Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ain't Misbehavin'

Mack and Chase, 2006

"I don't say we ought to misbehave, but we should look as if we could."
—Oscar Wilde

Monday, June 29, 2009


Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

"We go to art museums, longing for a glimpse of the world through someone else’s eyes. The images we see of starry skies and fields of flowers are not valuable because they are truth. The yearning to see them is based . . . on the desire to learn a different way of looking at the world. Memoirs provide the same benefit." ---Memory Writers Network

Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh

My mind is like a DVD player. I can slide in a memory and be entertained for hours by the colors, the fashions, the songs, the scenery . . . I'm never bored. I remember details: like the orange and red floral pattern on my parent's brown bedroom drapes. Or the sandpapery bottom of the swimming pool the first day of summer, before I'd developed any callouses. I can remember the last names of all seven Lindas in my 7th grade science class. I can even remember things that aren't memories. Like prom. (I was hiding out in my girlfriend's car watching Goldfinger at the drive-in, pretending I didn't care.) But I can still picture the bouffant hairdos the luckier girls wore.

Sometimes when I write these memories, I'm afraid someone else will remember it differently and call the history police. What if one of the Lindas reads my blog and remembers there were really eight Lindas in Mr. Stucki's class? Will I have to publicly retract my statement? Is it libel? Will I be sued? Will my work ever be trusted again?

The great thing about writing a Memoir is that it is, by definition, a biographical account according to your own memory. Nobody can second guess you. If you recall hearing about Kennedy's death while you were eating breakfast, it doesn't matter that it didn't happen until after lunch. Maybe you got up late or maybe you were eating an omelet at 2:00 in the afternoon. It doesn't matter because this is your recollection. It's OK to record an event the way you remember it. Don't second guess yourself, or postpone writing your memoirs until you check all the facts. Get those important memories down, in a way that others can catch glimpses of life in a different light. Your impressions will help both you and your readers see the big picture.

Bonni Goldberg said, "Memory is an aspect of imagination. For writing, memory is one of your most important tools. A phrase from the lyric of a song, a poetic phrase in a book, a fragment of a story, an object from the past is enough to spark the creative, intuitive mind . . . Especially rich are incidents and images stored away that you aren't sure ever actually occurred . . ."

Remember that!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Between the Covers

Don't call me unsophisticated or naive.
I've spent plenty of time between the covers!

I mean books, of course. "What we become depends on what we read after all the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books," said Thomas Carlyle.

Over the past couple of weeks, three books have reached into my heart and grabbed it, filling it with empathy, respect and charity. They have wrenched my mind and given it much to wrestle with, anguish over, and ultimately understand better. They are very different but all three deal with the treatment of the Jews during World War II, and how people dealt with the collective and personal guilt of what happened. The stories are all so personal and some of the characters became heroes to me.

  1. The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink
  2. Defiance: The Bielski Partisans by Nechama Tec
  3. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosenay

The situations in each book are true, but Defiance is true to the last detail, with descendants who talk about it. That movie is fascinating, but violent with war scenes.

The Reader is provocative. It has several descriptive, but tender, love scenes at the first of the book. You don't have to read every word to get the important story line. Two thirds of the book takes place after the love affair is over. (The movie follows the book almost word for word, but the loves scenes are pretty vivid during the first half hour. If that is not your cup of cocoa, you might enjoy the book more, or use your ff remote button.)

Sarah's Key would be a great book-club selection, and even has discussion questions at the end. It's about 4,000 Jewish children who were rounded up in Paris by French police, and separated from their parents in 1942. I was unfamiliar with this story from history, and it's poignant, heart-breaking and sweet. I love the way it was written—back and forth between two characters in 1942 and 2002.

I can't stop thinking about any of these books. They have touched me profoundly.

Reading has shown me how much more there is to learn; books have opened a floodgate of curiosity. I have a Hero with Asperger syndrome so I've read lots of books on that subject. Family members have experienced infertility and in-vitro conceptions, so I read more books.

A son and his wife are re-using, pre-cycling, re-cycling, so I'm reading about saving the earth, going green. I want to understand loved ones who deal with bi-polar conditions, addictions, loss of faith, grief, gout, cesarean sections and hypno-birth, twins, gifted kids . . . so I read. I want to be familiar with my kid's hobbies and careers, so I check out books on biking, hiking, camping, dutch ovens, soccer, home school; over the years I've read The Mikado, Gymnastic Giants, Mormon Nannies in the Big Apple, law schools across the country, about health care, sprinkling systems and boating, all to keep up with Heroic interests. I want to be interested and interesting.

As I drag myself out of a bookstore my thought is always, "So much to learn, so little time." I am exhilarated by all there is to learn, about so many subjects. One interest leads to another, and so it goes, until I'm off becoming an expert on some tangent that's entertaining and new.

Like the pregnant young woman of pioneer vintage we're studying right now. When her husband left to settle some land 250 miles away in a wilderness in Nevada, she stayed in St. George, UT until she had her baby. She then traveled in a wagon train with a two-year-old and a week-old baby for two weeks until she arrived at her newly constructed dug-out/tent mansion and started to build a life from scratch. I'm already searching for diaries and journals describing this kind of life. I remember The Giant Joshua and These is my Words. Any other suggestions?

My heart and mind are expanded and I become more than I was when I didn't understand these subjects. And they could be any subjects.

Dallin Oaks said,
"There are few things more fulfilling and fun than learning something new. Great happiness and satisfaction come from this. An education is not limited to formal study. Lifelong learning can increase our ability to appreciate and relish the workings and beauty of the world around us. This kind of learning goes well beyond books and a selective use of new technology. It includes artistic endeavors, experiences with people and places. We should expand ourselves and enjoy the journey. The ultimate goal of an education is to make us better people, better spouses, better parents."

Make a random list of subjects you'd like to know more about and put it on your bulletin board. Choose a few for your individual curriculum and go get a couple of books. Or use Google or Wikipedia. Study it for as long as you want—make it your major, your minor or a requirement. And you can change your major regularly.

I design courses for myself all the time. In fact, I took one while staying at Gabi's one week. After hours, in the guest-room, I spent every night reading my new camera's instruction book cover-to-cover, (Kinko's copied it in a bigger print and spiral bound it so I could actually see the words.) I tried out all the various settings and modes, taking pictures of my feet (hey, they were handy) and the squares on my quilt. And I learned to use my camera frontwards and backwards! It was as good as taking a class right in my own bed.

Have you started a personal
Home School, Summer School, or Life-Long Learning Class?
What are you studying between the covers?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ghost Hunt in Lund, Nevada

This is where we're going today.
We're meeting friends in Lund, a tiny town in western Nevada.

In 1991, Stephen King drove along US 50 as part of a cross country trip. He stopped at Ruth, a ghost town near Ely. Studying the abandoned city, King fantasized about the fate of the last residents. King then heard a local legend about how the ghosts of Chinese miners, who died while trapped in a cave-in, can be seen crossing Highway 50 to haunt the city of Ruth. King merged these details into his own story, including references to The Loneliest Road in America, which became the novel Desperation.

We're driving Highway 50 and searching for ghosts is our objective, too. Dee is a professional ghost-hunter. He hunts for skeletons in closets and in libraries, on microfilm, in archives, in letters and in people's memories. Usually he does enough homework before a project even starts to know where to start digging. On the way to our first excavation he introduces me to the main characters in our story. His animation is palpable, and I can already tell he's haunted by them.

Dee not only hunts for ghosts, he learns to love them, and weirdly enough they love him back. We can always tell. They lead him to clues and secrets that will flesh out their story. The most important part of Dee's work is writing down the things he learns in a book for their loved ones. The ancestor will then be known, appreciated, forgiven and understood through the experiences and circumstances Dee describes. It's exhilarating to bind families through stories.

There's sometimes a family member who planned on writing the history himself, but got lost in the graveyard of old newspaper clippings, and day-timer notes. Years have passed and there's still just a jumble of jottings filling boxes instead of a book. He's no closer to sharing his information with the family than he was when he started accumulating.

Dee helps dust him off, and listens to the frustrated disappointment of the would-be ghost buster. He's extremely understanding, recognizing the desire, and the difficulty in fitting the hard work around a real life. Even doing it full-time, with 25 years of experience, and a well-developed method to his madness, Dee knows the obstacles to uncovering a life-story. But he's very familiar with the steps to producing a book that can be shared in a set amount of time. He's a starter and a finisher, and an objective historian who knows what's valuable and what's trivial.

Unlike Stephen King, who can fill in blanks with fantasy, Dee must find and verify facts in a variety of places, using a number of skills. The well-intentioned Uncle Doug doesn't have the time to dig. Reluctantly he hands over the shovel and then becomes a great asset to the investigation. With his connections, Dee gets lists of places to hunt and people to interview.

For this history, a sister has already emerged in that role, full of helpful information and anxious to make the introductions to wary, older relatives. She has caught the vision of how history will make a difference in her family: descendants will feel guidance, empathy, comfort, understanding, and love in both directions as they become acquainted with their ancestors. Relationships in families are not affected by death.

On this trip to Lund, Dee will conduct several oral interviews with folks who actually knew our current ghost in real-life. These friends from many seasons of life, create a well-rounded picture and balanced personality. The ghost is emerging and ready to get acquainted.

This is when the relationship starts: Dee and the ghost begin bonding. I've said it many times—Dee's best friends (and most enthusiastic clientele) are all dead! But they're still real. Dee's joy is introducing great-grandchildren to ancestors, giving them a key to their past.

Matthew Heiss, archivist in the LDS church history department, recently said, "Without a history, we are like people with amnesia. When we have a record of our past, we have a memory."

So we'll be watching for ghosts as we travel the Loneliest Road in America. I'm excited to track down a few and hear what they have to say!

Get acquainted with a few of your own ghosts. You know the drill: Look at pictures of your grandma, visit your mom's high school, reminisce with your sister, drive by your childhood home, write a description of your dad when you were little, re-read your childhood diary and figure out who you were talking about.

Visit your Opa's office.

There are friendly ghosts on even the loneliest stretches of life.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dad: A Good Choice

Heroes, 1983

Forty years ago I chose the father of my children.

Of course I didn't know then what I know now. I chose him because he was cute and funny and he thought I was cute and funny, too. He listened to my rambles and understood what I meant. We dreamed the same dreams and saw the world through the same lens. As far as parenting skills, I assumed he'd contribute curly hair and brown eyes . . . hey, enough for me!

I know a lot of moms who undervalue dads. We women have a superiority complex that lets us think that we do it all, all alone, all the time—and we're pretty good at moaning about it. While there are some awesome single parents (moms and dads) who have that challenge, I'm very blessed to be only half of a team. Here are some elements my other half supplied, one for each year he's been a dad. (I could have listed zillions more.)

Their dad did this with our kids:
  1. Made bird feeders during Morning Friends (5-7 a.m. activity time for human early-birds.)
  2. Constructed a cardboard model of a cathedral.
  3. Taught coin collecting, stamp collecting, anything collecting.
  4. Made real oatmeal for breakfast every day, whether they liked it or not.
  5. Found out what they wanted to do, and encouraged them to do it.
  6. Surrounded them with books; always went to parent teacher conferences.
  7. Made grilled cheese for lunch every Sunday.
  8. Held Wunsch Conzerts (classical music turned up full blast Sunday mornings.)
  9. Became a builder so they could have a house.
  10. Tossed jelly bean prizes for Scripture Chases on Family Night.
  11. Featured them in hundreds of photos.
  12. Sold his photo equipment to buy them stuff.
  13. Taught them it was fun to clean the garage, water the lawn, and shovel the snow.
  14. Took them to a potato chip factory,
  15. A cheese factory,
  16. The train yards,
  17. A train museum, gun museum, army museum, every museum.
  18. Picked them up from school when they were sick.
  19. Paid for broken arms, collar bones, surgeries and fillings.
  20. Attended their dance recitals, choir concerts, plays, games and meets.
  21. Sold his collections to pay for dance, piano, gymnastics, violin and clarinet lessons.
  22. Didn't burden them with adult worries.
  23. Gave them each a year abroad.
  24. Read all the historical markers on the side of the road.
  25. Emptied the dishwasher, ironed his shirts, did the laundry and let them see.
  26. Drove a no-frills car so they could have one.
  27. Dried their shoes, polished their shoes, trimmed their toenails, treated their athlete's foot.
  28. Took them to the fish hatchery so they'd be sure to catch something.
  29. With asthmatic lungs, ran the field as a soccer coach,
  30. And little league coach; took them tobogganing, golfing, and shooting.
  31. Lived when he could have died a few times.
  32. Was the school's first room-father,
  33. The troop's first den-father,
  34. Went to scout camps, winter camps,
  35. Girls camps.
  36. Let them rebuild a pioneer cabin.
  37. Made them the center of his life.
  38. Loved their mother.
I am in awe of good fathers. It's interesting: I wanted to find a good quote to use in this post yet most of the ones I found were condescending or sarcastic. Isn't that sad? Many women who have been disappointed by their own fathers or husbands assign the blame to men in general and seem to spread the word via men-bashing. This sets a low standard for boys, who then don't have much to live up to. Decent dads, who take responsibility, work to support a family physically, spiritually and emotionally, and who set an example of dependability, contribute goodness to the world.

I chose wisely.

Dee and Marta at the zoo

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Post Card: What Are Moms For?

I've been reminded of my former life this week.
I think it's time for a summer re-run in appreciation of moms.

(I'll be back soon!)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Post Card: Just Joshing Around

Who wouldn't love this boy?

I may be gone, but he's not forgotten.
See why here.

(And have a piece of cake in his honor.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Post Card: Oma Stories

We're off to visit my wild child.
The one who streaked across a golf course.
The guy who shot out the sheriff's window.

His kids love my stories and I love telling on their dad.
This is one of their favorites.

The Original Junie B.

Mom, 1931

My little granddaughters are captivated by Junie B. So they are especially thrilled to know they are related to her. In fact, she's my mom! Now, I know the books the girls read now weren't really written about my mom, because my mom's stories are even funnier, and the best thing is they're real, not pretend. (You'll agree when somebody finally gets them written.)

Today I'm re-publishing a little introduction bio to the original Junie B. in honor of her birthday.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Looking for Meaning

He's reading my blog, trying to find the message.

I like writers who don't blatantly tell me what they're trying to say; I want them to lead me to it sideways, and let me discover it on my own. It's more meaningful that way. So I try to be that kind of writer. But I sometimes hide my point so effectively in a forest of words that even I can't find it the next day.

Just so you know: I'm not dense—I'm deep.

Do You Have a Chance?

Dixie Chicks

Every month while my head is laying back in the shampoo bowl, my hair stylist talks about her band. Memory (it's her real name) is a song-writer and lead guitar player, and she has another guy on guitar who's also a sound man. A girl plays the bass and they've got a fabulous drummer.

They're good enough to have gigs at local clubs and bars every weekend. But she's been anticipating their big chance. Getting out of SLC to play in cities like Reno, Boise and Jackson Hole would put them in a whole new league. They just needed a chance.

Today, I heard the news. They've got their chance! A new agent wants to sign them for a 2-month tour of the northwest. But there's a problem Memory hadn't counted on. None of her band members want to take a chance. They're happy to play around at playing, hang out in familiar places, and not seek out the stress and hard work associated with taking a chance.

"I guess they don't want to become what they've always said they wanted to be," said my frustrated stylist.

What would you take a chance on? What kind of life would you like to have? Do you crave riches, fame, a new job, peace of mind, a better marriage? A happy home? A svelte figure? Look at a person whose life you envy. Are you willing to do what they've done to have that kind of life?

A couple of weeks ago I went to see Yanni . Because my daughter-in-law is a famous blogger in St. Louis she got free tickets if she'd review his concert on her blog. Afterward, eight of us were invited backstage to meet the singers. We casually chatted . . . in fact Stie was casually chatted up by a long-haired smitten musician (who would have happily given her her big chance.)

One of the girls (Chloe) said how she wished they'd been able to spend a few hours touring St. Louis, but they'd arrived on the bus that morning and rehearsed all day before the show. They were leaving for Daton, Ohio as soon as our interview ended. In fact someone came and told them they were already loading the bus, where they'd sleep all night before another one-night stand.

After the first 4 weeks of their tour, they'd each gone home for a weekend, and then joined up again for the 2nd stage (6 weeks) of sleeping on the bus. There would be another break, and then 4 more weeks on the road. Chloe said they'd had two days off in New York City and they'd all loved playing tourists instead of violins.

Don't you picture the rich and famous living a dreamier life? Years of practice, huge talent and probably some good luck got them their dream jobs: performing all over the world, selling CDs, rewarded by thunderous applause every night, cheers, standing ovations, bouquets and perks.

But the day-to-day reality is eating take-out and sleeping on a bus, with 40 other people, then arriving in some unfamiliar city at 5:am, hauling your stuff into a shared hotel room for a nap and a shower, and then leaving, all without discovering the cool restaurants, the local craft shops, or even walking around town.

I'm more like Memory's band. Although it sounds awesome to have a concert hall filled with fans singing songs you wrote and made famous, I wouldn't want to sacrifice my way of life to get it, even if I got the chance.

It's easy to look at a beautiful, athletic, fit woman and wish I could be her. But it's way hard to change my habits and actually get off the couch and do the work she's done to achieve that goal. Usually the life we want is within reach if we put in the hard work and effort necessary.

What kind of life would you like? What changes would you have to make? What would you have to sacrifice? Is it worth it? The valuable things in life usually are. Take a chance!

Friday, June 12, 2009

All the News

Paris Cafe September 2008

Thomas Jefferson wrote,
"...were it left to me to decide whether we should have
a government without newspapers,
or newspapers without a government,
I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

I've been researching and writing about life in Germany just before, during and immediately after World War II. Hitler Youth programs, compulsory clubs for all children over age ten (similar to the Boy Scouts) offered adventure and friendship, but were used to brainwash the kids. Curriculum in the schools was formulated by the Nazis for indoctrination. Newspapers printed propaganda and lies for over twelve years.

When the war ended, General Dwight D. Eisenhower understood that the German people needed to be reeducated and learn the virtues of freedom. To do so, he reinstated the civil liberties that Hitler had taken away. For democracy to work, freedom of speech was ultimate. Eisenhower called German radio and newspaper reporters to a meeting and told them that he wanted a free press. This meant they could—and should—report on all aspects of life in Germany, even if it meant criticizing the government and the occupation forces.

One of the most important functions of a newspaper -- a crucial function in a democracy -- is to provide citizens with information on government and politics. This function was specifically protected with the First Amendment which prohibits Congress from "abridging the freedom . . . of the press."

I love reading the newspaper, but lately I'm frustrated by the lack of news. Don Gale, a local journalist, recently wrote this:

"What happened to journalism? The quantity and quality of journalism have diminished. Journalism—that indispensable, reliable, edited form of information that provides a record of events for community, nation and world.

"Consultants now tell newspapers and broadcasters how to run their businesses. Advice is often based on studies of what sells (murder, fire, accidents.) Profit becomes more important than news. National obsession with celebrities and sports distorts the definition of journalism, and stories about celebrities and athletic events appear on front pages. Newspapers print more sports trivia than local news. On television, celebrity news and reality shows replace documentaries and in depth journalism. Resources are channeled to sports and weather.

"Journalism is in trouble when entertainers such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly call their products news and no one complains. Only uninformed listeners consider the rantings of Hannity or the comedy of Jon Stewart news.

"Going to the Internet for news is like going to the fast-food outlet for nutrition. Fast food is satisfying but it isn't a balanced diet. Relying on the Internet for news leads to mental obesity and clogged thought arteries. One vital role of journalism is to present not only information that interests consumers, but also information good citizens need to make informed decisions. The Internet is a powerful tool for business and a great resource for curious minds. But it is not journalism."

Excerpts of editorial by Don Gale
Deseret Morning News, May 2, 2009

Newspapers have been around a long time. Daily handwritten news sheets were posted in the Roman Forum in 59 BC. The first newspaper in the Americas described an earthquake in Guatemala and was printed in Mexico in 1541. A reason we recognize so many great quotes and stories by Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain is because they all wrote for newspapers.

"The Internet transmits misinformation very efficiently, but there are no gatekeepers," wrote Neal B. Freeman. "We need gatekeepers." We need good journalism.

How do you get your news?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Time Management

I am an organized procrastinator. My Book is where I stash everything I need/ want to keep track of: travel plans, holiday menus, family birthdays, housecleaning chores, church assignments, as well as writing projects. I'm free of sticky notes tucked in my purse, or picky details tumbling around in my head. It's all kept in the Book.

I select an empty-looking day on the calendar and jot down a task, blocking out enough time to accomplish it. When I know it's on the schedule, I don't think about it again until it pops up on my "to do" list. I can put it off and still know it will get done.

Here are some entries on my summer pages for an upcoming Oma story.

  1. Set up folder, determine objective, prepare outline.
  2. Write 1st draft of story.
  3. Find fun ghostly words; rewrite with better vocab.
  4. Search for font, decide size.
  5. Divide story into short sections for pages using correct font size.
  6. Decide and list what images would best illustrate each page.
  7. Photo shoot/ find images.
  8. Layout book with images.
  9. Create cover and extra pages.
  10. Edit/Proofread. Make changes. Burn Disk.
  11. Take disk to printers.
  12. Send books.
This list looks overwhelming to me. But when I turn to Wednesday morning and see that I've already blocked out 2 hours to "search for a font," I look forward to it. Eventually I finish whatever I've started without a lot of stress.

September 30th I'll read, "Find Halloween costumes in box under bed, Dee's side. Decide on having a party." On Thanksgiving I'll see a note I made last January that says, "Get Christmas decor: 4 boxes, 3 plastic bags in storage garage." This week I was reminded to plan for Father's Day, and next Thursday I've got an entry that says, "Oma tent activities in file under reunion." When I finish with the file and put it away, I'll quickly write on next year's calendar where to find it.

A kitchen timer helps me break up tasks and get them done. I used this little trick when I was first married. Pretending my mom had called saying she was coming to visit unexpectedly at 9:30 am, I charged through my housecleaning and had everything pristine early in the morning. I'm much more efficient when I set a deadline. These days I use the timer to motivate or terminate projects; when it dings, I give myself two minutes to wrap things up.

Now, I'll confess something: I started this post on April 10, 2008, but I never finished it. I found it last night lost in my drafts. I set my timer for 30 minutes at 11:15 pm, and it's now the next day at 2:40 am. The timer has gone off numerous annoying times, and I finally shut if off. And to top it off, I'm not sure I even like what I've written. But it's past my bedtime. Somehow time always manages to run away with me!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cousins Club Newsletters

Extra! Extra!
Read all about it!

I know, I know. You've read it all before. These Newsworthy events are my obsession! But they make me feel like a valuable link in a chain and I can't help getting repetitive about it. Other grandmas bake pies, take hikes or make quilts. I write stories.

The grands are far-flung in five states, and we don't see each other often enough, so one of the roles I've assigned myself as Oma is to help them feel part of a large, loving, supportive family. My Cousin's Club Newsletter has several objectives tucked into just a few pages. I'm hoping the kids sub-consciously soak in much more than just words.

For instance: The title helps the kids remember they're part of a unique group; the repetition of the word Hero is to remind them of a high family standard. The pledge was contributed by a grandson: I hope he feels validated when he sees it even if he doesn't recall why. I include a story about Oma and Opa, our childhood, or a mention of traditions passed from generations before. Sometimes I tell embarrassing stories about their parents, or our parents. How else will they get these nuggets if I don't pass them on? (That's the link part.)

Since the kids don't see each other regularly, and because they are all changing so quickly, I always scan in current photos of each one. Then I write some little detail so they'll stay familiar with their cousins, and see that they have interests in common. I think they probably like seeing themselves in print, too. The last newsletter had a questionnaire that asked questions like "What's your favorite book?" so this time I used their answers.

I give them a reason to contact Dee and I. I want them to feel a personal connection with us, not just a relationship that's handled by their parents. In this case I'm offering money. (Whatever it takes . . .)

There's always a small contribution to the moms—my long-distance version of baby-sitting. I suggest a craft or activity that can be done without too much assistance, and the pages can all be colored. Hopefully the reading chart will be incentive to sit quietly with a book for 30 minutes and allow mom a blissful, leisurely afternoon. (Moms: have you noticed all the free time you have lately?)

Sometimes I've printed the newsletters in color but they're expensive that way and it limits me to one per family. When I print them in black and white it's cheap enough to send one to each kid which I hope eliminates arguments. And I include treats in the package to add an extra kick to the grand event.

A newsletter template from Pages should make the first page simple for me, but I have to re-learn how to use it each time, so it still takes me all day. No matter. The other pages start out blank and I just drag the images on and type in a text box. Publishing this little tabloid has taught me a lot about the computer. Grade-school kids are the perfect group to practice my skills on because they haven't learned to judge, although I'm sure several of them could do a better job than I do.

Whatever we're good at, we can be a link in the long vertical chain from one generation to another, as well as a horizontal link between siblings and cousins. Our talents and interests can all be used to strengthen family ties.

So, collect recipes; travel to family historic sites; celebrate an ancestor's birthday; teach your kids a traditional skill; record your mom singing; watch a movie about your ancestral homeland; ask your dad what he wanted to be; present a nephew with your old baseball cards; share your stories, blog . . . link up.

Friday, June 5, 2009

In a Blog Fog

Art by Vicky Enright

I have a multiple-personality disorder, and we are having an identity crisis. What's the point of our blog? My different selves have different answers.
  1. Smarty Marty thinks my wisdom is necessary to hoards of readers.
  2. Charty Marty thinks it's all about site-meters and comments.
  3. Party Marty thinks writing a post for three hours each night is recreation.
  4. Half-hearty Marty thinks everybody knows my posts are lame and I only have five or six readers anyway, and blogging is on it's way out, and I'm a narcissistic loser.
  5. Arty Marty thinks creating a sidebar is an art form.
  6. Fool-hardy Marty thinks everyone yearns to share my form of therapy.
  7. Imparty Marty is sure my posterity will cherish my memoirs.
  8. Sweethearty Marty is offering mankind snippets of delight.
  9. Farty Marty knows I'm full of it.
  10. I have run short of personalities.
We have these recurrent bouts of paranoid soul-searching. After the spasm runs its course we usually pick up where we left off and continue on our way without even tweaking our behavior. But this time we want your feedback.

  • What kind of blogs do you like to read? (Infomercial, daily diary, advice, photography, pour-your-heart-out, sarcastic, rants, upbeat . . .)
  • Do you go back and read comments on somebody's post after you've already commented?
  • If someone asks a question in a comment, how do you answer them? (In a follow-up comment on your blog, in a follow-up post, in an email . . .)
  • When you link to another blog, do you email that blogger to let them know?
  • If you comment on a blog, and you get no response, do you stop reading that blog?
  • How do you think of blogging? (Hobby, addiction, learning experience, waste of time . . .)
  • Do you feel funny talking about your posts in real life to a reader? Do you feel embarrassed or complimented if someone refers to what you've said?
  • If you could read your great-grandmother's experiences on a blog, would you?
  • How do you think reading blogs has helped you?
  • Do you spend more time reading blogs or writing posts?
  • Do you comment on blogs you read? Why, or why not?
All of us Marties are sitting around awaiting your thoughts!

Art from Read Anything Good Lately? by Vicky Enright

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Please Write

Art by Carl Larsson

I've always been a writer, but it took me a long time to call myself a writer. Writers seemed to be in an exclusive club, and I couldn't just crash the party and say, "Hey guys! I'm a writer, too." I didn't think the real writers would want me in their club. I might be a bad representative of the craft, and they might not want me to sully their reputation.

Anne Lamott influenced me in her fabulous book Bird by Bird:

"I encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward."

So now that I am a writer I do the writer things. I'm always working. I carry notebooks. No matter where I go, what I hear or read, or think it could become material.

Art by Jan Ver Meer

Lamott's father was a writer, and she said, "Sometimes he traveled. He could go anyplace he wanted with a sense of purpose. One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around."

It also gives you a reason to read this book!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Oma Tea Party May 2009

"Hmmm . . . so you're wearing that?"

Totally self-conscious, I fussed in front of the mirror in my dorm, primping for the Freshman Stomp. My new roommate came up behind me and said, "Do you like the way you look?" I burst out laughing. Her sly sense of humor already seemed familiar.

It had taken only a few hours to bond like sisters. Sher and I had been terrified we'd get assigned some dorky, dumpy girls from Timbuktu to share our apartment. Instead, we got chic, adorable coeds, just like ourselves. They had boyfriends at home (cool) but were on the lookout for new ones (cooler.) The four of us instantly united against our other two roommates who were a year older and gushed with superiority complexes, even though they had no boyfriends and were obviously in college to study. Bor-ing.

Lately I've been thinking about people who have influenced my life, and my roommates certainly did. They taught me a lot. We had lengthy discussions about dress-shields, how far was too far, if it was wierd to date a shorter guy, and how to drill boob-holes in the floor so it wouldn't hurt when someone cracked your back.

I remember deeper conversations: the hopelessness of the Viet Nam War; how to tell the difference between lust and love; whether there was one true religion; the assassination of Martin Luther King; accepting that someone you love is gay; wondering if unhappy parents should stay together for their kids. And the age-old questions: Why are we here? Where are we going? What's the point of it all?

It was my first experience as an adult on my own, discovering what I believed, and explaining it to myself. One night two of us kept talking long after the other two fell asleep, opening our souls to each other. I remember laying in the dark, staring at multi-sized holes in the ceiling tiles lit by the moon. Suddenly I realized that I did believe in God, independent of my parents. Sharing those thoughts was a true heart-to-heart experience. It made us sisters.

More than forty years later I occasionally hear a roommates' voice in my memory saying, "This bathroom REEKS!" or "Who's grandma is visiting now?" And when I look in the mirror after primping for a big night I hear, "So, do you like your hair like that?"

Fashion Show Finale 2009

Who helped you grow up?