Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Good-Bye and A Hallelujah

  This has been an introspective week, or even month.  My very dear friend, whose blog link appears here, "lost" her mother this week.  (Lost is such a strange term in the situation of passing on or transitioning, isn't it?)  Kathy's mother was the same era as my mother; they were less than 3 1/2 years apart, with my mother being born in the fall of 1910, and Kathy's mother in 1914.  My mother has been gone for a decade now, and the emotions still catch me off guard.  I must say, losing one's mother is something that one never gets over, no matter what the relationship was.
   So today during the funeral services, I was feeling especially tender and vulnerable.  It was a lovely and poignant memorial, with the family sharing the tributes, providing the music, and making everyone appreciate being there.  Kathy had the honor and privilege of caring for her mother in her home for the past several months, and I was touched and inspired by the loving way Kathy surrendered all her own needs to unselfishly and beautifully serve her 96 year old mother.  She was an example of service and love, and I was keenly aware that I could not have done what she did.  As I listened to all the speakers, I was treated to an understanding of why Kathy has so many talents and interests, as well as outright gifts.  She was the third and last daughter, and in that position in the family, she got to witness and learn from all of the others, and she has been a stellar student.  I must say, Kathy is one of the most exceptionally interesting, unique, and talented women I know.  I could see where she got her love of poetry and writing, of performing, her musical talents, and her amazing way with people.   It has been said that life can only be understood by looking backwards, but it must be lived forward, the message in "It's a Wonderful Life."  We all need the reminder sometimes of how amazing life is, how much we need each other, how we are all connected, how our lives intertwine and affect everyone around us.  I must say, there was such love in evidence at the funeral, and maybe that's the real gift in them.  I have had three funerals this month, all close friends and relatives, and I guess I'm pondering my own mortality.  Since we never know from one moment to the next, we need to pay attention to the present and make it count.
    Well, after being nostalgic and wistful, I came home to a forwarded email from a mutual friend of mine and Kathy's.  Dear Mary Ann sent this, and as I watched it, I came totally unglued and melted on the spot.   You may not know that I sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as did Kathy's mother, that singing is a passion for us; Kathy and I first met in the U of U a cappella choir.  Kathy went on to become a local opera star.   I went the folk singing route with my husband, and then remained in the local choirs. 
  In this holiday season, there is only one piece of music that speaks straight to my heart.  The Hallelujah Chorus, celebrating the birth of Christ, might also be thought to herald the birth of a human into the next abode;  the leaving here is a birth elsewhere, with much rejoicing and embracing.   Who knows?  I'd like to think it.
What a gift.   Thank you, Mary Ann and Kathy, and all of you,  for the reminders of love, friendship and connectedness we all share.
Enjoy  each moment.  And tell a family member and a friend how much they mean to you.
(I hope I tell my own loved ones enough times that they KNOW it to be true.) xoxo
The Holidays are upon us.  Let's use them wisely.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The FAMOUS Grandma English Thanksgiving Jello Salad

John's mother, Mary Jim, was not known for her cooking.  Rather, she was  famous for always serving Kentucky Fried Chicken dinners every gathering, except for Thanksgiving.  When it was her turn to cook, she was THE BEST.  Her turkeys were the moistest (is that a real word?), her stuffing was "over the moon", to use Allison's words, and everyone loved the Cranberry Jello Salad.   She had to make two of them, beautifully molded and set, because we all took seconds and thirds, and it was better than dessert.  I'll bet Kathy's family has a written recipe, but somehow I never wrote it down, probably because I thought Grandma English would always  be around to make it.   So, this year I googled recipes, and found a pretty good facsimile.   If anyone in the English Family has the "real" recipe, please let me know.
Here are the (approximate) ingredients.  They change, depending on what's in the cupboard or refrigerator.
Raspberry Jello, large box
can crushed pineapple, small, undrained
can of cranberry sauce, either whole berry or jellied.
1/2 - 1 cup each of chopped cranberries and walnuts, with optional apples and/or celery.
Use only two cups boiling water.  The rest of the liquid comes from the pineapple and cranberry sauce.
Dissolve the jello, add the cranberry sauce until mixed, stir in the rest of the ingredients. Set.
If you like topping, once the jello is set up, you can add the following:
Whip together 1 c. sour cream, 1 pkg, cream cheese, 1 c. sugar.
Dissolve small box of lemon jello with 1 c. boiling water.
Whip the cream mix with the jello mix.
Spread on top of the cranberry jello salad.
Or, whip cream, add sugar and vanilla.   Or any combination of the above.
Set up.
Be grateful for family traditions while they last.  
Happy Thanksgiving, with gratitude, to my family.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Poetry, a Passion

I have a new Kindle, which I won as the grand prize at a raffle.  It's a mixed blessing, because in truth, I LOVE the printed page, I LOVE to hold a book, I love paper and ink.   In trying to figure out how to put it to good use, I realized it would make a fabulous reference tool, so I've been downloading poetry books.   One fabulous find was a book called Saved By a Poem, the transformative power of words, by Kim Rosen.   It's a powerful book, highly recommended, and makes the case for memorizing poetry and sharing it.
    I probably did not know it until the past few years, but I have always been passionate about poetry.   It feeds my soul, untangles my mind, reminds me of what is important, and describes things in words that I could never identify in my heart.   Because I was always an elementary school teacher, I spent most of my poetry years in nursery rhymes, fairy tales, folk tales, and fiction.   But along the way, I collected children's poetry books, (Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Arnold Lobel, Jean Little). Hidden in the volumes were gems of the classics, which eventually led me to the "grown-up" poets.   My favorites are Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye, Antonio Machado, and oh, so many more.   But one poet spans the ages and the decades:   Judith Viorst, author extraordinaire of both children's and adult poetry, and her newest book of the decade is Unexpectedly Eighty, following her other classics, I'm Too Young to be Seventy, Suddenly Sixty, Forever Fifty, How Did I Get to Be Forty, It's Hard to be Hip Over Thirty, When Did I Stop Being Twenty, and ...ta da...If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries.   She has led the way for me through her poetry, and made growing older a bit easier to face.   She perfectly captures life in all it's shades, twists, turns, ups and downs, and in the lastest, she has put down what I feel about being a grandmother.  (Except I'm not quite as clear and mature, which is all right, since I'm only in my sixties,  meaning I'll still push vegetables and have them pick up a few toys). It's classic:

Among My Grandchildren

While I may point out, from time to time, that cheating at Pick-Up-Sticks
Deprives them of that inner satisfaction they can only achieve by playing fair and square,
And while, from time to time, I may deliver a little lecture
On not hurting people's feelings and changing their underpants,
And while I would never hesitate to prohibit the waterboarding of younger brothers,
Or discourage discussion of farting during meals,
I've decided that, for the most part, it is not my responsibility
To improve my grandchildren's character
Or their hygiene.

Nor am I going to urge them to eat their vegetables.
Or tell them they need to look people straight in the eye,
Or remind them to pick up their toys and use a tissue not their sleeve and stop interrupting.
And though I hope they'll be taught
To be modest, responsible, generous, patient, and help set the table,
That isn't my job.

For I have chosen to be a three-desserts grandmother,
A yes-you-can-watch-another-video grandmother,
A why-don't-we-just-forget-your-bath-tonight grandmother,
A clap-and-cheer-and-shower-praise-on-them grandmother,
A grandmother who seditiously whispers in her grandchild's ear,
Don't tell your mom I let you do this--she'll kill me.
A grandmother who insists that it is the duty of the older generations
To improve and instruct the younger generations,
Except--except when I'm among my grandchildren.

And just for fun, I'm adding one more, because it makes me laugh.

E-Mail Is A Wonderful Way to Stay In Touch With the Children

They used to never write and never phone.
These days they also never e-mail back.
No matter how adorable my tone,
Each you've-got-mail is viewed as an attack.
My queries: "Do you hydrate?"
And reminders: "Careless brushing leads to plaque."
Though all well meant, are viewed as an attack.

In order to provide them with a batch
Of articles I feel compelled to share,
I often, when I e-mail, click "attach."
But do they ever download? Not a prayer.
E. coli--where it's hiding.
Mortgage frauds--the latest victims.
And the theft of your identity--beware!
These must be read, but are they? Not a prayer.

My need to guide my children is intense,
But frankly they don't seem to give a d---.
Indeed, they've mobilized a strong defense--
They're sending all my e-mails straight to spam.
I'm trying to alert them
To the risks of daily living,
And to every epidemic, threat, and scam.
But I think they've turned their mother into spam.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Traveler's Return

The journeyers returned in the nick of time.   Less than five minutes after packing up the car, the heavens opened up, rain and hail fell, the temperature plummeted and the wind blew like crazy.  The weather for the trip was spectacular, as you can see from the photos of the happy camper....Champ, whose name was appropriate.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

John's Solo Adventures

As you may know, John is a nature addict.  Anything near water, mountains, meadows, or gardens qualifies as a "fix".   After the pacemaker implant two years ago, I've been reluctant to let him venture out on his own, especially since each year, his heart rhythm goes into atrial fib without him knowing it, and he can go for months until the semi-annual check-up shows he's been out of whack for months.   This week he had planned to go on Tuesday to the Uintah's, until he found out on Monday he needed another cardioversion, scheduled for Wednesday.   Well, after dutifully following the doctor's orders to stay quiet for 24 hours, we got up yesterday, drove to Grand View Trail head, past Defa's Dude Ranch,

where he and his little buddy companion,  Champ, took off for a 3 day solo backpack and fishing expedition through Grandaddy, Fish Hatchery, and Margo Lakes.  (Is it really a solo if the dog goes along?)

I'll be picking him up at Mirror Lake, hopefully in fine form, filled with fish and fun.  This will take care of his addiction for two weeks, until Lake Powell, then two weeks later to Zion's for Canyoneering.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Annual photos of the Garden

John is re-roofing the old shed, and when I was standing on it, I had to take a picture of the garden.  It looked so artistic as well as delicious.   This is one of our better gardening years, except that it was several weeks late due to the cold and rainy spring.
 The lower left center above shows the new zucchini variety we're's huge with gigantic elephant-ear sized leaves, but the zucchini is not; it's crispy and serrated.  The corn was planted after the spinach was gone, so it's grown really fast in the heat.  And the beans are plentiful.

And I have to put a few of my flower pictures in, too.   The daylilies are gorgeous.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thank you to Sarah and Emily

Sometimes it's difficult having family living so far away.  I feel I miss so much.  Sarah has been great at keeping us up to date with her cell phone camera, but I like to see their little faces every day.   Thank you, Sarah, for arranging this cute photo montage for me to hang on the wall.  And thanks to Emily for putting it all together and hand delivering it.   We love it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Been Too Long

We received a new T-shirt for John.  Thanks, Jonathon.   It's so much fun and the slogan on the tag was a hit at a dinner party we went to.   It made our day.
The funniest line is "The older I get, the better I was."   Ain't it the truth?
Here is the real live model of the shirt.
And the (now World Famous) Westminster Community Chorale had our Spring Concert.  Here are our pre-concert photos.
Dad is so happy because he memorized all the songs.
Yes, that is John in a tie and sport coat.   (Borrowed from Josh, thank you.)
We had to wear black and white and blue.   Our director/conductor teaches at BYU.
I am so happy because I never have to sing any of the songs again.  
Except that after two weeks, they're still rattling around in the ole noggin.   I've been trying to clear my brain by singing "It's a Small World afterall".  That oughta do it.

Love to all

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Celebrating Poetry

April is poetry month, and I'm reading through my collection again.   Here is a beautiful sentiment,  by  W. B. Yeats, which is love and tender romance.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)
"He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven"
from The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Remembering the Olden Days

Today is my birthday.  Usually I wouldn't announce it, but someone sent me a timely reminder of what life was like when I was growing up.   It's an email that's been around a few times, and I'm sure everyone has seen it, but for someone like me who is the first round Baby Boomer generation after WW  II, it was nostalgic to read again.  And it's so true.  Yes, times have changed, people have changed, the nature of the world has changed and that is reality in action.  Everything changes.   Except one thing:   I love my family and friends, and am grateful to be alive.   Happy Birthday to me.  Another year older.   I don't want to go back and live it all over again.

No matter what our kids and the new generation think about us,
To Those of  Us  Born 
1930 - 1979   
     1930's, 40's, 50's,
   60's and 70's!! 
  First, we survived being born to mothers who 
took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, 
tuna from a can
And didn't get tested for diabetes 
while they were pregnant.
Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our
Tummies in baby cribs covered  with bright colored lead-based paints.
(Marie's note:  Maybe this explains something.)
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and 
when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps
Not helmets on our heads.
As infants and children, we would ride in cars 
with no car seats
no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.
Riding in the back of a pick- up truck 
on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose 
and not from a bottle. 
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this.
We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren't overweight..   WHY? 
Because we were always outside playing......
that's why! 
We would leave home in the morning
and play all day,
As long as we were back 
when the streetlights came on...
No one was able to reach us all day. 
And, we were OKAY.
We would spend hours building our go-carts 
out of scraps
And then ride them down the hill,   
only to find out we forgot the brakes.
After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. 
We did not have Play stations, Nintendo's and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's,
No surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms, no facebook or twitter.
WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!  
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. 
We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping pong paddles, or just a bare hand and no one would call child services to report abuse.
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, 
and the worms did not live in us forever.
We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games
With sticks and tennis balls and,
although we were told  it would happen, 
we did not put out very many eyes..
We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house 
and knocked on the door or rang the bell, 
or just walked in and talked to them.  Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team.
Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine That.  

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!  
These generations have produced some of the best risk takers, problem solvers and inventors ever.
 We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all..
If YOU are one of them, CONGRATULATIONS!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to
Grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated
So much of our lives for our own good.
While you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know
How brave and lucky their parents were.
Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it ?