Writing My Life

Now and Then


… 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!!!!


… 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.



… 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.


… 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.

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… a time to “tributize” hubby …

One night this past week, Hubby and I couldn’t stop laughing. The chuckles and giggles erupted over something ridiculous, the details of which I cannot begin to remember. But that’s not important! Gar’s goodnight comment, still laced with laughter, is what I’ll never forget. He rhetorically asked, “Who would ever know that living with someone could be so much fun?”

Now this observation delighted me because he said it after 40 years of marriage to ME. You see, I am NOT the easiest person to spend a lifetime with, let alone all eternity. I’m not saying he’s the easiest man to live with either, but there is NO ONE I’d rather laugh, cry, or argue disagree with. The miracle of our marriage is that we have grown to love each other for the people we really are – not the IMAGE of our dream mate or the spouse we THOUGHT married.

I adore Gary – my nit-picky, occasionally grumpy, chronic teaser of a husband! Over four decades I’ve learned to appreciate his many, many strengths and to either ignore his idiosyncrasies or snicker at them. I’m not going to dwell on his oddities, but I have to share a couple of them.

Unlike many males, Gar picks up after himself and anybody else who happens to live under our roof. I’m not saying he tidies up after us with a smile on his face and a song in his heart, but these days he tries not to growl too loudly. He’s also a great multi-tasker. If he comes home early, for instance, he’ll have the wash nearly finished, the lawn mowed, and dinner started before I arrive home. If I get home early, I’ll get my clothes changed before he shows up. Hmmmm.

I know many wives reading this post are thinking, “That’s NO oddity; that is SAINTLY.” But it can be annoying. Sometimes Many times, I drag home, ready to prop up my feet and just veg, but NOT Gar. He’s busy picking up or working in the yard, and so I can’t stretch out on the couch while he vacuums around me or lounge on the deck while watching him weed or plant yet another daylilly. So I sigh and pick up a dust cloth or a garden spade and drag my weary self through the motions of helping out.

There’s a particular cleaning situation, however, that I steer clear of. If the University of Utah and BYU are playing football against each other, and the Utes are playing poorly, Gar can’t suffer through intercepted passes or fumbled hand-offs. Because he is not able or allowed to run onto the field and ignite the offense or tighten up the defense, he grabs the vacuum and tears up and down the family room carpet. If the game doesn’t improve, the kitchen gets scoured, the floors scrubbed, and the garage organized. It’s quite amazing. Unfortunately, the red team didn’t  throw many interceptions or fumble many handoffs last season,  so the pre-holiday cleaning frenzy wasn’t what it used to be. (Go Cougs!)

Although my Gar is 60-something, I think he’s still afraid of the dark. He denies it, of course. But if you’ve ever visited our home in the evening, you may notice that little lights start twinkling from one end of the house to the other as darkness sets in. Nightlights line the hallway and the perimeters of every room. Of course our grown kids noticed the indoor landing lights and expressed curiosity about the type of aircraft expected to glide down our hallway.

Just in case the nightlights fail

Just in case the nightlights fail

A couple of Christmases ago, one of our daughters-in-law found the perfect gift for Gar – slippers with “toe-lights!” Seriously. But our son pooh-poohed the idea because he thought $39.95 was a little too much to pay for a gag-gift. I wish they had gone through with the purchase because I’m pretty sure his dad would have been thrilled. He LOVES slippers as well as lighted pathways.

Our grandchildren have also noticed that their grandpa is unique, if their titles for him are any indication of their observations. For example, my oldest son’s oldest daughter dubbed Gary BawCaw/Baca (not sure of the spelling). Upon hearing her refer to Grandpa by that dubious name, a nearby stranger commented upon the term by informing us that it means “crazy” in Japanese. A little further research indicates that Baca also means cowherd, mulberry tree, and misery. (By the way, it’s not listed among the 1000 most popular names between 1990 and 2003. Surprise.)

Our second son and his wife taught their children to call their grandpas by Papa, as in Papa Gary. I think that sounds quite cute. And while our third son and his wife encouraged their daughter to use “Grandpa Gary,” she came up with her own term of endearment: Cra-pa. (Say it fast for the total effect.) I thought it was pretty funny until yesterday when she called me Cra-ma.

So far this entry doesn’t sound much like a tribute, does it? Maybe a bit of a “roast?” (Thank heavens, Gary has a GREAT sense of humor!) Unfortunately, the post is growing in length, so I am going to “bullet” SOME of his MANY attributes, and later I’ll post pictures that share the rest of the story. First, the itemized list:

  • He quietly worries about all his children and grandchildren; I don’t think they realize how much.
  • He’s the first to ask, “Do you think we should send/give the kids a little something to help them through this tough time/to pay for their gas expenses/to celebrate their anniversary?
  • Out of the blue, he’ll send Halloween cards to our faraway grandchildren because he misses them.
  • Without an invitation or request, he’ll jump on a flight to a faraway state so he can help drive the moving truck to the next residence in another faraway state.
  • He’ll load and unload moving trucks for any son if at all possible.
  • He’ll paint walls, help build patio covers or fences, and plant a gazillion bushes, trees, and perenniels to make his wife or his sons’ wives a little happier.
  • He’ll play lion or monster, tickle bug, or sports fan to satisfy the needs of a grandchild.
  • He spends countless hours serving the Lord and NEVER complains about the time and energy it takes.
  • His only hobbies are and have always been his family. His “boys’ night outs” were spent as Scoutmaster with his sons on campouts or coaching or watching their baseball/basketball games.
  • He adores his mother-in-law and shows it.
  • He is always trying to be a better husband, father, grandfather, church member, neighbor, and person.

Gary isn’t the “Ward Cleaver” of Leave It to Beaver

Mr. Perfect Husband and Father

Mr. Perfect Husband and Father

nor the Archie Bunker of All in the Family …

The original GRUMPA!
The original GRUMPA!

Which all adds up to someone who isMY Gar



… a time to weep and a time to laugh… (or I didn’t think I looked my age until …)

In 2002, Jamie Lee Curtis, former True Lies hottie and current Activia spokesperson, blasted the media’s perfection myth by posing in her modest underwear, sans makeup and Photoshop’s glamorizing touch-ups. Nora Ephron, writer and director of When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle,  “feels bad about her neck,” and so she wrote an essay about its metamorphosis into a wattle.

While I applauded these celebrities’ willingness to face gravity’s heavy embrace, I chose to duck into clouds of delusion. Enjoying gasps from acquaintances who expressed disbelief that I could be the grandmother of 10, I thought I was successfully dodging Time’s plundering depredation.

But then the day came when I joined the madding crowds clamoring for friends through social networks. Unless you choose the anonymity of such sites’ blue silhouettes, it is necessary to post an image of yourself to accompany witty or sage comments.  

Me as Jane Austen

Me as Jane Austen

 At first, I thought I would remain incognito and choose a caricature of sorts. So I perused the galleries of Flickr.com to find a facsimile of Jane Austen, donned in clothes worthy of a trip to Bath. Her facial features, however, were not far removed from those of the blue silhouettes. 

Me as a Victorian romance-writer

Me as a Victorian romance-writer


 Next, I stumbled upon the likeness of a romantic Victorian lady writing, but I could hear echoes of my sons’ guffaws at my choice as they asked, “What the freak???? 


Glamour photo courtesey of the DMV

Glamour photo courtesey of the DMV

Eventually, my search for the perfect picture led me to my driver’s license, issued in 2004. Yes, that’s right – my DMV glamour photo! By a stroke of luck, a decent camera angle, a pretty good hair day, and a limited number of pixels, I have a picture ID to be proud of. And I don’t miss an opportunity to show it to any checker at any grocery store or any security attendant at any airport! I’ve even requested that the photo be published along with my obituary when that need arises.

In the meantime, I scanned, cropped, and uploaded the photo onto my computer and pasted it everywhere: My Google profile, my 3 Ning accounts, and Facebook! When long-lost friends found me on FB, I loved reading, “Cute picture!” or “You look fantastic!”  I even laughed when my boss, who sees me every day, accused me of cheating because I used a glamour photo.

But then the proverbial “moment of truth” came when my daughter-in-law “tagged” a current photo of me, taken at my grandbaby’s recent birthday party. I knew that anyone viewing that picture would know I was suffering from the “Oprah Effect” – no matter what the day-time diva looks like  on the  TV screen, Oprah remains svelt and ageless on every cover of O Magazine.

So, in the spirit of Jamie Lee, Nora, and Susan Boyle, too, I decided to publish pictures that reveal the real! Friends, please don’t think I’m feeling sorry for myself or seeking reassurance that I “don’t look that bad” because that’s not the point of this post. I am merely laughing at with myself for a variety of reasons.

Nice grimace!?!

Nice grimace!?!

Moment of Truth #1: Profiles don’t lie. In spite of 20 lost pounds, the double double is still hangin’ around! And I thought the new hair-do was flattering. Let’s rethink that one! At least there’s a cute guy sitting on my lap!

In the ample arms of love

In the ample arms of love

 Moment of Truth #2:  Cap sleeves don’t cut it after age 40. In Utah, 70% of the women call arms like mine “Relief Society arms,” named after the women’s organization of my church.  (I wonder if Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Methodist women nick-name these appendages  “church-lady” arms)

FYI: Global warming is the result of millions of female baby boomers' hot flashes. Now am I a candidate for a Nobel?

Female Baby-boomers: Known source of global warming!

Moment of Truth #3: You’re not experiencing a hot FLASH;  it’s a freakin’ heat WAVE!!! FYI: The onset of global warming coincided with the advancing ages of millions of female Baby-Boomers. And for heaven’s sakes, Girl, don’t wear pink blush! In this condition, YOU DON’T NEED IT! (But isn’t that baby adorable? Awww!) 

 So, that’s it! Oh, there are many more pix in the mix, and I really have to chuckle at how I see myself when I’m NOT looking. If I truly examine these photos, I’ll pass by the pudginess and see the playfulness; I’ll see joy, not jowls; and I’ll look at the love, not the love handles. Besides, in 20 years or so, I’ll sort through this collection and say to myself, “And I thought I looked OLD  in those pictures!”


… 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.