Writing My Life

Now and Then


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… 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!

LAS VEGAS!!!!

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. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

GRANDKIDS GONE WILD!

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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… her birthday was yesterday … I didn’t forget …

Cousin Bonnie was on my mind yesterday, February 22. Had she not died 26 years ago, she would have turned 62 on Monday; 3 months older than me. Because Bonnie was such a talented poet, and because I am proud to be cousin to the Utah Poet of the Year 1983, I decided to pay tribute to her this month. I also love  many of her poems because they speak of people and places I know and love. But there is another reason I felt prompted to remember Bonnie, and I wrote a little bit about that in earlier posts. I mentioned that this cousin haunts me. Maybe I should say her words haunt me. But I’m talking about more than her poems; I’m actually referring to the inscription she wrote in my copy of Wake the Unicorn.

After the poetry readings of Bonnie’s work, she signed copies of her book during the reception honoring her. I waited in line to hug and kiss her and to get my autographed copy. We exchanged warm greetings; I offered my warmest congratulations to her, and told her how very proud I was of this tremendous accomplishment .  I remember Bonnie absolutely glowed in the joy of that evening. Finally, she picked up the book,  scribbled a short message, and hugged me again as she handed the copy to me. I didn’t immediately read what she wrote, but when I looked over the inscription, her words startled me.

While I’ve often battled with my own jealousies, I didn’t really see how anyone could be jealous of ME! (Except for my little sister Connie – but that’s normal because oldest sisters get to do MOST things before younger sisters, including growing older!) I never DREAMED Bonnie might be jealous of me, and I could only guess why because I wasn’t close enough to her to understand how or when this developed. I immediately realized I hated being the object of jealousy even more than BEING jealous.

In a scanned copy of a photo, I present Bonnie in yellow and me hiding behind my hands from what, I don't know!

I’ve often read her poems to learn more about her, and as I do, I see reasons to envy her short life. Those who peopled Bonnie’s world are painted as such interesting characters: the teacher of her one-room school house, the American Indian woman who “speaks of the Sun Dance,” the gypsy with the “black oiled hair” and “luminous eyelids,” and the witch who is  “old as your fear of the unknown.” When I add in the landscapes and the seasons; the pains, the joys, and the love Bonnie saw and felt, I marvel at how intricately she observed and how deeply she breathed in everything around her. Not only in reflection, but in the very moment. To find, then pen perfect words, I think Bonnie must have lived the world – simultaneously breathing in experiences through every one of her senses, and then freeing her heart to examine each sensation. I doubt that this makes much sense because I am trying to describe the indescribable. I should just let her poetry do the talking.

Bonnie, happy birthday.

Renae


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… 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.

WASH DAY

~ 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.


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… Bonnie, in memoriam …

Artist: Bonnie H. Behunin

If you log onto the Internet and type Bonnie H. Behunin or Bonnie Howe Behunin in a search window, you will find her. You may learn that she authored a book, Wake the Unicorn, and you might find it is still available on Amazon.com for $8.95. The copy “is signed by author. Very minor cover wear. Text clean, no marks. Pages tight. Purchase aids a non-profit animal hospice.” (I didn’t know there WERE animal hospices.)

Another link shares an excerpt from Wake the Unicorn, and you’ll learn the book was the … 

Utah State Poetry Society Book of the Year

1983, Wake The Unicorn by Bonnie Howe Behunin

The Witch

Sometimes children taunt me,
small eyes whispering
behind hands extended
like open Chinese fans.
―Her face is smooth.
She is not old at all.
But I am old.
Old as the rocks
on the Greek shores
of my birth.
Old as your fear
of the unknown,
unopened box
of my smooth face.
Guard your fear.
This distance
between us
may be the only separation
preventing you
from becoming me.

You might be curious enough to look up “Utah State Poetry Society” (USPS) or “Utah Poet of the Year,” and there you will see the long list of those honored since the award’s inception. Among those dates and names, you will find hers:

1983    **Bonnie H. Behunin  Wake The Unicorn

You will notice the two asterisks hovering near that capital “B”. Slowly, you scroll down to the bottom of the list, passing a few other starred names along the way. Double-spaced below the 1965 poet, “Vesta P Crawford Shortgrass Woman,” you find the key: “**deceased.”

Somewhere on the WorldWideWeb you might learn that Bonnie was born on February 22, 1948 to Pete and  Ida Howe, but that would take longer than you have time. I doubt you would discover that she attended  a one-room school house in Atomic City, Idaho or that she was diagnosed with “sugar diabetes” at age. 12. Your research may turn up her death date, and you may wonder if that vile disease brought her down at age 36. It did.

If you ordered Wake the Unicorn from Amazon or the USPS, you could read “About Bonnie” on page 57. The paragraphs would fill in some gaps – 4th of 5 children, rode the bus 2 hours a day to high school, read scores of novels during those rides and into the night, graduated from Brigham Young University with a double major in art and English,  enrolled in every creative writing class that she could find, and her poems were published.

Before leaving the short biography, you discover that she adopted her two-year-old neice, Kristina in 1978 and married Newel Behunin at age 32. You won’t read that she taught school in Vernal, Utah until she went blind, but you will learn that “her close-knit family [had] been an inspiration to her … when her health [had] been precarious.”

If you peruse her poetry, you will most likely agree with the author of her biographical sketch who wrote, “Born … on George Washington’s birthday, this writer can ‘never tell a lie.’  Her poetry is honest, sometimes painfully so. She weaves memory into the fantasy of universal experience in a unique way.”  And then you’ll re-read the judges comments:

Wake the Unicorn shows a consistent pattern of development; the voice in the poems is one of honesty and integrity … the strength is in its fresh imagery and sustained emotional impact. While the book is regional in its flavor, it escapes being too provincially involuted and bounded by the author’s ego.

Here is fresh perception, sensitive, genuine. There is a lovely, restrained tragic sense, but it is an un-self-centered and moving sorrow, and soul searching. This is artistic without artiness.

The author is facile, has caught in minor tunes, the major themes in life through a lovely simplicity.

If you read her poetry, you’ll see into Bonnie’s heart and mind and will feel the sensitivity, the honesty,  and the tragedy. We were cousins, Bonnie and I, but I didn’t really know her. At age 7, I visited her in Atomic City and went with her to that one-room school for a day. I chatted with her at family reunions and ran into her now and again at BYU. We caught up with family news and then drifted back to our own lives.

In 1983, I attended the poetry reading and reception that honored her as Utah’s Poet of the Year. Dr. Max Golightly read her poems, and I was so proud OF and FOR her. I still am.

Bonnie haunts me, however, and so I want to remember and honor her during this month of her birth, this February with its Valentines Day and presidents’ birthdays.  You see, Bonnie Howe Behunin lived as a poet, and her words memorialize her.


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… a time for wishes and dreams … another storytale …

Once upon a time, a grandma who liked to read and tell stories found that snapshots of her grandchildren contained wonderful tales needing to be told. And so the grandma decided to create “story-tales,” based upon the GranDarlings in the photos, some fictional details, and a few facts. Here is the second one!

“She’ll grow out of it,” her parents assured one another after tucking their oldest daughter into bed. They could hardly find her amidst the scores of stuffed horses, unicorns, and ponies. A quick glance around her room didn’t build their hopes as they gazed at posters, paintings, and drawings of Appaloosas, Palominos, Mustangs, and quarter horses. Then Dad nearly cursed when his bare foot landed on the hard bodies of plastic Pintos and Arabians scattered across the floor.  My Little PonyBefore her father shut the door, a colossal collection of “My Little Ponies” grinned at the parting parents thus adding to his aggravation.

Certain that Mom and Dad were downstairs in their own room, the daughter awakened from her pretended sleep and stared up at the skylight just above her bed. Momentarily, the clouds masked the stars until one twinkling light pushed its way from the mass of particles. Its gleam triggered an instantaneous response from the dreamy child.

“First star I see tonight,

I wish I may, I wish I might

Have the wish, I wish tonight.

I wish for a pony.”

No sooner had the words whisked from her lips, when the glittering star sank back into cloud’s cover. The girl smiled, rolled over, and pulled the quilt snuggly over her shoulders.

A few years passed, and the parents’ prediction came through. Their daughter’s bedroom now housed posters of Hannah Montana, Taylor Swift, and the Jonas Brothers. The stuffed unicorn was the only equine reminder of her youthful obsession, plus she finally stopped asking or wishing for ponies. While she no longer talked of horses, she did think about them, and sometimes wondered what happened to that middle-of-the-night wish on the lone star that showed up in the center of her skylight.

Until one summer day, the girl dismissed this curiosity as something from her “childhood.” She knew she was growing up, and so she had less time for wishes and dreams. But that particular day, she was watching her little cousin who was just about the same age she had been when she became fascinated with ponies.

After twirling through “Ring-around-the-rosies” at least a dozen times, the two cousins collapsed onto the grass, dizzy with exhaustion.

“Now what can we play?” the three-year-old asked.

“I dunno. What do you want to play?” her older cousin replied, pulling her pink hat over her eyes to block the sun.

“I wish we had a pony, don’t you?”

Taylor and MiaSuddenly, the sky clouded over, and a wind swept down from the graying, swirling mist. The little one squealed first in fright and then in delight, as she looked up into the green eyes of a beautiful pony wearing her cousin’s pink hat! Without hesitation, she climbed onto the pony’s back and hugged it tightly. Off the two went amid joyful shrieks and whinnies.

With the setting of the sun, the two playmates again found themselves lying on the cool grass wondering how, when, and why wishes come true, as they often do.

Note: Nothing is more delightful than watching grandchildren frolic in the backyard on a warm summer evening.