Friday, December 4, 2009


Here's to a very happy, merry birthday to Sarah, the best mother east of Rock Springs, Wyoming. She's the most wonderful wife to Jonathon, and daughter-in-law to us, that anyone could dream up. We can't possibly think of enough superlative words to describe her, and even if we could use up all those words, you wouldn't understand how we really feel about her. I thank my lucky stars and every other Source of Good in the universe for Sarah showing up in our lives. We are richly blessed by our association with her, and we thank Jonathon for having the good sense to snap her up when she came along. We love you Sarah! And may you have many, many more happy birthdays.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Family Traditions

We were eating Sunday dinner early today, and I had a moment of nostalgia from the days when church times were split, and we had Sunday School in the morning and Sacrament meeting at night. Since the family was all home in the afternoons, that is when we had our big meal; usually roast, potatoes, and something else I wouldn't eat (I was the picky eater of the world until my children and grandchildren were born...must be genetic).
Well, here is the tradition that brought the attack of nostalgia to me: Sunday evening, after church, we always had grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, and then! TA DA popcorn to eat while watching the Sunday night movie, brought to you by Kennecott Copper. (Big Dramatic Music).
Now you know what my comfort food is. And it only takes a gentle nudge to bring on the nostalgia if I think of grilled cheese. It takes so little to make one happy, doesn't it?
Love to all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Fall Trip to Boulder

We squeaked in a last fall journey to Escalante last week, just before the winter weather arrived.
Here is a preview on the road from Torrey to Boulder, which has so many micro-climates, we didn't know what kind of weather awaited around the bend. On one side of the summit it was snowing, and a half mile the other side, it was dry and sunny.
We stayed at Boulder Mountain Lodge, a lovely resort on the Burr Trail, and here is the morning sunrise outside our window.

This is the building our room was in, and you see the dog run to the lower left. Yes, we took the dog, because they had "dog-friendly rooms", and at only $15.00 per day extra, it was still cheaper than putting Champ in doggy-daycare.

Our favorite hike was along (and through) the Escalante River, where we viewed a Natural Bridge, an arch and Anasazi ruins, complete with petroglyphs. We were prepared with our neoprene socks and mesh hiking shoes to keep our feet, well, un-sandy from the river bottom.

Here is a view from the petroglyph site, looking down on the Escalante River. The cottonwoods were spectacular, neon-gold, backlit, breathtaking.

We took the slow way home, through Kodachrome Basin, and hiked the Panorama Loop trail.
Here is the view from our lunchtime stop at the wonderful little campground.

We're sure this is the prototype for the gnome in the French movie, Amelie. (no, not John.)
The funniest part was when we got home very late, put the dog to bed, and the next morning, he went outside, ran back in the house, climbed the stairs and put himself back in his cage and wouldn't come out for several hours. I guess he'd had enough of hiking in the cactus. Eight mile hikes each day pretty much did me in, too, and I was envious that the dog could go back to bed.
love to all. xo

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Edited post Chocolate Fudge Zucchini Cake (zucchini optional)

After eating all of Jonathon's birthday cake without sharing, I have the guilts, so I thought I'd post the recipe (from scratch, of course). Even without frosting, it resembles German Chocolate Cake, because of the coconut. Don't be tempted to leave out the nuts, unless an allergy is involved. Let me know if you make it, and how you like it.

Cake: Preheat oven to 350, grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan

1 c. butter, melt on low with 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder.
Beat 2 large (or 3 small) eggs with 2 c. sugar, 1 c. buttermilk, 2 TB. vanilla extract.
Add 2c. flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt +/-, and 1 c. shredded coconut.
Add the butter/cocoa mix, 1 to 1 1/2 c. shredded zucchini, and 1 c. nuts, chopped.
Blend well. (My batter was quite thick. You could add 1/4 c. water if your zucchini is dry.)
Pour into bundt pan and bake for 40-45 min. Let cool and remove from pan.

Note: Since the batter was quite dense, it took a bit longer to cook at my high altitude. Also, it raised to the top of the Bundt pan, so make sure you grease and flour all the way to the top. Be sure to let it cool a bit before taking from pan. I didn't, and some of it broke away and stuck to the top of the pan. John loved eating that part before dinner.

Since we don't do frosting here, we ate it without. For those who want frosting, here is the recipe:
Melt 1/2 c. butter in saucepan, low. Whisk in 1/4 c. whole milk, 1/2 c. specialty dark cocoa powder, and 2 c. confectioner's sugar. Whisk until glossy. Add 1 TBSP. vanilla extract, pinch salt, and 1 c. shredded coconut. Pour glaze over cake after it's removed from bundt pan. Could serve with ice cream or real whipping cream. Enjoy!!
(p.s.) For those of you who don't know, Jonathon is in Tennessee, and I'm not, which is why I didn't share.)
I've just had a note from my friend, Mary, who sent a hilarious note about her experience. She took it out of the oven, waited 15 minutes, tried to remove it from the pan, and it fell apart all over her and the kitchen. It wasn't done. So she loaded it all back into the pan, put it in the oven, and finished it. They ate it with ice cream on top, and her guests never knew the difference. Suggestion: Let's try this in a rectangular baking dish....just to be safe....or cook it longer in the bundt pan...well greased. xoxox

Monday, August 17, 2009

Out of hibernation for a day

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JONATHON, my first-born son, my favorite son.

I hope your day brings you sunshine, fresh air, health, happiness, success, prosperity, wishes, hopes, dreams, and many, many hugs and kisses from your wonderful family. I made you a chocolate zucchini cake and it was delicious. Thanks for sharing it with us.
....."And many more....."

Friday, June 26, 2009

On Hiatus, Sabbatical, or Summer Vacation

Wishing you all a nice break from this blog. If you are a regular subscriber, you might want to delete this from your feed, since it will be pretty boring with nothing new showing up. Why, you might ask? No reason, except for lack of motivation and inspiration.
Love to all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Crafts

Famous Artist's Book Crafter, Daniel Kelm, came to town for a book intensive last week: Two wire-edged bindings and when to use them. We spent 4 solid days crafting this project which morphs into several shapes. The binding in the center is a piano hinge technique, and the rectangles are sewn together with a figure eight pattern, tied with square knots, and super glued and trimmed. You really should check out Daniel's museum exhibition at Smith College.

A Mind-boggling event

Today, it's our 40th, yes Fortieth, wedding anniversary. Unbelievable. I used to think a 40 year old was really, really ancient. Someone who has been married for 40 years must be nearly prehistoric. So, what are we going to do to celebrate? We'll probably go to Barnes and Noble and buy books and tea. We'll probably go to the newest find in town and get fish tacos for lunch. We'll probably go to dinner and a movie, and the most likely movie will be.....ta da.....Star Trek. Yes, we're still trekkies, but we probably won't dress up in costume. (Can you see Dad dressed up as Mr. Spock?)
Truly, it's a mind-boggling event.
Love to all.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day--for old memories

Memorial Day is for remembering. It was set up to honor the soldiers of the Civil War, but it has come to mean remembering our loved ones who have gone on. I put a picture of iris here, because Memorial Day weekend used to be the Iris Society's big show, and Grandma and Grandpa English always won ribbons. The first year I met John, they won Queen of the Show, and gave me the medal, because they entered "for me." It was also the last time they entered. They moved on to Day Lilies, Cactus, and Rock Gardens after that. What a great memory.
I started a walking program, and my favorite place is Canyon Rim Park. It is soooo gorgeous, and usually I have it all to myself. Today, being a holiday, there were family activities going on, and it was nostalgic. I really miss "family". Of course I miss individuals, but I miss the many things we used to be and do as a family.
When we lived on 10th East and the kids were little, we would put one in the backpack, and one in the bike seat, and bike to Liberty Park to play, then go out for lunch or dinner, usually pizza--my choice in those days.
On many holidays we ended up with Kentucky Fried Chicken at Grandma English's house, followed by frisbee or softball or football at the Rosecrest schoolyard. Many Sundays were spend at Grandma Stirling's for dinner, with lots of people running around, and Sherry showing us her mouthful at the dinner table. Sometimes we would go to the Rosslyn Heights schoolyard to play. I think now of my poor mother and her workload doing it all herself, and all of us just laughing and hanging out together. I miss those days. If I had it to do over, I'd help her more. Alf still tells his ethnic jokes, but they aren't politically correct anymore (like they ever were).
We don't get together with Pat and Kathy and their family anymore. Allison and Sue still like each other, and we do have the Easter Egg tradition, which is a good thing. Mary Kay, for her first Christmas back, loved the bowling idea, and wants to keep it going, even willing to plan it next year. But I think how spread out everyone is, both in locale and ideology; it's quite interesting to see the disparity anymore.
I remember taking all the cousins up to the University to play in the water fountains. We would also take bikes, wagons and trikes to toodle around on.
I miss the Moab Marathon activities, meeting everyone in the park after the run, then hiking in Fiery Furnace, flying kites from the parking lot. Ditto the St. George Marathon.
I miss the river guides annual river trip on the Snake, camping out at Gros Ventre campground, eating meals with everyone.
I miss the trips to Lake Powell with Carolyn and Alf's family and boat, water skiing. I remember the first time Jonathon and Allison water skiied; what an exciting time that was.
A trip down Memory Lane is a good thing: I still have my memories! I think I should have appreciated the moment more intentionally in those days. If I had advice to give young parents, it would be to Pay Attention. Don't miss anything while you're doing it. It goes by too fast, and the only thing you can count on is CHANGE. Everything changes so fast, and we never know what tomorrow will bring. Be happy in Present Time. So, I'm going to take my own advice, and be happy with what Life presents to me in Present Time. I'm going to pay attention, especially to my grandchildren. And I'm going to keep making memories.
Love to all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Life is a Verb

Several weeks ago, Sarah posted a book review on her blog. It was a self-help book, one kind she says she never reads. Well, if you know me, you know that I've spent 30 years reading self-help books. Call me crazy, it would probably be true, but I always felt I needed to know more about the world, how it works, how to have successful relationships, how to see the world through eyes that might find kindness, compassion, empathy, acceptance and love. Isn't that what everyone wants? Maybe like the David Wilcox song, I had a hole in my cup that holds love....or probably more correctly, withholds love. I kept thinking everyone else knew something I didn't, and if I could just figure out what it was, the "Secret - Of - Happiness" would be mine. Not that I wasn't happy; I think I've been an eternal optimist, or at least very naive. This is a long introduction to the topic for today. THE BOOK.

LIFE IS A VERB, by Patti Digh (ironically pronounced "Die")
37 Days to Wake up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally

This is the book I would have written, if I could write a book. This is what I have wanted to teach my children, what I want my grandchildren to know. It is full of lovely quotes and poems (most of which I have already collected through the years), anecdotes, fresh ways to look at the world, and mostly it affirms Life in a big way. I can read two pages a day if I want, and my heart opens wide. I'm a better person for it. It is funny, poignant, provocative, heart-warming and inspiring.
The author lives in Asheville, NC. and speaks internationally, teaching these principles to large organizations. She is mother to two daughters, one a teenager, one a toddler, and we see life through her eyes as a mother, as well as life through the eyes of her children. The world is a better place because of her life, teachings, commitment and insight.
When I used to recommend books, I would say: "This is one I would want if I were stranded on a desert island." However, this book would not be needed if I were stranded; it is absolutely essential for navigating the sea of humanity we live among every day. I checked it out of the library, have renewed it, and now will be buying my own copy. Check it out here. Even if you read two pages, your life will be better for it. Thank you, Patti. (Her website here, which links to her blog containing many of the essays in the book.)
And love to all.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wicked.....or not.

WICKED has been in town for three weeks, and we went to see it last week. The book, by Gregory Maguire, was one of my all time favorites; intelligent, psychological, sociological, political, ancient and contemporary. I wondered how they could make a musical out of such a profound (and very long) book.
I'm glad I saw it, but it wasn't one I'd go see repeatedly. However, I've been listening to the original Broadway soundtrack, and it is wonderful. The last song is emotionally charged, so I thought I'd share the lyrics here, for those of you unable to see the production. The song is titled

"For Good".










Maybe the lyrics are so touching because they are universal truth. Each person who comes into our lives imprints us and we learn something we need, whether we like it or not. Sometimes the things we learn are painful, or we think we don't want to know/feel that. But I do believe as life goes on and we look back, we see how important it was to learn that. And of course the people who touch us in profoundly good ways show us what we might become, or just remind us of who we already are. There is such grace in the feeling of gratitude about the people who have made us who we are. So, right now, I'm very thankful for all of you in my life who have changed me for good....and for the better.
Love to all.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Childhood Story; Old Memories

I remember pedal pushers. I remember riding my bicycle in pedal pushers. I remember being embarrassed about my bicycle.
My best (and only) friend Nancy had just gotten a brand new Schwinn bicycle, the newest style, shiny blue and white, with balloon tires and bright chrome fenders....and it was a girl's bicycle. I, of course, was jealous, so my Dad found me a "new" bicycle, larger than Nancy's and sleeker, the racing type, the precursor to a 3-speed, with skinny tires and a skinny frame. It was a boy's bicycle with no fenders...and previously well used. My Dad tried to fix it up for me, so he painted it bright red. I should have been thrilled with the bike, because it was way ahead of its time, but in truth, I was still jealous of Nancy's new bike, and secretly ashamed of my beat up, but newly painted one. The bigger truth is that I was always jealous of Nancy, who had everything I ever wanted.....thick brown ringlets, large dark eyes, straight A, attention from boys, picked first for the teams, and mostly a huge amount of confidence and self-importance.
When we were about 10 years old, we had seen a bicycle built for two. We used to sing at the top of our lungs as we rode our bikes, (here you can sing along too)..."Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.......on a bicycle built for two." So, I guess it was inevitable that we would use our imaginations.
One day, Nancy and I, in our never ending quest of determining "What shall we do today?" decided to build our own Bicycle-Built-for-Two. Since my bike had no fenders, we figured we could remove my front tire and remove her back fender, and place my front forked frame over her back tire. I got my Dad's tools, and between the two of us, we managed to loosen the bolts on my front tire and remove it, Then somehow we got her back fender off, placed my forked frame over her back tire and bolted it on. I can't imagine now how we did it, but, voila, we were quite resourceful in those days.
Well, we were satisfied, and in fact, proud of our accomplishment. All we had to do now was get on the bike and sing to the tops of our lungs, :Daisy, Daisy" while we sailed down the street. She hopped on her beautiful blue Schwinn, I hoped on my red racer, and we pushed off together.
O.K. the thing we had not foreseen, though, was that the forked prongs from my front wheel were not only attached to her back tire, but were directly connected to my steering apparatus----the handle bars. By slightly turning my handle bars for balance, I could flip Nancy off of her bike. Instead of the front person having control, which Nancy always insisted on, I could tip her over within seconds, which I did numerous times in our attempts at going more that 20 feet. I wonder now if I secretly took great pleasure in the few moments of control I had, before she adamantly insisted that we dismantle our wonderfully creative contraption, and give her back her gorgeous, better than mine, bicycle, so she could once again be in control. Oh, the adventures of youth and naivete, eh?
Nancy and I had many (mis)adventures on our bikes in our pedal pushers.
Sometimes I marvel that I lived to tell the tales.

Love to all.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Discouragement and a Brag

Silly me, I thought everyone should like tie dyed clothing for little people. In February, my friend ordered some newborn outfits for a baby shower she was giving, and according to her, everyone raved about them. So, I got a long distance call from Albuquerque, ordering some onesies newborn tie dyed outfits for another baby shower, but it had to be a rush order. I dyed them in Albuquerque colors, with a wonderful spiral for a little tiny baby boy, and overnighted it. Well, after three weeks on not hearing anything, nor receiving payment, I began to wonder what happened, but I sat patiently by. In a few more days I got a phone call from my friend in Albuquerque, apologizing for not sending the money, but it seems like the recipient didn't appreciate the tie dye, and said she probably wouldn't dress her baby in any of it, so could it be returned? Of course I was happy to have her send it back, which she did, promptly. So then I was left with some wounded pride, wondering whether I should give up.
Allison's friend Heather wanted matching Easter outfits for her three little ones, so she ordered 3 matching hoodies, which she wanted in "Hard Candy" colors. (See Peaceful Ones )
I didn't get the first batch bright enough, but the second try was Easter colorful. She was thrilled, and I started feeling better. So here's the brag. Check out Heather's blog for a photo of the finished products. Thanks, Heather. I needed the success.
Love to all.

Monday, April 6, 2009

More Poetry and a prayer

Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) was noted for his most famous Desiderata poem, which begins "Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons......" It's a lovely, long poem to inspire us to be the best human we can envision. He also wrote other poems, less well known, so I thought I'd add one here. Perhaps I love poetry so much because in a few short lines I can be reminded of who and how I want to be, and these uplift me so easily. Enjoy!

A Prayer

Let me do my work each day; and if the
darkened hours of despair
overcome me, may I not forget the strength
that comforted me
in the desolation of other times.

May I still remember the bright hours that
found me walking over

the silent hills of my childhood, or dreaming
on the margin of a quiet
river, when a light glowed within me, and
I promised my early God
to have courage amid the tempests of the
changing years.

Spare me from bitterness and from the
sharp passions of unguarded
moments. May I not forget that poverty
riches are of the spirit.
Though the world knows me not, may my
thoughts and actions be
such as shall keep me friendly with myself.

Lift up my eyes from the earth, and let me not
forget the uses of the
stars. Forbid that I should judge others lest
I condemn myself.
Let me not follow the clamor of the world,
but walk calmly in my path.

Give me a few friends who will love me for what
I am; and keep ever
burning before my vagrant steps the kindly
light of hope.

And though age and infirmity overtake me,

and I come not within
sight of the castle of my dreams, teach me

still to be thankful for
life, and for time's olden memories that are good

and sweet; and
may the evening's twilight find me gentle still.

Years ago, when I facilitated Artist's Way groups, we had an exercise where we would be silent, listening inward, and write our deepest, most heartfelt prayers. That was a very powerful process for everyone, and most would copy them onto lovely paper and frame them to be daily reminders.
I know in our busy world, we don't take time to really put into words our deepest wishes, but it is so worth the time, because putting words onto paper is a powerful affirmation.
During this holy week before Easter, perhaps it would be a wonderful thing to think about.
Maybe if I ever get courageous, I'll print my own prayers here one day. Until then, keep praying.
Love to all.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Birthdays and Death

This is a rambling post about nothing, so you have permission to skip it.
Yes, that is a weird title and this is a weird subject, but really, they are one and the same thing.....two sides of the same coin. The minute you're born, you begin the journey toward death. Your dying is inevitable, no one gets out of this life alive....and all the other cliches you know.
I've been thinking about this for several reasons, not the least of which is my own birthday approaching. The sudden death of Natasha Richardson in a freak skiing accident on a beginner's slope, from massive brain trauma, really struck me hard because one minute you're here, the next minute you're not. Josh spoke at his Grandmother's funeral yesterday, so we've had a week of reflection on a life well lived, and we remembered our own parents and their influence on us. This year John will be the age my father was when he died, and we've already had the heart pacemaker scare. In fact, I'm absolutely amazed that anyone lives beyond childhood, when I see how active little toddlers are, and how fast they can get away from you, even when you're watching closely. There are so many things that can go wrong before even one breath goes by, and my worrying mind can imagine any scenario to keep me awake at night. I never worry about my own survival---I only worry about my loved ones, which I realize is very selfish. I am the one who would suffer if anything happened to someone I love, because I would be the one left behind to try to make sense of this life, which mostly doesn't make sense to me. At my age (social security payments are starting), I'm still trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm growing older but not up, as the Jimmy Buffett song says. I have read every self-help book and philosophy, and yes, the religious books too. I know how to breathe right. I know how to meditate. I know how to stay in the present moment. I know how to keep my mind neutral or even quiet. I know how to teach, facilitate, support, lead, follow, regurgitate information, problem-solve, remember, reinvent, energize, relax, change, stay consistent, and every other polar opposite needed. I know how to BE, how to DO, how to HAVE. And I continue to wonder WHY, which is the only question that never has a satisfactory answer----the answer always is "BECAUSE." So, what's the point? I think my favorite Brian Andreas' Story People card says,
"There are things you do because they feel right &
they may make no sense & they may make no money &
it may be the real reason we are here; to love each other &
to eat each other's cooking & say it was good."
So where does all of this rambling end up? I think the point of the card is to appreciate the people in your life right this minute, because we don't know how long they're going to be with us. We don't have a guarantee at all that anyone is going to wake up tomorrow morning and finish the day. We cannot see the future and who will be there for us. We really only have this minute, and we don't know when we will be **POOF** gone in an instant, or when someone we love will be **POOF** gone, and we forgot to tell them thanks, or I love you, or even something as simple as I'm glad you're my friend...I'm glad you're in my life. So, in honor of my birthday, I want to say I LOVE YOU, THANKS FOR BEING IN MY LIFE, I LOVE YOUR COOKING, I LOVE YOUR BLOGS AND YOUR GIFTS AND TALENTS, I LOVE YOUR SMILES AND HUGS, I LOVE YOUR PHONE CALLS, I LOVE YOUR CHILDREN.
If you don't know that, then my life has no purpose.
Happy Birthday to me.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pure poetry

Anyone who knows me well, knows how much I love poetry. The interesting thing to me is that this is something I didn't inherit, didn't get by parental influence or even from peer pressure or friends. Poetry is uniquely me and mine. I do not know from where the love of it came, except from the core of my real self. I find it soothing, enlightening, uplifting and inspiring. I love the beauty of the words. I love the painting of a work of art through beautiful phrases. I collect poems like I collect rocks, or quotes. It must also be connected to my love of reading and books, and while I can recycle a good novel, or let it go, or loan it out, I don't seem to be able to let go of my poetry books. They're the only books I reread. So, in honor of my love of poetry, I'm printing a new discovery of an old poem.

by Rainier Maria Rilke
Translated by Robert Bly

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
and landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we fight is so small!
What struggles with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the angel, who appeared
to the wrestler in the Old Testament:
When the wrestler's sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel,
(who often simply declined the fight),
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.

Winning does not tempt that one.
This is how he grows: by being defeated,
decisively, by constantly greater beings.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Recession Decession Depression

A trip down memory lane, but they're not my memories. As the economy is in collapse, and no one really knows what's going to happen next, I've been pondering the lives of my parents. John was born in 1905, Ethel in 1910. Mom was 23 when they married, Dad was 28. During the big depression in the 30's, when no jobs were available, only one member of the household could hold a job. Mom had a great job at Beneficial Life Insurance Company, Dad drove a taxi and earned about $15.00 a month, so they drove to Grantsville to get married and didn't tell anyone, because one of them would have lost his/her job, most likely my mother, who earned a bit more than my dad. No one could afford housing, so Mom and Dad lived with my aunt and uncle, and they all shared the rent. Of course, my grandfather also ran the candy company, and the family had to help out there as well. My Aunt Ruth had been a sickly fragile child who had Rheumatic Fever, which left her with a weakened heart. She worked the candy counter at Keith O' Brien's downtown. My mom would leave Beneficial Life on her lunch hour to work the candy counter so my Aunt Ruth could have a lunch break. Everyone pulled together to help each other, because everyone was in the same economic crisis. They shared, they learned to make do, they learned how to save, how to decide priorities, what was important, and what their values needed to be to survive, to make sure their loved ones survived.
Here in America, I think we got used to excess, wealth and abundance, greed and corruption. Many of us have been wondering how long things could go on the way they were, and now we see some of the results of our misplaced priorities. We don't know how long things are going to go downhill, and we don't know what personal sacrifices we are going to have to make. Once again, we'll need to dig down and find our values, make decisions based on what is right and how we can help. We'll have the human tendency to cry "Foul", so see that life is not fair. But in the end, it all comes down to wanting our families to be safe and warm, with enough food to eat, and a roof over our heads. In the Great Depression, those things might even have been luxuries. This is the "Rainy Day" we've all been warned about. We don't know when the sun is coming out again, but we know it is there, overhead, even if we can't see it. We know that "This too shall pass". And maybe in the process we will remember compassion and kindness, and we'll remember what is truly important. Maybe we'll remember that people are more important than things.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

nothin' special

Forgive the lack of new blogging....I just don't seem to be inspired enough to think what I write is important. I do have a funny story, though, which is worth repeating. It made me laugh out loud.
Today Allison picked Jonas up from preschool, and he handed her a wonderful picture he had drawn and colored. A terrific drawing, appropriate for March and St. Patrick's Day, of a little man dressed in green, complete with whiskers, top hat, and black boots. When Allison saw it, she said, "Wow, Jonas, what a great leprechaun you drew!" Jonas replied, "It's not a leprechaun. It's a paleontologist."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chocolate Is My Life

I was nursed on chocolate. No, really! Chocolate runs in my blood and is just as important.
I think it is in my DNA.

You see, my mother was one of the last of a dying breed......a chocolate hand-dipper. I was raised in a chocolate factory, surrounded by rollicking, laughing, passionate, sometimes explosive, but always forgiving family.

When I was very tiny, my mom would take me to work with her. I would sleep in one of the chocolate boxes. As I grew, she took my pillow and blanket, and I slept between the deep shelves.

When I got a little older, all the dippers would give me fifty cents to run next door to the Royal CafĂ© to bring them fresh lime cokes “with lots of ice”.

I wandered to the potato chip factory in back where I could eat fresh, hot chips coming down the conveyor belt, then buy a bag to take home, or eat while I passed the time, waiting.

For good behavior, I was given a puddle of warm melted chocolate and some peanuts, where I could practice dipping nut clusters, much like other children make mud pies.

I washed my hands carefully to rub the husks off the roasted peanuts and hazelnuts. I learned to carefully wrap bright red or gold foil squares around the specialty chocolates. I was about 5 years old.

After I started school, I could no longer go to the candy factory with Mom. During the hectic holiday chocolate season, she would work until after my bedtime. I would beg whoever was babysitting to let me stay up and wait for Mom.

I would fall asleep in the couch, and I always knew when she came home; she would carefully drape her fur coat over me and I would be surrounded by the comforting smell of warm chocolate mingled with fur. I could smell chocolate on her hands and hair as she carried me off to bed. She later told me she had to put her hands under the pillow at night so she wouldn’t smell the chocolate on them, and could sleep.

So you see, chocolate is more than comfort food to me.Chocolate means nourishment, togetherness, security, nurturing, life force, laughter, fun, family tradition, well-being, health, energy, vitality, abundance,and memory.

The smell of chocolate puts me right back in that nostalgic place of childhood, where my world was safe, and I went home with my Mom wearing her fur coat, both of us smelling like chocolate.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Revisiting the Past

In 1972, John and I worked for a summer at Yellowstone Lake Hospital. He was an "extern", which was not quite an intern. I worked in the hospital office, registering, billing, filing. We arrived there over Memorial Day with our canoe on top of the car, our little raft and our hiking boots, and John's guitar in the backseat, excited for a new adventure. We drove a Volkswagen Squareback, which was like a mini-sized "station wagon" for a VW. While driving through the park, snow still covered the peaks and Yellowstone Lake was frozen over. Of course we put our canoe on the lake as soon as we arrived, because here is the interesting part.....The ice on the lake was really billions upon billions of icicles on top of the water loosely held together at the surface, so as we paddled, the bow of the canoe broke the surface of the icicles, and we left a small line of trail behind us. Each day as we looked out over the lake, as the sun began to warm it, the surface started showing more water. About the middle of June, with about half of the lake still showing ice, we witnessed the total and complete transformation from ice to water within just a few hours. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.
That summer was transformative in many ways. We went to church at Lake Lodge in the huge, beautiful wooden recreation room. Two young missionaries were assigned to hold services there, usually only one sacrament meeting, and the few employees who were members did the regular jobs. During the week we often had activities as a group, and one of the missionaries was a folksinger---small world. John had taught himself how to play the guitar when he was 14, and had sung with folksinging groups in high school, and arranged 4-part harmonies of folk songs for 18 months on his mission in France. The fun thing was, this Elder Van Wagoner had a whole series of songs we didn't know (imagine that!) by a songwriter named John Denver. It didn't take long for us to learn all the new songs Elder V sang, and around the campfires we could all add our harmonies. It was so exciting to bring home a new repertoire.
During that summer, we were supposed to meet Ginny and Al and their 3 little kids in Jackson Hole for a river trip in our little raft. Ginny took Mom along to tend the kids while we were on the river. The night before the river trip, after we set up camp and tents, John and Al thought they might take Mom on a little run of the river so she would feel included. Mom sat in the front of the raft, while Al sat in the rear. A small piece of information needed, is that Al was a great big man---over six feet tall, and large. When the raft went through King Rapids, the front of the raft sank into a hole, and when the back of the raft hit the hole, with the weight of Alvin being unbalanced in the front of the raft by little Mom, the raft flipped, sending Mom into the freezing cold water of the Snake River. Now, this might have been an adventure for some, but another vital piece of information is that Mother never learned to swim, and when she flipped out, she came up underneath the raft, which held her down and scared the gejeebers out of her. Another vital piece of information is that before coming to Jackson Hole, she had lost a lot of weight rapidly, and she was already in a compromised health condition which, of course, no one knew about.....she hadn't told anyone, nor had she seen a doctor. So, after fishing her out of the freezing river, she was gray and ashen, couldn't stop shaking, and we had her lie in the tent under all of the sleeping bags to get warm while we went to cook dinner.....which never happened, because Mom started coughing up blood, which necessitated a trip to the Jackson Hole Emergency Room, where they thought she was having a heart attack.....and so did we. Mom spent a week in intensive care, where she was diagnosed with "thyroid storm", which often mimics a heart attack, I guess. Turns out they had a terrific cardiologist in Jackson Hole who caught this in time to correct it. Well, Ginny and Al never got their river trip, John had to go back to the hospital to work, and I stayed in Jackson Hole by myself for two weeks sitting all day at the hospital by Mom's side. To say that it was traumatic for all of us would be an understatement. John was certain he had nearly killed his mother-in-law, Alvin felt responsible, Ginny did too, because it was her idea for the river trip. I remember when everyone left me alone, I went to every motel in town for a room and "there was no room in the inn." As I was passing the Jackson Hole Ward, I saw it was open, so I went inside, and there were older missionary sisters there. As I saw them, I burst into tears and blubbered the story about my mother and no place to stay. Well wouldn't you know it? Within 5 minutes they had found a place for me in a basement guest room of a lady who owned the Antler Motel. The motel was full, but she graciously invited me to stay with her. I wish I remembered her name, but I didn't pay her a cent. I think I gave her flowers when I left. Anyway, while I stayed with Mom, I did several crewel embroidery pictures, which hung on my Mom's walls until she died at age 90, nearly twenty years after her thyroid storm, and our collective terror.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Yogic Primer, Context and Content

Years ago, in one of those many personal growth seminars in the 80's, we were introduced to a concept of "Context" in an energetic sense. The idea is that context defines the boundaries around an idea, which sets the rules for the content allowed. It would be like the sides, top, and bottom of a box set the boundaries for what can go into the box, labeled for easy identification. So, the context would be the container. The context would be the "allowing" or the "limiting." In an energetic sense, it would mean that the intentions and objectives define the rules for how the game is played, whether in a business setting, a government institution, a family unit, or an individual growth program. Understanding the importance of setting clear intentions and objectives is paramount to improving situations. In the yoga sutras, or principles, the rules are laid out in the first two chapters, and in the third and fourth chapters, the benefits of following them are given, as in mystical promises and powers.
For example:
The five external disciplines are not harming, truthfulness, not stealing, morality, and not being acquisitive. These are the first 5 "commandments" in yoga, also known as the yamas. You can see how far from these principles we have drifted in America---or in the world even. Our many troubles in present time can be identified by the total disregard in one or more of these five precepts. Now, the promises given for keeping these principles in integrity are:
Being firmly grounded in nonviolence creates an atmosphere in which others can let go of their hostility.
For those grounded in truthfulness, every action and its consequences are imbued with truth.
For those who have no inclination to steal, the truly precious is at hand.
The chaste acquire vitality.
Freedom from wanting (clinging, attaching, needing) unlocks the real purpose of existence.

Now the next 5 commandments, known as the niyamas, state: The five internal disciplines are bodily purification, contentment, intense discipline, self-study, and dedication to the ideal of yoga, (also translated as the Ideal, or Lord, or God). There are promises to go with these observances as well:
Purification brings about clarity, happiness, concentration, mastery of the senses, and capacity for self-awareness.
Contentment brings unsurpassed joy.
Intense discipline burns up impurities, the body and its senses become supremely refined.
Self-study deepens communion with one's personal deity.
Through orientation toward the Ideal of Pure Awareness, one can achieve integration.

Why would I even blog about this esoteric stuff? Well, I'm watching the government and the economy play out the theme of CONTEXT. President Obama clearly stated his intentions to bring integrity back into government. In that clear objective, we are now seeing those who have slipped up in their integrity being brought into focus. To say that this is just the tip of the iceberg is an understatement. We are now seeing the massive extent of greed, arrogance, dishonestly, lack of integrity, and these things cannot be changed while they are hidden. The world is in a downward spiral in so many ways because individually and collectively, we haven't been vigilant in keeping the basic commandments of every religion on earth. The idea of "DO THE RIGHT THING" got lost somewhere, not for everyone, of course.....anyone reading this would be doing the right thing, I'm sure. But I am convinced that even making a commitment to do ONE (ANY one) thing and practicing it unequivocally, we would be changing the world. (Sing along...."What one man can do is dream.....what one man can do is love.....what one man can do is change the world and make it new again, do you see what one man can do?" John Denver)
When I was working on my yoga certification, we had to choose to practice the yamas and niyamas and observe the affects on our lives and selves. "They" say if you can do one thing for 90 days, you own it. Does anyone feel up to that challenge? 90 days takes us up to May Day. How about we all practice "contentment", or maybe just practice keeping our word--doing what we say we will do? Wow, what a different world we would be creating. The context of our lives would create such promise for the content to be different.
So now you get to comment. Was this way too heavy for you? What one practice do you want to undertake? Gratitude? Kindness? Compassion? Love? Forgiveness? Letting Go?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gorgeous and Glorious

Today is one of those spectacular days that only Mother Nature can arrange.....a foot of new white snow and dazzling clear blue skies. It's colder than ( you know what), but how can anyone complain with the sun blazing overhead making every bit of snow sparkle. It's exactly what's needed the end of January after two weeks of horrid black unfit air inversions and fog.
Yesterday was our cute neighbor's birthday. I found a birthday card which said, "The secret of a long and happy life was shared with me by a very wise old sage, and for your birthday, I'm going to tell you this secret." (Open the card) "Keep breathing as long as possible."
Now, that might sound humorous, or even simplistic, but it's also extremely important. When anything happens to us, we always, instinctively, hold our breath, right? So, in my yoga classes, or when I'm listening to stressed out people, I always say "exhale." Once at a meditation retreat we were asked, "Which is more important: the inhale or the exhale?" A lively discussion followed, but in the end, the exhale was more important, because you cannot take anything in if you're already full, and so letting the old out, including the toxins and carbon dioxide, is what begins the breathing cycle. Unless you've studied breath and breathing for a living, which I have done for the past 14 years, you might not know that the inhale energizes and the exhale relaxes you. The inhale warms you, the exhale cools you off. The inhale stimulates, the exhale balances. We need both the inhale and the exhale to keep ourselves healthy, whole, and balanced, and in our stressed out society, it's not hard to realize that our habit of holding our breath, individually and collectively, continues to create imbalances, the same as accumulating too much of anything without letting something go.
Here's to our coming year, which, whether we like it or not, is going to demand letting go of many useless, irrelevant stuff, collectively and individually. Things have been out of balance too long, so.......keep exhaling and be grateful when the sun is shining.
love to all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Historic Day

"Nothing is as powerful as an idea
whose time has come."
Victor Hugo, Author of Les Miserables

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's Official : The Invitation

It's Here!! We have officially been invited to the Inauguration of Barack Obama, and just in case you think it's a mistake, I even took a photo of the envelope addressed to John. Are we going? Do you know any hotel within 500 miles that might have accommodations?
This reminded me of another inauguration I went to: President Richard M. Nixon. I was the featured singer. Well, O.K., I was with 350 other featured singers; The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. And boy, was it ever c.c.c.c.colllldd. I think we sang on the steps of the Capitol Building, after Richard Nixon had been sworn in. The evening before the inauguration, I had my 15 minutes of fame, when the choir performed at Constitution Hall. Since I was the youngest and the shortest singer in the choir, I was placed in the front row center. After we finished the obligatory Battle Hymn of the Republic, Choir Director Richard P. Condie was so proud and beaming, he walked over to me, shook my hand, and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. This was before the days of digital cameras, so I'm sure there is no documentation.
You'll just have to take my word for it.