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! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

From an Non-professional on Self-Care

I posed a question on Facebook and asked a serious question about how to cope during this politically charged time in our nation. I got a lot of good answers and more people responded than usual, which means I’m far from the only one feeling stress. In fact, I talked to a close friend the other day and she said, she and her husband were so confident about the outcome of the election that they’d gone out to the movie only to come home and find that their teenaged daughter had, had a full-on panic attack. 

Not matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there is no denying that these are polarizing times. I feel a personal responsibility to be politically active. My parents were both very engaged in the political process. I remember voting booths being set up in our living room. Dad was often a speaker at 4th of July breakfasts and after Dad's death my mother sometimes spoke. It was considered a patriotic duty to be informed. Dad watched the News, both nationally and locally like most men watch sports. 

I would not be able to sleep at night—still have a hard time—if I was silent about the direction our country has turned, but what has given me hope is seeing millions of people (#resist) assemble, meet, march, speak out, attend town halls, write letters, make phone calls, and engage in the political process. To see the sleeping giant awakened can be both frightening and heartening at the same time. To see the media stand up and call the administration out on the misinformation “lies” that are being peddled by #45 and his minions is what makes this country great. No apologies to DT, this country already is great and will continue to be great as long as defenders of democracy refuse to be silent. I’m feeling more at peace when I see the national security advisor resign and NO the problem was not just the leak that Flynn had been communicating regularly with Russia, the problem is what he did and then lied about it. To hear Stephen Miller defend the president and say that he should not be questioned makes me shudder and if it doesn’t make you shudder than I would dare say that freedom of speech is not a priority. 

Now back to the SELF-CARE which is what this post was supposed to be about. I’m both luck and unlucky in that my time is my own. I am self-employed and have no children at home. I love this chapter of my life, but it also allows for a lot of ruminating, worrying, brooding, and so on. I know many friends who are really too busy to worry. For me keeping to a schedule is helpful. I like to start my mornings with a long hot bath infused with epsom salts and essential oils. I know that’s relaxing and many would argue with that, but I have fibromyalgia and wake up with considerable pain and stiffness. In the tub, I read from a daily meditation guide called “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo. I love this book and have gone through it several times. Then most days, I spend 15-20 minutes doing Yoga, thanks to a daughter who has kept encouraging me to do so. This also helps with the Fibromyalgia pain. On a good day, on a scheduled day I might spend a few hours making pottery, then sometimes meet friends for lunch or book club or whatever else I have going on. Often my husband and I will go for a hike or at the least a daily walk. I try to keep all this up even though now I’m also consumed by news 24-7.  Spend time daily posting political articles,  and writing emails to government leaders. And because I have a phone phobia and my husband would rather call than write, I sometimes dial the phone and hand it to my him. We make a good team that way. I’ve teased my husband that he is a closet liberal, but this season that closet door has swung open and he has stepped up and out. It would be extra challenging to our marriage if we were not on the same page politically. Our love for each other would be strained if he and I didn’t share many common values and beliefs. 
From one of our recent hikes in Logan Canyon

I made a list of some of the great ideas that came from my Facebook friends on Self-preservation. 1. Scheduling lunches with like-minded friends so we don’t feel alone. 2. Setting priorities (family first.) 3. Joining secret or closed groups where you can safely vent (and plot) strategies. 4. Some people expressed the need to move from the US, hmm not sure if that’s a valid option. :) 5. Holding dear to values and truths and being mindful and balanced. 6. Reminding oneself of the good in the world, limiting news to stay informed but not immersed. (Harder for some of us who feel the need to be keeper of the flames) 7. “Let the beauty of nature soothe your fears. I believe our foundations from the constitution will save us.” Sue Cannon Spencer 8. Balance. Engagement yes, but balance with escapism. 9. Laurel said “I’ve found my tribe, changed my diet, use essential oils. I stay informed, but refuse to stay scared.” 10. Jennifer who is very politically engaged and speaks out whenever possible has changed her alarm to the Philharmonic orchestra. 11. Joy believes we are stronger together. It helps her to sleep knowing she has groups of friends who share her concerns. 12. Watch movies such as “Loving” about a mixed race couple who eventually helped change the laws of the land through the supreme court. It’s not unlike the civil rights movements of our lgbtq friends. 13. Looking forward to 2 years from now when things should change. 14. Playing tennis (or other workouts), working overtime, and unfollowing some people on Facebook. 15. Going to Baskin Robbins (or fill in the blank)  and getting that banana split (or whatever) you’ve been craving. 16. Sarah suggested reading the book “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided on Politics and Religion" by Jonathan Haidt. Similar to people having different taste buds. 17. Gayle learns to forgive others their political leanings by remembering that not everyone shares her same education and experiences that helped shape hers. (This is something I try to remember also). She also engages in activism. 18.Maria  enjoys the humor that comedians offer while shining a bright light on important issues. Problems such as racism that have always been there are being exposed. We can do better and I think we will… 19. Recognizing our circle of influence and change. Ann thinks of one thing she can do each day as she has her morning coffee. She’s also ordered mini-constitutions and bill of rights from the ACLU to hand out to her students. 20. Some are increasing their faith and reliance in a higher power.   
From the peaceful Women's March in Ogden, Utah 

I’d like to add that I’ve been ordering my old favorites from Disney on Netflix. This might be weird, but we’ve re-watched, The Parent Trap, Pete’s Dragon, That Darn Cat, and Freaky Friday. Tonight I’m watching Pollyanna. This is such fun nostalgic escapism. So ta ta for now. I’m off to go on a walk with my favorite man, catch some Vitamin D, and listen to the black birds sing—yes they have arrived! 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Bests and Worsts of 2016

The most disappointing thing about growing older is that years fly by. Remember how long the months seemed when we were growing up, waiting for Christmas, waiting until birthdays, waiting until the last day of school, waiting, waiting and waiting? Now it's a blur. Cliche, I know. I used to hear my parents say such things, but life is flying by. The same with this last year. I know there have been some overwhelming tragedies and some good things nationally and internationally. You can get those on the news stations. For me, these are my own bests and worsts of each month. I know a lot of people struggled with 2016 and some are saying that for the most part those who think it was a bad year do so because of their privilege. I acknowledge that I am privileged with a life of blessings and wonderful things that I often didn't have a lot to do with. Looking back over the year, I see an abundant life. Still, with that said. I experienced a lot of sadness too. Sometimes we are just sad, in spite of the good.

January
Best: A Thayne reunion of cousins, aunts and uncles to celebrate the foresight of our parents and the many blessings we have because of them. Already there weren't many of the generation that we honored and before the year was out two more of my uncles were laid to rest. It was great to see some who I hadn't seen for many years and this time for a party instead of a funeral.

Worst: None

February


Bests: Disneyland with all of the grandkids, our son and his wife, and our daughter flew in from NYC. We could have been anywhere and it would have been fabulous, but since we hadn't been there as a family since our children were the age of the grandkids, it couldn't have gone better.

Worst: When we landed in LAX, we waited for a long time at the wrong place to be picked up by a shuttle. It was dark and coldish. The kids were running around, impatient and hungry. We all were. Then we finally figured that out, got picked up and taken to the rental place. They had no place to stand and wait, except outside--in the dark! Finally after another hour or more, we got in the rental van and made it to the hotel. What an ordeal.

March: Worst! On March 7th, I saw my friend Mary for the last time. For some years, she has been in a book club that I started in 2000. She hosted many times. She offered such grace and intelligence and in later years, her tender heart and fragility emerged. Although she had failing health, she was a bright and sensitive soul. The night after book club, we were shocked to find out she had been the victim of a murder/suicide. Her husband had been suffering from a mental illness.


Best: Mick and I took a little trip down to Capitol Reef, Goblin Valley and Little Wild Horse Canyon

April
Best: Mick and I celebrated our wedding anniversary of 37 years by traveling down to Arches, Mesa Verde, and Hovenweep. I credit my dear friend Judi Berry for instilling in me the desire to see the Native American artifacts and ruins. Another best was celebrating Mick's and our son's birthdays by seeing the Tulip Gardens at Thanksgiving Point. I'm very lucky to have these two great guys in my life.

 

Worst: My Uncle Lew passed away. He hadn't been well for a long time so in that way it was a blessing to have him go. I loved seeing cousins and my family at the funeral. His wife, (my dad's sister) had been gone for several years.

May
Best: Visit from this family. Approximately 25 years ago the beautiful woman in the middle came to live with our family for her senior year and quickly became part of the family. Here she is with her lovely family. She has been through major trials and is a great example of resilience. Her daughter was killed in an accident leaving behind the littlest guy who was just a toddler at the time.

June Bests: I really love June. The art festival sand Cache Valley Gardener's Market is in full swing. The snow is melted at the cabin in Montana. We hike and hike. We have a lot of fun. Our first trip of the summer was partly with friends and party with family.


 As a person who has struggled with anxiety and depression the last few years, I like to surround myself with happy people. These are some neighbors who spent time with us. See how fun!
I love to start traditions with my grandkids. This little waterfall is just a short hike from the cabin. I've been going there since I was the age of my granddaughter.
June Worsts: I missed walking in Salt Lake Pride. The first time in three years. It's a highlight of the summer. There were a rash of suicides in Utah. Many involving LGBT youth. His mother was a Mama Dragon (fierce protector of her LGBT son). I sat amongst my Mama Dragon friends at the funeral. Sad times. 


July Bests: Trip to New York with Daughter and DIL. We had such a great time going to shows and exploring the city. Another good thing was taking darling granddaughter to the old family cabin my grandpa built in 1960. Just the three of us. Also Mick and I had the great time at a James Taylor concert.  And I got to attend a day of Sunstone conference with dear friends. So fun. 
July WORST This is actually the most heartbreaking of the year. One of my dearest friends passed away unexpectedly on the last day of my trip to NYC. We got the news on the 8th that she had taken a turn for the worst. She passed away the next morning. I tried to make it home in time, but missed saying good bye. This still hurts. Friends told me that she had asked for me. That I missed being there will forever bring me heartache. I miss her so much. Judi was my confidant. And I hers.

August
Bests: Another trip to the cabin. The first part we hosted two couples who all like to hike. The best kind of friends, right? We did a fabulous hike viewing about14 lakes all in all, played games, and ate like royalty.  Lee, our friend for the last decade or so, is like a stand-up comedian keeping us in non-stop laughs. The last half of the trip, we picked up our daughter in Bozeman who flew in from NYC. We've raised our kids right and she loves to hike even more than we do and is in a lot better shape than we are. Then my nephew and his fiance (now wife) came and we had a lot of fun with them also. 

Another fun thing about August is Paradise Trout and Berry Days. I love selling my pottery there, talking to old friends, and eating the best trout dinner of the year. It's also a highlight of the summer. 

Worst: On our trip to the cabin, we got separated from our daughter on a hike (a big no-no) And it took us hours to find each other. By that time, we had called Search and Rescue. Whether your child is 3 or 30 something, there's nothing quite like the sinking feeling when you don't know where they are, especially in  very rugged grizzly bear country. 

September

My Mom with Uncle Mel (my dad's brother)
Worsts: My dad's only remaining sibling passed away. The end of an era. He was the glue of the entire family. I don't know how he kept track of everyone. For decades he made sure we got together for Christmas gatherings and summer parties. He sent letters and cards. He met anyone for lunch, made phone calls, and always remembered to ask about the kids. He wrote histories and made sure we knew all the good things about our father who has been gone for 37 years.  Up until two weeks before Uncle Mel died, he was still swimming laps daily. He was 92.

Another worst is Paradise lost an adorable little girl in an accident. I know her parents, grandparents, and have been good friends with her aunt for 20 years or so. It's so hard to see people you care about suffer so much with such great loss. 





Near the old family cabin. 
Here's a group of fabulous women that I'm lucky enough to call cousins. Somehow we all ended up as like-minded good friends. Since I wasn't blessed with sisters, I'm so glad to have cousins on both sides who I would claim in a heartbeat. 






The year I turned 38 (over 20 years ago) I was in my 1st mid-life crisis. I took a friend and we went for a birthday hike. I've been doing it ever since. Here's a group of friends with my on the trail to White Pine lake. Lucky me. Consider yourself invited next year. 
 



This last picture was taken in Colorado. We had a great trip with a couple of the friends in the above photo. We hiked a lot, sat in a hot tub and played a lot of pool. It was a great trip. 





October: 


Bests: Logan Utah had it's first Pride Festival. I've met so many fabulous people from the LGBT  community and allies. Some people don't really get why I'm involved since I don't have a gay child, but it's for selfish reasons. I enjoy being associated with fabulous people who come together to support one another.


My friend Peter invited me to Equality Utah dinner where I got to hear Gloria Steinem speak among many others. It was a fabulous night. 





Worsts: My husband's Uncle Jim, the man with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and a skip in his step finally slowed down at age 98 and passed away. This is my husband, brother, and cousin at his burial. Uncle Jim made friends whether he was on top of the mountain at his fire look-out post (well into his 80's) or at the ranch, or passing out his homemade cookies. 
He was such a delightful man. 
Another best and worst was the end of the summer Cache Valley Gardener's Market. Here I am with a couple of my favorite people on the planet, Natalie Bodrero (Wander Often) and Amy Dunn (Amaloop) if you want to follow their art. I love doing the market. It really feels me with joy. 



November Worst: Donald Trump was elected president. If you don't understand why some of us are grieving because of this, then please just with hold judgment. It feels like the beginning of the end. Don't tell me it's ridiculous. Don't try to tell me that Hillary would have been just as bad. Just let my heart ache and let me feel sad. 

Bests: The day after the election we drove up to the cabin in Montana and had three days of glorious sunshine and shirtsleeve hiking weather. We didn't have any news to remind us of our sorrow. 

This little guy's third birthday. He's still really
easy to please. Give him some french fries and let him play and life is as good as it gets. 

Mick and I were able to have a fabulous fun night at Mama Mia at the Eccles (though his truck broke down before he got there and he missed the first 40 minutes. 





Thanksgiving: We had all of our son's family, our daughter and her bf, My niece and nephew, whom I adore--great food, great conversation, and fun games. What a beautiful day. On the down side most everyone got sick within the next few days. I'm still counting on that it had nothing to do with the food we served, since our youngest grandson was sick when he got here, but who knows for sure?


Another best and worst was our fun and short trip
down to Moab and Arches. It is one of my very 
favorite places and we so enjoyed being with 
our daughter. But both she and her friend got sick too. And her friend had a broken leg, so he could only hike short distances and even then was in a lot of pain. Poor guy, but what a good sport. 






December: 
 
Bests: The Winter Gift Market at the Bullen Arts Center. It's not the best for sales, but it is so much fun hanging out with these fun folks. Life is always better when you get to sell your art and encourage other artisans to sell theirs. I also got to do another sale at Suzi Bates house the next week. She's the one in the gray who is making us laugh. 


Christmas: Was both good and bad. Our daughter had invited us to NYC, but we decided to save the money and stay home. Our son invited us, but it snowed too much to go. We missed hearing our DIL sing, but a good friend spent the day with us. Then son and kids came the next day. 

We had a dinner party pre-New Years. Lots of fun playing games, talking, eating and staying cozy and warm in the house. Our grandkids spent a few days with us and we even sledded in the yard. All in all the year ended on a great note.  As I look at all the positives of this year and of course there were many that I didn't list, I have to say--it all ain't so bad thanks to my wonderful friends and family. 
 



Monday, November 14, 2016

Falling Far from the Tree

I do fall far from the tree.
My dad was just about as conservative as they come. His work for the state government made him subject to the Hatch Act, ineligible to display political signs on our property. He wasn't allowed to write letters to the editor, but that didn’t stop him from speaking his mind to anyone who would listen. Dad was a staunch, dyed in the wool, true to the core conservative. The Hatch Act didn’t stop him from pounding signs for his favorite candidates into other willing voters’ yards. He also wrote letters to senators and congressmen. We used to tease him that he was Orrin Hatch’s pen pal. He would proudly show us Orrin Hatch’s personal replies. 

Dad was horrified when he found out my maternal grandmother was going to vote for George McGovern. I heard him try to respectfully “teach” her why she was so, so wrong. I could tell he was just about to blow, but shut his mouth and stopped so he wouldn't offend Grandma. (In this way, I am just like my father.) I too, have to shut up or stop posting  or speaking before I go too far. I heard him say to my mother, “What is she possibly thinking? She said McGovern is handsome. How is that a good reason to vote for someone?” I’m pretty sure my Grandma just told my dad that to mess with him, she was after all, an intelligent woman. 

I grew up hearing the term liberal pinko thrown around in everyday conversations. I knew Dad abhorred “kooky environmentalists," and as far as he was concerned, Robert Redford was the worst of the bunch, along with Jane Fonda. But he was offended when a neighbor brought John Birch Society material for him to read. For those who don’t know John Birch Society is an extreme right-wing organization. I remember him wondering how the guy could think he was “one of those extremists.” He didn’t like extremism in any shape or form. Dad pined for a day when Ronald Reagan would be elected president. That would have been a momentous day for him and I wish he'd seen it happen. He died two years before, and I couldn’t help but wonder if my dad influenced the outcome from the other side. At the time, I voted for Reagan, even though in retrospect that wasn’t a good idea. Under Reagan's presidency, because of retroactive government cutbacks, my husband lost a good job that was in his field. 

I really had no intention of becoming the person I am today.  I was a slow convert to liberal ideas. I had once believed that being Republican was akin to being a good Mormon, practically a requirement for entrance into the Celestial Kingdom. I knew that admitting to a family member that I had started leaning Democrat would cause as much concern as if I had told them I was forming an alliance with Satan. I have to admit that the first time I checked a box for a Democrat, I felt my heart race a bit—pondering what my dad would think—and if I was indeed committing a sin. At first it was only in local elections  that I dared vote for Democrats. Even though by then, my core beliefs put me solidly on the blue team. Even still, Al Gore was the first Democrat I voted for in a presidential election. When I admitted to voting for Al Gore at what had been a peaceful Thanksgiving dinner, the stuffing hit the fan so to speak. A close family member said some pretty unkind things, including that my deceased father would be livid. I had to admit, Dad would not have been happy. Though I hope that after he passed he wouldn’t have cared one wit about something as inconsequential as a person’s political leanings. 

Through some tears and bites of turkey, I pointed out to the argumentative family member, that my dad had voted for  Democratic candidate Yukus Inouye. I knew it for a fact because I was with Dad when  he pounded wooden stakes of political signs into lawns in Utah county. When I had asked Dad why he was voting for a Democrat, he’d said, because he’s a really great guy, my friend, and the better candidate. To write this I looked up Yukus and found out that he had won in 1972 as Utah County Commissioner in a heavily Republican county. Yukus Inouye lived to be 91 and died in 2007.  

Well, at the dinner I sobbed uncontrollably, even though several of the younger generation tried to comfort me. Eventually that family member and I could speak to each other again. We both had to learn to bridge our differences with a little civility. We also learned never to ask who the other was voting for. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. 

I’m almost certain that my dad would not have voted for Donald Trump, because my dad could spot a fraud. Once in high school, I came home so excited about the stories an LDS general authority Paul H. Dunn told in a huge seminary morning devotional. My dad was sitting in his home office, leaning back slightly in his solid wood swivel chair. When I got done telling Dad the fantastic war stories, he got a smirk on his face and said that they weren’t true. I couldn’t believe my dad, a bishop at the time, would call a GA of our church a liar. I’d said, how can you say that? He'd said, I’m just saying I was in the war and those things couldn’t have happened, and Paul H. Dunn is a great storyteller who stretches the truth for effect. Well, I was hurt and thought my dad was wrong to say what he did. My dad had been gone for a few years when the truth that many of Paul Dunn’s famous faith-promoting stories were nothing more than good fiction. Too bad he’d felt the need to claim they were true. 

There was another popular WW2 Veteran on a speaking circuit, telling amazing tales of his POW experiences and heroism. My dad only had to hear him once to declare that the man was a fraud. Years later he also was discredited. In this case, the man may have actually believed his own stories. 

My dad would have been appalled at the choices in this election. I have no illusion that he would have voted for Hillary. She is far too liberal for my dad. But he also would not have voted for Donald Trump. I’m quite certain he would have seen him as the con artist he is. Dad had strong opinions. He thought everyone should think like him, and he argued with those who didn't. But he also taught us to be politically active and to stick up for our principles. Though he might be turning in his grave to see me as the “liberal pinko” he would disapprove of, I hope he’d respect that I will speak out for beliefs, even when I’m in the minority, even when it’s hard, and even when it hurts so badly you feel like you can’t breathe. Because after all, he taught me to do that. Maybe I don’t fall as far from the tree after all. 


Monday, July 11, 2016

Tender Mercies: Sundays with Judi

This may be my only photo. Several years ago, she came to hear me speak about the book "Just Shy of Paradise."
Dear Judi, 
When I got word that you had “graduated” from this life, I was walking in Brooklyn to brunch with my daughter Ginger, daughter-in-law Joanna, and our new friend Lauren. We knew that I could receive the dreaded message at anytime, since I’d heard the evening before that your time was near. So when I felt the buzz in my pocket, I immediately glanced at my phone. When I saw that the inevitable had happened, my loved ones hugged me as I let the tears flow. I agonized that I hadn’t made it home in time. We had rescheduled our flight in hopes that it would make a difference. I had so wanted to sit with you one last time, even if you wouldn’t have been aware. I needed my Judi Berry time.
As we began down the street again, Joanna nudged me and pointed to the name of the street sign a block away, “Berry.” Was that you? Did you let me know that you knew I needed you? Did you prompt Becky to send the text at that moment? Since the beginning of our friendship, the tender mercies have so often been there. Your character and how you’ve handled your often very difficult challenges has taught me so much.

Berry Street in Brooklyn


So often during my NYC week, I thought about seeing you on Sunday as had become my habit over the last couple of years. I had hoped to tell you all about the trip because I knew you would genuinely be interested in what I experienced. In April, we had taken a trip to Mesa Verde just because you had told me so much about it. When I said, I was going you brought out all your pamphlets and said that we could take them as long as we took good care of them. The stop at Hovenweep was my favorite and I couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. You’d said, on your trips you couldn’t sleep the night before you’d be so excited. Every step through Long House, even when we were crawling through a tunnel from one part of the house to the other, I thought about you doing the same thing at a healthier time. Your enthusiasm and your passions were contagious.
Those rock trips, and Native American ruins trips happened before I really knew you. Before we became friends. Now instead of excitement, what kept you awake at night was pain and burning acid that didn’t even allow you to lie down. Remember that one Sunday? I looked through the window and saw you asleep at the kitchen table sitting upright in the chair. I hesitated to wake you, but gently knocked. You told me you had been awake all night except when you had fallen asleep standing at the kitchen counter. You cried when I came and said that you had been praying for someone to come to help. I told you that I would have come anyway, even without the prayer. You reminded me that I don’t come every single Sunday, that I miss a few. And then I told you that perhaps the answer to your prayer was that I’d brought my husband with me, which hardly ever happened. He shoveled all the walks while I helped with some things inside. I was glad that he got to experience what I had so often, to see you reflect on tiny miracles and tender mercies.
Another tender mercy was that the day you were diagnosed with Scleroderma, I happened to be walking through the Budge Clinic picking up my contacts. I heard my name and turned to see you alone in a waiting room. You’d said, “How many auto-immune disorders does one person have to have?” You were holding the pamphlet the doctor had given you, so that you could learn about what awful stuff was in store for you. We hugged. We cried. You courageously went on, handling the best you could what was a very rotten deal. You lost your husband when you were still young. Your body took a beating as one bad thing after another knocked you down, and yet, in spite of that you always found something, a reason to keep getting up. Something to look forward to: a phone call from a son, a new colt frolicking in the field out your window, a visit from a friend, a new book to read ahead of everyone else since your friends at North Logan Library put you at the top of the waiting list, or Shawn, the Bookmobile librarian would bring your books out to your car when you honked, or especially for a day when you felt “good.” Which we both knew meant you didn’t feel quite as rotten as usual. One of the best things to happen in this last part of your life is seeing you come alive again with all the quilting you’ve done. I knew you had made quilts before, mostly humanitarian but you’d had to put that away for a while. So when things got just a little better for you and you got out your sewing machine, you sparkled with renewed passion. I loved seeing the quilts, first in colorful shapes and pieces on your kitchen table, then as patterned squares, then as a top, and finally finished. Your biggest concern had become living long enough to finish the quilts for your grandchildren, your son and his wife, and especially for your last big masterpiece for Justin. But you did it! And you still managed to make a whole bunch of quilts for people who were terminally ill. You had laughed when I told you that I never wanted one of those quilts—not if I had to die to get one. Your sense of humor was so cute. I noticed how you could laugh and tell jokes about yourself, especially to caregivers, doctors and nurses. You always said thank you when people did even the smallest thing for you. You finally learned that you had to give up a little of your independence so you could stay in your house in your beloved town of Paradise. You never took that help for granted, not one little bit.
Some of your friends and your family have thanked me for “being so good to you.” I said, I did things for you because I loved you, but it was so much more for me than it was for you. The truth is that it was me that needed you. Someone else could easily have done the few things I did. But the sanctuary, the refuge, that you provided for me was so much more for my benefit than it ever was for you. Remember how many times, I knocked on the door, waited for the, “come in” and then slumped into your recliner, the chair that had become “Carole’s chair.” Even your sister Linda would vacate the chair for me unless I insisted otherwise. I spent many a tearful Sunday talking about my doubts, my challenges, and my angst, mixed with my joys and triumphs. Even though we both knew that your challenges were so much greater than mine, you still empathized in ways few others could, And I knew without having to say anything that my concerns would be kept between us. You respected privacy better than most of us. I felt such safety, such acceptance and no judgement toward me—just empathy, understanding and genuine love.
Sundays will be hard for me. My church often was sitting with you and sharing stories, concerns and insights—sacred time. I got to witness a remarkable friendship between you and your son Justin as he would inevitably call while I was there. Your banter and discussion with him was so ordinary yet endearing. One of the last conversations I remember was when you were telling him how excited you were to find potato chips without corn oil. You had told me that Justin had found you ice cream without corn syrup. Corn and many other items did terrible things to you, so instead of dwelling on that, you became enthused when you found things you could eat. Dwelling on the positives in life was something you were so good at. I used to tease you that you would get yourself admitted to Logan Regional Hospital just because they fixed the best Salmon in town. I should know since I ate more than half of yours that one time.
Thank you Judi. Thanks for your courage, your heart, your gracious and generous life. Everyone needs someone like you, a Judi Berry in their life. I’m so blessed I had you in mine. You were my tender mercy.
your friend,
Carole

Monday, January 11, 2016

Whiling the while with Words!

I remember when I was four or five and I discovered the magic of copying letters onto a paper to form what appeared to be words. I still didn’t understand the sounds, but understood the symbols. I was at the family cabin in Silver Gate, Montana in the upstairs loft. I carefully scrawled letters in varying word lengths and would run down the stairs to show them to my mother. She would try to read the nonsensical words and sometimes they actually were close to something. But not understanding the power of vowels, she’d inform me that some of them were nothing. Still, it was the beginnings of writing and reading. 

In 1st grade with book mark in hand, small groups of students and the teacher in a circle in the back of the room, I could read Dick and Jane books like nobody’s business. I longed to be in those books, to play with Spot, Dick, Jane and Tim. Their lives were so simple. They jumped, played ball, ran, skipped, looked—oh how they looked. Look Dick look. See Jane run. 

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, my neighbor Sharon, with her naturally blond hair the color of Marilyn Monroe’s, stood on the other side of the hedge that was between our yards. Sharon was about three years older than me, so was sophisticated in the ways of the world. When I told her I was going to the library, she said, “Be sure to get some Dr. Suess books.”  When I found the Dr. Suess books on the bottom shelf of the fabulous basement Orem library—then in an old house across from the Scera theater, I was hooked by the magic of nonsensical words, some very much like the words I had first strung together years earlier, the beauty of alliteration, rhymes, and drawings that covered every inch of the page. I still believe Theordor Suess Geisel to be nothing short of genius. His capturing of deep philosophies and allegories in exquisite drawings and words has not been equaled. His powerful messages could indeed, not just captivate us, they transformed us. The world Suess created was infinitely more interesting that Dick and Jane’s world. Horton hearing who’s. And cats in hats, sneetches and green eggs! What  words could be more wonderful? 


Words: We used to shout at each other on the playground: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” But that was a lie. I had a teacher tell us it was a lie. I remember being confused and then relieved. Confused because it had always been taught. Confused because physical hurt was definable. But emotional pain was something we buried and denied. I was relieved because I felt bad whenever someone called me a name, and now I knew that was ok.


Words: I used to hate some of the words I heard at home hurled at me by my siblings: Stupid, retarded, baby, faker, or more like faker, faker, faker—a sing-song taunt. School was a safe haven because at school, teachers made me feel smart. I loved school, but I loved staying home  on sick days too—without my brothers. Home alone with only my mother who never hurled insults. Home to I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island and Romper Room all day sipping hot jello drinks. Home to a stack of picture books—a good Suess book and a cuddly cat curled next to me. Even though as soon as the brothers came home I would be the faker, faker, faker—the hours of peace were worth it. I remember being home sick when I was in kindergarten or 1st grade and Miss Julie on Romper Room held up her magic mirror and declared, “And I see Carole who is home sick today.” My mom didn’t believe she was really talking to me, but I knew she was. She saw me. If she saw me, I wasn’t faking. I couldn’t be faking. Did that mean I also wasn’t stupid? Sticks and Stones. I used to shout it out to deflect the power of words. Words, they can inspire, affirm, debase, or hurt. I wish my armor could be made of all the beautiful words in the world, so the negative stuff couldn’t penetrate. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Permission to Bully in 1961 and Beyond

The school year was 1961-62. A five-old-girl sat on a classroom chair with the rest of the kindergarten class surrounding her. The teacher wore a dark skirt and a plain white blouse. She had medium-length brown hair and a pleasant face. The teacher told the class that because Marva* had been naughty again, the she must be punished. The kindergarten students were told to each take a strand of the Marva’s hair and on the count of three—PULL. 

This scene played out numerous times throughout my first year at Sharon Elementary School. I don’t remember anyone else ever receiving the punishment except for Marva. I’m sure there were others, but it’s her face I remember. Boys were usually the first to surround her—smiling, a bit excited. I always held back, as did others, too far away to grasp a lock of hair. 

I don’t remember what Marva did that was so naughty. And while I’m glad I never participated in the punishment handed down by the teacher, I never reached out to be kind to Marva either. Why would I? She was a naughty girl. Did I somehow suspect that if I played with her, that I would be tainted by her? I don’t blame myself—after all I was only five. I also don’t blame the boys who gleefully surrounded Marva and pulled as hard as they could—after all, they were only five. But I do blame the teacher. 

Over the years, my memory of the events have faded, so much that I almost wondered if they had happened at all, but recently I was talking with another friend who had, had the same teacher in the alternate hours kindergarten the same year and she said, “Mrs. Wendell—the teacher that made us pull hair. My children don’t believe me when I tell them.” Then the memory flooded back. So it was true. It was true that my kindergarten teacher commanded five-year-olds to bully and to physically and emotionally harm another child. It was true that the teacher had set up a policy to create a class system based on fear, to set up children who would automatically become the OTHER, the ones we had permission to abuse and belittle and to cast aside from our friendship. 


I don’t know what happened to Marva. I can pick her face out in the class picture. I hope that somehow, she escaped the stigma stamped upon her by a teacher who must have thought she was doing the right thing to control her class. How often do we do harm to others when we believe that we are doing the right thing because like those five-year-olds someone in authority told them it was the right thing? Sometimes doing the right thing takes a tremendous amount of courage. Sometimes doing the right thing is the exact opposite of what we are told. Sometimes doing the right thing is listening to the little voice in our head, and that instinct that socks us in the gut. *not real name.