Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Bounty of our Lives

Does every family have a "junk drawer"? Randy and I have one in our armoire. It is mostly filled with old wrist watches, boxed cuff links, old wallets and coin purses, discarded cell phones, foreign coins, old buttons, safety pins, hotel sewing kits, peppermint candies picked up on the way out of restaurants, etc. But when I was a kid the "junk drawer" was a very important source (or resource) -- the first place you looked for things like scissors, string, a rubber band, scotch tape, a nail file, a pencil. Today we buy pens or pencils by the dozens or by the 100s, but if we couldn't find a pencil stub in the junk drawer (naturally the eraser had long since been used and we would bite on the metal band to try to get a tiny bit of eraser to poke out for one last erasure) we could spend an hour and never find a pencil. Today I keep a pair of scissors in almost every room of the house, including the bathrooms, TV room and garage, but if the one pair of scissors we owned didn't happen to be in the junk drawer you were pretty much out of luck.

Combs were another issue. We had two. One of them was always stuck in the sisal comb holder that hung next to the mirror in the bathroom. The other was on mother's dressing table. That's where we sat every morning while mother combed our hair and then either braided it or brushed it into wringlets. Removing either of those combs from their designated locations was a serious matter.

One of the things that Clarissa got for Christmas was a whole package of combs. Now I suppose that the combs were really for the benefit of her mother, as I don't know too many four-year-olds who write Santa for a package of combs. Lucky Tiffany. While my sister was raising her six children it seemed that "the comb" was always missing. Many a morning there was a minor crisis as the entire family searched high and low for the comb (which, of course, no one had seen or touched). A few weeks before Christmas on just such a morning my sister was fit to be tied by the time the children were out the door for school. When my brother-in-law said, "Sweetheart, what would you like for Christmas this year?" my sister replied, "Just a comb that I can find when I need it." That Christmas morning when she opened her gift she found a brand new comb. Harl had drilled a hole in it and attached a light-weight sixteen-foot chain which he then fastened around the leg of their king-sized bed. She got exactly what she wanted. Never had to look more than sixteen feet to find that comb!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I think the funnest blogs to read are when people tell about the cute things their kids do or say, especially if it is one of my own grandchildren. I watch Randy like a hawk, but he seldom does anything really cute or funny. It makes blogging difficult. But, I was sitting next to Quinn and four-year-old Clarissa at Church on Sunday when this exchange took place during the sacrament.

Quinn: Clarissa, hold still!

Quinn: Clarissa, stop wiggling!

Quinn: Clarrisa, stop moving!

Clarissa (sitting very very still and statue-like): Dad!

Quinn: What?

Clarissa: Is it okay if I move my tongue inside my mouth?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Christmas Sweater

Didn’t Glenn Beck write a book called The Christmas Sweater? Well, this story won’t be nearly as dramatic, but it’s possible that it could have taken place the very same Christmas. I’m getting way ahead of myself.

When I was a Bluebird (in primary) one of our requirements was to learn how to knit and to complete a knitted project. Have you ever hear of baby soakers? Well, actually, neither had I, but that was one of the projects you could make, and it probably looked like the simplest project, so that’s the one I chose. This way WAY before disposable diapers, but we did use plastic pants over the baby’s cloth diaper, so baby soakers preceded the invention of plastic. They were intended to be worn over a cloth diaper to . . . .well, I’m not sure. But I did knit one and learned how to knit, purl, cast on, and cast off. Now I was certainly ready for sweaters. I started a pink one. I think I finished two sleeves and one side of the front. A few years later I started a brown pullover. I finished the front and half the back. Knitting is a long, slow process.

Randy and I married in August of 1967, and almost before we had the pots and pans arranged in the cupboard it was time to think about Christmas. What could I do for Randy? I would certainly not do something so “un-special” as buying him a shirt or a tie. I know, I could knit him a sweater. Perfect! Trip to the yarn shop – pattern book, knitting needles, skeins and skeins of yarn. I’m set! But wait, how am I going to make it without Randy knowing? Our apartment is as big as a postage stamp! Have you ever known anyone who knitted an entire sweater in the bathroom? Well now you do!

If you’ve ever made a gift you may have experienced what I did. During the hours and hours I sat on that toilet knitting that sweater I was envisioning how much Randy was going to love it. I pre-lived the opening of that gift so many times, and it was always an amazing event full of joy and surprise. I think I was so excited about it I may have even cried when he opened it. Randy? Well, he didn't cry. I think he may have been a little bit unsure what he would do with this gigantis sweater that was bigger than any drawer in our apartment. I’m glad I have this picture. I think it may have been the only time he wore it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Program1974

Today I was adding a little memory to my personal history. It is a section in which I talk about things that were kind of unique to my childhood -- things that don't exist today like xray machines in shoe stores so mothers could see how their kids shoes fit, and grocery wagons (miniature grocery stores on flatbed trucks that drove around town to accommodate mothers who didn't have cars), and two-piece nylons with garter belts. The one I was remembering today happened to include a Christmas story, so thought it might be fun. Here it is:

"Another thing that you never see today was that our chapels had “cry” rooms. They were small rooms separated from the chapel by glass and were usually at the back of the chapel or sometimes on the second floor looking down into the chapel. It was a place where mothers could take crying babies or noisy children and still see and hear what was going on. When Randy was a Sunbeam in Junior Sunday School our chapel in Provo had an upstairs cry room. Heidi was a baby, and the week of the Christmas program must have been the one time in her entire life that she was fussy. I was sitting up in the cry room with her when the Junior Sunday School children marched in to sing their songs for the Christmas program. They all walked in reverently with their arms folded – all but Randy, that is. He followed directly behind his teacher who was one of the elderly (and more rotund) sisters in the ward. He was wearing his little red sweater shorts with the matching red and white striped cardigan and entered with a high-stepping march, keeping perfect time to the music being played by beating the rhythm on his teacher’s rear end. Oh dear, I was too far away to do anything about it. All the children lined up on the stand, and the Sunbeams were lifted up to stand on the small wooden pews that had been carried in from the Junior Sunday School room. Randy was front and center. Having already caught the attention of most of the congregation upon entering the chapel, most of them were still looking at him when he happened to look up and saw me sitting in the cry room. Not realizing that there were speakers in the cry room he belted out a greeting to me that was loud enough to penetrate the glass, accompanied by exuberant waving. Everyone laughed out loud which startled Randy. He tried to step back, but the back of the little pew caught him just at the knees, flipping him right over the back of the bench. The only thing that could be seen of him was two little legs sticking straight up in the air. It caused quite a commotion. That may have been the very week that the church decided to do away with cry rooms."

And before you say anything about my hair, just remember that "The bigger the hair, the closer to Heaven."

Monday, December 20, 2010


It seems silly to use up a day right before Christmas to talk about something that isn't a wonderful Christmas memory or thought, but something is bugging me, and I think it is my insecurity. I just came down to my computer to check my blog and noticed that 23 people read my blog today, but there was not a single comment. What does that mean? Was my post (or my behavior) lame? inappropriate? embarrassing? boring? I've tried to imagine that I just stumbled across this blog and what kind of a comment I might make. About all I could come up with was "Oh." So I'll just assume that's what all of you were thinking, but if it is actually one of the possibilities listed above, would someone please let me know.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


This weekend we went out and bought Randy a Christmas tie. I think it's the first one he's ever had. I'm not sure where a stake president wears a Christmas tie, but he didn't wear it to church today. Perhaps if we'd started a little earlier we could have found something a little more "stake presidentish" than penguins dancing with candy canes. Anyway, it made me think about the Christmas I was 19 years old -- one of the last I would spend at home with my parents. I had a part-time job wrapping Christmas gifts at Marsden's, the nicest men's store in town. I got so I could wrap a mean package. Jon Isom also worked at Marsden's. He was about four years older than I was and was a sales clerk. He was a really cool guy, and although I was going out with lots of other guys I did enjoy flirting with Jon. I'm sure he thought I was just a punk kid, the little sister of one of his cool friends, and he teased me pretty unmercifully. I had an idea. On Christmas Eve Day I went through my dad's ties and picked out a really old one that was about six inches wide. That was in the days of the really skinny ties that were only about an inch and a half wide. I put it in a nice tie box and did my super-duper wrap job on it, then delivered it to Jon at home. As soon as he came to the door and saw me there with a gift I could tell that he felt really awkward and embarrassed. He didn't have anything for me, and he stammered and stuttered about my gift not being quite ready yet and how he would have to get it over to me later, blah, blah, blah. Wish I could have been a fly on his wall when he opened it. "Hey, Jon, watch out for that "punk kid" in the gift-wrap department. She got you good, and she enjoyed every minute she spent watching you squirm."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I made cinnamon buns for my gospel doctrine class this morning. I had a few left over and decided to take a plate to a family in the ward whose mother has been in the hospital. As I walked up the front porch a flood of memories came over me and I realized it began exactly eleven years ago today!

When our children were young we adopted the tradition of taking the “Twelve Days of Christmas” to a family. Our children loved it and looked forward to every time it was “their turn” to make the drop, ring and run. In all the years we did it, we only got caught once. By 1999 our children were all out of the home and it had been a few years since we had done it. That year everyone was coming home, including two grandchildren ages 5 and 4, and we thought Bennet and Emily would really enjoy participating in the activity. Unfortunately, we didn’t think about the fact that none of them would arrive until just a few days before Christmas and Randy and I would have to be “Christmas Pixies” all by ourselves for the first week. We chose a darling little family with six children – yes, the very family I was visiting today. Although Randy and I felt a little bit old to be ding-dong ditching and driving “getaway” cars, on the 12th evening before Christmas we drove quietly down their street. Randy drew the short straw, so I pulled into a neighbor’s driveway about five houses up the street and turned off the car. Randy headed quickly up the street with the hood of his parka pulled up. This was a tough house to surprise because there is a large picture window within inches of the front door. Through the window we could see the family sitting around right there in the living room. Randy put two little wooden lambs on the porch, rang the bell and ran around the house and behind a bush in the neighbor’s yard. “Oh, I’m too old for this!” But he didn’t get caught.

The next night we left a shepherd. The third night we left a camel, and then came the three wise men. By this time I’m sure they realized that it would become a nativity set. We delivered the stable, the cow, the donkey, Joseph and Mary. On Christmas Eve, only the baby Jesus was missing. To heighten the anticipation for the arrival of the Christ Child, we did not deliver it on Christmas Eve. We had actually wrapped it and mailed it earlier in the week with instructions not to open it until December 25th. As each family member arrived for the holidays they joined in the activity, and soon we were parking two cars somewhere on the street so everyone could watch and enjoy the excitement.

At testimony meeting in January, the father of the family bore his testimony about how much fun that had been for their family. He said he wished that whoever had done it could have been flies on the walls of their home to observe how excited their children were as they waited each evening for the mysterious visitors. We would have turned the tables. We wish they could have been flies on the walls of our home to see how exciting it was for us each evening – lots of planning about where the getaway cars would park, who would take the nativity piece to the door, how to keep from being seen by the family inside, and how to decide whether to ring the bell or not. On nights when it seemed too risky to ring the bell we would simply leave it, then call on the phone and notify them that they should check their porch. Making that phone call was almost as scary and exciting as making the drop. Brent liked to call. He always tried to talk like a Chinaman. That, of course, would send the rest of us to the floor with hysterical laughing. Fun! Fun! Fun! That was the last time we ever did the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. I do have one more nativity set on hand, but we’ll definitely need some helpers!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Behind Every Good Man is a Good Woman

Today I hosted our annual Christmas luncheon for the bishops' wives. I really look forward to this each year. I was rather surprised when the doorbell rang and I opened it to find two women on the porch and directly behind them stood the guy who had installed our kitchen cabinets. We've been waiting for him to show up for weeks. Wouldn't you know it? We're all about timing around here. So he and Randy were poking about, opening and shutting cabinets and holding my kitchen hostage. Fortunately, by the time we had finished our wassail and were ready to get serious about food they were finished and out the door.

In years past we have moved to the living room after lunch and shared our ideas about a particular topic. This year I thought it would be fun if each sister had a different topic, so I had them each draw a slip of paper with their discussion topic on it. These were the questions:

1. Tell about a miracle that has occurred in your ward.
2. How do you respond when you hear someone criticize your husband or your ward?
3. Tell us about your best ward activity.
4. Tell us about someone from your ward who could benefit from our faith and prayers.
5. Tell us a cute story about your bishop.
6. Tell us one way your life has been blessed because your husband is the bishop.
7. Tell us about a recent convert in your ward.
8. Tell us about a youth (or youths) in your ward who has done something good or notable.
9. Tell us what is really unique about your ward.

I felt a little piece of heaven as we sat around the fireplace, bound together in love by an experience we are all sharing. I was so impressed by the insights these women shared about their lives, their husbands, their wards, their experiences. It is plainly true that behind every good man there's a good woman! I count myself blessed to have them as friends.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Day to Reflect

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations it is appropriate to pause for a few minutes today to reflect on the events of this day sixty-nine years ago -- December 7, 1941 -- the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Five years ago I spent a day at Pearl Harbor learning about the events of that Sunday morning. I spent quite a bit of time on board the great battleship Missouri where the Japanese finally surrendered. There was no guided tour and I was free to just roam around reading things, looking at things, and thinking about things. In one of the rooms I found an old ledger and started leafing through it. On one of the pages a name jumped out at me -- Robert Bruening. Robert Bruening was a former member of our ward! I began to read. I had not known this before, but Brother Bruening served in the mail room of the USS Missouri, and if my memory serves me correctly, he would have been there at the time of the signing of the peace treaty. As I then later stood on the very spot where the treaty was signed and thought about our dear friend Bob, it was a very poignant experience. Take a few minutes and watch this historical event. Today I am thinking how grateful I am (at this season of "Peace, goodwill to men") for all of the brave men and women who serve and have served our country to gain or preserve Peace and Goodwill during my lifetime.

Monday, December 6, 2010

300 Words or More

How many times in life were you asked to write an essay in "300 words or less"? (More about this later).
This is our oldest grandson, Bennet. He's an amazing young man -- loves life, adventure, his friends, music, drama. Last summer Bennet decided he wanted to be in the marching band, but he didn't play any instrument. So he decided that he would learn an instrument. He picked the great big sousaphone. He brought that thing home from school at year's end and practiced all summer long. At Thanksgiving we got to watch the Belmont/Watertown football game, and there was Bennet, marching in the half-time show. Did a great job.

During our Thanksgiving visit, Bennet also received his Eagle Scout Award. We're really proud of Bennet and the wonderful example he is for our ten grandsons. About a year ago while I was taking care of their family for a week Bennet said, "Grandma, I've got to go home teaching this afternoon." I asked who his companion was and he said it was his dad. But his dad was out of town?! He said, "Oh that's okay. We visit the Boston Temple President, and we have a standing monthly appointment, which is today. I can just take care of it myself this month." And he did.

At his Eagle Court of Honor they told a story about how Bennet invited a group of friends to come to his house to set off fireworks one July. They were having a wonderful time shooting off firecrackers at the intersection by their home when a policeman happened by. When the boys saw the police car they scattered and hid -- all but Bennet. He walked right over to the police car and talked to the officer. Everything worked out fine.
Last summer while we were in Boston Bennet had his 16th birthday. With the experience and maturity of being 16 come lots of changes and opportunities -- dating, driving, more freedom, later curfew. For his birthday, Bennet received a beautiful chair. This chair is positioned in his parents' bedroom, and whenever Bennet returns home after being out he is expected sit in his chair and report his adventures "In 300 words or More". Oh the tales this chair could tell!

We love you, Bennet. You're a fine young man making lots of good choices in life. So happy we could be with you for your court of honor. Keep soaring!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Welcome December

Last night was our annual Stake Presidency Christmas dinner. It's a great way to get myself into the Christmas spirit early. German cuisine has always been a Christmas tradition for us, so that's what they get, and they claim they like it. This is such a special group to us. These men serve so faithfully in the stake presidency and take a huge load off of Randy's shoulders. It's a very small way of saying Thank You, but nevertheless, it is an evening that we look forward to each year.

After getting everything cleaned up and put away last evening, we set our alarm for 5:00 a.m. and fell into bed. We awoke to a white world, quickly dressed and headed South where we hoped to join Clarissa, Clayton, and Santa for a ride on the Polar Express. I was amazed at how many others were out at that hour on a snowy Saturday morning, creeping along snow-covered roads in total darkness. We slowly made our way down 355, east on I-80, finally making it to 57. It had taken us an hour to go as far as we normally drive in less that 30 minutes. As we tried to calculate our driving time we realized that we could drive four hours and possibly not make it in time, and besides that, our "white knuckles" were getting tired of the strain and so we reluctantly turned back -- a really disappointing (and very early) start to our day!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving At Its Roots

With two children now living in the Boston area it made all the sense in the world to spend Thanksgiving there -- yes, right there where Thanksgiving began. We've enjoyed the trips we have made to Plymouth and stepping back some four hundred years in time. Our 2010 Thanksgiving feast was was an amazing spread, shared with a number of international guests Randy and Judianne had invited into their home -- Switzerland, Turkey, China, and Bangladesh. Nobody had any difficulty cleaning their plates, or playing a little football, and we finished with an incredible sharing of musical talents.

We had a Double Bonus weekend, as we were also there for one grandson's baptism and another grandson's Eagle Court of Honor.
The Fam gathered to celebrate Isaac's baptism.
Learning what it feels like to have the Holy Comforter with you!

I don't suppose that a quilt made of fabric displaying insects, butterflies, bugs and spiders would seem like Holy anything. We give the girls a beautiful white comforter tied with pastel ribbons, but what boy would want that?!

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I got up this morning and couldn't even eat breakfast until I made a new batch of granola. Randy and I both love this recipe. It's great with yogurt, great with milk and fruit, great sprinkled on ice cream, and Randy loves to sit down with a bowl full just to snack on while he watches TV. It's my daughter-in-law's recipe. They live in the same ward with Mitt Romney. A few years ago they gave the Romneys some for Christmas. They liked it so much they got the recipe, made up huge batches of it, and took it on the campaign trail with them. Enjoy!

8 cups regular rolled oats (no instant oats)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups chopped almonds
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Toss the above ingredients well.

Bring to a boil the following ingredients:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pour over granola and toss well. Pour onto baking sheets (will fill two large sheets). Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Stir and return to oven for an additional 5 minutes. Cool and store in air-tight container.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Come to Chicago

Please come to Chicago and spend a day or two with us. I have a new "favorite" to take you to. Today a group of women took another trip into the City for lunch. We went to Xoco, also known as Frontera Grill. It is a Rick Bayless restaurant, and in case you don't know who Rick Bayless is, he's an award-winning chef-restauranteur, cookbook author, and television personality. Some say he has done more than any other culinary star to introduce Americans to authentic Mexican cuisine and to change the image of Mexican food in America. The food was fabulous! We also hit Blommer's chocolate factory on the way and Chicago's huge Crate and Barrel store is just a couple of blocks away. I promise you'll love it!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hello! Hello!

I've been in Boston this past week taking care of my grandchildren. If any of you have tried to reach me by cell, this post may clarify things.

A few nights ago Randy called and said he had had difficulty reaching me because one of the grandkids kept answering the phone, and no matter how many times he asked them to give the phone to grandma they just ignored him. All of the kids here had been in bed for over an hour, so I figured he dialed the wrong number. The next day my daughter called and said, "Oh, thank goodness you answered. I've called several times. Someone answers, but I just keep saying 'hello,' 'hello,' and nobody responds." Wait a minute--that sounds familiar! I didn't hear the phone ring, and how would my phone know to just answer itself. I have a new iPhone -- not because I've wanted one, but because my husband thinks that "the best" is possibly good enough for "Queen Judith." In actuality, all I need is something with buttons you can push and that rings when you are away from home. It still has no contacts in it, no apps downloaded, and it only has a message on my voice mail because Randy helped me put it there. So what do I know about how an iPhone answers itself so that the caller can hear what is going on at my end.

Later this afternoon Trav and Britt called with the same bizarre experience. They call, someone answers, and they can hear me and the children talking to each other. Okay, that's enough! We call my cell phone from the home phone. Sure enough, the voice mail message is three-year-old Charlie talking, talking, talking to me, and it never ends. (Thank goodness there were no bad words from either of us). Somehow my voice mail message had been changed. I knew that butts could place calls, but can butts change your message? Wow, these iPhones are really somethin'. It's all a mystery to me, but somehow I think I've gotten more than I paid for.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Emissions Testing

I've been writing my personal history and it has really made me aware of how many things my mother had to do that we no longer have to do. My mother washed with a wringer washer and hung the clothes on the clothesline to dry. My mother made her own laundry soap out of lye and mutton tallow. My mother had a coal furnace and had to take out the "clinkers" twice a day. My mother mowed the lawn with a push mower, and I mean the old-fashioned kind that only went forward when you provided all the power. My mother watered her garden with irrigation water that ran down a little ditch at the back of our property. She could only use that water when it was her "turn", and that was twice a week at a specified time -- often for an hour during the middle of the night. My mother didn't have a garbage disposal, but rather scraped all our food scraps into a bucket which my dad carried out to feed the pigs. My mother didn't have access to a car except one afternoon per week. My mother was amazing! BUT, there were also some things that my mother DIDN'T have to do, and occasionally I have a day where I spend most of it doing the things my mother didn't have to do. And that is really annoying. Today I had to do only one of them, and I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't want to trade places with my mother.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mary Poppins

When Mary Poppins says "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down" I believe her. I teach gospel doctrine and for the past five weeks we've been studying Isaiah. Although I have learned to love Isaiah during the past few years, some people consider Isaiah to be a stiff dose of medicine. So I have invited Mary Poppins to join us for our class. It's a good thing tomorrow is the last Isaiah lesson. Mary Poppins is getting tired!

Monday, October 25, 2010


On Friday I got an unexpected call from one of my missionary companions who was baby-sitting her grandchildren in a hotel in the city. Randy and I did some quick rearranging of our schedule so that we were able to drive in and visit for a couple of hours. What fun we had remembering the six months that Root and Yoodit spent together. To begin with, when Root arrived in Germany and the assistant to the president found out that we actually knew each other, he didn't hesitate to dash our hopes by telling us that the president would NEVER put the two of us together. Six months later we were both shocked when notified that we were going to be transferred together to serve as co-seniors. When the assistant to the president (a different one) dropped me at the train station to transfer to Kaiserslautern he told me to enjoy it because it was only for two weeks. We hardly even went to sleep at night we had so much to do and to talk about in such a short time. However, we were having success and two weeks turned into four months and we were transferred (together) to a new city. Our new apartment was close to the police station. Each time a missionary arrives in or departs from a city he has to register with the police, filling out paperwork and attaching a photo. For some reason the police department took a shine to the two very blonde Amerikanishe Maedchen who were seen each day on the streets, riding the street car, knocking on doors, shopping at the corner market. They always looked out for us, were friendly, and we enjoyed teasing back and forth. We were a little surprised on one of our trips to the police department to find that our pictures had been posted on their bulletin board.
Here you see Yoodit and Root standing by the car they wished they drove. Navigating by bicycle can be challenging in a dress. Check out my hair. It's been long but precious few times in my life. To quote my mother, "Don't you want to get your hair cut? Look how nice and neat your companion's hair is. You look a little bit like a lion." Thanks, mom!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gasing the Car

Gasing the car is something I truly dislike doing and I often long for the olden days when every gas station was a full-service station. They would fill the tank, wash your windows, and check your oil--all while you sat in the comfort of your warm (or cool) car. If Randy and I occasionally switch cars and he fills mine for me I consider it a gift. Here's a little entry from my journal five years ago this week:

1. I'm grateful for tomatoes. There's nothing quite like a fresh tomato sandwich with mayo, salt and pepper. (I still agree heartily)

2. I'm grateful for pasta. We ate at Noodles tonight. It was so yummy and satisfying!

3. I'm grateful to have a small car. It only cost me $35 to fill up today. Since Katrina and Rita gas prices have soared to over $3.00 a gallon. When Randy and I got married gas was 25 cents a gallon. We could fill our little VW Beetle for $2.50.

Somehow, reading this makes me feel really old!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Watch out Anne Geddes

That's my grandson!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Circle of Work

One of the most challenging things about raising kids was getting them to do the endless jobs that needed to be done -- way too much for one mother and one father to do by themselves. We used every method, scheme, and game that has ever been invented. We bribed, we threatened, we worked side by side, we rewarded, we tried it all. For some reason we could never figure out, our kids would gladly work for hours at their friends' homes. According to them, it was way more fun to do someone else's work.

I guess we've come full circle. On Saturday we made a quick decision to drive to Champaign and spend the day with Quinn. Tiffany and the kids were in Utah and Quinn was getting pretty lonely. We had a great day. Randy helped Quinn put his yard to bed for the winter and then they cleaned out his garden. I did the laundry and ironed and ironed and ironed. And we figured something out. Never mind that we still have hours of work to do in our own yard, and never mind that my own laundry basket is full of things to be ironed. Our kids were right. It's WAY more fun to do someone else's work.

Our bonus was seeing this beautiful tree next to Quinn's apartment. It has been kind of a disappointing fall so far. Maybe there's some beautiful color ahead of us, but this is the prettiest, most vibrant tree I've seen this year.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I really don't want today to pass without posting. Last evening I watched the rescue of the last 8-10 miners from the San Jose Mine. The evening before, I watched the rescue of the first two miners. Without exception, each time they were re-united with their family I found it to be touching and emotional for me. Imagine having 69 days to put your life and family into perspective!

It reminded me so much of another rescue which was very traumatic for me and which, coincidentally, occurred twenty-three years ago today. It was the rescue of "Baby Jessica", an 18-month-old toddler who fell into an abandoned well shaft. The shaft was only eight inches in diameter, and tiny Jessica fell into it with one leg going down, but one leg going straight up alongside her face. It took 58 hours to drill a parallel shaft and then go horizontally across and underneath her. They inserted and inflated a very strong balloon to prevent her from falling further into the shaft, which had been happening as she lost weight. They then went in and carefully chiseled the pipe above from around her and were able to bring her up.

Much like yesterday, the entire nation was watching and praying for little Jessica McClure. Today Jessica is a married woman with children of her own. She has sought a life out of the eye of the public, but in a twenty-year anniversary interview they said that she had had 15 surgeries and had chosen not to have the scars of her accident removed. When they asked her why she said that she kept them as a reminder of what had happened to her and the miracle that she had survived.

I was one of those who was glued to the TV for three days, bursting into tears when she was brought out of the well. As human beings, I believe that most people have an inherent desire for good things to happen and recognize the value of all human life. Life is fragile, and none of us goes through life without a certain amount of bumping and bruising, successes and failures, good choices and bad choices, and ultimately the need to be rescued. I'm grateful for the many individuals who have served as "rescuers" in my life, and for our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has performed the ultimate rescue for each one of us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Baby Pics

Hey, it's time somebody posted some baby pics. Here are some I thought were cute. Tired mommy, proud daddy, healthy baby, happy family!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pajama Day

Remember how I was still in my p.j.'s at 1:30 this afternoon? It was such a great day I think I'm going to repeat it tomorrow. I told Randy that I had accomplished every single thing on my "to do" list today -- nothing! I did actually put some clothes on at 6:00. You see, we had quite a bit of ham left over from our Sunday dinner and I thought to myself, "How can I think of a way to have someone over to help us eat our ham without having to do any work, or go to the store, or clean up a mess. So I invited some friends over for waffles (and ham). It was perfect -- two hours of visiting, 15 minutes of prep, they even brought their waffle maker and Tim cooked all the waffles.

Stake Conference

Is there anything quite as forlorn as an empty table?! Where was my camera yesterday when this table was beautifully set, laden with delicious food, and surrounded by wonderful people enjoying the company of Elder Gerrit W. Gong?

What an amazing person Elder Gong is. He is so kind and gracious to everyone, a perfect example of diplomacy. He stood by Randy's side (shirt sleeves rolled up, tie tucked in) scooping ice cream at the ice cream social on Saturday evening. He was the one to jump up from the table to help move chairs, first one to begin clearing dishes, interacting with each person at the table -- "Tell me what is special about you." "Tell me how you two met." "Tell us about your family." We had invited a non-member couple Randy knows from the law school. We were a little nervous that Elder Gong might feel like they were interlopers, but he was the first to welcome them, invited them to sit by him and made them feel completely at home.

So, you might ask yourself, what is it like to prepare to have a visiting general authority stay in your home? I suppose we all want others to see us at our very best at all times, but there's something about having a guest like that in our homes that is different. I worked for weeks trying to get our lives and our home "all together." I weeded all my flower beds, we had the bathtub re-sprayed, put all the finishing touches on the kitchen, cleaned the fridge, moved a reading chair into the bedroom he would be using, and bought a nine dollar washcloth for him to use. Nine Dollars! Although it is ridiculous (and I knew it was), I felt like not only would Elder Gong be able to see straight through me, he would also be able to see what was stashed behind the garden shed, what (and how much) was really on our food storage shelves, and he would intuitively know how long it had been since I used Miracle-Gro. Yeah, like he was really going to take the time to walk around examining my plants.

Now that it is over I feel like high-five-ing the world, dancing around shouting "Whohoooo". I'm most grateful that the toilet didn't plug up, the water softener didn't go off in the night with its piercing squeal, he didn't wake up in the morning to find 16 dead Japanese beetles on his carpet, the air-conditioner did it's job to keep the house at a pleasant 72 degrees, and to my knowledge nobody got sick from the food.

I am celebrating today by doing absolutely nothing. At one o'clock p.m. I'm still in my pajamas. I plan to spend the day reading, talking on the phone, and watching TV. I haven't seen Glenn Beck for over two weeks. Are things still okay in the world?

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Longest Day

Yesterday had to be the longest Sunday I've ever experienced (punctuated by two two-hour blocks of spiritual escape). Now I've spent a LOT of long and lonely Sundays during the past five years, but nothing can compare with trying to entertain and distract four anxious children as they wait all day long for news from the hospital. They, naturally, wanted to call the hospital every few minutes and would then inform the neighbors, "she's at three," or "she's at seven", as if they completely understood the principle of dilation. Finally, at 8:00 p.m. we got THE call, just minutes after the birth of 8 lb. 15 oz. Soren and we were off to the hospital to watch his very first bath.

What a baby -- beautiful beyond belief. The little stinker failed to drop into the birth canal until the last minute, making it a long haul for mommy, but resulting in an unmarked and perfectly shaped baby -- right down to the dimple in his little chin.

How grateful I am for miracles and for children who are still willing to be participants in the greatest miracle of life. And now if you'll excuse me, I think I hear a tiny newborn cry. He wants his grandma!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Pressure's On

Spiritual midget that I am, I really enjoyed conference today. There were some powerful messages and many spiritual take-aways, but can I just confess that the one thing that caught my attention most was far from spiritual. Elder Gerrit Gong is going to be the visitor for our stake conference next week and will be dining at our table for two days. He spoke this afternoon. You will probably remember his talk. He said that when his son was in the MTC Sister Gong sent homemade bread to him and his companions. He read the letters his companions had sent to Sister Gong. One of them said, "Sister Gong, this was the best bread I have ever eaten in my life. Please keep me in mind in case things don't work out well between you and Mr. Gong." I won't be feeding Elder Gong any homemade bread, but I did bake dinner rolls the day before I left for California and put them in the freezer. I wonder how Sister Gong is with rolls?!

Hanging out in Sunny California

So here I am in sunny California, hanging out with this group waiting for the arrival of their new baby brother. Today was my training day -- how to drive to the elementary school, how to drive to the middle school, how to pick up the kids in the car pool, how to get to the soccer field, how to get to Costco. I forgot to bring my GPS. How silly!

Heidi: Remember to only drive 15 mph in our neighborhood.
Me: Okay.
Heidi: Remember that in California you can't talk on your cell phone while you drive.
Me: Okay.
Heidi: Remember to put the card with the names of the kids in the car pool on the dash board.
Me: Okay.
Heidi: Remember that you have to lock the doors by hand.
Me: Okay.
Heidi: Remember the gate code for the violin teacher's gated community.
Me: Okay.
Heidi: Remember to read to Mia twenty minutes per day.
Me: Okay.
Heidi: Be sure to check the back of the van to make sure it is far enough into the garage before you close the door.
Me: Okay.

Can I do it? I'm not sure, but are there any points for being willing?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday Reflections

Every Sunday morning I express gratitude to Heavenly Father for a Sabbath Day during which I do not have to think about yard work, or do laundry, pay bills, or blow out the garage. And I always pray that my spirit will be lifted and sensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. Yet some Sundays are better than others-- some seem very long and lonely to me, uninspiring, and yes, even boring! Of late, I've been taking inventory at the end of the sabbath to find at least one thing that left an impression of consequence. Here is what I thought was special about yesterday. . .

In Relief Society we talked about the last two days of Christ's life. Knowing what was ahead of him, he could have been caught up in preparing a defense for himself, but he went about doing the important things he still needed to do. One of those was to institute the sacrament. As we talked about the sacrament my friend shared something that has come back to my mind multiple times since she shared it. Jolyne suffers from an illness that has caused her entire digestive system to stop functioning. She has not had any food or liquid by mouth since forever ago. Okay, for at least 20 years. For eight or ten hours a day she is infused with TPN (a liquid nutrient) delivered through a port into a central line directly into her blood stream. Sometimes we talk together about what it is like to sit at a table and watch others eating the foods that you used to love and enjoy. Food is an incredibly big part of all friendship and society!

Jolyne comes to Relief Society as often as she is physically able, but the schedule of her meds does not allow her to come to sacrament meeting. Every Sunday afternoon, two priests and one of their priesthood leaders go to Jolyne's home where they bless and pass the sacrament to her. She said, "You know, I can only eat a crumb of bread and one drop of water. Perhaps you might think that would not warrant the effort to bring the sacrament to me each week, but the physical act of partaking of the emblems is oh so precious to me."

The sacrament has always been a time for personal introspection and reflection for me. Listening to the sacrament prayers is a time to think about the baptismal promises I have made, but I hadn't quite thought about what a privilege it is to be able to eat the bread and drink the water that represent the physical sacrifice the Lord made for me. I am looking forward to the next opportunity I will have to partake of the sacrament, which sadly for me is three weeks away (general conference and stake conference intervening). I'm grateful that from time to time something just a little out of the ordinary takes the "ordinary" out of something that has become very common to us.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

32-year Anniversary

Thirty-two years ago today my brother Don was killed in a commercial airline crash. He was on a PSA (Pacific Southwest Airlines) flight from Sacramento to San Diego when the 727 collided with a one-engine Cessna whose pilot was practicing instrument landings. The plane plunged to earth in the North Park residential area killing all passengers aboard the plane and another 10 persons on the ground in what was (at that time) the worst disaster in U.S. aviation history.

He was such a great guy! (I would use multiple exclamation points, but I heard on the radio today that one exclamation point is always enough). He was 42 years old, and with each year I realize more how young that was and how much of this life he missed. He had three sons and two daughters. I think of all the priesthood ordinations he missed, the eagle courts of honor, the missionary farewells (and homecomings), the graduations from high school and college, the weddings, the birth of dozens of grandchildren, the family reunions, the wedding anniversaries, the family vacations. He would be so proud of his family, and so am I!

My sister-in-law once told me that when the accident happened the Lord mercifully wrapped her in a protective cocoon which shielded her from the trauma of his death. She never re-lived it, never dreamed about it, never questioned how it happened or what it may have been like. I wish I had been privy to a blessing like that. I see pictures of that plane coming down with fire streaming from it. I wonder which seat was his. I wonder who he was sitting by, and what he thought about during that 3,000 foot ride down. I'm so grateful for all that the gospel teaches us about death and life after life. Although there may be lots to tell Don about the things he has missed here, I wonder what he will be able to tell us about what he has been doing for 32 years.

Friday, September 24, 2010

When Things Come Together

There is a saga that goes along with our kitchen remodel. You'd think after 33 years of waiting that I would know exactly what I wanted, but that has not been the case. I did know that I wanted painted cabinets and that I like a lot of light. The hard part has been deciding how to decorate.

I paid someone to come in and give me some suggestions. She walked through the house and gathered up all the things she liked from the other rooms and put it all together. I liked it, but quickly realized that the reason I liked it was that I was the one who picked and purchased all those things for a different room. I was "stuck" for a couple of months until I decided that it was the wrong color scheme and I needed to start over. Out went the brown, gold and orange. In came red and green. Slowly, one piece at a time, I purchased the furniture, the cushions, the fabric for curtains, the pictures for the wall. Finally it all came together yesterday when Randy helped me hang the curtains. I like it and I did it all by myself. The timing couldn't have been better. My sister and her husband came from Utah to spend the day with us. Don't you love company.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Good Friends, Good Food, Good Music

A few years ago Randy and I discovered the Chicago Civic Orchestra and have fallen in love with it. It is made up of young musicians that feed into the Chicago Symphony or other major orchestras around the world. They play at Symphony Hall which is a pretty amazing place. We like to sit in the terrace seats behind the orchestra where the view (and the sound) is superb.

Most of their concerts are on Sunday which doesn't work for us. When I saw a Monday concert I ordered six tickets (which are free). We invited two other couples to have dinner at our home and then an evening in the city. (If you look at the picture you can tell which one of the group had been cooking and cleaning all day. Lovely photo!) It was delightful! I just ate the last of the leftovers for lunch, including the last piece of fresh pear pie!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Sad Goodbye?

This summer we re-did our kitchen. They took it clear down to the studs which meant that EVERYTHING had to be removed. In the process we identified a LOT of stuff that we knew would never go back. We thought about having a garage sale, but after looking things over we decided that would be way too embarrassing. So it has simply filled up one half of the garage for months while poor Randy has parked outside in the blazing sun, rain, and bird poop.

We're all motivated by different things. For me, it took the news that in three weeks Elder Gerritt Gong of the First Quorum of Seventy will be staying with us for our stake conference. I have made multiple trips to Goodwill and we're getting close. Ask me if it was a sad parting--

Goodbye Cootie game. Randy and I will miss finding eyes between the sofa cushions and antenae in our shoes.
Goodbye hot rollers. What will I ever do without your metal pins to clean my toenails.
Farewell seven bread pans which haven't been used since they rusted too long ago to remember.
Goodbye chin rest for a three-quarter-size violin. What will we ever do with you.
Goodbye muslin kitchen towels embroidered when I was six.
Goodbye spare slate tiles which we never needed. I tried for 33 years to damage that floor. It was impossible.
Farewell green and purple sequined cane from the high school musical.
Farewell empty canning jars too many to fit on the shelves.
Farewell rotary dial telephone.
Goodbye to ties Randy wore in high school.
Goodbye to eight mis-matched ramekins.
Goodbye to garden shoes that could only be worn with curled toes.
Goodbye microwave bacon rack.
Farewell unopened boxes of color film.
Goodbye pressure cooker, fry pan and roaster pan. (Does having a new kitchen mean I still have to cook?).
Goodbye to boxes of florist vases in various sizes and shapes.
Goodbye to boxes of candles with no scent.
Hello to clean cupboards! Hooray!!!