Easter 2017 at Bountful Temple

Easter 2017 at Bountful Temple
All of us together

Monday, December 4, 2017

Xmas Letter 2017

If you want to see the real letter, go to http://rrmanning.blogspot.com. If you want to know what HFC-134a (also known as 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane) looks like, look around you. If you want to know what it smells like, ask Richard. Rochelle might know too. Speaking of which, too bad for Cousin Eli. Sometimes you never know. Sometimes you do.
If you didn’t know about the blog already, now you do, and here you are. No matter where you go, there you are, as they used to say. As always, the red text is what was sent in the letter with the card that came in the mail. The green is more or less what it was intended to communicate.  
Richard and Rochelle tried to defrost their GE refrigerator after seeing someone else do it on a YouTube video.  It was a major pain, but even more interesting was that in the process, Richard put a hole in the refrigerant line. In case you are curious, modern refrigerants are colorless and odorless.  So now we have a newer new refrigerator.  Isn’t that fun. If you want him to come to your house to cut down a tree, just give him a call; I'm sure it would make for great video.
Rochelle said, “Find a place to rent in Midway around Fam Reunion When tuition.” Yes, indeed, that’s what she said. But she didn’t find it after all. She also spent quite a few days in various places, doing various things, including teaching children to play the bongos and to speak her language. Some of them even remembered. Richard wouldn’t know if she met J. Willard because he didn’t go along. Was he invited?  Jonah went, and so did MK’s sister and nephew.  Too bad for Cousin Eli. (Yes, we said that once already.) He didn’t make it to camp. Maybe if he had, he would still be number 1. With a zero. There were some aluminum clad guys in the park. It got dark. Pretty cool, but not exactly cold. She had never been to Ashton before. Why do they call it Island Park when there really isn’t either one there, but lots of traffic at least on one day. How far is it from the old apartment to the new one? Everyone had a birthday this year. Bake a cake, hire a band, sing a song. Go to Pocatello and see the trees; and a movie. New Mexico and Oklahoma will have to get in line with Louisiana.  Five is still the number. She doesn’t think we use enough ink.
Rochelle makes notes on pieces of paper telling her what to do. Sometimes Richard finds them. Sometimes not. She went out west looking for places we might build a summer home, or some other type of future abode, but came up empty. Just too much uncertainty about where, when and if. Virginia’s not so bad, actually. She taught in local schools quite a bit this year, spending about half the year teaching English as a Second Language. Who knew she was a linguist? She also took various musical instruments to schools with her. She amazes one and all with her talents. After summer break, some kids saw her again and asked where her toys were. They like her. She spent a lot of time being Grandma too.  She went with Arrin’s family and a friends to Kauai and didn’t let Richard come along. Mostly she just lounged around a Marriott resort, however, so he would probably have been bored. Too bad for Eli, again. Peyton was better though…Omaha and all. Rochelle also put on a cousins camp for the grandchildren at Rachel’s house, going to L.A. and flying to Montana with him for the week.  Richard joined for some of the days. It was fun and interesting, driving into the mountains to a secluded lake, swinging from trees, fishing without bait. Catching nothing, thank goodness. (Oops, that for the next part.) Part of the week included a drive to Ashton Idaho to see the total eclipse. Pretty cool.  You have to see it to understand. Arrin moved into a new apartment – so why’s that in Rochelle’s section? Rochelle went and played grandma again at the new place. We did TG at Rochelle’s mom’s house in Pocatello. We didn’t finish her bucket list of states. Maybe next year. No new grandchildren this year. We get too much ink from HP – or at least we don’t use all we have before they send us a new cartridge. Isn’t that special? Did we go sailing? Did everyone come home?
Richard is always the same. Perhaps that is because he was named after Simon Bolivar, but before Michael Jordan. Some things never get too old. He still shares the Cottage with Rochelle, when one or the other, or both, aren’t somewhere else. Did you get that? Once again in Pocatello, twice again somewhere else. Were the lights out in Montana? What lake was it that was ten minutes up the road? Why didn’t anyone let him go on a real vacation? Because you don’t have a motorcycle, but there was that once in a lifetime phenomenon. Pretty cool. Amazing how black it was with that white ring thing. Do you remember Aunt Ernestine, or Amelia Earhart? There was that kid that asked for help fixing his car. I see me low, or high, or sideways. Rochelle’s favorite song, so he said. Working on the railroad, working all day long. It’s still mostly fun, so why not. He also looked for a kind of summer place, but it didn’t look as good up close, so they both didn’t jump. Pretty much everyone has a birthday.
Richard IS pretty much always the same, except that he officially entered his late 50s this year.  That’s a trip. Though he didn’t really go on a true vacation. Everyone was too busy so he just sat at home and at work and did what he does.  He still thinks the same old jokes are funny and he tells them as often as he wants to. You do  know that his mother really wasn’t Amelia Earhart in hiding. It isn’t clear that he does. Doing the eclipse thing was really cool. It’s something he’s wanted to do since he was 14 and he saw a partial eclipse in his back yard. Most of the other stuff is already explained in Rochelle’s section. Nothing else is either real or interesting, or real interesting.
As for the offspring, Rachel and Shiloh still seem happy about it. The basement is actually habitable, finished and not entirely pink. Landlords too. How’s that going? She hosted the camp. She didn’t host the turkey this year, but Bob and Linda came by. That was fun. She was there for the Ashton show. So were Harper, Sam, Gus and Coen. Harp is a viola star; Sam is a KG star; Gus and Coen are stars at most things. Everyone walks. Hopefully Gus doesn’t fly any more.
Rachel’s family is a lot of fun to visit. The funniest story I recall is when Sam saw Gus (2 at the time) running in the house with a box or bin or something over his head. He runs faster than he thinks sometimes because as Sam saw him running toward the stairway down to the basement (carpeted, fortunately, and only half a flight before a 180 degree turn) he ran to try to stop him, but in Sam’s words, “he just flew!” Fortunately no injuries, but lots of relieved laughs. Life is never boring there, I’m sure. Harper is learning to play the viola and is doing well in school. Sam is knocking Kindergarten out of the park and is a star reader. Gus and Coen are running all the time, being great sprogs. The dog is still the dog. Shiloh and Rachel rent out their former house and live in their current one, just finishing the basement this year with an assist from the family labor pool.
Arrin, Marcus, Jonah. Juno. Is that a planet? We’ll see, but not before the end of the letter; but almost certainly much less Disney in the future. Does it mean we can’t use Amex any more?  Stand by. The smog has almost cleared in Southern Cal. Has Amelia Earhart made an appearance at the Coffee Bean yet? What about the tea leaves? Jonah, are there any comments or questions? He’s quite a guy; maybe someday he’ll write a Christmas Letter.
Arrin’s family is still in LA as Marcus finishes up his MBA from UCLA. When that’s done, we’ll see where they end up.  Lots of decisions to make. Arrin is managing what Richard thinks sounds like market analytics, or business operations for a LA based international beverage company. Jonah is a lot of laughs. He has tons of energy and some of the things he does remind Richard of his own boyhood.  Richard remembers, for example, arising in the middle of the night to demand food from his parents who were still in bed. He doesn’t recall taking no for an answer. He would just stand there and say, “I want food!” Jonah’s not quite got that same terminology, but definitely has the same determination. He’s a fun kid with lots of imagination. Marcus likes Steph and the Warriors. Of course.  
Ben and BYU don’t quite rhyme, but almost. Will he still be able to drive a Japanese car?  We’ll see.  Where will it be? The Windy City, the toxic garden, or IAD?  Maybe somewhere else? I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. Golf and tennis in the winter are easier than ice skating. But O Canada; nice photos. No bears or goats; but a beard.

Ben will graduate from BYU either this December or next April. He spent the summer interning at a marketing consulting firm in Utah and has had interviews with several companies around the country and hopes to wrap up that process soon, after which it looks like he’ll be leaving the west. He is taking up tennis. Rich, he and Roch went golfing, sort of a few times this year. Lots of fun. He’s also taken up climbing and hiking, and he maintains his artistry with a camera, all of which simply illustrate that he doesn’t have all of his father’s genes. 

We love Christopher. We joined as a family to take his name through the Bountiful Temple in April. It was sweet.

That’s where the photo was taken.

Peace and Good Cheer to all.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christmas 2016 - Letter with translation

Once more time.  If you want to know more see http://rrmanning.blogspot.com.
(Red text is as originally sent on paper, green text below each section is more or less the real story.)
Rochelle looks out the window. She cuts the grass, plants the flowers, sings the songs. She goes to Montana, to California, (is that really one state?), to Montana, to Montana, to California, to Montana, and New York, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Idaho, Utah, Mississippi, but missed seeing Helen Keller’s house (there’s a joke there she prefers not to tell), even briefly into New Jersey on foot. What about Arkansas?  Oh yeah, that too. Puamana, but why not St. Martin (in the field?), or Chennai, or Tel Aviv? Oh, yeah, that one. Do you want to open a hotel, or a B&B? And what about the music?  Did the Wolf get trapped or did (one of the) Eagles fly with his friends?  What about that Beatle?  Was it Bailey, or a bug? Did it have Wings? Sir Lancelot, or Paul? And she uses AT&T on her phone, but Verizon for her WIFI.  Wow, she has a lot of questions. She plays some games, but not others. Some strings, some buttons make her own music, make her tougher than she appears. Does she meet kids on the street? At the restaurant? In the library?  Wow, you are nice! Do you have a boyfriend? But you are probably too old for me, Marian. There is, of course, nothing really new in New Mexico or Oklahoma, but the car goes far, maybe next year, Wrigley? No more beehives to the beach, but was Martha ever really there? More questions. How about McDonalds for strangers? Do we need a wheelbarrow for that? Or a Facebook page, or a maple tree with blue flowers?
When she’s home, Rochelle takes care of the yard, making sure it’s pretty and green. She is pretty good at it, but she wasn’t home much. Several times this year she made her way to Montana and California to spend time on Grandma duty as Rachel and Arrin both moved, both from the northern part of their respective states to the southern parts (oops, Rachel moved cities last year, but this year she moved from one house to antoher in the same city, and Rochelle helped). She also spent a month+ in Montana with the birth of grandchild 5. She also did the Utah thing a few times, of course, and Idaho for good measure for Rich’s HS reunion (among other reasons). She spent last New Year on Maui with the offspring and offspring2. She saw a BYU football game and had dinner with 2,000 close friends at a U of U banquet honoring the recipient of a scholarship awarded in memory of Christopher. She accompanied Richard on a weekend road trip to complete his 50 state bucket list (Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas). She still lacks Oklahoma.Louisana and New Mexico herself.  Maybe she’ll get to those places someday. Rich wouldn’t stop at Dollywood on the road trip, but he did make a detour for her to see Graceland and the Grand Ole Oprey.  All that stuff but the kaibosh on travel to India, Israel or the Caribbean.  Maybe next year. She discovered Wolf Trap and the Verizon Center and took Rich to a Don Henley concert at the former and a Paul McCartney concert at the latter (his first two concerts, ignoring the Beach Boys at Stadium of Fire in Provo years ago – Rich argues that didn’t count as a concert). She hosted about 83 of her sister’s children and grandchildren and friends for a couple of weeks in the summer. That’s a lot for a tiny house. They stacked them 3 deep in the laundry room. She played Yahtzee too many times and won more than her share. When she was home, she spent time in the local elementary schools in classes and in the library and a local preschool where she teaches part time, singing, amazing kids with her various talents, her musical insturments (autoharp and ukulele) and her gift of being nice. She routinely makes quite an impression on little boys in the local schools. To commemorate Christopher’s birthday she and Rich went to a park in DC and gave away 100 McDonald’s meals to homeless people. Chris would have liked that. It was a nice way to honor his memory. She also planted in the back corner of our yard a small memorial garden for him with hydrangeas and a Japanese Maple to remind us of our yard and time with Chris in Connecticut. She thanks all those that shared memories of Chris on Facebook on his day.  It meant a great deal to her and to all of us.
Richard is mostly the same but he is taller than average with a BMI that indicates a problem; he refuses to believe it, but the App really does help. So does finishing off your bucket list with a road trip. He won a Pulitzer for a purple hat. He has been telling people for years that it’s not as hard as they say to get into the Julliard. The door is unlocked most days; all you need to do is open it. Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, slippin, slippin…. Where else would it slip into?  He still shares the Cottage with Rochelle, when one or the other, or both, aren’t somewhere else. Tiger has nothing to fear. Neither does Dennis Connor or Jimmy Connors. What about Bobby Riggs? You know Billie beat him. Just ask Ted. How far does a turtle swim, or a whale splash? Don’t worry Greg LeMond, the world is a big place. Once again in Pocatello, twice again somewhere else. Thrice or more in the Bates Motel. Is that Christmas prize from Germany or Belgium? Is that you, or just an outline? Where there’s a will there’s a trust. Just follow her around till you get there. She finds exceptionally cute and charming sprogs. Five of them these days. NYT has nothing to fear; but maybe there should be more butter in those potatoes, to go with the carrots and peas. Most things are funnier than you realize, especially after he explains them to you. An extra foot comes in handy (left or right); after the fact he realized he should have left the room.
Really, not much is new for Rich. He remains healthy and happy. His BMI is 26,which suggests he is overweight, but he refuses to believe it, but he did spend some time tracking what he ate and his exercise on his phone and he lost 5 pounds. Paying attention works, he discovered. He wrote a children’s book for Rachel’s daughter Harper. He thought it was clever. Perhaps more clever than it actually was. He followed Rochelle around a lot, and took her around some (see above). Work took him to NYC a few times. You know, the door to the Julliard really is open during business hours. This and other old jokes keep on coming from him time and time again. Some people humor him by laughing, others (mostly teenagers in the neighborhood or at church) just try to ignore him. He tries not to let them. One teenage boy in our neighborhood gave him a foot off a CPR dummy that had been discarded at his high school as a gift for Autumnal Equinox. Rich found that very useful. After Rochelle returned from her month+ in Montana, he put the foot behind a door in the bathroom with just the toes sticking out. Rochelle didn’t scream.  Too bad. He should have put it somewhere else. He only golfed once this year and he was really bad. Much worse than is typical mediocre performance. He also went biking with Rochelle only once this year. Not so good, I guess, if he wants to be a world class athlete someday. Maybe he doesn’t. He did meet Billie Jean King and Ted Koppel this year. That was cool, or joia as some people say. Don’t expect monotonicity from him.   
As for the kids, Rachel is done, and seems happy about it. Numbers 3 and 4 are about as close as any integers less than 5 can be. That’s a challenge, but one she can handle. Landlord, swimming pools, movie stars. Ted Turner hasn’t bought it all yet. All the kids are cute. Some say it’s due to genetics, others say it’s a science fair, or Ferris Wheel. Matt Damon has nothing to fear, but maybe Tom Cruise.  Then there’s Shiloh, Harper, Sam, Gus and Coen. Tooth deprived, brave, smart, determined, beautiful, handsome, and happy in whatever order seems appropriate. Shaken, not stirred.
Rachel gave birth to baby #4 (Coen Thomas Allen) in September, just 17 months after having Gus. As we are told, Coen is a great baby; Gus is adorable, but also tends to want to do kind of crazy things, which explains why Rochelle spent five weeks there post Coen delivery to help keep Gus from eating too many crayons and climbing into too many dangerous situations. Rachel and Shiloh moved into a new house and are renting out their old one. Property values are evidently rising in Bozeman as everyone from California wants to live there on Tuesdays. They joined us all in Disneyland in July. That was fun. Harper (7) began first grade this year and is a wonderful, kind, smart and all around good girl.Sam (4) is in preschool. He loves trains and such things. He is smart, cute, friendly, smart and good. Someday his grandfather will write a book for him. Shiloh still does that thing he does, and some other things too. He seems to be happy in Montana.  Ask him about it. It’s really joia, or cool, as some people say. He is not a spy though.
Arrin is. So is Marcus. And Jonah. You know, northern California is really not where the Warriors play, so they moved to where Marcus can see the smog clear. The neighborhood is fancy and Superman flies around the streets with grandpa and sings loud. Sleep? Dizzyland Pop? Grandma comes and goes, and so does the gap.  Then there is the bean place with leaves with lots of data to analyze. Would you trust a car from Germany? How about the UK?
Arrin, Marcus and Jonah (2) are now in LA, having left Walnut Creek and SF for Marcus to do an MBA at UCLA.  As a consequence Arrin changed jobs and is working to establish a market analytics function (essentially) at a relatively new company in LA. It sounds challenging but rewarding. She loves her little boy, but he is sometimes perhaps more like his grandfather (Manning) than would be ideal. Jonah is a hoot.  He loves to sing, is very independent and strong willed, and talks very expressively when he wants to impress. Not a big fan of sleeping on others’ schedules. They also joined us all in Disney and Jonah was such a fan, and they live close enough, that they go back often. They all work hard and play enough. Marcus runs races and iron people (you have to be PC in LA, you know; Donald didn’t win in CA) races on occasion. The dog/sentient being (LA again) is fine, but I’m sure misses having a yard. Marcus misses the splash brothers. Maybe he’ll become a Clippers fan : ).  
Right Ben? Living by the Bay was fun, it seems, but Utah called, and he returned, without those kind of plans. It’s all about what you would expect from the 21st century magic man of the year. Lots of beauty and imagination. But how many people really know when to calculate (X’X)-1(X’Y)?  He gets too much grief about some things, but he looks up to the mountains. The horizon isn’t that far away. Then who knows where, how? But far.

Ben is at BYU finishing up a degree in Marketing with a minor in Statistics.  He spent the summer as an intern at a startup health care company in San Francisco, living with Arrin and Marcus (kind of them). He had some bad luck as his car was broken into, his camera ($$$) was lost and when he got back to Provo, someone stole his bicycle.  I thought such things didn’t happen there! He continues to do photography for fun and some cash. He is talented, kind, helpful, smart and creative. Some people expect him to get married. He was selected as a member of the student leadership team for the Marketing department and is working as a research assistant to one of his professors. He’s busy. He’ll do well when he’s done. All we wonder is where. It will be fine wherever it is.
We love Christopher. We will see him, we will know him again in a better realm. We will. 
Peace and Good Cheer to all.
Finally, we do love our son Christopher and miss him always. We are grateful for the time we had with him in this life. We live in faith and confidence that the separation will be temporary and that we will have a joyful reunion. We love the Christmas season that gives us cause to remember the birth and the life of Jesus, in whom we do find peace. In whatever source you find peace, we wish it for you this season and always.
Richard and Rochelle

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas 2015 - A brief update

Richard’s traditional crazy Christmas Letter is taking a year off, and he reports it will probably return next year.

In its place, here is an update on our family.

Rachel and Shiloh’s family lives in Bozeman, Montana now.  Rachel is involved with Public Relation events for her church, is the choir director and is teaching lessons for her church’s women’s group.  She is an amazing mother and is always doing creative things with her children.  Shiloh is still working for the Government.  He has created a great gym in their garage and enjoys including Harper and Sam in his workouts.   Harper is 6, enjoying kindergarten, loves playing with her brother Sam and taking Ballet lessons.  Sam is 3 and loves riding his bike, playing with Legos and puzzles.  Magnus (Gus) joined Rachel’s family on April Fool’s day.  At 8 months old now he is, no joking, the happiest baby I have ever seen.  He laughs and giggles at most anything.

Arrin and Marcus’ family lives in Walnut Creek, California.   Arrin is still working for the Gap Corporation doing analysis work.  Marcus continues to work and travel often for Deloitte.  Their son, Jonah, is 20 months old.  He loves to do everything.  He runs and plays pretend football.  He also loves trains.

Ben is an undergraduate in the business school at BYU, studying Marketing and Statistics.  He still enjoys photography and has enjoyed spending time with friends in taking their wedding photos and business photos.  He spent most of his summer in Peru with Help International, providing service and photographing the beauty of that country.

Rochelle continues to work as a Substitute Teacher in Fairfax County and at Appletree Nursery School.  She has especially enjoyed her assignment with planning activities with the teenage girls at her church.  She planned a trip for the girls (over 25 of them) to Solomon’s Island for sailing, crabbing, and hiking.  They have helped to keep happiness around her.

Richard works hard and has fun doing so.  Fortunately his brain seems to be functioning just fine.  He has good friends and loves his family.

We have all felt such a profound loss at Chris’s passing.  We know Chris wouldn’t want us to hold onto the sadness and wouldn’t want us to lose our faith and our joy for living.  We love him and in his honor are choosing to carry on with strength and hope.  We know he would want us to.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Christopher Jordan Manning June 11, 1984 - July 23, 2015

We are sad at Christopher's sudden and unexpected passing.  Here we break with tradition and post, in addition to our Christmas letters, Christopher's obituary, written by his sister Rachel, and the talks Rochelle and Richard gave at Christopher's funeral service, July 31, 2015 in Farmington, Utah, near the home of Rochelle's sister, Laurie Munson, which is not far from Salt Lake City where Chris lived.


Christopher Jordan Manning left this earth on July 22, 2015, taking his life, after a long battle with various forms of depression. In spite of these challenges, Chris lead a life full of love, adventure, ambition, humor, generosity, kindness, and selflessness. He loved and was loved deeply. His family and friends are heart-broken by his early departure, but find peace and hope in their faith and the belief that he is in the arms of his loved ones.

Chris was born on June 11, 1984 in Chicago, Illinois, where he and his family lived until he was five.  In 1989 his family moved to Provo, Utah where he made cherished friendships and found much happiness. His family returned to Chicago for his sixth grade year, during which he reconnected with old friends, and gained a strong bond with his siblings. When he was 13, his family relocated to New Canaan, Connecticut where he attended New Canaan High School and developed relationships with many people who would shape the way he felt about himself and his future. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout and participated actively in the youth activities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Beyond high school, Chris studied Journalism and Communications at Utah State University and completed an MBA at the University of Utah – excelling in both programs. Upon completing his MBA he was recognized in the U of U Alumni magazine for his extraordinary work and creative ideas organizing fundraising for the University

Chris was passionate about his career and threw himself completely into every task he took on. Most recently, he worked for the start-up company, Power Practical, and was proud of the work he did with that team. Chris also specialized in establishing crowd-funding campaigns and was passionate about helping new, innovative companies succeed.

In stark contrast with the depression he battled, Chris had an incredible sense of humor, and was frequently making those around him laugh with crazy antics, hilarious home videos, quick wit and clever jokes. He was also extraordinarily kind, generous and tenderhearted, particularly to those whom he believed were in need of a friend or special attention.

Chris shared a special bond with his dog, Scout, whom he rescued 4 years ago. He took great pride in training and rehabilitating her from what seems to have been a rough past. He frequently stepped away from social outings and activities to make sure he had spent enough time with Scout. Together they took daily walks, road-tripped, hiked, and were nearly inseparable. 

He is survived by his mother and father, Richard and Rochelle Manning, his grandmother, Verda Page, his siblings, Rachel Allen (Shiloh), Arrin Barton (Marcus) and Benjamin Manning, his niece, Harper Allen and nephews, Samuel Allen, Jonah Barton and Magnus Allen and his beloved dog, Scout. He is preceded in death by his grandfathers, Elden Page and Leon Manning, and his grandmother, Gwen Manning.

The funeral will be held on Friday, July 31 at 5pm at the LDS Church located at 1885 N. Summerwood Drive in Farmington, Utah. A public viewing will precede the funeral in the same location, from 3 to 4:45pm. The burial will take place the next day in Pocatello, ID.

Rochelle’s Reflections on Christopher

Christopher entered this world with enthusiasm.  Our beautiful, smiley boy was always on the move.  He seemed to skip the walking stage and choose to run instead.  When he was 2 years old he had a hernia repair.  This didn’t slow him down, the night after having the surgery he was jumping on and off of couches, despite our encouragement that he should rest.  Chris loved running, climbing, fishing, legos, playing with his dog and being funny.  He often would be found doing fun happy dances with his own unique style.  He made us laugh.  When he was about three years old, we were visiting my parents and decided to join their congregation in an overnight campout.  We packed things up and arrived at the location.  Chris was so excited to get outside that as soon as the door to the van was opened, without looking at what was in front of him, he jumped out.  Unfortunately, he jumped onto some sharp sticks that were growing around the tree and one of them punctured through his cheek.  He was so heartbroken that we couldn’t stay for the campout.

A lot of the time he was happy.  And a lot of the time he was sensitive.  He took it really hard if he thought that we thought he might be doing something wrong.  I learned from Chris that life can sometimes be silly, full of adventure, often unpredictable and tender.

Chris was a great example of being accepting and loving.  In Chicago, we had a sweet friend named Jackie Shoto, who babysat Chris and Rachel occasionally.  Jackie’s skin color was black but Chris was certain that she was his grandmother.  Nothing could convince him otherwise. 

After moving to Utah, Chris was in elementary school.  We were reminded of how smart he was and what quick wit he had.  We also watched him feel loneliness and disappointment as he tried to navigate through school with attention and self-worth problems.  I learned empathy and learned to cry with my son as we both tried to figure out strategies to cope. 

On a happier note, Chris was an extraordinary athlete. Through the years he played soccer, t-ball, participated in track, football, lacrosse, and basketball.  In his early high school years, his rec basketball team was very successful, our friend, reminded us that they would put Chris in the game and everyone would wonder where this guy came from.  He was so fast, jumped so high, and played so well that he always took everyone by surprise. 

Then when Chris was a Sophomore in High School the youth from our Stake in Connecticut went to West Point Academy for a youth track event.  Chris had, just the day before, had surgery for a deviated septum and was cautioned to not exercise or overexert himself.  He wanted to go, but for some reason he didn’t want to wear shoes to the event.  I was fine with that since I thought not wearing shoes would keep him from being tempted to run.  I learned when he got home that not only did he participate in the events, but he took first place in the 100 meter dash, 2nd place in long jump and 3rd place in high jump.   He was passionate about working hard in sports and doing well. 

The summer before his Junior year he had to have surgery on his jaw to extend his lower jaw out further.  Chris handled the challenge of eating soft food like a champ.  Instead of losing weight as the surgeon expected, he proudly gained weight, with his idea to grind up hamburgers and lasagna in the blender.  His jaw on both sides had swelled so much that he called himself Mr. Peanuthead and he put together a website called “Does your head look like a peanut?”  He was so funny and optimistic in getting through weeks of not being able to talk or eat normally. 

I learned from Chris that life is more fun if you find humor while going through challenges. 

Chris was in a rock band for a short time, after teaching himself how to play the base guitar.  He later found a beautiful tender touch with playing the acoustic guitar.  And I loved to hear him play.

After graduating from college, Chris lived with us for a short time.   At that time I decided to join with my friends in a Biggest Loser contest to lose some weight.  We were in the kitchen together and he saw me reach for a cookie.  He said, ”Mom, you’ve been talking about wanting to lose weight for a long time.  If you’re not going to do it now, when are you going to do it?”  I realized he was right and, with that statement lingering in my head each day, I ended up winning the contest.  He taught me that if you really want to achieve a goal you should take it seriously.  I often saw lists or signs taped to the wall of goals that Chris had.

I have learned through Chris, that it takes a village to raise our children.  We have been extremely touched by the acts of love and interest in our son that we have found from incredible friends and family throughout his life.  It was a friend that reached out to him to encourage him to pursue an MBA at the University of Utah.  He and I talked often about how fortunate he was to have friends who were there for him.  He recognized your efforts and felt your love and would say “Yep, I am lucky guy.” Just the Sunday before he died, he told me he felt lucky to have current friends that helped him talk through his troubles.

Throughout Chris’s life and especially in the past few years, I have learned to be humble and have empathy at seeing him confront the challenges of depression.    I have grieved for him as he combated unhappiness.  And rejoiced with him as he had happy times.

I have learned the all-encompassing love of God as I have understood more fully God’s trust and hope for us to choose to follow him and the joy that can be felt when we choose him.

So now we are left with trying to understand this awful thing called Suicide.  So here we have more to learn from Chris. 

What I have learned so far is that I feel that Suicide wasn’t a choice he made, but a choice he happened onto when his pain was greater than his ability to cope.
Someone who had lost a loved one in a similar way had a clarifying experience—an experience that helped him to understand suicide a little better and led him to believe that it is really an expression of the deepest human desire to survive.

His family was watching a documentary on the 9/11 terrorist attacks and for the first time, he saw footage of someone jumping from the window of one of the twin towers.  All at once, he understood that the person was not jumping from the building to die, but rather to escape the intense and consuming flames.  Nobody would accuse that person of being selfish or of giving up on life.

Chris was inside a figurative burning building and he happened upon an exit.  His deep need to survive caused him to take it.  Many who turn to suicide are in physical, emotional or spiritual pain.  I don’t think they seek death.  Instead, they seek escape, so that their identity and intelligence can survive.

I share these thoughts not at all in support of suicide, but rather to encourage loving remembrance and complete forgiveness of those we have lost to it. And to inspire us to reach out and touch with love each person with whom we interact, for God’s love spread through many hands may quench a fire we cannot see.

Our faith, leads us to believe that Chris is in the present, that he now has actively moved onto a new journey where he can learn and progress.  We believe he is in the loving arms of an understanding God and with friends and family who have gone on before. 

Romans 8:38-39 states, “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, or things present, nor things to come.  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  This belief gives us great strength and hope for which we are so grateful.

We will miss Chris.  We love him so very deeply.  We are sorry that he has felt such pain and loss of hope.  I have felt him with me this week.  I know in my heart that he knows how much we all love him and is sad to see us all so sad.  In thoughtful regard for his life, we can continue to cherish those around us and love more.  This is my prayer.

Richard’s Reflections on Christopher

As I’m sure you can understand, I’ve had a lot of complicated thoughts and emotions over the past few days as we’ve approached this event.  As we’ve heard this afternoon, Christopher was a kind, soft hearted person who did a lot of good in the world. 

Let me offer some of my favorite memories:

1.        Christopher’s first Christmas (1984) taught me about the power that a little baby boy had offered the world nearly 2000 years before.  I remember one night in particular looking into his small, peaceful face while he lay sleeping in my arms, and a few lines from Robert Southwell’s poem coming poignantly to my mind:

This little babe so few days old
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold
All Hell does at his presence quake
Though he himself for cold do shake

In that season, because of my baby boy, I was taught a new and more complete understanding of the redeeming power of the Lamb of God.

2.        I remember the combination of bravery and tenderness he had as a very young boy.  On one of the several times when we were with him in the hospital, I remember trying to help him be brave under very hard conditions for a little boy.  There were many unknown people, many strange rooms, many unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells.  During a pre-operative process they had to take him away from us for a brief time.  I remember seeing the effort to be brave on his young face as he walked hand in hand with a nurse, and as they came around a hospital partition, returning to where I was standing, he saw me.  As I went to him, he collapsed in tears into my arms as he couldn’t be brave any longer.

3.        When Chris was about 5 years old, I guess he wasn’t as happy with the name we had chosen for him, or for that matter with my name.  I guess he would have preferred the name Matt.  Many times, he would ask me to play a pretend game with him.  He would enthusiastically say, “Dad, you be Matt Sr. and I’ll be Matt Jr!”

4.        Chris played little-league baseball for only one year, when he was 9 years old.  He was not the largest of the kids, he didn’t really have the patience for the game and was not the most skilled player on his team.  However, in his most memorable game, he came to bat with the bases empty, with the score tied in the bottom of the game’s final inning.  I’m sure the coach hoped he could just get on base so a better player would have the chance to drive him in. To everyone’s surprise, however, he connected with a pitch and hit the ball far over the outfielder’s head.  The field did not have a home run fence, so the outfielders were able to chase down the ball as Chris excitedly ran the bases as fast as he could.  As he approached 3rd base, the coach signaled to him to stop, but he ran on.  As the ball was relayed from outfield to the infield and then on to home base, Christopher slid into home and was called safe.  He had hit a home run, (which, by the way, is one more than I ever hit in my 4 years as a little-leaguer) and he had won the game.  His team was ecstatic; Christopher’s face beamed with pride.

5.        Chris had a sharp mind.  When we lived in Chicago during his 6th grade year, our family was assigned to speak in Sacrament meeting in the Hyde Park Ward.  Chris prepared his own talk and although I don’t remember what the subject of his talk was, I do remember sitting on the stand watching from behind as he stood confidently and read his talk, and I remember seeing the face of Cathy Stokes, a dear friend, sitting near the front of the chapel as she listened.  She looked with intent, and apparent amazement at the thoughts and capable delivery of boy who in her experience was just a funny little guy.  

I also remember many conversations with him while he was in graduate school (and since then) about the ideas he had for new businesses and ways he could use new technologies and new ideas to help businesses succeed.  He always had sensible answers to my questions and gave me a clear sense that he was just as talented as any other young man I saw succeeding in the world of business.

6.        I have many other memories of fun times with my son.  Just a couple more:

a.         He had a mature sense of humor and enjoyed listening to NPR programs that most kids wouldn’t find interesting.  Whenever we happened to be driving on a Saturday morning, he would want to listen to Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers talk about car repair; and he had a lot of fun with Prairie Home Companion. Once on a drive up Provo Canyon with just the two of us when Chris was in about 5th grade, we heard a segment on Prairie Home Companion of The Lives of the Cowboys, with Lefty and Dusty.  There was a conversation between the two of them about why Canadian Geese are called Canadian if they spend so much time in the US.  It was just a clever marketing ploy, the other responded, because people like Canada more than the US.  Chris thought that was really funny and we laughed about it many times since then.

b.        I enjoy playing golf more than Chris did, but he did play with me occasionally.  Because of his impatience for the game, he would look for different ways to entertain himself. Once, several years ago, he decided to play an entire 9 holes with just the putter.  It was an adventure, especially off the tee.  He would take a full swing and I feared the putter would break as he teed off.  It didn’t, fortunately, but I did get the message that playing golf was not the way he wanted to spend time with me.

Another set of thoughts that have come to me involve the more difficult issues surrounding Chris’ life.  We’ve not heard a lot about those, and this is not where I want to dwell, but accepting those and recognizing what they mean are important to coming to terms with Chris’ life and his passing.

In our church family in Connecticut, there was a family who had a boy who was born with a fairly severe disability.  As a result of his condition, he was physically small and fragile, and it was understood that he was unlikely to live into adulthood.  This boy was greatly loved by his parents, his siblings, the church community and others that knew him.  As I recall, when he was about 10 years old, this little boy passed away from his condition.  His father said something profound at his son’s funeral that has remained with me, and that has been the foundation of how I have dealt with the complications of Christopher’s life and now his passing. 

This little boy’s father said that over the course of his son’s brief life, people had often expressed sympathy for his son’s condition and the difficulties it presented for this man and his family.  His response was that he truly did not feel that there was misfortune in his son’s condition, and there was no need for sympathy.  He said that, on the contrary, he felt sorry for those that did not have the opportunity to raise a child with special needs because of the blessing his son had been in his life.  He had learned so much from life with his son about love, compassion, innocence, beauty and grace, that without those experiences he would have been a lesser man.  He was grateful to God that he had been given the opportunity to be father to such a son.   

Over the years of Chris’ life, and now at this point, I’ve at times thought that we also have had the blessing of having a special needs son.  Now, Christopher’s affliction was not easy to see – and given how talented he was, most people did not and would not have seen his need.  However, the feelings of self-doubt and depression that he lived with, and hid from most, were deeper and more recurring than any of us really knew.  I know he felt great pain many times, but I was always optimistic that a breakthrough would happen and he would be able to see and appreciate his great worth.  Rochelle and I, and others said and did what we could to try to sooth that pain when we knew he was feeling it.

A friend of mine recently wrote that depression is a disease as fatal as cancer. Many people succumb to it, as did Chris.  If circumstances were such that Chris had succumbed to cancer, we would be here with somewhat different feelings, but we would be here nonetheless. 

In this life, Christopher’s disability, as I understand it, was an inability to completely understand the love that his family, his friends and his Father in Heaven had for him.  He was a deeply feeling young man, and in the depth of his feelings he was often unable to see the large picture.  He was deeply affected by the here and now.  He was in many ways deaf to the whisperings of the still small voice coming from his Father in Heaven, and blind to the peace and joy available to him from the love of Christ. 

As I reflect on Chris’ life, and on his passing, I am moved to the conclusion that my son has more than a past. He has a present in the loving arms of his grandparents and other friends and family that have passed before him.  He has been embraced by the love of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and now, freed from the disabilities that he carried through his mortal life, he sees and hears, and understands that love in a way he was never able to in this life. 

I am confident in my belief of eternal progression, and I am persuaded that there will be a time, in another realm, in which I will once again embrace my son, tell him of my love for him, and that he will be able to hear and understand that love and the peace that comes from the love that flows from our Father in Heaven.

As a result of Chris’ life, I am moved by a desire to be less judgmental, to criticize less, to love more.  As he concludes the Book of Mormon, Moroni entreats us to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart” that we may be filled with the love of Christ, that we may be like Him.  I pray for that, and hope that the lasting grace of a loving Savior will help me show a greater measure of goodness to those around me.

Finally, I, with Rochelle, am truly grateful for the outpouring of support, friendship and love that has come from so many people we have known across the spectrum of our lives.  I am humbled to know that Chris had so many good friends, and that so many people recognized his talents and his goodness.  I am grateful that he touched the lives of many for good.  

I also want everyone to know that I love Christopher, as does Rochelle and all of our family.  And I know that Chris loves me.  And I am, and always will be, proud to be Christopher Manning’s father.             

Sunday, December 14, 2014

XMAS 2014 Letter and Translation

Each paragraph in white text is as was included in the letter sent out with our card.  Following each is a rough translation in blue text.

Wow, that was fast. Richard must have voted for Pedro. The vampire facilitated visits to my blackfish, but not the one on CNN, where, among other things, he heard some inspiring tunes tripping down a Moorish alleyway of sorts, which caused him to want to imitate the really big wheel cyclist only to learn that it’s a lot harder than it looks, where he saw that Germany is not confined to a place on the map, and neither is England by the way  (did that kid really want pudding?), nor Spain; to that place where they are still working on that big holy family to learn that gaudy is not merely a decorating style, well, actually, they aren’t one in the same; one was around long before the other; they don’t have the Olympics every year but that event isn’t in the Olympics anyway – at least he tried, but he was so mean!; there is also one of those places under  the Y. Richard realized he needed a formaldehyde detector very late in the year (thank you Facebook friends! – good thing you can buy them on Amazon), does anyone have a recommendation for the best type?  But, voting for Pedro does have lots of benefits, even if ultimately becoming an orphan isn’t one of them; which under the right circumstances is not so bad, in fact, a good thing. Being platinum isn’t what it used to be, Mr. Tin Man. He also realized that time isn’t necessarily monotonic, and that it can be mind-expanding and entertaining to contemplate and practice that realization. The bucket list still has three – maybe next year – and the nonsense could go on forever, especially given the nonmonotonicity of time, but probably shouldn’t. When the hive is empty there is less noise so the drone can drone on, you know – good thing? Vampires, unlike pirates, aren’t real, but they can do good things for you. Wear some pants on your head for style, he said. Can anyone help him write a book about hats? Evidently not.

Richard noticed when he wrote 12/13/14 on a check and realized it was the last sequential date for some time to come. Probably last in his lifetime, no? Time flies whether you are having fun or not, but he is (we are) indeed having fun. All his wildest dreams really have come true - well almost all
 : ). Work is engaging and demanding, but  he likes that, and likes the people he works with. Rich and Roch managed to get away to Barcelona and Mallorca. Rich was in Barca on business and Roch tagged along for a few extra days. Barca is a beautiful and fun city, with things like Sagrada Familia being more impressive than expected, and lots of other interesting stuff. Mallorca is cool, but not quite Hawaiiesque; We went there for a weekend and found enclaves from various European countries, dominated by their language and vacation styles. We also accumulated lots of miles visiting existing and new grandchildren in Montana and Walnut Creek, and Rich reclaimed platinum status on Delta, but not Diamond, alas, which is where the real perks lie. In Walnut Creek one visit, we were on hand when Arrin delivered Jonah Carl Baron on March 25 in California. He is a bundle of energy and a cute little boy, often making everyone tired because he's too curious to want to sleep for long. Hopefully he's learning that skill now. Harper and Sam are also tons of fun - cute and smart as can be and no doubt tired of having pictures taken of them all the time. The entire family got together for Thanksgiving in Walnut Creek and most of us ran the Turkey Trot 5K Thanksgiving morning. Rich and Roch alternated pushing the running stroller with Harper and Sam aboard. During the race, upon encountering a group of about 5 high school age girls walking not so fast side by side, taking up most of the running path and asking them if they could let him through, Rich heard one of them step aside, but say, "that's so mean!"  Not certain she was talking about him, but it was California, you know, even if not SoCal.  Well, that's enough of that. On a more somber note, both of Rich's parents passed away this year, his father in June (on Father's Day) and his mother in October. They lived long, wonderful and blessed lives and it was a sweet experience to celebrate their lives with friends and family.   Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas (the last three states on Rich's bucket list) will have to wait for 2015. Rich has a book about a hat that he wants to write, but nobody will help him. Maybe that means they have more sense than he does. But he is pretty good at hat making, just check out some of those photos.

Rochelle looked way up for nearly three hours and said, “Wow, I am really short!” When did that happen? Was it in 2001? She never got into that one so much, but mind expansion is good. How much did she like Seals and Croft? I guess we’ll have to see, but for now, it’s over the rainbow. Sprogs are good enough to keep you busy a lot of the day, or three, she thinks, those of others’ that is. Those of her own sprogs are better in two week increments. Rocket ships are fascinating, especially when they are really water towers, among other misunderstandings. Talent comes in many forms. Some people can sing. Other people can dance. Still other people can be on TV. Did she vote for Pedro?  It isn’t Oahu after all – good thing. Did she want to go to the Olympics, where Rochelle proved her bravery and nearly ended up out there with Will Robinson – good thing the robot was nearby and was that guy really like that? Well, why did they put nuts in that small river and why is the large firmament so cold? Probably because that’s where the best sprogs are – good thing. Where’s Tom Sawyer when you need him? Is he at the beach in the Old Dominion, or is it a Commonwealth? Good thing Martha came along; Washington? It’s never too late for a little education in construction techniques, nursing or elephant riding, or for getting everyone together at the old stomping ground, even if it gets really dark. Is that the Air Force? Real pirates aren’t cute. 

We also went to a few movies, among them Interstellar, which made quite an impression on us. Rochelle in particular, because the only seats left were on the front row of an Imax theater. We both came away with sore necks, but impressed with the show. Rich tried his hand at making a musical instrument, appealing to Rochelle's cousin and master maker, to help make a mandolin for Rochelle's birthday - it's the thought that counts. This was inspired by a lute player we heard on Mallorca. Rich being naive, thought the two might sound somewhat similar.  Wrong.  We spent  a couple of weeks (or so) of the summer at family reunions in Utah, with Rochelle being in charge of one of her family's parties. Lots of work, but a good day with Rich being able to throw water on people like the good old days. Roch almost got lost in Barcelona one day when she was venturing out on her own but found a woman in a grocery store that spoke English so she made it back on the right train. That's good.  Later, Rich heard a story of a wife of one of the people at his meeting that had been assaulted on the street in the city. Good thing for that robot. Rochelle spearheaded staining a new 6' fence that surrounds our back yard. Rich's initial estimate was that it would be a 1/2 day job. Wrong, by a factor of about 20. Fortunately Roch did most of the work. Nobody came by to help. We also went to the beach in southern Virginia with Rachel and family, toppling both Harper and Sam in the surf, which was more fun than they realized at the time. The 12 and 13 year old girls from our church (whom Rochelle teaches) talked us into taking them to the same beach one Saturday. Fun, but exhausting - none of them is named Martha. Rochelle was also recruited to teach part time at a local pre-school, sound familiar? She's very popular. Rochelle spent three weeks in India with Rising Star Outreach, working with people afflicted with Leprosy. It was a world rocking experience, leaving her never to be the same. Among other things, she, helpped dig a latrine, and rode an elephant. 

Rachel, Shiloh, Harper, Sam and the other brother: How close is 5.5/9 to 1.0? Most of the year spent tripping big time, then off to Bobcat land finally. Cool kids: fun, smart, cute, really nice. You have to be there to understand. How did the whales swim? How about sea lions? Does that cross really fit? At least the dog is the same color, but the drive is longer now. Snow, don’t go to China, or Nigeria.

We are so happy that Rachel is expecting a baby boy in April.  Rachel's family spent most of their year in Great Falls, Montana, but recently moved to Bozeman, Montana.  They really do have great children.  They had a chance to walk the hills of Wales on a vacation.  When at home they are both occasionally found at a Cross Fit gym.  Shiloh had work assignments that he thought were going to take him overseas, but they ended up not happening. 

Chris and Kasey: Swimming with sharks to Havana? How about being a Maverick and building a bridge? Stand next to giants and don’t swing. Cook spaghetti and charge a cell phone in the wilderness that is. Still on the farm? Probably not for long. Make a battery out of soap. Can they really do that? It depends how clean you want to get. Do they want pictures of that?

Chris got a job with a company called Power Practical - a startup in Salt Lake that was on Shark Tank recently and made a deal with Mark Cuban. The company makes a cooking pot that generates electricity and Chris has been setting up tests to see how well it will work as a primary power source for people in developing countries who don't have power in their homes - he also helped make the prototype for this battery and wrote the words for the kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/powerpractical/the-pronto-fast-charge-battery

Kasey got a job with an engineering firm in Dallas and goes to a lot of Maverics games. She's very happy there and the plan is that Chris will join her there in the next few months. 

Arrin, Marcus and Jonah: Tried to sneak that past the whale. What kind of dog is that? Mind the gap, as they say across the pond, but that pond is really big. Investing, but not in the bank. Mind the gap, I said. Funny that you can see the mountains better from the creek than from the peninsula, and the train ride is shorter, and grandmas live closer, one more-so than the other.

Arrin and Marcus had a son named Jonah. Jonah is a happy, energetic boy who loves the water and their dog, Juno, who has an unusual look. Marcus works for Deloitte, and often travels internationally for work. His passport now has stamps from Portugal, Germany, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Vietnam, Brazil, The Netherlands and Saudi Arabia. Arrin is no longer working in finance and is now working at Gap inc. in Inventory Management where she's found a work-life balance. They live in Walnut Creek, a train ride away from San Francisco and a short drive away from Grandma and Grandpa Barton.    

Ben: Doesn’t look like he carries a ring in his pocket. How many economists can fit into one family? Good thing there wasn’t any oncoming traffic. He wasn’t on TV; studying too hard. Visits to the vampire provide a little pocket change. Say cheese, and don’t mind that there’s a bush in the way. Philanthropy fits on the map, if you can find it. Profit is OK with me, him?

Ben doesn't have a girlfriend, and dabbled with the idea of studying economics at BYU. After a long night and a day on the lake with some friends, he fell asleep at the wheel while driving on the highway, luckily there wasn't oncoming traffic and escaped just having had an expensive nap. He wasn't on TV in the student section at the basketball game because he was at the library preparing for an exam. He's been working with a company that tracks the locations of international aid projects, providing the information in a format that can be easily accessed for researchers and those responsible for allocating aid funding. He's also been taking photos as a side-profession, but we think he should charge more than he does; you can see his work at benmanningphoto.com.