he might let me
catch a fish. I didn’t want to be
the only first grader
without a fish story
when I enrolled in the fall.

Words cast to Heaven, I sneaked
from behind the sage,
pretending I had lost something,
threaded ½ of the worm on a #6 hook,
and tossed it upstream in the swirling water,
let it carry to the big hole.
For a moment it caught–
probably some snag at the bottom.
But then the jerking started,
and I yanked, hard, the line flying
behind me, hook and all,
and a trout, landing smack dab
just beyond the sage
where I had prayed.

Dropping the pole like a weight,
I rushed back, grabbed the fish
with both hands, headed for camp,
yelling that I finally caught a fish.
They all greeted me, gathered around,
like I’d been a way a decade or two,
a prodigal son returned,
but now with fish in hands,
my mouth held just right.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dependable Things Like Spring and Robins

Some things you can depend on, like spring and robins. I saw one this morning while I was eating breakfast. He was perched on top of the fence that runs east and west on the south side of the yard. He seemed to look around, probably trying to find out whether any of the three cats were in the vicinity. Once the coast was clear, he flew into the yard, passed the clumps of leafless quakies and out of sight. No matter what weather might emerge over the next few weeks, I took comfort that my pals, the robins, had returned to my yard and to Wyoming.

Later on, just before I trundled off to work, I rolled the trash can down our long driveway to the loop road. As I was walking back up, I commented to myself what a beautiful day it appeared. Instead of entering the garage, I sauntered across my front lawn, still moist from the remains of an early morning frost, and stood in front of the kidney, filled with greenery peeking through the dead flower and sedum stalks that I hadn’t cleared before last year’s sudden snow that had covered them up.

There in the midst of the stalks, tiny tuffins of green sedum peered up at me. They seemed a bit giddy, knowing they were alive. Next to them, a few tulips were making their way out of the ground. For a brief moment, I stared at these brave, courageous green plants, breaking through the tyranny of winter.

Soon I was off to work and day of meetings. In the afternoon, one of the deans at the College stopped by to visit with my assistant. They were discussing the snow that had suddenly appeared from almost nowhere. What, I thought! Was this an April Fool’s Day joke? I had just looked outside not long ago, and nothing appeared wintery in any way, except maybe for a few low gray clouds. But meetings and others tasks overtook my thoughts and stopped any glances outside. And now this!

I stood, stretched, parted my blinds, and stood, stunned at the amount of snow that had apparently fallen over the past 45 minutes to an hour. A good three inches of thick, wet snow had fallen during this time. My car, which I could see from my window, was covered with a white blanket of snow. I hadn’t brought in my coat or my boots. If it kept snowing for the next three hours, I knew I would be trudging through snow to the car, without boots, without a coat, without gloves, and without my hat, something I wasn’t looking forward to.

Now, later in the evening, I sit at the computer, safe now at home, snug in my old tan button up sweater and slippers. I look north out the window, thankful that it isn’t quite dark yet, and see the snow still falling, falling, falling. I still can see the old sedum stalks, poking out of five inches of the white stuff that has covered up any greenery that I reveled in this a.m. The entire lawn, in fact, looks like one giant field, now covered in snow. Gone is any semblance that spring might be oozing its way through winter. Even the north window is plastered halfway up with that thick, sticky snow.

But I remember back to this morning as I sat complacently at the breakfast table, eating a blueberry bagel, smothered with strawberry cream cheese, and spooning Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats with vanilla bunches, methodically into my mouth, while watching Mr. Robin, sitting atop the fence.

Ah, the snows may blanket the earth many times before true spring finally throws off the shackles of winter. But I know that spring is here for the robins have returned, and the green things are just biding their time while singing soft lullabies beneath the snow.