From the News, Uncategorized

Mother Nature’s Blows

I moved to Washington, D.C. when I was 22 years old.

I know, I know, that was a long time ago.

I lived in a high-rise apartment building near the Pentagon when there was a gravel parking lot where the Pentagon City Mall now stands.

One winter morning, my roommate looked out the window and said, “Oh good! We don’t have to go to work today.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because of the snow!”

I looked out the window and saw a skiff of snow that barely covered the tips of the grass.

I thought she was kidding.


Then the office manager called to tell us the office was closed for the day because of the snowstorm.


It shocked me that the entire D.C. metropolitan area shut down because of a skiff of snow.

I thought about this last week as we experienced a 5.8 earthquake and it’s apparent 19 aftershocks followed by Hurricane Irene.

When Mother Nature even threatens to sneeze on the DC area, we do three things:

1. Rush to the grocery stores and buy emergency supplies, mostly milk, bread, and batteries.

We can’t help ourselves.

If the refrigerated milk case is empty, we suddenly must have milk no matter what.  Forget that we might already have milk in the fridge, be lactose intolerant or never even drink milk.  If there’s no milk, bread or batteries, we have to go find it, somewhere –anywhere. In preparation for the hurricane, people ended up shopping at Toys-R-Us for water and batteries because the grocery stores ran out of them.

2. Watch television nonstop.

Again, we can’t help ourselves.  How many times do we need to hear that we might lose power and that we’ll have to be patient until the utility companies can get everything up and running again? We watch the same stories over and over until we have them memorized, but we can’t turn the TV off. We get terrible TV and media fatigue, but we cannot get up and turn the TV off unless of course we watch weather reports online or chat about it on Facebook. (I even became a tweeter because I could get information faster if I got tweets from FEMA, Ann Curry, and the local news stations.) I went from looking out the window to staring at the TV, then the computer, and my phone for endless hours.  The anticipation of the storm was exhausting and ended up being worse than the storm itself.

3.  We get cabin fever.

We miss our hectic lives. We feel like we absolutely must get back to our important duties.

We get anxious.

We can’t stand it anymore.  

We have to get out.

We’re restless, bored, trapped, claustrophobic, and tired of schlepping around in our pajamas and sweats.

We want everything back to normal quickly.

It’s all a bit crazy.

Last winter when we had “snowmaggedon,” I went to Costco with the rest of the world and there were no carts.

No shopping carts at Costco.

The store was so packed there were not enough carts for all the shoppers who had to have their milk, bread, and batteries.

So after an earthquake and a hurricane in one short week, I shopped for the essentials, even though I already had them in the house. I watched way too much news. Now, like everybody else, I want things back to normal now.

I am completely consumed about whether I will be able to go to the beach for our planned vacation.

I have family flying into town and we planned on going to Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks.

Hurricane Irene washed out the road that leads to the island, and there is no power.

Nobody is going to the island for vacation.

Still, I visit the Hatteras Realty Facebook page several times a day to see if they have electricity yet, and whether the roads will be repaired in time for our vacation or if we can take a ferry to the island.

Someone posted, “The island has no power, no roads, a huge mess to clean up, and all you people can think about are your stupid vacations?”

Ah, yeah.

And the real pity?

Check out Japan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or right here at home, look at the damage in Vermont. 

Scott Eisen/Bloomberg News photo of Vermont flooding

My beach vacation is trivial.

Doug had an epiphany one snowy morning while driving to work down the Clara Barton Parkway that runs along the Potomac River and the C&O Canal.

This is what he wrote about it:

“We just had a snowstorm that left an inch or two of snow and it was early enough in the morning that the snow was still sticking to every branch of the leafless trees.  I was the only person on the road, and the glow of the morning light was just breaking through.  It was beautiful.  It was still.  I was quiet.  Serene was the best word I could come up with at the time.

In the midst of all this beauty I turned the radio on to get an updated weather report.  What I heard slapped me out of the serenity of the moment.  I heard radio announcers describing a war scene.

They talked about armies of trucks and plows attacking the snow on every street.  They talked about emergency plans being activated.  They talked about disruptions in flight schedules, and horrific traffic snarls and wreckage.  They talked about hoards of people storming stores and cleaning out the shelves.

At that moment, in the midst of one of nature’s most beautiful displays, the war reports seemed so silly and so inappropriate.  I wondered, ‘what are we doing?  Why are we fighting so hard against something so beautiful?  How did we get here?’

It seemed that we had completely cut all ties to the natural rhythms and cycles of nature and that we were actively fighting them – as if our ways were somehow better.  In that moment, this was one war I hoped we’d lose.  I wondered why we couldn’t just ‘go with it’ and enjoy the unexpected break in our routines.  But there were meetings to hold, flights to catch, movies to see, places to go, things to do so, the battle was on.

I made it to my office that day, had a normal day at work, and then drove home.  On the way home I drove on plowed and sanded streets and traffic again seemed to be flowing at breakneck speed.  Apparently we won the battle.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could flow with Mother Nature better?

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re that evolved or willing to accept that kind of sane living.

Friends, Uncategorized



The best thing about moving to Herndon was that I met some of the most amazing women I’ve ever known in my life.

They were all stay-at-home moms like me, and they all had children around the same ages as mine.

 “Who would ever live in a place called Herndon?”

We used to say as we drove to Dulles Airport and saw the Herndon exits off the toll road.

Before moving here, we asked a friend how she liked living here.

She said, “It’s the best kept secret in the Washington, D.C. area! It’s a friendly hometown tucked into this huge metropolitan area.  You’re part of the D.C. life, but you also have your own unique small town with its own, separate identity.”

She was right.

Moving to Herndon turned out as one of the best decisions we ever made.

We moved here because Doug’s office was here.

He enjoyed a 10-minute commute for a couple of months, and then, Fannie Mae transferred him back to DC.

But Herndon became home.

We love everything about it –

our neighborhood, the town, our church, the beautiful trails, closeness to Reston Town Center,

and, of course our friends.

The only problem is…

Our friends keep moving.

Over the years, we’ve cheered for each other’s kids as they’ve marched in the high school band, danced, cheered, played on the sports teams, performed in school plays and concerts.

They’ve been part of our everyday lives.

When our kids were little, one of the moms had the brilliant idea of starting a summer camp called Camp Blossom.  The moms met at the beginning of the summer, created a calendar of events, and took turns hosting summer activities.

 My girls made homemade pretzels, decorated their own camp t-shirts, went to Wolftrap’s Theater in the Woods for children, played water games, and even performed in an end-of-summer skit produced and written by one of the parents.

But, one by one, the families started moving.

My walking partner moved over a year ago.

You’d think I’d be used to the fact that she moved,

especially since I have a new partner right here in my neighborhood.

But I miss her.  We walked together every morning for years.

We had a series of walking routes

with names only meaningful to us,

many of them named after our friends who lived along our different paths.

Our favorites were – the “bagel café walk,” “the Kathy,” “the Candy,” “the Trina,” “the bread store,” and the “trail.”

We met at the high school between both of our houses at 7 a.m. every morning.

“Where shall we walk today?” was our first question.

“Oh, let’s do the bagel café walk.”

Sometimes we said, “let’s just explore.”

I loved the exploration walks the most.

We picked a direction and just walked, winding around corners, up new hills or on new trails, and talking.

One day we ended up in the neighboring town and had no idea how to trace our steps back home.

She set me straight on things like when I couldn’t decide whether to get a dog.

After days of listening to me debate the issue, she snapped, “Just get the dog already!”

Okay, okay.  I got the dog, and her point that I belabored the dog issue.

We raised our children together,

and took turns supporting each other

while our husbands served as bishops in our church.

We watched the seasons change, the sun come up,

and experienced the aftermath of a bad storm

as we stepped over fallen trees, and broken bridges

on the wooded trails behind our homes.

One of our favorite hobbies was to watch for convertibles,

and picture which one she would look best driving.

Sometimes we could imagine her looking good as the driver,

but dismissed it if I wouldn’t look good as the passenger.

We didn’t care about the car as much as we cared about how we would look in the car.

We saw deer on the trails, owls in the trees,

a beautiful egret in the stream, and a huge snake in her driveway.

I thought of her today when I saw a huge tortoise in the middle of the trail.

Yes, a tortoise.

She was the lucky recipient of my daily dream report.

She couldn’t stop giggling when I told her I had a nightmare

that I was the only Republican at a Democratic convention.

Her husband sent me a text one afternoon

with a picture of her sitting in her new white convertible BMW

with a note that said I’d look pretty good in the passenger seat.

 She’s only about 20 minutes away

but it could be an entirely different continent for as often as we see each other.

 I hate getting used to these kinds of changes in life.

 I move on and stay busy with the frenzied pace of life, but I miss my old friends,

the ones who represent different times and events of my life.

The Springville Friends

College freshman year gangs

Capitol Hill coworkers

Student newspaper staff

Old neighbors

 I often ache for them to hurry back and fill up the spot that emptied when they left.

It fascinates me how one friend is never like another.

Each one brings their own unique energy and gift into my life,

and even when our lives go in different directions,

and we are physically separated, the fundamental, intrinsic quality of the friendship vibrantly lives on.

Even when I don’t see my high school friends for years, when we get together, time collapses.

We immediately reconnect.

Our shared memories and longstanding love for each other reignite our friendship instantly.

 They, like all my friends, are part of me.

They give my life a richness that can’t be duplicated in any other friendships.

They represent me returning to myself somehow because they’ve known me since I was a child. Their friendships give my life a kind of smooth continuity that no other friends can offer.

Anais Nin said, “Each friend represents a world in us,

a world possibly not born until they arrive,

and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

That’s such a beautiful expression of the power of friendship.

Each friendship conjures up memories of different eras of life that we’ve shared.

 I re-discovered this truth when I reconnected with a dear college friend, Jerry, this week on Facebook.

We haven’t seen each other in years, but instantly,

we shared news on everything we both love — music, travel, writing, theater, and mutual friends.

I felt a warm space in my heart open wide for him again

as I remembered our many years of experiences together.

Is there anything as wonderful as welcoming back an old friend?

There really is no finer gift than a true friend.

I’m so grateful for mine.

Pets, Uncategorized

Ode to Nikki

I came home from my early morning yoga class feeling rejuvenated and ready to live from my heart and all that other Namaste, my-soul-honors-your-soul yoga jargon.

I walked into the kitchen and saw trash scattered all over the floor.  Since Nikki, our Bichon Frise dog didn’t come running to jump all over me with his usual exuberance, I knew he was the culprit.

As I picked up the empty bags, cereal boxes, and other nibbled on debris, my peaceful yoga flow of love waned.

As I headed toward the stairs, I saw him cowering behind the railing.

“Yeah, you know you’re in trouble so you’re hiding from,” I muttered.

He dropped his head lower.

Then I noticed a yellow stain on the living room carpet.

“Nikki!” I yelled up the stairs as he skulked into one of the girls’ bedrooms to hide.

All that good yoga energy blew out of me in one big gush as I stomped around to find the stain remover.

“That’s it, Nikki.  I’m going to PetSmart as soon as I clean this up, and I’m going to buy you one of those collars that will sting your little neck if you step into this room again.”

For a moment I softened, wondering if he was sick because he rarely has accidents in the house, but he just finished a round of antibiotics so I knew he wasn’t sick.

As soon as I finished dabbing and scrubbing and dabbing again, I went to PetSmart and waited for them to open.

I bought a menacing looking “pet barrier kit,” with a transmitter to place in the living room and a receiver collar to put on Nikki’s neck.  The brochure said, “When your pet enters the Barrier Area, he’ll hear a series of audible tones from the Receiver Collar and he will feel a safe Progressive Static Correction, delivered through the Contact Points on his neck.  The Progressive Static Correction will get his attention, but will not cause harm.”

Perfect.  Just what I needed, something to get his attention, and give him a gentle static correction.

I set up my trap, and placed the transmitter in the living room and the collar around Nikki’s neck.

A few minutes later, a dog walked by the front of the house, and Nikki flew straight into the living room and started barking.

What happened to the Progressive Static Correction and the series of audible tones? Clearly he felt nothing.

I turned the correction up a few notches.  Still he casually wandered into the living room and nothing happened.

I was furious about wasting money on a defective PetSmart corrective system.

In the meantime, Nikki stopped hiding from me every time he saw me, and I’m trying to forgive him.

After all, it’s just him and me now. The girls are off to college and Doug’s at work. So, it’s just the dog and me.

Who would have thought that when I gave in to Annie’s pleadings for a pet, I would end up being Nikki’s favorite member of the family?  Wasn’t I the one that never wanted a pet?

Annie’s tears and pleading got the best of me.

She loved going to the pet store and playing with the puppies.  I avoided taking her there because it only stoked her puppy love.  Doug, however, indulged her.

One Saturday at the pet store, she said, “If I can’t have a dog, can I have two frogs?”

Frogs seemed pretty harmless so I agreed.

That was before I knew about the care and keeping of frogs.

They required weekly runs to the pet store to buy live crickets for their meals, and we had to keep the crickets alive to feed the frogs.  This frog-cricket feeding operation became complicated and smelly.

One day after Doug and Annie made the cricket run, Doug walked into the kitchen from the garage and said,  “We have a very sad little girl.”

“Why?” I asked.

Before he could answer, Annie walked in with red eyes and that blotchy red face she gets when she cries.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

She plopped the brown bag of crickets down on the counter and said forcefully, “Frogs aren’t fun!  They just sit there.  If I take them out of their cage, nothing happens.  I can’t play with them. They don’t have personalities.  I just want a dog.  All I’ve ever wanted is a dog.

Then she ran upstairs in tears.

Doug shrugged his shoulders and said, “Is she wearing you down yet?

I went to the Internet and started researching pets.  I took a compatibility quiz to find out which kind of dog would be best for our family.

After checking all the boxes of traits most important to us, I wasn’t sure any dog would work.  I wanted a small friendly dog that didn’t shed, sniff inappropriately, drool excessively, require too much exercise (because I knew I would be it’s primary caregiver) and be hypoallergenic.

I thought the quiz would tell me we only qualified for Beanie Babies, but we had already given every Beanie Baby dog made to Annie and she still wanted a real one.

It surprised me when the screen popped up and told me a Bishon Frise was almost 100 percent compatible with our family.

So that’s when Nikki came into the picture.  We found an ad in the Washington Post for a five-month, house-trained Bishon Frise. His previous owner lived in Pennsylvania and worked at home when she got the dog.  Then, she changed jobs and had to travel too much, so she needed to sell him.

We decided to get the dog on Christmas Eve and surprise the kids.

We named him Nicholas because we got him on Christmas, you know, like St. Nick.

Since then, Nikki and I have had quite a life together.

When I took him to the vet for the first time, the receptionist said, “What’s Nikki’s last name?”

“His last name? I never thought about dogs having full names,” I said.

“Well then what’s his mommy’s name?”

“Oh, I don’t know his mom’s name.  I guess it’s on his birth certificate or whatever you call a dog’s papers.”

“No, I mean your name.”

“Oh, I’m his mommy? I guess his last name is Turner then.”

Nikki Turner?  When we discussed names, we never tried them out with our last name.

I’m sure the vet’s office wondered whether I should even have a pet.  I wondered too … especially when they told me they needed a urine sample.

I handed the receptionist the leash so she could get the urine sample, and she handed it back to me, and said, “You do it.”

“Me?” I said, looking shocked and disgusted.

“How do I do that?”

She rolled her eyes like I was an idiot, and said, “Well, when he lifts his leg, you slip the cup under him and collect the urine.”

“Like duh,” her face said.

Grossed out completely by this prospect, I said, “Ah, do you have the cup and some gloves?”

Again, the “you-shouldn’t-have-a-pet-look” came over her face, at which time I totally agreed with her, and wanted to give him back to that working woman in Pennsylvania.

But I donned the gloves, traipsed around the neighborhood with my specimen cup, trying to slip it under him at just the right time.  I think it took me all afternoon to get a few drops in that cup.

I wondered if getting a dog was a good idea because of all that urine and poop collecting. But he won my heart the day he punished a little girl who had taunted and harassed Annie.

Every day as we walked Annie to the bus stop, I teased Annie about how I wanted to teach that girl a lesson about bullying.  I imagined grabbing her by her preppy little shirt collar and backing her up to the light post to threaten her to never say a mean word again.

Annie always begged me to stay out of it because it would only make things worse, so I always stayed out of their quarrels

But one glorious spring day when we walked to the bus stop and all the kids were playing games and running around waiting for the bus.  The bully tossed her backpack on the lawn, and when Nikki and I walked toward it, he marched right up to her backpack, lifted his leg and sprayed urine all over it.

It shocked me because he had never done anything like that before, and he never has since.

She screamed and ran over to pick up her backpack, and I apologized profusely.  As I turned around to run home to get something to clean up the mess, Annie knelt and whispered, “Good boy, Nikki.”

On the way home, I promised him one big juicy bone as soon as our clean-up duty was over.

Nikki took good care of me during my long, miserable chemo days.

After I came home from my first treatment, Nikki looked up at me with such sympathetic eyes. For months he curled up around my legs and comforted me.

Those instances of loyalty and love help me put up with his barking, jumping, and occasional accidents in the house.

And now that my dog zapping “Pawz Away” pet barrier is useless, I’m going to have to find another way to keep him from venturing into the living room.

Maybe my nest won’t seem as empty with him pattering along behind me every step I take.  He’ll keep me on a schedule with all his whining every time his reliable body clock tells him it’s time to walk.

Yep, it’s just you and me, Nikki, which means you might be seeing a little more of that dog crate than you like. When the kids aren’t here to beg for you to sleep on their beds, you’re going into the crate because you can’t be trusted.

I can’t afford to let you roam freely while I go to yoga. It isn’t good for my heart chakra.  I can’t sink deep into my heart, surrender my mind, and enjoy peace if I have to clean up after you.  So while I might not like you sometimes, we’ve got to work together to make this relationship work.  That means I must go to yoga classes to learn patience, and you must stay out of the living room even without a hyped up pet barrier.

We both have a lot of work to do.


Just Like Me but Better

While visiting my mom recently, I said, “Mom, remember when you used to say, ‘I hope you have a daughter just like you?’ In case you haven’t figured it out by now, your wish came true.”

My 18-year old daughter Annie is so much like me it’s scary.

I realized how much Annie is like me as I drove her to a doctor appointment in Utah. I almost drove off the side of University Avenue in Provo while listening to her rattle off her long list of urgent goals. She sounded so much like the college version of me that I screamed, “Annie, you sound just like me!”

I quickly apologized, knowing that she might not appreciate the comparison.

I felt like I needed to assimilate what I was experiencing. It sounded like she read all my journal entries and absorbed them in her DNA somehow.

“I’m so stressed Mom. I need a plan! I need to know how everything is going to progress over the next four years. And, by the way, I don’t think I can do everything I want to do in four years. I think it will take five. I want to do an internship in Africa. (Oh, and did I tell you I’ve been learning the tribal languages? I have words and sentences taped around my dorm room.) But, back to how I need a plan. I need to know how to schedule out my classes over the next five years so I don’t miss anything.”

“Annie, slow down. You don’t have to know these things now!”

Hypocrite, a little voice echoes in my head.

“Mom,” she protested. “I don’t want to waste time!”

“Annie, you’ve been her for six weeks! You can’t expect to know your major, have every semester’s schedule planned in advance, and know your career plans now. It will all evolve. You don’t have to control it all right now.”

Hypocrite! The voice says a little louder.

Be quiet, I command the inner voice. I’m an adult now, and I don’t need to know my entire life’s plan. I trust the universe and all those other platitudes. Don’t you think I remember how I obsessed over my short and long-term plans, and how frustrated I became when I didn’t know everything I needed to know to fill in the blanks of my entire life? I’m not like that anymore.


Well, I am wondering about this empty nest life I’m facing. But, I’m confident it will evolve naturally, and my life will still be fulfilling, rewarding, and fun.

Ah huh…

“Mom, it’s just that everything is so important now,” Annie said. “I just can’t afford to waste time or I won’t get what I want.”

“Annie, this is so eerie! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said exactly what you’re saying. Now I wish I’d slowed down a bit. It’s good to have plans, but sometimes you have to let life happen. Sometimes we get so consumed with our plans, schedules, goals and dreams that they become burdens and just pile on more stress. If you don’t loosen your grip on your plans sometimes, you miss out on some of the lessons you really need to learn.”

John Lennon~

Wasn’t it John Lennon that said something about how life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans? Plan or no plan, life just happens sometimes. I’m all about letting it happen now.

Sure you are, the voice whispers.

“Mom, you don’t get it. Everything matters more now that I’m in college.”

I know she’s right. I felt that way too when I was in college. I believed it even more when I had children. Wasting valuable time was my worst fear. I wanted to remind her that life doesn’t always go according to The Big Plan. In fact, sometimes it goes way off The Big Plan and we need a little flexibility to accommodate for the stuff we didn’t anticipate. But, I let it go, knowing that I was already in eye-rolling territory.

A few days after I came home, she called and said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking about my life and how things have played out for me lately. I mean, I had a big plan, and it didn’t work out. When I tore my ACL playing lacrosse everything changed for me. It took me out of my favorite sport during my senior year, and killed my dream of playing college lacrosse, at least for now. It’s weird how things change because in college, nobody knows the “me” I was at home. I’ve lost my status as class president, my athletic ability, my friends, and everything that was familiar and comfortable to me, but I realize now that I can find new things and just rework the plan a bit. I can build my confidence in other areas, and it’s all okay.”

I hung up the phone thinking, I love that girl — that cooler, wiser version of me. I love that sometimes when I hold back from spewing out too much advice, she learns more from her own life experiences than she ever could from my words. Then she one-ups me and teaches me something new.

As I move into my new phase of empty nest life, and lose all my labels, I’m going to dip into Annie’s well of wisdom and rework the plan, build my confidence in new areas, and trust that it will all be okay.

After all, it’s working out pretty well for her.

Personal, Uncategorized

Friday Free Falls and Prompts

It all happens on Friday mornings at the local library in McLean.

We gather from our various homes in the Washington, D.C. area to write.

We’re all connected through various writing classes, workshops, and writing projects.

Someone tosses out a prompt.

We set the timer for 30 minutes, and boom,

we’re off, delving into the depths of random topics

from hairdressers

to tsunamis.

At the end of 30 minutes, we take turns reading our writing, and sharing ideas on how to strengthen, develop, improve or publish our work.

Sometimes we laugh hysterically, and sometimes we’re on the verge of tears.

I’ve learned a lot from our weekly writing free falls.

1. Safety matters.

We feel safe in our little corner of the library.

This safety liberates us and gives us permission to write some deeply personal stories.

2. Anything goes.

Some of the simplest prompts bring out the most interesting stories.

Who knew that the word “hairdresser” could inspire such a deluge of good writing?

3. When we share our writing, we are sharing our selves.

Deep friendships develop through these writing and sharing meetings.

We don’t waste time with superficial pleasantries.

We’re kind and civilized, but we know we’re all there to write.

We know each other beyond our resumes.

(Come to think of it, I don’t actually know what most of them do for a living.)

We know the real stuff that stirs around in each other because we write about it every week.

Good writing that comes from our simple Friday prompts.

(I’ve learned stuff at our library meetings!)

Pictures are also excellent writing prompts.

I saw this one today and had

to share it.

What does it “prompt” you to think about?

Do you have any good stories?  I’d love to hear them.

Here’s one of mine…

Growing up, I lived within a few blocks of The Art City Drive-In.  One of our favorite pastimes in the summer was to grab our old quilts, trek through the fields, and set up a little viewing station behind the fence.  Since it was a little difficult to hear from our cozy nests in the fields, we hopped over the fence, ran up to the nearest speakers, and turned them up full blast.  Then we hurried back over the fence to watch the movie. The only problem was that, Ronnie, the security guard for the drive-in took his job very seriously, and said we were trespassing.

“I’m gonna call the law on you!” he threatened.

We goaded him, and as my mom said, “tormented the poor man to death.”

We couldn’t see a problem with our drive-in shenanigans.

What did it hurt that a bunch of kids were watching “Planet of the Apes” in the fields?

Maybe we should have obediently folded up our quilts and went home, but we didn’t.  We waited for him to walk away, and then we jumped over the fence again to turn up the speakers. We didn’t see that our summertime fun was tormenting old “Ronnie,” and we didn’t feel like lawbreaking criminals or trespassers.

“Why don’t you start opening up car trunks to catch all the kids that get in free that way?” We asked him. “Or call the cops on the underaged kids buying cigarettes?”

We did our best to convince him we weren’t doing anything wrong…even though technically we probably were.

If the old drive-in and field existed today, I’d probably still call my old friends, gather up a stack of quilts, and head for the movies. It was our summer ritual.

Jumping the fence might be a little more challenging now,

but I think we’d still be tempted to try,

especially since there’s a new “Planet of the Apes” movie out.

Anybody want to join me?

Community, Family, Religion

Genealogy Goes Prime Time

(This was an article I had published in the Deseret News

Genealogy has gone prime time.

That was the message at the Conference on Family History and Genealogy held at Brigham Young University last week.

Television programs like NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are,” BYU-TV’s “The Generation Project,” and “Faces of America” on PBS have piqued the interest of viewers around the world and motivated more people to research their family histories and heritage.

D. Joshua Taylor, a nationally recognized genealogical author, lecturer, and researcher spoke at the conference and talked about the future of genealogy, saying, “it will not longer be viewed as an ‘old’ activity for the retired.  It will be undefined by age, gender and nationality.  We’re in primetime now.”

Taylor looked at his first microfilm when he was 10 years old, and became instantly hooked on genealogy.  He is the director of education and programs at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and has assisted with research for the NBC Series “Who Do You Think You Are,” including helping Sarah Jessica Parker with her genealogy.

At the conference, he traced genealogy through the generations, and discussed how it has changed and evolved over the years.

“We started out with people writing letters, going to courthouses, and lineage organizations for genealogical research, then we moved to microfilm, which brought thousands, millions of records to people.  After Alex Haley’s “Roots” book and television series, people became more interested in tracing their families.  It became more visible and the word ‘genealogist’ became known.  Then we moved to digital records like on and,” Taylor said.

Sarah Jessica Parker on an episode of NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are."

Photo taken by Lisa Poole, NBC
Sarah Jessica Parker on an episode of NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are.”

The attributes of the next generation of genealogy may sound “absolutely bananas,” but they will happen, he said.  He predicted some of the following changes:

  1. We won’t have to type in genealogical data from census and other records, we will just drag and drop everything, and the computer will fill in all the details.  “It’s happening now with medical records,” he said, “why not with genealogy?”
  2. Everything will be interactive.  For example, you’ll click on a church, and then click on a pew with a name of a family.  Then all the information about that family will pop up.  With the push of a button, you’ll see all their data.
  3. There will be more online websites for digital scrapbooks and family histories. There will be blogs with live recordings, videos, and links to other pertinent information.
  4. We will see the end of paper.  No more carting boxes of family documents from one relative to the next.  Everything will be digital. It’s all about “the cloud,” and storing data in Apple’s new icloud that should be coming out soon or “” where you can access your data from any computer and you won’t have to worry about external drives, back-up CDs, and thumb drives.
  5. Genealogy will be more about people than facts.  He encouraged genealogists to think beyond the pedigree chart and get into the stories about people.
  6. Communities will share data.  Genealogists, historians, librarians, archivists, and medical professionals will share information.  “We all need the same stuff,” he said, “so we might as well share it with each other.”
  7. Mobile devices are the future.  They will replace computers because they are more portable and can perform more functions.
  8. There will be more instant communications, not just with family members working together on genealogy, but with librarians, county clerks, associations, etc. In fact, he said, the new could be the end of Facebook because of its increased functionality, group video chats and “circles” of friends that can be organized by families, research groups, etc.
  9. Genealogy will not have to be a full-time pursuit.  The younger generations will be able to devote just 15-minutes at a time and make progress because of new technology and collaborative methods.
  10.  There will be a new generation of genealogists that will take new tactics.  Taylor described a Boston University group of students assembled to work on their family histories and said there were 20 countries represented within just three generations of a family.  Fifty percent of their parents or grandparents were born outside the United States.  The average birth year of this new group of genealogists was 1989.  About 85 percent of them immigrated after the year 1900, with the most recent immigrants coming to America in 2000.  With this new generation, new approaches need to be taken like oral interviews, and tracing people who are still alive to find out why they came to America and what political movements affected them.

The Conference on Family History and Genealogy is held at BYU and is sponsored by the BYU History Department, BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy, FamilySearch, Family History Library, and BYU Division of Continuing Education.


Mom and Me

I absolutely love my mother.

I love sitting in her dollhouse of a living room, and visiting nonstop for hours.

She hates this picture but I think it shows her fun personality.

We talk about everything from my proud mom moments to the cosmos flowers planted in her front yard. She asks my opinion of her freshly painted blue wicker chairs on the porch. I tell her they are homey and adorable

“You have to see my backyard.  All this Utah rain has made it absolutely gorgeous,” she says.

We walk out to her patio and admire her sprawling green grass, ferns, and pots of purple and red petunias, and the unbelievably lush, beautiful mountain that towers over the back of her house.

The record rains have made the mountains so dense with vibrant greens that I actually get distracted while driving in Utah because I can’t quit glancing their way.

I invited Mom to go shopping with me to buy dorm essentials for Annie’s new college home. I warned her that it could be a long day because I had a long list of items to buy

“I’ll go as long as I can stand it, and when I’ve had enough I’ll tell you, and you can bring me home,” she said.

That one statement reflects our understanding.

What it means is:  You wear me out.  You pack too much into every minute of your life, and that is not how I roll.

I get it, Mom. I get it.

It’s taken me a lifetime, but I finally get it

We run at different speeds.  I go full throttle.

She meanders.

When I was a teenager, she told her friends we didn’t get along.

“Oh, that’s because you’re so much alike,” they said.

“That’s a lie,” she snapped in her brutally blunt way. “We don’t have one thing in common.”

For as long as I can remember, she called me “the go-go-do-do-girl.

Busy Me

“You can’t sit still for five minutes,” she repeatedly told me.

She was right.

Why would anybody want to sit still for five minutes? I wondered. It sounded like an eternity of punishment and boredom.

“You wear me to a frazzle,” she said on an hourly basis.  “You’re going to drive me to the state mental with all your going and doing.”

“If I had to sit still all the time, I’d qualify for a room at the state mental,” I told her.

She said I was a difficult child to parent because she couldn’t keep up with me.

We’re just wired differently.

I was born with a fast idle that makes me want to go at life. Her idle is slow and steady and she’s content to let life come to her

My mom lives on the opposite end of the “go-go-do-do” spectrum. Instead of idling too fast, she has a lovely musicality to her life, like she has a reliable, steady metronome implanted in her soul. I envy the natural rhythm that guides her through her days.

I want that kind of deeply imbedded metronome, something to give a calmer, saner rhythm to my days.

This is my new goal...really, it is

I make lists to keep me organized.  The only problem is that I keep lists in about four different notebooks. Still, I couldn’t live without them.  They give me structure, focus, and a feeling of accomplishment when I check items off the lists.

The only list I’ve ever seen my mother make is the one she writes before going to the grocery store.  Yet at the end of the day, she has as much or more to show for her time than I do. She steadily progresses from one thing to the next like a stream gently rolling over small stones, as it rolls down its natural slope.

How does a raucous, rolling river type of person become a serene stream kind of woman?

Since I didn’t get the metronome in my soul, I often envision my mother at the beginning of a day, and how she effortlessly moves from one thing to the next, and then calmly sits to read a book, embroidery or (gasp) even nap.

Even when I read a book I take notes, look up the authors on the Internet, and go at it like a hungry dog.  While it gives me pleasure, it is not relaxing and restorative. And, did I mention that my mom only reads one book at a time?  Who does that? 

I am trying to retrain myself to become a calmer person, the kind of woman who is happy just listening to the chimes on her deck as she leisurely reads one book or sips on lemonade.

It sounds so lovely.

I wonder if I could carry one book out to the deck without an accompanying notebook, marker and pen.

I’m determined to try.  Just for five minutes

Five minutes.

That’s manageable.

I’m going to start planning for those five minutes now.

First, I need a piece of paper and a pen to make a list of what I’ll do for those




I think I’m off to a bad start.