Friday, November 23, 2012

Thirty Years and Counting

Today marks 30 years since the Joel and Deanna Porter family was created.  As I look back on those thirty years it seems to have passed like a dream.  As I look back and reminisce on what has happened in those thirty years and it really is mind boggling.  Deanna and I were married when we were both kids.  Back then I thought I knew everything and really went into marriage fully confident that we could handle anything that the world could throw at us.  To say that I was naive would be an understatement.  If I knew then what I know now I am not sure that I would have ever had the faith to enter into the great institution of marriage.  Knowing that I would not have to do this alone was the key.

Lots has happened  over those 30 years. Some of the numbers that amaze me are:

6 kids
11 years of schooling
3 years of residency
80+ hour work weeks
$45,000+ in school loans
228  mortgage payments
$288,000 in groceries
4 missionaries
4 eagle scouts (almost 5)
3 weddings
18 automobiles
4 high school graduations
5 college graduations
3 daughter-in-laws
1.66 grandchildren

This of course is just a partial list and there is much more to come.

Of course none of this would have been possible without the woman that I have shared the last 30 years with.  After 30 years I think we know each other pretty well.  Despite the fact that Deanna knows pretty much everything there is to know about me she still loves me.

This woman is AMAZING!!  Anyone who knows her knows how true that is.  We have been together a lot longer than we have been apart.  Deanna has been the heart, the glue, the fabric and the soul of the family.  I used to think that I knew everything that there was to know about the woman of my dreams but she never ceases to amaze me.  Her talents are endless and continue to expand.  Everyone who knows her recognizes her greatness.  She constantly amazes those around her.  She has an amazing capacity to serve.  She is a tireless worker and most of the work that she does is for someone else.  She rarely is found doing something for herself.  She is the perfect wife and mother.  Her legacy is her family and generations to come will bless her name for the great work that she has done and continues to do.

I often wonder what it is that I bring into this union.  It certainly is mostly once-sided and I am grateful that she continues to try to lift me up to her level.  I will forever be grateful for the woman of my dreams.  After 30 years I love her more than ever before.  Now if I can just figure out what to get her for her anniversary present.

Love You Sweetie!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Music in the Home

Yesterday I cam home from a movie with my son.  As I entered the house I heard Mendlessohn's violin concerto in E minor coming from the front room.  Emily was rehearsing the piece with Deanna accompanying on the piano.  I stopped and listened for a while to the amazing runs, and beautiful melody.  I was truly amazed that my 17 year old daughter was the one responsible for that sound.  A little earlier that day I sat and listened to Matthew has he practiced his Khachaturian piece and his Moszkowski piece on the piano.  Once again I was amazed that this was my 15 year old son who was creating that beautiful music.  This morning at stake conference Deanna led the choir.  This was a choir of women.  She picked the music and then directed them.  Once again I sat and was amazed at her confidence and her ability to feel the music and transmit that feeling to those she was directing.  There have been many times when I have listened to Deanna accompany someone on the piano.  I usually end up listening to the accompaniment  more than the person who is singing.  She has an amazing ability to become one with the person she is playing for and bring out the very best in the musician.

Thanks to my dear wife music has been a huge part of our home.  As parents we have insisted that all of our children learn to play an instrument.  All have taken piano lessons and Emily has become proficient on the violin.  I don't anticipate that any of our children will make music a career, however they have all learned to appreciate the gift and beauty of music.  All of our sons who have served missions have used music in the mission field.  Jonathan, who lives in Las Vegas, is the primary pianist for his ward.  Jacob, who lives in Arizona has been the ward organist.  Emily is the ward chorister and Matthew is the priesthood pianist.  Music has been a big part of the service that our family gives in the church.

That does not mean that it has always been easy.  We made a rule that when you started with piano lessons that you were to stick with it until you were at least 16.  (Later that rule has morphed into sticking with piano lessons until you graduate from high school).  Emily and Matthew have had the most demanding of teachers.  Emily has been playing violin since she was 6 years old.  She has often had to memorize extremely difficult pieces and perform in front of judges.  Matthew has a very demanding piano teacher for the past 2 years who has taken him to new heights.  However, this has not come without some pain.  It is no fun to realize that you have to perform a piece and it is nowhere near ready.  It is no fun to realized that it is 9:00 at night and you are exhausted but you have 2 hours of practice to put in because you put it off the night before.  It is no fun to realize that you have lessons at 6:00 a.m. and you have to get up at 5:15 to be there on time.

A long time ago when we insisted that our children learn to play the piano and violin we felt strongly that it was more about the means and not the end.  The rewards have been wonderful, but the process of being able to discipline yourself, do something that is hard and not always fun, and be held accountable for your actions (or lack of action) is the true blessing.  Our children have learned valuable life lessons from being encouraged (and sometimes forced) to continue with practice and lessons.  But is all worth it to see the smile on their face after they have performed and know that they have down the very best they can.  It is also rewarding when they known that their music has moved someone else.

I truly believe that music is one of the great gifts given to us from our Father in Heaven.  It can be used as vehicle for the Spirit.  It can often penetrate a hardened heart when words alone can not.  Satan as also used music as one of his tools to preach his hate and lies.  Unfortunately music has great power for both good and evil.  It is one of life's great lessons to learn the difference.

I remember my first experiences with music and the spirit.  I was in primary, probably around 8 years old.  It was back when you had primary after school on Wednesday afternoons.  We would walk to the church and gather for opening exercises.  I distinctly remember singing that wonderful primary hymn "reverently, quietly, lovingly we think of thee".  The spirit whispered to me that what I was singing was true.  I remember feeling warm, peaceful and wanting to have that feeling over and over again.  I also remember in seminary singing "The Spirit of God, like a Fire is Burning" and feeling the overwhelming feeling of the Spirit.  So much so that tears came to my eyes.  That of course is not good for a 15 year old boy.   There have been many times that I have sung the hymns of Zion and felt the spirit strongly bear testimony to me.

I wish that I had the talents of my wife and children.  But since I don't I will be very content to listen and feel the spirit through the music that they produce.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


For the 4th time in the last 6 years I had the opportunity to go to Haiti.  This time with two of my children.  The group that we go with is called Haiti Health Initiative.  It is a  fledgling organization that is trying to make a difference in rural Haiti.  We go to a small village about 2 hours outside of Port-Au-Prince called Timo.  After a two hour bus ride we then hike about 45 minutes into the village.  The organization goes every 6 months.  We haul in all of our supplies including a mobile pharmacy.  We do education on hygiene, school, preventing anemia and caring for the environment.  Our goal is to focus on children and women who are pregnant and breastfeeding.  We also have focused on adults who have hypertension.  We also educate the local lay midwives (70% of Haitian women deliver at home with the assistance of an untrained lay midwife).  We give out supplies and educate the people there.  These people have very limited access to healthcare.  They often have to hike over an hour to get to a place where they can catch a bus or taxi in to town.  Most of them don't have money to ride the bus and they certainly don't have money to pay for doctors or medicines.

Getting this year was made difficult by Hurricane Sandy.  We were supposed to leave on Oct 25th but we received word from the Dental team that was already there that the hurricane had destroyed our make shift clinic.  Everything was ruined under high winds and over 15 inches of rain.  I spent most of the day on Thursday calling everyone and canceling flights.  Channel 4 news even did a report on our cancelled trip.

News Story Haiti trip Cancelled

 However as we got word on Saturday that the locals had been working hard to get things ready for us we began to think that perhaps there was a way that we could go after all.  The organization quickly called airlines and hotels and the people in Haiti to make arrangements for us to go.  It truly was miraculous that we were able to make it happen.  The only snag was about 5 of the people on the trip had made alternate plans and were not able to go.  Still we had enough of the crew that could go that it would be worthwhile.  One other snag was getting Jacob from Phoenix there.  We were able to find a flight on another airline that would get him there with just enough time to spare so that he could join us on the trip.  We made it to the airport and Channel 4 was there to do a follow up story.   I really don't like doing the camera- thing but it is good publicity for our organization.

News Story Haiti Trip back on.

After a red-eye flight to NYC and then getting in to Haiti we all made it safely.   There to meet us where our local Haitian contacts.  They helped guide us through customs  and off we went for a 2 hour ride up a windy mountain rode and then a 45 minute hike down the mountain.

For most of the group it was there first time there.  Tom Wood, and ER physician at Mckay-Dee and a good friend was there for his third time.  Our pharmacist, Scott Flippance and Amy Leishman were there for their second time.  Everyone else was new including 2 optometrists.  A great benefit was having Michael Paquette who lives in Alberta, Canada and is a returned missionary from Haiti.  He speaks fluent Creole and was a tremendous asset to our group.  He brought his 17 year old daughter who fit in well with Emily and Tom Wood's daughter Sabrina.  The youth on the trip did a great job.  They were unfazed by the living conditions and the hard work.  Emily was the trip photographer and did a great job.  All of the photos posted are hers.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful as we saw over 1300 patients.  We saw a great variety including 2 children who were critically ill.  Both of them we stabilized and got down to the hospital.  One of them made it the other one passed away the following day.  It seems that is life in Haiti.  The people see tragedy on an everyday basis.  It is a part of their every day life.  Haiti is the poorest country in the world and has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.  You wonder if you are making a difference when there is so much poverty and hopelessness.  I think it is the "starfish principle".  You may not be able to make a difference for all of Haiti but for the people in Timo we can make a difference and give them hope.
In the middle of long hot humid day
Emily with one of the children.  She spent a lot of time educating and handing out shoes to those who needed it. 

A typical home in the Timo area

Despite the poverty most of the people are happy

Most of the women complain of headaches.  It is not uncommon to see them carry 40-50 pounds on their heads.

Beautiful kids

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Singing at Conference

So it has been a long time since I have posted on my blog.  I can't believe that it has been over a year.  Well I have made a commitment to do better.  I first need to share one of the most amazing experiences that I have had in some time.  This past general conference, our stake as well as 5 other stakes in the Ogden area were asked to form a choir of 360 melchizedek priesthood brethren to sing at the priesthood session.  It began about 6 weeks before conference as our bishop asked me to be the one to select 8 brethren from our ward to participate in the choir.  This was a difficult assignment.  I made it a matter of prayer and asked for the Lord's help in selecting those brethren whom He would have participate in this great experience.  In the end I truly believe that I was directed by the Lord in the selection of those 8 brethren.  There was one person who I also felt should be signing in the choir but it was already after we had selected the 8.  The Lord took care of that as well as he showed up at the first rehearsal at the invitation of the stake president.  He took a spot from another ward from someone who couldn't be there.

The rehearsals were held at a nearby stake center.  The first time sitting in the chapel and overflow area I heard the majesty of 360 priesthood brothers united in singing.  What a glorious moment.  I had a hard time controlling the tears.  We rehearsed every Sunday night for about 2.5 hours.  Our conductors Brother Shenck and Brother Furch were amazing.  They carried a great spirit with them.  They are men of God and also very talented musicians and conductors.  Everything they did carried the Spirit with them.  We sang three numbers all of which were arranged by the conductors.  We sang "Praise to the Lord", "Love one Another", and "Hope of Israel".  They were beautifully arranged.  Our conductors helped to take our unskilled voices and turn us into something that would be worthy of general conference.

The Wednesday before conference we went down to the conference center and had a dress rehearsal.  That was a great experience.  Deanna came and listened to us rehearse.  She commented that she had never heard a more beautiful arrangement of Love One Another.   This comes from a very skilled and talented musician.  (Deanna is going to be directed the stake choir for stake conference in November).

The day of conference we arrived at the conference center at 3:00 p.m.  We warmed up and rehearsed once again.  We practiced not looking at the cameras as they would pan in on us.  We were asked to turn off our cell phones, (they called it communication black-out).  We ran through the songs one last time and then waited.  We stood as President Monson, a prophet of God entered the building.  Following the welcome, we sang our first number.  It was amazing.  Then after the prayer we sang our second number.  The Spirit was strong as we sang the beautiful message that the Savior taught of loving one another.  This is probably the main message and example that our prophet has taught us during his ministry.  We sang for the congregational hymn.  That may have been the hardest part was remembering the words to "Guide us O Thou Great Jehovah".  We did not rehearse that but knew that the cameras would be on us and we were expected to know the words.   At the conclusion of the conference we sang, "Hope of Israel."  It was an amazing, powerful rendition that was a spiritual highlight.  I thought of the words, "onward, onward, youth of zion."  These words had special meaning given the announcement of lowering the mission age for both men and women.  The youth of Zion must be prepared and ready at a much earlier age then they have been in the past.

Following conference I turned on my cell phone.  I probably had 6 or 7 messages from people that said they saw me sing.  Apparently there was a nice close up for several seconds during "Love One Another."  Over the past couple of weeks I have had 20-30 people tell me that they saw me sing during conference.  This truly was a highlight and a once in a lifetime experience.

Here are the links for the music at priesthood session.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

This past week I had one of those great parental moments. Jonathan graduated from BYU with his degree in Linguistics. We went down early in the morning to help Jon and Abby move. By the time we got there they were pretty well down with loading the U-haul. They have had some great friends who came and helped. After we finished cleaning the apartment we went out to lunch at Los Hermanos and enjoyed a great lunch. We then traveled to the Marriot center. The campus at BYU has changed but I commented to Deanna that if felt like we were just there ourselves going to school. It brought back great memories. Deanna and I both graduated together in 1986. It was 25 years ago that we made that eventful walk across the podium in the DeJong Concert hall to receive our diplomas. I was seated on the stand because I gave the invocation. In the audience were our parents, and family. Brian was 2 1/2 years old and Jonathan was about 6 weeks old. It was a major accomplishment to graduate with 2 small children, especially only a few weeks after giving birth. She is an amazing woman and that pioneer can-do strength continues to permeate every activity and task that she sets her mind to.

Jonathan and Abby have that same strength. They soon will be off to their next great adventure. Law school at Gonzaga University awaits them for the next step. For the next couple of months they will be staying with Abby's parents before they head out. We are going to miss them greatly, especially since Abby is expecting our first grandchild in September. But this is all part of the great plan of progression. I am so proud of my family.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wood Badge

I just completed Wood Badge. This time I was on staff as a troop guide. This meant that I got to spend a lot of time preparing to give several presentations on communication, managing conflict and the aims of scouting. I served as a mentor for 5 other adult leaders who were going through Wood Badge for the first time. If you have never been to Wood Badge it really is impossible to explain what happens there. It is a week long, intense training on how to be an effective and dedicated leader. Although it is presented in a scouting format, the lessons and principles really apply to every aspect of life. One of the most common comments from participants is that the course is "life-altering". I really believe that is the case.

Part of Wood Badge is that you set goals, at least 5, that will make you stretch and grow as a leader. These goals can be related to scouting but they can also be things that will make you a better person and thus a better scout leader. It is amazing because many of the participants are in their 60s and 70s. They come away saying things like, " I have been in scouting all of my life and I have learned that there are many things that I should have known and now will do differently." It just goes to show you that you are never to old to quit learning. As soon as you quit learning and growing you wither up and die.

One of the things that is truly amazing about Wood Badge is the Spirit that is there. Scouting is truly an inspired program and I truly believe that the Lord wants his scout leaders to be spiritually minded and lead the young men to develop stronger testimonies of Christ. We develop a close bond with each other because of the spiritual atmosphere that is there. You become very introspective as you try and think of ways that you can grow and learn. Many tears are shed as we say good-bye to best friends who only a week ago were total strangers. The spiritual atmosphere is not there by accident. As a staff we spent a lot of time preparing. The people that are chosen to be on staff are prayerfully selected. The staff development sessions that we have are started and concluded with a kneeling prayer. We also prayerfully select which participants will be in which patrol. There is great wisdom in this.

While at Wood Badge, even though it is not required, I decided to write up goals for myself. One of those goals was to post a blog entry at least once a week. This is my journal and my life story. I want to be able to share this with my family as time goes on.

I know that as I write I will be reminded of many ways that the Lord has blessed my life and the lives of my wife and children. I hope that through this I will be a better husband and father.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ragnar Las Vegas Style

Well, I am venturing into the world of bloggers. No better way than to start with our recent family adventure into the realm of Ragnar. For those of you who may not know, Ragnar is a relay race consisting of 12 runners traveling some 190+ miles in a continuous race. Brian was the real impetus in getting us involved in this crazy ordeal. Brian and I participated in the Wasatch Back Ragnar in June of 2009 and really wanted to do this as a family. We originally were going to do this in June of 2010 but Jake and Christie decided to get married at the same time. (It was a good choice!) So we signed up to run the Ragnar in Las Vegas. We recruited and coerced 12 people to run. Myself, Deanna (she fell victim to peer pressure), Brian, Jonathan, Abby, Jacob, Eric, Julie (my sister-in-law), Caleb (my nephew), Jim, (my brother-in-law) , Tim (my brother), and David Tribe (Jonathan's friend). Some of us have run more than others and some haven't really run at all (Eric).

We drove to Mesquite on Thursday Oct 21st and stayed the night at the Virgin River Hotel and casino. After getting some sleep we drove about 90 minutes to the start at Valley of Fire State Park the next morning. Our group was split into 2 cars. We started at 9:45 a.m. and Deanna was our first runner. She ran over 5 miles over with some pretty big hills. She was awesome. Everyone took their turn until the afternoon when our car was finished and we handed off to the second van. It was great to see Jake and Jim who were in the other van. They drove up from Phoenix that morning and began running. After those 6 in the other van finished their run we traded off and we all ran again. We finished our second legs around midnight and drove to a motel about 30 minutes away for a couple of hours of sleep. We then transitioned again early in the morning. Deanna's third leg was a killer. It was straight up hill.

We all cheered and encouraged everyone along the way. However, by the time we were running our third legs everyone was beat. It was hard to get up the energy to do more than offer a weak "good job". Finally around 5:00 p.m. we all gathered at the Red Rock Casino where Brian made his triumphal entry. We all gathered together and crossed the finish line together. It was an emotional experience. We had enough time to quickly grab our medals, say a quick good-bye to Jake and Jim before we headed home again. We arrived home in Ogden about 3:00 a.m. and got a couple of hours of sleep before church.

In order to run the Ragnar Relay you have to learn a new lingo. Words such as "leg", "kill", "van", "ultra" etc. have a new and different meaning. You have to run the Ragnar in order to learn the meaning of these words. Maybe we will do it again, maybe not. It is definitely one of those things that you need to check off of the "bucket list".