Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Justify FullDad served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Because of his bad eyesight, the service didn't want him at first. By 1943. he was drafted and sent to Fort Douglas, Utah. There he met and married Mom. Bad eyesight or not, he and another man tied for the top marksman score of the enlisted men.

After basic training, he was assigned to a unit that employed the very first primitive computers. The purpose of the computers was to keep track of troop movements. The computers were BIG (think room size or bigger) and used punch cards to operate them. The soldiers in Dad's unit received a commendation for how efficiently they did their work.

The young man who had never left the state ended up seeing the South Pacific with this computer unit. Dad said he traveled on a ship across the pacific and was never sea sick a day. But in his 60's he went on a tourist fishing boat off the coast of California, and he was sicker than a dog. That disgusted him. Dad was in the Philippines, New Guinea, an island named Helmaherra, and probably lots of places he never told me about.

Now, I wish I had thought to ask him more questions. To find out anything, I had to ask him questions. Dad never volunteered information or conversation. One thing I would like to know is: what was he doing when he found out about the surrender of the Germans and then the Japanese?
His service in the armed forces was important, and I am proud of him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Star Trek

On Saturday afternoon I had a yearning to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. I wanted to cook chicken and dressing casserole, pull out a blanket, and curl up with dinner in front of the episode where Sean Luc Picard first learns about the Borg. I wanted to use the Enterprise’s transporter beam and transport all my kids home for just an hour while we watched the show and ate dinner on the blanket. I wanted to remind everyone NOW are the good old days.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

For Granted

A lot of kids take their parents for granted. On Monday circumstances brought home to me how I took my kids for granted. Wilbur and I had a family over to dinner. The family has a ten year old boy. The main purpose of the evening was to teach the ten year old to ride a bike. After an hour and a half, he could balance while he pedaled two or three times before trying to catch himself with his feet. I gathered that to him tipping over on a bike was the equivalent to falling off the edge of the Grand Canyon. Every teeny bump or scrape prompted an anguished cry of "ahhh!" or "owww!"

Even though our family only had two tough males, it had five tough, reasonably physically fit females. It might have taken ten minutes to help our slowest learner figure out how to ride a bike. Don't ask me who the slowest learner was because I don't remember.

Petunia was the most cautious. I do remember that. At age seven Wilbur announced he was removing her training wheels. The wheels came off, and off she rode without a stutter. She hadn't needed the wheels for months, maybe years. If memory serves, Prudence mastered bike riding at four or five. After Orville was born my memory began to overload and started to short circuit, so I don't have a clear recollection about Hermione and Eglantine. It seems like age five saw them careening off down the drive on a bike. They can correct me if I'm having a brain cramp. It might have taken one of them as much as ten minutes to put together the balancing and steering before mastering bike riding.

I clearly remember Orville demanding his father remove his training wheels at age three - a couple weeks before his fourth birthday. Disbelief made that bike riding event memorable. He'd had the bike for just a few minutes before he said, "I don't need training wheels. I got this."

I thought all kids could master bike riding in ten minutes or less. I assumed all kids could "tough it" through a skinned knee or scraped elbow. After Monday, I realized I was mistaken. I was blessed to have kids who were talented, tough, and fit.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Yesterday these elk paid a visit to the old mine next our house. These bull elk shed their racks but are starting to grow new ones. We have had elk visit before. Max decided to chase one once. The cow elk stared at him as if to say, "Surely, you jest!" Then, she started after him. Max has sworn off elk chasing since then.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Lessons from Mom

Miller women. Mom is the little girl.

My mother was born in Sugarville, Utah January 22, 1923. She was the last of ten children. Idyllic did not describe her childhood. Pumping of ground water in the area caused the loss of the family farm. When Mom was young, her father developed terrible asthma from breathing all the dust and chaff on the farm, especially during harvest. Because her Dad couldn’t stand to feel short of breath, the doctor prescribed adrenalin shots which eventually damaged his heart and caused his death when my Mom was nine years old. As if the loss of the farm and her father’s death were not enough, the Great Depression hit in the middle of all this upheaval. Mom’s family was essentially homeless, moving from one of her brother’s homes to another, staying until a brothers’ family was too stressed. Then they would have to pack up and move in with another brother. Rejection was an issue. Changing schools every few months was a constant for Mom until her mother (Grandma Miller) moved into care for an old man who eventually became Mom's stepfather. Not surprisingly, Mom carried emotional scars from all this.

However, my Mom learned some important lessons and taught me some very valuable lessons:

1) Personal Hygiene. This may seem like a no brainer. But I’ve seen people who didn’t learn this lesson growing up. If you don’t know this, it doesn’t matter what else you do know. You cannot get along anywhere, including the work place. No hygiene, no life.

2) Moral Purity. I remember Mom saying, “A guy who is trapped into marrying a girl because of a pregnancy always resents the girl and never respects her.” Although it doesn’t seem reasonable for males to feel this way because unwed pregnancies involve two people, not just one, reality is reality whether it’s fair or not. Mom was dead right for most unwed pregnancy situations I’ve seen. I’ve seen high school classmates of mine who ended up in the situation of an unwanted pregnancy and “had to get married.” I’ve noticed that usually they didn’t stay married, and the ones who did have to contend with a man who resents them. Yuck.

3) “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” She quoted this to me when I was a little child and lied to her. Then she explained what it meant. I had a couple life situations that taught me life is so much simpler and just plain livable if we are honest. She told me how as a child she lied to her mother once. Her mother said, “Is that a damn lie or a true lie?” Mom responded, “It’s a damn lie.” I always got a kick out of that story.

4) Look for a guy who has clean hands. Dirty hands, dirty guy, unless he’s been working on a car.

5) Integrity. As a teenager I remember a leader calling me up and asking me to do something I did NOT want to do. Because it was easier to be agreeable I said I would do it, but I had no intention of doing it. Mom somehow knew I wasn’t going to do the assignment. She said, “If you are not going to do that, call her up and tell her right now. Then she can find someone else.” She explained to me that it is disgusting conduct to tell someone you will do something and not keep your word. She explained if you tell the person up front you will not be doing the job, they can find someone else who will. But allowing someone to depend on you, and then letting them down was despicable. This is why I do visiting teaching, even when I don't want to.

6) Take care of your possessions: try to make them last a long time. Mom’s Mom once said of a neighbor, “Her husband can’t bring enough in the front door because she is so busy throwing it out the back.” I feel a lot of guilt with this lesson. But these days an iron is not built to last a lifetime like it was during the Great Depression.

7) Have a place for things and put them back in the place. Then, you don’t have to spend your valuable time looking for things. I’m still trying to implement this one. I have been frustrated more times than I can count by it taking more time to find a tool to do a job than it would take to do the job itself. Unfortunately, I have my Dad’s intense focus that tunes out everything, including where I set things down.

8) Change your sheets once a week. I LOVE clean sheets, especially if they’ve been hanging on the line! Sometimes, I’ve noticed people who don’t change sheets very often have sour smelling bedrooms.

9) If you want to be treated well, dress well. “Well” in this case meant clean, appropriate, clothes and well maintained hair and general appearance. I learned this advice was accurate through experience. Once I went refrigerator shopping with a friend. I was wearing a professional looking dress because I had been somewhere. MY friend did daycare in her home and was wearing t-shirt and jeans. All the salesmen addressed themselves to me. It was my professional-looking dress. Another time before I went back to college, I needed to research county court house records because of trouble with neighbors regarding our road easement. Remembering the refrigerator shopping lesson, I put on my suit and drove to Boulder. The court house employees must have thought I was an attorney. They treated me like one, anyway. Mom knew what she was talking about.

10) Get an education, be prepared to support yourself. You never know what could happen. As a child, Mom lived this. As a young adult, she did this, becoming a Registered Nurse. As a mother she taught this. As a grandmother, she was a champion of education, especially for women. When it came time for Petunia to go to school, we knew we couldn't completely finance her college education. In passing, I mentioned this to my Mom. She irritated me by continuing to bring it up all during Petunia’s Senior year. She told me Petunia’s college education was a must, which I agreed with. But I didn't know why she continued to ask about it every time we talked and why it was her business. Finally, I told Mom that Petunia was getting college loans, and Mom didn't mention it again. In talking to one of my sisters, I learned my Dad had inherited some money from his brother and Mom was going shake him down for some of the bucks, if Petunia needed it to go to school.

Mom could be ornery, and all her daughters have some of this orneriness. But I've decided orneriness has its place. No woman-beater or child abuser ever was drawn to any of her daughters. Lucky for the abusers. I learned some first-class things from Mom!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Newspaper

Since I am chiefly famous for my inability to remember to straighten my collar before appearing in public, I welcome a little positive recognition. But why, why, WHY did the reporter go to the high school annual published my Sophomore year and use my geeky, homely Sophomore photo in the newspaper?