Sunday, May 29, 2011

To My Princess Diana

After a heart breaking miscarriage, doctors warned Marianne and I of the risks associated with not waiting before trying to become pregnant again.  We considered his counsel, deliberating as carefully as two young parents can be expected to, but in the end chose to listen to the voice insisting we not wait.  As a result nine months or so later, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl.  My father met me in the hallway of a Puertorican hospital just outside the delivery rooms, where together we waited in anticipation of a precious new miracle.
     We weren't disappointed, and soon enough out came a small cart carrying my beautiful Diana Lynn.  Both she and Marianne were well, and on June 5 twenty years ago our little family of three became four.

     Diana got her name from a dear friend of ours, who a year earlier had achieved Sainthood in our eyes as she mothered our two and not yet one year old babies Ben and Kristine while the lives of Marianne and newborn Kent hung in the balance.  Diana Lynn Masen went simply by Lynn, but loving the whole name, we named Diana for her hoping not only to honor her as a friend, but that something in her legacy would attend the name helping our baby girl as she progressed through life.

     There's never been a better baby in the history of the world, than Diana.  She was simply the most adorable baby girl!  Of all my kids, and I have a bunch, but of them all, none knew how to own me like she could, and own, manipulate, convince and love me she did.

Diana 's love for the tender little things is perhaps her most endearing quality.    She appreciated and enjoyed from her early years the miraculous colors of flowers, fuzzy dandelion and cotton wood seeds, stuffed animals and real animals, ...and babies.  She was more tender than our other rough and tumble children, preferring pretty dress ups to big wheels, balls and huts.  We often worried about her bravery around strange dogs and cats, but somehow they all seemed to appreciate her affinity for them and to my knowledge she was never bitten or scratched by them.  I surprised Marianne with a pug puppy one Christmas which she named Molly, and although she enjoyed the gift, I don't believe there ever was a time when little Molly didn't look at Diana as her one true master.  The day we had to bury that little Dog was the saddest I've ever seen Diana, and although Molly was just a dog to me, my heart broke for my daughter and I cried right along with her.
  Perhaps my most proud moment as Diana's Dad was when she escorted a young man in his bid to become Mr. Tooele at the High School's annual pageant.  There were beautiful girls attending each participant, but when  Diana emerged on stage at the arm her contestant, my heart nearly burst with pride.  She was stunning in her golden gown, stealing the show in only a few elegant strides, and the boy knew and loved it, beaming with excitement as he pumped his fist to the roar of the standing crowd.  He was only a little more than half her height, and was I believe working on his fourth or fifth year as a senior in the special needs program at Tooele High.  That night, with my Princess on his arm, and the adoration of the audience, he was pronounced runner up, in the competition, but to him it may as well been King of the world.
 A year ago, I gave Diana away to her chosen prince, only days before my brother's passing, and cried conflicted tears of both joy and sadness as we danced together.  Though I wasn't really losing her, the brief time holding her on my lap had come and gon too fast, and as any father who has experienced it will attest, letting a baby girl go is a painful thing no matter how great the boy might be.    ...She did, however, bless me with my first Grand daughter Jordyn who I adore and can't wait to spoil rotten. 
     Happy Birthday Diana, I love you always 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Crazy In Love With Her

She's a year or two past perfect, ...and still she stays behind to help me along life's winding road.  I wish I could have been around to see her magical journey to who she was when I met her, but then again, maybe she'd have chosen differently and I'd have missed out on being here for the past 27 years.

     Born in Miami the sixth of eight children, the baby girl that would eventually grow into the woman of my dreams, navigated her path through childhood and adolescence with charm and grace, all the while maintaining her beautiful innocence.  I often told my mother whenever she inquired as to my plans for marriage and family, that, "I would find the most beautiful girl in the world, and when I did, I'd marry her."  She'd chuckle and say she couldn't wait.  Then, when I brought Marianne home for the first time, Mother, bless her heart, agreed whole heartily that I'd done exactly what I had said I would. 
     When Marianne was five or there about, her family, who had years earlier fled their native Cuba to escape Castro, moved to Puerto Rico, where she eventually transformed from a cute little girl into an exotic Island flower.  Beauty, however, turned out to be only a small part of her heaping sack of virtues, as I came to discover her true character and her many hidden talents and abilities during in our early years together.  Fluent in both English and Spanish, she was a valued sales associate to her father's Art and Custom Framing Galleries, later teaching Spanish to corporate transplants in San Juan. 
She worked difficult hours as an evening bank teller to help me provide for our growing family, all the while rearing and nurturing our babies.  She discovered her love for fitness while pregnant with our daughter Clara and has never looked back, becoming one of the most respected and successful advocates and teachers of health, nutrition and personal wellness that could be found anywhere in Utah. 
She's been a faithful wife, a dutiful mother, a beloved friend and neighbor, for all our married life, serving diligently in a wide range of church, community and charity functions, where     countless lives have been blessed. 

Today's her birthday, and I bless every minute of it for the rare privilege it has been to be loved by her.  She is the Queen of our home, the center of our children's and my universe, the driving force behind all good that has ever been done by me, and after twenty five years together, I am crazy in love with her still...   Happy Birthday Baby

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Saint Behind The Camera

For twenty four years, my life as well as that of my family and countless others has been blessed by the subtle goings about of a true Saint.  I'm supremely confident that I can speak for all who know him, in saying that there are no better among us, and very few who so humbly and unassumingly bless human kind. 
     My first introduction to him was over the phone when news of my sister JoLyn's engagement was broken and in describing him she explained, " know the beautiful porcelain miniatures that you see in everybody's houses? ...well that's him!  His company produces them, and his mom is the sculptor."  I did know the perfectly sculpted mantle and curio pieces she was referring to, because it was nearly impossible to find an LDS home in Salt Lake that didn't have at least one, and for art appreciators they were a must have.  Sadly, however, times and tastes have changed over the years, and we see fewer and fewer of these beautiful "Hansen Classics" pieces displayed in homes.  Even more sad is the toll these changing tastes have affected such a wonderful man's livelihood.  

Over the past five years I've seen numerous associates helplessly watch as their incomes fade away because of the economic down turn.  Many have found some type of temporary replacement while sadly, others have languished in despair and self pity, blaming government, life, and even God for their misfortunes.  But not this man.  Through it all, he has pushed forward with the calm resolve, "...that come what may, I'll love it," working all the harder to keep food on his table.
     Six children, two serving LDS missions during this time, another in college, and the three remaining living active and financially demanding lives, would be enough to make nearly any man cry "Uncle!" Then add the news that his beloved companion  would soon be leaving him to cope by himself, yet still he seems to fly high to any who look on from without, not even a hint of failing in his nearly featherless wings. 

Each morning I log on to my computer to view photographs and read his few telling words of description, chronicling his family's trying, yet joyful road, and never have I heard him complain.  I feel his tears though, and cry with him wishing there was something more I could do to lift his aching heart as he has mine on so many occasions.  Just the other day, both Marianne and I received personalized cards from him, sent in separate envelopes, with beautiful photographs captured with his camera accompanied by thoughtful messages of gratitude and love from.  In a time where sunshine is hard to find even in a cloudless sky, this blessed son looks forever upward to God for his strength reminiscent of our older brother who once cried out in behalf of us all from a cross on Calvary's hill.   I've long since stopped asking why pure souls such as this must be tried when they live living such exemplary lives.  Instead, I stand in awe, cheering with all my strength, all the while knowing with sureness, that glory fitting to reward unfailing character awaits these rare Saints along with those over who's shoulders are draped their weary arms.  

     These pictures and note are the card he sent to me from his on line card business.  In order to display it, I've separated the individual pictures to work within the text.  If it's not obvious enough from what I've written, ...we love this man.  I guess here would be the appropriate place to post his picture, but as it is his way to be always behind the camera, I regrettably don't have one.
All the same, ...Chad Hansen my brother, you are a beautiful man

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hope You Like The Flowers

"What I need you to understand," he said softly, large tears welling in his soft eyes, " that cost is no object here.  The illness my Sweetheart has is terminal, and if I have to spend every last dime to make her remaining days pleasant, ...I will."

     I had only just met this soft spoken gentleman, but in less time than it took him to speak those words, I grew to love and admire him.  His wife had momentarily excused herself from our landscaping consult to entertain a phone call in another room, giving him the needed opportunity to speak candidly, and after setting my well meaning concern for his unnecessary cost straight, my new friend begged me not to allow her any knowledge of our conversation.  "She mustn't know, nor anyone else, that I've spoken of her situation to you, ...will you promise me you won't say anything?"  I nodded, unable to contain my own tears and went quickly back to work on his design with a new attitude.  "I'd like it to be lush, with lots of color all season long.  England! ...just think of England.  That's what I want for her, ...can you do it?"
     Immediately, the stark difference in climate between Utah and England had me on my heals, but regardless, I promised,  "We'll have our obvious obstacles, ...but God being willing, I'll do it." 
     We shook hands to end our meeting, and opened the door to what is now going on three years of association where in my appreciation for he and his sweet companion has grown with each successive encounter.  He later explained, as I carefully placed the numerous plantings in and around stacked stone walls, that their move, beautiful new home with all of its lavish furnishing and decor, was all part of an attempt to make her few remaining days as comfortable and enjoyable as humanly possible under her circumstance.  "Well," I sighed, fully appreciating the beauty and sweet smell of  what we were creating, "...with all the love I've sensed in your desire, put together with this?  No woman could want for more."
     The yard turned out wonderfully, and for the past two years, we've been contracted to add Spring luster to the planter beds in the form of pink, lavender and yellow Annuals on the Saturday before Mother's Day.   A couple of months ago, I paid them a visit knowing she was declining and hoping a copy of my book would be a fun diversion from the norm, but in talking to him I learned she had already entered her last days.  I gave him the book anyway, and told him how I felt about them both, fully aware I would likely not see her again, at least not in this life.  Then, two weeks later when news of  Valene passing reached me, my heart sank, thinking of how devastated Bud must be, I made a special trip over hoping to find him home.  As fate would have it, he drove up just as I was getting out of my truck, and quickly came out of the garage to greet me.  All at once, a flood of emotion swept over me, as I looked at the emerging greenery around the home and realized he wouldn't be calling me to decorate for the upcoming holiday.  I was surprised how much my heart hurt thinking about it, and true to form, it took Bud about a half a second to put his arms around me and begin to console me.  I had intended to offer my condolences, and hopefully lend some portion of comfort, but instead was blessed by his charity.

     Today, I'm thinking of my own beautiful bride, a wonderful mother and friend.  I'm also thankful for a mom who continues to be the constant light toward which I walk in life.
     To Valene, where ever you are, and in reverence to the man who loves you, ...I hope you like the flowers.   

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Always A Friend

     The first time I saw John was when we played on    opposing seventh grade basketball   teams in 1975, but a year later, at regional band competition we became friends.  Content to stand in the shadow of his more flamboyant friend, he listened more than he spoke, laughed easily but not loudly, and seemed never to be without a smile.  He had an air of congeniality that made me think from our first hand shake that he was one of the truly good guys.

         That summer my parents informed us that we would be moving east to the town of Richfield where Dad had accepted a teaching position in the LDS Seminary and Institute programs there.  The thought of leaving my friends was an unpleasant one by itself, but to be moving to a rival school? that was just plain unacceptable!  The faces of the Richfield boys I had played against flashed like fearsome monsters in my imagination, causing me to question if I would survive such a change. 
Richfield was home to the only bunch of guys to have beaten my long time friends and I.  On our floor or field, we always won, but on theirs, they were unbeatable.  I obsessed over wondering if the guys I'd beaten on the wrestling mat would somehow organize and pummel me to death in the name of revenge, and visions of being shunned by others because of our bitter sports rivalry had me convinced I wouldn't survive to see high school.
Then came the unforgettable image of John Olsen's inviting smile from that day at Snow College, and I suddenly felt things would somehow work out, and they did.  John wasn't the first friend I made in my new town, but it wasn't long before he affected my life.  Always the boy scout in terms of character, and nearly always on perfect behavior, John befriended everyone, crossing boundaries most kids his age wouldn't, to lift the struggling loner, the culturally segregated, and physically challenged, all without thought of social repercussions.  I guess that's why I love and revere him like I do, because thinking back, I realize that by many respects, I lived somewhere in those hapless categories.
     John loved my sense of adventure, because he found it difficult himself to take risks that could be dangerous.  He supported my religious and moral standards unabashedly, and found ways to get me involved in the school and community artistically, even defending my right to be considered against strong traditional bias.  I'll never forget the way he looked at me after watching me kiss a girl goodnight at the end of a double date, when he asked, "How in the heck do you get up the guts to do that?"  Reviewing old pictures of me at that age, I have to wonder myself, ...perhaps ignorance enabled my bliss.

      John had strong opinions about right and wrong, but a gentle tolerance which allowed him to live comfortably among people on either side of his well defined moral lines.  He kept secrets that could hurt to himself, giving advice and warning with neither alarm or judgment when it was appropriate, and I never once remember feeling hesitant to take it from him.  I still feel the sting of his strong rebuke, when I was unkind to a girl, forcing her already unfortunate social status to new lows.  I also remember his kind words about my father one day, praising his teaching skills, and the way he profoundly affected him and others in class.  I remember the unique way he shot a basketball, fierce collisions on the football field, the way he accepted his role even when it wasn't what he'd hoped for, and how he never withdrew his support for those playing ahead of him. 
     John was a gentleman, well mannered, and always with a chivalrous hart and hand.  He would have made a terrific husband and father had he been allowed to remain with us.  The image of he and his father walking together along the shore trail of Fish Lake right after his return from serving an LDS mission, sticks in my head with the easily recalled memory of his vibrant smiling eyes.
     I miss you John, were always a friend