On this blog, we muse about the fruit we taste when we learn about family members, both living and dead, through family history writing. Wandering through the "family tree orchard," we conduct interviews, enjoy family reunions, and figure out how to make lemonade (and fruit cake!) from the heritage we share with the fruits and nuts on our family trees.
Our five-year-old grandson asked, “What is the future?” His
brown eyes reflected the wheels turning in his mind.
I replied, “Remember a week ago, when you hadn’t been to
kindergarten yet and you didn’t know what it was like?”He nodded.
“Well, being in kindergarten, knowing the other kids and
knowing what you like to do during recess was all in your future.Now you know all about kindergarten, and your
first week of kindergarten is in your past. But you don’t know the fun things
you will learn next week—that’s in your future.”
Then he asked, “Can we see into the future?”
That was a stumper.I
didn’t want to give him a flat “No”—now wheels were turning in my mind!
Thanks to insomnia, early that morning I’d been thinking about
my life as a daydreamer. All through childhood and adolescence, my daydreams
seemed almost more real than life.
Some of them developed into life-dreams, goals that influenced
my choices and my path. My dream of writing the kind of book I like to read
helped me finish my college education during my 50s.A mental picture of myself in cap and gown had
guided me through every class, every test, every commute, every obstacle.
That epiphany taught me that my daydreams are visions unique
to me—glimpses of a possible future that keep me focused on goals.
And I believe in visions.
I believe that prophets are special people who are given
visions for groups of people. Joseph of Egypt, Daniel, and of course, Jesus
Christ saw visions that guided and warned many people.
Solomon said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
(Proverbs 29:18) That is as true of
individuals as nations. We need daydreams. They give us hope.
So I told my grandson, “There isn’t a television program or
book that can show you your future.But
you know how much you love finding and collecting rocks?If you want to study rocks, imagine yourself
as a geologist.Make a picture in your
mind—that’s like seeing into the future.”
He screwed his eyes tightly closed and imagined with all his
heart. I can’t see his future, but he can. It will be great.
A video making the Facebook rounds shows a five-year-old
girl sobbing because someone said that her six-month-old brother would grow
up. “I don’t want him to get big.
(Sob!) I’ll miss his cute smiles. (Sob!)
And I don’t want to d-d-die when I’m a hundred years old!”
I can relate.I never
want a sweet baby to grow big enough to climb on counters or pick his
nose.And I’m getting way too close to
one hundred years old.
Change is hard, but as this girl will learn, it’s inevitable,
and essential to our growth.
This is my last IP-T column, though I’ll still blog at
“Savoring Fruit from the Family Tree” http://savoringfruitfromthefamilytree.blogspot.com/When I started, we agreed that I wouldn’t be paid.
The columns have been my gift to the Canyon County community, which has been good
to my family and me.
My daughter’s editor shared this quote:
“Content is a means, not an end.” In other words, though we writers think our
job is to express thoughts perfectly, the test is what readers do as a result
of reading an article. Did our words make someone laugh, encourage them to do
the right thing, or influence them to call a loved one?
I started writing columns for the Idaho Press-Tribune shortly
after my mother died.Though I didn’t
realize it, I wrote to share her example of compassion, humor, and putting
people before things. Everybody loved Mama because of the warmth she radiated.
She valued people and generously shared her time to listen; she focused on
individuals; she forgave freely; she encouraged family reunions and other
family events; she laughed often, and she understood the value of history and
of sharing and writing family stories. I hoped my columns mirrored her
personality. I appreciated it when readers called to tell me they’d enjoyed a
Mama had very little money, but she knew how to
spend it—one column told how she bought encyclopedias for the hungry minds of
our large family. Nampa’s new library is a similar example of a wise investment
in those who will guide our future. I’ve toured it—wow!It will be a wonderful community living room
for families, children and senior citizens.
Library supporters are seeking funds for art and
technology, items that cannot be purchased with tax dollars. It’s been slow
going.I feel like standing on top of
that new building—right where this city started—and shouting, “Wake up, Nampa!In the past 30 years, you built a gorgeous
City Hall, Civic Center, Recreation Center and the Ford Idaho Center that bear
the names of local businesses and families. Recently, without finger pointing
or recrimination, you rescued the Nampa School District from a $5 million
deficit. It’s time to support this library. It’s built with urban renewal
funds; some of us don’t like that. Remember, this is Nampa—where we forgive,
get over it and pull together. Jump on the bandwagon!”
This month, Norm and I will put our family’s name
in the building, and we challenge others to do the same—by sponsoring a piece
of art or technology, or by “Making it Yours” with a family or business name on
a book spine—permanent legacies that tell the world we love living in Nampa. Thanks for the memories!
My granddaughter nods so hard that her blonde curls bounce
up and down, and we labor up the wooden stairs of the old farmhouse. They’re
still steep, 50 years later—Dad didn’t build the house to modern codes.
“The walls are pretty!” she says, touching the peeling
wallpaper—pink apple blossoms on a blue background.I agree.
“Every morning I looked out this window.”
She looks past the shabby room and her blue eyes pop wide
open at the view—quaking aspen laughing at the teasing clouds.
Because we were poor growing up, my siblings and I are now
rich.Dad and Mom couldn’t hang on to
their dry farm ground, but taxes were cheap on the house and a few acres of
sage and aspen around it, so they kept it.
It’s a scruffy old farmhouse, and every summer we have to
chase out the mice and order the porta-potties, but it’s our dry, dusty,
playground; our treasure, our legacy for the next generation.
Years ago we roamed the hills, pretending to be everything
from Mormon pioneers to assassins.Adolf
Hitler and Nikita Khrushchev were our usual targets—World War II, the Cold War
and President Kennedy’s death affected our psyches.(If you played the part of Khrushchev, you took
your shoe off and banged it on something!)
This summer’s flashflood in Rexburg, Idaho (20 miles from
our farmhouse) reminds me of a flashflood we had when I was about five.Within an hour, a raging torrent ripped
through the bottom of our dry canyon, tearing out our road—I nearly drowned
trying to swim in a river that appeared out of nowhere.
Pictures of us show the grubbiest, happiest children who
ever walked the earth.
Going back to the farm reminds me of pleasures I haven’t
enjoyed for a long time.Here’s my “2014
Summer Bucket List”—
--Throw rocks into water.
--Throw sticks into water.
--Pile rocks up.
--Peel the bark from a green willow stick and marvel at the
slick, shiny, pungent interior.
--Peel the bark from a dead stick and feel the smooth
--Make dolls with flowers—a hollyhock for a skirt, a
bluebell for a trunk and head.
--Lie on a blanket on an August night, watching for falling
Once, while visiting the incomparable Beverly Castagneto, I
asked where her husband Bill was.She
said, “He’s in the backyard, trimming bushes and pruning trees.He’s busy all summer long, keeping our yard
looking nice.Nobody works harder than
I’m sure that was true, but as we talked, I looked out a
window over her shoulder and spotted Bill in the backyard—lying on his back
with his arms behind his head, contemplating the clouds.
Whether his eyes were shut or open, Bill also had his Bucket
List and his treasure.
relationships are messy. Our families are the source of our greatest joys, our
best laughs, our most tender moments—and our deepest pain.
Many of us
are “the walking wounded,” with deep hurts that started in a family setting.
injuries fester and canker. They never heal on their own.
A day comes
when we have to decide—do we want to free our minds and hearts from guilt and
loss, and our bodies from stress-caused hormones that trigger poor health?Will we ever release loved ones from our
desire to get even—not because they do or don’t deserve to be punished, but
because we choose love over resentment? Dag Hammarskjold said, "Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again." It’s a long path,
sometimes requiring help from clergy or psychologists. But these injuries are
best healed where they started—in the family.
Writing is a useful tool.First, we look at feelings and memories, jotting down resentments and
grudges. How old are these feelings—do we bring up past events in
arguments?Does a loved one have a
pattern of behavior that continues to offend us?Are we willing to push ourselves to forgive?
takes courage—we reflect on situations where we may have hurt someone. We ask, “Have I taken responsibility? Did I apologize?
Have I tried to change my recurrent patterns that offend?”
Howard Markman says, “You stand in the way of reconciliation if you never take
responsibility for your part of the problem.”
the hard part—reaching out to the family member.It requires a phone call or personal visit to
break the ice and set a good time to talk.
listen, listen listen. Noted storyteller Kim Weitkamp says a vital key to
forgiveness is to hear the story of the one who wronged us, to understand where
that person is coming from.
We then tell
our story, and the stage is set to discuss the identified problem and its pain.
Hopefully, eventually, these magic words will be spoken: “I’m sorry—I was
wrong. Please forgive me.” If one person isn’t ready to say those words, great
peace can still come to the one who made the effort to reach out—that is the
nature of forgiveness.
The book of
Genesis tells the story of ten brothers who carried a burden of remorse for
selling their brother into slavery many years before.When a gruff Egyptian ruler, who held their
future in his hands, declared that he was their brother, they were speechless.
Then Joseph “kissed
all his brethren, and wept upon them, and after that his brethren talked with
him.” Perhaps they spoke of long-ago jealousy over their father’s favoritism;
surely, they asked his forgiveness, and Joseph no doubt spoke of his loneliness
and his determination to forgive if he ever saw his family again. Years of
distance, estrangement, guilt and anger flowed away with their tears and they
were family once again.
"Life must be lived forward, but it can only be
understood backward," wrote Soren Kierkegaard.
How will our children understand the stories of those who
pioneered and built Canyon County, if those stories are never recorded and
In museums, we experience the past in compelling ways. The Nampa
Train Depot Museum and Our Memories Indian Creek Museum in Caldwell are filled
with artifacts and histories that help us experience the lives of people who
built Canyon County.
And our museums need our help. They need visitors, volunteers
We have these wonderful collections of local history right
in our backyards, yet often, the visitors who enjoy them are from
out-of-town.So we should check them
out—the displays will take us back to an era when life was simpler. We can “understand life backward” by
remembering that clothes were washed on scrub boards and ironed with hot, heavy
flat irons—giving us added appreciation for how good the great-grandparents
look in old photos!
No one can enjoy a museum that’s locked, so both museums
really need volunteers to keep the museums open for visitors. They have had to
cut operating hours drastically.With
more community volunteers, they could handle more group tours and walk-ins.
This is especially true in Caldwell, where numbers of
visitors have been dwindling for months.
Imagine chatting with some of America’s “Greatest
Generation” and others who have seen the world change dramatically. We could do
this by conducting oral history interviews with local folks. The museums have
guidelines, equipment and suggestions for volunteer interviewers to record
histories for the museums’ archives.
Another needed service is transcribing oral histories.“We have the equipment, but we need typists,”
says Patty Sweet, a volunteer at Nampa’s Depot Museum. She says they are
looking for people of any age to come to the museum and transcribe histories
A young volunteer, Eric, says this work requires good
listening skills but is fulfilling. Teenagers who need school or senior
projects, or Eagle Scout and church-related service projects, might find they
enjoy transcribing histories.
Sweet says there’s also a need for “accessioning” artifacts
given to the museums. This means that each item becomes part of the museum’s
permanent collection and implies that the object will be watched over.It requires some paperwork—and we all know
that paperwork stacks up!
Volunteers are needed to serve in preservation, data entry,
library, research, tours, children's lesson planning, educational/ outreach/
speaker programs, greeting, filing, special projects, fundraisers,
publicity and more.
The Canyon County Historical Society, which manages these
museums, is a volunteer site for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and
welcomes RSVP volunteers.
Finally, the museums can use financial donations to maintain
the buildings, and for new computers and software to simplify oral history
recording and transcription, and the accessioning process.
Fees to visit the museums are: CCHS Members, free; age five
and under, free; youth (6-12), $1; teens (13-18), $2; adults, $3;
seniors (65 +), $2; family (up to four people), $7. Please call
467-7611 or 936-3003 to schedule tours, to volunteer, or to contribute!
In old movies, nervous fathers pace the floors of hospital
waiting rooms.At the new Fredric
Birkeland, M.D. Labor and Delivery Center, they watch traffic on Interstate 84,
two stories plus a hillside below the birthing rooms.
At first, the drone of cars and trucks annoys the husbands,
grandmas, and laboring mothers they support, but then it lulls them to
It’s mesmerizing to watch day turn to night across much of Treasure
Valley and to see vehicles become diamonds that flash by at 75 miles per hour.People in those cars and trucks are rushing
to get somewhere—what a different day it is for them than for the people in those
rooms, waiting quietly for the birth moment on the birth day of a little
stranger to this world.
Eventually, blackout drapes shut out the freeway and the
world telescopes down to intense moments of breathing, concentration and hard
work—it’s not called labor for nothing.
Then in one moment, the mother is delivered from labor, and
her baby is delivered into a world of light, air, waiting hands and loving arms.
Our daughter and son-in-law recently welcomed a son at the
Birkeland center, and it took me back to her birth, which took place just off
the next exit, thirty-some years earlier, at Nampa’s Kinderklinik.
Clarence and Alice McIntyre were trailblazers. They felt
families deserved better than the medical practices prevalent during the 1950s-60s,
where mothers were routinely sedated with feet up in stirrups.
His 2011 obituary stated: “In 1976, Dr. McIntyre expanded the practice
into a natural birthing clinic. During the next two years he worked . . . in a
practice that was innovative for its time: the birthing rooms were warm and
homey, no anesthetic was used, and the babies were delivered into the hands of
Dr. Mac’s patients were expected to prepare by taking LaMaze
childbirth classes and attending La Leche League to learn about
breastfeeding—because these practices were not routinely practiced back then.
We received solicitous care from Dr. Mac and Nurse Alice,
and my husband “caught” our daughter.
The McIntyres made their point. Soon Mercy Medical Center
opened birthing rooms.Dr. Birkeland
delivered our next child and Dr. Gerald Carlson allowed Norm to catch our third
child, both at Mercy.
Our fourth was delivered in a birthing center across the
street from Mercy and our fifth was born in a birthing room at St. Luke’s in
During these years, midwives also brought home births to
Treasure Valley. With birthing rooms in every valley hospital, hopefully modern
medicine has fully embraced the joys of family-centered births.
As Dr. Grantly Dick-Read said, "It is not only that we want to bring about an easy labor, without risking injury to the mother or the child; we must go further. We must understand that childbirth is fundamentally a spiritual, as well as a physical, achievement. The birth of a child is the ultimate perfection of human love."
During swimming lessons one summer day, a little girl jumped from the pool and ran dripping to her mother, pleading, “Mommy, don’t text with your phone or do anything with your phone!”
She was determined that Mommy would watch her show off a new skill.
It reminded me put my phone in my pocket and watch my grandkids swim.
I soon had it out again, taking their photos.
Often in this column, I’ve posed a problem, then offered neat solutions. But I don’t have many answers this time. During the holidays, I felt left out sometimes when everyone around me was looking at a tiny screen, but since I have a smart phone, there were times when I made others feel the same way.
Many of us have said (or felt like saying) to people from three to 93—“Please don’t text, talk, tweet or play that game for just a minute—I need your full attention.”
Smart phones are so multi-faceted that it isn’t surprising that we often use them for calls, texts, social networking, game-playing, music, movies, finding addresses, finding our way to addresses, photography, and so on. With data plans, everything that the Internet offers is at our fingertips nearly anywhere.
And there’s the rub. Experts report a new kind of addiction—people who pull their phones out of their pockets or purses constantly.
I took a Father’s Day photo (on my phone!) of father-in-law, husband, son-in-law and grandson lined up on the couch, staring at screens. I would have preferred to see them talking, wrestling, or doing just about anything else together.
Pediatric experts say parents ought to limit screen time for children, who need lots of whole body movement so their bodies can grow, and conversation so they learn language—because that happens with talking and listening, not with an app or educational game. When parent or child is occupied with a screen, neither is communicating.
I’ve let grandchildren use technology to buy myself peace and quiet. Yet I’m discouraged when they spurn my offers to read stories—and screens are as bad as candy for causing infighting in kids!
Recently, I turned into one angry bird, sweeping the screens to the top of the fridge and yelling, “I’m a troll and you’re the three Billy Goats Gruff. I dare you to walk over my bridge!” We play-acted four stories, and all felt better.
Robin Sloan, a writer, gave up his phone, saying, “. . . the phone had become a toxic compulsion, [invading] those minutes riding the train or waiting in line that used to be such fertile territory for daydreaming and story making.”
Peter Cohen, a writer at The Loop, got rid of his phone, writing, “I’m more present . . .I no longer blankly pull out my phone and start fiddling with it mid-conversation. If you do that, stop. It’s really rude.”
Ironically, he says using a smart phone made him “dull and more than a bit stupid.”
I’m not ready to toss my phone, but my 2014 motto is from Mama: “People are more important than things.” Even magical phones.