Monday, July 14, 2014

Pioneer Stock

Photo by Holgen Leue

Great-great Grandpa John Bagley was only eighteen when he left his family in eastern Canada. He joined with the Mormon pioneers to prepare for a trek across the plains from Illinois to Utah.

John was extremely trusted and took the responsibility of caring for a widow and her children in the wagon train. He drove the lead team of nine yoke of oxen into the valley in 1856 when he was just twenty years old. Later, Brigham Young requested that John accompany him in many dangerous situations as a body guard. At the age of 58 he wrote his life story in his own hand, recalling his adventures with Indians, wild animals, cholera, and starvation.

John's Journal
But there is one particular feat John is remembered for.
John had worked in a lumber mill with his father from the time he was a little boy. Four days after his arrival in Salt Lake Valley he started work on what would become six lumber mills in Big Cottonwood Canyon. He helped build roads, haul logs and build silver mines in Alta, and became known quickly for his ability and agility.

Photo: Lake Mary, Brighton, UT Project 365:185/366 Flickr
On July 23, 1857, nine months after John's arrival, 2,600 people (with 500 vehicles and 1,500 animals) gathered at the bottom of Big Cottonwood Canyon for a giant anniversary party. The first pioneers had settled the valley ten years before, and there was a celebration planned ten miles up the canyon in Brighton. The group followed Brigham Young and a long line of dignitaries in carriages and wagons. A marching company of 50 kids between 10 and 12 years old led the way up the canyon, along with a brass band that furnished music for the celebration.

At sunset a bugle summoned the campers to a central elevated spot where Brigham Young addressed them. On the morning of July 24, the flag was unfurled from a giant pine tree, standing on a peak. Prayer was offered, then singing, and afterward cannons roared. The Big Cottonwood Lumber Company, for which John worked, had constructed the road as far as Lake Alice, near Silver Lake, expressly for this occasion. Today there is a small chapel at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, in Brighton, close to where the celebration took place.

Photo by Blozan's Tree Climb
This is how John recalled the day of Celebration:
Brigham Young's tent was near a towering pine tree 100 feet high. That tree was selected as a flag pole for the unfurling of the Stars and Stripes. I had been reared in the timber lands of eastern New Brunswick, America, and was experienced in handling timber and logging, so I was selected by President Young to trim the tree for a flagpole.

Carrying my axe, I climbed to the top of the tree, trimmed the branches and cut the tip so there was a smooth top. I unfurled the flag, and much to the amazement of those below, I stood on my head on the top of the tree!

As I descended, I trimmed the other branches, and when I was among the trees that were not so lofty, I seized the branch of another tree and ape-like, swung from the flag pole and disappeared. The people below thought I had perished and were quite concerned until I finally appeared having made my way through the branches.
John Bagley

He sounds like a great, great-great grandfather to me!

Monday, May 26, 2014

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, May 8, 2014

Little Lessons Everywhere

One 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. 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!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Tribute to Moms

Colonial woman dipping candles.

"They had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth."
Mosiah 17:2
Into the hot wax; out of the hot wax. Into the hot wax; out of the hot wax. I watched as the woman dipped her candles. She held a dowel with ten pieces of string looped over it, and repeatedly lowered it into a vat of melted wax.

The first time it looked like nothing stuck to the strings at all. Another dip, and they still looked clean. Patiently, the woman dunked them again, and again, and eventually I could see a film of wax building. Time after time the thin layers adhered to each other, and slowly the strings began to look like candles.

After countless dips.
I've watched other women engaged in an old-fashioned art that also involves patience and repetition. It is mothering. Time after time they dip their kids in character building experiences---say "Please," "Thank you," "I'm sorry;" share your toys; pick up your coat; mind your dad; love your brother; don't whine; feed the dog; say your prayers---over and over again the same admonitions. At first it seems nothing is sticking. The kids are still the same. But eventually they begin to wax strong.

A work of art!
Each experience a child has in character building is like one more dip of the candle.
It is repetitious, it can become wearisome.
But it's worth it.

Art by William Adolphe Bouguereau

"Be not weary in well doing,
for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.
For out of small things proceedeth that which is great."
—D&C 64:33

Saturday, March 15, 2014


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!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

She Made Me Who I Am

Marty and Gabi, 1970

Exactly forty-three years ago, on a July morning at 7:00 am,
Gabi made me a mom.

I wasn't quite twenty-one when she was born, and I didn't have a clue about what it meant to be a mom. I just knew it was what I was meant to be. (My big fear as a teenager was that I would die before I had kids. I wasn't afraid of how I would die, or being dead, but that my dream of being a mother wouldn't come true. I must have wished on a lucky star!)

She was born breach (and totally natural, I might add) folded in half, and she inhaled before she hit oxygen, leaving her breathless. The nurses worked on her for a few minutes and then whisked her away somewhere, without telling us anything about how she was. After over nine months of togetherness, it was terrifying to be apart. Several hours later they brought her to me. I was overwhelmed—now I was breathless!

For a couple of days I kept trying to say a magnificent prayer of thanks to Heavenly Father for letting me have her, but I couldn't find the words. I felt ungrateful just saying "Thank you, thank you" over and over again, but I think He may have understood.

Early days.

Gabi came into my life only 18 months after Dee did. She's known us almost as long as we've known us! In fact, she helped us become US. She lived in our first tiny trailer home, our second less (but still) tiny trailer home; she rode in the VW and the Vega, and saw Dee as a soldier. She was part of our college life, and part of our pre-TV, pre-income days. We started leaving shoes out for St. Nickolas Day, and cookies for Santa because of her. She made us a family.

I read out loud to Gabi from the day she was born. Mostly I read Dr. Spock as I nursed her, trying to figure out when she'd do something interesting. Dee laid on the floor with her for hours demonstrating how to roll over. It actually took hours of watching her for him to figure out the steps of rolling over. He practiced with her for about six months until she caught on. We figured we'd taught her, not realizing that she'd come already programmed to do every important thing. We didn't have to teach her much. In fact, she taught us.


I read an article about how to make your child a genius. It said to tie helium balloons to your baby's wrists and ankles, and their eyes would catch the movement. Eventually they'd realize they were pulling the strings! I tried it, and it must have worked. She became a genius, and knew how to pull all our string.

She could sing dozens of songs, say the Pledge of Allegiance, recite poems and ask questions by 18 months. By the time she was two, I was asking her questions.

Gabi 1972

Looking back, I see that she brought color into my life. She became my best friend. I'd even consult her about what I should wear! (She knew exactly what they were wearing at the laundromat, and milk depot, which were my usual destinations.) Her siblings started arriving about that time, and it was a joint project for us. I saw her as my confidant and support.

She was an awesome babysitter, first for me, and then for many others. She became a nanny, and tended kids for weeks at a time while their parents traveled. She worked at a nursery school and daycare center during high school, and then majored in Elementary Education. She taught 6th graders who were taller than she was. She also taught Kindergarten and Pre-school. She was born to teach.

She met her perfect match, they got married and worked their way through college for a few years before they graduated. Being the perfect parental candidates didn't translate to being parents. While they waited, they built careers and houses and moved across the country. They traveled and had fun together until the other shoe dropped. They did become parents . . . twice in three years, and then again with twin boys . . . and they did it with a flourish!

It's stunning to look at this woman whom I admire and respect so much, and realize she's my daughter! She sets an example of kindness, hospitality, charity, spirituality and energy that I can't come close to emulating. She changed me forever and I'll be forever grateful to be her mom.

Happy Birthday, Gabi!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love Letter

"There are many things, I'm sure," she said, "without which we could not live...
But love is the only one I can think of."

Some secrets for staying in love, so you never have to live without it:
  1. Recall why you fell in love in the first place.
  2. Count your together blessings, together.
  3. Tell private jokes, and laugh often.
  4. Think about the problems you used to have and how you solved them together.
  5. Anticipate doing something you both love to do.
  6. Watch your favorite old movie.
  7. Take a long drive and listen to the music of your olden days.
  8. Pray for each other.
  9. Decide that unity is more important than being right.
  10. Remember that love is not something you get, it's something you do.
Art by Warren Davis

I fell in love with Dee 44 years ago today!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Halverson Hero Reunion 2012

"Over the river and through the woods ..."
Here's some of what was happening at a fantastic hunting lodge
in Coalville, Utah this past week:
















Families are forever but they're for right now, too!

I write stuff at A Walk in the Park. Check it out!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Season of Light

The snow was glistening in the sunshine when I sat down by the window with my book. I got so caught up in the story, and it happened so gradually, I didn't even notice the sun going down, and the shadows that crept into the room. Mom walked past a while later and asked, "Why are you sitting here in the dark?" and then she flipped on a light.

The action and suspense of my everyday drama sometimes takes over and I lose sight of the Son. Shadows creep in and I start to dim out. Luckily Christmas comes along and turns on the light.

Everything looks brighter!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Love, Oma

"For my birthday I just want a blog post. You haven't written one for ages!"

Dear Chloƫ,
What a sweet request—it made me cry and laugh at the same time. Oh, I have loved writing blog posts! They've been love letters to my grandkids about things I remember, and things I know I will remember, in case some day you want to know about me.

Here's a little hint: on the right side of my blog (the sidebar) you'll see a list of quotes with pictures. Click on each picture and you'll find a post that tells you something I want you to know, about my family, what life was like when I was little, how I met Opa, or what I think about important things like being a writer and being a Mormon and being a mom.

Toward the bottom of the sidebar is a section called Special Collections. I've written more than a thousand essays explaining what I've learned about being happy. Of course I wasn't happy in every single post—nobody is happy all the time. But you'll notice that a few days later I was always happy again. Usually it was because of something I remembered, or something funny that happened, or because adorable grandkids cheered me up with their kidspeak.

There are many posts on how to strengthen the family in fun ways. Those ideas came as answers to prayers, so I can promise you they are good ideas. I didn't think them up! Maybe you can turn them into traditions some day.

Lately I haven't been able to write often. It's not because nothing's happening to me, or because I have nothing to say. My energy is just going a different direction. I write a blog about my neighborhood and I have some editing jobs—it's fun to get paid for my writing skills! Blogging gave me lots and lots of practice, and I think I've gotten better at it over the years. You're already such a good writer—I hope you practice by writing something every day.

Mostly I don't blog because I'm the Relief Society president. It's like having a fabulous full time job. (Except I'm paid in blessings.) I spend hours listening to incredible stories, but since they're not my stories, and since they're usually pretty private, I can't write about them. I wish I could. I wish you could know these wonderful, wise women—all 216 of them—who are teaching me what they've learned about being happy and unhappy. We talk about how living the gospel of Jesus Christ brings peace and happiness. I believe that more than ever!

I totally miss writing a post every day. It was good therapy, and helped me work through confusion and frustration. It helped me count my blessings and understand myself better. At first I felt guilty about not writing my blog, and sad that I had to sacrifice something I loved so much. I don't feel that way anymore. Life is made up of seasons: learning, teaching, giving, taking, rushing, wandering, wondering, discovering. Heavenly Father is in charge of when the seasons change, and every season is uniquely beautiful.

For sure I'll write again, but maybe not for a while. In the meantime, I've written you hundreds and hundreds of letters on TravelinOma. And they were written with tons and tons of love! It will probably take you years to read them all!

Happy Birthday, Chloƫ!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Re-Run for Dee-Day

Looking back

Who's 66?

Click here for my homemade Opa Movie.
I made it when he turned 64,
but now I like it even more!

(Happy Birthday, Dear!)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Happy 43rd Anniversary!

September 9, 1969

"Love at first sight is understandable.
Staying in love is the miracle."

September 9, 1969

"Tell me who you love and I'll tell you who you are."

June 1971

"A great discovery in marriage is that you can grow separately
without growing apart."

June 1983

"The most important things in life aren't things."

October 2008

"Love isn't just gazing at each other,
it's looking out in the same direction."

November 2011

Me: I think you're starting to rub off on me.
Dee: That's good. I've been trying to lose some weight.

I would rather do nothing with this guy
than something with anybody else!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Life Lessons

Like I say, a little gray hair is a small price to pay for all this wisdom:

On Being a Kid:
  1. You grow out of being the smallest.
  2. Fractions are more important than you thought.
  3. Never "joke" that you saw a neighborhood kid floating in the canal.
  4. Assume that your brother will find your diary and show it to his friends.
  5. Hope you get that many interested readers later when you have a blog.
  6. Your mom will find out when you change your report card.
  7. A tight curly perm won't make you look like Annette Funicello.
  8. Don't ever swear at your mom.
  9. Someday the mean 4th grade boys will be your sons.
  10. Grandparents are nicer than parents.
On Being a Teenager:
  1. Even the popular kids don't think they're popular.
  2. Peer pressure prepares you for parenthood.
  3. It's the longest six years of your life.
  4. The music you love will always be the music you love.
  5. It really wasn't the best time of my life.
On Being Married:
  1. It really is the best time of my life.
  2. Marry somebody you like being with for hours, doing nothing much.
  3. Reminisce often so you'll remember why you fell in love in the first place.
  4. Notice reasons to fall in love over and over again.
  5. Laugh as often as possible.
  6. Expect troubles. They come whether you're married or not.
  7. Perfect people are very annoying. Be glad you didn't marry one.
  8. Go on trips,
  9. Or plan trips you want to go on,
  10. Or at least watch TV together.
On Being a Mom:
  1. It's harder than you think.
  2. It's way more fun than you think.
  3. There are lots of days you wonder why you had kids at all.
  4. You can't imagine your life without your kids.
  5. Kids totally take over your life
  6. But you'd give up anything for your kids, so it works.
  7. You hope your kids will someday realize all the stuff you did for them;
  8. You wonder if you really did anything important for them.
  9. Kids put you in a time warp—
  10. Twenty minutes til bedtime can seem like six hours
  11. Looking back, twenty years can seem like six hours.
  12. You'll feel older when they're 8, 6 and 4 than you do when they're 28, 36, and 40.
  13. They won't remember that you picked them up faithfully every day after school.
  14. They'll remember the one day you got there fifteen minutes late.
  15. Their most memorable present will be the one they didn't get.
  16. Kids teach you more than you teach them.
  17. You could be a really good mom if it weren't for all the kids.
  18. Parenting books are written by people with nannies.
  19. Most of us think we became functioning adults all on our own.
  20. All mothers are working mothers
  21. Motherhood is a multi-faceted career.

On Getting an Education:
  1. School teaches you how to learn.
  2. Most education takes place after you finish school.
  3. Life stages are like advanced degrees.
  4. It's possible to get several master's degrees at once:
  5. I studied childhood psychology for 20 years,
  6. Family relations for 43 years,
  7. Adolescent behavior for 20 years.
  8. I minored in Homemaking, History,
  9. Creative writing, Computer science.
  10. Continual learning keeps you from noticing senility.
On Life in General:
  1. I am wiser than when I started.
  2. Getting old is just as challenging and interesting as being young.
  3. Fear is the opposite of faith.
  4. Worrying doesn't do anything except make you feel like you're doing something.
  5. Collecting people to love is a worthwhile hobby.
  6. In spite of everything, life is fun.
  7. God is good.
I'm glad I made it to sixty-three!
Happy Birthday to me!