Category Archives: Personal History

My Journey in Writing

Yesterday marked my

six year

anniversary of blogging. I had no idea it had been such a long time!

It also marked the anniversary of my return to

writing.

I have always loved to write.

In an old worn out binder I have a collection of poems I wrote at the age of 7. Apparantly at that age I was fascinated with  repetition. The poem that sat on the fridge the longest – or somewhere anyway – went like this:

I had a little pony that could hop hop hop

I had a little pony that could run run run

I had a pony that could walk walk walk

And on the way I said Stop, Stop, Stop!

Not exactly a masterpiece – but the writing bug bit.

Around the time I turned 11,  my mom and I were bashing about Oregon  and I wrote a lengthy poem about my stuffed animals Randy Raccoon and Olivia Octopus (I think it was Olivia Octupus anyway – or was it Ollie?) and all the adventures they had. But that seems to have lost itself over the years.

In middle school I wound up with the most amazing teacher ever for Language Arts, Ms. Mac. She was hard, but she was awesome. She was the first one, besides my parents of course, who pushed and encouraged me in writing.

One creative writing assignment after another flew at me and I gobbled them up. At the time I fancied myself a bit of an artist and so illustrated most of my stories. I still have copies of them. They make me chuckle now and my kids will get a kick out of them.

Dad let me type a number of them up on the old typwriter. I felt SO important being able to use a typewriter for my stories.  Of course, when Dad didn’t need the computer, I used that too. At the time, though, I liked the click click click of the typwriter – and it made me feel very “Jessica Fletcher” esque (Murder She Wrote was one of my Grandma’s and Mom’s favorite shows).

In highschool I wrote more poetry than I did stories, though I wrote a few here and there. Usually I was too consumed with the next research paper and reading book after book after book.

My guilty pleasure of college was a creative writing class and I still remember the shocked feeling when my teacher thought my writing was good.

After college came a mission and family and writing sort of slipped away.

Until six years ago when a group of Ricks College friends co-erced me into blogging.  It was SO fun. We all blogged pretty much every day then, and I met a number of new amazing friends too – some I’ve met in person and some I have yet to meet.

The more I wrote, the more I remembered my love of it. I started with poems – they were short and easy to accomplish. A book sounded so daunting. I had never written anything longer than a short children’s story.

But, everywhere I went in the writing community I kept hearing about NaNoWriMo. What was that?? I found out it stood for National Novel Writing Month. 50k words in a month sounded like A LOT, but in 2007 I decided to try it. Who knew, maybe I’d find out I could write a book like I wanted to after all.

Well, I wrote a book, and two more since then. They’re not published, but I’m querying. My rejection pile is stacking up nicely. Most of the time I don’t care about the rejections- it’s the writing I love, being published would be a fun added bonus. Ok, it would be downright amazing, but I never started writing to be published. In fact, I never thought it possible and had no intention of even trying until some friends convinced me otherwise. It’s been a great learning experience along the way.

So, NaNoWriMo is here again and I’m writing another book. I’m editing my old book too though, so I don’t know if I’ll make the 50K this time around.

I have to give a huge

thank you

to my parents, teachers and friends through the years who kept me going and got me started again. And most of all to my husband for his never ending support and being my biggest cheerleader and fan. You guys are all awesome.

Now,

I have a book to write!

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Filed under Blogging, Personal History, Writing

Tillamook State Forest Part 1 – the Fire Tower

Saturday was a big day. We drove out towards Tillamook and stopped on the coastal side of the pass at the Tillamook State Forest Visitor center. We climbed the fire tower, went on a nice hike, and checked out the museum. Because there was so much fun to see and do, I split the post into three.

One of the biggest draws to this forest center for us was the life-size fire tower standing in front of the museum. When my father was in his early twenties he lived on various firetowers throughout the Willamette and Cascade national forests for five summers. I remember very well being fascinated and captivated by his stories of living all summer alone in the mountains. Visitors were few and far between and his time was spent reading and hiking, and of course, spotting fires. The first summer after he and my mom were married they lived up in a fire tower too – so my mom has her own stories to tell as well.

The Tower

For that reason, it was especially exciting to take the kids to the forest center and climb the firetower. This fire tower was a very sturdy and nicely made one – while many that Dad lived on looked to be near falling down, or perched pecariously on tall craggy rocks and cliffs. I remember one in particular that he showed photos that he had taken from the outhouse perched at the edge of the cliff looking down over the precipice. I had hiked with dad to various lookout sites – most of the towers are gone now.

So, up we did climb…

On the Fire Tower

The kids were pretty amazed at how far up we had gone – my mom stayed at the bottom with James.

A Long Ways Up

Looking down to Grandma & James

Inside everything was arranged how it would have been if someone was living in it – minus the little stove Dad mentioned having. He showed the kids the fire finder and how it was used to spot and locate lightning strikes, etc. and their cordinates.

Dad/Grandpa explains how it all works 3

Inside the tower

Em looking through the fire finder

In the corner was the insulated stool that they would stand on if they were spotting fires in a lightning storm – the insulated stool had glass on each of the legs. Dad told us the story of the time he was radioing in a location while seated in a metal chair. He suddenly felt a prompting to move. Just after he got out of the chair a zap of lightning shot through the radio and hit the chair where he had been sitting moments before.

Jacob on the insulated stool

Dad on the radio

Dad also explained how panoramic photos were used to let the ranger stations down below know of fires and their coordinates, so they could get safely to the fire and work on putting it out.

Dad/Grandpa explains how it all works 1

Dad/Grandpa explains how it all works 2

Stay tuned for Part 2: the Hike

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Filed under Dot, Em, Family, Jacob, James, Lizy, Nature, Personal History

Pennsylvania Summers

In the dead of summer when the heat crackled around you and the hummidity made your clothes cling to you like limp rags, those were the days when we would beg our parents to take us to the local sportsmanship pond and go swimming. Playing chicken, and squelching the soft mud at the bottem of the pond between our toes. We would beg dad to take us on the froggy swim across the pond. We would lie on his back as he did the breast stroke, going up and down, in and out of the water.

When we were finally feeling waterlogged we would lie out on our beach towels on the grass in the hot sun and dry ourselves beneath it rays. Often our trips to the pond would include a picnic lunch – or even a birthday celebration for me if it was near my birthday.

In the evenings the heat would cool as the sun dipped low in the sky, but the humidity continued to drape itself across our skin. Fireflies would begin to wink across the night sky and we gathered on the porch to catch the slight breeze. I am sure there were evenings when Mom played her accordian on the porch and we all sang along.

Rarely a night was spent inside – we made pup-tents, or slept in our kid made teepee, sometimes we would just sleep out under the stars, rising early to help with the chores.

Summers were full of fun and hard work as we spent hours sitting on the porch husking corn, or in the kitchen listening to General Conference tapes as we canned peaches, tomatoes, and a bazillion other things harvested from our huge garden. I’m surprised that the fruit and vegetables we canned didn’t have an extra salty taste from the sweat that poured down our forheads and dimpled on our skin in the heat of that kitchen on humid Pennsylvania summer day.

Some of my most vivid memories take place in those hot humid summers – playing Annie Annie I Over until twilight set in, talent shows on the front lawn as we danced and acted out crazy skits. I hope my children will be able to share in some of the same summer memories…

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Filed under Memory, Personal History

Rudolph for Christmas

(Sorry to those of you who might have read this over at Queen of Cute Shoes I’m her guest post today, but thought I’d be lazy and use it on my blog too, then I don’t have to come up with something else, heh)

I peered out the frosted window gazing across the shadowy landscape. Everything was snuggled in a white comforter and bathed with pale moonlight. My eyes lifted to the sky searching and scanning the Milky Way. I had known for ages that Santa Clause was just pretend; I think I had known from infancy. After all, how can he bee in all those places at the same time, they were all just old men playing pretend and enjoying the Christmas spirit. Rudolph, however, you never saw him. Even the most famous department stores couldn’t coerce Rudolph into a performance, just replicas of him with an electric nose.

I sighed, tearing myself away from the window pane leaving an oily smudge behind. The house was a vision of joyous chaos as everyone ran every which way.

“You’re Mary this year,” Heidi ordered as a sky blue robe was thrust into my arms.

Rudolph forgotten, I barreled down the hall, shouting at the top of my lungs, “Has anyone seen the blue towel?”

Mom appeared behind me with the blue towel and an army of safety pins and wrapped the towel over my head and snugging it beneath my chin. Every one had a part; there was Joseph, Mary, Shepherds, Wisemen, and an Angel. And Herod. Dad was always Herod. He looked so fierce sitting in his chair, his bald head glowing in the firelight bedecked with jewels and robed in his graduation gown from college days. Mom was always the narrator, pianist, and photographer.

We settled into our places as Mother began to read from the bible, everyone acting out their part, with a few additives as the angel tried to smite Mary rather than just bring her a message, and the shepherds practiced their parrying skills. Songs were sung at the appropriate times and we were taught the true meaning of Christmas and the reason for celebration.

There was homemade almond roca and fudge with hot chocolate sipped by firelight as we listened to more Christmas stories and sang carols around the piano. Brothers and sisters exchanged homemade gifts, and before we could hardly blink the clock was getting ready to chime twelve, which meant Santa would be hear soon. Restlessly I returned to my window, creating a new smudge with my nose.

“If only,” I thought to myself, “I could catch one glimpse of that red nose.”

“What’cha doin’ J? Heidi asked staring over my shoulder trying to see what on earth was so exciting out there.

“I’m looking for Rudolph,” I explained.

She didn’t reply, just mysteriously disappeared and left me to continue to search the starry sky.

“J! J! Come quick, there is something you’ve got to see,” Kimball came tearing into the living room shouting at the top of his lungs and grabbed my arm. Bundled amongst the family I was ushered out onto the front porch.

Slightly annoyed at the cold and the empty dark yard I huffily asked, “What? I don’t see anything.”

“It’s over there,” Paul pointed to the corner of the house.

Sure enough, there was something there just barely peaking around the edge. I gasped in awe, it was glowing red.

”Rudolph!” I exclaimed clapping my hands and laughing.

Dad broke into a big grin and told me to hurry on to bed so Rudolph could help Santa get on his way.

I hardly slept that night for excitement of having seen Rudolph, or maybe it was just knowing that my sister loved me enough to stand in the cold with a flashlight and red cloth, just to make her sister’s dream come true.

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Filed under Farm Stories, Memory, Personal History

Persuasion

My Dad is a man who can take people completely by surprise. He is a botanist who reads so much that he is well entrenched in history and many, many other things. At first impression he is seems serious, and rather intimidating, and it’s not just his bald head. 🙂 He has that air of professor that demands respect, whether you know him or not, he has traveled to Europe, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, and has a wide knowledge of all these places. He gives lectures and discourses that are brilliant. I’m not saying that a man like this cannot have sense of humor, I’m just saying that it seems to take people completely by surprise. I remember that often he would participate in a church talent show and out he would stride in his black graduation gown and cap perched atop his head. No doubt the audience was expecting something intellectual, when suddenly his face would twist into the pure goofiness that we loved and off he would spout the beloved limericks that he had made up:

“There once was a great purple lizard
Who had an oversized gizzard,
Hungry for bones he ate hailstones
and Died of an internal blizzard”

Because of this he could often convince people of completely preposterous things. (he didn’t make a habit of it, just did it once in a while for a good joke) One day, not too long after he and my mom were married, they were driving through Oregon and my mother made a comment about all the barns whose roofs were sitting on the ground. My dad, seeing the perfect window of opportunity, launches in, “It’s the Oregon soil.”

“Oh?” she asks, keen on hearing more of this strange phenomenon.

“The properties of the Oregon soil (and I am sure here he rattles of some long scientific names) are such that, combined with the rain, allows for the barns to sink right into the ground. Oh, see? That one has just begun!”

I’m sure he was much more scientific than I just was because she believed him! Maybe she was blinded by love, but she still believed him. I don’t know how long he strung her along for, but it made the BEST family story. We still tease her about it today. I remember standing in mud up to my ankles, “Mom! I’m sinking! I’m sinking!” And every time we pass a broken down barn, “Hey mom! There’s a sunken barn!” My husband has even taken to referring to this phenomenon as the “sunken barn” phenomenon.

So should you come to Oregon to visit and see the barns fading into the soil, now you will know that truth. And for better, or worse, I think I have received some of his talents in the power of persuasion. heh. 🙂

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Filed under Family, Humor, Memory, Personal History

Stamp

Weekly Anamnesis #27

“Stamp it out J! Quick! Stomp on it! Stomp on it!”
With a flurry of feet I stomped all over the glowing sparks that had burst and scattered across the ground. We were gathered around the burn pile, a giant bonfire, watching to be sure things didn’t get out of control. That is how it was done when I was a kid growing up on our farm. Once a week, maybe more frequently, we had burning day where we would burn our garbage. As kids we enjoyed it and occasionally would whoop around it in a big circle doing our version of Indian dances. We always had at least one person on fire duty to keep an eye on things to be sure that things didn’t get out of control. One night, it was my turn. . .

The wind came up unexpectedly, ruffling my short blondish hair. I didn’t think much of it until I saw the first few sparks fly into the dry grass. With a crackle the grass immediately burst into flame, the wind carrying it further in the direction of our neighbor. With a shout of alarm I raced as fast as my short little legs could carry me. I burst through the back door of the farm house, “The fire is spreading! The fire is spreading!” I heard the sound of feet hitting the floor as everyone charged for their shoes, a bucket and a burlap sack. I didn’t wait. Charging on I ran to the neighbor’s house, pounding on their front door. “We need your help! The fire is spreading!” The neighbors were out the door in seconds and running after me.

As I approached the fire I could see our family lined up, stretching from the nearby pond to the fire, silhouetted against an eerie orange glow passing buckets and wet burlap sacks down the line to where my dad and oldest sister were battling the fire. The wind had died back down, but the damage was already done. The fire wasn’t big, but it had fuel now as it chomped hungrily at the parched grass. It was beatable if we worked quickly. Dad had worked on the lookout towers in the mountains of the Cascades for a number of years, spotting fires, and on seldom occasions even putting out small ones. He was a machine, beating away ceaselessly at the licking flames. I took my place in line as the neighbors began helping Dad stamp out the flames. Bucket after bucket passed through my tired arms sloshing across my arms and chest, as the fire shrank, smaller and smaller. Soon it was just a pile of embers and charred grass. We all began to soak burlap sacks and fling them on the embers, stamping across them to be sure the fire was out. We continued to beat the ground with a fury long after the red glow had diminished from the embers, smothering the heat. We could still here the hiss of steam rising into the air as our sacks whacked the ground.

Finally the hiss and the steam stopped, the ground was soaked, and the fire was out. We looked around at each other, our faces, hands, and clothes muddied with soot and water. We clapped each other on the back, congratulating each other for a job well done, shaking hands with our neighbors and thanking them for their help. There was a feeling of camaraderie, no one felt like bickering and squabbling, we had joined our forces, even if only temporarily (as siblings often do, heh) to battle something greater. I have seen that happen many times, not just in our back yard battling a spreading fire; uniting together to battle many things, standing up for each other. I learned many lessons that night as we strove together to stamp out the flames.

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Filed under Anamnesis, Farm Stories, Personal History, Writing

How to Deal With a Man Eating Dog

Grrr. I have been trying all day to post this on my hubby’s computer in the room right beside my little office. I kept getting the blogger maintenance message,I haven’t been able to post any comments, check anybody’s profile, post my own blog, nothing, all day. Then I come into my room on my computer and it works! What’s up with that? Anyway, here is the post that I was trying to publish all day . . . 🙂 (I’ll come by tomorrow to comment on your blogs, I’m to crazed to try to do it now, heh.) 🙂

I was a junior in high school and found myself trudging home, backpack slung across my back and horn swinging at my side as usual. It was a 2½ mile walk at least but all the shortcuts I took knocked off nearly ½ a mile. I hated the bus and found walking a pleasant alternative, besides which I usually had at least one friend pass by who took pity upon me and drove me home. But there were many occasions when no such salvation appeared and I covered the distance on foot. My shortcut led directly to our backyard via a short easement and an unlocked gate.

I swung the gate upon and walked through, the scent of lilac assaulting me from every corner, halting me in my progression as I drank in the intoxicating aroma. I began to cross the back lawn when I noticed a dog running towards me from our neighbor on the right. “Ahh, they have a new dog,” I thought to myself as I admired the yellow Labrador retriever as it stopped to bark at me.

The dog continued to run and bark at me each time coming closer and venturing onto our property from time to time. Normally I wouldn’t have minded, but the bark was not one of welcome, it was one of warning and protection. But I had my protection too, and would simply swing my French horn in its direction to warn it off. It never posed a threat though and we never bothered to talk about it to our neighbor, until one day . . .

The sun was actually shining for a change and the symphonic band was preparing for a huge concert that spring night. I left my horn behind to be loaded in the instrument trailer and taken to the college concert hall where we would be performing. With only my backpack to carry I refused the offers of a ride home and set off at a brisk walk. Upon arrival at our back gate I undid the latch and began my trek through the yard eyeing nervously the neighbors large yellow dog. It was waiting in the shade and as soon as it caught one whiff of me it was up and barking. I quickened my pace as it began running towards me, expecting it to stop within a few feet. But this time it didn’t. With a terrific lunge it made for the back of my leg. A strangled cry escaped from me as I spun around in a circle flinging my book-laden backpack with all my strength at the attacking beast. I knocked him squarely in the jaw and took off running into the house.

“That dog practically ripped my leg off!” I exclaimed to my mother gasping for breath. She got to her feet and went to the phone as I inspected the rip in my jeans. I assured her I wasn’t damaged, just my favorite jeans. The neighbor was horrified and very apologetic and immediately began to put up a fence the next day. I waited till the fence was completed before I ventured a walk home again.

~~~~~~

Water was dripping of my nose, and I was soaked to the skin as I stumbled through the gate trying not to take a mud bath. It was the first time since the fence was built that I had crossed through my back yard. A few steps in and I heard the familiar bark of the lab. I looked to see him on the far side of my neighbor’s lawn. I stopped to watch as he began to charge. He was beautiful really. His feet barely skimming the ground, his ears flapping and the occasional loll of his tongue as it fell out of his mouth. His fur rippled atop his heaving sides. Closer and closer he came, picking up more and more speed. It was then that I realized that he didn’t know the fence was there. Entranced I stood in the pouring rain. My eyes popped out of my head as I saw that glorious dog run full force into the fence! The fence bulged out almost in slow motion as he collided headfirst and the rest of his body compacted into the strangest formation I have ever seen a dog in. Then the fence seemed to spring back suddenly into shape flinging the dog off it with fervor as the dog yelped and staggered away.

I must admit I collapsed, backpack and all onto the rain soaked grass holding my sides in laughter, a fitting end to a dog that tried to eat me for dinner I decided. 🙂

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Filed under Humor, Memory, Personal History, Youth