Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Teapot

I can't look at a teapot without remembering the smell of firewood, hearing the crackling of a wood stove, and feeling a chill in the air.

My grandfather built a little one-room cabin in the mountains where his grandchildren could play in the summer.  Evenings were often chilly.  Mom would delegate one of us to bring in a supply of wood from the wood pile, and she would light the wood stove. The wood stove heated the water in the water tank, but it was a small tank and there were always lots of children to bathe.  So the old silver teapot sat on the back of the wood stove to heat water to put in the washtub to bathe children.

Mom was very modest, so a shower curtain was carefully hung around the washtub.  I hated that shower curtain.  There is nothing as shocking to the system as the wind whipping a cold wet piece of plastic against your backside.

Babies were bathed in the kitchen sink with nice warm water.  My father loved to watch babies get bathed.  He would turn on the cold water faucet to barely a drip and watch the babies play with that cold water drip.  He would chuckle and giggle, and the babies loved it.

I can still see the flicker of the fire on the wall of the cabin.  The walls were rough unfinished boards.  I can hear the roar of the fire in my ears.  I can hear Mom saying, "Somebody better go put the water pipe back in the water box before this water heater is a missile."  My grandfather built his own water system with a box in the creek (or "crick") that had screens filtering the water.  It was pure genius except the deer often pulled the water pipe out of the box as they crossed the "crick."  If there wasn't water flowing into the water heater, then the wood stove was making it's own bomb. Countless times I put my boots on, grabbed a flashlight, and headed for the water box to shove the pipe back in the box.

Bath time was always the prelude for our nightly game of hearts. No one plays hearts dirtier than my family!  Laughter echoed through the canyon often until way past all our bedtimes.  We taught my little sister how to play solitaire when she was about four years old so that she wouldn't be in our hair for the heart games.

All those memories--and more--flash through my head at the sight of a teapot.  Teapots are a warm reminder of a very lovely childhood.

Mystery Morning

There's something about a foggy morning.  It puts me in a different sort of mood.  I wouldn't say it's a magical mood--more like mysterious.  It's the kind of mood that makes me wonder what's around the corner waiting to jump out at me and say, "Hey, I'm here."  It's the kind of mood that makes me want to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book.  Peaceful, yet mysterious.

There's something hanging in the air.  I feel it right around the corner, yet I can't reach it.  I can't see it, but I can feel it.  It's exciting, yet joyful.  There's a curiosity or a wonder about the day ahead.  Do I walk outside and feel the mist on my face?  Do I watch from the window and enjoy the warmth of my afghan?  Fog is quiet like snow--yet different.  Fog stirs my soul.

The occasional foggy day is just wondrous!  Too many days of fog will depress me.  Apparently, my soul also needs sunshine.  How can something so glorious lead me into depression after many days?  I don't know, but I'll figure that out some other time because this is the occasional wondrous foggy day!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tatting Isn't for the Faint of Heart

(Picture from here.)

All my life I've wanted to learn how to tat.  It is really a lost art. My grandfather tatted baby clothes for my mother when she was a baby, and it was beautiful work!  My husband has a cousin who tats, but Idaho is too far to go for her to teach me.

A couple of years ago, I found an older woman in our ward (church congregation) who tats.  Now that I'm not working, I finally have the time to learn.  I spent two hours the other day with her for my first tatting lesson.  I was thrilled that she was willing to teach me.  She is blind, which makes it even more intimidating for me -- if she can do it without sight, I should be able to do this.  Right???

This is not easy stuff!  After 1 1/2 hours working with tatting thread (which is very fine), she told me that I needed to go home and practice on bigger thread.  I pulled out some crochet thread which is much larger, and I've been practicing all week with that. Once I figured out how to do the stitches, it was a matter of perfecting  the stitches so they are even and pretty.  Tonight I went back to the tatting thread.  I'm getting it -- but this is going to be a LOT of work!

May I just say that this would have been easier had I learned how to do this before arthritis set in?  My fingers don't bend the way they used to, and they cramp up too!

I will do this!  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!  Toot! Toot!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Doomed to Be Last

When I married a man 12 years older than me, I assumed he would be passing first, and I learned to live with that.  I wasn't too surprised that most of our friends turned out to be older than me. Indeed, I was always the baby.

We moved into a neighborhood of mostly elderly people, and I became accustomed to lots of parental advice and counsel.  It was good.  I needed that counsel.  Our ward (church congregation) was made up of elderly folks too.  Again, I was the baby with lots of loving arms to pull me up when I was drowning -- and it was good.

Many years have passed, and the demographics are changing. One by one, my friends are moving on to greener pastures.

We attended the funeral this morning for the last of our "parental" neighbors.  We didn't go to the cemetery, as I told my husband I needed to go to a "happy" place.  Happy to my husband means food, so we ended up at the closest fast food restaurant.  We had only been sitting for a moment when a friend came in and stopped by our table to chat.  I told her we had just been to a funeral and needed a "happy" place.  She said she needed a "happy" place too, since she had just learned that a mutual friend was now in hospice care.  So much for happy.

While it really helps for me to know the plan of salvation, it is sometimes a little depressing to watch your friends dropping like flies.  I knew when I married Danny that there was a good chance I would outlive him, but I hadn't counted on outliving all my friends, as well.  The last couple of years, we've lost some very dear friends.  I'm either going to have to hunt for some younger friends, or I'm going to be an awfully lonely old lady.  Then again, my family line dies out pretty young.  I've already outlived a younger cousin.  This could be my excuse for eating chocolate, drinking soda, and not exercising.  Dying young may not be such a bad thing.  Enduring to the end may be fine--unless you're alone.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Moot Court Meets Mice

Back in the days when I worked part-time in law offices in the evenings to help with the family finances, I became quite creative to bring in a little extra money.  Sometimes it meant doing things that I didn't like to do.  Okay, folks, get your minds out of the gutter.  I'm talking about moot court briefs.  Once a year, McGeorge Law School held moot court for law students.  It was a great exercise in "how to be a lawyer," as opposed to "this is the law."  As much as I love the "how to be a lawyer" concept and think there should be much more of that happening, McGeorge has discontinued moot court--which is actually okay for me since I no longer get wrangled into typing moot court briefs for law students. Trust me, it wasn't worth the tiny amount of money law students could afford to pay me--but I needed the money at the time.

One particular law student, Terry, was a great guy.  He was our LDS home teacher.  His wife, Marilyn, and I were good friends and our children were good friends.  We used to exchange babysitting from time to time.  Marilyn and I were pregnant at the same time once and had our babies on the same day, in the same hospital, and had hospital rooms next door to each other.

Law students were teamed up with a partner for moot court. Terry was very organized and prepared, but his partner was as scatterbrained as they get.  He had no idea what he was doing.  I had received permission from the law office where I worked part-time to use their office one evening to type Terry's moot court brief. Terry and his partner met me at the office after the office closed, and we went to work.  Well, Terry and I went to work. Terry's partner spun his wheels--forever.

At the time, I was used to leaving the office around 9:00 p.m. Everything was always quiet when I left; no problems.  I had no idea that about 10:00 p.m. the mice came out to play.  Now, I'm not talking about a mouse.  I'm not talking about a family of mice. I'm talking about 25 or 30 mice--at least.  The mice literally played at our feet all night while we worked on the moot court brief.  It didn't bother me that much because I had grown up going to our family cabin in the mountains where mice were a constant battle. Terry, on the other hand, was quite bothered.  The more drafts his partner produced, the more angry he became at his partner. Terry kept apologizing to me, but about 2:30 a.m., he almost decked his partner.  I managed to get them both calmed down, and we finished about 3:00 a.m.  It was not the best moot court brief I ever read, but it must have been okay because Terry graduated from McGeorge and passed the bar exam on his first try.

I've often wondered how many more drafts of that moot court brief would have been produced if Terry hadn't gotten tired of mice crawling between his feet!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Our 92-year-old neighbor, Ruth, passed away.  Just before Christmas she was taken to the hospital by the paramedics.  She didn't want to go, so she took a swing at one of them and bloodied his nose (a girl after my own heart).  She came home after a couple of days and was home for Christmas.  Shortly after Christmas she took her second trip the hospital, but after a couple of days they sent her home.  There was nothing else they could do for her.

Ruth has a large family, and the last couple of weeks they have all come to see her.  My husband went over and said his goodbyes, as well.  Goodbye is something I don't do well.  I worked up the courage twice.  The first time I looked out the window and saw a whole lot of cars, so I knew there was a lot of family over there.  I didn't go.  The second time I saw her son's bicycle on her lawn.  I knew he had not yet had a chance to say goodbye, so I didn't want to intrude.  I was never able to work up the courage again. I was afraid I would cry in front of her, and I didn't want to do that.

Ruth was a good lady.  She was a little Catholic lady who went to church every day while she was able to do so.  The other day we found out from her daughter that Ruth used to pray for us.  I was quite touched by that.  There must be a special place in heaven for people who pray for the likes of me.  I didn't deserve this sweet lady's prayers.

Ruth and Raymond (who passed a number of years ago) were good neighbors.  We've had a lot of good neighbors.  We moved into the neighborhood as youngsters, really--the neighborhood rookies, if you will.  Our neighbors took care of us.  There was endless advice given about how to take care of our home and how to repair things that broke.  There were cans of paint that suddenly appeared from garages.  Tools were loaned.  If we began a house repair job of any kind, we could be sure that Raymond, Harry, and Shorty would have their heads together in Harry's driveway deciding if there was an easier way to do it, and whether they should step in and help.  Raymond and Harry each lifted several of my children through the bathroom window on numerous occasions to unlock the bathroom door when someone accidentally locked themselves in the bathroom.  After the addition to our home was built, there was no longer a bathroom window.  The inevitable day came when our youngest locked herself in the bathroom.  The kid panicked and was hysterical.  (I never want to be in an emergency situation with this kid!)  Raymond broke down the bathroom door for me.

When my first two children were little, Ruth was providing day care for her grandson.  He was older than my kids.  My oldest, Molly, would sit on the curb with her little red wagon with her head on her knees because she didn't have anyone to play with.  Ruth's grandson would come across the street, pick Molly up and put her in the wagon, and pull her up and down the street.  I suspect that was Ruth's idea.  My kids grew to love Ruth's grandson, and they were often in Ruth's home playing.  I never had to worry about them when they were with Ruth.

It occurred to me this morning that all the old neighbors are now gone.  We are no longer the rookies.  It made me look at what kind of neighbor I am.  My husband is a good neighbor, but I guess I need to step it up a notch.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Communication Is Key

My husband and I went for a short drive the other day.  He had a prescription to pick up, and I had a couple of letters to mail.  We picked up the prescription first.  I was driving, and I thought he might want to go for a ride or do something else after we went to the post office, so I asked him which post office he wanted me to head toward.

For 35 years, he has referred to the post office on Broadway as the Broadway Post Office.  He has also referred to the post office on 35th Street and 5th Avenue as the 35th Street Post Office. For the benefit of readers who are not local, the 35th Street post office is also not far from Broadway--shall we say "off Broadway." Tee-hee.  But it is NOT, I repeat, NOT ON BROADWAY!

So he answered my question, "Broadway."  I may be mistaken, but after 35 years, I think it was entirely logical for me to assume that he meant he wanted to go to the Broadway Post Office--meaning the post office on Broadway, right?  Communication (or lack of it) is key here.

He said something about which exit he wanted me to take, and I said, "I thought you wanted to go to the Broadway Post Office?" Big mistake.  Apparently, I'm the most stupid person in the world because I didn't know that the Broadway Post Office is now the 35th Street Post Office.  After 35 years, he's decided to rename the post office on 35th Street.

There are few things in this life that will make my blood boil faster than someone talking to me like I'm stupid. After 35 years, one would think that my husband would have learned that.  He doesn't do it very often, but when he does, the powers of hell descend upon him.  Since my letters don't have to be mailed until the end of the month, I took the 12th Street exit and headed home.  I went in my office, closed the door (which I almost never do), and totally ignored him the rest of the day.

No, I didn't go to college, but when you say to me the Broadway Post Office, I'm going to logically assume that you mean the post office on Broadway.  If you change your mind after 35 years as to what you will call something, then you'd better communicate that information to me.  That is all.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shattered Glass

The night before Dad died I was looking for his Bible.  I was surprised that it wasn't on the back of the toilet, because that is where I had last seen it.  I knew it wouldn't be far, so I looked on his desk.  When it wasn't there, I opened the cupboard door above his desk and saw it sitting right in front.  I'm only 5'1" tall, which is often a problem for reaching things from cupboards.  So until three years ago when I fell down a flight of stairs and had a metal plate put in my ankle, I was in the habit of climbing like a monkey.

It seemed so easy.  I'd done this kind of stuff thousands of times. Without giving it a second thought (yeah, I know, that's always my problem), I pulled out the chair, stood on it, and leaned my right knee on the desk as I reached for the Bible in the cupboard. Glass shattered under my knee.  I don't know why it never occurred to me that the glass surface on the desk would break. Dad always kept a flat glass top on his desk so that he could put pictures and his favorite quotations underneath.  It was my "Oh Crap" moment of a very long day.

The next morning, the decision was made to remove the breathing tubes, discontinue all medication (other than for pain, if needed), and say our goodbyes.  We all met at the hospital.  Laughter has always been part of any family gathering, and this was a moment that definitely needed an ice breaker and a little laughter.  I'm not exactly sure who said what, but somehow it came out that I'd broken the glass on Dad's desk, and someone said, "I told Laurie you'd be mad!"  Dad laughed.  We all laughed, including Dad's nurse.  Then we went about the business of letting my Dad pass through the veil.  My sister, Colleen, read Dad's favorite Bible scriptures to him, and I read his favorite Book of Mormon scriptures to him -- or it could have been in reverse, I'm not sure. At any rate, we traded back and forth.  Dad listened to us read for a long time, and seemed to receive comfort from the scriptures.

I don't know why I went looking for his Bible that night, but I'm glad I did.  I've thought about that shattered glass many times over the last 26 years.  As much as I regretted breaking it at the time, I think it was supposed to break that night.  We needed something to laugh about, and the glass provided it (at my expense, of course).  I sure hope there is laughter on the other side of the veil.  If not, the Janes family is in an awful lot of trouble!  Whatever will we do with ourselves!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Grief and The Plan of Salvation

We all grieve in different ways.  I'm old enough now to have dealt with grief on multiple occasions.  There is no right way or wrong way to grieve.  A person can deal with grief one way one time and then completely different the next time.  I have made some observations over the years, and for what it's worth I'm putting my thoughts down in case it might help someone.  Disclaimer:  I am not a grief counselor, nor do I have any training on the subject.  These are just my own observations from my personal experiences.

My first observation is that those people who have a knowledge of the plan of salvation seem to have a much easier time dealing with the death of a loved one.  A great lesson on the plan of salvation can be found here.  It explains the premortal existence, mortal life, and life after death.  There is great peace in understanding that Heavenly Father's plan includes death, but also includes the reunification of families for eternity.  What greater blessing can be given than the gift of living with our families after this life?  Knowledge of the plan of salvation is key to finding peace quickly at the death of a loved one.

Second, children need a chance to vocalize their grief.  So often we try to shelter children from hurt they need to feel.  As a child, my parents kept me away from my paternal grandmother's funeral because they felt I was too young to attend.  It wasn't until after the wake on the long drive home when it finally hit me that I wasn't going to see my grandmother again in this life.  Dad had to stop the car and talk to me.

Several years later, when my maternal grandfather passed, I asked my parents to go to the viewing prior to the funeral.  My parents had not planned on going themselves and were just planning to attend the funeral.  They talked about it in light of the first experience, and it was decided that my father should take me to the viewing.  It was a life changing experience for me.  I looked at the body in the casket, reached out my hand and touched the body and said, "He's not there."  Dad was surprised at my ability to realize that, and he confirmed to me that I was right.  We then read the 23rd Psalm together that was framed on the wall.  At this time we were not yet members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so our knowledge of the plan of salvation was limited.  It was very important, however, that I was able to discern the difference between a body and a spirit.

Having said all this, each child deals with death differently, and I absolutely do not agree with forcing a child to attend a funeral or a viewing.  I'm also not a fan of expecting that all the adults in the family attend a funeral or a viewing.  Funerals are for the living if it helps, but not everyone can cope with attending, and I think we need to be respectful of that.

Third, there are phases in the grief process.  What one is feeling today may not necessarily be what one is feeling tomorrow.  There are many emotions that are tangled in grieving -- shock, sadness, anger, hurt, loss, depression, guilt, joy (yes, I really said joy), and much more.  Joy can be felt when thinking about the great reunion that the loved one is having with family and friends who have passed on previously.  Joy can also be felt when thinking about a future time when you will be reunited with the loved one who has passed.  Conflicting emotions can be felt at the same time.  Joy and loss, for instance, are often felt at the same time.  Sometimes the cycle of emotions can be repeated several times.

Fourth, it is necessary to forgive before one can move on.  Sometimes we can be angry at a loved one for leaving us behind.  We might be angry at another person who might have caused an accident.  We might be angry at ourselves for not expressing enough love prior to the death of a loved one.  We might be angry with God.  Forgiveness is imperative in order to have closure.  In the case of anger against God, knowledge that death is part of God's original plan in order to live with Him and our families for eternity can bring great peace.

We can grieve differently each time.  In July, 1985, my father passed.  I grieved with painting supplies.  I painted the entire inside of my house, then moved outside.  I painted the cement on the patio, walkways, and the front porch.  When there was absolutely nothing left to paint, I went to the legal office where I was working part-time in the evenings.  I worked late into the night so that I couldn't think about it.  Then one night on the way home from the office a song came on the radio that was special to Dad and me.  I pulled off on an exit, got out of my car, slammed the door so hard that I actually sprung the door, leaned on the hood of the car and just sobbed.  I had a beautiful spiritual experience at that point which I won't go into here.  After that, I was okay.  I was able to move on.

In December, 2007, my stepson was killed in a tragic Caltrans accident.  The family situation at the time was such that I felt I had to "keep it together."  I kept it together and spoke at the funeral.  I kept it together and testified before the California legislature to help pass the "move over" law.  I kept it together for a full year waiting for the Highway Patrol report to come out.  I kept it together to read and summarize the report so that other family members didn't have to read it.  I shed a few tears off and on, but basically I kept it together for three years -- and then I fell apart at the seams.  I don't remember what triggered it, but I do remember that unfortunately I was at work when it happened.  I don't recommend that form of grief, by the way.  I think I did much better with a paint roller.

However we grieve, it is important to remember that it is a process, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.  It is also very important to let others go through the process in their own way.

Extra Tips Learned from the Highway Patrol Chaplain:  It is important to drink lots of water and eat lots of fruit during the grief process as the body dehydrates.  This is especially important in the days prior to the funeral so that it is easier to get through the funeral.  It works.  Really.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tear Down That Wall

Someone on social media asked people to share the most important or valuable lesson they have learned in their lifetime.  This was my answer:
"I've learned many valuable lessons, but the one that hits me right now is that building brick walls around myself doesn't protect me; it makes me lonely. Every brick I tear down lets love trickle inside my circle. If I tear down enough bricks, the dam breaks and I'm swallowed in love."
My whole life I've been told how "tough" I am and that I am "rough around the edges."  Those who really know me understand the fallacy in those statements.  I'm not tough at all; just scared. Fear has always permeated my existence.  Fear of acceptance, mostly.  I was not accepted by my peers as a child, and I was a "square" as a teenager.  So I built a wall.  I built a wall so thick, tall, and strong that seemingly nothing could penetrate it.  Then my husband came along.  Danny is nothing if not persistent.  After he proposed to me, I gave him the ring back three times.  Try as I might, I couldn't shake him.  He was like a pit bull after the kill -- except he had a gentle heart.  By the time we were married, I'd dropped a few bricks.

Children came along, and many more bricks were dropped.  I loved those babies.  As they got older, they had needs.  They needed a Camp Fire leader.  They needed someone on the candy committee and other committees.  They needed an area candy chair.  This was way out of my comfort zone, but I dropped more bricks in order to meet their needs.  As bricks fell and broke, I found love and friendship with people I dealt with in Camp Fire.

Lovely little children grew into teenagers who seemed to instinctively know where all the old wounds were.  Bricks began to build again.  One at a time they went up.  This time the wall was higher and fortified.  Guards were placed at all gateways.  No one was ever going to hurt me again -- or so I thought.

A difficult "calling" came in church.  The Bishop called me to be Relief Society President (head of the women's organization) for the congregation.  I was stunned.  I spent the first year trying to do the job with the wall still in place.  It didn't work.  The next 2 1/2 years, the wall began to come down again, one little brick at a time.  I learned to love the sisters I served -- something I never thought would happen because I've always worked much better with men than with women.

I was released from that calling a little more than a year ago.  I removed myself from everyone I had been dealing with and buried my head in the sand.  The wall was mostly down, and I felt vulnerable.  If I hid myself away, maybe I wouldn't get hurt.  Hurt comes from lots of sources.  It came.

This time I discovered something.  Hurt is a part of life.  It's unavoidable.  I finally understand that love sometimes hurts.  I'm trying to keep the wall down.  It's not easy.  When the pain comes, I want to go right back out there and build those bricks. Then I remember those little moments of love when the wall fell.

So I'm trying.  Be patient with me.  Be kind.  I'm not the tough guy everyone thinks I am.  On the contrary, I break easily.  This was not an easy blog post to write.  I'm vulnerable.  The wall is down.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Aromatic Memories

Margaret and Dick Janes
Few things muster childhood memories like the smell of a good roast saturated deep with garlic.  This evening I put a roast and potatoes in the oven, charging my husband with keeping an eye on things while I took a short snooze in my chair.  I awoke to an aroma which permeated every square inch of our home.  In my groggy state, I was immediately taken to a time long ago when my mother concocted delightful meals from her kitchen as I watched icicles form outside the living room window.

Mom was a good cook.  There was nothing gourmet or exotic about her cooking, but she had a knack for taking the simplest meal and making it delectable.  Dad sold meat for Swift & Company for many years, and he did the grocery shopping.  Long after he changed careers, he used his knowledge of meat and his natural thriftiness to find the most flavorful cuts of meat at really good prices.  They were quite a team, Mom and Dad.

As I sat in my chair collecting my senses, feeling the warmth of the oven fill our previously chilly home, I could almost hear the laughter coming from Mom's kitchen of long ago.  Tennis balls bounced down the long hallway for the dog to chase.  Business decisions were discussed.  Teasing was a constant.  Music was never far away.  TV westerns were never ending.  Political discussions became teaching opportunities.  All this seemed to be done with garlic wafting through the air.  Money was never plentiful in my parents' home, but Mom could make anything she cooked smell like a piece of heaven!

I'm warm tonight.  My home is warm from the additional heat of the oven, yes, but it has more to do with the warmth being generated from my soul.  I was so blessed to have loving parents who provided me with an environment where I could thrive.  I'm blessed that I can still vividly feel that love slash through time itself.  I'm grateful for that nap in my chair, and for slowly coming to a conscious state while feeling that love once again.