Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Old Friends are Family Too - Memories with the Gattens

On Thursday our dear friends lost their son Danny. The Gattens have been some of our oldest and dearest friends for many, many years. We had only been married about a year and a half when we moved to Corpus Christi in 1969. Jay was Sieg's new boss and he and Tora took us under their wing right from the start.  Soon we were more friends than co-employees. Sunday evenings were spent at one another's homes enjoying each other's company. After Tora had put her two little ones down for the night we would play games (usually Scrabble) and talk and talk.

Our Beckie was just a baby so we would lay a blanket on the floor and she would drift right off to sleep. What fun we had together with our little families. Picnics, holidays, movies, play dates, sight-seeing, and sundry other fun activities drew us together. When our Dan was born Tora was there to watch Beckie for me, bringing meals and helping just like if my mom had been able to come.

The Gattens introduced us to the the gospel and we began to go to Church with them, and in time Jay baptized us. How can you ever thank someone for having such a profound effect on your lives? That was a gift that we can never repay. It has made such a difference in our lives and brought us so much joy.

In time we all moved to Missouri with our company. After a while there Jay took a job with another company and they moved away. We too left and moved back to South Dakota to work for my father-in-law. That was not a good fit and in a couple of years we were again looking for work when Jay called and asked if we would consider moving to Tennessee to consult for the company he worked for there, so we were off on another adventure.

When we got there they opened their home to us  and we stayed with them several weeks while we looked for a place to live. Sieg was working in the field and I was due to have another baby within a few weeks. Tora was also expecting so poor Jay had two pregnant ladies and four preschoolers underfoot. I am sure it was a trial but there was never any discord and I still have wonderful memories of staying there. (Even if Jay was worried that I would go into labor and Sieg would not get there in time.  lol )

We stayed in Tennessee three years and our last two children were born there. During this time the Gattens left and went to another job. ( Don't all geologist seem to move frequently?  We certainly did! ) Then the day came when we were again looking for work and Sieg applied for a job in Kaysville, Utah. Guess who else was applying for the same job? Our friend Jay. Jay got the job, and within a few weeks we were hired also. So off to Utah we went. Our new house was just a block from theirs and our friendship continued like we had never been parted. Our kids played together just as before, except now there were four children in each family.

In time we left Utah and went to Denver for nine years then to Reno for two years, before moving here to Wyoming. Gattens had finally put down deep roots and stayed in Utah. Over the years we have shared letters and cards, phone calls and visits. We have laughed together, cried together, shared joys and sorrows, and our love has just grown stronger. To us they ARE family.

And as in all families, when one hurts we all do. Right now our hearts are sore with the loss of their oldest son. We have so many happy memories of Danny. What a handsome young man he was. He was such a friendly kid who seemed to always be laughing and full of fun. Full of spunk and enthusiasm, I never saw him ever do unkind or hurtful things to any of the other kids.

Like all children he was curious about the world around him. I remember when he was just a little boy how many questions he would ask...always seeming to start with "Why"  When he was about two and a half Tora and I were visiting together and I was nursing our new baby when Danny looked at me and said, "Why that baby biting your belly?"  We all had such a laugh over that. When he was a little older he decided he did not like buttons on his shirts. What a trial it was for him when they wanted him to wear a button-up cub scout shirt. I think Tora finally got him a scout Tshirt.

I remember how kind he was to the little children. Our kids were all younger than him but he played with them and let them tag along. Beckie worshipped him, following him everywhere she could. I often wondered if we had not moved away if they two of them might not have ended up together. He was definitely her first love.

After over forty years of being friends, and many years living away from one another I still feel that they are our oldest, dearest friends. Yesterday as I was talking to Tora on the phone I expressed this to her, and she said they feel the same way. Sometimes I think there are friendships that were forged in Heaven before we ever came here. I am grateful to have friends like the Gattens in my life. I am grateful for the times we have spent together. I am grateful for my knowledge of the gospel that bring comfort and peace at times like this when our hearts are broken.

In a general conference talk President Thomas S. Monson said:
Because our Savior died at Calvary, death has no hold upon any one of us. 
Life moves on. Youth follows childhood, and maturity comes ever so imperceptibly. As we search and ponder the purpose and the problems of life, all of us sooner or later face the question of the length of life and of a personal, everlasting life. These questions most insistently assert themselves when loved ones leave us or when we face leaving those we love.
At such times, we ponder the universal question, best phrased by Job of old, who centuries ago asked, “If a man die, shall he live again?” The empty tomb that first Easter morning brought comforting assurance, an affirmative answer to Job’s question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” 
To all who have lost loved ones, we would turn Job’s question to an answer: If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth. “I am the resurrection, and the life,” spoke the Master. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
Through tears and trials, through fears and sorrows, through the heartache and loneliness of losing loved ones, there is assurance that life is everlasting. Our Lord and Savior is the living witness that such is so. ... He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Because He died, all shall live again.  
“Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives!’ ”

Sunday, July 10, 2011

In Memory of Daniel Jay Gatten

Some of our oldest and dearest friends lost their son Danny this week. We have been friends for so many years that the Gattens seem more like family than mere friends and my heart is broken for their family.

Danny was just a year older than our Beckie and our kids played together when they were growing up. When she was a little girl Beckie used to say, "When I grow up I am going to marry Danny Gatten". They were that close. Tonight my heart hurts for Danny's parents and his children. I know how hard it is to bury one's parent. And I am sure it must be the hardest thing a parent would ever have to do - to bury one's child.

It seems as we get older so many things come to break your heart. Losing loved ones, seeing others suffer, feeling helpless to comfort them. I know when I lost my mother, then my grandniece Jenn to Cystic Fibrosis, and my little brother Ronnie - that I felt like I would never heal. And really I don't think you ever do. You just learn to live with the loss - like a piece of you is missing that cannot be replaced.

I had never heard this Brad Paisley song before Jenn passed away but it was a favorite of hers and has brought me comfort. Tonight I dedicate it Danny. I know that now you are free from the struggles and trials of this life and are surely rejoicing in the new life there "on the far side of the sky".

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Precious Treasures

On her A Woman Distracted blog Boom told us about her precious Madame Alexander doll Amy, and how she wonders what will become of it when she is gone. I too have one of these kinds of keepsakes. I still have my stuffed elephant Ellie that my grandmother gave me for my 1st birthday. I am holding it a picture of my mom took of me on my birthday.

Grandma Ireland  died when I was 3 years old, so it has always been very treasured. As a little girl I would hug that elephant and think about my grandma, and how much she must have loved me to have given me such a wonderful toy.

Recently one of my daughters was saying how she loved how soft and silky its fur is after all this time...I have had her for 62 years! My advice to Boom is to keep sweet Amy and will her to a precious child or friend who will love her and think of you when you are gone. That is what I am doing with my Ellie!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Some Thoughts on Gratitude

I wrote this for Mother's Day, but things got crazy and I didn't get it posted.  I decided that I would go ahead and post it now because Father's Day is fast approaching and since it is on gratitude it still seems appropriate.  I am grateful for an awesome father who is a good and honorable man that any kid would be proud to call Dad.

Gordon B. Hinckley once said, "Be grateful. How thankful we ought to be. How comfortably we live. How very easy is life compared to what it once was . . . We have it so easy, so pleasant, so delightful. We ride in cars that are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. . . [We have] the miracles of medicine, the miracles of science, the miracles of communication, transportation, education - what a wonderful time in which to live. Of all of these wondrous, challenging things with which we live, I hope you regard it a blessing to be alive in this great age of the world. . . . I hope you walk with gratitude in your hearts, really. Grateful people are respectful people. Grateful people are courteous people. Grateful people are kindly people. Be grateful"
  -- The Teachings of Gordon B.Hinckley

I have always tried to follow the advice of developing "an attitude of gratitude" even though at times it seems that there is little to be grateful for.  Then I think of my mother's life and how hard it was for her and I know how grateful I should always be.

Mom was born in a log cabin in Nebraska, and while she was still an infant they moved to a homestead in rural South Dakota (on the Pine Ridge Reservation).  They lived in a little log house there.  She told of how in the winter when it was cold that icicles would form on the nails and hang down from the ceiling of the bedrooms, and there would be frost on their covers where their breath made moisture.  She was grateful for the fact that they slept many children to a bed - it helped to keep them warm. I remember that house.  My grandparents had a modern home by the time I came along, but that log house stood on the place for many years and was used for storage…and was a favorite place for us children to play (although I know we were told not to be in there as the floors were not good anymore.) 

After Mom and Daddy were married they lived in various little shacks that hardly kept the weather out, then in a soddy (with a dirt floor) and finally when they moved to the ranch where I was raised there was a little log cabin on it.  Mom was excited that she would have a house, but after a week of living there with bugs (including bedbugs), black widow spiders, snakes, lizards, and other creatures that came in through the holes in the walls she decided her little chicken coop with its wood plank floor was a better choice, so she swabbed it down with Chlorox and moved her family of five and the hired man in, hanging sheets to give some privacy at night.  She turned the log cabin into a place for the chickens. She said that it was hard to coop them up because the holes in the walls were so big they could get out…as well as the varmints getting in to them.  They lived in that little chicken coop for the better part of a year while they got crops in, fences up, and a little home built.  It had just one bedroom and an open basement.  We kids had our beds in the living room until we were quite big as they usually had hired hands living in the basement. 

My grandpa was a good one for finding some poor soul who was down on his luck and needed a hand up.  He would bring them out to my folks' place to work for their room and board and a small wage until they could get sobered up (many miles of dirt trail was too far to go to town for drink) or to solve whatever was the problem.  Sometimes they stayed a few days or weeks, a few stayed for months, and occasionally we had one who stayed for a year or more.  Mom accepted the challenge gratefully because although it might mean more cooking and cleaning and laundry, another pair of hands also meant she had to do less work in the fields.  Eventually my dad finished the basement into bedrooms and I, being the only girl in a family of six kids, got that upstairs bedroom.  How spoiled I felt.  And how grateful I was for parents who understood how important some privacy is to a young girl who is growing up with a bunch of brothers.

I am also grateful for having parents who taught me the value of work, the value of making do, and most especially the value of caring about people.  My mother would always say, "People are more important than things."  She believed it, she lived it, and she instilled it in her children.  How grateful we all should be for the blessings that life has brought to us. 

Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me not only life, but a great life!

Monday, May 30, 2011


That thorny path, those stormy skies,
Have drawn our spirits nearer;
And rendered us, by sorrow's ties,
Each to the other dearer.
                                                       ~ BERNARD BARTON

May is a busy month with lots of things to commemorate: Mother's Day, lots of birthdays in our family, and Memorial Day.  Do you ever really think about what Memorial Day is or do you just enjoy having a three day weekend to spend with family and friends?
My dad's family always has a reunion on Memorial Day weekend.  They started this before I was born.  My father lost so many family members in World War 2, including two brothers and a beloved cousin who was like a brother to him.  Because of this they started getting together on Memorial Day each year where they would all meet at the cemetery to decorate the graves, hear stories about those who were gone, and cement the bonds of family love.  Afterwards they would meet back at my grandparents' home for a potluck lunch and more memory sharing.  I remember as just a little girl how we would wear our nicest clothes to go to the cemetery and Mom would caution us to be reverent as we visited the graves. 
Now over 60 years later the family still has these same rituals and it is lovely to meet once a year with family members who are scattered far and wide.  Last year I was able to go, and some cousins I had not seen in years were able to come.  It was a time of sharing old memories with much laughter and tears.  It seems we are all losing parents and siblings as we are growing older, making it a bittersweet time.
May is also a time of sadness for me as it was the month when I lost my mother – she died on Memorial Day in 2004.  I can't believe she has been gone seven years, it seems like yesterday.  I don't think you ever get over missing your mother, I still miss her every day.
George Eliot said, “There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and to have recovered hope.”  How true this is.  How hard it hits you when you are not expecting it. 
Sorrow and grief take many forms and have many causes.  It is the loss of important things in our lives. It may be the loss of a loved one through death or the end of a relationship.  It may be the loss of a job, or way of life, a home we miss, or our faculties and health as we age.  Whatever it is we have all had losses that bring us sorrow.  As you think about the word SORROW what comes to your mind?  How has it affected you?  Is it bittersweet for you as for me?  Does it weigh you down or just put this whole existence on Earth into perspective?  Has time softened the pain and made it more like a warm blanket of memories to wrap in on dreary days?  
At such times it helps to remember what Sue Monk Kidd said in The secret Life of Bees, “It is the peculiar nature of the world to go on spinning no matter what sort of heartbreak is happening.”

Monday, February 21, 2011

Playing together - Gma & QE

This was a productive day.  Last night my granddaughter Quincy came over to spend the night and today.  We mostly just watched TV and worked on the computer last night...and discussed what we wanted to do in the morning.  Today we got started pretty early (we were going by 7:30) in the "studio".  We are both members of an online art community called Paper Traders, and we were doing some of the group projects.  Today we worked on the Encaustic Beeswax ATC swap. We had a ball, made a mess, and Finished our cards!  Then Quincy finished up her Fashionista canvases while I did the scanning so we could get them uploaded.  Hers are on her blog already but I still have some finishing touches I want to do on mine so they are not scanned yet.  It was a good day because we got a lot done, but mostly because we enjoy being together so much.

I think there is often a special relationship between grandmothers and granddaughters.  Being a generation removed can give a grandmother a more objective view of all the little annoyances that drive mothers crazy.  My mother used to have such a good relationship with my kids.  I didn't understand it then, but I do now.

I know when my kids were growing up it sometimes sorely tried  my patience to let them "find" themselves.  You want so much for your children to succeed, for them to not be hurt, to not fail, to have friends, and of course, to not embarrass you, that sometimes you try too hard.  You hover, and advise, and caution, and criticize.  And you think you are doing it all in their best interest. You try to be their friend and sometimes it feels like you are worst enemies. Looking back I can honestly say that sometimes it really was that worry that they might do something unacceptable or embarrassing that motivated my actions even if I didn't recognize it at the time.  Sometimes we are just too close to the situation and it does become about us.

But a grandmother can see past it all.  Raising that child is not your responsibility so you are free to just love them however they are.  And I do love my grandkids.  They are the light of my life.  They add a richness that I could never have imagined.  I love spending time with them, especially one on one, and just doing mundane things.  Sometimes just sitting around watching a movie together is enough to fill my heart with joy.  Having a shared interest gives Quincy and I not only something mutual to talk about, but being able to actually do something together that we both enjoy was just an added bonus today.  Thanks Quincy for coming to spend a day with Gma.  It was great fun!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Night Owls

I was over at Boom's A Woman Distracted web space and read this post about being a night owl and blogging.  It could be about me.

For over 20 years my dear hubby traveled with his work. He would be gone for two or three weeks at a time, sometimes only home for the weekend, hardly ever for more than a week. I was a mom at home with four kids. The days were busy and hectic but the nights belonged to me. I could sew, craft, bake, and create to my heart's content - with no interruptions.

Then we moved to Wyoming and he changed careers. Home every night, and every day too at first, as he took off most of a year to build our home. I thought I would go crazy!

I would go to the store and when I got home he wanted to know what took so long, "I was worried that you had car trouble." "No, just ran into a friend and we went for a soft drink." He thought it was thoughtless of me to not let him know I was delayed.  I thought, "are you kidding, you never cared before."

Finally one day I had had it.  I blew up and blasted him with all of this and more: "I am not a child, you do not have to check up on me." "Rest assured if I had problems I do know how to use a phone." "For all these years you have been gone I had to take care of things myself, and did just fine." "I have been used to being my own boss, coming and going when and where I wished, and if you have a problem with that it is your problem, not mine. You created this situation by your career choice so now you have to live with it."  He thought I had lost it, and was confused at why I was upset. He thought he was being a concerned husband. I thought he was smothering me. Fortunately we worked it out and are still happily married all these 20+ years later.

But one point of contention still kind of bugs him...this night owl thing. He needs twice as much sleep as I do, and wants to go to bed between 9 and 10.  He thinks I should do so too. I am usually just getting started on some project about that time. I used to go to bed, lay there and listen to the every night sound, watch the light of the moon move across the room, and be frustrated because I was "supposed to be sleeping" but couldn't. Some nights I would just be getting to sleep when his alarm would go off.  Lying awake in bed does not make one sleepy, but rather more wakeful, it seems.

Finally I just decided that I could not adjust my inner clock to someone else's, so now I do what I want. If I am tired I go to bed, if not I may be up until 1 or 2 doing my own thing. He gets more rest, I can actually go to sleep when I do go to bed, and things are much better... and his old complaint that he doesn't sleep well when I am not there has been proven not to be true. It was just a matter of getting used to it.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because as I have gotten older, I have had so many friends with the exact same problem.  And, it is often a point of contention in their homes.  As their husbands age they seem to want more sleep and as the women age they seem to need less and less - or at least in long stretches.  Many of them find that a twenty minute nap in the afternoon seems to do wonders to refresh them if they are lagging.  Is this abnormal, as our husbands say?  Are we all sleep deprived as they think?  Or is is just a part of aging that people who tend to be night owls become more so as they get older?  I don't know, but I do know that lying in bed for hours and hours without going to sleep in not productive, nor does it contribute to a happy home.  Staying up until I am tired, then going to bed and sleeping well until I wake up naturally (usually around 6 or 6:30 AM) works for me.  And I know that my mother was the same way.  She would go to bed, but was often still awake reading at 1 or 2 in the morning.  Maybe it is hereditary!

Turning Hearts

Tonight I was reading Boom's blog and she was telling about her dad being the tooth fairy.  It was a sweet story and I was touched.  I have been wanting to do this. I was so inspired by the stories that Lyndy has been posting on her facebook page that my heart has been turned to my parents and grandparents and then to my children and grandchildren.  So I want be doing this - Writing stories that will keep long after I am gone. Stories that will connect the coming generations with those that went before, turning hearts, so to speak. Thanks, Lyndy and Boom for the inspiration. Because of you two I did it.  Tonight I started a second blog just for this purpose so I won't have to sort my art from my musings.

Hopefully over the next months and years I can create a record here that will be of benefit to the next generation.  My paternal grandmother died when I was 3 years old.  I don't remember her very well at all.  Just a few occasions and happenings.  I want my grandchildren to know and remember me when I am gone.  I want my children to know and remember their grandparents.  I want to find out more about my ancestors and post those things here too.  I hope this will be a grand adventure taking me on a journey to wherever the stories lead.  Helping those that went before become real to those who are yet to come.  Turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers.