Monthly Archives: August 2009

An Older Woman’s Wisdom – Connie

This morning I was just going through my files, sorting through medical records, articles from magazines, love notes from my kids, birthday cards, catalogues and endless piles of scribbled notes.

Before I carried a journal EVERYWHERE I go, and I mean, EVERYWHERE, I filled manilla file folders with thoughts scribbled on napkins, scraps of paper, and paper ripped out of wire-bound notebooks. Now, I scribble the things I want to remember, adorable things my kids say and writing ideas in a heart-embossed journal that is always in my black vinyl ten-pounds-too-heavy purse.

I still don’t know how organized the journals will be, or how I will be able to find anything I scribbled between the red covers, but at least it’s a change in how I unorganize my life.
Today, I found a piece of paper I forgot I had. It instantly took me back years.
When we were still newlyweds and pregnant with our first child, we longed to have somewhere to spend Christmas vacation. A family we loved and admired, Connie and Al and their six kids, allowed us to join them in their family festivities. It was in their home I felt the first flutterings in my womb of our first child. After putting their kids to bed each night, we spent hours talking and asking questions about parenting.
Through the years we continued to spend time together, joining them for holidays and camping trips with our child, and then another, and another, until our family matched theirs in size. The years they invested in us, sharing and instructing about parenting has been a huge blessing.
I am so regretful that this in one of the only bits of Connie’s wisdom that I journaled.


The context is, of course, our children, and the challenge of parenting when you are frustrated, struggling, angry, overwhelmed or just plain tired.
The translation is as follows:

“Look into their eyes

and see a soul

that needs to be ministered to

in the love of God –

they are yours

to raise for the Lord.”
It shares the HOW and WHY and WHAT of parenting. What a blessing to find this scrap of paper in that messy manilla file.
I might have to write this in my journal.

My Life Has Become a Gameshow

Whether it is caused by the fact that I have six kids, have a daily amount of stress and chaos, am on artificial thyroid hormone after losing my thyroid to cancer, or am a natural blonde, I have a serious problem remembering things. Important things, like my kids’ names, my married name and anything I use on a daily basis can slip through my mind like water ……………

I read on an Internet forward that this disease, common primarily to women, has been duly dubbed the Noun Deficiency Disease.

One morning I was trying to tell my husband he needed to use a salve on a sore spot. Not recalling the name, I simply described it as “the stuff like Vaseline, but with medicine.”

With instant recognition, his eyes lit up. “Oh, do you mean Neosporin?” he laughed, waving his hands above his head like an excited game show winner. The game works with another adult. With children it is another matter.

While trying to find a missing item, I might not be able to remember the name of it, and what ensues is a combination of 20 Questions and Charades with my children.

“Has anybody seen that long, skinny yellow thing of mine? It was right there on there on the counter.”

If I don’t get any response, I add more detail.

“You know, it is poky on one end to write and squishy on the other end to erase.”

Even though it never seems to help, I repeat things with more animation, velocity and volume hoping to improve my chances of assistance. Ya’ know, same song, second verse, a little bit louder, a little bit worse?

“I know you have all seen it, it was right there. That yellow long yellow thing, who touched it?”

After the next 16 questions, interspersed with wild pointing and apt descriptions, someone will finally come up with the name of it. They offer the name in a voice tinged with pride and disdain, surprised that this woman, who ages daily before their very eyes, cannot remember the name of something as simple as a pencil. But, even though they know the NAME, nobody can ever remember which one of them touched it and where it might be.

However, despite the fact that they are all secretly convinced that they are far superior to their mother, they are the ones who absolutely cannot function in life unless the proper name is given to the item. I, at least, can function with a definition. No matter their supposed IQ level, they simply cannot grasp the concept of finding “my cutty things, you know those things for cutting fabric’ or “that plastic box we keep in the garage that keeps warm things warm and cold things cold” without having the absolute word given in Webster’s dictionary, even though I supplied a generous definition.

What further complicates matters is the fact that the contestants refuse to play the game just because they aren’t called by the correct name. If they were supposed to be called by a certain name, it would have been tatooed on their foreheads at birth. I figure if they are anywhere near me, they are obligated to be contestants in this Proper Noun Restoration Project. They have the audacity to be offended just because I try out three or four names, including those of their siblings, my siblings and past pets, until I hit on the right one.

I know that I could ask for my “thing that I ride with two wheels, and a seat, and you pedal it” and they all would be stumped. Only the 6 year old, if she is listening, might be able to shout out, “I know – it’s a bike!”

Then, and only then, can the next phase of the game show begin. The first phase is only to remember the name for Mom. The winners are then unwillingly shuffled into the next phases of discovering the actual intent of the charades in the first place….

” Who Touched It?” ….then,

” Why?”

My PENCIL! Where is my PENCIL?!?!?!?!?

Cell-Phone Life Coach for Poddy Training

Scott and I had been having a discussion about our older children and their respective life challenges. Our oldest was going through big life changes with their move to CA and her husband beginning school. The three middle kids are deciding on college, relationships, and finances. The youngest one is scraping her knees and losing teeth, and our second to youngest just became a teenager.
As we moaned over our parental role in these situations, Scott laughed in exasperation,

“Why did we think poddy training was so hard?”

A few days later I was enjoying a phone-a-thon with a close friend that has children the same ages as mine. She related some of the same challenges in parenting older children. I laughed at her unsolicited quip,

“I used to think poddy training was so hard.”

Ironically, I received the following phone call less than 48 hours later from my oldest daughter.

“Mom, poddy-training is NOT going well. I just don’t know what to do. Brookie peed everywhere yesterday but in the poddy. I have to do a load of laundry just to have some clean undies for her to wear tomorrow.”

While we talked, Brookie actually peed in the poddy and the phone was handed to her while she sat on her toddler throne.

I found myself squealing into the cell phone, “Oh, Brookie, Gramma loves you! Are you going pee-pee in the poddy? What a big girl! Are you wearing big girl panties?”

After I made all the appropriate cheers and affirmations to Brookie, I continued the conversation with her Mommy, giving her the appropriate cheers and affirmations.

I related stories of poddy-training, being open with my wins and regrets, but encouraged my daughter that it would only get better.

I finished by telling her the laughable irony of her phone call. I related the two poddy-training conversations with Jana, not to demean her struggle with getting the pee-pee and poo-poo in the poddy, but to acknowledge that for right now, poddy training IS the biggest thing in her life. It is huge. It is a daunting task. Motherhood is not for wimps, the posters and greeting cards like to remind us.

But poddy training is called training because it is just that – TRAINING. It isn’t just about training the kid to put bodily ickies where they can be flushed away and go bye-bye. It is about training the parents to be diligent, consistent, kind and encouraging as they train their child to perform a new task.
Poddy-training is as much about training the parents
as it is about training the child.
It paves the way for training in bigger, better and harder issues.

So, Jana and I each face our days with stamina and courage. She is wondering if Brookie will ever get her all her pee-pee and poo-poo in the poddy, and I am wondering how I can use my past experience to encourage myself in parenting older children.
After all, all six are poddy trained.
All six wipe themselves.
All six flush their own poddies, most of the time.

Now, if I can just get them to hang up a new roll of toilet paper.

Viet Nam Vets Traveling Wall

The traveling Viet Nam War Memorial came to the PNW last weekend.
 Even though we had just arrived home from Montana that afternoon,
we knew we needed to summon up the energy
to give our kids a lesson in life, war, loss and pain.

We casually touched weapons that had been hauled
through dark, bug-infested, enemy-hiding jungles.
Weapons that had to kill before the handler was killed.
We grieved for all that suffered during the Viet Nam War.
As these men were talking,
my heart rejoiced that they were alive and well.
I get angry beyond reason
when I read about the treatment of the vets,
when they finally returned home.
The war never really ended for them.
I wanted to throw my arms around the vets
and apologize for my country,
but instead, I shyly smiled and prayed for them as I passed by,
unable to express what was truly bursting in my heart and mind.


At times I felt I shouldn’t intrude in others’ grief.
These were their sons and daughters, their friends, their spouses.
I still cried,
even though the names didn’t belong to anybody we knew,
because I felt the pain all around me.
I really wanted to just throw myself down and sob out my heart,
but I didn’t.
I blinked back the tears, took pictures
 and tried to share with my children the passion I felt over this monument.


These men will never bring bouquets to wives, mothers, or sweethearts.
 Instead of life and love, these bouquets smell of sorrow and death.
They are brought because pain makes people want to DO something.

Instead of caressing loved ones’ faces,
fingers trace only their names
etched into black, cold, lifeless marble.
Yet, everyone is thankful,
wonderfully thankful,
grief-strickenly thankful,
that at least there is something of the loved ones to touch.
Even if it is just a name
…etched into




The shadows reflecting on the marble remind me
of the men and women who should be standing there.

They estimate 58,000 lives were lost during this War.
For each life lost, dozens back home suffered
wounded hearts, empty lives and endless pain.
As with every war,
the lost of these young lives
left holes in generations.
Kids grew up without daddies,
fiances were never married,
mothers and fathers never became grandparents.


I was a kid during this war.
My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hayes,
made us watch a documentary on the war.
I was acting up and complained so loudly,
she stopped the big-reeled machine and chewed me out.
She thought I should be paying attention because
these were AMERICAN young men, people’s neighbors, people’s sons.
I remember my initial embarrassment for being singled out,
then the shame of my indifference.
So, I share my passion and my compassion with my children,
hoping that they will be influenced, as I was,
to have an open heart and mind for those suffering around me.


This week, when I saw the picture of  Mary McHugh
weeping on the grave of her fiance in Arlington National Cemetary,
I wept over my computer.
We will have holes in this generation, too.
But, maybe, we as a nation, will welcome home the vets
 the way we should have in the 70’s.
The traveling, grim, marble memorial
should and can be the reminder we need
to keep history from repeating itself.
Welcome Home, Vets.


I can finally cross this project off my list of good intentions!

The original idea came from my daughter Jana’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Benson, but she used white frosting tubs. Each week they highlighted a letter of the alphabet and the kids brought items for the jar.

I loved the idea of having see-through jars, but if you have toddlers and glass isn’t an enticing idea for a manipulative, you might choose the plastic alternative.

I started with 26 baby food jars. Thanks, cutest granddaughter, Brookie!
I bought a can of gray spray paint ($3) and alphabet stickers ($5).
I can’t believe how expensive stickers are!
You could choose a cheaper option, but I loved that they were puffy, plasticy and bright.
I spray-painted the lids outside on a sheet of plastic.
One coat covered the colored caps well.

It dried in four hours.

Beka and I applied the lower case stickers to the lids

and uppercase stickers to the jars.

For her first grade phonics, Beka is excited to fill the jars
with little items that begin with the letter on the jar.
We began scouring the house today for tiny plastic animals,
monopoly movers, and scrabble letters.

Other ways to use the jars:

1.  Match the upper-case letters on the jars to the lower-case letters on the lids.
2.  Cut out alphabets words from magazines to put into each jar.
3.  Cut out pictures from magazines to put into each jar. You could choose a theme like animals or food.
4.  Use the jar lids to spell simple words.
5. Give the student an ending like “in”, “at” or “it” and have them choose the beginning consonants to form words.
6. Give them the beginning and ending consonant of a three letter word and have them fill in the correct vowel.
7.  Give them a beginning sound like “ba“, “pi”, “bi” and have them choose a final consonant to form a word.
8. Choose a letter and have your child choose the letter that comes after.
9. Choose a letter and have your child choose the letter that comes before.
10. Choose two letters and have your child choose the letter that comes in between.
How you would use the alphabet jars?

I’d love to have your input on this project!



part 2

Is Marysville, MT a GHOST Town?

Everyone, except the 83 Marysville residents, calls it a ghost town.
The residents are known for spouting, “It ain’t a ghost town until the last dog leaves.”

Tommy Cruse found gold here in 1876 and named his mine Drumlummon after his parish back in Ireland. About $30 million worth of gold and silver was mined out in about 30 years.

Another $20 million was mined in 12 other mines in a 12 mile square. I can do the math. That’s $50 million dollars.

But now, the buildings precariously hold each other up. The insides are filled with dangerous crumbling foundations, rotting floor boards, broken beer bottles and dangling wiring.

This car was parked off of Main Street. How do you just leave your car on main street so long tthat weeds  overtake the dashboard? Did someone just forget where they parked it?

Tommy Cruse named the town of Marysville after the first female resident, Mary Ralston. In the boom time of 1880’s and 90’s, the population grew to around 4,000 people.
Four miles below crest of continental divide, Lewis and Clark passed through this area on their famous cross-country trip. Too bad they didn’t stop and pick up a few gold nuggets. That would have kept the Congress from fussing at them for the expense of their trip.

Mom and Dad, husband Scott, brother Al
The attraction at the end of the 20 mile twisty and turny road from Helena isn’t just the buildings, it is the restaurant – Marysville House. It has a D- rating from the Better Business Bureaus website, but is really a local legend. There really isn’t a menu. You have four or five choices for your main course, two of them are steak. Your side dishes include a piece of corn on the cob that has been boiling all evening, a pile of baked beans that are smoky and spicy, and incredible sauteed mushrooms. The white buns mighta been from the day-old bakery.
When my husband ordered a salad the waitress snorted with redneck disdain and said, “We don’t DO salad.”
The service wasn’t really that great. Our waitress smiled once when she saw my Dad’s credit card coming out to pay.
We were sitting at unpainted picnic tables. Red and white checkered vinyl tablecloths, complete with holes and dirt etched into all the white squares, were the only color in the building. My brother was astounded at their decorating. I guess they hung a few pictures on the walls since he was there last. That isn’t wallpaper in the picture, it is names carved in every square inch of walls and ceiling.
When he further marveled that they now had a kitchen, I understood the BBB rating. They used to grill everything outside. How can the health deparment inspect a restaurant’s kitchen when they don’t really have one?
Notice the dishes? Yea, foam plates that fill up our landfills. We had real silverware, and after my brother carefully bent the tines into place, his fork worked pretty well. He figured a guest didn’t have a pocketknife and used it to etch names into the walls.
Notice the plate isn’t cut in half? That’s because this 24 ounce ribeye was one of the tenderest, juiciest, most delicious, tastiest steaks, “the ultimate in deliciousness,” according to my husband.
He has eaten a lot of steak from coast to coast.
When you bite into that big ol’ hunk of still bleeding cow, you forget the bent-tined, spotted fork that is guiding the meat into your mouth, you forget your elbows are rudely staked out on a rustic picnic table and you forget you were craving salad.
That’s why people continue to endure eating in primitive conditions; because they want to eat a really good steak and then go roast a marshmallow over the firepit for desert. Just like in the good ol’ days.
But, we didn’t pay in gold dust.

After the meal, a stroll through town helps digest the pound of meat you ate.

There is still the sound of children laughing and dogs barking, but the sounds echo down the empty streets and instead of being a presence, it is a blatant reminder of absence.
Money usually leaves a lasting impression. Monuments are built. Impressive and enduring buildings are created with such ornate touches that generations continue to marvel at the grandeur. In Marysville, there is nothing left of the $50 million but the memories, the stories, the crumbling facades and the gold fever that still lingers in a few hearts.

I marveled at the complete loss of prosperity and life.

As our feet scuffled through the dusty streets and we began to shiver in the evening shadows dancing on the ghostly buildings, my heart wondered about those people of long ago.
Did they use their money to buy the ranch they had been dreaming about? Did they send it to bring their families from back East? Or, did they drink and gamble it away in the saloons? Did the wealth make them or break them?
Riches can bring snares to the soul. Rich people aren’t always happy people. Rich people don’t always have good relationships. Rich people can trust in themselves and their wealth and not in the God, the creator who put the veins of gold and silver in the earth.
Is it a sin to be rich? Is it a sin to discover the mother lode of gold? No. The LOVE of money is the root of all evil, not money.
The Biblical patriarch , Job, understood the error of putting trust in earthly riches and not in the Lord.
Job 31:24, “If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, you are my confidence;
verse 28 This also were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.”

Solomon, the richest man in the Bible, also understood the place gold and silver should have in lives of men.

Proverbs 16:16, “How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!”

Did those people that thronged the town of Marysville over 100 years ago have wisdom and understanding of the Savior? Or did they just have gold and silver?
Then, I turned introspective. Will my life be best represented by a deserted, dilapidated building or by an ornamental, enduring edifice?

“Only one life,
will soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ
will last.”

Them’s Fighting Words!

At a busy intersection in Helena, Montana, I found myself stopped behind this Honda at a red light.

I gasped outloud.

I had never been so offended by a license plate frame in my whole life.

I couldn’t believe they would even SELL such a license frame to ANYONE…

….except me.

While I was fuming, my teenagers were challenging me. Actually, more like double-dog-daring me.

“Mom, I dare you to go knock on her window and demand to see pics of HER grandkids.”

“Yea, Mom, I think you should just walk up to her and tell her how wrong she is.”

“Too bad you don’t have pictures to prove how wrong she is.”

Yea, speaking of pictures, what kinda’ gramma am I? They were taunting me because I don’t carry any pictures of the grandkids. I don’t even carry pictures of my kids. I don’t even carry a picture of my husband. However, I do carry my computer almost everywhere I go and I have have filled my 140 GB hard-drive with pics. Thousands of pictures, to be exact.

If the light hadn’t turned green so quickly, I could have shown her these thousands pics of Brookelyn and Brayden, my little bundles of blog material, being naughty, nice and just plain cute.

Cuter, in fact, than her grandkids.

I’m not kidding.

I double-d0g-dare-ya’ to prove me wrong.