Friday, September 12, 2014


Is a date a word?

This date is.

If I could catch the attention of America for a few seconds, I would use my time to say this:

I’ve decided I’m not going to put my focus on never forgetting 9/11.  I have another idea which I think might be better.  Now, hear me out. It’s not what it sounds like.

Do I remember 9/11?  I couldn’t forget it if I tried.  It’s so much more than a mental picture that comes to mind.  In fact, my response is visceral and physical, and I'm positive I'm not alone in this; my body aches and my heart pounds every time I recall it.  Today I was looking for a news report I had seen the morning of the attacks that has stayed with me.  I didn’t find it, but in looking for it online I watched other footage taken on the ground in lower Manhattan after the towers were hit.  I was startled by the intensity of my feelings. If terror was the goal of the perpetrators, then they succeeded with me. I feel it even though I didn’t know personally a single soul who was killed that day.  I still feel it today, 13 years later.

And that’s one of the reasons I think that 9/12 might be a day I will work hard to remember.

The news footage I was looking for was of a man, racing away from the twin towers.  He was frantic and just barely stopped to talk to the reporters sticking a camera and mic in his horror-stricken face.  He said something like, “I just ran past some firefighters.  I couldn’t believe it. They had no fear in their eyes! We were running out and they—they were running in!” 

I will never forget that example.  It has stayed with me—no, it has haunted me ever since I saw it.  With the world crashing down around me, would I fearlessly run in to help?

Helpers really matter.  Fred Rogers--Mr. Rogers--said something crucial about this in an interview many years ago:

“You know, my mother used to say, long time ago, whenever there would be any real catastrophe that was in the movies or on the air, she would say, ‘Always look for the helpers.  There will always be helpers.’ You know, even just on the sidelines.  That’s why I think that if news programs could make a conscious effort of showing rescue teams, of showing medical people, anybody who is coming into a place where there’s a tragedy, to be sure that they include that because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.”

That’s another reason why I think that if we’re going to pick one date to always remember, that we might want to choose 9/12.

For me, remembering 9/11 doesn’t require any effort at all.  I believe I will never forget the sadness and shock and terror of that day.

One of many impromptu memorials which sprang up on NYC streets (photo from New York magazine)

What does require our intense effort, all our will, all our hope to remember is that 9/12 came, despite our certainty that it wouldn’t, couldn’t come after such a day as 9/11.  Many didn't sleep at all, yet the sun came up as it always does, and what did we awaken to?  The attack had ended, no additional buildings had been destroyed, the adrenaline of the moment had evaporated and we felt the stark reality of the damage that had been done, that it hadn’t been a nightmare, and then . . .

Everyone across the country found an American flag and flew it outside their homes for all the world to see.

We felt a kind of unity and love that most had never felt before towards people who were/are strangers to us.

We mourned together truly and totally.

We prayed and hoped for people we had never met, will never meet, who were desperately searching for missing friends and family members.

Rescue workers became exhausted yet were unwilling to leave the scene because there was more work to do.

We gained deep gratitude for the people in our society who help for a living, and even better, who help as a way of life. 

We heard of people from all over the city, the country, all over the world making their way to the site of the attack to help in any possible way because the first responders had done exactly what they were supposed to do, and more, much more help was needed.

We saw the helpers, and so we knew that there was hope.

A restaurant which overnight became a non-profit organization for feeding first-responders and, it must be said, second and third and fourth responders.  Helpers. (photo from New York magazine online)

What began then was what always happens among good people when tragedy hits—we pulled together in defiance of the evil men who believed we would collapse like the towers, clasped hands and inch by painful inch, started climbing out of the pit they had dug for us.  

A day or two after 9/11, I was the one of the featured speakers at a meeting of an American Mothers group in Provo, Utah.  I had no idea if the meeting would still be held, if meetings like this should be held.  No one really knew what to do, but the meeting ended up happening as scheduled.  I thought really long and hard about what I might say.  Everything I thought of seemed inadequate. 

I spoke for 20 minutes or so and I don’t remember any of it except that the words that seemed to fit best came from a children’s book by Dr. Seuss.

[And when you are there], there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

And then he makes his point:

But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

These are silly-ish words for a message so critical.  And they are the main reason we need to try to very hard to remember 9/12.  When we sink into all the horror and chaos of the day of the attack, we are doing what Osama bin Laden--and anyone else who took part in planning and carrying out the attacks--dreamed we would do.  We allow his reign of terror to extend beyond the grave, even.  While we must always, always remember loved ones who passed and honor public servants and regular folks who exemplified the best aspects of humanity, I wonder if we could do that even better by insisting that 9/12, not 9/11, defines us. 

9/11 is the date that evil chose for us.

9/12 is what we chose for ourselves. 

It’s the day on which my generation began to see ourselves as a people and a nation that rises above, that holds together, that goes on.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Update |ˈəpˌdāt|

Update  |ˈəpˌdāt|The noun form of this word is defined as follows:  the act of bringing something or someone up to date, or an updated version of something: an update on what went on in the Workman Family during 2012 is published on Anne's blog.
Normally, my attempt to convey family information is more obscurely presented.  Not today, readers!  Not today!  Today you may read the annual Christmas letter whose title is nearly the same as the name of this blog, and there will be no attempt at cleverness and no angle.  Will you enjoy it?  I hope so. You'll have to scroll WAAAAAY down to find it, due to technical issues. . . .

Keep scrolling!!!

Here it is. . . .

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I hear this word just about every day.  The context?  George and Lewis saying, "Mom, I don't have any clean pants to wear! "  When I hear it, I just have to say, "I'm sorry that I haven't done laundry for several months, boys!"  I don't hear the word very often from my older children, because then my response would be, "Well, you'd better wash some clothes, then!"

It's very likely that it was a summer day much like this one the last time I got some serious laundry done.

Nextly, I hear the word when my brothers are trying to be funny.  They say, "my pants!"  instead of "my bad" when they mess up.  I'm not sure why, but it's stuck in family usage.

This week, however, I've heard the word pants most often in the context of "wear pants to church Sunday."  I admit to not knowing an exhaustive amount about this event.  I will also admit that my ignorance is deliberate.  I have chosen to not chase after more details.  We all have to choose which things will catch and keep our energy and attention, and this was something I decided was not worth much of my energy or attention.  Why?

1.  It's Christmas time! Why would anyone deliberately pull focus away from the Savior and onto them selves (see point 5, below) at this sacred time of year?  In the face of the massacre in Newtown, such grandstanding seems even more egregious.  All that good people everywhere want to do is love their family and friends and strangers in Christmasy ways, and feel the joy of our shared humanity.

2.  You know the phrase "first-world problem?"  It's used in situations where people want it to be known that the thing they're complaining about is recognizably petty when compared to real need and anguish in the world.  The idea that women are 'suffering' because they feel a moderate amount of covert pressure to wear skirts to church? It's petty, to say the least.

3.  People who are oppressed by Mormon group-think are not going to be liberated by engaging in a Mormon feminist group-think activity.  Freedom from group-think oppression is always always an individual activity.  Sorry, folks.

3a.  This group-think activity is designed to divide.  Not only will people who have chosen to participate in the event be looking around to see who else is participating, but they will also be looking around to see and take note of who ISN'T participating.  There's US and then there's THEM.  That's called division.  Encouraging such division is irreconcilable with Christian worship.

4.  I don't personally know Joanna Brooks (perhaps the most notable backer of this pantsing activity), but I know that she seems to be intelligent and well-spoken.  I have seen her in a youtubed television interview and know that she is attractive and dresses stylishly and has an amazing amount of self-confidence.  She seems absolutely unflustered in conversing with powerful media representatives.  I have also noticed that she has made a career of popping up as a spokesman every time Mormonism garners some attention.  At this period of time, called by some the "Mormon moment," she is everywhere.  I guess I think of her as the Jesse Jackson of Mormonism.  I don't know Jesse Jackson either, but I DO know that every time I hear people speak about him, it is always with the realization that where there are cameras and a chance to speak to them, he will be there, representing "his" people.  The person who stands to benefit more than anyone else from this "wear pants to church" Sunday?  Joanna Brooks.  It is forwarding her career, feeding her oversized need for public attention.  Please see this clearly.

I've got to go now.  I don't have any more time to blog! I've got Christmasy things to do and my boys don't have clean pants to wear.  If I've offended you, my pants!

Friday, August 31, 2012

fe•fe ⎟feh′ feh⎟

fe•fe ⎟feh′  feh⎟

  I’m a little nervous about writing this post.  I’ve never blogged using a non -English word as the subject.  What if my translation is not correct?  What if my explanation seems meaningless to you even though it means something to me?  Oh, what to do?

The word for the day is fefe, meaning fear.  It is a Samoan word.  In our family it is used most often as part of the phrase “No fefe” and is a play on the extreme sports clothing brand “No Fear."  There are several shades of meaning for the phrase. 

“No fefe, huh?” can mean, “Man, that kid has a lot of nerve!”

Or, "Eh, no fefe" could mean “Go on. Don’t be ashamed!”

“No, fefe, ah?” could also indicate respect, as in,  “Wow, that person is fearless!”

All of us experience fefe sometime, and it is so often crippling and stifling.  I’d rather live my life with NO fefe.  Can people really do that?  Sometimes!  Here are 3 examples:

It was Spring break 2010, and our family took what will probably turn out to be a once in a lifetime trip to our hometown of Laie, Hawaii.  We arrived late at night but were up early in the morning because of the time difference.  We slept in ‘til 5:00 am which equates to 11:00 am Michigan time.  Since Mom’s house is small  and has thin walls, we knew we’d be making noise that would wake her and that we’d better step outside.  We headed straight for the beach, of course.  While there we collected shells and pieces of coral that had washed up on the shore.  The kids jumped and played in the calm waters of low tide and Charles and I showed them some caves and some tidal pools on exposed coral reef.  When we’d been gone long enough to allow Grandma a nice, slow wake up, we turned for home.  Soon after rinsing the sand off our legs and stepping inside, we received a phone call from a childhood friend of mine, a beautiful part-Hawaiian lady who had married a handsome part-Samoan childhood friend.  She wanted to bring us some real luau food—pork smoked overnight in an underground oven, breadfruit, a ton of other delicacies I can’t think of right now, and some luau bread, which was so delicious I didn’t even think of sharing it.  When she arrived, she walked through the front door, gave me a big hug and kiss and said, “Is that your little boy standing out on the edge of the highway holding a sign?”  I told her that I didn’t think so.  I was soon corrected by my another of the kids who informed me that in fact it WAS my son standing out on the very edge of the busy busy highway which runs right in front of my Mom’s house, and that he was indeed holding a sign.  As I collected my wits, I remembered that several minutes previous, George had been writing something on a piece of paper and had asked how to spell a certain word.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember what the word was.  I didn’t need to remember.  My native Hawaiian friend soon told me that the piece of paper he was holding said, “CORAL FOR SALE $1”.   

No fefe, huh!

Now, there’s information you need to have before you understand the implications of this event:

1.     My son was 5 years old at the time,
2.     He had been in Hawaii for a grand total of 15 hours.
3.     It is illegal to harvest or sell coral in Hawaii.
4.     My friend is native Hawaiian, and was bringing me a kind, loving, generous, 100% Hawaiian gift. The food was made as part of a fundraising luau for a local political candidate, and it was being offered to me for free, at her family’s expense.
5.     130 years ago, American businessmen overthrew the native Hawaiian monarchy in order to exploit the business opportunities they saw everywhere.  American businessmen have been doing it ever since, much to the anger of the native population.

It would be like trying to sell melted-off pieces of the Arctic ice cap to Eskimos, at a profit.

Oh, the nerve of that boy!  Why wasn’t he sitting in front of the TV watching a dum video like usual?  I don’t know what possessed him. It mortified me and still does, though I hope such fearless initiative (tempered by wisdom from Mom and Dad) will bless George’s life someday.

exploring the shoreline

Can you tell we just woke up?

The criminal, about to strike

Searching for. . . .

. . . .illegal loot.

I was going to begin this next paragraph with “here’s a less-embarrassing example” but I’m not sure it is.  It depends on how “No fefe” you are!!

In October 2008 my high school class held its 20th reunion (which is strange, since it’s only been a couple years since I graduated from high school!)  Many of us from Hawaii live on the mainland and it’s crazy-expensive to travel home, so a smaller group decided to reunite in Las Vegas.  I flew out to Utah and drove from there to Vegas with a few close friends.  There were nerves, at least for me, as we joined our classmates.  Would they remember us?  Would we be comfortable?  Would we find things to talk about with everyone?  I shouldn’t have worried.  By the end of the weekend, the warm glow of shared history won out over nerves.  In some cases, I felt closer to them than I ever had in school.  It was sweet. 

The last event of the weekend was a breakfast buffet.  We sat together in one portion of a huge dining hall that was part of a casino/hotel and laughed, offered encouragement and delayed leaving.  When it was actually, finally time for people to go, it seemed as if we would just sort of peel off, one or two at a time until everyone had left.  It felt anti-climactic and sad.  I suggested to a friend that what we should do was stand and sing our alma mater.  Do you know your high school’s alma mater?  We sang ours fearlessly and often at Kahuku High back in the day--at football and basketball games, at assemblies and pep rallies.  We would all stand and hold hands, arms lifted high in the air swaying back and forth.  It’s our signature song!  I made my suggestion quietly, afraid that it would seem silly or overly sentimental.  Luckily, my friend didn’t have the same fears and she proposed it out loud.  So, in our section of this huge dining hall in Las Vegas, with zero concern for what everyone else in the dining hall might think of this strange behavior, we stood up from our tables and stood in a circle, grabbed hands, raised them high in the air and sang.  
Deen raises her hand to suggest we all sing


Yes, that means you!  

Here we go.

"In old Kahuku stands our alma mater;
where the salt winds blow day after day

With her doors flung wide for her sons and daughters true,
while the flag of freedom proudly waves above.

Hail, Kahuku, hail our alma mater!
Hail to our colors red and white!

We'll cherish, love and honor thee!
All Hail, Kahuku, Hail!!!"

As I’ve remembered that event, I think how amazing it was that our pride and our warm memories of childhood made us totally unconcerned about anything but each other, reunited in that sweet, shared tradition.  We had no fefe at all.  Our subsequent farewells were tearful and tender, coming on the heels of a moment I hope I’ll never forget!

The last example. . .My friend Ellen was diagnosed with cancer last year.  In the years before her own diagnosis, she had lost her husband, her mother and a couple of brothers and sisters, some to cancer.  It had been hard.  Ellen, however, was always cheerful.  It wasn’t that she didn’t realize what was going on.  She talked a lot about the trying things in her life, how badly she was feeling, how hard it was to take care of sick relatives and how lonely it was without them.  But the feeling you ended with after talking with Ellen was that life was full of miracles and that her life—even her health--was brimming with them.  I talked to her on the phone a few weeks into her disease, after the doctor had told her that he couldn’t recommend further treatment—that it was now just a matter of time.  I expected to console her and empathize.  Instead, Ellen giggled about how her bishop had said, “Well, maybe your husband Wayne is lonely without you and he’s calling you home!”  There weren’t tears or emotional agony.  There was reality and there was, believe it or not, bubbliness.  She talked about dying as if it were a trip to the store—just a run-of-the-mill occurrence, nothing to get freaked out about.  And she didn’t have an agenda; she wasn’t trying to cheer me up.  It was just how she felt.  I loved talking to her in those last few weeks.  I was in awe of her.  I descend into emotional agony over trivial things, and feel justified about it.  Ellen couldn’t or wouldn’t or just didn’t.  No fefe.  Her daughter in law told me about the one time she broke down.  They were going somewhere in the car after Ellen had been told she was terminal.  As the daughter in law slid into the driver’s seat she looked over at Ellen in the passenger seat and noticed there were tears spilling down her cheeks.  She said to Ellen, “Do you need to be alone?”  Ellen said yes.  Her daughter in law left and returned about half an hour later to find Ellen all done crying, face clear and ready to go.  That was it.  Her life was ending and she needed just a few minutes alone to mourn. 

She will always be a hero to me; that’s how I want to live and how I want to go out—with no fefe.