Hello Young Lovers

Oh, yes, yes, How much I did understand

I recently turned a hallway corner and startled a young couple holding each other closely, sharing a moment of love and tenderness.

As soon as they saw me, they hurriedly stepped apart, blushing, embarrassed, and their reaction was obvious, that I, of another generation, could not in any way, understand their actions or what they were feeling.

I was momentarily tempted to pause and tell them that indeed I did understand.  That I was intensely aware of their happiness, and  could feel the emotion that passed between them, because, as the old song says, ”I had a love of my own, you see, I had a love of my own.”

We live in a world that seems programmed to think that love, and all its glory that ‘makes life worth living’, is meant only for the young.  And that if you are 50, or anywhere beyond, that love is foolish and out of the question.  That any  marriage, at those ages, must be nothing but empty, hollow arrangements and could never have the least thing to do with that most ‘tender emotion.’

How wrong they are.  Oh, heavens, how wrong they are and how much they have to learn as they are taking their first startled steps into the world that is at the heart, and the reason for every birth, book, opera, song, poem, sculpture or work of art.

They were so young, so starry eyed and they think the joys and love they are experiencing can, in no way, be understood by people their parent’s age.  But they must be excused, because every generation thinks the wonders and joys of love and sex are unique to them.

It is the wise (blessed? lucky?) ones who go through the young infatuations, and though moved, recognize them for what they are. To enjoy, learn, but carefully, oh most carefully avoid any acts or commitments that could entail a child, marriage, and so often a divorce.

I read, and still like to refer to Margaret Mead’s book, the world-wide classic, Coming of Age In Samoa written in 1925, after she lived there as an Anthropologist.  Among other aspects of their life, Mead wrote of Coming of Age, or as we say, the Teen years. In Samoa at that time, love and sex were routinely expected, accepted, and tolerated with no criticism. She compared sex as arriving to those of those early years, like  flash fires, bolts of lightning and over just as quickly.

However, if a Samoan pair conceived a child, (and here their rules were adamant and frighteningly strict), and with no censorship, they were automatically considered ‘married’ and would continue that responsibility until the child (children) reached adulthood.  And horribly harsh punishments followed if those rules were ignored.

But then, when those ‘family’ years were completed, they had done their duty to the next generation and were free to do as they pleased, and again with no criticism.  What did it matter, they said. It is the children who are important and must be nurtured.

But back from Samoa to my encounter in that hallway.  Teen-age love comes, and goes, and that young pair I interrupted  has so much to learn.  How swiftly that first wild love can fling them into a marriage they’re not ready for.  A child?  A divorce?  And leaving both disillusioned, bitter and knowing that the rest of their lives have been irrevocably changed.

But life does not stand still. We get older, hopefully wiser and no matter how badly burned or blessed with that first Bolt of Lightning, time passes, life heals, and then another love enters people’s lives.  Not the same as the first,  not taking the place of any cherished memories, and not to be criticized or explained, but entirely different. And welcome. 

Yes, I passed the young couple I had surprised without seemingly giving them more than a passing glance, but they could not and can not know what thoughts and  memories they stirred, and at the same time, what hopes and fears of where their  lives, almost out of their control, would now go.

I knew they thought I would/could not understand them, but I understood so well that a smile touched my lips as I recalled  another song that tells us  “Love is wonderful, the second time around.”  And whoever penned those words knew exactly what they were talking about.

And while we’re on the subject, and not in Samoa or even in that hallway, and as if you don’t already know, I’ll tell you a secret.   If you’re lucky, the third time is nothing  to be  underestimated either.  And a fourth time?  You’re asking the wrong person, but each one, in its own way, is distinct, different, wonderful.

Oh me, and all this from a moment’s encounter in a out-of-the-way hallway.

From Out My (Aunt Ethel’s) Window

by Sylvia Ursenbach Christensen

Last week, three women sat looking out a dining room window.  To a casual observer, they were just three older women, watching a tree service trim dead wood from a majestic weeping willow tree in the backyard.  The tree planted more than 60 years ago by one of the women assisted by her beloved mother-in-law, Rachel Bradford .  The tree that has witnessed much joy and heartache.  Nothing extraordinary about the scene, you might think. But that assumption would be wrong.

Three women, bound together eternally by their heritage.  All descendants of Carl and Nettie Ohlin.  Carl, a Swedish immigrant, came to Utah when nine years old.  His parents left Sweden to be with the Saints in Utah.  Nettie’s father left England with his mother.  They, too, came seeking Zion, the opportunity to be with the Saints, to worship their Creator as they believed.

Carl and Nettie were hard working people.  Not wealthy or educated in the eyes of the world, they didn’t have six years of formal education between them.  But they were rich in knowledge, and wisdom.  Carl was a carpenter, a craftsman with wood, who also tended a large garden and a few animals to provide food for his family.  When not working, he read, continuing his education to the day he died.  Nettie was a homemaker without equal.  Equally at home in the kitchen, garden, or at her sewing machine, she fed and clothed her family by the sweat of her brow.  She quietly served and enriched the lives of neighbors for miles around her rural home.  Her hands were never still, except in sleep.  Their goal was to see all their children complete high school.  They accomplished that goal.

Five children came to that home.  Three daughters and a son, followed nine years later by another daughter.  At that window sat Aunt Ethel, along with Bernice, my mother, and then me.  Together, we have 240+ years experience in life.  Each of us a wife and mother, with vastly different lives.

Aunt Ethel has been and continues to be a journalist.  For 35 years, she was Women’s Editor for a local newspaper.  She also wrote a column, From Out My Window.  That column, on occasion, included tales of her nieces and nephews.  Retired,  she wrote books of local history and musings about life.  Never afraid of adventure, she embraced technology with enthusiasm, and her  column was reborn, on her blog.  Along the way, she raised two sons, John and Bill, an adventure itself!   With acres of land “out back”,  the boys had adventures only imagined by boys today.  Ethel has lived much of this life alone, but never lonely.  “Brad”, my uncle Arch, passed away more than forty years ago. 

Bernice, my Mom, the woman who gave me life, hasn’t worked outside her home since Dad returned from Europe a year after WW 2  ended. But she has worked.  Seven children came to her home.  Like her ancestors before, she worked to feed and clothe her children, and her time outside the home always included service to God. For many years, she served children in classrooms, schools, district, and state PTA positions.  She has a large posterity, who honor her as mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.

With this heritage, I grew from infancy to adulthood.  Like my mother, I have seven children.  Like my mother and aunt, I have faced challenges.  I attended college, received a degree in medical microbiology, and worked for a time in that field.  When my children were in school, I returned to part-time work as a para-educator.  Children grown, I returned to college for a master’s degree and teach middle school science.  Like my mother, I, also, spend time in service to God.

So, what did we discuss, three women with different insights on the world?  We didn’t solve world problems, didn’t mention politics, or religion, but God?  Often.  And while the weather received only passing comments and Education reform wasn’t on the agenda. 

Aunt Ethel talked about Brad.  She described the land, owned by his family since a Land Grant in the 1850’s.  She told of the old barn that sat near the site of her home.  She described a near-death experience Brad had as a very young man.  She told about Gram, her “more than” mother-in-law, her only mother after the death of Nettie sixty years ago.  She shared her belief that our experiences are not coincidences, but in the hands of One who knows us and what we need.

Mom spoke of her childhood memories of Uncle Arch.  Her childhood memory of hearing that Arch was dying of pneumonia at the age of 17 .  He did too, but ‘returned’ to live another 35 years, and Ethel tells that he cherished and kept that wonderful experience.  Mom told of a telegram from Santa, tucked in her cedar chest today, sent to a little girl by her brother’s friend, and later, brother-in-law, Arch.  Of how he would enter their home in winter, saying, “It’s not fit outside for man or beast.”  (And Ethel, his wife, recalled the second part of that old saying, “Even the ducks are walking.”)

I recalled a childhood  day Aunt Ethel showed up in my room with a grocery sack filled with books from her personal library.  With perfect accuracy, she had chosen books I would enjoy.  As I read, the monotonous days of a long-term illness were brightened by the world of The Yearling, Freckles, The Girl of the Limberlost, and the enduring love of Random Harvest.  

Three women sat, looking out a dining room window, bound together eternally by the heart strings of love.  Watched over by The One, The Source of All,  who also knows all.  Such a day may not happen again.  But, for those hours, we shared the view “From Out Ethel’s Window”, and it was beautiful.


Thank you, Sylvia Ursenbach Christensen, the first of the next generation of our family.  It was a day I had expected to be chaotic, what with both visitors and tree workers scheduled, but turned out to be a day I will cherish and remember.  My Second Son, Bill was there to be with the men, while I enjoyed ‘family’. And, I’m brave enough to know and to say that it just might be the last time the three of us will be together in this ‘room’ of Life.  Thank You God.

My tree looks wonderful.  Looks much taller and I will no longer shiver when high winds arrive, with fear of a big limb coming down on the yard and perhaps a roof. Wonderful.  All because of one man sky high in his small Control Tower, twisting around the sky and tree, and four men on my lawn gathering and taking to a truck the discards from above.  Terrific, but just as a reminder, you pay a goodly handful of ‘sheckels’ for that perfection.  Oh, me.


A Nation of Immigrants?

Or Is It A World of Immigrants . . .

Obama and JFK both used those words, but it’s an ancient phrase.  From time immemorial people have moved because of famine, war, and floods. The Bible is full of stories of such migrations and here at our home in the Americas, Indians came across the Bering Straits from Asia, some 12,000 (+or-) years ago.  

Today, it’s the Latinos and made worse because there are no oceans to cross, they simply walk or drive in, and though their labor is wanted, a good percentage don’t want jobs, just a market for Drugs.  Problems.  Big  problems.  Massive drug problems. And Mexican officials make no move to stop it.

I’ve known three ‘immigrant’ families well.  A friend of mine was a Musician, taught piano, and two highly educated immigrant families took their children to him for training.

One couple was Vietnamese.  Both highly educated, and for them it was either leave their country or be killed.   We had them to dinner one night and I asked what they’d do when peace came and in surprise, they said, “Why, go back home.”  Well, their side lost the war, and so they are now U.S. citizens.

Another pair who took a child to my friend for such training was Lebanese and were forced to leave a home that had been his family’s for generations.  It was (is?) sheltered amid the fabled Cedars, far back from the horror that was Beirut, but that didn’t matter.  The ‘other’ side won that war, too, and they became U.S. citizens but they sorrow to know  that strangers now claim their cherished home, its large rooms, old furniture and family treasures.

And the third one?  He was an American Indian, worked to make my yard livable, and, as I think about it now, his people had been here far longer than mine, and if any one was an interloper, it was me, not he.

His people had been here for 15,000 or so years and were old-timers when William Bradford, the great, great, great, great, great (you count them, I don’t care) grandparent of my sons stepped off the Mayflower as an immigrant.

My Indian’s story is also sad, but different. From his family’s lore, (older than the Plymouth Rock landing) had come the tale of deposits of gold in the southwestern mountains of the U.S.  Hearing those ancient directions since childhood, he slowly became restless and filled with a yearning to explore the truth or falsehood of the tales.

I now think the words he’d heard were true, too true, for he never returned when expected and people of that area know the horror stories that go  hand-in-glove with this kind of happening, and shy away from them.  But yes, when my friend  was finally found, they also found a bullet hole in his head.

Did he find. or even get too close to the mines?  No one will ever know. For after four, five months, the rain, sun, and animals had their way with his body, along with the ‘clean- up’ by whoever’s gun made the hole in his head, for there were no clothes found and animals don’t eat clothing or shoes, or the backpack he took with him. There truly were no clues. And no one wants  to wander into those mountains and desert to find out the ‘who and why’ of it all. Bullet holes in the head, I understand, are not unusual.

Immigrants, all of us, but it seems to me that the motive for ‘coming to America’ has changed.  Maybe most Latinos come for the same reason our ancestors did, a new life, and expected to be either welcomed or at least tolerated.

But the Drug Traffickers have ruined it for others. And, also, today, people everywhere are on the move, and not just to the U.S.  It’s now almost an endless flow of people, from one place to another, taking their pains, sorrows and losses with them and it just might  be they are forming the final answer. 

More and more it’s not a Nation of Immigrants, but with transportation and communication so speedy, and with war and famine so prevalent, we’re beginning to hear a new phrase,  “A World of Immigrants”.  Like it or not, wars and famine do that to people, and we’ve seen more than our share of both.

Doctors Don’t Listen Much Anymore

They read from a book, stereotyped for our age group . . .

I sat down in the Doctor’s office chair, without even a ‘Hello’ she smiled and said,  “I’ve enrolled you in a weekly class on Controlling Chronic Pain.”  And  went on to tell me where they were held, who was in charge  and what to expect from them.

I thought she had me mixed up with some other patient and shaking my head and told her that ‘No, that’s not for me.  I don’t have chronic pain.’  She went on as if I hadn’t even spoken.

But as she called me by my name I knew she had the right folder, and, as if reading from a book, went on with what was to be expected for one in my age group and I sat there as if I were an inanimate object, hearing her but wondering when she’d get around to asking exactly why I had called for an appointment.

She never did, and I knew then that she had studied at some medical School where their major primers were books on what to expect at various age groups.  She very nicely went down the list of ‘taking blood samples’; asking what medication I was taking, vitamins and such, and soon my designated 15 minutes were over and that was that.  Oh, yes, there were queries as to whether I ate and slept well, and then that was that.

The first thing I did upon getting home was to call and cancel the Chronic Pain Clinic classes, and making a note to not let anyone assign me to that medic for my next appointment.  They (whoever ‘they’ are) have what’s wrong with us all figured out and I, somehow, just don’t fit in with their book for my age. 

When you reach your Fifties there must be a well-read book on what illnesses and problems that age group will have.  Then there is a book for the Sixties (your age, not the date) and they’ve studied well the problems that age group will have.  Oh, and here is where Living Wills are insisted upon.  They’ve got it all down pat and a copy of such books are in every medic’s desk.

It continues right along in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, only by then the books tell about Care Centers, and ask how to contact your children to tell them what you need. They take it for granted that you are no longer capable of  hearing, answering or planning.  You don’t think so? Wait and see.

What’s funny, and I don’t mean ha–ha funny, is that all kinds of businesses read the same books.  At Fifty my mail changed and I began to get letters and pamphlets from well known clinics sent by high-powered medical universities, insurance companies, and investment firms, all eager to tell me about my own body and how marvelously they can handle my financial business.

When you reach each next decade ‘someone’ re-sets the switch and a new set of instructions and sale’s pitches come to  your mail box. This time they’re from the same schools or companies, but, the content changes into more dire diseases and horrors.  Now they begin hinting at care centers (Oh, so much fun), cemeteries, trusts and wills, and all such ilk and when you reach your Seventies, Eighties, and Egad, your Nineties???  ‘They’ become more blatant and you know that, with ‘them’, you are a naught but a statistic.  Out of the game. So why bother.  Period.

There are no (at least I’ve never found one) books on the people in those growing decades, and the numbers are growing by leaps and bounds, who are healthy, sane, capable and all the rest of the stuff we’ve been doing during the early part of our lives.

Someone, and of all groups, you’d think it would be the medical world, would be the first to realize that our parents, at 45 and 50 were medically where we are at 80.  We’re healthy and not to be medically treated by some book that without even a question, just knows  that you should be enrolled in a Chronic Pain Clinic. They are using statistics from half a century ago and glued them upon us.  And unless things change, that means you, and you, and you, too.

Every Body Is Different

And I mean every B-O-D-Y is different

And different in a far deeper manner than the obvious female/male way, too.   Stay with me.  My mind wanders here and there, and when something interests me, I follow, and my next step is to write about it.  Like today, I’m writing of breathing.  Yeah, in-haling and ex-haling.

Before you switch to some other place on the Web, take a moment to watch your breathing and you might notice that one nostril is more ‘open’ than the other.  In other words, one nostril is dominant, and long ago when I noticed this, I used lots of Vicks.

But I found that the nostrils weren’t clogged, for if you keep randomly checking, you’ll find that the other nostril is then the dominant one. That they switch.

Well, it’s a happening that was known to the ancient Yogis thousands of years ago, and while they knew nothing of right-brain, left-brain stuff, the idea is somewhat the same.  They weren’t so dumb even though they wore/wear odd clothing and live in caves and forests.

We breath equally with both nostrils only at certain times, and these times are always ones of danger, crisis,  great awareness, crucial moments of danger. Vital moments.

Birth time is one such time for both mother and child, and those primal screams come with both nostrils going at full steam. Of course if the mother is drugged into unconsciousness, who knows? I’m speaking of when we’re awake and aware.

And death, birth’s opposite, is the same. Both nostrils, and sometimes for a few days or hours before that vital last action and it was one of the ways the old Yogis knew of their coming Change and sent word out for their students and friends to gather.

Stay with me because the equal times get more interesting and not all with our Beginning and End.  Sexual climax comes with both nostrils equal, if you can remember to check.  If you see an accident coming, all your senses are suddenly alert and again, if you have time to check, you’re using both nostrils.  Equally.  We’re alert, awake, aware.  Both nostrils going at full steam.  Sudden, alarming noises, earthquakes, fires, you name the fright and you’ll find both nostril equally at work.

Such a simple (?) thing as turning over in the night causes the nostrils, wham, bang, to switch dominance and here the old Yogis weren’t sure, (like the chicken and the egg), which came first?  Do the nostrils switch and then we turn over, or do we turn over and then the nostrils switch. If you find out, you’re one smart person.

The Alternate Breathing techniques taught in various Meditation groups are exercises to help us become awake, and I don’t know how, but to become aware of our bodies (minds?) going from objective to subjective moods.  In some way we are subtly ‘different’ with these unasked-for changes.

If you’re easily amused, as I am, it’s fun to watch these breathing changes, because it can change within a few seconds, and then back again as your activities change back and forth. 

And then nothing to do with breathing, but there’s the simple action of crossing our arms over our chests.  Do it right now, and see which hand goes under the other arm and then try it make it the other way.  The one way is so natural we do not even think of it, and the other way is awkward and difficult.  Not natural or comfortable. 

Then try the universal action of ‘folding your hands’.  So simple, every school child is told to do so as the Teacher wants their undivided attention.  So as you do it, you find one way to do it is right and the other awkward and unnatural.  But if you note, people differ in how they do such an everyday thing. 

Also, when serious meditators use the Lotus Position with their feet placed over the thigh of the opposite leg, you’ll discover the same variance.  Train all you wish, but with one person, the right foot is on top and with others it’s the left. 

Every B-O-D-Y is different. And the old mediation mantra of ‘Watch Your Breathing’ has more meaning than we recognize, and is not just a way of keeping your attention to the moment.  Try these ‘oddities’: the changing of the dominant nostril, and, and also how you cross your arms and fold your hands.  There are many others, but there are also times I step back and do not try them out, but that’s my choice.

It’s a funny world, and I don’t mean a funny ha-ha, either, but funny peculiar.   Try these ‘foolish’ exercises  and see your own b-o-d-y from a different aspect.  And I’ll see you next week and be just ordinary Ethel. I think.

Holland Or Utah

Life and People Are The Same

Here’s another welcome letter and pictures from my friend in Holland.  She points out that there is little difference in life and people wherever we live, and it’s good to be reminded.  The picture is of the house where she lived (with two other families) when she first married. It was built in 1597, long before the United States was even thought of, and Utah an unheard of wilderness.  There’s the difference between Utah and Holland. I changed a few of her phrases, but you’ll make out alright.

Dear Ethel,
First I must tell you that your articles are so real, I read them all, and try to translate it and send it to 9 school friends.   We are all 73 years and we find out that whether you live in Utah or in Holland, some things in life are the same.

Yes, some of your stories bring a little tear but also there are things that brings a big smile, the article about grey hair was one I laughed over.

See, I started out  really black but before I was 40 years I was completely grey, but, you must believe me, in one week I tried every color, brown, blond, red and on the end of that week Bert said, “Please, just stay grey and no other  colors only gray.  And, yes 6 of my schoolmates were gray very young and we like it all.

But they have also read your book “The Sunset of the Farmer” and they like it very much.  Your stories there, tell how we lived in that time, too.

Yes the very old town Vlaardingen (where she now lives) was split in two parts.  One part was all very small houses and there lived the Fishermen and their families, and the women would sell the fish in the City of Rotterdam. The mothers were alone, because the fathers were on the sea, and the children eat every day the same food:  fish. 

The other part of Vlaardingen was farmers.  They had big houses, but worked from half in the night till dark.  The women sell the milk, eggs, vegetables, and they make cheese.  Nobody was rich, but they lived in peace and when you was a child you walk more than a half hour to get to school. 

Yes,  some children had a fish odeur and the others you smelled of the cows, but that was all normal, and the only  difference between Utah and Holland was you had too much sun and we had too much water!

Then another thing you maybe already know is that two granddaughters of Maria (the link between us) are here for three weeks with our grandchildren in Ede.  Last Monday they were here and they where so impressed by the very old buildings here.

I’m sending  you a few photo’s, one photo from the harbour, and yes one where we are eating fish, and a photo for the first house where Bert and I lived from  1958 en 1959. It is the white house and we live there with two other families.  It was build in 1579, but we were so happy, we had a home and many youngsters don’t have that in that time. 

Yesterday they get to Paris for a week with our son and the children, and this morning I get a picture from breakfast on the terras of their appartment in Paris, I wish I was there!!!

Ethel keep writing and know that in Holland we read every thing of you, and yes… I am very proud that I can say that You are my soul sister! (Ethel says, “Me, too”)
Love, and please take care of yourself,
Bert and Corry