Saturday, February 27, 2010

Life in My World

The morning doves, robins, killdeer, and all the blackbirds are back. Calvin plowed the garden. The bulbs have sent up shoots. The chicken coop is at its most disgusting. The hens are laying again. We’ve had lots of rain. Welcome home Spring.

I’ve mentioned before that Calvin has a calling in the singles’ ward, so for the past three years we’ve attended church there instead of in a family ward. Because of the frequent move-ins and -outs in a singles’ ward, visiting teaching changes monthly and I have a new woman to visit. Our message last month and this month was about self-reliance/debt reduction so I took the makings for Miracle Bread and thought I’d teach her how to make it for our lesson. Her roommate answered the door and said she was gone for the day, so I asked her if she’d like to make bread and she said she’d be glad to learn (bless her heart). It was fun to visit with her—she’s witty, pretty, energetic, and independent. I’m so glad she humored me and let me in . . . and I do hope the loaf of bread turned out.

Calvin brings me home some of the best little surprises. Sometimes it’s a few stalks of asparagus he’s picked from the side of the road, sometimes it’s a candybar, sometimes it’s a free calculator, and sometimes it’s . . . an old Libby’s tomato juice can.

A few years ago my then eight-year-old niece Maddie said, “Aunt Jane do you know what I want to do when I grow up? I want to go to China. But since that’s not probably where I will end up I want a big house and then I’ll go to Chinatown. You know why? ‘Cause when we went there, there were lots of poor people on the street and I want to take them home to my big house so I can take care of them." I thought of Maddie's comment this week when I heard about these other acts of service. Inspiring. They are all so inspiring to me:

a. I was visiting with my niece, Jenny, on the phone and asked her what projects she was making. She told me of her friend who is expecting a baby in six weeks; the baby has severe complications and is not expected to live. My niece’s friend wanted to make a baby blanket for each of her other children so that they would have something tangible with which to remember the baby. My niece had been given fabric and batting some time ago so she offered to help her pregnant friend make blankets from the free supplies. One friend helped another, who helped another. Chain reaction services seldom end.

b. Barb wrote that her daughter Carmen requested that her family sponsor a child from Mozambique for her birthday gift.

c. I read in the Church News of a nine-year-old girl named Sarah who is sewing skirts for children in Haiti. Her grandmother taught her how to sew them and irons the fabric for her. Sarah has already made nineteen skirts. Her goal is thirty.

What a great week.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday Thinking—Fear, Faith, Faultfinding

I finally read The State of Fear by Michael Crichton. The book read like a movie, a movie someone forgot to edit. Though the setting was global warming—er, climate change—the premise was that panic created by media hype causes the masses to form opinions which may or may not be based on fact. I thought of “the state of fear” on the large scale, how political leaders through the ages have used it to promote their agendas and control people; but I also thought about it on the small scale, how I have allowed the state of fear to control some of my actions and decisions.

Walter Isaacson wrote in Einstein: His Life and Universe, “For some people, miracles serve as evidence of God’s existence. For Einstein it was the absence of miracles that reflected Divine Providence. ‘The fact that the cosmos is comprehensible, that it follows laws is worthy of awe. This is the defining quality of a God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists.’”

I loved this thought. Miracles work for me because I do not yet understand the laws (I dropped my Physics class the day I saw the feather and penny fall at the same speed), but the laws work for Einstein because he understands them. The beauty of it all is there is room for both our expressions of faith. Amen.

Last week Calvin and I went on a fun date. We thought we were just going to dinner, but when we arrived at the restaurant we saw a poster announcing that a live band would perform. We were seated at the table next to where the band was eating. They seemed like ordinary men. Their language was clean and their conversation, albeit much louder, was on topics as normal as ours. I would guess all of the band members were in their mid to late 60’s.

When they got stage ready, their appearance and personality changed somewhat. The drummer turned up the collar on his shirt, Elvis style and put on his sunglasses in the dimly lit room. The lead guitarist, who looked like he could have been Willie Nelson’s brother (complete with hair color and length which he loved to fiddle with) wore a sleeveless t-shirt with large armholes and virgin emblazoned across the front of it. He didn’t have many teeth and it was no wonder the way he banged his head back and forth. At one point Calvin shouted above the music, “He’s giving me a headache.” The second guitarist stood stiff as a board with a coon tail swinging from his guitar. Every now and then he’d make a lame joke. They were an odd crew and I had a hard time taking them seriously; their singing had some sharp twangs with some off notes.

The next day I woke up still critiquing the band. Soon this thought replaced my criticism, “Hey. And what makes you think you are qualified to evaluate their performance? Do you sing? Do you play? Do you even have an ear that’s in tune? Do you perform so that someone else can sit and listen . . . and tear your efforts apart? At least they had talent and used it for others enjoyment.”

And that shut me up.

I believe one of the downfalls of having competitive reality shows on TV like So You Think You Can Dance or American Idol is that it makes me think I’m a judge and can critique others’ performances. It’s my job to see their flaws. Rather than sitting and enjoying, or not enjoying, I’m free to rip the performers apart. I know better—“put up or shut up.” I’m going to do better about not finding fault in people's performances. . . or start singing in public.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Homemaking Tip--Arts Cow

When uploading these photos, they lost clarity, so you'll have to trust me that the products were clear and looked good. Pal is wearing his pocket watch that has a picture of him in his Union hat on the face of it. That’s it. That’s today’s tip. My goodness, I have enjoyed this user-friendly site and their products. I’ve ordered a deck of cards for Calvin, Ray, and Abe, two watches (a pocket watch and a money clip watch), a purse mirror for Ande, and make-up bags for Cali, Grace and Ande. I’ve been pleased with each item. Not all of the items are necessarily a high quality, but they are relatively inexpensive and commensurate with the price. It’s the novelty that makes them such a fun gift.

Arts Cow has a special going on cards right now and I plan to take advantage of it by making a few card-deck scrapbooks. I’ll upload the pictures and order the card decks. After they come in the mail, I’ll punch a hole in the corner of the personalized decks, attach a d-ring, and embellish the ring with ribbon and fiber. (I did a few mini-cookbooks this way and liked them.) I’m planning to make a few more Old Maid decks too, but this time I will add pictures of ancestors as well as living family members.

I have only ordered one photo book from Arts Cow. I was moderately pleased with it, and for the price will do more, but I’ve been really happy with the other items.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I am the least qualified person I know to write a post on shoes. Cali, Grace, Ande—any one of them could post on footwear. They know the secret of finishing an outfit with a pair of shoes. Whether it’s red, burnt orange, bright yellow, zebra, floral or black heels or rhinestone sandals, their feet look beautiful—especially when their little painted toes peek out. When I see what a cute pair of shoes can do to an outfit my feet send an instant message to my brain, “Don’t even think about it. I won’t carry you one more foot if you do.” So I don’t have a cute new pair of shoes to share with you today, but thanks to Cali I do have a shoe story:

Last spring we were at Abe’s graduation banquet. I wore flat shoes, of course. Cali, Grace, Ande, and my sister, Rachel, were in stylish heels, of course. First we walked across the long, beautiful plain, then we stood and visited outside of Washington Hall for several minutes, finally we marched into the banquet hall to the band playing in the loft. The hundred and fifty year old building had no air conditioning and the air was warm and charged with enthusiasm. Everyone was in full-dress uniform or evening gowns and we stood talking to each other as everyone found their assigned tables. In short, the evening was festive and fine . . . and warm . . . and long-standing.

When we finally sat down to eat, Cali quietly took off her shoes. For two hours while we toasted, prayed, visited, ate, and listened to speeches of generals and dignitaries, Cali’s feet rested . . . and swelled in the heat. After the banquet, her feet would not go back in her shoes. It was the Cinderella step-sisters with the glass slipper scenario. No way, no how were her feet going back in those cute heels. So, Cali did the thing any good nurse would do and calmed the swelling. She stuck each foot in a pitcher of ice water from our dinner tables. She looked so cute sitting with her feet propped in two silver pitchers. We were the last ones to leave the banquet—it took that long for her feet to shrink to normal. It was the first time I’ve ever gotten to stay to the end of such an event.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Memories--Chris' Suppers

“You know you’re a Chadwick if lunch is dinner and dinner is supper” is one of the lines in a family scrapbook. And how we could tell if new kids that moved into our school were town kids or country kids was what they called the evening meal. (Yes, you're so right. Nellie Olsen would have correctly snarled, "Coun-try girl" when she met me.)

When you have seven girls in a family, you’re bound to get some specialists. My sister Chris was the cook. We all liked it when she fixed supper because she cooked with flair. She wore an apron, or at least tucked a dishtowel in the waistband of her levis. Chris went beyond cookies and brownies; she made jelly rolls and layered cakes. She fixed individualized salads (which also meant twelve extra plates for the dish washer) instead of a mega-salad in the center of the table. She used the Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls and made Raggedy Ann salads from peach halves, or just invented salads like graham crackers with applesauce and whipped cream.

But my favorite thing Chris would cook when it was just us little kids for supper was . . . Leftovers. She would shoo us out of the kitchen, tuck in her dishtowel, and pull everything out of the fridge. She artfully arranged each plate. One plate might have spaghetti, while another one had meat, potatoes and gravy; a third plate might have a hot dog and potato chips, and the fourth a bowl of chicken noodle soup. Sometimes if we were lucky, a bowl of cereal was one of the meals. No matter what was on the plate, each one looked appetizing by the time Chris was done with it. Chris set the table with the different plates of food and covered each plate with another plate or bowl so that we couldn't see what they were.

We had a dinner bell that hung on the edge of the cupboard and that is how everyone was called for meals. But before we could sit at the table on Leftover night, we had to draw a number. The numbers determined which plate we ate and where we sat.

As I recall, Chris wouldn't let us switch plates once we uncovered our dish. We had to eat the plate we drew, even if weiners made us throw up. But it was worth the gamble, it was almost as daring as B-I-N-G-O. I used this same idea with our kids and they liked it as much as I did (Calvin not so much).

I appreciate Chris. She has fed me well through the years . . .

Sunday, February 21, 2010

52 Blessings—Prayer

picture courtesy of Google images

Prayers, like folded arms or clasped hands, sometimes intertwine. I got a sweet and sincere letter yesterday thanking me for being an answer to prayer. What the young man doesn’t know is that his letter carried an answer to my prayer. I am grateful for prayer.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Life in My World--Kid Ketch-up

I asked each of the kids to send me a picture that I could post. They hadn’t taken many pictures recently and so this post doesn’t include all of the kids. Please use your imagination and fill in the ones that are on the other ends of the cameras:


Ray taught Cali to snowboard this winter and she got the bruises to prove she learned.

Last weekend Calvin and I went to Seattle to help Ray and Cali with a few projects. They have spent all fall remodeling their home (painting, tiling, restoring wood floors, building a new bar, adding crown molding, etc.) and were ready to take on the project of tearing out the existing, but inefficient, shelves in their food storage room. Ray demolished them, Calvin helped, Cali and I stacked the wood and then we replaced the shelving and organized the room.

The room has so many Ray and Cali characteristics. It is organized, colorful, and thorough. Cali and I had just about finished putting everything on the shelves when she said, “This bugs me. All the baking supplies need to be together not separate.” And so we reorganized and restacked and put the baking powder, corn syrup, soda, sugar, flour, brown sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla, corn starch, sweetened condensed milk, marshmallows (oh, the marshmallows and when I teased her about the number of bags she said, “What can I say? I like rice krispie treats”), evaporated milk, yeast, cake and brownie mixes, and non-stick cooking spray all together. I just love Cali’s sense of order, though when she was a child and skewed socks sent her into mini-meltdowns I wasn’t sure I would ever appreciate it. However, I sure do now.

Calvin and Ray also finished a couple of other projects like putting together their dining room set. If we heard “The women might not find us handsome, but they sure find us handy” once, we heard it a dozen times.

Ray travels extensively with his job, while Cali is tethered to Seattle with hers. So once in awhile when Ray is gone for a long time, Cali will come over for a few days between her shifts. Or, if Ray is working on this side of the state and it is between Cali’s shifts, they’ll come over for a few days. It’s always fun to have them. They are a fun couple to be with and to do things with.


Abe and Grace moved from Fort Knox to Colorado this week. Abe finished his BOLC III training and is preparing to deploy next month. When he deploys Grace will move home to Washington and live with Calvin and me. Though we dread Abe and Grace being apart, we are excited to have Grace here with us, and are very grateful that Abe has been trained well to do his assignments.

While driving from Kentucky to Colorado, Abe and Grace took a detour and went to stay with my sister, Rachel, and her family in Oklahoma for a few days. Abe loves board games and there were plenty of cousins to play with him. The kids took Abe and Grace on a hike around their property and Abe said, “I’m kind of jealous those kids have a place like that to explore.” With ponds, creeks, hills, trees, it is a kid’s paradise.

Long before Cali and Abe were married, I told our kids that they ought to take a week-long internship at the Ellsworth’s before they had a family. Abe and Grace agreed after they’d been there. They really enjoyed their time with the Ellsworth family.

Now Abe and Grace are at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, the same town where Ty is. Last year when choosing assignments, Abe chose to post in CS so that he could be close to Ty. Due to college and missions they’ve been apart for six years and, though Abe will deploy soon and Ty will be nearly finished with the Academy when Abe returns, they are glad to have any time and are spending as much as they can together. Today the three of them are going to Brian Regan. They’ve already been out to eat a couple of times since Abe and Grace arrived on Tuesday. Abe and Grace said they enjoyed Kentucky but are glad to be in Colorado. We’re excited to go down and see them in the next month or so.


Ty invited my nephew, Cache Ellsworth, to participate in the shadow-a-cadet program at the academy a few weeks ago. He invited him to come while President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was there spending a couple of days with the cadets. Ty and Cache both agreed it was an incredible experience and were grateful to be a part.

Ty joined the LDS Cadet Choir. Though that sentence is only six words long, it speaks volumes for Ty does not care much for music, nor sing well (the choir director told him it was okay to mouth the notes if he couldn’t hit them). However, what Ty does not have in musical talent he makes up for in perseverance. The choir sang at a meeting with President Uchtdorf and he told them, “You look so good.” They laughed at his choice of words.

The choir spent last weekend in Utah performing at a veteran’s facility, the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, and at a fireside. Ty said one of the best parts was seeing the veterans tap their feet and sing along with them at the veteran’s facility. After they sang, the cadets visited with the veterans. Ty spoke with one who couldn’t remember his name or when or where he served, but was so happy to have company. Another veteran he visited with was a chorus girl in Singing in the Rain and he supposed a nurse during the war. Ty said she, too, was so grateful they came. Ty was humbled by their humilty. What Ty might not have in choral talent, he has in making people feel important and good about themselves.

Cali, Ty, and Ande have spent the past week in a flurry of giving/receiving advice. Yesterday when I heard this story about Einstein, it reminded me of their recent interaction: Einstein loved his sister Elsa dearly, who had some of his physical characteristics—nose and wild, silver hair. Elsa loved him equally. Elsa was a strict vegetarian, but loved hotdogs. Einstein kindly convinced her hot dogs were made of vegetables so that she could continue eating them. We miss Ty and look forward to seeing him next month, too.


Ande decided a few months ago that she needed to branch out. One of her plans was to expose herself to new vegetables. She started with eggplant and artichokes, something she’d never before eaten. After seeing her gnaw on an artichoke spine someone suggested she cook it.

Ande also attempted cross-country skiing for the first time a few weeks ago and found it enjoyable. She does not like to be cold, nor does she like to paddle a canoe. Cross country skiing is cold and like paddling a canoe with your legs, but the combination worked for Ande.

I think one of her greatest accomplishments this month was getting her apartment manager to cooperate with her. Ande’s apartment was without internet, heat or hot water for eight days while the temperatures were sub zero. After trying repeatedly to get the issue resolved, Ande finally explained to the office manager that she needed a refund for the days those services were not available. She wasn’t passive. She wasn’t aggressive. She was assertive. Soon her apartment had heat and hot water, and when she was informed that she would indeed receive the requested refund, Ande got one for all of her roommates, too.

Ande spent last weekend with a friend in Boise, Idaho. Because Ande’s car has nearly 300,000 miles, Calvin told her she had to drive the long route that is speckled with cities in case she broke down. She borrowed a GPS and then not only made it to Boise, but made it back without incident. She had a wonderful time . . . and tried new vegetables. Long live the old blue car . . . and vegetables.

Ande is busy trying to figure out summer employment, a fall class schedule that will allow her to graduate in December, and a budget to include “grown-up things like a car.” She sees an end in sight and is excited. We're proud of her. She's a funny one and I love to hear her laugh on the phone. It will be fun to have her and Grace home for the summer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits

Tidbit One.

I was trying to tell the Dan Jansen Olympian story to Ray and Cali this past weekend. The only tidbit I accurately remembered was that he had a sister named Jane that had cancer. I completely slaughtered the story. Completely. Imagine my gladness when I saw this today and could recapture the truth.

Tidbit Two.

Einstein felt badly about his scientific research aiding the building of the atomic bomb. He spent the last decade of his life in politics trying to minimize future destruction. He warned that without heavy sanctions there would be bigger and more disastrous wars. Someone asked him what he foresaw the third world war looking like and he said, “I don’t know, but I know what the fourth world war will look like. They will be using rocks.”

And if that isn't enough of a thinker tidbit for you, get this: The man that created the Nobel Peace Prize, Alfred Nobel, invented dynamite and always felt badly for the destruction it caused. Some think that is why he created the Peace Prize.

Tidbit Three.


A couple of days ago I read a magazine with homemaking tips in it from the ‘50’s. (Now, you must know I really enjoy homemaking tips. In fact, when Abe was about to be born, we were at a routine doctor’s appointment when the doctor sent us straight to the hospital. We first stopped at a drug store to get a toothbrush, fingernail clippers (our babies always came with a fine crop of fingernails ready to scratch their little faces), and . . . a book of household tips for me to read during labor. Yes, yes, I have since learned that few people buy themselves a book of homemaking tips for a time such as that.) But back to the magazine with old homemaking tips . . . I thought these were especially funny tidbits:

How to Master your Mister . . .

Just feed him delicious brown patties made by combining left-over sausage meat, mashed potatoes or chicken salad with plain pancake batter. Sit back to bask in his praises, but not too long . . . he’ll want more.

Do not buy until you try . . . It’s then too late to question why.

When buying that home, tap ceiling with a broom stick. If the plaster falls, look for another house. You don’t want it.

Slap the walls and stamp on the floor. Does the house shake? It won’t stand many storms if it does.

How to Subtract and still get Added results.

Take advantage of your pilot light by putting small pots over them. They warm little things very thoroughly, and since you pay $3.00 a year for that light, use it.

If any of you are expecting to go into labor soon, just let me know . . . I’d be glad to share my book with you.

One Last Tidbit.


Cali came over for a dental appointment and we have had a great time with her. She ran errands with me today, which included picking up the picture and frame I told you about yesterday. Cali also went jogging with me. Puff. Puff. Puff. She said she wondered if she might have to resuscitate me once or twice and though I don’t think she wanted to use her valuable air on my lungs, it was nice to know she could have.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Memories—Happy President’s Day


Calvin, Ande and I had this conversation a few years ago at our supper table:

Me: Do you know how many things I’ve discovered I have in common with George Washington?

Ande: Oh Geeeezzzzzz!

Calvin: Oh dear. Be careful what you say Ande. She will remember it.

Me: No, I’m serious. Come on you guys, guess. (Pregnant pause.)

Me: I found I have four things in common with him. See if you can guess them.

Ande: You pray in the middle of the woods?

Me: Oh, I didn’t think of that. Okay . . . make that five things I have in common with him.

Ande: You secretly want to soak your teeth in wine?

Calvin: What? I didn’t know he did that.

Me: No. No. No. Try again.

Ande: You can’t tell a lie?

Me: Nope, but I wish that was one.

Ande: You love your country?

Me: Yes. That’s one of them. Now keep guessing.

Ande: You can make the most out of a dollar bill?

Me: Oh my goodness! I have more in common with him than I realized.

Ande: Hmmmm. I don’t know, Mom. What is it you think you have in common with him?

Calvin: (Standing up to leave the table) Oh boy. I can see it’s time for me to go.

Me: Ah, come on Calvin, see if you can guess at least one before you have to leave.

Calvin: Nope. Abraham Lincoln last week, George Washington this week. Who knows who it will be next week?

Me: (obviously not deterred) Okay, then I’ll just tell you guys. Number 1: He married someone who had been previously married with two children.

Ande: (Raising her eyebrows.) Number 2?

Me: He was 43 when he took command of the Continental Army, and I’m 43.

Ande: And what troops are you leading?

Me: No . . . no . . . I’m 43, I just identify with being 43 that’s all. I cannot imagine being in charge of all the troops at 43.

Ande: Mom, now you’re stretching it. What’s number 3?

Me: (Timidly, because they clearly aren’t agreeing that I have much in common with the very uncommon George Washington, and I am feeling presumptuous). Well, we both feel a connection to West Point.

And that ended that conversation, I didn't dare go for four.


So as to include Abraham Lincoln in this President’s Day post . . .

I had just finished Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin last spring when we attended Abe's graduation at West Point. When we saw this picture at the PX, I started telling Calvin all about it. "This is the only time that Lincoln didn't ask for his cabinet's advice before he made a weighty decision. At this signing Lincoln said, 'Men, this is how it will be' and then asked for their support." I pointed out the different men in the picture and what their relationship with Lincoln was like, and some of their personality idiosyncrasies.

Calvin: You really like him, don't you.

Me: Yup.

We walked around looking at other pictures on display and then Calvin whispered to Abe and Grace to sidetrack me in the uniform section while he secretly bought the picture for me.

It stayed in the mailing tube under our bed waiting for a frame . . . someday. Ty made me a beautiful one for Christmas, so this week Calvin and I took it and the frame to get it matted.

After the owner took the measurements and made the suggestions he said, “Nice frame. Nice wood.”

Nodding towards Calvin who was wandering around the store looking at the art, “Did he make it?”

Me: No. Well, some. Our son made it and Calvin helped him when he needed it.

Mat-man: That’s good wood.

Calvin: (Joining the conversation) Yeah, I know. It’s one of my gun stocks.

Mat-man: (Stroking the wood) You can’t buy wood like this anymore. Your son has some nice tools. That wood is hard to work on—it chips, cracks, splits. He does good work.

And then the man gave us a price estimate of what a frame like that would cost and well . . . it won’t be resting under the bed.

What do you have in common with George Washington?
Have you got any Abe Lincoln mementos (besides pennies) in your home?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Homemaking Tip— “I claim there ain't another saint as great as Valentine.” ~Ogden Nash

A year or two ago Barb sent me a vintage Valentine. I’ve used it as a bookmark ever since and it makes me happy every time I see it. The other day I was putting together the kids’ Valentines so that I could get them in the mail, and thought of my Valentine bookmark. I decided to make one for each of them.

First I googled vintage Valentine images, then printed the images on white paper. Next I cut them out and mounted them on card stock, covered them with clear contact paper, and punched a hole in the top for a ribbon.

I wrote something that I appreciated about them on the back so that every time they open their book they’ll know they’re loved and someone thinks they are important. Simple. Quick. Affordable. With heart.

Here are a few of my favorite images:

What does your bookmark look like? (One of my other bookmarks is the corner of a peanut M&M wrapper.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Timely Tuesday

Our school newspapers always had a “Seen and Heard” section. Our community newspaper had one, too. Call it the tabloid section in a paper of hard journalism reporting high school basketball scores, editorials, and new rules instituted in the lunch room.

Today I “seen and heard” a wide variety of things, things I just don’t see and hear every day:

  • A middle aged couple walking down the sidewalk holding hands.

  • A streaker. He was standing outside in the cold with nothing on but his shoes, socks, and a smile. (I haven’t seen one of these since the ‘70’s.)

  • A box of Legacy Chocolates on our kitchen counter.

  • An 84 year old woman affectionately call her 85 year old husband, “Babe.”

  • A high school senior say, “I haven’t been to Denny’s since you came and busted me for skipping (four years ago).”

  • A caller asking me to consider that the 9-1-1 attacks were a government conspiracy.

  • "Happy Valentine’s Day! I know it’s early, but the chocolates are fresh today and they might not be so fresh by Valentine’s Day.”

What did you see and hear today?
Up next week: Tuesday Tidbits

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Memories—Like a Horse and Carriage

My sister, Rachel, wrote about her and Bert’s engagement on their blog this weekend, and it reminded me . . .

Calvin, a couple of mutual friends, and I took a Theatre and Cinematic Arts class together one semester at BYU. One of our assignments was to see On Golden Pond with Henry and Jane Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. On February 9th Calvin and I went to see it and then returned to my apartment afterwards. We were visiting in the kitchen when out of the blue, and off the topic, he asked if he could see my Bible. I retrieved it and he turned to Genesis 2:18 and had me read: “It is not good for man to be alone.” He told me to always remember that. It was as random then as it is in this paragraph.

A little later Calvin told me he needed to get something out of his pick-up and left the apartment. He was gone for a long time and his hands were cold when he came back in, but I didn’t think much of it until he asked me if I wanted to go down to his pick-up to get something with him. I said, “No. You just went down to get it, remember?”

He said, “Oh. That’s right.”

I continued to chatter and carry a conversation with a very quiet Calvin. I always resented when A.K. chanted “Jane Chatterbox” on the playground in third grade instead of Jane Chadwick, but that night I deserved it.

When there was finally a lull in the one-sided banter, Calvin asked if maybe I’d just like to go outside with him since I didn’t want to go down to the pick-up. I told him it was nice and warm where we were, but we could go outside if he really wanted to. He did. We did.

We stood just outside our door near the railing of our second story apartment. I huddled between my arms to stay warm and Calvin just stood there. We stared straight ahead. If he’d have had a pitchfork and we’d have had a white farm house behind us I have no doubt we could have been stand ins:


Except we were smiling. And my teeth were chattering.

Finally after a long time Calvin said, “It’s a loooong way down to the ground from here.”

I said, “Oh no, it really isn’t. It makes Brother Millet (our landlord) mad if we land in the flowerbeds, but sometimes when we’re late for class we just hop over the rail and jump to the ground.”

Calvin said, “Oh.”

Long pause.

Calvin said, “It looks like all the leaves have fallen off the tree.”

Now that was an odd statement, almost as odd as “it’s not good for man to be alone.” It was February 9th for goodness sake and trees should be bare. But, when I looked at the tree, to my surprise, there were still a few leaves curled and clinging. It was only appropriate I point that out. “No. Look. There are still some left.”

Calvin said, “Oh.”

Another long pause.

He continued with a wave of his hand, “But they are all falling down.”

“Yes. Yes. I guess they do fall . . . d.o.w.n.” I agreed.

Yet another long pause. Though the snow was falling and looked beautiful in the lamplight, it was getting rather cold and the conversation wasn’t stimulating enough to keep me warm. I hinted we go back inside. Calvin tried to revive the conversation, “The snow is sure getting deep.”

I’m not certain, but I think I countered that it indeed it was starting to accumulate but that it really couldn’t be considered deep yet, but that maybe it would be by tomorrow morning.

Calvin responded, “But it sure is getting deep out there,” and pointed to the edge of our apartment complex lawn. And then I saw it. Finally. Written in the snow were the words, “Will you marry me?”

This time I didn’t argue. Not one bit. But gentleman that he is, Calvin still gave me the last word.

When did you get engaged? Did you see it coming?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

52 Blessings—Here Comes the Sun

February 7, 2010 sunrise

I just expect the sun to rise every morning. A given. It’s another one of those blessings, like air and water, which I often overlook. Sometimes the sunrise is brilliant, sometimes it just slowly does its job of coming up and warming the earth—either way it rises day in and day out regardless of my appreciation, or lack of. I appreciate that the sun is steady.

I’m grateful for the sun’s warmth and light, too. I appreciate that it provides light, even at night when it is supposed to be sleeping, through the moon’s and stars’ reflections. I am grateful for the new days with new opportunities that it provides. And rainbows. No sun, no rainbows.

Is there a blessing you really are grateful for that you often take for granted?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Life in My World—With an Unexpected Emphasis on Food

~I just hung up the phone with a very cheerful woman who sounded about my age. She excitedly said, “What time would you like us to come over?”

I figured Calvin had forgotten to tell me he’d invited people over for supper. And, what with a fridge full of leftover chili and split pea soup, what better way to get rid of it than on someone else? So I only hesitated for a split second and said, “Well . . . what time did Calvin tell you to come?”

She said, “Kevin? Who is Kevin?”

And then I paused for four seconds wondering myself who Kevin was.

She continued, “Oh dear. I don’t think you’re the right number” and then she laughed loud and said, “But thanks for the invitation!”

I was THIS close to cleaning out my fridge.

~Cali and Ray came over yesterday. Ray had work in the area so Cali came and spent the day. We had a great day; I love it when she comes to visit. We didn’t do one thing but eat and visit. We had plans. We always have plans. But instead, we went to lunch then went to get a Blizzard. I had a gift certificate and Cali had a buy-one-get-one-free DQ coupon. It was only wise we include using them in our plans. Cali was amazed I have never had a blizzard before. Ever. Frankly, I was amazed. And what a great introduction to Blizzards it was. I had chocolate covered strawberry.

Then we came home and visited about all kinds of things—Abraham, what books we’ve been listening to or reading, expectations, goals, realizations. All kinds of things.

Ray and Calvin came home after their days of work and after supper we played a few rounds of dominoes. It was a great day. I only wish I’d have taken a picture.

~We replaced the wheat in our food storage this week. I bought some weevil-questionable wheat a few years ago thinking I could cure it. Nope. I couldn’t. It’s no loss, we’re using it as chicken feed (and my guess weevil wheat is a nice change of menu from plain wheat), but it felt good to get our storage wheat replaced nonetheless.

~Calvin has come home with a couple of bags of new pens, planners, notepads, etc. from the potato and grape conferences just like last year. But this year someone handed out these potato chips, too. They looked right colorful on the plate next to the bacon and tomato sandwiches.

Thursday Thinking—Published on Friday

I’ve been noticing talents lately and how much better my life is for people using theirs. I’ve thought about it while reading books, listening to music, and while interacting with creative people. I’ve thought about it while listening to others share their experiences. Frankly, I’ve thought about it a lot because it is everywhere. It is invigorating.

It seems easy to recognize others’ talents and a bit harder to recognize our own. I’m not sure why we hesitate to recognize things we are good at. Well, that’s not true. Yes, I do. I think we often hesitate to say we’re good at things because we don’t want to be a braggart. NOBODY likes a braggart, and . . . well . . . we people generally liked to be liked. However, true humility forces us recognize our talents and gifts so that we can be grateful for them and acknowledge where they came from. To never admit to or recognize our talents would classify us as ingrates. Are not braggarts and ingrates first cousins? And like a braggart, NOBODY likes an ingrate. It’s a fine line identifying those talents, it is.

A few years ago my friend Deb and I took a “Scrapbook in a Day” class from Stacy Julian. Stacy explained how to organize our pictures and execute our plan so that we could have a complete scrapbook, using 200 pictures, finished in a short amount of time. I chose to do my childhood and, following her suggestion, looked through my pictures and discovered there were four different categories that the pictures fell into. There were pictures of me, pictures of my family, pictures of friends, and pictures of events. Based on those pictures I categorized them into these topics:

All by Myself
People I Loved
People I Played With
Things I was Good At

“Things I Was Good At”—pictures of talents that could be captured with a camera. This scrapbook project made me brave the realms of braggart and ingrate and identify some talents. Talents like:

Music: Whenever teachers asked me what my talent was I could always say I played the piano. Though I was the church organist for several years while I was a teenager, I don’t think anyone’s imagination would stretch far enough to say that I was good at it. However, it was an acceptable talent when I needed one in a pinch.

Sports: I found I was athletic—much to my relief. I wanted to be good at sports and so it was a bonus that I was coordinated enough to play them.

Academics: I was not exceptionally smart, but I was an obedient and conscientious student which made up for my lack of natural ability.

Homemaking Skills: I learned to cook and clean by sheer necessity and though I learned sewing in 4-H, I never became adept at it. However, even without sewing skills, I knew how to make a home feel good. I was responsible for a lot of the duties in our home during my high school years because mom was not functioning. I learned how to have supper ready, the house tidy, and music playing quietly in the background to help make people happy. I learned that popping popcorn or baking a pan of brownies helped smooth over a lot of things.

But the talents that couldn’t be captured with a camera have been no less serviceable to me. In fact, they have been very rewarding.

Probably the talent that brought me the most happiness and peace was a desire to be good. I liked going to church. I liked reading the scriptures and saying my prayers. I liked jogging and walking. I liked family night. I liked giving service (though I didn’t particularly care for babysitting the _____ family, they were a contentious passel of kids; however, I did like the feeling when it was over.)

I also liked older people. My best youthful talents were probably used there. I spent a lot of time listening to older people reminiscing. Though my mind often wandered, I learned that if I gave them eye contact and asked questions they felt important. I practiced most on Emma Henstock. She broke her leg when I was twelve and I was asked to stay and care for her. I fixed supper, baked cookies, did her laundry, and cleaned her house. But the most important thing I did was keep her company. Until I graduated from high school, I would often spend nights with her to keep her company while she was convalescing through different illnesses and surgeries . . . and loneliness. Through her, I gained an appreciation for Lawrence Welk and licorice nibs.

Talents. Where would we be without them? In a sniveling black hole of ingrates and braggarts, that’s where. Do tell. Do tell. What talents did you develop as a child and what talents do you appreciate now?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday Tell-All

What is your favorite part of being a parent?


I love the teaching aspect. I love that it goes both ways. At first I thought I was the teacher, however after hearing Cali repeat my not-so-wise-words to her doll one morning I quickly realized who was really teaching whom. Being a parent gives you a hearty dose of being both a student and a teacher.

I also love the part of seeing a new and improved version of yourself. As I watch our kids reach and exceed mine and Calvin’s abilities there is such a sense of wonderment in seeing them achieve and knowing we were able to assist in the process. I do believe it feels better than achieving ourselves.

I also enjoy the camaraderie of being a co-parent—there is real satisfaction in having something so big and wonderful in common with Calvin as our kids.

A new thing I have just discovered and enjoy about being a parent is the spouses of our children—new family members that have 20 or 30 + years of experiences and ideas to share and teach. It’s a huge bonus of parenting—a two for one deal of the best kind.

And one last favorite thing I love about being a parent is being so unconditionally loved. Whether it is Ande telling me I am angelic, Abe hugging me tightly and with a choked voice telling me how much he appreciates me, Ty sending a daily e-mail with buongiorno princepessa in the subject line, Ray checking up on me, Cali telling me frequently that she enjoys my company, Grace asking advice for things she knows better than I, or Trevor calling to talk to “The Neighbor” . . . it is a grand gift to be loved so freely.

And there you have my favorite part of being a parent in one neat little bundle, Ande. Thanks for asking. (Up next week: Timely Tuesday)

Readers, what’s your favorite part of parenting?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Memories--“Life is the Only Game in Which the Object of the Game is to Learn the Rules”

Each day our high school math teacher would show us how to work a new problem, give us a fresh assignment, and then sit at his desk and play solitaire the rest of the class period while the students muddled their way through the lesson. Thank heavens I sat amongst friends who were both patient and a step ahead of me in math.

Abe couldn’t get anybody to play Monopoly with him one Saturday. He sat the board up and hoped, but nobody would play. After awhile I heard things like, “Are you sure you want to make that move? You’re going to regret it” and “You’re going down.” I turned to look and he was playing himself. That game kept him entertained for a couple of hours. Surprise. Surprise. He won.

One night, just a few years ago, we were playing Hearts. I dumped the queen on Cali one hand. Oh, it did torque her. She said, “But you’re the mom.” I explained that we were temporarily competitors, not kith and kin. She was not persuaded, “But, you’re always the mom.” She was quiet the rest of the game.

The next night we played again and Cali dumped the queen on me in an early hand. She said, “There. That feels better. All day long I would get mad about you not protecting me last night, and then I’d think, ‘Save it for the ring, Cali. Save it for the ring.’”

The rule of that game was clear: once a mom, always a mom, queen or no queen, heart or no heart. A rule I'd do well not to forget.