Writing My Life

Now and Then


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Oh, Dublin! How You Make Me Laugh!

I know Dublin town is crowded and bustlin’ at most hours, but who cannot appreciate the cobbled stones, the cathedrals and pubs, the River Liffey with its Ha’penny Bridge, its viking origins, and the beautiful, friendly people. Walking the winding streets for two plus days was enough to start the love affair, and here are some of the reasons why!

Our Georgian accommodations where we had to read instructions on how to open the room door with an actual key and how to flush the loo with “gusto”!


Faces of Dublin: Devlyn Elvis TaylorDevlyn Taylor – Our Irish Elvis – drove the “hop-on/hop off” tour bus and he broke out in song whenever the mood struck him or the traffic jammed. He had a great voice, and he really could sound like Elvis! He belted out “All Shook Up” and “Danny Boy” among others. And when his voice tired a bit, Devlyn loaded the CD player so we could hear his original compositions recorded in a studio. My favorite was a lullaby he wrote for a grandson who passed away in January. Intermingled amongst his songs, he shared an occasional historical tidbit, but I especially liked his tales of growing up as a “true blue Dubliner.”

FOOD! GLORIOUS FOOD! I RELISHED the food and tried different sorts of yummies in all kinds of pubs where folks don’t just stop in for a pint, but they eat and chat and play games and listen AND dance to Irish bands when they can. We enjoyed the BEST FISH & CHIPS EVER at Leo Burdocks, est. 1913. And Keith and Cedric (if that’s their real names) kept us laughing. You can see their pics on the Leo Burdock website, but these poses were just for me!

Aren't they just too cute?

Aren’t they just too cute?

Temple Bar is the “happenin’ place” when it comes to the “Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl”. G.E. and I dropped into a few to hear Irish tenors, guitars, and fiddles and watch a little Irish 2-step. Gogarty’s was the most festive pub we visited as guests sang along with the performers and one husky patron finally convinced a visiting miss to join him in dance. It was delightful. And one more thing – “Temple Bar”, a seemingly oxymoron to people of faith, refers to Sir William Temple, Provost of Trinity College in the 1600s. who owned a home in the area back in the day. The “bar”could be a play on words as the district is located on the Liffey River, thus referring to a sand bar as well as the pubs themselves. But there is nary a fact to back that theory as it’s my own.


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46 Shades of Green: an Unforgettable Anniversary

Forty-six years of marriage is a rather non-descript anniversary. Other than the comment – “WoW! You’ve been married that long? That’s really something in this day and age!” – there is not much to set it apart. I researched the appropriate gift for such an occasion and found there is no traditional present, but the “modern” suggestion is an original poem. As romantic as that is, I could hardly imagine my very “left-brained” husband coming up with a verse he hadn’t plagiarized. (In his defense, he is excellent in picking out cards that share the perfect tributes.)

Months ago I came up with my version of what couples could give each other for having stuck together for 46 years – a trip to Ireland. That didn’t seem any more random that “an original poem”, so I went with it. While G.E., the homebody (I almost wrote “homeboy”), wasn’t exactly thrilled about this idea, I whispered in his ear one night, “Don’t you remember that day we married, you kissed me and then said, ‘Sweetheart, when we’ve been married 46 years, I’ll whisk you off to Ireland.’?” He didn’t remember, but I reassured him the promise was made.

“Why Ireland?” you ask.

And I answer, “Why NOT Ireland?”

So off we went to the Emerald Isle on March 25 for nine days, including two for flying and flying and flying. Now, I’ll not bore you with dozens of photos and minute-by-minute details of our most wonderful holiday, but I will regale you over the next few posts with a few favorites of a MOST fascinating island of endearing people that are now part of my heart!

First: PRE-TRIP favorites –

  • Miracles: 1) Getting G.E. to be my traveling companion. He was heroic! 2) Recovering from a nasty cold and 3) packing 9 days of everything into 2 carry-ons!
  • Best investment: Skechers GOwalk – only shoes you’ll need!
Sum Total of My Luggage!

Sum Total of My Luggage!

"These shoes are made for walkin'!"

“These shoes are made for walkin’!”


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Back When I Wanted to be Catholic – and an Ice Skating Olympian

I think my fascination with Catholicism was born at St. Anthony’s Hospital where my mother gave birth to me. Somewhere in my early growing-up years, I heard rumors that before nuns brought babies to their mommies, priests baptized tiny infants. I therefore concluded that I had dual citizenship in the Catholic and the Mormon Churches. I may have even told a few people that I was Catholic.

Vern and Mary with their daughters and Penny, their Cocker Spaniel

Vern and Mary with their daughters and Penny, the Cocker Spaniel

I vaguely remember one or two neighbor children who were bona fide Catholics, but it wasn’t until 1954 when we moved across the street from Vern and Mary and their daughters Ginger, Susan, and Sharon that I learned some details of my “alter-religion”. Susan was closest to my age, and so I assume she served as my mentor in all things Catholic. While she shared some complaints about her faith, I loved everything I learned. For example, I really liked the idea of confession and the resulting absolution from sin. Yes, I know that a tenet of Mormon theology includes repentance, but when I prayed for forgiveness of what I considered many grave transgressions, I wasn’t sure I had been forgiven. I wanted somebody to make it official. Additionally, I was a repeat offender so the idea of frequent trips to the confessional bothered me not in the least. And because I thought of myself as pretty sinful, I also longed to pay penance. For example, I welcomed saying extra prayers especially if I could use a beautiful rosary to keep track of my efforts. In fact, I once bought an early treasure while vacationing at San Juan Capistrano when I was eight: a bracelet designed like a rosary, cross and all.

I really liked the idea of sacrifice, too – at least the ones my friends made. When I was young, Catholics abstained from meat every Friday, not just during Lent, and Fridays were my favorite school lunch days. Cafeteria workers at Lewis and Clark Elementary and Alameda Junior High always served fish sticks or toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup to all students, Catholic or otherwise. I even wanted to “give up” something for Lent. Susan and her sisters usually said goodbye to candy for the six weeks prior to Easter. I think I may have tried to do the same, but if I did, I doubt I lasted 6 days, let alone 40. (Recently I gave up Diet Coke. While this “abstinence” correlates with the Lenten season, it was unintentional, AND I plan to make this a permanent change. I know friends and family are snickering at this – “oh ye of little faith!”)

The biggest attraction to the Catholic faith, however, was First Communion – not because of the importance of receiving the Eucharist for the first time, but because of the beautiful little “wedding” dresses Susan and then Sharon wore. I was SO jealous. When I was baptized into the Mormon/LDS Church at age 8, I wore white knee-length bloomers and a white blouse. I didn’t get a new frock – white or otherwise – for my confirmation. No veil either. Not even white gloves. The adorable Easter dresses and bonnets Mom always bought or made for us did little to diminish my Communion-dress envy.

Looking back at that experience, I find it interesting how religion was often a topic of our childhood conversations. And while my interest in the Catholic Church was fleeting, there was a significant reason I was enamored with my Catholic friends. They were such good, good people. The family was fun and kind. Mom Mary’s wide smile invited friendships, and the girls were intelligent, talented, and beautiful. One summer Ginger kept us busy when she organized a backyard carnival. Under her tutelage, her sisters and we friends created booths by hanging blankets from their clothes line. We featured all sorts of games and prizes, and promoted the event beyond our street to nearby neighborhoods. We charged for the activities but then donated the money – which I don’t recall as being very much, maybe $12 or $15 – to a local charity. Somewhere in my archives is a newspaper photo of us presenting our profits to the organization.

Skating with Mom at Caribou Nat'l Forest rink

Skating with Mom at Caribou Nat’l Forest rink

Then there was Dad Vern; quiet and unassuming, he spent winter nights watering down their back yard to create an ice skating rink. Small at first, the rink’s popularity inspired him to enlarge the square footage until several inches of ice covered all but a tiny corner of their yard. We loved the rink and often hurried home from school to spend a couple of hours there before dinner. I remember one particularly freezing week when schools closed for fear of bursting pipes; nevertheless, the temperatures didn’t dip enough to keep us off the ice. Everyday we spent time playing Crack the Whip and other games with our friends, taking breaks now and again to thaw our toes or sip hot cocoa before resuming.

Wearing our "ice-skating dresses" with Daddy at Caribou rink a few years later

Wearing our “ice-skating dresses” with Daddy at Caribou rink a few years later  

 

When I think of how much time we spent there, I wonder that Vern and Mary rued the day they started that tradition. I can’t imagine how many times children rang their doorbell to ask permission to take the ice, but I don’t remember being turned away very often.

Because of this neighborhood experience, my sister Connie and I became skating devotees, and while our “expertise” did not qualify us for the 1964 Winter Olympics, Mom believed that our love of the sport warranted red corduroy skating dresses!!

The best outcome of that neighborhood skating rink, however, was the closeness we felt to our friends and neighbors. Vern and Mary created lifelong memories of a fun, happy, and safe place for all of us to enjoy regardless of our differences – religious or otherwise. I’ll never forget them!


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Confessions of a Born-again Cook

When I retired last June, I listed some goals I wanted to work on. Among those was to take up cooking. And if I was going to do that, I wanted to prepare healthier and lighter meals. This was not a goal I enthusiastically endorsed but felt it necessary in order to improve my golden year’s health and to save money. So it has shocked, surprised, and amazed me that I have fallen in love with cooking. (Yes, this revelation deserves all three of those verbs!)

This discovery comes from years of seeing myself as a possible candidate for the food network series “Worst Cooks in America”. I am a slow, messy, noisy, compromising, and clumsy chef that uses expired ingredients! (If you doubt my poor image of myself as queen of culinary arts, just read all posts listed under “my cooking life”!) Regardless of how I view myself, I have enjoyed cooking as I never have before, and these are half a dozen reasons why:

  1. Cooking cheers me up. One dismal, cold January day earlier this year, I felt SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) raise its dreary head. Not having anything exciting on my retiree’s calendar, I decided to dedicate the entire day to cooking! I created several recipes from my new favorite food site Skinnytaste.com and a grocery store-mini-book Taste of Home: Light Slow Cooker Recipe Cards(The Taste of Home link takes you to my favorite stew recipe, but I use dried mangoes instead of dried apricots – SO delicious!!) Anyway, by the end of the day, I was in THE BEST MOOD!
  2. Cooking feeds my creative juices. Because I am experimenting with scads of different dishes, I feel like a scientist in the lab, an artist in her studio, an engineer on a design team – well, you get the idea. To serve a successful, delicious, unique meal is so rewarding. Of course, not all recipes have been a hit especially with my meat-and- potatoes, plain-palate husband, but those have been the exception. He LOVED the vegetable beef stew that includes chunks of BUTTERNUT squash as well as the mango, but he wasn’t a big fan of the Quinoa stuffed peppers I whipped up for last Sunday’s dinner. (To appease his boring taste buds, I cook one of his favorites about once a week: meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, spaghetti, or sloppy Joes. And yes, my eyes just rolled.)
  3. Cooking makes my house smell like a home. I adore the aromas that permeate our little place, and no Scentsy or Febreeze can duplicate wonderful cooking odors that feeds “feel-good” hormones.
  4. Cooking inspires service. Because there are only two of us at the dinner table most nights, we have a lot of leftovers, and G.E. is not high on those – but he’s working on it. That’s okay. I put some in the freezer and try not to forget they are there, but I also deliver my “meals on wheels” to Mom or neighbors who aren’t privy to my poor-cook reputation! So that’s a double bonus – cooking plus service makes me happy!
  5. I have time to cook. Not having to hurry is critical for this slow poke. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, if the recipe claims prep time as 10 minutes, that’s 60 minutes in Renae time. Seriously. But I don’t care. I often cook in the morning when I’m feeling rested and eager. If I am missing an important ingredient, I can run to the store and buy it because I HAVE TIME!!! As my daughter-in-law is a Wildtree representative, I have cooked and frozen 20 yummy meals using their organic ingredients! Yes, it takes a bite out of my week, but again, I am fine with that because – yup, I HAVE TIME!! – and it saves precious minutes in the future!
  6. Cooking is healthier than eating out! While I’m one who has ALWAYS loved a trip to eating establishments – be they restaurants or fast food – such fare is losing its appeal. I get excited to eat my own cooking!!! Seriously. And nearly every dish I make is a “from-scratch” recipe. No preservatives or artificial flavors – I get enough of those in my Diet Coke.

So those are just a few of the reasons I know “cooking is true”. And I hope this newfound love lasts because I am feeling dang good about it. While I’m sure I’ll never be a foodie, I am thrilled with my status of “born-again cook”, and G.E. is too – well, most of the time.


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Food Diary – an Unpublished Post from the Past

Dear Readers – I stumbled upon this entry I wrote in April 2010 but did not post. I still think it’s pretty funny and a sad true story – as least as far as I can remember. RBS

I have yet to figure out how to use WordPress pages. I’m not really sure what kinds of things you write on pages rather than posts. Pages are stationary, so I guess it’s like recording in stone – except you can delete them OR choose “private” rather than “public” visibility. At any rate, I thought maybe I should “page” recipes instead of posting them. Along with that, I thought I could record memories associated with food like I have been doing on recipe posts and  dreary diet pages.

Today, I whipped together my quick ‘n easy lasagna and I started wondering about the first time I tried this Italian dish. Mom didn’t serve it when I was growing up, so I kind of think I tasted lasagna when I went to Brigham Young University and roomed with Dalene, Lynelle, Janelle, Marilyn, and Cheryl. The 2 years I lived with those 5 taught me a lot about cooking. All were better chefs than I was – by a long shot.

We all chipped in $5 a week for food/dinners. Two would shop; two would cook; and two had the week off. Considering that $30 fed 6 girls, I’m amazed at how well we ate. Toast, cereal, and/or fruit were the breakfast mainstays, and most of the time we ate lunch on campus, but we all sat down for yummy dinners that included desserts.

Lynelle created my 2 favorite desserts – a frozen lime thingy and a layered, rainbow dessert to die for. I tried to make them a couple of times when I was first married, but they just didn’t taste as good. And the rainbow dish was so dang time-consuming because each layer had to chill before adding the next one.

It sort of looked like this minus the sun and rosette clouds. Really ghastly!

It sort of looked like this minus the sun and rosette clouds. Really ghastly!

I tried to keep up with my friends by cooking up some of Mom’s great dishes – the ones she DIDN’T use recipes for, like her chili. But EVERY attempt ended in disaster. One of the worst experiences is when I baked a cake – probably from a mix, but then I tried to make the frosting from powdered sugar, butter and milk. I didn’t have any directions, so I guessed at amounts. Most cooks know powdered sugar icing needs VERY LITTLE milk, but I DIDN’T know that. After emptying EVERY box of powdered sugar we had into the mixture to thicken it up, the concoction was still quite runny. And it looked and tasted rather blah, too. So what did I do? I decided to add a little flavoring and food coloring; but the only coloring was BLUE and the only flavoring was ROOT BEER – the kind used to make HOMEMADE ROOT BEER. In spite of the BYU blue tint,  it looked HORRIBLE and tasted WORSE! And, of course, it was supposed to be served at a church dinner for college students! I can’t remember if I was courageous enough to take it to the social or not, but if I did, I am sure not one person except the baker tried it. Yeccchhhhhhh!

Signing off for now,

Renae


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When Life Turns on a Dime

Last Sunday started like the Sunday before that and the Sunday before that. G.E. and I slept in. Upon waking, I wrapped up in my favorite robe and he dressed in his comfy sweats, or “daytime jammies” as I call them. Next I stirred around in the kitchen while he sat at the bar and poured over the Sunday paper, and then the phone rang.

Before picking up the receiver, I predicted that a member of our church congregation was on the other end in search of a Sunday School or Primary substitute. I was wrong. Before picking up the receiver, all was right with the morning. That’s when life turned on a dime.

Within a few minutes we learned that a loved member of G.E.’s extended family had received a life-threatening medical diagnosis and was scheduled for surgery within hours. We quickly cleaned up and headed to the hospital where we greeted many family members who had gathered together in love and support. The well-wishers filled the room and spilled into the hallway. Smiles and laughter intermingled with tears and hugs. It was a warm sight and an even warmer feeling.

Everyone stayed in the waiting room while our loved one was in surgery, and so we were there to hear the surgeon report the results. They were pretty much what he predicted they would be. Silence descended and quiet tears, followed by hugs and more hugs.

And now the trials of faith. Prayers will ask Heavenly Father for a miracle, for our family member to beat the odds, for “the cup to be lifted”. We know those things could happen. But we also know the miracles could take other forms as in added grace. Our Father in Heaven did not intervene in Gethsemane, but He sent an angel to comfort the Savior, and so we’ll look for the attendance of angels and increased love flowing from family and friends in heaven and on earth to buoy up that dear family.

As for the extended family, I am very grateful that G.E.’s siblings have met for dinner several times a year for nearly a decade to strengthen ties. We’ve held yearly reunions to include children and grandchildren for the past 3 years. Those traditions made it natural and comfortable to rally together during this time of need. We are not strangers to one another. When life turns on a dime as it did this weekend, that is a wonderful comfort.

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Kind Acts That Pick Us Up, Warm Our Hearts, or Make Us Smile

0121_HeartwatchesthenewsTo counteract disturbing and depressing news that produces angst in my psyche, I look for heartwarming stories of kindnesses often found in media. I am constantly amazed at the lengths people go to to help others, but I am also touched by the stories of smalls acts of tenderness and giving.

About a month ago, I asked Facebook friends and family the following question: “What little acts of kindness have come your way that picked you up, warmed your heart, or made you smile?”

I really enjoyed reading the dozen-plus responses over the next few days and decided it is fitting during this month of valentines to summarize some observations that help our hearts.

Big or little, kind experiences are memorable. My cousin Julie and an old friend Liz will never forget the Christmas generosity of neighbors during dark days when their husbands left them and their children. Kristine is still grateful for dear friends who cleaned her house and left dinner on the table while she was busy taking care of funeral arrangements for her mother. Friends Christine, Debbie, and Kathy remember strangers in check-out lanes who paid for their purchases that ranged from a soda to a bouquet of flowers to 30 boxes of crayons for the teacher’s classroom!

Good turns perpetuate more good turns. Many who responded to my question passed along the kindnesses because of what they had experienced. Liz, who received “12 days of Christmas” from neighbors, said, “My girls and I ‘paid it forward’ and we did the same for one friend or neighbor every Christmas for about 10 years.” Jan’s extended family honored her mother-in-law, who was respected as an wonderful example of giving, by performing 92 acts of kindness in her memory. They set up a private Facebook page to list the wide and varied experiences of giving, and they drew much joy from performing the good deeds and from reading about them.

Families are hotbeds of giving and receiving.  Not really a shocking revelation, but it was fun to read about husbands who hold hands, open doors, and shower their wives with kisses and hugs. My cousins Bonnie and Linda appreciate their spouses who bring tea or coffee to them while they wake up. Linda’s hubby then reads scriptures and inspirational writings plus more – “Big hugs and praise God every morning”, she writes. My sister Connie remembers when she was “a cranky needy teenager [and] our dear Mom [sewed] new clothes for her. She held down a full time job so the only time to sew was after work late into the night.” Tiffany’s mantra of “doing a good deed daily” passes down to her family where dinner conversation centers around “what did you do for someone else today?” Tara wrote of a sweet little girl, about 6 or 7, who not only provided directions out of the complicated ropes course at the Museum of Natural Curiosity, she escorted Tara and her children out of there! She commented, “Such a polite and considerate thing for such a young person. I was really touched.” Her parents had taught her well.

Even when people are “assigned” to give, recipients are still appreciative. Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women participate in visiting teaching where two “sisters” are expected to visit other sisters in the congregation once a month. Dee wrote of visiting teachers who bring “needed messages from Heavenly Father and that leaves [her] better than they found [her]!” And Karen remembers a visiting teacher who made her a birthday cake and another who listened to what she really needed when recovering from a stroke: “a Bear Creek soup and a loaf of French bread so [she] could still be independent but … choose to use it when [she] wanted.”

It is not hard to extend kindnesses. Several respondents to my Facebook query shared their gratitude for the simplest expressions of thoughtfulness. My sister-in-law Debi loves spontaneous hugs; neighbor Mike appreciates smiles; and Lindsey is grateful for people’s patience, compliments, and thank yous. Although another neighbor Scott did not comment upon my post, he wrote that he was touched when old friends “liked” his Facebook posts and shared kind comments and reflections about what he wrote. While FB is often derided for being the opposite of Scott’s observation, it can be a source of connectedness with people we love and admire whose posts make us smile.

Acts of kindness bring joy to the giver. During a Sunday discussion at church, the sweet teacher spoke briefly about some struggles she contends with. Her counselor suggested a line of defense is to move the focus from one’s own problems to providing some service to others who need help. I know several friends who have adopted the same philosophy to battle depression and other debilitating issues. While it doesn’t “cure” the problems, it helps keep them in check and brings a measure of happiness into their lives.

So, during this Valentine month, I look to this cute advent calendar my granddaughter made to remind me that the world is not lost as long as there are so many people involved in the avocation of giving to others. (If you want to read all the replies in detail, click HERE to be uplifted.)

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