something i’ve lost that i still feel badly about

When I was a teenager living on a big 6-acre farm with a giant grassy backyard bordered by a half-acre vegetable garden and numerous fruit trees and berry bushes and vines my Young Womanhood medallion must have come unclasped or the chain might have broken and it became lost in the endless grassy backyard that required a John Deere riding lawn mower to mow.

I don’t recall what I was doing when I lost it. I could have been mowing the lawn. I could have been turning handsprings or cartwheels in the grass. I could have been romping with our dogs Pepper and Spike.

I just remember absently reaching up to touch it and noticing its absence as my fingers brushed across bare skin before landing on the finished edge of my shirt collar.

I fell to my knees, searching frantically. Fingers grasping for it’s cold part smooth, part brushed gold. Eyes narrowing hoping to see a shiny glimpse. I searched until after the sun went down. To no avail.

These days I don’t wear gold, except for my plain gold wedding band. Which, despite a drawerful of pretty earrings and bracelets and a handful of colorful necklaces, is the only jewelry I wear. But that simply necklace meant something to me. Because I earned it.

I’m sure I could go buy a new one if I really wanted to, even though all records of my having earned the original are surely long gone or forgotten. But that wouldn’t be the same.

That grassy yard and house are long since sold. Perhaps they’ve had more than one owner since then.

I wonder if someday it will turn up somewhere. And someone will have no idea what it symbolized.

Or what it meant to me.

postcard from the edge: things i collected as a kid

I have a postcard lying about the house somewhere, scrawled in my own hand, from the International Rose Test Garden in Portland, that I sent to my mother one of the times in recent years I visited my brother Keith and his wife Heather and their son Gavin.desert-autumn-rose

It was because of my mother, that the first time my husband and I flew to Finland via Minnesota and Amsterdam, I rushed through each airport to purchase and scrawl out a quick greeting to each of our kids–who were scattered about several house in our neighborhood (so as to prevent fighting) while we were gone. I purchased stamps and then posted them before boarding each new leg of our flight.

Once in Finland, I repeated the same routine through most–if not all–of the cities we visited. At Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle, however, I purchased a single “message in a bottle” inclosed in a pale blue plastic bottle, complete with an address label and wrote out my home address before purchasing the proper postage and sending it on its way. Of course we were all reunited at home before that one arrived.

I put a hook through the cork at the end of it and hang it on our family Christmas tree every year.

It was my mom who started it.

I don’t really recall that she went anywhere without us very often. But if she did–I remember Hawaii, in particular–she was always mindful to send each one of us our own postcard from wherever she was.

It could have been part not wanting us to forget her or for one second think she had forgotten about us, and part wanting to share with us the wonder of her rare trip away from the six of us.

In any case, for the longest time I kept them all.

Along with the occasional postcard from my grandparents Jacobs. (Perhaps this tradition originated with them? Although they traveled even more infrequently than my mother–only going to Hawaii once and because a good friend of my grandfather’s lived on a military base and had his own guest cottage, so all they had to pay for was plane fare.) Most likely from somewhere in San Diego.

As I got a bit older, I would purchase a postcard and a shot glass from anywhere I had the rare blessing to visit. Mostly likely also either Sea World or the San Diego Zoo. And occasionally Salt Lake. I’m sure there was a shocking lack of tourist postcards and chotchkies to be found during our annual trek to Randolph during branding season.

And I’d long grown tired of looking for my actual name D-a-l-e-n-e on the signature license plates of various locals on could find in tourist traps.

So postcards and shot glasses it was.

The shot glasses are long since lost or broken.

But every now and then the occasional postcard turns up in some long lost pile of memories.

(I forget to label them as such, but I’m trying to keep up with the occasional writing prompt provided by Ann Cannon on her Facebook page. You will find them tagged under the category cannonball run, for no other reason it seemed more interesting than “prompts by Ann Cannon.” )

The ApocEclipse that wasn’t

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Today in my “sent” mail I found an email I sent to some of my family in November 2013 in which I recalled seeing a solar eclipse in totality in 1979 and I stated, “The next one is in 2017. Let’s go!”

I since tried a couple of other times to drum up interest and failed.

And then August 21, 2017 drew nearer and I was recovering from surgery that consumed my entire summer and no one else was interested but even if they were the hotels were all booked up or required a 3-night stay minimum.

And the ubiquitous “they” issued dire warnings about people getting stranded because there would be so many people and traffic would be so bad that grocery stores shelves would be emptied, McDonalds would run out of food, cell service would be disrupted, and gas stations would run out of gas.

I had one friend from Idaho predict that people would die.

So I felt smug in my wise decision not to settle for 90%.

Until Wednesday. I became curious and googled my brothers in Idaho and Oregon’s zip codes and realized that at least one of them was in the path of totality. I figured if I left at 6am Thursday morning I might miss the worst of the traffic. Then I could hunker down at his house and leave for my return trip sometime later this week.

And then my coworker shared stories of how grocery stores in Idaho had lines out the door since Monday and were already sold out of milk and bananas.

Bananas.

Turns out I could have left at 6am Thursday. Or 6pm Thursday. Or any time Friday (although, as is typical, it was a little messy and slow during peak Friday hours). Or Saturday. Or Sunday.

Or even this morning, but that would have had to have been well before dark.

The mayhem and disorder, at least from what I hear, BECAUSE I WAS NOT THERE TO SEE FOR MYSELF, never materialized.

The experts were wrong.

And I learned something important.

Next time I want to do something, important–like maybe twice in a lifetime important–I shouldn’t worry that no one wants to go with me. Or that “they” are predicting the worst. If I really want to do something, I should just do it. Even if it means I have to do it by myself.*

*my coworker told me today that her little mom drove all my herself to some campground in Wyoming and pitched her little tent and watched the eclipse in totality all by herself.

Brava!

[Day 158 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Today’s prompt: what books made a difference in your life when you were a kid? Why?

All Quiet on the Western Front impacted me in that I realized as I read it and found myself feeling empathy for the characters that my empathy was for people I had grown up believing were my enemy. There are two takeaways from this. Sometimes people may be forced to do things they neither understand nor have their heart into. I’m sure the disillusionment was felt on both sides. So it’s entirely possible we may have more in common with someone we see as our enemy or at the very least “on the other side” than we realize. And two, Seeing things from someone else’s point of view can evoke compassion and empathy. I’ve felt this time and time again through reading. As noted by Azar Nafisi in Reading Lolita in Tehran:

Empathy lies at the heart of Gatsby, like so many other great novels–the biggest sin is to be blind to others’ problems and pains. Not seeing them means denying their existence.

I found Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl both humbling and empowering. It kind of punched me in the heart with the realization that our happiness is not a product of our circumstances. We have the power to choose happiness even when others try–or go to great extremes–to rob us of basic necessities and human dignity. This reminds me of a number of other books I’ve read about WWII and the Holocaust whose message is that when all is lost–or, more honestly–taken from us–we can still choose kindness.

Favorite concert going experience

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One time my friend Tressa, who I met almost accidentally when I got together for lunch in The Basin with my friend Christy* one Thanksgiving, texted me out of the blue to tell me she had an extra ticket to see Lyle Lovett and His Large Band at the Red Butte Gardens.

I knew who Lyle Lovett was, of course. He was that guy who was married–for a little while–to Julie Roberts.

I’d never been to a concert at the Red Butte Gardens.

But Tressa is good company and I was feeling adventuresome and I said yes.

And I went.

And it was a great time!

First and foremost, Tressa is actually great company. Two of her lovely friends joined us and, as it was the first time I met Tressa, they put me immediately at ease and we had a good time.

Second, the Red Butte Gardens are lovely. You really can’t go wrong with an intentional garden in the foothills looking out over the Salt Lake Valley.

In addition to being lovely, the Red Butte Garden has ambiance by the great big bucketload. I would be lying if I didn’t say that good spirits likely improved upon the already good spirits people were in. But essentially people who love the outdoors and good music are generally a good crowd overall and this crowd also seemed to have an affinity for fine friends, fine food, and a little fine wine. Everyone was simply happy to be there, and it feels good to be surrounded by happy people. (To be honest, a stark contrast to that Styx concert I attended in the Salt Palace as a freshman at BYU when I realized for the first time that the band Styx got its name from the River Styx and, while I grew up on Styx’s music, their concert gave off a completely different vibe.)

Finally, Lyle Lovett is a solid good show. There was a good energy. The music was fun.

And, as my friend Tressa stated, he has a really big band.

Where did your family go to eat for special occasions

(I need a new tag for my Ann Cannon prompts!)

Being the oldest of 6 kids, I don’t find it in any way surprising we did not go out to eat very much. But when we did, there were two places I remember as a kid. My dad’s favorite place was a buffet called The Kings Table. It had kind of medieval castle kind of feel and it must have been pretty a much meat and potatoes, European smorgasbord type of place. I’m sure we must have only eat there 2 or 3 times tops, but those 2 or 3 times stayed with me.

Another place we went on very rare occasion was a steak and seafood place. I want to say Black Angus, but I don’t think the original chain would have been around a way back when. Part of me wants to say it was the Sizzler, but that too would have been a very different Sizzler. Because this was quite good. I do recall going there with my dad at least once. What I mostly remembered was that he enjoyed a good steak. This was good, as we raised black angus on our farm.

But my primary memories of the good steak and seafood place were with my seminary teacher. Sister Wirrick made a special deal with all her seminary students that if we read the year’s scripture from cover to cover, she would take us out for steak and seafood at the end of the year.

And that’s how it came to be that as a naive youth I slogged through the Song of Solomon and what else have you.

When I first moved to Utah to attend BYU my maternal grandparents were still living in Southern (way Southern) California. I remember my Grandpa Jacobs taking me out to the Chuck-a-rama (at least once on a Sunday!) when he came to visit.

Family gatherings at the Chuck-a-rama (or somethings at the Golden Corral) likely merit their own blog post, so we’ll skip to Brick Oven.

My mother enjoyed Brick Oven. We, like much of the rest of Provo, went there to celebrate special occasions such as a graduation. When family came to town, we gathered there a few times with my mother once she was on hospice and feeling up to it, before she died. Those were good times.

El Azteca probably merits its own blog post as well, so now I have a prompt or two for a rainy day.

Must love dogs

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 9.00.37 AM It’s a good thing she’s so cute.

This summer I had foot surgery that laid me up for-seemingly-ever.

Someone rear-ended my car on the freeway and so my car has been in the shop for-seemingly-ever.

And our dog almost died.

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Make no mistake. This dog had disrupted my life greatly. (As duly noted previously.) But I still love her. Dogs love you unconditionally, and that is a truly rare and beautiful gift in this life.

But she got an infection. And then she got another infection. And lost 10-or-so pounds in a matter of days. And thus required an emergency visit on a holiday weekend to the after-hours clinic for pets. (Did you know that unlike human medical bills, pet medical bills are not financable (not a word, but should be) and one must pay in full when one picks up one’s pet?

I stopped keeping track of the money and am making an honest effort not to look at next month’s credit card bill, because the truth is, pets are like family. This crazy wild 5-yo puppy that ate most of my chickens and thinks she is part kangaroo has my heart. And seeing her so sick broke my heart. There was no question we wouldn’t do everything we could to save her. And so we ok’d emergency surgery and I laid awake most the night we weren’t sure she would make it through praying for and worrying over her.

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And seeing her so sick she lived in the house for an entire night and most of one day and could barely raise her head off the floor but still kept trying to wag her tail undid me.

I’m happy to report Ginger pulled through. Couldn’t even manage a second night in the house. And when, a week ago Monday, Lindsay took her back to the vet for her follow-up (after wrestling with her extensively just to get the required leash on), the vet said, “Who is this dog?!” They didn’t even know her because she was finally her same wild self again.

Grateful.

Have you ever read a letter or note that wasn’t intended for you?

I can’t say I’ve ever read anything not intended for me, but I learned an interesting lesson a couple of times by 1. reading from someone’s thoughts that were open to me to read, but which I generally chose not to read and 2. by knowing who wrote a comment on a blog post I once wrote even though they thought they were posting anonymously.

The first time was after my ACL surgery, which was one of the most painful experiences I’ve had. I read the words, “Dalene doesn’t seem to be in much pain.” In fact I was in a good deal of pain and I was quite overwhelmed with having to juggle crutches and timing three different meds taken at different and not entirely divisible intervals. And due to certain circumstances, I found myself for a couple of days at a time being the only adult home and therefore responsible for four kids. I remember one occasion in particular when my daughter, who was about 8 at the time, had a horrible stomach ache. She crawled from her room into the hall way, where she was doubled in pain. All I could do was lower my lame self to the floor in the hall, not at all certain I would be able to get up again with just one leg, and stroke her head and cry right with her. I don’t know how we both got through that time, but somehow, as one does, we did. It wasn’t just that no one had any idea how hard that time was for me, but also that somehow I was creating a misperception that it was somehow easy, that made me feel truly isolated and alone.

The second incident was also painful, but in a different way. I’d written something raw and honest and shared it in what nonetheless was a fairly safe place, amongst a community of my sisters. Granted readers are welcome to comment their agreements or disagreements as they wish, but at least at that time, people were generally up front with their identities, so when they did bring something to the table, they more or less looked you in the eye when they laid their cards down. On this one occasion someone I knew commented in disguise in a way that was hurtful to me on a number of levels. I felt betrayed in a place that should have been safe.

Both incidents taught me that we can no more know what is in others’ hearts, minds, and bodies, than they can know what is in ours. While never perfectly and often poorly, I’ve tried to use this knowledge to try to be aware more of others’ pain–both what they’re telling me, and what they’re not telling me. I try to remember to seek to understand and to give others the benefit of the doubt. And I continue my efforts to progress in forgiveness (because forgiveness–like healing one’s wounded heart–is a work in progress).

This might have been an Ann Cannon prompt I’ve been putting off. But there. Now it’s done.

Write about a time you were pleasantly surprised

s and p notice how the focus and framing here are all about the ginger cookies because I fully expected those to be my favorite

When I bit into Josh Bingham’s Salt & Pepper cookies with strawberry balsamic fruit leather (because while I like pepper I’ve never had it in cookies–nor did I think I wanted to–and as rule I don’t generally like fruit leather) and. Well. There are no words. Except to say that is one darn good cookie.

And I ate three.

When my niece showed up at my house last Friday with a shake and onion rings from Burgers Supreme because she wanted to do something nice for me. (OK – and a whole lot of other nice things people have been and are doing for me while I’m laid up.)

When my aunt and uncle drove 3 hours from South Carolina my first time in the south to meet me in my hotel in Atlanta just so they could a) see me and b) make sure I had a proper introduction to both Southern hospitality and Southern food (perhaps those are somewhat synonymous). And then turned around afterwards and drove the three hours back home the same night. (Props also to my cousin who drove with small children 3 hours from Alabama two days later to show me even more Southern hospitality.)

Any time it rains when there was not rain in the forecast.

Ok. To be fair. Any time it rains. Period.

When the unending line of 100-degree days in the 10-day forecast miraculously disappeared into high 90-somethings.

Every time I get a card or a letter (that is actually to me and not to my bank account) or a present in the mailbox.

I would also add any time I get an email that is actually to me from someone I actually know instead of some entity to whom I had to give my very special (dalenerowley no numbers because I was the first) email address just so I could buy something from them. But let’s not get carried away.

When my friend Melissa showed up at my work with a big bag of fresh garden peas she had hand picked herself. (Because picking peas is a lot of work even for yourself. Extra sweet to put that kind of effort out for someone else.)

Surprise visits from friends and family. Which, let’s be honest, are beyond pleasantly surprising and downright make my day.

How writing about happy things can turn around a discouraging day right on its head.

Hold on to the happy and pleasantly surprising.