Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thoughts on Valentines' Day

Thoughts on Valentines’ Day

It used to be about stalking around the neighborhood, knocking on doors and leaving store bought Valentines, then running and hiding in the bushes to watch the recipient come out and pick it up. It provided more fun than it should have. For my good friends, candy would be stuffed in the envelope. And for my best friends, a big chocolate kiss. It meant covering a shoebox with pink paper and cutting a slot into the top. It meant coming home from school with so many Valentines that the lid wouldn’t stay on. It meant laying out all the cards in the living room, taking out the candy, seeing if anyone wrote an extra sweet message along with their name. It meant sorting out the favorites either by the person who gave it or the cutest cards. 

I’ve really only had two actual boyfriends in my life, and I married the second one. The first one broke up with me on Valentines. I did not see it coming. I was expecting an extra nice Valentine date. Maybe even dinner, so when he said he wanted to see me, instead of saying let’s go out, I should have figured it out. But I didn’t have much experience. I was the wallflower that stood alone at the dances, both dreading and hoping that someone would ask. Dreading because I was awkward, shy, and didn’t know how to dance. And yet hoping, because there had to be a reason everyone seemed to think boys were the greatest. The lack of positive experiences with the opposite gender, left me wondering. Having only brothers who ignored me at best and picked on me at worst had taught me to wither rather than shine. 

Then the very next year, I was in a quick, but serious romance. And on Valentine’s Day Mick asked me to marry him. I saw it coming. We both knew we were in love and knew we wanted to be together 24/7. It didn’t matter what we did, as long as we were together. He was doing his student teaching at the time, and it was fine with me if we sat on the floor of his apartment and graded papers together, or reserved a room at the USU library and watched a film—pre video days. So when he got down on his knee in my apartment, I was giddy with excitement. No more agonizing goodbyes at night. Because after we married we could be together—forever. I wouldn’t recommend to others to marry your second boyfriend. I would always tell them that they need to get as much experience as possible. I would always tell them to make sure they’ve dated at least a year, instead of a few months. I would tell them to learn as much as you can about the person, see them in every situation. I would tell them to be cautious.
But sometimes you just know. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

"Success Is Having The Courage To Try"

Recently I caught a few minutes of an interview with Janie Pauley. I remember her from the Today show and that she is married to the Far Side guy. After her success with the Today show, she was given the opportunity to do a daytime talk show, similar to Oprah. It was cancelled after a year. How did she look at that? She said, “Success Is having the courage to try.” Isn’t that the truth? How will we ever know the answer to what could have been? if we don’t try something. 

If you are like me, you’ve only done a fraction of the things you’ve really wanted to do. Often what holds us back is fear of failure or fear of the unknown. But the only failure  is in not trying, not doing, or not going. I admire the go-getters, and the doers in the world. Some of the people I admire most are my own children. They both are doing incredibly difficult things, but right now I’m focusing this on my daughter for reasons that will be clear. 

We knew early on that she was no ordinary child. She walked at 8 1/2 months and ever since then you couldn’t stop her even if you wanted to. But why would you? She always has been a force of nature, full of creativity and ideas, always thinking about some new dream. If she wanted to do something she usually found a way. Once she started earning her own money and once she was 18, she was off to see the world. Scuba diving, rock climbing, canoeing, and kayaking and what ever adventure she could find. She’s either worked, studied, traveled, and lived in Guatemala, Denmark, Alaska, Argentina, Thailand, Cambodia, Spain, France, Germany, and on and on—something like 19 countries. I remember when she decided she wanted to live in Argentina. Basically it went like this. “I really want to learn Spanish better. I’ve never been to Argentina and ticket prices are cheaper there than other places in South America.” She lived and worked there for a year. When she ended up in San Francisco, I breathed a sigh of relief. I could drive there and did. Then off to NYC where she lives now. Which is still ok, because I can fly there and not go completely broke. But the thing is, I regret that I let fear and money stop me from seeing her when she was in some of those other places. Remember the saying, “You can’t take it with you.” Now I'm still just as broke as I ever was and have never been to South America, Central America, or Denmark. 

I’m super proud of Ginger’s latest endeavor. She had a goal to have a restaurant by the time she was 30. And when her 30th came around last March, she was fully engaged in making that happen. She and her business partner renovated a space in Brooklyn. Learning as she has always done, by doing, they conquered numerous setbacks and finally opened a very charming place called Brooklyn Proper. I love eating in NYC, but admitting bias just a little, had my very best meal at her restaurant. Everything was going great. She was working 24-7, but had made the dream, the goal of a restaurant by 30, a reality. They were on their feet, getting great publicity, reviews, and business. Then more financial setbacks and rent increases, and she and her partner made the difficult decision to close. I’m so glad that I got to see this wonderful little space with my daughter at the helm. Food and wine expert, designer, creator, business manager, accountant. She crammed a 4-year business degree in one and did it all. She succeeded. I look forward to seeing what she’ll do next. But no hurry! Life is always an adventure but sometimes a slower pace is just fine. I once asked my daughter is she was ever scared. She never seemed to be to me. She said, “I’m often scared to death, but I just go ahead anyway.” Just think what we could do if we stepped into the unknown and just tried.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

So Here's the Thing

I'm a little late writing a gratitude post for Thanksgiving. It's been on my mind a lot lately. I hesitate to write about my blessings because I have and have had so many. There are so many people who have not had the advantages in life that I've had. It's with that painful awareness of the vast human suffering and the unequal chances we have in life, that I write about my blessings. None of us choose our beginnings. We don't choose our parents, our families, our neighbors, our homes, our towns, our ethnicity, our religion, our gender and so on. And yet all of these circumstances play a large part in our ultimate choices and who we eventually become. Some experience truly horrifying things even though they grew up with advantages. Some experience a joyful life in spite of multiple disadvantages. Most have a mixture of both. The truth is that I have no idea who I would be if I had grown up in a different part of the world or country, or with a different family, or ethnicity, or religion.

I grew up in a Mormon middle class family. My parents treated each other with love and respect. I never saw a day of true hunger or cold. I could walk in any house in my neighborhood and not expect anything but a warm greeting, often followed by an embrace and some home cooking. My dad worked hard. My mother often had a part-time job, but her primary job was taking care of the home and the family. To this day, my mother is the least judgmental person I've ever known. We grew up with plenty of freedom that few people even in rural America are afforded anymore. During summers, I most often played unsupervised in open fields, and orchards, and parks and only checked in at home at the appointed lunch and dinner times. Every need was supplied. Every want was discussed and sometimes given. Besides public school, I was offered piano lessons, swimming lessons, and often saw a movie every saturday afternoon. I could go to recreation camps and girls camps. We had family vacations to the extended family cabin. We were one of the first in the neighborhood to own a color television. I remember the day Dad carried it into the house. I couldn't wait to watch The Wizard of Oz to see the scene change from the black and white in Kansas to the colorful land of Oz. We were one of the first to own a dishwasher and a microwave oven.

Higher education was expected and my parents helped me pay for it. In spite of myself, I fell in love with the most decent man on campus. We've raised a couple of great kids and now have four great-grandkids. We live in one of the most beautiful places on this earth surrounded by open fields and mountains. I've been able to do pretty much whatever I've wanted to do much of my adult life. I'm grateful for the love so many have offered me; my family, my friends, my kids, and my grandkids. I'm lucky enough to live within a mile of the spot where even before my husband and I were married, I'd said I wanted to live someday. There's a hymn familiar to all Mormons Because I Have Been Given Much, I too must give. It pretty much sums up my life so far.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Check your Self-Esteem at the Door

Twenty-eight years ago I taught school at Pleasant Grove Junior High. It was a blow to my self-esteem. I had about 180 students divided up into six classes of Art and English. I was young had difficulty motivating the kids and keeping them disciplined enough to get them through forty-five minutes. Danny was sort of a class smart-alec and it was obvious that he was smart and probably knew more than I did on the subject of English grammar--which to be honest is still not my strength (though since them I graduated magna cum laude in English. But I digress, back then Danny loved to throw me off my game and it worked. A few times, what he said was actually quite funny. I'd quickly turn my back on the kids so they wouldn't see me laugh. Other times, I turned my back so they wouldn't see me cry. Once I did cry--not a cool thing--to a bunch of rowdy thirteen-year-olds.

I taught for one year at P.G.J.H and then joined my husband to teach  in Grouse Creek, Utah. We had 24 students K-10. Since my self-esteem was already rock bottom it improved some over the few years. I had fun. I loved the kids we had though some of them still loved to throw me off my game. I taught for a few years before we moved to Paradise.

As most of you know, I'm back out to Grouse Creek teaching once again with my husband. This time around we have only have ten kids spread from K-5th grade. My self-esteem was pretty good before I started teaching again. I'm a fairly respected potter in Cache Valley and an author of five published novels, so you know, I was feeling pretty good about myself. So how is it that a kindergartner can throw you off your game with a few comments and say things so funny that it's hard not to laugh out loud.

Here's just a bit of wisdom from a couple of very cute five year olds. While I was attempting to teach reading, one of the kids said, "Hey, you're growing a mustache, you've got hairs right here," as  he pointed to my face. Another time this same child warned me to be careful "you might break it," while I was hanging from the tricky bars sturdy enough to hold an elephant. Another time, this same child mentioned that I was "painting sloppy." Did I mention my art degree? Just the other day, I was trying to console a 7-year-old who was very upset that he couldn't draw a butterfly as well as I could. I told him, that I was a whole fifty years older than he was and so had fifty more years drawing butterflies. One of the five-year-olds piped up with, my grandpa is really old too..."damn old." I burst out laughing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Musings from my morning walk in Grouse Creek

I must’ve hiked in the Rock Quarry in Grouse Creek hundreds of times. The first time I came to Grouse Creek was when I married my husband, and he took me there. The sandstone dugouts and formations were used to quarry stone for the 1910 house that belongs to my husband’s family, and the bigger house, they used to own when my husband was a little boy. The stone was used to build the school, and the church that was torn down in about 1983. When I first hiked to the quarry, I thought it was the highlight of an otherwise drab little town in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t know then, that the town, the church, the school, the people, the landscape, and the lifestyle would dig deep into my being and become a part of me. I didn’t know then, that I would eventually write three novels set in the town. (More to come—hopefully.)

This morning I hiked to the quarry once again and thought about the times I had hiked there with my children when they were only three and seven—and that was 27 years ago. My husband had taken a teaching job, teaching students from K-10 with another Carol(e) Warburton—not me—believe it or not. She is older than I am and taught with my husband for one year before moving away from this town. I already had a teaching contract, so waited until the next year to join my husband and take over for the other Carol(e) Warburton. (She doesn’t have an “e” at the end of her name.) I inherited her PO box because I had to wait for one to open up, so for the five years we lived in Grouse Creek at only twenty-eight years old, I got her AARP mail and everything else that the postmaster couldn’t forward. Now I get AARP mail legitimately.

The school kids called me the new Carole Warburton, and they called her the old Carol Warburton. Now here we are back. Mick is feeling the difference of his years this time around. Youth does have advantages when it comes to challenges and energy levels. But then again, I’m reminded of the many sturdy and courageous men and women who have at one time or another called Grouse Creek home. The town and the landscape and the difficulty of living seventy miles from a real grocery store, doctors, and other necessities make a difference. This morning as I made my way to the rock quarry, stumbling over stones, cactus, brush, and climbing up hills and through washes, I thought about one amazing woman, over ninety years old who just led this hike with two primary age girls in tow. Now that is brave.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Connecting at the Cabin

In 1960 our grandpa built a cabin one mile outside the North East entrance to Yellowstone. He's the one of the right side on the back row. Our grandma is right below him. I'm on the middle row on my mother's lap--third from the left. I'm blowing bubbles. My dad is right above my mom. He along with the other men in the family helped work on the cabin. My dad built the fireplace inside. A bunch of these great people died before they reached old age.
The Family
Grandpa and Grandma got to enjoy the cabin each summer for about seven years. Grandpa used to pile us into the back of an old jeep and bump down a dirt road to the edge of the mountain where there was an open dump. We would wait stock still and when the sun began to wane, bears would emerge from the trees to rummage through the discarded piles of food. It was wondrous. We often would walk to the Soda Butte and wade into the frigid water and I would attempt endlessly to skip rocks like my Aunt Carole showed me. She's the one with the cat on her lap. We played card games at night and roasted marshmallows.

Grandpa died in Yellowstone. He and Uncle Arky, his son-in-law (third from right back row) were fishing at the confluence of the Lamar River and the Soda Butte. Grandpa caught his limit, waved to Arky, and dropped over. Arky tried to do CPR, but to no avail. The cabin lost it's charm for Grandma, who only went a time or two after her husband's death. She lived over thirty years longer without him. I don't think he could have known at the time, how much his cabin in the woods would be loved for generations to come. Grandpa was 67. My dad died of cancer and he was only 56. My Uncle Richard (back row, first on left) died of a heart attack--not sure how old he was, but not old enough. And my Uncle Dick, next to Grandpa (his son) died in his 60's. Four cousins in this photo died before they reached the age of 50. The cabin helps me to remember experiences I've had with each of these relatives that are gone. If there's anything that can connect a family like this cabin, then I don't know what it is. 

I just got to spend a few days with two of my cousins that I barely knew as a child. They are both nearly seven years younger than I am. And though that isn't much now, it was a lot when we were young. I've probably only seen them in person only a handful of times, but it felt like I was with life-long friends who share common bonds, one of them being the love a cabin that grandpa built. Our memories of the place are different, but we reminisced about family times, our grand parents, the lost years, our philosophies, our different struggles, and dreams. Because of the nearly constant rain, we spent a lot of time playing games, talking and laughing. In fact, I don't know when I've laughed as much as I did in my four days with my wonderful cousins.
The cabin grandpa built with the help of my dad and uncles. 

We had to laugh because our ice cream matched our outfits. 

view from the cabin window with bison in the meadow

A big laugh to see the girl from Montana in the middle with only a T-shirt. 

Again dressed as we should be Montana T-shirt, Utah Sweater, and California parka. 

We thought it would be fun to post this so our relatives could guess who was having a great time. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Road to Nowhere... Again

What seems like a lifetime ago, we were just starting out. We had two children, ages 2 and 6. The state was in a recession. Making ends meet was tough. Mick went back to school and I took a full-time teaching job. But then everything changed and my husband was offered a teaching job in the tiny town of Grouse Creek--the very town where he began his life, the town where his father had grown up and had spent much of his life cattle ranching. When my husband took the teaching job, it was a dream come true for him. But I had just signed a full-time teaching job and wasn't sure what the next year would bring, so I stayed with our youngest in our house that we had built just two years before. My husband took the oldest child so he could be one of his 25 students in the two room school, grades K-10. We met on the weekends.

After the hardest year of my life, I was more than ready to give up the teaching job and join the other half of my family. I taught part-time and we had a great few years more of teaching. And even though there were some adjustments, we blended well into the ranching town. The town is 70 miles to the nearest real grocery store and most of the road is gravel. Flat tires and breakdowns are common with so many miles of constant travel. Still, there's no place like it or as the Grouse Creek sign says, "A Place Like No Other."

Mick is now nearing the end of his career. Needing a change, when the job came open again, we decided to go for it. We had a great experience 25 years ago, and hope to have another great experience. Times have changed even for the tiny town, in that they have become even tinier. Now Mick will only have 7 kids. And so there isn't a job for me, but I can take my computer and hope to be inspired to write another novel. The town inspired three novels which are set there: "A Question of Trust" False Pretenses" and "Sun Tunnels and Secrets."  They are all still available on Amazon. We will live in the family house again--the house right behind the school. And no we aren't moving. We'll be back and forth a lot. Our house will be lived in, so it won't be empty and will be taken care of. We welcome friends and family to visit this unique place.