Friday, October 31, 2008

Kidspeak: Halloween Story

Art by Janey Dyer

It was the hour we were anticipating: story time. "Girls! It's bedtime. Choose your story."
Comfy with pillows, snuggled in flannel footy jammies, four little cherubs reverently presented their favorite books, and found a lap.

I started reading Halloween Night but was interrupted on the first page by Curly Locks. "I can read it all by myself," she proudly announced. "But I have to sit in the middle." We swapped seats so everyone could see the pictures, and then she started to read. Word perfect.

Oma and Opa were amazed. She's in pre-school for a few hours a week, but we were astonished by her abilities. She read through each page sounding out words, noticing the difference in brought and bought, grandma and grandpa, and even her expression was spot on. "This is our new book," she said. "We just got it last night."

Marveling at this brilliant grandchild, we were interested when on the longest page she said, "I can read so good, I can read this page with my eyes closed." And she did. Not a single mistake was made. What a great memory --hers and ours.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bloggy Giveaway

Be a winner!

I want to take a Blog Tour to see creative layouts and unique content ideas.

(Leave a suggestion in the comment section by midnight, October 31st
and you could win a prize!)

Is there a blog you think is especially artistic? Or a cleverly themed site you always visit? How have you found your favorite blogs? What makes you go back to them?

Is there a Directory of Blogs somewhere so I can find one by subject? I'd love to read a blog that is focused on one of these topics:
  1. Storytelling
  2. Famous writers or musicians, written by them
  3. English villages
  4. Mysteries (fiction)
  5. What it's like to be old
  6. Teaching history to kids
  7. Travel tips
  8. Children's books
  9. Stories about World War II
  10. Folk Music
  11. Candid Photography
  12. Organization tips
  13. Style tips
  14. Poetry
  15. Living Creatively
Any recommendations?
I'll announce three winners on November 1st.

P.S. It's against the rules to suggest your parent, sibling or best friend. That way no one will feel obligated to mention somebody they love, and nobody will get their feelings hurt.

And, btw, if I know you and I know you have a blog, or if you've ever commented, I read your blog. You are already my favorites.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Baby Benji

Day Old Child

My day old child lay in my arms,
With my lips against his ear.
I whispered strongly, "How I wish--
I wish that you could hear,

"I've a hundred wonderful things to say,
(a tiny cough and a nod),
hurry, hurry, hurry and grow
So I can tell you about God."

My day-old baby's mouth was still
And my words only tickled his ear,
But a kind of light passed through his eyes,
And I saw this thought appear:

"How I wish I had a voice and words,
I've a hundred things to say.
Before I forget, I'd tell you of God --
I left Him yesterday."

--Carol Lynn Pearson

This is Baby Benji at his blessing the other day.
He was lucky to get two awesome parents who love him to pieces.
He is an absolute angel.

I am related to lots of angels. Read about my angel sister on Kelly's blog. They are an incredible family who overcame devastating events with generosity and love.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Barack Obama

Look who's calling...

My daughter-in-law.

Look who got the call!

"Obama will be here in 45 minutes!" Candice was making Sunday dinner, but she left the rolls in the oven, the pans on the stove, and her family to fend for themselves. History was in the making!

Barack Obama in Brighton, Colorado

Candice has been a devoted Barack Obama fan/volunteer for the last 5 years; she was on his side before it was cool to be on his side. When he unexpectedly decided to stop at the campaign office in her small town, she was invited. She told a friend, "If you had a chance to meet JFK today would you go? I'll honk for you in two minutes!"

Hard-working volunteers rock with Barack!

The presidential candidate wanted to make a few campaign calls. People there could call anyone they wanted, and hand him their cell phone. "This is Barack Obama..." he said.

Candice shook his hand. Her enthusiastic words were, "Hello! My Republican husband voted for you." He replied, "You must be very persuasive." Candice thoughtfully said, "Yep."

In the presence of greatness.

And to think her Republican husband is my son.
He chose wisely.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Sorry to everyone I talked to yesterday: I made an error.

The time doesn't change until next Sunday.

(I'd already changed all my clocks before I decided to check for sure.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Seven Little Ghouls

Amy's Halloween Party brought out our littlest local pumpkins.

It was a total treat!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gathering History in Poland

Church in Trzesniow, Poland

We had to go back to the graveyard! We'd been kidnapped the day before, yet we still had to dig up information on some close acquaintances. It didn't matter that these folks have been dead for 150 years--Dee gets to know them so well they become his friends; it was important to find out anything we could.

Polish woodcarvings

Because the Przybyla family had shown such hospitality, we were certain we'd already passed the high point of our Polish research. Now we needed info on the Wojton names. Dates on the graves were too recent; we decided there must be an older cemetery in a nearby village, but we didn't have a clue of how to find directions. Stores were non-existent in the tiny town of Trzesniow.

One of many stork's nests, Poland

Three men were carrying a coffin into a small memorial chapel by the church. Not wanting to crash a funeral, we hovered around waiting to see if there would be someone we could talk to. We watched the men take the coffin in, and then carry it back out, set it down for a while, and then take it in again. Several minutes later they brought it out and put it on the ground. Smoking and chatting, they glanced over at us, so Dee approached to ask if any of them spoke English.

I stood by the car while they talked animatedly to each other, and then Dee went into the chapel with one of the men. I assumed they were looking at some documents or something because they were inside a long time. Dee came out with his new buddy, and stood by while the men gestured and spoke excitedly, and then they loaded the coffin into a minivan. Our main man called someone on his cell phone, and the other men drove off; then Dee followed his friend over to our car, and they both got in! (I know this sounds made-up, but it's true.)

I asked Dee what was going on and he wasn't sure. He thought they were construction workers since they were apparently showing him the craftsmanship of their new chapel. They were measuring the coffin to make sure it fit. Anyway, the guy was in the back seat, motioning for Dee to drive, tapping him on the shoulder and indicating where to turn. We thought maybe he was taking us to another cemetery, so we were surprised when we arrived at a large farmhouse.

Farmhouse in Trzesniow, Poland

Two women, one holding a baby and the other obviously her mother, were in the courtyard waiting for us. Their husbands pulled up on a tractor at the same time. Chickens, ducks, turkeys and a dog wandered around our car as the young mom greeted us. She was an English teacher visiting her parents, and she was going to be our translator.

English teacher, Mayor and Dee

Introductions were made and we found that our graveyard chum was actually the mayor of the town! His name was Tadesz Wojton (pronounced Vochick, I think.) Unbelievably, he had the same surname we were researching! Dee told Agate (the teacher) that we were searching for a library or an archive that might have a written history of the village, land records or other documents.

Government offices Trzesniow, Poland

Handing the baby to her husband, she ran inside for her jacket and she and the mayor got into our car. They directed us to a non-descript building on an unpaved road off the main street. Inside, up a flight of stairs, was a tiny library where the very helpful librarian searched for references to the Polish names. No luck.

Library stacks in Trzesniow, Poland.

The mayor suddenly remembered a book he had, "a segment which is in English." We drove to his home, where his wife pulled curlers out of her hair while he rifled through the bookcases. He reappeared with a spiral bound book about the history of the town, which his brother had written. It was all in Polish, unfortunately, with a section in the middle which the teacher dismissed as "unimportant and foreign." Dee looked at those pages and realized they were copies of documents from the mid 1800's, written in old German script, (which he can read.) They just happened to be references to the very people we were searching for, with dates, taxes paid, and property descriptions!

Page from Mayor's Book

Dee asked if we could take the book somewhere to copy the pages. Our translator friend explained the copy machine was in the next village, but after telling the mayor the significance of the pages, he tore them out of his book and gave them to us.

The mayor then showed us pictures of himself with some important Polish people and pointed to one on the wall of him at the Vatican meeting Pope John Paul II. His wife brought in photos of their 50th anniversary party, their niece who is an opera singer in Rome, a cousin who lives in Canada, and one of their son who died last year at age 27. It felt like we were friends.

Unbelievable things happen to us. Although we knew the approximate location of this Polish town, we couldn't find it on a map. We stumbled on it almost by accident, met the exact right people at the exact right time, and left with information we'd have never discovered on our own. I don't think our experiences are coincidences. I am convinced that people who lived long ago want their descendants to know their stories.

Graveyard in Galacia

We've made lots of friends in cemeteries!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Paris Streets

Street Smarts

Parisian style traffic jam.

These are the people all forlorn
Who sat in their cars and honked their horns.

Garbage-man to the rescue.

This guy thought, "It's up to me."
He couldn't just let the problem be.

Not such a Smart car.

The complication wouldn't ruin his day;
He just lifted the obstacle out of the way.

Street smarts.

I won't whine and grumble from where I sit,

I'll get off my seat and help fix it!

Photos taken September, 2008 on Rue du 29 Juillet, Paris France.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Me, 2008

NEWSFLASH: I am voting for Obama.

I deserve health insurance! Barack's plan will outlaw the pre-existing conditions clause on insurance applications. This is my issue. It affects me. I worry about health care costs every single day, and it's making me sick.

Because of pre-existing health conditions, we have been denied coverage. We aren't poor enough or old enough to qualify for any low-cost programs. Occasionally when I tell a doctor I'm uninsured he will knock down the office-call charge to the rate the insurance companies pay, but not always. Many offices will not even book an appointment when they find out I have no insurance. I've been told this doesn't happen (always by people with health insurance) but it has happened to me.

When I am told I need a certain procedure (blood test, lab work, etc.) my first question is "How much will that cost?" I'm always surprised that nobody knows. The doctor doesn't, the secretary doesn't, even the billing department doesn't. They just know the code for the procedure. An insurance company has a certain rate they pay when they are billed, so that's what it costs. Since different insurance companies pay different amounts, there is often no definite fee. "It depends."

In August I went to a highly recommended new doctor for advice about hot flashes. I was required to pay the $225 new-patient fee when I checked in for my appointment. (Actually, I had to pay half of it over the phone when I scheduled.) I spent 5 minutes with the physician's assistant who listened to my woes and directed me across the hall for some blood work, explaining that until she had those results she would have no answers for me.

She left town, and it was 2 weeks until I heard back from her. I recieved the $1,100.00 bill for the lab work a full week before she called. A week later I got a notice that payment must be made in full immediately and I already had a $20 late charge.

Trying to reach my PA was crazy. Remember the days when a secretary just answered the phone and said, "Who's calling please?" Eventually, the physician's assistant's assistant called me back and said the doctor (who I still haven't ever seen) wanted me to have a CT scan because my blood test indicated I could have a tumor. Scary! I was transferred immediately to some other helpful person who gave me the appropriate phone number and the all-important code. No, she was sorry, but she had no idea how much this would cost.

The radiology department didn't know either, and the hospital billing department didn't know, but they'd let me know. In the meantime, I could have a tumor growing somewhere and we better find out about it. In this case, I was scheduled instantly even though they had no guarantee of my ability to pay.

A cute girl with troubled eyes pushed me into the cylinder and then told me to call my doctor for results on Wednesday. Although she already knew the results, she couldn't tell me. "It's above my pay grade," she said.

Two days passed slowly. Wednesday there were no results. Thursday morning the recording told me the doctor's office was closed until after Labor Day. Five more days passed slowly. I received the $3,300.00 bill for the CT scan and the $486.00 bill for the radiologist (to read the scan) the next Tuesday, but still my doctor hadn't returned my call.

Ten days after the CT scan I reached some poor innocent voice on the other end of the phone and unloaded all my frustration on her. Full of sympathy, she said someone would call me back within an hour. A different physician's assistant's assistant called, asking where I'd had my MRI done, because they hadn't received any results. I explained it wasn't an MRI, it was a CT scan AND I WANTED TO TALK TO A FLIPPIN' DOCTOR!!!!

Two days later the actual doctor called. She said there was no tumor, and she was not concerned that I could have cancer. She was concerned, however, that one ovary was larger than the other. She recommended that I have a hysterectomy. I told her I didn't have insurance. "Why don't you check with the hospital, get your ducks in a row, and schedule an appointment with me in a couple of weeks so we can talk about your options here." I asked her if this was urgent. What was her reasoning? What about the hot flashes?

"I'm not sure your hot flashes have anything to do with all this. It's not an urgent situation, but I think at your age it has to be done sooner than later. I'll transfer you to the front so you can make an appointment and we'll talk more then."

Well, my ducks are not in a row. The hospital financial aid guy said we made too much to qualify for any help. The hospital costs could be anywhere from $8,000-$15,000, and the doctor will charge about $2,500. Of course I'd also need an anestheisologist and a pathologist and a person to read the charts. And it would hurt!

The front desk answered. "Because you've been in before, your consultation with the doctor will only be $125. What's your insurance number? Oh?? Well, we'll need to put half of it on a credit card to book the appointment."

It gave me a hot flash.

I'm voting for Obama.

Monday, October 20, 2008


"Open your eyes, Oma!"

I followed the little girls downstairs to their bedroom. Without turning on a single light, they scampered through the toys, books and pillows they'd left strewn over the family room floor. I tripped on a blanket as I searched for the switch, and asked, "How can you kids see where you're going? It's so dark!"

Jess (5) answered very seriously. "We just eat carrots. They give you night vision."

Duh, Oma.

Thought Process

Just Thinking...

I can't write anything because I have so much to write. Do you ever feel like that? I've got a little notebook full of random thoughts I want to expound on, but I haven't had time to do any of them justice. Notes piled on my desk are starting to yell at me. Unorganized pictures in iPhoto nag me; collected quotes, underlined in red and stacked on my bench, are losing their punch; the constant reminders in my day-timer are making me defensive. I feel henpecked by my blog, overwhelmed by my own expectations.

Many topics arouse my passion at the moment: new mothers, old mothers; new brides, old brides; new babies, old babies; health care, Obama; being rich, being poor. Posts on Poland and golf carts and lost credit cards and cameras and singing and reading are pulsing in my fingertips. But my brain is so crowded I can't find anything.

I need to sift through my jumbled thoughts, process what's worth keeping, and put the rest in storage. I can't write with a messy mind.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Trzesniow Treasures

Poland, 2008

Trzesniow wasn't on our map, but it was our destination. Dee had marked it's approximate location with a star on road #887. He made an abrupt left turn when we saw the sign pointing to a narrow, winding street that looked more like a long driveway.

Polish Countryside

We meandered past several tiny Polish towns with names we didn't recognize. They weren't on the map either so after a few miles we were officially lost. But it was lovely, and we figured our path would lead us somewhere we could hook up with the main road again.

Over there! We knew Trzesniow had a church. We followed the steeple in the distance.

Village Church Trzesniow, Poland

Although it was Sunday, the church was deserted. We must have arrived between services.

Trzesniow Church

Devout Catholics in Poland stayed faithful throughout the almost 50 years of atheistic Communist occupation of their country. Today meetings are well attended, and community life revolves around the church. Records of births, marriages and deaths have always been the responsibility of the village Priest, and we hoped to open some doors in our search for history.

Interior of Trzesniow Chapel

The inside was stunning.

Cemetery, Trzesniow

The cemetery behind the church was small and easy to navigate,
but the names all looked like this.

As I examined headstones, Dee slowly spelled the difficult last names we were looking for.
We were pronouncing one of them Presh-bu-la.
"P-R-Z-Y-B-Y-L-A," I repeated as he called over to me.

A young woman putting a bouquet on a grave nearby suddenly spoke up.
"I am Shuboowa!"
Apparently that was the correct pronounciation.

In very broken English she said that it was her family name. She and her husband were there to remember her father. Dee showed them a listing of the names and dates we were interested in. They both anxiously looked over the family group sheet, made hand motions trying to make us understand Polish by speaking loudly, and talked with each other. We didn't know if they understood what we were asking them, but they were enthusiastic about answering.

Indicating that her nephews spoke English, she motioned for us to follow them to her mother's house. We weren't sure what to expect, but they were so friendly and eager to help, we went along. They jumped into their car, and we followed in ours and drove a couple of blocks.

As we pulled into the driveway of a lovely three-story home, her elderly mother, two 18-20 year-old nephews and a teenage niece graciously greeted us at the door, and quickly ushered us inside and upstairs. Immediately we were served cake, and asked if we preferred coffee or tea. I answered "Juice?" and a small decanter of black currant juice was offered. We were the only ones who had refreshments, and they all sat and watched us eat. The room had hard wood floors, and heavy oak furniture, with a shrine to Mary in the corner and religious pictures over the fireplace. It was a comfortable, beautifully furnished home.

The nephews could understand our questions, and as they translated back and forth to the older woman, we discovered that the Przybyla family we were researching was indeed from this village. "Our Priest will have the relevant documents. We will be on this case. We will see it through for you." Leaving the information they needed, we shook hands with everyone, the mother hugged us and the group stood in the driveway and waved us off.

It was quite an incredible experience to have such friendship and hospitality from strangers. If someone I didn't know sat next to me in church, I would congratulate myself if I welcomed them and introduced myself. If they spoke to me in Swedish, and showed me a list that included my family names, I would be interested. I would probably wish them good luck and maybe call my sister and tell her about it. The last thing I would do is invite them home, find someone who spoke Swedish, feed them and get "on the case." These folks were our first Polish friends. But there would be more.

Bzianka School

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Witness to Car Explosion

I just witnessed a terrible thing. I was sitting at my desk about 1:00 am ready to catch up on my blog, and I heard a skid outside. Immediately I looked out the window and saw, then heard, a car crash into the side of our street. I'm on an upper floor of my building, and I watched the car burst into flames!

As I called 911, two cars stopped and a man jumped out of each one, running over to help the driver. The men were trying to get close, but it was an overwhelming fire within seconds. Loud explosions echoed as the windows blew out. One of the men ran back to his truck to get a fire extinguisher, and he blasted it at the flames. It didn't help at all.

There hasn't been an ambulance, but 2 firemen draped a sheet over the car. I think they'll have to wait until it cools down to examine it closer. A tire and pieces of fender are on our sidewalk, and another piece of the car is shiny in the middle of the road under the flashing lights.

It's been snowing for an hour or so, and the temperatures have dropped, so I'm sure the street is slippery, and there isn't much traffic at this time of night. It seems like someone was speeding to make the light before it turned red, lost control, and slid off, while going extremely fast. After the emergency cars arrived, a few people stopped to see what happened, and a number of our neighbors went outside, wrapped in blankets to witness the events, but nothing is happening now. Everyone is just watching and waiting to see what's next, shivering under the first snow flakes.

It is weird to realize I watched a person lose control of his life, for whatever reason, and in a split second it ended. There may have been another victim. But for sure there are some victims who are comfortably in bed right now, unaware of the heartache that is just minutes or hours ahead
from them.

In that split second, unexpectedly, that person discovered one of the great mysteries of life: what happens at the end.

I'm drifting in and out, accidently typing rows of dddddddddddddd while I think I'm concentrating on the case. My ambien is taking effect even after all this horrific drama.

P.S. It's morning now. Sometime between 3:AM and 8:AM the accident all got cleared away. No crime tape, nothing to indicate it even happened, except a blackened retaining was and burned road. Two people were killed instantly. Think of all the private dramas taking place around us. And we sleep right through them. This time I witnessed someone's nightmare.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Poland Passages

Navigating Galacia

The towns were so tiny we couldn't find them on a map. Bzianka, Trzesniow--they weren't even mentioned in the Polish geography books in Krakow. But Google can lead you anywhere. I entered the address of the airport Hertz as our starting point, typed in Bzianka, Poland as our destination, and quicker than you can say Dzickuje (jENkoo-yeh--"Thank you") we had directions to the forested region called Galacia.

Poland Road Trip 2008

The freeway turned out to be a two-lane road winding through woods and villages. It was hard to recognize the jumbled alphabet names as we whizzed past the road signs. Just in time for lunch we saw one we understood.

Mickey D's near Krosno, Poland

There were several tricky round-abouts, and we twice discovered we had taken off in the wrong direction (after reaching the city on the opposite side of the map!) but within five hours we saw this welcome sight:

Southeastern Poland

Around the bend we heard a zillion crows,

(Look close. . .)

and got a glimpse of the town.

Crows Nests

We were looking for traces of ghosts. We weren't sure where we'd find them, but our experience told us they would be looking for us, too. Long-lost ancestors are usually right where they've always been, and with a little digging their stories come back to life. That's our specialty.

Bzianka farmhouse

We passed picturesque, large houses,

Trzesniow Sod Roof

and small ones that had seen better days.
It was raining when we crested a little hill and saw what we were looking for.

Trzesniow Church

A church usually means a cemetery, and that's a good place to start hunting for ghosts.

The windows of heaven were about to be opened!

More to come...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Paris Sights

Passage Galerie Vivienne

She leered at me from a shop window in Paris, and I quickly looked away. What horrible teeth! They looked like wax. Hey--they were wax! So was she.

You don't need to travel to go sightseeing, but being someplace different stimulates my vision. I notice the local scenery. Maybe there are some strange characters peeking out at me right here in SLC, but I don't spot them. On a trip I'm looking for the sights.

Cafe Natur, Paris

For example, this sidewalk cafe. The menu said to pick something green for an appetizer. (I thought using grass was illegal.)


How often do I photograph our local toilets? But in a faraway place they seem interesting.

The first time I went to Paris there were little backless booths on the streets called Pissoirs, convenient for men in a hurry. There was a drain in the sidewalk, but you still had to keep your distance to avoid any unsavory splashes. Women's Lib put an end to such gross inequality.

Now, almost 40 years later, there are unisex facilities. The automatic door opens when a coin is inserted, and inside is a spotless miniature bathroom, similar to one on an airplane. The saran-wrap on the toilet seat is changed automatically, and the whole compartment sanitized with every flush.

In every train station and in many restaurants and hotels there were attendants in the bathrooms to collect a fee. It's called pay-as-you-go.

Kit Car, Paris

Dee has always wanted to buy one of these classic French cars. It comes in a kit and you assemble it yourself. Very petite people can hire one with a driver for a tour of Paris.

I wonder if a French tourist would take a picture of my car. It's a traditional Mormon minivan, and it's almost an antique.

Hotel Decor

This was a life-size sculpture in our hotel room.

Modern art. One time we took our ten-year-old son to Paris and strolled along the Seine looking at the old books and paintings in the bookstalls. Josh was particularly interested in the vintage postcards featuring sepia-toned models in various stages of undress. We hustled him away with a discussion of porn, immodesty and the exploitation of women. Later, at the Louvre, it was fun to try and explain to him why Venus de Milo is considered art.

Yesterday I noticed that the landscape paintings in our apartment building have all been replaced with abstract, modern art. The last thing I would do is photograph them and put them on my blog. But is some tourist from faraway doing just that?

Be on the lookout.
You don't have to go to Paris to go sightseeing.

Have you seen any uncommonly uncommon sights?