I wonder how he knew I’d love this article? Recently my cousin Al sent me a link to a New York Times feature he thought I would enjoy. It was a brilliantly written piece by Amy Krouse Rosenthal called You Might Want To Marry My Husband. Amy is the mother of three young adults and the author of nearly thirty children’s books. Amy was dying of ovarian cancer when she wrote her essay. In a moving, funny and beautiful way she profiles Jason, her husband of twenty-six years. She was writing in the hope the perfect woman would read her description and want to marry Jason and make him happy after she died.
I’m so glad Al sent me the link to Amy’s piece. I hadn’t heard of Amy prior to receiving Al’s recommendation and now I’ve not only read her essay, but I’ve listened to her Ted Talk, watched a couple of her videos, ordered her memoir and been to her website where I’ve made a wish and had it granted.
My cousin Cindy and I listen to cousin Al tell a story at a family party.
I have several ideas why cousin Al might have recommended Amy’s piece to me. Perhaps it is because Amy is a published children’s author and I am trying to become one too. Perhaps it is because Amy writes memoirs and many of my blog posts and newspaper columns are of the memoir variety. Maybe it is because Al thinks I’ve got a fabulous husband and figured Amy’s piece would encourage me to sing his praises in print more often. But maybe Al sent me the link just because he thought I would enjoy reading Amy’s piece and be touched by it. I did and I was. Thanks Al.
Note: Amy Krouse Rosenthal died yesterday.
I Held You Before Your Mother Did
Back Porch News
“I held you before your mother did,” my aunt reminded as she hugged me goodbye.
On our way home from Arizona we stopped in Kansas to spend time with my Auntie Mary. I love visiting with Auntie Mary. She is such a good listener and interesting conversationalist. She is also a veracious reader. When I visit her I always leave with a stack of books she has already read and thinks I would enjoy. This visit was no exception. My nightstand is now piled high with books from Auntie Mary. Auntie Mary is an artist as well and one of her watercolors which was a wedding gift from her decorates our home. Auntie Mary is also a memory maker and creates the most beautiful books of photos and memorabilia that document the history of her family. She did extensive interviews with my grandparents before they passed away and her notes along with family photos she collected were such a valuable resource when we made our trip to Ukraine to discover our family roots.
I learned some new things about my aunt on this visit. She follows NBA basketball! She and my husband Dave had a great discussion about the various teams and players. She is right up to date. She says some of her grandchildren are basketball fans and following the sport makes it fun to text with her grandkids during games. Auntie Mary is also very tech savvy for someone in her eighties. She texts and e-mails and shops online.
Her comment that she held me before my mother did refers to the fact that Auntie Mary was in the delivery room with my mother. This was in the days before fathers were allowed in the delivery room and my aunt was a nurse at the hospital where Mom was having me. She provided Mom with support during the birth. While the doctors finished caring for Mom, Auntie Mary held me in her arms in the delivery room. My mother was so appreciative of Mary she named me MaryLou and told me the ‘Mary’ was for my Auntie Mary.
I was so glad I got to visit Auntie Mary. Like my other aunts she has always been caring and supportive.
I’m Her Namesake
Great Aunt Marie’s Books
High Drama at the Christmas Family Gathering
My brother-in-law and sister in law’s time in Phoenix overlapped with ours by a couple of weeks. Although their rented home is over an hour away from ours we have still managed to get together for two games of golf, a lunch and supper that included our children and grandchildren, a night at the Handlebar restaurant and dinner at Arrivedercis a family owned and operated Italian place with fabulous food. We also managed to fit in a few games of euchre. We always have a great time with Paul and Shirley!
Showing Off Our City
Trilliums Food For the Soul
Filed under Arizona, Family
During my four year old grandson’s stay with us in Arizona we had so much fun creating art together.
We drew turtles using a ceramic turtle as our model. My grandson labeled his turtle in French because that’s his first language.
We created these masks together in the art studio at the Phoenix Children’s Museum during the afternoon we spent there.
We both like coloring. I knew my grandson was learning about Canada’s north at school so I brought an Inuit art coloring book for him. One rainy afternoon we spent about an hour coloring. He colored Bountiful Sea by Meelia Kelly while I worked on a portrait in my Women Artists’ Coloring Book called Portrait of Princess Belozersky by Marie Louise Elizabeth Vigee Lebrun.
We used the construxs building toys I’d brought along to make a bunch of different machines. My grandson made a gum machine and a toy machine. I made a music machine and a sandwich machine.
One sunny morning we both sketched the different plants we saw in our backyard.
Another morning we used stones to make three faces. My grandson labeled them George, Jean and Jack after the three main characters in a story about three coyotes which his grandfather continued each night. After it got dark Dave lit a fire in our fire pit wrapped our grandson in a cosy blanket and they created another chapter in their ongoing saga about the adventures of George, Jean and Jack.
Stones were featured in this art project as well where we used thin tipped felt markers to create faces and scenes on the flat sections of stones.
On Tuesday we decided to draw two iguanas sitting on a rock. My grandson drew and colored the little iguana and I did the big one. We colored the rock together. We discovered the spelling for the word iguana is exactly the same in English and French except for the last letter.
But my favorite art piece from our week together is this portrait my grandson drew of me.
Stopping By Woods- A Children’s Masterpiece
I Love My Job
When Did You Stop Drawing?
Filed under Arizona, Art, Family
Going through some of my mother’s things I found these blueprints for her family home in Drake Saskatchewan. Although my grandparents no longer lived there after I was born I still visited the house many times because my Uncle Earl and Aunt Lenora had taken over my grandparents’ farm and home. I have many fond memories of happy times with my cousins in that house and so it was great to find these blueprints. I asked my Aunt Viola the only surviving member of my mother’s immediate family if she remembered the house being built. She was 3 years old in 1925 when they moved into the house and can’t really remember a time before she lived there. My mother was born in this house shortly after her family moved in.
This is how the completed home looked. My aunt thinks my grandfather ordered the house from somewhere and it came with all the lumber pre-cut and ready to build. I did a little research and found out this kind of house was called a mill cut house or a mail order house. You picked a house design from a catalogue and then tens of thousands of pieces of lumber and every single other building material that you would need to construct it were loaded into box cars and sent to the customer’s hometown. In Canada the Eatons Department Store was one of the main sources of these ready to assemble homes but on the prairies various Grain Growers Associations also provided this service to its members. That makes sense because in the corner of each page of the blue prints its says Saskatchewan Grain Growers Regina. My aunt thinks my grandfather put the house together with the help of a carpenter. One thing that is interesting about this floor plan of the basement is the little square labeled Dumb Waiter on the right hand side. My mother remembers what a cool feature that was about their house. When I was interviewing her for her life story she said…… We had a dumb waiter in the kitchen. It was behind doors and had several shelves. We could place items on there that needed to go into the basement and them lower them down with a pulley system. This came in especially handy when my mother was canning and we had to transfer all the jars to the basement. We kept potatoes, vegetables and onions in cold storage down there. Our basement also had our cream separator and storage areas for wood and coal and my mother’s washing machine.
The ground floor had my grandparent’s bedroom, a parlour, huge diningroom and kitchen. Here’s how my Mom described the diningroom. In the centre of the diningroom was a big table with lots of chairs because we had a family of six and my grandmother and uncle also lived with us as well as our hired man. We had a plate railing high up all around the dining room wall and Mom not only kept plates there but also all sorts of other knick-knacks. There was a couch by the stairway leading to the upper floor. This couch is where my father used to lie to listen to Amos and Andy on the Philco radio. He loved that show. There was a wooden sideboard on one wall for dishes and our wooden party line phone was on another wall.
Mom said the parlor was where her parents visited with company and it had a desk for her Dad that was always covered with his papers and it is also where they kept the piano and their organ. Mom said the kitchen had a wood stove and her Uncle Alvin who lived with them chopped the wood and kept the stove going. Mom’s uncle had epilepsy and he was nearly blind so after his parents died in the influenza epidemic he came to live with my grandparents.
This is the upstairs floor plan. See those stairs over on the right? Mom said…….
Wooden steps with a banister led upstairs. I remember my sisters and I used to sit on those steps holding hymnals and Bibles. My brother Earl played the role of the pastor and we pretended to have church on those steps. Beside the stairs was a beautiful stained glass window. Not many houses had them in those days. My Dad always bragged however that our house had the best of everything and I guess that included a stained glass window.
My Mom shared the bedroom right beside the stairs with her sisters. They liked to play with their dolls in the long walk in closet. One of the bedrooms upstairs was for my mother’s maternal grandmother Maria Jantz who lived with them and the other was shared by my Uncle Earl and Paul their hired man.
Can you see the bathroom over in the right hand corner? Mom had lots to say about that!
The bathroom was at the top of the stairs. We were one of very few families to have an indoor washroom. We had a washstand and basin. There was a claw foot bathtub. My mother heated water and filled it up every Saturday so we kids could take a bath. My sisters and I took turns bathing in the water one after the other and then my brother Earl was last. I’m sure the water was pretty cold and dirty by the time he got into it. In wintertime we brought in snow and put it in a big barrel beside the wood stove in the kitchen to melt and then used the warm water for our baths. We had an indoor toilet as well. It had a pail and my Dad took out the pail and emptied it every morning before the rest of us woke up.
I’m so glad my mother kept these blueprints. They tell a story not only of a house but also of the family that lived in it.
Remembering My Grandpa
When My Grandmother Was Twelve Years Old
My Mother’s Childhood Christmases
Filed under Family, History
My sister and her husband just left for home. We’ve had a lovely time with them here in Arizona. One of the things my sister and I did together was work on a jigsaw puzzle my husband gave me for Christmas featuring all kinds of birds. It was much tougher than we thought and we didn’t quite get it finished. So now I’m left on my own to find just the right places for all those maddeningly similar green pieces. I wonder if I can convince Dave to help me? He’s an awfully good puzzler. I’ll keep you posted.
Globe Trotting Vicariously
A Family Tradition
My brother went home yesterday and so I’ve lost my intrepid hiking buddy. He was always willing to head out on the Arizona trails with me.
I wore out my old pack back while hiking with my brother and had to get a new one. I’m modeling it here. It is so light and roomy. I just love it.
When my husband Dave was on the pickle ball court or golfing or playing baseball or watching football my brother and I would head out on a hike. The views were spectacular but my was it ever steep. On the upward trail I had to do parts of it a hundred steps at a time and then stop to catch my breath and on the downward trail I admit I had to hold my brother’s hand in sections where there were lots of loose rocks and a very steep descent. We hiked nearly ten kilometers and most of it was up or down. I am sorry to have lost my hiking buddy now that my brother is gone. My sister is coming tomorrow however and I think she might be willing to hike too. First though I will have to get new running shoes. I wore my old ones out while hiking with my brother.
Hiking the Trail of a Ruthless Warrior
Hiking Diamond Head
Filed under Arizona, Family