Thursday, April 26, 2012

Life in the Motherhood

Who are all these kids and why are they calling me mom?

I used to be this woman: young, formerly cute, with a bad attitude and a mean face. I started out with great theories on raising kids. Then one day I found a 25-pound bag of sugar spread evenly on the storage room floor. The kids and their friends were ice-skating in their socks over the slippery crystals.

Chalking it up to bad outside influences, I kept them isolated from naughty neighbor children. The next thing they designed was a swimming pool. They covered the shower drain with a towel and let the water overflow onto the bathroom floor. The plan was to fill up the bathroom and swim like fish in an aquarium. The resulting flood ruined the tile, and the carpet in the next room.

Experts on child-rearing have never bothered having children. If they did, they'd know nothing works. My theories toppled like blocks in a playroom.

When the corner of the boys bedroom started attracting flies, I investigated. Hmmm ... what was the stinky, sticky liquid that had stiffened the carpet and eaten away the carpet pad ... even the floor boards were dissolving ... Could it be that animals lived in this room and had marked their spot with urine? These could NOT be my children! My children were obediently doing their extra reading at bedtime, not filling their toy box with bodily fluids!

Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your kids.

There were emotional issues, too. One kid had a conniption fit when the tub drain was released, convinced that he and all of his loved ones would be sucked down pipes and live in the sewer muck forever. He could hear the plug being released from any room in the house and broke into screams of terror. Another kid refused to take baths. He sat fully clothed on the bathroom floor and stirred the bathwater so it would sound like he was washing his sweat-stained arms.

Fears of wind, car washes, and vacuums ran rampant at our house. Two kids "rolled" their heads in a rhythmic effort to sooth themselves to sleep ... for hours every night! I sat in darkened bedrooms to scare away bad dreams, and laid in darkened doorways to rescue sleepwalkers.

My bad dreams involved taking them out in public. Mom rearranged the furniture one year for Thanksgiving. She hauled the ping-pong table upstairs to the dining room, and set it with her lovely silver and china. The meal got underway, with instructions on where to sit and thanks to great-grandma for her homemade watermelon pickles. "Everybody fold your arms. It's time for the prayer."

I scanned the room for my cute little boys while my sister searched for hers. Suddenly the decorative metal room divider lurched towards the table. As we all looked up in horror we saw four little monkeys clutching the aluminum scroll-work as it fell from it's place between the ceiling and the half-wall. In the nick of time, our husbands caught it before our sons became the centerpiece. Turkey time.

I childproofed the house but they keep getting back in.

I'm not telling these stories to brag. I just want to establish my credentials as an honest-to-goodness mom. Thirty years of on-the-job training taught me that most naughty behavior is just a stage. Happily all seven kids grew out of all conduct unbecoming, and now it's entertaining to watch them deal with their own little rascals.

But what do you do between "the baby just rolled over!" and "he's going away to college?" My dad used to say, "Just love 'em, and make them mind." So, how do you teach them to mind? What works? Time outs, grounding, incentives, threats, taking away privileges, little chats? What's fair? What if you're inconsistent? Is there a place for spanking? (If I was a young mother now I'd be turned in for child abuse for sure.)

(All illustrations here are from the darling book Jillian Jiggs, by Phoebe Gilman.)

As a parent or grandparent, you've been on the front lines and your experience, good and bad, is valuable. If you're not a parent, you were a kid. How did your parents handle tantrums, lying, bad grades, curfew, swearing, speeding tickets or whatever your vice happened to be?


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Geek Critique

I'm having a bit of Geek pique. Don't those folks have enough to do? Why are they messing around with Blogger?

I've been blogging for about six years (I can't be precise because I can't find my stats) and I know the territory. Draft, post, label—I could blog in my sleep, and often have. But tonight I walked into Blogspot and almost tripped—the furniture's been rearranged! Don't webmasters understand that we don't want new and improved? We want familiar!

And the whole Timeline thing on Facebook is a fiasco for me. So we're creating scrapbooks now? All my photo albums are neatly stacked in iPhoto where the Mac people told me to put them. Six years ago the Geeky guys didn't give me directions to Picasa—is it in Italy? Why would I be importing my photos from there??
I feel lost and confused—there's no map to this new world. 
The Geeks are freaking me out!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Missing the Magic

Marty Ann Dee
(my nom de plume)

I used to be a writer. I'd published a mediocre novel and I was working on a good one—a spy novel set in Vienna in 1933, between the World Wars. Based on a true story Dee uncovered while writing a biography, we had actual letters, journals, newspaper clippings and telegrams that described a suspicious death that was never resolved.

Letters describing a possible murder.

We'd read them all, and together we'd figured out what could have happened.

Old Viennese documents

A year ago we were in Vienna, researching settings. I have two notebooks full of descriptions: cafes, streets, courtyards, foods, smells, landmarks.

Erwin Sarkoti passed secrets in this cafe.

I'd written such detailed back stories for my characters that I think about them now, and wonder how they're doing, even though they're just imaginary friends.

Clara wore dirndls like these.

Their cars, their hairstyles, their outfits, the way they took their tea, how they walked and talked—it's all neatly stored in computer folders, filed under "My Book."

In those days I wrote blog posts about writing, taught Write Stuff Workshops, and poured over books like Make a Scene, The Plot Whisperer, and Write is a Verb.

Writing isn't so much a verb for me now—it's a noun. It's a pile of papers I packed away in February—for later. Sometimes I miss my writer self.

"When you're writing, you're creating something out of nothing ...
A successful piece of writing is like doing a successful piece of magic."
—Susanna Clarke

Is there something you love doing that you've set aside?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What Was She Thinking?

We become what we think about.

Fifty years from now our faces will reveal our secrets.







What do you think about? Sheri Dew (a woman with great wisdom) wrote, "Ultimately we become what we give our hearts to. We are shaped by what we desire and seek after. Fifty years from now we shouldn't be too surprised at what we have become. Our desires are what motivate us and we become what we set our hearts on. Our face will reflect who we are."

What do you want to look like when you're old?
Think about it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Write Your Story

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 flowers 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 it's 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!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Kate Juniper Halverson

"Twenty-one grandchildren?" my friend gasped. "Can you even remember their names?" What a silly question! They are the result of my life's work. Let me explain.

One night 43 years ago I sat at a table in Salzburg, Austria surrounded by students. Someone asked someone else if they wanted kids and we all announced how many we wanted. I said "Twelve" at the same time a boy at the other end said "Twelve" and someone else said, "You two ought to get together." We did.

One of our first conversations was "working moms." It was a hot topic in the late 60's with women's lib and birth control offering opportunities to break traditional molds. I told Dee I wanted to be a professional mother, not a mom by default. That was what he wanted for his kids, too.

The whole Ann Romney flap has got me flapping. Stay-at-home-moms were often looked down on in my day. Some people assumed that since working moms did mom stuff, too, those of us who stayed home only did half the work they did. I won't go all defensive here (actually I just did, but I deleted those paragraphs) but I will say I worked full-time. My work was to raise seven well-adjusted, happy kids (we didn't make it to twelve) who would contribute goodness to the world.

I am totally satisfied with my career choice—
especially when I see the results!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Your Life Story: Create White Space

You walk into a bookstore, looking for just the right read. A cover blurb here, a dust-jacket there, an inviting display table—they catch your attention, and you thumb through some pages. Best-selling hardcovers, a rack of new paperbacks, an author you like, your book-club selection. How do you choose? Do you read a random chapter? Start at the beginning? Check the number of pages?

I pick a book based on it's white space. I'm not enticed by pages jam-packed with unrelieved words. Long, mind-numbing paragraphs invite skimming, and tiny margins scream "boring." White space suggests dialogue, characters, time to breathe and enjoy the story, or helpful sub-chapters and room to examine the facts. I like a built-in place to take a cocoa break and turn a book upside down for the night.

Real life needs some white space, too.

When I was a young mom, the modern motto was "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan . . ." implying that a woman could have it all, be it all and do it all. There was a built-in shame factor to that thinking. I assumed there was something wrong with me because I couldn't do it all; I was embarrassed by my deficiency. So I put a lot of energy into appearing to be as capable as I thought everyone else was. Eventually I was just skimming all those long, unfocused paragraphs, missing the meaning of my story. I needed some white space.

Wise editing makes a book readable. If a writer stuffed the pages with every locale, adventure, romance, or thrill she thought up, it would be an overwhelming fantasy. Even the characters would be confused by the dialogue and the plot could unravel. Enlightened authors, of books or life stories, learn to create some white space.

You're writing your life story—
take time to enjoy every chapter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Make Yourself at Home

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

The Family in America had a great article by Bryce Christensen. He wrote that the number of homeless people on our streets does not begin to reveal the scope of homelessness in America.

"For since when did the word home signify merely physical shelter, or homelessness merely the lack of shelter? The desperate people sleeping beneath sheets of cardboard above heating grates, and probing for food in dumpsters deserve sympathetic attention. But those who lack housing are not the only people who lack homes.

"For as long as people have used the word, home has signified not only shelter, but also emotional commitment, security, and belonging. Home has connoted not just a necessary roof and warm radiator, but a place sanctified by the abiding ties of wedlock, parenthood, and family obligation; a place demanding sacrifice and devotion, but promising loving care and warm acceptance.

"Their lives anchored in some place fortified by the ties of marriage and family, the great majority of Americans have—until fairly recently—been able to refer to some special place as home, and to do so with the full and rich meaning of that word. In recent decades a devastating number of Americans cannot claim that secure base of family ties that previous generations recognized as the essence of a home."
1922 Magazine Cover

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!

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Walk in the Park

I'm debuting today. Garden Park (in Daybreak) has a fabulous new website and I'm the blogmeister! I'll be posting there every Monday, trying to make you jealous that you don't live in our community, and trying to convince you that you could if you tried.

Check it out (the photos are all of my friends!) and click on blog. Calendar it, bookmark it, google-reader it—you won't want to miss a single weekly word! I'll be writing about things like moving, getting acquainted in a new neighborhood, community activities—it will be applicable to people outside Garden Park, too. In fact, suggest a topic in the comment section and I'll write about it!

To visit me in my new digs, click here:

A Walk in the Park

You're always welcome!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Marriage Should Be Fun

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

Five things my true love and I have done together lately:
  1. Discussed architecture.
  2. Taken a road trip.
  3. Chatted with grandkids.
  4. Listened to Taylor Swift.
  5. Counted our blessings.
Having fun together helps us stay in love.

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

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Intentional Motherhood

Micah, Josh, Amy and Heidi, 1978

I was an intentional mother—I knew what I wanted to have happen and I thought of ways to make it happen. Here's one of my success stories:

Twice a week I hung a sign on our front door that said Halverson Hero Happening! It was a family after-school party—because it was named, it was special. Then, I acted excited! "Hi guys! Did you remember we're having a Happening?" They were caught up by my enthusiasm.

I directed them to hang up their coats, give me their papers, etc. "Quick! We have activities planned!" First we'd go to the Treat Cafe (normal after-school snacks served by a waitress. I'd recite the menu and they'd place their orders, sitting at the counter like customers.) With the phone off the hook and a "We're busy today," sign on the door, we had time to chat.

Next we played games—naming them made all the difference.

Minute Reports—the timer was set for one minute and each kid had a turn to tell as many things as they could about their day. Someone watched the timer and someone kept track.

Story Time—
We'd sit on the floor in a circle and I'd tell an ancestor story, or one about an upcoming holiday, or a story with a moral, or a funny poem, or just a knock-knock joke. Something fun.

Homework Hop
—each kid had to hop on one foot for as long as it took to tell what their homework was.

Laundry Prize—each kid put away their laundry and would find a piece of bubble gum, or a lollipop at the bottom of their individual basket. It was a race to get back to the family room first.

Chore Challenge
—each kid drew a chore from a hat and had five minutes to do it well, and return and sit down. Then we'd all inspect each chore and decide if it passed inspection. If it did, the kid got a star on the job chart.

Talent Showoff
—each kid performed something they were supposed to practice (a piano piece, a violin solo, a gymnastics trick, a multiplication table) and we all clapped.

Free Time—
I assigned partners or trios of kids to invent an activity, which they could play together as long as they didn't bother another partnership. When the inevitable melt-down came, I'd gather the group again and they'd all report on their activity. By then the magic of the Happening had dissipated and we'd break up into homework, practicing, TV, whatever til dinner time.

Happenings met our needs. The kids wanted my full attention after school. When they got it, they behaved. I wanted their full attention after school and when I got it, I behaved. The whole afternoon went smoother. (To be totally honest, this did not work all the time. But it worked enough of the time for me to call it successful.)

The kids had to deal with peer pressure—telling friends they couldn't play was embarrassing. I had my own peer pressure: telling friends "I've reserved this time for my kids," was hard for me. But this was valuable time and I didn't want to give it away. I consolidated lessons as much as possible so we'd have a couple of un-pressured afternoons a week; sometimes I bagged lessons altogether for a season in favor of a less chaotic home life.

Motherhood was a career choice for me, not something on the side. Because I viewed it this way, I could excuse the parts I wasn't thrilled about—every career has its downsides—and concentrate my efforts where my personal talents and interests lay.

"The greatest aid to adult education is children."
—Charlie T. Jones

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Family Easter Egg Hunt

"Dear! I think you're the Easter Bunny!"

Grama Lundgren used to have an Easter Egg Hunt in her gigantic front yard for 24 grandkids. She spent hours boiling, dying and hiding a dozen dozens of eggs; we spent ten minutes running wildly through the apple trees in our Easter bonnets and bow ties; then we all spent days eating egg salad sandwiches. The work-to-fun ratio was out of balance, so I tweaked the tradition. An Oma Party always includes the preparation: instead of doing the work myself, I let the guests do it—that becomes the party! Let me explain.

Back when I was a full-time mom, I'd often announce a Halverson Hero Happening. Our family gathered in the kitchen (we were a party of nine) for a planning session, assignments were made, and the festivities began. Scotch tape, balloons and crepe paper appeared; pudding was instant (with lots of squirt whipped cream) and games were assembled. Fifteen minutes later colorful streamers and excited screamers filled the family room—the party had planned itself.

With that background I'm sharing some tried and true suggestions:

Ten Easy Steps for an Easter Egg Hunt
  1. Put an invitation on your kids' pillow or plate (or send an e-vite to the kids in your life.)
  2. At the start of the party, give each kid a roll of colored crepe paper and a roll of tape, then set the timer. (You'll be kept busy finding the end of somebody's scotch tape.) They can twist and drape—it doesn't matter how it looks in the end. Decorating is the fun part. The timer is necessary because they won't want to stop.
  3. Gather everybody on the floor and give each guest ten plastic eggs. Dump packages of jelly beans, bubble gum, etc. in a big bowl and let everybody fill their eggs. (For a big group, have every family bring something to contribute.)
  4. While the guests fill eggs, you fill two eggs per person with something unique: McDonald's coupons, dollar bills, quarters (depending on how old they are and how rich you are) or slips of paper that say Sing a Song, Tell a Joke, etc. for an impromptu program. It helps if these eggs look different somehow (color, size, whatever) than the others.
  5. Give each kid a paper sack and crayons and let them decorate it as an Easter basket.
  6. While an adult hides the eggs, the kids go somewhere else with another adult and learn to do the bunny hop, or play "Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?"
  7. Youngest to oldest, a pair of kids are released and told to find ten eggs, plus two of the unique eggs.
  8. Everybody stuffs candy in their mouths.
  9. Everybody dumps their eggs out into their sacks, and the plastic eggs are collected and taken to the garage until next year.
  10. Talent show: sing songs, tell jokes, do somersaults, dance the bunny hop—show your true colors, come out of your shell.
Make everybunny happy!

How does your family celebrate Easter?
I'm all ears!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Brothel Studies

Lecture Series, Garden Park Clubhouse

It was all meant to be.

Dee gave a second lecture in his series called Treasures of the Oquirrh Mountains. Tales from ghost towns that used to line Bingham Canyon fascinated folks who now live in view of Bingham Copper Mine, the giant that swallowed those towns house by house and left just one case in point: Copperton, Utah.

South Jordan's Historian

The architecture of that little burg was the inspiration for Garden Park, our own community. Dee talked about arts and craft, knee braces, and porticoes, and then threw out a teaser for lecture number three: "Bingham Canyon had 36 bars, 18 brothels, and dozens of stories. Come back in April!" I knew the first two lectures had filled his time, and that he still had lots of research to do for the third one—he really didn't have any stories ... yet.

Garden Park Clubhouse

After the lecture Dee shook a bunch of hands and answered a bunch of questions. He made his way over to me and sat down. Suddenly he slumped over and turned white. Several people were still in the room and when he wouldn't revive I yelled out, "Call 911!"

A neighbor, a retired cop, immediately took charge and Dee was carried to a couch, his feet elevated and his color started coming back. He was in and out of it until the EMTs arrived. They put him on oxygen, determined it wasn't a stroke or a heart attack, and hustled us into an ambulance headed to the emergency room.

A nurse asked what he'd been doing when he fainted. "I'm a historian, and I was giving a lecture on Copperton, which is a company town in Bingham Canyon built to house miners from 28 different countries ... " He's delirious, I thought. "The Bingham brothers discovered copper in 1858, but Brigham Young sent them to settle ... " (Obviously, he'd survived.) The nurse listened to his ramblings as she drew his blood, checked his vitals and stuck his arm with an IV. She put him on pause while she went for juice. "Dear, you don't need to give her the whole spiel," I told Dee. "She was just making sure you stayed conscious."

But then she came back with a sandwich. "I want to hear more about Bingham Canyon," she said. "That's where my dad grew up. He used to deliver coal to the brothels. In fact, he and his old Bingham buddies still get together every Thursday for lunch—they're all in their 80s and they love to talk."

Dee at his Garden Park Lecture.

Dee was released a few hours later. Along with instructions to lower his blood pressure meds, the nurse gave him her dad's telephone number. By Thursday they were best friends, and Dee was invited to lunch. And now he has dozens of stories!

"Did you hear the one about Big Helen? She was a madam who paid for us to go to the movies every Saturday. We used to throw rocks at her window until she came out and paid us each a dime to go away!"

My Heritage Associates blog has another good story: Click here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Family Tradition


"Hey, Kids!
Have I ever told you about the diamond clip?"

Opa and I had a Conference Party and I decided to teach a little family history lesson.

June and Gerald Bagley Wedding
April 1, 1946

"Sixty-six years ago my mom and dad got married. At the wedding breakfast my grampa gave a tribute to his new daughter-in-law. He said he had a special wedding present for her, something that had been in the family for years: a diamond clip.

"Then he gave her a black velvet box. Thrilled, she opened the little box and found . . .

a dime and clip."

(It was April Fool's Day!)
They lived happily ever after anyway.

(Pass on a story about your parents to somebody. Create a tradition!)