I like Halloween/I don’t like Halloween

I like the color orange, all shades. I like decorating our flower garden with different sizes and kinds of pumpkins. I like smiling Jack-o-lanterns. I like decorating the inside of our house with cute little ghosts and a witch that rocks as she sings, and a little haunted house that lights up. I like seeing the creative costumes people come up with, and watching my grandkids switch from one idea to another as they try to decide what they want to be. I like giving out candy with my witch puppet. I like babies dressed up like puppies or kittens. I like hot chocolate and chili. I like ordering Halloween children’s books. I like candy corn, mini Snickers, and Kit Kats. Oh and Mounds. I love Mounds mini bars. I like pumpkin cookies and pumpkin soup and pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin everything. I like when my grandsons sneak up behind me to scare me and laugh till they fall over when they succeed so amazingly well. I love the fun and funny parts of Halloween.

I don’t like scary faces on Jack-o-lanterns. I don’t like spooky masks or vampires with protruding eye-teeth. I don’t like hairy were-wolf costumes. I don’t like princess costumes that include blood. I don’t like haunted houses or scream movies. I don’t like cobwebs on my face. I don’t like feeling like an overgrown sloth because I’ve overindulged on Snickers and Kit Kats and Mounds bars and pumpkin everything. I don’t like that even though I knew exactly what my grandsons were up to and what was coming, I still lurched back and screamed a piercing Aaaaaah when they jumped out at me. I don’t like the scary part of Halloween.


A Halloween Poem

I first saw this little poem attached to a Jack-o-lantern on a teacher’s desk. I loved it!

I can’t remember what I did yesterday, but I’ve remembered this poem for forty-five years.










by John Ciardi



We went on a family trip last week along with thousands of others because it was UEA (Utahns Entering Anaheim)

This vacation I started a list early, determined not to forget anything major again like underwear or medications. I wasn’t even going to forget anything minor like glasses, socks, deodorant. In fact, I packed everything we could possibly need and even considered taking the toilet plunger which, as things turned out, we could have used. In other words, there wasn’t much left in the house when we left—well, except my husband of almost forty-five years, the father of our children, the grandfather of our thirteen grandchildren. We forgot him.

I’m still not clear on how this happened. We’d planned everything so carefully. Because there were so many of us, we’d decided that this trip Vaun and I would ride in separate cars so that we could help our children with their driving and refereeing. The plan was that I’d start off with my son and his family and Vaun would go with my oldest daughter and her kids.

My daughter-in-law needed to make a quick stop at a Provo rehab so she could deliver some flowers to her grandmother. That’s when, luckily, my daughter called. She’d just passed Provo and she wanted to know where we were going to meet. Also luckily, I asked to talk to Vaun.

“I don’t have Dad with me,” she said. “I thought you had him.”

“But you were going to pick him up.”

“Nobody told me that.”

“Ha ha,” I said. She kids me sometimes. Once, when we had an ad in, she disguised her voice and said she wanted to rent our two-bedroom apartment with five kids, a “small” pit bull and two “well-behaved” great Danes.

“No, Mom, I’m totally serious. I promise I don’t have Dad with me.”

It was one of those moments when you can’t locate your lungs. “So we left him? We left Dad? Oh my gosh!” I felt terrible. I pictured Vaun upset and hurt like that Macaulay what’s his name in HOME ALONE. I pictured him frantically trying to remember our smart phone numbers, or racing to our daughter’s and back again, trying to figure out where everyone was.

“I’ll try to call him,” said my daughter.

I tried as well and ten or fifteen minutes later we’d worked out that he would drive to the Spanish Fork Walmart where we’d meet him and then we’d leave the extra car at our daughter-in-law’s grandmother’s house.

“So are you upset?” I asked him when we connected.  “I guess I thought you’d worked it out with Nicki and you thought I had, and she apparently wasn’t in the loop. Are you going to be emotionally scarred for the remainder of your life because your family left without you?”

“Not really,” he said sheepishly. Then he explained that when our daughter hadn’t come by he’d just figured she was running late and he had laid down and “shut his eyes” for a few minutes. In other words, he’d pretty much slept through it all. And the fact is we live in an amazing electronic age with phones that operate anywhere. Consequently, it turned out okay. We all made it to California by ten-thirty that night—just an hour or so later than we’d planned.

Sigh. But then we misplaced our debit card; our hotel cancelled our reservations for some mysterious reason ; and oh, some of us got stomach flu. That’s life, right? But Disneyland was still Disneyland–the same crazy happy place.


I bought a couple of pairs of reading glasses at the dollar store recently and a couple of pairs of sunglasses. Because the store was low on inventory, one pair had leopard handles and was a little “out there”—not really my style, but hey, the price was right. I decided I’d leave that pair in my car and just use them when it got too sunny. Well, yesterday when I took my seven-year-old granddaughter on an errand, I spotted those glasses and admitted to myself that they were probably a little over-the-top for me and more a “fun” style of sunglasses that a kid would wear. “If you want these glasses you can have them,” I said, handing them back to her. “Here, try them on and see if you like them.”

There was a long silence.“What do you think?” I asked.

“They’re . . . . ummmm . . . a little blurry,” she said.

“They are?”

I looked back and realized I’d gotten confused. The leopard glasses weren’t sunglasses; they were reading glasses 200+. I’m still laughing at the sight of Tessa staring at me through those glasses  with enlarged, magnified eyes—all polite and cooperative, but confused. Okay, maybe you had to be there.

A dozen original and not so original ways to injure yourself in a kitchen

I’m not saying I’ve done all these things… at least not all of them today

1. Slice your fingers along with a tomato.

2.  Slam the utensil drawer on your hand.

3. Hit the side of your head on the pantry door.

4. Catch your hair on fire as you light birthday candles.

5. Boil some eggs until the pan is completely dry, then race up to the stove just as the eggs explode.

6.  Reach over the pressure cooker in order to grab something behind it and hit the steam thingy with your arm.

7.  Reach into the back of a pantry shelf only to remember that you hid the sharp knives in a basket back there to keep them away from your grandchildren.

8.  Knock a can of refried beans or a jar of spaghetti sauce, or a rolling pin from the counter top onto your bare feet.

9. Place a pot roast in an unstable position in your freezer so that when you open the door it will slide out and hit your (again) bare feet.

10. Stuff the top shelf of your pantry so full that the kingsize box of fruit snacks pops out and falls out onto your head.

11. Slip on your area rug and fall head first onto the wood (or tile) floor.

12. Sit down in a kitchen chair without checking to make sure it is still there.

Any you’d like to add?

I just finished Harper Lee’s GO SET A WATCHMAN

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I admit I was biased from the beginning because I wondered why an unrelated story would be published with the same characters as those in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I’d heard Harper Lee wrote GO SET A WATCHMAN first, but it still seemed strange. Plus, I’d heard that Atticus Finch was depicted in an unflattering way and was not the man of complete integrity that he is in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. That seemed almost blasphemous! Atticus Finch is one of my all-time favorite characters in all of literature— I love that man. But as I got further into GO SET A WATCHMAN, I settled down and was able to separate the characters in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD from the characters in GO SET A WATCHMAN. I began to recognize that this really was a different story, one with a different theme—one with some merit and power of its own, but most important, a forerunner to the acclaimed book I love.

I believe Harper Lee’s talent had to be evident to the publishing company when she first sent in this manuscript years ago, and I’m guessing that is why they suggested she try to rework it. I understand it was an editor who suggested she use a younger version of Scout to narrate the story. If this is true, then that astute editor deserves at least a little of the credit for the classic that followed.

Here are a couple of other suggestions I’m thinking this editor or other editors might have made after reading GO SET A WATCHMAN.

Show more and tell less. GO SET A WATCHMAN includes long discussions or arguments about race relations. In my opinion, these discussions are heavy-handed and preachy. In TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD there is dialogue as well, but this time Harper Lee allowed the story itself to do most of the talking.

Let the scenes work as building blocks to develop the plot. I did not get the feeling that some of the scenes in GO SET A WATCHMAN were leading us anywhere. In fact, I kept wondering where on earth we were heading. That’s not to say they were boring. Several made me laugh out loud, and others were thought-provoking and even powerful, but the scenes, until the end at least, did not always seem necessary. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, on the other hand, is a much more cohesive book. The scenes build and support each other, leading us step by step to the powerful climax and denouement.

It could be that Harper Lee worked these things out on her own as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’s plot began to unfold for her. It could be that once she had her idea, the story began to tell itself, and the characters took over, helping her develop the story. This happens sometimes. However it happened, it worked.

Am I glad I read GO SET A WATCHMAN? As I mentioned above, it had some merit and good parts. It was thought-provoking. Mostly though, it was interesting and inspiring to see the huge difference between this first effort and Harper Lee’s subsequent effort. It confirms once again that what we view as rejections or failures in our lives really can become the proverbial stepping stones that lead us to greater success and excellence.

Sounds like VaLois, right?

mou0042461-1_20150801I just realized that one of my favorite fictional characters in one of my favorite books might as well be twins with our neighbor who just passed away. If you knew VaLois, see if you agree:

Lucinda Matlock

(from Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters)

I went to the dances at Chandlerville,

And played snap-out at Winchester.

One time we changed partners,

Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,

And then I found Davis.

We were married and lived together for seventy years,

Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,

Eight of whom we lost

Ere I had reached the age of sixty.

I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,

I made the garden, and for holiday

Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,

And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,

And many a flower and medicinal weed—

Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.

At ninety-six, I had lived enough, that is all.

And passed to a sweet repose.

What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,

Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?

Degenerate sons and daughters,

Life is too strong for you—

It takes life to love Life.

Recognize that gusto? Whenever we’d go visit VaLois, my husband and I would come away in awe. “Now that lady has a life,” we’d say. Like Lucinda Matlock, VaLois lived her life fully: she cooked; she sewed; she cleaned. She too had her dancing days and she sang. She sang when and what she wanted to sing and didn’t care what people thought. And she went places.

Up until a few months ago, she’d get in her car and go where she needed  or wanted to go—the hairdressers, her beloved TOPS and to weddings and funerals. Sometimes she’d drive for many miles to visit friends and relatives.

Oh, she wasn’t perfect. She was opinionated and strong-willed probably to a fault. “We go the first Monday of the month in the morning first thing,” she let me know when I was assigned to visit teach with her, a church assignment. That’s how it was. So that’s what we did.  But it ended up that I liked that set up. It simplified things. There were no questions and no endless phone calls. Her belief and testimony simplified her life and the lives of others as well. You could count on it. You could count on her to tell you what she believed and thought was right straight out and without apology.

I can’t remember how many grandchildren and great grandchildren VaLois had, but her life wasn’t easy. Like Lucinda Matlock, some of VaLois’s family members left this life before her. Unlike Lucinda, VaLois had to go on solo without her husband for a few years, but again she kept living with energy and strength. And maybe she didn’t make it to ninety-six, but I can just hear her say what Lucinda Matlock said,  “It takes life to love life.” And VaLois did. You could tell she did. VaLois, I wish you “a sweet repose.”

Story Trek is my kind of TV


Yesterday morning I happened to catch a rerun of The Story Trek on BYU television. So good. It reminded me of my favorite book, Spoon River Anthology, in which individuals tell their life stories in just a few lines. But these people are real and alive.

The episode I watched featured a recovering addict who’s happy to be productive again; a river guide, who, like “The Fiddler” in Spoon River Anthology, spends his life doing what he loves; a man who had a troubled youth and thought he never wanted to return to his hometown, but is there now taking care of his mother who always loved him unconditionally; and my favorite, a Moab couple who fell in love because they both liked to dance and who have been “dancing” through life ever since. They had to be extremely creative in order to stay in Moab, the town they loved, building their home from old pieces of movie sets, and coming up with ways to make money by starting businesses such as renting RVs. When the host asked if they were millionaires now, they laughed and seemed to think that was funny. “We’ve talked about how happy we’d be if we won the lottery,” they said. “But then we realized we’re really happy right now. We’ve always been happy.”

I guess I’m just a sucker for life stories, and The Story Trek contains these kinds of gold nuggets of inspiration. I’m going to have to watch this program much more often.

Getting Older, by Toni Wunderlich

So here’s a poem my cousin Toni Wunderlich wrote and gave me for my birthday. (Along with her very thoughtful gift.)

Getting Older/ by Toni Wunderlich

Getting older is not so bad,

Even though your chest may sag.

And your hair, the loss is more.

Sinuses close, so now you snore.

Your eyes, they do more squinting now.

You have more lines upon your brow.

The food you eat has lost its’ taste

Your clothes are bulging at the waist.

You say “Huh?” to everyone.

Your hearing loss has just begun.

You don’t remember where things are,

Misplaced your keys, misplaced your car!

Your teeth are starting to fall out,

And watch those feet, you could have gout!

You go to bed earlier each night.

Your body doesn’t stand upright.

Your skin, it has those aging spots,

And don’t forget, you need flu shots.

Prune juice keeps you running smooth.

You use Ben-Gay, your pains to soothe.

And so your hair is turning gray,

And you’ve lost count how much you weigh.

Oh dear! What are you going to do?

There’s still more years ahead of you!

So here’s a gift in this small box,

Some shiny colored, little rocks,

I give to you at not much cost . . .

All the MARBLES you have lost!

Thanks so much Toni. Way to rub it in.

In The Face Of Another

Loved this blog post. This darling lady ended up marrying into out extended family. We’re happy her biological mom made this difficult decision.

Peculiar & Co.

Sometimes, when I would be fiddling around on the computer I would stop a moment and head to Google.  I would plug the words “who is my biological mother” into the empty information field and click “search”.  I would always chuckle to myself and shake my head as if to say “Silly girl. It’s not that simple, you know.”  And I knew it.  I knew it wasn’t that simple and would never be that simple to find my beginning.  Tell that to my heart of hearts, however.  There was always a part of me that was hopeful–even if it was a dim hope–that there would magically appear a name and a photograph of a strange young woman with a subdued smile on her face and a faraway look in her eyes.  I never imagined what she would actually look like, just that she would suddenly be there and I would…

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