"I mean EVERYONE is writing a blog these days, and everyone wants me to read their own blog. My family blogs, the ladies in our neighborhood/ward blog; it's quite crazy. And, they wonder why I don't read each one of theirs every day. Honestly, at first, it was novel, unique, and fun. But, now, with everyone blogging - whether it's a cooking blog, a family photo blog, a political blog - there's just not time to read them all.
"It's quite frustrating when they say, 'You didn't comment on my blog all last week...are you okay?'
"Well, I guess I'm not okay...I'm over-blogged.
"I have enough recipes to last into the eons of time, I've seen pictures of their adorable kids in every pose imaginable (and some not imaginable), I've read every political rant possible, and I'm exhausted from the blogs.
"So, I'm tuning it all out. My new resolution," she explained to me quite forcefully, "is to leave my computer off for an entire day! That'll show 'em!"
And, we had a hearty laugh!
I like to listen to them, read them in book form, or read them on the Kindle.
But, whatever form they are in, I love the power of words.
I remember one day, lots of years ago, I was pedaling the stationery bike while reading Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." I was so moved and went in to RAH in the other room, and said, "I can't quite believe the power of her words."
I so appreciate a good author, good story line, good writing, good characters...
Some books are poorly written, but tell a great story; other books have both a great story and are incredibly well written, like Jane Eyre or many Charles Dickens books.
While I appreciate and have read lots of fiction books over the years, I really enjoy non-fiction, particularly true stories about PEOPLE.
Here's a partial list of non-fiction books that I have really enjoyed over many years....(these are in no particular order, just as they came to mind)....
Ditch Digger's Daughters: A Black Family's Astonishing Success Story
The Investigation: the truth Behind Howard Hughes, Melvin Dummar, and the Most Contested Will in America
Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
Having Our Say: the Delany Sisters First 100 Years
Mao's Last Dancer
The Outliers: The Story of Success
Hard Work: My Life on and Off the Court
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio: How My Mother Raised Ten Kids on 25 Words or Less
A Girl Named Zippy
Betrayal: The Life and Times of Bernard Madoff
Have a Little Faith: A True Story
Love, Loss, and What I Wore
Coal Miner's Daughter
Exit the Rainmaker
John Glen - A Memoir
The Courage to be Rich
Millionaire Next Door
A Walk in the Woods
A Year in Provence
The Glass Castle: A Memoir
Some of these books have made me laugh, cry, shake my head in wonder/disbelief, restore my faith in humanity, lose my faith in humanity, but most of all be amazed at what good writers can achieve in telling a compelling story.
So, let me just say once again, I am thankful for BOOKS, LIBRARIES, the PRINTED WORD, and the power those words can evoke in me.
the stories disturbing,
but it was all too real.
The faces of poverty in the United States.
The men and women WANTED to work, they were not welfare cases from generations past; they were hard-working Americans living in a town where the mines, the construction, and the plants had all shut down. The stores along Main Street were shuttered, vacant.
The families lived in small trailers, or in their cars, or small houses with multiple family units living together.
The local food bank had seen a huge increase of people needing food in the last two years...the food pantry could barely hold on, yet they are the source of food for many in this small town in America. The lady behind this food bank was so inspiring and laudable.
Heart wrenching to be sure...the need is so great and the town's continual plea....where are the jobs promised by the administration?
But, did anyone notice, like I did, that many of the children and the adults were - obese, fat, overweight? Such a stark contrast; starving, yet big?
Comparison photos were shown of the long soup lines during the Depression, and yet, looking at those people from the 1930s, they were lean and skinny...
So, what is the difference? Skinny in the 30's; big now?
Could it be that the people in the soup lines from the 30s were actually served SOUP, while today's poor are fed macaroni and cheese or french fries or carbohydrates because they are CHEAP foods?
The dilemma here is that we are trying to solve the problem of poverty and hunger, but we create another huge health crises; obesity and diabetes.
No easy anwers.
A few days later, he volunteered to thin apricots at the church farm in Hurricane.
And, a few days after that, he volunteered to wash dishes at the cafeteria in the temple.
Lots of the people won't/can't/don't volunteer when the list comes around, but he usually signs up.
The cannery assignment was for four hours standing in an assembly line...no break, no water to drink, exceedingly noisy...it made him dizzy to watch as the endless line of apricots rolled by on the conveyor belt, but he stayed to the end of the shift.
He wasn't needed when he got to the church farm, so he and a friend explored some remote country roads....something he loves to do.
Doing dishes in the temple cafeteria for four hours was hot, sweaty, and a challenge to stand on his feet all that time.
But, isn't that really what is supposed to be about...helping - even when it's hard.
Now I've volunteered him for another gig...teaching in China!
Ah, maybe after this, we'll both say our volunteering days are over!
Sorry, Andy, however, here's something we can totally agree on; you have two beautiful daughters, whom I love very much!
They are thoughtful, kind, funny, interesting and inspiring. I love to be around; Shauna, Libby, Janice, Donna, Lois, Regina, Ava. I am very grateful for all of them.
But, I've always yearned for a sister.
And, the time I wish for it the most is when I am going through my parent's pictures, papers, stuff. Because I think a sister could more fully appreciate/enjoy/delight/feel sorrow - the items I discover from boxes recovered in their home.
I'm cleaning and organizing and tossing and filing. And, today I came across some items from my mother's high school years, and her early years living in Washington, DC. My mother was young and beautiful and so like young people today who are full of life and yearning for love. These letters/notes tugged at my heart strings, and I so wanted to share them with - a non-existent sister.
from a letter to her best friend...Feb 17, 1937
"I got me a grand black velvet evening wrap....I got my black and silver dress and slippers for the Gold and Green Ball in Baltimore so I was all fixed up...All in debt about thirty dollars. I had a little saved to get me a spring outfit, but I spent it all and went in debt. Woe is me. He (Roland Young) wants me to go to New York with him this Sunday--don't say anything---I don't know as I should go or not....The folks want me to come home and go to school next winter. Boy, I don't know what to do. I just love it here"(speaking of Washington, DC).
from a note attached to ticket stub of a city bus:
"Marc Felt gave this to me when I worked in the Senator's office for him. I had a hard time getting there and getting home. First time I rode a street car bus in Washington, DC. Marc is just darling. I wish he liked me!"
from a letter to her parents in Preston, Idaho:
"Dearest Folks, I'm homesick!! I've been gone for eight months oh, I want to see you all so bad!....and Merrill (the man who would become my father) won't call me. The last five times he's asked me to go out, I've had to turn him down on account of Roland or cause it would be too late, and I want to see him so bad. Mother, he's Grand! Oh, I could just cry, but no tears will come! I can't work. I don't want to eat, I can't study. In fact I can't get my mind on anything but Merrill. Gee, it's hell. I cried last night in bed cause I'm so blue & lonely! I thought he'd call last night, but he didn't...."
Mom, you were wonderful and beautiful and so very good. I love these little glimpses into your life so many years ago.
Love, your Only Daughter.
"Grandma, I'm in St. George...can I come over and hang out until Ethan gets off work? We're going on a date, and he works until after 8."
2. Watch as she comes in the front door, and her beauty, smile, fun, sunburn take your breath away!
3. Chatter awhile.
4. Go through a family photo album together.
5. Have her help you organize and put things away.
6. Sit in the heat out on the back patio while she tells all about college, orientation, her roommate, her newly purchased items, until Ethan arrives.
7. Smile as she goes through the front door, laughing with Ethan.
And, that is a perfect Friday evening...now, I just need our other grandchildren to live closer so we can do this with them!
BUT, this article in my old home-town newspaper really caught my eye....
She poured KETCHUP, MAYO, MAPLE SYRUP down the book drop?!?!?!??!?!?!??!?
Okay, so what is her beef with libraries? There's gotta be something going on here.......
Some stories are just too weird!
but, beauty, youth, and careers fade....
so, when her British husband left her, and her five children became alienated from her,
a friend suggested she move from England back to her native America.
She did so, living briefly in San Diego, Kaysville, then to the Idaho town where I met her when she moved in our neighborhood.
She lived on a very limited income in government subsidized housing. Her income fluctuated according to the dollar/pound ratio, and she counted her pennies, living very frugally.
She loved to read....but certainly couldn't afford to buy books on her limited income.
TA DA! Enter the local library....
Every two or three weeks, I would pick her up, and we headed to the library, where they had an unlimited supply of her favorite Barbara Cartland romance novels. I would help her find ones she hadn't read before or perhaps ones she wished to read again. She might also venture to read a book by another author, as long as she had several Barbara Cartland to fall back on in case she didn't like the other authors. And, the library had plenty of books to keep her well supplied.
Sometimes we would head to the Deseret Book snack shop to get a piece of her favorite bumbleberry pie.
She'd tell me stories from her growing-up years and I marveled at the remarkable stories she told.
Then, I'd drop her off at the side door of her complex, with a promise to see her in two weeks.
She would be so appreciative, knowing she had a boatlaod of books to read over the next few days....realizing she could never afford to buy all the books she loved to read.
And, so, I'm very grateful for the concept of libraries; providing books for all of us who love to read, but who certainly could never afford to buy all those many many books.
I just finished reading "Mao's Last Dancer."
"At the age of eleven, Li Cunxin was one of the privileged few selected to serve in Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution by studying at the Beijing Dance Academy. Having known bitter poverty in his rural China home, ballet would be his family’s best chance for a better future. From one hardship to another, Cunxin demonstrated perseverance and an appetite for success that led him to be chosen as one of the first two people to leave Mao’s China and go to America to dance on a special cultural exchange."
This was a phenomenal book, and I was amazed at his work ethic, even as a young child living away from his family. He was DRIVEN!
Additionally, I am listening to "Hard Work: Life On and Off the Court."
"Roy Williams is arguably the most successful active NCAA major-college basketball coach. A few more NCAA championships with North Carolina— he has two—and he inserts himself into the greatest-all-time discussion. His life story is a genuine rags-to-riches saga. Born poor in rural North Carolina and raised by a single mom, he was extraordinarily driven and self-sufficient as a child and young man. He received a basketball scholarship to North Carolina but was in over his head as a player."
This is an inspiring story about a boy with an alcoholic father - who eventually leaves the family; a saintly, hard-working mother; he certainly had no encouragement to go to college, but he is driven to want to coach and succeed.
I heard she got married to a man whose wife had died, leaving several young children. They had a child of their own....and as, is so often the case.....I lost total contact with or about her.
One day, many many years later, my grandson - who had just moved to Hurricane, Utah, mentioned his Sunday School teacher's name, and I thought, "There is just, "NO WAY!"
But, it was true....my teacher as a Southern Idaho teen was now my grandson's teacher as a Southern Utah teen.
And, yes, it's true...he liked her as much as I had all those years before....
Thanks, Marba Cottle Pearson Thompson for sharing your love with my grandson and with me and with countless others in between!
Stadium of Fire in Provo, Utah...billed as one of the biggest fireworks events in the country..this year it featured Carried Underwood, the Five Browns, Jenny Oaks Baker, over 200 scouts receiving their Eagle awards. It was a spectacular show...moving along without a hitch....it was well-rehearsed, choreographed, scripted, and amazing.
Hurricane City Celebration.....a small town gathering of local talent including our granddaughter playing with her grandfather and brother, the Spendlove family singing group, the Stout family band, poetry, patriotic songs, and a rousing medley of songs at the end to honor the armed forces.
Here's what is just so awesome.
They were both fantastic...one an extravaganza with over 50,000 in attendance at the football stadium, the other a gathering of about 300 patriotic people in a small town school auditorium.
And, yet, the FEELING in both was the same....love of America!
The Goal; help Justin set up his incredible/inspiring 30 Strangers Exhibit. An exhibit which was designed to explore the beautiful relationship between mothers/daughters/grandmothers....
attend some family gatherings....
what great weekend plans.
Friday... getting ready and then the exhibit.
Saturday....family gatherings, including a baptism for Jackson Merrill Lewis, a family dinner, and then the incredible Stadium of Fire fireworks.
It was - indeed - a weekend to remember what is really important in our lives:
Thanks, Allen, Jenni, Justin and Amy, my brothers; their families....I'll treasure these memories for a very long time.
The conversation starts out by discussing; kids, jobs, church, recipes, favorite books and tv shows, family relationships, friends. Then, if it gets later, and no woman has left yet, the gloves come off and the conversation turns to......drum roll please....SPOUSES.
Recently, women had this to say:
"When we were dating, he would get pretty moody. I can still remember thinking that once we got married, I would MAKE him so happy that he'd never be moody. As a happy person, I didn't understand such mood swings. But, I was wrong...he still gets moody. It's tough."
"I would NEVER marry a man who has issues with his father/family. Too much baggage and who can afford counseling?"
"My husband is a tight-wad....I mean, like spending money is ALWAYS an issue. Even if I save, and the money is in the budget, he gets upset when I spend money. Recently, after 30 years of marriage, I asked him when he thought we would have enough money that I could spend money on our kids and not have him get upset....his answer...NEVER! It's hard to have money be such a constant issue."
"It's pretty ironic...the thing that attracted me to him in the first place has become the thing that drives me crazy about him now! Not good!"
Later that evening, I thought of Jean...a widow of five years. I was thinking how much she misses her husband. In all our conversations, she has never mentioned his faults, and only seems to remember his good qualities.
Is that what it takes to remember the good....DEATH?
Here's my partial list:
humble, happy, emotionally healthy, honest, righteous, kind, thoughtful of others, unselfish, are a few that I think of.
I've met six women who are as close to perfect as a person can be....here they are in alphabetical order:
Donna - allen's sister. when her husband left her with five very small children, she just shouldered the load with faith and guts.....going back to school to get her degree, and now having a really good job at the church office building. She has raised five of the most awesome children ever. She is so pure, innocent, good, and is totally committed to living a life in service to others. She's a wonderful mother and grandmother, as well as a loyal friend.
Estella - she disliked having her mother work when she was a young girl. Her father had become disabled, so her mother got a job in an uncle's furniture store. But none of the other mothers in the neighborhood worked, and that made it hard for Estella. Each day, Estell would go home to find her three brothers had made a mess of the kitchen and living room; the laundry would be piled high and she was very resentful. One day she realized her mother's situation could not change...her mother HAD to work. As a young pre-teen, she realized that the only thing that could change was her attitude. So, she would go home, straighten the home, fix dinner. She loved seeing how happy her mother was as she arrived home each day to a clean home and dinner. Then, as a mother of six, Estella's home was always neat and tidy. She would be surprised when I would ask how she kept her home so clean - with six kids. Estella is a true help meet for her husband...if he is working outside, she is right along side him. She is as perfect as a person can be.
Eunice - allen's aunt. Her life is one of beauty, serenity. She told me once that as a young girl she made up her mind that whatever she was asked to do in the church, she would be one hundred per cent obedient. When the scriptures say that God delights to honor those who honor him, her life seems to reflect the honor God has given her. She lives in a beautiful home, is surrounded by a large, loving stable family. She has not had major challenges and trials in her long life, but she is good to those who have faced heartwrenching situations. She is generous, good, and is perfect in every way.
Linda - when Linda's oldest daughter was killed in a tragic car accident as the result of icy roads, I went immediately to try to comfort her. As I walked away, I thought...what just happened here? She was the strong one, comforting me. Linda has no faults...she is the most thoughtful person I know. She remembers everyone's birthdays, sends notes, brings home-made goodies. She is just remarkable.
Michelle - my current relief society president. Anyone meeting Michelle for the first time can just sense her goodness, her humility, her gentle nature. And, she has four beautiful children who are just like that. She is goodness/perfection personified.
Stephanie - my nephew's wife. I don't even know how to describe her, but the instant I met her...I knew what a perfect person was like. She is kind, thoughtful, humble, a fantastic mom, patient, generous.....she's just GOOD to the bone!
I have many friends who are good, righteous,marvelous women, and I am inspired by them all.
But talking with one of the above mentioned women recently, I realized that some women are just PERFECT. I can try, but I'll never catch up to what they just naturally are!
"Come on over for a piece of chicken!" the total stranger said as we drove in his driveway to turn around.
"I had a horrendous childhood, and it has taken me many years to come to terms with and forgive my mother, but I love the healing power of the Gospel...all is good now," the Athabascan Indian said as we sat in the foyer of the church.
"I know going on a mission is the best decision I will ever make, and it will be the best two years of my life," Elder Ames said as he bore his testimony before heading to the mission field in Tampa, Florida.
"I want to thank my mother-in-law for raising such a strong faithful Priesthood holder. That has been a great blessing in my life," Donna said in her lesson.
"My wedding dress is a white suit. It's not frilly, or lacy, like most wedding dresses, but I saw a picture of my grandmother at the Salt Lake Temple in her wedding dress which was a white suit, and I have always loved the simple beauty and elegance she portrayed," said the excited bride-to-be, Celeste.
"I love you," said Dorothy as she held out her hand to her son-in-law; little did we realize those would be the last words we would hear her speak.
I am always in awe of a beautiful sunset; the wide variety and scent of flowers, the red hills of St. George, the sweeping tides of the ocean, the majestic mountains, the blue sky with wisps of white clouds.....
I will always be most grateful for the beautiful people that we meet - whether by chance encounter or long-term friendship.
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the goodness of people.
"I should get it next week. It's been twenty years since I got my first chair," she said. " I only used it if I had to go a long way. But, then I got so I couldn't walk at all."
"Will your new one be much different?"
She pointed to the chair, "It will still be bright red," she smiled. "But, it will have leg rests so the backs of my legs have something soft to rest on. I'll be able to raise my feet better on the new one, and of course, it will lay back so I can nap, just like this one does now."
We talked some more about lots of things, including our ward challenge to read the Book of Mormon by the end of August. We were both on Alma 5, and talked about what a powerful chapter it is....time to go.
So she went with me out to the sidewalk...she in her electric wheelchair, MOI on my legs.
"Thank you for coming," she said - as she always does.....
and, in my heart I said, "No, thank you dear Sylvia, for reminding me again and again of your beauty and strength of character. You face each day with such grace and hope and goodness. Oh, you remind me over and over about challenge and faith. Please don't thank me...it is I who always comes away a better person."
Time: late afternoon
Activity: blogging, checking email, catching up on news, waiting for plane.
But. also thinking what an incredible world.
I can read my email, surf the net, pay my bills, shop, comparison shop...I don't even have to wait until I get home.
And, that is what I have come to expect, need, WANT.
So, while I use it, love it, appreciate it, sometimes maybe having to WAIT is not such a bad thing after all.
Sometimes the joy of anticipation is also part of the fun of living.
Whether that be true or not, I really do understand a loving Father in Heaven, because I had just such an earthly father.
Dad, I idolized you as a child, young adult, and even more now.
Thanks for the ideal home life, and for the fondest of memories.
Conversants: 55 year old divorced female salesclerk; male tourist/customer
Clerk: yes, I came here after my divorce. I wouldn't mind finding just the right man to hook up with, however.
Customer: well, I've heard that here in Alaska there are actually more males than females.
Clerk (with wry smile on her face): yes,
they say the ODDS are GOOD,
but the GOODS are ODD!
Made me laugh.
They honored the animals and the land,
They were hardy, strong, hard-working,
They lived totally off the land, wherever they were,
They lived in extended family units - honoring their elders,
They created beauty in extremely harsh environs,
and they found ways to incorporate music, dance, and fun in their challenging lives.
Who are THEY?
2. The state of Alaska has no sales tax or state tax - a reason some people move to this state.
3. The highest mountain in North America - Mt. McKinley (or Denali as the locals call it) - is visible only 25-30% of the time! Even if you ride on the tour buses in Denali National Park and get pretty close to the base of this enourmous mountain, you may still not see this amazing peak because of the dense fog that is most often surrounding it. It is supposedly visible from Anchorage, but we have never seen it yet!
4. Sarah Palin's famous glass frames cost $415. And, the company that fit her for them, will actually come to YOUR home to fit you with just the right frames...now, that's service.
5. The people of Alaska are hardy and awesomely friendly. They are really great. And, 99% of them (my made-up statistic based on my random survey) absolutely love living here.
6. And, finally, yes...you did know this. It's very, very beautiful!
This one made me smile....
"I hope you don't mind taking your shoes off," she said...."it's an Alaskan tradition to keep the dust and dirt out of our homes."
We didn't mind at all...we were happy to do it. But the irony of that statement hit me when we climbed the stairs and arrived in the living quarters of her town home.
For you see, the townhome was probably the most cluttered home I've really ever been in.
For example, there was a little walkway into her kitchen. The ENTIRE kitchen floor, except for a teeny footpath leading to the sink, was covered in sacks. It looked like she would just put all the groceries on her floor when she arrived home from the grocery store. There was no space on the kitchen counter at all - for anything - as every little space was taken with something...books, papers, cans, food, spices, more papers, boxes, knick knacks, just stuff.
The other room we saw was very similar....items, papers, boxes, DVDs, knick knacks, magazines, sacks, stuff was everywhere.
She was delightful, wonderful, and obviously a collector of things, but certainly NOT Alaskan dust and dirt!
Both were in the Pacific in WWII....one as a member of the medic core and Marine band. The other was in the Navy.
Both returned when the war was over and were blue collar workers; neither ever earning a lot of money.
Both loved their wives deeply, and had big families.
These are some of their similarities, now let me tell you a little about their differences:
Carl loved life; he was a man who enjoyed his family and his life to the fullest. One year, while living in a very modest home, he and his wife sold the home, piled their large family, plus 2 neighbor kids into a station wagon, and took the family to Disneyland for a week. They returned home and moved into a very small trailer. He was hard-working and was also generous with his time and talents. He loved people and people loved him. He never really had a large home, but was happy with the little trailer where he and his wife lived. After the death of his wife, each month on the day his social security check came, he went to the neighboring town to do a little gambling on the Indian reservation. He loved going golfing and spent a portion of his meager income on that hobby. On the day he died, he had no money and very little in the way of worldly possessions, but a large contingent of good friends. His children went in together to pay the funeral expenses. Within hours of his death, his few possessions had been distributed. And, since he was living in a small trailer that his children had paid for, there was nothing to leave the children....except a lasting legacy of happiness, family fun, laughter, music, and fond memories.
Ed was a stern man with his family while they were growing up. He worked hard every day and looked forward to some peace/quiet at his family table. But, he believed in paying his bills...he was very proud of the fact that he rarely owed anyone any money. He paid as he went. He saved a little money from his modest income each month, paid for his and his wife's funerals so that his children would not have to worry about that expense. After the death of his wife, he visited neighbors and friends, until they were all deceased. He found pleasure in reading his wife's journals, having his family visit, and was very proud of the fact that he had saved a small amount that he could give each child on his death (if health bills did not take the modest amount of money first). He wanted very badly to leave them a small inheritance at his death.
Ed and Carl both looked at life a little differently. Each loved life in his own way, each man was very proud of his children and the chidren honored and loved their father deeply, and each enjoyed his time on this earth.
Perhaps there are lessons to learn from both of these men.
After all, we didn't really know her, but we had had a passing acquaintance with her father many many years ago. So, for her to ask us to come to her home was above and beyond.
The dinner smelled delicious; then it was served.
The meal actually reminded me of something I would have fixed when I was newly-married, and didn't know how to cook. Or even of something I might fix now. In other words, it was sort of, how shall I say it...let me describe it....
the chicken was dry and rather tough. It was smothered in some sort of globby gloop that I'm not even really sure what it was....potatoes, rice - I couldn't really tell. Let me just say that it was very difficult to eat. The bread, fresh from the bread machine, had a distinctly odd taste to it. The salad at least, was good... it was fresh.
But, my point is certainly not to complain about her food, but rather to point out that I am a VERY picky eater, and that scares the heck out of me when I think of the upcoming Sept through June.
Whatever am I going to do when eating in a foreign country with food that I cannot identify????????
Okay, so now I'm terrified; but could this finally be my way to lose weight?