Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Childhood Christmas Memories

I loved Christmas!  As a young girl, I would sit in a large upholstered rocking chair beside our Christmas tree; rocking, rocking, and waiting. It seemed that Christmas would never arrive!

This is a picture of our home in Concord, California where we lived when I was in my teens. My mother loved to have lots of presents under our tree, so she would beautifully wrap up our school supplies besides our big presents. One year I bought a large sausage for my step-father, Lew Pearson. I wrapped it and put it under the tree.  The Irish Setter (the large red dog), Kelly, was my brother's dog. He found the sausage and had himself a feast.

At Christmas time we made lots of cookies which I loved to decorate.We made star, bell, and ball ornament cookies. Mom also made date nut bread, and cranberry bread. I loved to eat it with cheese.

When I was little, my dad worked nights to buy lots of presents for us. We always opened one present on Christmas Eve. It was our Christmas pajamas which my mom made for my brother and I. We wore them to bed that nigh, so we were ready for my dad's Christmas movie the next morning. I could barely sleep - I was so excited!

I loved Christmas candles. I remember a big red candle we used year after year. I liked to dip my finger in the hot wax and let it cool and peal the wax off. When I was ten and we were living in Athens, Georgia, Mom tried making candles. She cooked blocks of white paraffin wax and we put some of my crayons in it for color. When it was all melted, we poured the wax into cardboard milk cartons. After it was cool, we ripped off the cardboard and there was a large red candle. Next, we used a hand mixer and whipped up some of the white paraffin wax. We used a knife and spread the white wax over the red candle. It hardened and looked like frosting covering the candle. When the candle was lit, the red shown through the white "frosting". It was fun to do.

When I was in my teens, I helped with the Christmas decorating and wrapping. I spread it all out on my bed and wrapped for hours.  Our old dog, Teddy,  is "helping" me wrap.

My dad would spend days working on his Christmas cards. He wrote personal notes to all his family and friends. Mom knitted, and sewed presents for us. Christmas was a busy, fun time filled with lots of good food, sparkling lights, presents, and Christmas Carols.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Decorating Our Christmas Tree

Image result for bubble lights

A couple of weeks before Christmas, we would go to a tree lot and pick out our tree. My mom was always concerned about finding just the right size and shape. She didn't want to get the tree too soon for it needed to make it til New Years without its needles falling off. We put the tree in a bucket, made sure it was straight (a big project which involved a lot of adjusting), and kept it watered. When the tree was up,we opened the large 3 1/2 foot packing box that contained all our Christmas decorations. It was so fun to gently lift out and unwrap each decoration. They were like old friends.

Dad put the bubble lights on the tree. They were shaped like a clear candle, and when they got hot the colored liquid in the candle would bubble. (Later, they were outlawed because they started fires. Now they have made safe bubble lights.)

Next, we carefully placed on shiny glass balls. In our teens Jim and I decorated white silk balls with sequins and rick-rack. They didn't break. I loved carefully designing each ball.

After the balls were on, my mom handed the lead ice icicles to my brother and me a few at a time. Now they have light metal coated plastic ice icicles. We had to watch our old cocker spaniel dog, because he would eat the ice icicles then the lead would make him sick. Putting on the ice icicles was an art. Under my mom's careful direction, each ice icicle had to gently draped on each branch. Throwing on a handful was not allowed (I tried it). All branches had to be evenly covered. It seemed like it took hours!

Finally, there was our sparkling creation. I looked at it for hours. It seemed almost magical!

Cutting Our Own Christmas Tree

Image result for georgia pine forest

We usually went to a tree lot and picked out a Christmas tree, except for one year. I was ten and Jimmy was eight.  My dad was receiving his Navy Officer Supply training in Athens Georgia. We were renting a new home a few miles out from the town and about half a mile behind our house was a pine forest. Since our landlord had given us permission to cut ourselves a Christmas tree, my brother, dad, and I cheerfully headed down the road to the forest. After some careful hunting, we found the perfect tree. It was beautiful with thick branches all around. Dad swung his ax. Down came the tree. Picking it up, we began our trek back to our house.  Shortly, we stopped, panting, and took another look at the tree. We all agreed that it was too large and cut off a few feet from the bottom. We went a little further and chopped off some more. Finally, we arrived at our house with a tree about half the original size. We couldn't get the tree in the door and had to cut off another six feet. We learned that a tree that looks small in a forest can be very large in a house!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day the Fire Truck Came

Though I was only six, I remember the day the fire truck came. It was 1956, and we were living in Navy housing in Alameda, California.  One evening my mom was frying dinner, when the oil suddenly burst into flame. My dad grabbed the pan off the stove. The flames reached up as tall as his head. He calmly told my mother to take my brother and me outside. Just before we stepped out the door, I looked behind me and saw my dad turning on the faucet with one hand and holding the flaming pan in the other.

BOOM! Flames shot out the kitchen window!

What had happened!? Before I had time to worry about Dad, he was standing outside by us. My mom rushed us upstairs to a neighbor's apartment where my brother and I had an exciting evening watching the fire truck dash up, the firemen spraying water, and the neighbors milling around below us.

After a few hours, we were allowed to go back into our apartment. I stepped inside and just stood there. The kitchen walls were bubbly! It looked funny!

Week after week, my parents worked scraping all that "funniness" off the walls. When the burned and bubbled paint was finally removed, they got permission to paint the walls aqua instead of the normal ivory. They liked having some color on the walls, but not enough to ever mix hot oil and water together again.

I felt almost like a celebrity since my family had gotten the fire truck to come to our neighborhood and fondly thought of that exciting day.  Though my parents were glad we were all unhurt, they definitely didn't share my excitement about the day the fire truck came.

(I was about six in this picture and was standing by the wall to the peanut butter factory in our back yard area. Note all the missing teeth!)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Childhood Halloweens

Weeks before Halloween, we looked through drawers and closets searching for things to put together for our costumes. I remember wearing my mom's skirt and being a gypsy laden with ropes of long necklaces. Once I was a black cat, and, as a teen, I wore my Dad's green Navy fatigues (baggy work pants with jacket and boots).  I didn't like looking funny and only wore it because I couldn't wear my favorite costume, my mother's kimono. It was beige with a mountain design on it and had long, long sleeves. My dad had brought back from his cruise Japanese wooden shoes for my brother and I and a wide gold and white brocade Obi belt for me. It had a large bow in the back. I loved dressing up as an oriental lady!

In grade school on Halloween day, we wore our costumes to school. We lined up outside in the warm California sun with our class and all the school paraded around the school yard. Our parents were there to watch and wave to us. Sometimes we had classroom parties, and when I was 14, a girlfriend gave a Halloween Scavenger party at her home. All of us girls dressed up and ran around her neighborhood knocking on doors and trying to be the first to find the small items on our list, such as a paperclip.

We had a few Halloween traditions. One was that Dad helped us carve out pumpkins which we put candles in and set on the front porch. Another, was that we could only have a piece or two of candy at a time. We were not allowed to just gobble up all our candy on Halloween night (which sounded great to me!).  Once when we returned home I couldn't find my bag of Halloween candy. Also, we couldn't find our cocker spaniel dog, Teddy.  Finally, we found a very sheepish Teddy and what was left of our candy under my parent's bed.

Halloween in Rhode Island

Dressed up for Halloween, my brother (8) and I (10) excitedly waited for my girlfriend from school to arrive. Not only was this our first Halloween in Rhode Island, but it was our first time go out Trick-o-treating without any adults. Gleefully, we ran out into a night, crisp and clear. We crunched our way across huge lawns, so we could knock on the doors. Some of the houses were big old mansions that had been divided into apartments. Once we went up to the upper floor in one and knocked on one of the apartment doors. An older woman answered. She was very surprised to have someone come asking treats at her place, but she told us to wait and made us a sandwich.  After that, we Trick-o-treated at a candy store. What fun! I got some wax candy lips, tried them on, then ate them. Finally, we made our way back to our apartment happy, tired, and with full bags of candy.

photo- big old house in Newport Rhode Island

Friday, September 30, 2016

Living on a Navy/ Air Force Base

The heat shimmered over the road that June day in 1961 as we drove into El Centro, California. It was 120 degrees in the shade and the locals told us you could cook an egg on the sidewalk. I believed them. In those days, El Centro was a small town located just a few miles from the Mexican border and surrounded by farms. My dad had just completed his training as a Navy Supply Officer and this was his first assignment. I had just turned 11 and my brother, Jim, 9.  We had never lived on a base before. So with both excitement and apprehension we entered the new world of the Naval Air Facility near El Centro. Our first lesson occurred at the gate.  My dad told us that we could go out the gate, but we would not be allowed back in unless we showed proper military identification. I looked from the guard's guns to the high barbed wire top fence surrounding the base. I knew then that my life would be different.

To our right as we drove in were hangers with huge planes in front of them. Part of the plane opened and you could drive jeeps inside. We found out that the Blue Angels practiced here during the winter. Maybe this would be a fun place. 

We drove directly to our officers quarters. Our new home was an apartment in a long, stucco, robin's egg blue building. Each of the four apartments in the building had a small living room, and kitchen with a back door out to the clothes line where we could hang out our clothes. We also had three bedrooms; one for my parents, one for my brother, and one for me, and a bathroom. We had an oleander bush by the front door and some grass out front.  (This is me on our door step with our dog, Teddy. You can just barely see our bush.) Across from our building was the Bachelor Officer Housing. It was a big white one story building with bedrooms inside .(Dad told me. I never went in.) 
Beyond that was the Officers Club. Kids didn't go inside. There was a small outdoor pool, dressing rooms, and pool chairs. At 1 pm the pool opened, and all the officer's kids jumped in. That's where we kids spent our summers. Sometimes, I ordered a Shirley Temple (7 Up with a little cherry juice) from the snack window. They played teen music. My favorite song was "Cherie" because it was my name. I felt so grown up!

I had a room all of my own! My mom and dad found a small dressing table at a second hand store and fixed it up for me. Dad painted the table white, and my mom made a pink ruffled skirt for it, along with a pink ruffled bedspread and curtains. I had two crystal lamps on my dressing table. This is one of them. (the shade was white but just looks yellow in the picture)

 One day, I heard this loud BOOM! It sounded close. Soon, I saw the base ambulance come rushing up.  They entered the apartment next door and came out with someone on a stretcher who they took to the base hospital. Later, I  found out that a girl who was a couple of years older than me, had turned on gas to the stove, but didn't light the oven quick enough, and the gas exploded.  She was ok in a few months, but till then, each time I saw her red face with eyebrows and eyelashes burned off,  I vowed NEVER to light our stove. 

We had linoleum floors.  We owned a large green cotton rug which we rolled up and brought with us whenever we moved. We put it in the living room, and smaller rugs in the bedrooms. I had a white furry rug. After my mom put wax on the linoleum, I ran our buffer machine over the floor to polish it. It was sort of fun, but seemed to take a long time, and the shine didn't last very long.

I sometimes hung the laundry out on the lines behind our apartment. There was a certain way to do it. You put up a sheet or towels, then on the next line in we hung our underwear.  On the front line we hung more towels, pants, or shirts to give privacy.

There were roads around the housing area. In the evenings when it was cooler, we kids rode our bikes, at least until a goat head sticker punctured one of our tires.

We also dug pit forts in the dirt field while lizards darted around us. Sometimes I held one in my hand and petted it. I like lizards. They are alert and have soft tummies.

By the housing was a play area called "Tiny Town". It was a bit old and broken when I was there and the gate was chained closed. Of course, this didn't stop us kids from getting in and playing in the little stores and church.

Behind the housing was another dirt area, then there was the indoor EM (enlisted man's) pool. It was Olympic sized. This is where I took my Junior Lifesaving course. I had to jump in and "save" someone. I also had to swim an entire mile without stopping. I thought I was going to die, but I did it!

This is a picture of the EM pool. In the distance was our housing. Across from the EM pool was the Commissary (grocery store and pharmacy), and a large movie theater. We saw movies there with our parents. Beyond that was the rest of the base, the Dispensary (hospital) and offices. My dad worked in the Supply office, but we kids were not allowed there. We did go to the Mess Hall (cafeteria) once and ate Thanksgiving dinner. There was lots of food, but not as good as mom's.

I did go to the hospital once to have a spinal tap to see if I had spinal meningitis- I didn't, but I got to ride home in an ambulance and had to lie flat for 24 hours. The ride was fun, but I got bored not being even allowed to have a pillow so I could see the TV better. Mono (mononucleosis) had spread across the base. Everyone got it, but I didn't recover as fast as everyone else.  I had to sit in the sunshine a lot and rest, and then I was ok.

I enjoyed the excitement of base living. I got to watch the parachuters jump. One older jumper told me that he had broken every bone in his body at least once. He said that the dangerous part is landing. The wind can catch the parachute before they can gather it up and drag them a ways. That's where the injuries happened. Most of all I loved the freedom we had on the base. As long as we stayed out of restricted areas (airfield, offices etc), we could go where we wanted. It was great!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Becoming a Missionary Mom

For the last few months I’ve felt a compulsions to get all in order in my home and life:
Family History and Visiting Teaching has been organized and information put in the computer.
Notes and reminders put onto my computer calendar and contacts list.
Papers, files, boxes, closets, cupboards, and attic gone through.
Play area downstairs refined and library set up in the yellow room upstairs.

After being able to go to the Zoo and still feel alright, I knew I was feeling better and could now do more.  I knew that my collapsing last winter was an opportunity for me to learn how to use my medication and feel better.  As the week progressed, I increasingly felt anxious to try something new and a bit restless.  I’ve had a sense that I was being prepared to do something more-- but what?

On Friday, we received a phone call asking us to meet with the Stake President on Sunday July 24, 2011.  It seemed logical that my husband would be called to a stake position since he has been up at BYU for over four years, but I felt that it was something that would concern me.  When we arrived, the Stake President said that he felt we should serve some type of mission and wanted us to consider our situation: health, finances, circumstances. We replied that we would think about it.  I didn’t feel that we should say, “No”, but how could we serve a mission with my poor health?

That afternoon my husband and I talked, and I read over the on-line information on LDS missions.
There were so many exciting opportunities to serve the Lord, but I knew I couldn’t do them. I simply don’t have the health to live outside my home, away from my doctor, and work forty hour weeks.  I realized that I couldn’t even pass the required physical.  I felt like crying.

Our home teacher came over to our home. We talked with him on our patio, and he prayed that I might find opportunities to serve.  When we went back inside, the words, “Look up Church Service Missions” came into my mind.  I hadn’t remembered hearing of this type of mission, but there it was on-line.  As I looked over the opportunities, I saw a part-time writing mission. I only needed to be able to write for eight hours a week, and I could just make a six month commitment. There is also no physical to pass and I can work and train at home. What I would do is respond to visitors’ comments on and the Church’s Facebook page.  I had a strong feeling that this was something I could do and would enjoy doing. It felt right for me– something I had been prepared to do.

The next day I called the contact person in the Curriculum Department at Church Service Headquarters.  I told him of my five short articles published in the Ensign magazine and my twenty years of experience in editing.  He said, “You are certainly well qualified for this position,” and sent my email address to the person over the Feedback Response Team.  Now, I need to fill out forms, and set up interviews with my Bishop and Stake President.  When all is approved, my bishop will set me apart

I hope that my service will be a blessing to our family and be a good example to our children and grandchildren.  I hope it will help our son return to the Gospel light.  I wonder if it will influence our non-member family and friends.  I feel it is right for me to serve at this time

It has been exciting and a little scary to leave my comfort zone.  It has taken courage to call and offer my talents to the Church.  I have been humming, “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” all week.
I do want to further the Lords work. I do want to serve a mission.  I’m grateful that people who must stay home can still serve. I’m sorry that my health prevents us from serving a full time mission, but there is much that Garrett (when he retires) and I can do to serve here.  I know that writing is what I have been prepared to do, and this is how the Lord wants me to serve.  I look forward to becoming a Missionary Mom!

(This was written in July of 2010. I served as a Responder on for six years. It was a wonderful experience. Serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a great privilege and blessing to me. )

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Nearly Lost at Sea!

It all seemed so simple. My brother, Jim, and I would sail our 12 foot sailboat around Treasure Island, the small island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Jim was 14 and I was 16. Jim and I had been sailing on lakes for a few years and looked forward to a fun adventure. When my Dad, the Supply Officer on the Naval base on Treasure Island, helped us get the boat into the water, we confidently made plans to meet in about half an hour back at the boat ramp.

So on that sunny, summer afternoon, Jim and I happily began our little sail. At first, all seemed well as we waved goodbye to Dad and sailed out into the bay. Since we were going to closely hug the coast of the island, we turned the rudder to bring us around the island -- nothing happened!! We tried to stay calm as we took turns paddling, but no matter what we did, we were slowly drifting out to sea.

I remembered that the island prison Alcatraz was considered escape proof because of the sharks in San Francisco Bay, so swimming was definitely out.  We didn't have a radio. In fact, all we had was a very small sailboat with one paddle in a very large bay.

Hours passed. It became cool and the water was getting a little choppy. No longer were we near the safety of the little island. The current had pulled us into the shipping lanes. I turned pale as a large Portuguese freighter approached us. We desperately waved hoping for help. They smiled and waved back. I felt doomed envisioning us lost at sea in the night fog. As I began to despair, we heard the sound of a motor boat engine. It was Dad! When we weren't back in half an hour, Dad convinced a man on Treasure Island to take his boat out to find us.

Tired, and quiet, we rode back to Treasure Island in the motorboat with our sailboat in tow behind us. Having found a new respect for the strong currents of San Francisco Bay,  I felt so grateful to have only been "nearly" lost at sea.