Wednesday, January 30, 2008

First Dinner Party

October 1969

The lovely sterling silver serving pieces looked a little out of place on the tiny table that came with our furnished mobile home. They were wedding gifts, and it was their debut. Mine, too. Our Tyrolean tablecloth, Blue Danube dishes and entertaining skills were on display for the first time. Mom and Dad were coming for dinner.

It was cozy; so cozy that Dee had to stand up and move his chair so I could open the oven. I garnished the Barbecued Spam Roast with lovely green sprigs of parsley and nobody mentioned that the rice was so crunchy we were in danger of breaking a tooth. The peas weren't done until it was time for dessert.

I discreetly crumbled the sunken Bundt cake into my new parfait glasses and spooned ice milk (the less expensive brand of ice cream) over the chunks, so that it appeared it was supposed to be served that way. Mom was very complimentary and Dad's claustrophobia subsided long enough for a nice visit in our humble home.

I received my thank you in the form of a care package. Three years before, my brother Tom had shot a very ancient deer. After the first obligatory meal, my folks had stashed the venison downstairs in the freezer. Since then the meat was thawed out only for the dog when her regular dog food was in short supply.

Now, after all this time, Dee and I were the lucky recipients of several packages of freezer-burned deer steaks, accompanied by a note from my dad which read, "After a delicious meal we can see that this meat needs only the special touch of a gourmet cook."

The next time they came to dinner, guess what I served?

Classified Information

Illustration by Judy Love
"I think I've discovered the secret to just hang around until you get used to it." --Sally

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Talkin' Trash

All I did was empty the trash.

(This is a tutorial where you'll learn what I should have known.)

Whenever I download photos from my digital camera onto my iPhoto program, the photos end up in a room called the Library. Everything I scan goes into my library, too. With a little help from my Cool Mac Apps book, and my iPhoto for Dummies book, I have set up albums. I've organized my new digital photos, and scanned and added my old film photos. I've made a bunch of slide shows. I've even used the Ken Burns Effect, and added soundtracks. But I got a little too savvy, a little too clever, a little too cocky. I forgot that the computer is smarter than me. I shouldn't have let down my guard.

The other night my computer seemed a tad slow on the photo uptake or download...whatever. It was 2:00 am, I was clicking swiftly along, and I got impatient with it's sluggishness. I decided I had filled it up with too much stuff. (I don't know about these things, but it made sense to me.) Looking over my iPhoto albums I saw a lot of photos that were in two or three places. Lauren's picture could be in the Grand Grandkids album, the Halloween Parade album, the Christmas Memories album and so on. It was redundant.

Why not, at 2:00 am, start a major cleaning out project? Nothing better to do...the sleeping pill hadn't kicked in yet, so I had a little time. I highlighted and clicked, and dragged duplicates to the cute little trash bin at the bottom of my screen.

Hey! What was I doing? I could Select All and get this project taken care of quickly. Then I realized that ALL the photos in my library were duplicates of the ones in the photo albums. See?? This is why I studied all those computer books...I just needed to use the shortcuts I'd read about. I moved my arrow up to Library, clicked on Select All, and sent them to the trash. The number 1,780 was replaced by a zero.

Ahhh...I felt just like I do when I've cleaned out all the drawers. Organized, uncluttered, tidy. Just then I noticed that the cute little trash bin was overflowing. Not in my house! My mother had taught be better than that. I clicked on Empty Trash. A pop-up asked if I was sure. Sure I was sure. (I'd have this computer whizzing along in no time.)

I clicked on Yes. Suddenly I noticed a zero next to each album! There were zeros by the slide shows, too. I grabbed the mouse and started clicking NO! NO! NO! I cursed, jumped up, ran around my office screaming "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" and ran back to my desk. It was true! I had just deleted ALL MY PHOTOS!

People run into burning houses to rescue their photographs. I actually lit the match and tossed it in. Naturally, my sleeping pill was starting to work. The words on the screen were moving around, and I couldn't focus. I stared at the empty albums with their cutesy names, and imagined images from the slide shows called England Revisited, Thanksgiving Blessings and My Easter Bunnies floating in outer space. The Ken Burns effect allowed each picture to slowly focus and artistically fade through my mind.

Dee found me asleep at my desk. As he led me off to bed I tried to explain the trauma of the experience, but it came out in a mumble, just a lot of trash talk. I remembered the nightmare the moment I woke up.

In the light of day, I've realized that it's just a personal loss. All my kids have zillions of photos of their own. I've even got many of them saved on Shutterfly or my blog. In this age of digital cameras every event gets recorded by everyone there. I'll never be at a loss for a picture of a certain grandkid at age two. I emailed pictures of our trips to the guys, as well, so I can get most of them back and recreate the slides shows when I want to.

It's just that I lost all those hours of cropping, editing, tweaking, scanning and organizing. I have to start again from scratch. Oh well, I always have a little time at 2:00 am.

Tonight's lesson summary is:
  1. Everything is stored in the Library.
  2. Albums are just categories; nothing is really in them.
  3. Never think you know as much as the computer.
  4. Forget what your mother said, and don't empty the trash.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Man of Wisdom

Gordon B. Hinckley

A great man died last night. He was the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We Mormons consider him to be a prophet of God, like the prophets of the Old Testament.

President Hinckley has been the head of our church for 13 years, counseling all members at least four times a year in General Conferences, women's meetings, and youth meetings, as well as speaking in smaller congregations regularly as he has traveled all over the world. We read his monthly messages in a magazine called The Ensign, so he's left us an abundance of wisdom to reflect on. He has been a beloved leader.

I particularly remember a talk given to women and teenage girls called Rise to the Stature of the Divine Within You. It encouraged me, and I'm listing ten things he said that might encourage you.
  1. "Educate your hands and your minds. Get all the education you can. Train yourselves to make a contribution to the society in which you live. Almost the entire field of human endeavor is now open to women, in contrast with difficult restrictions by society that were felt only a few years ago. Equip yourselves. Whether it is applied to earning a living or not, education is an investment that never ceases to pay dividends of one kind or another."
  2. "Stir within yourselves a greater sensitivity to the beautiful, the artistic, and the cultivation of the talent you possess, be it large or small."
  3. "Enlarge your minds and broaden your understanding through the reading of good books. How marvelous a thing is a good book! How stimulating to read and share with a great writer thoughts that build and strengthen and broaden one's horizon."
  4. "Keep yourselves alive and vivacious in activities which will bring satisfaction into your lives while associating with others who are vigorously pursuing lofty objectives."
  5. "You are not helpless, a victim of fate. You can in large measure master your fate and strengthen your self-worth by reaching out to those who need and will appreciate your talents, contributions--your help."
  6. "There is much of evil in the world and too much of harshness. Do what you can to rise above all this. Stand up. Speak out against evil and brutality, abuse, and oppression."
  7. "To those of you who are married, make of your marriage a partnership. God does not love His daughters less than He loves His sons. A wife walks neither ahead nor behind her husband, but at his side in a true companionship."
  8. "Walk with prayer and faith, with charity and love. Our Father in Heaven has endowed His daughters with a unique and wonderful capacity to reach out to those in distress, to bring comfort and succor, to bind up the wounds and heal the aching heart. Marvelous is the power of women. I think it is part of the divinity within you."
  9. "Mothers, nurture and treasure and train your children. Enjoy their laughter, and thank the Lord for them. Teach them to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord, and to love and serve one another."
  10. "In making these suggestions I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. Please don't nag yourself with thoughts of failure. Do not set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. Simply do what you can do, in the best way you know, and the Lord will accept of your effort."
He was a down-to-earth man with a heaven-sent message. I will miss him.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Advice to Parents

"I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want to do and advise them to do it." Harry Truman

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Why Keep a Diary?

Diary of Anne Frank

"I hope I will be able to confide everything in you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support."

This is the first entry in Anne Frank's diary, June 12, 1942

From the date of her 1st entry until August 1, 1944, when the Nazis discovered her family's hiding place in occupied Amsterdam, this diary unfolds as one of the extraordinary documents of the human spirit.

She received her diary for her 13th birthday. Over the next two years, she described her Jewish family's life in the secret annex. She died in Bergen-Belsen, of typhus. Her writings were published in 1947.

In her second-to-last entry she wrote,

"It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."

Anne Frank

Friday, January 25, 2008

Play it Cool

Do the cool kids know who they are?

Remember the popular kids in Junior High School? We all knew who they were. They sat with the other popular kids at lunch. When I sat with them, I felt a little unsure of myself. I mean, what if they suddenly realized I wasn't part of their crowd? What if I said "Hi" to the wrong person and gave myself away?

Here are some ways I could tell a girl was more popular than I:
  1. Her mother didn't make her wear socks, even when it snowed.
  2. She wore a two-piece gymsuit instead of the one-piece blue jumpsuit.
  3. Her hair was in a perfect flip.
  4. She wrote notes to all the cute boys.
  5. She knew to take cold lunch.
I felt very unsure of myself in those days. I was short, flat-chested, and my mom still cut my bangs. I didn't have an older sister to advise me on music, dancing or plucking my eyebrows.

To top off my nerdiness, I have an old-fashioned first name. In 7th grade when the teachers called the roll on the first day, I was too shy to tell them my nickname, so throughout Jr. High I had an un-cool name.

I walked to school with a popular girl who was a year older than I. She didn't have to wear a coat--all winter! What was my mother thinking?

I occasionally walked home with two of the popular cheerleaders, and I couldn't bring myself to swear, emphasizing the fact that I was a complete dork. (I can't remember the 60's word for dork.)

Over my almost sixty decades, I have talked to numerous people who also went to Jr. High. They have the same recollections of the popular kids. My own children recognized them immediately, and immersed themselves in books called How to be Popular With Boys, and Advice for Teenage Girls.

So where are all the popular kids now? Does the same crowd just hang out in the cafeteria laughing and tossing their hair forever? Did they become the movie stars or the country club set, rich and famous?

I recently ran across one of the girls I envied in Jr. High. She was beautiful, and knew to shave her legs. The smell of Jergen's lotion has reminded me of her throughout my life, because she put it on every day in Mr. Neff's history class. It's interesting to find out she's got insecurities of her own.

A boy who was the dreamboat of the school turned out to be a regular guy--in fact we share some grandchildren!

There are a lot of folks who think they are pretty neat, who really aren't. And there are a lot more who don't realize they are. I wonder if Jr. High made the difference.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

860 Columbia Lane

September, 1969

We were homeowners! Our trailer was 8 feet wide and 35 feet long and cost us $1,800. Fuel oil tanks on the front provided our heat and our first purchase was a tiny cooler that sat on top. The rent for our space was $11 a month. We were thrilled! Dee gave me a tiny hand painted locket on a chain with a key to his blue VW bug, and the key to our front door as a wedding present.

The trailer came furnished, except for a bed. This is the front end. Across from the couch we built a bookcase from cinder blocks and boards covered in burlap. Dee's homemade collection of reel-to-reel tapes with all of Churchill's speeches sat in the honorary position on top.

If you turn around you'll be in the kitchen.

Old Trailer, 1969

Notice the real pine paneling. We loved it. To the right (out of the picture) was the heater. It had to be lit with a match and was probably very dangerous. The oven was also lit with a match, as were the burners.

The wall next to the stove is actually a sliding door leading to the bedroom, which was exactly as long as our double bed, with a little space on one side. There was a built-in nightstand next to the bed, and we added an ornate green glass hanging lamp, made by my friend Susie Dee as a wedding present. There was one tiny closet in the whole house, and only the cupboard space you see here.

Between the kitchen and the bedroom was a tiny hall with two sliding doors. When the doors were closed, we were in the bathroom. We sat on the toilet to brush our teeth since the sink was just inches away. From that same perch we could easily reach to turn on the water for a bath. It was very convenient.

Three days before our wedding we did the interior decorating. With three dollars I bought a green and blue flowered shower curtain, and some powder blue plastic flowers to stick on the floor of the 2' x 3' tub/shower. Dee painted the kitchen and bathroom blue. We were so pleased with the results that we held an open house!

Mom and Dad came with another couple in tow, to tour our new digs. They had to walk through individually because the hall wasn't long enough or wide enough to accommodate more than one person, (unless it was a couple who were young, skinny, and madly in love.) My dad was so claustrophobic that we had to stand outside by the car to eat the cake I made for the occasion.

Ten months later we put a bassinet in the living room, and welcomed our first baby into our little home.
Baby Makes Three
The stars in our eyes that first year of marriage were so dazzling, it was impossible to see the clouds, and storms that were coming down around us. We loved our new life together, our little home and family. Mom complained that we didn't seem part of her family anymore... we weren't. We'd started building our little kingdom and that's where our efforts were focused.

Without a TV, money, or an extra car we were all we had for entertainment. We popped popcorn, and purchased chips with expensive dips for our New Year's Eve celebration. We borrowed an individual slide viewer from Dee's dad, and spent hours looking at our Salzburg slides individually as part of our celebration, remembering the magic of our first days together, reviewing the miracles that had brought us to this point.

We were overwhelmed by our blessings and couldn't believe our luck at having a home of our own for our little family. The amenities were never discussed. We had the two of us and the Lord to discuss decisions with, and a baby to give purpose to our future, and we lived and dreamed, "after the manner of happiness."

Advice: Take pictures of all the rooms of the house you live in, and every house from now on.
Collect evidence of your life so you'll be able to prove your stories aren't exaggerations.

All Aboard!

The Station
by Robert J. Hastings

Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We're traveling by passenger train and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat. of flat lands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true; so many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a complete jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering...waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

'When we reach the station, that will be it, we cry.' Translated it means, 'When I'm eighteen, that will be it...when I buy a new Mercedes Benz, that will be it...when I put the last kid through college, that will be it...when I have paid off the mortgage, when I win the promotion, when I retire, that will be it...I shall live happily ever after."

Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.

Sooner or later we must realize there is no one station; no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad; rather, it is the regret over yesterday, or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we travel along. The station will come soon enough.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Life Choices: An Art Form

Life is like a giant museum:
Full of options.

When I was 19 I went to Paris, and visited the Louvre. It was the first real museum I had ever been to, and it was overwhelming. Our tour guide carried a red umbrella and rushed us from room to room. She told us about Greek vases, Roman ruins and the pyramids, while pointing out various paintings and sculptures. I didn't recognize anything except the Mona Lisa.

I took pictures when everybody else did, and tried to follow what the guide said in her heavy French accent, but I was quickly bored. The tour lasted about four hours and I decided after 30 minutes that museums were not my thing.

A few years later I was reading a spy novel by Helen MacInnes (there are life lessons everywhere.) The hero went to the Louvre for an hour every day after work. He explained to his friend that visiting a museum is like going to a restaurant. Nobody orders everything on the menu at the same time. Choosing from an array of delicacies is part of the entertainment. He said that enjoying a museum is an art form itself.

Artists focus on a particular detail for as long as it takes, and save other aspects of their masterpiece for another time. Likewise, savoring the beauty in one gallery is far more enjoyable than cramming in too much to appreciate.

Life is like the Louvre--too big to take in all at once. James E. Faust once said, "You can have it all, just not at the same time." Eternity is what I need. I can't find time to create the many lives that sound exciting and worth devoting time to, in one short go-round. Choosing sometimes eliminates other choices, and that's the scary part.

I understand now that the red umbrella lady was merely pointing out possibilities. She didn't expect us to experience the whole museum at once. It was a menu tour. We could choose which areas to focus on, study up and return sometime to absorb the significance of our preferred artist. It would take more than a lifetime to study everything that's offered.

A frustration in the Museum of Life is that we can't assimilate everything that looks appealing in one short tour. But we are surrounded by the creativity and expertise of others, and that enhances our own works of art. The Mona Lisa is not the only painting in the Louvre, although it draws a lot of attention. Even she has only seen one gallery in the museum.

This is one of my attempts at symbolism. I'm trying out new writing styles when it feels fun. Don't look for anything too deep. I'm pretty shallow, and not too subtle. But there is a point to this article that I hoped would jump out at you, and give you, an "Ah ha! I get it!"moment. If it didn't, maybe it's not my form . It's fun to try it out, though.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Helpful Ideas

Life's most persistent and urgent question is,
"What are you doing for others?" --Martin Luther King

Ten significant things others have done for me:
  1. Mom showed me how to pray.
  2. Mrs. Hilbig taught me to read.
  3. Herr Bruderer opened my eyes to other cultures.
  4. Mr. Tolman explained the workings of our government.
  5. Mrs. Hathaway encouraged me to write.
  6. Jennie taught me to read music.
  7. President Peterson took me on Pioneer Trek.
  8. Dad tutored me in optimism.
  9. Rick Birnbaum gave me lessons on how to travel.
  10. Dee listens to me and understands.
There are people who make a big difference, and there are people who make little difference. Who has done something for you?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sweet Rolls

"I really don't think I need buns of steel. I'd be happy with buns of cinnamon."
Ellen Degeneres

I've got a few sweet rolls bouncing along with my cinnamon buns. Maybe if I got a floral apron to cover them up, I could become part of the comfort food brigade.

In my comfort food memory there's a sweet-faced, twinkly-eyed little old lady with white hair, a heart of gold, a comfortable bosom, and a faded apron that seems permanently fastened to her flowered housedress. Just conjuring her up in my mind's eye comforts me.

The big square kitchen was the focal point of her house. It had wall-to-wall linoleum, and space for a big, round oak table, which we kids sat under while our parents crowded around, chatting. They dropped crumbs of conversations which introduced us to adult concepts, such as, expecting, not getting along, and women's problems.

A profusion of African violets sat on the windowsill over the sink. There was a lovely smell of coffee that added to the homeyness. Although Mormons shun coffee, I think every family has an old grampa or uncle who hasn't quite accepted that as a doctrine he'll follow. My grampa always had a coffee pot on, and it made the kitchen feel warm and cozy.

Since I had been taught that we shouldn't drink coffee, I had a natural concern about my grampa's apparent rebellion against this particular church standard. (My mother didn't know that I was regularly given sugar cubes, soaked in creamy coffee, to suck during the lovely, sleepover routine of breakfast. I may have had a little guilt going on inside myself, too.)

When I asked my mom why grampa drank coffee, she just said, "Oh, well he's Swedish!" That was the perfect answer. No judgment, no worries, just a concise little answer for a little girl. Luckily that made me Swedish, too, so the sugar cubes weren't an issue.

There was a cinnamon aroma in that kitchen as well. Cinnamon milk toast. Grama made toast, slathered it up with butter, sprinkled on sugar and cinnamon and put it in the bottom of a bowl. She warmed up a cup of milk, which she laced with a teaspoon of vanilla and a little sugar, and poured it over the toast. I remember eating it while bundled in a quilt, sitting in a rocking chair, right by the fire that was crackling in the pot belly stove.

The floor was cold, the air was nippy, but the scents and tastes were warm and fragrant. I don't even know if I liked milk toast. It sounds soggy and messy to me now. But just thinking about it brings memories that calm my stressed mind, and relax my tense shoulders.

Comfort Food: Certain distinctive foods that are reminiscent of childhood, adolescence, less complicated times, and "Mommy!" Occasional indulgence in these foods by adults is considered safer than drugs or alcohol and less expensive than compulsive shopping.

What are some comfort foods that warm your insides and fill your soul with peace just thinking about them? Recalling those less complicated times, and sharing that recollection could save you thousands of dollars spent in therapy! So, come on. Sit down and we'll chat. Oh, and grab a cinnamon bun!

Friday, January 18, 2008


The cute little guy in the glasses is my dad, Jiggs. In 1930 when he was 8 years old, his picture was in the paper because he wore a tie to school. His teacher let him skip 2nd grade, telling him him he was very smart. He adored her because of it. She gave him confidence in his intellect and that encouraged him to shoot for the stars.

Dad loved to tell the story of his college GPA. He got drafted in WWII, and left school without withdrawing from his classes. This resulted in a semester of E's (which I assume were like F's.) He came home from the war anxious to go to Optometry School, but in order to have the GPA to apply, he had to get perfect grades for two years. He did.

(This story was supposed to demonstrate that I, too, could get perfect grades. I didn't.)

Here's Jiggs with his brothers. The oldest one died when he was 18. Dad was 16, but he talked about Alan for the rest of his life. Although Dad was self assured and confident in most situations, sickness, hospitals, funerals and visiting cemeteries caused panic for him. I think it was because of this early, heartbreaking experience with death.

This is Jiggs at ten. He was one of those guys who walked fifteen miles to school, barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways, so some of his stories had a touch of exaggeration to them. (A trait I am happy to have inherited.) His family was poor, and he said he worked from the time he was three. I guess people weren't too picky about age requirements then. Anyway, by the time he was eight years old, he had a regular job at the Country Club, carrying the rich men's golf clubs. He learned to golf as a caddy, and he loved the game. Our houses always had a putting green in the backyard, planted with special grass. His dream was to build a golf course. And he did!

Dad is the one with sunglasses, standing with Arnold Palmer (in the red sweater,) who designed the golf course, and then came back to hit the first ball off the first tee, on the first day the course opened. (Dee is the cute black haired boy on the right.)

Nine years ago today we celebrated Dad's last birthday as a family in his hospital room. We had guitars and sat around singing all his favorite songs. That might have been the last day he was happy. He found out he had cancer the next day, and died not quite three months later.

Jiggs was the eternal optimist. He loved to work, and he loved to play. He was a fun guy, who played Glenn Miller tunes on the piano, and sang all the old songs with a beautiful baritone voice. He was a dedicated son, a doting husband, and a devoted dad. He plucked chickens for pennies as a boy, but owned a tennis club, a golf course and a basketball team as a man. He taught by example that dreams can come true. I'm thinking of you today, Dad!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Do You Know Mitt?

I've never voted for a Republican president before, but I've never known a presidential candidate before either. I'm crossing over to vote for Mitt.

OK. While I don't personally know him, I know him. We know many people who do know him personally: close family members, business partners, Olympics co-workers, church associates...these folks have studied him up close, and we've listened to their unvarnished opinions. Without exception they say he's brilliant. They all support him for president. He is, undeniably, in their opinion, the best man for the job. However, these people don't all like him. He has flaws.

For example, a criticism we've heard is that he's too ambitious. You think?? Valedictorian at BYU, top 5% at Harvard MBA school, Cum Laude at Harvard Law School, self-made millionaire worth $200-250 million dollars, governor of Massachusetts, candidate for president--a little more than ambitious! But, as they say, "It ain't braggin' if you've done it." Mitt has a few bragging rights.

Another assessment is that he lacks warmth, people skills. I've noticed that a lot of highly intelligent people are that way. Doctors and scientists are sometimes geeks at parties. They smile at the wrong times, and seem out of it in small talk situations. I got a D in geometry while perfecting my people skills. The genius's were getting A's, missing the dances, and earning full ride scholarships to impressive universities.

A political ad, negatively aimed at Mitt Romney, asks the question, "Who would you rather eat lunch with: the guy you work with, or the guy who laid you off?" Well, for sure I'd have a burger with the friend I work with. But if I'd invested millions of dollars in the company (which we Americans have) who would I rather have running the company? I'd choose the one who knows how to run a company!

One of our confidants said Mitt can't tell a joke. "He's plastic," "too perfect," "too handsome." (If you should vote against a guy just because he's too perfect, are you supposed to vote for a guy just because he's a loser?) I've heard opinions that he's robotic, and slick. The media doesn't trust him because he's an "aw shucks" kind of guy, with no four-letter words popping out on a regular basis. He seems to too good to be true. He just doesn't hold up for some journalists. I think it's a shame they feel this way.

I know lots of men and women who lead the kind of life that seems unbelievable to a cynical world. You probably do, too. Spouses who are faithful, parents who are responsible, students who don't cheat, teenagers who don't party; the Romney's aren't suspect to me because many of my friends and neighbors are like that, too. I understand people who just want to make a difference, who want to serve their fellowman. I know plenty. Mitt might have been a giant in the business world, but he's been a public servant in many ways at the same time.

I don't agree with his stand on everything. He's a little more hawkish on the war, than I'd like, for instance. I do like the fact that he's actually put a health care system into practice, and I'm in favor of his immigration policy. Issue wise, I like him, but I also trust him. On all the presidential stuff I'll never know anything about, I'd feel confident having him making those decisions, because I know the kind of person he is. That just feels better than to be wondering and hoping that my candidate will have worthy character traits in future surprise issues. Hardly ever will I be able to vote for a candidate based on my knowledge of his character. This time I can.

People wonder if he's electable. He's ahead! The primary elections are about getting delegates who will vote at the Republican National Convention. At this point, Mitt Romney is leading with a whopping 52 delegates. Mike Huckabee is second with just 22, John McCain has 15, Fred Thompson has 6, and Rudy Giuliani has 1. Mitt has won 2 states, McCain and Huck are at one each. It's early days, yet. There are still some January votes, and then all the February primaries to watch. I love it!

Voters should choose a president based on what they want him/her to do for the country. (It's important to remember exactly what a president can and can't do.) We all have different criteria and the candidates all have different abilities and agendas. That's how we decide who to vote for. Remember when we voted for a student body president because he was cute? Or voted against her because she was too smart? Hopefully we have moved beyond that!

If Mitt doesn't make it, I'll switch back to my Democratic roots. I'll decide on my candidate based on the issues and the debates. I might even pay attention to the evaluations of Tim Russert and Chris Matthews. I hope I'm not reduced to the candidates' appearances on Dave Letterman, and whether or not they're funny. I won't vote for or against anyone based on their gender, race, religion or hairstyle. But I would love to be able to vote, just once, for someone I know.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mama's Mistakes

I think the couch, hairdo and stripey outfit say it all.
Christmas, 1973

I was interviewed on the Gab Blog today about being a mother. I have to say, I want to be all I cracked myself up to be, but in the spirit of full disclosure I'll admit to a few super blunders I made in the 1970's. You deserve to see both sides.

I drove my babies around without car seats. I held them (and nursed them) in the front seat when Dee drove 80 miles round trip to my folks' every week. If I was alone I often laid them on the front seat (they were bench seats in those days) next to me with no restraint at all! I did this from the time they were a week old!

Illustration from Mommy Knows Worst, by James Lileks

We took a five hour road trip with Josh in the back of our VW, in a bassinet like this one. Gabi was two and sat on my lap. Later, as toddlers, my kids stood in the middle of the front seat. In this world of car seats, it's hard to imagine being so irresponsible.

My pediatrician prescribed paregoric for just about everything: teething, earaches, upset stomachs, you name it. I had taken this horrible, licorice tasting medicine as a child, and I gave it to my kids routinely. The doctor even suggested giving an aspirin along with it to help a sick child sleep. He called it a soothing syrup. It is made from laudanum, which is a form of opium! I remember being very upset when I couldn't get a prescription for this any more, and I hoarded the last few spoonfuls I had left. I had no idea what this medication really was. I don't think anybody did.

A neat trick to entice a baby to take a pacifier was to coat it with honey. It never worked for me, and I never had a kid with a binky, but it was not for lack of trying. All seven kids were given massive doses of honey from the time they were born.

And then there was the matter of discipline. A time out was the boring part of a football game, and had nothing to do with children. I was a spanker. Usually it was just a whack on the bottom with my hand, but the wooden spoon was available as necessary. Just the rattle of the drawer where it was kept was a deterrent to bad behavior. "Spare the rod, spoil the child" was a proverb I believed, and my kids all have stories to prove it.

In those days all babies slept on their tummies. My mom told the story of a babysitter who put my brother on his back when he was tiny. He spit up, and choked on it. By the time she found him, he was blue. She grabbed him and ran next door to her parents. The jostling must have worked like CPR because he began breathing again, and was just fine, but it was a reminder that babies should NEVER be laid on their backs. It's still hard for me to adapt to this change. I'm always happy when a grandbaby learns to roll over, because then it's up to them if they sleep on their stomachs or not.

I made zillions of mistakes with my kids. I yelled, and cried, I hovered and neglected (sometimes I did all these things on the same afternoon.) I let my daughter suffer with a broken arm for a week before I realized she needed to see a doctor, but often insisted on unnecessary antibiotics hoping to keep the kids from getting sick. I prayed for more babies, but resented the fact that they invaded my whole life. I was fulfilled and bored, devoted and cross, annoyed and enchanted.

So, when you read all my marvelous mommy tips, remember that they are in retrospect. It's easier to talk a good game after the fact, than to be on the field getting tackled. Someone once said, "Adults produce children, and then children produce adults." Mine produced a philosopher.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I miss my roller-skate key. I even remember that I kept it in the cedar jewelry box I bought with my own money at Grand Canyon. Every once in a while I'd go through a roller skating phase and then I'd wear the key around my neck on a shoelace for a few days. This was back in the 50's, when my feet were growing a 1/2 size a month, so my mom used the wrong end of the key to unscrew the bolt and make my skates longer.

There are other things I miss:
  1. Jacks. (Under the blanket? Over the fence?)
  2. Hoppy taws. (I'm sure I've mentioned this before...I was a Hopscotch champion. I loved the sound my blue and purple marbled hoppy taw made when it hit the #7.)
  3. Jump rope rhymes. ("Not last night, but the night before, 24 robbers came knockin' at the door...")
  4. Monkey bars. (I could flip forward without hands, and hang by my knees.)
  5. Swings. (I was gratified when I learned to pump. It didn't count if I was being pushed.)
More things I miss:
  1. Singing my high school fight song in a packed gymnasium. ("And just to look at them is quite a treat, it's hard to beat...")
  2. Laying on my front lawn smelling the lilac bushes on a warm summer night.
  3. Watching Johnny Carson with my dad. ("When you get to the Slausen cut-off...")
  4. Reading Rod McEuen poems. (Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows)
  5. Making snow angels in our backyard after it was dark, while waiting for my dad to get home.
When you put in your memory DVD, what are the little things you miss?

P.S. Does anyone know of a book with jump rope rhymes?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Birds of a Feather...(Thanks Celia Fae!)

My neighbor told me I looked like a mother quail when I waddled down the sidewalk with my six little kids following me in descending order. I was literally barefoot and pregnant. Ahhh...those were the good old days. I had groupies.

Now I bring up the rear. I can't keep up with my chicks since they've become roosters and mother hens. The baby chickadees run circles around me and I'm sometimes clucking in their dust. I've wondered if I have any leadership skills left.

But a little bird told me I have a following...and they're going to flock together! I'm preening my feathers and flying high. I hope you chicks will lend me a wing and a prayer!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Button, Button

Illustration by Sarah Chamberlain

Twenty or so years ago I happened upon a store in New York City called Tender Buttons (143 E. 62nd Street.) It is a small room lined with rows of tiny drawers that are filled with buttons. Even though I had a button collection of my own, I didn't know they were real collector's items! Since then I search out button stores when I travel and have found some treasures. I have several boxes that I get out for the grandkids occasionally, but I had a mini-brainstorm when I found this book.

The Button Box, by Margarette S. Reid

It inspired a new Oma Kit. In a big ziploc bag I have assembled:
  1. A cute tin filled with my favorite, most colorful buttons. I replenished my collection with some whimsical buttons, including little animals, children's faces, and toys.
  2. A list of game ideas: Button, Button (Everyone holds their hands together. It pretends to drop a button between each person's hands, while saying "Button, Button, who's got the button." She slyly drops the button and everyone has to guess who got it;) Flower Picking (find and sort all the buttons with flowers); Zoo (find, sort and pretend with all the animal buttons;) Pinky (find all the pink buttons;) Soldiers (find all the brass buttons;) Treasure Hunt (find all the jewel looking buttons) get the idea.
  3. Small squares of cloth and some needles and thread, to practice sewing different types of buttons onto material.
  4. Thread to string through a button to make it sing. (See below)
  5. The book. (See above)

I took my new kit when I visited some grandkids this week, and the fun lasted for over an hour! I'm adding a thimble, so next time we can play Hide the Thimble (It goes out of the room while former It hides the thimble in plain sight. When It returns the players clap louder as she gets closer to the thimble, and softer as she moves away from it until she finds it) to carry out the sewing theme.

It's fun to borrow from the past, and play the old-fashioned games my grandmother played with me.

Illustration by Sarah Chamberlain

Alex Haley said, "Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." That's my goal!

Friday, January 11, 2008

What is Valuable?

I'm wondering about the word values?

With all the political rhetoric about Family Values, American Values, the Values Candidate, I decided to look it up.

Values: ideals or principles of a given group or society. The worth, importance or usefulness placed on an ideal.

Do we all place the same importance on particular values? I assume we all have different priorities. For instance:

Education: We had some neighbors from Scotland several years ago. They had lived in London, India, and Hong Kong for his job, before being transferred to the United States. Their two children attended boarding school. An eleven-year-old daughter was in Switzerland, and the mother told me tearfully that she had just sent her six-year-old son to Scotland. The kids came home for Christmas and Easter. I asked my friend how she could bear to have them so far away, and she explained how important it was for her kids to have a good education. It was worth any sacrifice, she said emotionally.

To me education is an important value. Not important enough to send my children away, and let someone else instill their values, however. It's lower on my list than Strong Family, but it was a top priority for her.

Work Ethic: A couple we know could afford to live anywhere. They bought ten acres of land miles from other homes and planted a one acre garden (with no prior experience) because they wanted their kids to learn to work. Another extremely well-to-do family bought a ranch in a tiny community and raised sheep. The mother home-schools her kids until they are high school age. They shear the sheep themselves and have actually learned to card it, and weave it into cloth! The children are mature, well educated, talented and hard working, and the oldest children clepped out of classes and started college at sixteen.

Developing a work ethic is very high on my list of values. It isn't high enough to sacrifice my own comforts to instill it in my kids. Maybe that's selfish. (Sorry we never took you off the grid, guys!)

Opportunities: There was a 13-year-old girl on our street who played the piano brilliantly. Her parents took her out of school so she could study music for eight hours a day with very prestigious and expensive instructors. She studied school subjects independently, but was monitored by her teachers, and took the exams, so she moved along with her classmates. (She had several brothers and sisters who were all in school.) The family sacrificed greatly for the individual.

This is a tough one for me. As a mother, I wanted to let each child have opportunities to reach their highest potential. But ultimately my priority was that the individual sacrificed for the family. This strengthened our family, but there might be some resentment harbored by the individuals. I don't know.

I'm prioritizing and defining my Family Values here, mostly to see for myself what I find valuable.
  1. Faith in God (includes attending church, personal devotion, service to others)
  2. Strong marriage
  3. Strengthen immediate family (unity, individuals, create memories, build self esteem)
  4. Experience (travel, cultural, personal)
  5. Work
  6. Education (I think informal, self-directed education is just as valuable as the formal kind. Degrees and diplomas are meaningless to me. It's the desire, effort, knowledge and application that matters.)
  7. Extended family relationships
  8. Career
  9. Money
  10. Social life
My priorities overlap, and change. As my kids have grown up their own value systems take precedence, and they might bump into mine. When I plan a party for my immediate family, it includes kids and grandkids who have me in the extended family category. That takes some maneuvering. A strong marriage might be challenged by career or money goals, but it would be equally challenged by lack of career or money goals. A list of values is always threatened by real life.

What are the national Family Values? I'd list Marriage, Raising Kids Responsibly, Educational Opportunities, Employment, Health Care Availability, and Public Safety. Is that what you think politicians are referring to?

"There are so many people who can figure costs, and so few who can measure values."

What do you consider valuable? What do you want, and what do you want future generations to have?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm a Little TeaPot (Short and Stout)

I always yearn for elegance, and a British Cream Tea is the epitome.

While we lived in England we discovered that tea is much more than just a pot of hot water. There are scones, with Devonshire cream and jam, cucumber sandwiches, shortbread biscuits (cookies) and macaroons. And you don't have to have tea for tea. Hot chocolate with whipped cream or sparkling apple juice are offered as well.

I often host tea parties, but my guests are usually the under tens who love pouring apple juice from the tea pot, and stirring in Sprite from the creamer. Since tea is what the Yorkshire folk call supper, my grandkids know that a Tea Party is code for lunch, dinner, or anything in between.

Today I had a tea party for grownups. I hoped it would be a memorable day, with good food and friendly chatter.

I was running a little late, and as always, the stress brought on a hot flash. Wearing my bandanna sweat band, I made the sandwiches, whipped the cream and set the table. As I was cleaning up the kitchen, I realized the water in the sink was not going down. Instead it was bubbling up on the other side. I stuck my hand down and pulled up a fistful of ground up cucumber peelings-- elegance was eluding me.

After a few minutes of digging around in a garbage disposal, I was ready to get ready. With only 30 minutes to go, I showered in cold water (to relieve the hot flash) and quickly started to do my hair. The hair dryer died after one shot of hot air, and the hot flash returned. Finding another dryer, I finished the job, and tried to cover the glowing moisture on my face with a little makeup. Miraculously I was ready on time. My face, hair and sink were dry, and the table looked pretty.

I have a collection of small teapots I thought it would be fun to use.

Aren't these cute?

Do you notice anything troubling?

Neither did I. But getting the cocoa into the cups proved to be a little messy. The "tip me over and pour me out" didn't happen, because there isn't a hole on the inside leading to the spout! The hot chocolate gushed out from under the lids. I hadn't seen the print on the bottom that said For Ornamental Use Only.

Elegance is not a word I'd use to describe my entertaining. I'd use the word entertaining.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Respect for the Democratic Process

Robert F. Kennedy, 1968

I was ten in 1960. During my teens the country was in the Cold War, the Viet Nam War, and the Civil Rights War. It was a time of hippies, drugs, protests, riots, sit-ins and love-ins. I watched it all on TV, and read it in the papers, but it happened around me, not to me.

In my whole teenage life I didn't know a single person who did drugs. I was fairly with it, and I hung out with the popular crowd, but I was never offered alcohol or cigarettes--ever! By the time I met up with these challenges, I had the maturity and confidence to make my own choices. Peer pressure wasn't a factor by then.

The peer pressure I felt as a teen was actually for positive behavior. The kids I knew were working to save for college, participating in school extracurriculars hoping for scholarships, and trying to get decent grades. We cruised State and waved and honked at the boys, snuck out our windows occasionally and stayed out past curfew, but for the most part, my friends were solid. There was a girl that sat by me in Concert Choir who came to school every Monday with monkey bites all over her neck, and she smoked in the bathroom during lunch. She was the wildest girl I knew. The flower children were in other gardens.

I know there must have been some free love going on, but nobody bragged about it. A good reputation was important. There were two couples in my high school that had to get married, (quietly,) and a girl at church got pregnant, but it was all hush-hush. She went to live with her aunt for a year, and came home without a baby, so nobody knew for sure.

In my little bubble of a world, most mothers were home all day, and they were aware of what all the neighbor kids were doing. They would tell on us if we weren't behaving, kind of like the secret police. And if my mom found out, my dad would know by dinner time. There were consequences. I knew I would be accountable for my actions.

One time I sluffed school and walked to a neighboring hamburger place with some friends. My next-door neighbor saw me, and reported it immediately to my mom. Not good. Although I got away with a few things, I knew I was being watched over. I felt bugged, but I also felt protected.

The events that did make a lasting impression on me were political. It started with the assassination of Kennedy. Afterwards, I remember following the news about Viet Nam, and Civil Rights, hearing LBJ say he wouldn't run, and reading the speeches of Martin Luther King. I had a fabulous civics teacher who made me aware of current events, local politics and government. He was a Democrat, and I loved listening to his philosophies. I became an FDR groupie.

I was in college when Bobby Kennedy ran for president. Although I couldn't even vote yet, I went to a campus forum where he spoke. (I found out later that Dee was in charge of arranging that very rally.) I was swept away! I thought Bobby was the man to change the world. His speech was laced with local references and I marveled that he knew so much about our state and culture. When my dad teased me about my new candidate, and said speech writers had given him material, I was incensed! How could he suggest Robert Kennedy had spoken with a hidden agenda? It was spontaneous, from his heart! He knew what was important to me, and to America.

A few weeks later Martin Luther King was shot. It was shocking and upsetting. I felt sick inside. I heard about more riots and protests.

In June I was getting dressed when I heard the news on the radio that Robert Kennedy had been killed. I sat on my bed and cried. The sadness and evil in the world was shattering. Later that summer I watched Walter Cronkite at the Democratic Convention. The riots taking place around him brought him to tears. I was overwhelmed. It seemed to be an ugly time. But eventually democracy won out. The calamities of the era were finally quieted.

Of course, new troubles replaced them. Again, after Watergate, I was thrilled that democracy worked it's way through such a test. The country rights itself, and goes forward.

Those feelings have never left me. I love the political process. I love elections. I admire the courage of politicians even when I think they're idiots. It's thrilling to watch them and witness their belief in themselves and commitment to the country. I rant and rave at the press, but I watch and read anything they give me so I can draw my own conclusions. I'm infuriated by what they say, yet invigorated by their right to say it.

One of the African American politicos in Iowa last week commented on Barack Obama's victory
speech. With emotion he said he had seen kids in his youth stubbornly sitting in the whites-only seats at Woolworths, and to see how far Civil Rights has come--to have a Black candidate receiving cheers and respect--was a goose-bump moment for him.

I follow the political talk shows, the campaign blogs, the newspaper op-ed pieces, and I'm having a bunch of goose bump moments. I'm crossing over to the Republican side to support Mitt Romney. I hope I'll get a chance to actually cast a vote for the man I think is the best, a man I'd trust to lead our country.

If that candidacy can't go the distance, I'll cross right back and hold a banner for Barack Obama. I'll send in my $25 check, put a sticker on my bumper and follow every primary campaign. Mostly though, I'll count the blessings that make it possible for us to participate in finding the right man for the right season.

I wish I could be in New Hampshire and cast my vote. I appreciate the people standing out in the cold seeing that the process goes forward, vetting the candidates, and making them accountable to the regular people in the country.

My early 1960's training led to an addiction to politics. I'll be cheering all during this presidential election. It's my tribute to the leaders who turned bad situations in my youth into good conditions for my adulthood. I am occasionally reminded of the passion I felt watching JFK, RFK, MLK and even Walter Cronkite. They weren't perfect men, but they were committed to making a positive difference in a big way. I want to make a positive difference, even in a tiny way. That's the legacy of the 60's I want to pass on.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Blogger Bios

My husband is a biographer. He's written about 75 books about people, both dead and alive, who have led interesting, vibrant lives, and made huge contributions to society. It's always easier when they're alive, or if they've left autobiographies of some sort.

I collaborate with Dee on these volumes. We do some on-site research together, and I listen as he processes and draws conclusions from all the gathered information. He interviews dozens of people, pours through diaries, letters, documents and papers, and then writes the manuscript, putting the story in context with historical events and settings. I edit and do a bit of re-writing.

Right now I'm working on a project, condensing 500 pages of interviews and text into a more manageable 200 pages for a first draft. It is so informative to see a life close up, recognize the people who made an impact and how, see the consequences of choices and weigh the importance of decisions. It allows me a chance to examine a person's philosophy. I become a sociologist and a psychologist, studying enormous circumstances that impacted generations, and tiny events that shaped a unique personality.

I've discovered that the only difference between a fascinating, significant life and one that is unknown and trivial, is whether it's been recorded. In other words, everybody's life is exceptional, influential and instructive, but it has to be written down for others to learn from it.

If you died tomorrow, how would someone write your biography? Your kids and grandkids, and maybe even people who have no personal connection to you would benefit from a story of your life. Have you left letters? Scrapbooks? Journals? Photos? Would anyone know you were the bald two-year-old screaming on your great-grandmother's lap? Does the picture of President Kennedy indicate that you were the photographer? Could anyone tell that the love letters signed Poopsie were written by you?

How did you feel about the Viet Nam War? Where were you when the space shuttle exploded? Did a particular teacher that convince you to go to medical school? Was there a friend responsible for your fear of spiders?

The people who read Dee's books are always excited about the personal stories. For example, if an immigrant wrote about his travels from Germany to New York City, his family can read that he was sick the whole trip, and that his brother died on the ship, that his name was changed on Ellis Island, and that he sat on a suitcase for hours wondering where the milk and honey was.

If the personal story hasn't been told, Dee relies on journals written by people who sailed from Germany to NYC about the same time. It would be like someone looking at a 1971 yearbook, and then imagining what your high school experiences were like. When that's all there is to work with, it's good for a flavor of the times and fashions. But your own marked up yearbook, coupled with a few English essays with your views, saved with your diary and college letters would depict your personality, your hopes and dreams, and give a much more personal account.

That's one reason for this blog. I'm writing my autobiography. It's not chronological, (or even logical much of the time,) but it's what I would tell somebody about myself if they had time to listen. I think we learn from each other's triumphs and mistakes. We're encouraged by each other's failings and mishaps, and we are buoyed up by the way others get through the every-day-ness of life.

I don't concentrate on my warts. But I don't photo-shop them either. I know I repeat myself, and re-learn the same lessons. I draw new conclusions from old circumstances, and rediscover how events shaped my ideas.

When Dee writes the histories of communities, old buildings, businesses and families, he collects memories from many individual sources. Interestingly, the same events are often recalled very differently. The perspective changes depending on who is telling the story. Someone who was a child might remember a room as being cavernous, while a grown man would remember it feeling claustrophobic and crowded. That is true of a personal history, too. I remember my parents in different ways than my siblings do. It's great to have a collection of memories to get a broader view.

Dear Abby said, "Experience is a wonderful thing; it enables you to recognize a mistake every time you repeat it." She also said,"If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we'd all be millionaires."

Dee profits from the experience of others...literally. He gets paid. I'll never be able to afford him, and he'll never have time to do my biography for free, so I've taken it into my own hands. It's one of the blessings of blogging.

They say your biography is written on your face. Since I don't see most of your faces, I'm learning about you from what you say and how you say it in your posts. I'm getting new perspectives from your comments on this, and lots of other sites. In fifty years somebody will be writing history, philosophy, sociology and psychology texts using the material that was written on blogs. I don't want to be left out, personally.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Memory Links

Salzburg in Winter

"Recall it as often as you wish, a happy memory never wears out." Libbie Fudim

"Each of us is the accumulation of our memories." Alan Loy McGinnis

"Keep some souvenirs of your past, or how will you ever prove it wasn't all a dream?"
Ashley Brilliant

"No memory is ever alone; it's at the end of a trail of memories." Louis L'Amour

"One form of loneliness is to have a memory and no one to share it with." Phyllis Rose

Winter in Salt Lake
Photo by Anna

"You never know when you're making a memory." Rickie Lee Jones


John McCain

Mitt Romney

Rudy Guiliani

Mike Huckabee

John Edwards

Fred Thompson

Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton

The candidates.