Writing My Life

Now and Then


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Mom Remembered: Her Life Sketch

 

Rebecca Howe Barrett was born at home on October 15, 1925 in Arimo, Idaho, creating an even dozen children in Rebecca and Fred Howe’s household! (Youngest brother Lloyd showed up five years later.) Her mother wanted to name her “Laura” after her dear sister, but her father wanted to name her after his faithful wife, Rebecca; and so the discussion appeared to be over. It was only in 1971 when Rebecca the younger sent for her birth certificate to obtain a passport that she learned her mother entered “Laura Rebecca Howe” on the birth certificate!

Rebecca reaped the advantages and the disadvantages of being towards the tail end of a large family. She could sometimes get away with mischief, and she was often spoiled by her loving sister Wyoma; but she was also the focus of merciless teasing by her older brothers, especially Reed and Russell. Nevertheless, she thought the world of them, and they loved her in tender ways that she never forgot.

The Great Depression was the backdrop of Rebecca’s childhood, and she spent her teens supporting the home-front during World War II. After graduating from Arimo High In 1943 where she was active in the marching band and editor of the school newspaper, she went to work counting ration stamps for Kraft Foods in Pocatello. While there, she became friends with Margaret Barrett who was instrumental in starting her “on the road to happiness when she introduced Rebecca or Beckie to her brother Henry Dale Barrett. Her “heart literally stopped when [she] saw this tall, handsome man in uniform get out of the car and come towards [her]”. After dancing the night away in the student union building at Idaho State College, he took her back to the car where he kissed her and asked, “Where have you been all my life?” Three days later, her soldier proposed marriage, and after two and a half months, 19-year-old Beckie took the train to Champaign, Illinois where Dale was stationed, and married the “love of her life” on June 1, 1945.

After Dale’s discharge from the Army-Air Corps, the two lovebirds settled in Pocatello, Idaho where Renae and Connie were born, thus creating their little family. They spoiled their daughters with much love and all the advantages they could provide. Beckie worked for Idaho Bank and Trust and then Idaho Farm Bureau to finance the spoiling. She was so proud of her girls, and they never wanted to disappoint her. Those were such precious years.

In 1966, Dale’s job transferred him – first to Portland, Oregon and then to Stockton, California. Eventually, they moved to Southern California when Dale joined another company. These were rough years for Rebecca, and she had to overcome hard challenges, but overcome she did with the love and support of her sweet husband. Blessings followed especially when they retired to Sun Lakes Active Adult Community in Banning, California. While living there, the two danced and golfed and traveled.

When Dale’s health began to fail, Rebecca wanted to move closer to her girls, and after two years in St. George, Utah, she decided that wasn’t close enough. In 2004, she and her sweetheart moved to American Fork, just a few miles from Connie and Renae.

Dale passed away 2007, but Rebecca stayed for eight and a half more years so her daughters could grow even closer through many joyful activities with her and tender service to her. The three went to lunches and dinners together and sometimes invited Randy and Gary. Mother and daughters especially loved attending plays at the Hale Center Theater for seven seasons!

Rebecca looked forward to playing cards with her great friends every Thursday afternoon at Mount Timpanogos Village, and they absolutely loved her great sense of humor. Of course, Grandma Beckie especially enjoyed visits from her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was always so proud of who they were and that they were part of her posterity. In between times, Betty and Lilly, her furry Maltese-Shiatzu “babies” kept her company so she was never alone.

As her health declined, especially after celebrating her 90th birthday, Rebecca decided she had been away from her Dale long enough and went home to him on Friday, February 5, 2016, the golden anniversary of their temple sealing. We know their love and dedication to each other, as well as their spiritual growth over the years, have bound them together for eternity. We relish the vision of their happiness in being together again for their life is truly a romance for the ages.


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“Face-Lifting” a Fabulous Foto

New Fallen Snow

Photograph by Colleen Ussery Down

One of my sweet friends from my days in Hidden Valley posted this enchanting photo on FaceBook. So many elements came together to create this image: new fallen snow, a full moon, Christmas Day, and a thoughtful photographer.

I told her I wanted to steal it for my blog banner, and she “liked” my comment; therefore, I am accepting that as approval! And I am giving her credit and my thanks! And I am customizing my banner to feature Utah in winter!


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Dr.CrazyLove: Or How I Learned to Stop Apologizing and Love the FaceBook

Renae FB

I know there are scores of reasons to dislike this social medium; nevertheless, millions of folks hang out there anyway. We post what we are thinking, doing, eating, seeing, etc. We rant and rave, curse and criticize, stalk and gawk, brag and validate ourselves and others, all the while claiming to hate FaceBook. And I was among those until recently.

I know browsing can suck the time out of a day quicker than we can click “Like”, but sometimes, a few minutes (or hours) is just what we need to buoy our spirits, pat our backs, pinch our cheeks, or cheer us onward. Let me give you an example.

Recently, my sister and I made the VERY painful decision to move our aging mother to a senior living center in order to provide the increasing care she needs. This meant giving away her two darling puppies who provided hours of emotional comfort, but little in the way of physical care. Even Connie and I could not keep up with her minute to minute needs.

Of course, this broke her heart as well as Connie’s and mine. Then my sister posted the story of our experience on FaceBook, and so much love, understanding, support, and virtual hugs poured in from cousins, aunts, friends, neighbors, former school mates and colleagues,  as well as a gentleman whose last name we share who thinks we may be distant relatives, but we don’t know for sure!

Probably the sweetest gift we received from this strange source is the reconnection to a dear old friend and neighbor from our childhoods. I have written about Susan and her family before, and it was such a delight when she found Connie on the “Remember Pocatello” FB page.

Besides remembering days gone by, Susan has also shared her journey of caring for her darling 90-year-old mother Mary, whom Connie, Mom, and I also love and admire. Susan has given us helpful ideas in caring for Mom in her new home, and she has posted photos of the Jones family that we have shown to Mom. And then we talk of our good times in that neighborhood and of the lovely people we enjoyed there.

The point is that I don’t know if Connie and I would have found or felt so much kindness if we were not a part of the FaceBook community. So while there is still much that I ignore or sometimes block when I visit FB Land, there is also much that I savor.

Thank you people who use this social medium to lift the spirits of your FaceBook buddies!


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Pure Religion Found

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. ~ James 1:27

The author of The Epistle of James is regarded to be the son of Mary, the Savior’s brother, and so few could be better prepared to share Jesus’ messages of love, compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice, mercy and more.

Today I reflected upon James’ definition of “pure religion” as G.E. and I attended church with Mom. In this senior living center, we watched two shiny young men pass the sacrament of bread and water to outstretched hands weathered by years and experience. We noticed how some frail widows pressed bread into the palms of their neighbor’s whose infirmities numbered a few more than their own.  We listened to shaky voices pray with gratitude for received blessings and plead for continued strength to serve as the Savior had served.

I thought it would depress my spirit to visit these meetings. Instead, the simplicity of the service, the expressions of love from members of this tiny congregation, and the kindnesses of the leaders reminded me of James’ admonition. And my heart was filled.

Christmas Program

One of many holiday programs for the residents at the senior living center.


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One of My TRUE Stories Illustrating the Power of Reading

I am an admitted read-a-holic. I constantly listen to audiobooks, too. There are worse addictions – like Facebook. (I struggle with that! What a time-sucker!) Anyway, back to reading. I’ve been thinking about it a lot: why it is an important part of my life, how it enriches my thinking, why it finds my heart, and how it straightens me out.

I suppose a friend’s recent comment about books in general and novels in particular stimulated this thinking. She said, “I’m having trouble figuring out how a novel could be useful or helpful for anyone.” And that’s when I remembered the two Ruths. The first Ruth is a young mother I once knew, and the second Ruth is Ruth White, author of Belle Prater’s Boy and many other young adult novels.

A favorite YA novel of mine.

A favorite YA novel of mine.

The two Ruths came together when I agreed to lead a book discussion as part of a Relief Society monthly meeting. (The “Society” is the Mormon Church’s women’s auxiliary.) The hardest part of this assignment was choosing a quality book that would not shock, bore, or overwhelm the participating women. While many were well-read, some were not, which meant I needed a novel that was not too long, too simplistic, too challenging, or too popular.

Because I was a middle school teacher, it was not hard for me to turn to adolescent literature where I can always find rich options that appeal to young and old alike. The reading levels may not be high, but the subject matter can be multifaceted. I decided upon Belle Prater’s Boy as it features fine writing, likable and unlikable characters, charming humor, plus a complex, heart-wrenching theme about loss.

Author Ruth White

Author Ruth White

As I recall, all the women enjoyed the book, and our discussion was filled with excellent insights, diverse viewpoints, and intelligent analyses. My friend Ruth’s response, however, was the most touching, but she did not share it that night. I saw her a few days later at her half-sister’s house, and she pulled me aside to tell me how much she loved the book. Ruth then told me she suffered from dyslexia, and her schooling included special education classes where teachers usually read the novels aloud. Belle Prater’s Boy was the first novel she had personally read from beginning to end. It had taken her the entire month, but Ruth read every word.

If that wasn’t enough to start my waterworks, Ruth then shared her favorite part of the novel. It seems that her mother had taken her own life when Ruth was young, and, of course, the event haunted her. But a passage near the end of the book brought a level of understanding and peace to her heart and mind.

In chapter 23, twelve-year-old Gypsy and her cousin Woodrow go to a treehouse to watch the sunrise and to commemorate the day Woodrow’s mother Belle disappeared the year before. During the conversation about their losses, including the suicide of Gypsy’s father Amos, the two youngsters face the fact that their parents left their children on purpose – not because Belle and Amos did not love the two of them, but because “their pain was bigger than the love.”

That choice encounter has never left me. It is one way a novel can be “useful or helpful” to someone.


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A Lone Woman in a Household of Guys: A Tribute to My Husband and Sons

One Saturday morning in early January 1989, we received one of those dreaded calls that many families have experienced: a “you have been laid-off/fired/let-go/get-lost” calls. We pretty well knew it was coming as the technology company G.E. worked for was always “restructuring”, and he had been pretty lucky to avoid the repercussions over his 10 years of employment. Nevertheless, we were devastated, and losing a job that provided a good salary at age 41 was more frightening than being laid off during the “entry-level” years of one’s life.

Realizing our luck would not always hold, I had gone back to college part-time in 1987 to finish my teaching degree. By 1989, I had completed my general education credits, but still had a long ways to go because I changed my major. I had long wanted to complete my degree, and I knew I should have started sooner as there was no career I wanted to undertake more than teaching. Nevertheless, I did apply to work as a secretary at my brother’s-in-law accounting firm, but I failed the typing test miserably, and we wisely agreed that secretarial work was not the best fit.

Of course, there were unskilled jobs I could have pursued, but after much discussion and many prayers, G.E. and I decided I should do everything I could to finish school as that would benefit our family more in the long term. This meant applying for every grant, loan, and scholarship I could find, carrying a heavy heavy class schedule, and attending school year round. It was a huge decision that placed a significant burden on our entire family.

For my husband’s part, he collected unemployment benefits – which barely scratched the surface of our needs – plus picked up every odd job he could find. These included janitorial work, delivering Yellow Page directories, and yard work once spring came round. He even worked construction with a fireman friend who also owned a small handy-man company. G.E. was willing to undertake any project that would enable him to provide for our family and put his wife through college.

For our boys it meant many things more than just downsizing a lifestyle that included activities and opportunities they enjoyed and planned for. Andy and Joe couldn’t go to the International Boy Scout Jamboree as their older brother Chris had because we didn’t have the money or the time to help them with fund-raisers. None of the boys could attend all the sport camps they had hoped for, but they were able to play Little League Baseball because of the generosity of the Draper Youth Baseball League who waived their participation fees – something they were willing to do because of G.E.’s long-time association with that organization’s board and coaching staff.

Because of the change in our financial circumstances, the older boys willingly helped their dad with his side jobs in addition to their summer employment. Over the years, Chris and Andy worked at some pretty “interesting” places – the smelliest and dirtiest of which was the egg farm.(I’m surprised they still like omelets!) Employment at the nearby elementary was a relief in comparison! Joe, 12, joined his brothers and dad in cleaning offices and delivering the Yellow Pages, and 8-year-old Tim became the resourceful entrepreneur who sold toys, video games, and other odds and ends to get money for the things he wanted or needed.

Like Tim, G.E. and I sold everything we could. The first to go was our fairly new Suburban. My parents gave us their old car to drive, and Gar’s father gave us a dilapidated 1968 seafoam-green stationwagon and a utility trailer to use for the yard-care business. Sometimes, out of desperation, 14-year-old Andy had to drive the thing because he was the only one available to complete the appointment to mow, trim, and edge!

Even with the class-load I carried, it took 2 1/2 years for me to finish my degree. This was the era of keeping in touch via pay phones and long distance charges. Because I went to BYU in Provo, I became a long-distance mother. I purchased a “1-800” card that allowed me to call home and check on the boys. Home-cooked meals for them often meant eating cheese quesadillas on the run or in between homework, chores, part-time jobs, church and school activities. For the most part, they handled it all splendidly – better than their mother.

I knew the toll it was taking when I read one of Joe’s school essays based on the book Banner in the Sky. The assignment asked students to share a challenging experience in their own lives, and our son wrote about the impact of his father losing his job. He earned an “A”, but the essay made his teacher and me cry.

While G.E. obtained employment a few months after the layoff, the pay was just over a third of what he had been making. That meant he and the boys continued to clean offices, mow lawns, and work other jobs. One year, Joe hired on at Taco Time and bought his school clothes and Tim’s.

Over the course of that experience, a neighbor tried to recruit G.E. to sell a multi-marketing product, but my husband said no because he couldn’t live in the “iffy” world of straight commission. We needed to know exactly how much money was coming in and when he’d be paid in order for us to meet our obligations. The neighbor’s response was that he would never perform manual labor as G.E. did to bring in a few dollars here and a few dollars there. But somehow our patched-together income was enough to keep us afloat for the several years it took us to “swim to shore”.

In the meantime, I finished college and started teaching middle school and finances improved. Whenever I count my blessings – which is often – I always include the fine men in my life who made that possible. As a result, I enjoyed a wonderful career in an area I loved and was able to significantly contribute to our family’s income. When financial challenges struck again – which they did – we were able to tackle them in a better, less stressful way.

I adore my “boys” – G.E., Chris, Andy, Joey, and Tim –  who have all had to overcome many difficult trials in their lives, And today I want thank them for putting their mom through school over 25 years ago!

I love you all – and Happy Father’s Day, 2015


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Apparently We Brought Ireland Back with Us!

I doubt we have had more than a handful of sunshiny days since our return from Ireland nearly two months ago! The republic knew how much I loved our visit and so the climate followed us to the western desert we call home.

Ireland comes to Eagle Mountain!!!

Ireland comes to Eagle Mountain!!!

Every cool rainy day reminded me I hadn’t posted the photo essay I have planned, and so now, as the sun is fighting against wind and clouds, I feel prompted to finish what I started. Sit back and enjoy the FACES and PLACES of the Emerald Isle.

Dublin – March 26-28, 2015