Writing My Life

Now and Then


… maybe techno-bullying ISN’T a NEW trend …

I wrote this narrative to use in a writing lesson with 9th graders special ed students. I’ve often thought about that experience and how it affected me. The incident occurred in 1960 when there were no cell phones or home computers. Nevertheless, the good old telephone could be used as a weapon in spreading ill will!

By the way, the following piece is INSPIRED by actual events. No one ever remembers the exact details, and I changed the names because some of my school friends read my blog.) 


I had known Sandra and Mitzi since fourth grade. Those two were the dynamic duo of Lewis and Clark Elementary School. The tiny girls looked nothing alike, but each was a cutie in her own way. Sandra’s olive skin, dark eyes, and short, natural curly hair contrasted with Mitzi’s fair skin, blue eyes, and long honey-blond hair.

Those girls were the type that every girl wanted to be friends with, and because they were actually shorter than most boys, the guys liked them, too. Even in fourth grade, boys chased Sandra and Mitzi during recess, and slid lovey-dovey notes to them during class. I know because I read a few before passing them along. That was when they didn’t even know my name.

Couldn't find my 7th grade picture, but this 8th grade photo is close enough.

By seventh grade, the guys were taller; so were Sandra and Mitzi, and I had finally stopped growing. I was still taller, but at least I didn’t tower over the two by a head and a half. That was the year we became friends.

For some reason the two buddies didn’t have any classes together, but I sat by Sandra in my first three classes and by Mitzi in my last three. We had gravitated to each other because there were so few people from our elementary school in our classes. We knew no one, except Tommy and Billy who were super goofs that irritated us every time they opened their mouths.

“Hey,” they called to me. “Runnin’ ‘round with the big girls, huh?”

“Mitzi, where is your Siamese twin?” Tommy asked my friend. “Little desperate to be running around with BearTracks, aren’t you?” That’s what they called me and I hated it.

So it went, but the two pest-boys were right about one thing: I had become friends with two very popular girls. While I couldn’t totally explain the phenomenon, I was feeling pretty good about myself – until November.

As Thanksgiving approached, Sandra and I decided to have a party over the break, and as we talked about who to invite, I was surprised that she was debating whether or not to include Mitzi.

“She’s really changed since we started junior high, don’t you think?” I didn’t know what to say because I DID think she had changed; she was NICER, but obviously Sandra didn’t think so. I wasn’t about to jeopardize my new friendship with her so I just asked how she thought Mitzi had changed.

“She is SO stuck up. Don’t you think so?” Again, I was worried about what I should say to that. If I agreed, she might tell our friend, and Mitzi would hate me. But if I disagreed with Sandra, she might think I liked Mitzi more than her, and so I copped out.

“If you promise not to tell Mitzi, I have to agree with you. Ever since Brent Caldwell started calling her, she really thinks she’s something.”

Sandra jumped right on that, “I KNOW! She doesn’t have time for her friends anymore because she’s always talking to Brent or hanging around him. And I don’t even think he’s that cute. Do you?”

Now I thought Brent Caldwell was the most gorgeous boy in the whole state, maybe in the world, but I answered, “Are you kidding me? I don’t know what she sees in him, and he’s such a jerk, too. One day I walked up to the two of them when he was talking to Mitzi, and he totally started flirting with me! Right in front of her! I couldn’t believe it!”

Sandra added her opinions; we said good bye, then went our separate ways without coming to a final decision about whether or not to invite Mitzi to Sandra’s party.

A few days later, Sandra and I were walking home together, and she asked if I could come to her house to plan the party. I was so excited because this event was going to be a Renae and Sandra production instead of a Mitzi and Sandra social.

While talking about food, music, and decorations, Sandra interrupted the planning to ask what I was wondering, “Well, should we invite Mitzi or not?” I just shrugged my shoulders because I really didn’t want to make the decision. “It’s your party, Sandra. Do what you want,” I finally blurted out because she wouldn’t stop staring at me.

Finally, she suggested that we call Mitzi and see how she acted towards us. “I’ll get on one phone and you get on the extension, okay?” Sandra ordered. “But don’t tell her you are on the line, and I’ll just talk to her for awhile, and then you tell me what you think. Besides, I don’t want her to know that you and I are planning this party.”

Something told me this was not a good idea, but being the wimp I was, I nodded in agreement and headed to the basement to pick up the other phone.

After a few minutes of friendly chit-chat, Sandra paused in the conversation with Mitzi and then asked, “Hey, what do you think of Renae?”

I was stunned. Why would she ask a question like that? And then I thought maybe she wanted to see if Mitzi would say something rude about me and that would determine whether or not Sandra would invite her old friend to the party. Still, I did not want to hear Mitzi’s answer because I really did like her. I held my breath.

“Oh, my gosh,” she started. “I can’t stand her. She is so conceited, and I seriously don’t know why.”

My heart sunk, my stomach churned, and then I heard Sandra say, “I KNOW! She used to be so sweet, and now she is the most stuck-up person in our school.”

I couldn’t believe what I heard, and tears started welling up. Part of me wanted to scream into the phone that I was listening to every word they were saying, but somehow I realized they knew that. Mitzi spoke up, “Can you believe she’s even trying to take Brent away from me. Every time we’re all together, she totally plays up to him right in front of me! But he can’t stand her and she doesn’t even see that.”

Carefully, I placed the phone in its cradle, quietly climbed the stairs, and let myself out.

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… maybe Hallmark cards hit the mark sometimes …

I read this remark when perusing a column in a London online paper of sorts:

There would be no Hallmark cards or fancy brunches for her on this day. She claimed that Mother’s Day was a manufactured holiday and that she would only ever accept one gift: flowers plucked from the field and plunked into a jelly jar, along with a homemade card. My sisters and I were happy to oblige. ~ Amy Dickinson

And while I agree in the beauty of simplicity, I have to appreciate my darling husband’s diligence in finding just the right card, and yes, it’s often a Hallmark. He spends a fair amount of time reading the verses, and doesn’t stop until he finds one that either brings him to tears or makes him laugh out loud.

This year’s Mother’s Day card brought forth tears:

Love means trusting myself with someone 

who has seen me at my worst

and loves me anyway. It means teasing each other

and laughing at inside jokes

nobody but us understands.

It means feeling safe enough to talk about anything

and having the patience to work out disagreements.

Love means counting on someone who sympathizes when I’ve had a bad day, 

worries about me when I’m gone too long,

and always welcomes me with open arms.

Love means so many things 

because to me, love is you.

He added, “I love you in so many ways! You are my life and purpose for living.”

And I am a most fortunate woman.

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

This past week I received an email from JibJab – the site where you grab some photos and lop the heads of friends and family and stick them on site’s videos or postcards for a hilarious effect. The site had 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.


… maybe the yummiest candy bar in the WORLD …

The first photo I took on our trip to Bryce Canyon was of a candy bar – I’m serious. We walked into a Chevron mini-mart after gassing up the car to grab a snack. As I perused the aisles, I experienced a blast from the past.

Settled in next to Reece’s Peanutbutter Cups, Hersey bars, KitKats, Twix Bars, etc. was an Idaho Spud. NO, not one of those potatoes that have made Idaho famous, but that incredible confection that combines “a light cocoa flavored, soft marshmallow center drenched with a dark chocolate coating and then sprinkled with coconut.” DE.LI.CI.OUS.

THE One AND Only Spud!!!

The shape is SUPPOSED to look like a POTATO!

I hadn’t enjoyed one of these delicacies since I LIVED in the Gem State, and so I didn’t care that it cost more than 5 times the amount I used to pay for the candy bar. At first, I worried that it wouldn’t live up to the memories I have of biting into chocolate-covered softness, BUT IT DID! It was every bit as scrumptious as I remembered.

I think this retro-version was smaller than the candy bars I bought back in the day, but it was just as messy. I was covered in coconut and so was the car seat!

I also enjoyed reading the snippets of history found on the wrapper, but in researching the Idaho Candy Company, home of the Spud, I learned the candy dates back further back than 1930, the date printed on the packaging.

On the way BACK from Bryce, we stopped again, and I bought one of the bars for Mom. She was as excited as I was – doesn’t take much to please us Idaho women!

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… maybe you’re wondering why I’m posting EVERY day …

And maybe you’re wondering why every title includes the “maybe” word.

Well, wonder NO more.

Reason #1: Not exactly like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the “knock-off” site, NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) promotes posting every day. While November is the BIG promo for NaBloPoMo, the organization does invite bloggers to respond to a different theme for every month.

This month, the theme is MAYBE, and for some unexplained reason, it struck a chord. I hated the word when I was a kid because it was a way my parents had of putting off a decision:

“Mom, can I sleep over at Diane’s?”

Maybe. We’ll see. Let me think about it.” (Three ways to say “maybe.”)

“Dad, can I sleep over at Diane’s?”

Maybe you should ask your mother.”

When I became a mom, however, my 4 boys soon learned that when Mom said “maybe,” it usually meant “yes.” But when Dad said “maybe,” it was a “no,” unless Mom could work her magic on him.

Reason #2. WordPress.com, my publishing platform of choice, is also sponsoring a post-a-day OR a post-a-week challenge. I opted for the weekly route because I WAS pretty good about posting that often. BUT life got crazy all around me, and I was lucky to publish every 10 days.

Now that things have calmed a teeny-tiny bit, I thought posting every day would get me back in the writing groove, and it has.

Reason #3: During my “I’m-too-busy-to-blog” weeks, dozens of writing ideas haunted me. WordPress sends me writing ideas every day, along with Plinky. But I don’t really need writing ideas as my life is crazy enough to generate topics that attack me from every direction. I realize, however, that if I don’t get them in print fast, I’ll forget. (I’ve been dying to post that PooParty blog!)

I also have dozens of pictures I want to share. April was a bit of a travel month, and so I know you are waiting with baited breath to see my Bryce Canyon and Albuquerque shots!

Reason #4: Blogging often builds up readership. While that isn’t the main reason I do this, it is still a thrill to learn that someone enjoyed what you had to say about something – even if the topic is poo.

Reason #5: I just love to reflect and to write. End of story.

Until tomorrow, rbs


… maybe the WORST grandma experience EV.ER …

So last night I shared some of the highs of spring break; now be prepared for the definite low point!!!! Sorry there will be NO incriminating pictures posted, but when you start reading, you’ll be grateful! And if you have a squeamish tummy, STOP NOW!!!

While taking care of my grandchildren last month, we enjoyed lots of fun activities, but the INFAMOUS POO PARTY WAS NOT ONE OF THEM!

Two-year-old Carter sometimes enjoys a little chat with himself as he drifts off to sleep during his nap time. But on the afternoon of April 8, he seemed to be having an especially good time. After 10 minutes, he walked into the living room with no pants or diaper on, and we knew we were in trouble.

Picture taken just a couple of hours BEFORE the INCIDENT!

Now I feel I need to be delicate in describing the next events, and so I decided to bullet them.

  • Grand daughter Taylor quickly escorted him into the bathroom where she plopped Carter-the-Pooh into the tub.
  • Gramma (me) made her way to the bedroom to assess the damage and found the following:
    • Poo-covered carpet near HIS BROTHER’S BED.
    • Poo-covered shoes – his BROTHER’S. It seems Carter wore 4-year-old Connor’s SUNDAY shoes to tip-toe through the poo poo. (“GRA-A-A-MA! THOSE ARE MY SPECIAL SHOES! I’LL NEVER WEAR THEM AGAIN!!!)
  • Gramma grabbed rags and paper towels and steeled herself  to tackle the disaster.
  • 15 seconds later, she gagged and ran for the bathroom. (A-R-R-R-R-R-R-GH!!!)
  • Taylor (McGyver Girl) tried to create a gas mask so she could help me.
  • Gramma continued to scrub the carpet for as long as she could hold her breath.
  • Taylor ran throughout the house spraying air freshner.
  • Almost finished, Gramma grabbed onto the bedpost to help herself stand up and THEN …
  • She S-C-R-E-A-M-E-D  and S-C-R-E-A-M-E-D when her hand slid off the bedpost because … well, you can imagine.
  • Gramma washed and Washed and WASHED and washed her hands.
  • In the middle of the mayhem, Carter’s mom and dad called from Florida, and Taylor filled them in – even texted them a photo of the disaster. (ICK!)

Now I know that many toddlers use this medium to paint walls, cribs, and bathtubs, including my own boys – but NOT lately! And I’m pretty tough, but this was just about more than a grandma could take.

The only comfort was knowing that Connor or Taylor would NEVER let Carter live this down. Perhaps they will remind him of the event at the most appropriate time – like when he brings his first girlfriend home to meet the family. Revenge is BEST served COLD, and it is NOT as STINKY GROSS!


… maybe the best spring break EV.ER …

Mommy and Daddy were enjoying themselves on a vacation that took them to Busch Gardens in Florida and scuba diving in the Caribbean. Grandma agreed to watch their four adorable kidlets on the weekends that bookended their 10-day get-away. The very first Saturday, April 8, 2011, didn’t start so well because …

we woke up to this:

A balmy 33 degrees

And Mommy and Daddy basked in this:

80 degrees, but who's counting?

Later that day, Mommy and Daddy sent photos of the wild things in Florida:

Florida Gator

While we experienced the wild things at McDonald’s:

McGator spotted in A.F.

While Mommy and Daddy oohed and awed over the Garden’s creatures …


we fussed over GrammaBecky’s little creatures.


While Mommy and Daddy explored the depths of the sea:

"... under the seeeeeeeeea ..."

The DEPTHS of the SEA explored US!


YuPPer! It was a GREAT BREAK! For all of us! 


… beginning of the end of the “war on terror”… maybe ….

Dear FUTURE Great and Great-Great Grandchildren,

Yesterday was one of those historic dates that you may read about in your history books in your online history class. You will interact with the text and learn that on May 1, 2011, nearly 10 years after September 11, 2001, the evil genius behind the Alqaeda attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City was FINALLY hunted down and killed.

 At first, as silly as this may seem, I felt like the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz who sang, “Ding dong! the witch is dead; the witch old witch, the witch old witch. Ding dong! the wicked witch is dead.” But then I stopped myself. Like many Americans, I realized that it isn’t right to be excited over any person’s death – wicked as they may be.  

In that distant day, you may not access the hologram that could show the celebrating crowd of 2000 or more cheering in front of the White House from where President Barak Obama made the late evening announcement. But you may stumble onto an ancient CNN story that tells about those who went to Ground Zero – former home of the Twin Towers – to honor the 3000 plus who died there, and you may hear a recording of the crowd’s rendition of  “I’m Proud to be an American.” While many are excited that the tyrant is dead, I hope what we are truly celebrating is the death of what bin Laden symbolized.

Throughout that evening, your great granny here watched those same stories as they unfolded on television (which, to you,  may be an obsolete piece of technology), and they reminded me of photos I had seen of the ending of World War II. I wondered as I watched if this was as big event as VJ Day was back in 1945. Or was it as monumental as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that signaled the end of Cold War? Most importantly, I asked myself, “Is bin Laden’s demise the “beginning of the end of the ‘war on terror?'”


In the coming day, weeks, months, and years, I will learn the answer to that question, and I hope it is a resounding YES. Most politicians and analysts really don’t think so. But I hope they are wrong.

Years from now, when you study this historical event, I HOPE you are curious about the bearded man and wonder how his malevolent influence faded so fast from the face of the world.

I PRAY in that day that you ask yourself how such a one could have misinterpreted the beautiful teachings of the Koran in a way that directed hundreds of Muslims into extremist paths of deep hatred and vast destruction.

I DREAM that when you learn the details, such despicable human beings and appalling events will elude your understanding because YOUR world is one where Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindi, Buddhists and many other peoples and faiths co-mingle in peace.

I know yesterday’s event may not bring about the desires of my heart and my prayers for you, but I want you to understand that I have faith that one day our world will know the peace we dream of. It may not happen in my lifetime or yours, but it will happen, my darlings.

I love you. 


… it’s MAY … maybe …

It’s been a tough spring here in Utah:



… Well, you get the point. But today is MayDay. And hopes are high that more than May flowers will appear.

In some yesteryear, May Day meant the Soviets paraded their warheads, tanks, and soldiers to communicate strength to their countrymen and to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.

Interesting way to welcome in spring????

In Merry Olde England, girls danced AROUND the May Pole – a LOVERLY way to greet the fifth month.

To ensure you have the right image in mind, here is a Flickr photo from Great Britain of just such a dance.

Our May Day celebration is a BIRTHDAY celebration for this cutie, who turned 3 today.

Happy Birthday, Big Guy! LOVE your PIRATE FACE!