Saturday, February 26, 2011

Nauvoo Retirement Trip

Kaylonnie Surviving the Cold in Nauvoo

Danny retired from Caltrans after 35 years working for the State of California in September, 2004.  Prior to his retirement, I began saving money for "the retirement trip."  I asked him where he wanted to go, and he said he wanted to go to the church history site at Nauvoo, Illinois.  Nauvoo was where members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) were driven from in the dead of winter to begin their trek west to the great Salt Lake Valley.  This was supposed to be sort of a second honeymoon for us, this little retirement trip.  The closer his retirement came, however, the more we realized what a great experience the trip to Nauvoo would be for our youngest daughter, who was in high school.  We decided to take her with us, and we saved a little longer.

In October, 2005, the three of us departed by airplane to St. Louis, Missouri, where we did a little sightseeing, rented a car, and drove to Nauvoo, Illinois.  We had a great time in St. Louis, saw the giant arch, as well as the outside of the St. Louis Temple.  The trip from St. Louis to Nauvoo, however, I was beginning to wish I could put a sock in my teenage daughter's mouth.  It was nonstop talking from St. Louis to Nauvoo.  Unfortunately, I lost my clip-on sunglasses somewhere and couldn't find any to fit my glasses until long after my light-sensitive eyes had given me a major headache--and the kid's nonstop mouth wasn't helping.

We were supposed to check in at the Nauvoo Motel by a certain time, and it became apparent that we were not going to make that deadline.  We stopped somewhere and called the motel to make sure they would hold our room.  The owners of the Nauvoo Motel also own the more pricey Nauvoo Hotel, which is where we were to pick up our keys.  The Nauvoo Hotel has quite a fancy buffet dinner in the evening, and the owners are busy there after a certain hour.  They were very sweet and told us they would put our keys in the mailbox, and we could pick them up there.  (You've got to love small towns!)

As we drove around the last curve in the road before Nauvoo, the Nauvoo Temple was in sight.  It was absolutely gorgeous!  It was all lit up, and the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen simply enveloped the temple!  None of the pictures we have, nor none of the postcards we bought due justice to that beautiful site, so I have not included a picture here.  Danny and I had the opportunity to attend the temple later in the week.

We drove into the parking lot of the Nauvoo Hotel to pick up our keys, and got out of the car.  I suddenly realized that for the first time in at least 12 hours, my lovely teenage daughter was silent.  I said, "What's wrong?"  (I mean, when the kid shuts up, there has to be something wrong, right?)  Almost in a whisper she said, "Mom, do you realize we could be walking where Joseph Smith walked?!"  That one moment in that parking lot was well worth making our second honeymoon a kid trip!  We took a couple of minutes in the parking lot and talked about many other early church members who walked the streets of Nauvoo, as well as Kaylonnie's fourth great-grandmother, Ingeborg Mortensen Jensen, who passed through Nauvoo on her way to the Salt Lake Valley from Denmark--a handcart pioneer.

We spent several days in Nauvoo, and we also made a trip to Carthage to see where the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, and Quincy, Illinois where the pioneers found brief refuge from their enemies.  Thank you, Quincy!

There were many special spiritual moments.  I think I'll never forget, walking the trail of tears--the street the saints walked down on their way to the river when they had to exit Nauvoo.  The three of us walked the trail of tears one evening on down to the Mississippi River.  We stopped at each marker and read the personal stories of some of those pioneers.  I would read until I would begin crying, and Kaylonnie would take over.  Then when she began crying, I would pick it up again.  Danny stood almost motionless as he would listen to us read those markers.  It had been very warm in Nauvoo until that evening.  The next morning we couldn't help going back to the Mississippi River on our way out of town.  It was so cold I thought our feet would freeze solid on the ground!  As we stood looking across the Mississippi River, we talked about the fact that it was much warmer that morning than it was for those first evacuees from Nauvoo.  We had much warmer clothing, and dry shoes.  I'm crying as I write this remembering the experience.

Our trip was not yet complete, however.  We realized that we had taken our other children to Salt Lake City, but we had never taken Kaylonnie.  Since she saw where it all began, she needed to see where the trek ended.  A couple of years later, we made that trip too.

Danny and I have since had several little trips on our own, but I'm so grateful that the Spirit guided us to take Kaylonnie with us on that trip to Nauvoo! My oldest daughter saw Nauvoo when she was in college in Missouri. Someday I hope our other two children will have that opportunity.
Danny and I in front of the St. Louis Temple

Kaylonnie, Danny, and Laurie at Seventy's Hall

Danny and Kaylonnie at Seventy's Hall

Danny and Kaylonnie - Quincy, Illinois

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Danny's Dog Curley

Danny has a heart of gold.  We all know that.  There are times, though, when we all just stand around shaking our heads at him.

We were looking for a dog to adopt from the pound.  I was working, so I sent Danny to scout out one of the local animal shelters to see if there was a dog that we might want to show the kids.  Danny called me at work and told me he found the perfect dog.  After work, Danny and I went to see the dog together.  I took one look at this cocker spaniel and said, "Danny, this is an OLD dog."  I asked the man at the animal shelter how old he was.  He told me he was 2-4 years old.  I said, "Yeah, right!"  He said, "Well, maybe 4-6."  Okay, so I'm not stupid.  This dog was 10 years old at least!  I talked Danny into going home to think about it. I told him that if he still felt the same way in the morning, we would take the kids to see the dog.

Danny didn't sleep all night.  He tossed and turned, absolutely positive that the dog would not be there the next morning.  (Like anyone else but Danny would adopt the grandfather of the shelter!)  It was obvious the next morning that Danny's heart would break if we didn't go get the dog.  So Curley became a member of our family.

Now, we've had some smart dogs and some not so smart dogs.  We've had well behaved dogs, and one that would hide behind the furniture, wait until a kid opened the front door, and then practically knock the kid down to get out the front door to go pall around with the mailman.  Then there was Curley.  Curley was the most good for nothing dog I've ever seen.  He ate.  He slept.  He laid on our feet.  He was always full of fleas -- thus we got to know our local pesticide people.  There was no amount of flea shampoo on the planet that would suffice for Curley!

Danny loved that dog!  To this day, none of us can figure out what the attraction was -- but it was love at first sight.  Danny did manage to redeem himself, though.  He picked out our current dog, Oreo, who is the smartest darn dog I've seen in years.  Since he was also a pound puppy, we're not quite sure, but we think he is a miniature border collie.

All I can say about Curley is that we gave him a good home for the home stretch.  Just call us the old folks home!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Depression Basket

Occasionally, I get a craving for grape juice or barbecue potato chips.  This is a life long craving.  It stems from my childhood of thrifty parents.  These must have been expensive items to purchase when I was a child, because no amount of asking Dad (who did the shopping) to buy them was ever successful.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the times that Dad brought home grape juice or barbecue potato chips.  I had to satisfy my occasional cravings by eating with neighborhood children.

Dad sold meat for Swift & Company for 19 1/2 years prior to going into the insurance business.  After he went into the insurance business, he had to get creative in purchasing inexpensive meat.  He knew all the butchers from his days with Swift.  He would talk to all of them and get the very best price on meat to be found.  If he found a really good deal, he bought in quantity.  I remember one summer he got a deal on chicken, and he filled the freezer.  Mom cooked chicken at least 100 different ways.  She was amazing!  However, the next summer he got a deal on hotdogs -- and then the manager at the insurance company he worked for gave him the unused hot dogs from the company picnic -- that was a different story!  There are only so many things you can do with a hot dog!

Dad bought mayonnaise, mustard, and catsup (ketchup, if you prefer) in gallon jars because it was cheaper that way.  At some point in my childhood, "generic" food became the new grocery store fad.  "Generic" food had a plain white label with black lettering so you didn't know what company put it out.  Some "generic" food was okay, but some of it was just putrid!  Dad found a sale on "generic" tuna fish one day and bought a ton of it.  It tasted like cat food.  Even Mom was shaking her head at him.

The grocery stores would put all the dented cans in a basket somewhere in the store.  Dad called that the depression basket.  He taught us that there is nothing wrong with buying dented cans.  He showed us how to test the cans by pushing on the top and bottom of the cans at the same time.  If there was no movement in the top or bottom, then the seal had not been broken.  However, if you could make the top or bottom of the can move up and down, the seal had been broken, and it was spoiled.  Dad delighted in shopping in the depression basket for bargains.

Occasionally, Dad would find unlabeled cans in the depression basket.  He would save them in the pantry until he had several of them.  Then we would have a "surprise" meal.  He would open all the unlabeled cans, and Mom would try to make a meal from whatever we found.

Coupons were always clipped, and always analyzed to see if the item was really a good deal compared to other cheaper brands.

When my kids were small, we made crock pot macaroni & cheese occasionally.  This happened because Dad would bring me ice chests full of depression basket cheese when they would come to visit from Reno.  We would take a potato peeler, peel the small areas of mold from the cheese, wrap it in plastic wrap, and freeze it.  We loved that cheese supply, because cheese was over our budget limit at the time.  Frozen cheese doesn't slice well, but the crumbly cheese still tastes the same on a sandwich.

I'm sipping on the last little bit of grape juice from the three bottles Danny brought home for my craving this week, and I'm thinking about Dad.  Somewhere in heaven there is a depression basket with grape juice and barbecue potato chips.  I hope Dad finds it so that he knows what he missed.  We never went hungry; Dad always could find the bargains.  I hope he now can eat a full Milky Way all by himself without cutting it in pieces and sharing it on a plate.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Looking Back

Reflection can be a good thing, and lately I've been doing a lot of looking back.  There are a lot of things I would have liked to do in this life, but my life sort of threw itself at me, and I took it as it came.  Looking back, it is actually more interesting than I realized.

Prior to marriage, I worked for a Workers' Compensation attorney (who later became a Workers' Compensation judge).  I also worked for an attorney who really pioneered products liability in California.  In that capacity, we worked with Ralph Nadar on a case or two, and I met him.  Little did I know the impact products liability would have in this country.  (I'm sure George Littlefield is rolling over in his grave at how it is being abused.)  I remember working on the Pinto case when we had an entire vehicle dismantled in the conference room.  We worked on getting manufacturers of children's pajamas to make them out of nonflammable material.  We got safety trip switches installed on space heaters.  I worked on the DES cases, which was a drug that was given to prevent miscarriage that caused the children to get cancer.

When my first child was born, I wanted to quit and be a stay-at-home mom.  George Littlefield was adamant that I take work home with me.  He sent me home with his books, and I kept his books for a couple of years.  Later, he told me to bring a playpen in the office, and do some "overload" typing.  When that no longer worked, he loaned me a typewriter and a transcriber, and told his favorite private investigator to hire me to transcribe reports.  I didn't realize until after George died what a great favor he did for me to keep my skills current.

As the kids grew older, I worked nights in law offices all over Sacramento doing overload typing and transcription.  I worked on a lot of very interesting cases.  The most long-term part-time job I had was for Gallawa, Brown & Kroesch.  I learned a lot about insurance defense there, and it was a good flexible job.  I worked 2 or 3 nights a week by myself after closing time.

The most fascinating job I had when the kids were growing up was transcribing parole hearings for life prisoners from my home.  My son was about nine years old, and he was mesmerized.  He would sit on my water bed and read over my shoulder.  Occasionally, I would let him listen with the headphones.  He was really too young to be reading some of this stuff, but I'm quite sure that's why he never joined a gang or took drugs.

One of the most memorable parole hearings was a woman who shot her husband execution style as he slept in bed.  The she rolled him off the bed onto a quilt, wrapped him in it, and dragged him to a cellar door in their closet where she dumped the body.  She left the house "on vacation" for six or eight weeks to let the smell dissipate, came home, and reported him missing.  Eventually, he was declared dead, and she remarried and had children.  At some point, her second husband discovered the body in the cellar, and the party was over.

There was a gang member who stabbed an 80-year-old woman 18 times as an "initiation" into the gang.  My son listened on the headphones to the victim's family testify at the parole hearing.

I also transcribed California Energy Commission hearings, California Building Standards Commission hearings, bankruptcy court hearings from Los Angeles, and some district court hearings from Hawaii.

When it came time to go back to work full time, I worked for Bill Kochenderfer.  At that time he was doing civil litigation and unlawful detainers.  He also managed six apartment complexes in the Fairfield and Suisun area.  He taught me how to take an unlawful detainer pretty much from start to finish -- except I never quite got down the final judgment.  I would try and try and finally put it in what he called my "too hard pile," until he could help me.  I also helped him with the quarterly reports to the property owners on the apartment complexes.  I LOVED that job!

The worst two years of my career were spent in a family law office.  I hated family law, and the working conditions were less than desirable.  'Nuff said.  That job did teach me never to take my marriage for granted, however.  I believe that's why I fell into that job.

Then came my stint as George Murphy's appellate secretary at Farmer, Murphy, et al., which later split into Murphy, Campbell, et al.  I loved that job, as well, and I learned so many things.  Each attorney in that office sort of had his/her own specialty, and as my responsibilities changed, I learned about construction law, real estate law, and typed coverage opinions for school districts and community college districts in California -- in addition to doing appellate briefs.

The last 3 1/2 years, I've worked at Pacific Legal Foundation, which is a nonprofit.  This has been a very exciting job for me.  I've worked on briefs for many courts in many different states.  There have been briefs in federal courts, state courts, and even the United States Supreme Court.  We fight for liberty and freedom, and defend the Constitution.  We fight for individual rights, property rights, and basically protect the little guy from big government.  Of all the jobs I've had, I feel this one is the most important -- and the job for which I'm most proud.

Well, I didn't start out to be a legal secretary.  I wanted to be a writer.  My Dad told me that writing was not a dignified enough profession for a lady.  Yes, I'm that old.  Times have changed.  Dad actually did me a favor, I think.  I've been able to help support my family quite well as a legal secretary.  Hopefully, along the way, I learned a few things that will help me later if I ever get around to writing the great American novel.  Who knows?  I'm not dead yet.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Time Changes How I Do Things

There was a time when I could answer the phone at work and upon hearing the voice on the other end, say, "Hello, Mr. 'X,' I'm sure you're looking for Mr. 'Y'; I'll connect you."  I would be able to recognize a voice after hearing it just once before.  Thank goodness, in my current position, I'm not forced to speak to people on the phone very much.  It's fortunate because I can only hear part of what people say on the phone.  If the person is calling from a cell phone, I catch about every third word and try to piece it together.

Attorneys used to say, "Do you remember a couple of years ago when you did such and such?  Do you remember what case that was?"  I'd be able to tell them, "Sure that was ABC, Inc.. v. DEF, LLC."  Today an attorney sent me and another legal secretary the following e-mail:  "I remember a while back, one of you transcribed something off of an audio, declared that it was true and correct, and we submitted it with a brief.  Do you call the case?"  My response:  "It was me. I'll think about it a minute and get back to you."  After a few minutes, I narrowed it down to two cases in my mind, and then I did some hunting on the hard drive and found it.  In all fairness, "a while back," turned out to be 11 months ago.  Okay, so that's not that long ago, but I'm 56 years old.  I came up with it eventually, so I guess the old girl still has a few brain cells left.  It does get a little frightening, however, that it takes me so long to be useful.

The trick is learning how to do things a little differently.  I was able to remember the case because I stalled for a few minutes to collect my thoughts.  I didn't allow myself to get rattled.  On those rare occasions when I do have to speak to someone on the phone, I make a point of speaking slowly.  I do that because most people will follow my lead and speak slowly in response, which gives me better odds at hearing each word as the person speaks.  If I have trouble, I just explain that my hearing is not what it used to be.  Almost everyone is understanding and makes a point to slow down and speak more clearly.

While time has changed how I do things, it hasn't changed my ability to actually do them.  I'm learning to adapt.  Since the piece of steel was placed in my ankle, I no longer run from my desk to the copy room when I'm copying and binding a brief on a deadline.  I've come to realize that it's my responsibility to do the best I can; but it is not my responsibility to make up for attorney procrastination.  It's taken me a 35-year career to be able to say that.  I can actually say it with no feelings of guilt, no feelings that I'm not reliable, and no feelings that I'm not a "team player."  Aren't you proud of me?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

He Took Pity On Me

I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my first child.  I was miserable.  My feet were swollen twice their normal size.  My back hurt so bad I thought I was going to die.  I was HUGE, and I felt like a baby elephant.  I was determined to work as long as possible because we needed the money, and because I didn't want to sit in the non-air conditioned home we had just purchased and stare at the many projects I needed to do, but was too pregnant to begin.

At the time, I was working in a 4-attorney office, and George Littlefield was the senior partner.  One day during a quiet lunch hour, I was so exhausted that I decided to take a 10-minute nap.  There was a couch in George's private office, and I curled up and went to sleep.  Unfortunately, I slept hard and woke up an hour and a half later.  To my horror, I discovered that George had tiptoed into his office, grabbed the project he was working on, and taken it to the conference room to work so that I could continue to sleep.  Obviously, I thanked him profusely through my embarrassment, but I was (and still am) quite touched that he took pity on me and was so compassionate.

We never know how long our little acts of kindness will be remembered.  I'm sure that in the hot summer of 1977, George wasn't thinking that I would still be touched in 2011, long after his death, from that little act of kindness.  As I go through this week, I'm going to think about George each day.  I'm going to seek to do little acts of kindness each day.