Friday, May 30, 2008

In a Pickle

mwrites in NYC, 2008

I have some issues:
  1. I feel compelled to delete things, and then empty my trash. (My computer trash. I'm too busy cleaning off my desktop to empty my real trash.)
  2. I have scanned lots of images for my blog that I already have the real image of...already. Whatever. Anyway, I can't delete anything in my Photosmart scanned images library. I get a pop-up that says "You don't have enough access privilege." Why did I get my privileges taken away?
  3. How can I delete all the zillions of fonts there are to choose from? They just confuse me, and I don't know what they look like. I just go with the one the computer chooses. I want to use cool fonts, but I have to pare down the list somehow.
  4. When you transfer photos from your camera to your computer do you delete them from your camera afterwards? Do you delete the extras on the computer after you've edited them? I do, but half the time I'm sorry later. If I kept them all I'd have 30 pictures of the same thing. (But someone always wants the one I deleted.)
  5. I can't open my iTunes. When I click on the icon it brings up a control volume looking graphic, and I can't find my library or play lists window. Could I have deleted it?
I seem to have a problem deleting the right things.

I'm in a pickle.

(This is a dumb post. I ought to delete it.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lessons from a Boy's Life

My boy, 1984

He just needed a boat. His parents provided trips to used book stores, and historic monuments. What's a guy to do? One day a large package arrived in the mail. Josh had answered the ad on the back of Boy's Life Magazine, and had been shipped an order of greeting cards to sell. If he sold $100 worth, he would be eligible for a prize. Maybe this idea would float!


The young salesman of the year found obliging clients and sold his wares. He sent in his money, and stood by the mailbox for weeks and weeks. When the raft finally arrived, Josh could not wait to put it to use!

Intrepid sailors put out to sea.

How often does a twelve-year-old provide a family vacation?

Josh and me

Even mom gave it a go.

Dreams come true.

Every accomplishment starts as a daydream.
But you have to sell a lot of cards, too.

Does this remind you of a time when a little creativity made a dream come true?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A River Ran Through It

Twenty five years ago today we piled the kids in the Suburban
and drove up the canyon to Alta, Utah,
(which was about 20 minutes from our house.)

We were ready for a Memorial Day picnic, but the campsites were still covered up.

Bullough's Photostream
May 1983

A day or so later it!
The runoff created a new river--
down State Street in Salt Lake City!

Bullough's Photostream
May 1983

There were kayaks, canoes, swimmers, and lots of sandbags.
I can't believe it was 25 years ago!


What were you doing 25 years ago?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Redecorating: If I Had a Hammer

Welcome to Heritage Associates.

"Well, I got a hammer..." and I used it all morning. Plus, the drill was humming, the dust was falling, the nails were flying, and the hanging took place. The walls are decorated!

Dee's new office has two rooms, and we finally have the study room all put together. The project room has some final tweaking, but Dee should be back at his perfectly organized desk by tomorrow.


Dee is an eclectic collector. We displayed just a few of his collections:
  • World War II army medals. (He once had a woman ask if he had won all his medals. He said, "Yes. I fought valiantly on both sides.")
  • German currency from the 30's (when inflation was so bad the money was printed daily, and it took a wheelbarrow load to buy groceries.)
  • Old letters and postcards with beautiful stamps.
  • Anything depicting Paris, or London, or Europe in general.
  • Marbled paper.
  • Books with fine bindings or end-papers.
World War I Collectibles

This gold box is called a Mary Box. Princess Mary (the 17-year-old daughter of King George and Queen Mary) sent them to the British soldiers for Christmas in 1914, with a Christmas card, some chocolate, cigarettes and a pencil. I think Dee got his while fighting in the trenches.

Vintage Map

While hanging several maps, we decided to hang a yellow model biplane from the ceiling with fishing line. Balancing the airplane took mathematical skills we don't have. Balancing ourselves was a challenge, too.

Passport Collection

Doesn't this little rack look ideal for a display of old passports? We thought so, until we realized we were trying to hang it upside down. With a little ingenuity we redesigned the shelf and gave it a purpose. (With all the practice nail holes, it went from being a new shelf to a vintage shelf in just one afternoon.)

Heritage Associate Publications

This is a collection of the books Dee has written. Most of them have been privately commissioned for specific clients, with printings of 100-500 copies, so they aren't sold in bookstores. They are, however, in a few lucky libraries.

Heritage Associates does a lot of research and writing that is used for other purposes (legal documentation, museum displays, brochures, PR, historic architecture, monuments, archives, etc.) But Dee's desk has been the birthplace of over seventy publications! I'm so impressed I think I'll put up a plaque. (Now where's that hammer?)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Next Move

"Hundreds of books,thousands of books,
millions and billions and trillions of books."

Well, at least enough for a dozen trolley loads. Today Dee moved into a new office down the hall. I discovered that the best time to count your blessings is when you're picking them up and carrying them. It seemed like we had way too many. We had a few frustrations, too.

The air-conditioning guy who stood in the new doorway, on a ladder, with his head in the ceiling (all day yesterday and most of today) made maneuvering bookcases and furniture a little awkward. And, until he left, there was no air-conditioning! I wore my traditional sweatband bandanna while we transferred decor from one wall to another.

Plus, it's hard to work with an old person. Just ask Dee! Neither of us could see the numbers on the measuring tape, we couldn't find the nails we kept dropping on the floor, and we couldn't remember where we'd set the hammer. Standing on a chair with both hands above my head made me dizzy. Kneeling on the floor stacking books made Dee's knees crack.

I bumped into a woman while hauling a giant fake tree. Dee was almost blown away when the wind caught a big bulletin board he was carrying. When we finally sat down to rest we found we couldn't get back up.

But the hardest part is done. Now it's time for the finishing touches, and that's our forte. With a deadline, and our "oxen in the mire," we'll be skipping church to tote a few more boxes and hang a little art. Hopefully I'll post photos tomorrow night with evidence of our efforts!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Are We Having Fun Yet?

"Falling in love at first sight is understandable.
It's staying in love that's the miracle!"

Five fun things my true love and I have done together lately:
  1. Written and rewritten a book.
  2. Chosen paint for his new office.
  3. Watched Inspector Morse for the 100th time.
  4. Waited for the air conditioning repairman to finish.
  5. Looked at maps.
Ten things I've been thinking about:
  1. I think people fall out of love if they don't look for reasons to stay in love.
  2. I think love is a verb. It is something you do, not something you expect.
  3. I think a woman isn't grown up until she takes responsibility for her own happiness.
  4. I think it's a shame that many women see a spouse or children as the cause of their downfall, and suppose that success comes only after they are free of them. This sad belief is everywhere!
  5. I think couples who speak kindly and lovingly to each other will be happier.
  6. I think we need to check the map and see if the road we're on is taking us to the place we want to go.
  7. I think the weather segment on the 10:00 news has become way to long. (Just checking to see if you're still reading.)
  8. I think it's too bad that some women are nicer to a stranger than they are to their husband.
  9. I think that you can't work on togetherness if you're never together.
  10. I think a good marriage takes a lot of practice.
Thirty eight years ago Dee and I fell in love at first sight.
It was fun.
We fall in love over and over, as we gain insight.
That is even more fun!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bad Luck

I can't find my good luck charm!

I spent ten hours--TEN HOURS--today on the computer creating a 5 page long master list with over 200 names, addresses, phone numbers, ages, and 3 other categories. I studied the details of the Excel program all day yesterday in order to set this thing up right. The idea was to get a whole bunch of info in a form where I could manipulate changes without retyping it.

Finally at 10:30 tonight I printed out my first copy. Perfect. Like a charm. However the printer kept going and I got 5 extra pages with just the little squares I'd created. So I scrolled down to page ten, highlighted it and clicked delete (thinking I was just eliminating the blank pages.) Suddenly the whole thing WAS GONE! In it's place was a pre-designed instruction sheet on designing a car maintenance chart. What???

I immediately went to Edit and searched for undo edit. Not there. I searched, reopened, etc. and kept finding the stupid car maintenance thingy. I didn't panic quite yet, knowing I have a marvelous new tool called backup.

Click, open, click, open...I finally figured out how backup works, but I still can't find my document. I can't believe it! I'm a good person. I'm doing this all for a good cause. It's totally NOT FAIR!!!! I have a backache and a headache and my shoulder and fingers are cramping ALL FOR NOTHING!!!!

I better go find my good luck charm...because I can't find anything on this *!#%&!* computer!

(Sorry to take it out on you. You're the only thing I can find right now.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cleaning Lady

Jiggs fell in love with every guy's dream. Petite, brunette, with a crooked smile, and an easy laugh, Junie stole his heart the first time they met. Home on leave during WWII, he was staying with some guys in a cabin in Brighton, Utah, and they heard giggling girls through the trees. With the excuse of needing a cup of sugar, the boys introduced themselves to the girls and I became a gleam in their eye. (They were later known to me as Mom and Dad.)

After the war, when they were engaged, Junie's father was listing her qualities to Jiggs. He saved the highest praise for last: "And she sure can clean!" It was true. Dad used to joke that if he got up to go to the bathroom at night, he came back and his side of the bed was made. We had a weekly cleaning lady from the time I was eight, but she wasn't really hired to save Mom the effort. She was there so my mom would have a built-in friend to clean with.

"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well," is an adage I grew up with. I have always disagreed. Some things are not worth doing well! I like clean, but my mom's standards were always higher than I thought necessary. Of course, she re-did my chores when I fell short so I didn't have to live with the result. (Until I was married I didn't know that hairspray would eventually obscure my image in the mirror, if it was not wiped off routinely. My standards went a little higher.)

When I was a girl the dishes were not done until the floor was swept and the top of the refrigerator was wiped off. Mom always checked the details. I dropped the fridge ideal as soon as I took over. I never noticed it much, and neither did Dee, but now we have several in-law kids that top six feet, and I realize the dust is very obvious to those over 5'8".

After a trip to the bathroom we kids were expected to flush, wash, and shine up the fixtures. The knobs on our washer and dryer were as spotless as the silverware. Sheets were never folded haphazardly. Even the fitted sheets had crisp creases. Mom didn't just pull up the covers to make the bed. She pulled all the blankets down for a little airing, smoothed the bottom sheet and folded the top sheet carefully over the top, remade the hospital corners and tucked the sides in tight. Pillowcases were ironed, and a clean handkerchief was hidden under Dad's pillow.

Later, when Mom came over to babysit my kids, I could always expect that my toaster would be crumb-free, the ketchup and mayonnaise jars sanitized, and the mop boards wiped off. She took apart the blender and cleaned each piece after every blend! For some strange reason, I didn't acknowledge all her kindnesses. I was an ungrateful daughter. I felt silently criticized, assuming she was judging my lack of homemaking skills. I'm sure she just did these tasks naturally, and could see I was overwhelmed, unable to attend to the nitty gritty. I feel bad that I wasn't more appreciative.

Junie became a woman who golfed and gardened, refinished furniture and baked bread. She was an interior decorator and a gifted seamstress. She hosted parties for celebrities, canned her own peaches and doted on her family until the day she died. She had a multitude of charms.

And she was the best cleaning lady we ever had.

What were your chores as a kid? Do you have any tips for teaching kids to work? Do you do things the way your mom did?

(All of the vintage illustrations in this post are included in the book Mom's Almanac, edited by Alice Wong and Lena Tabori and published by Welcome Books, 2004.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Just Add Popcorn

I'm going to this one while it's still in the theater.
Does that convey my excitement?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mornin Time!

Illustration by Mary Engelbreit

One of our little girls used to call to us cheerfully from her crib, "Mornin' time! It's mornin' time!" It's nice to wake up in the morning with a feeling of well-being. I'm going to do that tomorrow!

For the past few months I've had deadlines of one kind or another weighing on my shoulders. I've gone to bed late, and woken up tired, certain at an early hour that I couldn't finish all that I had to do that day.

The morning after my Women's Conference presentation I was asked to be the Visiting Teaching Coordinator in my LDS ward. Julie Beck, (who is the general president of our church's women's organization) gave this simplified explanation of visiting teaching:

"This is how we help women all over the world, from Canada to Africa. We send them a little guidebook. We teach them to gather together as a group of women. Out of that group one woman is chosen as a leader. She organizes them (this is where I come in) and sends them out to visit each other one at a time. They go into each other's homes, and they come back to the leader and say, 'This sister is sick,' 'This one's having a new baby,' 'This one needs shoes,' 'This one is hungry.'

"And then the leader says, 'In our group do we have the resources to take care of each other?' And they nod. It is as simple as getting women together with a common purpose and helping each other accomplish what we have to do."

It has taken a lot of time to get myself organized to do this, and I've made dozens of phone calls to coordinate the effort. I'm amazed at the wonderful women I've talked to. One 92-year-old woman I've never met said she couldn't get out to visit, but she could supervise a district and take the reports of fifteen women by phone.

When she called back, she apologized that it was taking her a minute to find her notes. Then she dropped the telephone. When she got back on she said, "I'm sorry. I'm almost blind, and it's hard to hold the phone and my flashlight and a magnifying glass at the same time." Then she reported on a woman who had lost her job, and another whose apartment had flooded. She was so anxious to do her part. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to congratulate myself on not bothering anybody. Her attitude was a refreshing example of service. It's an awesome program that I sometimes take for granted.

Other mornings I've woken up to a pile of pages on my desk that need editing. I had a deadline of next week to finish the rewrite of some chapters, but today I finished early!! Although I really enjoy doing the work, the pressure I put on myself is exhausting. It's a free-lance situation where I set my own hours and timing, but then I put on my spurs and kick myself harder as I round the bend toward the finish line. Still, I have a huge sense of relief that tomorrow I don't have to feel guilty about reading a magazine.'s already tomorrow...I better go to bed before it's mornin' time!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Roll Out Those Lazy Days...

Art by
William-Adolphe Bouguereau

What did you do in the summertime? I read. Mom didn't have a car, so there was no place to go. When I was ten I took piano lessons from a lady that lived across the street, and we walked to a neighborhood swimming pool most days, but my most memorable summer excursion was riding my bike to the library every week.

The Nancy Drew shelf was the first one I checked. Those books were very popular, so it was a major coup to find one available, especially one I hadn't read. I also liked the Little Maid books. They were about girls who lived in exotic places in the olden days (Little Maid of Old Quebec, Little Maid of Old Virginia, etc.) Fifteen, by Beverly Cleary was my first romance novel. He kissed her on the last page when he asked her to go steady. (I read that page over and over, and checked the book out again later in the season.)

I remember a lot of books about nurses. There was one called Candystriper that inspired daydreams of delivering flowers to handsome guys with broken legs. (I later found out there was more to it than wearing the cute pinafore.) Another favorite was Student Nurse. She fell for the student doctor and I think there was a kissing scene on the last page of that one, too.

The summer between 5th and 6th grade was my biography phase. I read about Helen Keller, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Edison and Louis Pasteur. Everything I know about those people came from a series put out by Weekly Reader.

Days back then were long and hot. I moved with the sun. After I'd done my work and my practicing, I went outside and laid on the patio swing to read. Later I meandered over to the side yard, where I laid flat on my back and smelled lilacs, and occasionally watched the white smoke of a jet plane high above my pages.

We didn't have air conditioning so the house was hot and it was uncomfortable to be inside. Besides that, if my mom saw me hanging around she'd have me iron the pillowcases or glue in the green stamps. Before our basement was finished there was a mattress downstairs, and that was where I spent the afternoons. A bottle of homemade root beer and a library book were my idea of a good time.

In between chapters I went over to Karen's where we sat on her patio and played Go Fish and Old Maid. Her mom had a bridge club, which seemed terribly sophisticated. On bridge days the living room was gated off and we peeked in at the card tables all set with coasters and nut cups. She taught us to play Gin Rummy and I felt so mature keeping score and knowing the difference between a club and a spade.

Karen had to weed their giant garden every day, so when she got started on that chore I went to Veda Ann's where we watched Queen for a Day and American Bandstand. They had a picnic table under their carport, and Tommy and Raymond came around for a game of spaceship. We played like we were two sets of twins named Terry and Jerry, and Tammy and Pammy. (I was Tammy.)

Moms were everywhere watching out for us, but they didn't entertain us. They provided meals and the occasional band-aid. We were expected to "go out and play." Eventually we'd hear mothers calling their kids home for dinner. Dad came home and cooked something on the barbecue, and we'd have corn-on-the-cob, peaches and watermelon. After baths we got to play outside in our pajamas until it got dark. I usually ended up where I'd started, on the patio swing with a book.

During my childhood I never played on a team, I never went to camp (although I once went to an arts-and-crafts day where I learned to boondoggle) and I never went anywhere to learn to work with other kids. I had siblings and neighbor kids for that. There were some kids who had tennis coaches and golf lessons, art tutors and sleep-away camps, but I didn't know them. For the kids in my neighborhood, summer days seemed lazy, but they weren't wasted. I wouldn't trade what I learned in the library and between the households of my suburban neighbors for horseback lessons or debutante classes. I didn't take lessons on how to live. Summertime is when that knowledge settled on me like a sun tan. I watched, absorbed and read. It was the best summer school I could have attended!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Style Conscious

(You're lookin' good!)

One of my daily reads is You Look Fab. Today's post was just that--fab. She links a great article in Psychology Today, by Hara Estroff Marano. I'll quote them both:

"Style is a life affirming expression of your character and spirit, a conviction that you are worth knowing, worth looking at and can present yourself well."

"Style should never be confused with fashion." Read the whole thing!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hit Rewind


It's funny how the smell of Youth Dew takes me back to Christmas mornings, and how the feel of a stiff pillowcase reminds me of sleeping at my grandma's house. I heard All Summer Long by the Beach Boys, and I suddenly remembered the gear shift knob in Natalie's 1966 GTO (yellow with a black vinyl roof.) It's like I have a rewind button attached to my senses.

Today I smelled freshly laid asphalt, and I was transported back to a summer day when I was ten. Our street had just received a shiny black coat to cover the winter pot holes, and I dashed across barefoot while it was still hot and sticky. Just a whiff of tar in the air reminded me of picking the burning muck off my feet.

I just found this photo of my little boys. I can remember the sturdy canvas of the plaid pants, and the worn softness of the red jumpsuit. I know how their hair felt, and the detail of little cracks in their chapped cheeks. I can imagine the orange and brown crocheted afghan that was laying on the floor, and I can hear John-boy Walton on the TV. It's been 32 years, yet it's so vivid that it could be last month.

When I had little kids I was in their time zone. Rainy afternoons of putting the cushions back on the couch could last forever. Waiting for Saturday, or Dad to come home was as hard for me as it was for them. I couldn't imagine a day when I wouldn't have pieces of play dough stuck in the carpet and a bottle of amoxicillin in the fridge. There were no remotes in those days, so I didn't understand the concept of fast forward. It didn't matter. It happened anyway.

I wouldn't want to go back and actually live those days again. They were happy, but they were demanding. I'm glad I have a rewind button that zooms me back in time for a visit, though. And I wish I'd used the pause button more often.

What triggers your rewind button?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Working Just For Fun

Kartnerstrasse, Vienna 2008

Sunday night on Vienna's main pedestrian street was pure entertainment. The shops weren't open on Sunday, but parents carrying babies, intertwined sweethearts, flocks of teenagers, old folks, homeless people and society's finest could be found strolling downtown. Artists and musicians of every description gave buskers new credibility. They were working hard just for the fun of it.

Musical Glasses

Classical music was everywhere. An opera diva, dressed in her finery, stood on a bench and reached all the high notes. The crystal glasses on the next corner were in danger of shattering! A musician dipped his fingertips in water and rubbed the tops of the glasses (which were filled to various levels) and played a Strauss waltz. Down the way a pianist in a tuxedo played a concerto for an appreciative crowd.

Are you from Dixie??

This little band played Dixieland style. It's polite to drop a few coins in the banjo case when you stop to listen, or take a photo.

Street Theater, Vienna 2008

A German speaking marionette told jokes, sang and danced. None of these entertainers could do this for a living. One could be employed as a chef, another as a taxi driver, another as a kindergarten teacher. But they were all talented and obviously in need of someone to enjoy their work with them.

Do you ever work just for fun? I could be a busker. I set up my little talent show every night on my blog, just like a guitar player finds a place in a subway station. It's fun to have someone on the other side of my efforts.

Gail Sher wrote a book called One Continuous Mistake, Four Noble Truths for Writers.
She has a chapter called A Writing Habit. Speaking of Ralph Waldo Emerson, she said, "He wrote constantly, he wrote about everything, he covered hundreds of pages. When he had nothing to say, he wrote about having nothing to say. He read and indexed and reread what he had written. He copied letters into his journals and prose from his journals into his letters."

I've got a serious writing habit. I can do it in some form all day long. I'm thinking about what I'll write, getting stuff done so I can write, or reading about ways to write. I work hard, don't earn a dime, and it's totally fun!

What are you obsessed with? Is your work fun?

A few weeks ago someone asked if I'd tell how I study writing. Here's a list of some of my resources.

Blogs About Writing:

A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

Write Your Life

Memory Writers

Books About Writing:

Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington

Mastering Online Research by Maura D. Shaw

The Little Red Writing Book by Brandon Royal

Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

The English Language by David Crystal

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

Write Right by Jan Venolia

The Art of Column Writing by Suzette Martinez Standring

Spunk and Bite by Arthur Plotnik

Online Writing Courses:

Gotham Writers Workshop

Writers Online Workshops

Have fun!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cutting More Apron Strings

The other night Dave Letterman said, "Mother's Day is the busiest day for long distance calls. Everybody calls their mom on Mother's Day. It's nice. But it makes you wonder...why did all these people move so far away from their moms?"

There's a hole in my heart that I can't get too close to, because I'm afraid I'll fall in. I have to walk all around it; if I really looked inside, I'd see a loneliness I don't want to face. I miss my kids.

Having them move is literally heartbreaking. Pieces of my heart have been broken off and taken to far-away places. But I have to keep my distance from those emotions. Instead, I admire the courage and spunk it takes to follow a dream wherever it goes, and I actually envy the opportunities they have to expand their horizons. I'm proud that my kids are making positive contributions in their communities, here or there.

My great-grandma in Sweden said good-bye to her two sons when they were 19 and 17 years old. They came to America and she never saw them or spoke to them again. Letters that took weeks to arrive were their only communication.

The world is so much smaller now. Airplanes, telephones, blogs, and cameras keep me in close touch, even hundreds of miles away. I know I'm lucky. But I glanced into the hole in my heart, and tonight I'm feeling sad.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bill Grogan's Goat

"And flagged the train...
and flagged the train..."

It was an Oma sing-a-long.

After a spirited rendition of Bill Grogan's Goat,
Lucy (4) and I had this discussion,
while Chelsea (almost 3) listened.

Lucy: Why were the shirts in a line?

Oma: They were hanging on a clothesline, to dry.

Lucy: Oh...why did the goat eat them?

Oma: Because goats eat everything.

Chelsea, with eyes wide, asked "Even people?"

Oma: No. Not people. Just things like, well, like shirts.

Lucy: Why did Bill Grogan tie him to the railroad track?

Oma: Well, he was mad because he ate the shirts, and, well...

Lucy: Why did he cough?

Oma: He kind of get the shirts back up.

Lucy: Was it like throw up? Was it yukky?

Oma: I don't think so. Then he made them into a flag, so the train would stop.

Lucy: But how did he get untied?

Oma: I guess the engineer untied him. Then he went back home.

Lucy: Did Bill Grogan hit him with another stick?

Chelsea shuddered. "This song is really scary," she said.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Becoming a Mother

Saturday Morning 1982

"Insanity is heriditary;
you get it from your children.
Sam Levenson

The Oldest, 1982

"When we're all grown up
will you be retarded from motherhood?"

The Boys (with Chickenpox) 1982

"My mother had a great deal of trouble with me,
but I think she enjoyed it."
Mark Twain

The Little Kids 1983

"Looking at people who belong to us,
we see the past, present and future."
Gail Lumet Buckley

The Baby, 1984

"Every adult needs a child to teach;
it's the way adults learn.
Frank A. Clark

1st South, 1982

"We do not remember days;
we remember moments."
Cesare Pavese

I always wanted to be a mother. Before I met Dee, we were sitting at opposite ends of a large, crowded table. The conversation was about how many kids we all wanted, and Dee and I each said "Twelve." Somebody seated in the middle heard our individual responses and said, "You two ought to get together!"

Two weeks later we did. Less than sixteen months after that we were parents.

In those days a newborn slept in the hospital nursery and the nurse only brought her into the ward (there were six new mothers in the same room) every four hours. I was very self-conscious. I'd never even seen a woman breast-feed a baby before, and I was extremely uncomfortable about the nurse examining my breast, touching it, and helping the baby
latch on. My mother had bottle-fed her babies, and warned me that I'd never have enough milk, so I had no confidence in my abilities. Neither did the nurse.

The other moms cuddled their infants, who seemed experts at eating. My babe just howled. I started to dread the whole process. Hospital stays were longer then, and I could hardly wait for the fourth day when I could finally go home. I still felt like the baby was a stranger, and I worried because I didn't have a huge surge of maternal love. I was exhausted and discouraged.

We went to recuperate at my parent's house. Gabi slept all day and screamed all night. It was very traumatizing and I could tell that Dee was anxious to leave in the morning. By then I had enough milk for quadruplets, but the baby wouldn't suck. I was miserable. It hurt to walk, my clothes didn't fit, and I felt defensive, frustrated and helpless. I couldn't even take a shower because the baby cried whenever I put her down.

(A side-note: On one of those desperate days the doorbell rang and I answered it in my robe. It was my old boyfriend, coming to pick up my little sister for a date! He stared at me in total shock. I wanted to die.)

Two weeks after the birth it was a holiday. My family announced they were going horseback riding, and Dee had to work. (He sold real estate out of a trailer which was parked on the development site. The girl he worked with was gorgeous, wore white leather
hot pants, and didn't have a screaming infant dangling from her rock solid boob.) Jealousy burned inside me while I sat at home alone, all day, for the first time as a mother.

Within a few days we returned to our own little place where Dee dropped us off and went to school. The clothes I'd been wearing when my water broke were in a paper bag on the table. The bed was unmade because of our hasty trip to the hospital, and the dishes from three weeks before were still in the sink. I was overwhelmed. How could I do this?

Full time motherhood was surprising. I hadn't realized how repetitive and lonely it would be at first. Watching a new baby grow can be tedious. We didn't have a TV, so I read and nursed. It was my first experience in re-inventing myself. Though I wasn't quite 21-years-old, I wanted instant maturity, wisdom, patience and perspective and I checked out many books from the library hoping to find insight. I read Dr. Spock's
Baby and Child Care religiously.

By the time Gabi was six weeks old, life had improved. She and I had learned the secrets of breast-feeding together, she slept a few hours at a time, and instead of being an intruder she was the center of our family. One Sunday I bathed her (like a pro) and then put her in a tiny, new green embroidered dress. When I picked her up, she screamed in agony. I bounced her and rocked her, and passed her over to Dee. With every move she cried louder.

I knew her cries by now, and I could tell she was in pain. She couldn't be comforted. After an hour or so of walking the floor with her, I stripped off her clothes thinking I could massage her tummy. As soon as the dress came off she stopped crying. It was miraculous. She calmed down immediately and fell asleep with tears glistening in her eyelashes.

I picked up the little outfit and felt a prick. Two straight pins were stuck in each puffy sleeve! With every bounce they had jabbed into her tiny baby arms. I burst into tears, with the knowledge that I had caused her pain. Tenderness filled my soul, and my heart nearly burst with a desire for her happiness.

Becoming a Mother

That day I recognized that my dreams had come true. I had become a mother.

"Two new people were born.
She was new to the world and I was reborn...

Gone was the self-centered girl.
I had labored to bring a child into the world,
and the fear and pain had somehow awakened a new compassion in my heart.
I could never more return to my pre-transition existence,
for I had been born into motherhood
and must now be initiated into the mysteries of womanhood--
the nourishing life."
Joan Borysenko

Photo Opportunity

Attorney/Client Privilege 2008

I have a new lawyer!

Yesterday's graduation festivities went on 'til the wee hours, and spilled over into today. Downtown was alive with excitement over the occasion. OK, maybe the NBA playoffs and last night's Jazz win contributed to the mood, but it felt like a big party in Dan's honor.

When we left the restaurant tonight, we realized we didn't have a photograph of the memorable celebration. A very tall, handsome, black man and his date were walking ahead of us, so Dan approached him and held up the camera. "Would you mind?" he asked. The guy looked reluctant and awkward, but struck a pose. He seemed surprised when Dan handed him the camera.

The four of us said, "Cheese," and he snapped the shutter, just as a private car service pulled up. I noticed an LA Lakers logo on his sweat suit, and without thinking blurted out, "Are you a Laker? Are you famous?"

He looked embarrassed, and said he was just a fan from LA. As they got in the limo another passer-by asked, "Who was that? I think he's one of their players!"

At home on the computer I googled the Laker's team roster. Apparently we had our picture taken by Trevor Ariza.

So?? I don't know my basketball that a crime?? Do I need a lawyer?

Congratulations to Marta and Dan!! (And the Utah Jazz.)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Teacher Feature

Photos of Cesky Krumlov, March 2008

Dee and I both recognized the music. "What is that?" We were in the Czech Republic, but we were both transported to a ninth grade English class we hadn't even attended. With a few hand signals I communicated our question to the waitress, who checked the CD, and returned. "Enya," she said. Of course! No need for translation. We had climbed the stairs and fallen asleep to her arias on many nights.

Marta was the daughter who lived across the hall from our bedroom. She was elusive during her Junior High years. We saw her for meals, and when she needed a ride somewhere, but most of the time her door was closed and the music of Enya was the only sound coming from inside.
Hearing such a familiar melody took us back to that time.

Have you had a fourteen-year-old daughter? (Or have you been one?) It's a time of self-discovery. Parents are set on the shelf with the other souvenirs of childhood, and when it happened to us we were concerned. There were so many choices! Would our kids make the right ones?

Teenage paths are crooked and bumpy. Who would have an influence? Luckily, in Marta's case, it was Miss Ed.

"A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations."
Patricia Neal

Marta's heart, mind and soul were awakened to her potential. With the encouragement of an English teacher, her gel pen crammed empty journals with poetry and prose. Enya was the muse she got acquainted with in class. She shared many creative writing strategies with me, as I laid on the bed in her studio, and it refreshed our relationship. We were walking new paths together.

The haunting music from the restaurant inspired our conversation. Dee and I walked and talked, counting the good teachers that had bolstered our children's confidence. Mr. Turner, Coach Smith, Mrs. Furner, Mrs. Warr, Miss Strasser...these were just a few we remembered with gratitude. They helped our kids catch a glimpse of possibilities.

And whenever we read a particularly good post on mwrites, we remember Miss Ed.
She opened a door.

Is there a teacher who opened a door for you?