Coping

September 15, 2019,

Since our personal flood a few weeks ago where a pipe in the basement got a pinhole leak that managed to swamp much of the southeast corner, needing new dry wall and paint as well as new bamboo flooring, I’ve felt restless. “Something is not right” has lurked behind my hours at home. The repair company promises it will be done by Tuesday. We didn’t put a hole in that pipe yet we have to pay $1,000 deductible on our insurance. Thank goodness the insurance will pay for the balance.
It was one of those unpredictable accidents that could not have been foreseen and prevented. But I wonder, if one pipe got a hole in it, will others? Our home is 25 years old. We bought it before it was built and have loved it and tried to take good care of it. But a pinhole leak caused not just expense, but put a little worry into daily life. Could it happen again?
Yet what good would it do to worry? I heard a speaker say that the past no longer exists, so we don’t have to stress about it. The future hasn’t happened yet, so it too doesn’t deserve anxiety. The present only is what we need to deal with. But that’s wrong because in the past, we thought about the future and saved up money for a catastrophe so we wouldn’t have to stress in the present.
Yes, we deal with the present, but taking out insurance twenty-five years ago so that we could get help when problems occurred—a small fire, a small bathroom leak, wind damage—we had means to cope. We worried enough about the future to pay insurance that even helped us when we lived in Tukwila, Washington for 18 months and were burglarized.
So, yes, we do deal with the future in the present so that we can prepare for what may come to pass. Car insurance, paying bills promptly and fully, taking vitamins, having yearly medical checkups and twice-yearly dental exams. All of these things we do today to prevent problems in the future.
It’s the worry about something we can’t prevent or foresee that steals our peace. What if those apparently second-rate pipes leak again? Do I go around the house every day checking for a wet spot? Maybe I could do that. But I won’t. Life is just too short for worry. “Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.” Why be miserable about maybes? After all, though we are careful drivers, we could be smashed by a drunk driver. Worry could destroy all pleasure.
I’m glad that as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe that God said we wouldn’t get trials worse than we could cope with. Furthermore, God said he’d help us with the trials we get even though he won’t deprive us of the learning that problems create. I have never asked for an illness, accident or sorrow to come, but I try to learn from them when they do.
I have no idea what the lesson is from our latest water damage problem. So far, I haven’t recognized a need for that experience, so we chalk it up to “that’s life” and go on. There will always be “that’s life” moments and experiences that prove that we can’t make ourselves safe against disturbing events or avoid hard things. All we can do, with God’s help, is cope. PMA

I couldn’t think of a picture to go with my essay today, so I’m just posting Brielle and Liliana Barnett in Texas, Lili’s first day of kindergarten.

Advertisements

Someday

September 8, 2019

What do a tiny, clip-on fuzzy koala with a boomerang, an intricately tucked round pillow, a ceramic mug with grandchildren’s fingerprints adorned with antlers and red nose, a ceramic frog teapot, a tiny handmade rosewood box, a cubist rendering of my stepfather and a bath sponge to use with scented soap have in common? Not dollar value, rarity, age, color or effort to produce, just one simple aspect: each was given to me by someone I cherish, family or friend. The cubist painting my mother did doesn’t really resemble the man, but I smile at it, remembering him. I see a likeness.
I am in the midst of trying to rid this home of trash, anything I don’t need or can’t use anymore. But even something that is obviously useless I can’t throw or donate because it was a gift to me. I just can’t, essentially, dispose of the memories that item evokes.
That makes de-trashing a house very difficult. I am trying to be considerate of heirs who will come in after our demise and have to deal with a shameful accumulation of items I’ve thought I would deal with later such as photos, programs, letters, memorabilia with or without value. I donated a cupboard full of potential sewing projects I know I will never complete. I went through and used several trash bags to carry out partially used cabinet lining rolls, stiff paint brushes, cardboard sides saved from when I needed to make posters for Cub Scouts, and dozens of other meaningless objects with a “someday this will come in handy” promise to them.
Someday has passed. I have just begun. The story of our year teaching English at Qingdao University of Science and Technology for a year is filed in the basement. How can I throw away the journals and essays we had students write? They are personal and moving even fourteen years later. I wrote a while ago of how I couldn’t give away things our mothers had left behind at death. It’s like throwing relationships away. We don’t use these keepsakes, but when I dust them, they bring memories.
The “might be useful someday” results in shelves of boxes with trays full of screws, nuts and bolts, nails, s-hooks and auto parts that won’t even fit the car we now have. We have electronic parts for extinct computers. We have multiple tools that parents once used. Canning supplies, though I no longer can quarts of fruits and juices.
Time passes, we have aged and made different decisions, but I still have a full box of shoe cleaning and shining brushes and waxes. Well, we might invest in leather shoes for Gary, but it’s highly unlikely with his footwear needs right now.
I don’t know why I keep many other things we have around that are clearly useless except because I’m lazy. It’s hard to spur myself to spend the time and effort for unimportant things. And the simple truth of experience is that I really will not need any of these countless tools and objects–until the week after they’re gone. PMA

Rivalry

September 1, 2019
We have just played our yearly interstate rivalry game between Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and University of Utah in Salt Lake City, about 50 miles apart. The U of U won—again, the ninth time in a row! Our neighbor across the street is such a BYU fan that he literally mourns each loss to anyone, but this game is worst of all.
Both Gary and I have attended both schools and have found both to be wonderful. We got what we needed and were happy with the schools. But especially because Gary was the head of their KBYU programs and I was a teacher at the Y, we favor BYU.
What is this rivalry that has the whole state in an uproar for weeks? On TV the players on each team spoke of “hating” the other team. What’s to hate? What possible reason could there be to put down rivals in sports from schools that immeasurably enrich the whole state—the nation—the world? BYU has made possible yurts to help Mongolians with heating by their design and by introducing electricity instead of open coal fires. What a difference that makes to a family!
As alumni of BYU we receive BYU Magazine. It celebrates the victories and accomplishments of the whole school. The Y has All American athletes (so does the U). State of the art science comes from the U of U Huntsman Cancer Center and other Hospitals (BYU has top rated management and law centers). Achievements at both schools are important in both research and in training. World-wide renown comes from the Y’s Media Advertising programs, and the U has a Nobelist on its faculty.
What can the ability to win football games and be rated nationally actually add to these wonderful universities? Yet the mania happens every year. Well, we watched, of course, along with millions of others in and out of state. The money from sold-out tickets and the advertising during the game makes this rivalry very enriching to various coffers.
And, after all, it’s fun. That your team loses doesn’t cause anger so much as sympathy. Baseball teams can come in last in the league year after year and still be beloved. In fact, popular plays and musicals have been based on such rivalries (I’m thinking of “Damn Yankees” in particular). No matter what the sport, it’s more fun if we care about the win or loss. We didn’t care about Seattle teams very much until we served our mission in the area and went to a baseball game. Partisanship makes all the difference in entertainment.
However, the US government is now acting like the football players: they hate the other party! Obviously good people are on both sides. Even solidly Republican Utah elected a Democrat representative Ben McAdams last year! What is this treating the hallowed halls of our national capitols as if we were playing football? I am disgusted as the partisanship maneuvering impedes government. I thought we were all on the same team.
This too shall pass. Surely there is strength to bind up the wounds and “with malice toward none and charity for all” to restore governmental civility and mutual respect. It’s difficult to live through, but I believe heroes will arise to unite and lead this nation. PMA

Plastic

August 25, 2019

We used to read of “tree huggers,” people who were militantly against using our national forests for commercial lumbering. The government gave permission for huge industrial outfits with their machines and their stripping methods to raze thousand-year-old forests in days. I don’t think the issues were solved with the planting of identical seedlings in the clear-cut land, row crops to be harvested, not wilderness that is symbiotic and in many ways a system that works as a city or other center of interaction, building, sharing information, even protecting each other. So concerned were some that they climbed giant redwoods and lived up there to prevent their being felled. I suppose that it finally became a lost cause.
Yet we still hear many warnings about how the earth is being changed because of commercial needs. Strident voices warn that the warming climate is changing the Earth in many ways, often to the detriment of people living in threatened areas. Up until now, it has been environmentalists who are raising those voices.
But more and more religious voices are being heard. Voices of faith leaders are becoming louder as well. Essentially, they note that the earth is a gift of God, or of gods and goddesses or various other ideas of a creator. One Christian voice, that of Rev. Sally Bingham, said, “If we love our neighbors, why are we polluting our neighbors’ air and water?” She is a founder of “a nonprofit called the Regeneration Project, which is known as Interfaith Power and Light. It promotes renewable energy, waste reduction and the sustainable sourcing of food and materials.”
More and more voices are being raised, asking people of faith to think of earth as a stewardship to be used carefully and responsibly. Not so long ago, it seemed as if resources could never be used up, as if modern vehicles and industries could always be miracles of doing good to mankind. But it isn’t so. Even our oceans are sick, full of eternal pieces of plastic that the creatures can’t tell from food.
I am concerned. I have no magic wand to make it better, so I must do what I can to help as an individual. I am trying to use fewer plastic bags by taking my own bags to the grocery store. But when I carry out my groceries, they are wrapped in cellophane and packaged in plastic. How convenient and how wonderful plastic has become. I accidentally knocked over some of Gary’s pain medicine—thankfully in a plastic bottle. Yet we are warned that these convenient containers haven’t any way to really disappear.
Yes, chemists are making materials that can disappear, but in the meantime, are we being careful enough of what we throw into our bins to become landfill or worse, sea-fill that is poisoning the water? I truly believe that God has given Earth to human beings as a gift providing us with riches in our world. But now that there are so many of us, more of us need to be careful with those riches and try to be careful of our neighbor’s environment.
It doesn’t sound like I am going to make much of a difference. But if enough of us really care, it can’t hurt, and maybe we’ll soften the impact of our presence. PMA

Wheels

This is the type of training bike Lili has been riding this summer at her Grandpa Frame’s house. The driveway has a gentle slope to the sidewalk where with a sharp turn she could continue down the sidewalk. She and her parents are now in Texas for his graduate engineering studies, but this device gave some thrilling rides to an almost five-year-old for months. Little Brielle, almost two, had her toddler version, but she didn’t try any hills or turns. She paddled her way across the soft lawn.
Note that this bike doesn’t have pedals. The idea is that the child learns balance by propelling with the feet. Lili learned to take that sharp corner to the left feet up, fast, and glide quite far. So she just has to get a larger bike with pedals to upgrade. She already has the balance. Grandpa Frame got it for her, and we watched her go around that corner time after time, appropriately helmeted in her bike helmet. Once, however, she missed the turn a little and fell. Not a tear shed. She had a little rubbed area, but up she got. “I’m tough,” she announced to our concern. Of course, being almost five, when we got the camera out, she wouldn’t ride for us to video. No way. So here is a picture of a childless bike.
The advent of wheels is life-altering. A bike, maybe roller skates or a skate board, then it’s on to driving a car. No stopping these kids once they feel the pull of speed. And the independence.
But how hard it has been for us to see our neighbors having to give up driving because they are too old. Becoming old is hard enough to take, but to have to ask someone to drive you somewhere feels like the end—and it almost is.
Our friend who is now 98 was promised by her children that if she would give up her sporty little car, they would see to it that she went where she wanted. They’ve been good about it, but losing your wheels is still one of the hardest stages possible. It’s as symbolic of the End as getting your driver licence at age sixteen is a symbol of growing up.
In the United States, you must have a car if you live outside a large, compact city such as New York or San Francisco. In the west such as in Utah, transportation, despite efforts to provide buses and rail, mostly exists by car, although it is possible to get to work and back by public transportation. And now private car taxi service exists, we can go by another’s car downtown or to the airport with relative ease and convenience.
But we are in love with our cars, whether huge black trucks or tiny Minis. When the time comes to give up my wheels, I will feel very depressed, I’m sure—unless death comes first. Now there’s where we will be really liberated! We’ll sweep around the universe in our resurrected bodies. No emissions, no fuel to buy! Freedom without even having to think about wheels. PMA

Growing Genes

August 11, 2019

Something is eating my San Marzano tomatoes. I only have three plants, so I have plans for every pear-shaped paste tomato. The something is not a tomato worm. It could be a bird, I suppose, that could mine almost half of a perfectly ripe one. I could pick them a little sooner, but we love the sun-ripened flavor.

My home garden is very small this year. Son Eric still plants a large field, and he and Becky preserve much of the crops they gather of all kinds of squash, winter and summer, peppers, sweet and blow-torch, over a hundred tomato plants, green beans, beets, cucumbers, and melons. We have the privilege of eating from Eric’s garden as well as frequently from their table.

Planting must be in our blood. My mother, one of thirteen children, was nurtured by home-grown fruits and vegetables of all kinds as well as by chickens, rabbits, and fish caught in the lake. During the Depression her father fed many others besides his family. His son Leland was head of the trees on Temple Square here in Salt Lake City. I don’t know about the gardens on display, but stories are told of the tree catastrophes all over the valley in blizzards, but Leland pruned so well that only twigs fell. That gene seems to have cropped up in some of his children too.

My mother planted a garden, a “Victory Garden” during WWII. I remember her making caps for the tomato seedlings by patting newspaper into the crown of her sun hat, then burying the paper edges in the earth. Later, in San Jose, we three girls sometimes stabbed at growing flowers and vegetables, not knowing yet that huge zucchini were a sign of shame, “bloaters.”  The best in flavor and texture are small with the blossom just wilted.

When Gary and I moved from California to Utah, I dug and planted a small garden. Then grow-boxes came into fashion and we built some of those. With seventeen fruit trees, grape vines, and raspberries, we were rich on our quarter acre.

After we moved to Centerville, the local ward or church unit began plowing an unused field for us to plant in. I did that for a number of years, a plot 10’ by 50’. We couldn’t keep the weeds down, however, because not everyone weeded their plot, so the weeds were plowed in to grow even better next year. Then I began gardening with Eric on some land he borrows.

He is still planting and giving away the products of the garden. I have retired to patio boxes.

Yet look at what was started!  My maternal grandfather’s father was known for his orchards. My ancestors in Switzerland grew gardens. And so did my father’s ancestors. This was hardly unusual since then if you had land to work, you needed the produce to survive. Yet here we are today with the grocery stores at hand, yet willing to grow food—no, more, almost compelled to grow food and to store it up for winter. Maybe it’s a primal urge in some families such as ours. The trait has shown in granddaughter Megan’s gardening of her small plot in the back yard. Daughter Becky Sue and her husband Jess grow produce as well. We’ll see what the next generations come up with, whether that trait expresses itself time after time as modern housing and city living continue.

Is it foolish to grow plants when you can buy silk flowers, frozen foods, and canned goods? My brain says growing your own is unnecessary, but my Swiss and English heart wants to pick tomatoes from the vine. PMA

p.s. If you question why I never mention Gary’s genes, it’s that he is adopted and cannot find his birth family!

Lake Battle

August 4, 2019

Three canoes and two flotation rafts with about eight paddlers headed for the middle of Trial Lake for a great battle. There were no teams, just kids and teenagers wearing life jackets engaging in fun. One canoe was capsized and completely filled with water. Various battlers hopped from one boat to the next. The canoe didn’t sink because it had been made to float, so they got it turned over and used it in the battle again. Across the lake on the shore we could hear the shouts and screams and laughter. (We didn’t get a picture, but this one from on line shows you the idea.)

Every one of the kids could swim and wore regulation life vests, so we didn’t worry about drowning. The lake is cold and fairly deep, but has no sharks or other dangers, so it was just a chance to enjoy their time together. When it was over, everyone was safe, happy, shivering and planning for next year.

I suppose a flying paddle could have hit someone. Something unexpected could have occurred. That is the reason they all wore flotation devices. Yet if something had gone wrong, would people have thought that these kids should not have been allowed to have so much fun in the middle of the lake? Should a child protection agency been called to reprimand us for allowing it?

They were certainly “free run” kids in the campground. Some older ones went hiking in the rain and thunder despite being warned that a man we knew well had been hit by lightning on the trail they were going to hike. They were warned, they went, and they came back safely.

I remember as a young girl riding bikes into the countryside in California, exploring lanes and ways, finding a small spring with moss and flowers around it. Two young girls finding magic with no one around to protect them. We were okay and the memory is still sweet.

Why are people so afraid of allowing children to get out of their sight?  Yes, we see on the nightly news children who have been accosted, molested, even killed, but what is the chance that such things can happen when we teach children carefully not to speak to strangers or to approach friendly people in cars? No one can perfectly protect a child from harm, but some risk, some experience with independent activities is necessary to teach self-confidence, isn’t it?

Yes, children in school have been killed by crazy shooters. Yes, this world can be dangerous. Yes, a child can be run over by a speeding car just by carefully crossing the street. But does that mean the child can never cross a street or go to a nearby mall to buy something because it’s too dangerous?  There are thousands of stories of bad results when kids are not around their parents. Thousands of others are in danger from their own parents.

In other words, where do you draw the line between keeping kids on a leash to make them safe and allowing them to encounter risks as they try their independence? If I knew the answer, I would write a book. Instead, since my children now have grandchildren, I have little input about how free kids should be, but I liked it when the kids at Family Camp made up things to do that were not computer games. They were gathering around a fire with real flames that they could have tripped into. But no one kept warning them about the fire or trying to organize safe activities. They just did what they wanted. I think it’s fortunate that they all have good sense and can be trusted to keep themselves safe. We didn’t have to tell them over and over to wear life jackets in the boats. PMA

Catching

 

 

July 28, 2019

Tent camping is about as close to nature as I want to come over nights.Processed With DarkroomA good tent that doesn’t leak, a down sleeping bag and ample clothing comprise one part of comfortable tent camping. The camp kitchen with cast iron vessels and griddles, the heat provided by charcoal or from tanks of propane gas, lots of coolers filled with food and canned pop, unending snacks, treats brought from home, and, of course, s’mores, toasted marshmallows and chocolate bars sandwiched between the old fashioned graham crackers, or this time, flat cookies as we gather around a campfire at the end of the day.

Yes, there were tent trailers and a huge RV as well. We were glad for their shelter when it rained and rained for two and a half days. The kids could gather and play games, but the adults could sit around under spread canopies and talk. I find out many things I didn’t know before by being present as the adults talk.

That’s the infrastructure of Family Camp, held yearly around July 24. The participants come and go according to their schedules and abilities to get time off. Gary and I arrived Monday afternoon and left for home about noon on Saturday. Gary’s wheelchair moved him around the dirt and grasses in a curvy pattern as he avoided rocks and tree stumps.

Our traditional campsites connect directly with Trial Lake, so the canoes and other flotation devices are spread out around the shore line, at hand. This year the fishing from the shore was better than from canoes and by fly casting. We had wonderful breaded and fried filleted trout.

One of our two great granddaughters, Lili has just turned five. She spent considerable time at the lakeside. Her Uncle Eric would put the bait on the hook and cast it out, then hand the pole to Lili. She caught trout after trout. We release smaller ones and keep the larger for eating. Lili sang to the fish as she held the pole, and it worked. She caught most of the string I saw when I arrived. Later when we were talking of what Lili liked about camping, she said she liked throwing pieces of wood into the fire and that the fried fish tasted like chicken nuggets. But what she like most was fishing.

Now we get to the point of this essay: Those trout were gutted at the shore, stored on ice, and then they were prepared for our eating. Long ago, we’d just fry the headless, gutted fish in bacon grease and individually watch out for the bones. In Eric Allen’s camp, whether family or Boy Scouts, trout are transformed to gourmet cuisine.

Eric, using a large log top for a table, prepared each fish very carefully. It took about three minutes to get the back and rib bones out. The result was two filleted halves. He removed the fins and attached bones of the first half. Then he turned it over and used his very sharp filleting knife to skin each fish. That takes some time. But he’s not through. On each half is a line of pin bones that he carefully removes. Then he repeats the process on the second half. I sat with him one evening and timed him. The shortest time was 7 ½ minutes. The ten fish he did that evening took up to ten minutes apiece. I asked why he wanted to give us such well de-boned fish. He said he liked to do it. He wanted us to enjoy the fish.

I think hardly anyone realized that it took over an hour and a half of cold hands and careful knife work to provide our fish the next morning. I love fresh rainbow trout. We twenty or more eaters cleaned it all up. The bones and skins are returned to the lake for the minnows and bugs to eat.

There’s fishing and it’s fun. Then there’s catching. To show respect is to prepare and consume the fish. If Eric’s doing the knife work, we eat it up with gusto. PMA

Posterity

 

July 14, 2019

A family get-together at our son-in-law Mike Frame’s home this afternoon after hearing his youngest child Matthew speak in church as he prepares to go on a mission for two years to Oregon. The Frames and the Allens met in good will in the back yard with six or seven fold-down canopies to protect us against 90o F temperatures.

So many people. The Frame parents looked over their very numerous posterity. The Allens were not nearly so numerous. Plus, many of ours live in Tennessee and one works on Sundays.

Attending were our local children and grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren! Our daughter Lisa who died at age 32 leaving Mike with five young children was present in our words and in our memories. When we look at the feat of rearing five children to become assets to society, Mike was magnificent, but we also believe that their mother helped from heaven.

As for Gary and me, in all this, there is a question: When did these people cease being our responsibility and become posterity?  Our four children will probably not appear on “Who’s Who” lists. Fifteen minutes of fame is about the most they can expect in their lives. We were not even close to being ideal parents, so can’t take much credit for what they have become. As grandparents we have helped to fund missions in small ways. We have supported activities and performances as invited and we are very interested in their lives. But we are not important to them in concrete ways as parents are.

We rejoice with our family on their occasions. They are happy to see us. They are on their own and doing well, working out their own lives and problems. We are happy for their happiness and cry for their grief. Somewhere in the process of living, we went from being parents to being very interested bystanders. I don’t recall anyone asking our advice for at least thirty or more years! And if someone did ask advice, we wouldn’t have any to give because they don’t need it. Our four dependent children multiplied to all these people we count as family who make good decisions and cope without us.

Somewhere back there when there were only four, they learned to pray, to figure out what to do, to overcome setbacks, to adjust to the stresses of life. Although we gave them a nursery to become seedlings in, they’ve long since been transplanted to become what they are supposed to be, honorable, and true. We started them out the best we could. That they no longer “need” us is our reward. We are proud of them and admire them. Most of our best was given long ago. But they are prayed for every day, urgently. Perhaps that’s the best we can still do for our “salt of the earth” posterity. PMA

We didn’t take any pictures. I’m sorry.

THE RIVER WALK

Daily Thoughts and Meditations as we journey together with our Lord.

The Hawk Squawks

Creative Writing