Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Splendor of the Gorge

Today I went hiking with our ward Boy Scout Troop. Or Venturer Crew to be more precise. They are getting ready for a fifty-mile hike this summer so they are prepping for that with some shorter hikes. I got up very early and met up with two other moms who were tagging along. We drove up the Gorge to Beacon Rock. Beacon Rock is a 1 mile hike with lots of switch-backs--straight up a huge, ancient volcano plug. I am an old woman and I really don't know what possessed me to leave my warm bed on a Saturday morning and go out in the rain and climb up a big rock! Oh, but this was just the morning's warm-up. We still had to conquer Hamilton Mountain! A seven mile jaunt that was pretty much straight up the mountain... in the mud...on a narrow trail with a sheer drop-off on one side. The other moms are at least 10 years younger and one of them does triathlons for fun-- so you can see I was really out of my league. But, I would like to say I think I represented all the Old Mormon Mothers of Many quite well today. All those years of hauling a diaper bag over my shoulder, a baby seat with heavy baby (I only had heavy babies!) in one hand and a squirming toddler in my other arm made this seem like a walk in the park. Today I got drenched and muddy and I was cold, yet sweating from the effort. We saw some amazing views of waterfalls, the Columbia River, and the awe-inspiring vista of the Gorge.

And I will tell you why I got out of a warm bed on a Saturday morning and went: because my 16 year old son wanted me to go.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Only in Ramah...

My Grandmother, Idelle, passed away April 23, 2008. I was not able to go to the funeral, but my sister sent me pictures. This was the first one I got in her e-mail. It had no explanation --and needed none--because we know how things are done out in the middle of nowhere in Ramah, NM. It's a place where they do things their way. They don't need a graduate of Mortuary Sciences, a Director of Funeral Services or an embalmer. They just need the big walk-in cooler at the trading post, and as you can see here: a good, readable thermometer.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gazing Upon Mortality (Only in Ramah)

This is my Grandmother Idelle's coffin. My Uncle Joel made it for her. She requested that he make her one after he made one for my Grandpa Joe (her husband). I took this picture when I was visiting last October. My Uncle Joel and Uncle Kent and I carried it into my Grandmother Idelle's living room so she could see it and give her approval on it. She is one of the blurry figures in the background. It wasn't varnished yet and he put the handles on it there in the living room. He asked her: "Does it have your approval? Yes or no." She said, "Yes or no." He said, I need to know so I can fix anything you don't like." She said, "It has my approval and then some!"

Later that night she sat straight up in bed and proclaimed: "First order of business tomorrow...get that box out of my living room!" Early the next morning, my Aunt Tami and I carried it out the front door and around to the back of the house and set it on two chairs. So Grandmother could begin her day without having to gaze upon her own coffin.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Faith and Gumption

I was going to post funeral pictures but I realized it is only proper to remember that she lived first. My Grandmother (that is my Mother's Mother) was born in Ramah, New Mexico in 1918. Her Mother gave birth to her in a log and stone house that still stands sturdy and stalwart-- a testament to pioneer craftsmanship and a metaphor for my Grandmother. She was the oldest in her family. Her Pa came and went and eventually went for good. She watched over her younger siblings and cared for her Mother. She met my Grandfather Joseph Nicoll when she was 16. He later said he used to take his horse to the pasture across from where Idelle lived. He could hear her playing the piano (self-taught, no lessons!) and he would linger and imagine that she was playing just for him. Then, one day she invited him over for some of her homemade chocolate cake and that was it for him-- he was completley smitten. When he asked her to marry him, she said, "Only in the temple, Joe Nicoll." and he agreed. They borrowed someone's old model-T Ford and drove to Mesa. He asked her to wait in the foyer. He ran to the nearest jewelry store and bought her a gold band. It was several sizes too big but she wore it the rest of her life. She was sixteen and he was nineteen. They went back to Ramah and began their life together. Together they built a two-room cabin. (The picture is that cabin today) Over the years they added to the cabin as they added to their family. Four of their six children were born there. They did not have indoor plumbing until the late 1950's. They still didn't have a hot water heater when I was a little girl in the early sixties. I remember her giving me a bath in a washtub she had filled with water warmed on the stove.
* * *
Grandpa Joe lost a finger in a cement mixer one day. Idelle insisted that the other men who were working with him look for the finger and wash it off. They brought it to her and she got a needle and thread and sewed it back on for him. Years later she declared it would have been fine if he had kept it clean and not insisted on going right back to work. Instead, we got to hear all the funny stories he made up about how he lost his finger.
* * *
Idelle played the accordian and the piano and she sang like an angel. She sang all day long as she went about her work. She would sing our praises if we were being good: "Oh, my sweet little princesses are so precious to me!" and sing our scolding if we were in trouble: "Oh, you better shut the door or the flies will come in, the flies will come in, the flies will come in!" She sang as she scrubbed her kitchen and hung the clothes out on the line. She sang in the garden and in the shower. She played the organ for church and also served in many callings. When the Ramah Ward split into two, she attended both wards' meetings. She figured if there were meetings at the church, she should be there.
She was famous in town for her cooking and cake decorating. She was a cook at the grade school for years and believe me, those were not the usual school lunches. I have a book of her recipes that my cousin compiled-- after 25 years of cooking I still don't have the expertise to take on her specialties.

* * *
She called all of her granddaughters "Princess", but I was her "Indian Princess". Out of all her twenty-some granddaughters, I got the name because in a crowd of blue-eyed, blonde cousins, I had dark hair and eyes and my skin got very brown in the summer sun (remember--that was in the days before sunscreen!) She signed all of her cards and letters to me: "With Love to My One and Only Indian Princess, JoAnna".

* * *

Last October, I went to visit her. She was very ill and looked so frail. I stayed with her and took care of her through the night for the time that I was there. Her daughters and my cousins and sisters were all taking turns with her care and they were kind enough to let me have a turn for the short time I could be there. One morning she took a long time getting up. Everyone else was gone and I sat on the bed next to her and rubbed her back. She was leaning forward with her head down and groaning a little. I wanted to tell her how I felt about her but I wasn't sure how lucid she was. I leaned over to her and said, "Grandmother, you have given me everything I ever wanted from you: your faith and your gumption." She burst into laughter and raised her head up. "Darn right!" she said. I told her I was sure my family didn't always appreciate my gumption and that it surprised my husband from time to time-- I may seem quiet but I can be very determined. She laughed again and said, "They couldn't have any better! You know we have a legacy of faith and determination. Old Mr. Jacob Hamblin gets all the credit and attention, but remember there were so many who quietly went about their business and kept the faith."
"Like you." I said.
I kissed her soft cheek. She smiled and her head dropped back to her chest.
From time to time one or another of my kids will ask why they don't have a rich relative to leave them money; I tell them they are inheriting something more precious than gold: Gumption! They're not sure they believe me yet.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Good-night You Princes of Camas...

A few nights ago I went to tuck in "the boys"-- that's the collective name of our two youngest sons. I went in Sam's room: no Sam. So I walked down the hall to Shane's room I didn't see anyone right off so I turned to leave and then I heard the distinct rustle of Legos. Back in the corner of the room, they were working intently with heads bowed over their creation. Shane glanced up and saw me, and fully comprehending the lateness of the hour and the distance from his bedtime he immediately piped up: "Aren't you glad we're having brotherliness time?"
Sam said, "Yeah, my smoke alarm keeps beeping so I'm bunking with Shane tonight."

I told them it didn't look like any 'bunking' was going on. Then Shane, ever the voice of reason and persuasion says: "But Mom, you know Legos are so good for us-- we are using our imaginations and we're actually cooperating with each other. Plus, they teach us about architecture and don't forget the math skills." (Yeah... let's see if you can figure out how many hours it is past your bedtime). But really, this is one more reason I homeschool-- you need to be able to factor in 'brotherliness' time.

P.S. Gentle Reader, tomorrow I will be posting pictures from my Grandmother's funeral. Those who know us well know that funerals and burials are a little unconventional in be prepared. I am giving fair warning to those who are a little squeamish about these things.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spring is In the Air!

Gentle Reader,

I'm sorry I have been distracted from the computer lately by the great outdoors! I rented a rototiller from Home Depot and got my garden whipped into shape. My arms ache and I've spent the last few days either sweaty and dirty or rain-soaked and muddy (that's the Northwest for you). But I have been loving every minute of it. I start each spring with high hopes: the memories of slug invasions, nasty weeds, plant-devouring deer and out-of-control blackberries from the summer before have dimmed. I look at my garden through rose-colored glasses. The birds are singing, the lilacs smell wonderful and I am ready to start all over again. Dreaming of delicious, sun-ripened tomatoes. Sweet strawberries. Corn that will be knee-high by the 4th of July. Ahhh, hope Springs eternal!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Be Prepared!

For FHE this week we dragged out our 72 Hour Kit to go through it and see if we needed to update anything. My how time flies! The change of clothes I had in there for Shane were for the 3-year-old Shane--that was only SEVEN years ago. (Including a pair of 'Winnie the Pooh' underwear-- there's something disturbing about underwear that has Pooh on it). We all had a good laugh over the bright pink and purple jackets that were packed in there. Scott's old Orlando Magic sweatshirt was a big hit. The food was all expired and the Lifesavers were mushy. That would have been a little disheartening when we showed up at the shelter in the midst of some devastating disaster. "Mom, I'm hungry." "Here's some green tuna honey, and just lick those Lifesavers out of the wrapper." We made a list of things we needed to replace. One of the kids suggested we pack cigarettes and coffee. They pointed out that those would be hot commodities to stressed-out nicotine and caffeine addicts. Seth: "Yeah, I've got some cigarettes...that cot you have there looks mighty comfy..."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Some Things to Think About

"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing the neighbor's lawn. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping weed someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived."--Marjorie Hinckley

"Our decisions determine our destiny." Elder Russell M. Nelson

"It is easy to see that the moral sense has been bred out of certain sections of the population, like the wings have been bred off certain chickens to produce more white meat on them. This is a generation of wingless chickens." --Flannery O'Connor

Friday, May 9, 2008

Why I Homeschool: Part II

This week in school --our home school which I like to think of as The Gale Academy of Classical Education, but more realistically it should be The Gale Institution of the Borderline Criminally Insane ... OK I'm exaggerating... just a little. Anyway, we have been reading the account of Helaman and his 2,000 stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon. A suggested assignment was "List 10 things your mother taught you". The boys need all the practice they can get with writing (fine motor skills are slow to develop for boys) so I gave them paper and pencil and the assignment. I sat back with a book and waited. They seemed to be struggling with what to write. I started to wonder if my whole life was just a sham...a waste of all that time and effort keeping them alive those first few years with food and bathing and nose-wiping and stepping between them and the street traffic. Really, they were drawing a blank! I pretended to be reading as they discussed the topic with each other (their older sister was down and out with a nasty flu virus so she was excused from school that day). Sam: "Well, I pretty much taught myself everything so I don't know." That's right honey, you changed your own diapers too. Then Shane: "Well, ummm she did potty-train us, that's something." SCORE ONE FOR MOM! I was about to give up and change the assignment to "List One Thing Your Mother Taught You, Anything...Anything at All", when Sam said: "Oh, I know" and began to scribble intently. Not to be outdone, Shane began to write. I held back the urge to look over their shoulders and kept my nose in my book. Even when Shane asked Sam how to spell alcohol. When they were finished, this is what I read:
10 Things My Mother Taught Me By: Sam
1. Don't lie.
2. A Faithful testimony is better than anything the world can offer.
3. God lives and hears our prayers.
4. When in doubt, PRAY! (yes he capitalized and exclaimed)
5. Roman and Medieval history
6. What ubiquitous means.
7. That school work is hard.
8. How to count.
9. The alphebet (I taught him the alphabet, but not how to SPELL alphabet)
10. To be kind even when no one's watching.

Shane's List (Of course he had to outdo his brother by volume)
1. She potty-trained me.
2. She taught me how to eat.
3. She taught me how to write.
4. She taught me how to pray.
5. She taught me how to peel potatoes (A skill he can always fall back on)
6. She taught me how important the temple is.
7. She taught me how to be brave.
8. She taught me how to serve others.
9. She taught me how to love one another.
10. She taught me to do what's right.
11She taught me to have a testimony.
12. She taught me not to drink alcohol.
13. She taught me not to smoke.
14. She taught me math.
15. She taught me history.
16. She taught me literature.
17. She taught me science.
18. She taught me the scriptures.
19. She taught me the way things work.
20. She taught me how to tell time.
21. She taught me about faith.
22. She taught me about Christ.
23. She taught me about the evils of the world. (Hopefully not by example!)
24. She taught me about the devil's work and the ways he tries to tempt us.
25. She taught me about life.

I guess I'll keep 'em!