Saturday, December 23, 2017

Casting Bread at Christmas Time

I've always wanted to be one of those people who stepped up to pay for someone’s groceries or bill at a restaurant. Especially after over ten years ago, someone was that person for us. We’d had a nice meal in a restaurant—four of us. Dinner was on us because we were paying the other couple back for something they’d done for us. As always then there was more month at the end of the money, so when we went up to pay the bill and the cashier told us it was already paid, it really made our day. And gave me something extra to be grateful for. Since then I’ve wanted to do that, but never have, at least in quite that way. 

Sure I’ve paid a quarter here and there for someone who was short a bit at the store. I give to some charities. I believe in being as generous as you can, whenever you can and wherever you can. I believe it may have been C.S. Lewis who said that if what you give isn’t hard for you, then you aren’t giving enough. Something about if it doesn’t crimp your lifestyle, then give more. I can’t say I do that. I think most of us, me included, try to not let our giving get in the way of our living. 

That said, I had the opportunity to be one of those people that I’ve always wanted to be. I was standing in a shopping line at our local ShopKo. I had some gifts for the Angel Tree that I was buying. It’s something we’ve always tried to do, or if the year was tight, we’d at least buy a toy for Toys or Tots. The woman in front of me, had only one item, a Moana DVD. It seemed to be a gift that she was buying for someone else. The price was more than she’d expected and she opened her purse and realized that she didn’t have enough. She told the clerk to hold it for her and that she would come back later. 

I had only a second to decide before she would have been on her way. “Put it on mine.”I'd said. She looked at me and said, “No, you can’t do that.” We argued a bit, but I convinced her that it was my day to do something nice for other people. After she agreed, she gave me a big hug. It was a little thing. But It meant a lot to her, but probably even more to me. I got to have that Christmasy feeling and it cost me all of $20.00. 

So here’s the most interesting part of the story. You know that scripture in Ecclesiastes that says, “Cast your bread upon the waters. For thou shalt find it after many days.” So usually we take that idea in general, kind of like Karma. But in this case it wasn’t in generalities, it was quite literal that my 20.00 would come back to me. So a very long time ago, like over 20 years ago, I was selling some of my pottery. Most, if not all, of anyone who would possibly have read this far, knows that I make and sell pottery. Anyway all those years ago, a shopper wanted something she couldn’t afford at the time because they hadn’t been paid yet or whatever. I told her she could pay me later, and quipped that I believe in the 90 days same as cash theory. This was in another town and even in another state, so I left her a card with my address. And she knew how to get in touch with me if she lost it. Well, needless to say, she never paid me. I sent a reminder after a few months and then just let it drop. For years after I wondered why she never paid me. It usually takes me a long time to forget that someone owes me money, even if it’s 5.00. But eventually I had pretty much forgotten about it.  So imagine, my surprise, actually shock, when a few days after the ShopKo incident, the shopper sent me a letter with a $20.00 bill and an apology for not paying me. Of course, it made me grin from ear to ear. Never have I so quickly had Karma so quickly pay me back in the exact amount I had given. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hooked on Hiking

My grandchild in the gray hoodie was carried in a back pack by my son or his wife 10 years ago. This year, the little guy on his mom's knee hiked part way and was carried in the back pack. 4 grandkids and they all made it to the top!

At the Tip of Mt. Naomi. Really windy and very cold. Sept. 16th 2017 

Many of my friends and family know the story behind my annual birthday hike, but for me the reason goes to something so deep inside of me, that even as a writer it's hard for me to put it into words.  Ever since the very first major hike as a five-year-old I've been hooked on hiking. That year, I joined the family (and thousands of others) for what was once an Annual Timp Hike 
From BYU archives. A snowfield like the one I remember as a 5-yr-old
that happened every July beginning in 1911 until 1970. The annual one-day event had thousands of people hiking the same day. Eventually it was discontinued because of environmental damage, but of course it remains one of the most popular trails. My mother said she and I didn't go all the way when I was 5. It's about 14 miles round-trip, but I know we went high enough to see so much. People called me a mountain goat. I don't remember a lot of compliments from that age, but that one took and I beamed with pride. 

 As a 5 year old, I remember crossing a snowfield that I felt like if I slipped it would be the end of me. Still, I loved it. Never forgot it and longed to hike from then on.  

Panoramic view of the summit of Mt. Timpanogas. Me, along with two friends slept in the little hut at the top on the night of  July 4th--around 1975 
It's no wonder that the year I was turning 38 and felt sad and depressed,  the thing I wanted to do the most on my birthday was hike. That year it was just me and one other friend and we did the Jardine Juniper trail in Logan Canyon. The annual birthday hike was born. I couldn't think of a better way to lift my spirits, than to spend time in the mountains, with people I love, and getting high on all of it, the goodness, the beauty, the fresh air, the friendships, and the awe. Rather than the hopelessness that yet another year had passed and I was closer to the finish line--death--if you haven't figured that out. I really do love my life, but sometimes a reminder now and again of how much I have to be grateful for is needed. If I'm not careful, it's not hard for me to be engulfed by all of the horrible stuff in the world. 

The year I turned 50, we hiked Jardine Juniper again. This time, I had my husband, two children, my son's wife and their first born,  and a good number of friends. The first grandchild was only one and he was carried in a backpack by his parents. This time--ten years later--I chose to do Mount Naomi in Cache Valley. To me, if I can still hike to the highest peak in Cache Valley look out over the vast valleys below, that gives me a lot of hope for the future. And the truth is, I'm healthier than I was the last time I did the hike. I've had a lot of health issues in my life (still do) but I feel better at 60 than I did at 50. 

One of my very favorite things about this hike was that my daughter came from NYC to do it. My son and his wife arranged to take off from their busy life. My four adorable grandkids came, and all made it to the top in very frigid weather. I hope hiking does for them what it did for me when I was their age. I doubt the six-year-old will ever forget how even though he was miserable and cold, he still made it to the top. He may even remember how a French Canadian couple  (total strangers) took off hats and gloves to lend him for the trip down. I had friends come, some who have been my friends for close to twenty-five years and some whom I'd only met within the last few years. The oldest person who hiked to the top was my husband at 64. 

Once in a while on hikes, I come across people who are in their 80's and still doing some pretty arduous hikes. I hope to be one of those people. I have a feeling that they are healthier and happier than their peers who are home in their rocking chairs. Here's to life!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Thoughts on Facing Fears

Within four months this summer, I traveled twice to Italy with my husband. The first time was with a tour group. And the second time was for my nephew's wedding and celebration. Traveling this much is very unusual for us and probably won't happen again in quite the same way in our lifetime. The best thing about it was that it helped me to overcome some fears that I have and don't confront on a regular basis. Here are some of those in no particular order: 1. Fear of being lost or left behind alone 2. Fear of asking for directions, especially in another language. 3. Fear of dying in a plane crash or other means of travel (well ok, aren't we all?) 4. Fear of social interaction. 5. Fear of being trapped. 

1. I still remember what it was like when I was lost. I was four years old and our family was in California. We were at Marine Land, which is like SeaWorld. I was peering into an aquarium watching fish swim. When I turned around I realized that my entire family had left me. I panicked. My family was no where to be seen and I had no idea where they had gone or how to find them. I don't know if I cried. I can't remember. What I do remember is that a man asked me if I was lost. I said I was and he took to someone behind closed glass (much like the aquarium) with someone who had a microphone.  An announcement was made. My mother came and got me and led me to where the rest of the family sat in bleachers watching a sea life show. The disconcerting thing to me, even to this day, is no one had noticed that I was missing. I was the youngest with four older brothers and my absence wasn't noted until it was announced over the intercom. And when I returned, no one acknowledged that I had even been gone. 

Many years later, I would attend USU for months at a time before returning home to Orem for a visit. I would enter the house and sit down in the family room. An older sibling might enter the room and say something like, "oh how long have you been here?" Again, it seemed to me that my place in the family was just like when I was four--kind of unnoticed. I'm sure it wasn't quite the way it seemed. I came from a good family, but the truth is that I felt lost. I felt unneeded and even though good sense told me, I was wanted (after all I was the only girl and my mother had told me she rejoiced along with the whole neighborhood when I was born), it didn't really seem that way with four older brothers who overshadowed me. What I did learn though was how to stick up for myself, have strong opinions, take care of myself in all situations, and don't rely on anyone to rescue me. 

I don't have a good sense of direction in spite of the fact that my dad's sense of direction was so keen that he could tell when my mom made a wrong turn in the car even while he was lying on the back seat with his eyes closed, sick from an illness that made him very dizzy and nauseated. Once as a young adult I drove completely the wrong direction in Denver and instead of ending up in Golden where my aunt lived, ended up at Lowry Army base. I've gotten lost so many time coming out of the bathroom in a building and turning the wrong way, I've lost count. Sometimes I wonder if my fear of getting lost, makes it worse. Google helps a lot. Except when it doesn't. You know what I mean. I could and have keep my fear of doing things, but then I would miss out on seeing so much of the world. And my track rate of eventually finding my way is 100%. Pretty good odds. 

2. Fear of asking directions. I know this is usually attributed to men. And my husband must have this same problem too, because we will often go the wrong way or get on the wrong bus etc. rather than ask someone for directions. I have no traumatic childhood memory to attribute this to. I think it comes from my general introverted personality. Asking anything is difficult for me--which most people who know me will have a hard time believing, because I can SEEM bold, sometimes brash, and as a former bishop said, "brutally honest." It's all a front for my fear of speaking up and out. So in Italy when it was either stay where we were, which is no where that we were supposed to be, I finally went up to a bus driver and asked him in English how to get somewhere. He didn't understand English, but understood that we needed help. This was in Rome, where I hear this is unusual, but he got out of his bus and walked us to where we needed to go to catch the right bus. If it hadn't been for my going against my fear, we might never have found the Airbnb we were staying at before we met up with the tour group. 

3. Fear of dying in a crash of some kind. The truth is that I have less fear of flying than I do of car travel, which makes sense because it is safer, but the odds of surviving a plane crash verses a car crash are much less. So going up, up, up, only means you would go down, down, down into either land or ocean--either not so good. And the little life vest to blow into in case of a water crash is not in the least comforting. Once when we were on a plane, the plane hit a flock of birds and an engine went out. When it happened, I swore out loud, so I actually know what my last words would have been or would be if such a thing were to happen and they wouldn't make my mother proud. 

4. Fear of social interaction: For all the teachers who got after me, which were many, for talking too much--I know you won't believe this, but I'm fearful of talking, but it's talking to strangers and not friends. IN fifth grade my teacher promised me a soda pop in the teacher's lounge if I could go the rest of the day without talking. The idea was so exciting to me that I put a piece of masking tape over my mouth, so I would feel it if I started to talk. Guess what, after school I was sharing bottled orange soda with this teacher. One of my best school memories. 

When you are traveling and interacting on a tour, or at wedding celebrations, talking and socializing with strangers is a big part of things. I would much rather disappear and watch people rather than talk to them. Sometimes that's ok, but often interacting is required of social beings. Sometimes, I just pretend that I'm not afraid and start talking and listening. It really is a great way to find that people are people and friends can be found all over the world. I admire my daughter and daughter-in-law because they can strike up a conversation with anyone, even my friends, and find out more in minutes than I know with people I have know for many years. 

5. Fear of being trapped or claustrophobia and fear of the dark: This sometimes is a big deal and sometimes not such a big deal, but over the years it has caused me some distress. See, when I was a really little girl, sorry brothers, I'm going to throw you under the bus once again, my brothers (but mostly one brother) would put me in a dark hallway shut all the doors and pinch me and tell me rats were getting me. I think I was three years old. My fear was not so much rats, but not being able to get away, or out, when bad things are happening. So later in the Art Barn at USU (pottery department) a guy closed the door and held it when I went into a very tiny room with no windows to get some glaze materials. I'm sure he had no idea why I started screaming when I couldn't get out. All those rats or other bad things that happen in the dark came back to me and I didn't cope too well. While in Italy, in Vols em Schlern, Mick and I hiked up at night, with only the flashlight of our iphones to the top of a hill that overlooked a charming town. I wasn't trapped, but it was dark and there were unknowns, like goats, fences, and enormous milk cows.

Recently, I just turned 60. And now I've added a few fears and managed to overcome a few more. I'm hoping that fear will never keep me from stepping forward into the unknown. You never know when you may make a friend, discover a new place, maybe even the best place in your life, or find a serendipitous adventure. Or find strengths you didn't know you had. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Power of Art

My mother is in her late 80's. She has always enjoyed the art pieces that she that used to decorate her home and now adorn the walls at her small assisted living apartment. The white walls are covered with art collected from her early days of marriage to more recent pieces, but mostly it's art my brother, Brian Thayne has painted as he is a professional artist. 

Just like many in their declining years, she is very forgetful. As she often says from the forehead down she is doing very well. She can seldom tell you what she did the day before and often the hour before. She remains though the lovely person she has always been, content, cheerful, intelligent, and grateful. 

A few months ago, my brother was a part of a large art show at Zion's Bank in Provo. This is a huge affair with 4 floors of art and lots of amazing food that servers offer to you every few minutes. I Well at the art show, she fell in love with a painting that was next to my brother's work. This is it. It's by Jeremy Winborg from Cache Valley. 
My mother honestly couldn't stop staring at the painting. We walked slowly from floor to floor. Mom talked to many of the artists and told them what she liked about their work. She has a great eye for composition and knows what she likes. But when she made it back to where this painting was hanging she told me she wanted to talk to the artist. He was usually talking to someone, but when he was free, I told him how much my mother loved his work and especially this painting and that she wanted to talk to him. He said she'd already told him. See she'd forgotten that she'd already talked to him, but he was gracious and told her he'd love to sell it to her, but that it was already sold. Besides it was large, an original and very expensive. So I talked to Jeremy and he gave me his card and said that he can do a print of any of his work. These days artists don't have to do a huge run of say 500 prints like they used to have to do. They can do one at a time. I contacted Jeremy and had him do a small print for Mom. When I went to pick it up from Jeremy's studio, he said, "I hope your mother enjoys it." I told him, that I was sure my mother would not remember the painting, but that she would fall in love with it all over again. I knew that if she loved it once, she'd love it the second time she saw it. 

But boy was I wrong. The print of the painting was given to my mom at our family reunion as a gift from me and my brothers. When she opened it, she immediately got tears in her eyes. She could hardly talk at first until she recovered, but then she said something like, "I saw this at the Zion's Art Show, but didn't know that I could have a print of it. The reason I love this so much is her eyes. She's looking forward at the future. It doesn't matter what your background is," at this she pointed at the background. "It doesn't matter what your past is, but it's where you're looking. It's about the future. I don't know what the name of the painting is, but I'll call it ''future." 

Somehow this beautiful painting reached through the cloudiness of mom's mind and embedded itself there. And a month later, she remembered every bit of the painting. She remembered the "native flower girl's" eyes. She remembered how the painting made her feel. She remembered where she'd seen it and hadn't forgotten it. Not a bit. That is the power of art. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

It's Been One Year Since You Left Us

Dear Judi, 
It's been one year since you left us. I'm sad today. It was a hot day like this one that I got word of your passing. I was in Brooklyn, NY as you slipped away, back in Cache Valley, Utah.  Nearly everyone who was most important to you had been to the hospital to bid you farewell, except for me. I'm hoping as you were in and out of consciousness, you heard my farewell as told to your son on the phone, of my love and all my best as you passed on. But I wasn't there with you and that still breaks my heart. So today, I once again reflect on you and the friendship you so generously shared with me. 

In my lifetime, I've lost some really important people to me: my dad, both sets of grandparents, my husband's parents, uncles, aunts, neighbors, and some friends. But I've never lost a friend like you. I've never mourned a loss quite like this one. You knew my heart. That we shared our discouragements and joys with each other is something I will always treasure. 

I imagine if you had been here this last year, here are some of the things we would have discussed. We would have been shocked and dismayed at the president who was elected for the US. We could have spent hours wondering what would become of our country. We would have talked about our health issues. I loved how you understood that being well and feeling good is all relative when you have chronic pain. Though my suffering was and is a drop in the bucket in comparison to yours, you still got me. We would have talked about our grandchildren and children and swapped stories. We would have discussed how the LDS church still has a long way to go when it comes to treating our LGBTQ friends, sisters, and brothers the way we believed they deserve and should be treated. This Spring we would have watched the new colts out your window. We would have discussed the box elder bugs and how they aren't quite as bad this year as they were last--at least not yet. You would have loved to hear about our trip to Italy, as I would have condensed it down to the highlights. I'm sure you would have thought of some new quilt designs and made a few more. And I would have loved seeing them. I would have continued to water your plants each Sunday. 

One of Judi's plants I watered each week. I put it on my table today in her honor 

But the best part, the thing that you would have loved the very most. The thing that would have brought you so much joy was to see your son get married to the love of his life. You so worried about leaving your oldest, your single son. You so wanted for him all the joys that come from finding that person to share life's journey. Your youngest son had that. You would have loved seeing how he and his family supported in every way possible, as your oldest started his new life. I hope you were there. I don't know what is beyond this life, not for sure. But now you do. And this is something I know about you. You would have been there if there is any way. And knowing you, you'd find a way. So you could see your granddaughters and grandsons dressed in their best, matching attire.To see friends and family come together to support your son and marriage in true equality. To meet your son-in-law and welcome him to the family. 
Me with Judi's son on his wedding day

You would do anything to listen to vows exchanged with the sound of the Logan River and birdsong in the background, to see the Swallowtail butterfly dance in the sun highlighting the love in the faces of your son and his partner as the Buddhist Bhikkhu joined them in marriage. You'd love the beautiful cake with a silhouette scene of Rio and Salt Lack City in honor of each and seeing them cut the cake, sharing in the happiness. For your son it was a dream come true, but it also was for you. It was just what you wanted for your family--united in ways that wouldn't have been possible not too long ago. This is a year that some wonderful things happened for your family. Maybe you had something to do with that. 

So today, I remember you Judi. I miss you. I will always miss you. You made a safe place for me to talk and share and no one listened quite the way you did. God speed dear friend. 

Love, Carole

Friday, June 16, 2017

Some Summerfest Stories

Every summer for the past 25 years or so, I've participated in Summerfest Art Festival which is held in Logan, most of those years on the beautiful grounds of the LDS Tabernacle in the center of town. I suspect that I have hundred of my creations in kitchen cupboards, on tables, and displayed in homes all over town, and beyond. I hear stories about my pottery every year from returning customers, but tonight I heard one that really broke my heart.

My husband was watching my booth for me while I took a break. When I got back,  a woman was buying a platter that had only been on display for an hour or two. As I wrapped up the sale, I learned that the younger woman was buying the platter for her friend, who was of my generation. That woman said she and her husband visited my booth every year and that my pottery is all over their house. She said her husband bought her a new piece every year. I nodded thinking that was very sweet and flattering. Then she said, this is our first year without him. It took me a few seconds to figure out what was happening. I looked at her again and saw that she had tears in her eyes. I said, did your husband pass away. She said he had. Now her friend bought her a piece of pottery because her husband wasn't there to do it.

This was quite a contrast from a story another woman told me years ago. She came by my booth and wanted me to know that when she and her husband had divorced that year, they had fought over two things, the dog, and a vase that I had made. The vase had a lizard on it and I remember it well.

One of my favorite things about making pottery is meeting the people who love my work.  I've had people tell me that at the time of their mother's passing, they each got to choose my pottery. Whether it's to celebrate love or to end love,  or at the end of life, it's gratifying to find that my pottery is a part of the story.
This is very similar to the platter 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day to my MOM

My mother never yelled at me. Seriously—never. She didn’t spank me either. It just wasn’t in her nature to yell or spank. Dad, well he shouted once in a while. Where Mom was the calm, Dad was the storm. It was the way they balanced each other. Our house was the place that we could throw all the cushions on the floor and play the ground is poison. It’s the house, where we could climb trees, paint murals on the utility room walls, make popsicles, and play basketball in the driveway. We made hideouts in the garage attic, the doghouse, and in the storage room. We slid down the stairs on pieces of cardboard and climbed through the laundry shoot. 

The greatest gift my mother gave me was the freedom to be myself. After four boys, I was her long awaited daughter. I’m sure she had hoped for a frilly bundle of feminine joy, but instead she got a creative, fun-loving tomboy. I wore jeans to school before they were allowed. I resisted rules and pushed the limits. In a time period and place when girls were expected to follow I pushed ahead. When girls were expected to be quiet, I talked. When girls were expected to agree, I argued. I saw the world as inherently unjust and asked a lot of questions. I was never discouraged from doing something because it wasn’t ladylike. At least not by my mom. 

The world teaches girls early on what is and isn’t acceptable. I don’t think I knew there was a difference between me and my brothers until I was about four. I wanted to play outside without my shirt on, like my brothers did, or at least have it unbuttoned and my mom said I couldn’t because I was a girl. That didn’t make sense to me. From then on, more and more wouldn’t make sense to me. Others let me know that I should be quiet, that I should be feminine, that I shouldn’t be “bossy,” that I should let the boys lead or win at sports (seriously that was taught) but it wasn’t my mom. 

Today I’m feeling grateful that in a time where it could have been very different, I was encouraged to just be me. Because being me is all I ever wanted to be.

Addendum:  So after I wrote this post I went to a Mother's Day dinner at my brother's house. My mom is in her late 80's and is getting quite forgetful, but she told this simple story about her own mother. My mother grew up in a small town in Eastern Montana. She said that her mother was different than all the other mothers in the neighborhood. Her mother never said "shoo!" Whenever the kids went into a house to play, they were shooed outdoors. The moms in the neighborhood didn't want to be bothered with noisy children. She said her mother welcomed the kids and even fed them. I said, I grew up with a mother just like that. And she said, you grew up with a mother who loved being a mother. I did. It made all the difference. Thanks MOM!