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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 A big thank you to my cousin LOUISE PLUMMER who wrote this and posted it on her entertaining blog, THE CHATTERING CROW. I appreciate her letting me reblog it and share it with you. Govert, our uncle. was just younger than my dad. I feel bad I did not ask him to say hi to my father from me, but have been assured that he probably didn’t need to be told.  It’s hard to see this generation of colorful, salt of the earth Dutchmen leave us. Now here are Louise’s thoughts:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Govert Copier 1920-2015

Gov was my Mother’s brother. He was a year and a half older than she was.  He and Jan, his older brother, let her play soccer with them, because she was as good as they were.  Gov was 95 and still in his right mind.  Mother died at 81, her mind bombed by Alzheimer’s.  The world is not a fair place.

What I learned at his funeral yesterday:

1. He was born on March 1, just missing a leap year birthday.  My sister, Joyce, and my grandson,Maxwell, also have March 1 birthdays.

2. When he came to America, he thought he might go with his Dutch nickname, “Goofy,” but some kind administrator told him that wouldn’t work in English.

3. He met Tante Freddie in church in Amsterdam.  She was singing with a friend in a little room and he went in and joined them.  He loved singing.  Later, when he asked Freddie to marry him, she said, “I will, but I want twelve children.”  He said that was okay.

4.  They had twelve children: seven boys and five girls.

5.  He attended all their games and activities.  This amazed me.  Tom and I usually left town when anything important was going on with our kids.

6. Freddie’s wedding gown was made from a silk parachute dropped over Holland during World War II.

7. He saved a child from the Nazis by taking a child the same age, who had identity papers, with him in his truck.  The Nazis let him pass.  Then he came back and said he’d forgotten something.  The third time he did this, he exchanged children and the Nazis just waved him past.

8. He said that Dutch people were not hard-headed but were true to their convictions.

9. He was an excellent chess player and often won the chess puzzles that the Deseret News used to run.

10. In Salt Lake, he was known as the singing painter. (He painted and wallpapered interiors).  His stippling technique was excellent.  This is how he and Emma Lou Thayne, the poet, became friends.  She had him touch up her rooms every year.

11.  He took a six-week conducting course from Spencer Cornwall, who was then conductor of the Tab Choir.

12.  He always carried a baton with him, because “you never know when you might be called on to conduct music.”

13. He played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof in Community Theater as well as other roles. I remember him singing, “If I Were A Rich Man,” at his 90th birthday party.

14.  He said if he ran for office, his slogan would be, “Wooden Shoe vote for me?”

15. He liked to fix things for other people.

16.  God, his family and the Mormon Church were his passions.  When he couldn’t go to church anymore, the High Priests met at his house around his hospital bed.  He led the music.

17.  The only time he bought a new car, was when his old car broke down on the way to one of his children’s weddings in California.  Evidently, the bishop sold cars and they brokered a deal in Sacrament Meeting.

18.  When asked what his advice to his progeny would be, he said, “Please tell them to be faithful to their spouses.”

19.  When his sister, Trintje, died in Opoe’s arms, she said, “Oh Mother, how beautiful! How light!”

20.  And I learned that Opoe (my grandmother) was the preferred midwife in Breukelen.  She was shunned for awhile after she joined the church, but they got over it and wanted her back. I didn’t know this.

21. Also, Opoe took her name off the Dutch Reformed Church records, much to the embarrassment of her family, and then returned after a year when she had found nothing better.  I didn’t know this either.

The Copier family was good, kind, maybe even guileless.  Having read a lot of sad memoirs, I appreciate their goodness more and more as I get older.

Again, the above was written by my cousin, Louise Plummer and posted on her blog, The Chattering Crow.
I did think of one more that I’d like to add: Govert loved America. He always had a flag in his front yard. He felt this country truly was the land of opportunity. As soon as he died, one of his sons lowered that flag to half mast.

There’s nothing like a little medical scare to help you prioritize.

Last Monday I visited my internist with some heart concerns. My heart seemed to be skipping beats and I could feel it beating hard in my neck. Sure enough an electrocardiogram confirmed that something was wrong.

In reviewing my file, the doctor also noticed that I’d had a nodule on my lung back in 2012 and that the former doctor (who has since retired) had made a note we should keep checking it every few months. That was news to me. My new doctor left the room and I could hear her talking to her assistants. When she came back in, she seemed to be trying a little too hard to sound calm. “Sorry that took so long. We’ve found a cardiologist who can take you today, and we we also scheduled you for a CT scan. I didn’t like the sound of that. I’ve dealt with cancer and didn’t really want to deal with it again. And who wants heart problems?

The next day I visited the heart center in a local hospital. The cardiologist was a non-smiling, quiet man who studied my electrocardiogram, then looked at me for signs of distress. “Are you hurting right now?” he asked. “Are you short of breath?”

“Not really,” I said. Nevertheless, he set me up with a stress test for the next day.

When I came back to the hospital the next day with my running shoes, I was soon pushing the limit of my endurance on a treadmill. I had to get my heart rate up to a certain number. The two hospital workers took a before ultrasound and and after ultrasound of my heart. The doctor, they said, would let me know the results the next day.

That afternoon  I got a call from my cardiologist. I hadn’t passed. The next step, he let me know, was a procedure to check and see if I had any blocked arteries. If that was the case, there would be an intervention and a stint or stints would be put in, but first I had a CT scan scheduled.

Was it okay to have the two so close? “It’s fine,” he said. And so on Wednesday I had a CT scan and on Thursday I had a heart procedure. Here’s what I did inbetween:

1. Called friends who’d had heart problems to ask advice. Realized how they must have felt when they had their procedures and promised myself to be more empathetic when others have medical scares or difficult life problems of any kind.

2. Told my husband I love and appreciate him and called each of my children to let them know as well how much I love them and their families. I hadn’t done that for a while. Took more time talking to my mom than usual, explaining everything while trying not to worry her. Thought about my influence on others. How could I be a better example? What did I need to let them know?

3. Wrote a check to the Red Cross designated for aid to Nepal and vowed to give much more generously. Yes, I’m on just about everybody’s list because of past giving, but I realized now how little I really give in comparison to what I probably can afford to give.

4. Reviewed the temple ceremony and promised myself I’d go again as soon as possible.

5. Prayed much more urgently than usual. Life had been too good and I’d pulled away. Funny how much harder we pray when we need help.

6. Basically just reanalyzed. Yes, you’ve heard the expression, my life passed before my eyes. Was I really doing what was most important? What did I need to spend more time doing? What could I get rid of, not only of my possessions, but the things that were cluttering up my time—my days, and ultimately my life.

Today is Saturday. I did not die during the heart procedure. I did not need to have a stint put in. It’s still a mystery why my heart acted up.  Yesterday I got the results of my CT scan and the nodule on my lung hadn’t changed.

I’m not sure what will happen next, but it appears I have a little more time to get my life in order. On the other hand, I could get hit by a truck. The fact is we will all die and none of us knows when that will happen. I’m glad I had this scare to remind me again that life is short and that I need to make each minute count and each day the best day possible.