Saturday, April 29, 2017

Baby Brother

Me with both my baby brothers: Darryl on the left and Jeff on the right.
March 18, 2017

Also during Spring Break, two days after our return from Dylan and Jake's car-shopping expedition to Phoenix, my youngest brother Darryl and his wife Tamera drove all the way from their home in Missouri so Darryl could help our dad with some projects around his house. Tamera, who is also a special education teacher, had the week off for Spring Break, as well, and originally they'd intended to stay for about a week. However, the opportunity arose to bring along two of Tamera's beautiful granddaughters to visit with their father, whom they hadn't seen in several years and who happens to live in the Phoenix area, so they had to limit their stay to the few days that the girls were out of school.

Tamera and Darryl at Dad's dinner table on Saturday.

Darryl and Tamera arrived at Dad's place on a Friday, but I didn't see them until Saturday. By now, I was finally tackling some of the around-the-house projects I'd slated for Spring Break, plus I figured they'd need a day to recover from their very long drive (Darryl likes to drive straight through), as well as see their granddaughters safely delivered to their dad. I called them on Saturday, though. Tamera and I talked on the phone much longer than we should have, considering we were now separated by a distance of only two miles!

Gathered around the table, enjoying Kathy's juicy grilled burgers:
Sarah, Chris, Mark, Myron (Dad), Kathy, Tamera, and Darryl.

Finally, around 4:00, Mark and I headed on over to my dad and Kathy's house to join them for dinner and a nice, long visit. My daughter Sarah and her husband Chris also came for dinner. In fact, Tamera, Sarah, Kathy, Mark, and I went shopping together for dinner supplies at Walmart, where we ran into my son Dylan, and Tamera rushed over to give him a big bear hug.

An evening of family togetherness with Grandpa Myron, my nephew Burke,
Jeff, Tamera, Darryl, my nephew Justin, and Justin's new bride Jessica...

Later that evening, our other brother Jeff and his wife Dana, along with many of their children, stopped by to join in the fun. It was awesome. We were only missing our third brother LeRoy and his wife Lori and our sister Karla and her husband Steve to make it a full house! Unfortunately, they were unable to make the trip up from the Valley during that short time frame. 

...and my niece Brinley, son-in-law Chris, niece Hayden, nephew Marcus,
sister-in-law Dana, ex-husband Mark, step-mom Kathy, and dad Myron.

Allow me to apologize for the quality of these pictures (or the lack thereof). I really was in Spring Break-mode, and left the house without either my camera or my makeup. Anyone who knows me knows that, if there's a family gathering, I will be taking pictures. They also know I don't like having my own picture taken when I'm not wearing makeup. Still, the memories must be captured! So I used my cell phone's camera and submitted to participating in a family photo session despite my blotchy skin and invisibly blonde lashes...

Dad & kids: Myron (age 82), Darryl (53), Mary (62), and Jeff (55).

And, as I mentioned above, we ended the evening with a family photo shoot. Fortunately, the togetherness didn't end there. We had more family fun to come!

My brothers and their wives: Darryl and Tamera, Jeff and Dana.

Mary, Darryl, Tamera, Kathy, Myron, Dana, and Jeff.

On Saturday, I invited Darryl, Tamera, Dad, and Kathy to join us at my house for dinner. We enjoyed Mark's grilled London broil steaks, mashed potatoes, and a big green salad. Darryl had requested oil-and-vinegar dressing the way our mom used to make it while we were growing up, which we all love. I think Mom smiles in heaven when she sees her kids enjoying each other's company. If only it happened more often!

Dinner at the (old) adult table: Myron, Kathy, Tamera, Darryl, and Mark

After dinner, we visited for a while and then Dad and Kathy decided to call it a night. Darryl and Tamera stayed for quite a bit longer, and I'm so glad they did because later in the evening both of Darryl's daughters showed up from their home in the Valley. First we were thrilled to see my niece Brittany walk in the door, and somewhat later we were excited and surprised to see my niece Savannah's face at my door, since we hadn't expected to see her until Monday. The visiting was even more fun while they were with us.

Dinner at the (young adult) kids' table: Chris, Dylan, Jake, and Sarah,
with Darryl and Mark munching away in the foreground.

It was Jeff's turn to host us on Sunday night (although he had to work that night and couldn't even join us), which happened to be their daughter Haley's birthday, so we all headed over to their place for a delicious dinner of Dana's homemade Chicken Alfredo, followed by Haley's birthday party. By this time, Tamera's granddaughters had rejoined them, so we got to see how they've grown. I hadn't seen them since we visited Darryl and Tamera in Missouri in July 2009 (we also stopped by there in July 2012, but we were just passing through on our way to New York and didn't get to see Tamera's kids and grandkids).

Haley pretends to blow out her birthday candles again, because
Aunt Mary didn't get her camera out fast enough when she really did it!

One of the fun things that happened while we were at Haley's party was getting invited to dinner for the following Sunday by four of Jeff and Dana's grown kids who have their own place now. We happily accepted the invitation to join Elsie, Marcus, Emma, and Burke for dinner seven days hence at the home they now share!

At  Jeff's house after dinner & party: my nieces Elsie & Brinley, nephew Burke,
Mark, Tamera, Darryl & his daughter Brittany, and Tamera's granddaughters.

I didn't expect to spend any time with Darryl and Tamera on Monday, knowing they had things to finish up so they could get back on the road to Missouri super-early on Tuesday morning. As it happened, though, I did end up spending the late morning and afternoon with them. We stopped to buy some flowers, which we arranged into bouquets, and then we drove over to the Show Low Cemetery, along with Brittany and Savannah, to put the flowers on my mother's grave. I blogged those photos earlier this month, on the fifteenth anniversary of Mom's death.

Just hanging out: my sister-in-law Dana, my niece Savannah,
my nephew Marcus, and my niece Emma.

It never seems long enough, but eventually our visit had to come to an end. Tamera says another visit from my family to Missouri is long overdue, so the kids and I have tentatively decided to plan another Branson vacation for 2018. We had a great time there in 2009 and loved spending time with Darryl's family.

A dinner party at the home of Elsie, Marcus, Emma, and Burke:
Chris, Sarah, Jake, Dylan, Mark, Burke, and Marcus.

Of course, we still had our upcoming dinner with my four nieces and nephews to look forward to. On the following Sunday we joined them for a delicious dinner of barbecued chicken, broccoli, and green salad, with fruit salad for dessert, all prepared by talented chef Burke, assisted by Emma.

Marcus, Elsie, Burke, and Emma in their beautiful home.

Dylan and Jake like to hang out with this crew of cousins, but this was my first time to see their new home. It's a beautiful two-bedroom, two-bathroom trailer that's far nicer and roomier than my little house. I was quite impressed with it and how well they're taking care of it. It's so fun to see how my nieces and nephews (as well as my own children) are growing up into great adults. Thanks for the invitation to dinner, guys! It was awesome! As soon as I retire, it will be our turn to host you all!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Spring Break Car

March 15, 2017: Jake and Dylan with their spanking-new Kia Soul.

It's been five weeks since Spring Break. As usual, I planned to get caught up on a lot of things during our two weeks off. As usual, it just didn't happen. There always seem to be so many unplanned events that arise, mostly good, but interruptions nonetheless.

At every break, I spend the first few days just vegging out, enjoying the knowledge that I don't have to rush to work or deal with students and deadlines for sixteen whole days. This year, one of the first interruptions to follow the lovely days of "sleep in-watch videos-check Facebook-read books-take naps-check Facebook-wear pajamas all day-snack rather than cook-check Facebook" (you get the picture) was a trip to Phoenix to assist Dylan and Jake in the purchase of a brand-new car. 

The Kia Soul, Jake's gotta-have.

This was not a used car, mind you. Jake had been researching a variety of vehicles and finally decided that his dream car was the Kia Soul. Based on the advertising he saw (which turned out to be very misleading), it seemed that he could get a better deal on a new car than a used one. Once I discovered that the advertised value did not match the actual cost, I advised purchasing a used model instead, but by then it was too late. Jake was in love with the 2017's features.

Now, my whole purpose for accompanying Dylan and Jake on this car-buying trip was to cosign (my excellent credit gets low interest rates) and to help them negotiate the price. I've gotten pretty good at negotiating for used cars, but I've never bought a new car before. I learned on this trip that auto dealers have a whole different repertoire of "reasons" they can't negotiate the price of a new car, which we all know will depreciate by thousands of dollars as soon as it's driven off the lot by the new owner. That's a lot to pay for a new car smell. Let's just say it got a little bit ugly before we signed on the dotted line.

As soon as we identified the model that Jake wanted, I asked what the actual price was. In fact, I asked at least three times, maybe four, during the first thirty minutes. The dealer put me off every time, which started me on the slow burn, but I was still nice. When we finally sat down and he gave me the price, I just looked at him and said, "No, we aren't paying that." The amount was about $5,000 over the advertised price. 

I looked at the guys and picked up my purse, ready to walk, so the dealer called in the manager, who assured us that the law doesn't require them to show the "small print" on phone apps (where Jake had done his research). It was a total bait-and-switch, and this was where my gloves came off. I called him out on his dishonesty when he lied about another dealership's practices, as well as the deceitful nature of their ads, and he threatened to withdraw the pitiful offer he'd made if we left. By the time we were done, the manager wouldn't even look at me for the rest of our time there.

The scenery we endured for a full four hours at Earnhardt Kia.

In the end, although I still wasn't happy with the deal, I had gotten them to drop about $2,000 off the price, with a payment that matched what Dylan and Jake had set. The deciding factor for me was that they gave us an even lower interest rate than I'd been hoping for. The only hurdle left to jump was dealing with the financial guy and the contract. Predictably, he pressured Dylan and Jake to purchase the "platinum standard" $3,000 extended warranty. For a 2017 model with eleven miles on it. That's right, eleven.

I said no, the guys said no. He wanted to know why. He said, "What if I could get it for you at no additional cost?" By now I was tired and cranky and ready to start the three-hour drive back home. Enough of this nonsense. So I asked, "How exactly can you do that?" He insisted, "Well, what if I can?" I said, "You can't. You know what, you're losing me. I'm done. We don't want it. Let's move on, I want to go home." He looked at me in surprise, then started giving us the papers to sign. Not another word about warranties.

April 4, 2017: Jake and his "stormtrooper helmet" Kia, to which he's added
the Star Wars Imperial Crest sticker in the center of his back window.

The good news is that Jake loves his new car (not bad for a guy who only got his driver's license a year and a half ago, at age twenty-four) and it performs very well for him. For a while, Dylan and I gave him a hard time about how "ugly" it is. I don't like the looks of "boxy"-shaped vehicles, so I think the front of his Soul is kind of cute but the back is ugly. But then someone pointed out that the back of his white-with-black-trim car actually resembles a storm trooper helmet. Okay, we're all big Star Wars fans, so now I think it's kind of cool. Nice car, Jake.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Another Last

Appetizer: Sweet Ahi Tuna.

Tonight I attended the annual CTE Dinner and Committee Meeting for something like the umpteenth year in a row. It's one of those things I really will miss after retirement. CTE stands for Career and Technical Education (what we used to call "vocational education" in the olden days). 

One requirement for the many grants and federal funding sources that keep these programs rolling is that they invite key people from the community to this dinner to learn more about our programs and their accomplishments, and then to provide feedback. As the special education department chair at the high school from 1995 to 2015, I was always invited to these yearly dinners to sign each CTE department's paperwork as a representative for special needs populations.

I stepped down as department chair two years ago, and I now spend more than half my day teaching regular freshman and sophomore English classes, yet the invitations to these dinner meetings have continued. The relationships we develop over the years continue even after our circumstances change. When our CTE administrator joined us at our table after speaking to the crowd, I reminded her that this would be my final CTE dinner. However, she firmly asserted that she would continue to invite me in coming years. I guess we'll see whether this actually was my last time...

Main Course: Flank Steak in a butter sauce, Risotto,
and Fire-Roasted Vegetables in a sweet sauce.

One of the best things about these committee meetings is the fact that the dinner is prepared and served by our culinary arts students. This year, as third place winners of the Arizona Restaurant Association's ProStart Invitational, the students served up their winning menu. During the competition, the 5- member teams had 60 minutes to prepare a 3-course meal using only two butane burners, with no access to electricity or running water. They were evaluated on knife skills, safety and sanitation, team skills, taste, and presentation.

As you can see from these pictures, they came up with some amazing creations! Of course, for tonight's dinner they had all the modern conveniences at their disposal.

And for Dessert: Fresh Berries with Grand Marnier Cream.

After I'd signed all the paperwork and said my good-byes, I walked out with Jim Rice (cabinetry teacher, behind-the-wheel trainer, and football coach). He's been at Blue Ridge almost as long as I have, and he hopes to be able to retire in a few more years. As we walked down the hall from the dining room--which is on the opposite side of campus from the building where my classroom is located--he commented, "Just think, this may be the last time you walk down this hall." 

That kind of caught me by surprise. This really is happening. Soon the daily walks through these halls will be a thing of the past. Very soon. Am I ready? You bet I am! But the memories will endure and I'm grateful for that.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Last Dance

April 15, 2017: Teacher Chaperons at BRHS Junior-Senior Prom
From left: Lori (English), Tasha (social studies), Sherri (math), Mary (English),
Brandi (P.E. & freshman university), and Kay (culinary arts).

Last weekend I enjoyed another "last" on the countdown to retirement: My final opportunity to chaperon Prom. While I don't mind the chaperoning duties associated with being a high school teacher, I wouldn't say it's high on my list of favorites. However, I happily volunteer to chaperon Prom every year. It's such a big deal for the kids, and I love seeing the creative Prom decorations and the students so formally dressed and coiffed that I barely recognize them.

Prom came at the end of a very busy Saturday. My day began with doing bills for the second half of April, along with preparing Mark's and my tax forms to be mailed off. Next came two hours of the shopping I'd put off all week, including picking up everything we needed for Easter dinner the following day, all while battling the other hordes of last-minute Easter shoppers in the Walmart aisles, which seem to shrink in width every holiday.

Sarah and her violin in concert on Saturday afternoon.

From 3:00 to 5:00, Mark, Chris, and I went to enjoy Sarah's concert of the White Mountain Symphony Orchestra. Their performance was amazing, as always.

I can't recall the exact Prom theme. Something like "Never forget" or "Always remember."
I have no idea what it was they were supposed to always remember or never forget.
However, the decor was sort of Moroccan, as in "Welcome to the Kasbah."

After the concert, I hurried home to grab a bite of dinner, refresh my makeup, and spend way too much time wrestling with the pantyhose I haven't bothered to wear for a very long time. I confess that I shed some tears (requiring some makeup repair) and said some words I don't allow my students to say, as the hose twisted this way and that, strangling my knees and thighs. Eventually, I got them smoothed out enough to provide some level of comfort, and at 7:15 I was on my way to the Convention Center at Hon-dah Casino on the nearby Apache Reservation, where Prom was held.

Tables await the arrival of Prom dancers needing to rest their weary feet.

Every year, the first thing I do is take pictures of the decorations before the room is filled with all those excited young bodies. Then I check on my assignment, which has always been to monitor the kids in the main Prom area: the dance floor, the tables, the refreshments area, and so on.

Then, while we wait for the kids to make their way through the line and into the ballroom, after having their tickets checked and apparel choices approved, I visit with the other chaperons and admire the beautiful suits and tuxedos and Prom gowns as the students enter.

The photographer had her set all ready for the Prom attendees.

By the final hour of the three-hour Prom (8-11 p.m.), after the crowning of the Prom royalty and other traditional events and music, I'm starting to feel ready to go home. It was especially true this year, knowing the next morning would be Easter and I'd have lots to do before the family gathered for dinner. At least this year I had no Easter baskets to prepare, now that I have an empty nest!

These two girls were first in the door, both from my English classes.
The one on the right graduates next month. And so do I!

I left the Prom feeling a mixture of excitement and nostalgia. Excited to move on to the next phase of my life, and nostalgic about the things I'll miss when they're over. As I left, I walked past our high school principal and said goodnight. He thanked me for chaperoning, and I grinned and said, "Last one!" He pretended to scowl (he asks me every couple of weeks if I won't change my mind about retiring; it seems that teachers who are certified in both special education and secondary English aren't that plentiful) and asked, "Are you sure you don't want to come back for next year's Prom?" I paused and said, "Well...I might if someone calls and invites me..." Now it was his turn to grin. "I'll remember that," he said.

So now we'll wait and see...

Dancers begin trickling out onto the dance floor while the night is still young.

Halfway through the night, the room is packed and growing quite warm.

The refreshments area was another popular place.

Beautiful dresses everywhere.

A little taste of loud Prom music and young people in motion.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Easter Dinner

Chris, Jake, Dylan, and Sarah enjoy a hand of Uno Dare after dinner.
April 16, 2017

I am falling so far behind on my blogging! Somehow it seems that my final semester of teaching has been more hectic than ever...or maybe I'm just running out of steam, which only confirms my belief that it's time to retire! There just isn't enough energy to meet all of life's demands on my time, and thus my blog has taken a hit. Only six more weeks of school left, though, and then my time will be my own!

So here I am with the tale of our family Easter, 2017, six days behind schedule!

Sarah prepares to enjoy her dinner. By the way, she has lost 40 lbs so far!
She's very motivated by the David Archuleta concert coming in June!

Not that there's much to tell. Dylan, Jake, and Mark had to work that day. Thankfully, Mark got off work by noon so he was home to help with the cooking. He made the mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing, as well as slicing the ham. Plus Sarah and Chris came over around 4:00, meaning they were able to help in the preparation, too. Sarah was my right-hand gal, making the green bean casserole and preparing the corn and dinner rolls. All I had to do was get the ham in the oven and put the chocolate cream pie in the fridge to thaw. Oh, and wash up the meal-prep dishes!

Chris, Jake, and Dylan have their meal at the kitchen table.

Once the food was ready, I asked the kids if they wanted to dine formally or casually. After a few minutes of, "I don't care, whatever you want" and "It doesn't matter to me, what do you want to do?" it was finally agreed to eat casually. Dylan, Jake, and Chris sat at the kitchen table together while Sarah, Mark, and I took TV trays into the living room. We even used plastic cups rather than glass, in order to cut down on dishes to be washed. In the past, I've never used paper or plastic dinnerware for holidays!

It isn't a real meal until Dylan shares a view of his chewed food.

I think my family was trying to make it easy on me, rather than pulling out the table from the wall and bringing in the card table and extra chairs and all. It had been a very busy weekend, with lots of shopping on Saturday, followed by Sarah's orchestra concert and then the high school Prom that night. After Prom, I hadn't gotten to bed until about 1:00 a.m. but then I still had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to drive Mark to work. I was pretty tired by Sunday afternoon, so I appreciated having less work and less clean-up.

I guess in the end, formal or casual doesn't really matter, as long as we can be together and enjoy building the memories that bind us together as a family. And I do love my family!

All the ingredients for Easter dinner. That ham was amazing!

As you can see, our menu was basically the same as it is every Easter:

Baked Ham
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Pork Stuffing
Green Bean Casserole (low-carb version, better than original!)
Buttered Corn
Dinner Rolls
Chocolate Satin Pie

Plenty of food for just six of us! My usual brand of ham was sold out by the time I went shopping, so I tried this little 6.5-lb hickory-smoked Kentucky Legend ham instead, and I loved it! That's the one I'll be looking for from now on. Mark really liked it, too, which made me happy since he's been asking for ham ever since Christmas. What can I say, we had a free turkey in the freezer at the time...

My dinner plate with everything but the stuffing (don't care for the stuff).
And I prefer butter on my mashed potatoes rather than gravy...
I was so stuffed, I wasn't even able to take seconds!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Last Mock Crash

Cars totaled in drunk-driving collisions are parked in front of the high school
as a reminder to make wise choices on Prom weekend.

The end of the school year is fast approaching. Seven weeks more and then summer will be here. Twenty-seven days of school remain, and then my teaching career will have reached its end. Knowing this, I find my perspective has shifted somewhat. I've been viewing so many things through the lens of "I may never experience this again."

One of those "lasts" will be tonight's Prom. I have chaperoned Prom for more than the past ten years. I love seeing the kids in their finery and the hard work that goes into decorating the venue to match the annual theme. I was there for Sarah's Prom during her senior year (2008) and for all three of Jacob's Proms (2008, 2009, 2010) and for Dylan's Prom (2015). You can bet I'll have my camera in hand for tonight's event, the last for me.

The whole student body fills three bleachers in the parking lot.
Thursday, April 13, 2017

Another major high school event, which happens in conjunction with Prom every three to four years, is the "Mock Crash." It's been about three years since the last Mock Crash was presented. The one before that was in 2010, when my older son Jacob was president of SADD Club (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and he put together the entire event almost single-handedly. Let me just say, he did an awesome job and it was very well-received by his fellow students. I was so proud.

So this year was a Mock Crash year again. What is a mock crash, you ask? A day or two before Prom, the first-responder heroes of our community work with SADD Club to plan and present a program that reminds our future Prom attendees and other youth of the very real consequences of choosing to drink and drive. It is a shockingly intense experience that makes a lasting point.

Firemen and paramedics race to free and then revive the "victims."

This year, the event began in the gym, where first-responders shared statistics and their own experiences with the injuries and loss of life that too often occur with driving under the influence. After a thirty-minute presentation, the student body of about 800 students was ushered to bleachers set up in one of the parking lots, overlooking a vehicle that had actually been wrecked in a drunk-driving incident. Inside are student volunteers posing as the victims of the crash.

A life-flight helicopter comes over the trees and lands nearby.

While students and staff look upon this gory tableau, the keening of emergency vehicles is heard in the distance, growing louder and louder as they draw nearer and then burst onto the scene. Police cruisers, firetrucks, and paramedics reach the scene and rush to the aid of the kids in the vehicle, working to free them from the wreck and treat or revive the injured. Police officers take statements from survivors and witnesses, who are visibly shaken.

The helicopter kicks up dust as it lands on campus.

One student is so badly "injured" that she must be airlifted to a hospital. Her parents arrive on scene just as she is being rushed on a gurney to a helicopter that has landed nearby. The mother sobs as they lean over her and give her a quick kiss before she's loaded into the helicopter and borne away.

The badly "injured student is loaded into the life-flight helicopter.

Another "victim" of the crash does not survive her injuries. Her mother arrives just as they've placed her on a gurney and covered her with a white sheet. (During Jacob's Mock Crash in 2010, the "deceased victim"--who was the daughter of one of our teachers--was actually zipped into a body bag. Now that was an intensely emotional moment...) The woman who portrayed the mother this year was the actual mother of the girl who played the deceased teen, and she was amazing. Her wracking sobs and hysterical pleading of "I want to see her" were so convincing that it really struck a chord, and there were few dry eyes in the place. I had to keep wiping away my own tears, sliding down the grit left on my face during the copter's landing. Meanwhile, an officer physically held up the distraught mother while her daughter was placed in the back of a hearse and driven away.

Yes, we all knew it wasn't real. These students will surely be back in school on Monday, sharing memories of the fun they had at Prom and happily anticipating the delivery of their Prom pictures. Still, the Mock Crash is a sobering reminder of what one bad decision can do, of the heart-wrenching pain it can bring to real families and real communities. Thanks to SADD Club and our first-responders for bringing Mock Crash to life.

A life-flight helicopter carries the badly "injured victim" away to the hospital while her parents watch.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Fifteen Years Ago Today

1954: Jane Butler (Hazel Jane Haley Butler) at age 17, already a young wife and mother.

When I was looking at the calendar a few days ago, it suddenly hit me that the fifteenth anniversary of my mother's death at the too-young age of 64 was almost upon us. And now it's here. Fifteen years ago today she left us. Ironically, she passed away on what would have been her own mother's 96th birthday, April 7th. I imagine their reunion beyond the veil was a joyous occasion.

The headstone my dad chose for Mom has weathered the time well.

As it happened, my youngest brother, Darryl, and his wife, Tamera, came for a short visit while I was still on Spring Break three weeks ago. During their visit, we went to visit Mom's grave site, along with Darryl's  two daughters (and my nieces), Brittany and Savannah. Even though I live only 7-8 miles from the cemetery, I hadn't been there in years. We found her headstone already festooned with bouquets, so she has not been neglected. I know Savannah visits her grave often.

My offering. Mom's favorite color was the same as mine: blue.

It's hard to believe fifteen years have already passed, that it's been that long since the last time I was able to talk to her. The truth is that, although my mom was a practically perfect mother to my four younger siblings, she and I had some serious issues that started when I was twelve and lasted until perhaps the last five years of her life, when I was married with children of my own. We made a peace of sorts, though we never really recaptured what was lost over the years. In some ways that made it more difficult to lose her, the final death-knell for any hope of reclaiming the closeness we should have shared, at least in this life. I've often thought that we'd have been good friends if we hadn't been mother and daughter, because we were so much alike. Nonetheless, despite the issues we had, I find sometimes that I still miss our long conversations. She was the queen of common sense and inspired wisdom.

She loved being a mother, and the back of the headstone honors that fact
with a family photo and all six of her children listed by name in birth order.

I'm 62 now, just two years shy of the age at which my mother moved on to Paradise. I have no idea how much longer I'll be around. My kids tell me I'm not allowed to die until I'm about a hundred years old. (I tell them not to wish that burden upon me!) I'm hoping for maybe twenty more years, enough time to perhaps enjoy some grandchildren someday and to realize my dream of becoming a published author. I'm relatively healthy, so it could happen. 

But sometimes I also wonder what it will be like when my time comes to cross the veil, and what kind of reunions I'll experience. Will my mom be one of the first in line? I'd like to think so. At any rate, I'm sure she knows she's loved and missed by the children and grandchildren she left behind. How grateful I am that families are forever.

We all commented on how well this porcelain portrait has withstood the ravages of time.
Mom, Dad, and me in the back; Darryl, LeRoy, Karla, and Jeff in front.
June 1, 1968 at the Oakland Temple in California.