Thursday, May 31, 2007


Lois Lane was one of my idols. She worked at a great, metropolitan newspaper and wrote articles about Heroes. Years ago we started calling our kids The Heroes, (trying to instill heroic type qualities) and we call the grand kids Heroes, Too. Who better to try my reporting skills on??Over the last 10 years we've had Heroes living in Boston, Pennsylvania, Cleveland, Seattle, Utah, San Diego, Toledo, Denver, Minnesota and St. Louis, but they're all members of The Cousins Club.

The Cousins Club Newsletter comes out quarterly with articles featuring my little heroes, as well as something about our family history. Nothing heavy...this month I wrote about our dog Peaches, and sent along a picture of her for the kids to color. I've told funny stories about their parents as little kids, and suggested family recipes they could make.

We have a pledge (suggested by one of the kids)
and I scan photos so they'll remember each other. I had help with the layout the first couple of years, (Aunt Min) and lately I've tried a Pages template.
I'm still experimenting with my design, but I always pick the most appreciative and least critical of readers. (The oldest two are nine, and the youngest two are 4 days old.) Getting anything in the mail is a treat, and I'm sure the ShopCo ads are just as thrilling to recieve, but the ShopKo people don't have as much fun as this Lois Lane.

If you want to be a Hero, join The Cousin's Club. Maybe someone will write about you!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tour de SLC

I have nothing against bicyclists. Some of them are my nearest and dearest. It's just that I'm terrified that I'll kill someone someday because I don't get the rules. Am I supposed to treat them like pedestrians or like cars?

If I pass a bike who is in the right "share the road" lane, and I'm turning right, am I supposed to wait for him to keep going straight, or is he supposed to wait while I turn? If it's close, I would always let him go, but it's hard to gauge (when he's speeding along and I'm slowing down, and I can't see him because he's weaving) what he's going to do.

When I'm waiting in the left turn lane (through several lights), why can he speed up between the lanes and cut in front of me just because he's smaller?

When I'm driving up the canyon, and a biker is taking much of my lane, we're going around a bend and a car is coming down the canyon in the other lane, who am I supposed to hit? And when a bike comes sailing past me on the left (coming down the canyon), am I supposed to careen into the mountain side out of courtesy?

I think bikers pick which set of rules they're following as they're cruising along, and I never know what they'll do. Yet obviously they are more vulnerable and I shouldn't hit them just out of spite. Maybe I'll get a helmet just in case.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Blogger 101: Questions and Answers

I'd been reading blogs long before I knew what they were called. I watched a TV show called What Not to Wear, on BBC, and read they were broadcasting it in the USA. I went online and found links to the show, followed by comments by fans. As I read the comments it seemed as if I'd stumbled onto a bunch of employees and friends of the show emailing each other about a particular episode. I felt like I was eavesdropping on a private conversation, but it was fun, so I kept going back to the site and followed along for months. I was a wannabe blogger but didn't know it.

I wanted to comment, but I didn't think I could be part of the group. I wasn't invited, I didn't know how to get my cool name, and they'd wonder why I was reading their private email. They all seemed to know each other. It was extremely entertaining. I've since learned that I was a lurker.

As an experienced blogger now, I love lurkers. My site meter indicates I sometimes have 600 people read my blog and yet I get only 5 or 6 comments. I'd love to know more about my lurkers, why they come, do they come back, are they afraid of crashing the party, or getting tons of spam or getting their identity stolen by joining in with comments. Those were some of my fears as I learned about blogging.

Many people read blogs like you'd read a magazine: just for entertainment, not for interaction. I think it's all totally fine. I now comment on several blogs, and I lurk on more, and it's very fun either way.

Before I really got set up I started hearing about my space and pornography sites, and stalkers and stings as dirty old men followed 13 year girls to the mall, because of their sites. The word blog had made it's way into my vocabulary, but it seemed scary. If you blogged, I thought, you were opening yourself up to child-abuse, the sex trade, or at the very least spammers. I wasn't sure what spammers were, but it sounded like something to avoid. I've realized I can't walk through life scared, though. Fear is not a positive emotion. Hope is.

I haven't been stalked, spammed or kidnapped in the 8 months I've been blogging, and I love the blogging friends I've made and the info that's available to me. For free! It's a fabulous hobby. I was almost ready. I was getting the blogger lingo and I started dipping in my toe.

I discovered other sites where everyone was talking about politics instead of fashion, and I loved hiding in the corner listening in. There seemed to be new people arriving, introducing themselves to the others and I realized they weren't necessarily family or work friends all emailing each other, they were strangers connecting through these sites. I began to feel I'd be welcome.

This is the woman who brought me into the Blogosphere.
About that time my sons and others were talking about blogs. I realized I was lurking on actual blogs, that bloggers were glad I was lurking, and would be happy to have me comment. "Would it be like crashing their family reunion?" I asked. Then our son's new girlfriend said, "You ought to read mine." So that night I went to Anna's blog InBetween the Lines, and I loved it! I loved her! I clicked on all her blog roll friends and read them all. I loved her dad, her brother-in-law, her sisters, her friends. I loved how they interacted, what they talked about, and I could see why Pete was attracted to this beautiful author.

I found I couldn't comment unless I had a blog of my own (which isn't true on my own blog. Comment away!) so I got my daughter to set me up. It turned out to be easy-peasy. Over the next few days I learned to look up blogs by googling blog topics. I read some that appealed, and then visited their blogrolls, and found more I liked and added them to my favorites. After I started posting, I went to a few of my favorites, commented on their posts and invited them to visit mine. I now have a list too long to leave a comment every time, but I often want them to know I was there.

The Blog World had welcomed me with open arms. There are people of different backgrounds, cultures, ages, experiences, that fascinate me. People like me, with similar interests, and those with totally different life styles and expertise anxious to share through their blogs. It is like a giant university where you can skip around and pick and choose any subject that strikes a chord and join that discussion, or at least listen in.

So this all brings me to

I keep asking people, "What's the Blog Etiquette?" and nobody knows. I want a few suggestions. For instance:
  1. Is it rude to visit without leaving a comment?
  2. If someone leaves a comment, should you visit them and say thanks for commenting?
  3. I have enjoyed posts where I never leave a comment, and then wonder if I'm partly responsible for keeping that post alive. Is it like a store with no customers will have to shut down?
  4. Has anyone had bad experiences using real names?
  5. Are there blogger stalkers who try to track you down?
  6. Is a comment supposed to be short and sweet or can it turn into a post itself?
  7. Is it polite to suggest a favorite blog when you're commenting on someone else's post?
  8. I don't read blogs where crude language flies fast and furiously, or where lack of respect is shown. How do you keep comments from becoming that way?
  9. How long do you keep checking a latent blog, before you give up on it.
  10. I never want my blogging to turn into a chore. It's totally fun right now. But I can start feeling responsible to my imagined readership. How does that work? Can you take a break? Will people stop reading your blog?
  11. Posts are so different that we can all find what we're interested in. Are there topics people are especially drawn to?
  12. What are pet peeves of blogs?
  13. How do you choose the ones you read regularly?
  14. What's the etiquette on adding someone to your blog roll? Should you let them know?
  15. If you're added to someone's are you supposed to add them? Is it an insult if you don't?
  16. If you laugh at your own blog, and no one reads it, is it really funny?
  17. Do you write for yourself or for your readers?
  18. Would you keep writing with no comments?
  19. Some people are worried about getting comments from strangers and feel invaded. How can you tell who not to invade?
  20. Do you need permission to quote from someone's blog?
  21. If you're not getting any money for it, can you use artwork and images from books on a blog?
  22. How many blogs do you regularly follow?

You can add any questions or comments you have. Just respond to what you want to; there's no mark down for answering just 2 or 3 questions. I am anxious to hear how you feel about this topic! Lurkers welcome. Just post a comment as anonymous and we'll never know.
Help me compile a little list of manners that seem to be evolving naturally. I like the learn as we're inventing this and think it's fun to see what happens. But if there are some rules I'm breaking, I don't want to offend any of my new cyber neighbors. Email this post to others if you want to, so we can get several responses. Thanks!

Watching the World Go Round

We're all here on the same planet at the same time, leading semi-similar lives (in the general sense of eating, sleeping, working, worrying, loving, guiding, etc.) and yet we all live in separate worlds. Babies were born in my world. Babies are sick in someone else's world. It's a beautiful summer day in my world, and in someone else's world there's shooting and killing right outside the front door.

And then there's the world we live in inside ourselves. I can be at peace, while Dee can be in turmoil. Somebody might be in constant pain, while someone is frantic over losing their job. We could all be sitting at dinner together, going through the motions of conversations, laughing, greeting people, saying we're fine, and yet our own world might be careening into chaos, and we don't know where we'll end up. I can look at others and not realize that, for now, their world is very different than mine. Or sometimes I am with others, and know they haven't got a clue about how unstable my world is.

I can imagine us at an amusement park. We're all taking turns hopping on the craziest rides; we hand over our ticket and away we go. The over and under, round and round, up and down of life leaves us dizzy, sometimes sick, and sometimes laughing as we try to regain our balance. Then we take our turn to sit down with a cool drink, enjoy the breeze and watch the next batch of riders scream and holler their way through the adventure, relieved that for a few moments our feet are firmly on the ground and we can see the world in the right perspective.

I thought of all this as I was riding down the hospital elevator, having just spent the afternoon with my daughter, her husband and their 2 precious new babies. I was in a little bubble of happiness and relief. A young couple got in, and he was hugging her while she cried. An older lady in a wheelchair was slumped to the side, looking unseeingly at the floor while a middle-aged man (her son?) pushed her. He looked horribly tired, and hopeless, and maybe a little drunk. There were 2 nurses hurrying to get somewhere, talking and moving quickly, carrying papers and water bottles. We were all together physically in that little elevator, but we were in our own worlds, spinning at our own speed.

The Life-and-Death events always make me philosophical. My world gets shaken up, and rearranged, and I have to figure out again how I fit in, and what my role is. I'd like to put everything on pause just for a few minutes, enjoy it, and then when I'm ready, push play. But the world just keeps going around!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

LIttle girls, little girls....

Remember this woman?

We were beginning to wonder if it was all an elaborate hoax, but last night it happened! Two little girls arrived in a perfect delivery: thirty-eight weeks (exactly on time for twins), no Cesarean needed, 7 minutes apart and each weighing in at almost 6 pounds.

Eliza needed a little oxygenation and was quickly whisked away to the NICU, where she is doing fine. Jill (who apparently took her sister's breath away,) is comfortably settled in her mother's room. So far they haven't seen each other in real life and we haven't seen them together. Hopefully tomorrow they'll be able to compare notes on the world, and we'll be able to compare them.

The big sisters are very excited. Lucy wondered if the babies could do the monkey bars yet. Chelsea mostly liked the buttons that made her mom's bed go up and down.

Mom and Dad are both doing great. Four daughters under 3 and 1/ problem!

Oma can't go to church tomorrow. She's recovering.

Friday, May 25, 2007

War and Peace

Lately I am thinking about war. I am against it.

Thought #1:
Service in Viet Nam seems to be a new standard for patriotism. I'm skeptical of those who now regret their choice not to serve. (I think they just regret not being a hero like John McCain.) Don't they remember? Nobody wanted to go to Viet Nam; the boys I knew who went were drafted. Most guys were trying to string together student deferments until they were 26, or else they joined the National Guard or ROTC hoping to get a choice of assignments or at least go in as an officer. It was not seen as unpatriotic to avoid being drafted. It was seen as lucky.

We were married in 1969, and the lottery was held that December. Dee's number was very low, and we knew he'd be drafted immediately, so he quickly joined ROTC so he'd be able to finish school first. By that time I was pregnant and I cried myself to sleep many nights, terrified that I'd be left with a baby and he'd be killed. I had my second baby 2 years later while he was at a 6-week summer camp. During that time, he had a severe asthma attack in a foxhole, and was hospitalized for several days. He was later discharged because of it, and the 3 years we had planned to give the army were given back to us. It was a huge relief.

Thought #2:
I am an Anglophile and love all things British, especially their history. I've read a lot about World War II, the Blitz, and the bravery of the English people. We've visited the War Cabinet Rooms, and marvelled at Winston Churchill's leadership, the encouragement shown by King George and the Queen Mother as they walked through the rubble of the bombings. We've been to the Imperial War Museum and watched newsreels and reports of the evacuation of children, and the conditions as families gathered in the Underground stations for protection during the night. I've read books and seen movies that convince me that the citizens were heroes.

It thrills me that Americans came to their aid and support. I love the stories of the soldiers who joined the RAF, and I like knowing we joined their fight against terrorism. I am touched by this speech given by Churchill in 1940:
....You ask, What is our policy? I will say; "It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy." You ask, What is our aim? I can answer with one word: Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.
Thought #3:
Are these two different philosophies? How can I hold both views?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I'd Like to Recommend...

To celebrate my 100th Blog, I am going to make
100 Recommendations

  1. Read a book in the British Museum Library, London, England
  2. Spend Saturday at The Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, CO
  3. Feast on fresh apple Pie from McFaddens in Maumee, OH
  4. Camp out in a thunder storm
  5. Dine at Le Train Bleu Restaurant in the Gare de Lyon in Paris, France
  6. Lunch with the ladies at Le Train Bleu Restaurant in Bloomingdales, NYC
  7. Go on a Pioneer Trek
  8. Attend your child's wedding
  9. Sleep in a warm bed in a cold room
  10. Stay at the Woodstock Inn, Woodstock, Vermont
  11. Try Langos (Hungarian fried bread) with garlic and salt
  12. Tour the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC
  13. Eat fresh Maine lobster in Maine
  14. Look at Little Golden Books illustrated by Eloise Wilkins
  15. Sing the Messiah in a choir
  16. Read To Serve Them All My Days by R. F. Delderfield
  17. Wake up to Semmeln (white breakfast rolls) in Austria, with unsalted butter
  18. Sniff Sublime perfume by Jean Patou
  19. View Mount Olympus from the 23rd East Exit, in SLC, UT
  20. Gulp fresh squeezed grapefruit juice first thing in the morning
  21. Watch a little league baseball game
  22. Drive to Brighton, UT on a summer evening from SLC, UT
  23. Read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, then watch the movie
  24. Consume Swedish Thinnies (pancakes) made by me
  25. Order Chocolate Souffle with vanilla sauce anywhere you can get it
  26. Sleep out under the stars, with the smell of lilacs in the air
  27. Visit the National Postal Museum, Washington, DC
  28. Eat at In and Out Burger in Las Vegas, NV, or anywhere in Southern CA
  29. Fold sheets that have dried outside on a clothesline
  30. Sip a Chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream
  31. Tour Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Stratford upon Avon, England
  32. Eat Hot French Fries in a cone, on a cool day in Bruges, Belgium
  33. Ride Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland
  34. Take the ferry from San Francisco to Saucilito, CA
  35. Soften your feet with a sugar scrub
  36. Explore the Mysterious Bookshop, NYC, NY
  37. Try a Big H Hamburger, Fries and Fry Sauce at Hires, SLC, UT
  38. Sit in the rain at Bryant Park Cafe, behind the NY Public Library, NYC, NY
  39. Reflect at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France
  40. Try Chocolate Mousse at Brasserie Jo's, Boston, MA
  41. Take the train to Appenzell, Switzerland
  42. Make friends with someone who makes home made donuts
  43. Dine on Dee's brined turkey for Thanksgiving
  44. Blast songs by the Beach Boys in the car on a long drive during the summer
  45. Learn at The British War Museum
  46. Read mysteries by Helen MacInnes (WWII, and Cold War spy novels)
  47. Think about songs by Peter, Paul & Mary
  48. Quote lines from Seinfeld, Cheers, MASH, and Frasier to fellow quoters
  49. View the lakes in Minnesota from the air
  50. Sleep in 250 thread count sheets
  51. Splurge on $75 pillows from Bed, Bath and Beyond
  52. Watch Inspector Foyle Mysteries on A&E
  53. Shop for marbled paper in Venice, Italy
  54. Listen to waves crashing on the beach as you go to sleep
  55. Every year watch All the President's Men with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman
  56. Take a hot air balloon ride with brave grand kids
  57. Swing on a rope and drop into a river
  58. Ride the Orient Express overnight from Paris, France to Salzburg, Austria
  59. Watch all 33 Inspector Morse Mysteries
  60. Spend the day at Baldwins Book Barn in West Chester, PA
  61. Sip thick hot chocolate at Angelina's in Paris, France
  62. Visit Books of Wonder children's bookstore, NYC, NY
  63. Go to a Paul Simon concert and sing along to You Can Call Me Al
  64. Give birth
  65. Sing around a campfire
  66. Get a pedicure
  67. View SLC coming down Parley's Canyon at 9:pm in June, SLC, UT
  68. Photograph Upper and Lower Slaughters in the Cotswold's of England
  69. Memorize Casey at the Bat, and Little Orphan Annie
  70. Create a blog
  71. Organize your photos
  72. Be refreshed with an ice cold Coca Cola in a little bottle
  73. Listen to John Denver songs in the winter with a fire burning in the fireplace
  74. View SLC coming down Little Cottonwood Canyon at 5:pm in December, SLC, UT
  75. Have Cream Tea at Betty's in York, England
  76. Watch The Great Escape with Steve McQueen
  77. Stay in Vianden, Luxembourg
  78. Stay awake with mysteries by Elizabeth George (pretty gruesome)
  79. Record What Not to Wear and watch it while you iron
  80. Ski down a mountain where it's not crowded, not freezing, not snowing, not sunny
  81. Count your blessings, name them one by one
  82. Eat breakfast by a campfire in the mountains
  83. Remember good things
  84. Eat apple fritter donuts with vanilla sauce, in Brunnen, Switzerland
  85. Go to the grocery store in Issaquah, WA
  86. Browse independent bookstores in small towns
  87. Write a thank you note to a person who influenced you
  88. Try a Turkish Hot Fudge Sundae, Ghiradelli Square, San Francisco, CA
  89. Read about Princess Diana
  90. Drive coast to coast across the USA
  91. Get a massage
  92. Listen to James Taylor as you drive from Stockbridge to Boston, MA
  93. Find the story behind your quilt
  94. Be involved in politics
  95. Float down a river on a raft
  96. Host a pie eating contest
  97. Watch Brideshead Revisited
  98. Buy muffins at The Gingerbread Construction Co., Wakefield, MA
  99. Listen to a 3-yr-old granddaughter sing her little sister to sleep
  100. List 100 things that have made you happy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"And down will come Oma..."

Chelsea (2) and Lucy (3) are having a sleepover at Oma's. The girls are snuggled in their sleeping bags and Oma begins her lullaby repertoire.

Lucy: Oma, why are you singing?

Oma: I'm singing you to sleep. (Sings a few bars...)

Lucy (sitting up): How long are you going to sing?

Oma: Until you fall asleep.

Lucy (quickly faking sleep): I'm asleep.

Oma: I'm singing until Chelsea falls asleep, too.

Lucy: You said you'd just sing until I fell asleep. I'm asleep.

Oma: Shall I stop singing?

Lucy: Yes. You can just stop singing and you can just go out of here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Becoming SuperOma

The Oma Storybook Collection has been a dream of mine for a long time. It's my way of creating a family history for our grandkids, in a kid-friendly format. A few years ago I wrote an A-B-C Book about Dee, illustrating some of his favorite things with photos of him.

I wrote a 1-2-3 Book about me visiting my grandparents. I told about counting 6 goldfish in their pond, cranking the ice cream freezer 8 times, counting 10 stars while we sang outside, etc. That book was illustrated with drawings by Amy.

My favorite, though, is a book called The Adventures of SuperOma. It starts out:
Many years ago children didn't watch TV. It hadn't been invented yet! In those days the children gathered in the living room around the radio and listened to stories. The children all loved SuperHeroes and wanted to be Heroes themselves! Because there were no pictures to watch, the children imagined the people in the stories looked like people they knew. If you use your imagination you might recognize some SuperHeroes in these stories, too.

I made up several stories about SuperOma,
"who, disguised as Marty Kent, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way!"
I used photos of my kids and grandkids to illustrate the stories. The kids seem to like this book the best.

Another book, A Prince, a Princess & a Castle, tells how Dee and I met in fairytale form.

I used photos from our family reunion, and wrote a rhyming story so the kids would have something tangible to remind them of what we did and how much fun we had together.

Writing the story is always easy for me. The illustrating and layout has been my challenge. For SuperOma I used stickers, scrapbook materials and glue, cutting and pasting the text by hand onto printed paper. Very low tech, and the color copies cost a fortune.

With the other books I've had the help of my daughters so far, but my goal is to be independent, and do it all myself. This past year I've poured over books about digital layout, digital scrap booking , designing and photography trying to teach myself the skills to create what I picture in my mind. It's very exciting to me to "go it alone!" But I'm scared, too, knowing how limited my artistic talent is. It seems silly, since no one has any expectations at all, and so far the people I'm doing the books for are just as thrilled with a page from a coloring book. I know what I want, though.

I have other books in mind, too. I want to graduate to chapter books on the order of the American Girl books, telling the stories of our grandparents and parents as young people, describing the times and events of their lives. And then, I have a whole bunch of research already done so I can write novels starring my ancestors in the middle ages in England!

I really do have to become SuperOma to do all this. I'm honing my writing skills here on my blog, and I've got my cape and tights handy in the phone booth!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Oma's Busted!

"Middle age is the time of life when the most fun you have is talking about the most fun you used to have."

Does this sound like my blog????

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Mini Mart

Visit Marta at her new online arts and crafts shop! She's giving stuff away, and there are cookies.

"She Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby...."

I was actually stopped by strangers who told me they'd never seen a prettier baby! Amy is the middle child of our 7 kids. But for 2 and a half years she was the baby. Later she could go either way...if the big kids were in trouble, she was a little kid. If the big kids got an outing, she was a big kid. But she really was a little kid. Every entry in my journal for years refers to her as being tiny. "She's the littlest thing..." "She's so petite..." "She's way too little to be 4..." "Everyone comments on how little Amy is..." "She won't eat a thing." But everyone also commented on how cute she was. She had jaundice which gave her a beautiful complexion, she was overdue and not fragile, and it was summer so I could be outside and show her off.

Having 3 older siblings toughened her up. Although Amy looked like a little doll, she could handle herself. She was smart enough to know when to hit back, and when to cry like a little girl. She took ballet, but was also the only girl on the Little League team. Her goal was to be a tomboy but her looks never let her pull it off. Being a tomboy did put her in touch with the boys, though, and she ended up liking the perks.

In fairness, I must mention that there was a stage of gawky-ness where Amy wore giant round purple glasses, leg warmers and greeted friends she'd just left five minutes before with giggles and hugs that were decidedly dorky. She incorporated some strange eye-blinking techniques into her persona, followed by constant throat-clearing that became annoying after 5 seconds. She had very short legs and a big head of curly hair, and she looked a bit unbalanced. She added baseball hats (worn backwards) into her ensemble and for several months tried hard to look more like a boy than she did a girl. I had high hopes that this would pass. It did.

One night when Micah was a sophomore in high school, hoping to be seen as cool, he invited a bunch of his new buddies over. They were all sitting in the kitchen grazing, when he came bounding upstairs to our room, in quite a state. "Get her out of there! She's ruining it!" Apparently Amy had wandered in and was "totally bugging" all the guys Micah was trying to impress. I understood. I had had little sisters to contend with, too. I went down to the kitchen to shoo her away, and the image I saw has never left my mind. Amy was holding court. She was standing at the head of the table laughing and talking, and the boys were sitting, staring with their mouths hanging open, eyes glazed, bits of drool noticeable on their lips, mesmerized by this 9th grade interloper little sister. Taking in the scene made a very clear point. Amy had grown up.

Amy is an artist. Check out her blog. She draws, sketches, and illustrates, and has darling handwriting, with a great eye for color and balance. She was always my go-to girl for posters or invitations when she was young. She loves interior design. Her home is full of personality, with every shelf and corner a work of art. Yet it is also comfortable and welcoming, a place for a family. I've walked into her bedroom when the bed isn't made, and the pillows are tossed on the floor, and still it all looks so colorful and cute it could be featured in a magazine. She can make even chaos look artistic. She's not afraid to let her kids finger paint, etc., and she never worries that they'll make a mess. That's part of the fun! She crafts, cooks, and colors with her 3 little girls, sews and crochets, and every day feels like a holiday. Except holidays, when she decorates and celebrates and entertains even more.This is a mother/wife extraordinaire. Her girls enjoy field trips to gardens, art galleries and museums. At 2, 4, and 5 years old they know the states and capitols, Broadway musicals, and how to grow sunflowers. They've learned to read, and read music, and appreciate Jane Austen while they're still in diapers and sucking on binkies. Amy's husband Sco is a brilliant mathematician and they call him The Count as he tutors them in number concepts. They visit the elderly (me), take treats to neighbors and go Caroling at Christmas.

Amy plays the violin, and taught herself to play the piano. She plays the mandolin and the guitar as well, and has played in a Bluegrass Band. She is a graphic artist and has designed books for publication, as well as a scrapbook a year for each daughter. She has organized huge Easter Egg hunts for her neighborhood, and was in charge of a 4th of July Breakfast attended by hundreds of people in the community. I could list her activities in volumes, but you get the gist.

Can you imagine that this woman doubts herself? She sometimes feels inadequate, and worries that she's not accomplishing anything of worth. She wonders if she's doing all she should. She doesn't trust the feedback she receives because she doesn't see herself as anyone out of the ordinary. She worries that her hair is too curly, or that her figure's too curvy.
She's oblivious to herself and her abilities, and that blind spot makes her even better. She is humble and unselfish with her time and talents. She'll listen for hours, not pass judgements, but always encourage. She'll tend people's kids, design their flyers, and give them violin lessons. I heard someone singing the other day as she walked by:"She must have been a beautiful baby, cause baby, look at her now!"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

This Says it All

There was a woman in front of me at Dillards waiting to buy a skirt. The cashier was helping a teenage girl who had decided on a dress, and she asked if she could put it on hold for a few days. The sales lady said she couldn't hold anything longer than 24 hours. The girl seemed very disappointed and explained that she didn't get paid until Friday, so she wouldn't be able to buy the dress.

The woman in front of me spoke up. "I'll buy it for you." We all looked at her in surprise, as she said again, "Let me buy it for you." The girl quickly said, "Oh, no! I couldn't let you do that!" The woman explained, "I had a daughter about your age who was killed in a car accident last year. I'd love to buy her a dress. Let me do it for you."

The sales lady and I both had tears in our eyes as the girl hugged her new friend. It was such a sweet act, so unexpected and kind. I won't forget it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Performing for the Crowd

What about those times you think you're cool, but everyone else knows you're not?
Watching my brilliant 5-year-old granddaughter perform perfectly in her first piano recital reminded me of one of my first performances.

Karen and I were ten, very ten. Our mothers were always telling us to settle down, as we hung all over each other and laughed hysterically at nothing. We had those giant teeth 10-year-olds have, and we proudly wore our Annette Funicello perms. Karen had cat eye glasses and was about a foot taller than me. Someone must have thought we were cute, though, because we were asked to sing in church on Easter Sunday.

We had new Easter dresses, and we both wore hats and little white gloves for the big day. We started out softly and shyly, "Oh how lovely was the morning..." but by the end of the first verse we were singing confidently, even smiling at the congregation. Then we reached the fatal line: "Oh what rapture filled his bosom..." It was too much! We had just sung the word bosom in church! Our voices started quivering, we clasped hands, and collapsed in giggles, right there, in front of everyone. I don't know if we even finished the song. To this day the word bosom makes me think of Karen, being ten, and how proud our parents must have been.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Wells Halverson

Grampa's Play House, 1977

The first thing I ever sacrificed was butter. Then it was milk. We were newly married students, playing house and expecting a baby, and as poor as could be. I had been raised in a family where we took our butter seriously. Dee thought we could substitute a very yellow cube of what tasted like hard crisco. When that didn't help our savings plan, he suggested mixing our skim milk with powdered milk. I was pregnant and couldn't stand the smell, so he would mix it up every day himself. If I drank it very cold and very fast, I almost didn't taste the powdery yellow lumps that floated on top. Mixing it with cheap powdered whipped topping was a lumpy, tasteless mess, that brought on morning sickness at any time of day.

One morning very early I heard something at our door. I opened it and found a package with a pound of real butter and a 1/2 gal of real milk. Soon these packages were being dropped off regularly, sometimes with a pint of whipping cream. I caught my benefactor one day at 5:am. It was my father-in-law! He knew Dee could live the impoverished life but he didn't want me to. It was such a sweet gift. He kept me in fresh dairy goods for a few years. I've never forgotten it.

I had been married about 10 years before I figured out what to call him. It eventually turned into Grampa. I hugged him for the first time after our 4th baby was born. I had to work up my courage because he'd never shown affection to me before. I finally said, "Prepare yourself to be hugged!" and then I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. He reacted like a 10-year-old boy. I was still pretty young, and pretty pretty, and he blushed and grinned and guffawed a little but I could tell he was pleased. He never initiated it, but I felt comfortable after that. He showed his affection for all of us through the grandkids.

Dee's mom had MS and was in a rest home the first 10 years of our marriage. Grampa took over the hospitality duties at home. He had us over for dinner many times. He liked to make jello with the plain and frothy layer effect. He made lamb stew, or beef stew, or soup. He wasn't supposed to eat salt so when he made ham he would boil it until the salt was gone. There's not much flavor at that point, so I'd have to go heavy on the mustard. He hosted Thanksgiving several times, and made all the fixings, then served them in mismatched Tupperware. It was a man's meal, full of love and thoughtfulness. It was so cute that he invited us with all 7 of our kidlets to invade his little house, but he wanted us to feel welcome.

Grampa inherited an old pioneer house when his own dad died. He decided to fix it up. He dug up the floor and replaced the floor boards, walls, added a bathroom and restored the outside of the house and yard. He built a brand new kitchen with new cabinets, and installed up to date windows. He worked on the house for a couple of years whenever he had a day off. He called it "Grampa's Play House." We'd visit him over there and pick the walnuts off the lawn so he could show the kids how to crack them.

He had his own timetable. I'd invite him up for Sunday dinner and plan it for 1:00. He'd show up at 10:am while I was still bustling around in my nightgown, with the kitchen a disaster, and sit down on the floor to play trains with the kids. About 1:pm he'd announce he was leaving! I'd say, "Oh, but you haven't eaten...." and he'd say, "It's fine. I'll stop at Chuck-a-Rama on my way home."

Grampa was so proud of his grandkids. He kept track of their games, recitals and interests, and would often share little treasures with them: coins, stamps, acorns, polished rocks, and spent shell casings. He sat with them on the floor and played Hook and Ladders, Uno, and blocks, and when he was at our house there was no mistaking who he was there to see.

Grampa made his own jam. He invented many different combinations such as cantaloupe/walnut, and apricot/peach/pineapple. He carried several jars proudly into restaurants, turned down the jam offered, and opened his own jar. He always had extra jars and offered them to his waitress and the people sitting nearby. He loved sharing his wares.

Grampa was funny with cameras, too. He had a camera Dee had bought him in Germany which was his prize possession. He was continually trying to improve his photographic skills over the many trips he took. Once he came home with a roll of film that he had used over and over. He had forgotten to wind, so the pictures were all on top of each other! He took masterpieces of the entire trip to Hawaii, but without film! The topper was when he perfected his methods, and took beautiful shots of his cruise to Alaska. He dropped the camera into the ocean on the last day of the trip.

Grampa would be 83 today. He was a hard worker, dedicated to providing a living and a home for his family. He was a quiet, even shy man, but very sociable in the right circumstances and had a lot of friends. Education was important to him because he didn't go beyond high school. He was patiotic, and served in England and France in WWII as a very young man. He had a well-kept home and lovely yard, cared about his flowers, staining the fence and painting the house regularly. He married for a second time after Afton died, but as he lay dying his second wife kept whispering "Go to her, go to sweet Afton, she's been waiting..." and he did.

Happy Birthday, Grampa. We're remembering the little things you did that made a big difference!

I'm Still Growing

"You've got to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather is."

I've spent the week reflecting on the great qualities of women who have influenced my life, especially my 2 grandmothers and my mom. I've inherited my hazel eyes, my cuddly shape and my chubby fingers from them, but I think DNA can only do so much. My personal accomplishments are pretty much up to me. So, what am I going to do about it?

Something I admire about these 3 women is that they were continually learning about a variety of subjects. I remember my mom studying a Red Cross book, and using me to practice giving a bed bath, and changing sheets with a person in the bed. She also learned how to refinish furniture, arrange flowers and make drapes, among lots of other things.

Grandma Lundgren studied poetry, and different cultures, and for about 10 years taught a class on The Bible as literature. Grandma Bagley wrote a book about her native Idaho, and researched the history of quilt patterns. I'm barely scratching the surface here.

I've always had a little list of interests going. It has included Learn about Machiavelli, Learn to Tole Paint, Take Guitar, Study English History, Write a Children's Mystery Series, and Research British Castles and Ruins. It isn't really a list of goals to accomplish. It is a list I can go to when I want a new project, or something to study. I add to, cross off and sometimes chuckle at what I wrote. I think of my list as a Course Catalog that I can choose from and that will inspire me.

For the past year I've had a sheet on my bulletin board called Current Studies. Last May (2006) I listed:

  1. Become familiar with new Mac Computer
  2. Learn Computer Design: (Cousins Club Newsletters, Oma Books)
  3. Organize photos in iPhoto
  4. Organize music in iTunes
  5. Color code and organize files in computer
  6. Create Heritage Map as wall display
  7. Learn to make mailing stickers
  8. Write something for publication
  9. Plan for Dee's 60th birthday in England
  10. Have weekly Oma Days
Today I updated my list. I have some things that I've accomplished, some in the works, some that I've abandoned, and some that are still in the idea stage.

  1. Layout and design 3 Oma books: The Ghost Buster, Giesele, Keepsakes
  2. Bi-Monthly Cousin Club Newsletter
  3. Heritage Map
  4. Compile info on Sweden into a folder on computer
  5. Create kids cookbook of Hero recipes
  6. Read the books on my "To Read" Shelf
  7. Read the books on my "England Research" Shelf
  8. Write an article on Organization
  9. Scan illustrations and photos and categorize
  10. Keep blogging
I'm going to expand on some of these projects in my next few posts.

I don't want to just reflect on the heritage I've been given, I want to build on it. I want to do my own growing!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

After all,

"Kids don't stay with you if you do it right. It's one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won't be needed in the long run." (Barbara Kingsolver)

In the long run, my kids have taken off and passed me by. I tried to keep up with them for a while, but they are all way too fast. I'm happy to walk a little slower and let them jog back occasionally and tell me how their marathons are going. I haven't crossed any finished lines yet, but I know I won!!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Scary Stuff

Dee called from across the street. "I can't come home. There's a bomb threat!" I immediately looked out the window and saw him in the car at the intersection. The street was filled with firetrucks, an ambulance, and a bomb squad vehicle, as well as several policemen setting up a perimeter to block traffic. It was happening right there, 7 floors below me! I couldn't see what was going on, and I didn't know what I should do. I called downstairs to the office and they said we weren't being evacuated and we should stay inside for now.

The TV flashed a Breaking News banner. There we were! The news crew was setting up on our front steps! Apparently there were 2 big packages left on the steps of a building 2 doors up. A foreign flag of some sort was draped across the largest package, and there was no postage or address, which made it suspicious. The bomb squad sent a robot up to detonate it. There was a loud boom, and then the debris was examined closer. It turns out it was a sewing machine. Actually sewing machines have caused a lot of stress in my life (the whole bobbin thing...) so I understood how the robot felt. After another hour, everyone had gone home and it barely made the 10:00 news tonight.

Dee was finally able to get past the guards, and when he walked in our door he had another suspicious package with him. The return address was Land's End, and it contained the candidates for my new swimming suit. I just had to try them on and decide. Now truly, which event is the scarier?