Snail Mail

February 14, 2021

I am publishing my last Sunday’s essay, sent to my Outlook address book. For those of you who have followed my blog and have noticed the absence of WordPress, I tried for two months to reach WordPress to restore access to my three blog accounts. Finally I wrote a real letter with a stamp on it. I received an e-mail answer today that set me up again. So here is last Sunday’s essay. I’m sorry for those who may read my (almost) weekly posts and missed them. At this point, I wonder what to do with those essays I wrote during the time I couldn’t use WordPress. If you would like to see the missing essays, I can post them on this site, but if you don’t care, maybe it’s unimportant to do that. Trouble is, although I show over 300 followers, I only know of two or three who have commented or indicated that they actually read my essays. When I finally got back to this site, I saw I’d gotten five more followers. But there was only old stuff to read.

If you want me to repost, just reply yes and tell me your on-line name. Please help me pick up the pieces of what I view as a disaster. PMA

Gifts

          Our Valentine’s gift is a pair of electric toothbrushes. We had a dandy set, but the brushes needed to be changed, so we bought replacement heads at Costco where we had bought the set of brushes.  Didn’t fit, so we sent to Oral B for brush heads, but they didn’t fit. We returned everything to Costco. But I can’t find the carrying cases for the brushes. I’m sure I threw them away because we hardly ever go away overnight anymore. And we take an ordinary brush when we do. So now I will have to write a letter to Oral B explaining why we don’t have the cases and hope Costco will return the brushes to Oral B. I have no idea what else to do. Those brushes were probably gifts for Christmas or Easter. We have so much, we usually give useful gifts.

The best Christmas gift I ever had besides Jesus Christ was Eric, born December 23. But then, maybe it was our first grandson Jake Evans, born December 24, or my niece Christa born on Christmas day. Or other late December loved ones as well. So it’s not things but people that make the dearest gifts. When Becca Frame Brown brought 10 month old Blake to visit days ago, that was a gift. I hadn’t seen him since he was an infant.  It’s the Covid-19, of course, that keeps us closed up from one another. It will be a gift when we can all get back together. To aid that, we have appointments for shot #2 next Thursday.  I understand that we will still have to wear masks after we stay secluded more weeks, but won’t it be wonderful to all be vaccinated or at least part of the vaccinated herd?

The vaccine is another gift. I have read about the remarkably short period of time it took to make these vaccines. Really miraculous advances in medical knowledge have brought us this marvel. I have also been introduced to spooky information to scare people into not taking the shots. Why is it people want to feel they have exclusive and secret knowledge of conspiracies against all of us? The Covid-19 conspiracies I have happened upon or been steered to by others usually show a believable person telling why the drug companies have made up all of the danger and there really is no reason to protect one’s self against the virus. However, Gary and I believe in medical science as do most people.

Some cause harm to others in matters of belief. Some say children should not be inoculated. The herd of inoculated children protects theirs, but it’s still chancy. When measles broke out recently, the harm was to unprotected children whose parents may have listened to information based on an article written many years ago that suggested that shots could cause autism. The so-called science of the article has been thoroughly and often disproved, but there are still people who believe, contrary to results that show inoculated children to be statistically safer, that their child would be more likely to get autism.

Another of today’s gifts is a juicy storm that stayed all day yesterday and much of today. In Seattle they are snowed in. They hardly ever worry about rain, but to us such rain and snow are gold. I am wearing rings on both hands, gifts of monetary value, but the people who gave them, my husband and his mother, are the real gifts, gifts to the heart that can’t get lost or destroyed unless I lose my memory. My electronic card sender Blue Mountain limited my batch of cute porcupine valentines, so I sent what I could. Some answers have told me that people liked them, even such simple gifts for Valentine’s Day. Gary and I have Belgian chocolates to dispense carefully until they are gone. Why would we want jewelry, caviar or luxury tours? Love comes from the heart, is shown by personal attention and is without price. (I know this essay is sentimental, but if they are going to put Valentine’s day on Sunday, what else could you expect?) PMA

Circles

December 6, 2020

A neighbor recently posted that she had pared her usually elaborate Christmas décor down. Everything for this year will be simpler not just because of Covid but because she has become more grateful for what she has and ordinary things mean more to her. I am sitting here cozy with our favorite decorations around us. But there’s a large box of decorations I’m not using. Enough is good. Each year when I took down all that I had put up, the house looked bare for few days. Too much can disrupt common sense.

That goes for life as well. Entitlement is making many of us spoiled brats at any age. Forty years ago, we and our four children lived at the bottom of a hill that, as the streets rose higher and higher on their economic ladder, the homes got bigger and fancier. We couldn’t afford the skiing and other expensive sports and activities that other students at our kids’ schools enjoyed, not to say flaunted. While actually being a rich family by standards all over the world, we appeared, at times, to be poor in comparison with many of the young people our kids associated with. There was a small sense of deprivation as we had to choose how to afford selected wants.

Many very rich people lived on the hills of Bountiful. I think our children were less aware of the disparity than Gary and I were. But we were happy doing our own thing in summer: We had camping rather than resorts. Canoes instead of sea-worthy boats. We wore home-made clothes sometimes. We bought cars used, not new. But we had fun, healthy activities, transportation and everything else we needed.

My ace in the hole was reading.  All four of our kids enjoyed reading. One of the high points in years of family memories was going camping one year in the midst of reading as a family, The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. We were on Book Four and read each evening by the campfire but couldn’t quite finish by campground checkout time. My usual rule when we drove into the driveway was, “Put everything away before we do anything else.” That way I could start washing a mountain of dirty clothes and we could walk around the house without tripping over sleeping bags. This time, we got home, went into the living room and Gary read the last few chapters as we lounged on the floor with the door open for the breeze and the wind chimes ringing softly just outside.

As I remember the best things in my life, they were hardly ever about owning expensive things, taking glamor trips, spending tons of money at theme parks, although we occasionally did some of these things. One evening the family was traveling in the car up to the City Center for a free program and I vividly remember having a feeling of joy wash over me because I realized that I wouldn’t exchange this moment, this place, this event, this company of my family for anything or place in the world. It was a perfect moment.

This Christmas will be simpler, quieter, less expensive, lonelier than other years, but as I think of other times, maybe it will be as sweet. PMA

Cabin Fever

November 29, 2020

I’m looking forward to spring. I usually thoroughly enjoy fall and snuggle in for winter, so spring is good, but not overwhelmingly so. However, this year I’ll be passionately grateful when I see the snowdrops appear and everything grows anew.  The reason is not only the beauty and the renewal of spring, but this spring we expect a vaccine or two or three to help this socially distanced world draw nearer.

Winter has its charms. Right now, the fire is warming up our living room as I type, its glowing embers giving out a contented feeling. Sometimes when I’m outside in the heat of summer I think of how wonderful it is to come in from the cold to the warm fire. But this year, I’m anxiously waiting for those probably two shots and four to six weeks of waiting to become immune and to join people again. I’m grateful for science and the new way of formulating flu shots. Come on, herd immunity!

I’m sure that most of us feel a little bit of “cabin fever.” I believe the term comes from the long, snowed-in winters in Alaska. Strange things used to happen as the ice kept the miners in for months. It’s certainly not bad here where we can obtain our needs. I’m a fast reader and have been consuming library books of all kinds and subjects. And, contrary to past years, we’ve been watching TV serial productions such as “The Crown.“ We haven’t done that since the last episode of “Castle.” Does anyone remember “Northern Exposure”? That was a favorite.

Bottom line is that we’re going to get through this. And we can attest to gratitude being of great help in dispelling the ”Covid Blues.” At this moment, we’re warm, well fed, have good health, dental, and eye care, and we love our great family, neighbors, and friends. Our gratitude is not just that we have these blessings but for our Father in Heaven, the source of our security. PMA

Band-aid

November 22, 2020

An on-line upsurge of messages of gratitude has hit my e-mail box lately with Thanksgiving to celebrate next week.  I believe the idea is to choose something like nature, good health, or a freedom to express gratitude for. Since I’m thankful for so much in this comfortable and happy life we live, I’ll choose something small: Inventions that are wonderful such as Velcro, safety pins, nail clippers, refrigerator magnets, staplers, eyeglasses, toilets, garden hoses, gadgets of all kinds, and step-stools. Our kitchens, offices, and garages are crowded with tools and devices that help us in many ways. Usually, I don’t stop and think how grateful I am that someone saw a need and invented help.

Today, I’m grateful for band-aids. We had them in white 80 years ago, and now they come in colors, waterproof, non-stick pads, shaped for fingers or toes and all sizes. A simple gauze pad held in place by sticky tape that holds it on. As a mother, I was stingy with them unless I could see some actual blood. I think my reasoning was that if the band-aid was used too liberally, it would lose meaning.

Especially as skin thins in old age, more small scrapes and cuts appear. I have boxes of band-aids in variegated sizes in several places at home, in the car, and camping. Maybe, if I’d thought of it, we could have taken pictures of the covered wounds over the years and have a history. Not so strange a history as that would sound. Someone said, “Scars are the history of your body.”  Sometimes the scars need professional help both to cause and heal with sutures, tape and gauze.  

Some periods of time produce more band-aids and scars: When we were learning to ride a bike, skate, climb trees. Playing at the beach or pool, camping, running, games at parks and resorts. Blisters from hiking or playing on the “monkey-bars.” Learning to use a needle or sewing machine. Repairing things, playing sports, getting outdoors to confront the world, we were lucky if all the patching up we needed was a band-aid or two.

Actually, I think the point of being grateful for these small fixers is that seldom can the application be done by one as well as with help. So a crying child runs to Mom and gets soothed. The wound is cleaned and anti-biotic applied. Then the band-aid and a hug to send them off to further dangerous adventures.

Yes, more than the ritual of opening the packet carefully, pulling back the tape strips and aiming the gauze pad where it’s needed, it’s the arms that comfort, the encouragement in the voice, the smile that gives confidence to try again. Oh, the caring that those strips bring with them! A little miracle both then and now when we still need a second person to help heal the wounds of life. PMA

Ides

November 15, 2020

The ides of November. Utah is on a two-week lockdown, or, at least, a step back from the restraints that were gradually being relaxed. But too many people decided to ignore precautions. What were those thousands of young people who went mask less to a concert with abandon thinking? They helped the state back to almost-full hospitals, to say nothing of the maxed-out caregivers. I don’t understand why wearing a mask is too confining when doing so is helping others to stay healthy or prevent ourselves from overloading the system.

Gary and I have recently read a scholarly article “The Great World of the Spirits of the Dead”: Death, the Great War, and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic as Context for Doctrine and Covenants 138, by George S. Tate. (How do you measure when it’s “scholarly” besides lots of long words?  Well, this article of 37 pages was about one third footnotes. Interesting footnotes that I want to go back and read.)

The article tells about the “Great War” and the “Spanish Flu” as they were called in 1914 through about 1920 or so. The War had more casualties than any other war before it. And when the world was mourning its losses, millions of casualties plus hundreds of thousands of killed whose bodies were never identified, the flu came along and killed even more. But this iteration of plague specialized in people in the prime of life. Families were wiped out. Orphaned children roamed streets looking for help. A pandemic without modern medical equipment, such as respirators, and techniques that we now have was worse than today’s. Mass graves dug by bulldozers, people piled in and covered up without funerals or even markers. Guards placed at funeral homes to prevent people from stealing coffins to use for their dead. The article is published by BYU and is worth reading.

People had to wear masks. Stores, schools, movies and churches were closed down. What did they do without modern media? We have watched much more on our smart TV since the pandemic started. I have read more books. We have missed our church friends and would love to go to a loud, musical, happily-ending movie in a big theater, but, of course, can’t.

In the years from 1914 through the early 1920s, the same things happened to them that are going on right now, but without the radio and TV in every home, they relied mostly on newspapers for their information. The Deseret News published both an early and an evening edition every day but Sunday. “Newsies” or newspaper sellers, mainly young boys, went out selling their papers with gauze masks on, yelling out today’s events, competing with other papers’ newsies.

My Uncle Oral Behunin survived the Great War. He was a radio-man in France, communicating troop movement details in “The Battle of the Bulge” in the mud and cold of the trenches, I imagine he had a gas mask to protect against mustard gas.

The Great War was terrible. But to have joined with it a virus that science still does not understand, that more than doubled the fatality count of the war itself, rocked those still alive with fear and crises of faith. Authors we read today such as J.R.R Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle, and C.S. Lewis* reflected their wartime experiences in their works.

I suppose, in these days, we develop a toughness to even contemplate all the chaos we can witness with electronic devices that bring horrifying accounts right to our hands or pockets. With billions of people on earth, I can’t mourn all their deaths, but each person is important. There is peace in knowing that each is a child of God who loves them and welcomes them home when they die. PMA

*i.e. The Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Earth

November 11, 2020

Looks like two to three inches of fresh, fluffy snow out there. We need snow. We live in a desert as I have mentioned over and over again. Because we have irrigation that comes from dammed water from the mountains, we have a green and flourishing land, but if we don’t get enough winter moisture, we’ll be in trouble. When I spoke with our son-in-law in Tennessee about how they get water, he replied, “From rain.”  But we Utahans don’t get that much rain. We have to bank our moisture in reservoirs to have summer water. That’s one reason we are so careful of the water we use. We fill the dishwasher fully before we wash. We turn off the water while we soap our hands. We’re conscious of how we use it.

Being careful of the environment is a way of life. To respect this earth and to keep it fit is a responsibility we all share. Before Covid, I took my own containers to the grocery store to avoid plastic waste. Now I feel guilty because the baggers use so many (as if I needed more ways to make me feel guilty in this world!)

Maybe I ought to let my subscription to National Geographic lapse. They have really turned up the pressure—all over the world this year. And it’s right to make us aware of how mankind is injuring the planet and its creatures. A recent wildlife survey finds that we now have 5 billion fewer birds in this area than we used to. Makes sense because they don’t live in our houses or work places, parking lots, roads, etc. Not so many trees to live in or to feed them. Of course there are fewer animals and plants as human beings take over!

Some people believe that humans are in the same class as the animals and creatures of the earth and should not encroach on wild places. Are we to take as much as we can from the earth or act as stewards of its treasures, conserving and managing?  The media regularly vote that global warming and species extinction are sins against the children of the future. A polluted earth is a poor heritage to look forward to.

Yet Gary’s and my car runs on gasoline, not electricity. We have to have transportation and bought a model that appeared safe for us. At our age, at least the distances we travel are not like the hour commute Gary once had to go to work in Southern California—and back. As with having to use plastic bags to shop, how we use the resources we do is a continual trade-off with ideals and practicalities.

This is not a plea for the planet nor an apology. It’s just a series of thoughts about how the end of the harvest season brings gratitude because we didn’t run out of water. Because eating from Eric’s garden promoted healthy cells full of summer nutrients. Because we slurped our first tomato soup from this year’s crop of tomatoes. This earth is the source of our physical lives. If we can’t rescue it, perhaps, until we can, we can appreciate and love it. PMA

Caring

November 1, 2020

We had a hard frost that didn’t allow our flowering cherry tree enough time to turn its customary gold. Its withering leaves are just sitting on their stems sulking, waiting for another snowstorm, maybe, to let go. Some touches of color still left out there, but my veggies and herbs are straw. This is, of course, global warming. Apparently, it doesn’t always mean we get hotter, maybe just less predictable, more violent, more destructive. We are looking at a serious drought if something doesn’t shove a stubborn high pressure away from the coast of California.

But this is life, isn’t it? We don’t have much control over what happens. We simply cope and are glad for friends and family to help us over the rough spots. I keep reminding myself that it’s supposed to be hard and that it really is “enduring to the end,” not “partying to the end.”

It reminds me of a family in our area we knew over thirty years ago. I think I remember the story well enough to make my point: Stephanie and her husband had two children and were delighted to have a third child. But the boy was severely handicapped at birth. He couldn’t see, hear, or respond. He lived because the state of Utah provided equipment, care, and assistance.

Instead of putting him in an institution, that family accepted the challenges he presented. The husband’s quit his job as, I believe, an engineer so that the family would be eligible for all the assistance that it took to keep the boy alive at home. The law said, if the family made more than a certain level, public assistance was out. They had been fairly prosperous, but the rest of them could not even eat adequately if they paid for the elaborate care the child needed.

Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? He got a minimum wage job so the boy could have what he needed. Stephanie was at home virtually all the time because the boy needed constant attention. The tubes and devices he was connected to would get clogged and have to be taken care of immediately. When I became aware of the extent to which the family went to continue their son’s life, especially since any improvement or response was so minimal that he essentially was a vegetable, I sometimes wondered if it might be a temptation to ignore the beepers and just let the poor thing die!

But they were made of better stuff than that. Instead of being victims, Stephanie met with others in similar situations and went to the state to demand that the law be changed. You know how slowly the political wheels can move. She pled that since her husband would pay taxes on his employment, why shouldn’t he be able to earn the salary he was trained for even though the boy’s care costs far exceeded it? To the group and to the legislators it seemed to make sense that the state would be better off with the wage-earner earning and the care continuing than wasting his talents. 

The law was passed. The family was able to live more comfortably, the help kept coming and they lived with their child until he died in his teens. He did make what they perceived as some progress. They cried when he died, somehow bereft.

The point is that all of them benefitted by the process they lived through. They became strong and were gloriously happy with every miniscule step of improvement although the boy never became “normal.” What could have been a blight on their lives became a cause. Their tragedy simply wasn’t allowed to be one. Their faith and determination raised that family up to help themselves and others.

I found their lives uplifting. I saw how they took what they were given and, without miracles to let them off, made the most of it.  Their story reminds me that what occurs to us is only as terrible as we will allow it to be. They just did what they had to. I want to be more like that. PMA

Indian Summer

October 25, 2020

Gary has a way of noting dates with events, so he’s recently said, “It’s my mother’s birthday of October (19) and today is the Christmas of October!  Plus, it snowed, real, fluffy snow that made it look like a white Christmas—almost. The walks didn’t need shoveling because the temperature has been unseasonably warm up to a few days ago. The light wind has blown the snow off the trees, but my squash plant is still blanketed as its trellis leans askew. White fluff marks end of the tomatoes, peppers and herbs.

The temperature is predicted to rise again. In Pilgrim days, after the first frost and the harvesting was over, they named the warm weather “Indian Summer.” Now we look forward to that comfortable season, but the name came from the way the savages went to war at that time. They’d done all they could to provide and prepare food and warm things for the winter. Now it was time to go after the settlers, to kill, burn, and steal to try to make the invaders leave.

It didn’t work. The carnage caused by white settlers’ diseases weakened the Amerinds, they were under-armed, and trading their furs for liquor weakened them further. You are doubtless familiar with the tribal refugees’ being moved to places no one else wanted, finally to reservations where they suffered terribly at the hands of crooked agents.

The relentless occupation of more and more land is sad and yet inevitable history in this hemisphere. A book I am reading has an islander on Haiti ask whether being forced to become a Christian was worth also becoming a slave. I have in my line pioneers in Utah who were called specifically to befriend, teach, and to help the Indians of the territory so that they could be appeased, could learn to live with the settlers, be educated, and to be fed and cared for as they did so.  The Utah settlers were told to feed the Indians, not fight them. But, of course, there were wars and discord, maybe even in Indian summer with Indian fighters.

History’s about cruelty, plunder, and seeking for power among the inhabitants of the earth. “The winners write the history books,” so we often honor the bloodiest and most savage of past leaders. Now it has been about sixty years since the last World War. Battles and savage small wars, pillaging of neighbors, stealing away children and women to become slaves and every kind of vicious behavior still exist everywhere in any season. Mobs, mafia, militias and molesters cause havoc everywhere.

But we feel safe tonight in our home. We are reasonably confident that our children and their families are safe, protected by law and order. We trust that our communities will maintain police, fire fighters, hospitals, medical experts, military, as well as laws and equitable procedures for our good. For the most part, these work for most of us. And when the weather warms up in a few days, we may be defending against death, but wearing face masks. The enemy won’t be trying to burn us out; it will be a virus that, soon, we hope will be vanquished. PMA

Seasons

October 18, 2020

We attended church this morning, socially distanced and masked, happy to see in person people we consider part of a large family. It’s remarkable that we can see their smiles even with mouths and chins covered. We don’t touch, not even elbows, but the warmth exudes from each person, telling us that they care about us. And we care about them more than we knew when we saw them more frequently and at closer distances.

It’s a perfect fall day, warm, blue sky, half the leaves left on trees that stand in a puddle of dropped gold. My petunias (those not blown away by our wind storm) are blooming, cascading over the rims of pots, campanula rioting in this last chance to spread lilac flowers over the ground. Roses are resurgent, but I don’t cut them because I understand that letting them go to seed prepares the bush for winter. Even a few buddleia stems are still inviting bees and butterflies to their blossoms, although the hummingbirds have wisely migrated south.

I’m not really thankful for covid-19, but it has taught us things. Especially we’re grateful for caretakers of all kinds. And we appreciate more the freedom we used to have to associate closely, hug, laugh and talk freely, shop without endangering others, attend movies and events with others in large crowds that generate enthusiasm to surge through everyone.

The “burning bush” shrub is turning crimson. The mountains have turned dead leaf color, the heater went on a morning ago. Years ago, we’d smell burning leaves in the fall, but not anymore. In fact, the air is clear since most of the forest fires in Utah are out and we’re getting our jet stream from the north more than from poor, charred California.

Pumpkins and spooky figures are set up around doorsteps. The sidewalks pushed up by falling trees have been torn up and re-laid. The rabbit brush around the corner Wal-Mart planting is fading. My green pepper plant’s baby fruits are not going to see adulthood. In a way, it’s a sad time of year. I keep looking out the window and thinking of when snow will fill up the walks and gardens.

But then we’ll have the fireplace to offer comfort, and we have plenty of sweaters, blankets and pillows to cozy up with.

We have successfully enlisted the help of family, particularly our daughter Becky Sue and son Eric and his wife Becky, to help us refurnish the house on one floor, moving the bed down and the library out. I think Gary has not had to climb the stairs for a week. My gain is that the whole upstairs minus Gary’s office is mine. I have two bathrooms just for me. Downstairs in the basement suite, we miss Anne Evans who has migrated to Denver. How we have enjoyed her. The wrong car is parked in front of our house, now. It’s much less exciting when she’s missing. But she’s taking advantage of youth and freedom and we have high hopes for her.

I’m writing in a spirit of contentment and gratitude. We turned the house upside down, contributed all kinds of our kept but useless items to the Deseret Industries, and enriched the economy with a few purchases to live in a smaller area (does that make sense?) Trying to grow old gracefully is not as difficult as it could be because we have our family to help with the lifting, sifting, sorting, and planning. A huge amount of work and good will came our way last week. We are indeed blessed. PMA