Indian Paintbrush

I am angry. Spread out like an old fly on a dissecting table, unable to move up or down. I am furious at the girls, especially my teenage daughter Diana. If it were not for them, I would not be stretched out on this rocky slope, with the rocks sliding beneath me, and the birds—are they vultures? —circling overhead. Voices from my childhood echo in my mind: “You’re so pathetic. I don’t know why you tried to climb that high.” “You’ll never make it all the way to the top.”

“Are you all right, Beth?” Anne, another girls’ camp leader, calls as she watches me warily from her more solid perch.

“I’m okay,” I call back as I work my way toward her. The rocks scrape my leg, burning and stinging like fire ants. What else can I say? She can’t come back for me. I must get out of this myself. I finally get off the shale face.

I finally reach Anne and I am so glad to be reunited again. Anne is a friend, neighbor, and fellow camp leader and I appreciate her encouragement. Here on the trail, it isn’t as steep, but there is not much to hold on to. This trail is dirt, with tall yellow grasses along the way. The rocks seem solid until you step, or kneel on them, then they slide away. Occasionally you’ll get some lonely scrub oak to cling to. Off to the left are scrub oak and beyond that, pine trees. To the right is the flat, shale, rocky face that I’d gotten onto accidentally. How glad I am that I’m no longer there.

I think of my friend, Joan, safely back home. She worries about my moods and is always asking probing questions to make sure I’m all right. If I slipped and fell, not just a few inches, but clear down beyond where I can’t see, would she wonder if it had really been an accident?

The thought of Joan energizes me.

I follow Anne up a dusty hill, talking to myself, cursing the girls, whispering to the mothers of the girls in my mind, and conversing audibly with Anne.

“The girls could not have come this way,” I insist as we climb toward the crest. ‘Should I have followed them?’ I wondered. I’m in my late forties; that’s too old to do foolish things.

“Could they have gone up the back instead of the front of the mountain?” Anne asks. It is a good question, as I inch sideways toward a beckoning scrub oak. There’s little plant life, but I hold tightly onto each bit of vegetation as though it were a lifeline.

I think of Joan again.

“Dear Joan,” I’d write from the hospital if I fell. “It was not my fault. I did not choose the rocky path. I would have gone up the weedy way. It’s not as pretty, but far safer. I wasn’t doing it for the fun of it. I was trying to save the girls.”         

The thought of the girls sobers me. Are they okay? Even Diana? Or is she trapped somewhere as I am, struggling to make headway?

I took a week off my office job to accompany my daughter Diana on this week-long wilderness girl’s camp excursion. We sleep in tents (and me almost 50 years old) and take turns cooking our dinners over campfires. I even brought ingredients to make Dutch oven pizza for the group. There are canoes, lakes, survival training, and no electricity.

We hiked 7.5 miles to our destination, just below Hoyt’s Peak, as part of our all-day “Inspirator’s” hike, and stopped for lunch in a grassy meadow full of wildflowers under the mountain peak.

That’s when one girl noticed the mountain peak. “Can we climb it?” she asked looking at the topographical map. “It must be safe. That looks like a trail that goes right to it.”

After a little discussion, the hiking leader agreed that a small group could climb to the top while the others rested. The girls quickly disappeared out of sight; Anne and I follow behind them. We were mothers. We were leaders. Someone had to go with them. The whistles we’d brought to communicate were quickly useless as the distance between us widened. They couldn’t hear us! I could occasionally see a flash of red, or blue high above, and I’d know their approximate location.

Finally, we reach the plateau where the trail ends, and the girls (I call them mountain goats) are nowhere in sight. Above us is another slope, reaching up another hundred feet. Little vegetation mars its surface, and no trail disturbs its beauty. Everywhere is dirt and rocks except at the very top. At the peak, pine trees stand sentinel, like a line of soldiers guarding the summit.

Finally, Anne spots the girls. They are almost at the very apex, their bright clothes flashing intermittently through the trees at the rim of the precipice.

“How did they get up there?” Anne asks.

“Do you think anyone was hurt?” I reply. I worry again about Diana.

Diana, is, like all teenagers, a contradiction of nature. Short, thin, with her long brown hair curling riotously, her makeup applied perfectly, even on an isolated mountain top, she hates to walk to school! Others might think that because she’s so obsessive about her appearance, she’s weak. But she’s not. She’s overcome some difficult medical problems. Yet, here on this rocky summit, she is one of the mountain goats. She is too young to be wary, too foolish to be careful. I’m sure she thinks injuries only happen on television. I know better. I imagine her slipping on the steep incline and plummeting over the cliff. I imagine trying to explain to my husband where I was when this happened.

As Anne and I continue up the hot, dusty, rough, I am so glad that we are on the backside of the incline. I am relieved that I survived the rocky slope. I feel like an ant rather than a fly—an old, dirty, tired, burdened ant.

The climb is much easier here. It is not as steep, but I dig my feet into the dry, barren soil determinedly. Occasionally I find a scrub oak that is rooted somehow to bedrock. I grasp onto it for all I’m worth. My hands hurt from holding so hard.             

I can’t stand up. I can’t see the girls. I can see hardly anything above me but for the next few feet, I must climb. I wonder if there is a top to this mountain. My nose itches. Anne and I don’t talk. We just struggle onward.

When I am wondering if this mountain is nothing but endless pine trees stretching to eternity, Anne stops.

“Let’s rest and see how far we’ve come,” she suggests.

I turn around to look; it’s scary. It’s beautiful below and we can see for miles and miles, but mostly just the way we’d come up. I wish I could see above me, rather than below. Sweat is dripping down my face. My scraped leg hurts.

“Do you think they are really okay?” I finally ask Anne.

“I’m sure they are, or someone would have come down for help,” she replies. Somehow her words are not reassuring.

A shout disturbs our tete a tète.

“Hey, leaders, the summit is neat. You really ought to see it!” A silhouette of a girl’s head stands high above us. The sun is behind her, and I can’t see who she is. Except that she’s not Diana.

Suddenly I am no longer tired but full of fire and energy.

“Don’t any of you move,” I yell. “Don’t go up. Don’t go down. Stay right where you are.” I’m already charging up the mountain.

Only a few dozen feet up, the ground levels out a bit, and there the girls are, laughing and ready to dance down the mountain.

“Oh, Mom, it’s so neat!” Diana is running towards me.

“Don’t you know how worried I’ve been?” I cry as I hug her.

“But I’ve been fine.” She seems uncomfortable with my concern. “Just look at the view.”

It is beautiful at the top, I realize. I look at the immense vista laid out below us. The close mountains arch like rocky pyramids, while the farther away mountains merge into blues and purples as they stretch into the mist. Anne goes to the very edge to wave at those who stayed below at the plateau where the jeep trail ended. I stay a safe distance away from the edge, but I can see the ant-like creatures so far below. I wonder if they can see us. My back itches.

I notice a small Indian Paintbrush plant, with its brilliant red jagged head as it valiantly hangs over the edge of the precipice. I am awed that it can grow in so harsh and alien a climate. It seems such a veritable contradiction to the barren, rocky soil. It is beautiful and resilient.

I look at Diana; her hair highlighted by the sun looks reddish from my perspective. Diana is like that paintbrush. Then the thought strikes me that maybe I am, too.

Colorful Indian paintbrush

An Idaho Farmboy

My husband Ed was an Idaho farm boy who mentally never really left the farm. He grew up in Southern Idaho where his close and extended family grew potatoes. He got this rich dirt into his veins and could never get it out. One of his earliest memories is as a small child out on the farm watching the family work. It was during the last days of World War II,

Ed as a child

and German prisoners of war were helping to farm the vast potato farms. Ed was a tow-headed child, and he recalls that often when the workers would take a break, the German prisoners would pull out worn photos and show him images of their own blonde progeny and say reverently, “mein sohn.”  He reminded them of their own children far away in war-torn Germany.

Ed helped on the farm until he was a teenager and got a job in a Department Store selling shoes. But he never got the dirt out from under his nails. When he was finishing college the Vietnam war was going on and he became a helicopter pilot and served two tours of South Vietnam. He decided to make the army a career and our adventures began. We first lived in north central Texas, a small town west of Ft. Worth. I picked a place to plant my flowers and he dug up a side of the yard to plant his vegetables.

Toddler and hot peppers

My husband insisted that he plant vegetables typical for the area. So, he grew radishes, carrots, string beans, strawberries, all kinds of peppers, and peas. He felt that fresh peas were essential to everyone’s diets and was so excited to be able to get several harvests of them, one planted in the fall and one in the winter. Nothing tastes as good as fresh, home-grown tomatoes so he always grew lots of them. And he had to grow several varieties of peppers to fit the Tex-Mex cuisine. One day he was cutting up and seeding a super-hot pepper and our son, then a toddler, licked the knife Ed was using. I had to take our son to the emergency room because just the juice of the hot pepper had burned his tongue so badly.

We lived in three places in Texas over the next decade, but our tour in El Paso a Mexican

Chili Rellanos

border town was especially interesting. I planted marigolds along the side of the house and Ed planted more varieties of peppers, including Anaheim peppers so I could make chili Rellenos. We had grape vines, and our Greek neighbors showed us how to make Dolmas, wrapping grape leaves around the food before cooking it. Ed insisted on planting peas and tomatoes, but he added onions so he could make different salsas.

Picking Bananas in the jungle

We moved to the windward or rainy side of the Big Island of Hawaii next, which was an adventure in itself. Ed learned about Hawaii agriculture and planted sacred Ti plants around our house to ward off the evil spirits. At first, I wondered if Ed was going to grow a garden at all; he could legally go out foraging on the beach and pick avocados by the bag full; he could pick all the fresh bananas he wanted on the slopes of Mauna Loa, as well as passion fruit, guava, papaya, and mango in the jungle.

But Ed being Ed couldn’t stand not having a garden. Making one wasn’t easy. Our backyard was volcanic rock with limited dirt and grass over it. Our property had been part of a lava flow about 15 years earlier. It was potted with holes that filled with rain (since we were on the rainy side of the island it rained all the time). The children would go out at night and shine a flashlight on the grass and watch the frogs jump in the backyard. Ed ordered a load

Marc with load of dirt

of dirt (which cost more than a used car) and poured it over our frog patch and tamped it down. Then he planted grass and a garden area. Our front yard was like a zen garden. It was small lava rocks with very few strategically planted mounds of plants or unusual rocks. It was supposed to represent a place of meditation and peace. It was murder to prevent the lichen and weeds from growing in it and impossible to walk on, so Ed changed it a little so it wasn’t so Zen and more child friendly. He left the lava rock and shrubs, but controlled the weeds and moss; however, it lost its Zen feel.

Hapu’u (tree ferns) in our yard

Ed planted tomatoes, onions (sorry they weren’t the Maui sweet onions because we weren’t on Maui), strawberries, and of course peas. Root plants such as carrots, radishes, and beets didn’t grow well because of the moist soil. Then a Hawaiian native showed Ed the local orchids and Ed planted a forest of hapu’u (Hawaiian tree fern) next to the driveway and started twining them with wild orchids. They weren’t fancy or rare ones, just common bamboo orchids, Hawaiian Lei orchids, and other common wild tree varieties. They didn’t resemble the orchid corsages you purchase for proms, but they were beautiful and plentiful climbing around the hapu’u.

When we moved to Southern Alabama, Ed became very southern and decided to grow black-eyed peas (which are really beans), cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes (of course), onions, mild peppers, and strawberries. I remember picking ripe strawberries in early March when my sister called from Boston; she couldn’t believe my strawberries were ripe when they were in a blizzard. The cabbage and cauliflower got bugs in them; my husband smashed up an avocado and teased my youngest daughter that the avocado was really the smashed green bugs he’d been pulling out of the cabbage and cauliflower. He gave up on cauliflower and cabbage.

Boiled peanuts

We learned to love the secret barbeque sauce of our friends and Ed grew a lot of the ingredients; I learned how to barbeque ribs the southern way. There is a large boll weevil monument in the center of the city to honor the insect that ruined the cotton and made them change to growing peanuts instead which was far more successful. Ed didn’t plant peanuts, but we loved to buy boiled peanuts from local vendors. Luckily, I convinced Ed not to grow okra and collard greens.

When we got assigned to Northern Italy, I could just see Ed imagining all he could plant there, especially tomatoes. We moved to Vicenza in the Veneto area (between Verona and Venice). Our government quarters were at the far back of the housing area, by the back gate with a narrow trail through a huge cornfield between us and the small Italian villago. I was surprised because Europeans normally don’t eat corn; they think it is for cattle and pigs. But Vicenza is famous for a special dish containing corn meal—Polenta. So, corn fields are common throughout our area.

Ed grew quite a large garden the first year in Vicenza. He ran the operations center for all

American troops south of the Alps, and his office was a huge metal vault with multiple levels of security. He loved to leave the dark place and dig in the earth. His tomatoes were huge and so good. He claimed it was the rich Italian soil, but the regular vegetables were just as delicious. Our area just at the base of the Alps was too cold for citrus trees or olives, but I planted lots of Italian herbs and zinnias to brighten my day. Each week a local produce truck would pull into our court near our houses and we could buy all the fresh produce you could imagine, including blood oranges from Sicily. One of our fondest memories was going to a local vineyard, seeing them stomp the grapes and then eating and drinking under the vines.

Our backyard with cornfield behind it

After Italy, we were assigned to the North Shore of Chicago, Ft. Sheridan. It was a Civil War army post that was important throughout the years. We lived in 100-year-old quarters, but they were restored and beautiful. The only thing that was strange is we shared our three-story house with another family. They lived on the first floor and we with our five children lived on the second and third floors. With our windows open we could hear the lake breaking on the rocky shore. What had originally been the carriage house became the garage for the car.

Ed struggled to grow tomatoes; they require lots of sun and our yard was filled with large, old trees that completely shaded the house and yard. But he finally found a small corner of land that had sun and his tomatoes were delicious. I planted impatiens everywhere because they like shade.

When it came time to retire, we were torn. Ed wanted to live in Northern California, around

Ed planting his garden

Sacramento, where the climate is moderate. But even in the late 1980s, housing prices were too high. I convinced him to look at where I grew up in Northern Utah and we found a house with a third of an acre of land. Ed dug up three sides of the yard and went wild planting raspberries, strawberries, peas, carrots, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, melons, pumpkins, and lots more. There were only three fruit trees when we arrived: an apple, a pear, an ancient apricot tree, and some grape vines so Ed added another apricot tree, a peach tree, a fuji apple tree, a plucot tree (apricot and plum combined—which died), and a plum tree.

Ed was a regular at the county extension office, where he learned how to prune trees and

One of Ed’s gardens

how to help his garden grow! I planted roses by the front door, and tulips by the sidewalk and thought I was doing good to keep them alive.

My husband taught my daughters who live nearby (not my sons) to grow things, and their gardens are lush and beautiful. My one daughter is making salsa, and Pico de Gallo with items from her garden, and is determined to get a year’s supply. Ed shared with her cuttings from his grape vines, raspberries, and strawberries and they are doing extremely well. My younger daughter’s raspberries are big and beautiful and she has grown her peas on teepees so they don’t get on the ground. She has one tree that bears five different types of fruit on it, all beautiful and full. They generously share their produce with me.

My pitiful tomato plant

Ed passed away seven years ago, and I’ve filled in most of his garden with grass, shrubs, mulch, and black plastic. This year I’ve planted three tomato plants and because of the drought in the west, our watering is restricted. My tomatoes are skeletal and the tomatoes are the size of apricots—small apricots. Even my roses are struggling. My peach, apricot, and plum blossoms froze so I got no fruit from them so all I have left is apples. I’m glad Ed isn’t here to see my failure.

During all 54 of the years we had together, the two things Ed would never grow were potatoes and corn. He insisted that corn took up too much area to grow efficiently and that it was sacrilegious to grow potatoes anywhere but in Idaho. I wonder if he’s growing them up in garden heaven while laughing at my feeble attempts to be a gardener.

For Such a Time as This

She was ten years old when she was captured by enemies and carried away into captivity. There she was raised as a servant, learning the language and skills of her new people. At the age of sixteen, she was sold to a white trader who made her his wife.

It was at that time when she expecting her first child that she met two white men whose lives would change the course of the new American nation’s destiny. It was the winter of 1804-1805 and these American explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were wintering on the Missouri River near the villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians where they had built Ft. Mandan. Sacagawea, the Shoshone Indian girl who had been captured as a ten-year-old girl and who was now the wife of Toussaint Charbonneau, a French Canadian trader living with the Hidatsa Indians met the two explorers who were exploring the new American continent.

On February 11, 1805, Sacagawea gave birth to a son, Jean Baptiste; when the explorers left in April for the West, she, Charbonneau (and the baby) went along as guides to the unknown territory.

All summer the group followed the Missouri River west across what is now Montana. When they reached Three Forks, near the mouth of the Missouri, Sacagawea recognized she was in the Shoshone area where she had been kidnapped years earlier. When they reached the end of the river and knew they needed horses to continue, they approached a tribe to purchase horses; it was the tribe Sacagawea had been kidnapped from years earlier, and the chief was her brother. Not only were they able to trade goods for horses, but they were also given a guide who knew the way through the Bitterroot Mountains to the Clearwater River which emptied into the Snake and Columbia River and eventually drained into the Pacific Ocean. Lewis and Clark and their company were able to map and open the whole area for western expansion of the United States.

Sacagawea played a central role in helping Lewis and Clark blaze a trail across the western part of the American continent and made the “Louisiana Purchase” an integral part of America. Without her help, it may have taken the expedition much longer, or they may not have been successful. Sacagawea was truly prepared for her “mission” in life—leading these explorers across the unknown territory. Sacagawea’s kidnapping, her knowledge of life as a Shoshone and a Hidatsa, and her relationship to the chief of the Shoshone was priceless. Sacagawea was carefully prepared for her important mission in life, and she fulfilled it.

Another valiant woman who was prepared for a special role in her life—to save her people, the Jews—was Esther in the Old Testament. Esther was a righteous young Jewish woman who along with the other Jews were in captivity, but King Ahasuerus of Persia and Media had chosen her as his queen.  A wicked man named Hamman was jealous of the Jews and wanted to destroy them, so he made a law that on a certain day, all Jews throughout the 20 providences of the king would be killed.  When Esther heard about this decree, she asked her uncle and all the Jews to fast and pray for three days that she could influence the king to cancel the degree.

Her uncle Mordecai told Esther “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Of course, Esther saved the day, even at the risk of her own life—she went into her husband in his chamber without being asked (which was punishable by death), but he spared her life, and granted her request to cancel the wicked decree to kill all the Jews, and killed Hamman instead. Esther had been prepared all her life for this mission–to save her people, the Jews, from death.

I know each of us came to earth with a mission, great or small, to fulfill. I’ve often contemplated what my mission in life is. I know my mission is not a great important mission like Sacagawea or Esther, but it is important for me to understand my mission, prepare for it, and then do it.

I think one of the most important missions in my life has been to be a mother. This is not easy in this day and age when motherhood, especially for a stay-at-home mother, is denigrated, devalued, and careers are seen as so much more significant in a woman’s life. Although I stayed at home with my children for 25 years, I also worked for most of the years of my youngest child’s school years, while my husband who had retired from the military became the “primary caretaker.” During those years I often prayed and struggled to understand what is the best thing to do–best for my family, my child, me?

Life isn’t black and white; our mission in life isn’t clear-cut or crystal clear as Sacagawea or Esther’s was. Is it to be a good neighbor? Involved in community service? Involved in government service? How much time do I devote to volunteer work?

I read about women who have organized service projects to help hundreds of people in Africa, and I wonder if that is what I should do. I see women who write books and hold down full-time jobs and still have six children and are wonderful mothers. I see women whose musical voices touch hundreds or millions of people, but I know that is not my talent or my mission.

All I can do is to live each day the best I can; to pray for guidance to know what I should do TODAY. Then I can listen for inspiration and look around every day to see what I CAN do. It won’t be earth-shaking, world-notable things that history will record that I have done in my life, but the words of my favorite poet has been my touchstone all of my life.

“If I can stop one heart from breaking, or ease one heart the pain, or put one robin into his nest again, I will not have lived in vain.” Emily Dickenson.

How Flu Affects Teens

(circa 1985–Italy)

I don’t need to look at the calendar to know what time of year it is–by all of the coughing, sneezing, and suffering going on at our house it must be the cold and flu season.

And this year’s strain of “B-Victoria” flu can be far more dangerous than you expect.

Not only can it make you miserable, ill, and feverish, it can transform your husband from mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll into a growling, mean Mr. Hyde. It can turn the best-behaved children into quivering, helpless masses of self-pity. And it can drive mothers crazy.

Flu affects people in two varying ways. It makes some (my husband) become growling, grumpy bears who should lock themselves into their rooms to hibernate until they are human again. But it has a far more eerie effect on more susceptible individuals–it turns their minds to mush and their bones to jelly.

Previously capable people become helpless lumps of misery.

“Mom, I need a drink of water,” becomes a constant cry.

“Mom, I’m dying.”

“Mom, change the T.V. channel.” (I wonder if his hand holding the remote control is paralyzed.)

“Mom, my fever is so high my hair is on fire.”

However, some individuals, especially teenagers, are so transformed by the flu that not only their physical abilities but their mental facilities are affected.

My son was in agony, with his nose running like Niagara Falls and his groans audible from two miles away so I put some Tylenol tablets and a decongestant capsule into one hot little fist and a glass of water in the other.

When the moaning did not abate, I began to question him.

“Didn’t the decongestant help at all?”

“I didn’t take it.”

“Why not?”

“Because I didn’t know whether you tried to swallow it whole or opened it and poured the tiny time pills into a glass, or if you tried to swallow them individually.” This is from a mathematical genius who aces math competitions in his sleep!

Then there is the competition for the “sickest person in the family” award. You’d think from the way they fight for this world-class title that there is a monetary prize to go with the glory, but there is none.

“My fever’s higher than yours,” the challenge will go out.

 “No, mine’s l09 degrees.”

“That’s only because you washed the thermometer in hot water.”

“I’m dizzy; you’re not.”

“You were dizzy before you got sick.”

“You’re not as sick as I am. You just act like you are.”

“Mom, he’s making my headache. Make him leave me alone.”

There is only one ray of sunshine in the whole dreary sickroom.

If it is a strain of B-Victoria flu as rumors have suggested, I can’t get it. I had it years ago when I was a child and could drive my own mother mad.

The Key to My Dreams

As a teenager, I was a major Grinch. During my senior year especially, I was surly and uncommunicative. It wasn’t just our family’s financial situation—we were not the poorest family in our neighborhood, but we were not well-to-do. I’d grown up in West Bountiful (on the other side of the tracks) and we’d moved to a house at the bottom of the East Bench in my teens. I felt out of place in this “upper class” area. We lived in a small house at the foot of a hill where the families became more affluent as their homes progressed up the hill.  Of course, all my friends lived higher up the hill.  I felt like I was still from the wrong side of the tracks, just pretending to fit in on the East side.

But it wasn’t just our monetary status that year made my life so difficult that year. My mother was dying. My oldest brother was married, my next brother was serving a mission, and my mother was fighting a battle with breast cancer that she’d lose within two years. As the oldest girl in the family of seven, (and the oldest child at home) it was my responsibility to come right home from school to tend the younger children, make dinner and help mother as much as I could.

The difference between my friends’ situations and mine had not really mattered until that year. That year however, their dreams and mine seemed to divide dramatically. All my friends’ hopes seemed focused on college while my hopes for college seemed to become more tenuous as the year progressed and my mother’s health deteriorated.

To my mind, the real differences between my friends and me were symbolized by the school pep club.  My friends were members, and I wasn’t.  My parents and I had discussed whether I should go out for the pep club, and the burden it would be for the family if I did. Yet my parents had wisely left the decision whether to join or not up to me.  In a moment of noble renunciation, I had chosen not to join the pep club to save money and to help more at home. 

I made the decision of my own free will, so I could blame no one except myself. However, I resented the decision from the moment I made it.  I felt increasingly alienated from my friends, not because of their attitude, but because of the circumstances. They went to school early to practice and stayed after for the games and activities.  I walked to and from school by myself, embracing my resentment like a prickly hairshirt.  I hid in the library at lunch and studied during the pep rallies and pretended that I was happy with the choice I had made.  The isolation I felt seemed to underscore the separation between my friends’ dreams and mine.  They were confidently preparing to go away to college, while college seemed increasingly unobtainable for me.

My mother knew that I was unhappy, but I obstinately refused to tell her why.  I told myself that I didn’t want to make Mom know how my “noble” decision to help the family had blighted my life. The real reason was more profound.  I didn’t want Mom to know how important an education was to me in case I couldn’t go to college.  My mother had quit high school when her father died during the Depression, and she had never graduated.  In some unexplained way, I felt that I needed to get an education both for myself and for my mother.  My father didn’t object to education for women—his own sister was a teacher.  But he felt that men who would provide for their families needed a college education more than women who would stay at home. 

As Christmas drew near, my rancor grew as grievances built up in my heart.  Although my mom asked repeatedly what I wanted for Christmas, I always replied, “Nothing that we can afford, so why worry about it?”  My younger brothers and sisters made out long Christmas wish lists, and I knew that somehow, they’d get one or two items on their list.  I refused to make a list and even hinted to my youngest sister, four-year-old Ann, that Santa wouldn’t bring me anything because I’d been bad.

I wasn’t in a hurry to get up on Christmas morning because I expected very little under the tree.  I was amazed and surprised when I opened two unique and special gifts–a book of Emily Dickenson’s poetry and a soundtrack of my favorite musical, Carnival.  I looked at my mother and began to cry. 

“How did you know I loved Emily Dickenson?” I sobbed.

“I called all your friends until I found out what you’d been talking to them about.  You’ve always wanted to be a writer, and Sharon told me that your favorite poet was Emily Dickenson.  The book will be useful when you major in English.  Linda told me that you loved Broadway musicals.  I hope you like the one I picked out.  It will have to do until you see one on Broadway someday.”

My dad was mumbling about the gifts he wished he could have given me. He said that when he won the lottery, he’d buy me bushels of Janzten sweaters.  But I didn’t hear him.  Through my tear-filled eyes, I could see their vision for me.  It was a vision that I hadn’t dared dream about and that mother would not live to see. 

Gifts are merely symbols of what we would really like to give others.  For how can you wrap love inside silver paper? How can you place a red satin bow around dreams? How can you enclose hope inside shiny cellophane?  That Christmas my mother had searched for the key to my dreams.  And she had succeeded.


I was very nervous about going up to Burley, Idaho for our Open House after our wedding in 1963. We’d been married the week before, gone on our honeymoon, and now a week later we were having an open house reception at his brother’s home in his hometown to celebrate our wedding.

It wasn’t that Burley was inherently different than my hometown Bountiful, Utah, but from the stories Edward had told me about growing up in Burley, I had visions of a Wild-West pioneer town where his two cousins, J. Mark, and Marlin, were uncivilized overgrown kids who played all kinds of pranks. He’d told me tales of them putting outhouses under the stoplight on Main Street on Halloween. They (and Ed of course) had thrown tomatoes at cars going down the street on Halloween also. But that was years ago, and this was now.

However, I’d met Ed’s parents a few times, and they were very nice; the three times I’d been up to Burley had seemed normal.  So, I brushed aside my fears, and was determined to get to know the people of Burley where Ed had grown up.

The reception in early December went nicely. The people were friendly and welcoming to an outsider from Utah who had married one of their own. I smiled smugly when Ed’s old girlfriend went through the line; she had waited for him while he went on his mission, then he had come home and dumped her to go down to Utah to college where he met me. I felt sorry for her, but I was still happier that I married Ed instead of her. When I met Ed’s two “wild” cousins, they seemed a little “western” but not too unusual; after all, there had been many like them at Utah State University.

Finally, the reception was over, and Ed’s parents went home. I looked for Ed, but surprisingly, I couldn’t find him. As I was looking around, I heard Lapreal, one of Ed’s cousins, saying something about “kidnapping.” I was sure I had misheard her, but a few minutes later Ed’s older sister Emily June came over and explained that Ed’s cousins were going to “shivaree” Ed and me.

“Shivaree?” I asked. “What on earth is that?”

“Well, it is a pioneer way of celebrating a wedding by following a newlywed couple home and serenading them with loud music and noise.” She explained.  “But J. Mark and Marlin are doing it a little different. They’ve kidnapped Ed.”

“They’ve what? What do you mean kidnapped him? Where have they taken him?” I was panicked! I was abandoned among strangers. What was I going to do?

“Oh, they will eventually return him,” Emily June said. “But who knows in what condition?” She walked over very disgusted and asked her husband to take her home.

“It’s okay, really,” Lapreal explained to me. “Normally when they kidnap someone on their wedding, they’ve just gotten married that day and haven’t had any time alone. You two have been married for over a week. So, it isn’t so bad.”

“Isn’t so bad?” I thought. I was standing there looking at Ed’s friends and family (most of the older ones had gone or were going home) wondering why I had married anyone from Burley, or even come up here for an open house. Bountiful, Utah looked better and better to me. But Ed’s cousin, Lapreal told me not to worry; we would go to J. Mark’s house where they would eventually turn up.

What was I supposed to do—sit in Ed’s brother living room while they put their children to bed, wondering where Ed was, or go with Ed’s cousin, and pretend that this was the normal open house? I went with them.

J. Mark’s pregnant wife looked tired as she welcomed us into her house, but all of us “girls” (except for me) took it for granted that the guys took off and the girls stayed home talking together.  I was glad to get to know more of Ed’s family and friends our age, but as the evening wore on, they seemed a little more uninhibited than my friends in Bountiful.

Finally, after midnight, the “boys” returned. I was so glad to see Ed, I hugged him, but I also whispered, “What on earth is going on?”

He laughed at me and said aloud to everyone. “It’s a shivaree!!!!”

“A what?” I asked again. I was tired about hearing about the strange tradition. Wasn’t it over now that we’d gotten together? The kidnapping was over.

“Make sure you bring your coat,” Ed said kissing me. “You’ll need it.”

We were all getting into cars and trucks. I noticed a wheelbarrow in Marlin’s truck as we got into the cab. Were they going to be hauling something at this time at night? But I got to sit on Ed’s lap, so I didn’t care.

We drove onto Main Street, and I noticed that some cars were blocking Main Street at our end and a few blocks away some other cars were blocking the other end. What on earth was going on? Was there going to be a drag race?

 The stars were bright in the cold night air, and I was shivering as Marlin pulled the wheelbarrow out of the back of the truck. Everyone gathered around us. and I looked at Ed curiously, trying to ask him with my eyes, “What is going on?”

He laughed, picked me up and put me in the wheelbarrow. I was so shocked I couldn’t say anything. Then he started wheeling me down Main Street. The crowd erupted with laughter, cheering, yelling, and noise!

The jolly crowd followed us down Main Street singing, shouting, laughing, and Ed threw back witticisms to them as we barreled along. I was so embarrassed I shut my eyes and wished I was back in Bountiful. At one point I felt Ed lean down and kiss me on my head.  I opened my eyes and looked at him and he winked at me. I cracked a smile and he laughed. I began to laugh, too. It was definitely not Bountiful.

Finally, we reached the barricade of cars and Ed helped me out of the wheelbarrow and hugged me. J. Mark offered us a ride in his truck back to Ed’s brother’s house where we picked up Ed’s car and drove to his parents’ home where we were staying.

“Not like the reception in Bountiful, huh?” he asked as we sat outside the house.

“Not at all!” I admitted. “What did they call it?”

“It is a shivaree, an old pioneer tradition, but we do it a little different here.”

“Yes, I can see you do. I guess life with you will always be a little different.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

shivaree, or charivari, or chivaree is a North American term for a clamorous salutation made to a newlywed couple by an assembled crowd of neighbors and friends.

Regional Note: Shivaree is the most common American regional form of charivari, a French word meaning “a noisy mock serenade for newlyweds” and probably deriving in turn from a Late Latin word meaning “headache.” The term, most likely borrowed from French traders and settlers along the Mississippi River, was well established in the United States by 1805; an account dating from that year describes a shivaree in New Orleans: “The house is mobbed by thousands of the people of the town, vociferating and shouting with loud acclaim…. [M]any [are] in disguises and masks; and all have some kind of discordant and noisy music, such as old kettles, and shovels, and tongs…. All civil authority and rule seems laid aside” (John F. Watson). The word shivaree is especially common along and west of the Mississippi River. Its use thus forms a dialect boundary running north-south, dividing western usage from eastern. This is unusual in that most dialect boundaries run east-west, dividing the country into northern and southern dialect regions. Some regional equivalents are belling, used in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan; horning, from upstate New York, northern Pennsylvania, and western New England; and serenade, a term used chiefly in the South Atlantic states.

shivaree – a noisy mock serenade (made by banging pans and kettles) to a newly married couple.

The Night the Sky Exploded

Vicenza, Italy military housing complex

Fall 1984

‘Even the cornstalks seem menacing,’ I thought as we followed the narrow path through them toward the military housing. The cornfields back home had never seemed as tall or as threatening. They hadn’t blocked out the sun or shed strange menacing shadows as these did. I tried to be brave for my children, but the alien shadows emphasized that my children looked up to me for protection and I felt inadequate!

‘It’s all Ed’s fault,’ I thought for the hundredth time as Marlowe, my sullen teenager, saw the entrance to the housing compound and ran ahead of me to get home first. ‘If Ed hadn’t requested our assignment in Italy, we’d be retired and back in Utah instead of here in a strange, terrifying foreign country.’ (I conveniently ignored that I’d wanted to go to Italy as much as Ed, but that had been on a happier day—not on a late fall afternoon when Ed was in Turkey again, leaving me to cope with everything.)

“Mama, why is everything so different here? Why doesn’t anyone speak our language?” Diana’s blond braids bounced as she skipped up the path and into the housing area. Marlowe, as usual was nowhere in sight. He’d probably let himself into the house with the key Ed had given him and was probably shut into his room with his radio on full blast, not talking to me again.

“It’s different because it is not America,” I answered absently because of my worry about Marlowe. “They don’t speak our language because this their country and they speak their language.”

“But, why, Mama? Huh?” Diana’s persistence was wearing down what was left of my fragile patience.

“Just because, Diana. Okay! Now don’t ask me again. That’s just the way it is!” My curt answer made me angry at myself and I took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m tired and worried, okay? Come on, let’s race to the house.” I was so glad that we were finally safe inside the military housing that I forgot about my fears and concentrated on the race with Diana.

Looking back, however, I realized how close our house was to the back entrance to the compound and the tall menacing cornfield and my heart raced. We were only seconds away from the cornfield and all the dangers lurking there. And no fences or gates separated us from it.

“Why don’t they have anything good on TV?” Diana asked as I put our jackets away.

“They have lots of good programs on local Italian television,” I reminded her. “It is just the Armed Forces Network is the only American channel on and they are only on during certain hours and can’t show just what you like to watch.”

“But they never have cartoons on in the afternoons like in Enterprise, and we saw all the shows that are on—last year! It’s boring.”

“Then turn it off and read!” I snapped again. “You ought to be grateful you even have a TV here. None of our other furniture has arrived yet, and who knows when it will come.” I was so close to tears that I turned on the faucet to cover my sniffles so Diana wouldn’t notice.

“I miss Annie,” Diana started to cry and before I knew it, I’d turned off the faucet and held her tight as tears slipped down both our cheeks. “I miss my old school. I miss Mrs. Monroe next door who always gave us cookies as we were coming home. I miss Grandma and Grandpa and everything! I wish we’d never moved here!”

I hugged her so she wouldn’t see my tears as she sobbed on and on.

“I know, Diana. I miss everything too,” I replied. “But it will get better, Diana, honest. It is always hard at first when you move to a new place. But you’ll make new friends and get a good teacher and find another Mrs. Monroe. Remember how you hated Enterprise at first? But now you wish you were back there!”

“But I can’t even talk to people here because they don’t speak English and there are no friends my age. I hate it here.”

I hugged her tighter, whispering worn-out platitudes that military wives use to ease the pain of moving. Finally, her sobs slowed, and I wiped away her tears.

“There, that’s better,” I said briskly. “Why don’t you open the sack of cookies that we got in the villagio and we’ll share some, even if they spoil our supper. I don’t know what they taste like, or what they’re called.”  I added as I saw the questions spring to Diana’s lips. “You ought to be grateful we even made the baker understand what we wanted and could figure out the money to pay him. Now let’s see what they are like.”

“They aren’t too bad,” Diana said, finishing off one and reaching for another. “Different than Mrs. Monroe’s, but OK.”

I took the sack of cookies and knocked on Marlowe’s shut door. “Marlowe, why don’t you try one of these cookies we bought,” I begged. “Come on, let me in. It’s not as bad as all that, is it?” I opened the door cautiously.

“Go away,” Marlowe mumbled through the pillow that covered his head, as I winced at the loud music blasting.

“Come on, Marlowe,” I said, turning down the music. “Have a cookie and tell me what’s the matter.

“You know what’s the matter,” he yelled, ignoring my peace offering. “I hate it here. I hate this stupid house. I hate this stupid country. I can’t see why I can’t take my money out of savings and fly back to Enterprise. Danny’s mom said I could live with them and go to high school if it didn’t work out here—and it hasn’t.”

“Now, Marlowe, you haven’t even given it a chance. We’ve only been here a week. Dad’s been here two months and he loves it here. Remember how excited we all were to be able to live in a foreign country and go to school here.”

“Yeah, but that’s before I knew that they don’t have a math team here, or a knowledge bowl! So, I won’t be captain of them like I would have been in Enterprise. There is no jazz band, or marching band, and the regular band has only a handful of kids. There are only 50-some students in each class! This is the pits! Please Mom, let me go back to Enterprise! Don’t make me suffer here. Please!”

“Marlowe, you know you asked your father that before he left for the field, and he said to try it for a month.”

“I’ll be dead in a month. I hate it here.”  He covered his head with the pillow again and turned up the music, blocking me out. I left the cookies on the bed and left. As I walked into the other room, I heard him slam the door behind me.

“Diana,” I called, then noticed her asleep on the floor. I carried her gently into her room and covered her with her out-grown, but well-loved blankie. Going back into the living room I looked at the stark, serviceable, but strange quartermaster furniture and bare floors and wished our own things would arrive soon. Then everything would seem more familiar and homelike.

The shadows lengthened as I stared out at the strange shapes. ‘That one looks like a burglar,’ I thought, then jumped up to turn on the lights and shut the blinds. The cornfields looked dark and menacing in the dusk as I clicked them away from my view. “If only I could shut all my fears and worries away so easily,” I said aloud, carefully checking all the doors and window locks as I closed all the blinds through the house and turned all the lights on.

Suddenly a sound from outside the house shattered my musing and I concentrated on the sounds as they came closer. They seemed to be words being broadcast from a bullhorn that grew more distinct as it become closer.

“ATTENTION! ATTENTION! MUSTER! MUSTER! ALERT! ALERT! All troops report to your duty station immediately. All troops report to your duty station immediately!”

Without thinking I ran into Diana’s room, grabbed her up, blankie and all.

“Mama, what’s the matter?” she asked sleepily.

“I don’t know, but something ‘s wrong,” I said in my panic, trying to remember what Ed had said about evacuation kits, the children’s passports, a small suitcase. But I couldn’t think.

“Marlowe, Marlowe,” I yelled, running into his room, where he lay in the dark, still oblivious to the bullhorn because of his loud music. “Marlowe,” I yelled, turning off his music. “Listen! Something’s wrong.”

We both ran to his window and peeked out through the blinds. We couldn’t see where the bullhorn was coming from, but we could see a red glow over behind the houses across the street. As we watched, we noticed several of our neighbors hurrying to their cars as they pulled their camouflage jackets over their fatigues.

“What is it, Mom?” Marlowe asked his voice trembling.

“I don’t know,” I answered, “Didn’t your dad say something about alerts or emergency procedures or something.”

“Yeah, but I was so tired that night I can’t remember what it was. What are we going to do, Mom?”

“How should I know,” I cried, then got a grip on myself. “Let’s watch and see if we can see where it is coming from.”

We peered out into the blackness, watching as the red glow turned onto our street and we could see the MP car with its light flashing, sounding the alarm.

“Attention! Attention! All troops return to your duty stations immediately. All troops return to your duty stations immediately.” The words seemed even more menacing when it was closer.

“What is happening, Mom?” Marlowe asked quietly. “Is something wrong, like that bombing we heard about on TV that happened on one of the installations? Is it an emergency evacuation?”

“I don’t know what is going on,” I said gripping Diana tighter as I forced myself to be calm.

“Mama, I’m scared!” Diana’s eyes seemed enormous in her small, pale face, and she looked expectantly at me.

“It is probably nothing. Just a harmless alert; like a fire drill back home. Right, Marlowe?” I looked at him to back me up, but he looked down at me from his six-foot height and refused.

“I don’t think so. It’s probably another kidnapping of an American like that one the terrorists pulled off last year only 20 miles from here.” Marlowe’s voice reeked of danger as he replied in his “Freddy Kreuger” voice. “Or maybe the red brigade is attacking the base like they did in Panama, or . . .”

“Stop that right now, Marlowe,” I yelled as Diana began to wail. “You are just making things worse.” I turned on the lights and things seemed a little more normal. I wasn’t so afraid.

“I’m sure there is a logical explanation,” I said more calmly. “Let’s go next door and ask the neighbors what is going on.”

“I’ll bet they’ve been murdered in their beds,” Marlowe cried gleefully, watching Diana start wailing again.

“Marlowe, if you don’t stop this immediately, I’ll . . . I’ll . . .”

“Send me back to the states?” he asked excitedly.

“No, make you stay here forever, but ground you for a week. Look how you’ve frightened Diana.” She was hugging me so tightly I could hardly speak. At lease she’d stopped screaming.

“Now look, you are the man of the house while your dad is gone, and you are at least a foot taller than me. Why don’t you go next door and ask Mrs. Smedley what’s happening? I’m sure there’s a very ordinary answer.”

“Uh, huh. Not on your life. I’m not going anywhere while we’re under attack.”

“We are not under attack! If you are afraid to go alone, we’ll all go together.”

“Mama, I’m scared! There are monsters outside.” Diana began to wail.

“Now listen here, both of you. Your dad has been here two months and he never mentioned any danger or anything happening here, so I’m sure we’ll be okay going as far as the Smedley’s house. It is only after 40 yards away.” Now I had a plan of action, I was calm. “Grab your jackets and let’s go.”

The Smedley’s house seemed miles away, not the 40 yards that it was, but we saw no lights on as we ran towards it, and no answer to our knock.

“Let’s look around back,” Marlowe said after a few minutes. We crept around back where the menacing cornfield shadowed over us. We knocked loudly on their back door, but no one answered there either. Diana clung to me wordless as we stood shivering in the dark night.

“Do you see if any house nearby has lights on?” I asked Marlowe fearfully.

“Yeah, see over there by the footpath. There’s a house with a light on.” Marlowe’s voice trembled with fear as we looked around. The house he’d mentioned was much farther away than the Smedley’s house, but I was too scared to go home or stand there outside the Smedley’s empty house.

Suddenly the sky exploded with fiery eruptions as a loud booming shook the air behind the cornfields. Fiery missiles lit up the sky above us as we ducked for cover.

“Mom, they’re coming through the cornfields!” Marlowe shouted as we covered our heads and Diana screamed. A not-too-distant roar of crowds echoed the blasts as the sky burst with light.

Surprisingly, although the sky flamed with beautiful blossoming colors, there were no crashes or falling of shrapnel. Cautiously we looked around in amazement. The rockets’ which lit up the night appeared to be coming from the villaggio behind the cornfields. The crowds seemed to be “oohing” and “aahing” as each “bomb” burst above them.

“What?” Both Marlowe and I asked each other. As frightened as we were, something just didn’t fit. I heard no gunfire, no grenades, no screams (except Diana’s); only the boom of cannons right before they burst above the villaggio and cornfield. Now I noticed a few other neighbors were coming out back to watch the exploding sky.

One older woman standing with four children several houses away noticed us and called, “Aren’t they beautiful?” She didn’t seem the least bit frightened. “It’s too bad the men had to miss the fireworks because of the alert.”

Marlowe and I just looked at each other in amazement and even Diana stopped screaming and just sniffled as the woman walked towards us.

“The fireworks get more elaborate and beautiful every year,” the woman continued as she drew closer. “Most people walk over to the villaggio to participate in the fun and excitement of the festival, but I like to stay home and watch them from here.”

Marlowe caught on before I did and told Diana in his “Boris Karloff” voice, “Don’f vorry little girl. I von’t let terrorists or monsters or ‘firevorks’ harm you!” Then he doubled over laughing.

I tried to be natural and introduce myself, but I ended up laughing with my son instead.

“I’m Cheryl McKay,” she said after a minute, from “24B across the street. Is something wrong?”
“I’m sorry,” I finally got out in gasps, “but we thought . . .”

“YOU thought,” Marlowe interjected.

“No, WE thought,” I insisted before collapsing again with laughter.

It was then, with new neighbors around us on that brilliantly lit night in a no-longer-quite-so-strange or frightening country that I felt at home.

I knew that despite the different traditions, unusual language, and unconventional problems that we’d encounter in this strange country we now lived in, we’d make it, just as we had in each new place we had lived. It wouldn’t always be easy, and many times it would be comical (looking back on it at least), but together, with the military family around us, we’d make it!

My Mother’s Cooking

My mother, Jennie Hansen

My mother was not a great cook. To her cooking was the way to prepare food so your family didn’t starve, and in as inexpensive a manner as possible! She had a large family, seven children, too much to do, and it was just another chore. She was an artist, and she saved her creativity for painting, not for something as plebian as cooking.

From the time I was about 14 years old, I became the main cook of the family. Mother had breast cancer at that time and was very ill for a long time, and as the oldest daughter, I took over the cooking, and other chores. I loved to cook, and to experiment with cooking, so it became my job after that. My younger siblings recall many of the meals I made for the family.

Mother cooked plain things—meat and potatoes, eggs, vegetables. She had been raised in a poor family during the Depression, so she never knew anything but plain, inexpensive food. We were a farm family until I was 14 years old, with chickens and a cow. So, we had plenty of eggs and milk. We went up to Burley Idaho each year and brought back bags of pinto beans and potatoes. Dad had a garden where we grew vegetables, which we ate. Mother used her food budget to squeeze money for other things out of, so we had beans for Sunday dinner for years (I don’t remember a roast for Sunday dinner ever). Dad loved eggs so we had Egg ala Goldenrod (we’d call them Eggs Grotten) often. We had potatoes all the time, fixed every way you could fix them. Other favorite recipes were Shepherd’s pie, Scalloped Potatoes, and Macaroni and Cheese.

My brother recently wrote a blog that reminded me of other food items at our house growing up—Mother always had a bowl of sugar on the table (I think it was for my father, who later became a diabetic). Dad put it on tomatoes, and watermelon—ugh!!!!! The kids put it on cereal, as Mom only bought the cheapest, unsweetened puffed rice or puffed wheat. Mom also a bowl of cinnamon sugar handy so you could put it on buttered toast and make your own cinnamon bread.

We got whole milk delivered to our house but with growing kids, Mom always watered it down with powdered milk. She’d skim off the cream and mix the powdered milk and whole milk (minus the cream—half and half. I didn’t mind, I didn’t like milk and never drank it anyway, so I never noticed. It was just another way Mom economized, but still gave us lots of fresh milk.

Mother loved sugar and chocolate. Sometimes when she craved sugar, she’d mix shortening—yes that’s right—and sugar together and eat it!!!! (It wasn’t even powdered sugar so you couldn’t call it frosting. She loved everything chocolate!!!!! Another favorite was cream puffs.

We bottled our own fruit and vegetables, so we never had canned food, except for pork and beans, which we ate when we had nothing else to eat. You had your big Sunday dinner (beans with a ham hock), and then on Sunday night a special treat was canned peaches and bread. You’d get it yourself so there was no big sit-down dinner. I think it was so special because I didn’t have to make it for the family—everyone could do it on their own.

Sometimes we’d bottled homemade root beer by putting yeast in the bottles and seal them. But you had to watch that they didn’t get too old and ferment. More often you’d get dry ice and just make a batch of homemade root beer to drink all at once.

At Christmas time she made raised doughnuts to give to everyone! Her recipe made enough for a neighborhood.  I have the remains of her recipe which she’d cut out of a magazine, but it was an unusual one with nutmeg in it. For years I made them and shared them with friends and neighbors and even typed up the recipe and gave it to others, but the last few years I haven’t made it.

I have several cranberry salad recipes that were hers—but they were typed and not hand-written. I think they were given to her to make for a ward dinner. One is my special salad/relish that I make every Christmas and few in my family eat it. I have three recipes in her handwriting: “Carrot and Rice Casserole” that I’ve never made, nor do I remember her making, and two recipes for Danish Aebliskivers, an apple pancake made in a special pan.

Mother was first generation Danish, but I don’t recall her cooking anything Danish except Danish Dessert—out of the box. We did not have the aebliskivers pans, and Mother never made aebliskivers, so I must have asked her for the recipes. I eventually bought the pan and made the aebliskivers for my family. Mother told me about her mother (Grandmother Hendrickson) making Danish blood pudding out of the blood of meat (YUCK!)


Jennie’s Danish Doughnuts


3 ¾ c. milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm

¼ c. warm, not hot water

1 ½ packages dry granular yeast

1 ½ c. sifted all purpose flour

2 c. sugar

½ lb. Butter

1 tsp. Salt

4 eggs

1 ½ tsp nutmeg

10-11 c. flour

Dissolve yeast in warm, not hot water, and allow to stand for 5 minutes; add to milk. Add 1 ½ cup flour and beat to a smooth batter. Cover and let rise in a warm place until very light and full of bubbles, about 3 hours.

Add beaten eggs, salt, nutmeg, butter, sugar, flour and stir to a soft dough. Keep in a bowl and knead very lightly. Set to rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Roll out on lightly floured surface to ½ inch thickness. Cut with doughnut cutter and allow to rise until double in bulk. Fry in deep fat (375º) until golden brown. Dredge in sugar or frost. Makes 6 doz.

Egg Ala Goldenrod


1/4 cup butter  

1/4 cup flour                

1/4 teaspoon. salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup milk

4 hard-boiled eggs

6 pieces toast (or biscuits, rolls)

Melt butter; blend in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth; remove from heat. Slowly stir in milk. Bring to a boil over direct heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Stir in chopped egg whites.

 Just before serving, pour sauce over toast, biscuits, rolls, etc., and top with smushed egg yolks.

4 servings.       

Shepherd’s Pie:

(This is made with leftovers of a roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables)

Mix 1/2 c. diced meat (left-over roast) or 1/2 lb browned ground beef in a casserole dish with 1 c. cooked vegetables, 1 c. gravy, 1/4 t. salt, and cover with 1 c. left-over mashed potatoes.  Bake 30 minutes or until potatoes brown slightly.

Make gravy by browning juices and melted fat of beef with 1/4 c. flour, salt and pepper and add 1 c. water.  Stir until smooth and bubbly.)

All that is left of my mother’s raised doughnut original recipe.

Recipe written in my mother’s hand

Aebliskiver pan

The Luck of the Irish

My husband, Ed, has the luck of the Irish. He can find a parking place right by the front door of stores (even in Los Angeles where there are no parking places), whereas I feel lucky if I find a parking place in the a mile away. He win raffles, is chosen first for teams and has every other example of good luck known to man. Even if he has problems, like running out of gas, it is nullified because he runs out of gas in front of the gas station.

My husband Ed

He attributes this good luck to his “Irish” heritage, per his last name of “Dayley,” yet he is equally parts German, English, Danish, Swedish—and mostly American! He attributes my lack of luck to my Danish heritage as “everyone” knows the only luck the Danish have is bad luck!

Do the Irish Have Better Luck Than Other Nationalities?

However, the phrase “luck of the Irish” is an ironic phrase. The Irish have been and are a spectacularly unlucky race. Even in America, they were looked down on as low-class immigrants. But the notion that Irish are inherently luckier than others can be traced to the 1850s in the United States where, during the exploration for gold in the West, there were a high number of Irish people who got lucky, and found their “pot o’ gold” in the gold fields of California, or were equally prosperous in silver mining.[i]

Lucky Irishmen

What Is Luck?

Luck is difficult to explain. The dictionary defines it as “a belief in good or bad fortune in life caused by accident or chance, and attributed by some to reasons of faith or superstition, which happens beyond a person’s control.”[ii]

Symbols of luck

The Romans embodied luck as a goddess, “Fortuna” while people in America believe in common symbols of luck such as rabbit’s feet, four-leaf clover, horse shoes, wishbones, and “lucky” seven. In other countries, good-luck symbols are pigs, fish, fish scales, acorns, tortoises. I can remember as a child looking through lilac flowers to find one that had three flowers (or was it four? Whatever it was, it was different from the ordinary number). If I found one, I’d put it in my shoe and make a wish. Perhaps good luck symbols became lucky because they were commonly uncommon items like four-leaf clovers instead of ordinary three-leaf ones.

Luck as a self-fulfilling prophecy

Can a feeling that you are lucky become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Although few believe in superstition, and many discourage dependence on a “lucky shirt” for a ball player, or blind faith in lucky objects, is there any benefit in believing in luck?

lucky shamrock

Some psychologists feel belief in good luck, although it is a false idea, may produce positive thinking, much like a placebo provides benefits although there are no inherently beneficial ingredients in them. Studies have also shown that “People who believe in good luck are more optimistic, more satisfied with their lives, and have better moods”[iii]

Can Anyone Be Happy?

So, should you decide you are lucky, and then live like you are? Why not? If it makes you happier and brings you better luck, it seems a no brainer to not to. Another article said, “If ‘good’ and ‘bad’ events occur at random to everyone, believers in good luck will experience a net gain in their fortunes, and vice versa for believers in bad luck. This is clearly likely to be self-reinforcing.[iv]

So from this day forward, I, too, have the luck of the Irish because I am married to an Irishman. Or maybe I am lucky because if I could choose to be an Irishman, I would be. Maybe people born in March are lucky; or maybe the Danish are luckier than the Irish. Or maybe I was just born lucky, no matter what nationality I am. Maybe all Americans are just naturally lucky!

I just know that I am lucky. And so are you. Eat your heart out, Ed!



[iii] Maltby, J., Day, L., Gill, P., Colley, A., Wood, A. M. (2008). Beliefs around luck: Confirming the empirical conceptualization of beliefs around luck and the development of the Darke and Freedman beliefs around luck scale Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 655-660.

[iv] Ibid.

Artifact or Junk

We had been stationed at a military base in Northern Italy for 2 ½ years, and at never had the chance to get to Greece. So, in Easter of 1987, we celebrated by taking our children, 18-year-old Athena, 17-year-old Marc, 10-year-old Diana and baby Bryan to Greece for spring break. Our oldest, Marlowe was on a mission in Rome, Italy.

We arrived in Athens and discovered that the arrangements for our hotel had been mixed up. Here we were without a room during the busiest season—Easter. However, the hotel clerk made some calls around and finally got us a room in a new unfinished hotel for the night. With Bryan crying and everyone unhappy, we waited outside the room while they made up the room and walked up the stairs; the elevators weren’t working yet. However, I was only glad to get a bed for the night.

When we got settled, I wasn’t sure how fortunate we were. There was still construction going on to make the hotel ready to open before Easter was over. Hammering and other loud sounds went on all night. A storm howled outside almost as much as Bryan did inside; I got a headache.

our Greek relic

Ed and I went for a walk along the beach early in the morning leaving Bryan with the older children. No one was sleeping much. As we walked along the stormed tossed beach, Ed saw a small carved copy of a marble Phoenician ship with its sails broken off among the flotsam and seaweed dredged up by the storm. He insisted it was a valuable ancient relic brought up from the depths of the sea by the storm. I insisted it was no such thing; it was a simple carving made by one of the local fishermen who, when he broke the sails, threw it away.

Back at the hotel, everyone joined in with their assessment of the item. Marc joined Ed proclaiming it a priceless relic. Athena, towel-drying her freshly shampooed hair and frustrated because she couldn’t use her hairdryer because the electric current was 220 not 110 volts, just shook her head and rolled her eyes. Diana, impressed with Ed and Marc’s edicts of its value, was excited to think we’d found something so valuable on our first day there. She couldn’t wait to go down to the beach and find gold coins from the Trojan War, or something like that.

Exploring ruins with a baby

“It can’t be anything valuable.” I finally stated.  “Besides, if it were, we couldn’t take it out of Greece. There are all kind of restrictions against taking ancient artifacts out of the country.” Bryan just gurgled, happy to be getting fed.

We changed hotels to a downtown international hotel and went into Athens. I was fascinated by everything, but Athena looked and acted blasé (typical teenager).  Ed had his eyes open for everything, military and otherwise. Marc quickly got bored with shopping so after we went back to the hotel for lunch, he said he’d stay there and take care of Bryan while we went back downtown shopping.

Ed on acropolis

What a story Marc had to tell when we got back! He’d taken Bryan down to the hotel bar, thinking that the cute girls would coo at Bryan and start talking to him. He’d quickly discovered that a baby was more than an attention-getting device for girls—everyone commented on the blond baby.

Marc started talking to a man there who turned out to be a Libyan Air Force pilot who spoke English.  Marc became nervous when the man asked what Marc’s father did and why we were in Greece. This pilot had been in Bengasi, Libya a little over a year before when the United States had bombed there. Because of Ed’s position in NATO and the U.S. army, Marc was very vague in explaining what his American father did for a living. 

On the bus back to the hotel, a Lebanese man had talked to Athena and made her very paranoid because he was very anti-American. He told her that the little four-year-old girl with him had had almost all her relatives killed in the Palestinian wars and was staying with her grandmother in Greece trying to get a visa to Australia.

The next day we went to the Acropolis, and I was prepared with all my guidebooks to teach everyone the history of Greece. I love history and I study up on wherever we are going to go, and lecture to everyone out of the guidebooks at every site.

Athena posing on Acropolis

There Athena poised next to the statue of the goddess Athena that she was named for, and I was standing next to her with Bryan in a carrying pack, telling the history of the Acropolis. Diana was skipping all over the ruins and Ed had disappeared. Marc was shaking his head and trying to ignore me.

Later we went to Mars Hill. I stood where Paul the apostle stood as he taught the people about the “unknown God.” My reverie was broken as I heard Athena laugh.

“Diana was trying to look cool and flip her purse and she flipped it into her face and about fell over.” Athena said.

Diana with purse

“And I got a movie picture of it happening,” Marc crowed.

“Did neither of you feel how momentous it is to stand here on Mars’ hill?” I asked.

“Are you going to start reading out of your guidebook if we say no?” Athena asked.

“I give up,” I said, walking away. Ed walked over with Bryan in the carrying pack and asked if I was ready to hold him. “Yes, maybe he’ll be impressed with this place,” I replied.

We were walking down the hill toward town when we picked up the tablecloth lady. She walked beside me and harangued me to buy a tablecloth. She enumerated its quality in detail, but I kept saying no, but it made no difference. She kept on pleading with us for blocks. Ed would pop in occasionally with “too much” and she’d look at him and talk to him for a minute and bring down the price a little before pleading with me, telling me how nice it would look on my table, how wonderful it would be for my family to sit around it as they ate.

Bryan as a three-month old in Athens

Finally, Ed gave up and said, “I’ll buy it just to get some quiet.” As I looked at him in astonishment, he asked, “You did want it, didn’t you?” I nodded. He paid for it, handed it to Marc to hold and asked, “Now where do we go next?”

Our highlight of the trip was a three-island one-day excursion onboard a ship. The ship dropped us off on each island, then came back several hours later to pick us up and take us to the next island. We enjoyed the first island. It was so different than Athens. Marc saw slabs of whole lamb meat hanging on a butcher shop window and told Diana it was our pet dog, Sissy, whom they’d slaughtered and hung there. It took me a half hour to settle her down. Everyone took turns carrying Bryan to take the burden off me, but I still got tired easily, as I was still anemic and worn out from his emergency C-section six weeks before.

Just as we were coming into our second island, I hurried to change Bryan’s diaper before we went ashore, and Diana stayed with me reminding me to hurry or we’d be left onboard. Sure enough, by the time we were ready to disembark, the ship was just pulling up the ramp in our faces. Diana began to cry and holding her in one arm and Bryan in another, I tried to calm her. They explained they couldn’t go back. The harbor was very narrow, and many ships were in line to dock; each ship had to hurry in, drop their people and go right out again in so many minutes. It would be at least an hour before they had another opportunity to drop us ashore again. A crewmember took Diana to the bridge, let her “steer” the ship, and even let her talk to the captain.

Athena talking to someone onboard cruise

Later, between islands everyone was in the main area of the ship playing bingo (it was free). Diana was so excited and concentrating on the game, while Athena and Marc were putting lemon slices in Bryan’s mouth to see him make faces. Suddenly Diana yelled “Bingo.” She took her card and ran to the front of the large room where they were calling numbers. They explained to her that they were playing blackout Bingo and she just had regular Bingo. She was so disappointed that they gave her a few postcards and she came back to us. Marc gave her a few lemons to suck on.

We were there in Athens on Good Friday, and we saw a fascinating ceremony of them carrying a symbolic crucified body of Christ through the streets, before taking it into a chapel. We video-taped the ceremony and all the festivities in the streets, but by then we’d moved into the American hotel and Marc and Athena were having so much fun with the American teens in the bowling alley that they couldn’t be interested in historic stuff.

As we got ready to go to the church to see the finale of the Good Friday celebrations—the fireworks and celebrations to commemorate resurrection of the savior, Marc and Athena decided not to go with us, but to go to a cool Greek disco they’d heard about. We were outside the church crushed in the middle of the crowd at midnight, with Diana half asleep and Bryan asleep in my carrying bag, when just as the fireworks began, Athena and Mark appeared.

“There were no cute girls at the disco,” Marc said.

“No, they’re all here,” Athena added. “So, we came here, too.”  Ed pulled me close and hugged me. The fireworks lit up the sky and our faces glowed in their reflection. Marc lifted Diana up, so she could see better. Bryan slept on oblivious.

I thought of the tiny carved Phoenician ship we’d found at the beginning of our trip. Was it a rare ancient artifact? Was it a useless broken tourist toy? Or was it what we make of it?