My Dad

June 17, 2008

By Janet Walgren

My DadLast Sunday was Father’s Day. My dad is 86 years old. He loves flowers and has a large yard full of them. So, in preparation for the holiday, I went to a nursery to purchase a gift certificate for my Dad. I found a huge nursery unlike any I have ever seen. I was mesmerized by the beautiful flowers that went on and on for acres and I was grateful that I had my camera in my purse.

After over an hour, I walked out of the nursery with 187 photographs of every imaginable type of flower and a gift card for my dad. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to give my dad his gift so I headed over to his house to give him the gift card and show him the pictures of all the pretty flowers.

My dad looked at the photos then asked me to take pictures of his flowers too. I followed him around his yard as he pointed out flowers for me to photograph. Click, click, click… Then he posed for a photo on his lawn tractor. The end result is a precious photo album of dad surrounded by all his lovely flowers. I know that I don’t have very many years left with my dad, so my album will be a family treasure for my family and all of his descendants and their posterity. What a wonderful gift I received for remembering Father’s Day and my dear father.

Dads are often busy and get very little credit or thanks for all they do. They are gone a lot as they work to provide for their families. It is our mothers who get to spend the money and the time with their families. And, they often get most of the credit for all that our dads provide. Today, I would like to thank my father for all that he does in hopes that it will stir something within each of you as you honor your own fathers on Father’s Day and every day of the year.

I am thankful that my father honored my mother. My father and mother never fought; perhaps they should have a time or two but they never did. I have always known that my father loved my mother and I appreciate that. It helped me feel loved and secure.

My father was a good provider. We were never hungry, homeless or lacking the necessities of life. I’m sure that wasn’t easy for a father of ten children. Dad was an electrical engineer for AT&T but never finished his degree. He enrolled in night school several times, but there was always another baby or child who needed something when his tuition was due. Dad never complained.

My father is careful in his hygiene, dress and appearance. He was, and still is, always well groomed. If dad was working in the yard or on a car, he would always take the time to clean up before dinner. It was Dad’s way of showing his family how important we were. He afforded us the same courtesy he showed to guests, business associates and strangers.

It was my father who gave me my love for learning. I remember going to classes with him at the University of Utah when I was little. I remember the physics lab, the flight simulator, the math classes and the planetarium. I remember coming home from the U and fencing with dad in the driveway after his PE class. Those were the good old days when I was 4 and 5.

Then, there were the fun times with the Boy Scouts. My dad was a scout master and I got to go on their hikes. Sometimes I rode piggy back on the scout’s shoulders but they never complained. On occasion, our family got to camping with the scouts. Now I love to camp and my children’s favorite childhood memories involve long camping trips.

I learned to swim in Yellow Stone Lake on a family camp out. When our family went camping, we would have fishing contests. I always caught the biggest fish and I never realized that my fish was already cleaned and ready for the frying pan.

It was my dad who taught me about God and provided my moral compass. He was a missionary for my church and I got to travel with him when he was assigned to talk to congregations in small towns with exotic names like Hiawatha where we would hold church in the Odd Fellow’s Hall after cleaning up the beer cans from the night before.

As I grew, and our family grew, my parents were blessed with over 100 direct descendants. They were also blessed with the gift of hospitality.

The record attendance for a Thanksgiving dinner was 87. No reservation was ever required at my parent’s dinner table. It was not at all uncommon for children, grandchildren and their children to show up hungry (and unannounced) right before dinner.

Over and over again, I watched a repeat performance as my parents performed the miracle of the loves and the fishes. On one such occasion, we were serving pork chops for dinner. As each person showed up, we kept cutting the dinner portions in half. By the time Dad arrived, he got a pork chop bone for dinner. Instead of complaining, he said it was delicious…just like his family.

Often family would show up for a surprise weekend visit (impromptu family reunion). When we ran out of space to sleep people in the bedrooms and living room, we put the overflow on the porch and in tents in the yard. Everyone was always welcome and my parents were always excited to see them.

At 86, my dad can still out ride any of his grandsons on a bicycle. A month ago he ran a 5K and he keeps a membership to Gold’s Gym so he won’t lose muscle mass in the winter. He still helps my brothers take out trees and concrete from broken driveways and he maintains the yards of several of the neighborhood widows in his spare time.

I took my dad on a weekend trip to Monticello, UT and Mesa Verde, CO for Father’s Day. Dad was jogging up the trails while I huffed and puffed my way down to the cliff dwellings and back up. He was a good sport as he patiently waited for me to catch up. We had a marvelous time.

My father keeps the family anchored. He lets us know that we are deliciously interesting and exciting even though we are very diverse. I love that about him.

When I was raising my family, my children didn’t have a dad that they could lean on, learn from and depend on. Fortunately, there were many good men who stepped up to the plate as surrogate fathers for my children. They were marvelous men who set awesome examples for my family. Principle among them was Robert Wolf. He was a grandfatherly type of man whose service to my children was unparalleled.

To Dad, Bob Wolf and all the others who have provided fatherly love and support for my family, I would like to thank you for all you have done for me and my family. I wish all dads out there a very happy Father’s Day every day of the year.

Think so you won’t sink

June 11, 2008

By Janet Walgren
I have spent the last half a year of my working life interviewing people to get their stories for a book my boss is writing. Today I interviewed a delightful highly educated woman who has solved numerous problems with a slogan she used when she was teaching swimming lessons. She told her students, “if you have a problem, just keep your head about you. Think so you won’t sink!” After saying that to students for years, it occurred to her that the slogan not only worked in the pool, it also worked in life.

Are you facing a problem or challenge in your life? Don’t panic and react negatively. Why not think your way out of it? That’s what most famous scientists do for a living.

Do You Own Me?

June 8, 2008

By Janet Walgren

I heard a story once of a child who asked its parent, “Do you own me?” That’s an interesting question. So often parents do act like they own their child. While it is true that the parents have a stewardship over their children and the responsibility often entails seeing that the child does things that are often to their child’s disliking, the time comes when all children become adults, individuals responsible for thinking and making choices. Somehow, I think that this concept has gotten lost on the individuals and institutions that are primarily responsible for educating our children. Sadly, indoctrination in irrelevant topics has replaced learning how to think about relevant topics. Our children deserve better. They need to be taught foundational basics so they can become self-sufficient, contributors to society.

Memories, Attitude & Happiness

June 3, 2008

By Janet Walgren 

I think that every mother knows how to count to ten. In fact I heard a frustrated neighbor counting uno, dos, tres… just the other day. And, when I went to the Asian grocery store last week there was a mother counting ichi, ni, san… Some things seem to be universal when a child is misbehaving. One of those things is, mothers count to ten. Ah, the memories, the stories about ten. Tales about ten continue for generations and shape the course of history.


Being the second oldest of ten children, I have done my share of reminiscing with my siblings and I have noticed something very interesting. Everyone tells stories about the number ten differently. I’m not talking about the details of an incident; they are pretty much the same. I’m talking about attitude, the spirit in which the stories are remembered and told. I’ve noticed that attitude makes an amazing difference in the life of the subject of the story, and more interestingly, the teller of the story.


There is an excellent example of what I’m talking about in the book, Love is a Verbby Mary Ellen Edmunds. Mary shared a bedroom with her sister Charlotte. Mary and Charlotte were very different personalities which is not all that uncommon among siblings. Charlotte was a compliant child and Mary was the adventurous one. At bed time, when the sisters didn’t settle in and go to sleep right away, it was not at all uncommon for Mary’s mother to count to ten. And, Mary’s mother instinctively knew whose fault it was so she would march in the bedroom, go straight to Mary Ellen’s bed and give her a spanking.


On one particular night, Mary was trying to talk Charlotte into to jumping out the second story bedroom window.  She had a theory that if you bend your knees on impact, it would absorb the shock and your legs wouldn’t break. Charlotte was reluctant and refused to try the experiment. As the conversation progressed, Mary’s mother started to count, one, two, three… When she got to ten Mary knew she had to act fast, what to do… Then she had a brilliant idea.


“Charlotte lets see if we can trick mommy! Lets trade beds and see if she notices.” They exchanged beds in the nick of time. Her mother entered the bedroom, marched over to Mary’s bed and gave Charlotte a sound spanking. Then she marched out of the room saying that she didn’t want to hear another peep and told them to go to sleep.


As Charlotte lay sobbing, Mary exclaimed jubilantly, “Charlotte we did it, we tricked mommy!” Both girls were pleased and excited that they had tricked their mommy.


Imagine yourself as Charlotte. What would you say as you reminisced about that incident? What emotion would you attach to the memory? How would you paint your sibling? Would you be kind, charitable? When you told the story, would it be funny? Or, would you be the victim of a bad sibling who made your life miserable?


Happy adults find the fun and the funny in their memories. They are great story tellers and everybody love to listen to them. They discover the lessons in life and paint their associates in charitable ways as they impart their wisdom and sage advice.  People love to be around these happy folks. They make life pleasant. They even make work pleasant- even when the task seems as unpleasant as testing a theory by jumping out a second story window to see if bending your knees on impact will keep your legs from breaking.


I think almost everybody has been a Charlotte who got the undeserved spanking at sometime in their life. And, most people have found it necessary to be a Mary who needed to find a quick solution to an unpleasant problem on occasion. Regardless of the situations that you have faced, or that you are currently facing, your approach, your attitude will make all the difference. And, only you can choose what that attitude will be.


What makes the difference in people’s attitudes? I believe that it is love. As you go about your life, remember Love is a Verb.