Monday, January 31, 2011

My mother's child

I found a picture of me wearing glasses, two year old glasses, because now I am a vain 4th grader. In the group picture from 4th grade I am blankly staring into space because I have removed my glasses. Probably can't see a thing! I also remember being sooooo disappointed with this head shot because of the reflected light on the glasses. I begged my mom to get it fixed. She finally relented and took them to the photographer who lived in the same small town. Hum, no photo shop back then, just some funky kind of white-out dabbled right on the picture. Maybe he was trying to match those frames?!

All of these old school photos kind of go with my theme for this last week. This weekend I had the honor of giving an address to a group of women at a stake Relief Society conference on loving learning. In it I shared the following about my mother:

You can be an example of one who “lives to love to learn.” I, fortunately, had a life long learner for a mother. She was the very first in her family history to go to college using the GI Bill after serving as a WAC during WWII. She was an example of a learner in her home as she subscribed to and read National Geographic as well as journals supporting her profession as a medical technologist. She was a gospel scholar. She was essentially a single parent as my father was bedridden the last dozen years of his life dying when I, the oldest, was 25. Every summer we would travel from Arizona back to Idaho to visit family. She would work for someone else at the Madison County Hospital so they might go on vacation. The funds earned were used to pay our expenses for we never drove straight through. She made sure that we explored places such as Zion National Park or Mesa Verde National Park. Let me tell you about family home evening. Sometimes our course of study might be “The First 2000 Years” by Cleon Skousen. Upon her death, her six children divided up her library each taking home a book shelf full of books. She never discussed “if we might go to college.” It was always “when you go to college.” BYU was often a part of our travel north as she introduced us to her favorite campus. All six of her children graduated from BYU and all six have received additional or graduate degrees as well. Her love of travel was fulfilled as her adult children spread across the world and joined her in fulfilling her dream to visit some of those places she had read about in the National Geographic.

I will be forever grateful for her example and way she enriched the life of her family and associates. Some of you may only remember her as she struggled with Alzheimer's during the last eight years of her life. I take great comfort in my belief that the wealth of knowledge she accumulated during her mortal life will follow her into immortality.

I am not only eternally grateful to my mother for helping me learn to be a learner, but I'm also grateful that I lived in a time and place when I could be fitted with eye glasses so that I was not handicapped in my ability to learn. I remember walking out of the optometrist's office with those new glasses and feeling wonder as I realized that the asphalt was made up of many small rocks and that splash of color near the door was a myriad of flower petals. Oh, what a gift!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The gift of sight

My post about a vain 2nd grader should have been more of a post about gratitude. I realized that after I read this article.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Just like grandma? or not!

Here I am as a 2nd grader, a very sneaky 2nd grader. When I couldn't make out what was written on the chalk board, I positioned myself so that I could copy my neighbor's work. When the annual eye exams came around, I positioned myself so that I could memorize the order of the letters on the eye chart before it was my turn.

Why all this sneakiness? Because I was also a very vain little 2nd grader who did not want to wear eye glasses, ever! I'm sure that the teacher was on to me in the classroom and wondered at my ability to chant my way through the chart. Her solution, "Please ask her to read the service station sign across the street." She won for I could not do it and soon I was the owner of glasses which certainly cleared up my world. Today, I could not readily find a picture of me wearing those glasses.

Now my granddaughters are following in my steps, except that their sneakiness may be in the opposite direction. Heather's parents were afraid that she just wanted glasses because they were "cool" when she began complaining about being able to see clearly. I'm not sure about that as she seems to remember to wear them all the time. Here she is eight months ago observing her new cousin, Oscar.

This week 2nd granddaughter, Ruby, has a new pair of glasses. Her parents are afraid that she was complaining of her eye sight so that she could have glasses like cousin, Heather. She's the youngest 1st grader in her class so it's been an eventful week; new eye glasses and the loss of her first tooth.

Ruby's picture taken by her sweet mom.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The gardeners are sick but the garden healthy

Some virus has struck inside this week. Not fun! I ventured out today to water my garden. Outside was very healthy.

The cauliflower was finally forming heads.

And I found this season's first ripe tomato.

There was a bloom on the flowering pear tree.

And just one sunflower.

The gerbera daisies have been blooming all winter.

On Saturday, when I was healthy, I planted tomato seeds that I found last Fall in Utah. I put them on a heat mat in the greenhouse. I've never had success with tomatoes from seed before - unless you count the volunteers that bounce up every once in awhile. We'll see how it goes.

Arizona has a short winter and a very early Spring. It's the summer that feels long.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My other BYU bookstore purchase

We left for Utah just two days after the Tucson shootings. I was first made aware of the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords when I checked my FB that day and my former high school American history teacher and United States Congressman, Harry Mitchell, had posted on his status his concerns for Gabrielle Giffords. As the TV went on I learned of the horror of that morning at a Safeway in Tucson. Violence in mass had once again reared its ugly head in a place closer to home.

Here it was again, that awful gut feeling that comes when you hear of a Columbine or an Amish school or a disgruntled former employee at his workplace. How can a child, a mother, a grandpa, or anyone be so easily discarded by another human being? How sick can a mind be to go that far?

On my little shopping trip to the BYU Bookstore I picked up the little blue book pictured above because it was on sale and because it was near a sign noting it as a favorite of employees in the children's section who were now congratulating themselves because it had been announced as a National Book Award Winner. The book jacket blurb gave away nothing of its very serious nature. It is a wonderful little book which gives voice to a girl with Asperger's Syndrome. I do recommend it. Here, however, is the author's note which comes at the end.

The shootings of thirty-three people at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, on April 16, 2007, were horrible and devastating. While I may not have known those involved personally, it happened in my own backyard. It was the deadliest shooting by a lone gunman in United States history. And wherever or whenever this kind of tragedy occurs, it affects us all. How could something like this happen? Why? What, if anything, could we have done to prevent it? Who knows. But I am certain of one thing. It we all understood each other better, we could go a long way toward stopping violence. We all want to be heard, to be understood. Some of us are better than others at expressing ourselves. Some of us have severe problems that need to be addressed, not ignored, no matter what the cost. Saving society money is a travesty if the cost of that savings is in human lives. Ignore and ignorance share the same root.

This book was inspired by the event at Virginia Tech as well as my own need to try to explain what it's like for a child to have Asperger's syndrome. The two themes are related in my mind because I believe strongly in early intervention, whatever the disability. Understanding people's difficulties and - just as crucial - helping people understand their own difficulties and teaching them concrete ways to help themselves will help them better deal with their own lives and, in turn, ours. In this novel, the main character has Asperger's syndrome but is receiving early intervention through the public school system. She has only one parent and he is far from perfect. Her brother was the family member who really listened to her, tried to understand her, and taught her helpful behavioral skills. Unfortunately, he is killed in a school shooting, and now, but for her school counselor, she is on her own. I hope that, by getting inside her head, readers will understand seemingly bizarre behavior And I hope that readers will see that, by getting inside someone's head, really understanding that person, so many misunderstandings and problems can be avoided - misunderstandings and problems that can lead to mounting frustration and, sometimes, even violence. -- from "Mockingbird" by Kathryn Erskine

I had no idea that my book choice would be so timely and thought provoking.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Provo Tabernacle

I noticed on my sidebar that the LDS Church had released a statement regarding the Provo Tabernacle. During this month's trip to Utah, we made a point of going to see the a damaged Tabernacle after the nighttime fire which occurred following last month's trip. The interior damage has been removed leaving behind a shell. It felt so odd to be able to look right through the windows to the other side. How hard it must have been for Europeans during WWII too watch their historical buildings being bombed.

Workmen were on site and the perimeter was secured. The street just south of the Tabernacle has been closed to vehicular traffic.

I, like so many others, loved this building. I loved its old world charm. It was substantial and it felt like it had always been there. In the American West, those kind of places are few.

It will be interesting to learn what choices will be made for the Provo Tabernacle's future. My past includes memories of attending church services as a young mother balancing her first baby on her lap and of special programs through the years.

This is the post fire picture I saw that squeezed my heart. There was a great deal of famous art work destroyed in the fire. However, firemen were amazed to find this picture of Christ.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More reading suggestions

All of that talk about Birmingham, Alabama reminded me of one of my favorite books ever. "The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963" made me laugh out loud and brought tears to my eyes; in fact it evoked a full range of emotions when I first read it in 1996. I've read it several times since, usually out loud to a classroom full of 4th graders straining to hear every word.

Christopher Paul Curtis won a Newbery Honor Award for this book, his first ever. Wow! He worked in a Detroit auto factory until his wife, a nurse, offered to provide for the family while he wrote this book. He would go to the library and sit at a table in the childrens' section to write each day. I was fortunate enough to hear Curtis speak at a reading conference during my teacher days. If you have not yet read this book, add it to your "To Be Read" (TBR) pile today.

I just finished "Flygirl" today. It is a winner of the ALA Best Books for Young People in 2010. Ida Mae "passes" for white so that she might become a WASP during WWII. This is historical fiction at its best. Ida Mae is sent to Birmingham to test fly the B-29 bomber as the men don't want to go up in another "widowmaker."

"'If a girl can do it, so can a man.' That should be the army's new motto," says Ida Mae. This is another book for your TBR pile. For a great review by DIL, Susan, go here.

This is author Sherri L. Smith's first attempt at historical fiction and her fourth book.

AND I just noticed that this is my 400th post. How did that happen?

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK and Condoleezza

Last week, while in Utah, I had the great fortune to be in Provo at the same time Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to speak at a BYU Forum. I joined in with 18,000 BYU students making their way to the Marriott Center on a Thursday morning. It was a good decision.

I very much enjoyed her remarks. She is so well spoken and conveyed her ideas and thoughts in a most engaging way.

As she shared the story of her family, the importance of education in her family, and the difference the Civil Rights Laws of the early 1960's made in her possibilities; I was grateful for the opportunity I was having to hear it in her own words.

After staying for the Q & A portion (I was so impressed with the thoughtful questions posed by students as well as Condoleezza's answers), I made my way across campus to the BYU Bookstore. While taking the ramp way I had to pause, remove my gloves, and take this picture. I am seldom in Utah during Winter. The snow covered mountains were dazzling.

I love the bookstore and I planned to spend a couple of hours there before taking the bus back to the townhouse. My goal this day was to spend time in the children's book section which has been moved downstairs. The elementary librarian in me wanted to browse the shelves of newly published books and to see if I could locate any of the ALA book award winners which had just been announced for 2010.

Instead I found this memoir for young readers written by Condoleezza Rice and published last Fall. Now I could purchase the rest of the story, and what a story it is. Condoleezza was raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She was born in 1954 two years to the day after my own birth. Reading her memoir brought forth memories of my own childhood and the turbulent times that were the '60's.' The difference being that as I watched the civil rights protests on television, Condoleezza's father was sitting with a shot gun on his lap on his front porch to protect their home from the bombing of the "night riders."

Condoleezza's father was a minister of a Presbyterian church called Westminister. When the bomb went off in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that Sunday September morning in 1963, the Rice family felt it at their own church two miles away. Four girls died in the bombing and one, Denise McNair, was a playmate of Condoleezza's. Condoleezza grew up in a segregated world where her parents created a "parallel universe" whereby their daughter could enjoy as many advantages as possible in their part of Birmingham.

So on this day of honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King, I reflect upon the life story of this person who most likely became Secretary of State because of Civil Rights Laws passed in 1964 which were championed by the minister of another Baptist congregation who challenged the inequalities of a nation where "all men are created equal."

For more about Condoleezza Rice's remarks on January 13, 2010 go here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The missing grandchildren

Today I am missing my daughter and her family who live far away. I mean really far away. This is what they were doing on a free day together before their father began Med 3 on the island of St. Kitt's in the West Indies this week.

One of the benefits of living on an island while your father goes to medical school is that you live 400 feet from the Atlantic Ocean and the beach.

Another benefit is that when your father is not busy studying about the human body, you receive his undivided attention.

Another benefit is that your mother takes beautiful pictures to share with grandma.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Last vestiges of Christmas

All of Christmas, even Santa's laundry, has been finally packed away today.

I've been picking away at it a bit each day, family room tree, Santa collection, living room tree, nativity displays, etc. This morning the Christmas elves returned to help take down the outside lights. Elf Nate was still singing Christmas songs and I was serenaded as I coiled the lights he so gently dangled down from the eaves.

One vestige of the season remains. I've decided that I want all the colored glass, including trees, in my laundry room window catching the low down winter sunshine. Those leaves you see through the window are my tomato plants. They have thrived in the sunny south facing garage so Nate helped me move them to the next best place; on each side of the garage door.

I've been reading a delightful book this week when I needed a break from packing boxes. It was originally written in French but luckily has been translated into English. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery is full of delightful things to quote including this:

"Pleasant in what way?"

She thinks for a moment, wrinkling her brow.

"Pleasant like after the Christmas holidays, when you've had too much to eat. I think about the way it feels when everyone has left . . . My husband and I, we go to the kitchen, I make up a little bouillon with fresh vegetables, I slice some mushrooms real thin and we have our bouillon with those mushrooms in it. You get the feeling you've just come through a storm, and it's all calm again."

I've enjoyed the storm but a pared down house feels calm.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

An image from the past

This picture popped up on FB yesterday posted by Glen's cousin, Karrie. I always feel a bit off center when I see a picture from many years ago that I have never seen before. It seems as though my reality has shifted.

I knew it must be from about 1977 because the baby on Glen's father, Jordan's lap is my oldest son Eric. Glen's long hair would also date the photo even if Eric were not included. Glen's uncle John sits in front of Glen. John and Jordan married sisters. John and his wife Kathleen have lived in a home south of Kathleen's parents' home for years. Jordan and Elma built a house to the north of Elma's parents and planned to retire and live out their lives there. They did live out their lives but those lives ended much too soon. Both died in that planned retirement home, Elma from cancer before Jordan's retirement from TRW in southern California and Jordan not long after finally retiring and moving north to Utah.

Tomorrow would have been Jordan's 83rd birthday if he were still with us. He died shortly after his birthday in 1991. We would have loved to have had him with us for two more decades. This is what my daughter, Janae, wrote as a 4th grade student after his death.

"Grandpa's Funeral"

I stared down at him. My knot in my stomach grew tight every second. I looked at him. Why? Why does it have to be him?

"Stop that Janae," I told myself. I had a hundred questions in my mind waiting for an answer I'd never know. Why did he die? The knot in my stomach was so tight I thought it was going to break anytime.

"He is dead," I thought. I felt a wet tear fall down my cheek. I didn't bother to wipe it away.

He just went to sleep one night and never awoke. Never awoke to hear the sound of children sledding in the winter. Never will wake up.

I reached down, my hand trembling. I touched his icey cold finger. My hand flew back in a flash. His hand was not warm and comforting like when we went for walks. It felt like a cold drumstick on a turkey. His veins were blue, blue like an icey pond. My eyes were blurry, and I could hardly see. The knot in my stomach broke and now I had mad butterflies.

"He died of a broken heart," I thought, as some guesses flew through my mind. My grandmother had died a few years ago of cancer. I had a silly image of her dancing up there. I watched her for awhile in my mind and a smile came to me. I hadn't smiled since I found out my grandfather died. At least someone's happy I thought. A river of tears flowed down my face.

Happy birthday Jordan! I hope that you and Elma are enjoying a birthday celebration dance.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Glen's 60th Birthday Bash

Today I refurbished some Christmas decorations to announce to the world it was another "0" birthday at our house. Glen came home from the office early to help with final preparations for his birthday fiesta. Bubble machine filled and turned on - check. Frying pans ready for chimichangas - check. Fireplace ready to light - check. Heaters full of propane - check.

Luckily we made it back up to a high of 60 degrees for our 60 year 0ld party boy today.

Pinata hung - check. Old fashioned sodas on ice - check. Let the party begin!

The guests began to arrive including the babies of 2010. We are still wondering who is going to provide our 11th grandchild in 2011? Anyone?

After our meal of chimichangas, Toby used the lighter Santa left in his stocking (what was Santa thinking?) to light grandpa's candles.

Grandpa blew them out in just one try after we sang him the birthday song.

And then it was time to clap 60 times!

What a lucky man to have so many adoring little fans!

SIL Janis provided him with 60 presents. Dessert was tres leche cake with a choice of fresh fruit and whipped cream. Everyone loved it! There was also ice cream, of course.

The finale was the pulling of ribbons to open the pinata. (So much easier than hitting the pinata 2 years ago.) The grand kids filled their bags with candy and $2 bills and were on their way home early as it was a school night. My sisters, of course, were in the kitchen cleaning up.

When Glen turned "50" we picked up Mexican food takeout and took it out on a party boat on Tempe Town Lake while the sun set. Two year old TJ was our only grandchild and he was thrilled to help grandpa steer the boat. So many new people have become a part of our life during the last 10 years. We can only imagine what the next 10 years may bring!

Happy Birthday Glen!!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New calendar for a new year

Notice which birthday we will be celebrating tomorrow.
It's hard to believe that it is the big "60."
That cake in the background is the "Tres Leches" one
I am making for the first time. Poor guy!
I always experiment on his birthday.
Last year it was an apple/caramel pudding cake.

I managed to finish this calendar for me today for the new year. This calendar is the sixth one I've put together over the last month. Each family received one as a Christmas gift this year. I first saw them when visiting the Church History and Art Museum gift shop located on the west side of Temple Square almost two years ago. It was called the Memory Calendar Magnet Board Kit.

I loved how the family pictures could be changed out each month. I bought one, brought it back to Mesa, and placed it on the shelf in my sewing room. This year as Glen and I discussed Christmas gifts Glen spoke of how he would love to give each family something to keep track of birthdays and special dates. We have a chart in our hallway where we add new birth dates, etc., and he wondered if we should order some of those. I remembered my calendar kit and brought it out to show him. I was soon online ordering directly from Stories by Me and committing myself to much cutting, sanding, and gluing. It has been a big project but worth it. The women in the family especially seemed to like the finished project.

There were two different color combinations. I tried to match with individual home decorating styles and colors. I included a chart of all family birthdays and a tin for storing the extra buttons including some for holidays. I loved this project and gift which honors family.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1/1/11, That's a lot of "1's" and little ones

Last night Glen and I hosted the last grand kids sleepover for 2010. No, we weren't cooking. I had told them about their fathers denting my pans as they brought in the New Year, so at their request they were equipped to waken the neighborhood at midnight.

The oldest four managed to keep each other awake, but Sadie finally went down at about 11:40 pm. So close! Luckily she had been awake for the fireworks earlier in the evening.

Glen and TJ had gone fireworks shopping down at the corner earlier in the month. Arizona is once again showing its schizophrenic side; the legislature votes to legalize the sale of fireworks BUT local entities do not allow the setting off of such fireworks. Does that stop fireworks stands from showing up on every corner? Absolutely not! Gilbert was one of two cities who had legalized fireworks for certain holidays so the family gathered at Dave and Sally's home for Grandpa's Amazing New Year's Display at sunset.

Julianna went running, hopping crazy while Oscar just stared and Mabel tried to nap upstairs. The older kids delighted in their snappers, snakes and close up views. Honestly, Grandpa Glen's show was better than what we saw last July 4th from the front lawn. (Our local churches have let us down after providing a really BIG show for several years in a row.)

After fireworks, we loaded the older kids up for the trip to grandma and grandpa's. Julianna also joined us for a couple of hours while her parents went to dinner. The older five stayed on to spend the night. We offered to be a full on daycare if parents wanted to party, but the babies stayed home with their parents. Who wants to go to a block party (even with Jimmy Eat World performing) when it's cold enough to need winter gear like New Yorkers? Arizonans usually just own jackets!

The girls enjoyed their own concert straight from Times Square. They were pretty great dancers. Grandpa didn't know whether to be impressed or distressed that they knew the words to the songs!

Grandpa's Christmas gifts included some new pieces for the Western themed Playmobil that lives on after 20 plus years. They had fun playing with it in the living room. Toby was especially delighted.

Side note: Thirty plus years ago I found myself driving all over the Salt Lake Valley to find the Western Playmobil sets I wanted for Eric and Ryan's Christmas that year. They were well loved and came with us to Arizona. Fast forward a few years and we are moving to a different house. The little boy next door loves coming over to play with the set so I, in a moment of generosity, give him all the Playmobil. Toddler Nathan doesn't care one whit. Add on a few more years and Nathan's favorite toys are Playmobil. He even talks me into humbling myself and going to the former neighbor's home to see if the old Playmobil is still in residence. It's not so we are once again on the lookout for Western themed Playmobil. Thankfully the J.C. Penney Outlet store had smoking deals one year. The new, now old Playmobil lives on in the hall closet and is the first thing pulled out by the grand kids when they come to visit.

The girls brought their American Girl dolls to our sleepover. Last year part of their Christmas was an after Christmas visit to the American Girl Store in Los Angeles. This year, I turned my sewing room over to the creation American Girl clothing and accessories.

Each of the three older granddaughters received a hand knit sweater with coordinating retro dress.

And new anklets and shoes to go with their dress and sweater.

(Thank goodness I gifted myself with a Kristen doll so that I have a model for all fittings!)

Each granddaughter also received a coordinating bag to use for bringing their dolls and clothes to grandma's house for sleepovers.

Well, grandma had a very quiet week after Christmas (unlike the last two years which have been full of weddings) and extra material left over from her Christmas gifts to the girls so she decided to make sleeping bags and pillows for our planned sleepover at the end of the week.

And then she found the American Girl hangers purchased online on sale on Cyber Monday that she neglected to add to the bags at Christmas. There was still material, so she also sewed up three garment bags for use when the girls and their dolls go visiting.

It was a very fun surprise for my little sweeties!

Sadie's doll is all tucked in, but not before a crisis! Upon dolls and girls putting on their pajamas it was discovered that Sadie's doll lacked pajamas. Heather's and Ruby's dolls had both received pajamas last year as part of their Christmas gifts. So Sadie got a little chair from the grand kids room and joined me in my sewing room where I found just enough leftover knit fabric and some ribbing. I've been stashing doll patterns when on sale for just 99 cents so had a pattern for simple knit doll pajamas just like the ones I used to make for her daddy. I knew it would be a quick project and in no time at all, Sadie's doll had pajamas.

Sometimes it pays to save everything!

This morning we all slept in until 9 am and then we watched the Rose Bowl Parade while eating breakfast. By noon they were all on their way back home. Good times!
Happy New Year everyone!