Monday, March 28, 2011

Amazing Women

Yesterday my Behind-the-House-Across-the-Canal Neighbor taught the lesson in our women’s auxiliary meeting at church. I love when she teaches – she’s a great teacher! Heck, I just love her…period. She can always make me laugh – even when I’m in a bad mood. She and her husband are currently going through a "Life Struggle" – those times that are trying and difficult, but hopefully pull you together and provide those “one of the best times of our lives that we NEVER WANT TO DO AGAIN!” memories. She’s had probably more than her share of those…and yet you won’t meet a more positive person. She’s got seven kids (one on a mission for our church, one a special needs child) and she runs a day care in her home, but she reads lots and blogs and does other wonderful things – I just don’t know how she does them all (but then Time Management was never really my strong suit – you may have noticed I don’t have a lot of Strong Suits). I just think she is totally amazing.

And it got me thinking about the Amazing Women I’ve had in my life, and still have, and how blessed my life has been because of them.

The first and foremost Amazing Woman in my life would be my mother. The most amazing woman (she managed to put up with Dad all those years before he “mellowed”…not to mention putting up with my brother and me!!). She was a teacher – she, too, was a great teacher. And she loved her kids…every one of them. She might not have liked their behavior at times, but she loved them all and saw potential in all of them. She touched so many of their lives for good. Mom also loved learning – when she wasn’t teaching classes she was taking classes. She was a voracious reader – I never really had to read any books, she’d give me detailed reviews of every one she read. She learned lots of crafts – calligraphy, tole painting, papercrafts, crocheting. She made the best bread on earth, and the best pies and cookies and candy. She was a peacemaker and a crusader, and loved life. All of the good things in me I credit to her (and Dad), and all of the not-so-good things are mine alone. She was (is) my best friend…and I miss her dreadfully, but thank God she was, and always will be, my Mom.

My mother’s older sister, Grace was an Amazing Woman. She was a teacher, too…in fact both of the Rooker Girls got their education at the Albion Normal School in Albion, Idaho. Both taught in Idaho…but where Mom moved to California and taught the remainder of her career there, Grace taught in a little town called Malta. It was a 60 mile round-trip from her home in Almo to Malta…and the winters can be brutal there, and the roads aren’t so hot either. She taught school, raised seven kids and worked on the ranch. She also read voraciously, crocheted, quilted, sewed, canned, made cheese, and did all those amazing things you do living on a ranch to keep your family clothed and fed. "Aunt Grace's Place" was my favorite place on earth was I was a little girl.

My friend Vicki was an Amazing Woman. When I read the tribute on the program from her funeral I was literally blown away by her accomplishments and the things she was remembered for by her family and friends. I mean, I knew these things about her – but when you see them listed and filling pages, it amazes you all over again. Vicki had the same gift as my neighbor – she could always make me laugh, no matter my mood or current circumstance. And that was amazing because her circumstances weren’t always so good either. I miss her dreadfully too…but am grateful for the knowledge that I will see her again one day and we will take up right where we left off. (I’m sure she is already part of a Book Club in Heaven with her mother and mine!)

My dear friend Kay is an Amazing Woman. She also raised a good sized family – six kids. She’s done her share of canning and sewing and quilting. Kay is that special kind of person that everyone loves…and it seems that everyone knows. (I’ve hardly been anywhere with her where we don’t run into somebody that she knows!) I met her when I was serving on an office professionals’ advisory committee at the university where I work. Representatives serve for three years – they sponsor a series of brown bag luncheons throughout the academic year and host a three-day conference with speakers on various topics. Kay came on board part-way through my first year, as a replacement for a woman who had retired. The next year Kay was chosen as chair of the committee – a tribute to her amazing leadership abilities and the almost instant bond she seems to form with people. (And that’s the way it was…within days it was as though we’d known each other all our lives.)

My boss Julie is an Amazing Woman. She’s smart and funny, she can handle almost any crisis with poise and aplomb (and believe me, there are always crises!). She juggles a very demanding job with raising four kids and a church calling that takes a good chunk of time. She is a great mentor, a great leader, she’s organized and an incredible multi-tasker. She knits really amazing stuff (!) and makes luscious baklava (and provides it yearly to a huge group of lucky people at Christmas!). She gives amazing gifts – she searches for the absolute perfect gift for the recipient. Her professional CV is awe-inspiring (and intimidating!) She gets upset when I call her “perfect” and says “Whatever…” but she’s pretty darned close! And I’m privileged to work for her and associate with her daily, and blessed to call her my friend, as well.

As I was thinking about these women in my life, I realized that I am really surrounded by Amazing Women. For instance there are, within “spittin' distance” of my house, lots of them – women who deal with those “Life Struggles” every day, who raise families (sometimes alone, sometimes as they support their husbands), who work hard and still find time to be good neighbors and good friends, women who put themselves last and give of themselves and constantly find ways of serving others. Women who are talented and accomplished, who share those talents and minimize their own accomplishments while supporting others and cheering them on.

And while these Amazing Women often leave me feeling incredibly inadequate, they also inspire me to become better and give me hope that I may become an amazing woman in someone else’s life.

For now,


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Inanimate Objects and Emotion

The loomingly-imminent garage sale has been postponed. And that’s actually a good thing (even though there will be bins of stuff all over the house for at least a couple more weeks), because hopefully I’ll be able to go through more bins and boxes and closets…and find more of my life to sell off…


A goodly chunk of garage sale stuff is soft, cuddly and covered in plush. I’ve been collecting bears most of my life. I’m not a super serious collector, but enough of one to have accumulated quite a few. (Other types of critters have been acquired as well – gifts mostly, but I’m not technically collecting them.) One of the results of this “purge mode” has been the almost feverish desire to end up in a minimalist space – a few sticks of furniture, a few pieces of clothing and food…period. (I know that’s not reasonable…but it would be…tidy.)

So I decided that at fifty-nine I have outgrown stuffed animals…mostly. And I also decided that a lot of the bears (and bunnies and kitties) would have to go.

My oldest bear, Theodore, is almost 54 years old. He’s a panda, but is now black and gray instead of black and white; he’s missing a nose and a little pink tongue, and his “growl box” no longer functions. He went with me to every slumber party and every week at camp, and spent several years with me at BYU. I love him a lot and would never give him up (even if someone wanted him – which is doubtful).

My next-oldest bear is Mocha. I got him when I was working at Zions Bank in Salt Lake City. They had a promotion – Save a Little Money, Get a Little Honey (Bear). I’ve had Mocha for 33 years.

Most of the stuffed animals resided on shelves in my bedroom, so when I took Mocha down he was pretty dusty…and as I wiped a layer of dust off his little brown eyes I saw something. It startled me, so I looked closer. Sure enough…it was reproach. Now you might say that something made of fabric and stuffed with polyester batting couldn’t possibly feel or convey emotion. I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong… (Haven’t you ever read The Velveteen Rabbit????)

I tried to justify my actions to him – if I kept him, he would just continue sitting on a shelf, collecting dust. Wouldn’t it be better to be played with and loved by a child, who would cherish him?? (And then, of course, I immediately thought: Or torn to pieces by a puppy, neglected by a spoiled kid, experimented on by a sadistic teenager... (yeah, I saw Toy Story!!))

I tried telling all the bears and bunnies and kitties about the cherished-by-a-child thing as they lay smooshed together in a bin, instead of sitting in honor on a shelf. I don’t know if they believed me or not.

In Iron Man 2 (yes I finally saw it – twice), the villain says (in a thick Russian accent): “You shouldn’t get so attached to things…you should learn to let go.” And it seems accurate to say that I don’t own stuff…the stuff owns me. And right now, a lot of my stuff is a burden. I can’t just throw everything out…but perhaps I can try to find new homes for some of my stuff. (And let someone else be owned by it.)

The only thing is…my other stuffed animals are already missing their friends. And while you may think the shelves look nice, to me they look…empty.

And, as silly as it sounds, I feel guilty.

For now,

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Downside of Ambition

I had a not-so-good weekend. I knew there was a garage sale in my future, I just didn’t know it was going to be the immediate future. It’s this Saturday. (Of course I’m not sure the organizers are aware that there’s a 30% chance of rain – yesterday the weather people said rain and snow, so I’m glad they’ve downgraded it – but outdoor sales and rain don’t mix well together.)

Anyway, I had already started the purging process, but it kicked into high gear Saturday. I spent all weekend going through bins, digging in closets, emptying shelves, pawing through drawers and dragging huge, heavy trashbags out to the dumpster. However, if this is the junk in my house:


then this is what I got through this weekend:


It’s really depressing.

So last night, after visiting Dad in the assisted living place (which is also depressing), I just vegged – amid the stacks of emptied Rubbermaid bins and piles of stuff to be priced. I channel surfed…stopping for a bit to watch snippets of Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire (they were all so cute before they grew up), then saw the last fifteen minutes of Chopped (one of my all-time favorite shows - it's always fun to watch chefs try to make a meal out of rutabagas, Snickers bars, Kiwi fruit and rattlesnake meat) and finally settled in to watch Iron Man.

They’ve been offering Iron Man 2 on Pay-Per-View, but I didn’t really want to watch that until I had seen the first one. (It’s always good to do these things in order. I discovered this because I saw Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince before seeing Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, and found out the hard way that they’d killed off Sirius Black in the earlier one. This was a horrible shock and I was very upset.)

After watching Iron Man, especially with the weekend I had, I’ve decided that being a super villain would just be too much work. I can hardly deal with five bedrooms and a garage sale. World domination would be way too much trouble. I mean you have to do all that planning, and you have to organize minions, and there are the costs associated with paying them and providing food and lodging…not to mention the inter-disciplinary disputes that would invariably break out amongst the terrorist factions. You’d need lots of equipment – especially tech stuff, which is not my strong suit. And, let’s face it, you have to have energy…lots and lots of energy, because it always ends up in a long, drawn-out fist-fight with the good guy (in Iron Man the fist fight was between two guys in mega-ultra-superpower-iron suits and there was a lot of collateral damage – which costs a lot of money to clean up and is very messy).

There’s only one advantage to being a super villain that I can think of. You never need to be polite. They just don’t expect you to be courteous as you’re blowing up people and decimating cities. This would have come in handy this morning when I opened my garage door to find a UTA Paratransit mini-bus blocking my driveway as the driver fiddled with paperwork. Instead of leveling the bus with a wrist-mounted sidewinder missile and then laughing maniacally, I had to walk up, tap on the door and ask the driver politely to move her bus.

With the mood I was in this morning, the first option would have been much more satisfying.

 Oh. P.S. Big-time secondary crush on Robert Downey, Jr. (If you know me at all, you’ll know who the big-time PRIMARY crush is on…but it’s always nice to have a fall-back position ready.)

for now,


Friday, March 18, 2011

Adhesives and Paper and Ink, Oh My!

Back in January I was asked to be the “card lady” for our church’s women’s auxiliary. Our president, who is one of the loveliest women on the planet, said it was right up my alley. She was absolutely correct, and more besides. When you can find a church calling that combines your favorite hobby and service to others…well, I think you’re pretty darned lucky. Dare I say “blessed?” Yep.

However, we’ve got about a hundred women…so that’s at least 100 birthday cards, not to mention the occasional “thinking of you’s” when someone is struggling, or “with sympathy’s” when a loved one passes, or “congrats” when something wonderful happens (hopefully much more of the latter!). So being proactive helps…and building up my “stash” of cards is a priority.

Susan (our president) indicated that I shouldn't worry too much, they just wanted simple cards…and that is something of a problem…because I don’t do “simple” very well. I mean, I try…but they just always seem to come out a little more ornate (sometimes a lot more!) than I'd originally planned. But I have worked hard at reining myself in, so to speak, even though I have enough stickers, brads, prima flowers, eyelets, dimensionals, ribbons and buttons to set up my own craft store!

(I think maybe I should start focusing some of my purging energies downstairs in the craft room!!)

Did I mention I love making cards?? Well, I do…because it’s instant gratification. I mean, you do put in a little work, but it doesn’t take long before you have a finished product. And you can hold in your hand a bit of creativity…and you can brighten someone’s day! Just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.

I’m not good at drawing (although I surprised myself during a college elementary education art class), I don’t crochet or knit (have tried several times…but I am positively hopeless!), I don’t cross-stitch or paint or arrange flowers or hook rugs or decorate cakes…but this I can do…and it’s fun! I was hoping to get the ladies in my area interested in card-making, I know a lot of women who belong to card groups – they meet monthly and everyone brings enough handmade cards to exchange (and they chat and laugh and eat, of course!)…but everyone in my circle is very busy and it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards (pun intended). So I travel my paper path alone mostly, with an occasional get-together with my friend Kay (who owns nearly a store-full of supplies herself).

Fortunately, for the moment though, I’m able to share this hobby with some very special ladies. And that’s good enough for me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


So I’m trying to do the purge thing. (And no, I’m not bulimic – in that respect I’m only capable of bingeing!) I’m attempting to go through the (very crowded, cluttery) house and get rid of things. It’s pretty overwhelming…and I mostly had been walking into rooms, looking around helplessly, doing an immediate about-face and leaving. (Makes purging difficult if you’re not actually physically in the room you want to work on.) But you have to start somewhere, and Saturday I decided to work in the office. I tackled the file cabinet in the afternoon.

There were old (precious) family photos and school photos from Mom’s teaching days – which need to go in the family archives; user manuals for various electronics and appliances; old tax records; insurance stuff…you know, the usual. And it seems Dad has almost been compulsive about saving check stubs…clear back into the mid-90’s. (Those are getting shredded!) I found a few letters I’d written home while I was away at school or working after college. I always find these fascinating because they can truly transport me back in time. (But you have to be careful with letters...because you end up reading instead of purging!)

One mentioned a conversation I’d had with the former roommate of a new roommate. She’d talked about living alone (which has been much on my mind of late), and she said there were two things you could do if you lived alone: 1) make yourself get out there and associate with people and do your best to stay busy; or 2) become a hermit. I can totally see that, because most of the time lately I’ve been hermit-ing. And I can recognize where that could become a (bad) habit.

I also found something I’d written about friendships…and expectations of friendships, and the give and take of the relationship. I summed up by saying, In friendship, as in every other area of life, there are highs and lows. Occasionally the lows seem lower and more frequent than the highs, but that brings us back to those expectations. We are all very human. We bring our frailties and weaknesses and needs and desires to each relationship. These may often be out of sync with what the other person brings.

(I think I was more mature when I was in my late 20’s…which is somewhat disheartening considering I’m well into Senior Citizenship.)

I’ve been reading Glenn Beck’s new book, “The 7: Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life” – co-written with Dr. Keith Ablow. Glenn talks about how he doesn’t believe in coincidences…he calls them “breadcrumbs” (as in a trail of breadcrumbs that lead you back to the right path – a lá Hansel & Gretel). One of his most significant breadcrumbs was running into an attractive woman three times in one week. He ended up marrying her. (Talk about your upscale French Boulangerie-baked loaf of bread!) And so he now looks for all the breadcrumbs that come his way…never discounting what might seem to be insignificant.

I think the letter home and the essay on friendship may have been my Saturday breadcrumbs. I know they appeared at a time when I’m conscious of a very real future spent alone and a time when some very close friendships seem to have foundered a bit. Perhaps I should take the finding of these as gifts, little arrows to point me back to my path. It makes me wonder what other treasures I may find as I continue opening cabinets and going through drawers…and if they, too, may prove to be breadcrumbs.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rowdy Girls

If you had mentioned the word “bunco” to me fifteen years ago I would have immediately thought of “swindler,” oh…and the fat guy from the Bunco Squad chasing Robert Redford in The Sting. But then I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. It’s understandable because the game of Bunco (and fifteen years ago I didn’t know it was a game) began as “8-Dice Cloth.” (Don’t ask me why, ‘cuz it makes no sense to me, either.) It began in 18th century England and came to San Francisco as a gambling activity…they had Bunco Parlors, and the police were constantly raiding them, hence that term “bunco squad.”

Wikipedia (I know…not the most accurate reference source in the world) says Bunco is popular with “middle-aged housewives” – which apparently it is. But it also says that there’s no skill involved. And with this I have to vehemently disagree.
About ten years ago my good friend, Kay asked if I would consider subbing for her Bunco group. I’d never played the game but decided to give it a whirl. (Had I known that I would be required to keep my own score I might have declined…I told you, I’m not good at math!!). The group, at that time, consisted of Kay and her daughters and daughter-in-law and granddaughter; some of their friends and the friends’ mother; a mother-in-law and friend of a mother-in-law…and well, you can see where it was a fairly tight-knit group and I was a little concerned…because I’m shy.

(You can pick your chin up off the ground now and quit shaking your head…IT’S TRUE.)

Amazingly enough I was high scorer that first time. (Go figure.) There are prizes for High Score, Second High Score, Low Score, Second Low Score and they roll dice to determine which game gets the Bunco prize, and Last Bunco. And then everyone else gets a $5 gift. I don’t know if you’ve seen videos of wolf packs on the hunt, but imagine them closing in on a crippled deer, and you’d understand my feelings when I got high score. I’ll tell you right now that these are the finest women in the world, smart, funny, caring…good Christian women. But sit them at a card table with dice in front of them and they turn rabid and vicious.

Seriously. I mean it.

The object of the each game is to reach 21. The first turn is “onesies.” The second, “twosies,” and so forth. You can win by rolling (cumulatively) twenty-one ones or twos, or you can win by rolling a “bunco” which is three of whichever number you’re on. So if you’re rolling sixes, you get an automatic bunco when you roll three sixes. The faster you roll, the more the odds of winning. There are four women at a table, each taking their turn, frantically rolling the dice to get a Bunco. But some of these ladies are SKILLED in dice-rolling. I think it’s actually an art. Me? I’m just lucky to get a five when we're on fives.

During the game the noise level is incredible. Rock concerts? Airport runways? Building demolition? Soothing, peaceful, restful… It gets so bad at our Bunco Nights that you can’t even hear when someone yells “Bunco!” at the top of their voices. People are constantly stopping play because they think someone’s won a game. And then there’s more yelling when it’s discovered there isn’t a winner. And the comments!! The language!! Just to give you a (mild) example, I was congratulating one of the ladies for getting a Bunco last night and I was told, “Nedra? You can take your happiness and STICK IT!”


It’s all in good fun, really…and when I sub for Bunco I am able – for a couple of hours at least – to leave all my stresses and worries behind and just laugh like crazy. (And believe me, when I say “crazy” it’s a major understatement.) However, every time I get together with these women I expect the cops to show up…’cuz I think there’s a city noise ordinance or something…

I’ll let you know, next month, if I need help with bail.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Saying What You Mean

I love words…I like to play with them, create with them, paint pictures with them, entertain with them. And there are words I just love to say – like discombobulate (which SO sounds like what it means! As does flagrant…jus’ sayin’…), or cryogenic or abscond or gymnasium. There are words that sing to me…the sound of them and their meaning both – like luminous or supernal or nebula or coalesce. Language is my foundation, I’m very right brain. Ask for a poem or a story, I’m your girl. Need help with math? Umm.. Go Fish…

Where am I going with all this? Well…to work, actually. As I pulled into the parking lot this morning I looked up, and saw this.

One of the advantages of living where I live and working where I work is that the mountains are RIGHT THERE. In your face, as it were. Some people feel threatened by this (my mother was one of those, she said she was always afraid they were going to fall on her). But I’m the opposite. Looking straight up and seeing those towering peaks gives me such a feeling of security and safety, and I’m all “God’s in Heaven and all’s right with the World”-ish.

This morning, though, the towering peaks looked a little insubstantial. And I couldn’t decide if the feeling was ephemeral or ethereal. I suppose either could work, but I tend to be a bit obsessive about using the right word. (When I’m writing fiction I will sometimes halt complete scenes in mid-action just to search for the perfect word. [Can’t you just see one of my characters, teetering on the edge of a precipice, yelling: “Get on with it, already!!!”??] I know this quirk flies in the face of convention, those who teach the craft or who give advice will admonish writers to just continue on and stick the right word in the blank space later. I’ve never been able to do that…I can’t finish a thought or a paragraph if there’s a hole that needs to be filled with that conclusively definitive, indisputably precise, unconditionally explicit, and unambiguously accurate word.)

(I also love my Thesaurus.)

The definition of ephemeral is brief, episodic, evanescent, fleeting, fugitive, impermanent, transient; whereas ethereal means aerial, filmy, gaseous, ghostly, tenuous, unearthly, vaporous. Now you could pose the argument that since the weather changes constantly (the old joke is, if you don’t like the weather in Utah [or insert your favorite locale], wait fifteen minutes), a word that means fleeting or transient could work. But I’m going with ethereal on this one – and not just because of the vaporous reference.

I walked around the corner of the building to get a different perspective, and it had already changed just a little bit. (Oh shoot! That means I need to choose "ephemeral." See? Unbelievably anal...)

What the picture actually means, of course, is that it isn’t quite Spring yet. In fact we are due to see a cold front come through…in just a few hours…which will bring snow again. They’re predicting 30 inches in the high mountains and perhaps four inches on the valley floors (oh goody, I'm just lugubrious about it). I’m not really ready for hot weather, but a little green and a few warm gentle breezes would not come amiss.

for now,


Friday, March 4, 2011


I’ve got this card sitting in front of me. I really like it, I think it’s cute…even if I did make it myself.

I like the colors – browns and pinks, and the patterned paper, while you probably can’t tell from the photo, is glittery…and I like that too. It’s a cute, simple, perfect little card…except for one thing. It was never sent. It was supposed to go to my friend Vicki for her birthday last year (March 31st), along with a couple of things that I’d made for her. I was several weeks late getting it boxed up and then for some inexplicable reason it just sat there. She had been on a cruise with her son and daughter-in-law but when she got back the cancer, which she’d been fighting for a couple of years, really accelerated and she got worse and worse.

She’s gone now, and she never did read the card or get to enjoy the gifts. Harriet Beecher Stowe once said: "The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds undone." And you all know the stories about words you didn’t say or things you didn’t do and so missed some opportunity… We all get those types of “forwards” from people…people just trying to stay in touch in some way. Most of the time I delete them (because of that “Cries At The Drop Of A Hat” thingee) for they usually remind me of the things I don’t do, the words I don’t say. And if you really think about it, it’s foolish. Out of twenty-four hours surely there is a moment here and there that can be spent towards doing those things and saying those words.

Today I’m going to take that moment out of those twenty-four hours, and with tomorrow’s brand-new twenty-four I’ll do it again. (Cue the soap opera music from “Days of Our Lives” - - “Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives…”) I checked some life expectancy tables (shockingly the U.S. comes in 36th world-wide! behind Cuba for heck sake!!) and for an American citizen the average age reached is 78.3 (I’ll round that off to 78). I’m horrible at math, but I fortunately do have a calculator…so…seventy-eight years equals 28,470 days and 683,280 hours and 40,996,800 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I waste so many of those almost forty-one million minutes. Would I waste forty-one million dollars??? Don’t think so. And yet minutes spent touching someone’s life cannot be measured in dollars or cents…they are incalculable. We never know when one of those moments will change someone’s life forever.

So I’m off…to spend a few of today’s 1,440 moments doing one of those things.