Monday, June 29, 2009

My Junior Year

Married life was good for me. My grades went up and I really looked forward to coming home at the end of a long day at work. We found ourselves some low cost subsidized housing still in the fifth ward not far from Lisa's mothers house. It was only a block north of M. E. Lazerte High School where Lisa went to school. It was a very nice two bedroom, two story town house that even had a basement. Our land lady was a very nice person as well and we loved living there.

Lisa continued to work at the City of Edmonton Law Department. I believe one of those buildings in this picture is the law building but it's been too long so I don't know for sure which one it would be. By the end of the summer I couldn't wait to get back to school. The only problem was that one of the required "classes" for my major was a week long tour of several mines, refineries and smelters across Northern British Columbia. I loved the opportunity to see these places but my first week away from my wife was not something I cared for. I've included several pictures from some of the mines along our route. The first one is the Endako mine, the next is a big truck from the Huckleberry mine, the third are some big mills from the Huckleberry mine and the last one is the Alcoa Aluminum smelter at Kitimat.

By the end of my first semester Lisa and I decided that she should go to University as well. She applied for school and just before Christmas she gave notice and quit her job. As luck would have it, during Christmas we found out that she was pregnant. It was really too bad that she had quit her job because if she hadn't she would have been able to take maternity leave. We had talked about having kids and we didn't feel strongly one way or another but by the time we decided to wait it was too late. Even still, we couldn't have been happier. We were very excited and even though it meant that Lisa's career would have to take a thirty year delay we both wanted kids and we wanted them while we were young so that we could enjoy them. There would be time for ourselves after they were grown. Now that we were started we saw no reason to hold back. We made the decision that we would have one kid every two years and that is what we did. Kira was born in 1982, Brandon in 1984, Ben in 1986. We miscarried between Ben and Alycia but then picked up where we left off with Alycia in 1989, Alex in 1991 and Sarah in 1993.

For my last summer of college I applied for a research position working with one of the professors and we did research work on submerged Arc Welding. It was a wonderful job and I learned all kinds of stuff. Perhaps my favorite part was simply machining test samples out of weld beads in the schools machine shop. They had a small lathe, mill, surface grinder and pretty much anything else you would need. The last picture is of a sub arc welder on a pipeline.

It was a long hot summer for poor Lisa and when her due date came and went she got very cranky. She was begging her doctor to induce her and finally when she was two weeks late he agreed to. I checked her into the hospital the night before but then during the middle of the night I got a call from Lisa. She had gone into labor on her own and my little girl was getting ready to enter into this world. I sped all the way to the hospital. For a more detailed account of Kira's birth click here and read all about it. There is no experience in this world that can come anywhere close to have a baby. It truly is what life is all about.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Home Alone

This is very strange for me. I have left the family many times in my life and gone on business trips but for the first time in our twenty seven years of marriage I've been left home alone for more than just a day or two. Several times Lisa has left and I've been home with the kids but this time she took the kids and I'm here by myself. Very weird but in some strange way it is also exciting. So far I haven't really been home alone because Saturday after they all left I had to head into work. I was there until nearly six so I got home just in time to make something to eat, tidy up a few things around the house, throw in a load of laundry, load the dishwasher, watch an episode of Star Trek and then it was off to bed.

This morning I slept in and was late for church. The way the alarm clock works in our family is 1) the alarm goes off, 2) Lisa elbows me and 3) I get up. Unfortunately, with Lisa gone step 2) didn't happen and I slept on. It was unfortunate because I think I missed Dan Tuellers farewell talk. At church Rick Pettit said, "hey, I here you're bach'ing it today". I said, "yes, that is true". Rick said, "you're having dinner at our place. I of course was quick to accept the invitation. It was even better because Rick's brother David and his wife Kim are in town and I got to see them again. They used to live in our ward but they moved to El Paso some time ago. Kim's sister and husband was also there as was Rick's little sister. Barbara Pettits brother Lyle and his wife also came by so it was a full house. The food was very good as well.

Tonight I had a training meeting at the temple at 5:00.

The only other thing of note that has happened was Justina's wedding reception was Friday night at 6:00. It was a very swanky affair at the Rancho Bernardo Inn. Justina and her husband looked very happy and Justina was very beautiful.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Wedding

I proposed to Lisa just before Christmas 1980. I believe it was December 22. I was home for Christmas and Lisa was at her Grandma Ashmeads so I picked her up and we drove to Henderson Lake in Lethbridge and we parked where we overlooked the Lake. Lucky for me (and for my kids) she agreed to marry me. After juggling dates around so we wouldn't conflict with Lester and Barb getting married we chose July 11, 1981. My timing for buying a diamond couldn't have been worse. If you look at this chart you can see that diamonds made a record breaking peak in price right about the time I was looking to buy one. For a student trying to put himself through school it was pretty tough but even though her diamond is small it is a good quality diamond and really does sparkle. I also love the design she chose. I figured out early on that Lisa is very specific in what she likes and doesn't like and I was not about to take any chances on buying a ring that she didn't like. We picked the ring out together and then we put it on hold. I paid on it as I could afford it.

Lisa actually graduated early in January 1981 and got a job as a clerk/typist/receptionist for the City of Edmonton Law Department. She made a wonderful receptionist and she was a great typist.

We didn't have any money so we got married very cheaply. Lisa decided to be brave and sewed her own wedding dress. It was a source of much stress for her at a time that she didn't need it. Luckily Dixie was there to help her finish it up the day before the wedding. Just the other day she was telling me how grateful she was for her help. We got married in the Cardston temple in the morning and following the wedding Mom threw a dinner in our backyard for our older relatives who wouldn't want to make the drive to Lethbridge and also to give us something to tie us over. Our reception was in the Colhurst school. We had a sit down dinner and I really don't know who cooked and served the food. Someone went to a lot of work and I feel bad that I don't know who did all the work. I couldn't afford to take too much time off work during the summer so our honeymoon consisted of driving to Fernie to visit Lisa's great grandmother and we postponed the real honeymoon until the end of summer. We had a reception in Edmonton the following weekend. That reception was at the 5th ward chapel.

My job during the summer of 1981 was another very interesting story. I figured since I picked up a decent job the previous summer by looking out the window of my bus I would try that again. It just so happened that right across the street from the Edmonton Football Stadium was Canadian Liquid Air. The bus would go right by it every day and I got to thinking that it would be fascinating making liquid air. One day I hopped off the bus and applied for a job. They hired me on the spot. As it turned out, making liquid air was VERY fascinating but I didn't get to do that, I filled high pressure oxygen cylinders. That was very boring. Boring or not, it paid well and I needed money. I worked with the dregs of society. They were crude, dirty and alcoholics. They would go and get drunk during their lunch breaks for heavens sake. I heard jokes in that job that would I would never repeat and many jokes that totally went over my head. It was also a fairly dangerous job and we all had to wear gloves and steel toed boots. One day there was a worker on the loading docks who wasn't wearing his gloves. He put his hand on the wall to steady himself and jumped off the loading docks. His wedding ring caught a nail sticking out of the wall. The ring peeled the skin right off his finger.

All of the cylinders are hydrostatically pressure tested every ten years. They use water because it is a non-compressable fluid but before they used to just pressure test the cylinders with air. One time the valve blew off of a cylinder and it flew like a rocket right through the roof of the building, across the street and landed in the football field.The worst thing that happened to me was when I dumped a pallet of cylinders. That made a very loud noise and it was very embarrassing but the steel toed boots saved the day. The interesting things that I got to see however was when they made acetlyne gas from mixing water with Calcium Carbide. Another was the cracking tower where they literally cool air until it liquifies and then they pass the liquid air through a cracking tower where the various gases condense out at different temperatures. It is the exact same process used to separate crude oil into its varous components except that it is done at 200° below zero. They let me look into a huge tank of liquid oxygen and it is a beautiful blue color. They get oxygen, nitrogen and argon from the air and then the carbon dioxide falls out just like snow. They literally shovel it into a pile and sell it as dry ice. Come the end of summer I quit my job early and we went on a honeymoon to Utah. We had many wonderful experiences that I'm dying to tell you about but this entry is already going long and I will have to continue later.

Scientists have just discovered a frozen sea near the equator of Mars. The sea is about the size and depth of the north sea. It has been protected from sublimation by a layer of volcanic ash but the pack ice is clearly visible.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Dandelion

After the summer of 1980 I was very anxious to get back to school and I was really anxious to see Lisa again. She was now 17 and a senior in high school. It was now time for me to pick a major and I loved my materials science class so much that I decided to pursue a career in Metallurgical Engineering. I know the title says Metallurgy but it is really focused on materials science in general and today it would be called Materials Engineering. My career has always been mostly focused on semi-conducting materials. As I progressed towards my degree my classes became more interesting and my grades gradually improved. My biggest joy was getting my calculus classes behind me. I hated every minute of those and I'm still so weak in calculus that I think I'm going to retake them all. The advancement of computers has made it so that I've never actually had to use calculus in my career. Anytime I've had a calculus problem to solve I've been able to do it on computers. I'm actually doing that all the time so I'm quite grateful for computers.

My relationship with Lisa also progressed very quickly at this point. We had a lot of opposition from the family however. Now that I'm in the position of the parent I can only imagine how upset I would be if there was a twenty two year old college student dating my seventeen year old high school daughter. I'd probably kill them. Looking back I'm quite impressed with how restrained my family (and Lisa's) was but their concern and disapproval was very obvious to us and we felt the pressure. I even wrote a poem about the opposition we were facing. I'm not much of a poet and personally I hate poems but you know what it is like to be young and in love. After much consideration and significant trepidation I've decided to share my poem with you. I was digging through some old boxes in the garage the other day and ran across it. It is very corny so please be gentle with me.

The Dandelion

I wish to give to you a flower,
to show my love for you;
but come the time to chose which one,
my ideas were very few.

But at last my pains were gone,
the perfect flower I'd found;
to represent my love for you,
it's blossoms small and round.

Yes, I'd chosen a dandelion,
how silly you may say;
but let me take the next few lines,
to show why I chose this way.

The dandelion and my love for you,
are very much the same;
through thick and thin and rain and drought,
they both will still remain.

Some times it seems that all the world,
fights against our love;
how very much like the dandelion,
who is plucked by a dirty glove.

But even as the harshest winter,
begins to melt away;
You're sure to find a dandelion,
because he's here to stay.

You can dig and cuss and swear and fight,
pour poison on his leaf;
but every year the first flower you'll see,
is the dandelion, with strong roots beneath.

So let the world say what they will,
let them dig at me;
pour poison down upon our leaves,
my love won't die, they'll see.

The hardest winter can come and go,
the driest drought prevail;
as long as you, my cause is there,
my love for you won't fail.

So this is why I give to you,
a dandelion bright and gay;
because my love just like this flower,
is here, and here to stay.

by Fred Leavitt

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The University of Alberta

I don't think I'd ever even been to Edmonton before I arrived there for school. I didn't know the area, the city or anything. I lived with my brother Greg and his family and they lived in the north east corner of the city in a neighborhood called Londonderry. He had a big house and I had a room in the basement. Because I was a transfer student from BYU I couldn't declare a major yet so I did one year of general engineering classes after which I had to be accepted into one of the engineering departments. I was planning on going into either civil engineering or mechanical engineering. School was fine as far as schools go but more interesting to me was church. I lived in the fifth ward boundaries and that was nearly an hour bus ride to get to the university which was just south of the river. Normally I would have been expected to attended the institute ward associated with the school but because it was such a long way I chose to go to the family ward with Greg and Gaylia. That turned out to be just fine with me however because they actually had a large number of young adults and they actually had a Sunday school class just for us. We had many activities and for the first time in my life I was actually popular. I loved it. It was also quite nice because it seemed that the girls outnumbered the guys.

Carol Labonte sent me this picture and with help from
her and David Butler I think I have the names of most
of the young adults in the picture.

back row left to right - Roseanne Anderson, Dave Butler, Barb Hodges, Lester Leavitt, ?,
Renee Shapcott, Wilf Gotzman
middle row - Bill Shapcott, ?, ?, Glenn Fern, Fred Leavitt
front row - Donna O'Soup, Gaylene Cooper, David Gander, Wendy Wallbank, Rob McGaskell, Lisa Shaw, Linda, Greg Rolls

One of the girls that I dated a bit was Heather MacDonald and she was quite adamant that it was MacDonald with a Mac. Definitely not one of the Mc's. That didn't last too long but I had a lot of fun that first year. Probably my first Sunday at church I met a young sixteen year old girl named Lisa Shaw. She was pretty, fun, lively and very outgoing. I loved that. Probably because it was everything I was not. It turned out that Greg was her home teacher. She was a convert to the church and being young and the only member in her family she relied heavily on her home teachers to provide the things you would normally get from your family. Things like blessings, rides to activities, someone to talk to about questions you have about doctrine, stuff like that. Her parents were divorced and that made live harder for her as well. She had been befriended by another family in the ward named Rudy and Marline VanOvermere but they had recently moved away so she had sort of adopted Greg and Gaylia as her new "church family". She came over fairly often for Sunday dinner and so we soon became good friends.

Since most of Lisa's church friends lived in fourth ward ( we lived in fifth ward) she didn't have anyone to hang out with so she started to come to many of the young adult activities with me and while I did things with all of the young adults, by the end of that first year I found myself doing more and more with Lisa. I still mostly thought of her as a friend or maybe even more of a little sister. I remember one day I was blessing the sacrament with David Butler in junior Sunday school. Lisa taught a class in junior Sunday school and while David and I were sitting at the sacrament table he leaned over to me and commented on how "hot" Lisa was. I reminded him that she was only sixteen and told him that he was crazy. Even still, it got me thinking and by the end of the year I began wondering if things could possibly work out for Lisa and I. For the summer we decided that we would split up (not that we were together) but instead of me going home for the summer Lisa went to Cardston to work in my parents store (Steadmans) and I stayed in Edmonton. As summer approached I began giving some thought to what I would do for a job. Every day my bus went past the City of Edmonton police Department and one day I got to wondering if a civilian might be able to get a job there. Something that I could do in some sort of support role. On a whim I hoped off the bus and applied for a job. On the spot I was invited in for an interview and "coincidentally" the Stores was looking for a summer student to help out. I started right away and my job included handing out supplies to all the cops. I handed out everything, spare batons, bullets, guns, badges, uniforms you name it. I went through old uniforms and sorted them out and perhaps the most annoying job I had was sorting through old numbers and putting them in order. You know those metal numbers they have pinned to their uniform? There was over a thousand of them.

It was a good job and I enjoyed it but by the end of summer I was definitely ready to go back to school. I also couldn't wait to see Lisa again.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Life is settling back to normal around here except that I don't have to get the kids up for seminary or school anymore. I'm sad that everyone has left but I have some very fond memories to keep me going. Some of my favorite memories are from my grandson, Evan. Kira taught him to say "grandpa" before he got here and it quickly became one of his favorite words. Every time I turned around I hear, "bampa, bampa, bampa...". I loved it. It was great because he really liked to be with me and we had many opportunities to do things together. He even helped me to fold laundry. Don't you just love the way he is looking at me? I bought a brand new suit not too long ago and I wore it for the first time two Sundays ago. Following the seminary graduation they had snacks and I was holding Evan as he was enjoying a chocolate chip cookie. I forgot to clean the mess off my suite when I got home and then this Sunday we were running late so I just threw on my jacket as I was running out the door. Once I was at church I noticed the big chocolate chip stain on the front of my jacket and I didn't even care. A few people commented on the stain and I just proudly responded, "yup, that's from my grandson".

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Alycia's Engaged

With graduation and all I have done a lot of bragging about Alex lately but today I want to brag about Alycia. I just gave her a hug and a kiss and sent her off to the airport. It was very sad. For those who may not be aware, Alycia is engaged. There has been a lot of wedding talk around here for quite some time but just a few weeks ago she got a ring. For several reasons, not the least of which is that Trevor will miss her, Alycia is staying in Utah this summer. I know it is the right thing but it will not be the same around here without her this summer.

Alycia just finished her second year of college in a Social Sciences major. She also plans on getting her teaching credentials so she should end up being a very versatile teacher. I can see her as one of those young, pretty, blonde school teachers that the high school boys all fall in love with. I'm sure she'll have them wrapped around her little finger.

Trevor is from St George and is finishing up a political science major. He is a very gifted guitar player and is planning on getting a second major in music. He is then planning on law school with the intention of practicing copyright law. I am thrilled for the both of them and they have my full blessing.

Alycia came down this week for Alex's graduation and while she was here Marie Riches had a bridal shower for her. If you remember, Kira was down here as well and it was wonderful having all the kids around except for Brandon. There always seems to be someone missing.

There was a very cool thing happened at the bridal shower. I would have liked to have been there to share in the experience but guys are not welcome at those things. My mom started a tradition of making quilts for each of her grandkids when they would come along. When Lisa was expecting Alycia they sat down and picked out some fabric for the quilt in preparation. Sadly, two days after Alycia was born Mom suddenly passed away and the quilt was never finished. Mom had already bought the fabric however and Dad told us that he was going to have the quilt finished for us so that Alycia could have a quilt from the grandma that she never met. When that never happened Dad felt bad so he gave Lisa a quilt top from his mother (my grandma Leavitt) that she had made before she passed on. He told Lisa that he wanted her to finish the quilt for Alycia and give it to her for a wedding present. In this way the quilt could be very special because it would be from my grandma Leavitt, from my Dad, in memory of my mother and from Lisa because she finished it. Lisa did finish the quilt for her and what a special gift that was. To make it even better, it has a funky retro look to it because it is so old and it is in bright colors which Alycia loves. Now you might think things couldn't get any better but my grandma Leavitt is a bit special to Alycia because she is even named after her. My grandmothers name was Nellie Grace Quinton and Alycia is Alycia Grayce Leavitt. Lisa's mother is also Donna Grayce Kesler so she is actually named after two grandma's. Pretty cool don't you think? Lisa wrote a nice letter to go along with the quilt explaining it's history and from what I hear it was a very touching moment. There were many tears.

It is a bit belated but congratulations Alycia on your engagemnt and for moving on to the next phase of your life and doing it the right way. I love you.

At each stage in life one reaches the "peak" for what has to be performed at that age:

Between 2 - 5 years one reaches the peak of language acquisition ability.
Between 10 - 12 years peak assimilation of cultural traditions, prejudices etc, etc.
At 20 - 25 years peak sexual attractiveness. Also the peak for impulsiveness.
At 50 - 70 years peak leadership ability, ability to compromise. Things are not seen as black-and-white anymore.

Hence physical beauty in art is always depicted with the bodies of young men and women, but deities are always depicted as old men (with beards!). I guess I had better grow a beard.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

San Jacinto

Another great weekend. This weekend was scout camp. We hiked up to the top of San Jacinto Mountain. The summit of this mountain is 10,834 feet and it is very difficult to breath up there. Luckily we cheated and took a tram up to the 8,000 foot mark. On Friday we took the tram and hiked two miles into Round Valley. We cooked dinner and spent the night there. This morning we ate breakfast and hid our back packs near the camp site. We then took our day packs and hiked 3.3 miles up to the summit. The view from the top was amazing. You can see forever in all directions. The clouds covered the ground so we couldn't see much buit it was so beautiful looking down onto the tops of the clouds. I wasn't about to hike up there with my good camera but our small camera is broken. I then went to borrow Sarah and Alex's cameras but they both had dead batteries and I didn't have time to let them charge. That means that I had to take pictures with my Treo. I apologize that they aren't all that great but you will get the idea. It was a great day. The young women are making this hike in the summer and Lisa and I are going along as chaperones. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Grad Night

Today was graduation day. I always have mixed feelings on graduation day because it is such a special day for the kid graduating but it is shear torture sometimes sitting in the hot sun on the hard seats for hours on end just to hear that special ten seconds when your kid walks up and receives his diploma. I wouldn't miss it for the world though. We were fortunate today to have all but one of our children at home. Alycia flew into town yesterday and only Brandon was absent.

I took the day off work and this morning was spent helping Lisa finish up the last of her stuff for grad night. Shortly after noon we headed over to the stadium and with Evan's handicapped parking we were able to park very close to the stadium and bypass the miles long line up outside the stadium. We could have carried Evan of course but the convenience of the handicapped parking was really nice for Lisa's mother who is also in town. It was fun watching Alex walk in and I've rarely seen him so excited. The program wasn't nearly as bad as I was worried about and after everything was over we got several pictures of Alex with his friends and then we held true to our tradition and headed off to the Soup Plantation. After the soup plantation Ben and I went over to the school with Lisa and helped her with some last minute setting up.

I don't know if you are all aware of what Grad Night is. To encourage the graduates to avoid the many parties with alcohol and to help them to live past their graduation day the PTA puts on this big party. The kids buy tickets to it but it is an all out affair. They have to be inside before 10:30 and then no one is allowed in or out until 6:00 AM. For Kira's grad night Lisa volunteered to be the entertainment chair and she has done that for everyone of the kids who have graduated since then. She is very good at it but she gets so stressed that for the last few weeks before the event no one wants to be around her. I think they give her a budget of twenty or thirty thousand dollars and she gets some very good deals. All the party people know her now and so she gets the best events around.

Lisa would have to give you more details but just some of the things that they have are:

a dance
a casino (poker tables, black jack, craps, and the works)
a movie theater
ping pong tables
pool tables
several arcade games
astro jumps including some pretty fancy obstacle courses
laser tag
caricature artists
crazy hair people
guitar hero
dance dance
and all the food you could possibly want

Lisa books and schedules them all.

When we got home from the Soup Plantation Alex headed upstairs for a short nap before grad night started. He said something about waking him up before 9:00 when it all started. As it happened Peter and Maren showed up to say goodbye to Kira before she leaves tomorrow, Ben and I headed over to the school to help Mom and Sarah and Alycia got lost on the computers. Lucky for Alex one of his friends called him about 9:40 for a ride to the school. He was sound asleep and actually thought it was the next morning. He would have slept through it all.

Westview High School is ranked among the top 200 schools in the United States for academics.