Writing My Life

Now and Then


44 Years and Counting!

How can a type A personality and a type Z stick together for 44 years? Such a good question, but G.E. is a BIG “A”, and yours truly is far beyond type B, C, D, etc. And yet, here we are – an old couple who have been together for four-plus decades; that’s two-thirds of our lives! Surprising?

My friend and colleague, who is also a scientist, says, “Not so.” Opposites do attract and for good reason. According to studies she has perused, humans are often drawn to those who say “poTAYto” when their personal preference is “poTAHto”. (You have to be pretty old to understand that reference.)

It seems that this is Mother Nature’s way of producing “normal” offspring; otherwise, the youngsters would all be busy cleaning, organizing, calculating, and so forth. Or they would be in a constant state of  spilling “stuff”, stumbling over “things”, and searching for lost items, people, and places.

There are some who may doubt our sons are “normal,” but the boys do have some of both of us mixed in with a lot of “them”. Which is a great thing. I’d like to say they inherited the best of their dad and mom, but that’s wishful thinking. Instead, they’ve combined everything together to be A.MAZ.ING people that we love so darn much.

But, I have to say, the best decision this crazy lady made o-so-long-ago was to marry her crush! He was adorable then and even cuter now. In between have been trials and tears, laughter and LOTS OF LOVE!!!!

Before this starts sounding like a Hallmark card, I’m wishing for NOTHING more than many many days of continued adventure.

I love you, my Gar! (not GAHR).


… 41 and counting …

Anniversary Congratulations from Cheesecake Factory

Last week, G.E. and I celebrated 41 years of marital …. hmmm? Bliss? Well, NOW we enjoy more blissful days than we did long ago and far away. Joy? Psalms reminds us that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” So yes, we endured some nights of weeping, but we’ve also experienced the joy that comes with the mornings. Humor? O my YES! Without a doubt, our marriage has been filled with laughter, and that is what helped us work through the less-than-blissful days and the tear-filled nights.

So, how did we celebrate 41 years together? I wish we could say we visited the Trevi Fountain in Rome or the canals of Venice.

But money – or the lack thereof – and timing prevented such a celebration. Instead, we settled for the next best thing!


WHOOPEEE?!? At the last moment, G.E.’s boss sent him south to the capital of glitter and gambling. While neither appeals to us boring folk, a get-away to warmth and sunshine did! In our beautiful room that we paid to upgrade, I kept busy sleeping in, reading books, blogging, AND doing a little bit of work – I know that shouldn’t happen during a vacation, but the unexpected timing necessitated the intrusion.

During the afternoons, the two aging lovebirds walked Las Vegas Boulevard with other oldies on spring break, and we DID visit the Trevi Fountain AND the canals of Venice Vegas– as in casinos. NOT quite the same experience, but what the heck.

"Three Coins in a Fountain"

No, that's NOT us seated in the gondola!

We even took a side trip to Troy to see the BIG horse!

We also enjoyed some YUMMY meals and ONE funny mishap. Yes, I managed to lose track of my cell phone within minutes of arriving at Caesar’s Palace. Didn’t even miss it until son Joey called G.E. at 7 A.M. the following morning:

Joe (trying NOT to laugh): Hey Dad, sorry to bother you so early. But Kara got a text message from security at Caesar’s Palace. 

G.E. (sounding shocked): SHE WHAT??? A text message? What did it say?

Joe (still chuckling): Do you know if Mom has her cell phone?

G.E. (still perplexed): WHY??? What was in the message?

 Joe: Last night Kara sent texted Mom to tell her the health care bill passed, and at 3 A.M. THIS MORNING, her phone beeped and she found a REPLY message from Security! (more snickering) Anyway, it asked if we knew the owner of the cell phone. And if so, could we notify that person to pick up it up.

G.E. (laughing): OMIGOSH! Let me ask Mom. (Turns to me) uH, Nae, do you know where your phone is?

Me (sounding sleepy and confused): Yes, it’s in my purse. What’s going on?

G.E.(snickering and ignoring the question): Are you sure?

Me (climbs out of bed and heads for purse): I’m pretty sure. Who is that? What’s happening?

G.E. (still ignores questions and returns to phone conversation): She THINKS it’s in her purse. (continued laughter) She’s still looking. Okay, thanks, Joe! Sorry they disturbed your sleep. Have a great day, Son. Love you and thanks for making my day! Bye.

Me (searching madly through purse): What’s going on? (Five or 6 minutes of digging through the purse, suit case, and bathroom; now thoroughly frustrated) “TELL ME WHAT’S HAPPENING? WHERE IS MY GOSH-DARN PHONE?”

 The thrill of watching my panic unfold finally plays out, and G.E. shares the details of Joe’s call. Ha ha.

Kicked back and smuggly enjoying my distress!

Of course, this wouldn’t be all that funny if such an exercise was a rare occurrence in my life, but IT HAPPENS ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME!!! However, I was grateful that I didn’t have to suffer for more than 10 minutes. I hadn’t even missed the dang thing!

Chubby and Hubby - together FOREVER!

The remaining days passed without incident, and we really enjoyed a romantic, quiet escape from the crazy busyness of our day to day lives. Oh, and we didn’t miss a chance of telling people – servers, security guards, concierge – that we were CELEBRATING 41 years together. It was fun to see their reactions and receive their congratulations in a city known for quicky divorces! GOOD FOR US!

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… hunters and gathers, springfest, part 2 …

Yesterday I wrote about the Easter egg and welfare bunnie party I held for my local grandchildren, and this morning I realized I didn’t include the culminating activity, the raison d’etre – THE EASTER EGG HUNT! Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of this event – although I tried. My little point and shoot CoolPix Nikon couldn’t point or shoot fast enough to keep up with the mayhem. So here is a recap and 3 pictures that I cut, pasted, or cropped from the first post. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 


After transforming store-bought eggs into works of art and paper sacks into interesting BunnieBags, the BIG cousins – Taylor and Spencer – hid candy-filled plastic eggs and dollar-store toys throughout the basement family room. I helped the LITTLE cousins – Connor and Mia – hide similar items around the upstairs rooms while TINY cousin Evie oversaw the entire operation. (Utah’s typical stormy spring weather forced the hunt inside.) 

When all was well-hidden, cousins switched floors and the HUNT WAS ON! Big and little ones excitedly searched for and swapped the treasures. (Spencer to Taylor – “This princess egg HAS to be yours! I’ll keep this SpongeBob egg.”) And they willingly shared their bounty with those who didn’t find as many goodies – without being asked! They made sure tiny cousins, the sleeping Carter and the hovering Evie, got their share as well. SO CUTE! 

When all was safely gathered in, the hunter/gatherers sampled their finds; disemboweled eggs and candy wrappers littered the everywheres! The dollar toys hung together, but little ones lost the little white balls that came with the cone-shaped ejectors (not sure of the technical name.) CHAOS REIGNED. Eventually, the action waned, and so this tuckered gramma and my helpful daughter-in-law Kara started cleaning up, but grandchildren can always find a way to keep a party going. While dividing up the beautiful boiled eggs, they decided they wanted to eat some!

 I love deviled eggs, but I’m not a great fan of fresh-from-the-shell, boiled eggs. I was sure the kidlets would take a bite or two and then dump the rest in the trash. NOT SO! After cracking, peeling, and scattering eggshells throughout the landscape like so many flakes of dandruff, they gobbled up those blah eggs! EXCEPT for Connor Bear. He really got into the peeling part until he realized there was just white, kinda slimy stuff inside – WHAT? NO CHOCOLATE!!! With a disgusted and disappointed look on his face, he handed over the offending food. Yechhhhhh!

I have to add here that Connor and Mia were not happy with just DYING their eggs. Those two miniature Picassos meticulously PAINTED theirs.

Mia's EGG.stravagant Egg!

Connor's EGG.citing Creation

Mia chose to add a layer of teal paint over her blue-dyed egg. Connor wanted a white canvas on which to create a swirling purple design.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The SpringFling was a BLAST!!! and lucky GrammaNae gets to head WEST in a couple of weeks to enjoy FUN and GAMES with the SanJoseSalisburys!!!!

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… sunshine in my soul …

March is a rather dreary month. The snow that hasn’t melted is petrified and soiled. Desperate as we are to see signs of spring, budding trees or plants have not peeked out enough to be seen by the naked eye. Winter storms, like relatives who have stayed WAY too long, keep returning just when we think they’ve finally exited. While St. Patrick’s Day with its springy green shamrock logo is a nice holiday, it reminds us  that we’re still stuck in the middle of March.

I decided I needed a little sunshine in my soul to brighten up the overcast mood that is trying to dampen my spirits. So, I looked through pictures I haven’t posted to find cheerful, happy, funny, silly, crazy photos in the hopes that a laugh here and a chuckle there will chase away the grumps, scowls, blues, or glums.  But all I could find were these sweet, adorable, precious, cute, darling pictures of my grandchildren. What did you expect?

Look at that cute smile! I hardly EVER see this cute face without it!

Enjoying an INDOOR Ferris Wheel!

She has the most kissable cheeks!!!

Snowy weather doesn't get these 2 down!

Rub a dub dub, 2 Squirts in a tub!

At history camp last summer - Don't tell Spencer the Rebs lost the war!

Waiting for GrammaNae!

Takes concentration to eat unconsentrated oranges - or are these tangerines?

Now, anytime I feel the blahs comin’ on, I’ll pull up this post and let the sunshine in. It just makes me so darn happy to look at these sweeties! I’ve pulled up this entry at least a dozen times since I posted it! 😀


… mamas, daughters, and washdays …

As I mentioned in one of my tributes to Bonnie Howe Behunin, my cousin wrote several poems about her parents. I shared the poem she wrote to honor her father, my Uncle Pete, and promised to include lines dedicated to Aunt Ida, too. Actually, there are several poems about Bonnie’s mama, and it is too hard to decide on one because each reveals a different facet of this kind woman who was large in stature and heart. (In fact, Meryl Streep’s physical appearance as Julia Child in Julie and Julia reminded me of Aunt Ida’s height and breadth.)

As I reread the tributes, some verses stimulated my own memories, and I realized that’s another reason I feel compelled to share Bonnie’s work. For example, the following poem talks of a time LONG past, but many of us can remember that in our childhood,  household tasks were backbreaking chores! Take wash day, for example ~  now we can throw a load or two of dirty clothes into the washer and dryer EVERY day, completing the job in under an hour. (I don’t particularly care for that task and have often repeated that I hate to RUIN every day by washing clothes, and so I still leave that chore for Saturdays.) Back in the “olden days,” however, moms NEEDED at least one WHOLE day to process shirts and blouses, pants and skirts, sheets and table cloths through the wringer washer before hanging them on clothes lines strung between poles in every back yard.

I remember our family’s “wash room” was located in the basement, and Connie and I sent our soiled clothes sailing down the laundry chute,  that was disguised as a drawer located near the baseboard in the hallway. I was terrified of the washer as I was sure the wringer or the cogs would grab my pudgy little  fingers along with the pillow cases and crush them, thus forcing immediate amputation! (Sadly, that horrible scenario actually happened to G.E.’s mom when she was a little girl, causing a life-time of embarrassment for her as she always hid her 1-jointed pinky behind the folds of a hankie.)

Pencil Art by Don Greytak

Maybe my mom worried about the same thing because I don’t remember helping with the wash as much as I do recall sprinkling and rolling up  handkerchiefs and pillow cases after pulling them from the clothes lines. At some point I also learned to iron those items. While none of this may sound the least bit fun, the companionship of working together as mother and daughter is what often lingers in our hearts and minds. Here is Bonnie’s recollection of those days.


~ Bonnie Howe Behunin

Slick and soft, and smelling clean,

The soapy laundry smell

Of when Mom rubbed the extra lotion

From her hands to mine:

Mom and wash day.

A round washtub for soaking clothes,

The agitating, guiding of each piece

Through wringer to the rinse and bluing,

Then to the line.

We brought the clothes in:

Mom piled them, fresh, high in my arms

Until I could not see over

Or breathe past the clean to the sky.

We folded and stacked and finally finished,

Sprinkled the clothes to be ironed tomorrow.

Then Mom shared her lotion,

Cupping my small hands,

First one, then the other

In her big ones.

I think of those nights in my bed

With my hands on my face,

Breathing my mother

As I cling to wash day.

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… my favorite Bonnie poem …

Notice the tan line from his hat?

Last week I told you about my cousin Bonnie and I included a poem of hers found upon an Internet site. Although “The Witch” is a provocative verse, I want to share my particular favorite.

In Wake the Unicorn, Bonnie includes a few poems about her parents – my Uncle Pete and Aunt Ida.  My mother often told me of the loving, playful relationship shared by those two, and Bonnie captures some of that in the poem she wrote after her father’s death. Although she was an artist, I don’t think she could have painted a better picture of him had she used oils, pastels, or acrylics. Pen and ink and perfectly chosen words re-create Clarence Howe, also known as Pete or the …

The Provider 

He  gave us all it took to get along,
Including bowls of laughter with the soup
And closets full of teasing till we cried.
He spoke too loud because he couldn’t hear
With an ear that was hurt when he picked a fight
With someone twice as big and just as drunk.
I never saw my mom get by his chair
And miss a friendly grab.
Her primness tabled, she would kiss him back.
His hair was mostly salted, partly black.
The caterpillar of his eyebrow
Humped above his spangle-damp brown eyes.
And he could almost flap his ears
Like they were hinged next to his head.
When he would flap in church,
Our dignity would suffer, Mom’s face would furrow.
For work he wore a red-plaid lumber-jacking shirt
And boots it was my job to lace
As it was his to brush and braid my hair.
And he would whisker-burn and sting my cheeks.
But how I loved that hurt and loved that man.
His rowdy life was like a rowdy day:
So busy that you get caught up with it,
Forgetting that the night will ever come.
Night was like his undetected fragile heart,
And like the night that came, my father died.


… totally retro Valentines …

Yesterday I wandered into Roberts Craft Store to buy ModPodge – a crafter’s necessity dating back to the 70s but still needed for a variety of creative ideas. My purpose for purchasing was to glue my 500-piece puzzle together so I can frame it  and hang it. Because the product was tucked w-a-a-y back in a corner, I had to wend my way through aisles of Valentine paraphernalia before finding the glue. Seeing all the designs of love quotations, hearts, and flowers to commemorate February 14th ALMOST put me in the Valentine mood.

While reflecting upon Cupid’s favorite day, I first thought, “Valentines Day has not grown into the crazy holiday that Halloween has.” But then I started remembering my childhood and what a big deal it was to me. Because it was of utmost importance, I’m sure it was stressful for my working mom. (I need to ask her about that.)

First of all, school children HAD to decorate boxes into which our friends could deposit Valentines. Sometimes my teachers held contests for the best, cutest, most creative, etc. designs, and that added to the pressure of creating an amazing crêpe papier receptacle. I’ve been a long-time klutz, so cutting, wrapping, and gluing turned into a hurricane of scraps, cuts, stains, and goop. (Do any of you remember how red crêpe papier could turn hands and faces crimson if it got wet? And I kind of liked the taste of it, too. I know that’s weird. And then I loved to spread Elmer’s Glue all over the palms of my hands and then peel it off like a layer of skin.  But I also liked school paste because that tasted good, too – until someone told me it was made of dead horses’ hoofs.) At any rate, I’m pretty sure Mom sent me to bed before the task was completed, but in the morning, I found the finished box waiting for me, and it looked BEAUTIFUL! (In talking with my mom and sister the other day, I concluded that Mom didn’t finish the project, and the Valentine box I woke up to was the same one I worked on the night before.) 

Created from a Valentine "kit"

Next came the Valentine-making and addressing. I don’t remember making many “from scratch” except the cards I created at school for my parents, but we could buy card kits that required some assembly such as gluing on paper lace and little pictures. I gave away all the ones I made, but this one survived because my sister Connie created it and presented it to me. It was also one of the few that opened up to a verse printed on the inside. You can see her young signature there, too. I’m guessing that’s about all she could print, so there aren’t any additional messages about what a wonderful big sister I was! (Notice, however,  that she did pick a picture of an “I Love You” heart for the cover even though the published message is generic enough that it could have been sent to a near stranger!)

If we didn’t MAKE our cards, it still took HOURS to address them, and this is why: we had to perfectly match the card to the person. In first and second grade, I still worried about giving a boy I DIDN’T like a Valentine that might imply that I did – as in girlfriend/boyfriend kind of “like.” On the other hand,  I picked a “mushy” card to give to the boy I chased around the playground at recess.

For example, this one says, “HEY SUGAR!” Now THAT’S romantic. How could the love of my 6-year-old life NOT know that I was crazy about him. (A boy named Eric actually gave me this one back in 1955. I wonder if he realized he was sending me a subliminal message that told me he wanted to marry me as soon as we turned 7.  Probably not.)

This was also a time when teachers only ENCOURAGED their students to bring  a card for every child in the class. I’m pretty certain Mom made sure I did, but I clearly remember checking through each card and comparing it with the class list to find out who was snubbing me. When I figured it out, sometimes I didn’t care but most of the time it did hurt. (Connie thinks we always received cards from every student present that day, but she remembers noticing that some friends found candy hearts or suckers in envelopes while others were NOT given that extra measure of “love.”)

I always picked out “girly” Valentines for my girlfriends, but there were NO Disney Princesses to wow Diane and Leah, Trudy or Randy. The best we could find were main characters from nursery rhymes – Little Bo Peep was the obvious favorite in 1955.

Our cards also depicted young girls doing what young girls were supposed to do in the early ’50s:  SWEEP, BAKE, , and BLUSH! (I’m positive the blusher was my favorite as it included a slot for a lollypop!)

As for the boys, we could always send them a popular 50’s Valentine with a politically INcorrect message such as this one. (Grandma and Grandpa H.  actually gave this to me! At least, they didn’t cave in to the stereo-typical nursery rhyme heroines or domestic princesses!)

Of course, for every little American Indian, there was a cowboy OR girl: Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Annie Oakley, Hop-Along Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and Gene Autrey – to name a few of our Saturday matinee heroes.

I’m not sure why Mom or I saved these gems, but I enjoyed rumaging through them tonight; recalling old friends, feeling sad that I COULDN’T remember some, noting grandparents’ signatures written neatly across the backs, and warming up with the memories and marveling at how times have changed.  In fact, these little momentos have done more to put me in a “Cupid” mood than any TV commercial or store display. I better start working on my list.


… a time to wonder … about Daddy & dying

As a youngster, I hoped that ghosts were only ideas for popular Halloween costumes or subjects of comic books, like that cute little Casper. I didn’t like to think that a wavy, transparent rendition of my grandpa might show up at the foot of my bed “one dark and stormy night.” And I hated the idea that the steam fogging over the windows of my old boyfriend’s Chevy may not be the result of our teenage passion but rather an outlet for my grandmother’s wrath as she attempted to scold me from the other side.

Although I didn’t want to believe in ghosts, I can’t say I didn’t believe in them. Some think ghosts and spirits are the same thing, but I don’t envision spirits making many trips from the spirit world; whereas ghosts seem to show up anywhere at anytime. When enough people share a sufficient number of stories about visiting apparitions, possibilities sneak into the listeners’ thoughts, dreams, and imagination. Nevertheless, I never asked for living proof; I was content to wonder. And then my sweet daddy died.

He left us in the middle of a September night in 2007. He was 83 years old. Mom, my sis, and I huddled around his bed, holding his hands, waiting for the last labored breath to signal his good bye. But when it came, it wasn’t his final farewell. Seconds after his lungs emptied, shards of lightning shattered the dark, and rolls of thunder heralded his leaving. Since that night, I’ve longed for the spirit or ghost of my father-past to drop in for a minute or more. Is that a ridiculous wish?

It’s interesting how losing someone you love so much rearranges fears. I am no longer afraid of the possibility of spirit visitors, but I am afraid of the impossibility of them. Or at least I was. Lately little things have been happening to blow away those tiny motes of doubt that float in with sweet memories. And it’s not like I have been consciously seeking reassurances either. They’ve just come – unexpectedly, randomly, and subtly.

The first one came in the form of a story – well, a novel, actually. For the second time, I checked out The Lovely Bones from the library. I couldn’t get past chapter one the first time I listened to the audio tape, but friends recommended that I give Alice Sebold’s debut novel another chance. Although there are many painful parts of this remarkable tale, a beautiful tenderness soon emerges from Susie’s other-worldly “watch care” over her family and friends. Her interactions with them are only possible because of her love for them, and it’s the best kind of love, as it is grounded in who they are and who they are not. By the time I finished the last chapter, I believed in the characters, and I believed in their experiences.

The second little reassurance emerged from a more expected source: church. Last Saturday evening, a well-known and beloved religious leader visited our congregation, and when he rose to speak to us, he announced that he felt prompted to share an experience that he had never spoken of publicly. And then he talked of a time when he left this life to visit the beautiful and peaceful realm beyond this one. Now I’ve read of near-death experiences where individuals see a bright light, and they are filled with warmth and a desire to stay in that state. But this was the first time I heard such a testimony from someone I know, someone I respect, and most importantly, someone I trust. This unusual experience reoccurred 3 more times in his life. I know I was not the only one in that chapel who needed to hear that message, but I do realize it was meant for me, too.

The latest chapter was delivered via email. I opened a “Teaching and Learning” newsletter that featured an essay by one of my favorite authors, Amy Tan. “Saying Thanks to My Ghosts”was submitted by the author as part of of NPR’s “This I Believe” series. Ghosts/spirits have visited Amy throughout her life, but she didn’t realize it, even when her mother recognized their unique contributions to Amy’s writing. Now if any mother could rend the veil between heaven and earth, it is Amy’s mother, and according to the author, she did!

So, there they are. Three little incidents that reminded me that ghosts or spirits can wander back and forth between worlds, and that is no longer frightening, it is comforting. I may not awaken one night to see Daddy sitting by my bedside, but we keep in touch through little messages sent through others or through warm rememberings, and quite often through dreams – some silly, some sweet.

I love you, Daddy, and I am happy that you are near.