Writing My Life

Now and Then


Memorial Day – aka “Decoration Day” – 2012

This is actually one of my favorite holidays, and I am touched when we make the cemetery rounds and find hundreds of families and folks still paying homage to their loved ones.

Today, we left mums, small versions of Old Glory, and lots of love at the grave sites of our fathers and mother. We have not forgotten you, Daddy, Chuck, and Pat. AND we miss you oh so very much.

Love Renae and Gary

Our traditional, yearly photo op: Connie B, Cute Mama, and me.

The “past-its-prime” flower and note are from a Cub Scout den, and they are saying thanks for Dad’s service to his country. Sweet, huh?

This man was a great son to his parents, and he’s a wonderful husband to me!

It’s wonderful to see that their 5 children honor Charles Harold and Jenny (Pat) with flowers and loves!

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… may be LOW-TECH, but homemade Mother’s Day cards are still the best … revisiting a 2011 post

Life being what it is, I decided to repost an entry from a year ago. I’ve also added a comment I entered on FaceBook this morning because I know many moms and non-moms don’t like this day that has been set aside for women. P.S. I revised a couple of phrases from the original FB post.

About Mother’s Day! I decided a LONG time ago that I’ll opt for being loved throughout the year rather than counting on ONE day of spoiling to make up for whatever I think I was short-changed. In other words, if I don’t get breakfast in bed or dawn to dusk attention, I’m just  fine. I am fortunate because I have a great family who loves me – warts and all – 365 days a year. And I love my darling mother 365 days a year! Have a great Mother’s Day – whatever it brings. Love to ALL WOMEN!

2011 ~ This past week I received an email from JibJab – the site where you grab some photos and lop off the heads of friends and family and stick them on the site’s videos or postcards for a hilarious effect. JibJab has all kinds of funny options customers could send their moms, and I will probably send one to my mom.

However, I couldn’t help but think about cards I used to make for her. Here are a couple I created for Mom in 1956 and 1957 or ’58. You will notice the “clip art” is either non-existent or lacking and Spellcheck failed to correct a few words, but the sentiments – strange as they might be came from my 7 and 8 year-old-heart.  Well, maybe I “copied and pasted” one or two lines for the first poem.

Connie and I probably created this poem in 1958 when I was in third grade. I was still writing “r’s” like Mrs. Quidor and the Palmer method taught me.

I went to a little more effort to create this card when I was in 4th grade in 1959. The front of the card is on the left and the inside verse is on the right. I even included a little Hallmark logo on the back to make it official! After all, didn’t card companies create Mother’s Day? (By the way, neither of these creations were school assignments!)

Because of the drawing, complete with halo AND horns, as well as the guilt-ridden verse, I have to guess that I must have gotten into some big trouble a day or two before Mother’s Day!

My mother NEVER hurt my EAR, but hey, it rhymed with DEAR!

Notice the “horns” on the anGLE’s head holding up her halo. Interesting.


Life with Mom: The GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY

The puppies saved the day by going for help! Seriously.


In spite of chronic pain, my mother is still a delight. Her good attitude refuses to surrender to depression or self-pity. You’d have to get up pretty early to see her without her make-up or in her jammies. Her bed is made every morning – of course, we recently found out that she’s been sleeping in her recliner so she doesn’t have to make it. Naughty Mama!

She continues plays cards with her friends when she can, goes to the Hale Theater with us if the weather is good, and still works on the second volume of her life history. Mom is creating this project with the Heritage Makers program, which means she uses the computer to write her story and post pictures she has sorted through, scanned, and cropped! Impressed?

Mom may be ailing,  but don’t think you can put anything over on her as her humor and wit are as sharp as ever. Her teasing keeps us laughing, and we do our best to return the favor. We have to act fast, however, when she decides she wants to rearrange her furniture, fix her printer, or shop for something she needs. If we don’t, we’ll find chairs moved, cords everywhere, and packages from one or more of the dozen catalogs she receives. (Ex. “Eggies” that “boil” eggs in the microwave and the super-mini fridge to keep her diet Cokes cold and within reach. The Eggies don’t work, but the little refrigerator is great!)

The BAD:

Mom has three majors issues with her spine, and no amount of medication or number of  shots will totally eliminate the constant pain. All we can hope for is to manage it. The problem is the way her body metabolizes these pain-relievers..

When the problems first manifested themselves, we had to rush Mom to the emergency room one day. The technician couldn’t get into her tiny veins to administer the needed medication, and so the nurse gave her a shot. Two hours later, she was still hurting – a lot! The nurse gave her another dose, and that did the trick. In seconds, she finally relaxed – too much. By the time she was admitted to her hospital room, she was non-responsive.

I watched a sweet little nurse try to wake her up. Hoping  not to scare me, she phoned the on-call doctor and then dashed to find him. Gratefully, MOM’S doctor was there that evening and was already rushing to her room. Seconds later the crash cart arrived, and I called my sister the nurse who was working in Same Day Surgery.

ConnieB arrived in nano-seconds and held on to me. That’s when I knew it was REALLY bad. Thankfully, a drug that reverses the effects worked, and the paddles stayed in the cart. Mom came ’round and wondered what the fuss was all about.

That was the first time I faced reality. Mom wouldn’t be with us forever – at least in this realm. I experienced Daddy’s death four-plus year ago, and deep down I know that Mom will follow him – some day. But she had been so healthy, vibrant, and alive that I forgot how quickly things can change.

That experience was a turning point … for all of us.

The Ugly:

Last week I wrote of my wacky dreams, but nothing I experience in the dark of night compares with the scary hallucinations Mom encountered last November. Because of her independent nature and determination (aka stubbornness), we thought  Mom could handle her medications. So while we awaited her first appointment to a pain management center, she administered her own pills – maintenance and pain meds.

While at a work meeting one morning, I received a call from ConnieB. When I stepped  into the hallway to call her back, I noticed a missed call from Mom. I called her before returning Sis’s call, but no one answered. Then I noticed Mom had left a message when she made the call at 6:30 A.M.

Renae, if you want to know more about the fire in your mother’s kitchen, call.

It was Mom’s voice but not her intonation. My heart pounded through recriminations for not noticing the call and message earlier. I dialed Connie’s number and I learned that a neighbor found Mom’s little dogs barking and running up and down the breezeway. When she returned Betty and Lilly to Mom, she invited her neighbor in to see the “fire’s” damage. Thank goodness, there was no fire, but Mom swore there was, and she could see the charred walls.

“See all the damage there along the baseboards,” she said to her friend. That’s when the wonderful neighbor called my sister.

Over the course of the next 24 hours in the hospital, the doctors ruled out stroke and infections and determined the cause was related to erratic drug dosages and interactions. No overdoses but problems with metabolizing the pain medication.

During that time Mom told us about all the visitors who invaded her home during the night and those who had apparently followed her to the hospital: scores of 6-inch, well-dressed children (she knew some of their names and described their cute clothes), and a 7-foot man and woman who ordered her around during the “renovation” of her burned home.

She was so frightened and couldn’t get them to leave her little condominium even though she “tried to be gracious about it.” Mom said they forced her to do bad things while they rummaged through her cupboards, closets, and drawers.

Some attempted to repair the fire damage but those “workers” did a terrible job, and Mom felt so bad. Others redecorated her bedroom in garish green wallpaper and didn’t put anything back where it belonged. One or two threatened her and breathed menacingly in her ear, and a couple of the little folks tried to comfort her. She said she prayed and prayed while some of the “visitors” questioned her faith!  I cannot imagine how terrified she was as it was all so real to her.

Once we were by her side, she still saw frightening scenes: sores on my neck, a snake coiling  from my niece’s hair (probably her long braid), and blood stains on my sister’s scrubs; funny scenes: buck teeth on my husband (she mentioned that she AND he were planning plastic surgery, but she was NOT going to pay for his), pin-curls in my hair, and the 6-inch children in sailor suits; and worries: would my 12-year-old granddaughter be upset that she wouldn’t let her move in; would someone fix the poor repair job done in her kitchen; would we get the strangers to leave her home – none of these circumstances were real except to Mom.

There were light moments when we all laughed: like when her inhibitions let down a little and she shared interesting tales of her and Daddy’s romance that delighted my oldest son and me. And when she described the tiny children,  all I could imagine were the little minions from Despicable Me. None of that, however, changed the fact that this experience was terribly unnerving for all of us.


Although doctors assured us that Mom would be all right once everything was regulated, I still worried that the episode might trigger the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Neither of these have happened, but her memory is getting worse. As a result, Connie and I, along with support from our spouses and others, have taken over management of her critical needs while she takes care of whatever she can that doesn’t endanger her health.

As a result, we’ve seen such  improvement over the last six weeks. And while things are still up and down, and  we know she won’t return to full health, Mom still enjoys a nice quality of life – still painful, a little quieter, but filled with family, friends, and visitors (real people) who love and care for her.



Helicopter Children

You may be familiar with the term “helicopter parents” – those “who pay extremely close attention to [their] child’s … experiences and problems … whether they need them or not.”  But do you know about helicopter children?

In mid-October, Mom woke up with a back ache that changed her life.  An MRI revealed a compressed fracture, bulging discs, and worsening arthritis. Now robbed her of independence, she watched my sister and me morph into hovering daughters. Never far away, we swoop in to make sure she eats, takes her medication, and fights through chronic pain.

Mom is patient with our hovering, and we are soooooooooooooooo grateful for her!

Cute Mom and her two HELI-DAUGHTERS!


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October Remembered in December: Pictures and Poetry

October ~ brings about a

Culmination of colors to celebrate

The death of a season in an

Ostentatious flourish like no other.

Bidding farewell to days of light, the

Eve of All Hallows

Rouses the sleepers beneath stones.

Continue reading

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Autumn Reverie: San Diego in September

Technically, winter isn’t officially here until December 22nd – also known as the shortest day of the year and the winter solstice. That means I can still write about Fall 2011 – a very challenging time this year.  BUT the months were also sprinkled with great moments, and those are the ones I want to review – mostly in photos.

Busy times ramped up starting in August. With school starting, there is always tons to do at the school district office,  and even more so this year. My terrific friend and boss headed for Great Britain for 3 – yes, I said 3 – weeks. She deserved the get-away, and so I didn’t mind the extra workload.

In spite of the insanity, I was able to fly to San Diego on September 15th for an amazingly cheap price with the purpose of spending a couple of days exploring the San Diego Zoo and Sea World with two of my grandaughters. (Why can’t I spell grand daughters with one “d”? It makes total sense to me?”)

I don’t know why I feel I have to explain my reason for leaving at such a busy time, but I do. It’s the guilt complex I have cultivated over many years, I guess. Anyway, I originally volunteered to go so that my daughter-in-law would not have to drive back to Salt Lake City alone with her 5 and 2-years-old girls. AND I found the cheap flight.

Before even leaving, I learned that my son did not have to stay at the conference as long as he anticipated, and he could drive back after all. But I HAD to go because I purchased that inexpensive airline ticket, right? So I went; shared the tiniest room the Hilton Hotel offers with 2 adults, 2 little ones, and 15,000 pounds of luggage. Nevertheless, it was a great time, and here are the pix to prove it.

San Sea Diego Zoo World!

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… thinking about cousins …

Note: A week ago I learned of my cousin’s tragic death. I have been hurting all week as I’ve thought of her life and death, but I found some solace in hugging my other cousins as we met to memorialize her and her husband. While I can’t possibly write of this event, I will eventually write of its impact. In the meantime, I want to share an article I found about cousins. I am fortunate to know and love MANY cousins – after all, my grandmother birthed 13 children!!! My cousins were an important part of my childhood, including the one and only Beckie Sue.

My Cousin

The role of cousins is an often-neglected dynamic within the intricate workings of family relationships. It can be a powerful bond and profound influence on our children. By fostering the unique ties that cousins share, we can nurture a sense of familiarity, stability and family history that will enrich their lives.

Cousins provide an instant peer group, where children have the chance to mingle with kids of different ages and the opposite sex within the comfort and safety of the family setting. Knowing that they have a history and a bloodline in common gives them a sense of connectedness and a greater appreciation of their roots. If close family ties are encouraged, the pattern of maintaining family unity can be preserved across successive generations.

Relating to cousins allows children the opportunity to expand their social circle. Rivalries between cousins are usually less intense than among brothers and sisters, therefore that relationship is often less conflicted. A cousin is like a sibling without the baggage. Not as close as a brother and sister, they still share a sense of family without many of the negative emotions associated with nuclear family problems. They can explore and witness close interpersonal relationships at a comfortable distance.

In befriending a cousin, a child can find a convenient ally when confronting siblings or other adult family members. Because cousins relate on a different level, the love and companionship that they develop can blossom into a friendship that is longer lasting and deeper than with a traditional friend. An older cousin can serve as a mentor and role model, providing guidance and support to a younger relative.

Often cousins only get together at eventful family gatherings (such as weddings) or times of family adversity (like funerals). They turn to each other for fun, comfort and support as the entire family navigates its way through the various stages of life. Grandparents, especially, can be instrumental in strengthening their grandkids’ relationships with each other. They can be the vehicles by which family members keep in touch. By reinforcing the importance of these ties, the connected extended family can strengthen the fabric of the nuclear family and forge kinships that can last a lifetime.

By making an effort to keep in touch with each other, aunts and uncles/ mothers and fathers/grandmas and grandpas remind youngsters that relatives, especially cousins, are valuable family treasures. It draws attention to the fact that children belong to a something bigger in this world and are part of a unique group that is different yet the same. Mining this often under-appreciated resource can perpetuate the special ties that exist between people that share common, blood, history and experiences.

Maria MacFarlane


… house divided … capture the flag – Utah vs. BYU …

G.E. recently purchased his THIRD University of Utah flag. It seems the weather here in Utah County is not kind to these cloth representatives of that university to the north. Near the end of football season, the red U on a field of BLACK is pretty much obliterated. (So sad.)

To counter the winds of fate, my husband brought home a new flag that boasts the dimensions of a KING-SIZED bed-sheet! And hung it from the rafters above our garage door – the traditional place of honor for said flag.

But G.E. didn’t forget his darling wife and her loyalties which differ slightly from his own. Out of the kindness of his heart he purchased a BYU flag to replace the one that mysteriously disappeared last spring. (G.E. claims the wind blew away with it, too. Sure.)

Anyway here are his purchases:

The bed sheet!

The hankie. >_<

BUT I figured a way to even the score – at least on THIS blog:


the mini-flagette!


… more fun than fiction: Mom and the Mall Pick-up …

Yesterday Mom and I headed for South Towne Center so she could cash in on a fancy-schmanzy free gift with her Estee Lauder purchase. As we were leaving, we paused curbside to allow dozens of cars to exit the parking lot. A hot Mustang Convertible stopped even though many more vehicles lined up behind him.

I waved him on and shouted, “Go ahead. We’re really slow walkers!” Because the top was up and the windows were tinted, I couldn’t see the driver, but he stuck his arm out the window and motioned us to cross.

I yelled thanks, and Mom added, “We sure like your car!” I repeated her sentiments to make sure he heard, and the  driver hollered back something we couldn’t make out.

Still got it at 85!

As we finally got to the other side of the Mustang, the passenger rolled down the window to reveal a very very very good looking young man. The driver leaned towards the passenger’s window as well so that we could see he, too, was a cutie.

The passenger then repeated what the driver had said: “HE SAID HE’LL TEXT YOU LATER!”

I laughed and relayed the message to Mom who is a little hard of hearing, and then I added, “I didn’t know he had your phone number.”

She chuckled and then climbed into my car. That’s when I noticed her phone number printed on the back of her T-shirt!!!!

(Okay, that last paragraph is a lie, but all the rest is true. And I could have kissed those sweet guys for making her day! Thanks young men, whoever and wherever you are.)


… my grandmother: a pioneer in her own right …

I was asked to speak in church about pioneers, and the minute I accepted I knew I needed to talk about my mom’s mother – also named Rebecca. As the entire speech is little lengthy for a post, the following is the first part of my talk. I will post the second part as soon as I write it. Yes, I presented a half-written talk. Oh, and heck back because I am going to post photos as well. But not tonight. 

Officially the pioneer era ended with the advent of the transcontinental railroad. No longer did immigrants or other western settlers have to cross the American continent via covered wagons or handcarts. Nevertheless, pioneering and the pioneer spirit lived on. While my family history does include individuals who ventured forth to Zion in prairie schooners, it also consists of grandparents who continued to settle communities beyond the Wasatch front well into the twentieth century. Among those was my grandmother Rebecca Wheelwright Howe.

Little Rebecca Wheelwright

Grandma Howe’s childhood read like Cinderella’s younger years. Like the fairytale heroine, Grandma was born into a loving family where the beautiful young mother died at age 28. My grandmother was one of 6 children, all under the age of 10, who were left motherless. That was a heavy burden for her father Mathew Wheelwright, but somehow he managed to care for them as a single parent until he met and married Amanda, a woman from Sweden. Grandma’s life dramatically changed again.

While Amanda managed the household, she did not extend the loving care and concern to her stepchildren. When she and my great-grandfather had two sons of their own, Grandma and her siblings were not allowed to eat at the same table with the “new” family. Instead they were sent to the kitchen to eat their meals, a simple fare, while those at the table enjoyed three or four courses that included dessert.

Once my grandmother learned her letters and numbers, she was taken out of fourth grade to stay home and help her stepmother with household chores, watching children, feeding chickens, and tending the garden. By age 12 she was hired out to other households to fend for herself and provide added income for her family. One particular employer was especially unkind, and Grandma wished so much that she could return home, even if it meant living under the same roof as her stepmother.

Fredrick James Howe as a baby and a dashing young man

I doubt that my grandmother dreamed a prince or a knight who would sweep in on a mighty charger and rescue her from a life of drudgery, but she did meet the love of her life one spring day while walking down 25th Street in Ogden. My grandfather, whose family accepted the gospel while living in England, immigrated to Utah when he was three.  At age 20 Frederick had developed many skills, and among those, he broke wild horses – more of a cowboy than a prince, I guess. But when he saw Rebecca Wheelwright and she saw Frederick James Howe, sparks flew and they were married not long after meeting on that spring day on 25th Street.

After 8 years of working as a butcher and grocer, Grandpa decided it might be best for their growing family to move north to Idaho. Having visited his parents there and seeing the fields of green

The Traditional Wedding Pose

wheat, he believed he could be successful at dry-farming, and so they packed all their household furniture, a cow, two horses, some chickens, a wagon AND my grandpa into a boxcar and headed north. That must have been such a pleasant journey??!!

Grandma and her 4 little ones followed a week later on the train. The conductor who helped her off asked her, “Where did you have all those kiddies?”

“On one ticket right there in the car,” she replied, and the railroad man enjoyed a good laugh.

Life homesteading the 160 acres in Marsh Center, Idaho was so hard, and they quickly learned why it was called DRY FARMING. They had to haul all the water they used in barrels for two or three miles, and not a drop was wasted. Four more children were born while they labored there, and two were taken away.

To be continued.