Monday, December 28, 2009

Oldie but Goodie #6 (holiday edition)

This essay from December 95 was years in the brewing. As a cautionary observation, it covers all holidays for which gifts are appropriate.

On Giving Gifts

Our discussion today, class, centers on the theory and practice of gift giving.

First, it’s important to recognize why you are giving a gift. Some gifts are given because the giver knows the recipient will allow the giver to use it - sweater, XBox, motorcycle. It’s multi-purpose, and therefore a great bargain. Giving something because you want your recipient to be delightfully surprised is another theory, but sometimes that can backfire on you, as was the case when my friend’s husband bought her a new house she neither needed nor wanted.

Yet another possible reason for gift giving is merely so the giver does not arrive empty-handed. That seems a harsh assessment perhaps, but I speak as a person who once received for my birthday, from a husband who shall remain nameless, two nail clippers, one for fingers, one for toes. It took my breath away. For some reason, Robert Burns’ observation from his poem To A Louse crossed my mind:
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us…

Later I marveled that it must have taken seconds of careful deliberation to make this decision, considering that one finds nail clippers displayed next to the checkout stand, along with flashlight batteries, tire gauges, breath mints, and Super Glue. With that in mind, I counted myself blessed, but you’ll understand why eight months later he received from me for his birthday a padded toilet seat – symbolic as well as useful. I also began to understand why the first Christmas gift he ever gave me was an apron. It was terry cloth, and domestic, which I was not, at the time, perceived as being. A new theory now emerges: gifts are sometimes hints, however broad or subtle the giver may want to be. It should be noted here, in the name of historical accuracy, that we were married a year later, five days after Christmas. Though I am now quite domestic, I still have the apron, but it’s rarely used.

Still another theory of gift giving, one I tend to embrace in most situations, is that the perfect gift is something the person needs and can or will use, but something they wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves for whatever rational or irrational reason. I remember going Christmas shopping as a little girl with my grandmother, a skilled homemaker, to find something just right for my mother, a woman who didn’t have expensive possessions but appreciated beautiful things. With my limited spending potential, I looked for something pretty as well as useful. I found a miniature ceramic vase with purple pansies painted on the side. It cost 50 cents, right in my price range. Mother loved it for all the reasons I knew she would, and it fit nicely on the knickknack shelf in the kitchen where I often dusted it. It broke eventually, and we were both sad.

Years later, remembering that little purple pansy vase, I bought another vase for my mother, this time without pansies, but purple, and very tall, which I thought would be perfect for displaying a sample of the irises she grew in her yard. More years later, as she was cleaning the house in some hopeless attempt to sift out her packrat excess, she found the purple vase in the back of a cupboard, and since she hadn’t used it for a while, she gave it back to me. A big purple vase in my bland beige family room was hard to explain, but I didn’t really try. It was just there, and it made me smile. Corollary One of this theory now emerges: What goes around comes around, but the value increases with the miles and the years.

We’ve never had extravagant Christmases, either as children or in our marriage. In my husband’s family disappointment became an issue because expectations were too high, resulting in a knee-jerk bah-humbug attitude when the children became adults, at least the one I married. Maybe that’s because they always gave their gifts in the shopping bag in which they had carried them home from the store, perhaps the easier to return them should the need arise. This super-practical Scandanavian thrift, modest though it is intended to be, can admittedly take the starch out of special occasions.

In my family, Christmas was for surprises, thrills and heart-fluttering delights. Deep down I knew the chances were slim that I’d get anything from the list I made after hours spent poring over the Montgomery Ward Wishbook that arrived in October, full of tantalizing possibilities. I desperately wanted that bride doll, but other traditions usually took precedence, and my attention was diverted. Mother was busy making pfeffernusse and Mexican Orange Candy, and meticulously planning the Christmas dinner menu to include something we would all love, like raspberry punch. For our part, my sister and I usually made and decorated dozens of sugar cookies in endlessly dazzling ways. Our four younger brothers would hang around the kitchen door, saying they wanted to help, but we knew they really just wanted to snitch a cookie when we weren’t looking. We also tried to wrap gifts creatively and attractively, even the candy bars we put in our brothers’ stockings.

Dad would take us out to choose the Christmas tree on the afternoon of the 23rd or 24th, and Mother would decorate it after all the children went to bed so the first time we saw it was on Christmas morning. It was the kind of thrill so many of today’s jaded children have never known.

All that was in stark contrast to what many other families did. I’ll never forget, as a teen in the 1950’s, the day my mother came home from church shaking her head in disbelief at one of her friends bemoaning the fact that her husband’s business hadn’t done very well that year, and he was only giving her $5,000 to spend for Christmas on their four children. We rolled our eyes and wondered if we should notify the Salvation Army of this needy family.

Speaking as a person who does most gift shopping online from catalogs, or with gift cards, I sometimes think those wise men weren’t very wise to bring such expensive gifts; but on the other hand, we aren’t very smart when we don’t recognize the tradition as a symbolic gesture with deeper meaning. Too often we choose instead to race in a panic through a mall and land on whatever can be packaged suitably and will qualify as a gift – something, anything, even toenail clippers.

Happy gift giving this year. Keep it in perspective. Remember the padded toilet seat.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Hearty Laugh

This morning I went for an EKG to see if the heart murmur my doctor heard is indicative of anything more serious. Roger did some errands, and when he picked me up, the conversation went like this:

ME: Well, the technician says I have the heart of an 18-year-old.

ROGER: Is that good or bad?

ME: I think it's good.

Roger: As long as it doesn't mean you're fickle...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Two Favorite New Recipes

Just in time for the holidays. Both are great with turkey.

CRANBERRY CHUTNEY makes 3 C
In lge kettle bring to boil stirring constantly 16 oz. cranberries, 3/4 C packed bn sugar, 3/4 C raisins, 1/2 C chopped celery, 1 C chopped apple, 3/4 C water or OJ, 1/4 C coarse-chop walnuts, 2 T lemon juice, 1 T grated orange peel, 1/4 t cloves, 1/4 t cinnamon, 1/4 t allspice, 1/4 t ginger. Simmer uncovered 15 min, stirring occasionally. Store in fridge. Keeps several weeks.

CRANBERRY MUSTARD
Combine 12-oz pkg cranberries, 1-1/3 C sugar in saucepan, stir over med heat till sugar dissolves. Cook, stir till cranberries pop, about 5 min. Cool completely. Stir in 4-1/2 T Dijon mustard, 2-1/2 T whole-grain Dijon mustard, pinch of salt. Can make up to a week ahead. Cover and chill.

Friday, December 18, 2009

And now for a long winter's nap...

(Dec. 8) We are finished trippin'! It was fun while it lasted, but we're home and burrowed in while the snow piles up in the yard. It was so nice to get home in one hour instead of the usual three it takes to drive to Richfield. All the boxes were waiting for us, as promised, so we have tackled a few today. New furniture comes Thursday and Friday.

Our luggage got through seven trips to six airports in a month, but didn't get off the plane with us in Salt Lake. We reported it
missing and they tracked it down in Portland. I guess it just got used to going there. But Southwest rerouted it and delivered it
this afternoon. Oh, great. Now I've got something else to unpack. Actually, I might just toss it out. It's fairly traveled this year
and might like to be released with a vote of thanks.

It was a month full of activity. We saw hilly Morgantown, West Virginia (six miles from the Pennsylvania border - Roger's
brother lives there; there's one mile of road that's straight)... ate lunch at an Amish restaurant in Maryland near a stone bridge
built in the 1700's as part of the first national highway (discovered in the restaurant gift shop an Amish romance novel and
couldn't resist buying one)… flew out of Pittsburgh on a commuter plane, climbing up five steps from the tarmac to get in,
sitting on row seven of nine rows… interesting (bumpy) experience… waited in Cleveland longer than we were in the air both
legs of the trip, took another plane (a little larger) to Rochester, where Jen met us… went to the Sacred Grove, the Smith
family home, saw the Palmyra Temple, drove to the (almost) top of the Hill Cumorah, had lunch at a local restaurant next to
the Erie Canal, and then visited the EB Grandin building in Palmyra – completely fascinating…in Jen's ward, introduced
ourselves for the first time as being from Provo – it's beginning to sink in… went to the George Eastman house to see a display
of gingerbread creations… fabulous place… went to Wegman's, a huge grocery store where the deli has about 100 kinds of
cheeses… saw Lake Ontario, Seneca Lake, the Elizabeth Cady Stanton home in Seneca Falls where the women's movement
began (Bedford Falls, the town in "It's a Wonderful Life," is said to be patterned after Seneca Falls – totally charming)…went to the Whitmer farm in Fayette...shopped at an Amish store, ate dinner at an Amish restaurant… fed ducks on the Erie Canal and found a pizza joint loaded with local color and great food… drove to Buffalo in torrential rain… sat in the airport an extra 45 minutes due to the computer glitch in Salt Lake that messed up the whole flight schedule across the country… met Randy and Elin in the Chicago airport; they went to school board meetings while we drove their car back to Decatur, stopping along the way to meet Roger's brother Loren and his wife for lunch… did what I have not done since 1961 - got up for early morning Seminary; I drove Kayla there and waited for her, then took her to school while Roger got Courtney up and out the door for the school bus… I drove to Bloomington to pick up Randy and Elin at the train, which was an hour late because it hit some debris on the tracks and couldn't go fast… got a perm… helped Elin get ready for Thanksgiving… Jen and Kevin and kids arrived Wednesday… Jen and Elin went to O'Hare to pick up Jordan and Heather on Thursday while the rest of us (well, some) fixed dinner… had a fabulous meal… laughed ourselves silly… the kids all got along well… had "Christmas" on Saturday, which means listening to Christmas music while decorating the house, then eating Danish rice pudding and opening the resulting pudding prizes… Jen and Kevin left Sunday morning… wandered through furniture stores in a little Amish town about 40 miles from Decatur, marveling at the craftsmanship, bought some pumpkin bars and cheese at a local bakery and cheese shop, found the sequel to the Amish romance novel, went to the Amish bulk foods store where Elin gets so many of our unusual Christmas presents – ever had peach flavor Danish Dessert, or apricot or blackberry Jello?…got up early to go with Elin to take Jordan and Heather back to Chicago, dropping them off at the el station in the heart of the South Side, a pretty scary place, but they were together, and it was daylight, and it was quicker than fighting traffic to drive all the way to O'Hare on the north side… bought a new coat… attended the Millikin College Christmas Vespers on Sunday night… got out of Midway Airport ahead of the blizzard, but got into some serious weather at the Denver stopover… de-iced, got to Salt Lake an hour late, got the shuttle and were delivered on our doorstep (covered with 5 or 6 inches of snow) at 9 too keyed up to sleep.

We didn't get to do everything we wanted to do – Jen planned to take us to Niagara Falls but the kids were sick so we changed
the itinerary – but now we have an agenda for our next visit. I love upstate New York so I expect to be going back a lot. Jen is
in the Palmyra Stake and lives 40 minutes from the Cumorah Pageant locale. We want to go back in good weather, but we
would also like to do a fall color tour in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. Falling Water, the famous home designed by
Frank Lloyd Wright, is in the Pennsylvania hills a couple of hours from Morgantown. It was Monday when we visited, and the
place is closed on Mondays. Next time for sure.

Christmas Lights Extraordinaire

Only in Utah Valley... A house on a street near us had a row of blue lights around the eaves, and in the window... wait for it... a white block letter Y. Don't know if these people are in our ward, but they are not ashamed of partisanship. Hey, they could leave them up all year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Oldie but Goodie #5 (holiday edition)

We have moved into music heaven. Not only do we have a huge ward choir, but the stake also has a spectacular choir, as evidenced by the marvelous Christmas fireside last night which featured stellar performances and excellent selections. It renewed my faith. In fact, I was needed in the choir in our Richfield ward, but here I may be substandard. I'm a wobbly, insecure alto at best, with a vibrato that grows wider every day. We went to choir practice Sunday and the performance is next Sunday, with a practice/social event (i.e. breakfast) Saturday morning. If I stand next to somebody good, I can manage, but I'm still not sure about standing there with so many who are really good at it. I feel like a fraud. Roger, of course, is a marvelous singer and will enjoy making his considerable contributions. I'm thrilled about that.

In the spirit of Christmas music commentary, here is a rerun of my slightly revised essay from last year which contains large quantities of exaggeration and irony, and which goes down easier if taken with a grain of salt:

CHRISTMAS MUSIC: THE HEAVEN AND HELL OF IT

My husband and I were on a phone call recently that required us to wait on hold for about half of the total one-hour time it took to complete the transaction. While we were on hold, we were subjected to the torturous sounds of New Age ‘music,’ put there by some well-meaning person convinced we needed to be entertained while we were waiting. Running barefoot on broken glass would have been infinitely more satisfying. I am convinced that New Age ‘music’ diminishing brain cells and breaks down resistance to truth, logic and common sense, leaving people believing that evil is good and good is evil. It dissolves any conscience a person may have hitherto possessed. Suddenly everything is hunky-dory for these people and they think all the problems of the world will go away if we all just sit around listening to and grooving on this foulest form of air pollution. New Age ‘music’ is the sorry consequence of bra burning, free love, and Woodstock.

That’s one way of saying I’m picky about music, especially now that it's Christmas time and there's more questionable music in the air. My eclectic musical tastes were formed in a radio-oriented home where we listened to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast on Saturday mornings, and ended the day with both the steel guitars, sweet harmonies and ukuleles on Hawaii Calls, and the authentic Western sounds of Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch. It was pure and never Osmondized.

Because music has such power, my deeply personal celebration of Christmas very often centers on great music inspired from a heavenly source, and its effect on me is profound. Most especially, probably because I pay close attention to the precise meanings of words, my soul yearns to hear or sing appropriate lyrics from significant texts, paired with satisfying and spiritually rewarding melodies expressing the deepest meaning of Christmas. Let me worship through reverent music in the most sublime, eloquent way, as the Savior of the world deserves. My heart is touched by so many inspired works – Handel’s Messiah, O Come O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night, Lo How a Rose ‘Ere Blooming, Mary Did You Know, O Come All Ye Faithful, Angels We Have Heard on High, Once in Royal David’s City, much authentic folk music and many heartfelt spirituals.

However, there is some Christmas music so patently offensive that I want to wipe out all memories of ever having heard or sung it. I want to slink, Grinch-like, into all the music stores, radio stations, private collections and sheet music publishers and obliterate some sounds I hear over public address systems in stores during the holidays. You don’t have a choice when you hear this drivel in a shopping mall. They mean well, but it doesn’t entertain. It inspires my inner Scrooge, making me want to buy less so I can leave the premises as quickly as possible and try once again to obliterate from my memory Elvis Presley's version of White Christmas. That’s how I first heard the number one selection on my Top Twenty List of Christmas Songs I Never Want To Hear Again. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the complete and generous list of losers with the heartfelt scorn and derision each so richly deserves:

20. It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas – …to which I want to respond, “Well, duh! What was your first clue – sundown on Halloween?” It sounds like the guy who says during a heat wave, “Hot enough for ya?” This is something clueless Goofy would have said to patient Mickey, who is far more tolerant of stupid remarks than I.

19. (tie) Winter Wonderland/Marshmallow World – Ain’t no time nowhere winter is a wonderland for me; I cannot celebrate the charm I do not find. Winter is a slip-on-the-ice, sprain-your-ankle, freeze-your-tushie-off, endlessly boring season broken only by the sweetness of celebrating a sacred holiday. Don’t let’s confuse the two.

18. I’ll be Home for Christmas – Total schmaltz when you first hear it, mind-numbingly dull after that. So you’re not going to be there except in your dreams – boohoo. Get over it. I spent a lot of unconventional Christmases out of the country and I've found my own way past the sentimentality.

17. Let it Snow – This is nothing but a seductive (you’ll excuse the expression) invitation to use bad weather as an excuse for someone to stay over at his sweetie’s house, a one-of-a-kind gift that can only be given once. It's deceptively cute, but if you listen to the lyrics, it makes no sense.

16. Have A Holly Jolly Christmas – Actually, this sounds like the worst kind of Christmas to have, completely unrelated to the real meaning of the holiday. This song hits another set of cliches the others have missed.

15. Jingle Bell Rock – Social events at holiday time are nice, but this lyric is unencumbered by logic or a description of an appropriate observance of a sacred day, and it's musically boring.

14. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – See #15 and #16.

13. Frosty the Snowman – Christmas is not mentioned in this ludicrous winter legend and after you’ve heard it once, subsequent hearings are migraine-inducing torture.

12. The Christmas Song (you know… chestnuts roasting… yada, yada, yada) – Nothing is more offensive than clich├ęs, and this one is loaded with them. In fact, Santa has loaded his sleigh with toys and goodies. Isn’t that what’s wrong with Christmas in the first place? We don’t need more things.

11. White Christmas – Another string of clich├ęs. What’s the big deal about snow? What about Christmas in Australia that takes place in the summer? Huh? Did you ever think of that?

10. Silver Bells – Not much wrong with this one if you like a boring melody and totally mindless lyrics. Can you say platitude?

9. It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Really? You love spending too much money, eating too much rich food, going to parties you don’t want to go to with people you don’t really like? What’s wonderful about that?

8. Twelve Days of Christmas – Repetition is the last refuge of the unimaginative. Again, we’re stuck on using things to express love, a pitiful substitute for the genuine article.

7. Deck the Halls – Nonsense lyrics are Exhibit A in the case against this song. I don’t drink, but I should think that drunk would be the best way to find meaning in it. Far more appealing, rewarding and cogent was the Mad Magazine version of this I read in my youth, which began, “Deck us all with Boston Charlie, Walla Walla Wash and Kalamazoo…”

6. (all songs referring to reindeer with or without red noses) – completely idiotic, without redeeming value or even a modicum of charm. Lord of the Flies teaches kids to play nice together, too.

5. (all songs referring to Santa Claus) – He sees you when you’re sleeping? Really? He knows when you’re awake? Really? Isn’t that what God does, and didn’t He do it first? How can kids NOT get confused!

4. Jingle Bells – Here’s another mediocre winter tale with no connection to the holiday. Translation: people with the IQ of pinecones ride around in the snow apparently unwilling to take refuge from the weather and protect themselves against frostbite.

3. We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Nobody even knows what figgy pudding is anyway, and simply repeating the sentiment ad infinitum doesn’t make it more intelligible.

2. Feliz Navidad – If a guy sang this to me, I’d poison his eggnog. I do not want this derivative, dreary rubbish stuck in my head for the month of December.

1. Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time – No, we’re not. We’re paralyzed by the tedium of this inferior music and pointless lyric written by Paul McCartney in a fit of acute uninspired tastelessness. The last chorus repeats ad nauseum until you think you’ve entered a new rung of Purgatory Dante must have created just for shoppers, as if another were necessary. If Christmas shopping doesn’t trigger insanity, you haven’t spent enough time in the Walmart listening to this on the PA system.

And while I’m on a roll, here’s a bonus: I never want to hear another roomful of third graders shouting I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas, or Up On the Housetop, or I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, or All I Want For Christmas is my Two Front Teeth. It’s only cute once.

It’s true of music no matter what time of year it is, but especially at Christmas you’ll have a deeper, richer spiritual experience when you’re more careful with what you choose to think and sing about during the holidays. When your spirit is fed with spiritually nourishing music, you grow closer to the reason for the season.

And by the way, Merry Christmas. Celebrate it with GOOD music that lifts and inspires

Monday, November 2, 2009

Golden Oldie #4

We're moving to Provo on Wednesday and flying to Pittsburgh Saturday on the first leg of our month-long trip, so here's something seasonal I wrote about gratitude. Looking back over the thirteen years since this was written, clearly I'd make a different list now. How about you? I'll be back in time to post some essays about Christmas.

Thanks, But Gimme
November 1996

Confession time: I’m a compulsive list maker, a trait I modestly associate with my ability to organize, anticipate, and shepherd a project through to its successful conclusion. I even keep lists of topics to write about. My daughters are both list makers, which is how I got through two weddings in three months with a minimum of stress. Lacking a day planner, my husband makes lists on odd pieces of paper which he somehow keeps track of. My son is beginning to get the hang of it, if the notes he writes on the back of his hand are any indication. My mother used to make grocery lists and keep household accounts on the backs of used envelopes.

Some people make lists to give the appearance of being organized, but nothing ever really gets checked off. Some people, knowing the theory but not the practice, make lists and then promptly lose them – motivated forgetting perhaps. Others are so brilliant they can remember everything and get it all done without benefit of a visual reminder. My experience in life is this: Blessed are the list makers, for they shall inherit all the responsibility for keeping the world going.

This seems to be the time of year for lists. We make lists of neighbors or friends to recognize with a special gift, some of them more out of obligation than feeling. We search the address book for people to send Christmas greetings to, and check who sent cards to us last year. We list on the calendar all of the school, community and church events we want to, or are expected to, attend.

Ironically, we make lists of things we’re thankful for at Thanksgiving, and then, apparently unsatisfied with those blessings, a week or so later we make lists of things we want to get for Christmas. That’s the human race for you – never satisfied. If I were tempted to buy into that “thanks a lot but gimme more” trap, my list would be tempered with realistically knowing that I’m not the center of everybody else’s universes. On the other hand, my self-indulgent self would make a list like this:

I’m thankful for the mild fall we’re having, but I know it won’t last, so I’d like a new bathrobe, full-length and fleecy, please.
I’m thankful for my computer, but I’d like to upgrade to a newer model, with a color laser printer, and some software, especially an electronic cookbook, please.

I’m thankful for the wherewithal to be adequately clothed, but I’d really like a tee shirt that says Give me all your chocolate and no one will get hurt, please.

I’m thankful for my house, but I’d like to build a deck/sunroom/hot tub onto the back of it, please. (My husband would certainly be grateful for having less lawn to mow.)

I’m thankful for our fuel efficient, dependable automobile, but I’d sure like one that’s also comfortable on long trips, please.

I’m thankful for music, but I’d really like the new CD just released by the Anonymous 4, please.

I’m thankful for my ability to write, but I’d like the time to finished the three or four plays I’m working on and get them published and/or produced, please.

But enough of this self-gratifying pleasure seeking. It’s spiritually and mentally a lot healthier to make lists of things to give other people. Whether or not it’s in our power to give them things we wish they could have, going through the exercise fosters the kind of insight about the human condition that selfish, greedy people never learn. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to learn on Judgment Day that those whose hearts have been generous and grateful, who have not measured life or people in terms of things, will qualify for the best seats in the house; they’ll go straight to the head of the line. And if God makes lists of his favorites, I wonder how long that list would be, and if I’d be on it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Golden Oldie #3

Since I'm going to be away from my computer and blogging for a while, I'll put some relevant seasonal essays up. In Utah, the deer hunting season begins at dawn tomorrow, so I'm…

Goin’ Huntin’
By Pam Williams
September 1995

My only experience with hunting has been by observation and association. Back home in Oregon, some of my dad’s friends convinced him to go with them one chilly fall, assuring him they knew where to find the best game. They went to somebody’s mountain cabin the night before so they could get an early start, and they were back at the house before noon the next day because Dad – a former Military Policeman – shot his first deer right through the heart. I remember that he retrieved the bullet, now a crumpled blob of metal, showed it to all us kids, and then paced restlessly through the house grinning to himself for hours, reliving the moment.
Having venison on the menu for a brief time was an opportunity for Mother to tell us how she arrived, nine years old, with her family in the back woods of Southern Oregon in 1930, where her father intended to live off the land and wait out the Great Depression. Due to setbacks on the trip from Southern California, they arrived with literally two cents in their pockets. Grandpa took a rifle and found a deer to shoot. After gutting it and hauling the carcass back for Grandma to salt down, he went out behind their cabin and vomited repeatedly.
My dad kept his mangled bullet trophy in a drawer of my mother’s jewelry box, but a deer head mounted on the wall in the den was somehow so self-congratulatory, not like Dad at all. Though a skilled marksman, he never went hunting again. After hitting his target the first time so perfectly, what would be the point?
During our first autumn in Richfield, 1976, I remember the horrendous traffic jam downtown on the day before the hunt began. It was in our pre-traffic light days, and the party atmosphere at the intersection of Main and Center was unlike anything I had experienced before. It took ten full minutes to get across Main Street. I went straight home, made a cup of hot cocoa and worked jigsaw puzzles until the traffic cleared a week later.
At that point we began to wonder if we really belonged here. My husband Roger, the only middle school faculty member without hunter orange clothing, reported the phenomenon there. On the day before hunting season began, everybody came attired for the occasion, including the women. Many had driven their loaded campers to school so they wouldn’t waste a moment when the last bell rang. And there was Roger in his three-piece suit.
In fact, some have asked why we moved here if we didn’t hunt or fish. Answer: owning guns or fishing poles has never been a requirement to teach English. Thoroughly devout hunters speak of the experience in hushed tones and are quick to sermonize about herd control and the Bambi syndrome, while others say it’s family reunion time, and declare their love of the outdoors as the chief motivation for going hunting. I have taken the high road in these conversations, not mentioning the cost per pound, the macho factor, the very real potential for truly nasty weather in October, the danger, or the rubber ball qualities of badly cooked venison. We tried to look interested, nodding and smiling when friends reported their hunting adventures, but the stifled yawns gave us away.
Part of our skepticism about watching people go out in the hills armed to the teeth was that the frenzy transforms apparently normal human beings, and during that week in late October, the hills come alive with a mob mentality and itchy trigger fingers. My brother-in-law told of a friend, dressed in hunter orange, riding a Tote Gote (forerunner of the four-wheeler) down Provo Canyon dodging bullets. In addition, guys who don’t usually drink often take cases of beer on the hunt, claiming that the alcohol would keep them warm out there in the wilderness. As firm believers in the value of thermal underwear, but that ammo and alcohol are not a good mix, the logic of that rationale escaped us.
For some families, the hunt is a test of the marriage vows. Some women really enjoy stalking the prey right along with their spouses, uncles, dads and cousins, while others, the true saints, simply turn up the corners of their mouths in August when their husbands start talking about buying a new rifle. Some men may be oblivious to the fact that it takes a week to plan, shop, and load the camper. If the hunt is successful, it’s usually the women who have to figure out what to do with all that meat, although some actually like making venison salami, an acquired taste if there ever was one. Wildlife trophies are anything but subtle, and women willing to coexist with a rack of antlers on the family room wall should be considered the best trophy of all.
From that first autumn, seeing the near-fanaticism with which people prepared for the hunting season – it was bigger and more important than Christmas – we began to refer to what the school calendar euphemistically called “fall vacation” as the local religious holiday. We have been glad over the years to meet people who will, once we have declared ourselves as non-hunters, admit that they don’t see the sense in it either.
Indeed, that hunting season traffic jam in 1976 was an epiphany. It was the day I realized that living in a small town was going to be neither simple nor easy because I deeply need the trappings of civilization which are not as obvious or readily available here. That explained why for the first several months we lived here, I cried myself to sleep most nights. To satisfy my need, I imagined a classy alternative event, a non-hunter’s ball. We arrive in limousines. Searchlights in the sky show partygoers the way, and television reporters breathless with excitement cover the event. After a seven-course meal (the menu never includes duck, pheasant, elk or venison), elegantly dressed people progress to dancing – a live orchestra, waltzes, fox trots, big band music, maybe even a schottische. Halfway through the evening, everyone adjourns to an adjoining theater where a delightfully comic production aids our digestion by making us laugh. Then we return to the hall and dance till midnight. In my mind, I attend this event every year during hunting season, and I’m always safe, warm and happy.
Maybe seeing that hunting season fanaticism is why I have spent the ensuing years trying to create civilization in my external environment and nurture it in my own inner landscape. We all have ambitious quests and goals we pursue in life, noble causes we give ourselves to, and unquestionably there are trophies to be earned and claimed at landmark moments along the way. However, these accomplishments are often intangible memories, and to hunt and acquire them we need neither a weapon nor a license.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How Monkish Are You?

If you've ever watched 'Monk' on the USA network, you know that Adrian Monk is a fastidious former San Francisco police detective and ace crime-solver who is a genius, but who is now a consultant because after his wife was killed in a car bomb his obsessive compulsive disorder got worse, to the point where it interfered with his work. On a case it often works for him, however, but his personal life is a mess. He has phobias about milk, rats, water, germs, order, cleanliness, the size and organizations of the vegetables on his plate, and 314 other quirks. The writing on the series is brilliant. One of my favorite lines is something he says to a girl he's taking out to dinner. They are walking up 70 flights of stairs because the restaurant is on the top of the building and he's too claustrophobic to ride the elevator. It takes quite a while and to make conversation on the way he asks what her religion is. He says he was born naturally but raised caesarean. This is the last season of Monk and we're watching eagerly to see that all the threads of his life come together. When we want another dose of Monk, we put on a DVD or watch reruns on the USA network or Sleuth, the mystery channel.

It's said that everybody has a little OCD and it shows up in various behaviors that may seem strange to other people. For instance, my Monkishness manifests itself in the way I eat M&Ms. I take a handful, spread them out, notice the colors and start eating the color that is represented by the fewest candies. Say there are three red, seven blue, five yellow, three green, etc. I'll start with the reds, then go to the greens. If two colors have the same number, I'll eat them alternately. As my family can tell you, I have many more Monkish behaviors than that, but it's typical.

So what's your Monkish behavior? It can't be stranger than mine.

Friday, August 28, 2009

In One Era and Out the Other

Today we listed our house with a real estate agency. There's a sign in the front yard.

We've lived here for 33 years, raised our kids here, watched trees grow, planted flowers and shrubs, entertained friends, watched neighbors come and go, endured vandalism, held family parties, repainted, redecorated, recarpeted, planted and harvested garden produce, complained about the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter while we tried to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We've grown, struggled, had our share of triumphs and met our share of challenges.

It's a nice house. We added two feet onto the south end when we built it so the living room, kitchen, family room and storage room are bigger than they might have been. Nobody who lived here had the kind of temper that put holes in the walls or shattered glass. It has plenty of space, nice bathrooms, and closets where my dad put in shelves and insulated the storage room so it's like a walk-in refrigerator in the winter. The kitchen is big, and the appliances are all fairly new. It's a comfortable place, and we've been here long enough to make our grooves in the carpet. We're in a great neighborhood with lots of friends. Then the kids left home and it was just the two of us again.

However, there is one drawback that outweighs all the attractive features – stairs. Our house has a split entry so when you come in the front door you have to go up or down. Although I have new prosthetic knees, I'm done with stairs, just plain DONE. I want to live on one level now, where I don't have to plan my ascent to the kitchen from the family room or the office.

Yes, we have lots of memories, some bitter, most sweet, but all an enduring part of us. Now it's time for the "us" we've become to move on. We're looking at properties in the south end of Utah County where we'll be closer to the airport since two-thirds of our kids now live east of the Mississippi. We have a good support system here, and we'll find another one there without losing the friends we have now. It's good. It's right.

We know that the Lord directed us here to Richfield (even knowing that, I was the one kicking and screaming about it) and we're confident that He will lead us to where we need to be next. I suppose, when all the considerations are thought through, that's the bottom line.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oldie But Goodie #2

Our granddaughters from Illinois were here for an all-too-short visit a couple of weeks ago, and I remembered an essay I wrote about one of their previous visits:

SUMMER VISIT
2005

How quickly grandmothers forget what young mothers know.

A nine year old who constantly dreams up pranks, and a very independent three year old have taken over our house for three weeks. They are our granddaughters from Illinois, away from home with their mom but without their dad, and because we don’t see them very often we are making a lot of exceptions to rules their mother, our daughter, grew up with. In the give and take and push and shove and ups and downs of life, Grandpa, their mother and I have a daily reminder of the wisdom that says children should have two parents. Sometimes the three of us are outnumbered by the two of them.

Kayla, the prankster, has a wacky sense of humor. She is a fair skinned blonde who knows dozens of jump rope rhymes, but can’t always grasp the logic of picking up a glass of milk before trying to drink out of it. She played games at my computer, and later while doing a project of my own, I reached into the computer desk drawer for a paperclip to find that she had hooked them all together in a chain. Make that three chains. Everything in the house is a toy, far more interesting than the baskets of toys in the closet for children to play with.

Courtney, who can solve any logistics problem if there’s enough furniture to climb on, leaves a path of destruction that should qualify us for federal disaster relief. All those uninteresting toys in the closet seem to be steppingstones to something more interesting that was never designed to be a toy. Courtney has big brown eyes with a Shirley Temple twinkle, blonde hair, and skin that tans rather than burns in the sun. Her favorite “blankie” is actually an envelope her mother made to cover the mattress in her crib when she was a baby. It’s multicolor polka dot flannel stitched to a blue backing on three sides. She has other more functional blankets, but she likes being able to put her feet inside this one when she sleeps. I’m picturing her as a newlywed some day, trying to explain that to a bewildered husband.

During the day the odd blanket becomes a part of her imaginative play. Her favorite joke is to put it over her head and yell, in her sweet soprano voice, “Hey, who turned out the lights?” Yesterday for a while the floor fan that cools us in the living room became an old fashioned box camera, and the blanket was the cloth over the photographer’s head. Courtney took the pictures and Kayla developed them for us all to see.

I am not beyond participation in their silliness. One stuffy, sticky night boredom drove us to paint each other’s feet with watercolors the girls found in the game closet. Not even in my most carefree childhood moments have I ever had green toenails, or red zigzags around my ankles, but now we have the pictures to prove it. Even Grandpa laughed.

Despite their age difference, the girls get along famously, and sometimes that’s a problem. They go from one chaos-creating activity to another faster that anybody can keep up with them, but I am grateful that their mother insists that they put things away when they’re finished.

In a couple of weeks they will fly back home to the normality of their usual family routine. Despite the order that will fill the vacuum, I know that the quiet will sometimes be painful. What is there now but to anticipate our trip to their house at Thanksgiving, where we know we will be romped on, and tugged over to a chair to read a book, tricked by one and twinkled at by the other?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oldie But Goodie #1

I lost a disk full of essays when I got my new computer early in the decade, and I'm just getting around to typing them into my permanent files. Some are not so bad.

Spring
April 1996

Spring begins at sea level and moves upward about eleven miles a day, according to scientists who have studied the phenomenon. It is a transition time when the natural life cycle begins again, when I watch a bee exploring the throat of a daffodil and catch my breath in astonishment at how and why this happens, and who makes it happen. Spring brings a sense of freedom, a feeling of newness, an urge to be creative.

One morning in the spring I was sixteen years old, I sat in my room watching the sweet Oregon rain fall on the riot of irises outside my window, exploring the Roget’s Thesaurus my parents had given me for my birthday that winter, and decided that I would be a writer.

This spring, one of my creations, a play, is being brought to life on stage by a group of talented people who are giving me the priceless gift of their time to do for me what I can’t do for myself. Theater has been in my blood since the spring of my senior year in high school when I auditioned for a part in “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Although I didn’t get the part, I was assigned to the costume crew, which took me backstage where, for the first time, I inhaled the instantly addictive and nearly palpable creative energy in the air.

As a college student, my best learning moments, some even life changing, came when I was involved in plays. I’ll never forget the only applause I ever received as an actress – in my acting class, playing Amanda in a scene from The Glass Menagerie. My interests remained back stage, however, as part of the decision-making that went into the preparation, and I left the acting to people who could memorize lines and control their stage fright.

In the spring of 1967 another rich memory was born. I was the assistant to the faculty member directing a premiere production of a play written by the campus poet in resident, my creative writing teacher from the English department. The author would come to rehearsals to watch the progress of his “offspring,” and consult with the director on production details. It was instructional to listen to these two intensely creative men. I became a sponge. Sometimes when they disagreed about some detail they would turn to me and say, “What do you think?” Sometimes I had an opinion, and I was grateful for the chance to put it into the mix. At first it seemed ludicrous that my opinion should count for anything; I was just happy to be there, absorbing the creative energy and facilitating the activities of all those other creative people involved in the production.

Now it is another spring, many years have passed, and it is my own play that is being prepared for performance. This is the fourth production I’ve directed of a play I’ve written, so I have heard applause before. If you aren’t careful, it can go to your head, and a person could become confused about what it means. A poet once described birth as “Trailing clouds of glory do we come, from God who is our home.” It occurs to me that the clouds of glory we trail after us are the talents we bring that are probably a spiritual inheritance from the Creator. When talents are used respectfully, with deference to the Giver of the Gift, applause takes on a much different meaning.

It is appropriate that as I have watched the tulips and daffodils bloom in my yard, I’ve been watching some wonderful talents bloom, too, at rehearsals. Flowers fade, but those talents will continue to grow. I watch them unfold and I catch my breath in astonishment at how and why it happens, and who makes it happen. That, for me, is another wonder of spring.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What I Learned on my Summer Vacation

You CAN go home again, but it might not be there.

On the afternoon before we left Vancouver to return to Richfield, everyone indulged me as Jen drove us over to Portland to find the house where I grew up. I wanted my grandkids to see the lovely idyllic place on the outskirts of town that influenced my life so profoundly. We had a GPS to guide us, but it didn't turn out as I hoped it would. There was nothing left to recognize. Gone was the quiet neighborhood and three little rows of houses on two short streets. Gone was the dairy and the pasture beyond where we chased the cows in for afternoon milking. Gone was the farm land and the wild blackberry patches and the little stream where we found frog eggs in the spring to take home and observe their metamorphosis into tadpoles. Gone was the 50-foot row of irises on the north side of our house, and the roses that lined our driveway, and the ten cottonwood trees in the back yard where we played ball and the silver leaf maple in the front yard that overlooked my mother's rock garden. Gone was the quarter acre of garden space that fed us from year to year. Gone was the house, half of which my father built, where we ate breakfast every morning watching the sun come up over Mt. Hood.

But things changed. In its place was an industrial park of staggering dimensions - acres and acres of semi-trucks lined up in place of all that had been familiar, now guarded by miles of chain link fences, a testament to the power of change.

Disappointing though it was, in a way I was glad. I am secure in the memories of childhood that shaped my life. They are always mine, always available, always part of me, and I can paint the picture in words whenever I want to. It is enough. I am content.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Top Ten People I Won't Spend Time/Money On

Help me out here. I've come up with a list of nine of the top ten people I won't waste my time or money to watch either on the big screen or the little one. The fact that I've never seen their movies or TV shows doesn't prevent me from making a value judgment just from the previews. Can you add the tenth to the list?

10. (your suggestion)
9. Larry the Cable Guy
8. Chuck Norris
7. Cameron Diaz
6. Paris Hilton
5. Drew Barrymore
4. (group) 4 of the five women on The View
(I watched this show once and I want that hour of my life back.)
3. Adam Sandler
2. Mike Myers
1. Ben Stiller

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'll Take Stupid Dreams for $1000, Alex

It isn't often that I have a dream I remember, but a couple of mornings ago just before I woke up, I dreamed that my big idea for a retirement activity was to open a game store. It would have board and card games of all kinds except those associated with gambling and those depending on electronics. Kids would flock here after school to play board games with their friends. The store would sponsor tournaments in Scrabble, Monopoly, Boggle, Battleship, etc. and even teach people how to play bridge so they could get together and make friends with other bridge players. This place would be all about having fun.

But the really big draw would be that it would sell snacks for you and your guests to eat while playing the games either at home or at the store. There would be a taffy pulling machine in the window to attract customers featuring a flavor of the week, a big popcorn wagon with a flavor of the day, candies of all kinds, plus baked (NOT packaged) goods like doughnuts, muffins, cookies and cupcakes, made by me personally. Customers would love the free samples.

Never mind that a game shop in Richfield opened and closed within six months a couple of years ago. Never mind that I don't know anything about running a business. Never mind that I'm too restless to be tied down like that. Never mind that it's totally illogical as so many dreams are. For a minute or two it made perfect sense, but I'm not going to do it.

What do you think this dream says about me?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Son

This is the 30th anniversary of our famous recording for posterity when Roger tried to prove that Jordan's first word was "light."

We had the big party and dinner for the one-year-old and Dad turned on the tape recorder and asked Jordan what that thing was above the table. "Can you say light?" Silence. He had said it before, but not on tape for posterity, and Roger was determined to prove that his child was sophisticated enough to say this word instead of the usual ma-ma, da-da. "Say light." More silence. It went on for several minutes like this.

So after much coaxing and no response, the conversation went on with Jen and Elin talking about other things Jordan could do, and what the family was doing. When the attention left him, Jordan decided to "perform," but the rest of us were so busy with our conversation that we didn't hear him. Only when we played it back later did we realize that in his background babble he was actually saying "light." We were talking about something else, and his little voice can be heard repeating, "Yite, yite, yite." We have laughed about it over the years and tried not to ignore him anymore when he finally does what we ask him to do.

He is the light of our lives, and that's one reason I sent him a lamp for his birthday. It just seemed like the thing to do.

Monday, May 11, 2009

TV or Not TV

We have been keeping a viewing diary for the Nielsen TV ratings organization since last Thursday and while it's annoying and such a big hassle, it also tells us a lot about our viewing habits. It amused me to see that there are two columns to mark – one for when the TV is on, but another when it's off. Logic would tell us that if it isn't one it's the other, but the Nielsen people just want to be sure. Of course there isn't a lot you can view when the set is off, but I guess that's beside the point.

Full disclosure: my favorite channels are the Food Network and HGTV. I've learned a lot about cooking, even tried some of their recipes, and a lot about home decorating, and I've exercised some of those principles in redecorating my home, quite successfully, I might add. Sometimes Roger watches those shows with me, and we critique as we go. It's nice to learn, after all these years, what his tastes are in food AND home decor.

While I am one to sit down and watch specific shows, Roger tends to have the TV on ALL. THE. TIME. To him it's background music. He's a genius, of course, being able to correct papers and watch Poirot or Sherlock Holmes at the same time, and then tell you the plot, the red herrings, and who after all done it. This is amazing to me because otherwise this man has a one-track mind and is easily thrown into a heart-stopping dither when multitasking is required. But that's another story.

When he doesn't have a second task, TV dial spinning is a form of recreation. He starts at one end of the dial and channels up or down, stopping sometimes for several minutes on programs I know he doesn't care about, like baseball or a countdown of the top ten submarines on the military channel. Soon he moves on, lingering again at some other channel with an odd topic he isn't interested in. And he does all of this with the sound muted. That's right, muted. Even if it's a channel and topic he might be interested in, there's no sound. He stares at it, trying to figure out if maybe it's something he might want to watch, and doesn't turn the sound on.

He kind of does the same thing when an unexpected piece of mail comes. "Wonder who that's from," he'll frown. "Read the return address," I'll say. "Who do we know that lives in Provo," he'll puzzle. "Maybe your sister," I'll say. "Oh. Maybe it's a birthday card," he'll say. "The only way you'll know is if you open it," I'll say.

Since most of daytime TV is insanely boring, like pouring wet cement into your brain, the diary shows the TV is usually off more than 12 hours a day. If I'm suffering insomnia I might watch late shows or movies to bore myself to sleep, but there's nothing worth watching during the day before Glenn Beck comes on in the late afternoon. I'm done with the TV when that's over, but when Roger gets home, the dial spinning begins. There aren't many shows we watch in the evening, outside of cable news shows, and I have a short tolerance for those. Roger can always find something. Today it was an documentary on the history channel about the dark ages. Fascinating, but I'd seen part of it before.

From past experience, I know the TV is on much more during the day when Roger is home than when I'm here alone. I think the TV is on too much, but he is a local news junkie, especially weather reports. Local news makes me crazy. I have to leave the room. I can foresee a problem with this when he retires (in two weeks) and we're together all the time. We will have to have a discussion about this if I expect to maintain my sanity.

It's quiet now. He went to bed an hour ago and I can enjoy the silence or play music of my choice on my computer if I'm so inclined. We will mail our TV viewing diary on Friday, and the Nielsen people will probably draw the conclusion that anybody who watches Fox News that much is probably a scary freaking redneck. I'll be glad not to have to keep track anymore. But it has made me think about what I do with my time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm Back... Well, Sort Of

Be of good cheer. I'm all done talking about my knees.

My brain hasn't fully recovered from the anesthesia and I'm having a hard time writing anything, so I'm just going to plunge in and force myself to make my fingers move on the keyboard. I am feeling a little smug, however; another blog I've visited recently hasn't had a new post since September, 2008. I've only been 'away' a couple of months.

When I was in college many years ago, a distant cousin I met there used to take me to art shows and parse out all the paintings for me, give his mini-reviews of the artist's capabilities, and put art in context for me. I loved it so much! I decided then that some day I would get to know real artists, collect their work, and have a little art gallery in my home. I didn't know then how I would do it, but I would. Sounds wacky, doesn't it, high minded and idealistic and maybe it bit unrealistic.

Fast forward to 1976. After living out of the country/state for six years, we decided to return to Utah to be closer to family. Roger drew a circle of a 100-mile radius from Provo where his parents lived, and started applying for jobs in those school districts. He got a job in Sevier School District… Richfield… south-central Utah, 111 miles from Provo. When we came to look for a place to live, I felt I was going back in time a year for every mile across the Gunnison desert, 30 miles in all. As we made inquiries about housing, most people literally opened their doors just a crack because we were strangers, and all of them asked one of two questions: who were we related to locally, and did we have temple recommends. The answers were nobody, and yes, but that was none of their business. We just wanted a place to live. There were few apartment buildings, but an unfortunate availability of trailers. I was horrified, but we moved into one with two bedrooms, smaller than the one we had come from in our previous place. It was insanity waiting to happen. I agreed only on the condition that we build a house as soon as possible. We used the small bedroom for storage and put Jen and Elin, ages 4 and 1 at the time, in the large bedroom; we bought a hide-a-bed for the living room and slept on it as long as we could - until we couldn't pretend anymore that the iron bars were comfortable. Then we slept on two twin bed mattresses on the floor, which we purchased for the girls to use later when we moved to a real house.

We moved into said house February 10, 1977. We were welcomed into the ward, and as we got to know people I found some were involved in getting a community theater going. That suited me, and I got involved. Having planned to be a gardener, but being thwarted by spring allergies, I soon realized I'd have to put my energies somewhere else. Eventually I volunteered for some other community activities, and that led to a part-time job with the school district, writing news for the adult education program and helping the director. He got me involved in an arts celebration, and by 1981 I was doing an art show. All I knew about it was what my cousin taught me all those years ago, but ignorance has never stopped me before. I went to the county commission, convinced them of the worthiness of the project, and they agreed to sponsor it. We could hang the show in the community meeting room in the basement of the courthouse - no natural light, but plenty of artificial light. We were going to be unique as art shows go and leave space for children's art as well as experienced artists' works. I wanted it to be a place where children could learn that art didn't end with the cut-and-paste projects they did in school; art could go on for their whole lives. The commission chairman, whom I later discovered to be a closet weekend painter, apologized that they could only lend their names. For the purchase of ribbons and certificates, he opened his wallet and handed me a $20 bill, and wished me luck. For the first five years I did the art show entirely by myself. Eventually the commission included in their budget a modest amount for the show. I knew we had arrived when commission candidates began including in their campaign literature that they supported the art show.

Over the years I became acquainted with many wonderful artists, purchasing several works of art which now hang in my home. I treasure these friendships and honor these talented people. I am a word artist, but not a visual artist, and yet I believe my appreciation gives them a reason to continue doing what they do. They have enriched my life beyond measure, beyond what I thought would happen as I pondered my future in Richfield, lying on a mattress on the living room floor of that trailer and crying myself to sleep more than once.

Twenty-five years later, in 2006, I retired from the Commissioners Art Show and handed it over to a capable, knowledgeable successor. And it has continued. When I gave my 'farewell' speech at my last art show awards dinner, I told this story:

Although Henri Matisse was nearly 28 years younger than Auguste Renoir, the two great artists were dear friends and frequent companions. When Renoir was confined to his home by almost paralyzing arthritis during the last decade of his life, Matisse visited him daily. Renoir continued to paint, and one day as Matisse watched the elder painter fighting torturous pain with each brush stroke, he blurted out, "Auguste, why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?"

Renoir replied simply, "The beauty remains; the pain passes."

I will be thinking about that story again when I go to the 2009 Commissioners Art Show on Saturday morning. I will see art work done by many of my friends of all ages, and by some new artists I don't know. But I will remember the beauty and pleasure I have experienced as I made this effort through the years to contribute to my community, to have some reason for being in Richfield. I have received much more than I have given.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Whacked, Part II

Every surgery is different, even if it’s the same kind of operation, and that was certainly true of my second knee replacement surgery. The first one took about 90 minutes, but the doctor said with the second one he encountered something he’d never seen before in this situation – one of the bones was trying to re-grow a cushion where the cartilage was supposed to be. It took two hours and 19 minutes to get it all taken care of. I had a different anesthesiologist this time and told him I wasn’t interested in hearing the whole thing again. He was good. I heard nothing, but I felt the mallet again. It was kind of reassuring, in a way, that the prosthetic was there, was mine, and was firmly in place.

Because it was only four weeks after the first surgery, recovery has been a little slower and a little more complicated. Oh, they had me up and on an elliptical bike within 24 hours, and I thought I was going to collapse a couple of times, but there were some other differences. I was transferred over to rehab as before, and my room was closer to the physical therapy room this time – not such a hike to get there twice a day – but in its infinite wisdom, my primary insurance decided I didn’t need to stay in residential treatment as long and after a week they sent me home. I was lonesome for my husband and friends and familiar things, but in a panic because going home meant going down stairs and I didn't think I was ready for that. Home health care (i.e. therapy) was arranged for me, but again my sweet Heather came to my rescue. She went to the patient advocate at the rehab facility to arrange for me to go to LaVerkin instead, where there are no stairs. I spent the last couple of rehab sessions practicing stairs so I wouldn’t be afraid when I actually went home.

In the meantime, Roger scurried around getting the rails on our stair replaced, adding a second one on the lower stairs. He moved me from the rehab facility to Jordan and Heather’s house on Friday afternoon when he arrived for a visit. That night we got on a three-way iChat-type connection with Elin and Jen and talked for quite a while about my recovery and the changes I’m going to have to make in my lifestyle. It’s all rehab all the time from here on. In high school PE I learned to hate exercise, so I have never done much on my own. Walking in the water at the pool has worked well for me so far, but I’ll need to do some other things as well. Jen and Elin decided to come out to see me and help me get back on my feet. I’m going to love that!

Since both Richfield and St George home health care is under IHC, I could be admitted in one place and treated in both. The nurse who admitted me changed the bandage and we observed a lot of pinkish drainage from two or three spots along the incision. Heather didn’t have any hospital materials but she sent Jordan out to get over-the-counter stuff that worked pretty well. The drainage continued, annoying but not large amounts. I figured at my Wednesday follow-up appointment with the physician’s assistant, a very nice fellow named Bruce, he would be able to deal with it. I was still on Coumadin, the blood thinner knee replacement patients take to avoid blood clots. I was supposed to be on it two more weeks, but when Bruce took the bandage off, he decided the drainage might have something to do with the Coumadin. He called the pharmacy at the hospital, which controls the use of the drug, and found that the numbers from my last blood draw were good enough that I didn’t need to take it anymore. I was glad of that. Bruce put butterfly bandages along the incision and covered it with a thick non-stick pad that he taped on securely. He also wrapped an elastic bandage around the leg to add some compression and gave us some supplies to change the dressing and keep it as dry as possible. He also put me on an antibiotic to avoid getting an infection.

When we got back to LaVerkin, the bandage was loose and drooping, so Heather re-wrapped it much tighter, using two elastic bandages, and by the time I got home to Richfield that night and descended the stairs without incident, the drainage had slowed noticeably. It has continued to diminish. One thing I learned is that my skin doesn’t like adhesive tape. I’ve developed a couple of sores where the tape was. I noticed before that the skin around the bandage itched, and absent-minded scratching made it worse.

A very nice therapist came to see me on Tuesday in LaVerkin and he had me walking around the island in Heather and Jordan's kitchen without the walker, just holding onto the edge of the countertop. He was right there with me, of course, but it was a grand feeling, something like being on a precipice where I could launch into flight.

Without such luxuries as a big kitchen island at home, therapy is a greater challenge. Someone from home health came on Thursday for a therapy session and will come again Tuesday. Getting up from low chairs is still a challenge but I'm developing strategies. I try to move and stretch and wiggle my feet and legs as much as possible, and do the muscle stretching exercises the therapist taught me. Right now I'm house-bound (literal translation: stir crazy) but hope to get out and walk down the block with a friend if the weather will allow.

My followup appointment with the surgeon is April 1, and I've set a goal to retire the walker by then.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Whacked

Ankle deep in loose sand, I looked at the descent before me and at the beach beyond and knew I couldn’t do it. Instead, Roger and I turned around and went back to the house. I wanted to walk on the beach with my grandchildren and identify the barnacles and crab shells and seaweed; after all, we’d put six months of planning into this vacation, and I wanted to be part of the action. Even the slow ascent up the stairs couldn’t crack the denial. Something was wrong with my legs and I was the only one who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see it. I was now an observer of life.

Behind the scenes, the kids ganged up on me, giving Heather the assignment to find a doctor and get an appointment for me. Heather is Jordan’s wife, a gift to our family, and we all love her very much. She convinced me that even if there was nothing wrong with my legs, I should have a confirmation from a medical expert. I agreed and she made the appointment. Jordan came the Sunday before Thanksgiving to drive me to their home in LaVerkin where I would stay until Roger came Wednesday for the holiday. My appointment was Monday.

We waited a long time. Finally we were taken to an examining room, and in a few minutes, a nurse took me to x-ray my knees. Then we waited for the doctor, Scott Parry. He came in, talked to us for a couple of minutes and then began to tell me about my knees. He saw bone spurs and arthritis in the joints, but very little cartilage. This did not make me a candidate for a new procedure that would simple plump up the cartilage with injections and restore the cushion between the fibia and the tibia. There was no alternative but surgery. I’ve had major surgeries before and always bounced back, so I wasn’t concerned about that. I’m essentially a very healthy person. Dr. Parry told me that his mother had this surgery several months ago and was able to go on a long bike ride and a hike with the family. I was sold when he said I would have 80 percent mobility and that I’d get my life back. Oddly enough, I have never experienced much pain in my knees. Mostly my muscles have hurt, preventing me from standing for long periods of time or from walking very far. Dr. Parry identified it as compensatory pain, because the muscles were trying to compensate for what the knee joints could no longer do.

Since I have injured my left knee so many times, I decided to have that surgery first. The doctor does seven surgeries every Tuesday, but the earliest date available on his calendar was two months away, January 20. He works two ORs at once so he doesn’t waste time. As the secretary wrote in my name in the last blank space and I realized it was inauguration day, I thought about inaugurating a new, more active life. I was given a pre-op appointment, and scheduled for an orientation a week before surgery to learn about what would happen and what to expect from the procedure. I began counting down the days.

On January 7, I met with Bruce, the physician’s assistant, who wrote “YES” on my left knee with a medical permanent marker, and gave some instructions about medications and other preparations for the big day. I would come to Jordan and Heather’s house Monday and wait for a phone call from the doctor’s office telling me exactly when to arrive at the hospital Tuesday. I went ahead and scheduled my post-op checkup and pre-op for the other knee on the same day, Feb. 4. There was one last spot on the surgeon’s calendar on Feb. 17, so I took it. I was reluctant to wait any later in the spring because of the danger of pollen allergies interfering.

Bobbette and I did our visiting teaching on January 12 and then she took me to lunch, since it’s my birthday. The next day I went to St. George with my friend Faye, and Heather joined us for the two-hour orientation session at Dixie Regional Medical Center, River Road campus. People from several departments came to talk to us about medications, the hospital routine on 4-West where we would stay for four days, and post-op therapy. We were given a foil-wrapped surgical sponge to shower with the night before surgery. They gave a physiology lesson on knee joints and passed around a model of what would be placed in our legs. It was heavy. One of the fascinating factoids I learned is that the bone, which is porous, sends out feelers or tentacles into the porous material of the artificial joint and bonds with it. I also learned that my new knees will set off security alarms in airports, but I will be given an ID card that will allow me to go through the “handicapped” security line and be wanded separately. A pharmacist talked to us about coumadin, a blood thinner we would have to take for two or three weeks after surgery. I was fascinated and not grossed-out at all by everything I learned. Heather was eager to learn about it since she hadn’t been assigned on 4-West very much.

Roger and I went to a website Elin recommended to look at an animated interactive video of the surgery. Roger almost fainted, but I was fascinated to learn that a saw, mallet and drill are involved. I was detached somehow, not associating with my knee the things I saw in the video. I had seen the surgery in sketches on WebMD, but this was more detailed. Apparently, technology has made knee replacement surgery a more exact science. A computer analyzes patient x-rays so the doctor knows exactly where to trim bone and drill the holes to receive the prosthetic. It figures the “Q” factor and tells the doctor what angle to install the prosthetic. “Q” is for quadriceps, the muscle on top of the thigh, and in men and women it’s different.

I went confidently to LaVerkin. The call from the doctor’s office instructed me to come in at 11:45 the next morning. I was sixth in line. Roger and Jordan gave me a blessing, and I felt my confidence justified.

The surgery is done with the knee bent at a 90-degree angle. A tourniquet on the thigh cuts off the blood supply so there’s less blood loss. After making an incision and pulling the kneecap aside, the doctor disconnects the joint, trims the tibia and fibia of bone spurs and arthritis damage, and then using a saw, prepares the surface of each bone for the prosthetic device. He drills holes in each bone to accept the device, then fits a sample device in and bends the knee to see if everything is going to fit. Removing the artificial device, he fits the prosthetic in place with special bone glue. Then he puts the kneecap back in place, stitches up the dermal layers and closes the incision. In my case, I had 23 staples. He told me later my surgery took 90 minutes. I was wheeled into the operating room at 2 p.m., had spinal anesthesia and some supplemental ‘happy juice’ to make me forget.

Having had major surgeries before, I dreaded recovery from general anesthetic. It leaves you groggy for days. The anesthesiologist gave me the choice of spinal or general. He said two-thirds to three-fourths of joint replacement patients choose spinal because they can wake up and be alert right away. It’s true. I was awake in recovery at 4 p.m. and ready to get on with my life. I suffered minimal nausea, but nothing serious. There was a drainage tube in my leg, a catheter, and – incidentally – a new cell phone. Jordan and Roger had gone out and signed us up on Jordan and Heather’s plan. They installed all the family phone numbers so I could speed-dial everyone. Nice.

On 4-West, patients have the best food in the hospital, prepared by a personal chef. We had breakfast in bed only on the day after surgery. After that we were up in a wheelchair or walker going to meals at 8, 12 and 5, and to morning and afternoon therapy sessions. A guest or ‘coach’ is welcome to have meals with the patient. Within 24 hours of surgery I was on a semi-recumbent elliptical machine for 15 minutes – my left knee felt great, but my right knee began to suffer with the pedaling action. I also had mat exercises to increase the range of motion, and for six hours a day I had to be on a motion machine that kept the knee flexible. I didn’t mind that, but my short legs don’t really fit in it. The doctor said some people walk out of the hospital four days after surgery and rehab at home without another problem. I wasn’t one of those. Medicare allows for 20 days in rehab every quarter, but since I had other insurance as my major coverage, and since I was planning to have the surgeries so close together, we decided to allow ten days for each knee. In the end, my insurance only allowed nine.

Elin came Friday morning and she was really a godsend. I realized soon after I got to the rehab facility that I brought all the wrong things. She went out and bought what I needed and went to therapy with me and was a cheerleader all the way. Jordan and Heather came that night with a beautiful bouquet of yellow and lavender tulips. Jordan downloaded Skype on my laptop so we could talk to Jen on the internet and see each other. We called her that night and they showed her my room, my bandage, the flowers and everything.

I was so excited to see Roger the next day for the first time in a week. He couldn’t stay long, but the kids engineered an escape to go out to lunch. We chose a Chinese place on the other side of town. Getting me into the car wasn’t easy or painless, but I made it. I had to go to the bathroom while I was at the restaurant, and I learned a lot about bathrooms that aren’t handicap-equipped. My fortune was hilarious, considering my helpless state: It would be wise at this time not to seek too much help from others. (Elin framed it and brought it to me the next day.)

Jordan and Heather brought me a toy to cheer me up – a purple toucan that sings two different operatic selections when you squeeze its tail, and the mouth opens to reveal a flashlight. It gave me endless amusement. I also enjoyed my new laptop computer which helped me stay connected.

Another somewhat amusing aspect of the rehab center was the food. “It’s very institutional,” sniffed the cook at the hospital 4-West unit. She was right, and although some of it was good, some was very bizarre. One side dish that sounds weird but was actually good was chopped celery and diced pears poached in milk. Since I was on coumadin to head off blood clots, I was supposed to avoid foods high in Vitamin K, such as lettuce and other dark green leafy vegetables, asparagus, peas, etc. One night, however, I was served a chef salad – lots of lettuce with a couple of pieces of tomato and some chopped cheese and ham. The side dish was a side salad. Really. I couldn’t believe it.

Elin and I had some good talks together and I was sad to see her leave on Tuesday. However, Heather came and spent the day with me on Wednesday, going to Walmart, taking me out to LaVerkin for lunch and a nap in the best sleeping chair ever – a new chair-and-a-half leather recliner they just purchased for their home. I could almost get my own foot in and out of the car. After cheering me on in rehab, she helped me have a shower and wash my hair. Then she lotioned my feet, curled and combed my hair and made me feel fabulous.

Jordan came Thursday and Friday nights to watch the new DVD Jen sent for my birthday, The Great Race, my favorite comedy. On Thursday I found out that my insurance wouldn’t approve the number of days the therapists wanted me to stay at the rehab center. Roger came again Saturday, and we went out to dinner at The Olive Garden with Jordan and Heather. By now I was able to get my own feet in and out of the car. After morning rehab on Sunday, the director of therapy brought me a number of canes to choose from – pink paisley, etc. I chose a black one, confident that I wouldn’t need it long enough to make it a fashion statement. Then Roger brought me home. On Monday afternoon I was in rehab in Richfield, where I went four times a week for the two weeks I was home.

Tomorrow (Feb. 16) we are headed for St. George again, and I report to the hospital at 7:15 Tuesday morning. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 9, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

What I did for Facebook:
1. I can’t stand the smell, taste or texture of fish or seafood.
2. The smell of coffee nauseates me. I have to hold my breath when I walk down that aisle at the supermarket.
3. My first child was born on Guam.
4. I never went to a high school prom. However, I went on to live a normal life anyway.
5. The boyfriend I had during the school year when I was 14 – the only boyfriend I had in high school – grew up to become an expert in human sexuality. I think that’s hilarious.
6. I’m a bit Monk-ish. (Monk is my favorite TV show.) I LIKE to have a place for everything and everything it in its place; however, unlike Monk, I don’t fall apart when it almost never is.
7. My feet are short and wide, making it impossible to go into a regular shoe store and find something that fits, other than a box. One of my feet is size 6 1/2 and the other is size 7.
8. Halloween is by far the stupidest holiday on the calendar and I refuse to buy into it. Every year we plan to be otherwise occupied somewhere else so we can avoid the shameless little blackmailing beggars.
9. I have experienced religious persecution. In my high school of about 2500 kids, I was one of only a handful of LDS. In my senior year, when I announced I was going to BYU, one of my friends said, “You know what they say – I don’t care how you bring ‘em as long as you bring ‘em young.” It really hurt that someone I considered a friend for the last four years would be so disrespectful. I tried to discuss religion with people in high school, but no one wanted to listen. One girl, a minister’s daughter, took every opportunity to manufacture and spout lies about the LDS church, and people listened to her more than they listened to me. Many years later I did reconnect with one of my high school LDS friends, which was wonderful.
10. I love word games and jigsaw puzzles. I have found a lot of people feel the same way but are reluctant to come out of the closet and admit it unless someone else brings it up first.
11. I have taught creative writing for Snow College outreach and adult education. I especially like poetry, drama, essays and novels, of which I have written a lot.
12. I wish someone would explain this to me: “We are the change we’ve been waiting for.” Does that actually make sense to anyone? It’s total baloney to me. If the change is to socialism, I’m opposed. If the change is improvement, I’ll listen. It’s the morality, stupid.
13. I used to be a TV news junkie, but now I prefer going online to National Review Online, Newsbusters.org, townhall.com, Glenn Beck, and Fox News. If I feel my blood pressure getting too low I look at CNN.com. Obviously, I’m wildly conservative.
14. Chocolate is my favorite indulgence.
15. The internet is wonderful! I have been known to do ALL my Christmas shopping online.
16. I have to most wonderful husband in the world.
17. Before I had bad knees, I used to cook and make menu plans and everything. Then I deteriorated into fast food and quick stuff from the deli. Sometimes I’d spend a day cooking a bunch of stuff we could freeze for later. When my knee joint replacements are coordinated and functioning together, I expect to cook again.
18. My total, complete, unequivocal most favorite place on earth in the Oregon coast, and beachcombing is my favorite pastime. August and September are the best times to go there.
19. I never had a cell phone until January 20, 2009.
20. My knee replacement surgery was done on inauguration day, January 20, 2009, and I was released from the rehab facility on February 1, 2009, Super Bowl day. My next surgery is February 17, 2009, the day we all go digital, and I will be in rehab until March 1, 2, or 3. Who knows what memorable event will happen that day?
21. I have many nicknames, and my verbally creative daughter Elin is always making up new ones – I never know what she’s going to call me when she calls on the phone. My original name is Pamela Gay Stott, but I have also been known as Pammie, Pammie-wammie, Stottie-wottie, Pamalia, Miss Pam, Momster, Pamalamadingdong, Mommie, GramPam, and the Pamster, which is how my kids most often refer to me. There are many variations and permutations surfacing all the time. (By the way, Roger is sometimes known as Rogerbil. He and I are the furry little pets in the family.) When I was in high school, some of my sillier friends started calling each other by our names spelled backward. Then I was Alemap Yag, and many variations of that.
22. I love puns. Once when I was in college I lived in an attic apartment with three other girls, and with all the odd ceiling angles in the place it was hard to decorate and personalize. One day I came home to find my roommates sitting at the table enjoying apples and peanut butter (our favorite snack) and grinning with anticipation to see my reaction when I noticed the life-size poster of their favorite Russian ballet dancer someone had mounted on the wall. I looked around at their giddy faces and sniffed with mock disgust, “Well, you’ve got your Nureyev.” They exploded in laughter that went on for ten minutes.
23. If I were a Winnie the Pooh character, I’d be Pooh. I love honey and I’m afraid of heffalumps and woozles.
24. I love making other people laugh. I prefer to do it deliberately with wit rather than with pratfalls.
25. I have serious acrophobia as I get older. (Roger calls it ‘high-drophobia.’) Even in my dreams, if I’m going down stairs, the stairs suddenly become steeper until they’re like a ladder, and I fall. But I don’t mind having a window seat in an airplane; I love flying into Portland and seeing Mt. Hood as we approach the airport.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Fine Pestilence

It’s been a putterbutt kind of day.

Putterbutt is a word I learned from my friend Elaine, who learned it from her mother, and as a serious lover of useful made-up words, I installed it into my vocabulary immediately. It means to just fool around and sort of flirt insincerely with your To Do list, that primary source of proof that you are an adult and can be trusted with serious responsibilities. Putterbutting is my defense mechanism to avoid tackling a huge task I don’t really want to do. I know the task has to be done eventually, and so I put my trust in eventuality, and allow my attention to wander shamelessly, aimlessly, toward anything, everything else.

Putterbutting is a proud occupation for one or two, but it’s too personal to be a group activity. It is conducted by the rules of Whatever, guided only by whim and whimsy, curiosity and quizzical wonder. A dedicated putterbutt can spend hours reading greeting cards in the Hallmark Store and never buy one, search through bottomless bins of Kmart clearance items she doesn’t need and won’t buy anyway, wander the aisles of thrift stores motivated only by Because It’s There. A committed putterbutt knows the unbridled, guilt-free joy of saying No. An experienced putterbutt doesn’t wear a watch or make appointments that will inevitably be broken.

Putterbutting opens life to the wonders of serendipity, the unexpected discovery of delightful surprises, sweet moments that make you smile or possibly even giggle, moments that will contribute to sparkling conversation later in the telling. Things discovered serendipitously are like lovely, intriguing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that may fit together sometime in the distant future, but until they do, can be appreciated now for their individuality.

But I digress, and that’s what makes me a champion putterbutt. Wandering from place to place around the house, or the town, noticing details, nuances, subtleties, shades of differences, I ponder, dissect and reconfigure. I take the leash off my imagination. I ramble over unnumbered unscheduled detours to What If and Hmm. I enjoy the vistas on the hill above Maybe Some Day, and make mental reservations to go there again when I can stay longer.

At the end of a long delicious putterbutt day, not much has been checked off the To Do list, but I’ve been everywhere and thought everything and put all the problems in perspective. Sometimes I stumble accidentally into some item from a long-neglected To Do list, but on a putterbutt day it somehow doesn’t seem like the ponderous task it was before. A glorious day spent in fearless, lofty putterbutting has a cleansing effect, decontaminating the soul from all the rush and hurry that keeps it earthbound on other days.

Is a day of putterbutting wasted? Only if you allow guilt to intrude with its shameful Should Haves and imperative Oughts who come shaking their scolding fingers dangerously near your sense of responsibility. In fact, an occasional day spent in putterbutt limbo can be the most satisfying kind of day. There will always be other days ripe for taking charge like an adult and rampaging headlong through the To Do list, masterfully checking off jobs as if they won’t have to be done over again in another week or two.

If there were some magic elixir that would take away my inclination for putterbutting, I would tear up the prescription. It’s a disease that doesn’t strike very often, but when it does, I plan to enjoy it to the fullest. I refuse to be cured of this fine pestilence.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

THE LONG AND NOT SO LONG OF IT

I have always depended on the kindness of tall people.

Whether they’re strangers or not, I am not shy about asking people to use their tallness to compensate for my lack of it. In grocery stores I’m grateful for the lanky stock boys managers frequently hire. Sometimes other shoppers will see me eying something on the top shelf and come to my rescue. Thankfully, most bookstores recognize the diversity of potential customers, and have installed ladders. Surely there is a rung of purgatory lined with shelves where the wicked under-tall stand on tiptoes and touch things with their fingers, but cannot quite reach far enough to grasp and retrieve. I am intimately acquainted with this rung.

When I met my husband Roger back in the early 60’s, I remember looking all the way up that six-foot two-inch frame of his and thinking, “I can’t marry him. He’s too tall.” He doesn’t believe me when I tell this story, but an irrational prejudice, which somehow made sense to my 18-year-old mind, led me to pair people up according to height. How fair would it be for a five-four girl such as I to marry a tall man? What would happen to all those Mickey Rooneys out there if only the willowy women were left? At the time I didn’t notice that this never bothered Mickey Rooney.

This crazy idea took me into some dreary circuitous paths until Roger and I gravitated back to each other again eight years later, when I, a little slow on the uptake, finally realized that the tall girls could look out for themselves. After all, they could reach that stuff on the top shelf without any help. In the meantime, I dated many of his buddies, all under six feet, and he and I, as fellow English majors, had a lot of classes together. Becoming fast friends, we realized that some wonderful things had developed between us without our even realizing it, and the subject of height never came up.

Our three children are all taller than I, for which I am grateful. They compassionately serve as reachers for me. My daughters, when pregnant, never look like it until eight months, but at six months, with my eight-pound babies developing, I always looked weeks overdue. All my immediate family were taller than I, including my mother and sister. My neighbor and dear friend Elaine is a six-foot tall woman, and one of our sons-in-law is six-four. Now my oldest granddaughter has passed me up.

For emergencies, when a tall person isn’t close by, I keep stools around the house so I can climb up to get things, despite my fear of falling. Roger tolerates the multiplicity of stools, but I have learned to stash them carefully so he doesn’t trip over them. (I also have a fear of extreme heights, or highdrophobia, as we call it at our house, a recent development that came with middle age, but that’s another story for another time.)

Height has always been the reverse problem for Roger. He can’t sleep in a bed with a footboard because he stubs his toes on it all night long, but I can sleep on couches only midgets would find appealing. In a movie theater I like to sit down front where my view isn’t blocked, but he’s always afraid people can’t see around him. We compromise by sitting on the side, and by not going to very many movies.

Buying an automobile that we can A] afford, and B] both drive comfortably requires extensive negotiation. As a person with a long body, Roger’s headspace inside a car is limited, but as a person whose shoulders and hips are remarkably close, I am frustrated by the visors that never quite come down far enough to fully block the blinding sun. With my insufficient leg length, I have few options for seat distance from the steering wheel. The ideal for Roger, on the other hand, would be if he could sit in the back seat and still drive the car. We each have to do a lot of rearranging when we get into the car after the other person has driven it.

Speaking of rearranging, that’s one of Roger’s most endearing compulsions. While some women might be thrilled that a spouse would care so deeply for order and organization, I tend to feel sabotaged. When cleaning closets in the bedroom or bathroom, he puts the tallest items, invariably the ones I use most frequently, at the back of the shelf just out of my reach.

In the kitchen, the top of the refrigerator and the range hood are always dusty because I can’t see them and never notice. Roger empties the dishwasher and clutters the counter with clean things, that inevitably get mixed up with dirty things, because his stiff back doesn’t allow him to bend all the way down to put things away in those lower cupboards. Many of the cleaning tools in the broom closet have extenders or extra long handles so I can use them. We won’t even go into the grizzly scene at our house when a light bulb needs to be changed.

With all these tall people around me, it is easy to feel isolated and even handicapped. It was a happy day, therefore, when our six-foot two-inch tall son brought home a girl about whom he had become quite serious, and not only is she just right for him, she’s also just right for me. We see eye-to-eye, literally, and I’m not feeling so alone anymore. Heather is now our daughter-in-law, and lack of height is only one of many things we have in common. Like me, she has always depended on the kindness of tall people.