Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Some of the Best People

Some of the very best people I've known have special needs, and some of the greatest blessings in my life have come about through my associations with special needs people. 

Back when our daughter was in high school, she became acquainted with many of the special ed students through her activity in a service club. One young man became especially fond of Carolyn, managed to get our home phone number, and started calling our house on a regular basis. She was pretty good about talking to him, however she was a busy teenage girl with a heavy load of homework, activities, and outings with friends. She wasn't always home when Brian called, and honestly, sometimes wasn't inclined to come to the phone when she was. If I answered the phone, Brian was happy to talk  to me instead. 

After a few months of calling our home and only seldomly reaching Carolyn, Brian started asking for me.

"Is Carolyn's mom there?" he'd ask, and whoever answered the phone would put me on.

”Guess who this is?" he'd ask.

(Pretty sure there was only one person who'd call and ask for Carolyn's mom...)

"Um mm... Is it George Bush?" I'd ask.

(laughter and then...) " Nope."

"Is it Spiderman?" 

(more laughter)


"Is it Santa Claus??"

(the kind of laughter that says "I'm really tricking this lady!")


After exhausting my list of potential suspects, I'd finally say, "Well then, it must be Brian!" and we'd begin our conversation. This became our ritual. 

He'd ask about our family, what the kids were up to, what kinds of things I'd been doing. He'd tell me about his family and what kinds of things he'd been doing. And he was usually multi-tasking. 

"I'm riding my bike to the mall," he'd say. (Hopefully he had some kind of hands-free system with his cell phone.) 

He'd tell me about his cat.  

He'd tell me about his grandma who is a well-known scholar and author who teaches at B.Y.U.

When Carolyn started her senior year and it was time to apply to B.Y.U., Brian assured her that he'd put in a good word for her with his grandma and she would pull some strings on Carolyn's behalf. Well, Carolyn did get accepted and Brian claimed full credit. This rather infuriated Carolyn but I thought it was hilarious!

His phone calls continued regularly (every few days) for several years. Carolyn graduated and moved on to college. Brian finished at the high school and started traveling with his dad. Brian's dad was a cross-country truck driver and Brian would go with him. He'd call me from all over the U.S. He'd fill me in on where they'd been and where they were headed. 

Several years went by. 

"Is it Peter Pan?"



"Is it President Hinckley?"

(more laughter)


It never crossed Brian's mind to ask me if I had a name. I was still Carolyn's Mom.

At one point, I realized that the phone calls were less frequent  and a little farther between. Then one day Brian called and told me his dad would like to talk to me. His dad got on the phone and informed me that Brian had recently been treated for cancer. Thought I might like to know. 

That explained why the phone hadn't been ringing as regularly. 

His dad told me that Brian was going to continue to go on the road with him as much as he could. 

The calls picked up again and we got back to normal, but eventually, over the next couple of years, they lessened again, and finally stopped all together. I wondered about Brian. I hoped he'd just "outgrown" me. Maybe moved on to new phone friends.

But in the back of my mind I worried. 

Recently, as I was talking with a friend of mine, a woman approached us. My friend introduced us. It was Brian's grandmother, the well-known author and scholar. I think I showed surprise upon hearing who she was, which she probably gets a lot. But I didn't even think to say "Oh, I've read your books" or "I love your work."

"You have a grandson named Brian who went to Timpanogos High years ago," I said.

"Yes," she responded. "We really miss him." 

My heart gave a little jump inside my chest.

"That was my next question," I said. I gave her a quick rundown of our unique friendship. 

"I knew he had had cancer," I said. "I've wondered about him."

"He passed away four years ago," she told me.

Has it been that long? I thought . 

Brian and I never met in person. Carolyn showed me a yearbook picture of him at one point, but he is totally clueless about me. Someday, when I get to heaven (and I know Brian is already there), I will approach him.

"Guess who this is?" I'll ask him.

"Is it Wonder Woman?" he'll ask.

I will laugh.

"Nope," I'll say.
"Is it the Tooth Fairy?"


'Well then," he'll say, "it must be Carolyn's Mom!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Last Minute Holiday Baking - Linda's Hermits

Tonight I've been doing some last minute Christmas baking. Last minute because Kent and I just got back into town yesterday evening. And last minute because I really wasn't planning to do any Christmas baking this year. For one thing, our kitchen is torn up. We're getting new cabinets. We tore out the old ones before we left on our trip. While we were gone, the wood floor guy came in and refinished our floor. The floor looks beautiful, but we have no cabinets, which means no counter tops. We have no sink. We have no dishwasher. The fridge is in the family room. We have moved the oven back into place and hooked it up.

Why would I decide to bake in these conditions?

Because for part of our trip we were at my parents' house in Florida. My mother had some of her famous Hermits in the freezer. I kept going back for another, and another. I've been craving more since we left Florida. These things are so good. She's been making them since I was a small child. Everybody loves them. A little neighbor boy used to say to his mother sometimes, "Hey Mom, do you think Linda has any of those Kermits at her house?"(He belonged to the first Sesame Street generation.)

I made them for the first time a few months ago as refreshments for my book group ladies. I had chosen The Persian Pickle Club as the book for the month. The main character, Queenie Bean, makes Hermits for her husband, Grover. I was so surprised - I'd never heard of anyone else making Hermits before.

I got my mother's recipe and made them. They were good, but they didn't come out just like hers. I have since made some adjustments for our high altitude and now they turn out just like my mom's.

With cinnamon, cloves, ginger and molasses, these make a perfect Christmas cookie.

Linda's Hermits
3 sticks real margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2   1/4 cups white flour
2  1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ginger
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 375. Cream margarine, sugar, and eggs. Add molasses and honey. Add the rest of the ingredients.  Use fingers to form dough into  1 1/2 " wide by 1 " tall logs lengthwise on a cookie sheet, two logs per large baking sheet. Bake for ten minutes. Let cool. Cut into squares. 

Changes for high altitude: 2 cups sugar minus 4 teaspoons, 2  1/4 cups plus 4 Tablespoons white flour, 2  1/4 cups plus 4 Tablespoons whole wheat flour, 3  3/4 tsp baking soda

In the bulk section at Winco, there is a gorgeous raisin medley. 

Winco's Raisin Medley

Aren't these the most beautiful raisins you've ever seen? 

I like to use these in the Hermits.

This is what they look like on the pans before baking:

And after:

Last minute Christmas baking - If I can do it in my kitchen, you can do it in yours!

 Now, time to go wash the pans and bowls in the bathroom sink.

Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dem Bones

Best forty dollars I've ever spent?

 A life-sized pose-able plastic skeleton from Costco. 

I saw them last year, hesitated, and when I went back to make my purchase, they were gone. So this year, when Costco resurrected them for Halloween, I snatched one right up and loaded it into my cart.
 I was so excited. I've had a weird fascination with skeletons for a long time. 

Think about it:

 Skeletons are everywhere.

 There's one sitting on my bed right now, leaning back on a pillow, left leg bent with right leg crossed over it, holding a notebook and writing with a pen! It's actually writing with a pen. Occasionally, it turns its head and looks out the window.

Anyway, I took my new friend home in its box and stuck it in a corner, thinking that August was a little too soon to decorate for Halloween.

I had one concern. I was worried that our two-year-old grandson, Jack, would be afraid of a life-sized skeleton.  The next time he came over for a visit, I thought I'd ease into an introduction. How scary could a skeleton still in a box be?

"Jack, Grammy has a new friend! Come see!" (Yes, I refer to myself in third-person.)

I led him into the corner of the living room where the box was stashed. There is a clear plastic section on the box for viewing the content. Perhaps I should say for viewing  the eerily-grinning content. Jack took one look and began to cry. He grabbed onto me tightly and hid his eyes on my legs. He was terrified.

Okay, I thought, world's worst grandmother right here.

Over the next couple of weeks, I tried to convince Jack that it was a nice skeleton. Didn't work. He wouldn't go in the living room. Every time he had to go even near that area of the house, his face clouded over.

 Finally, I said, "Should we cover Grammy's skeleton friend with a blanket?"

He thought this was a good idea. We threw a blanket over the box. Jack got so that he'd peek around the corner to make sure the blanket was still in place, but he didn't want to go in there.

Then one nice day in late August, Jack wanted to go over to my neighbor Beth's front porch to sit on her red chairs. He loves to sit on Beth's red chairs.

"Hey!" I said. "Maybe the skeleton would like to sit on Beth's red chairs! Should we take him out of the box and take him to Beth's?"

"Yes!" said Jack, and started pulling me towards the living room. I could hardly believe it. I'm pretty sure Jack thought it was a great idea to get the skeleton out of Grammy's house and over to Beth's. He kept a bit of a distance as I removed the skeleton from the box.

"This is a nice skeleton," I reassured him. "He's Grammy's friend."

"Nice!" Jack said, trying hard to convince himself. His eyes looked nervous and he was fake smiling.


"Yup, he's a nice skeleton!"

I carried it out the front door and across the lawn to Beth's front porch with Jack eagerly following along, repeating, "Nice! Nice!"

Young neighbor children gathered around. They also have a habit of hanging out on Beth's porch.  She's got red chairs. Doesn't matter if she's home or not. We're there.

"This is my new friend," I told the kids as I posed the skeleton in one of the chairs.

 "What should we name him?" 

After a short discussion (and some odd suggestions) we decided on Bones.  During this time, Jack had come quite close and was actually touching the skeleton.

"Bone nice!" he exclaimed.

He sat on a chair with Bones and posed for a picture.

Next thing I knew, he wanted to take Bones back over to our yard and put him in Grandpa's truck. He insisted on holding Bones's hand as we walked. It felt a little weird, but I would soon get used to it. Over the next weeks, I found myself walking all over the house, yard, and cul-de-sac, carrying a life-sized skeleton, with my grandson holding its hand.

 Bones and Jack have become best friends. They do everything together.

 We've taken Bones everywhere, even in the car. Bones always buckles up. Jack insists.

When Jack's parents took him to St. George for the weekend, I was afraid he'd miss his new friend, so I took a few pictures and texted them to my daughter so she could show them to Jack.

And I found out that Bones is pretty handy around the house.

Posing Bones and taking pictures became a really entertaining activity. I began texting the pictures to our son Kurt who is in Brazil ("Mom, please keep sending these.") and to our missionary son, Joel, who is in Taiwan. Joel's been in Taiwan for a year and a half and had kind of forgotten about Halloween.

" That's pretty funny about that skeleton and Jack," Joel wrote in a letter. "At first I didn't realize it was a Halloween decoration and I was trying to figure out why on earth Mom would buy this life-sized skeleton so that made it even funnier."

Well, I'm afraid that Bones has become more than just a Halloween decoration. He's more like a member of the family now. I don't know how I'm going to put him back in his box and retire him to the attic at the end of the week. 

And I have some sad news. A few days ago, I posed Bones on the front porch, leaning him up against a post, and I started doing a little yard work. Suddenly I heard a crash. When I turned to look, I saw Bones sprawled half in the flower bed and half on the front walk, and his head was rolling away from his body. It was horrible. He had hit his head on a landscaping rock. Fortunately there was no blood. But one of his arms had broken off, too. 

I was afraid Jack might be disturbed, but he's not. He just carries around the broken arm or the severed head. And he still loves him.

And Jack is not the only friend Bones has. When Beth saw how good Bones looked on her front porch, she went out and bought her own skeleton. 

Last night he came over to visit our poor ailing Bones.

His big night is coming up. I need to wire him back together and get him out on the front porch to greet the trick-or-treaters. Then it's back in the box until next year.

 But I've decided that August is definitely not too early for Halloween decorations.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Good Old-Fashioned Up-to-the-Waist Pants

Today I am wearing pants that fit up around my waist. You can call it a Halloween costume if you want to.

I bought them a few weeks ago at Costco, where I buy all my clothes. At the time, I didn't realize they had an old-fashioned waistline. With my usual attention to detail while shopping for clothes, I just rifled through a pile until I found my size and then tossed them into my cart.

No, it wasn't until I got them home and went to try them on that I realized what I had. As I stepped into and then pulled them up, I thought:

"He-ey, these are going to fit around my waist."

I zipped and buttoned.

"Oooh, this feels good."

But at the same time, I immediately felt as if I now had something to hide. What would my daughter say? Or rather, how hard would she laugh?

It's been many years since I've worn a pair of pants that fits around that long-forgotten body part- the female waist. Hip-hugger pants have been the style for - what? - fifteen years? Maybe longer?

At one point during this more-than-a-fad, I conducted my own survey of young women. I had several deflector questions at the beginning so they wouldn't suspect my purpose.

"Where is your right leg?" I asked.

"How about your shoulders?"

"Left elbow?"

They got everything right until I asked the real question:

"Where is your waist?"

They invariably placed their hands on their hips.


A  generation or two of girls are walking around out there, completely unaware of their waists.

A few years ago, I was with a young mother as she changed her baby girl's diaper.  After she got the tapes in place, she folded down the top of the diaper.

"You fold down the top?" I asked with incredulity, thinking of the trend of rolling down the waistbands of sweat pants and shorts to... To what? Reveal a muffin top?

"I just think it must feel so terrible to her to have her diaper way up high like that," she replied. "I can' t believe they make them that way."

Which brings me to muffin tops. Women didn't used to have muffin tops. Well, they may have had the same roll of fat around their middles, but it was nicely held in and smoothed over by a pair of pants or a skirt that fit up around the waist. Nowadays, everyone but the skinniest of skinny ten-year-olds has a muffin top.

I am dating myself, aren't I? And now I'm going to date myself even further. When I was young, girls were taught to hold in their stomachs. All girls. Chubby girls, thin girls, medium girls. We were all taught to stand up straight and suck in our stomachs. It seems kind of sexist today, I admit. Why should girls have to hold their stomachs in? The boys don't. And look what's happened as a result. We're now wearing our pants around our hips and letting our bellies hang over the top, just like the men. And look what's happened to the guys as a result of women wearing their pants low. The guys are wearing theirs even lower!

"Okay, you're going to wear yours there? Well then, we're going to wear ours here!"

I know I'm going to take a lot of flak for this, but I have really enjoyed my high-rise pants today. They feel great. And having the waistband around my middle reminds me to suck in my tummy.

And I may not look it, but I feel thinner.

Of course I've got my shirt untucked so nobody can see that I'm wearing pants up around my waist. Halloween or not, I'm not quite ready for that.

Can't even tell, huh?