Writing My Life

Now and Then


… 50-word NON-fiction: BETTER Than Fiction

He attended clown college, and she won All-American honors in gymnastics.

He twisted skinny balloons into flowers and giraffes.

She traded the uneven bars for a wheelchair – after the accident.

They met then married. Never easy, they make it work.

Two people who help each other laugh – even after 20-plus years.


… 50-word FlashFiction: Shirley and Cindy …

The two giggled as they struggled to slip pajamas onto uncooperative 18-inch dolls.  Joy reigned until both grabbed for the flannel mini-robe.

“It’s mine!”

“No! Gramma gave it to me.”


“They usually play well together.” The care-giver observed.

“Sisters?” asked her new assistant.

“Mother and daughter. Eighty-eight and sixty-nine.”


… HaPPy BiRtHDaY, dEAr ReLief SoCiEtY …

As a female member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I also belong to the largest women’s organization in the world, the Relief Society. Officially organized in March of 1842, Relief Society is “an auxiliary to the priesthood.” In its earlier beginnings, women of the church envisioned their society as a service organization, as suggested by Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball’s idea of establishing a constitution to formalize the community’s sewing circle.

Within the confines of the Mormon Church, the rest of the story is well known: Sarah’s friend Eliza R. Snow wrote the document and took it to Church President Joseph Smith who praised its contents but added that the Lord had something better in mind for the women of the church. It’s my understanding that the “better part” included organizing the women as an auxiliary to the Priesthood AND adding teaching to service; thus the sewing circle also became a learning circle.

While church leaders, including Joseph Smith and Newel K. Whitney, attended early meetings to teach “new things” to the women, the organization eventually turned to its own members to teach one another. And so it continues today.

Yesterday, March 19, 2011, the women of the Eagle Mountain Utah North Stake celebrated that occasion by meeting together at the nearby church. As women do, we adorned the “cultural hall” in springtime pastels; we sang, prayed, and lunched together, and we taught one another. As in  times gone by, a priesthood leader shared his thoughts, but it was women serving, teaching, and inspiring one another that lay at the heart of the occasion.

I know today’s Relief Society may not be my grandmother’s Relief Society – her social would have been the annual bazaar, complete with quilts and pot luck dishes instead of a celebration featuring balloons and a catered buffet – BUT it is still a most amazing organization whose past and present fascinate me.

NOW and THEN …



2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,600 times in 2010. That’s about 16 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 75 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 129 posts. There were 751 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 469mb. That’s about 2 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was December 2nd with 95 views. The most popular post that day was … winter poems … just in time for SPRING ….

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, google.com, pjswainfamily.blogspot.com, wintersong.wordpress.com, and blogger.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for concrete poems, concrete poem, ducktail hairstyle, ducktail haircut, and da haircut.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


… winter poems … just in time for SPRING … February 2010
3 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,


… a time to ramble … around and through “safe” subjects June 2009


… welcome Janus ~ god of beginnings & endings … January 2010


… mothers and King Solomon … February 2010


… about me … May 2009

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… Christmas poems … just in time for New Years …

Unlike the East, we here in Utah missed out on a WHITE Christmas, but 2010 is exiting on the Polar Express! All this powder – “IT’S SO FLUFFY!” – reminded me that I did NOT post the Christmas poems I wrote with my 7th graders back in the mid-90s.

Because the “formula poems” from my Winterscape collection has been this blog’s most visited post, I decided to share the others that make up the 11-poem booklet. Remember, these are simplistic in nature AND written by an amateur poet!

  1. “Christmas Shopping” is a parody of a popular holiday song. I’ll bet you can guess what original lyrics inspired my version. Also note the “clip art” I cut out from the Deseret News. Some of those stores haven’t been around in a while!
  2. The next two are called “diamantes” because of the diamond shape the words create. Start with a word, add 2 adjectives, 3 participles, 4 synonymous nouns, 3 more participles, 2 more adjectives, and another word that can be substituted for the first one. 
  3. “Where is Christmas?” is a sensory poem that incorporates images evoked by the 5 senses: sight, audio, taste, smell, and touch. “Formula poets” can use this format for ANY subject. For instance, when I taught in Georgia, I assigned my students to write this kind of poem about the Peach State. And I’ve worked with other kids in creating sensory images about Halloween and autumn. Anyway, you get the point. It’s really quite fun.

    Well, Friends. That’s it. Hope you enjoyed your Christmas; have a GREAT New Year; and BE SAFE!


    … in, out, and around The Freedom Trail …

    Dear Friends, Here are the last of my Boston pix. While there were TONZ I could have posted, I’ll spare you. It was SUCH a great experience – UNFORGETTABLE.

    C.'s Uncle Dave directed us step by step to 15 Hawthorne Street where Carolyn's grandfather served as a mission president back in the day. It was a tender moment for her. I couldn't help but be touched as well.

    As stated in an earlier post, this mansion was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's home, but I was SUPER thrilled to learn it was George Washington's headquarters during the Siege of Boston! Thanks, D. McCullough for bringing that era alive in his book 1776.

    The State Capitol Building, as well as Carolyn and I, overlook Boston Commons where sheep once grazed, criminals hung from trees, and ne'r-do-wells TRIED to dodge rotten vegetables from their positions in the stocks. (People, not veggies were trapped in the stockades.)

    The DEAD of winter may have been on the horizon, but we found many luminous autumn leaves to brighten our way along The Freedom Trail.

    The Granary Burying Ground, a FAMOUS cemetery for famous dead people, looks like it is straight out of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Ichabod Crane may not rest here, but Sam Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere do!

    Remember Sam Adams before his beer was famous? He started by dumping tea into the Boston Harbor, along with a bunch of Patriots (NOT the football team) dressed as American Indians (NOT Cleveland's baseball players). Anyway, he rests HERE now.

    We were hard-pressed to find cobble stones in the streets of Boston, but Carolyn's sleuthing led us to this GREAT street of row houses and lots of cobbles!

    What is it about row houses that make them so charming? I tried to think of all the inside stairs I would have to climb on a daily basis if I lived in one, but even that did not detract from their loveliness!

    This bookstore was owned by the publisher for these American authors: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott. (Mr. Dickens was NOT an American!) Many of the writers frequented the store - perhaps to see how their books were selling. 😉

    This is somewhere close to more historically significant places, but I can't remember for the life of me what they are. No matter, it's a cool looking shot, huh?

    The Old South Meeting house may not get as much press as the Old North Meeting House, but lots of revolutionary events were staged here. Citizens protested the tea tax; Sam Adams signaled patriots to dump 342 crates of tea into the harbor; and the Boston "incident" turned into the Boston "Massacre" when outraged colonists LOUDLY registered their objections!

    "No TAXATION without REPRESENTATION" was first shouted from the 2nd floor of Faneuil Hall. Town meetings were born here 250+ years ago, and the hall continues to entertain "important issues of the day!"

    Restaurants, Quincey Market, and our Republic's cradle all dwell here. A.MAZ.ING.

    On July 16, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read from the East Balcony of the State House to officially inform King George that many colonists didn't want to play with him or his friends any more. Now the Declaration is read EVERY July 4th from this very spot to remind American citizens that what was started then continues!

    Memorialized in bronze and words, Paul Revere's famous ride lives in the heart of Boston's North End.

    The Old North Church was AND is EPISCOPALIAN/Anglican!! That meant that Patriots had to sneak into "enemy territory" to swing the lantern and signal the riders that "the regulars (not the British) were coming" by land! (Colonists considered themselves British at that time!)

    Four of us attended services in the Old North Church. We were uncomfortably snuggled on hard benches inside one of the "pew cozies," as I called the cubicles that lined the aisles.

    No, this isn't Martha Stewart's pew cozy, but it is an example of how wealthy colonists "warmed" up the cubicles with everything from brocades to foot stoves. Some even featured rocking chairs!

    Closer look at the enclosed pews. Colonists "bought" these, and the richest families purchased the most central ones. They decided size by the number of members in their families. The pews were enclosed to keep Church-goers warmer in the UNheated sanctuary!

    One if by land? I think this lantern needs to be hoisted higher to get the word out!

    My last look at Old North Church. It lost its steeple in the 1950s when Hurricane Carol came ashore. I think that steeple has been rebuilt twice.

    The North End is home to more than the Old North Church. It is also called "Little Italy," and this is where great restaurants fill the air with aromas SO intense that I gained weight by just inhaling!

    Only ONE residential home from PRE-Revolutionary days exists, and that house once belonged to the night-rider, Paul Revere! Hard to believe the house was 90 years old when HE bought it!

    It is also hard to believe this tiny dwelling could have housed 8 people, but that was an era of great deeds, not great greed - at least for Mr. Revere and his family.

    Well, there you have it. A whirlwind week in a great city where we found great food, friendly people, educational sites, and unbelievable vitality. Boston, I LOVE YOU!

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    … more Boston TOPS … or “The Stay-Puff MarshMellow Woman Invades BeanTown”

    Before I forget what these photos are of, I decided I better post the pix of my adventures in one of my now favorite cities in the world. Be prepared: some of the pictures that include me in them are NOT pretty. I now own a plethora of “BEFORE” photographs in preparation for my next weight-loss attempt. So sit back, peruse, enjoy, and chuckle – I hope!

    HARVARD YARD. Turn the volume WAY up if you want to hear the narration. Close your eyes if you don’t want to get dizzy! I learned that the Widener Library was built and dedicated in memory of a Titanic victim. I remember learning about him during my Titanic-mania days.

    I couldn’t leave Cambridge without purchasing a Harvard hoodie at Coops, home of EVERYTHING Harvard. You will see me wearing that sweatshirt in nearly EVERY picture. Why? Because I wanted to look smart AND because it was the perfect weight for the weather. You’ll notice that my shiney face rarely ceases to gleam because I was plenty warm – as I usually am. Sigh. BUT more than one person asked me if I was in town for the Harvard-Yale football game, which Harvard won by the way.

    THE FOOD TOUR: Yes, Boston is famous for its food, and we tried to hit EVERY restaurant recommended to us, including: Legals, Dugin Park, Mike’s Pastry and Regina’s Pizza. We also discovered two off-tour places that deserve a blurb – a quaint Italian cafe on Newbury Street where my friend and colleague Carolyn and I shared bruschetta AND a pear and prosciutto salad. Superb.

    We also stumbled across a MARKET in Cambridge that served a HUGE variety of dishes from around the world. We dished up and dined right along with a bushy-bearded student and some other fine scholars. No picture though. Sorry.

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    Don’t EVEN think the show is over. There is one last tour: The Freedom Trail and Other Foot-paths. So stay tuned. You might also want to check the other Boston-related posts as I have updated them with my own photos. 🙂 Stay tuned.





    … the tahp 10 things I sar in Bahstun …

    So I see this t-shirt and it sez “The Tahp 10 Things to look foha in Bahstun,” and I’m thinkin’ I gotta make a list of the things I sar, too. So heah it is, and when ya read it, ya gotta use the accent, see?

    10. Ridin’ the t-line that takes youse to everywheah.

    Lerchin' fahwahd on the "T".

    9. Checkin’ out Fenway Pahk in the dahk.

    8. Eatin’ baked beans, cahn beef and cabbage at Duhgin Pahk.

    7. Shoppin’ bahgins at Quincy Mahcut.

    6. Findin’ Louiser May Alcott’s hawse at 20 Pickney.

    5.  Chowin’ dahn on cream-stuffed “lobstahs” at Mike’s Pastry on Hanovah Street.

    4. Lovin’ Reginer’s Pizzer neah Bahstun Hahbah.

    3. Hangin’ out at Hahvid Yahd in the dahk.

    2.  Visitin’ Pahl Reveah’s hawse and gahden; and seein’ his silvah at the Museum of Fine Ahts.

    "Wintah in Bahstun Commons" - a famous paintin' in the Museum of Fine Ahts

    1. Gawin’ to church at the Old Nawth Church in the Nawth End.

    Sharon and Keri with me in the Pew Cozy in the   Old Nahth Church

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    … they call me Amelia for a reason …

    I’m not talking “Amelia Bedelia” here – although I own a few characteristics of that fictional character, but I’m thinking of Amelia Earheart, the avitrix who disappeared some 80+ years ago over the Pacific. Why? Because it’s true. I have NO sense of direction. None whatsoever. Of course that does not stop me from giving people MISdirections or from striking off on my own. But today was the worst: I couldn’t even find my way out of my hotel.

    My colleague, a walking GPS kind of person, decided to go to the LDS temple here in Boston. It’s not that I am not as devout as Carolyn – which happens to be true, I’m not – it’s just that I am visiting this great city for the first time in my life. And while I enjoy temple worship,  I can do that back in Utah.

    Soooooooooo Carolyn and another colleague from another district headed off in one direction while I buddied up with still another colleague from a neighboring district. Since my hotel was closer, we decided to dump our junk in my room on the 29th floor and head out to Boston Commons. BUT when we got to my room, the key card failed to open the door.

    “Oh NO,” we exclaimed. “The key must have been de-magnetized!” My friend – at least I hope she is still my friend – volunteered to wait at the door with our tonz o’ stuff while I returned to the desk to get a new key. When I returned to the 29th floor, NO ONE was there. Not my friend, not my bags of educational materials, not my purse that housed my phone and my computer. GONE. VANISHED. DISAPPEARED.

    For 45 minutes I searched and wondered where in the heck she could have gone? Did she go down to Carolyn’s room? No, I checked but found no one there. I even called her name as I searched the hallway. Did she pass out and then taken to  first aid station by the housekeeping team? No. Did she return to the lobby? I went up and down that elevator several times to see, but to no avail. Did she find her way back to my room? No, again I returned to the room to double check and finally left a note telling her I’d be in the lobby near the computers.

    Back in the lobby, I tried to get on the Internet at the computer station, thinking I could email her. (She can access her account on her phone.) At that point, I was seriously thinking about the alien abduction theory. In fact, I thought of every conceivable idea EXCEPT for the most logical one: I left the poor woman ON THE WRONG FLOOR.

    We originally stepped off the elevator at the 15th floor on our way to the 29th floor because the doors opened. No one was waiting there to jump on, and I didn’t notice the light momentarily flash to indicate what floor we were on. I didn’t notice the room number on the plaque NEXT to the door said 1563. I didn’t even THINK that perhaps my key didn’t work because I WAS ON THE WRONG FLOOR.

    My loyal friend had waited and waited and waited until exhaustion overcame her and she lugged ALL the books and bags down to the lobby where she begged a clerk to confirm my room number, which he would not. Instead he called my room and handed the phone to her. Because I was in the lobby at the time of the call, I did not receive it.

    At that point, our paths finally crossed. She was exasperated as well as exhausted, and I can’t blame her. “Amelia” couldn’t even get us out of the hotel. My frustrated friend said good bye and headed for the safety of friends who know where they are staying and how to get in and out of hotel rooms.

    After that MISadventure, I wandered the streets of Boston looking for Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. I eventually found it – in the dark. The ballpark’s exterior was great. Sigh.



    … hello from BeanTown / TeaTown …

    Have you guessed where I might be? Yes, here I am in one of our nation’s cradle communities: BOSTON! This is my very first visit here, and I am in LOVE. Thus far, it is measuring up to EVERY expectation.

    If you are asking “Why is Renae in Boston?” I’ll explain. In addition to my work with Secondary Literacy, I have been assigned to assist in our district’s dual immersion program. Since je parle un peu francais, I feel terribly inadequate in supervising teachers who speak Spanish and Chinese – or ANY language other than English.

    Fortunately a state grant paid my way to a national convention that is helping me understand my new role, AND that convention just happened to be HERE! YaY!!!

    The minute the last daily session ended, my colleague Carolyn and I jetted out the door, slippped into our walking shoes, and started exploring. Tuesday we wandered over to Newberry Street to ogle over the brownstones lining both sides of the avenue. The evening was almost balmy, and I carried my coat as much as I wore it. We ducked into a little Italian sandwich shop for a light and YUMMY dinner: bruschetta and a honey pear salad with prosciutto (Italian for ham). DeLiCiOsO!

    Harvard Yard - Home to GOOD WILL HUNTING

    Wednesday afternoon, we jumped on a bus and headed to Cambridge – home to Harvard U. Because the sun sets just after 4:00 P.M., we wandered about the campus at dusk. It was amazing, but I have to say I felt OLDER, POORER, and DUMMER just being there. Lots of Ivy-League looking students of EVERY nationality roamed the sidewalks that linked the red-brick buildings.

    I made one interesting connection to my past Titanic fetish when we entered Widener Library. The magnificent building was created and named in honor of Henry Elkins Widener who died in the sinking of the doomed ship.

    Next Carolyn and I went in search of the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s NIECE. “Why??” you ask. Well, that house used to be the home for the president of the Boston Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who just happened to be Carolyn’s grandfather.

    In the early darkness of the evening, we found 15 Hawthorne Street. Now empty, the stately home still stood as a proud sentinel. We managed to get some good pictures thanks to the mighty flash on my CoolPix camera!

    We couldn’t leave without crossing over to Brattle Street to wander about Henry’s estate – Henry as in Wadsworth Longfellow as in “Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere … .”

    Summer View: Picture from Flickr

    Prior to the poet’s acquistion of the home, it serve as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. If you have read David McCullough’s 1776, you might remember that Washington and Henry Knox outmaneuvered the British during the Siege of Boston, thus forcing the British general Howe to evacuate the city.  So cool to explore history this way!

    Carolyn and I walked the grounds and even though late autumn had claimed  bushes and flowers, we saw a skeletal beauty that helped us appreciate the charm of the estate. The wide veranda had been freshly painted and the high white sheen lit our way around the mansion.

    As we said goodbye, Carolyn spotted an old-fashioned key hanging from a bush’s branch at the front corner of the house. We wished it was a “magic key” that would not only open doors to the mansion but also to the past. How fantastic it would be to eavesdrop on Washington’s war plans or Longfellow’s parlour conversations!

    Our great evening ended with another tasty dinner at a Cambridge market. We chose our fare from fresh dishes from the around the world and then headed back to our comfy quarters. SuperTimes!