Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Homemaking Tip – A Tip, Sort of

Some Wednesdays I feel very presumptuous to think I have a tip worth your time to read; but then I remember the good tips I’ve gotten over the internet through the years and I feel obliged to reciprocate – just in case.  It’s a conundrum to be sure.

For instance, one tip I read in a book years ago warned that storing “stuff” was a luxury few could afford, what with it costing approximately $80-$125 per square foot to build a new home and about $100 per square foot to add on to a home.  The author suggested we consider three things when deciding whether or not to keep an item:

1.  Would I crawl through a spider infested hole to retrieve this item? 
2.  Would I move the item to another location?

3.   Do I love this item?  Do I have another one of this item that is better?  Have I used this item in the past year?  Does this item have sentimental value to me?  Is there someone I love who would love this item more than I do?  Does this item make my life better?  Can I picture a time or place when I might need this item?  Would I even remember I had this item or know where to find this item if I ever needed it? 

If your answers are “no” to the above questions, it’s a dead-giveaway.  Literally.  The item goes out the door.  Deciding what to toss may be painful at first, but you will find yourself feeling better and better as you rid yourself of unnecessary clutter.


A couple of days ago Calvin and I had this conversation and I thought of those very useful sorting tips:

Calvin said, “Do you ever get overwhelmed?”

I laughed, and because I wasn’t facing him, I asked, “Are you teasing?”

He said, “No, I’m serious.”

I said, “You’re the first person to know I get overwhelmed.  You watch me dig deeper and warn me when it’s time to stop.”

He said, “I’m overwhelmed.”  He paused for a bit and continued, “My shop overwhelms me.”

Truth be told, his shop overwhelms me.  A creative genius doesn’t necessarily come with the tidy gene.  There have been several projects come out of that shop that have left their trace.

Calvin said, “I still have boxes from Idaho I haven’t unpacked.”

I asked, “What’s in them?  Do you even remember?”


I helpfully suggested, “Then don’t open them.  Don’t look.  Just get rid of them.  Thirteen years of not needing it means it’s not a necessity and it can’t be that important.” 

But then we both remembered one important thing that is down in the bottom of one of those boxes.  Abe’s leather chaps.  Calvin bought them for him when Abe was only three or four years old.  In order to find those little chaps one of us has to go through the boxes.  The logical choice would be me, but I don’t want to be the logical choice because of thirteen years of spiders and mice nests.  But to send Calvin looking through those boxes is completely illogical because he might close them up again and save them for later.

Restoring logic, I suggested, “How about we rent a big dumpster.  Remember when we rented that one before we moved to Washington to help you sort through the stuff in your shop?” 

A big dumpster is great incentive and helps you from feeling overwhelmed because it’s just waiting to be filled with your stuff. 

I continued, “I’ll help you find the chaps and then we’ll dump the rest.  And while we’re at it, we’re dumping stuff from the lean to.  It does not make sense the lawnmower sits in the weather while old buckets and broken shovels are protected from the snow.” 

I can hardly wait for that dumpster to get here.  I inherited the tidy gene, not the incredible-with-your-hands gene and I need that shop back in working order, because I’d really, really, really like Calvin to attempt making a grandfather clock.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Technology Tuesday

I have a very good life and I recognize it.  I don't live in a cave.  I don't subsist on scraps found in a dumpster.  I have several pairs of comfortable shoes.  I have a thermostat that I set on warm, warm, warm.  I'm a wife.  I'm a mother.  I'm a grandmother.  I'm a sister.  I'm a friend.  I can read.  I can write.  I have a job.  Calvin has a job.  I can add and subtract.  I can walk and smile and talk at the same time.  I have oranges in the summer and strawberries in the winter.  I can communicate instantly.  I have faith in God and a religion that helps me to make covenants with God.  I even have my Christmas card picture taken already.  Yes, I have a very good life.

Notwithstanding all the good I have in life I worry sometimes.  Mostly about others, sometimes about world events.  But worry is worry and it can pock a perfectly good day.  And that is why I have watched this video more than once and will still watch it again.  It reminds me to see things in an eternal perspective and to have faith, because faith is what makes life good.

And then I watch this video, too, because well . . . because it makes me smile.  And I think about all the practice that went into this and how this song is now permanently stuck in a lot of 5th graders' heads, and this song is a perfectly good song to have stuck in your head because it reminds you that the Lord God om ni po tent reign eth for ev er and ev er hal le lu jah, and faith in that puts things in perspective.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Memories – It’s Only a Memory Now

Thanksgiving 2011 has come and gone and I’m only two pounds the heavier for it.

Calvin smoked the turkey this year.  I turned around to see him with this turkey
net on his head and he said, "There's not going to be any hair in our turkey
this year."

I love this old idea.  I made little bags of it for class the day before Thanksgiving as well as to send home with
the leftovers after Thanksgiving dinner. 

I also loved this new pinterest idea.  They were not only cute, they were easy.  I used them as cupcake toppers.
I wasn't the only one using the idea.  I had to go to a couple of stores to find fudge-striped cookies.

New to the menu this year was sweet potato biscuits.  Ande was in charge of them as well as the beautiful pies.  Instead of mashed potatoes and gravy (smoked turkey doesn't make very good gravy) we had twice baked potatoes -- half of the potato skin was filled with whipped white potatoes and the other half was filled with whipped sweet potatoes.       

We had Thanksgiving at Ray and Cali's home this year.  They are wonderful hosts and their home is
comfortable and inviting.  During the traditional toast, Ray said Levin was the blessing he was
most grateful for this year.  Cali toasted "Life" and I do believe there was a Fiddler on the Roof lilt
to it as we repeated her and clinked our glasses.

Ande and Joe had friends with no family in the area and lucky for us, they joined us.  It was such a fun day visiting and meeting new people.  As we discussed current events (and the current suit against Microsoft) we talked about our first experience with the internet.  It was fun hearing everyone's stories with it.  Adam's experience was when his mother showed him from their home computer all the books that were available at the public library.  He thought, "Whoa.  This is big.  This is really big."
Little did we now then what life after google would be.

Joe and Taylor.  

Cali and Levin came home with us the day after Thanksgiving.
Calvin immediately claimed Levin as lawn help.

It was so fun to play patty cake with those plump little legs.  Levin squealed and laughed.  He learned how to
suck air and make a talking noise at the same time this weekend.  He was quite pleased with himself.
It sounded like a little boy blowing in and out on a harmonica all weekend.

Cali had originally planned to attend a scrapbook/sewing retreat the two days after
Thanksgiving, but when it was cancelled we decided to have a mini-retreat
here at our house instead.  She made some darling baby gifts.  I'm sure she'll post
them soon, so I won't steal her thunder.  Her personality is a perfect fit for sewing.
She's precise, calculated, and doesn't mind taking the time to do it right.

Calvin's birthday fell on Sunday this year.  I made chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches for him to share with his
Sunday school class.  They sang happy birthday to him and then each one told him why they appreciated him.
Their responses were sweet and sincere.  Some included:  you tell the best stories and always have a story for each principle, you are excited about the things you teach and you know a lot about them too, you make us feel
important and good about ourselves.  Ty and Michelle painted him a piece of paper in camoflauge colors with
things they appreciate about him written on crayon on the back.  Abe and Grace also wrote telling him what they appreciate about him.  One of Abe's reasons was, "You’ve always been a great disciplinarian.  You taught me how to be responsible and take accountability.  You taught me how to behave and not embarrass myself in public.  You did all this without ever coming across as preachy, and you did it without ever being too soft.  Thanks for teaching me how to be a good dad."

It was a great weekend and the perfect ending for the season of gratitude.

A few other perks that also added sweetness to the week were:

meeting my nephew and niece's triplets ( in three babies born all at once)
supper with a former student and friend (I ran into him at Walmart and he joined us a few nights later)
Calvin's birthday dinner in Cle Elum courtesy of Ray
seeing our kids so competent and capable (it is very satisfying seeing them as new and improved versions of us)
. . . that I made it to the bottom of the ironing basket.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

52 Blessings – Thanksgiving

Some of the things that I love about Thanksgiving are:

The colors – red, orange, green, gold

The smell – woodstoves, cinnamon, sage, nutmeg, roasting turkey, baking bread

The taste – pumpkin pie, potatoes (sweet and brown) and stuffing

The feel – like love floats through the air at Christmas, gratitude floats through the air at Thanksgiving

The pilgrims – a little set of pilgrims and a stone from Plymouth Rock sits on our shelf all year long. A copy of the Mayflower compact hangs in one of our bedrooms. I leave them up year round because they’re not decoration, those pilgrims are part of us. Several years ago I learned that we are descendants of John Howland who came on the Mayflower as a servant. One night as the Mayflower sailed, the “winds were so fierce and the seas so high . . . a lusty young man called John Howland was . . . thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards . . . .” John Howland precariously hung on until the crew could rescue him with a boat hook. Once the pilgrims landed and settled many died. Someone said they made seven times more graves than huts that first year. John Howland’s master, as well as his master’s wife, died. Since they had no children, it’s believed that John Howland inherited their estate. A little later John Howland married Elizabeth Tilley and they were the parents of ten children.

Why Abraham Lincoln instituted it. – In1863 we were in the middle of a bloody war and though there was much to be discouraged about, Abraham Lincoln said that America needed to be grateful. She needed to be grateful that no other nations took advantage of her weakened state while she was fighting internally. He said America’s prosperity was a “gracious gift of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” He said it was fitting and proper for the American people to solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledge that.

What do you love about Thanksgiving?

Life in My World – Shake, Rattle & Roll


Washington had a 4.6 earthquake Friday morning at 5:09 a.m. I was sitting on the couch when it hit. I thought, “My, that is one strong gust of wind to rattle everything so much. Even the goblets are rattling. I wonder how that happened.” And then everything was quiet, I supposed the wind blew itself to the next field. I didn’t realize the wind was really an earthquake until several hours later.

The only other time I have felt an earthquake was when I was sitting at a friend’s dining room table. Her light started swinging and the things on her hutch started rattling. My thought then was, “Hey, she’s got a run-a-way washing machine that shakes things in her house, too.”

Obviously I am not familiar with the shakes of the earth. But next time I’ll be ready to call it what it is because if it’s not the wind and it’s not the washing machine what else rattles things if not those?


Deb, Darla, and Anita
  • A few of us met to scrapbook on Saturday. I worked on a few Christmas projects. I wish I could show you pictures of them because by the time I’ve given them away you don’t need ideas, and these were cute. It was fun to visit with everybody.
  • I finished the book Hallelujah, the Coming Forth of Messiah this week. I am glad to have learned more about the creation of this masterpiece. I knew it didn’t have the acclaim then that it has now, but I didn’t know that Handel mostly performed it for charity then. I really, really liked that part of the story and that much of the proceeds went to free people from debtor’s prison, or a local children’s hospital and orphanage. (I also didn’t know that women wanted to be taller than men back in the 1700’s so they wore fruit in their hair to make the pile look higher.)  Another good thing about the book is that the music runs through your head while you read it:  think a children's talking book, but your head is the record.
  • Interest rates are so low it was worth the effort and money to refinance.  I love how a lower interest rate and the stroke of a pen can chop off years of payments.  This week as we signed papers we were talking about interest rates. I remember when home loans were 12%. The woman we were talking to said the first loan she negotiated (as a banker) was 19%. I was trying to guess the year that loan must have been made. She thought for a minute and said, “Carter. It was while Carter was still president.” We determined it must have been in 1979. I remember when President Carter asked us all to wear sweaters at home and turn our thermostats down to 67 degrees to preserve oil during the 70's oil crisis. When I asked my mom why we didn’t turn our thermostat down (ours was always set at 72 degrees) she said we used coal so we didn’t count. (I must have wearied my mother with questions. Today when I think of some of her answers . . . well, like I said, I must have asked too many questions.  Any guesses as to how she answered which color of blanket the nurses knew to put new babies in?  "Ask your dad."  Guess who got laughed at by the other nine at the supper table?)


Here is a picture of the pie I rolled out in a very unprofessional photo shoot at the fire station.  
It's such a pretty pie, not even the photo props of a public restroom paper towel and dirty 
leaves from the parking lot can mar its beauty.

Our ward harvest dinner was this week. Calvin grilled the salmon for it. (Actually, I saw how much butter the men cooked the salmon in, and I think it would be safe to say that they used the grill to heat the butter in which they then boiled the salmon. Do you have any idea how moist and delicious butter-boiled salmon is?  It is very, very good.  Only men who don’t worry about cellulite and thigh size, and Paula Deen would dare use that much butter to cook.  I love daring cooks.)

The other great thing about the dinner was all the homemade pies. If the church ever held a cook-off, there is a very good chance our ward would win. We have many incredible cooks. There were a couple dozen homemade pies, they were pretty and it was hard to choose.

I made a caramel apple pie.  I don’t remember whose sight I found the recipe on, I’m sorry, but it is worth copying.  If I copied it from you, please let me know and I'll name it in your honor and send my fellow copiers to your site.

Apple Pie

1½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup shortening
4-5 Tbsp ice water

¼ cup sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
5 cups peeled and thinly sliced apples
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup flour
½ cup oats
½ cup butter

Topping on Top of the Topping
½ cup melted caramel (or Mrs. Richardson’s caramel sauce for ice cream)
½ cup chopped nuts (almonds or pecans)

To make pie crust, mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening until well mixed. Add water and mix well. Roll dough out on floured board and put in pie pan.

Peel apples. Add sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Pour into pie crust.

Mix topping ingredients and spread on the top of the apple filling.

Bake pie at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-45 minutes until crust is nicely browned and filling bubbly.

Drizzle melted caramel on top of pie and sprinkle with nuts.

What shook, rattled, or rolled in your week?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday Thinking – Black Holes

Hmmmmmm.  I remember when I entered the black hole of the blog universe.  While it has expanded and contracted, it has been a big time investment and I'm still wandering around in it . . . and still enjoying and justifying it.  I haven't joined Facebook or Pinterest because I feared they would be even deeper black holes of time expenditure and I might never resurface.  I've also wondered how in the world I could ever reciprocate meaningful correspondence on a Facebook scale.  (Wasn't it The Tipping Point that suggested that most of us only have the capacity to balance about twenty meaningful relationships at a time?  Do you think that is true?) I struggle keeping up with correspondence as it is, Facebook correspondence seems too massive for my skills to successfully navigate.

But, I'm wondering if my thinking needs revisited.  For example, while I greatly admire the Amish for trying to diminish worldly influence in their lives, I'd rather try to live humbly with electricity than humbly without it.  Am I trying to live without electricity by not having Facebook and Pinterest?

What are your thoughts on the matter?  I'd love to hear your pros and cons . . . and how many meaningful relationships you can successfully juggle at a time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homemaking Tip – Spare

Today at 1:44 p.m. the first snow of the year fell. On the way home from town an hour later I came upon a wreck. I wasn’t the first car, I wasn’t the second. I wasn’t even the third or fourth. In fact, I hesitated to stop because I didn’t want to make the scene more dangerous, but then I recognized the kids in the wreck and thought, “They won’t know anyone else. I need to stop because I know them. I just have to hope that I won’t add to the chaos.” I was glad I stopped. The kids were more than happy to have a familiar face and a blanket. They waited in the car with me for a few hours while everything was cleared.

That’s the tip for today: always keep a blanket in your trunk that you don’t mind losing giving. Surprisingly, we’ve come upon several wrecks and have lost donated blankets to them. The first one or two blankets had value, but now the ones in our trunk just have warmth. And while I didn’t give a blanket away today, I was sure glad I had one to keep the kids warm while we waited.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday – I’m Lucky

My luck of dying from parts falling off an airplane is 1 in 10,000,000. My luck of having my identity stolen is 200-1. My luck of a meteor landing on my house is 182,138,880,000,000 to 1. So far luck would have none of me in these situations. I’m lucky.

However . . .

The other day I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store and talked to Ty on the phone for 67 minutes. He called to ask me my opinion on a few things and that can make for a lengthy conversation. It never occurred to me once in that hour that my lights were on, until I tried to start the car to go home and the battery was dead. As luck would have it, the parking spot across from me opened up just a few minutes later.

As double luck would have it, my friend Viki walked out of the grocery store and had jumper cables in her truck.

Last week we had our Relief Society Super Saturday. Beings as I’m a grandma I need finger puppets – animals and nativity ones.

Lindsay, Remina, Melode, Sidney, Heather

As luck would have it, I got to visit with these women while I made them (for me, crafting in Relief Society is all about the visiting. Busy fingers make for wagging tongues [and that is meant in a most complimentary way], and a lot of life can be learned with a glue gun in your hand at a R.S. craft table). As double luck would have it, Heather wasn’t doing anything and helped me glue my puppets together.

As luck would have it, I got an e-mail from my World War II friend George this morning. He closed the letter with, “Hope things are well with you and yours these days - these are tough days for our country - but we will never lose hope, never cease to serve when needed. God Bless, George”   It felt good to know that there are two of us worrying about the tough days ahead, and to be reminded to serve, and have it capped it off with  “God bless.”

Ty and Michelle called to say what Baby Payne is.  As luck would have it, I guessed wrong.  But can you make a wrong guess when it doesn't matter to you what the baby's gender is?  Not really.  I'm so lucky to have a family to love.

Luck - Blessed. Tomato - Tomata.

Where’s your luck this week?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Eleven on Eleven of Eleven of 'Eleven

Ray, Cali, Levin - The day Ray has been waiting for.

Jane - Happy Veteran's Day.  Calvin and I delivered All-American Apple pie dumplings to
three veterans (WW II, Korean, and Vietnam) and thanked them for their service.  

Ty - Unfortunately our odometer didn't hit 111111 or anything like that today.  Just normal pictures. 
Michelle took us to get hot chocolate at Dunkin Donuts tonight and then Michelle wanted to show
off her pregnant belly in maternity clothes! 

Michelle - A friend of Michelle's in the ward lent her
tons of maternity clothes so Michelle no longer has to go
around with pants unbuttoned and t-shirts. 

Calvin - Good food . . . good friends . . . good day. 

Grace - Playing dress-up and saying
Happy Veterans’ Day to Calvin,
Ty, Ryan, and her wonderful husband, Abe.

Abe - Working on a blog post that is finally up for people to read…and the blog is now public again.

Ande - These are one of Ande's favorites, summer rolls.  I'm not sure if she has grown a perennial love for them,
or if she just likes them a lot and they remind her of our honeymoon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday Thinking – Let the Choice Follow

It’s a law of heaven that every choice has a consequence, just like every stick has two ends, and you can’t pick up a choice without picking up the consequence assigned to it too.  It’s a good law – a fair law, a law that makes sense – but it’s also a law that everyone tries to outsmart at one time or another.  It doesn’t matter that it is to no avail, we still try to pick up some bad choices and hope the consequences at the other end of the stick magically won’t follow, or at least change for the good in mid-air. 

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about.  I’ve been thinking how it is a whole lot easier for me to shop for the consequences I want and let them automatically narrow my choices.  Sometimes choice-shopping makes me positively dizzy, what with all the glare thrown by some of the sparkly choices, but consequences are no nonsense – you either want them or you don’t. (You know.  Like the old saying that the road to hell is paved with gold.  Who in their right mind picks hell as their consequence of choice?)

If I had a guitar, and an ear for music, and a pretty voice, I think I’d write a song about “choose the consequence and let the choice follow.”    

What have you been thinking about?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Homemaking Tip – Just a Little Thing

Once I saw myself quoted in a magazine. Me, quoted in a magazine. A former student said he had made a decision based on something I had said. Whoosh. Knock me over with a feather.  I never knew. He is a good young man and I am not surprised that he has accomplished good things; I was just surprised to hear that something I said made a difference when it needed to.

The day after I read my quote, I read this: “We all worry about our performance. We all wish we could do better. But unfortunately we do not realize, we do not often see the results that come of what we do . . . You may never know how much good you accomplish. ” (Gordon B. Hinckley) Still a bit stunned that something I had casually mentioned was quote worthy, I thought of three people who had made a difference to me. I wonder if they had any clue.

Mr. Wilson. I doubt Mr. Wilson thought he was anything out of the ordinary. He was a normal high school history and government teacher. He had a lock of curly hair that stood up at the crown of his head. He wore striped baby-blue and white pants. He kept both hands on his hips when he lectured. He blinked fast. He converted me to history and government.

Until that time, history was a grind and I showed my ignorance by thinking, “Why does history matter? It’s over. Done. The future is what we should study.” I didn’t realize we could see the future mirrored in the past, but Mr. Wilson did. He told us fascinating events and how they corresponded to our day. He taught us the ins-and-outs of government. He drove me to Boise to participate in a mock legislative session. We sat in the congressmen’s seats and pushed their buttons to vote. There I began to understand the complications of working with people with different agendas and how difficult it is to come to a consensus. I saw amateur politicians hedge and compromise.

I’m certain Mr. Wilson doesn’t know that I am passionate about history or that I will forever be interested in politics because he made them real. Mr. Wilson opened the door so that other teachers and literature could march in and continue teaching me. Mr. Wilson made a difference.

Vera Ward. She was a youth leader at church. She expected me to be a good example. She expected me to do my best and help the other girls my age.

After one meeting Vera asked me to say the closing prayer. We had visitors. Important visitors. For some reason, known only to silly fifteen year olds, I barely got the opening line of the prayer said when I started laughing. Hard. I could not stop. Soon other girls, eyes closed and heads bowed, were laughing. After several attempts, I quit trying to pray and sat down still giggling. The important visitor frowned, willing us to reverence. But Vera never even looked at me crossly or singled me out or shamed me. She never even addressed the situation or corrected me. She knew I knew better so she just carried on patiently. I made her look bad, but somehow she knew I was more important than her appearance. I will never forget her and her patience and understanding because Vera Ward made a difference.

Emma Henstock. Emma’s husband, Dude, lived in a rest home when she broke her leg and needed someone to stay with her. I was twelve. Mostly my job was to watch Lawrence Welk with her, do the dishes, water her African violets, switch the laundry and listen to her stories. Occasionally she asked me to bake cookies or walk to the grocery store. She only broke her leg once, but she also had hip surgery, knee and heart problems, and sometimes she was just lonely so I stayed with her many weeks over the years.

Emma’s impact was subtle. For one thing, she taught me to listen. For hours she talked about her trips, brothers, sisters-in-law and community folk (she ran the local grocery store for fifty years). She also taught me to mind my p’s and q’s.

Emma told me of one lady in our community who was not tidy. Emma and Dude wondered why this lady kept buying dishes from their store. They thought that maybe she gave them as wedding gifts until one day the woman asked Dude to come and fix her pipes. (Dude was a fix-it man as well as grocer, mechanic and justice-of-the-peace.) When Dude went down into this woman’s basement he found galvanized tubs full of dirty, moldy dishes. Before the days of paper plates, this woman simply bought more when hers were dirty. Dude went back to their store and took all the new dishes off the shelves and never sold another set. Emma told me that story many, many times and it taught me two things: you can’t hide your dirt and above all else,  do your dishes.

We are impacted for good by others and then, whether we know it or not, others’ lives are blessed by our efforts. Doubts minimize our influence, while recognizing we have an impact regardless gives added incentive for us to make it a positive difference. I should live each day as if I expect to make a difference in someone’s life. Emma, Vera, Mr. Wilson - my life was blessed by their efforts and others like them, so really it was them the young man quoted. I just passed it on.

Tip: Never underestimate the good a little thing can do.

 Many times I'll think of someone that could use a quick visit and a little surprise, but by the time I get the little surprise organized it's become a major event and I don't do it. However, just by keeping a little baggie in the car filled with a few tags, a pair of scissors, a marking pen, and some jute (baker's twine or ribbon), it makes giving doable.  When the idea comes, just pick up a bag of dollar store candy, add the tag, and drop it off on the way home.  It's just a little thing . . . 

Who or what little thing has made a difference in your life?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday’s Travelogue

Dear Kids,

We had a grand time in Colorado with Abe and Grace! We have found a new tradition – attend the game between the Army and the Air Force every fall. I don’t know why we didn’t think of it six years ago when Ty started attending the Air Force Academy, because we knew old grads flew in from all over to attend the academy rival games. Oh well. It’s never too late to start a good tradition, so the offer is out to whomever wants to join in – same time next year, just it will be in New York instead.

In no particular order, here are eleven of my favorite memories of the weekend:

1. The visiting, and watching a movie and football together.

We took Abe and Grace a box of Legacy chocolates. Abe would choose one and eat 
half and then give the rest to Grace; then Grace would choose one and eat 
half and give the rest to Abe. I have never thought of doing that. Ever. 
I thought it was a good idea. It would keep me from claiming all the salted caramels

We visited about life, politics, the future, the past, football, hair, pinterest, recipes, goals – all kinds of good things.

2. The pregame build-up.

Abe is assigned to a cavalry unit and his brigade was in charge of putting up a 
display at the Army tailgate. This picture reminded me of John Dunbar 
from Dances with Wolves, especially when the soldier on the right took out 
his saber and stabbed some litter off the ground to pick it up.

I love the energy for pregame activities. The bands only add to it. The West Point pep band as well as the band from Fort Carson, Colorado took turns playing back and forth. Military bands love a lot of drum beats. No wonder. They make you want to move.

3. This is not a tank.

Lest you be confused and think this is a tank, it’s a Bradley. Sometimes I slip and call it a tank. Kind of like sometimes when I call it the Air Force – Army game instead of the Army – Air Force game. It was really fun seeing a partial reality of Abe’s world.

I climbed inside of the Bradley and it was very cool to see the conditions inside. It is a tight fit – like submarine tight. I don’t know how the soldiers move around each other, especially during the chaos of war when they are in full-gear. The Bradley wasn’t built for the soldiers’ comfort. The seats have very little padding and definitely don’t recline. When I climbed out the hole inside, I was greeted by a soldier. I asked him what his job was and he said, “I’m the gunner. I sit where you’re standing.”

I asked him if the driver sat in the seat next to him and he said, “No ma’am. That is where the commander sits.” He then pointed out the driver’s seat. I asked him a few questions about his gunner duties and when he got home from his last deployment.

He said, “In March, ma’am.”

I said, “Hey, I wonder if you came home the same time our son did.”

He asked, “Who would your son be ma’am?”

I answered, “Lt. Payne.”

He said, “Yes ma’am. We came home together.” Then he pointed in the chair next to me and said, “Lt. Payne sits right here in the commander’s chair.”

It was a bit sobering. I no longer imagine where Abe is in a tank and what his job is. I have a picture perfect idea.

4. The game.

Sasha’s husband Nick is deployed right now and Abe and Grace try to include her often so that she isn’t lonely. She and I were a match. We both love popcorn.

Army shot themselves in the foot and lost the game. As you can see we had Air Force and Army fans all around us. I was surprised how much everyone could ardently cheer for their team without anyone getting disgusted, upset with each other, or making a snide remark.

5. Our seats at the game.

We were four rows up. I haven’t been that close to the action since Abe’s eighth grade games. It was fun to see everything so clearly, except the fumbles. It’s never fun to see a fumble from any seat in the stadium.
The picture board is how Army calls their plays. I enjoyed seeing what pictures they used – they weren’t triangles, squares, circles, or colors – they were pictures of different generals, soldiers, and army symbols. It was like a mini museum on the sidelines, albeit upside down from our position.

6. The flyover and scoreboard.

I wish everybody could experience an Air Force flyover in the stadium. You don’t see them coming and then all of a sudden – boom. Really, boom. They’re right over you and they turn on their burners and zoom up and turn a sideways summersault as they do. It’s exhilarating.

The scoreboard shows all kinds of interesting things. My favorite is when they do an American song with pictures of troops and families. Cuba Gooding, Jr. attended the game and they showed scenes from his upcoming movie about the Tuskegee Airmen. I was too busy talking to the kid next to me to stare when he walked right in front of us, but as far as I can tell Hollywood doesn’t have to touch him up much.

7. Honoring the Wounded Warriors and others.  During the halftime of the game several soldiers received medals. One received the Distinguished Flying Cross and others received Bronze stars for acts of bravery. A quiet hush settled over the whole stadium as their acts were recounted. Their faces were shown on the big screen. I wondered what they were thinking as the details of their heroism was told. I wondered how they felt reliving the experience for our sakes. It was so quiet. It was so reverent. Not even birds sang. Everyone just quietly clapped and then stood and clapped at the end after each had received his award.

At another time during the game we clapped our thanks and admiration for a solider who walked out on his two artificial legs to accept an award for winning the backstroke at the Para-Olympics (?  I think that is where it was).

8. Singing and listening to people sing.

Abe and Grace love music. As Abe was driving us to the airport he had I Want to Be in the Calvary playing and Grace, your dad, and Abe all sang along.

 It’s a catchy tune and every time I hear it, it takes four or five days to get it off repeat in my head.

Abe, Cali, and I are the sentimentalists in our family. Joe, I think you may be one also, because you still have your star wars action figures.  Do ring-tones make you cry? As Abe played the ring-tones he has assigned to everyone in the family while we drove to the airport it made me cry. Mine is a George Straight song, Ty’s is from The Man from Snowy River, Ray’s is an AC/DC song, etc.

One other singing time I loved was the closing song at church. Abe and Grace attend a military ward. There are a lot of women sitting in their congregation without a husband. As we got ready to sing the closing song the conducting member of the Bishopric announced, “Because it’s Veteran’s Day this Friday we’re going to change the closing song to My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” 
There is just something about singing a patriotic song with a congregation full of military families where even the little boys have crew cuts. After we sang, Grace said, “You loved that, didn’t you? I knew you would.”

9. Regular life.

I didn’t take a picture of enjoying regular life with Grace and Abe, but that was definitely one of the highlights. Grace is such a good cook and homemaker. She made the best slow-cooker macaroni and cheese with chilies in it, as well as french dips, and an almond cake. Abe helps her choose recipes and cooks the meat. They are a good team. It’s fun to see them as a family and how they run their home. It’s comforting to see how important it is to all of you kids to have a home that is full of warm love and that feels good.

It was also fun to go to church with them and meet their friends.

10. Grace did my hair. I love sitting in the chair with her taking care of it and the visiting we get to do while she does it. Abe was at the counter and just listened and added in a comment every now and then. Grace also showed me some new exercises to add to jogging and walking. They looked like something I can do.

Grace and I also went to Hobby Lobby to get a project to do. It was fun to look at all the holiday things and the clearance racks.

After having Grace with us last year, your dad and I have missed her company.

11. The traveling there and back.

Your dad and I had a great time traveling. Like I mentioned before, old grads and families of cadets from both academies travel in from all over for the game. We had our West Point coats on at the airport and a couple from the Air Force walked by. The woman smiled and said, “We’ve come to pester you about the game tomorrow” and sat down on the seats next to us. We asked them about their cadet and they asked us about our family. Two old grads that were on one of the flights graduated in ’54 and ’57. Another had graduated in ’86 and his wife in ’88 and their son was a sophomore. They all have a story. May be from different academies, but the stories are similar.

And . . . somehow we lucked out and got preferred seating on the longest flight home. The leg room was incredible, not once did my feet fall asleep. On the flight to Colorado Springs there was a yappy dog a couple of rows back. Your dad whispered not too quietly to me, “Someone give that dog a bone.” The girl on the other side of him said, “Someone give that dog some Benadryl.” We all felt sorry for the people in the same row as the dog.

On the flight home that same dog (or its close cousin) boarded. The dog and its lady sat smack dab behind us. I started to laugh when she shoved her little dog and its carrier underneath your dad’s seat. Oh ho. It was funny. He didn’t see it, he could just hear the dog and kept looking around for it. Finally I told him he was sitting on it.  Good thing they gave us free TV on the flight home with earplugs. The Wizard of Oz, Hitch, and the Discovery Channel were three of the options. Your dad leaned over during one part of the Wizard of Oz and said, “This is the scary part. It gives you nightmares when you’re a kid. Those flying monkeys fly in and take you away in your dreams. It's scary stuff.”

Once they gave the dog some ice it settled in and other than a dog smell wafting up every now and then, it wasn’t too bad.

So there you have it. We had a great time. Ty, I thought of you and your years there often.  Michelle, it was fun to see your mom even though it didn't last nearly long enough.

Abe and Grace, thank you for such a great time.

We love you all. Lots. Thanks for giving us so many good memories and traditions.

Dad and Mom

p.s. Don’t forget: same weekend next year in New York.