Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Man I Am Not Yet

I aspire to be a man of poetry, one so well-versed in the great works that gems can trickle from my soul like something very poetic if only I could think of the word right now.

Alas, I have not invested enough to give me the stamina to read through the 700+ pages of Selected Works of Wordsworth that has sat somewhere in my home lo the last decade largely unread. But I did manage a few brief spurts and marked a few choice phrases I want to remember before I give up for the present and consign the work to the Salvation Army:

"Hope itself was all I knew of pain"

"Much done, and much designed, and more desired" -- if that doesn't describe a mother's work, I don't know what does

"The eye that marks the gliding creature sees
How graceful pride can be, and how majestic, ease."

 (all three from "An Evening Walk")

The close to "Anecdote for Fathers":
"O dearest, dearest boy! my heart
For better love would seldom yearn,
Could I but teach the hundredth part
Of what from thee I learn."

From "The Tables Turned"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Packing Games

I gotta say, as we are busy packing our board and card games to ship to Nigeria, it is amazing how much excess space is in these games! That's cheap and easy to say for video games because they are all box and a small CD. But even when there are hundreds upon hundreds of pieces, we can really shrink them down to fit at least 3 games in each box. We fit:
  • All 5 Dominion boxes into 1
  • The Alhambra Big Box with 20 expansions, Apples to Apples Big Box with 1000 cards, Puerto Rico, Seafarers of Catan, and Music Maestro in the Alhambra box alone
  • Thurn and Taxis also has the Settlers of Catan card game, the Princess Bride, Rook, and Phase 10
  • The Bible Trivia game has Carcassonne and Mille Bornes
  • The Book of Mormon Challenge has Uncle Wiggley and Family Fluxx
  • Scattergories has Wise & Otherwise and Racko
  • Solarquest has the Ungame and ImaginIff
  • Candyland has Carcassonne: Discovery and a Care Bears game
  • Settlers and Cities of Catan, and some but not all of Seafarers in one box
  • Star Trek Uno has Pit
There are very few games we own that comfortably fit only themselves: Dominoes, Paradise Island, the Great Dalmuti, Fluxx (plus Christian Fluxx and Jewish Fluxx), and Guillotine. We probably left some space on the table, as we could fit some of those games into the Ticket to Ride box, but we're carrying several of them with us so there's little point. Also in our collection coming with us are the 2-player Starfarers of Catan, Citadels, Pass the Pigs and Bohnanza. Just for the reference of anyone in Yola who would like to set up a regular game night :)  .

For the fun of it, I highlighted a few of my favorite games of those we're bringing. Joy would add Bohnanza as one of her reliable favorites and she has been fairly addicted to Dominion for months. She is also regularly into Carcassonne: Discovery and we got the Fluxxes for her.

We introduced the Prince to the Bible Trivia game a couple weeks ago. He won his first time through (with some hints and careful selection of questions). He has a lot more patience for it with fewer people playing.
 -- Derrill

Monday, June 27, 2011

Leaving Town - a parody that was all too easy

The problem is all inside your head, she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically
I'd like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to leave your program

She said you see it is my job here to intrude
Furthermore I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued
So I repeat myself, I'm a head-hunter, dude.
And there must be fifty ways to leave your program, fifty ways to leave your program.

Just throw in the towel, Raul.
Get expelled, Nell.
Don't matriculate, Nate,
Just listen to me.
Quit your post-doc, Barack.
Get a real job, Bob!
Join the real world, Earl,
and get yourself free.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tender Mercy: Lemon Honey

It only took 6 years of marriage, but I am finally converted to the use of lemon and honey in warm water to cure coughing and sore throats.

I have been up all night with this terrible, unending cough. I'm thankful we got a friend to pick up my mother from the airport in the hopes of getting us both some sleep because if I had tried driving I would have totaled the car and probably us with these hacking fits. I have Never had a cough like this, and I've had people comment, "Y'know, Derrill, I don't believe I've heard you cough recently." Right in the throat, ripping it out with steel claws cough, makes everything worse and the next cough all the more likely. This is bad stuff.

I was on a double dose of cough syrup plus three drops (2 for pain, 1 for the cough) and nothing could shake the cough. I gave up trying to sleep before Princess was born and went to the internet for some home remedies.

Lemon honey, hunh? I'm desparate. Sure.

Now Joy loves lemon honey. Always has. I made it for her daily during our first year of marriage. (We were both sick a lot that year.) It never really did much for me and I didn't like the taste. If I need a warm, soothing drink, I'll stick to a fruit tea or hot chocolate, and the fruit tea didn't help. But I'm desparate. I'll try it. Here goes.

Wow. Has it been five minutes since I last coughed? 10? Am I cured? *cough cough* No. Well, let's have some more drink. Another 10 minutes of freedom.

I can get 10 minutes of freedom at a time by sipping this little concoction. Not enough to sleep on, but enough to make life bearable. And maybe enough to help Joy get a couple hours before we leave.

That will make 2 more hours than either of us got the last time we gave birth.
 -- DW

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Eating like a Prince

Prince eats peanut butter sandwiches. Huzzah!!!!

NOT the Prince
He not only eats them, they have become an official Staple Food, joining strawberry yogurt and blended peaches&pears. I am very thankful for this because we know we'll at least be able to feed him peanut butter sandwiches in Nigeria, even if he's unwilling to eat homemade banana yogurt or if we can't find canned peaches.

He has also decided that he likes sourdough bread better than any other. When I made his sandwich for lunch today, he specifically noticed that I was using sourdough bread and thanked me for it.

The old deal we had with him was that he would get to eat half a sugar cookie (blame and praise my mother for that) if he ate 5 different foods at a meal and a whole cookie if he also tried something new. This was very useful for giving his diet a lot more diversity and getting a very few new foods into his diet, like cooked carrots.

His school has been wonderful at getting him to eat more, different foods. The next process involved asking him how many bites of a less preferred food he would eat in order to get the same number of bites of a preferred food: 3 bites of rice and peas for 3 bites of yogurt, etc. This works, but is pretty time consuming and we are far less successful at getting him to try new foods this way.

The new game: Prince becomes a "cookie winner" if he eats a little bit of everything I eat. This means he gets at least 3 "new" foods every night. He seems to dislike tomatoes less than he dislikes other foods, so I'm going to see if I can't get tomatoes into his normal food circulation. The discussion is quite interesting. Do you want to be a cookie winner? "What do I have to do?" We describe the food and he lets us know if he's motivated enough to try or not.

The other major steps in Prince's growing up is that we have moved to a much more active set of rewards for him. We set up a chart on the front door. He gets to put an X in the chart if 1) he hasn't gone to time out in an hour and 2) his underwear is still clean. For a certain number of Xs, he gets to play a favorite game, which he switches up very regularly. His behavior has definitely improved - we had been at a series of 5 and 6 time outs in one hour before. Not only that, he really likes the system, so much so that he draws reward charts during art time in crayons and paint, and he decorated the box with his plushes with a reward chart.

 -- DW

Too Much Going On

  • The baby doctor called this morning to rearrange when we deliver Princess. So now we'll be giving birth tomorrow morning instead of Friday morning. He needs to reschedule because his son is graduating Friday. ... I would've thought that would have been noticed earlier so we could plan better.
  • Prince will be staying overnight with some friends ...update: and we've figured out who. I love visiting teachers. My mother will get into town early tomorrow morning -- unless her delayed flights keep her in Chicago overnight -- and will be able to watch Prince after the birth.
  • I have strep. I had allergies, the allergies led to a sinus infection, nothing unusual. The sore throat and deep, deep cough lingered longer than the antibiotics and I suffered a serious relapse Sun/Mon with a major fever. I'm not sure just how high, but I thought the fever had broken yesterday at 9am, but when I went in to see the doctor I was still at 101. I have new antibiotics, but should keep my handling of Princess to a minimum. :(
  • We spent last night consolidating our board game collection, fitting as many games into as few boxes as possible and deciding which games we can afford to try to find later. I am proud of myself for finding a way to fit every card from every Dominion expansion into one box so we can keep it in our luggage. Only problem is its weight.
  • We've been spending so much time keeping the house clean enough to show to potential buyers that we have had precious little time to pack. We had one family that was interested in buying and made an offer, but by the time we had agreed they had already bought another home.
  • So far we have organized but not finally packed our books; organized but not finally packed our board games; organized but not finally packed our movies and computer games; not even organized Prince's games; and successfully packed my sheet music and the plush toys. We have started lists of other things we might want to bring, but it's going to be a tight fit no matter what.
  • I've had to visit the dentist 3-4 times to get two appointments done, plus a urologist, my GP twice, and the eye doctor before that. Add to that the Prince's visits to the eye doctor, and several to the pediatrician for travel shots and his regular check up, plus the OB/GYN and we have seen quite enough doctors this month to last us. May we now be healthy? Please?
  • As if that weren't quite enough, my grandmother is in the hospital after having a very mild surgery and then a more serious one. She is very weak and her future health is still in question.
  • So many thanks to our dear friends for bringing over lasagna Monday. We had so much going on we forgot they were even bringing dinner and were just sitting down to wonder what we were going to do when they popped over with a steaming plate of vegetable salvation. Pity half my mouth was still numb from the dentist so I could barely taste it.
  • Oh, and I've been fighting with and training our two new computers. I finally convinced this one to stop giving me error messages, but can't install my preferred antivirus software to do it. I gotta say, Dell's customer service has deeply slipped over the years, and I continue giving three cheers to Major Geeks for good support.
  • Last week we spent some time with our best friends -- also expecting next month and also heading for foreign lands -- to watch a movie. During the movie, we sat with our accumulated financial paperwork from 6 years of marriage and shredded documents we really won't need anymore. We shredded for the entire movie, nearly blistered our fingers, and still didn't finish.
 -- DW

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Five more days

We have been waiting for Princess to come for so long, it is hard to believe that she will be here in just five more days. We believe that children are a blessing from our Heavenly Father and would like to raise as many of them as He sees would bless us with. Having a family with children really is the best thing to do in this life and there are so many things to learn from children.

A while back before we had the Prince we had a miscarriage and have been waiting for our first girl to join our family ever since. Any of you who have had children would probably understand the concerns that can accompany adding an additional child to your family. I have recently been feeling over whelmed with this prospect. It is funny I really want her to come, but I have never been a real baby person and that is how it starts.

I am looking forward to meeting her and to being done being pregnant (the later is different than my other pregnancy). While we were at church today, I realized that it was the last time we would be going to church before having our new little one. Wow, it should be an exciting week.


The Reviews are In

I mentioned Prince's poster with statements from his classmates about him. I'll post a picture of it on our old blog (for those who know where that is), but the comments are here:

T -- Prince loves to play with me outside.
Kt -- Prince likes to play in block corner and ride bikes.
Ay -- Prince likes to play with me outside.
D -- Prince likes to play in the block corner.
B -- Prince likes to sing songs at circle time.
Ax -- Prince likes letters.
Ki -- Prince likes boats.
I -- Prince likes outside time.
Z -- Prince is learning to use the pedals on a bike
J -- Prince likes to play with trains.
P -- Prince is my friend.

Is there anything you would like to say about your friends, Prince?

"A____y took a deep breath!" We are grateful that A_____y took a deep breath, Joy adds. She helped teach Prince how to take deep breaths to calm down.

His note to T____ was also sweet: "I like to sit next to T_____" T was his bus buddy, at least when they weren't hitting, pushing, and kicking each other as boys are wont to do.

 -- DW

Saturday, June 18, 2011


The Prince had a "graduation" ceremony at preschool yesterday. I was thinking auditorium and no one will see me, so I brought my work computer along, just in case. Wrong. It was just a little get together being thrown by the class. Prince's teacher called each student up one by one (as their parents showed up in some cases) and told everyone a little bit about them.

She said (to paraphrase) "Prince joined our little group very late in the year. When he got here, he wasn't sure he wanted to be here and he really preferred to play by himself. He didn't want to play with others. But now he doesn't want to play by himself. He looks around and asks for someone to play with him. He and his family are moving to (where are you moving?)" she prompted. The Prince dutifully came out with "Nigeria" and, on additional prompting, that Mommy is having a girl.

I cannot describe just how proud I was.

I'll try anyway.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Daddy Date: Bouncy Park

The Prince is a wonderful guy. We each take him out on a "date" once a week, and as soon as the date is done, he can't wait to talk about when our next one will be. He talks about the date coming up every day and asks how long it will be. Usually we let him choose the activity, but this week I decided I wanted to take him to a store with some blow up slides in our mall. He seemed interested in the idea of a "bouncy park," though it took a portion of my cunning to get him past the toy cars right out front (ride in them for a dollar).

He had a blast, as you can see. I have decided I am very pleased with the video capabilities of my new camera. I am disappointed in how blurry so many of the pictures turn out. So I may do a lot more videos or see if taking smaller (or larger) pictures helps it any. However, I do like the "magic - pop art" setting used in the right hand picture. Other times it looks funky, but that brightness is about right.

Prince is an amazing climber.

 We spent some time with him jumping off this slide into my arms, letting me spin him around a little before he was off to do it again.

I played a little with him too. When we got there we were the only kids there, so I felt pretty free to know I wasn't exceeding their weight limit. Prince had a lot of fun with me crawl-chasing him around the farm. My hat found its way onto the dog at one point.

I tried to get him to climb on the horse. When he did, wouldn't you know, down it went! He's a very good sport about a great many things.

It took a while for me to convince him to go down the Big Slide. When he did, it was totally worth it.

Eventually some other kids showed up too and Prince was a soft boy around them. I learned that I was a) the only parent playing with the child too; b) almost the only parent who spent much time looking at what his kid was up to; c) the only parent who was concerned about what the other children were doing.

This was something I really want to take him to before we left Ithaca. I'm glad I did.

 -- Derrill

Where did the week go?

It has been a mind numbing week. It started out with a 48 hour stomach bug for Hyrum. The middle of the week was punctuated by showing our home to potential buyers and today Hyrum was finally in school again and I had time to do some packing stuff.
I was really happy about the amount of papers I went through today. I just pulled out most of our files in our filing cabinet and got rid of old and none essentials. I have a whole box of papers ready to be shredded and it feels good. Derrill went through his sheet music today and it was so fun to see how excited he was to hope to have a keyboard in Nigeria, something that he could actually play in our own home.
Prince and Derrill had a really fun date yesterday at a bouncy house play area at the local mall, the only one in Ithaca. Prince is still talking about it today. They played together on the farm and slides and in a castle. Great fun! We are trying to give him some really good memories before our new little one comes. He is really doing a lot of talking and telling me about things the last couple of days.

The Day I Consider Buying a Kinect

Two words: Dragon’s Lair. Diving, leaning, and jumping in the direction you want Dirk to go...
Awwwwwww duuude! Real pity the Kinect can't do it.

Now bundle that with Pitfall.... mmmmmm.

 -- Derrill

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

PSAs in Nigeria

While visiting Nigeria last month, I was fascinated by the public awareness signs.

Do not urinate at the airport. Fine: $13. I can think of several European countries that could use a sign like that.

There are a large number of signs regarding HIV. Even at the hotel, they reminded me of the importance of chastity (or holding body, which doesn't quite have the same image for me as I'm sure it does for them).

Drug abuse is a dream killer - again at the airport.

Two more without words about sexual health below the fold were found in several places at the university and the 6-12th grade school. One tells you to get tested for HIV before you get married, the other to get treatment for "yama yama disease" if you have pain while urinating. (It's some form of STD - I'm not sure which and I'm not overly interested in searching long enough to figure out which one)

 -- Derrill

Monday, June 13, 2011

Amazing sentences: Calculus

I'm reading a paper that attempts to identify the best intermediate microeconomics textbook in terms of student outcomes at a Canadian university. Since I just learned I will be teaching intermediate micro next semester, I thought this was an important question. Among the variables they look at are the grades of prerequisite courses: intro micro, intro macro, and intro calculus. If a student took a prerequisite multiple times, they sensibly use the most recent course since that probably best reflects the student's current knowledge. Okay, fine. Then there's this line:
"Some students attempted introductory microeconomics and introductory macroeconomics up to four times and Calculus I seven times."
Four times in intro economics? Four? Clearly, someone never learned about decreasing marginal utility and comparative advantage (and hence needed to retake the course) or else they would have decided their comparative advantage led elsewhere.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Princely Jobs

Once upon a time, I emphasized to the Prince a very important concept: Your number one job is to be Soft with Mommy (and everyone else). I drilled it into him regularly for a while, and anytime he isn't soft with Mommy (approximately daily) I remind him about his #1 Job. Sometimes when I remind him to be soft, he reminds me it is his #1 Job.

Then the family went to DisneyWorld a few months ago. I decided he needed a few more cardinal instructions. I told him his #2 Job was to Not Run Away (a concept he had learned about thanks to the Five Little Monkeys Go Shopping: "Stay right here, and don't go wandering off."); #3 Job was to Have Fun and Be Happy; and I gave him a couple more to facilitate #3. After Disney, I forgot all about these other jobs and we just talked about Job #1.


A couple weeks ago, the Prince got pink eye. This was sad. It also made him much more interested in eyes and poking my eye and everyone else's. "Because he was interested in why they were sick," says Joy. Mine had been sick a few weeks before that.

This had to be discouraged. I told him Job #2 was to not play with his eyes or anyone else's. I asked him to repeat Job #2 for me. He said, "To not run away."

Oh, that's right. I had given him a second job at Disney. I forgot. Well then, Job #3: don't play with eyes. What is Job 3#? "To have fun and be happy."

Oh, that's right.  ... How many jobs have I given you? What's Job #4? He knew what it was. I've since forgotten it again. What's Job #5? He knew it. Okay, Prince, here is a Special Assignment. Let's get away from the numbers and emphasize that this is temporary: don't play with eyes. "Okay."

I was very impressed that he remembered his jobs from months ago when I had forgotten them.


This week, I decided I needed to reset his job list. In order for the Prince to go to school in Nigeria, he has to be potty trained. His school here has been helping us train him, but he's still got a Long Way to go. I reviewed his jobs in my head and knew that I did not want this to be merely Job #6.

So at Family Fun Time I got out a sheet of paper and had a counsel with him. I wrote out:

LDS in Nigeria: growth in Lagos

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced today that a new stake (several organized congregations) was created May 15 in Nigeria by turning two stakes into three.
A new stake has been created from the Lagos Nigeria West and Lagos Nigeria stakes. The Lagos Nigeria South Stake, which includes the Ajangbadi and Ikoyi branches and Apapa, Festac, Lekki, Okokomaiko and Satellite wards, was created by Elder Joseph W. Sitati of the Seventy and Elder Richard Ahadjie, an Area Seventy. ...
President — Umana Effiong Umana, 41, facilities/real estate manager; wife, Stella Ngozi Ikeya. Counselors — Nosakhare Calvin-Brown Okhomina, 39, medical doctor; wife, Beauty Ojo Okhomina. Herbert Member, 43, supervisor/manager; wife, Ifeoma Angela Ezema.
They also reorganized the Lagos Nigeria West stake presidency:
LAGOS NIGERIA WEST STAKE: (May 15, 2011) President — Christian Chiemezuolam Chigbundu, 40, financial accountant/manager; succeeding Adeyinka Ayodeji Ojediram; wife, Felicia Mabeodichi Chigbundu. Counselors — Azubuike Aluma Alvan Ikoku, 37, assistant to area director; wife, Nicole Mimi Asom Ikoku. Ikpe George Nkanang, 45, managing director; wife, Brenda Ikpe Nkanang.

LDS in Nigeria 2: Anthony Uzodimma Obinna

In a series of letters to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Anthony Obinna introduced himself and told of the miraculous things that had happened to him because of the Church. Excerpts of some of these letters were later reprinted in the Ensign in Dec 1980. Brother Obinna was the first black western African baptized and called as branch president, as I mentioned in last week's post about the growth of the Church in Nigeria. Some of his story has also been captured as a Church video about the growth of the Church in Korea, Nigeria, and East Germany. The video starts at the 9:25 mark on this segment and continues in this segment. The second segment is also included below the fold.

After telling some of his and his wife's history, including his education and his wife's strong faith in God, he recounts the following remarkable events:
In November 1965, I was visited in a dream by a tall person carrying a walking stick in his right hand. He asked whether I had read about Christian and Christiana from A Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. I told him that I had forgotten it and he told me to read it again. After a few months the same personage appeared to me again and took me to a most beautiful building and showed me everything in it. That personage appeared to me three times.
During the Nigerian civil war, when we were confined to the house, I picked up an old copy of the Reader’s Digest for September 1958. I opened it at page 34 and saw a picture of the same beautiful building I had been shown around in my dream, and immediately I recognized it. The heading was “The March of the Mormons.” I had never before heard the word Mormons. I started to read the story because of the picture of the building I had seen in my dream. I discovered that it was all about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
From the time I finished reading the story, I had no rest of mind any longer. My whole attention was focused on my new discovery. I rushed out immediately to tell my brothers, who were all amazed and astonished to hear the story.
Because of the civil war, he was not able to write to the Church to request more information until 1971. The Church sent him some materials but were unable to establish the Church there yet though they wanted to. He was disappointed, but continued studying and praying. "Many a time in dreams I saw some of the missionaries of the Church discussing matters about the Church."

In November 1978, the first missionaries arrived to establish the Church in Ghana and Nigeria. They baptized 19 members, organized the Aboh branch, and called Bro. Obinna as branch president. Wiki adds that "after his ordination to the priesthood, Obinna baptized his wife Fidelia. She served as the first black Relief Society president in Africa. Obinna and his wife were sealed in the Logan Utah Temple in 1989." He happily wrote to the Church:
“The entire members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in this part of Nigeria have the pleasure to thank you and the Latter Day Saints throughout the world for opening the door for the Gospel to come to our people in its fullness. ...

“There is no doubt that the Church here will grow and become a mighty centre for the Saints and bring progress enough to the people of Nigeria as it is doing all over the world.”
He concludes in the article:
The most important talk and love in my house is about “our church.” As Christ is guarding his true church, membership is increasing daily, and I testify that in the future, the membership of the Church will be as great as the sand on the seashore. God is great and performs wonders. No human power can withhold God’s work in this world.
Bro. Obinna passed away in 1995. He has a Facebook page.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Customer Service

When I was in Germany (and I apologize for starting another post by laughing at my dear friends in Germany), I laughed at the lack of irony that they had no word for "customer service." When I talked to Germans who had been in America, they smiled and agreed that it was a problem. When I talked to Germans who hadn't, they wondered what I meant. You see, you go into a shop and the sales clerk glares at you until you make a purchase. It's really something else.

I was happy to discover on my way back from Nigeria that the Germans have invented a word for customer service: Kundenfreundlichkeit (customer friendliness). I think that does a wonderful job expressing the essence of what was missing. The problem was, when something went wrong, I didn't know if I could just walk up to someone and say I was looking for a little customer friendliness. Would that be accusing them of being unfriendly?


I had two opposite experiences in customer service this week. I got a new Dell for the family to use. Not surprisingly, it had an error right out of the starting gate. After an hour, Dell informed me it was my internet company's fault: Time Warner. I spent more than three hours on the phone with three different "technicians" who knew nothing more than to tell me to uninstall and reinstall their antivirus protection program. The second one was so unhelpful, and did such a poor job responding to my questions, I informed him he was failing the Turing test. He hung up on me just seconds before I could inform him that his fix hadn't worked at all. I asked the third guy to escalate my problem to a real technician right off the bat, but he still took me through an hour of less-effectiveness before agreeing. Tech support wouldn't get back to me for 24-72 hours.

Last evening, a bit over 24 hours later, they sent me an email saying they had called and missed me. They hadn't - no one called, and we have the technology today to know that no one called. They said they had sent me an email with instructions. They hadn't. I asked them to please do so. They said they would call me back 30 minutes ago. Yeah, still waiting on that.

In fact, as I am writing this, they gave me another email saying the EXACT same thing, that their call didn't get through when I'm sitting right next to the phone and that I should follow the instructions in a non-existent email. We changed all our plans for the afternoon and had rushed around trying to make sure we were there when they claimed they would contact us.

Time Warner and their CA Internet Security have done a good job for us, but their customer service has been extremely annoying and ineffectual. I am officially not recommending them to friends and family.

Contrast this with the good people at I made an order today and forgot to add a few things to it. I called them to ask to hold the order and add them. They not only did, but the clerk called me back a few minutes later to say that she had thought their pricing system was off, gave me a $10 discount, and would call corporate on my behalf to try to straighten out the pricing issues. Wow! Not only that, but they always give 2-day free shipping that has been known to arrive the very next day. We have loved being their customers the last three years.

I also compare this to another experience I had last week with Avon. I had forgotten to add another item to my order, but they refused to amend the order. So as a result we bought less from them because I didn't want to pay the $15 shipping.

This is probably also a good point to mention my friend Mike Dixon who does research on service experience as part of a company's product. He has a good blog on the subject.

 -- Derrill

Friday, June 10, 2011

Full Term

Today I am full term, a pregnancy term that means that my baby would be just fine now anytime that I have it.
Last night Derrill and I were planning things to do in the next two weeks (which is how much time we have left before our scheduled caesarean. Derrill made the comment that we need to start spending real time preparing for our daughter to come, because Steve was about a month early and she could come any time. Well, that thought wouldn’t leave my mind and now I seem to be working on things to get ready for her to come, where I was still stalling before. I want to prepare, but I just keep finding other things that need to be done (like making sure our house is ready for a potential buyer tonight).
I am glad that my frame of mind is changing, I really need to expect her to be here at some point and it is better to have some time to prepare than not. I got out some things for her from the shed that I will need and started washing the clothes that I have sorted. I was expecting the plumber today and will be cutting the prince’s hair today. It will be a full day. I hope you are all well.
Love, Joy

I want Glasses

It has been over a week since I took our prince to the eye doctor the first time. When we went that first time he was very preoccupied with not getting a shot. He was constantly asking if he was getting a shot and relieved every time I said he would not get one. He liked the doctors and nurses and enjoyed the toys there. They have a castle with animals that he really enjoys playing with.
So yesterday I took him to the eye doctor again, this time with his eyes dilated. I was given drops to put in his eyes at a certain time before the appointment to dilate them and he didn’t like the drops nor what they did to his eyes. I really should have brought sun glasses for him to wear. When we got to the doctor’s office he proclaimed, “I want glasses!” He said it several times while were were there. By the time our visit with the doctor was over it was obvious that he is near sighted and does need glasses, but only to improve his life. The doctor said that some children are required to wear glasses all the time or their eyesight will be damaged for life, not our little guy.
He was in 7th heaven when it came time to try on his glasses. Every time he tried on a new pair of glasses he would run to people behind the desk or in an office and show them his new glasses. He was just so excited. He chose a blue pair and I chose the style. The glasses should be in for him within a week, maybe before school ends next Friday, we hope :D

Seit der Wende or: CAUTION: Pregnant while moving

I was a missionary in the former East Germany within the first decade after reunification, known as die Wende [VEN-duh], the change or turning point. At the time (and probably still today, but I can't speak to that) the mood on the street was one notch lower than depressed. Not a day went by - in all literality - without someone going through The Litany about how everything had gotten worse: Früher war alles besser. Everything used to be better. The buses don't run as well as they did seit der Wende, communities aren't as friendly seit der Wende. I honestly don't know what you young people have to live for, they would say every day, what with crime and unemployment and suicide and and and.

And I got to listen to that every day. I half-joked with someone once about how birds didn't sing so sweetly, flowers smell so nice, or the sky be as blue seit der Wende. The elderly, disapproving gentleman nearby asked, "And have You gone through a Wende, Elder?"


The difficulty of being pregnant while planning a move to another country is that it's very easy for us to forget we are pregnant. There is such a Wende coming that everything we do needs to prepare for one or the other, and preparing for one IS preparing for the other, but only up to a point. Packing the stuff is part of selling the house and is part of being ready for our Princess. But it's not everything.

Kind people comment that they can't believe Joy is 9 months pregnant already. "The time goes by so quickly," they say. "Though, probably that's not as true for you!" Joy regularly avers that, no, actually, the time goes by very quickly while we're preparing for our move. But the Princess is coming in two weeks. Two weeks! In 5 weeks we leave to visit family. In two months we'll be in Nigeria. A Wende indeed!

One of the keys to my success as a new father with the Prince was expecting the absolute worst: a world of perpetual crying, sleeplessness, spit up, messes, and soiled underwear ... and that's just me! :)  The reality was so much better, I loved early fatherhood with a boy who quickly learned to sleep through the night. I've been warned a time or two that in Nigeria, the way to be happy is to expect the worst, lower your expectations one notch below that, and then let yourself be pleasantly surprised on occasion.

Preparing for the worst does not appear to be a winning strategy this time, though. There is so much Worst to prepare for with so many changes that all it would do is paralyze me in a ball of stressful anticipation. Our world is going to go quite topsy turvy. From this side of things, I don't know how or even who we will become in the months ahead.


This is going to be a turning point, a Wende indeed. I have seen what a Wende can do. I don't want to live like that.

I want to focus now to be on enjoying what we have while we have it. "Crispix!" cheers my wife from the couch. "Cottage cheese! Cheese in general, oh my goodness!"

I want to focus then on enjoying what we have while we have it. It's a wonderful time of life, to discover this new little person, to fall in love with someone all over again, to explore a whole new environment and people and culture and a work I will love.

Yes, there's more than enough to worry about for the future. But there will be time enough to worry about it then. You can find problems and stress and heartache everywhere. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.

Sufficient to the day is the good thereof.

 -- Derrill

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kindle Conversion

I like new technology. I enjoy finding out about it, studying it, mocking it, eventually salivating for it, and in general waiting until version 2.0 comes out from a competitor who can do it better and cheaper than the first mover, once all the bugs have been worked out. I strive to "be not the first by which the new is tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”

I was slightly unimpressed when the Kindle first came out. It sounded like a good idea overall, but I seriously worried (and worry) about its fragility: one good drop and you've lost your library! It felt to me like it was clearly the Wave of the Future but I was quite content to wait for the future to show up before joining.

Having waited, there is a much larger selection of books, publishers are settling in at unreasonable prices for the books, the various ebook readers on market are better and better ... and there is a partial answer to my concern. I can read my Kindle books on my computer and most any hand-held device. More importantly, I have read the blogs of other economists working in Africa singing its praises: no longer do we need to tote a suitcase full of books so we have something to do on lonely evenings gathering data in the bushes.

Now we're moving there and as I contemplate the expense of shipping books to Nigeria, I value the ability to transfer my collection of books to an electronic format and fit it in the palm of my hand as never before. I just finished going through my Amazon wish list, removing every book that didn't have a Kindle edition. Would I really like to read that? Oh yes! Would I really like to buy that (or have someone gift it to me) and pay to ship it to Nigeria? Oh no!

So with my Lovely and Gracious giving in and getting her very own laptop and probably a Kindle, I am giving in to treat myself to a Walkman (a reliable non-iPod, since Apple's unconscionable prices for a glorified portable CD player have kept me at bay) and Kindle books. Maybe one or two might get read on her device, but I expect most will be on my laptop.

-- Derrill

Mental Preparation

We were very fortunate to have family visit last night as they are moving to California from Connecticut. We visited, ate, played. It was a pleasant if not really hot evening. Seeing family is like drinking water after being in a hot desert. It is so refreshing and happy. Since they are moving to a new place and starting a new adventure of their own, it was very easy for me to consider similar things that we will be needing to do very soon. It was very helpful to me to hear what they had been doing and planning and made our own future move seem more of a doable reality. It was a really great way to feel more prepared mentally for all that needs to be done. Having a vision and point of reference even if it be a small one can really ease the mind of things that can be overwhelming before they seem real. So, I know that there is still a lot of work to do, but for this day I feel some of the excitement of the move and it is very nice. Thanks Steve and Em


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rocking Morning

This morning I got up with my son a little earlier than usual. He has been getting up at insane hours, and we let him play with something until we can stand getting up. While we were doing our normal morning routine our Prince says to me, “I want a hug”. I give him a hug and he says, “Rock me mommy”. I was sitting in the glider in his room, the only chair there. I suggested he finish putting on his clothes first. He did and then came over to me and climbed in my lap. He gave me the biggest hug as I started to rock him.  I asked him if he would like me to sing him a song and he said that he would and asked for Flowers remind me of you. I rocked my son as he sat there finding a comfy spot and I sang to him twice. It was on of the sweetest things as a little mommy. Every once in a while he would look up at me adoringly. Those kids don’t always know how much power being cute and cuddly can be. Maybe we just have to teach them ;)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Palm Computer

Hi Everyone,

As part of my preparations to go to Nigeria I used some of my shekels (most of them actually) to purchase an Internet device to help me feel more comfortable keeping in touch with all of you. I was looking at a Ipod apple device for a while, but was not pleased with the options of keyboards. I wanted to make this transition into cyberspace as easy for myself as I could and that meant having a usable nonvirtual keyboard. Boo had an Ipod and Pop as a Dell mini and I was talking to them about the bennefits and drawbacks of each. I ultimately decided that the Dell mini would suit my purposes better, but it is funny that it is really a lot more like a computer than the ipod.

I was talking to Derrill about this last night. He was actually very surprised that what I got looks more like a computer than a hand held. I have resisted being inculcated into computers so soundly. When my Dell mini came he opened it up and thought or said, this looks a little small (we also ordered a laptop to replace our more than 3 year old computer for better and quicker processing in Nigeria of online things). Derrill was able to figure out that it was a Dell mini upon further inspeciont. Oh, (the light comes on) that was all he had heard about my new machine was that it was a Dell mini. He was expecting to see a handheld device not a little computer. Surprise honey!

So, then Derrill asked me what the first thing that I was going to do on my new computer would be (apparently it was this blog). He joked that it might be watch Little House on the Prairie. I told him that wasn’t possible because I don’t have a cd drive, no disk drive at all actually. He was further surprised. I explained to him that the Dell mini to me is really just meant to be a glorified handheld with the ease of typing with a nice little keyboard (which I love by the way). It gives me comfort to start with a computer that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles. It is less overwhelming. I think it will be a perfect transition device. Derrill even suggested it would be less tempting for him without all the bells and whistles ;).


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Is Mommy Excited to go to Nigeria?

The answer really lies in whether or not mommy gets excited about anything. I have spent some time thinking about this as mommy :), because I have had a few people ask me if I am excited about going. I would say that yes, I am excited in the same way I get excited about everything, mostly through planning and worry (chuckle).

When I was thinking about places that it would be a no-brainer that  I would be excited to go to, I think about Disney World where we went with Pop and Boo recently. I really was excited to go, but I couldn't get past the planning and packing to show true child-like excitement until all the planning and packing were done. I take the planning quite seriously whether things every turn out the way we planned them, but in recent years I do a much better job of accepting the changes in plans as they come. So when we were almost all packed and everything was planned, I was able to really enjoy going to Disney World, being there and spending time with Pop and Boo.

I anticipate the same for me and Nigeria. There are so many things to plan (vaccinations, packing, selling the house, passport, visa's, our shipping agent, current events and doctors, and wrapping up things here- just some of what I can think of off the top of my head) and I get really wrapped in them and try not to get overwhelmed. So when I am  overwhelmed, no not excited. When I see plans coming together and things working out, yes excited. It is just funny to realize that my process of working through new things really just keeps getting perpetuated to all knew things. Derrill does a lot to help keep me on task as far as focusing on one thing to get it done and not just being overwhelmed with the whole list.

Even when we got married, Derrill wondered where his sweet bride had gone as I got lost in planning and was glad to get me back when that part was over.

So, I am looking forward to it, plan to enjoy the actual doing of it more than the planning. :D


LDS in Nigeria 1: 1960-1980

From News of the Church,  Feb1980, "A Miracle Precedes the Messengers," Janet Brigham.

African Christians in Ghana (green) and Nigeria (orange) had been writing to the church since at least 1960, asking for more information, for "holy books," and for any opportunity to learn more about the Church. While I was in Nigeria, my hosts noted that the two most popular types of book that you can find everywhere and anywhere are religion and self-help (aka get rich). Visa problems kept the Church from sending representatives until August, and then Nov 1978. Within 14 months, there were 1700 converts.
And the friendliness of the people in Ghana and Nigeria compensates for other difficulties. The couples reported to President Spencer W. Kimball: “We have never been anywhere in the world where it is so easy to engage a stranger in gospel discussion—opportunities [are] at every hand. One need not go from door-to-door—just have your tracts ready. Even busy people walking on the street will stop and talk. Workmen on construction jobs carry the tracts in hand for long periods of time. If you go by an hour or so later, it isn’t unusual to see them reading” (see Ensign, May 1979, p. 106).
The first missionary couples found a people who had been heavily prepared in many ways to receive the gospel:
Africans learned of the Church from other Africans who had studied in the United States. They came across some missionary pamphlets. No one now knows how those pamphlets got to Africa in the 1950s—but the effect was remarkable. Many who read them recognized the truth. Then—independent of each other and without knowledge of the other’s actions—several groups of blacks in both Nigeria and Ghana started their own religious organizations, patterned after the Church. However, visa problems prevented representatives being sent to officially establish the Church.

The groups built small meeting-houses and met regularly. They copied organization, doctrines, songs, and titles after the Church, as much as they were able to discern from the literature they received. Occasionally they had contact with members of the Church visiting Africa.
The Africans even proselyted. One man, after a stirring spiritual experience, “was constrained by [the] Spirit to go from street to street … to deliver the message which we had read from the Book of Mormon and from the pamphlets.” Despite some “persecutions” and sometimes being labeled as an “anti-Christ organization,” the “missionaries” were undaunted. 
“We persisted with the word and won forty people that day even to the admiration of the Muslims around,” one man reports.
Among the many letters sent to Church headquarters asking for more light and knowledge was this on
"We here are the true sons of God, but colour makes no difference in the service of Our Heavenly Father and Christ. The Spirit of God calls us to abide by this church and there is nothing to keep us out.”
The author of that letter, Anthony Obinna, was later to become the first black western African baptized and called as branch president.

First Impressions of Nigeria

I already had written this email at the end of my first evening in Nigeria, only to have the internet crash on me and never get this computer back online until I got to the Newark airport again ... whereupon the post I wrote was lost. So I'll try this again.

I flew out to Nigeria Thur-Fri to visit the American University of Nigeria so I could scope out the area and the job they had offered me. There are only so many flights between the capital, Abuja, and Yola so I got to wait overnight. This is what I saw as I stepped out of the airport.

My very first impression looking out the airplane window was confusion. Abuja is the capital, right? So where is the city? I saw red dirt, patches of green grass, some trees California would be proud of, and shrubs. Where is the city? Finally we flew over some blue-roofed houses with brown dirt roads, but it was just a collection of buildings, not a city. Where was the city??

Turns out, I guessed right: the airport is 45 km away from the capital. While I waited for my ride, several taxi drivers offered their help, one of them offering to let me use his phone to call my ride for ~70 cents. A friendly guard let me call for free and I was soon picked up by AUN staff. They were trying to help two other people also heading for Yola, but the 4:30 flight got canceled. So they waited around to see if they were going to create an 8:30 flight, but that idea also got canceled at 7:30. So we three hung around the airport and at a nearby restaurant for three hours before we all gave up and went to the Top View Hotel.

Mentioning the Top View to AUN-affiliates produces very interesting reactions, mostly along the lines of "oh yes, I tried the haggis once. That was memorable." I'm not entirely sure why. Okay, so the bathroom faucets popped off in my hand. They popped right back on again! Okay, so the bathroom comes with its own water heater for the shower. So did every other AUN tub/shower I saw. And the size of room is at least twice as large as anything Europe has offered me on a work trip, plus a wide screen TV.

The more memorable thing is that Nigerian beds surprise Westerners. The pillows are not made of rocks. They might be made out of softened wood. That means I pretty much loved them (good, firm pillows!) The beds are also pretty firm. Supposed to be good for you, right?

The internet worked, the food was good and ample (see my last post), and I got an amazing 10 hours of sleep after my sleepless flying.

Traffic on the interstate connecting airport and city was ample. In addition to the massive traffic going to the airport, there were pedestrians all over, enough that in one place they had set up an impromptu marketplace: postcards and pictures, shirts, one stand consisted of a large umbrella with brassieres hanging from it, people selling food.... The interstate was in fine shape, though there's also a lot of roadwork being done so there were a lot of road splits and mergings. There are far more motorcycles on the road, not all of them use their lights, and they drive about like our motorcyclists do which is to say you really need to watch out for them. The main driving difference I observed was that the dashed white lines that separate lanes are regarded more as suggestions than laws, there are no posted speed limits, the use of turn signals is nil, and stopping for police can be optional. In other words, it felt safer than driving in New York City. The roads themselves, in Abuja and Yola, were in far better condition than I had been led to expect, with only one major pothole on the main road. Non-main roads are another story.

 -- Derrill

My first glimpse of AUN

Derrill here. I visited Yola a couple weeks ago to scope out the area and help prepare us for our move. I'm going to repost some of my pictures and thoughts from that trip here as well.

I've seen a sketch of what AUN is going to look like, and it's pretty nice: 20 main campus buildings, bunch of dorms and other facilities. Some people look at it and think it's already there. When they get there, they ask, "Where's the rest of it?"

This is the building with most of the teachers and classrooms. I'll be on the second floor.

Across the way from it is what I'll call the administration building. The library takes up the left half of the bottom floor and there are other admin offices throughout it, but the President's office is in the other building. HR, finance, and other offices are across the street mingled with the international school.

That's about it so far.

There are dorms to house the ~1300 students. There's a cafeteria and a vehicle maintenance shop for the fleet of AUN shuttles to take me to work.

They are building a new library. From one day to the next I could see progress being made on it. I think the next one they are building after this is the real admin building. Each of these will then free up more space in the building I've called the admin building for teachers and classrooms. According to the sketch, both the buildings that are currently up are for classrooms.

Speaking of classrooms, here is one. The current department chair was teaching a review session during the 5/6 week summer term. I was surprised how relieved I am to discover just how casual their business casual is. Here I've been ramping up my wardrobe and getting used to tucking in my shirt and all the rest ... I can wear my Hawaiian shirts to work!

One last look at my future office on the way out. There's this really long driveway to get the gate, another indication of the big plans the Founder (former Nigerian vice-president) and American University have for the campus they hope will become the greatest university in Sub-Saharan Africa.

 -- Derrill

Tender Mercies felt but not Understood

We are going to Nigeria. We feel that Heavenly Father is in charge. This is not the road we expected, but we know it is the way that will bring us closer to our Savior Jesus Christ and closer as a family. We are so grateful for the answers to prayers our family members have received in regards to our going to Nigeria, especially Grammy who seems to have received her answers in the beginning of the decision making process.  We have felt that the things that we are to learn that will prepare us to be a tool in His hands will be taught to us there and that we will be blessed abundantly with blessings that will stay with us all of our lives. It is with this understanding that has given us peace beyond our logical understanding that embarks us on this journey. We hope that all of you whom we love and cherish will find increased peace through the peace that we seek, find, and share among our African friends and coleagues at the American University of Nigeria in Yola, Adamawa, Nigeria.

We are naming this blog Tender Mercies Realized for now in reference to a scripture found in the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi chapter 1 verse 20. The part I reference is near the end of the verse...'I will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.' This scripture became even more special to me as when Elder Bednar, one of the current apostles of Jesus Christ spoke about it in April 2005 general conference. We are sure that as we have seen his tender mercies in guiding us to Yola, Nigeria that we will continue to see and experience them along the way and hope to find time to share them here.

I have realized that I feel a little strange sharing my personal thoughts on blogs, as Derrill has been the major writer in our last blog, but if you all will comment every once in a while then I will probably feel a little less strange throwing my thoughts out into space.

You are welcome to join us on our journey and we hope to stay in close contact with all of you.

 -- Joy