Sunday, October 28, 2007

October at Eden

A week ago I attended a writing conference in Eden, Utah. It was different from the writing conference I attended last March; different format, different atmosphere, different setting. Still, it was very educational and informative.
While March’s conference stressed the craft of writing, this conference was focused almost totally on the business side of writing. I learned a great deal from the conference last spring - information that I tried to incorporate into my book to make it more interesting, more correct, and with better prose. But I was ready, by the time the Eden Conference rolled around, for the business aspects of my chosen profession. Does ‘chosen profession’ sound odd to those of you who have known me in other roles? –As a mother, a teacher, a genealogist, a gardener, a caregiver, a conservator/guardian, a landlord, or any of the other myriad hats I’ve worn throughout the years?
I’ll admit, I’ve done many things in my life. But underlying everything else has been the dream I’ve had since I was a child-to be a writer. However, as the Preacher said, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, so it is with me. My season of child bearing is long since over. With six of my eight children married, the seventh in his twenties and the eighth a senior in high school, my days of child rearing are nearly at an end, also. Since those two seasons are practically past, there is a lot more time to devote to what I’ve wanted to do for many, many years.
It’s not that I haven’t done anything in the writing field during those years. I sold the only story I ever submitted for publication. I won first place with another in a Chicagoland writing contest. I’ve written poetry occasionally, but it’s been very sporadic - more for my own entertainment than anything else although I’ll have to plead guilty to occasionally writing satirical poetry when I’ve been really disgusted about something. I’ve written road shows, songs (music and lyrics), an Easter anthem (again, music and lyrics) and letters. Myriads of letters. Long letters. Detailed letters. Letters that delighted some and sent others to their computers begging me to not send such long letters. (Sorry Charlie - I send form letters. . .as in one generic letter tailored to you after I write it. . .and if you want me to write something different just for you, s.o.l. Don’t have time.)
Attitude? Yes, I definitely have one. Busy woman? Yes, again definitely. Have time to meet the demands of persnickety readers? Not recently. End of discussion.
And so it goes. These past two months have been devoted, almost exclusively, to finishing and polishing my book. Writing is not easy. In fact, it’s just plain hard work. Work that has nothing to do with physical labor. Work that is almost entirely mental. Work that is, nevertheless, very exhausting at times. Frequently I feel completely wrung out, drained both physically and mentally.
I want to thank Chris and Sue and Nancy for their help and support. Last spring Sue sent one chapter back with the comment, "Mother, this sounds like a history text. You need to rewrite it." Her comment sent me on a lovely vacation with Dad where I personally visited the places I had written about, videoing and taking copious notes about the terrain. I don’t believe that chapter sounds like a history text any longer. :)
Chris is now reading--and re- reading for me. He has pointed out portions where my descriptions sound like a woman’s writing. Since my book is written in first person from a male point of view, comments from Chris are very welcomed. Yes, I can see that he is totally correct. I so wanted to share the experience that I tended to get a tad flowery. Gotta watch that. I also rely on Chris for critical critiquing. He’s a very intelligent - and critical - reader with whom I’ve had many enjoyable discussions on various writer’s skills and techniques.
Nancy has been a steady support. Her familiarity with the ranch I wrote about as well as the general area involved has made her enjoyment of my work a thing of encouragement to me. Any writer feels discouraged at times. Nancy, Chris and Sue telling me my book is a good read, an interesting story, has helped so much.
Now that the rewrites are almost over, it’s time to draft a query letter and start searching for an agent. Am I excited? Not even! It’s so much easier to write a good story than it is to write a query letter or a synopsis. I know how to write stories. I know how to write clear, easily understood prose that paints such a picture that the reader feels he’s there. But this query business. . . . . . . how in the world do you condense the essence of a book into one paragraph? OHMIGOSH! Tomorrow is gonna be a loooooooooooooooong, looooooooooooooooong day.
Before I close this blog, however, I do want to include a few photos. Pictures are worth a thousand words, right? So I post photos and don’t have to write so much. . . . Or something like that.
These are a couple of photos I snapped on the way home from Eden. Eden is a little valley high up in the Wasatch mountains northeast of Ogden. It's a ski resort in the winter. Heaven only knows what those folks do in the summer. But the town boasts a good writer's group - some of them very talented, from my point of view.
The lodge where we stayed was rustic. The counter in my bath was about five inches thick - cut from a log with the bark still attached. Highly polished and very beautiful. The roof in the foyer is held up by a tree trunk that's a good three feet through and some twenty feet high - all the branches cut off within 3 or 4 inches of the trunk. And it was beautiful. Expensive? Not too bad. My room was $89 for two queen sized beds.
Anyhow, I enjoyed myself, learned a lot, and snapped these photos of the canyon on my way back to Ogden. (Remember, double left click and they're monitor sized.)Note the storm rolling in. I hit snow on I-15 and I mean SNOW! Very thick, very wet, and accompanied by a STRONG wind. First snow storm of the season. I can't wait for winter! (Actually, I can't wait for spring. Forget winter. I've had my one snowstorm for the season. Now I'm ready for tulips and daffodils. Anybody got any suggestions of how I'm going to indulge that fantasy?)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

New pictures...

Well, I did it again! Make sure and check out my new family pictures I had done yesterday. I LOVE them! I must say, I am very impressed with my little family. Not only did we get 15 different poses done, we got them done in less than 20 minutes!!! YAY!!! Hope you all like them. Here is the link...
Once you are on my MySpace, right underneath my picture, you can view my "pics". The album name is OurFamily 2007.
Enjoy and love to all,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I am done!!!

I am done!
I am done!
Dancing-jig time has begun!
Cause my tail can finally shed
this hard computer chair of mine.

I am done!
I am done!
I can finally have some fun.
No more typing till my fingers hurt
and pains shoot up my spine.

I am done!
I am done!
Relaxation time has come.
I will soak in hot, sweet-scented oils forever!

I'll put up my feet
Do something indiscreet
'Cause I'm done! I am done! I am done!

Did I say indiscreet? Well, maybe not indiscreet but I'm sure ready to take a few days off.
What's the celebration all about? I, Karen Mittan, have finally finished my book. I never thought I'd see the day!

So many times I've wanted to scrap the whole thing! So many times it seemed beyond me. How do you accurately portray the life of another real human being? How do you express, in clear, interesting prose, what that person was all about--especially as complex a person as my grandfather was? Have I truly accomplished what I wanted to accomplish? I honestly don't know. All I can say is that I've tried. And tonight I was finally able to write THE END.

Yes, now - 388 double-spaced pages and 118,836 words later, I AM DONE!

Tomorrow and the next day I collect the photos I want to include. Friday and Saturday I attend the writers' conference that I've used as the time by which I had to have this project completed. Sunday I entertain out of state guests. And Monday I'll start of the final re-writes.
I've already done a lot of re-writing. In fact, the first re-write is finished on everything but this past week's writing.
But I have a check list of things I need to go over now.

CAUSE AND EFFECT. I think I've done pretty well with that. I believe I understand the concept fairly well.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION - Got it. I think I'm pretty clear there. Only one thing I can think of that I still have to put in.
ARTISTIC UNITY - this is one I'm not sure about. this is where you get rid of the fluff. I've tried to keep my writing focused but I'll have to go over it one more time to make sure.
'WHAT IF' PRINCIPLE - I don't think this one applies so well to most of my book because it, although fiction, is biographical - based heavily on fact. Many of the incidents are fact. I don't want to get into a lot of "what would have happened if this had been the circumstance instead of that?". I'm not trying to change his life- just to portray it.
FOCUS - I think I'm pretty good here.
UNDERSTANDABLE - Ditto. Don't think it's far-fetched. I've done enough research it better be correct!
READER MUST - notice, understand, feel -- going to have to have some readers get back with me on that one. I know what I felt as I wrote it but how does a reader feel? Time will tell.
SCENE - I need to identify each scene, what it tells the reader and how it makes the reader feel. that's gonna take a day or two!
REWARDS - some of this is excellent. Some of it - ??? Necessary background but, oh boy. I'm not so sure.
PIVOTAL MOMENTS - I think I have those down pretty well.

Did you ever realize how much there was to writing a novel? Am I ever learning a lot! Maybe by the time I croak I'll have gotten it down.

Now I need to write my proposal and try to find an agent. With any luck I'll be able to pick one up at the conference. We'll see. But that's why I've worked so hard to finish. I didn't want to try to find an agent until I knew I was actually intelligent enough to put it all together because this past month's writing concerned the pivotal point of his life. It dealt with the events and issues that changed his thinking and, ultimately, the direction of his life.
It's one thing to write about changes in an imaginary person. Sometimes they WON'T do what you'd planned - it just won't work out - but for the most part you, the writer, can make them do pretty much what you want. When you're dealing with a real person, however, and you're trying to be at least relatively true to him or her, you have to be a lot more careful and thoughtful. I've sweated blood and tears over whether I was being true to him. I think I am. I can only hope.

Umpteen hour days at the computer are enough to make a REAL old woman out of me! I've put in more hours a day on this project, since the funeral, than I ever dreamed anyone could con me into doing. But it's done. Finis. THE END.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I'm almost finished

I'm almost done! I'm almost done!

Actually, I can write Queen's English when I choose. The proper term would, I suppose, be 'I am almost finished.' But I've been writing colloquial English to the point . . . . Oh, heck. Why try to hide it. I don't speak Queen's English so why try to pretend I'm writing anything other than how I normally speak?

So what's the big to-do about? By this time tomorrow (Good Lord willin' an' the creeks don't rise) I will have finished the book I started 10 years ago last March. I'd actually hoped to 'git 'er done' yesterday but that didn't happen. And even though I will have finished the basic book tomorrow, that doesn't mean the rewrites are all finished. Most of it is about as good as I know how to make it but I haven't taken the time to do a thorough edit on what I've written this past week.

Many folks say you should write like there's no tomorrow and complete the whole thing BEFORE you start rewrites. My brain doesn't work that way. I write a little bit...then I look at what I've written...and go back and made a change or two...and the next thing I know the story has taken a completely different turn. Generally a much more interesting one than what I'd planned in the first place. Creation can be so fun at times.

Of course, there are those days when I look at the mass of words on my computer screen and think, "What an absolute disaster! Whoever would want to read this mess?" Nothing is coming together. Nothing is working.

Then it's time to either do some serious editing or go plant flowers and weed the garden.

Is that why it's taken me ten years to write this book? No. I actually wrote about half of it in one month. Then I was called to become conservator for the very ranch I was writing about and never even looked at my writing, again, until a couple years ago. In the meantime I learned so much that I really needed to know in order to understand what I was writing about that I'm very glad for the experience AND the time lapse. OHMIGOSH, is that a lousy sentence or what?

Anyhow, I'm grateful for the writing class I was able to take two years ago. And I'm grateful for the LDS Writers' Conference I attended last spring. I learned so much about how editors in today's world expect novel composition to be. I've had to do a lot of HEAVY rewrites but my story line is much stronger and I'm glad.

So what is my book about? It's a coming-of-age biographical novel concerning a shy, rather INsensitive young man, Nephi Moulton, who homesteaded in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1905. Besides his normal ranching persuits, Nephi rubbed shoulders with a self-proclaimed murderer, was unwitting host to a notorious, greatly feared poacher, and took a mad ride, horseback, over the mountains to find a doctor to save his brother's life. My book covers the first fifteen years of his experiences after he left home.

I knew him well; he raised me. He was my legal guardian from the time I was two until I was eighteen. I lived in his home. I worked on his ranch. And I adored him.

When he died, shortly after my eighteenth birthday, I set a goal to write his story - but marriage and eight kids shoved that to a back burner. Now it's almost finished. I've done extensive research, not only concerning his family but also concerning early day living in Jackson Hole. . . . And I've had so much fun doing research that sometimes it's been difficult to make myself get busy writing instead of reading.

But when I enrolled in the Eden Writers' Conference scheduled for Oct. 19 & 20, I determined I would have my book finished before I went. And it will be. I've put in far more eighteen hour days on this thing than I even want to think about. But tomorrow should do it. Then I can get busy looking for the photos I want to include.

And now, now that I'm nearly finished, I'm all excited about the next book I want to write. It will be about a relative of mine who was a gold miner in California in the 1850s. While the book I'm writing now is about a very moral teetotaler, my gold miner didn't exactly fit that mold. He left at least one illigitimate child that I know about. He was heavily into the liquor business and I've suspected he may have run a cat house in Point Arena, California, as well. I figure by the time my husband and I have finished researching this gentleman we'll probably have learned a lot! Could be quite interesting, don't you think?

In the meantime I'm scouting for an agent who specializes in historical/biographical fiction. Anyone got any suggestions?

Ok, 'nuff said. It's time to post some photos--that being my blogging stock in trade.
Let's see. Who's done what lately?

Spence called, recently, with some wonderful news. It seems I'm going to be a grandmother again. :) I love being a grandma. I get to spoil the kids and when they're tired and cranky I can send them home. But you know, the best part of being a grandma is that I don't have to feel totally responsible for their upbringing. It's so much more fun than being a mother ever was.

I caught this snap of Spence with one of Steve's kids at the family reunion. Doesn't he look like he'd make a wonderful daddy?

Other news on the Mittan front is that Rich and Lori come home tonight.
I'll pick them up from the airport at about midnight. They've been in Sao Paulo, Brazil for the past nine days...visiting Richie's friends down there. They called me from the airport in Atlanta, Ga. to let me know when they'd be in and what airline - and both said it was a wonderful trip. Lori loved Brazil and, of course, Richie enjoyed showing her where all he'd been the two years he spent there.
This photo, also taken at the reunion, is of Rich and Lori with Sue's little girl, Emily.

That's about all of the news. I'll include an excerpt from my novel and y'all tell me what you think of it. This episode is a little long for a blog but it was fun to write. It is fiction in that it isn't something we know he did. But his sense of humor and love of a prank was such I wouldn't have put it past him to have done it. His reticence at discussing personal issues, however, would have kept him from sharing an incident like this. So I borrowed something my daughter-in-law's grandmother pulled. As I said, it was fun to write.


As I attended meetings, I found a voice I hadn’t known I had. I truly was concerned about the local school situation, although not for the reasons everyone thought. They thought I was being very altruistic: a bachelor speaking for the safety of their children. No-one guessed I was there because I wanted a safe school environment for the children I intended to have one day. Had anyone even suggested it everyone else would have scoffed. Nephi Moulton was a died-in-the-wool bachelor and that was something the entire county could count on never changing. So I was free to further my own purposes without interference.
School meetings actually served a double function. I was being involved in preparations for my future children's scholastic success, yes, but I was also observing women. Single women. Unlike bachelors, single women frequently came to meetings like these with their married friends or relatives. It was a social outlet. And one that gave me the opportunity to watch them without anyone knowing. If one spoke up, I paid rapt attention without anyone suspecting I had anything on my mind other than the issues we were trying to resolve.
Single women also helped furnish refreshments which didn’t hurt my feelings, either. I learned to be casual as I asked who had made the delicious . . . .
The frosting on the school meeting cake came in the form of the opportunity to visit with T.A. once in a while. T.A., married to Lucille Blanchard from Driggs for the past several years, now had two little children so he was as interested in the school system as I was. We campaigned, together, for reforms we thought were necessary and I took our ideas to my home community to discuss with my neighbors who hadn't attended the meetings.
School issues weren’t the only thing T.A. and I discussed, though. I remember one meeting, in particular. It was being held in the small church building on Mormon Row, close to T.A.’s home, and I was a little late arriving. Fortunately T.A. was sitting at the back so I slipped into a seat beside him.
“Did you hear the news?” he whispered to me as soon as I was settled. “Wally got married last week. He and his bride are coming home tomorrow.”
That was real news to me. I hadn’t known Wally was even looking.
“Who did he marry?” I asked.
“A girl he met out in Idaho when he was visiting Mother and Dad,” T.A. said. “Her name’s Elizabeth Chandler.” He corrected himself. "Or was."
“Well, tell him I said ‘Congratulations’,” I said, and we turned our attention back to the meeting. At least T.A. did. I found my mind wandering.

So Wally had finally gotten married. That was interesting news—pregnant with all sorts of possibilities. I wondered what John thought about Wally being an old married man. I decided I needed to pay him a visit on the way home. This was one school meeting that was going to last far too long.
Then it occurred to me that visiting John after the meeting would present a problem. He lived about a half-mile past T.A.’s home. Marriage had settled T.A. to the point I doubted he’d approve of John and me decorating Wally’s cabin—which was precisely what I had in mind—and, since I would have to travel with him if I was to visit John after the meeting . . . .
Suddenly I turned to T.A. “I’m going to have to excuse myself,” I said. “I don’t think I’m feeling too well. I need to go home.” T.A.’s face registered instant concern.
“Are you coming down with a cold or flu?” he asked.
“No, I think it was something I ate at dinner,” I said. “I have to go!” I stood up as inconspicuously as I could and slipped out of the room. School concerns could do without me for one night.

John’s little cabin was dark and quiet when I arrived. That was disappointing. We would have had so much fun decorating something at Wally’s house but if John was asleep, already, I knew he had to be tired. I decided not to bother him.
The only problem was, I didn’t have anything with me that I could use for decorating. Hmmm.
But John did . . . and if I used something of John’s, Wally would recognize it and blame his brother. . . . This held promise. I decided to search John’s barn.
I hadn’t been there often enough to know my way around in the dark but I knew he kept a candle and some matches on the frame above the door. . . . I found them, then made sure the door was shut before I lit the candle. I didn’t want John to wake up, see a strange light coming from his open barn door, and come investigating.
As I looked around I saw the usual—saddle, bridle, horse blanket. A large bin that held oats. And mice. I stepped out into the middle of the barn and held the candle high.
Light glinted from metal above my head. Bells. Hanging from the joists of the loft. Horse bells. Cow bells. Even some smaller bells that he probably used for sheep or something. And John’s brand was engraved on each one. I wondered what I could do with them.
I didn’t want to hang them on Wally’s porch. I’d already done that to Joe Deyo so it would be a dead give-away that I was the one involved. What else could I do with them?
As I considered the possibilities, I looked for something to carry them in and something to hang them with. John’s large ball of twine that he used to sew his grain sacks shut would work for the hanging part. . . . And a grain sack, for carrying.
It wasn’t long before I was on my way.

Wally’s house was cold and dark, of course, but I knew where he kept his candles, too, and his house was far enough away from John’s and T.A.’s homes that I wasn’t worried about them seeing a light in the window. I lit a candle and looked around.
I considered just hanging John’s bells from the rafters but that was too tame.
It would have been nice if I could have run a cord from each to the door so they would all ring when he carried his Elizabeth over the threshold, but the door opened in, not out, so that wouldn’t work, either. What to do?
Then I saw the perfect spot. Half an hour later I blew out the candle, closed Wally’s door, and was on my way home.
I understand John caught all sorts of hell for tying his cow bells to the springs under Wally’s bed.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A reunion and a ball

What is that quote from the poet, Bobby Burns? something about 'the best laid plans of mice and men often gang awry? Ok. So I butchered it. At least you get the idea.

I planned to write on my blog frequently, once school started. But it didn't happen. That was BF - Before the Funeral. Actually, my last blog was probably BD - Before the Death. I really don't remember.
Who died? My ex.
Now, normally a woman doesn't get all involved in an ex's funeral unless she's either A) dancing on his grave or B) still involved in some sort of relationship with him.

For me, neither really fits. I had no need to dance on Jimmy's grave. I held no ill feelings towards him. In fact, he was at my house two or three weeks before he passed away and we chatted for a while. He was going in for surgery and I told him I'd visit him while he was in the hospital.

Then I made a flying trip to California just in time to be with my mother as she had a heart attack (probably the shock of seeing me brought it on, don't you think?) and didn't get back until he was ready to be released. Less than five days later he was dead.

Because all of his children were coming home for the funeral - with their wives and little ones - Rick's and my oldest son and wife made the trip down, too. We did a military burial for Jimmy. Then everyone came to my house for an impromptu family reunion. I kept all the grandkids for the next two days while Jimmy's and my kids sorted through his belongings. And by then I was so exhausted I still haven't caught up. Hence no more blogging

The funeral and reunion were good, though. The weather was lovely. The park was empty so we could spill into it through my back gate and nobody needed to feel crowded. Rick, Richie and Larry each took the day off work; Lili sluffed school. And we got family photos - the first I've ever gotten with all my kids because Chris left for Illinois two months after Lili was born 17 years ago and never, since, have all of my kids been in one place at the same time. How I've envied my cousin her family portrait! Now I have one of my own.

So, who is who? Let's see. Back row, L to R: (Oh, and be sure to double left click to make the photo larger)
Lili, Larry, Chris, Me and Rick
Second row:
Tracy and Mike; Chris' wife, Pam; Rich and Lori; Spence and Amanda
Front groupings:
Suzie, Kevin and kids (Brandon, Sarah and Emily);Chris' daughter, Katie; Steve,Jenn and kids (Jordan, Tyler,Geoffey,Jacob and Ammon) All kids are listed in order of age, not placement. The only one missing was Chris' son, Keenan, who couldn't come.
Of this grouping, my children are Chris, Mike, Suzie, Steve, Spence, Rich, Larry and Lili. Chris was married nine days before his baby sister, Lili, was born. That's why it's been difficult getting all my family together. Chris lives near Syracuse, NY and Spence lives in Spokane, Wa. and everyone else is scattered somewhere between.

My family doesn't stay put very well. I think they all inherited their itchy feet from me. Lili spent time in Australia this summer and is planning a trip to Europe after she graduates from high school next year. Rich spent a couple of years in Brazil and just this week took his wife on a trip back to Sao Paulo. Chris and I have been to Canada a time or two and Spence, whose wife is Canadian, loves exploring the Canadian Rockies. He even lived up there for a while. ...And Rick has been to Mexico, Turkey and Germany. Steve goes to Mexico to get his dental work done and I'm hoping to scare up the money to do likewise. ...So we're rather a globe-trotting group. At least we're trying to be.

Now, for those of you who have been waiting for photos of Lili on Homecoming night. Ta Dum! Here you go. - Oh, before I post need to understand something. Lili is not allowed to go on single dates - it always has to be a double date or a group date. Josh has always been willing to be her 'chaperone' so this time she arranged a date for him with one of her friends. I did not get to see or photograph the girl so you'll only get to see the three muskateers, Cody (Lili's date), Lili and Josh.

First of all, Lili had to make sure Josh's hair was appropriately styled. (Looked more like he'd stuck his finger in a light socket but Lili assured me it was fashionable).

then I caught a snap of Lili and her date - Cody. Cody is the kid who snatched her from the street just before a bus would have run over her in Australia. They've been really close friends ever since.

I had to have a photo of the three of them together. Here are my three muskateers.

And, since Lili looked like a princess, she had to have a photo of her glass slipper.

Then they all left for the 'ball'. Lili's coach, for the night,was Cody's brand new Audi. Some folks have it tough, don't they?
For a report, the kids went out to eat first - Lili had duck and bacon-wrapped shrimp and loved them both. Then they danced the night away and Lili says she had a lot of fun. And this time Cinderella was home BEFORE midnight. Cody knows me well enough if I say be home at such-and-such a time he makes sure he obeys. :) I've trained him well (More like I've scared the poor kid to death but that's ok, too. It doesn't hurt him.)

So there you have it - a reunion and a ball. chat with you-all later.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I am hoping...

So... With an impromptu family reunion coming up, I just wanted to tell you all how excited I am to finally have this opportunity. I am looking forward to seeing every one of you and spending, however brief it may be, more time than we have had together in at least 16 years.
I know I have been a mess this last week and I want to tell you all how sorry I am. I am trying to pull it together, but I had no idea this would be this hard. Thank you for your patience and for your support. I am doing my best and hope to be able to contribute some good things this next weekend.
Love to you all

Sunday, August 26, 2007

summer's ended; school's beginning

School starts tomorrow. That means autumn is nearly upon us. One thinks of shining apples, scarlet maple leaves and pompom chrysanthemums; football, plaid stadium blankets and perky cheerleaders; of autumn rains, the smell of burning leaves and children carrying book bags to and from school.

Summer, with its sizzling days, steamy nights, searing skies; summer with its children running through the sprinkler, water fights in the park, and nights on the trampoline under the stars; summer with its birthday parties, graduation parties and family reunions, will soon be only a memory. Where did it go?

Here, in images caught in the moment, is a summer of work, play and memories. ...Lili's summer and mine.

School was out June 2. Before Lili left for Australia on June 13, she and I worked with her brother, Steve, at his business -The Parking Lot Stripers (now known as Utah Sealcoat).

The parking lot as we were laying out the angles and lines

Keith painting the stripes - if you enlarge the photo (double left click) you'll see the yellow paint coming out at the front of his machine. Generally Steve did this job but when Keith was there, he did it and Steve helped us lay the chalk lines.
The weather was the 90s or 100s. That new asphalt was HOT and one day we had to lay chalk lines on brand new asphalt that had just been laid an hour or so before. (It comes out of the machine at 300F. ) That day was miserable! But we did the job and survived - somehow.

Then it was time for Lili to pack for her trip to Australia. Typical of Lili, the place was a disaster, she had things she needed to be doing, but she was engaged in her beauty routine and chatting on the phone. . . while Hobbs, determined he wasn't going to be left behind, attended his beauty routine, too.

Lili really enjoyed her stay in Australia. Unfortunately most of her photos didn't make it home but from the ones that did, I chose the following:

The Australian farm she visited. Of course she headed straight for the farm machinery.
And, as is typical of Lili, wherever she went, she found a furry friend.

She also found a friend when one of her fellow ambassadors noticed her forgetting that vehicles drive on the opposite side of the road and snatched her out of the street - just before a bus thundered by. She and Cody have since become very good friends. He's another regular, now, at our house.
When she came home it took three vehicles to transport everyone who wanted to meet her at the airport and once we were home, we threw a gala welcome home party.

Since then, we've worked - again with Steve's crew - which now does sealcoat as well as striping.
On this particular day I ran the blower to clean the parking lot of debris. Steve's new crew chief filled in the cracks with tar and Larry and Steve applied the seal coat with squeegies. Lili had a job interview but when she stopped by, afterwards, she drove the truck with the sealcoat tank until we broke for lunch.

Now Lili has a job with Hollywood Video, Larry is working as a busboy at The Training Table near the E Center where the Utah Grizzlies play hockey. Larry's girlfriend is staying in Lili's room until she gets into school and starts her new job with Qwest phone service (probably will be at our house through September) and Lili's friend, Josh, just graduated from Job Corps and will be moving into Larry's room on the stay until he gets credit built up and can get an apartment of his own. It's a full house.

I spent nearly a week, recently, visiting my mother and step-dad in California. While I was there, Mother had a heart attack. She's still in the hospital but not because of her heart - it's her stomach, now. I'm concerned and want to talk to her doctor - maybe tomorrow I'll be able to connect with him.

Our final fling for the summer was this weekend. Friday night we celebrated Josh's graduation.
Saturday night Josh and Cody decided to surprise Lili when she got home from work. ...So, with my permission, they went into hers and Kari's room and.....a la Patch Adams.....proceeded to fill it with $50.00 of balloons.

Lili thought it was a scream - when she finally figured out why she was having trouble opening her bedroom door - and I bent my rules for a few minutes to let the kids play in there together (normally boys aren't allowed in the girls' room and vice versa).

So that's the story of our summer. Of course, there was a lot else that went on - Lili's birthday party, the pond and water fall we built, Ricks and my vacation, and...and...and - but that's all stuff for a later blog. With any luck, now that the summer vacation is ended, I'll be able to get back to my blogging - as well as one or two other things I want to do.
In the meantime, live long and prosper - as Spock always says.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Chris and family take a trip to Canada

On July 21, we went to Quebec (yes, the french speaking province, what a rush that was!) to see an attraction there called Parc Safari. We had a ton of fun, all day long, in a park that is a zoo in a most non-traditional sense. In this zoo, the animals run more or less free, and the people drive through in their personal vehicles. I guess I don't have much more to say about it, except to say that I have an online slideshow of some of the pictures we took. Check it out!

If anyone has any difficulty with this link, please let mom know, and mom, please let me know asap so I can fix it?

Chris and Family

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Just thought I would add a quick post... I got to speak to Lili again on the phone the next day. She needed the recipe for syrup. The connection wasn't very good, but I at least got to say hello to her. I sure do miss her, and wish like everything I could be there with her. I am sure all of us wished that. She is currently signed in t the instant messenger, but I don't know if she will be checking it or not. I will certainly post anything she has to say. I know she is having the time of her life and wish her the best days to come. My love to everyone. Buzzy

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

IM from lili

I got a phone call about ordering a school sweater for Lili, tonight. I didn't know she had expressed interest in buying one but I wasn't surprised. She was elected vice president of the drama club for next year.
Anyhow, I needed to talk to her about it and was starting an email when she started paging me on instant messenger. As nearly as I could tell, her messages were taking MAYBE 1/2 minute to arrive on my computer. Have we any idea just how wonderful the age in which we live truly is?
She had hopped online to see if anyone from the family was on the computer. She wanted a copy of my pancake recipe. She's with her host family, now, and they only have cereal for breakfast. She wanted to cook pancakes-a-la-mom for them. So I sent her my recipe and then I had to go to the store.
When I got back she had been back online waiting for me. When she found out I was home, she called. Sue and her kids, Nate (one of Lili's friends who happened to be here at the time) and I all got to chat with her a bit. Sue and I also spoke at length to her host mother. The family owns a farm and will be taking Lili out to it in an hour or so. Since Lili spent her early years on a ranch in Wyoming, she's very interested in seeing the equipment they use in Australia.
The host mom (Denise Muller) sounded very nice. She's a younger woman with several small boys. She said Lili was going to cook supper for them, too, if they could find the ingredients for what Lili wanted to cook. She made the comment, though, that she wasn't sure they had the same foods that we have here in America. I'm sure they probably don't.
At any rate, Lili is enjoying herself. She's taken a ton of photos but they're on someone else's computer and she doesn't know how to get them uploaded. I sent instructions for posting on the blog so we'll have to watch for something from her.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

another letter from Lili in Australia

After Lili's letter to Larry talking about learning to surf, I wrote her asking if she'd learned to hang ten. I sent the letter about 11am and had her reply when I checked my email six hours later. Isn't technology wonderful?! Twenty years ago it would have taken minimum a week or two to hear from her. A hundred years ago it would have been months. We are so fortunate to live in the day and age we do.

...Anyhow, as I started to say - she didn't have a clue what I was talking about when I asked if she'd learned to hang ten (surfer slang for having all ten toes off the board). ...At least that's what I've been told. I've never surfed. Don't want to. Went swimming in the ocean once and couldn't get out soon enough. I'm a LAND LUBBER for sure!!! :)

Oh, and before I paste her letter here, I want to comment on what she sent Larry. Her brother about went nuts when she left, he was so lonely for his little sister. They truly are best of friends - and that's a good thing. Also, I was so busy after she left I didn't get an email sent out telling all y'all to check out what I wrote about her leaving and listing her itinerary. Check it out if you want to know where she is and what she's doing day by day.

Anyhow, here's her letter to her Dad and me....

Hang ten? I think you kinda lost me. lol I miss you guys to. The first day I
went swimming at the Aquatic center then we went to the sydney opera house.
Then we went to dinner at this really cool place... The lighting and
everything was really pretty. Then the next day we went to china town, and
annother place... I cant remember right now. Then we went to dinner at
another cool place... they are all really really nice resteraunts.. with
lost of hot waiters... :P lol then yester day we went sailing... I got to
steer the boat... and they all called me skipper.... lol it was great. I
never realized how easy it was... the captain asked me if I had ever been
sailing before. I told him no. But he said I looked like I had lots of
expreience... I was so happy it was fun I wish you could have been there.
Then we had the afternoon to go shopping... lol the whole afternoon. I got
airk his mug he wanted. and larry something, and mom something... and lolo.
I am still trying to find the perfet thing for dad... they have so many
amazing things here. But I don't want just anything for you guys... I want,
THE BEST! tell buzzy I will get that shot glass she wanted me to get for
her friend.
I got some jewelry.. THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL! and mom your
GREEN.... with some GOLD. Just for you! :D I think about you guys all the
time... tell grandma and everyone... (leaders) I think about them and you
guys constantly... I did have jet lag for a while... but I have been waking
up early... I actually feel kinda good. Like yesterday I woke up at 4... but
thats okay because I was in bed at like 7... lol I really miss you guys. I
need to go eat breakfast... but I am leaving today.. I will have to try to
find an internet caffe next time. Because we are leaving the hotel in like
an hour. We are going to head up to vision valley. and we have some of the
coolest people... like the bus driver... Malcolm. He is AWESOME! and the guy
who gets us everything. His name is john... They are awesome! Oh i remember
what we did before china town... we went surfing on the ocean! it was
great... and I think i got sea sick... lol but oh well it was fun. anyways I
love you and I miss you I will try to call later today for fathers day..
otay! I love you

leelee writing from austrailia!

hey larry,
sorry about that. I accidentally sent you a blank one. I miss you too linus... What ha/ ve you been doing while i'm gone. Thinking about me. :) I miss you.. everthing is AWESOME! Guess what guns N' roses is coming to sydney at the end of this month! I wish you were here. I would take you with me. Well... I cant go.. but if i could I would take you with me. Oh, i went surfing in the ocean yesterday. It was awesome... I miss you so much. I think about you all the time... YOu are my BREASTEST FWEND! :D lol i cant wait to see you again. I have to find a place to download picture... because i only have 20 min. on this one. and I cant download any of them yet... But some of them are so AMAZING!!! well I love you and I miss you ... w/b soon. I love hearing from you.. and yes... I will bring you back a leelee... :D

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

on telling your baby goodby

A couple of days ago a friend of Lili's was visiting. This girl will graduate from highschool next spring with an associates degree from Utah State University...a degree that she has earned through online schooling. She's a hard worker and an excellent student.

While she was here, we were talking about her going to the University after she graduates and she casually mentioned her mother is going with her, rooming with her, the first six months. Excuse me???!!! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I asked if her mother was leaving her little sister home, alone, with her brother and step-father and she said, "Oh, yes. Besides, my sister will be sixteen by then and my mom wants to finish her degree."

You know, I have a problem with that. We have one full fledged university right here in town, as well as numerous colleges and university extensions. If mom is so anxious to finish her degree, she can do it right here. And there is no way under the face of the sun I'd go room with my 18-year-old daughter when she goes off to college. Mothers and fathers need to let go and let grow.

Which leads me to telling my own baby goodby. I just walked away from her at the airport. I came home: she's flying to Australia for the rest of the month. Rick made the comment while we were waiting for her security check that there was one thing she'd forgotten to pack in her luggage - him. She said she'd love to take him. He said he'd love to go. I said, "Not me."

Lili looked a little surprised until I commented that I wasn't planning to move to college with her. Then she understood.

Being an occasionally-emotional mother I was all teary eyed as she checked her luggage and stood in line for security check but this is Lili's day. It's time for me, Mom, to step back and let her walk forward on her own. She can't become a mature, capable adult when there's still an umbilical cord attaching her to me.

Did I help her make sure she had everything packed? Of course. I held the list of required items and checked each one off as she put it in her suitcase. I looked over every shirt she packed and made sure there was no mending that needed done (I find even brand new shirts aren't always altogether). I ran her to WalMart a couple of times to pick up items she needed but didn't have. I took her to the dentist, the orthodontist and the doctor. I made suggestions concerning the gifts she took for the host family she'll be staying with - then let her choose and assemble what she wanted to give. I printed out several pages of family photos for her to take. I typed up and printed off copies of the lists we made of the individual items she packed in her suitcase and backpack. (One copy for me, one for her suitcase and one for her backpack.)

And then, when the time came, I walked away.

I was thinking, this morning before I woke her up, of all the things I could have and should have taught her before sending her out on her own. I took her shoe shopping a couple of days ago and after she'd tried on and decided upon the best walking shoes for the trip, she started towards the front of the store, leaving her purse behind. As she puts it, "Blond moment."

How could I have trained her so that she would pay more attention, be more careful? I guess I could have yelled at her a lot. But I don't like doing that. Will she leave things behind in Australia? Very possibly. But if it's something she values, she'll learn far more in losing it than she would have ever learned if I'd spent her life yelling at her whenever she didn't pay attention.

I tried to think of what I needed to tell her before she left. We had to make a flying trip to the orthodontist this morning because her permanent retainer had broken loose and needed to be re-cemented in place. It was a good opportunity to give her some last minute advice but, as I drove along, I couldn't think of anything to say.

Finally I asked her the questions one asks a kindergartener - who are you? what's your address? where do you live? phone number? and I added SS# as well because it's taken me several years to convince her that was a number she really needed to memorize. Then, about time she was becoming quite exasperated with me, I asked her who she was representing. She knows the drill - her family, her country, her God.

Then I talked to her about the family she represents. While I want her to represent my family well, she doesn't bear my maiden name so when people look at her they think of her father's family. They were fine people. She has a proud heritage from them and I want her to always think of how she represents their name.

I told her about her grandfather, a wonderful man whom I cherished. She has, of course, heard about him before but this time I think she really paid attention. This time I think it began to sink in. This time I hope I left her with a feeling of her place in the family and how her choices of actions reflect on the heritage that has been passed down to her.

Hopefully she will also begin to think of how her choices will reflect on the posterity she will one day have. I have never had much in the way of material possessions to pass down to her but I have been able to give her a good name...a heritage of people who were honest, hardworking citizens - people who tried to contribute in a positive manner to their communities. My hope for my youngest daughter is that as she leaves me behind she, too, will walk through life leaving a trail of positive memories in the hearts of those whose paths she crosses.

God bless you, my daughter...till we meet again. I love you.

Lili’s itinerary for her Australia trip

Leave Wed. June 13, 2007
Thurs. June 14 - lose a day crossing the International Date Line
Arrive Sydney, Australia
Swim at the Aquatic Centre - home of the 2000 Olympics’ swimming events
Fri. June 15 - Sydney, the largest city in Australia and the capital of New South Wales, is set on
the natural harbor of Port Jackson. A.M Go for the gold at the Aquatic Centre.
P.M. tour the ‘majestic Sydney Opera House complex. Dinner will be
overlooking the entertainment precinct of Darling Harbour.
Sat. June 16 - Learn surf life saving on the famous Manly Beach. (Surf life saving began in the
early 1900s and formally became an organization in 1907. It integrates sport and life
saving skills and is an integral part of the Australian seaside culture. Later explore
Sydney’s Chinatown.
Sunday, June 17 - Learn to sail in Sydney Harbour. Lunch at the Hard Rock Café amidst its
fascinating collection of music memorabilia. Group photo at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair - a
stone bench Lady Elizabeth Macquarie, wife of a famous governor, used to sit on to rest
and admire the view while awaiting news from home via the tall ships entering the
harbor. This promontory boasts fabulous views of the Sydney Opera House and the
Harbour bridge. Later explore either Darling Harbour, the Pitt Street Mall or both.
Darling Harbour waterfront includes Sydney’s Chinese Gardens, complete with a
traditional Chinese teahouse. Close to the mall are Hyde Park, Macquarie Street and the
Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Monday, June 18 -Journey to rural Arcadia and Vision Valley. Participate in interactive and
challenging workshops that teach leadership skills, setting personal goals and stepping
outside your comfort zone. Either fly across a valley via a zip line or complete an
outdoor adventure course.
Tuesday, June 19 - Head to Canberra. Explore the Australian Institute of Sport - Australia’s
breeding ground of elite athletes. Next, explore the Australian War Memorial in
Canberra (it ranks among the world’s great national monuments).
Wed., June 20 - Visit the Australian Parliament House. Spend afternoon and evening with home
stay family and experience life as an Aussie.
Thurs. June 21 - spend day with home stay family - perhaps with the opportunity to attend an
Aussie school.
Fri. June 22 - travel to Victoria, Australia. Spend night at Sovereign Hill - Australia’s very own
recreated 1850s gold rush town.
Sat. June 23 - Can pan for gold if she choses. Travel on to Melbourne.
Sun. June 24 - Visit the Yarra River, Southbank and the Arts Centre. Explore the Old Melbourne
Gaol. (Is it truly haunted by previous inmates?) Continue on to the Moonlit Sanctuary for
an introduction to Australia’s nocturnal fauna. Finally, travel to Phillip Island to see the
mystical Penguin Parade at sunset. (The little animals are the smallest of the 17 species of
penguins in the world - only 13" tall - and can sleep at sea, dozing as they float on the
surface. Every night the penguins waddle from the sea to their burrows in the spinifex
Mon. June 25 - Explore a rain forest, see Phar Lap (Australia’s most famous horse), touch a
dinosaur bone or live a lifetime in no time at all at Melbourne’s award-winning museum.
Learn about Australia’s national gemstone, the opal, during a cutting and polishing
demonstration at an opal establishment. Discover why sports mad Melbourne people
love “Aussie Rules” football and cricket so much at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
(Then maybe she can come home and explain the game because it’s played in the park
next to our home every Saturday and we haven’t a clue!)
Tues. June 26 - Fly to Cairns. Enjoy music and dance productions at the Australian Museum.
Learn about Aboriginal culture. Experience boomerang and spear throwing
demonstrations. Explore the Wet Tropics Rainforest by land and water in a WWII
amphibious vehicle called an Army Duck. Close encounter with Australia’s unique fauna,
such as koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles and wombats in a wildlife sanctuary. Learn
Australian folk songs and learn how to bush dance.
Wed. June 27 -Snorkel in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef
Thurs. June 28 - Take a scenic gondola ride to Kuranda, a mountainous Australian village
surrounded by spectacular rainforest and tropical vegetation. Visit Mungalli Falls - the
only freehold World Heritage listed waterfall in Australia.
Fri. June 29 - Enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including “land sliding”, the adventure of
sliding down a hill on a toboggan. Dinner will be a BBQ followed by a bush dance.
Sat. June 30 - Journey back to Cairns via the scenic Atherton tablelands.
Sun. July 1 - Return to the United States

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

on writing poetry

Last year, when I was an active member of the Utah Poets' Society, I used to go to the monthly meetings and shake my head at what was being passed off as poetry. To me, poetry should be the language of the soul. What seems to be popular these days appears more like mental exercises and thinly-veiled attempts to be cute.
I don't write poetry all that often but when I do, it's usually done to express something I feel deeply about. (And, yes, I know that isn't correct English. Oh well.) One of the members of our society kept urging me to write in one of the distinct poetic styles...preferably a sonnet. She thought that would be a good exercise for me. So I did. The following is the sonnet I wrote:


Should I, a fledgling poet, try my hand
at writing sonnets, odes or villanelles -
word pictures left like wayward waves on sand
to tease and tantalize cerebral cells?

Perhaps a terza rima or a glose
would be a better style for my rhyme.
I start out well - but am not even close
To making my feet fit required time.

My fellow poets say I should not use
such archaic words - or phrases trite and true.
They seem to think free verse the only muse
and favor rambling form to clerihew.

I try them all but don’t know which is worse.
Perhaps I need to cling to doggerel verse.

And, as for my doggerel verse, the following is something I wrote years ago although it still fits today...


"I swear I'll never plant again!"
I struggle up the hill,
My aching back and muddy knees
And fingers, stiff with chill.

"A garden is a thing of joy
To some - but not to me!"
I mutter as I dig the spuds,
"Next year I will be free!"

But then the catalogs appear,
To cheer the winter days,
All filled with flowers and shrubs and trees -
'Perhaps I'll mend my ways.

I just must try that hybred pea.
The corn looks sooo divine.
Ah, well. I'll garden one more year
While I'm still in my prime.'

And so the summer finds me out
With spade and rake and hoe,
A-plantin' seeds, then groaning loud,
"Why won't this *@!?! (danged) stuff grow?!"

Another poem I wrote nearly twenty years ago is one that I've always been fond of simply because it so fits my opinion of Wyoming winters.


Wyoming winter stretches on
Through evening grey and muted dawn --
A fierce, forbidding winterscape
Of ice and snow and wind, to shape
A bleak and barren emptiness
That shrouds the spirit with finesse.
Each dreary day of somber hue
Demands depression as its due,
Extracting energy and cheer
Until the spirit is as drear
And lifeless as the blowing snows
That sift and drift in endless rows.

But when all life seems at its ebb,
Forever tangled in a web
Of desolation, dark and drear,
A chick-a-dee pipes up, "Spring's here!"
And, suddenly, the crushing jaw
Of winter's endless, gaping maw
Is closed. And joyous in its stead,
A glorious springtime rears its head.
The dawn, so muted yesterday,
Bursts gaily on the world to say,
In colors, vibrant, 'cross the sky,
"Arise and live again! Spring's nigh!"

And just for the sake of sharing - I'll include my son, Chris', favorite of my poems. Although it isn't the style of poetry I normally prefer to write - it practically wrote itself one night. ...Just for background - we had gone to our neighbor's house to pick Chris up or drop him off (don't remember which). There was a bright, full moon and as we drove past one of our neighbor's hay stacks, there was a huge stag on top of it - silhouetted against the moon. He looked forever like the Hartford stag. One impression led to another thought - you know how that goes - and when we got home I wrote the following poem.


A quick staccato beat of drums
Down country lanes,
Long since silent
Of tramping feet.

And vibrant youth
With hopes held high
Of war soon won,
"Goodby, Sarah,
I'll soon return.
You'll not know that I
Was even gone."
Militia men
For Concord bound.

Their women wait
While straining ears hear,
A quick staccato beat of drums

To me this poem speaks, not just about the beginning of the Revolutionary War, but also the dichotomy of any war. Youth, in its inexperience, marches off thinking it is invincible. War will soon be won. Women, on the other hand, wait at home, worrying, praying, straining to hear, not just the silent echoes of leave-taking but the solid sounds of safe homecoming.

God bless and keep our troops and return them home again, safely, to those who wait.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


WAY TO GO, CHRIS! Great blog. Thank you for sharing the insight as well as the fantastic photos. This is the sort of thing I like to see on the blog.

Don't want to seem like I'm trying to steal thunder - but I've been taking photos of my own flower patches for a couple-three weeks. I want to share them because I'm so inordinately proud of my flowers.
Before I go on, I want you-all to know that the flower bed on the east side of my front door was the only flower bed here when I first moved in and it was all overgrown with irises that hadn't been watered and hadn't flowered for who knows how long. In the back of the house there was a peace rose that desperately needed pruning (it was growing in under the siding), a clump of overgrown red tulips in desperate need of thinning, a dianthus and a pink creeping phlox. The east side of the house had nothing but dirt and weeds. There are still a lot of weeds but there's a lot of grass, too. Now for the photos.

My house from across the street. The original flower bed is the one to the left of the door as you're looking at it. The little tree on the left winter killed this past winter. It was an apricot we put in. I want to replace it with an Italian prune plum.
We dug out the grass on the west of the door and planted a lot of flowers last year. I've added a couple-three perennials this year. It's coming along very nicely.

We also dug out grass to make the iris bed on the east. You can't tell I love irises. I only wish I'd gotten a photo when the bed was in full bloom. It literally glowed!

This photo shows our two little apple trees we planted last year - as well as my iris bed and two rhubarb plants on the east of the house. If you looked on Google Earth it would show my home with absolutely nothing green back there. :) I'm very pleased with how well it's coming along - weeds or no weeds.
Now for the individual colors of iris in my garden. Oh, and by the way, Chris - I thought what I sent to you was all yellow iris but I've discovered there are some other absolutely lovely colors of iris out in my yellow bed so who knows what you ended up with. Check these out.
The black and orange irises on the left were absolutely stunning when they were in their prime. They were on their way out when I took this photo. The little irises were from Auntie's back yard in Jackson. The yellow, if you'll left click on it, is actually bi-colored. Very attractive.

So, Chris, you may have ended up with some of these maroon ones...or some of the purple and white...

or maybe a peach or white...

About the only thing you can count on not receiving would be a poppy

or one of the wildflowers from my red-white-and-blue corner (red celosia, white wild cranesbill (geranium) and who knows what the blue is - it came with the aspen tree we transplanted from the mountains. It's pretty though.

I have a few tips on turning a barren, dried-out area into a lush flower bed...water, water, and more water. Plenty of commercial fertilizer for the grass, and for the flowers, fruit trees and rhubarb, manure tea.
What's manure tea? Recipe: One 55-gallon galvanized garbage can. Add a couple shovel fulls of manure (I use goat simply because it's handy and free - there's a goat dairy about 5 miles from here and I cart it in by the pickup load for my veggie garden). Fill garbage can with water and let steep for a couple of weeks before using. When water is all gone, refill and use immediately since the manure will already be softened. One can use this over and over. Don't know how commercially packaged steer manure would work- I always use the pure, unadulterated stuff - but it might be ok if you can't find a dairy closeby. - And, by the way, I dip the tea out with an ice cream bucket. It takes time to water everything but the bucket works well.
I don't use manure tea on the flowers out front - it's too much work -but everything in the back gets plenty and loves it. Someone was trying to tell me, this spring, that manure tea would ruin my flowers but I haven't noticed. I used it on the iris, tulips, daffodils, roses, dianthus, phlox, delphenium, columbine and calendula as well as my apple and peach trees, rhubarb and raspberry plants, grape vine and everything in my veggie garden. I think these photos bear testimony that manure tea doesn't hurt a thing. If it did, I'd use it on the weeds. Dang! Maybe I need to discuss production of a weed-killer manure with those goats. Anyone got any formulas for that?

Seriously speaking, though, I can't overstress the importance of heavy watering (with regular water as well as the tea) - especially when you're trying to get plants established. Here in the intermountain west days get scorching hot and the wind blows almost constantly; horrendous drying combination, there. I try to moisten the soil surface in my gardens at least once a day - more often if the wind is really stiff. I water the grass deeply about three times a week. It's expensive but it's been worth it. I figure another summer and I'll have a pretty decent yard.

And that's all, folks. Need another posting from you, Chris. The one about your cacti was great! Can you possibly upload the photos concerning your stairwell? I'll tell the story if you're still so mad you don't think you should say anything - but I'm not sure how to upload the very funny photo you sent that idiotic inspector. I'd need your help.
Oh, and by the way, I can't find the photo of your looooong christmas cactus flower. Better see if you still have it. I hope you do. We'd like to see it, too.
Well - pardon the changes in font size - the program is screwing with my head.
Have a great week, everybody.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Check out what I've been doing!

Ok, first things first, I've been playing with a green thumb. Mom already knows that I have some Christmas Cacti, and she has seen some pictures of my successes with them, but here it is for everyone, now, and Mom, you can just back down, now, and quit barking at me about posting here! LOL

This first picture is of the plant that Pam has had for years. Since before I met her, it has been a sad droopy little plant, and for the last 10 years it's continued to be a sad droopy little plant. Most of this has been my fault - I have been operating under the assumption that it is a true cactus, and have been only watering it about once a month, if that often. I can't believe that I didn't know any better, seeing as how Mom almost always had at least one or two Christmas Cactus plants around, but the pathetic truth is that I was wrong, and I can't believe how long this poor plant hung in there, waiting for me to come around and grow a brain. At any rate, this past winter, while browsing my Spring Hill Nursery catalog, I decided to take a more active interest in this poor plant. I can't show you how it looked before, because I don't have any pictures of it, but trust me, it drooped and sagged like an ancient little old lady. Here's how it looks now - and there is more text and pictures after, so keep scrolling down...

I told Pam that I didn't think this plant had had that many blossoms on it at one time in the whole ten and a half years I have known her and her plant. She looked at it again and decided I was right. They don't all show, but there are 17 blossoms on this one right now, and this is only this half of the plant. The other half bloomed out about 3 weeks ago, with not quite as many blossoms, but close - I think it was 12 or 13. I am thinking that I might very well seperate these two halves into two pots and see what happens, as these are clearly well established. I'm keeping a close eye on it to see if it starts to show any other signs of being too root bound.

Next, there is the plant that Pam's Father sent home with me about 2 months ago. He told me he was going to donate all of his house plants to the Church Bazaar, and I asked him to let ME have the two Christmas Cacti, instead. He readily agreed, and I am so excited - check this out!

The first one I took home with me that night. It is another one just like the one Pam had, and, while it wasn't as droopy, still, it was getting there. Pam's Dad is getting older, and just doesn't have what it takes to keep up with his plants like he used to, and these were both showing it. I don't mean any offense, just offering it as explanation. I brought it into the house and gave it a home right next to the Pam's, and started treating it the same way. Will get into what I have done for it later in this post. This is the second Christmas Cactus in my house, being the one on the right, not hanging. Haven't gotten a hanger for it yet.

As you can see, there is one blossom on this second plant. I haven't figured this one out yet, unless it was just slow - the whole rest of the plant was covered in them about the same time the hanging one was, about 3 weeks ago or so. I took a picture of those blossoms and sent it to Mom, showing that each blossom was as long as my hand. I have never seen them that long or big before. Mom, if you will send that one back to me, I will include it here, or you can if you want. Will insert here, whoever does it.

This next picture I took to show the incredible growth going on on this second plant. Like I said, I will tell you about what I am treating these plants with later on. Take a look at all the little red leaves pushing out. These will, if the past 2 months or so are any indication, be full grown and green in about 2 weeks or a little less. This was the best I could get a picture to turn out, and it doesn't show nearly all of the new leaves!

On to the second of the two that Pam's Dad gave me. I didn't have room for both of them that night, so he brought the next one down to me about a week later when he came to visit. It was in SUCH rough shape that I was afraid it was all the way dead. Turns out I was wrong again, thankfully! I ended up taking this plant apart into 6 seperate pots, and am doing everything I can to con them all into growing. I know for a fact that 2 of them are taking root and growing very well, and am doting on the rest as though they were as precious as my little grand daughter, who most of you have seen pictures of, and I will post some of her another time. My point is that I have been checking these 6 plants at least 6 or 8 times a day, though if you ask Pam it's more like 20...

Here are a couple of pictures to show the 2 that I know are growing well. They were little snips off the bigger main plant, which I found out had dead roots. I am particularly excited about these little guys, as they are from a plant that had red blossoms instead of the traditional pink!!

Two little leaves pushing up from the first joint on the right. I noticed them about 3 days ago, and have been dancing a little jig every time I think about them - they are growing just as fast as the ones on the 2 big plants have been!

One big leaf pusing up out of this one, and it's been growing there for about 2 days longer than the other small guy. These are looking to be starting well!

Ok, Ok, what AM I feeding them? Hang on to your hats, folks - this is not one that you will hear about from Miracle Gro®! I've been feeding them my day old coffee! Brew a little extra, then the next day add water to thin it WAAAAY down (if you don't, it'll burn your plants!), and water your house plants with it! I can't even begin to tell you what a difference it's been making! You see a little bit of it in these pictures, but the pictures don't do them justice, they just don't!

Now, I know you are all saying, "But we don't drink coffee!" Well, I came up with a solution. Folger's® makes little tea bag like single cup coffee servings. If you were to brew ONE bag according to the directions, then add about 12 cups of COLD water, it would do the same thing. You want to be able to see through the brew when you use it on your plants. I don't drink my coffee that thin, which is why I water it down, but if you can see through it fairly well, it won't burn your plants. Make sure you keep the soil for your Christmas Cactus (or Cacti, if you have more than one, lol!) moist all the time, don't let it dry out at all. I have been having amazing results, here, so let's hear it for COFFEE!! lol


PS ~ Love you Mom! *grin*

Sunday, April 29, 2007

the joys of fundraising OR preparing for the garage sale

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. -- St. Paul, the Apostle

Parting with anything, be it paper scraps, ragged clothing, broken pencils or worn-out relationships has always been an insurmountable task for my daughter. She cannot put the memories behind her so she clings to everything. Because of it, when we moved into this house with its much-smaller bedrooms, there was no space for Lili to keep her memories around her. Much as I tried to get her to downsize, she would not. What couldn't be crammed into her bedroom was stored in the basement - in over 30 boxes.

With her Australia adventure rapidly approaching, she has finally decided it's time to de-junk a little and try to make money from some of the things she no longer cherishes as much as she did a couple of years ago. (Whoever said out of sight, out of mind was very wise!)

It started in her room where she discovered she had several large boxes of clothing that no longer fit or appealed. She was pleased - and so was I. While the pride of accomplishment was still fresh, I started hauling boxes up from the basement. Yesterday we had a marathon sorting session that nearly had my beloved daughter in tears but she now has an excellent start on a successful garage sale with 12 more boxes still to be sorted through.

I am very proud of Lili. I know just how difficult this has been for her. But she is becoming a young woman and has finally matured to the point where she is ready to de-junk a little.

De-junking isn't easy. There is always the paper parade that clutters up nearly every household these days...the postman brings it and, like old income tax returns that you really don't want around but which you know you will desperately need if you throw them away, you keep it. There are the gifts that really don't appeal but have been given by someone whose feelings you wouldn't hurt for anything in the world.

Perhaps one should de-junk one's job - strike out and DO what one has always dreamed of doing. Perhaps one needs to de-junk a habit that is outmoded and no longer useful. Perhaps what needs to be de-junked is a relationship that is something from which a person should move on but to which one clings because it meant something at one time.

There are plenty of things nearly every person could afford to de-junk if he/she were willing to cut him/herself loose...put away childish things, so to speak.

My daughter is putting away childish things as she ventures out into the world. Knowing this is being as difficult for her as it is for all of us, I am very pleased with the efforts she is making.

When she is finished, I think I need to follow her example.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Last October Lili's old high school had a dance they called MORP (prom spelled backward) where the kids could dress in whatever Halloween costumes they wanted to create.
Lili and a bunch of her friends decided to make a day of it. They held a picnic in the park near our home, then played on Lili's trampoline for a while before getting ready for the dance.
Left to right on the park photo (left click for a larger version) Jeremy, Josh, Elle, Hannah, Micah (in the red shirt), Steven, Lili, (don't remember this kid's name - he wasn't a regular at our house), and Nick (Blondie from last week's post). On the tramp is Steven bouncing Elle with Micah, Jeremy and the unknown boy watching. - Just for reference, Steven is over six feet tall. THat will give you an idea just how much air Elle was getting. - I'd post my photos of the kids in their costumes if I could find them but I've filed them away somewhere - or maybe lost them when we had to clean my hard drive last winter.
Oh well. So goes life.
I really do have a reason for discussing last year's MORP. Because I can't figure out how to make these photos upload the way I want, I've had to resort to two blogs, today, in order to get the photos in the right sequence. Even then it didn't turn out the way I wanted but at least you get the idea.