Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Want to take a Marriage Prep Class? Please say 'I Do!'

This article ran on Monday, July 26th. However, when it went to the copy desk, it got cut - so you - whoever you are (!!!), get to read the entire article!

'I do' have to say that I agree with the professors on this. Any marriage prep class that is offered, whether in preparation for marriage or for a marriage tune-up, it is worth the time and money invested.

Premarital education may be the best investment couples can make before saying ‘I do.’

In a sample conducted by BYU professors of nearly 50 marriage prep classes throughout the U.S., none of which were from BYU, most of the classes focused on communication skills. The study was published in “Family Relations.”

Communication is considered one of the major factors in marriage discord, according to Elizabeth Fawcett, lead author of the study and a visiting professor at BYU.

“If marriage prep classes can teach couples communication skills that will help them avoid divorce or marital distress, then these communication-based classes could be very helpful to a large number of couples,” said Fawcett in a recent news release.

Most couples are genuinely interested in premarital education, but in the hub-bub of being engaged, marriage prep is overlooked in favor of wedding prep, said BYU professor Alan Hawkins, another member of the study.

Premarital education classes get couples to talk about their expectations and clarify what they are thinking, Hawkins said. This is one of the purposes behind this type of education.

“We often bring very unrealistic expectations about marriage [into the relationship],” Hawkins said. “Confronting those things before marriage gets them thinking and to clarify what they believe [and how to] make plans and compromise.”

It takes more than love to make a marriage work, according to Hawkins. Most premarital education classes don’t go far enough in teaching that marriage is more than two people in love, it is an institution that comes with expectations. Marriage not only can bring order to our lives but establishes social institutions within our communities.

Other states besides Utah are realizing the importance and value of premarital education. Oklahoma has taken the lead in the U.S., making it a matter of public health and policy that couples get off to a good start.

Hawkins said that the investment in premarital education has far greater returns for states than picking up the financial repercussions of shattered families. Six states are now offering incentives such as discounts for marriage licenses for premarital education.

Utah’s marriage literacy and relationship classes are coordinated through County Extension offices throughout the state. Usually these classes are free of charge.

Jason Carroll, another member of this study, teaches SFL 223 – Preparation for Marriage. It is a full semester, not just 12 hours, of reality checks in understanding how marriage and relationships work, Hawkins said. It is the best education in the whole world, especially for LDS couples.
Taking a marriage prep classes before a relationship begins helps students like Brittany Guerra, a senior majoring in public health, learn the whole process from dating to marriage to family.

“Taking a marriage prep class [has] helped me have more of a structure to how I go about dating,” Guerra said. “I am not married yet, but it is working because I could be married and be unhappy.”

Trekking Journey Ends for Haydons

I have been writing updates on this family since June. They finally made it home. I have learned lot about the family, the trek and the family and friends that support them. I was trying to come up with a lead for this final article, and the one (which I didn't use) which said a lot about this adventure was:

"There is hope in the extraordinary accomplishments of humble people."

My personal hope is that as we examine our own lives that we understand that getting up each morning, pulling your pants up and stepping out is ALWAYS a step forward. Those who come from pioneer ancestry, be grateful for this legacy, because of their faith, we have been able to enjoy the blessings of a restored gospel.

Haydon and Company gathered together at the conclusion of their journey.

Connor Corbin playing Come, Come Ye Saints.

The handcart is empty, but the journey for the Haydon Company is far from over.

For the past 11 weeks, Clive and Shari Haydon, their four sons — Samuel, Josh, Matthew and Mikey — and teenage neighbors Justin Carter and Brett and Connor Corbin have been trekking and pushing a handcart along the historical Mormon Handcart Trail.

For now, the boys consider this handcart trek a grand adventure. The impact on themselves and others may take a few years before realizing this 1,180-mile trek was an incredible journey.

Most individuals who go on three- to four-day handcart treks are able to connect and grasp the spiritual and physical tests that Mormon pioneers faced. The Haydon’s 71-day journey was filled with special spiritual moments, too, but their greatest connection with pioneers was demonstrated by the faith necessary to stick it out and endure to the end.

“It is a daily grind, walking down the highway every day about 16 miles,” Clive Haydon said. “We are weary, tired, it is physical. You just have to do it and go through the mundane process to do the work and every now and then you have something special happen.”

Emotional connections were felt as family and friends gathered at This is the Place Heritage Park east of Salt Lake City to welcome the Haydon group home on Saturday.

Youth leaders and members of Mt. Olympus Stake in Salt Lake City joined the ranks of those who had been strengthened and inspired by the trekkers’ journey. They met the Haydons on the summit of Rocky Ridge, part of the Martin’s Cove pioneer trek in Wyoming.

“We were taking a break, and there was this lone handcart piled three feet high and this little family,” said Charlotte Pratt, a member of the Mt. Olympus Stake. “We could tell that they had been out on the trail longer than us. This was the real deal. When we learned that they had started in Nebraska eight weeks prior to that day, our youth and our leaders wanted to weep for them. We hiked the trail together and became their friends. Everyone was in the spirit of helping this family get to Utah. It was unbelievable.”

Conditioned bodies may be a physical payoff for the Haydon company, but the real payoffs have been people they met along the way and seeing how the Lord protected them.

“I had the opportunity to pull the cart up a steep part of a hill by myself,” Shari Haydon said. “The handcart was packed and I struggled as hard as I could up that hill. I got so far and then was unable to get that cart any further by myself. No matter how hard I pulled, that cart wouldn’t move. I thought of Elsie Nielson [who Shari Haydon walked in memory of] pulling her husband Jens, in the handcart. How did they do it? From my small experience it could only have been with divine help.”

Some family obligations necessitated a replacement for RV support at the beginning of July. Tom Page, a family friend also known as “Grumpy,” joined the company and brought lots of joy to their camp, according to Samuel Haydon.

“When I got there, they were exhausted,” Page said. “They had been gone for a couple of months. It was a drudgery to get up every day, so I tried to share some songs with them and do some things that would make them laugh and get going and I think it helped.”

Many people have been affected by what the Haydons have done, according to Scott Rancie, part of the RV support team. When Rancie saw the Haydon’s plan, he thought it was quite ambitious and was skeptical it was going to happen, especially after the first two days. Even Shari Haydon had her doubts.

“This has been a wonderful experience and I am glad I pushed past my fears, my comfort zone to do this,” she said. “I didn’t really think I would make it to the end, but here we are.”

The trek was part of Clive Haydon’s master’s program and although it is finished, he hopes to remain in Utah for another year. Under the U.S. Immigration’s Optional Practical Training program, he will finish some field studies in recreational management and work on further development of applied ancestry for at-risk youth.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Self Makeover

Here is the second story for the day!

In a world where some are absorbed with themselves, members of the BYU 2nd Stake seem to have found a cure — lose yourself in service.

Each week there is at least one service project happening in the stake, but more often there are two or three opportunities of service to choose from.

Stake President Robert H. Todd has made a promise that if members of the stake are faithful home and visiting teachers, learning to love the people they have been called to serve, Heavenly Father will bless their efforts in finding sweethearts and spouses.

Thus far there is no statistical evidence as to how many have found eternal mates, but they are learning patterns and principles of service, Todd said.

“We are eager to set a pattern [of service] with these wonderful young people of our stake,” he said. “There is a metaphor, ‘When you help your brother across the street you will find yourself there also.’ ”

Two members of the high council, Ben Hill and Dean Dickerson, have been assigned to find service opportunities for the stake. Because the stake pulls leadership from four different stakes in Utah County, Hill and Dickerson contacted all the bishops from these feeder stakes, specifically asking if there were any needs the students could assist in.

The most recent project began last weekend on a 100-year old home in Orem. This home makeover will continue July 31 and Aug. 7, culminating with a barn dance held in the Wilkinson Student Center on Aug. 7.

More than 55 students showed up for the work project, ready to tackle the day’s assignment of chest–high weeds, overgrown vegetation and decades of layered wallpaper. People in the neighborhood have considered this home a fire hazard not only because of the yard situation but also because of interior problems.

Siblings from Hong Kong and LDS members have lived in the home for more than three years. Their parents bought the home so they could receive an American education, but left them on their own, unprepared for the language and culture barriers.

Son Lee, former home teacher to the siblings, understands the culture barriers these young people have faced. He, too, came to America, fleeing communist Vietnam as part of the boat people in 1975. He understands the complexities of coming to a new world.

Lee, also a member of the stake high council, said he feels the service being offered will help break down barriers and build relationships with these wonderful young people.

Benefits and blessings of this service extend far beyond the family for whom the service is rendered. Part of the process is learning patience, diligence and developing a hard work ethic, said Liz Blomquist, a stake member from Santa Cruz, Calif.

“We learn more about teamwork and we get to spend time with a lot of great people who like to do the same things,” Blomquist said.

Royce Herbst, bishop of BYU 3rd Ward, noticed a difference in his ward members as they learned to serve together. He said there is a greater love for each other as they observe each other outside of a student environment.

The stake provides numerous types of service, such as a service “sit-in.” Stake members came together with their laptops and did Family Search indexing together.

“It is the best video game in town,” Todd said.

This month, the stake was involved in a beta-testing program for the LDS Church to determine whether a new website could handle large amounts of traffic. Many students gathered in the WSC with their laptops to log-on to the new website: serve.lds.org.

When others sense your willingness to serve, others then are willing to serve you, said Josh Epperson, a stake member from Murray.

“I have suggested that if you want to have a really neat date, invite somebody out and go find somebody to serve,” Todd said.

23,000 divided by 100,000=4.34 hours of service per person

Had two stories in the D.U. today.

More than 23,000 BYU students have logged 100,000 hours of service this past year.

For the third year in a row, both the city of Provo and the state of Utah have been rated the No. 1 city and state in the U.S. for service and volunteerism.

Being nationally recognized is directly attributed to BYU’s involvement in service, said Bill Hulterstrom, CEO of Utah County United Way.

While attending the National Conference on Volunteerism and Service this past June in New York, Casey Peterson, director of the Center for Service and Learning, was approached by many organizations and colleges seeking strategies that will help them to be as successful.

“This is nothing about the organization,” Peterson said. “It is more about the students, using service to identify their reason why they are here.”

The Center for Service and Learning uses the community for its lab. Each year, the number of students continues to increase. Students are developing into world citizens, becoming aware of service opportunities and the issues that surround them.

One of the newest organizations BYU has partnered with is Utah Refugee Services, located in Salt Lake City.

Amy Wylie, volunteer coordinator of refugee services in Utah, also works with LDS Inner City Project and said the needs are great, with many opportunities to serve.

Because of time constraints and language experiences, BYU students have come to the Humanitarian Center and helped refugees with language training.

Statistics have proven that students who serve others, receive the most benefits Peterson said. They improve socially, spiritually and academically. Students also learn leadership skills as they take on mentoring roles while helping others develop necessary skills for life.

“In an incredible expression of gratefulness,” Wylie said, “a Burundian refugee asked me, ‘In my country, I would give them a cow. What could I do that will be equivalent?’ We can serve others right from our front door. From the comfort of our own home we can serve the world.”

When students apply for graduate schools or jobs, their service involvement stands out, Peterson said. Deans of other schools and employers recognize their unselfish act.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Don't You Just Love Personality Tests

On Facebook, they had a test for determining what color you were. My favorite color is green, and I was delighted to DISCOVER that GREEN is my personality color!!!

However, it was interesting to read how correct (even though there are formulas...) that the test determined what I was like!

You are very strong-willed and determined and can accomplish much when left alone and undisturbed. Easy-going and original, you are capable of relaxing and enjoying the finer things in life. You have an eye for art. You work hard to improve your life and to surmount the tensions involved in the struggle.


I went to the dollar movie tonight. I saw Letter to Juliet. It was a sweet movie. I was hoping it would be a tear-jerker, but it wasn't.

The movie had one line - or scene that caused me some thought, and it was of 'Camille,' after the wedding ceremony to Lorenzo. She was sharing the letter that Sophie had written in response to her Dear Juliet letter.

It was taking two words, "IF" and "WHAT" and combining them to "WHAT IF?"

So I ask myself, what if? I believe there have been only a few moments in my life that that question would have changed my life's events rather significantly.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Does Your Family Flourish or Flounder?

Another story for the newspaper. I wish I could write an article that gives more information, like you would see in the Wall Street Journal or New York Times! This research project is amazing and the data that they are gathering only testifies to me the importance that families have on the well being of our society. Families really do matter.

Since 2007, more than 500 students at BYU have been involved in one of the largest research projects focusing on family processes that contribute to positive family environments.

The four-year study, titled The Flourishing Family Project, is being conducted through the School of Family Life. Five hundred families are being studied in Seattle and 170 LDS families are being studied in Utah.

“We are trying to access why families matter,” said Randal Day, project director of The Flourishing Families Project. “[Looking at the] trajectories of kids’ lives as they make important choices [such as] risky sexual behavior, school choices, friend choices and relationship choices. How do families help shape them and how are families a resource to kids who flourish?”

Several studies have been conducted on the negative impacts that affect families. However, in this study, research is being conducted which measures positive outcomes of flourishing families as they pass through life’s problems and crises.

As a result of four-year’s worth of data, the projects team professors have published about 10 papers. A book based on the research is being written as well.

Typically in research studies of this magnitude, scholars are the ones conducting interviews and collecting data, but BYU chose to have undergraduates participate in the research.

Team member Rick Miller, director of the School of Family Life, has been pleased with the national attention and acclaim the project has been receiving.

“When we introduced this idea to other family scholars, using undergraduate students to collect data in Seattle, they were skeptical,” Miller said. “They underestimated the competence and commitment of our students. The fact is that our students have done an incredible job.”

During the four-year study, more than 92 percent of the original 500 Seattle families remained involved in the research, which according to Day is unheard of. There is currently a team of 20 students conducting interviews in Seattle.

The criteria for family selection in the Seattle area were families that had a child between 10 and 14 years of age.

“Some parts of town we go into are a little rough around the edges, and some home environments can be filled with chaos and really unfortunate circumstances,” said Maren Christiansen, a member of the Seattle research team, in an e-mail. “It has been an eye-opening experience for me to see the environments that some children are being raised in, and it is easy to see why some families are able to ‘flourish’ more than others.”

The same study is being conducted in Utah, with a team of 10 BYU students interviewing 170 LDS families. Before this study, little research had been collected about LDS families.

In addition to field interviews, over the past four years, undergraduate involvement has included research, data entering and coding.

“This study gives me hope,” field interviewer Julie Lutz said in an e-mail. “We hear so much about how our society is crumbling and how evil and wicked it is, but so many of these people are good people.”

To learn more about the Flourishing Families Project, students can visit http://flourishingfamilies.byu.edu

Friday, July 9, 2010

Social Innovations

Here is a story that I wrote this week. I especially enjoy interviewing people for these stories. I like learning about what they are doing and how it changes lives for those they assist and themselves.

Creating opportunities for students to make social change has become the focus for the newly named Melvin J. Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance.

As part of the BYU Marriott School of Management, the Ballard Center has established partnerships with nonprofit organizations that have unique abilities to create social change. Graduate students have traveled to various areas throughout the world, applying and implementing strategic business plans for these organizations.

“We are interested in social innovation to help others,” said Brad Hales, assistant to the director of the Ballard Center. “We systematically and strategically work on sustainable projects.”

Recently, BYU graduate students have returned from projects being conducted in Ghana, Paraguay, Nicaragua and Honduras.

After students are accepted into the program, they learn about the organization, the country and its culture. Their goals are to apply business principles to real-life situations. Before most graduate students begin their summer internships, there is a three-week window of opportunity in which they interact directly with these organizations.

“They get their best plan in place before they go there,” Hales said. “Oft times they have to change their plans and work on something completely different than what they expected, depending on what the organization needs at the time.”

This was the case with Andrea Cordani and Jeff Baxter, who interned in Paraguay for Fundacion Paraguaya. They expected to arrive at an agribusiness school that was supposedly self-sustaining. The school, located in the middle of the jungle, was not as self-reliant as expected.

“There were definitely several areas of improvement,” Cordani said in his project report. “Their production was meager and not sufficient to generate high returns. Before ramping their production up with products they couldn’t sell, we had to do something with their sales system.”

The result was constructing three carts to hold dairy products in order to sell the products door to door in neighboring towns. Additionally, Cordani and Baxter concluded the profit margins were greater for yogurt and cheese products. By changing the layout of their farmer’s market booth, the students were able to sell more products with greater profitability, creating more self-reliance and self-sustainability.

Another project BYU has partnered with is The Burro Project in Ghana. Some residents in Ghana and other third-world countries use batteries as their main source of energy. Families may spend up to one dollar per day for this resource. The Burro Project’s involvement for social change is addressing the cost and hazards of battery disposal by offering a rechargeable battery alternative.

Graduate students Tara Hair, majoring in human resources, and Jennia Parkin, majoring in marketing, had put together research models for the project. They were told English was the official language in Ghana, but when they arrived, they found only half of the people spoke English, and those who did often attached different meanings to certain words and phrases. As a result of the language and culture barriers, Hair and Parkin ended up using pictures drawn on pieces of paper as a way to communicate.

“People thought it was a game, and it was fun,” Hair said. “Because it was a game, more people wanted to participate and we were able to reach more people.”

The students discovered that being able to adapt quickly is vital when traveling internationally. Hair added that understanding the mindset and values of citizens in a particular country is critical for effective communication.

The primary assignment for MBA and MPA students was to help these organizations become more efficient and effective. However, graduate students come back with experiences that confirm their roles in the world by creating social change and long-term sustainability.

“I realize that there [will] always be the need of feeding people,” Cordani said. “I just know that if not carefully done, it may actually hinder people’s progress.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Valiant and Beholden

Over at PW’s place, she is having a photography contest. I hope this picture wins. It was taken by Mzz Melissa. For me it says AMERICA.

The battle for freedom is old and well-fought by valiant men and women who believe in freedom. I am grateful for their sacrifices and feel greatly blessed by their service. And as one young officer said, they appreciate hearing that we believe in them.

Those of us who live in the United States are blessed.

Today in our church meeting, Walter, a fellow church member, shared a story – everyone has a story.

But today, it touched my heart. He and his family emigrated to the U.S. from Peru when he was 11 years old. He is now a 35+ year old man with five children. He just recently returned from a two-week visit to Peru with his two oldest daughters. He spoke of the great reunion he had with his family, and visit to his 98-year old grandmother. Then he spoke of his daughters responses to Peru's children street vendors - selling all sorts of things. This site is not uncommon for those who have visited poor foreign countries – but for his daughters, this was a first. Many would come up to them asking for money, so he kept a pocketful of quarters so he and his daughters would have something to give to the many needy children that approached them. Later, his daughters thought he was a hero to be so generous.

This is where Walter broke down. He did not feel like a hero, he felt inadequate that he could not give more. Then he shared his love for our country as he listed the blessings of being a citizen of the United States.

Then he simply said, “There are no poor among us.”

The room was quiet as that statement sank into our hearts.

I am sure there were many thoughts about the definition of “poor.”

Then I thought of our valiant soldiers, and I wept.