Thursday, June 28, 2012

Call the Doctor!

They did it!

They upheld the healthcare act! I'm thrilled! I'm beyond thrilled. As a victim of pre-existing conditions that kept our family from buying insurance for 25 years (for us and our seven kids) I know the extreme anxiety of living without the option of healthcare. I know the stress of a $77,000 heart attack with no coverage, making decisions about cancer treatment based on our savings account, digging deep for $800 a month to buy medications. Not having access to affordable healthcare causes panic attacks!

Dee's long-awaited medicare birthday gave us much needed relief last October. But knowing many families in similar straits, I'm happy they won't face bankruptcy fears whenever they notice a mole that looks suspicious. (It's not the pre-cancerous mole that causes fear, it's the tag of pre-existing that scares the daylights out of an uninsured parent.)

Thank you to Teddy Kennedy. I wish he was alive to see this day! This is as important a supreme court decision as granting Civil Rights in the 60's. Universal healthcare is constitutional!

Click here for posts that explain why I'm so passionate:

We're going to celebrate by standing in the fresh air without worrying about an asthma attack!
Congratulations, America!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

4th of July Flag Cake

This isn't your regular red velvet cake recipe.
This is the original red velvet cake recipe.

I've been making this flag cake for fifty years and it's worth the effort,
I promise!

Click here for the recipe and easy directions!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Introduce Yourself

Piano Man at SLC Farmer's Market

I almost missed the guy with the portable piano. Tucked behind the cookie stand (Butterscotch Bacon was the flavor of the week) there was a one-man band, transported by bicycle. The thought of it made my upper thighs quiver. When I tossed my coins in his tin pan I could see this was his passion—he certainly wasn't doing it for the money. Interesting.

What's his story, I wondered. I could almost hear his mom: "Turn off the TV—you need to practice." And his dad: "Put your bike away before you practice." And him: "I'm using my bike—I already practiced."

Obviously he became a pianist and a biker. Maybe he majored in music; maybe he rode his bike to play in a bar. I wonder. How did he tell his grandma he wanted to strip down her upright piano so it wouldn't weigh so much? Where does he stash the piano between gigs? Does he stay in the bike lane? How does he make a left-hand turn? Scary!

Think back to last Saturday and imagine a snippet of your life. Were you baking butterscotch bacon cookies? Stripping an old piece of furniture? Pulling something (or someone) on your bike? What's your story? Write down what you were doing and see what it says about you. You might find it interesting!


This post is an example of a mini-memoir. Using the roving piano man as a vehicle, I share eleven details about myself. Before you read further, go back and see if you can find them. Did you figure out that:
  • I live in Salt Lake City.
  • I'm fascinated by unique people.
  • I make up stories in my head.
  • I'm not a biker.
  • I give money to buskers.
  • I like cookies.
  • I took piano lessons.
  • I'm a parent.
  • I worry about hitting bikers while I'm driving.
  • I think journals are important.
  • I think writing helps us discover ourselves.
Details woven into the story introduce a character in a realistic, natural way. It's a trick of fiction that works well in memoir, too.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pondering Joy

An incredible experience began for me in February 2012 when I was called as Relief Society president. I thought I knew what to expect because I'd been a counselor in RS five times, but I was clueless. It's like becoming a mother—there's much more work than I ever imagined, much more time, but much more joy. I'm exhausted with joy.

I can't count the whispers of inspiration that fill my mind as I think about the women I'm responsible for. Early in the morning, when my normal self would be sound asleep, ideas wake me up. They don't drift through my thoughts like vanishing dreams, they come with details, gently but firmly, with enough time to write them down. Solutions come for problems I won't know about until later, impressions of who I should contact settle in my heart, and a sense of peace restores me: it's lovely.

I'm brimming over. In my old estrogen-filled days, tears relieved the pressure of abundant emotion, but I don't cry as easily as I used to. Instead I gush, brag and rhapsodize about my ward, my neighborhood, my presidency, my bishop. I am totally overwhelmed with love for the people around me. I want to always feel this way. A primary song keeps running through my head:

I feel my Savior's love in all the world around me,
His spirit whispers peace in everything I see.
He knows I will follow Him,
Give all my life to Him,
I feel my Savior's love, the love he freely gives me.

I can't begin to express my gratitude for this blessed time in my life. It is pure joy.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Best Dad

Heroes, 1983

Forty three 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.)

Dee 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. Let them have a dog.
  38. Came home every night instead of going out with the guys.
  39. Loved them in spite of themselves sometimes.
  40. Wanted them.
  41. Made them the center of his life.
  42. 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

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


"Kids need fewer critics and more models."
—Thomas S. Monson

"Nobody can do for little children what a loving father can do.
He sprinkles stardust over their lives."
—Alex Haley

"You don't have to worry about what a child will be tomorrow,
if you remember he is someone today."
—Stacia Tauscher

"The word no carries a lot more meaning
when spoken by a father who also knows how to say yes."
—Joyce Maynard

"Teaching his children is the mark of a civilized man."
—J. Ganz Cooney

"My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it."
—Clarence Kelland

"Fathers create the sunshine of childhood."
—Chris Morgen

Definition of a successful father: a man willing to make substantial, long-term sacrifices of his time, money and personal fulfillment and dedicate his efforts to rearing the next generation.

These seven fathers are my heroes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Do Something Hard

From Under a Sunbonnet: 1990

Against my better judgment I became a pioneer woman for a week. Our church youth group recreated a Pioneer Trek, complete with sunbonnets, bloomers, aprons and handcarts. As a leader I was expected to be part of the four-day activity as a chaperone, even though the teenagers would be divided up and grouped as families with kids they didn't know.

Specially trained young adult couples played the parts of Pa and Ma, while the legitimate adults were assigned to accompany each family as participants. I had a 16-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter who were excited to go, so I reluctantly agreed to join the group. I knew we wouldn't be put in the same trek family, but we would have a shared experience and that was a good enough reason.

It was a grueling first day. The kids started out with energy. I started out tired. We put together our own handcarts and loaded them with supplies. Since they weighed several hundred pounds, each member of the family was supposed to help pull or push the handcart on the 13-mile hike.

Ours was one of the first wagons in the train and we set off with vigor. Excited jabbering and singing was heard down the trail behind us. By 2:00 in the afternoon the little enthusiasm I had had early that morning was gone. It was 100° and I was out-of-sorts with exhaustion, and hunger. Some of the kids were whining and complaining and I identified with them.

I started dragging behind, walking slower and slower as the other handcart families passed me by. Whose idea was this anyway? Why would we take a bunch of teenage kids into the wilderness and subject them to such hardship? I felt disoriented, lightheaded, and miserable.

The trail boss, a man I respected and trusted, noticed me and led me over to a stream where he soaked my bandanna in the cold water, and gave me a canteen of Gatorade. He suggested I ride in the support vehicle behind the group for a few minutes to regain my strength.

Relieved of my sunbonnet, in the air-conditioned Suburban, I cooled off quickly, and chatted with the driver, a good friend who was a physician. He assured me I would make it, so a few minutes later he caught up with the group and let me out, and then dropped out of sight again.

I walked a little faster, passing other handcart families to reach my own. Instead of the flat trail we had been walking all day, we were now going up a mountain. It got steeper and rockier, and was difficult to navigate in a long skirt. Soon I was actually scrambling on all fours, climbing over the rocks. I had passed one group and now I was behind a handcart that perched precariously on some rocks. It was off balance, and the kids in front were pulling while others were behind, trying to push.

Suddenly I noticed that it was quiet. The ma's and pa's had asked the trekkers not to talk. The kids had to negotiate the handcarts on this difficult stretch silently, cooperating by observing their companions, and just doing what became obvious to them. Then the pa's whispered to the boys that they could not participate in the work. It was time for the Women's Pull.

We had been forewarned that there would be a section of the hike where the girls pulled the handcarts alone. Of course it was highly anticipated. The young women were anxious to show off their fortitude and stamina to all the guys. However, the results were not anticipated.

The mountain was the most demanding area we would encounter. Everyone was tired, and shaky from heat and exertion. Going up the steep, rocky slope the families had needed everyone's strength, and now it was cut in half. The boys witnessed the trouble the girls were having; some ran for water, and others whispered encouragement, and went ahead to move big rocks out of the way. The girls had resilience, and discovered new muscles emotionally and physically, tears running down their cheeks as they exerted courageously. The young men were overwhelmed with respect, wondering if they could have risen to such a challenge.

I'm embarrassed to say I didn't have the energy to help. Getting myself up the hill was all I could manage. I was several yards behind a handcart that began to tip. A tiny girl, her face shaded by a big sunbonnet, supported it from behind. I watched as her feet dug into the dirt between the rocks, her back hardened and her shoulders tensed. Her arms clenched while she
pushed the wagon with force and determination. With the help of the girls in front pulling, she jostled the cart up and over a giant boulder in the path.

For a moment she caught her breath and wiped the sweat from her forehead. As she lifted the brim of her bonnet I saw it was Amy, my 14-year-old daughter.

Even after 22 years, the lessons of my Pioneer Trek continue to unfold in my mind. I would never have expected such inner fortitude of young city slickers; we all stumbled on power hidden deep inside ourselves. The experience demonstrated potential and capacity, and I knowwe can do impossible things when we need to. And so can our kids.

Sometimes the most help we can give someone is to let them do it on their own. Desperation can be the source of motivation. A person who is balancing their whole world is more careful about where they place their feet. I learned that from a girl in a sunbonnet.

Think about a time you did something hard. Are you in the middle of a Pioneer Trek experience right now? Write about it. Discover what you're learning. If you write about it, you can learn from it the rest of your life. Eventually you'll see the hard thing as one of the great blessings in your life.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Little Lessons Everywhere

The other day I was sitting in my friend Julie's kitchen, watching her four-year-old through the window. Lauren was playing on the sidewalk when the sprinklers suddenly went on—she shrieked! Arms thrashing, feet slipping, she twisted blindly and howled for help.

"Just walk forward," her mom called through the window. We could see that she was only a few feet from relief, but her predicament was too overwhelming, and her wailing was too loud for her to hear. "Lauren! It's OK! Just walk!" Tears mixed with drops of water and ran down her cheeks while her older brother dashed outside to rescue her. He took her arm and steered her out of the spray.

She wiped her eyes and smiled up at her mom before she started skipping down the sidewalk. The whole traumatic episode had only taken a minute or two, and was forgotten immediately.

I can look back at times when I've been surprised by what seemed like a deluge (a year ago today.) I've howled for help with such a racket that I've drowned out the quiet response, "It's OK, Marty, just walk forward." That's usually when someone shows up to walk with me a little way, and suddenly my tears are gone, and my path seems clear.

I love it when that happens.

Have you had a life lesson lately? Write it down!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Marriage is Fun!

Dee and Me
Photo by Stie

Me: I think you're starting to rub off on me.

Dee: That's good. I've been trying to lose some weight.

(I like living with a guy who makes me laugh.)