Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Giveaway

Fill your basket and you might win a prize!

Are you in for the hunt?

I've hidden five Easter eggs in the comment section of some awesome blogs. (Hint: look for a description like "red egg.") When you have found all five, leave a comment on my blog.

The Easter Bunny will randomly pick three winners at midnight Wednesday night. They'll be announced Thursday morning. If you're chosen you'll email me your answers, and your address. Then I'll send you an Easter surprise!

To start hunting, click on the link, read the post, then look for my comment.

Summer Harms: Brioche Recipe

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Travelin' Sista-hood

Yardley, PA

We came from the east,

West Jordan, Utah

We came from the west,

Heidi and Marta

To hang with the sistas who love us the best.

Idaho Falls, Idaho

From the northern falls,

Sandy, Utah

To the southern route,

We know the scenery is what it's all about.

Salt Lake City, Utah

We came from the city, the burbs and the 'hood

Amy, Marta, Heidi, Gabi, Marty

We're the Travelin' Sista-hood.

There was live entertainment,

A fashion show;

Bubble-bath photos
I wish I could show.

Room service at midnight,
"Shop til you drop,"
Secret sista surprises and a make-up swap.

For a total makeover,
There's nothing as good
As hanging out with the
Travelin' Sista-hood.

Top Fifteen Sista Topics
  1. Fashion for Moms (and Omas) On the Go
  2. Bloom Where You're Planted (especially for moms by Amy)
  3. Bookclub (we read The Help by Kathryn Stockett)
  4. Creative (and cheap) Gift Ideas
  5. What's on your DVR?
  6. Guilty Pleasures
  7. Describe a regular day
  8. What's on your bucket list?
  9. Budget date nights
  10. Beautification Project (Min brought stuff for facials, pedicures, etc.)
  11. Music playlists
  12. What do you make for dinner?
  13. How do you take care of yourself?
  14. Work-out tips
  15. How to feed your spirit.

We're back in the east, south, north and west,
Refreshed to do better what we do best.
But when we need reminding that life is good
We'll think of the Travelin' Sista-hood.

The sun sets on a memory.


~Write a post that starts, "I know I need to fill my own bucket, so I'm going to_____."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Depression: Life Out of Focus

Feeling fuzzy

When the doctor couldn't find anything physically wrong with me he suggested depression. I would not accept that as my diagnosis. It sounded so depressing!

Back in 1982 nobody I knew admitted to such an embarrassing weakness. People with depression were considered neurotic, sent off somewhere for electric shock treatment. Neighbors whispered they were "doped up on Valium." Probably a lot of folks became alcoholics—it was less shameful.

Mom told me I needed to keep busy and not think about myself so much. Then she told me I was too busy and needed to take better care of myself. Dad told me it was all in my head and if I practiced positive thinking it would go away. Folks at church told me to have faith, read my scriptures, serve others . . . none of those ideas helped, but I couldn't admit it.

Focusing in

One day I was watching my kids blow bubbles. I'd been praying about my bleak situation when the thought suddenly came to call Shauna, a neighbor I did not know well. She answered and I started sobbing uncontrollably, rambling about how helpless and hopeless I felt. She sounded caring and calm as she assured me, "We'll get through this together. Don't worry. It will be all right." She said she knew what I was going through, because she'd felt this way herself. When I finally settled down, she said, "Now, Dear, first tell me: who is this?"

Shauna steered me towards a wonderful doctor named Dr. Payne. (Isn't that a great name for a doctor?) He had experienced deep depression himself, and had done a lot of research on its causes, symptoms and treatment. I learned that depression is not the same as feeling depressed. It's a chemical imbalance in the brain; anti-depressants balance the brain's chemicals so it can function normally. He explained that for me to go without this medicine would be as foolish as a diabetic going without insulin.

Stress, hormones, illness or trauma can trigger a bout of depression, especially if it lurks in your gene pool. Sometimes it goes away completely on it's own, other times it goes away but recurs. In my case, it is chronic, so I'll take anti-depressants the rest of my life. A friend referred to them as "happy pills," but that's not right. The medication doesn't make you happy any more than blood pressure medicine makes you happy—it makes you normal. Then you can make yourself happy.

I'm going out on a limb here . . .

Judging from the comments and especially the emails I've received this week, depression is making some of you feel out of focus. If you've had the blues for more than two weeks, talk to someone about it. Don't suffer in silence. If you've been in a funk for more than a couple of months, go to a doctor.

When I started taking anti-depressants, there were just two kinds available. It took about three weeks to tell how it was working and another several months to figure out the right dosage. I noticed side-effects immediately (dry-mouth, light-headedness, weight gain, etc.) and because I didn't feel any better for a while, I almost gave up a few times. I'm so glad I didn't.

At first the changes were subtle: I started sleeping better, the panic attacks subsided, the headaches went away. I stopped being afraid; I could concentrate and accomplish things. The kids were cuter, Dee was relaxed, and fun times were fun again.

Christmas 1984

My life came back into focus.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Postcard from Las Vegas

Dee suggested this particular stamp to honor a client.
He followed through with the stamp-design people, to make sure his client,
(who produced most of the Las Vegas signs)
was recognized on the Nevada stamp.

Dee's nuts about stamps.

Do you have a passion? Do you follow through?
What do you feel proud about having accomplished?

A stamp is a tiny, practically worthless, snip of paper, first spit on and then slapped.
But it travels the world, spreads a message, represents an artistic genre,
expresses the pride and values of our nation, and eventually has enormous value.

Is there an analogy there?
(I'm on vacation. I'm leaving the meaning for you to discover.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Postcard: Happenin in Vegas

What's happenin' in Vegas this weekend?

I Am!

The Sista's are hijacking me. I'll be hip, tanned, and cool when I re-emerge from our Sista Suite on the strip. (I've heard that what happens in Vegas stays is Vegas. You may never see me again, because I'll definitely be happening!)

We are planned, packed, primped, prettied, ready to load our suitcases in Amy's Tahoe at 6:am, for the Sista Roadtrip. CD have been mixed, magazines perused, treats loaded . . .

Somebody has a book to listen to, a DVD or two will be snuck in (last time we watched Mary Kate and Ashley in Atlantis, all of us smushed together in a fold-out sofa, while the priviledged travel companion (ChloƩ, 2) got the double master suite as her own room. This time I'm the special person who get's her own room. Babies and old folks get special treatment.

There are preassigned discussion topics. Mine is Style for Moms on the Go—where we'll will plan our shopping strategy. Lengthy conversations by the pool will be had on where to eat. That will be followed by Sin City Secrets—discussions and solutions of secret, mortifying problems we can't tell anybody but a Sista. This will involve lots of snacks, advice and hysteria.

Finally, we'll take on and solve all of society's issues, pick up our medals of honor and head home, having saved the world while looking cute. What more can a sista's weekend hope for?

I'll be sending postcards, so you won't forget me while I'm gone.

Follow this link to Style Conscious for some tips!

Take care of each other while I'm gone and
don't write anything interesting until I'm back.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Alzheimer's: Remember Me?

Norman Rockwell

I was alone in the pool when an older woman joined me. (In my world, older is 75 and up.) She seemed anxious as she climbed in, looking around for someone. She said she was waiting for her husband.

When he came, he seemed surprised to see her. "Oh. Hello," he said. He got into the water and she splashed him a little bit, and he said, "You know, I don't know how to swim." She replied, "Oh, you know how to swim, don't you?" He said, "When I was a boy, we lived by a lake, but I never learned to swim."

Then he went under water and swam the length of the pool, turned around and swam back to her without coming up for air. She splashed and teased him a little bit more, and he turned a somersault in the water, like a teenage boy. He looked older than she did, but they seemed kind of flirty, and it was fun to watch them. After a minute he said, "I never learned to swim. Did you know we lived by a lake?"

I wondered if they were newlyweds. It seemed that he was telling her something she would have already known about him. He started off again, doing the backstroke this time, and she caught up with him saying, "I'll race you." They both got to the other end, turned around, and returned to my side of the pool.

She tousled his thinning hair, and then kissed him on the nose. "What's your name?" he asked her. Then he repeated, "You know, we lived by a lake when I was little and I never learned to swim." She said gently, "Yes, dear. You told me. But you do know how to swim." He looked at her wistfully, and asked, "Do I?"

When I told my husband, I said, "She was so sweet. What if that happens to us? What if someday you don't remember my name? What should I do?"

"Wear a name tag," he said.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Are You Listening?

Accident Prone

“He burned the hamburgers and he burned the buns,” Norma complained as they walked home from the barbecue.

"And you left the door unlocked,” Sam replied. The sound of metal grated from inside the house. “There’s someone on the patio,” Norma whispered back.

Sam, forgetting that he was nearly sixty, charged towards the French door in the dining room just as it swung shut. “My hand went through the window, Norma! I’ve cut my wrist!” Blood spurted from his arm as she fastened a dishtowel tourniquet and called 911.

After a scary hour in the emergency room, Sam changed his bloody clothes. He sprawled out on the sofa while Norma sponged the blood off the drapes with a small bucket of cleaning solvent. “I got it out, and I even got it off your shirt,” she told Sam, after she poured the solution down the toilet. “The Tonight Show's on. Do you want to watch it?”

“First, I’m going upstairs to the john,” he replied. He found the newspaper, sat down and lit a cigarette to relax while he finished his business. As usual, he dropped his butt into the toilet. One smell covered another and Sam didn’t notice the prevailing odor that should have warned him.

Solvent was still clinging to the sides of the toilet bowl; the sparks ignited, and the water blew up! More burnt buns.

Norma called the ambulance again, and the same men came to the rescue. “So he’s sitting on the toilet . . .” Norma began, as they hauled a charred and moaning Sam face-down on the stretcher. His wife bit back a smile and the other two started laughing so hard they dropped their patient down the stairs.

Even Sam chuckled a bit as the doctor cast his broken leg.


This is a true story. I wrote it based on the first-hand account of the doctor on the scene.

We were in a restaurant in Amsterdam in 1982, and a man sitting right behind Dee was talking to a couple in English. We started listening in. He had been the ER resident who took care of Sam's wrist, leg and bum-burns several years before.

As the story progressed we became hysterical. Dee was laughing so hard his chair kept bumping into the chair of the story-teller. With Dee's head blocking my view, I couldn't see any faces at first, but when I got a glimpse, the doctor looked familiar. I told Dee I recognized him from TV.

When they got up to leave, Dee turned around and blurted out, "Dr. DeVries!" The doctor stopped and Dee jumped up and stuck his hand out. "Dee Halverson from Salt Lake City," he said. Dr. DeVries didn't know him from Adam, but put on a good show, and said, "Of course! How are you?"

Dr. DeVries and Barney Clark

The University of Utah was the site of the first artificial heart transplant in 1981, performed by Dr. William DeVries. Barney Clark was close to death when he was chosen for the surgery, and lived for 112 days with the Jarvik heart. We'd seen Barney and his doctor every night for months on the local news. To accidentally hear this famous doctor tell his side-splitting experience was priceless.


~Have you ever overheard something juicy? Turn it into a story.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Priceless Mother's Day Present

Ashley (4)

The Cousins Club hung out the other day and baby Benji did his best to impress Ashley. "He's still only one, so he can't talk," she reported. "But he's up on his hind legs now, and he runs everywhere."

Benji, unleashed.

I was in the living room while the little girls played house in the bedroom. "Oma, I have to go to the bathroom," called Chelsea as she whizzed past me in a blur. "Can you put this game on pause?" A second later the door banged open and she shouted, "You can un-pause it now."

Kidspeak is a delightful language.

Original Kidspeak notations.

A bloggy mom (please take credit if you're reading this) posted a clever idea a few years ago. She keeps a note pad and pen next to a jar on her counter. When someone says something in Kidspeak, she jots it down, folds it up and stashes it in the jar. On chaotic, stressful afternoons when she needs a smile she pulls out a slip. It's caffeine-free rejuvenation! (And a Mother's Day gift idea.)

Emmie (9)

Sometimes a little hero worship sneaks in. Concerned about the wild weather back east, I asked Emmie about their situation. "And your dad's going out of town? What happens if your power goes out?" "Well," she said. "We do have Jake."

Jake (11)

Kidspeak is my love language.

Oh . . . by the way.
Just in case you missed my self-induction
into the hall of fame, this is the re-cap:


I was asked to write an article on being a long distance grandparent
for a fabulous blog called
Read it here.

The website is part of The New York Times Company.
(Yes. I'm bragging.)

"I'd like to thank my publisher, and my English professor, and my Jr. High newspaper,
and my type teacher, and everyone I know, and my Mac . . ." ♫ ♫

(Someone get her off the stage!)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Health Care Emergency

Nurse Nancy

"Mama called the doctor, and the doctor said . . ."

"We have an opening Friday. What kind of insurance do you have? Oh, you don't? Actually, I don't have anything available until July. I'm sorry."


"For a non-insured patient we require a $250 deposit before we can schedule an appointment. Can I have your credit card number?"


"Our new patient fee is $200, payable when you sign in. The rest of your charges will depend on what you have done."


"Before we talk about hot flashes, I'll need a full blood work-up." ($1,000.) "The blood work showed your hormones are out of balance. To rule out a tumor, I want to schedule a CT scan." ($3500.) "No tumor. But you don't need your 'equipment' anymore. A hysterectomy guarantees you won't get ovarian cancer."

"I didn't think hysterectomies were routine anymore," I said. "Oh, I do them all the time," she replied. "They're my bread and butter." (I can't afford to pay for your butter, I thought.)

The Deseret Morning News wrote this editorial on April 10, 2008:

"In our opinion, lack of insurance is deadly.

"The nation's uninsured are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely than adults with private health insurance. In Utah, at least three working-age adults die each week because they are uninsured or they have too little coverage. More than 800 Utahns ages 25-64 died between 2000 and 2006 due to this problem.

"As we consider meaningful health-care reform, the medically uninsured must occupy a high place on the agenda. If they are placed in health-care plans that have high deductibles, it is unlikely they will receive primary or preventive care that can eliminate or control small problems before they become health crises.

"As it stands, the medically uninsured or under-insured are three times more likely to delay seeking health care. Cost and access are clear impediments. They are three times more likely to have difficulty obtaining needed medical care. When they receive hospital services, for instance, they are charged almost three times what insured patients are billed.

"It is somewhat difficult for average Utahns to comprehend the challenges faced by people who are uninsured or under-insured. That's because nearly 80% of Utahns are covered by a medical insurance benefit plan offered by their place of work. As such, they do not encounter the full cost of medical procedures and services, nor do they face extraordinary challenges obtaining health care.

"Policymakers must be mindful of the estimated 100,000 working adults who work full-time—many of them self-employed—and have no medical coverage.

"Medical costs are skyrocketing due to many factors. People with insurance are not the most careful stewards of the benefits. Hopefully, as architects of health care reform set about their work, addressing the needs of the under-insured and uninsured should be a key factor in their deliberations."
Doctor Dan

Maybe by Sunday there will finally be a cure for what ails me.

(Good luck to all of us with health issues!)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ten Steps: Find the Story in Your History

A bookie.

When I was fifteen I knew a girl who had plague.

"Her head ached violently, as though a tight steel band had been bound about her temples and was drawing steadily tighter. She was sweating and there were stabbing pains throughout her stomach and along her legs and arms. Her throat was as dry as if she had swallowed dust . . . All at once she gave a convulsive shudder and the retching started again. By morning she lay flat on her back, her eyes fixed and wide open but unseeing. There were dirty green circles beneath her eyes and the lower part of her face was shiny with the bile and saliva which had dried there."—Kathleen Winsor

She looks pretty healthy here.

The year was 1644 and it was the first time I visited London. Every detail of life in that period—food, fashions, architecture, interior design and politics—was covered in the fictional tale called Forever Amber. Kathleen Winsor made the time of my great-greats vivid and authentic through years of research, before publishing her best-seller in 1944.

"That crumb of far-off Lincolnshire was the only place in the world entirely her own."

In high school I met Katherine Swynford, great-grandmother of kings. She lived at Kettlethorpe, a small manor in Lincolnshire, England very close to some of my own greats. Born in about 1358, Katherine had a love affair with John of Gaunt, and later married him. Their descendants became England's royal line. Anya Seton wrote this about her research for Katherine:

"In telling this story I use nothing but historical fact when these facts are known—and a great deal is known about the fourteenth century in England. I have tried never to distort time, or place or character to suit my convenience."

"I'm measeled with mosquito bites, all of an itch."

Anya Seton also introduced me to Elizabeth, The Winthrop Woman. Just like my 10th great-grandmother, Elizabeth was born in England, and moved to the New World in 1631 with Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Though told as a novel, her story is authentic history. She has thousands of descendants today. So does Sarah Colby, and I'm one of them.

Taking some cues from historical novelists, here are ten suggestions I have for finding the story in your history.
  1. Identify the time period and places your ancestor lived.
  2. Check Wikipedia or Google, and list historical events that happened then and there.
  3. List prominent people of the time period, since their lives are probably documented.
  4. Go to the library for history books to look up events and people on your lists. Check the children's section, too.
  5. Make a timeline of your ancestor's life, and plug in the information you've discovered.
  6. Check census records, court documents, vital statistics registers. The LDS Family History Library, local archives, local museum curators, and the Internet are some good sources. Read local histories, old newspapers, etc. looking for a mention of your guy. You want to find out if he owned property, the number of marriages and children, his age at pivotal times of life, his level of education, if he was involved in lawsuits, whether he held public office or attended a church, who lived with him, where he fit in his family, his service record, etc.
  7. Outline a story with your facts. For instance: He was a younger son (who wouldn't inherit,) Catholic, a widowed father of five, educated, lived in Ireland during the potato famine, was sued for assault, received a pension for war injuries. Add in the local flood, his father-in-law's murder, his illegitimate son—he sounds intriguing.
  8. What was happening on the economic, political and religious scene at the time? Using a vintage map, pinpoint how close he was to the action. How do you think these events influenced his actions?
  9. Google fashion, architecture, art, music, food, laws, etc. of the time period. Determine how these details fit in.
  10. Now—sit down with your new best friend and write his story. You'll be surprised at the understanding, insight and connection you feel. After all, his story is your history.


~How did your forefather treat your foremother? What was marriage like in that time and place? Google it, then write a letter about your marriage as if you were your ancestor.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ten Easy Steps to Family History

Illustrations by Robert Lawson

"This is the story of my mother and my father and of their fathers and mothers. Most of it I heard as a little boy, so there may be many mistakes; perhaps I have forgotten or mixed up some of the events and people. But that does not really matter . . . None of them were great or famous, but they were strong and good."—Robert Lawson

"My mother's mother was a little Dutch girl,
who lived on a farm in New Jersey."

I love this book because of it's simplicity. The stories are memorable and short. I also love books that go into considerable detail explaining when and why a little Dutch girl would live on a farm in New Jersey, what her daily life was like and where her necklace was made.

I'm conflicted about myself as a family historian. Should I be vibrant or verbose? How much research is enough? Although it's fascinating, do I really need to understand the court system of the fourteenth century well enough to explain it to children? Has my fact-finding turned into procrastination?

Last weekend I told my grandkids 1,000 years of Bagley history in about thirty minutes. The thumbnail sketch caught their attention—a condensed version of family history is a good beginning, I've decided. Some of you have asked how to get started with the information you already have, so I've created an outline.

Ten Easy Steps to Family History
  1. Make a simple chart of you, your parents, and their parents, going back as far as you want. (ex: Marty—June and Jiggs—Agnes and Axel; Adelila and Hawley.)
  2. Create a new folder on your computer and name it: Information for Family History.
  3. Create a separate file for each of the people on your chart. They will be blank except for the person's name. Drag the files into your folder.
  4. Now open each file and list the details you already know. (ex: Axel born Sweden about 1890; came to America when he was 17.)
  5. Do you remember any family stories? List them in the appropriate file. (ex: Jiggs chased by a bear; Hawley ran away to the circus.)
  6. Choose one of the stories and write it as a chapter or a blog post. Include any dates or places you're sure of.
  7. Fact check your story by calling a relative or two. (Be sure to add any stories they share to your files.)
  8. Find photos to illustrate the story if you can.
  9. Save your story in a new folder called "Family History."
  10. Repeat until you've told all the stories you remember. Then start searching for new ones.

"So they were married. They worked hard and were strong and good. They had many children and one of them happened to be me!"—Robert Lawson

Family history is your unique tradition. Pass it on.

Books I'd recommend:

Need to Know? Tracing Your Family History by Anthony Adolph
Climbing Family Trees by Trina Boice and Tracey Long
Writing Family Histories and Memoirs by Kirk Polking

(Coming tomorrow: Ten Steps—Find the Story in Your History)


~List ten family legends. (ex: Grampa fought in WW I; Somebody crossed the plains; mom's ancestor descended from royalty.)

~Choose one, and write it as a factional post. (Use the facts you know, fictionalize the details.)

Wait Until Dark


It's a terrific damsel-in-distress suspense film, with Audrey Hepburn as the frail, vulnerable heroine unknowingly caught up in a drug smuggling plot, slowly realizing the danger she's in. And she's BLIND. When the kids asked for a scary movie, I remembered Wait Until Dark—a doll, a little girl, PG, 1967—old-fashioned thrills. I had forgotten the pulse-pounding plot and truly creepy performance by Alan Arkin as a psychotic thug.

When it was originally released, there was an announcement: "During the last eight minutes of this movie all lights in the theater will be extinguished. Those of you seated in the smoking section are kindly asked to refrain from lighting up during this time to maintain the suspense of the story."

Some parts were confusing to the kids. They didn't know about phone booths, dark room chemicals, radiators, or film. During the most dramatic moments I was explaining that telephones used to have cords. But even after 40 years, this movie holds up.

Scared silly.

When the dead guy grabbed Audrey's ankle, we all screamed. Too late, I realized this is not a kid's movie. Oma at her best.

Last time we tended these kids, Opa brought an old movie that turned out to be rated R. We haven't lived that one down. That may be why the kids were instructed to look after me instead of the other way around.

The Flipper

"Sleep in as long as you want, Oma. We can make breakfast." At 9:30 I rolled out of bed, (noticed the kid's beds were already made) and savored the aroma of pancakes. Mack squeezed a lemon into the batter. "How did you discover this recipe?" I asked. He answered, "One day I accidentally tried it and I became a master."

The Scrambler

Another course? Not to be outdone, Chase whipped up some eggs, bragging that he sometimes drinks them raw. (I'll take mine scrambled, thanks.) I got up to get the salt and pepper. "NO OMA! You're not supposed to lift a finger!" They emptied and loaded the dishwasher, wiped all the counters and vacuumed after every meal, without being asked.

The Hostess

Hannah had lunch ready before breakfast was cleaned up. We had planned to go to the park for a picnic but it rained. So she set out peanut-butter-and-fluff sandwiches, cheetos, apple slices, cookies and water bottles on a picnic blanket inside. We sat on the floor and played Twenty Questions. McKay said, "I've got one . . . ask me yes or no questions." Chase's very first question was, "Is it toxic waste?"

Chase adds a zing to every activity. At the restaurant he ordered soup in a bread bowl. He picked it up, drank most of the soup and then took a giant bite out of the bottom of the bowl. "You're supposed to eat the bowl, too, Oma," he explained, wiping soup off his chin. His ice cream cone was devoured the same way—from the bottom. I commented on his style, and he said, "I have to eat this way because I have an overbite." Hmmm . . .

Ten Oma activities for rainy days:
  1. Play Clue.
  2. Read mystery stories out loud and figure out who did it.
  3. Eat coconut cake.
  4. Visit a book store.
  5. Tour the dinosaur museum.
  6. Make a movie.
  7. Go for ice cream.
  8. Jump on the tramp in the rain.
  9. Get lost in an iffy neighborhood.
  10. Discuss time travel.
Matryoshka Dolls

These kids are absolute dolls. But just wait until dark.
That's when we get out our laptops.

Techno Heroes

Grandkids have restored my belief in heredity!

*Discussion question:

~What's your favorite old movie?