Friday, August 29, 2008


Walter Cronkite

Forty years ago I watched the Democratic National Convention. Walter Cronkite was my man on the scene and, with tears in his eyes, he told us the way it was. The year was 1968 and we had seen horror and ugliness, with brutal race riots, black teenagers murdered, an escalating war and student protests.

In April Martin Luther King had been assassinated, which sparked more riots and bitterness. At the California Democratic convention Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed in front of everyone watching TV that night. It had been a year of heartbreak.

The Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago. Mayor Richard Daley was well-prepared to deal with planned protests. Some would say wickedly prepared. Haynes Johnson was a reporter there, and he said, "The amphitheater where the convention was held had newly bulletproofed doors. The hall itself was surrounded by a steel fence topped with barbed wire, and inside the fence clusters of armed and helmeted police mingled with security guards and dark-suited agents of the Secret Service. The National Guard had been mobilized and ordered to shoot to kill, if necessary."

I'll never forget what I saw on TV. Chicago police officers took off their badges and waded into the crowds with bully clubs. Tear gas and hoses were used on protesters, reporters, photographers--even some citizens sitting on their porches were beaten! Over 500 demonstrators were arrested, and two hundred people, including policemen, were injured in the bloody riots.

Street outside Chicago DNC, 1968

Haynes Johnson reported, "I was a commentator on the Today show, broadcasting live from Chicago. Early Friday morning, a few hours after the convention ended, I saw a group of young McCarthy volunteers huddled in the lobby of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, where I was staying. They had been bludgeoned by Chicago police, and sat there on the floor with their arms around each other and their backs against the wall, bloody and sobbing, consoling one another. I was filled with a furious rage."

I was almost 19 that summer and I wondered, after all the turmoil of that year, if the world was coming to an end. It was a dark time for the United States.

But things have changed.

Barack Obama accepts nomination for president.

My daughter-in-law, Candice, was a witness to a very different and historic Democratic National Convention yesterday in Denver.

Because of her work on the Obama campaign, she scored a ticket to watch him accept the nomination. She arrived several hours early and sat just a couple of rows up from the field in the end zone, where she had a perfect view across to the stage. John Kerry, Michael DuKakis, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Anderson Cooper and other pols strolled past her seat while she listened to a Sheryl Crow concert and observed patriotic attendees.

There was a palpable feeling of good-will and camaraderie in the crowd; people were friendly and enthusiastic, on good behavior. One black woman caught her eye. Dressed up in church attire in respect for the occasion, she remained standing and cheering throughout the proceedings, waving a giant American flag, with tears bubbling up in her eyes.

Candice said it was an emotional, moving experience. The Average Americans segment was the highlight of the evening for her. Personal stories were given by regular folks who explained why they would vote for Barack Obama, and she said they were sincere and convincing.

The crowd was pumped up, yelling and cheering when the first black candidate for president of the United States was introduced. Even after eight hours in the sun the enthusiasm was overwhelming. When the video started the clapping dropped off, and Candice said you could hear a pin drop in the stadium as they were caught up in the story of Barack Obama. She described his acceptance speech as awesome. "I felt honored to be part of such an important moment. I was proud to be an American."

When I was not quite nineteen, 40 years ago, I thought the world was ending. Maybe that world has ended. It's certainly changed for the better.

The Think Method

The Music Man and Marian

Remember Harold Hill? He's the guy who sold the whole town uniforms and instruments, promising he'd turn the kids into a marching band. Unfortunately, as a con-artist, he had no expertise in teaching music. Persuaded by his charms, the children thought the music, and imagined themselves playing the trumpets and trombones. They were convinced they were musicians until the Wells Fargo Wagon came and the goods got delivered. The think method had not been enough. The kids couldn't play a note, and the parents had lost their money.

Ready to disappear like a thief in the night, Professor Hill was waylaid by his own true love. Marian the Librarian prevailed on him to stay and face the music. And, in true fairy-tale fashion, there was music! At first the band sounded grating and squawky, but with a little thought (and imagination) they paraded down Main Street in triumph.

When I was younger, I thought this was a great story of faith. I now think it's a great story, but I realize faith has more to do with accepting than wishing. Faith is not just believing things will turn out like I want them to. It's about taking things as they come, with the confidence that, with the Lord's help, I can handle whatever happens. It's a positive outlook, even in the face of difficult realities.

Do you ever wonder if it's bad luck to think about bad things? I do. If I accept an unhappy ending, maybe God won't bless me with a happy one. Maybe I won't be showing enough faith. But as I've seen bad things happen to good people, I've realized that faith can be strongest in hard times. A friend of mine lost her son many years ago. She said, "At first I asked, 'Why me?' Then I started to ask, 'Why not me?' I have the faith to endure it." She's an example of faith.

Waking up each day with a cheerful disposition shows faith, especially when your feet hurt and your back aches. Good humor, gratitude, thoughtfulness, concern for others, particularly when you're worried about your own personal problems: these are gracious qualities that demonstrate faith. Holding your head up in the embarrassment of defeat, shaking your gloating friend's hand, and smiling in spite of humiliation: that's faith. It's real faith that, with your renewed efforts, the Lord can turn this around for your good. Winston Churchill said, "Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the faith to continue that counts."

Professor Hill couldn't teach music, but he taught me a lesson: when I'm caught unprepared for a performance in life, I hope I don't turn tail and run. I hope I, too, can face the music. I want some character and humility to join forces with my positive thoughts so I can deliver true faith that God will support me in what I have to do.

That doesn't mean I don't always hope for the best. I am thrilled with happy endings. I scan the horizon for them every day. I want the Wells Fargo Wagon to be coming down the street. . . with something. . . very thpethial. . . just for me! (But, my faith does not depend on it.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's My Turn on Earth! Yours, too!

"The world turns round like a merry-go-round,
Sometimes you're low and sometimes you're high..."

Mixed with the highest of highs this week, I've had a few highly stressful lower moments as well. With all this upping and downing, I'm too dizzy to say anything worth reading. I'll get myself on an even keel in the next few days and return with the insights, and wisdom I'm expecting to discover when I stop running around in circles.

In the mean time, since it's your turn on earth, too, how 'bout leaving a message of how the highs follow the lows in your life. Does everything usually work out just as you've hoped, or have you experienced some surprises that knocked you down for a while? That was before you bounced up and turned a tough time into the time you developed tact, or patience, or wisdom or whatever came out of the overwhelming life you were wallowing in at the time. I'm anxious to hear the story of how the ups and downs, (and running in circles,) of your merry-go-round ride helped you discover treasures you now wouldn't trade.

Any merry-go-rounders want to join this circus?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baby Your Baby

William Adolphe Bouguereau

"Now the thing about having a baby--
and I can't be the first person to have noticed this--
is that thereafter you have it."
Jean Kerr

My baby had a baby! (I'll let her post the particulars when she gets her bearings. Everything went well.) So now Dee and I have 26 direct descendants. Having had seven of them myself, I have to say it's much less labor to have them born in a different state. I can't wait to fall asleep with him cuddled on my chest. There is nothing sweeter.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's Valuable?

The candidates say they stand for American values--family values. I'm wondering what those are. Do we still have values we all share, no matter what our religion, origins or politics?
Is there a list of those values anywhere? I used to think our ideals were based on the Ten Commandments but society shatters those like they were made of crystal.

James Owen wrote, "We gain self-respect by setting our own standards and holding ourselves accountable to them. We gain clarity and confidence by knowing which lines we will not cross. And we gain nobility by paying heed to principles larger than ourselves. Those who live with honor are the backbone of our society and the ones who ultimately reap life's richest rewards."

Are there any absolutes in our society? I want some! I believe family values should include being faithful to your spouse. I believe parents should take responsibility for raising their own children. I believe work should be a way of life. I believe our emphasis should be on living a good life, rather than living the good life. I believe we should help each other to achieve a good education, good health care, and a good standard of living. I believe we should realize that we are not all equal in opportunities, and therefore we have a moral obligation to contribute for the general good. I believe that we owe a debt of gratitude to our forefathers, and we owe a tradition of decency to our children.

These things are most valuable to me:

Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer

The power of prayer.

A strong family.

The Gleaners by Millet

The opportunity to work and achieve goals.

Joy in simple activities.


The right to good health care.

Babies raised by a mother and a father.

White Church, Salt Lake City

Freedom to worship.


Photo by Walter Bellamy, 1937

Service to others.

Our values boil down to what is valuable to each of us.
If we don't value goodness our society will cease to be good.

What do you value?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blueprint for Life

Salzburg Window, 2008

I'm singing the blues!
  1. Order the blue plate special.
  2. Wear blue jeans.
  3. Warble with a bluebird.
  4. Pick the bluebonnets.
  5. Work like you're blue-collar.
  6. Take stock once in a blue moon.
  7. Study like a blue-stocking.
  8. Listen to bluegrass.
  9. Be worthy of a blue ribbon.
  10. Appreciate blessings that come out of the blue.
Have you made a blueprint for your life?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Best Foot Forward

I can't tell which is my best foot. Is it the one that could pass for a moccasin: brown, dusty and genuine leather? Or is it the one that has been sanded, buffed, filed and polished? I walk on both of them, but I have to admit, I'm more comfortable with a few callouses. A fresh pedicure makes my feet look prettier, but they feel flimsy somehow. They serve me better when they're rough around the edges.

Should we shine ourselves up with spit and polish, or be authentic? I admire people who let their flaws and callouses show. I'm suspicious when someone is too good to be true, because I figure they aren't. I wonder what scuffs they're hiding. But it takes humility to confidently be the real deal.

A refined, serene friend of mine had a disastrous marriage many years ago. She was humiliated by events that were public and flagrant. Later she remarried and moved someplace else to rebuild her life. Nobody knew anything about her past, and she was everything she appeared to be--happy, loved and respectable. What impresses me about her is her honesty. Whenever it could be helpful to a friend, she shares her experiences without embarrassment. She is authentic.

Another acquaintance has a similar past, and I knew her when. She puts her best foot forward in every situation. Nobody knows about her unhappy background, nor would they guess. I am equally impressed with how she has moved on, but I sense that she is worried that her new friends might find out and lose respect for her. I can tell she hopes I'll never bring up her former life, to her or anyone else. And I don't want to step on her toes.

It's ironic, though. One of the women she has become buddies with has the same story as she does. I may be the only one who knows how much they have in common, but I could never point it out. Because they are both so uncomfortable about acknowledging their challenges, they might miss out on the other's empathy. They're tripping over a friendship just because they each have their best foot forward.

I am off balance if I worry too much about which foot should go first. One side of me is in good standing, while the other side is stumbling down the path. That's authentic Oma. As the oldest kid, I was always told I should be a good example. It was a lot of pressure, and it was pointed out to me that I fell short. I wondered if I was just supposed to show my showy side, or if I could sometimes be a good example by being a bad example. What about all those rough spots? Was I supposed to hide them all the time and pretend they weren't there? Isn't that kind of dishonest? Should I act like I am, or like I want to become, or like others wish I'd be?

I've polished myself, but my self usually shines through the layers of gloss, and the gleam dulls to a glimmer. I put my foot in my mouth often enough to know I'm not walking through roses all the time. My feet aren't all they're cracked up to be. I know it, and everybody who knows me knows it. So, while I get pedicures every once in a while, the chips in my polish are pretty noticeable. I've decided I'm OK with that. Although I have a best foot, when it's dragging behind I'm as authentic as a leather moccasin.

Do you put your best foot forward? Have you got a pumice stone that really works? Are all those cracks slathered with vaseline until they're invisible, or even healed? Or does your polish get smeared before it's even dry?

In other words: Do you act like you are, or like you want to become, or like you want people to think you are? Do you try to show your better side? Does it bother you to have others see your rough spots?

Monday, August 18, 2008

You're Invited!

What: A Baby Shower of Advice
When: Right Now
Who: For Mom-to-Be Min
Where: In the Comments Section
Why: Because we're all full of wisdom!

Aren't you dying to give some advice??

Think about what you'll's my turn first!
  1. Remember that YOU are the expert on your own baby.
  2. You will learn together how to nurse. He's new at it, too.
  3. Don't worry when he cries.
  4. Don't worry when he sleeps.
  5. He won't starve to death if he only gets a drop or two before falling asleep again.
  6. Everything will eventually fall into place, but give yourself six weeks.
  7. Decide that you're on an adventure in a different time zone. Sleep whenever he's asleep. He'll figure it out, and you'll return to normal in a few weeks.
  8. If you feel like crying, just let yourself go. You'll feel relieved and relaxed (after your headache and puffy eyes go away.)
  9. He brought his personality with him--it's eternal. You're not going to ruin him by your inexperience or little mistakes. He came to teach you the real facts of life!
  10. In today's world the greatest blessing a little child can have is parents who love each other.
Now, all you guests can have a chance to share some insights! What have you learned or observed about new babies and new moms?

C'mon, Whit! Just tell us one thing!

Sit over here and have some lemonade. It's cooled down,
and it will be fun to relax and visit.

Heidi made the cheesecake,
with hot fudge and raspberries!

Hey, thanks for coming!

(Make sure you leave a suggestion for the mom-to-be.)

It's so fun to get together like this!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Someone Once Said:

Pete 1980
(He's not the author of this quote, he's just cute.)

"Because of my age, I was the youngest. It was on account of my birthday."

Dee interviews some pretty impressive folks, and I edit the transcripts. People say funny things, when they're trying to sound brilliant. (It's too bad I have to cut out the best parts!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cowboy Do

We went to a Cowboy Party on Saturday. It was a real Do. We're not in the Do circles--we're more Done, if you know what I mean. But I'm glad we did this one.

It was a charity event to raise money for school libraries. Two hundred guests were shuttled up a private mountain to a private cabin, which was the size of a lodge. It was incredible. Because it had rained during the afternoon, the air was refreshing and cool, and from the deck we overlooked a meadow with trees dancing, dressed in crisp sunshine. Giant logs served as beams and rafters; rustic furnishings were sophisticated and comfortable at the same time.

The kitchen dining nook had seating for 25, with a work space, counter and island featuring three sinks, two cook tops and a double oven. Ten caterers were arranging appetizers with lots of room to maneuver. The living room had four separate seating areas, but still seemed cozy, with a grand piano and a two-story rock fireplace.

In the master bedroom, a substantial carved chest sat at the foot of a four-poster bed. At the press of a button, a large flat-screened TV emerged from the chest for late-night viewing. Of several suites and bedrooms, my favorite was a big dorm with eight double bunkbeds, topped with fluffy feather ticks. What an ideal place for little cousins to tell ghost stories!

Throughout the house paintings by local artists were displayed for a silent auction. We saw bids upwards of $15,000! The food was all donated by high-end Park City restaurants, and served al-fresco down the hill at the stables. (These stables held 15 horses, as well as a full kitchen, bathroom and family room.) Tables were set with china, crystal, and silverware wrapped in red cowboy bandannas, and the entrees were rack of lamb and duck. Horses poked their heads through the stalls and whinnied and neighed through dinner. Amazingly, the only aroma was barbecued meat, and there wasn't a wasp, fly or bumblebee anywhere in the vicinity!

A cowboy singer serenaded us while we ate, and afterwards we were ushered over to the bleachers at the rodeo corral. Doesn't everyone have a rodeo corral in their backyard? An authentic, fast-talking auctioneer took over and sold chic jewelry and more artwork. Guests held up their numbered cards and battled each other while the auctioneer egged them to go higher and higher in their bids. We were amazed at the generosity of people!

High school rodeo riders then galloped in carrying the flag, and we watched barrel-racing and calf-roping with intermissions for cowboy story telling, featuring grade-school kids. The skies were dark and a few raindrops made the leaves glimmer as a dazzling spark of sun turned the fields a fiery gold.

Just before the drivers arrived to return us to our cars below, it was announced that over $200,000 had been raised to replenish public school libraries. The hospitality of our hosts included the stunning scenery, and a hundred volunteers had contributed all of the services for the evening. The artwork, jewelry, entertainment and food were donated. In the darkness the house on the hill came alive with twinkling lights. It seemed a fitting metaphor for what will soon happen in the children's library!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

From Under a Sunbonnet: 1990

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even after 18 years, the lessons of my Pioneer Trek continue to unfold in my mind. I would never have expected such inner fortitude of young city slickers; we all stumbled on power hidden deep inside ourselves. The experience demonstrated potential and capacity, and I know we can do impossible things when we need to. And so can our kids.

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

(The photos here are collected from other's experiences and not from my own Trek.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mommy Blog Giveaway


Holly and Jenibelle, you shocked and humbled moms everywhere. Because of your comments you have each won a book in the latest Oma Book Giveaway. Send your addresses to my email.

Thanks to everyone for the great stories. Kids are even funnier when they belong to someone else!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Theories on Kids" Giveaway

Who are all these kids and why are they calling me mom?

I used to be this woman: young, formerly cute, with a bad attitude and a mean face. I started out with great theories on raising kids. Then one day I found a 25-pound bag of sugar spread evenly on the storage room floor. The kids and their friends were ice-skating in their socks over the slippery crystals.

Chalking it up to bad outside influences, I kept them isolated from naughty neighbor children. The next thing they designed was a swimming pool. They covered the shower drain with a towel and let the water overflow onto the bathroom floor. The plan was to fill up the bathroom and swim like fish in an aquarium. The resulting flood ruined the floor, and the carpet in the next room.

Experts on child-rearing never have children. If they did, they'd know nothing works. My theories toppled like blocks in a playroom.

When the corner of the boys bedroom started attracting flies, I investigated. Hmmm...what was the stinky, sticky liquid that had stiffened the carpet and eaten away the carpet pad...oh, even the floor boards were dissolving...Could it be that animals lived in this room and had marked their spot with urine? These could NOT be my children! My children were obediently doing their extra reading at bedtime, not filling their toy box with bodily fluids!

Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your kids.

There were emotional issues, too. One kid had a conniption fit when the tub drain was released, convinced that he and all of his loved ones would be sucked down pipes and live in the sewer muck forever. He could hear the plug being released from any room in the house and broke into screams of terror. Another kid refused to take baths. He sat, fully clothed, and stirred the bathwater so it would sound like he was washing. Fears of wind, car washes, and vacuums ran rampant. Two kids "rolled" their heads in a rhythmic effort to sooth themselves to sleep...for hours every night! I sat in darkened bedrooms to scare away bad dreams, and laid in darkened doorways to rescue sleepwalkers.

My bad dreams involved taking them out in public. Mom rearranged the furniture one year for Thanksgiving. She hauled the ping-pong table upstairs to the dining room, and set it with her lovely silver and china. The meal got underway, with instructions on where to sit, when the fresh rolls would appear, and thanks to great-grandma for her homemade watermelon pickles. "Everybody sit up! It's time for the prayer."

I scanned the room for my cute little boys while my sister searched for hers. Suddenly the metal, decorative room divider lurched towards the table. As we all looked up in horror we saw four little monkeys clutching the aluminum scroll-work as it fell from it's place between the ceiling and the half-wall. In the nick of time, our husbands caught it before our sons became the centerpiece.

I'm not telling these stories to brag. I'm explaining why I have a collection of dozens of books on raising kids. If you can top these stories with one of your own, you will become eligible for a book on how to keep your sanity while living in an insane asylum. If you have such a story, but are not currently in mommy circumstances, please contribute your comment, and if you win you'll get a different kind of book.

I childproofed the house but they keep getting back in.

This new giveaway requires a comment on this post by Monday at midnight.

(All illustrations here are from the darling book Jillian Jiggs, by Phoebe Gilman.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Take A Closer Look

Amy about 1983

Thirty three facts about Amy. She:
  1. Played the fiddle in a Bluegrass band.
  2. Almost got hit by a train in North Carolina.
  3. Was the only girl on her Little League team.
  4. Is a middle child.
  5. Taught herself to play the piano.
  6. Loves vinegar on French Fries.
  7. Has designed books.
  8. Diagrammed all the logs of a 100-year-old cabin.
  9. Helped take apart the cabin.
  10. Put it back together a year later.
  11. Plays the mandolin.
  12. Can type as fast as people talk.
  13. Crochets hats.
  14. Sews drapes.
  15. Pretends she's house hunting just to see inside different houses.
  16. Can find anyone a new house in any zip code.
  17. Wants an American Girl doll.
  18. Is an Interior Designer.
  19. Was a student body officer.
  20. Is an art historian.
  21. Makes great posters.
  22. Wants to home school her kids, but
  23. Can't wait for her kids to go back to school.
  24. Has three adorable daughters.
  25. Is a fashionista.
  26. Watches anything British.
  27. Does crossword puzzles.
  28. Knows classical music.
  29. Was blind, and now she sees.
  30. Likes Jackie Chan movies.
  31. Quotes Jane Austen.
  32. Is a fabulous hostess.
AND . . .

33. It's her birthday!

Can you guess how old she is?
(I've loved her from day one.)

You Got Style!

Did I hear my name?

Yes! You did!
The totally random winners in my style book giveaway:
Stie and Kay!

Congratulations and thanks for all your comments.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Any News?

My brother and I raced home from elementary school to claim the comics section first. A bowl of potato chips, a coke, and the newspaper spread out on the kitchen table was my favorite after-school treat. I read Ann Landers, Peanuts and my horoscope, and then moved on to the TV listings and the movie guide. When Tom headed downstairs to catch Superman at 3:00, I'd read the middle stories.

I'd already seen the headlines at breakfast. Dad always read excerpts from the sports section out loud as we ate our pancakes, and mom chuckled as he quoted Dan Valentine's daily column. Grama B. loved to have me tell her what I'd read in the newspaper during the week, and I was ready for her quizzes by Sunday when we visited. I was a well-informed 8-year-old.

As newlyweds living in an 8-foot wide trailer, one car, no TV or washing machine, we were still subscribed to three local newspapers. They were a priority. For years, as a bonus, we took the Sunday New York Times, as well. Today, like every Sunday of our lives, we came home from church and each grabbed a newspaper to scatter across the table while we companionably ate our lunch. But the news is going down hill.

I'm not talking about earthquakes and murders filling up the columns. I'm referring to the way newspapers are being written. The headlines rarely lead to real news nowadays. Our two local newspapers are in constant competition to annoy each other's readers with sarcastic articles and jibes against different religious and political groups. Hardly ever are there meaty stories that inform without bias. The advertisements take up full pages with just one or two articles spread over the surrounding columns, difficult to follow, and disappointing in content anyway.

Even the comics aren't worthy of a glance. The arts sections borrow articles from the New York Times, which are better read in the context of that newspaper. Today our travel section highlighted Wendover! Come on! With all the interesting places in the world, they suggest I get on a Grayhound, cross the desert, and hide inside a casino?

If it wasn't such a pleasurable part of my routine, I'd drop the newspapers into the recycling bin along with the even heavier stack of advertising sections that are jammed between the pages. (Why isn't the green movement targeting ads?) There's a concern that newspapers are losing their readers. If so, it's because they've lost their writers.

My question to you is: "Where do you find unbiased, objective news? I'm especially interested in following the presidential candidates, and unraveling their views. So much of what I read is about the strategy of a campaign: how to woo the younger voters, or what will work to get women voters. I'm tired of having the big news be how the campaigns are quoting the other candidate out of context. I'd love to find a columnist I could trust to give me the story the way it happened. I don't mind a little bias, but report it semi-honestly, please. Two or three journalists from different papers would balance the coverage I'm dying to receive.

Please leave some suggestions of newspapers and columnists you think would re-enthuse my newspaper ritual. I want to be fortified with more than potato chips, cokes and Charlie Brown. I'd love to find a factual list of each candidates opinions and statements of the day, represented to inform me. Is there such a thing?

I'm hoping for tips from you guys, my experts on everything!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Fashion 911

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

What do you wear to a Cowboy Night? We're invited to a gala event up the canyon at a posh cabin, with a lot of upscale people who actually hang out with celebrities and know what Western Dress means.

It's a charity event to raise money for Children's Books and Literacy. There will be food of every variety, a children's art auction, cowboy story-telling, a kid's rodeo, and general mucking about in cowboy boots, with hoe-down music echoing in the barn.

These folks take the grandkids up to their ranch to castrate cows, and have cattle drives for family fun, and then bunk down in a huge lodge reminiscent of Yellowstone. They have the old west stamped into their DNA and also know how to be chairmen of boards at universities, CEO's in businesses, and rustle up a few head of cattle during the afternoon to Bar-B-Que for dinner.

It's not my natural crowd. I once broke my arm rolling off the gentlest horse in the neighborhood. I got scraped all over my face when a feisty horse ran away with me through low branches in the woods. Then I got thrown. I stick with Merry-go-rounds, now, where there's no dress code.

Even so, I'm very excited to be cool enough to be invited, and I want to take a giant step and be cool enough to actually be there.

So, fashionistas, advise me on what to wear. These folks will be totally legitimate and comfortable in Cowboy hats and boots. Will I look like a wanabe? Should I wear boots, dangle a hat, dig up some turquoise jewelry? I can imagine gorgeous fashion plates wearing white sun-dresses, flowers in their hair, espadrilles and a cowboy hat behind their neck. I want to look with-it, casual and chic, appropriate, but natural.

Give your fashion suggestions on this blog and it will count on my concurrent fashion book giveaway. I need a posse out scouting for my Roy Rogers approved cowboy duds. Any ideas?

♬Happy Trails...♬♬♬ you!

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Mini Vacation

Marta, 1984

This is my baby. In real life she's grown up and having a baby of her own in a couple of weeks, but she's still our Mini Mart. For the last two weeks she's been staying at our house, and every night she and I have planned to do a double blog. We've giggled hysterically over our clever ideas until 2:am or so, and then realized that we aren't really very funny. However, Min has provided me a lot of laughs over our 27 years together. For Example:

One day when she was about six we were on our way to Mervyn's. She said, "When we're shopping, act like you don't know me. I'm going to pretend I'm a midget."

After painting the playhouse

A few years later we were walking out of a cafe in Salt Lake City and someone held the door open for us. Min said, "Merci." The woman asked where she was from, Marta faked an accent and said, "Paris." Afterwards she explained she wanted to give the people a little thrill thinking they'd met a foreigner.

Chinatown Souvenirs

Another time we were sitting at the kitchen table when we heard Dee come in. Out of the blue Marta whispered, "Mannequin!" and suddenly froze in position. She wouldn't unfreeze and come out of her new character until I explained, "She's being a mannequin." After that it became a routine game, and everyone had to become a statue until the arriving person broke the spell by saying, "Mannequin." One night Marta answered the door and her sister's brilliant and solemn new boyfriend was standing perfectly motionless in a silly pose on the porch. Min squealed, "Mannequin!" and he was embraced wholeheartedly as a brother-in-law on the spot!

Child #1 was disciplined for taking books off the bookshelf when she was only 18 months old. (Sorry, Gabi.) By the time #7 came along we'd been mellowed. When we'd hear Mini whine or cry with the other kids, we'd call out, "Just give her anything she wants!" Luckily our easy-going style was offset by the sternness and high standards of her six older siblings, and in spite of our newly discovered relaxed attitude, she turned out undamaged.

Last night I invited Min to write a guest post on my blog, but then we got distracted by some horrifying reality show (about a family with twins AND sextuplets) and it was just too traumatic to return to mere blogging. I forgot my request, and she packed up and left with her newly bar-examined man, and I figured I was back on my own. However, tonight I noticed she had started a post and saved it as a draft. The ideas here are typically her, in her own mini style, and well worth sharing even though she didn't finish it up. A partial of mwrites is a complete facelift for a saggy TravelinOma!

(welcome to an official mwrites blogpost.)
mwrites a to do list

01. thank the mailman.
02. pay for the next happy meal in line.
03. pick up someone's recycling.
04. leave money in the meter.
05. read something uplifting.
06. rearrange your books by color.
07. hold the elevator.
08. dig up old photos.
09. watch Extra with your mother. because you love it.
10. then watch Law & Order with your mother. because she loves it.
11. and then watch Big because you haven't seen it since you were like 13.

20-Day Countdown
July 31, 2008

I think the movie rubbed off, because she's getting a little bit big. I hope her baby is as much fun for her as mine's been for me. It's been a Mini-Vaca for Oma and Opa, but we won't see Min again until she's produced a tiny little midget!
Lots of