Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Old Table, or A Call for Civility

Mom refinished my grandmother's old round oak table with claw feet. Every night our family had dinner around that old table. As a kid, I told Mom that someday I wanted the table. My children grew up around that table. Dinnertime conversation was and is important to our family, and the table symbolizes every dinnertime conversation we every had.

I think the first conversation I can remember was a political discussion as to whether President John F. Kennedy should have appeared in a swim suit on a public beach with his children. I was only six years old when he was elected, so I don't remember whether this was during the campaign, or whether it was after he became president. I think it was after he became president.

During the Vietnam war, there were many political conversations around the table. We discussed everything, and no subject was taboo. My Uncle Dale and Aunt Wilma would come to town once or twice a year, and Dale would purposely take the opposite side of any discussion just to see what arguments you could make. Danny and I taught our children around the table. We talked about school strikes and the space shuttle that blew up. We talked about presidents and politics.

As a result of these dinnertime talks, I've had many conversations with friends and co-workers about politics, religion, etc. I don't remember ever getting into a situation of animosity in these discussions--until recently. Something has happened in our country. Something has gone dreadfully wrong. People can't "discuss" anymore. It has to be name calling and fury. I've noticed this over the last couple of years, but it all came to head with me over the last couple of days.

A friend of mine posted a video on Facebook with her comments. I began a discussion with her about the topic, and posted a video for her to watch, as well. This was all very friendly. Suddenly, two "gentlemen" who I've never met were attacking me with verbal barbs. I will sum it up like this: in the course of about 12 hours, I was called an irresponsible, idiotic liar and a racist retard. All this because I believe that socialized medicine will turn out to be a mistake for our country. I was aghast at the hostility shown by these men toward a woman they've never met. I'm pretty sure that if they were standing in the same room with me, they would have toned down the barbs somewhat, but because they were hiding behind a computer screen, I was a clear target for venting their hostility.

I'm not sure what this says about society in America, but whatever it says, I don't like it. What happened to the America I grew up in where the opinions of others were respected as freedom of speech? I am respectful of the opinions of others. I'm respectful of their opinions, but I certainly don't have to tolerate personal attacks on my character. Those who know me well, know that I can (and will) come up fighting when attacked personally.

For those who will read this blog post, I'm calling for civility in our political discussions with others. This is America where all are supposed to be free to express an opinion. Be respectful of others. Be respectful of their opinions. Discuss; don't attack. My Dad used to say that you can learn something from everyone you meet. Of course, that can only happen if you are open to hear what those people have to say. Maybe we all should have an old round oak table. Maybe Mom's table has magic powers to teach people the art of civilized discussion.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Sometime during my first grade year, I spent some time with Nana Janes in Portola, California. Nana was not staying at her home that week; she was taking care of the Knotty Pine Motel for a friend who was on vacation. The lobby of this place was knotty pine, and was gorgeous! I've loved knotty pine ever since, and have dreamed of buidling a knotty pine bedroom.

(Picture from here: my favorite getaway spot.)

Nana Janes was an early riser, and she didn't realize that I also arose with the sun. She was very prim and proper. She woke up early in the morning so that she could dress in front of a wood stove to keep warm. The first morning I was there I startled her when I caught her dressing in front of the wood stove. I continued to wake up early every morning that week, but Nana was always dressed. She must have set an alarm prior to sunrise the rest of the week to get some privacy.

I remember Nana's hands. There were patterns in the lines on her hands. I remember wanting to take a crayon and connect some of the lines to see if I could make a picture--but I didn't dare ask her.

Years later I looked at my Dad's hands and saw those same patterns. I remember thinking that it must be "a Janes thing." The other day I found myself staring at my own hands at those same patterns. What I used to think was a fascinating jigsaw puzzle, turns out to be "old" skin. There's nothing intriguing about it at all. I don't mind having "old" skin; I've earned every wrinkle and every gray hair. I do find disappointment in this little discovery, however. I'm not sure why, but something I thought was "special" about my family just bit the dust.

Early morning seminary for me (and later my children) spoiled the fun of getting up early in the morning. Dragging myself out of bed is the norm these days. I'd better not build the knotty pine bedroom I've always wanted to build after all. Maybe it wouldn't be as "special" as the memory.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Remembering Matt

My stepson's birthday is today, and later this month is the annual highway worker safety stand down at the state capitol honoring those highway workers who have died in the line of duty. Both events trigger emotions for my entire family. Matt was killed on December 14, 2007, while filling a pot hole on the freeway. He left a wife and three children. His son was a young adult, but his daughters were only 8 and 10 years old at the time.

This single event changed our family forever. It cut us to the core. It was like taking a machete and chopping off an arm of every family member. We are not a perfect family, and like all families we have our struggles. That makes a sudden death in the family even more difficult. Matt was only 35 years old. We all left so many things unsaid. We all thought there would be plenty of tomorrows.

The process of grieving is different for everyone, but there is a process. There is shock, anger, hurt, guilt, loneliness, depression, and a hundred other emotions. Then there is forgiveness and finally peace. We're not all there yet, but we're working on it. Sometimes we think we are there and then there will be a setback, but I guess that's to be expected.

Every day there are reminders. All our cars sport orange and black magnet ribbons--reminders to "Slow for the Cone Zone." The buttons with Matt's picture that we received at the first safety stand down after his death are still displayed; one on the visor of my husband's car, and one in my office cubicle. Family pictures remind us of two things: (1) Matt was a member of our family group, and (2) every family picture taken from this point forward will be missing someone. An orange "Slow for the Cone Zone" wrist band adorns the gear shift in my husband's car. We wore them for a long time, but there is a time to move on.

Moving on means being able to think about Matt's life instead of his death. It means being able to forgive the driver who hit him at 70 mph on the exit. Moving on means being able to laugh at the silly things we remember about Matt. It means remembering the hugs, the smiles, the laughter, the teasing. Moving on is cooking the turkey neck during the holidays and then laughing because Matt was the only one who liked the neck. Moving on is being able to laugh about the Thanksgiving that we tortured Matt all day and worked him to death because he made a stupid remark about women belonging in the kitchen and men belonging in the "football room." Moving on is being able to eat green peas again without tears thinking about Matt's total disdain for peas.

Matt truly loved his family. He was a good husband, father, brother, and son. He wasn't a saint--he had his faults like the rest of us--but he was a kind, decent human being.

Every Friday Matt bought "Lunchables" as a special treat for his little girls. After his death the girls told us that as he packed their Lunchables, their Dad told them that he had a dangerous job. He wanted them to know that if he didn't come home someday, he would love them always.

Readers, please pay attention on the freeway to those men and women who keep our highways maintained, safe, landscaped, and clean. Take a minute to think about their families. Just like the rest of us, they want to go home to their spouses and children at the end of the day. Please, oh please, SLOW FOR THE CONE ZONE.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Think How Much Worse You'd Feel if You Were an Elephant

I've been ill the last couple of weeks, and at each stage of this bug I've been reminded of my Dad. Last week when I was using up a box of Kleenex, my Dad's voice popped into my head, "Think how bad you'd feel if you were an elephant." Later, as it moved into my chest and lungs, I heard him say, "Think how bad you'd feel if you were a gorilla." And then as it moved into my throat and neck, "Think how bad you'd feel if you were a giraffe."

Phase II hit last night. I could almost feel his left hand holding my stomach, and his right hand holding my head. And for just a tiny moment, I thought I heard Mom gagging in the background. Mom always had a weak stomach for such things. In the middle of the night I longed for the Lysol smell that used to linger as Dad disinfected everything in sight. I was too sick to do much disinfecting and was really missing someone to do it for me.

About 4:00 a.m., stretched out on the couch completely spent, Dad's favorite scriptures were playing in my head as if he were reading them to me himself -- and maybe he was. I also could hear him telling me, "Mind over matter." No matter how many years he studied the Book of Mormon, there was a part of him that was still Christian Scientist.

Tonight, as I'm trying to figure out what I should eat, I'm longing for Dad's homemade milkshakes. There was something magical about Dad's milkshakes that made everything feel better.

I can't help wondering what Dad's calling is on the other side of the veil. Nurse? Babysitter? Ice cream scooper? Compassionate service? All of the above?

Thanks for being there last night Dad.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sitting at the Feet of the Prophet

Twice a year like clockwork my soul is revitalized. It's like sitting in a hospital bed with an I.V. in my arm pumping nutrients to keep me alive. The first weekends in April and October LDS General Conference is held in Salt Lake City, Utah. I've actually only been in Salt Lake City for conference once, but we're living in the age of technology. Our meeting houses have satellite dishes. Conference is also broadcast on cable television networks, and it can be viewed on the internet. I'm fortunate enough to have satellite television and can watch it in my own home.

The prophet and the apostles, as well as other leaders of the church, speak to us. It's always amazing to me how inspiring conference is, and how it personally touches my life. It gives me the needed boost of energy to keep trying for the next six months until conference time rolls around again. I find myself waiting for the printed version of the talks in the church magazine, the Ensign, the following month so that I can read, ponder, and study the words again.

How fortunate I am to live in a time when it is so easy to sit at the prophet's feet and be taught of spiritual things!

As I watched conference this weekend, I wrote down things that personally touched me. Our beloved prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught that in order to understand the meaning of death, we must understand the purpose of life. He also said that we need to trust in the Lord. He wants us to re-read, study, and ponder the messages from conference. He asked us to look to the lighthouse of the Lord.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught that every person we meet is a V.I.P. to our Heavenly Father. Elder Quentin Cook taught that we should slow down, be quiet, ponder, and pray. Elder Hallstrom said that if we feel wronged we must never give up, but must turn to the Lord. He said never let an earthly experience disable you spiritually. Elder Neil Andersen reminded us to tell our children the stories of Jesus and to teach them the gospel. He said our challenge as parents is to fan the flames of their spiritual core (or glow--I'm not sure I caught the right word).

Elder L. Tom Perry said about ten different ways that parents are responsible for the education of their children and are commanded to bring up their children in truth and light. Elder Christopherson warned us not to fall into spiritual illiteracy because we don't open the books. He said our need for the scriptures is greater now than at any other time.

I have many other things written in my notes, but I think what I have written here gives a taste of the wonderful messages that were given.

If you'd like to "fill your lamp" or receive a spiritual shot in the arm, you can view the sessions of conference here:,5239,23-1-1207,00.html

You can also view the individual messages on YouTube here:

I pray that all will take advantage of the opportunity to sit at the feet of the prophet and apostles and be taught.