Monday, January 31, 2011

Moving Away From Home

Upon graduation from high school, I worked for a year in the offce at Breuner's Furniture in Reno, Nevada.  At the end of one year, I planned to go to Heald Business College in Sacramento.  It was a tough year for my folks.  Dad was sick, and the doctors were running endless tests to figure out what was wrong with him.  This was complicated by the fact that Dad was a Christian Scientist at heart (even though he'd joined the Mormon church years earlier), and when the doctors asked him how he was doing, he always said, "Fine."  Since Dad worked only on commissions, things were a little tight, and they borrowed money from me that year to make the house payment.

I assumed that I would be working a second year in order to be able to move to Sacramento, but that assumption was wrong.  Mom insisted that I pack my stuff and go register at Heald's.  Every time I asked her where the money was coming from, she just said, "Everything always comes out in the wash."

My hope chest (my kids called theirs "independence chests") was pretty complete by that time.  Mom told me I could have my bed.  The problem was that I could only fit so much in the car for the move.  I had a choice of my stereo and LARGE bean bag chair, or my mattress (bed to come later).  I wasn't leaving my stereo home, and I figured I could sleep in the bean bag chair until Dad's next business meeting in Sacramento when they could bring the mattress.

We had the trunk of Dad's car open a long time loading it, and we didn't realize the light bulb in the trunk was burning a hole in my brand new bed spread (that I could have left since I didn't have a bed).  Mom mended it before we left.  The trip to Sacramento was quite an experience, as I shared the back seat with the bean bag chair.  With every curve of the Sierra's, the beans shifted.  By the time we reached Sacramento, I was being smothered in a bean bag chair that refused to stay within the designated space.

My new roommate was from Susanville, California, and we had not met each other prior to the move.  We shared a one-bedroom apartment on I Street, just across the street from the back parking lot of Heald's Business College (which has since moved).

After I was all moved in, Mom went home and put the house up for sale.  If I had known that was how she was going to come up with the money for Heald's, I would not have gone.  I felt really horrible.  However, Mom always knew best.  They bought a double-wide mobile home out near Stead Airforce Base, and they loved living out there.   The mobile home had more cupboard and closet space than the house had!  After Heald's was paid for, Mom and Dad still owed me a little bit of money.  They paid me back after Danny and I were married.  It was just enough to buy our first couch (so we could get rid of the awful hide-a-bed someone had given us).

Mom did me a favor selling the house because I couldn't go "home."  I could go "visit," but my "home" had been sold.  I'm not sure if I would have had the gumption to stand on my own two feet if it hadn't been for that.  I worked very hard at Heald's.  I would not have been able to stomach disappointing Mom and Dad after they sold the house.

I know that Mom and Dad sold the house because it was the right thing for them too.  I know that now.  Dad was too ill for the upkeep on the house and yard.  At the mobile home, they landscaped with rocks, shrubs, and easy maintenance trees.  It was a good place for them to be until Dad passed away.  I'm glad I didn't figure that out until later, however.  I might not have worked so hard at Heald's, and I might not have stuck out the loneliness and homesickness that first year in Sacramento.  I'm also glad my mother knew it was time to kick me out of the nest.  My life would be very different now if she hadn't.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Can Dream, Can't I?

Everyone has to have a dream -- even if it is a crazy dream.  My Dad always wanted a yellow convertible.  I always thought that was a little crazy.

I never collected anything in my life until I hit my 50's, but now I collect milk glass, and I have quite a collection.  There is a budget involved, and I only buy things that have a useful purpose.  Unfortunately, there is one piece of milk glass that I have admired for a couple of years now, that is way over budget and has no useful purpose in my home whatsoever.  It's called a lavabo.  It's my understanding that a lavabo is used by priests to wash their hands prior to administering communion.  The owner of the lavabo below has made a planter out of it -- which wouldn't work for me -- one more thing to get dusty.

The going rate for a lavabo appears to be between $110 and $150.  Now, really, why do I want this silly thing?!  It makes no sense whatsoever!  I'm not usually a person who buys useless "things."  It's not in my makeup.  As a matter of fact, I'm known for my thrifty nature.  Okay, so I'm cheap.  Normally.  So why on earth does it drive me crazy that I don't have one of these?!  I wouldn't even have a place to put it!  Dad always said that if he had a yellow convertible that it would spoil the dream.  Sounds logical to me.  I'm going with that.

Picture from here:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Teach The Children

I went into my local fabric store this weekend to purchase three things:  fabric for new kitchen curtains, a curtain rod, and a spool of thread.  After standing in a rather long line to have the fabric cut, I found myself standing in a second long line at the checkout stand.  When it was finally my turn at the cash register, I placed my items on the counter and paid for them.  I wheeled my basket to the basket return, put on my coat, picked up my purchases and my purse, and walked out the first set of double doors to leave the store.

As I was standing in the alcove facing the second set of doors to the outside, a gentleman behind me asked me if I had left a spool of thread in the basket, and he handed me the thread.  I thanked him, and then said, "Oh, I'll bet that didn't get on the ticket."  He looked at me and said, "Well, you're home free now."  His wife gave a little giggle.  I stopped cold, and looked at him in amazement.  The man stood there with his wife, and a child in a stroller.  I was shocked at his attitude.  What is he teaching his child?  I turned around, went back in the store, and paid for the spool of thread.

This little family at the fabric store was what I would call an average American family.  They were clean, well dressed, and looked like the perfect little family.  Yet, something was obviously missing.  We seem to have a generation of parents who have no scruples.  This doesn't bode well for good parenting.  What are we teaching the children?!

When we purchased our home almost 34 years ago, there was an orange tree in the front yard.  We did not remove it, but have always been concerned about the liability of a child climbing the tree for an orange.  Our answer to keeping the tree was to train all the neighborhood children that if they waited until Thanksgiving weekend (when the oranges were marginally ripe), they could knock on our door, and we would give them all the oranges they wanted.  This kept them from climbing the tree, as well as teaching them to be honest and not steal the oranges.  As new families moved into the neighborhood, we found ourselves constantly "training."

One day my husband and I pulled the car out of our driveway and headed down the street.  In my rear view mirror, I noticed a young mother picking an orange off the tree for her son, who looked to be about 8 or 9 years old.  I put the car in reverse, and upon reaching my home, asked her not to pick the oranges.  The woman told me it was none of my business.  I told her it certainly was my business, since it was my tree.  Then I told her that she was teaching her child to steal.  I told her that we had always shared the oranges, but that the children needed to wait until at least Thanksgiving weekend so the oranges were somewhat ripe, and then knock on the door.  I explained that children needed to be taught honesty.   She looked somewhat chagrined.  I don't think she had even considered the fact that she was teaching her child to steal.

I hope that as my grandchildren watch the things that I do, they'll never see me do anything that is dishonest or shows bad character.  Sometimes we all need a reminder to live "in the world, but not of the world."  Just because everyone else appears to be doing something, doesn't mean that it is right.  As morals continue to decay, I hope we can stand up for what is right and continue to make good choices.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Being Independent & Self-Sufficient

I was a little bitty scrawny kid.  I couldn't have been more than about 4 years old.  Dad prided himself on always being prepared.  It irritated him when Mom drove around on an empty gas tank.  It double irritated him that despite her lack of preparedness, the only place she ever ran out of gas or had a flat tire was in front of the house.  (Later, when I was an adult, Mom actually had a car fire--in front of my house.)

My older siblings, Cheri and Rick, and I went with Dad to do a little shopping.  Among the purchases that day, was a long garden hose.  I don't know how many feet long it was, but we lived on a 1/4-acre lot, so the hose was pretty long.  Dad accidentally locked his keys in the car.  There was no way he was calling Mom to fess up.  No, sirree!  We were going to have some fun!  Over the years, when Dad said, "You kids want to have some fun?" we all should have run for our lives.  We must have been really stupid kids, because we never did.

Dad gave each of us something to carry, and we headed home.  I think it must have been at least five miles--bare minimum.  Remember, I was only about 4 years old--and tiny!  Dad gave me the garden hose to carry.  Yes, you heard that right.  Scrawny, sickly, little kid is carrying a garden hose long enough to water a 1/4-acre piece of property.  The more we walked, the farther I fell behind the pack.  At some point, Dad turned around to make sure we were all still together.  There I was, way in the back of the pack, dragging at least 50 feet of garden hose behind me.

As much teasing about that as I've received over the years, I learned something that day.  First, in a crisis, look within yourself and find the strength that is there.  Dad knew that we could make that walk.  He knew that even his scrawny little LaurieBee could do it.  Second, if Dad had faith in me, then I needed to have faith in myself.  I can do anything I set my mind to do.  Third, it doesn't hurt to be a little stubborn.  As a matter of fact, stubbornness can be an asset if channeled in the right direction.

Recently, I've watched people around me struggling.  We are in an economic mess that hasn't been seen since the great depression.  It is different from the great depression, but people are hurting just the same.  I've watched as some people buck up and find strength within themselves that they didn't know was there.  I've watched others nearly drown in despair.  I'm thankful that my parents were both a little stubborn--okay, a lot stubborn.  I'm eternally grateful that they taught me (or I inherited) this trait.  Being independent and self-sufficient is a marvelous thing.  As much as it sometimes irritates me, I'm glad that my children are stubborn.  Life may bloody them up a little and give them a few bruises, but they will survive.  They've learned that they can do anything they set their minds to do.  They just have to dig deep and find the strength that God gave them.

ADDENDUM:  For purposes of family history, there seems to be a discrepancy in the story.  As we grow older, memories fade and stories blur together.  Cheri remembers that it was Rick dragging the hose.  I remember dragging the hose, and Dad teasing me about it.  Maybe I helped Rick drag it for a while???  I have no explanation other than to say I was only about 4, so maybe Cheri's memory is better than mine on this.  This reminds me of the wringer washer that I was shocked on as a kid.  Mom told me I got a shock because it wasn't grounded.  I know it happened because I didn't know what the term "grounded" meant until many years later.  However, none of my three siblings ever remember Mom (or either of my grandmothers) owning a wringer washer.  It will remain a mystery -- but it did happen because Mom told me it wasn't "grounded."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Marriage Changes Over Time

Marriage changes over time.  The first 10 years are spent getting to know one another, your quirks, your idiosyncracies, and the "let's not go there" topics.  Children are usually thrown into the mix, which makes life interesting.  Somehow during those years you learn to stick together or the kids will sink the ship.

The next 10 years are spent trying to figure out how you got where you are, and whether you can weather the storm until the kids are gone.  "Endure 'till the end" is beginning to look like "Oh snap, what have we done?!"  This period usually has teenagers making life seem more complicated than you had ever imagined.

The third 10-year period is a time to "reassess" and set new goals.  It's a time to get to know one another all over again because you've spent so much time raising children that you've forgotten how to have a conversation that doesn't center around one of your children's problems.  It's a time to sit back and decide how the rest of your lives will be spent.

The fourth 10-year period brings so many changes.  For the first time in your married life, you can actually spend time together!  This brings adjustments, of course, but for the most part, it is a sweet period.  We are beginning the 5th year of this period.  One of us is retired, and the other one is not.  For a few more months, we still have our youngest child living at home -- though she doesn't spend much time there.  We hardly see ever see her.  We're looking at more adjustments over the next five years.  Will I still be working?  Full-time?  Part-time?  Will we serve a mission for our church?  Will we travel?  Will we still be in good health?  These are questions that will all be answered soon.  In the meantime, we cherish this time together.  We enjoy watching our adult children in their journeys, and we bond with our beautiful grandchildren.

I don't know what the fifth 10-year period will bring because we're not there yet, but I anticipate that it will be even sweeter than this time.  The chances are that one of us will probably be caring for the other one at some point.  That can be rather challenging, but I think it will also be a sweet time together.  Isn't that what love is all about?

I think Robert Browning said it best:

"Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made.
Our times are in His hand who saith,
'A whole I planned, youth shows but half;
Trust God:  See all, nor be afraid!'"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What Kind of Friend Am I?

It's only 11 days into the new year, and I am already soul searching and evaluating mistakes.  Someone who used to work with me passed away in December from a rare form of cancer, and I found out about it this morning.  He didn't develop cancer until after he left our place of employment.  I haven't seen this man since he left the workplace, but I have thought about him occasionally.

Unfortunately, this young man was very unhappy.  I tried to be a friend to him.  We often ate our lunch together in the break room.  I tried to brighten his unhappy outlook on life.  Nothing I did seemed to work.  He was intent on being unhappy, and always seeing black clouds instead of silver linings.  I felt sorry for him.

There came a day when I realized that trying to put a smile on his face was making me frown.  It seemed nothing I did or said made a difference in his life, but he was pulling me down.  So I began to find something else to do during my breaks, and someone else to be with during lunch.  He was a "drag," or a "downer."

He was 33 years old when he passed away.  I'm sad today.  I'm sad that he had an unhappy life -- or at least he couldn't share his happiness with others.  I'm sad that I gave up on friendship with him.  I shouldn't have done that.  I should have tried harder.  Maybe I should have shared with him how I was feeling about his attitude.  Maybe I could have found a way to make a difference.  Could I have brightened his time on this earth just a little?  Would that have been too great a sacrifice?  What more could I have done to help him?  What more could I have done to be a friend?

The truly haunting question is, where would I be if the Saviour ever gave up on me?  I'm sure I was a "drag," and a "downer," in the Garden of Gethsemane.  How many drops of blood did He sacrifice for me?  I'm guilty of giving up on one of Heavenly Father's children -- because it was easier than working with him to help him solve his problems.  What kind of Christian does that make me?  Not a very good one, I'm sure.

What will I do the next time someone passes through my life?  How will I respond?  Will I be a better friend?  Will I learn something from this experience?  I certainly hope so.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Forever Families

It is December 30th. My family is gathered at a restaurant for one last breakfast together prior to my oldest daughter, Molly, and her family departing for home after the Christmas holiday. I am holding my granddaughter, Jocelyn, in my arms one last time before they leave.

Jocelyn's adoption is not yet final, and she is still a foster child. While we anticipate that the adoption process will go smoothly, and she will at last be ours legally, it is always a little scary until the judge signs off on the final papers. We don't like to think about it, but anything could happen.

Each time Grandpa and I say goodbye to little Jocelyn, there is a twinge in the heart as we realize that if things don't go as planned, it could be the last time we see her. We have to say goodbye as if it were the last time. I whisper in her ear. Jocelyn, I will always love you, and you will always be my granddaughter. No matter what happens, I love you. I'm crying uncontrollably, now, and my kids notice. I have to get it together.

This challenge has been placed before us, I think, so that we can more fully appreciate temple sealings and eternal families. We look forward to the day when Jocelyn can be sealed to her family in the temple. What a glorious day that will be! That day when no one will ever have the power to separate us! In the meantime, we wait, we hope, we pray, and we depend on the system to do the right thing. The one thing we don't do is to withhold love from a child who so desperately needs love. We don't build any walls to protect our hearts. Jocelyn deserves every inch of our hearts, even if they break. We must continue to believe that there will be that day in the temple to seal her to us for time and all eternity.