Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Poor Writer

Die Arme Poet by Carl Spitzweg

The painting was hanging in the window of a book-binding shop. "That is what I want to be," said Dee. "A writer, living in a cool attic, surrounded by old books." I thought he was kidding.

We were just young students in Europe, dreaming of our future together, exactly forty years ago today. I remember the date, because I wrote it down. I wrote then, as I do now, to clean out my mind and store away precious memories. Dee kept a journal to collect information for stories: facts, images and ephemera (little bits of stuff.) We were well on the way to our future!

Alfred Kazin wrote, "The writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself; the publishing of his ideas is a curious anticlimax."

Well, maybe for Alfred. I love it when we finish a book!

The prototype is finished!
(Link to Heritage Associates to see how Marta designed this book.)

These are the folks who have been inside my head and computer for two years.

And here is their story.

Writing a book is like reading one. The characters become friends,
and I hate to say good-bye.
Well, sort of.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Easter Basket Case

Easter Basket Case

I'm filling my psyche with fudge so I'll have something of substance to offer you
on our next visit!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Write Now

Photo by Kurt Hutton

"Inspiration is wonderful when it happens,
but a writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time...
the wait is simply too long."
---Leonard Bernstein

Right now I have the urge to write now. But I'm gazing through two little windows--the one on my computer screen which looks blank and dull (just how I'm feeling,) and the other is my window of time before three little girls arrive at the crack of dawn for Oma Day with expectations of "Tivities!" and "Tea Parties!"

So, because my inspiration is taking simply too long, I'm going to direct you to somebody else's inspiration. Tiffany's blog has a great message about blogging, but is well worth exploring beyond the first page. She's a friend in the making. I was introduced to Tiffany, by Marta. On today's post she lists many of her other favorites places to visit. But I'm actually linking you to one of my favorite series by mwrites: her writing school!

Visit these links and I think you'll be re-enthused about why we love to blog, and how it makes a positive difference in our lives and those around us.

Then you can join me to wait for inspiration to fill our hearts, souls, and computer screens with wisdom and humor for next time. (I'll be needing a handful of dark chocolate Lindor Balls and a little coke, if you're really coming.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Teacher's Influence

Art by Nellie Farnam

I sat on the steps of Sherman Elementary School crying. It was my first day of summer kindergarten and everything had gone wrong. None of my friends were in my class; Mrs. Brown had informed me I couldn't cut right because I was left-handed; I hadn't brought a blanket for rest time and she made me lay on the bare floor; some little girl made fun of my red and white plaid glasses. And now the neighborhood kids I was supposed to walk home with had left me.

Mrs. Brown locked up the school and found me in a sobbing, damp heap. Her husband was in the parking lot ready to take her to a funeral, and she was irritated that I needed extra attention. They grumbled, but put me in the backseat and drove me to the corner drugstore where she called my mother to come and get me. "Your little girl is too immature for kindergarten," I heard her say.

It was June 14, 1955, and I still remember what I learned:
  1. There was safety in numbers and I was all alone.
  2. Teachers were critical.
  3. Left-handedness made me awkward.
  4. Being unprepared was embarrassing and there were hard consequences.
  5. Wearing glasses made me ugly.
  6. I couldn't trust my friends.
  7. Adults got angry when I was afraid.
  8. I was immature.
  9. I hated school.

Because our schools were overcrowded with baby-boomers, kindergarten was offered only during June and July so that more classrooms were available during the year. After six weeks of summer kindergarten little kids went to first grade in the fall, continuing with the same teacher and class.

Although Mrs. Brown wanted to hold me back for another year, my mom insisted that I was ready to start first grade so I was transferred into Mrs. Hilbig's classroom. I remember a few things I learned there, too.
  1. Mrs. Hilbig was left-handed and she gave me some left-handed scissors. She told me we were in a special club.
  2. A little boy named David told me my glasses were pretty.
  3. Six desks were grouped into "tables" and I made five new friends the first day.
  4. I was in the red reading group, which I knew was the best.
  5. Although I was the youngest and the shortest child in my class, Mrs. Hilbig told my mom I "showed lots of promise."
  6. I learned to tell time before anyone else, and my teacher complimented me on saying "It's quarter after."
  7. My parents were on my side.
  8. I could handle being on my own.
  9. I wanted to be a teacher.
The most significant thing I learned is that it matters what you say to people. They remember . . . for decades. And sometimes they don't get over it.

There's an old song that says, "Let us oft speak kind words to each other, at home or where e'er we may be." My foremost goal every day is to say kind, encouraging things to the people around me, yet I shudder regularly when I hear thoughtless things go flying out of my mouth. I have good intentions and never mean to sound rude or insensitive, but I haven't learned the fine art of closing my lips in time, every time. It's a daily challenge to speak only kind words.

When our oldest was in second grade she told us Christmas was on Tuesday. I corrected her, saying Christmas was on Friday. She got very upset, insisting it was on Tuesday, because her "teacher said." What a teacher says becomes truth in the mind of a child. And we don't need to have a classroom to be a teacher. We have influence on how others in our world view themselves, whether we want that influence or not. We can choose if we want it to be positive or negative.

Dee's motto is: Think over everything you say, and don't say everything you think. He's good at this. Of course, he doesn't say much—he's busy thinking. Unfortunately, I don't know what I'm thinking until I say it!

Did somebody say something (good or bad) that's stuck with you? Did it influence you in your choices in some way that still applies in your life? Think about the influence you have, and who you've encouraged or discouraged recently. Are you a positive supportive source of hope; or the voice of doom, pointing out the impossibility of pursuing their hopes and dreams.
What's the point of what you say?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Perspective

"Don't deprive yourself of the pleasure of having
an unproductive afternoon."
—Veronique Vienne

My to-do list was long and organized well. I dropped off my glasses to be refreshed with their new lenses. The hour-long wait was stuffed with well-intentioned projects. I hoped to grab a table at Barnes and Noble and spend the time looking for Polish folk art images, illustrations of the 30-Years-War, read and take notes about the Velvet Revolution of Czechoslovakia, and find the sought-for novel.

Two seconds after commandeering a perfect table outside on the deck overlooking the fountain, with a limeaid in hand, I remembered I didn't have my glasses. I mourned my lack of planning ahead, went searching for some readers and found a pair of one-size-fits-all for $40. In just an hour I would be shelling out $275 for a pair that was being designed for all my personal idiosyncrasies, so I decided I'd set my list and books aside and just people watch. A pair of sunglasses would keep my activity private.

It was kind of like observing animals at the zoo, seeing people in the wild like that. When folks are walking along, unsuspecting of an audience they unconsciously scratch secret spots, shift their pants up or down, chase down their cleavage in search of straps, and carry toilet paper squares stuck on their shoes.

They talk on their cell phones too loudly. I heard a grocery list being received, an "It's not you, it's me..." talk being delivered, and an excuse for why a lady couldn't visit her mom ("I'm sitting in a dentist's office and things are running way behind.") She even said, "But, Mom, It's not like I'm out shopping!" as she was consolidating her packages into one big shopping bag.

Watching others conduct their important daily business reminded me that losing a few minutes really wouldn't matter much in the long run. Nothing they were doing seemed dire, and my stuff was suddenly less urgent. I started seeing my spy-work as an important blog research trip.

I relocated myself to the fountain. It was too cold for kids to be running through the water ballet, so I just watched some folks meet up for lunch. I made up their stories:He seemed too old and plain for her. Was she his daughter? Eww...too touchy for a daughter! Was she his wife? Ewww...too touchy for a wife. Was I observing a tryst? Eww...the kissing was a little too slobbery for a tryst. I decided it was a sleezy hook-up.

A thirteen-year-old girl rushed out of the Apple Store to her waiting boyfriend. She dug through her purse and dangled a new mini-shuffle. He pulled her over to a bench a ways away and they ripped open the cover, chucked the plastic wrap and box and he walked away wearing it. Was it a gift? Had I witnessed a shoplifting??

And over there: was that naughty little boy being hauled off by his exasperated mother, or a calculating kidnapper?

Realizing I watch too much TV, I remembered the three-d glasses I'd worn at the children's museum. They allowed me to see more than what was actually on the screen. They gave a new perspective. Watching folks through the protection of my sunglasses gave me a new perspective, too. While it was fun to see the coordination of tattoos, piercings, stilettos, leggings, and glimpses of skin or size tags on inside-out boxers, without their story the folks seemed empty. Out of the kindness of my heart, I characterized them and took a few facts to turn them into people I could learn from.

Next time you're sitting somewhere doing nothing, watch the pageant of life going on around you. The observations you make can be spun into stories that will give you some perspective on your own life. You might turn out to be wiser, kinder, less judgmental, an altruistic person who will meet their needs. If not, just consider it blog research. You might need some sunglasses.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Book Case

"The contents of someone's bookcase are part of his history, like an ancestral portrait."
---Anatole Broyard

Although I read all day and all night, it's been months since I've read any fiction. I'm feeling an emptiness in my soul. I need a saturation of my senses—a book I can't put down, words that will keep me up thinking "Just one more chapter, just one more page." I want characters that will become confidantes, who will make me laugh, wonder, yearn, and cry when I say good-bye.

I don't want a fast read, or a put-it-down-pick-it-up-next-week-because-it-can't-hold-my- interest type of book. And I'm tired of learning stuff. I need a good, old-fashioned, heart-wrenching saga. Or a thriller that will have me in a cold sweat. Or a romance that will have me in a hot one. Or a mystery with a dashing British detective and a bewildered, puzzling victim. And I want it right this very second! I'm searched my It sounded good when I bought it two years ago shelf and nothing jumped out at me.

Here's a list of books I wish I hadn't read yet (so I could read them for the first time) to help you with your suggestions.

Fifty Favorite Books
  1. Youngblood Hawke
  2. Marjorie Morningstar
  3. The Winthrop Woman
  4. Gone With the Wind
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird
  6. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  7. To Serve Them All My Days
  8. Rebecca
  9. Eye of the Needle
  10. Day of the Jackal
  11. Kane and Abel
  12. The Odessa File
  13. The Firm
  14. Pelican Brief
  15. Presumed Innocent
  16. The Ring
  17. Ghost
  18. Shellseekers
  19. Five Smooth Stones
  20. Coma
  21. Warriors Don't Cry
  22. Joy in the Morning
  23. Katherine
  24. A Great Deliverance
  25. Dragonwyck
  26. Bourne Identity
  27. The Chancellor Manuscript
  28. Absolute Power
  29. Immortal Wife
  30. Love is Eternal
  31. The Godfather
  32. Forever Amber
  33. Disclosure
  34. The Rabbi
  35. Christy
  36. The Hiding Place
  37. The Thornbirds
  38. Jane Eyre
  39. Winds of War
  40. Far Pavilions
  41. The Water is Wide
  42. Cold Sassy Tree
  43. My Cousin Rachel
  44. Mistress of Mellyn
  45. The Ivy Tree
  46. Once and Future King
  47. Mists of Avalon
  48. The Salzburg Connection
  49. Hawaii
  50. QB VII

"Once in a very rare year, there comes along a new book,
and I say as I'm reading, as my eyes eat words without a blink,
(as my heart and mind grab each other,)
"This," I say, "is The Best Book."
I know before the first page is gone. I sense it building.
And as the book finishes, I go as slow as I can.
I don't want to leave this book's world."
---Jill Robinson

Immortal Wife and Wannabe, 1969

What books do you think I'd like?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Homespun Gift

I just found out what I'm getting for my birthday this year:
It's made from scratch, totally unique, one-of-a kind,
a first edition, and priceless.

These guys have been working on it since before Christmas!
I'm SO excited!
(I think this particular homemade present will take the sting out of turning sixty!)

(Congrats Pete and Anna!)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Filling My Bucket

"The secret to happiness is finding something to be enthusiastic about."

"The grand essentials for happiness are something to do,
something to love, and something to hope for."

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy."

I'm on pause.

(See you June 7th!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

We Have a Winner!

Hey Jenibelle! Wake up! You won!

Thanks to everybody who came to my Open House:
I appreciate every comment in the guest book.
Jenibelle was chosen at random to win the doorprize—
she will be getting a favorite book on blogging from my bookshelf!

(Jenibelle: email me your real name and address and it will be on its way!)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Light One Candle

"There are some who bring a light so great to the world
that even after they have gone, the light remains."

My aunt died. She always seemed exotic to me . . . she golfed, she fished, she hunted. Suntanned, with short, curly hair, she wore shorts and sleeveless shirts and carried a thermos of coffee from room to room at my grandma's house. And she played Bridge.

In my four-year-old world where the stay-at-home moms all wore skirts, and taught primary for their extra-curricular activity, Aunt Barbara was different. Her face was wreathed in smiles, and as she got older the wreaths became permanent; she always looked happy. She married and tamed my Uncle Heller when he came home from the war (doesn't his name suggest mischief and adventure?) He taught me to "Say Uncle!" and she taught me to read.

Before I started kindergarten, she gave me a Dick and Jane book. I remember her sitting on Grandma's couch with me, sounding out cat, mat, stop, and hop, until I caught on.

A lot of people I don't remember taught me things I'll never forget. But I won't forget Aunt Barbara. She opened my world.

"I had taken to reading.
I had discovered the art of leaving my body sitting in a crumpled up heap in a chair,
while I wandered over the hills and far away in a book.
My world began to expand very rapidly.
The reading habit had got me securely."
---H.G. Wells

Who taught you to read? Did you ever thank them? Sadly, I didn't. Thank you Aunt Barbara. I hope they read blogs in heaven, don't you?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Open House: A Change of Scenery

"A trip is what you take
when you can't take any more of what you've been taking."
—Adeline Ainsworth

When you just need a change of scenery, you stay home and redecorate!
Or you visit Open Houses.
I'm receiving guests here at TravelinOma's and I'm dying to meet you all.

While you're here, check out my blog's new accessories: new pictures on the wall, new quotes on the shelves, new ideas in the mill. It's my version of spring cleaning. I offered refreshments earlier, (sorry you didn't get here in time) but you're very welcome to walk through Travelin'Oma's open house, anyway.

And please leave a comment in the comment box.
You just might win a prize!
(Drop in your comment before
Midnight Wednesday April 18th.)

Thanks for visiting!
I love meeting folks who live on the other side of my computer!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bloom Where You're Planted

I'd rather have flowers on my table than diamonds on my neck.
---Emma Goldman

Spring is nature's way of saying,
"Let's party!"
---Robin Williams

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oma Books

The Oma Storybook Collection is one of my hobbies.

I'm writing our family history as a children's book, with stories about Dee and I growing up, how we met, and anecdotes about our parents and grandparents. At the same time, I'm assembling materials and doing research for a children's book on our family in England from the Battle of Hastings until they came to America in 1630. It's an exciting and overwhelming project that I've been working on for the past few years.

But the grandkids aren't waiting! I want them to grow up knowing these stories and since they're growing up faster than I'd anticipated, I print out each chapter as I finish writing it, put a spiral binding on it, and send it off to them. Eventually they'll get the chapters all compiled and beautifully bound together in one book, but this way they can learn our history step-by-step as I go along. Seeing their excitement is my motivation to keep typing and make this a reality.

My biggest challenge has been how to illustrate my books without plagarizing other people's art work. I need to get away from scanning and learn how to create my own, so I'm trying out different ideas with each chapter I print for the kids. I just finished Dee and the Giselas, a story about Dee as a little boy, and this time I staged some photo-shoots using the grands as the main characters. It was so fun to have them learn about Opa as they acted out his story for the camera. Then I collaged them together (since the kids live in five different states!) I just have to share some excerpts:

Gordon B. Hinckley said our own family stories are worth telling and re-telling.
Have you recorded yours?

Slow Down

Illustration by Jane Dyer

♫ Slow down, you move too fast;
Got to make the mornin' last!
Just kickin' down the cobblestones,
Lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy. ♫
---Simon and Garfunkel

What happened to feelin' groovy? The world is spinning like a washing machine out of control, and I'm feelin' dizzy instead of groovy. And I don't think it's just me. This is what William Doherty, a family therapist, said recently:

"In a ratcheted up whirlwind childhood, children and teens are failing to benefit from social skills developed in unstructured, unsupervised experiences with siblings or peers--what used to be called going out to play. That is where a child has to find someone to be with, convince them to play, negotiate what to play, teach others how to play, help develop and enforce the rules, and decide when to stop."

When I was on active duty in my motherhood career, I didn't have time to go through training. Now, as a retired mom, I love measuring my real-life experience against current expertise. Dr. Doherty spoke on "Parenting Wisely in a Too-Much-of-Everything-World."

While studies have shown that extra-curricular activities have some positive impact on the academic, social and psychological development of a child, Dr. Doherty cited other studies that say an overload of such activities has a much greater negative impact.

He followed a family with three children through five hours after school, and saw how they managed to squeeze in a total of eight after-school activities as well as snacks, separate dinners, homework, and getting shuttled from practice to lesson to home. The parents were pleased that the children were involved and busy, but agreed that they sacrificed unstructured playtime, a relaxing family dinner hour together, and time for the kids to interact casually with family members. They viewed it as a good trade off for the opportunities they were providing.

Dr. Doherty reported that studies prove that a family meal time is a strong predictor of academic and psychological adjustment in children and teens. It is better than time in school, sports or cultural arts in helping to decrease future involvement in alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, depression and eating disorders. "Parents can work to limit scheduling and eliminate overloads, while training and teaching children with the end result in mind."

I wholeheartedly support this advice! But, I remember the good old days when I packed up my toddler and baby, and hauled them around the extended neighborhood for a few hours a day, picking up and dropping off their older siblings. We had after-school snacks in sacks, and drove from dancing to piano to ball practice to ball game to violin to guitar to scouts: round and round a three mile radius, all afternoon. I tried to limit extra-curriculars to one per kid, but everything overlapped. Sometimes when it came down to dropping piano to take up soccer, I was the one who insisted on continuing with both.

One spring we had three little leaguers on different teams, playing on different fields. Each one had two, two-hour games a week and two practices a week, and that schedule lasted for two months. We had dinner at the ball diamond almost every night, and still had to go home and factor in homework, baths and bedtime. I don't recall any squeaky clean, peaceful kids gathered in their jammies listening to me read "Little House on the Prairie" after a fun family dinner hour during that season!

-L-O-W...D-o-w-n . . .!

I'm not scheduling a whole family anymore, but I still find that life is a balancing act. It's easy to tip from just right to way too much. And nobody wants to fall over into not enough. I think Simon and Garfunkel got it right. "Slow down. You move to fast."

My goal this spring is to catch my balance, kick some cobblestones
and find my inner groovy.

Do you have any tips on scheduling a family, keeping your own balance, deciding what's enough and what's too much? Any advice on saying "no" to kids, neighbors, friends and family who offer you more to do than you want to do? How do you slow down and actually enjoy the joy you know you're having?

Illustration by Jane Dyer

Dr. William J. Doherty, a family therapist, educator, researcher, and director of Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Minnesota, spoke at BYU February 12, 2009.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Blogline Clogline

I have a bloggy question.

I read blogs using Bloglines. Suddenly new posts aren't showing up, and I have a red explanation mark next to every blog on my list. Does anybody know what this means?
How can I fix it? 

Does this happen on Google Reader? If I switch, how can I get my list over to Google Reader?

P.S. Have you seen The Changeling? It is a distressing but compelling true story starring Angelina Jolie. I wouldn't recommend it as a show for everyone, but if you've seen it I'd like to hear what you thought. I actually thought it was very well done. 

I've been reading all the details on Wikipedia tonight. The movie is totally accurate, except for the fact that the bad guy's mother was an accomplice (they left her out), and that the friend in the psych ward was a composite of a few real characters. 

I've never been an Angelina fan, but I thought she was stunning as Christine Collins. I liked the lighting, costuming, setting, filming and the message. The subject matter (a child kidnapping) was disturbing and sad.

P.S. p.s. Does my blog take a long time to load?  Does it make a difference if it's in Firefox or Safari?

P.S. p.s. p.s. This is kind of a composite post.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Last Farthing

(In the spirit of the times, I'm recycling this post from April 12, 2007.)

This little antique frame was a special present from Dee. It holds coins that equal a quarter of a penny...a farthing. As far back as Henry VIII this was a measurement of money, and these pieces are from Victorian times. It is a very sentimental gift with lots of meaning.

When we first met in Salzburg, we were both living on extremely tight budgets. Every schilling was counted and spent with thoughtfulness...not always wisely, but with good intentions. One night Dee offered to take me out to dinner, and pay. I protested, saying he couldn't afford it, and he said "I'd spend my last farthing on you."

There have been lots of last farthings since then.

Dee spent his last farthing on our first home, an 8' X 35' trailer which we lived in for a year before we bought a 12' X 48' for the next 3 years of college. (By the time we moved into a house we had 3 kids!)

While we were in school Dee worked teaching German at the old LTM, and running the pro shop at a golf course. During the winter we lived on farthings. He had a $50 a month income from the ROTC that sustained us until he became a research assistant.

After graduation, with a real job, we had long stretches where we forgot about farthings. We were making big bucks by then, and our kids were little and didn't cost much. We could afford all the necessities and lots of luxuries. We saved for missions, college and retirement. Our kids even had trust funds. (There wasn't any actual money in the funds; we were planning ahead.) But things weren't all they were cracked up to be. It was time again for farthings.

In 1985 we decided to make some dreams come true. We sold everything of worth, rented out our house, and moved to York, England. All 7 kids and Dee went to school and we returned a year later with a lot of fabulous memories and a Master's Degree in Historic Preservation. We had spent our last farthing on this great adventure, and we started over with a new career.

The first year Dee was asked to sit on a committee for the LDS Church Sesquicentennial in England. Everyone on the committee (except Dee) was seconded from university positions, so they all had salaries that came with them. Dee was a very honored and respected volunteer. We sold art work, cameras, guns, cars, and eventually our house to get a few farthings. It was a second year of education, and most of Dee's future projects grew out of the experience he gained, but it was pretty tight. By then the kids were expensive. All the mission, college and retirement savings accounts had already been emptied, and the trust funds became a memory.

It was worth every farthing.

Over the years, we have had many huge opportunities. People are willing to pay a lot of money for Dee's expertise and skills. Projects are numerous, but when they end in a blaze of glory and publication, suddenly he is unemployed until he arranges for something new. It always comes back to farthings. It's a precarious and adventurous way to live. He has invented a way to be paid for doing what he loves to do. He'd actually do it for free (and has done a few times), but it's better to make a few farthings and pay the rent.

Sometimes we've been down to $300....$200...(once it was 37 cents,) and we have seen miracles happen. Dee calls them "privileges of poverty." One Memorial Day we wanted to plan something fun and we decided to spend our last farthings on a family outing. The kids all gathered around the table with their donations and we came up with about $50. We got out a map and found some ghost towns within a few hundred miles. We went exploring for old roads, houses and train stations, and spent our money on Gyros at a tiny diner called The Greek Streak, in a little town down south. It was a great weekend!

Another time we were celebrating Heidi's birthday at a restaurant of her choosing. The promised checks were in the mail, but had not arrived the day before, and we didn't know how we'd pay for dinner for 12. Dee told me that he'd rather spend his last farthing than disappoint Heidi. That afternoon we received a letter from Micah who was on a mission in England. It had $100 bill in it! Someone had sent it to him, and he said that rather than exchange it for pounds, he thought he'd surprise us! What kid sends money HOME?? (The birthday dinner cost $96 with the tip.) When you live close to the edge, you experience a few thrills.

It never seemed strange in our family for the kids to contribute. We always knew we'd spend our last farthing on each other.

Have you noticed miracles as a privilege of poverty? In these tough times it would be great to look for and record the blessings that come. Dr. Phil was on Dave Letterman tonight, and he mentioned the silver lining that could become visible to families because of the recession.
  1. Instead of buying the kids a new toy, take them outside and play catch.
  2. Instead of going to a movie, take a long walk together.
  3. Instead of the fancy restaurant, take a picnic to a park.
Old-fashioned entertainment might bring back some old-fashioned opportunities that cost just a farthing, but are worth more than gold!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Work Out

Illustration by Janet Stevens
To Market, To Market

I'm pushing sixty.
That should be enough exercise.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Do Unto Others

From the Little Big Book of Comfort Food

When George Albert Smith was the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during World War II, he encouraged Church members to continue to donate work, food, and clothing to help feed and clothe others. Even during rationing and personal hardship contributions were generous.

The war left many people starving in Europe. In 1945 donations were already being sent from Utah through the regular mail to the country's former enemies in Germany. Only small packages were accepted and the cost was prohibitive. President Smith decided to go to the president of the United States and ask how the Church could send food and clothing to these desperate people.

He finally received a twenty-minute interview with U.S. President Harry S. Truman on November 3, 1945. Later, Smith described the interview at the White House:

“I have just come to ascertain from you, Mr. President, what your attitude will be if the Latter-day Saints are prepared to ship food and clothing and bedding to Europe."

He smiled and looked at me, and said, "Well, what do you want to ship it over there for? Their money isn’t any good."

I said, "We don’t want their money."

He looked at me and asked, "You don’t mean you are going to give it to them?"

I said, "Of course, we would give it to them. They are our brothers and sisters and are in distress. God has blessed us with a surplus, and we will be glad to send it if we can have the co-operation of the government."

Then President Truman said, "You are on the right track,” and added, "we will be glad to help you in any way."

George Albert Smith opened the way for hundreds of thousands of pounds of relief supplies to be delivered to people in Austria and Germany who were the worst affected by the devastation of the war.

"The miracle is this--the more we share, the more we have."
---Leonard Nimoy

I experienced a little miracle one Sunday morning that proved this saying true.

Our church's youth group collected food, and met in a downtown park to serve breakfast to homeless people who gathered there. I was one of the adult leaders. Buffet tables were set up and our kids stood behind the tables fixing scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes and potatoes, while a long line of hungry folks filled their plates.

I stood at the last table with two 12-year-old girls, pouring milk into cups. We had a number of gallon jugs under the table, but we were worried when we noticed how quickly we emptied the bottles. There was still an endless line when we reached for the last three bottles. By then we knew we'd run out before everyone got some, so one of the girls took cups of milk to some of the children.

Stacy (Morrison) and I kept pouring the milk. She opened a new package of paper cups, and we kept pouring . . . and pouring. It didn't run out! Stacy said, "I can't believe that we still have milk left." Then we started counting. Two half-empty gallons of milk filled almost 100 cups, and we still had milk when the last of the people filed past! It was like participating when Jesus fed the 5,000.

I had this experience about 18 years ago, but I'll never forget it.
It taught me that the Lord will take our meager offering, and make it enough.

Monday, March 2, 2009


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

---Robert Frost

There was one class in my elementary school that took French on TV. What if I had been in that class? Would I have taken French in Jr. High and High School? Then would I have gone to Grenoble for semester abroad? How would I have met Dee?

Because Dee was going to be drafted anyway, we decided to make the best of it. He got into ROTC, and applied to be in the intelligence branch. He committed to going regular army and had all the paperwork and interviews done so he could merge into the CIA after he came home (hopefully) from Viet Nam. What if he'd been killed in the war? What if he'd become a spy?

Dee was at summer camp for six weeks with ROTC, just prior to being sent to Viet Nam. I was in the hospital having baby #2 one day when he called and said he'd had a life threatening asthma attack. After a week in the infirmary a doctor gave him the choice of being discharged or staying in the army. What if he hadn't had the asthma attack? What if they'd kept him in the army anyway? What if we'd ended up being career army folks?

After Dee came home from summer camp, he applied to take the bar exam. He had to wait several months to take it, and then didn't find out where he'd been accepted for a few more months. Just after I realized I was pregnant with #3, he got accepted at Pepperdine Law School. We weighed our options and decided I was too heavy with child to think starting law school would be fun. What if we'd moved to Southern California? What if we'd been on L.A. Law?

Reflecting on Other Roads Not Taken:

  1. Graduate school in Delaware (Dee was accepted)
  2. Building the house on Jeremy Ranch (we had the floor plans drawn up)
  3. Buying the house in Draper (we'd given a down-payment)
  4. Teaching at a Jr. College in New England (a dream for after our early retirement, which would come about because of extreme wealth)
  5. College at U of U (a threat by my dad if I carried out my plans of a semester abroad)
  6. Marrying someone else (there were a couple of options)
  7. Working for the Triad Sheiks (had an offer--what a disaster!)
  8. Job with Union Carbide (had an offer--they HAD a disaster!)
  9. McBride Law School in Sacramento (the acceptance letter arrived after we bought a house)
  10. Having 12 kids (I'd probably still have teenagers!!!)
I feel lucky that we were nudged down the paths we took.

Do you wonder about a path not taken?
What made you choose the other one?