Thursday, March 29, 2007

All the Rest

There are vacations, and then there's all the rest.

I've spent the last several days remembering my life as a mom. There was no resting. I couldn't imagine afterward. Those were the days when I woke up feeling like my bed was a launching pad. As soon as my feet hit the floor I'd be on a treadmill that picked up speed throughout the day until I finally flew off backwards at midnight, and staggered back to bed for a couple of hours.

I sometimes felt like a punching bag. It seemed there were always little feet in my stomach. Before my babies were born they kicked, then while they nursed, while we read stories, and even while I slept. My kids picked my most vulnerable moments of sheer unconsciousness at 3 a.m. to report a nightmare and climb into our bed. The next thing I'd know they were sleeping sidewards with their feet digging into my side and their head in Dee's back. Was this a sign of respect?

In those days I always had a headache. About 3 in the afternoon I'd realize it was because I hadn't gone to the bathroom all day. Mothers don't have time for such trivial things. Besides, whenever I sat down for a minute alone on the john, some kid or another would open the door with a few neighborhood friends to tattle on a younger brother. Why invite that? It's less trouble to just "hold it." I was keeping track of so many other people's potty schedules, I had to eliminate my own. I don't think anyone cared much about my sacrifice.

I was always tired. I hadn't slept for years! When I was in bed I had so much rattling around in my brain, I'd have to get up and write it all down. Since I was up, I usually checked on something or someone, remembered to write an excuse note to the teacher, took the milk bottles out, wiped off the sticky counter and put some shoes away. Then I'd sit down on the couch and think. It was so quiet at midnight, I almost hated to waste it by sleeping. If anyone asked I could boast, "I never sleep on the job." Nobody asked.

Mostly I felt unappreciated. "Yuck...does this have onions?" was the usual compliment at dinner. New clothes were greeted with "But Mom, the tags itch...I don't like it." An outing to the park always ended in tears, and the darling brothers and sisters I'd thoughtfully provided for everyone were annoying and smelly. I sometimes wondered what the point of it all was. I never got a promotion or a raise. Our next door neighbor told me I looked like a mother quail with all her little chicks following her, in order, down the street. Was this the fulfillment of all my dreams?? My dedication to this career went unnoticed. Dee was always supportive and encouraging, but I didn't feel valued by society.

Let me tell all you moms out there that I appreciate you. Every time you say, "How many times do I have to tell you..." you are teaching your kids responsibility. When you say, "Don't hit, bite, kick..." a hundred times a day, you're promoting peace. Everyday when you're still there, you're teaching your children trust and dependability and love. You may not realize what you're doing, but you are changing the world, one kid at a time, one day at a time.

One of my favorite scriptures is
"Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work,
and out of small things proceedeth that which is great."
Is there a greater work than providing a happy, safe home for kids? They need the strength you give them to survive and grow, and then they will contribute.

However, I admit that I love being free of motherhood responsibilities. I'm going on vacation! I'll be resting from my very cushy life, and appreciating middle age a lot! You guys, hang in there. "The greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home." You can rest afterward.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Little Miracles

The only thing kids wear out faster than shoes are grandparents!

It's a miracle we all survived. I was in charge of Sam and Luke this afternoon. In one hour we had dinner, spilled the milk, jumped on the tramp, dug in the dirt, unwound the hose, rewound the hose, cried, had a snack, spilled the yogurt, had a bath, dumped water all over the bathroom floor, cleaned it up, lost 2 blankies, stuck a finger in the socket, cried, raced up and down 2 flights of stairs searching for blankies, watched Wonder Pets and made beds on the window sill.
I am in awe of mothers! I can't believe I ever did this on a full-time basis!
My guest bloggers today:

My name is Jake. I am 8. I like lions. I have a lion named Simba. My best
friend is Garrett. I collect rocks and Yu-Gi-Oh cards. My secret identity
is Karate.

My name is Emmie. I am 6 years old and I am happy. I went to the Snowball dance
at school with my dad. He gave me a corsage. My best friend is Catherine.

Sam and Luke are free. They like twains. They are miracle babies! Actually all the kids in this family are miracles. Their parents were told they'd never have kids! Be careful what you pray for.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

All Aboard!

I got on the wrong train.

Today I flew into EWR, which has a train station right in the airport. My train was leaving at 6:04 p.m so I waited on the platform until a train pulled in at 6:03. A sign lit up with my destination front and center, and several other passengers waiting for the same train hopped on board with me.

It was very crowded and I shoved my suitcase through the doors and stood jammed in the aisle with a lot of tired people on their way home. About 20 minutes later the conductor came through punching tickets and informed me I was going the wrong way! Apparently the train just ahead of mine was running late, and so was my train, so the train I was on was the one that should have departed at 5:54 p.m. "Don't worry. This happens to lots of people everyday on this train." (Maybe there's a problem here???) When I asked about the sign at the station he said, "The signs don't mean anything. They're usually wrong." Well, now what? "You'll have to get off in two stops, cross the tracks, get on the train to Rayburn, cross the tracks and get on your train."

The conductor gave me a nod when we reached the right stop and I got off. There were 8 other people who got off, too, having made the same mistake. We were suddenly fellow wanderers, standing on a platform with no station, no train personnel, and no direction. It was fun to see how quickly we bonded.

All of us had people that needed to be notified. Immediately we were sharing cell phones and stories of the flights we'd just arrived on, where we were coming from and where we were expected. One young man was just coming from Paris to interview at a university. He spoke very little English. There were 2 sisters from Singapore, one of whom spoke French and she became the translator. Another woman was originally from England, but had just flown here from Perth after visiting family. A wedding photographer was returning home after attending a big society wedding in Chicago, which we heard all about.

We waited about 45 minutes and finally our first train came in. When we got off at Rayburn 30 minutes later we found the station completely locked up. It was dark and we all wheeled our bags down the stairs, across the street, and back up to the track. There were some scary looking people hovering around and we all commented that we felt safer because we were together.

While we waited I talked to a man who had just flown in from Toronto. He teaches Greek and Latin at a boys prep school. He had spoken recently at a conference on the Classics in Montreal. It all seemed pretty out of my league. He mentioned that he was originally from the west, had done undergraduate work in California and Montana, and had lived in several states. As we continued talking he referred to Judge Memorial High School. I commented that we have a high school with the same name. It turned out that was his high school! He grew up on Panorama Way, the street next to mine!! He was much younger than I am, but we knew some of the same families in the area. What a small world.

Suddenly a young girl (about 18) discovered she had left her purse on one of the trains. She had been extremely upset by the whole experience anyway, but this was the crowning blow. She was close to tears. One of the Singapore women quickly put her arm around her, and the other found the number of the police on a poster. She called and reported the loss, and told the girl how to follow up.

The Perth lady needed to find a restroom and the photographer said she'd go along so she wouldn't be alone. The Panorama guy volunteered to walk with them and stand outside because he was concerned about the scary men in the hoodies.

Finally our train arrived and we rode to our different stops. As each person got off, there were goodbyes, and handshakes. One woman even ended up offering another woman a ride to her final destination, because her connecting train had already left. We didn't exchange names, but I think we'll remember each other. We'll be part of each other's stories.

When we're on the wrong track there are always people who can help us find our way. When we've lost something precious there are people who can comfort us. There are people standing guard, watching out for us, who understand us; sometimes we don't even know their names. We are fellow wanderers, and there's an instinct we have to help each other. I think when it comes down to it, most of us are coming from the same place.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Guest Bloggers

I have some special guest bloggers today.

Katy says:

Hi World! I'm Katy and I love to read. I'm reading Amelia's School
Survival Guide
. It tells you how to tame a tough teacher. Now to my sister Lars....

Lauren says:

I want to tell the world that it's a very beautiful moment to be on a
blog! I'm writing a book right now called Lars and the Peano Phantom. I need to go help Katy clean up!

Will wanted to see Opa do flips on the trampoline! Too bad it was raining. Thanks for letting us sleep in your bed with the cool truck sheets!

Jake was looking all around for me and kept asking Opa, "Where's that other guy?"

This is why I love being a traveling Oma! Is there anybody more fun than grandkids?

Saturday, March 24, 2007


I'm running around with my head cut off! I'll be back when I find it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, Tommy!

Tommy was born when I was only 18 months old. I can't ever remember my life without him.

We were cute little guys, and our life was happy. We had great adventures in our backyard, playing spaceship with the picnic table turned over on it's side ready to carry us off to the great unknown. We sneaked into each other's bedrooms when we were supposed to be asleep and planned how to reappear in the living room and snitch drinks of coke, or maybe stay up for Maverick.

Tom was the heir, the firstborn son, the only boy to carry on the family name and we all knew he was special. Luckily he was very likable, too.

We lived downstairs together and we both loved to read. He read all my Nancy Drews and I read all his Hardy Boys. He left Louis L'Amours in the bathroom, so I read all of those, too. We used to stagger into each other's rooms, and groan as if we'd been shot, then stage a death scene worthy of any Lone Ranger episode. We watched the test pattern anxiously every Saturday morning waiting for Howdy Dowdy, Circus Boy, and Jungle Jim.

Our mom and dad allowed us to tend the other kids while they went out on Friday nights. We listened to the radio and called in requests. Tell Laura I Love Her was one of our favorites. Another of our activities was prank calling. Those were the good old days before caller ID. Just before Christmas one year we decided to open all the presents under the tree while our parents were out. It was a great disappointment because they turned out to be wedding presents, and we lost interest and forgot to re wrap them. Aren't kids fun?? These are a couple of other Christmas memories.

Santa delivered our Basset Hound puppy. We named her Flower.

This was our snow fort. It was an unbelievable achievement of snow, strength and engineering, and as tall as our dad!

Tom was taught to never hit a girl. We could torment him in many ways and we were safe, until Polly broke her arm. She was beating on Tom with all her strength, and the weight of her cast, and he was helpless against her. Suddenly our dad appeared and recognized that we were not showing much respect to our brother. He gave Tom permission to fight back, and Tom was suddenly someone to be reckoned with. He was never mean, but when pushed too far, we knew we'd have to bribe him with back rubs or doing his chores to keep our faces in tact.

Grampa made us stand back to back regularly so that everyone would know when The Big T passed us all up. It's funny that we knew he'd be tall, since we're a family of short people! But he lived up to and even passed every one's expectations!

Tom was a man among women for his early years. The experience catapulted him into a position to be a man among men. Happy Birthday to the best brother I've ever had!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Life Saver, Anyone?

Want to be a Life Saver? We can be! I know people, and so do you, who are drowning in discouragement. We all know folks who wonder if they can handle their problems for one more day, problems that come in even more than five flavors. Overwhelming responsibilities can make us feel we're just treading water, and need a hand to pull us back on board. Sometimes we need a Life Saver, and sometimes we can be one.

I remember a time I felt like I was "going under." Many years ago I had a severe bout of depression. I laid on my couch listening to my kids argue, observing the chaos I had no energy to clean up. I had been crying for weeks it seemed, and with all the understanding Dee could muster, he felt very helpless. I put on a good face when I was out, but at home I fell apart.

One particular afternoon I was inspired (I know it was an answer to prayer) to call a woman in my neighborhood who I didn't know well. I dialed her number and when she answered, I burst out crying, and told her how helpless and hopeless I was feeling. She was so nurturing and calm, as she assured me we'd get through this, and it was all right. She said she knew what I was going through. She'd felt this way herself. When I finally settled down, she said, "Now, dear, first, who is this?" She had been a life saver without even knowing who I was! She steered me towards a doctor who treated me, and helped me through my "life attack."

At Claremont Graduate University, students can get a PhD in "Quality of Life Concerns," which is defined as What Makes People Happy? I've been thinking about this. What are some things that make me happy? I'll leave out anything dependant on another person ("When my husband brings me flowers"...."When my kids get good grades"...."When I get a raise.") And since this is a PhD study, I'll skip the shallower, short term sources of happiness (chocolate, shopping, pedicures) and dig deeper.

I'm going to list 5 things that have worked for me, that I think would work for anyone. Although the ad says Live Savers are only worth a nickel, I think the right color or flavor could be priceless to someone, so I invite you to ponder your own ideas. Leave them as comments, or blog about it yourself sometime.

Oma's Life Saving Techniques:
1. I try to have a meditation time every morning. It's my Search, Ponder and Pray time. I ponder about what's going on with myself and those I love, then I pray out loud (so I don't fall asleep, or lose my train of thought.) I count my blessings, and then I ask for very specific things ("help me think of the right way to talk to so-and-so," "bless my shoulder that it won't ache, so I can edit the manuscript.") Then I search the scriptures for some guidance. Right now I'm reading the New Testament. I just read a page or two, until I find a nugget of wisdom that feels right to me. This process can take 15 min. or 30 min. I've even done it in the car (then I try to repeat a scripture or story I know by heart, or sing a hymn.) I know it opens me up to spiritual enlightenment. I am reminded that I'm not alone, and that I'm loved. My faith is stronger, I feel hopeful and I have a desire to do something worthwhile that day. Although it sounds simple, it is a profound part of my search for happiness.

2. My spirits are lifted by music, especially in the car. I have compiled CDs for various moods with favorite songs. Just listening to Peter, Paul and Mary, the Beachboys, or John Denver can improve my mood and help me see things with a better perspective. The songs I love have a great philosophy of "We Will Overcome" and that gives me hope. I feel stronger, and bound with all humanity.

3. I'm a great believer in Mission Statements. I write one a few times each year. I don't set goals like "lose 5 lbs by June 1st" because that doesn't work for me. Instead I write characteristics I want to develop. I used to write things like "I want to be calm and organized when the kids come home from school." Now I write, "I want to use my talents to strengthen my family." Looking over my mission statements from time to time helps me see progress, and that makes me feel pride in myself, and that I have something to offer others. I want to be useful.

4. Be interested in lots of things. Days when I'm wrapped up in myself are miserable for me. If I show interest in loved ones, listen to them, and try to be encouraging and supportive I find I'm happier. If I read some history, or fiction, that gets me thinking; or read the newspaper, and watch the news, I see lots of things outside of myself. I think if I'm interested, I'll become interesting, at least to myself, and that keeps me from being bored.

5. Laugh. Talk to, or watch people on TV who make you laugh, especially at yourself or at the absurdity of life. Being happy takes a sense of humor. Look for the funny side. It's a talent worth developing. If you laugh easily, sharing that with others is one of the great gifts. It's the red life saver. Everybody likes it best.
These are my 5 flavors of Life Savers. Now will you share yours? I'm not aiming for a PhD, but I'd like to get some sort of degree in happiness!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Home is Where Your Heart Is

We've been homeless for five years. Not homeless really...just house-less, and we love it! When our kids all moved out we were ready for a smaller place, a nest as Dee calls it. We moved into our apartment March 21, 2002. But first we had to distribute our stuff.

I walked through our house and listed everything we, clocks, art, collectibles...and sent the list to all 7 of our kids. They each ranked the items and put stars by things they really wanted. It was interesting, because some of our most treasured pieces weren't sought after, while others held unique memories for several kids. Some of them needed beds and furniture, others wanted linens or dishes, somebody spoke for the snow blower, another asked for the barbecue, and one family requested the toboggans. When all the lists were returned, I divided things up on paper and let everybody know what they'd be getting. I put stickers on the things we kept so when we make our "final move" they will go to their proper homes.

We had a huge collection of books, so one Sunday night we arranged a conference call with all the kids in different states, connected to the kids gathered in our living room. We held an auction over the phone. Each couple had 500 points and they bid against each other for the books or collections they wanted. It was really fun, and interesting to see what everybody chose.

Over a couple of days we packed and labeled boxes, decided what would fit into our new place (which was about 1/4 the size of our house) and then planned our cross-country deliveries. The local kids all helped by hauling their acquisitions away. Then they moved the keepers to our apartment, and took the rest to DI. We rented a Penske moving van and packed it according to our route, then took off for Ohio, Boston and PA, distributing the goods along the way.

It was a great adventure and we loved the whole downsizing process.

We congratulate ourselves every time it snows, blows or grows. No grass to cut, no leaves to rake, no walks to shovel, no pipes to thaw, no spouts to clean, no sprinklers to fix. We're living a "been there, done that" kind of life.

Our family was blessed to have homes with space for 7 kids to grow and learn. We had yards with hills for climbing and sleigh riding, driveways for bikes and basketball hoops, and lots of rooms to learn how to clean. It's just the 2 of us now, empty-nesters, but we do love our nest!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Opa Day

The simplest toy, one which even the youngest child can operate, is called an Opa.

The simplest toy runs out of batteries!

Sunday, March 18, 2007


We always knew he would go places. Pete was an entrepreneur at age 5, selling used fireworks he collected off the street to his buddy for "$3" (he actually received 3 twenties, stolen from the friend's brother.) He was inventing from the age of 10. His favorite Christmas present was a box of 1,000 tiny, unidentifiable pieces that he assembled into a remote controlled car.

One day he and his friend Garrett were downstairs creating something. They surfaced long enough to eat all the cereal in one box, and then headed down to their project. Later they were working on it in the driveway. This was typical Pete. I'd ask what he was doing as he was racing down the stairs or outside to the garage for some tool. He'd always answer but moved and talked so fast, I couldn't really follow his reply. Dee's home office was upstairs with a huge wall of windows overlooking the street. The kids usually didn't disturb him during the day while he was writing. I was cleaning in the bedroom and suddenly I heard whoops and hollers, and Pete and Garrett came pounding up the stairs. I followed them as they ran to the windows in the office. They breathlessly explained that the airplane they'd made from the cereal box, remote control car parts, and fireworks had taken off and was now on fire on the neighbors roof. We looked out and sure enough, it had crash landed in flames! Luckily the breeze that lifted it off the ground blew it out. This is also typical Pete. He does everything by trial and error, his results are usually huge in one way or another, and it always turns out well.

In high school Pete came home one day with a great deal. For only $350 he could buy an old VW that he could restore. It didn't run, but he knew he could fix it. He already had a landscaping business and had the money, so if we gave permission, he wanted to buy it. A few days later the exterior of this car arrived in our driveway. Apparently the engine was extra. He'd be purchasing that with his next check.

Soon we had lots of VW parts laying in our entry hall. I complained about this but Pete assured me it was only for a day or two. He had them all in a specific order so he would know how to put them back together, and nobody could touch them. The project stretched into weeks. We were vacuuming around the pieces, and guests were stepping over them to get into the house. Our guests included several of Pete's friends who huddled over the car and watched while Pete worked. They were all in and out of the bathroom using some kind of smelly orange soap to clean the pieces and their hands. I had totally lost control of the situation. Finally I issued the ultimatum: the car parts had to be gone by Thanksgiving (a few days away.) I was not going to have company climbing over this mess!!!

I came home from the grocery store Wednesday evening ready to load everything into a giant garbage bag and say good-bye to the VW project and all the 16 year old mechanic wannabes that were living in my house. I drove in just in time to see the boys lifting the car up so that Pete could insert the engine. After a few tantalizing tries, the car started and Pete drove it off around the block. I'll never forget those boys all leaping in the air, hugging each other as this little car clanked it's way up the hill. It was later painted to look like Herbie, and even later Pete sawed it in half, hoping to turn it into a truck.

By then Pete had purchased a new fixer-upper, a 1970's VW bus. He worked on that for months. The interior was torn out and replaced, cleaned and painted. He haunted the car graveyards for parts: a steering wheel here, a gear shift knob there. He got it running and was extremely proud to be part of the VW club. He'd always report that other VW owners would honk and wave, giving a thumbs up to his restoration. One night he was on his way to a movie and all the other drivers on the road were giving the routine honk and wave, but even more enthusiastically than usual. Pete was the man! He waved back, grinning ear to ear over his masterpiece when someone pulled up beside him and yelled, "You're on fire!" Pete quickly pulled over at a TGI Fridays, ran in and got their fire extinguisher, and put his tail out.

Pete had become a computer whiz. He worked in people's yards all day and spent the proceeds online at night. Packages were arriving at our house by FedEx almost every day with new equipment. He had purchased a video camera, and was now making movies on the computer. This was cutting edge technology at the time, and Pete was following it all and applying it. He started making videos for his classes, and others utilized his talents. There was a steady stream of high school kids coming in and out of our house. Pete raced home from school, and set himself up downstairs at the computer. The doorbell rang constantly all afternoon and evening as Pete prepared book reports, presentations and movies for his classmates.

We were not very patient with this. It seemed to us that all these people (including some teachers, and adults from the neighborhood) were taking extreme advantage of Pete. We called for a stop. Our home was not a business, Pete was a student and shouldn't be giving away his time and skills when he had his own homework to attend to. Besides, by then he was doing work for Dee, too, and that was more important than a bunch of book reports! He pleaded his case...he had promised...he just had to finish two more...he needed to work on the graduation video...In the meantime he was buying the newest equipment, selling his older equipment online, and actually setting up a business. He just wasn't getting paid for anything, and he was supposed to be a high school student.

One of Dee's projects that year was to create an archive for a huge business. He told Pete how he was organizing it all, and that the company was then donating the collection to a big university in another state. Pete suggested it could be archived digitally. Dee was very interested and Pete assured him they could do it. Dee took the suggestion to the business and they went for it, to the tune of $35,000. Pete purchased the necessary equipment and they had a year to complete it. This was huge to Dee, of course, but Pete was just inserting it into his own schedule of work. Dee continually asked Pete how it was coming, but Pete usually was finishing some project for his German class, and would be getting to it soon. When Dee had done all that he could do, and with the completion date 3 months away, he sat Pete down for a business chat and it came out...things were at a standstill. Everything was scanned and ready to go, but in Pete's research he couldn't find a program that would do what they needed it to, and Pete was going to have to create it. "Don't worry, Dad."

Dee had been paid on a monthly basis, and had to deliver. I won't go into the periodic panic attacks happening in our bedroom at night, or the nausea the regular meetings with the company produced. Pete always! With only a few days to go, he was working 24/7, and the morning they were scheduled to leave, he came upstairs with the digital archive, one of the first of it's kind. The next day, in front of TV cameras and city dignitaries, this 18 year old demonstrated his product and taught the librarians at the university how to use it.

Dee had been brought into the technological age and was now preparing a manuscript on a computer. One morning I heard a blood curdling scream from his office and I ran in to find that he'd lost his manuscript. It was now floating somewhere out in cyberspace and he had no idea how to find it. He told me to call the high school and tell them to send Pete home because his dad was having a heart attack. A few minutes later Pete screeched in, and was soon on the case. The phone rang an hour or so later, and it was the computer teacher at the school. I was ready to lie for Pete, knowing Dee could not spare him, but the teacher quickly said he didn't need Pete to come to class, he just needed his help for a minute over the phone. The school's computers were down, and Pete walked the teacher through the repair process, and then went on to find Dee's manuscript.

I could fill a book with stories about Pete. He was our 6th child, and teased by his older brothers. When he was little, Dee assured him he would probably end up taller and bigger than they were and they'd soon look up to him. As it happened, Pete is the shortest of the boys, but everyone in our family looks up to him.

Pete started his own business when he was 21. He dropped out of college 3 times because his company was so successful he couldn't keep up with the demands. He was selling projects using technology his computer professors didn't even know about. He realized his skills were being developed in the process. We could finally see that the work he was giving away in high school was his education. He had learned how to work, how to learn, and how to apply his skills with confidence. He found an office downtown, and moved into his own apartment when he was 22. He was on his way.

After traveling to Europe several times on his own to ski, make a documentary and just explore, Pete finally decided he wanted a partner. This past year he found the most perfect girl.

She completes him! They were married in September after a very quick engagement, and took a 3 week trip to England and Europe, backpacking all the way. Together, they are really going places.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sleep Deprived

Blogging has cut into my shopping time. is really taking a hit!

That's what I did in my pre-blog life. I'd watch Dave Letterman until the Top 10, then I'd take my ambien (I'm an insomniac) and sit down at the computer while I waited for it to kick in. I'd visit Nordstrom, Sephora, Zappo's, Red Envelope, and then head over to Amazon, where I'd start reading book reviews. That would lead me to the reader's comments, and eventually I'd have a little wish list compiled and I'd start whittling it down, before I'd decide to check out the children's books. I have spent hours and hours reading about children's books, searching for titles with my grandkids names in them, and then researching the authors and the artists. Around 1:am I'd realize my fingers weren't flying over the keyboard any more and maybe it was time to try going to sleep. Often the next morning I'd get an unexpected email telling me that my order was on it's way. It's scary to find out you shop in your sleep!

Now I write in my sleep. I'm sure you can sometimes tell. When I studied German, the sign that I was finally getting it was when I dreamed in German. I remember when I learned to type, I typed my thoughts with my toes as I was falling asleep. (I've heard other people say this, too.) Lately I click on things when I dream! Is this normal?

The other night I dreamed we still lived in our house and a whole bunch of people we didn't know were gathered in our circle. They had sleeping bags and blankets, and we invited them inside. Our house (in the dream) was huge and we had lots of bedrooms. Everyone spread out and I commented to Dee that it was great that we could sleep 30 people. When I went to our room there were some girls unpacking there, so I started searching the house for someplace I could sleep. I realized I was walking through these crowds of people naked! I tried to cover up, but nobody was really paying attention, so I just kept going. When I woke up I realized this dream had a meaning. I'm walking through a group of strangers totally exposed when I blog. I must be an exhibitionist deep down. (Too bad I'm not 30 years younger and in better shape.)

Maybe blogging is just shopping for friends. But if dreams come true, I better head over to Nordstrom...I don't have a thing to wear! (It's 1:30 and the ambien is starting to work.)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Signs of Spring

Have you ever received a Heart Attack? Someone spreads little paper hearts all over your bed and your bedroom floor, almost like confetti; there are little hearts everywhere. They could be spilling out of your mailbox or scattered inside your car. It's not subtle. The little heart shaped symbols tell you that someone gave their love in a big, not-to-be missed way, and you are the recipient. It's a sign! You are loved.

I got a similar sign today. As I was driving I saw that someone was spreading spring around. I noticed the willow trees lining the stream were just barely tinged with green. Tree after tree was putting on it's spring outfit. Suddenly my senses were being attacked by signs of spring. Our baby pigeon's nest on the deck, the tulip greens peeking through the dirt, the forsythia turning yellow against fences everywhere. New life is surrounding me. I want one, too!

I want to clean up and clean out, start fresh and reinvigorated. I'm sick of dark and cold: I want bright and bold! I'm like a sunflower wanting warmth and light and a new yellow dress. I see bright green asparagus and big red strawberries, and brilliant pink rhubarb, filled with goodness from the earth and sun. Everything is reborn. I want to be reborn, too: to be more enthusiastic, more productive, more creative. It's spring!!

Spring is the giant symbol of the Resurrection. Everyone is in the dark, gray, dead of winter, and the signs of life after death give us hope!! There's a story in the scriptures where a man says he won't believe in God until he's shown a sign. The prophet replies,
"Thou hast had signs enough: All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motions, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."
As I'm looking around I see signs scattered throughout the earth testifying that God lives. He loves me and He has great plans for a wonderful future. He gives me a hint of it every spring. Like the sunflower, I just have to put on my new yellow dress and follow the SON, the way she follows the sun. I know I'll end up with enough light to grow and see my potential.

I love spring. It's fleeting here in the mountains. We have a lot of winter, spring flirts with us a little, and a few days after our last May snowstorm it's already summer. Maybe because she plays hard to get, I like spring best. It's a sign that Somebody loves me. That puts a spring in my step!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New Neighbors

A new family just moved in. We weren't especially friendly the first few weeks because they were kind of "poopy," and made lots of noise. We didn't even try to meet them. Apparently they were honeymooning, since we heard cooing, and we could tell they ruffled each other's feathers a bit. Finally Dee went to complain about the racket, and discovered they had twin babies! He came back as proud as a new grampa, and urged me outside to get acquainted. There, in the corner of our deck was a newly built nest, made of sticks and feathers, with two little pigeon nestlings.

The parents are very attentive. We can't tell which of the two is the mother, because they both feed the babies. One of them is usually sitting on the nest, and the other sits on the railing of the deck. We live on the 7th floor of our building, and when we go out to look at them, the big birds fly away and watch us from the deck across from us. We have been careful to make them welcome, but not disturb them in any way, and they don't seem afraid. Just watchful. I looked up pigeons and from the pictures they seem to be about 7 days old. They are fledglings for about 30 days before they fly off, according to the book. We are excited to watch their growth and progress.

The deck has doors to our bedroom and our office, so there's always a bit of activity going on. When Dee spotted the babies he immediately motioned for me to be quiet. He has started tiptoeing around and worries that sirens, cars, or the phone will scare them. He checks on them several times morning and night, and has now started providing them with birdseed. I often forget to turn off lights when I leave a room, which has always been a little careless according to Dee. Last night he wanted to leave the lamp on in the office "so they'll have a little night-light." He's a sucker for a cute chick.

Monday, March 12, 2007

We're resting today.

Washing, ironing, changing the bed,
Catching up with newspapers,
Clearing my head.
I feel so tired, my mind's in a fog.
I'm resting today, and so is my blog!

Love Story Chapter 1: February, 1969.

Salzburg, Austria

February 1, 1969, my life started over. I met Dee . . . and Europe. What a brilliant combination!

Salzburg, Austria was the destination for a semester abroad, but our first stop was Paris.

Our hotel, a former train station on the Left Bank, (which has since been transformed into the Musee d'Orsay) had in a huge lobby where we were getting room assignments and sorting through luggage. A few of the girls decided we wanted to go to Folies-Bergere for a midnight show. It was pretty daring for naive 19-year-olds, so we decided to ask some guys from our group to go with us as chaperones. I looked over and recognized Dee and another boy getting off the elevator, so even though we'd never met, I brazenly went over and invited them to come.

Although they were older men (in their 20's) they seemed shocked at my request. Dee's first words to me were, "I don't know. I'll have to ask my companion." His companion??? Whoa. He seemed a touch on the dorky side to me. I found out later they just didn't want to spend any money, and they were intimidated by a large pack of giggly girls going to a striptease joint.

Neither of us had an inkling of what lay ahead for us. Our little worlds had collided and the universe changed course.

Think how many times this has happened over thousands of years, and yet it has only happened to me once. I still wonder how and why I was so lucky! One boy + one girl = 7 kids + 7 kids in law + almost 20 grandkids . . . 36 lives changed forever because I walked across that hotel room. Just ten days later I was Dee's constant companion.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Our Cabin: Miles Goodyear, Ogden UT

All the really cool people have cabins. They say, "We're spending the weekend at the cabin," or "We keep our horses at the cabin," or "We ski right into the cabin." Well, we spent yesterday at "our cabin."

Our cabin was built on the Weber River in 1845, the first permanent dwelling of a white man in the state. Miles Goodyear was a fur trapper, and a mountain man. He married an Indian woman and they lived by the river several years. The cabin was later moved a few times and finally ended up in a ramshackle and decrepid condition, wrapped in chicken wire, behind the Ogden DUP museum. It was an historic hidden treasure! Dee had actually been visiting it for a few years when he finally convinced a friend that it would be possible to restore it. She donated the money to the DUP and Dee was hired in 1994 to bring it back to it's former glory. What had he gotten himself into?

The cabin had to be dismantled and then restored in the way it was originally built. First of all, Amy drew a diagram of it, log by log. Then each log was painstakingly labeled before Dee, Josh, Micah and Pete and a few others took it apart. They hauled the logs to a warehouse, where they were cleaned and treated, and left to cure. Several times during the winter Dee went to check on the stacks of logs. It made him sick. He couldn't imagine how he was ever going to recreate the cabin! He came home sicker every time he visited. It looked impossible. The whole project seemed like a nightmare. Whose idea was this? The DUP ladies were impatient and annoying. They always seemed to call when Dee was gone, and I began to hate them.

A new cement pad was poured behind the Tabernacle and the logs were hauled back. Pete's Eagle Project was to get everything ready to be put back together. With the help of the diagram, eight boy scouts started stacking the pieces on top of each other like Lincoln Logs, with Dee directing. It was like constructing a giant puzzle. The scouts had done their bit after one day, and Dee and Pete were left very short-handed. It took weeks.
The cabin had had a sod roof, and replacing that was the biggest challenge. How do you get tons of dirt on top of a pile of sticks, without collapsing the whole structure? Miles Goodyear and his Indian wife had done it all alone, so Dee knew it could be done. With a lot of research and trial and error, it was finally accomplished.

As is common in projects like this, the money and time needed were vastly underestimated and there was still a lot to do. By then it had become a labor of love. The opening of the cabin was only a few weeks away, and dignitaries and media people had all been invited. The DUP ladies were frantic that it wouldn't be finished, and although Dee was assuring them it was under control, he was actually a wreck as well.

One day in desperation he checked our kids out of school and we all went up to the cabin to "chink." Chinking is a mixture of straw, dirt, and manure that is used as a mortar between the logs. It is put on with a trowel, and it is a mess. That day it was pouring rain, and cold, and we all stood in the mud and slapped on the chinking, trying to make it stay where it was supposed to. We put it between all the logs both inside and outside. Several days after it dried, we went back to smooth the earthen floor. That day was very hot, and we had a hose and a huge roller. After the dirt was wet we were on our knees patting it down and dripping with sweat before it was rolled over and over again to get it even. Finally the cabin was ready to be furnished.

A few days later some wild flowers were planted, and it was finished. It was a miracle! It was dedicated and is always open during the summer as part of the temple grounds. Every time Dee is faced with an overwhelming challenge he drives up to the cabin. It reminds him that you can take a pile of sticks and make it something worthwhile. He always comes home buoyed up and refreshed.

We never have parties there, we never stay overnight...we don't even have any claim to it. But it is most definitely OUR cabin.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Can I vote for FDR?

My Grama L. wrote this in a little diary she gave me:
One evening Grampa B. was giving Marty a history lesson. He told her about the greatness of Lincoln and Washington and others, and then asked her, "Who is your famous character?" He surely expected her to mention one of these characters he had talked about but she said, "Truman is my famous character." Well that closed the history lesson. Mr. B. is a staunch Republican and here his 5-year-old granddaughter tells him Truman is her man. Guess she has a little of me in her, even though I haven't ever taught her my philosophy. Just plain smart girl I call it!"
I remember telling my dad when I was 11 that I was voting for JFK because he was cuter than Nixon. He just laughed and said I'd learn. That's when I became a Democrat.

After that I was a political junkie, and in 1968 I remember crying as I watched Walter Cronkite at the Democatic Convention. I figured the end was near. Of course it was. My first presidential vote was for McGovern. (I'm very proud of that one.) I still like Jimmy Carter. And, in spite of it all, I liked Bill most of the time.

I'm having a tough time this year, though. I'm waffling. On different issues I like a variety of candidates. I'm a Demo, but I like Mitt Romney. I also like John McCain, but I think he's past his prime. And, much to Dee's disappointment, I don't like Hillary. I'm impressed with Oback and I even like Guiliani in a sentimental "9/11" kind of way. I liked him before for cleaning up NYC. It doesn't make any sense and I know I will take some flack on this. I'll settle down once I've heard more. After all, I'm a pretty smart girl.

Love Story Chapter 2: February, 10th, 1969

Salzburg, February 4, 1969

I arrived in a fairy-tale. Passing dusty forests edged with frosty villages, the train pulled into Salzburg on a bright, wintry day when the city was adorned in snow. Sixty-five college students made up our group. The eight boys moved in with Austrian families, and the girls settled into the Steinlechner, a cozy, vintage hotel BYU leased for the semester.

Steinlechner, Aignerstrasse

The lobby personified Gemutlichkeit (hospitality.) Quaint fabric lampshades; heavy, dark wood paneling; drapes and tablecloths of bright blue cotton with folks dancing around yellow flowers and red hearts. A green tile Kochelofen (wood-burning furnace) filled the corner and heated the room. Oak chairs, carved with hearts, sat around tables topped with dried posies. Kitsch (junk) in it's authentic element is utterly charming.

Traditional dried flower in Salzburg

A lofty oak staircase led to three floors of guest rooms filled with coeds. Judie, Sherrie and I lucked out with a corner suite on the 2nd floor, and a decent bathroom with a six-foot footed tub. A rickety library table and a single bed occupied a little nook off the main bedroom. With two blue gumballs and one red, we drew lots for the nook. I closed my eyes, made a wish, and chose the red.

My nook at Steinlechner

It was hard to sleep that first night. A lumpy 3-sectioned mattress, covered by a thin black blanket had me fidgeting. I got up, wrote in my diary and put my boyfriend's picture on the wall. I was home.

The Steinlechner was run by a family who had escaped from Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia. An older mother was in charge, her daughter-in-law kept everything spotless, and her son was the chef—his cooking was incredible. We became accustomed to the best Austrian cuisine: pancake soup, Wienerschnitzel, Apfel StrĂ¼del. Our whole group ate together, and we held regular meetings afterward to coordinate activities.

Dee: an officer and a gentleman.

After lunch the second day, we voted for student body officers. My friend Christa nominated a guy named Dee, and he was elected. Christa was engaged to a boy at home, but she had captured Dee's attention. All I knew was his name and that he seemed spoken for, if only for the semester.

February 10th I was on a bus from downtown, going back to the Steinlechner. Some passengers got off and I saw that I was standing next to Dee. He recognized me as part of the BYU group so I smiled, glanced out the window, and said, "I wonder what that sign says." He translated, "Get your sweetheart flowers for Valentine's Day." Coyly, I said, "I wish I had someone to give me flowers for Valentine's." (OK, I was 19 . . . it was the best I could do.)

As we walked home together I remembered my boyfriend, and Christa, and realized this little flirtation was a bus to nowhere.

Bendable bus in Salzburg

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Free to Be Me

I've been thinking how nice it is to just let it all hang out. An advantage to getting older is that I've accepted myself. I'm not embarrassed to be me.

When I was a little girl I was little. My friends wore sizes 8 or 10 and I was still in a 6X. The 6X dresses had puffy sleeves and sashes that tied in the back, and I remember my friends Karen and Jill making fun of my baby dress. I wore red and white checked reading glasses in 2nd grade. I stood out. It was humiliating, and already I felt the sting of self-consciousness. When we were 11 my 2 friends got training bras. I still looked like a 5 year old boy, but my mom realized how miserable I was and got me one, too. I stuffed it with kleenex and looked lumpy and lopsided, and knew I was doomed to geekdom.

Junior High was miserable. I was too shy to tell my teachers my nickname and so I was called by my very old-fashioned real name. There wasn't anything cool about me. In 9th grade I took up swearing, hoping it would earn me some respect among the popular crowd. I don't think it improved my image at all.

It took me decades to get beyond the Jr. High mentality. I thought I had to be accepted by everybody else to be acceptable. The huge secret I discovered is that once I had accepted myself, I became acceptable.

Whether I'm called Ma'am, or Miss, Mom or Oma I know who I am. My age and rank don't matter. I can develop at my own pace. I don't need kleenex, or fame or fortune to pad the reality. I can decide what image represents the real me and I don't need to parrot the words of others to be "in." It is very freeing to let myself go, and find out where I'm going.

I wish I could find some red and white checked reading glasses. I wouldn't mind standing out now. I still envy girls who wear a size 8 or 10. I'm not a 6X anymore, but you can see that for yourself. I'm letting it all hang out!

(The featured picture is of someone else hanging out. It's not me.)

Monday, March 5, 2007

Meme Anyone?

Meme: An idea, project, statement or questions posted by one blog, responded to by other blogs.

I may be the last one in the Blogosphere to find out that the whole "cut-and-paste, write-in-your-own-answers" activity has a real name! I don't really know how to use the word, though. Am I "meme-ing?" Is this a "meme?" Shall we "meme?" And since I've only seen it in print, I don't know how to pronounce it. "Meee-meee?" "MEM-ee?" "mem-EEE?" Anyway, I'm doing one. Blog or email your comments on these five topics. Movies, Books, TV, Magazines and Music. (No cutting or pasting necessary.)

Movies: The other night we went to Breach, (which was really good.) It was our first movie in a theater since Christmas. We do Netflix, and rent the new releases, old favorites, and anything we can find in the BBC category. We're in the middle of all the Inspector Lynley Mysteries at the moment.

Books: "Is human nature ever so weak as in a bookstore?" I like to buy BOOKS. And I like to BUY books. I like the actual book itself, but I also like to physically pay for it so I know it's mine, and I'll always have access to it. I read book reviews in the NY Times, online, and I even buy books of lists of books. I have one called Read On: Historical Fiction, listing novels by the year they take place, and the location. Another is called Mystery Lovers Guide, and of course the ever-popular Modern Fiction to Read Before You Go to London. (This was published in 1962 and most of the books it suggests are out of print, but I still like reading the titles.) I buy books from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Sam Weller's, and I love to search for really neat bookstores when we travel.

TV: We are addicted to any version of Law and Order, Cold Case, Without a Trace, and CSI Miami. We also watch Passport to Europe, Hardball, CNN and Channel Two News. I usually watch the first half of Dave Letterman and What Not to Wear. Dee watches Hunting With Hank, Discovery Channel wild animal shows and anything on the History Channel. Yes, we know what we are.

Magazines: I buy Oprah, InStyle, and More every month. Dee likes magazines with restaurant reviews. Oh, and The Ensign.

Music: I have found in my old age that I can't concentrate on anything else if I'm listening to music. So, although I've transferred all my music onto my computer and iPod, I really just listen to CDs in the car. I've compiled about 50 of my own CDs with Carly Simon, James Taylor, Dixie Chicks, Carole King, Peter Paul and Mary, John Denver, Sarah MacLachlin, and lots of other favorites. I love to drive anywhere and groove to the beat.

So, now it's up to you. Meme me!

Sunday, March 4, 2007


Meeting someone who loves the same books I do is like finding a long-lost friend. I feel like I know their soul. I felt that way when I read comments on To Kill a Mockingbird. Thoughts of this favorite book reminded me of another dear friend: Scout.

The first time I read the book I was 15. I read it mostly in the orthodontist's office, and while I sat on my bedroom floor wearing a strange balloon type bonnet that was our hairdryer. I got to know Jem, and Dill and Scout and Atticus so well I could feel them. There is no mistaking a real book, and although I had devoured books since I was 6, this was one of my first real ones. It seemed like I was in it, living in Maycomb during the depression, a child of the South with my first introduction to racism.

I reached the end of the book when Scout was walking Boo home, and I started sobbing. I loved these people, and I didn't want them to leave me. I had to stop reading. I saved the last couple of pages until an hour or so later when I had calmed down. Scout's memories on those pages are described with such tenderness. "It was daytime and the neighborhood was busy"...."It was summertime, and two children scampered down the sidewalk"..."Fall, and his children trotted to and fro"..."Winter, and his children shivered...silhouetted against a blazing house"...."Winter, and a man...walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog." It was like reading the whole book over again in just a few sentences.

I often re-read these paragraphs because they help me remember my childhood, too. I think of running barefoot down the burning, softened asphalt to catch the ice-cream truck; sitting on the screened-in porch late at night with the fragrance of lilacs floating on the breeze; the smell of the furnace on the first cold morning; the sour taste of Grampa's green apples, sprinkled with salt; watching clouds and squealing with delight to see a trail of smoke from a jet plane; laying on a blanket in the backyard, listening to my dad sing You Are My Sunshine as my Aunt Marie strums her ukelele. It all seems as far away and imaginary as the soap dolls in the tree. But it's part of me and inside me, as are Heck Tate and Aunt Maudie. I experienced it all.

Books help me recall chapters in my life. Characters have become old friends and their lives are entwined with mine. Being inside someone's mind is an intimate thing. It's like knowing their soul.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Afton May Backus Halverson

Afton was born March 1, 1925. She would be 82. She was my mother-in-law, but I didn't know her well. The very day we came home from Salzburg she was diagnosed with MS, at age 44. Although the name of her disease hadn't been known until then, serious symptoms had been bothering her for about ten years. Her body was failing her, and she couldn't walk, or take care of herself. She was in bed all the time by the time I met her. She lost communication abilities quickly after that, and her illness became ever more debilitating, until she died in September, 1980, at the age of 55. I've missed having someone who could tell me about Dee in his childhood. I wish she could have seen what a wonderful husband, father and grandfather he's been, and I wish she could have known our kids. She's a main reason we had them all.

Afton was the oldest of 10 children. Her younger brother, Dee, died at 18 months, but the rest of them grew up in a loving, close-knit family. Afton eloped at age 17, and her 18 year old husband went off to war a month later, leaving his young, pregnant wife at home. She lived with her family, and her baby girl was adored by all her brothers and sisters. In fact, her mom had a baby only a month before, so they were like twins. Just before the war ended, Afton (at age 20) bought a little house (for $4500!!) and when her husband came home, Dee was the twinkle in his eye! He was a true war baby, born 9 months afterwards.

Afton enjoyed her extended family, and took her kids to visit them often. Dee remembers how much fun they always had together, and he wanted that, too. He was one of 3 kids, not close in age to either of his siblings. When we met, his idea of a happy family was a large one, with kids close in age. He wanted to re-create what he had felt in his mother's family.

Afton raised a dependable son, and instilled in him a desire for knowledge and education. Her creed must have been "A mother's job is to make a mother unnecessary." Dee was taught how to be self sufficient. He learned how to wash and iron, how to clean, cook, and take care of a yard. He became confident, motivated and capable. He has always been respectful and appreciative of me, qualities he must have learned at home. His mom took him to church, and taught him to be honorable. She was strict, but allowed him his freedom, and he knew she trusted him. He was obedient, and respected his parents. I can tell he was raised by a loving woman, who expected him to become his best self.

Dee's mom instilled a great love of reading in him. He doesn't remember them ever talking much about it, but he saw her reading all the time, and it was natural to him. She gave me a special gift in our very short time as friends. She suggested I read the book "Five Smooth Stones" by Ann Fairbairn, and she gave me her copy. It is one of my all-time favorites.

"Five Smooth Stones" is the story of David, a black boy raised by his grandfather in New Orleans in the 1930's. The grandfather makes sure he gets a good education and he becomes a lawyer in New York. In the 1950's he falls in love with a white woman, and together they become involved in the Civil Rights movement. David is more than a character in a book. I feel like he's someone I've known. When I finished the book the first time, I thought about him for months, and missed him. I learned so much from this book, and I've re-read it several times. I'm grateful Afton shared it with me.

We don't know how we influence people, or how long our influence will be felt. Without even being present, Dee's mother has been a constant influence on Dee, me, and our family. I wish I could thank her for her contribution to my life. I love her for it.