Friday, February 27, 2009

Blog Forward

If I could click a forward button for this blog post, I'd send it to everyone I know.
It will lift your spirits.
Click here: Scenes From the Wild.


"When our children were very small,
I started to write down a few things about what happened every day."

Henry B. Eyring was talking about journals. He continued, "I heard in my mind these words: I'm not giving you these experiences just for yourself. Write them down.

"I decided to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. For instance, I saw how Grandpa was serving us, in the way disciples of Jesus Christ always do. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.

"Before I would write, I would ponder this question: Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today? As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

" I would find ways to recognize and remember God's kindness.

" Certain scriptures come to mind:

Take heed to thyself . . .lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen,
and lest they depart from thy heart.
---Deut. 4:9

The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,
whom the Father will send in my name,
he shall teach you all things,
and bring all things to your remembrance,
whatsoever I have said unto you."
---John 14:25-26

"I ask myself: Did God send a message that was just for me? Did I see His hand in my life or the lives of my children? And then I will find a way to preserve that memory for the day that I, and those that I love, will need to remember how much God loves us and how much we need him. It brings me joy to remember him."

Presidents Hinckley and Eyring, 2007

How has keeping a journal reminded you of God's tender mercies?

P.S. Here's a suggestion for keeping track of the funny things kids say from a blog called Inchmark. Brooke writes the quotations on little pieces of paper and puts them in a jar. When she's feeling blue, she pulls one out and remembers why it's great to have kids!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Be remarkable

"Son, your mother is really a remarkable woman."

Harold B. Lee said, "The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home." You don't need to jump over the moon to be remarkable.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Dee brought home a few of his friends a while ago.
He got acquainted with Mariana and Augustin in the archives
and he knew I'd like them.

Augustin was a 45-year-old widower in a tiny Polish village, and he fell in love with his 21-year-old niece. The scandal forced them to run away to the big city, Vienna, where they married and had a baby girl. Mariana was a seamstress who made clothes for the Empress, and Augustin listened to revolutionaries like Trotsky and Karl Marx debate politics in the cafes.

Dee filled in the dates and facts of their circumstances--how the murder of the archduke and his beautiful pregnant wife plunged the country into World War I; how Mariana coped with the death of her tiny daughter; and how they rented their bed to a factory worker during the day just to make ends meet. Augustin was 70 years old when a son was finally born.

Alfred came from a little town near Prague. He and his new bride left the homeland to find their fortune in Vienna about the same time as Mariana and Augustin. They moved into a tiny apartment with just two rooms and a kitchen; nevermind that the water pump and the toilets were shared by all the neighbors on their floor! This is where they eventually raised 13 children, including a lovely daughter.

The two families were brought together when they both joined the LDS church in 1922. The son married the daughter and the couple started their own family. Hitler was just rising to power and the church members were under constant surveillance by the Gestapo, with raids, arrests and searches. The Anschluß of World War II brought the Nazis into Austria. After devastating bombing and terrifying nights in bomb-shelters, years of rationing and starvation, the Austrians were hopeful when the Soviet army came to their rescue. Wrong. By comparison, the Nazis weren't that bad. The Russians stayed until 1955.

Dee reminded me that Vienna was partitioned like Berlin was, with a Russian zone, soldiers, and severe conditions. Through it all, our friends loved their children, kept their little branch growing, took care of grieving families, sent sons off to battle, and embraced returning prisoners of war.

Vienna was the place for spies in those days. The Cold War was underway, and all the players were part of the occupying force. Dee explained how the Black Market worked and I began to understand the new hardships the Austrians faced after the official war was over. The stories were fascinating.

We looked at maps, and documents, books and articles, and then Dee left me on my own to get better acquainted with our friends. I've spent several hours every day for the past two months filling in the blanks. Dee had written the history and I had the task of bringing it to life.

I sent Augustin, Alfred and Mariana on their way tonight, with a click of the Send key. I know them so well now, and I feel protective and motherly towards them, although they were all dead before I was even born. History is a form of time-travel, and I have friends in faraway places.

Luckily Dee has a new friend he's dying for me to meet. She's coming tomorrow!

Alsatian Woman

P.S. Forty years ago today I fell in love with my history teacher.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Parenting 101

My Guys
August 1978

"The single most important thing is to take time to LISTEN to your children
– as fellow human beings, not just as your charges or pet projects."

(I read an article by Cynthia Bourgeault that deserves quoting.)

"There’s a wise little human soul in there, ageless in heart even while young in time. Follow her lead. Listen to what she says and DOESN’T say. Don’t just manage her, but allow the things she’s interested in to open and energize your own heart. That’s the secret of eternal youth.

"Second, don’t be afraid to be real with your children. I’m not speaking so much here about being honest with your feelings (that’s generally good, but don’t forget that as a parent you have a primary responsibility to hold a safe space for your kids, and your self-expression should never overwhelm or frighten them;) rather, I’m talking about being transparent about what you truly love.

"For eighteen years my own mother managed, scolded, imposed manners, dragged us kids off to Sunday school, arranged lessons in necessary social graces, chaperoned parties and supervised homework. And yet, for all that gray blur of duty, the one day I truly remember from my childhood was the day she simply gathered up her beloved oil paints and marched us off to a local arboretum. As my brother and I explored the gardens, I watched her a short distance away, poised before her easel, golden sunlight streaming down her face, completely entranced in what she was doing. How I loved her in that moment! And the unspoken lesson on following your bliss has remained with me for nearly six decades."

Cynthia Bourgeault is an Episcopal priest, writer and retreat leader. She is founding director of the Aspen Wisdom School in Colorado and principal visiting teacher for the Contemplative Society in Victoria, BC, Canada. I read this article on a website called Goop.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chocoholics Anonymous

Max Brenners Chocolate by the Bald Man, NYC

My name is Oma and I am a chocoholic.

I am not looking for meetings.
I am looking for bars.

841 Broadway in Manhattan

I left The Strand bookstore at lunchtime,
and walked across the street,
looking for a salad bar,
but I found a chocolate bar instead.

The waitress asked,
"Can I bring you a hot chocolate to start?"
She asked for my specifications of light, dark, sweet, semi-sweet,
creamy, frothy, thick . . .
It came in a mug especially designed to hold with both hands
(so they will be warmed up when you drink it down.)

Peanut Butter Crepe

On the lunch menu there was a peanut butter crepe.
"What could be more lunch-like?" I thought as I ordered.

Peanut Butter Crepe
A light French pancake, spread with peanut butter,
and smothered with melted chocolate chunks.
Homemade vanilla ice cream, with hardened chocolate fondue,
toffee bananas, and a pitcher of warm toffee caramel,
topped with candied hazelnut crunchy bits.

"Is this place even legal?" I wondered.
Just in case prohibition comes back and shuts down bars,
I copied a few of the Max Brenner specialties for your vicarious enjoyment.

Urban Smores
Graham Crackers spread with melted chocolate spread,
served with marshmallows
and your own personal grill (to roast your marshmallows.)

Pots of peanut butter, toffee bananas and raspberry sauce
are on the side for dipping.

Ivory Heart
Warm chocolate cake filled with a double layer of melted
pure white chocolate and chocolate cream.
Fresh strawberries
with sides of chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream,

Topped with chocolate fondue.

Chocolate Pizza
Warm, thin pastry
topped with melted chocolate chunks,
melted marshmallows and candied, crushed hazelnuts.
Peanut butter, toffee bananas and chocolate sauce.

They had chocolate soup, chocolate French fry sauce,
chocolate salad dressing . . . cookies, brownies, malts . . .
there was a gift shop featuring cocoa butter lotions,
chocolate scented candles,
and boxes you fill yourself from a variety of chocolates.

And let me tell you why the bald guy started this store:
His girlfriend had to have a piece of chocolate before bed,
or she had bad dreams.

"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change."

My name is Oma and I am a Chocoholic.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Post Card: Baldwin's Book Barn

Baldwin's Book Barn, West Chester, PA

A five story barn built in 1822 sits on a winding road about thirty minutes from downtown Philadelphia.

There are twists and turns, and little hidden rooms,
all filled with books.

I sat in this hallway for a while before I climbed a staircase (that was more like a ladder) to get to the next level. A cat lounged on a braided rug, by a pot-belly stove in the front room.
What a heavenly place to live!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Post Card: The Big Apple

Tender Buttons is a store selling nothing but ribbons and buttons.

It's on 62nd Street very close to Bloomingdales.

The Mysterious Bookshop is a store selling nothing but mysteries.

Located in TriBeCa, with a staff that knows every book. I asked for mysteries that take place in NYC, and I immediately had fifty to choose from.

Books of Wonder is a bookstore that sells nothing but children's books.

It is in Greenwich Village, and was the inspiration for Meg Ryan's bookstore in You've Got Mail. I've spent many afternoons there browsing, while listening to the storyteller entertain the kids. It's a great place to hang out, and you can even buy treats at the cafe.

The Cupcake Cafe sells nothing but cupcakes!

Is this a great city, or what?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Postcard: New York City

♫ I wanna be a part of it,
New York, New York. ♫

First Stop: Bloomingdales.

I got a makeover at the Chanel Counter. The salesgirls ooh-ed and ahh-ed. They assured me I looked spectacular and suggested I buy $400 worth of products so I could recreate my new look at home. Then I strolled down the aisle to the Lancome Counter, and looked at their eyeshadows. "Your eyes could really pop with that color," the Lancome lady said. "Do you ever wear makeup?"

Second Stop: Dylan's Candy Bar

Sweets keep me sweet.

Third Stop: Fishs Eddy

Vintage china, linens, glassware and silverware are spilling off the shelves of this darling store in the Flatiron District near Madison Square Park in Chelsea.

A salesperson told me I couldn't take pictures in the store . . .

. . .so appreciate these!

My favorites dishes are these plates with houseplans as the design.

Dinner Stop: Carnegie Deli

Huge, but expensive, Reuben sandwichs. What makes it worth it is the plate of half-dill pickles.
Pucker up!

Bedtime Stop: Park Central Hotel

Less than a block from our deli, right across the street from Carnegie Hall,
is our favorite NYC hotel. It's often a great bargain.
This week we paid just $153 a night, and that included parking!
What a dreamy place to sleep.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Be Mine

Dee and Marty, December 2008

Forty years ago today Dee officially became my Valentine.
This is our poem.

Ich bin dein,
Du bist mein.
Das muß du gewiß sein.
Du bist beschloßen im meinen Herzen,

Verloren ist daß Schlußellein.
Du muß immer drinnen sein.

Loosely translated:
I am yours,
You are mine.
You must know it now.
You are locked inside my heart
And the little key is lost.
You must stay inside forever.

I hab dich immer noch ganz Lieb!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Postcard: Yardley, PA

My Heroes.

In the summer they feed the ducks here, in the winter they ice skate. The gray building on the pond is an old library. They have foxes and deer in the woods behind their house, and a quaint downtown settled by William Penn. It's small-town America, but only an hour from New York City, and 45 minutes from the King of Prussia Mall. I might stay.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


We're on the road again, heading to see our Phillies.

I'll send you a postcard!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Joyful Reading

Photo by Edouard Boubat

"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?--every, every minute?"
---Emily in Our Town, by Thornton Wilder

I just finished a book about joy. "We are all sculptors, authors, and composers. Our lives, quite simply, are our most precious projects. And a life of joy--if we want it--is ours to cultivate and cherish . . . to discover and design." The premise is that Happiness is a Choice. In order to be happy, you must make it the priority in your life.

Jacqueline Kelm is the author. One of her many great suggestions: Answer the daily question What one thing can I do today, no matter how small, to increase my joy? I really liked the answers some people gave:
  1. Take my children as they are and enjoy them.
  2. Pull non-essential items off my to-do list.
  3. Set up two lawn chairs in the driveway and wait for someone to walk by.
  4. List what I'm grateful for right now: hand lotion, nice soap, a heating pad.
  5. Pack the book bags before breakfast so I can eat and chat with the kids.
  6. Sincerely compliment my husband on one of his great qualities.
  7. Don't start my conversations with, "My life is so crazy."
  8. Reflect on the blessings of a Monday morning.
  9. Listen to my favorite CD.
  10. Look through a photo album.
This book is easy to pick up and put down, perfect to keep in the car or read on an airplane, or take to the beauty shop. It doesn't take a lot of concentration and you don't need to keep track of where you were; the ideas are bite size, but nourishing. It reminded me that I'm writing my own story and I'm in control of the main character.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Semester Abroad Details

Dee and I met in Salzburg, Austria in 1969. I lived in the Steinlechner Hotel which served as our headquarters. Three professors and their families came with us from BYU, and rented homes close by. A graduate student and his new wife lived in the hotel as chaperones. Students had come to study music at the Mozarteum: others had classes at the University of Salzburg. Professors from Salzburg came to the hotel and held classes (auf deutsch) on language, culture, literature, architecture and religion. Twice a week we had lectures on the Reformation. They gave us a background for the politics and history that influenced Europe, and the many cathedrals and religious art we would see.

The whole 6 months, including tuition, travel expenses, room and board cost $2,000! We arrived and spent four days in Paris first. Tours to Munich ($32,) Budapest ($64,) Prague, Berlin, Vienna and Innsbruck happened on weekends plus we explored Italy for two weeks at Easter. Our end-tour was three weeks in Germany, Belgium, and Holland with five days in London before we flew home.

I had saved $1,000 over two summers for this experience, and my parents contributed the other half.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Able to Leap Tall Buildings

Two Heroes and a Red-Headed Buddy, 2009

"Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive.
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane. . .
it's Superman!"

The best Heroes always fly. I saw a couple of mine do just that the other day. Sliding down the stairs, skimming the surface of the garage floor, in one motion they swooped low for their scooters and sailed down the street. These guys knew where they were going.

Micah, 1979

Thirty years ago I had a heart-to-heart with their dad, when he was five. We chatted about his exploits and relationships, and then I asked, "Well, Micah, do you have any problems?" "Yes," he reported. "I can't fly." It was a complication, I could see, and I didn't have a solution for him. Eventually he found ways to soar anyway, but I've never forgotten the conversation. I think we all want to fly.

Recently I read an article by Donald L. Staheli that said, "Take responsibility for what you want to become." He posed some questions that made me think:

"Is the road you are now traveling,
and the present conduct of your life,
leading you to achieve your full God-given potential?"

"If you were to make no changes in the present course of your life,
would you be happy with who you are and what you have become five years from now?"

Time to get out my compass and see if I'm heading where I want to go.

SuperOma 2003

After all, I want to fly!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Creative Blogger

Some of my sources in hiding, 2007

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."
---Albert Einstein

Creative is a term I associate with crafts. I've always reserved it for people who actually produce a work of art you could hang on a wall, or tell your kids not to touch. My craft is with words. I write because I can't help it. It's like talking but it doesn't bother anybody. All those great ideas I've collected in my head all these years, from zillions of sources, can tumble off my fingers, be rearranged and organized onto a page, becoming a collage of my thoughts.

Lately I've realized writing is my art form. I've read that creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes, and art is knowing which ones to keep. The Blogosphere is a friendly place to make a mistake, toss it, practice, and finally polish a work of art. It's where I come for my daily creative writing class.

I was delighted when Sher at Sher-ing Time honored me with the Kreative Blogger Award. Sher has been reading my writing since we wrote hysterical notes to each other in Junior High. (She's one of those creative types whose designs actually do hang on walls. I marvel at her stitches, and she laughs at my puns.)

Now I have something to hang on my blog wall!

Receiving this award is like taking the $5,000 bucks from Clinton and Stacy: you have to accept a bunch of rules. Sadly, in this case you don't get a credit card--but you still look hip in the end. New fans, a certain cachet, a sporty swagger in your punctuation . . . it's all in the future of the Kreativ Blogger. I accept the challenge!

Here are my seven nominees:
  1. Scenes From the Wild. Michelle has fabulous photography.
  2. Purple Diva's Diary. Very, very cool. My daughter-in-law Stie claims she is Carolyn's triplet sister.
  3. Grandma's Stitches. Olive's granddaughter is my old/new friend. She writes with authority about recording your past.
  4. Bye Bye, Pie. Visiting June's blog is like seeing the sunshine after a week of haze.
  5. My Life on the East Coast. Rae is chic, bubbly and genuine.
  6. A Little Sussy. Nicole is a creative journalist and brilliant photographer.
  7. This Life is Worth Living. Creative ideas for teaching kids that kindle my imagination.
So for all you lucky nominees, here are The Rules:

1. Copy the award to your site.
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers.
4. Link to those sites on your blog.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate.

I'm honored to be a legitimate Kreative Blogger and excited to suggest these new blogs for your everyday routine. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Paris Hilton

Sher and me, Paris, 1969

OK, so it wasn't the Hilton. But it was Paris.

Forty years ago today this was where I stayed. It was my first night in Europe, and I was a little freaked out. Built in 1900 as a train station, the hotel was huge: it took ten minutes to walk from our room to the lobby. Automatic light switches left the long halls dark just seconds after I turned a corner, and the interior decorating came out of The Third Man. The bed creaked and featured a chaise lounge type mattress, with three sections. Scared of bedbugs and spiders (I didn't actually see any) I was afraid to stretch my legs down too far under the covers, and I slept off my jet-lag in the fetal position. Years later we visited the hotel, which is now the Musee d'Orsay. It's better as an art museum.

Europe with the Kids '94 Scrapbook

The Hotel du Palais really did have bugs. Situated on the River Seine overlooking the bookstalls, it seemed like a fantastic deal. I had written ahead and reserved a room with private bath to accommodate four kids and two adults for $104 per night--total! (This was 1994. I checked tonight and it's now $34 a person to stay there.)

We hauled our suitcases up six flights to a large room furnished with two double beds and two singles. The bathroom was enormous; two sinks, a shower and a separate tub, plus a long counter. Such space is unheard of in a Paris budget hotel. Dee put a backpack and his coat in the giant walk-in closet and we left our bags to go out and explore the sights.

That night Marta climbed into her bed and noticed tiny little black specks on her sheet. After a minute she realized they were moving! Hundreds of minuscule ants lived in her bed! After a thorough search we were sure they were confined to that little nook, so Marta climbed in with her sisters and the lights went out. Within a minute our imaginations had the rest of us twitching and itching.

The lights went back on and I went into the closet to find the Uno cards to relax with. WHEW!! IT REEKED! Something had to be dead in there! I slammed the door and Pete opened the window to get rid of the stench. We sat staring at each other in horror. This was not the kind of hotel with 24-hour service and a concierge. We phoned downstairs and woke the desk-clerk, (who didn't speak a word of English) to get advice. He yelled a little and hung up. The situation boiled down to this: If we left, we'd have to pack everything and walk down to a deserted Paris street in the middle of the night, in the rain, with no place else to go. Or we could buck up. Dee suggested we just make the best of it, and promptly went to sleep. (I might mention here that Dee doesn't have a sense of smell. Not only did he miss out on the closet odor of death, he carried it around with him on his jacket for the rest of the trip.)

Heidi and Amy dealt the Uno cards and the game started. Rain splashed on the windowsill and mysterious cigarette smoke wafted into the room. Suddenly there were voices right outside our open 6th floor window! Three men in a little swinging box peered inside, shined bright spotlights in our eyes, and spoke to us in French! We were horrified! I called downstairs again and the sleepy clerk explained the situation loudly in his mother-tongue. I hung up. In a few minutes our visitors floated away, and we sat spooked, with our shoes on, pretending we were camping in the woods (with ants, dead animals, and drunks) until the sun came up.

Later we learned from the English-speaking day clerk that our building had been chosen for it's regular twenty-year inspection. The workmen do it at night so the ladders and equipment don't clog the narrow sidewalks below in the bustle of daylight. He assured us the situation would only last a few more nights. Our reply: "Le train part 'a quelle heure?" (When does the train leave?)

Paris is one of our favorite cities so we didn't give up just because of a few unnerving experiences. We've stayed in some of the ritziest hotels, some cheaper but still charming hotels, and some appalling hotels. I'll skip the appalling ones, but I've suggested some memorable places here. (The prices vary with the seasons, and go up every year. I'm giving the price each of their websites listed tonight, Feb 1, 2009.) The starred hotels are our favorites, where we stay time after time and are never disappointed.
  1. Four Seasons George V ($939.75 a night. We paid a bundle in 1982, but not this much!)
  2. Hotel de Crillon ($700.00 We paid about $300 in 1983, when we were in our heyday. They almost didn't let us in because we wheeled our own carry-on suitcases and wore denim jackets. We had to show them our confirmation slip, since we looked so unlike their normal posh guests.)
  3. *Hotel Saint-Louis on the l'Iles de St Louis. Great location by Notre Dame, tiny room. ($178) We've stayed there a few times recently for about $150.
  4. *Hotel Mansart right by the Place Vendome, and the Opera. Huge room. ($212.)
  5. *Brighton Hotel on the Rue de Rivoli, just up the street from the Ritz and the Crillon. Same location, just smaller and cheaper. ($241.)
Hotel Brighton entrance, 2008

Brighton Hotel Double Room
$168 Oct 2008

Brighton Hotel Bathroom, Oct. 2008

View out the side window of Brighton Hotel at dawn.

Our room from the outside.

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware."
---Martin Buber

Whether you're going back to school, emptying your nest, or heading off on vacation to the Paris, Hilton, expect some dark paths, stinky nights and even a few pests. When a spotlight illuminates your circumstances view it from a different perspective. Look for the gleam of experience and the dawn of opportunity. After all, isn't that why you're on this trip?

Think about some destinations in life that you've arrived at unexpectedly.
What did you learn?