Monday, April 26, 2010

Don’t Tell Me What To Do – Memories of Me Monday

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Talk about an embarrassing experience from high school.”

It’s my blog and my rules so I’m going to take liberties with this one and write about an embarrassing experience from elementary school.  For one thing, it’s too hard to come up with just one embarrassing experience from high school (or junior high, for that matter!) and, for another thing, there’s a particular incident that happened during second grade that I’ve never forgotten.

At that time I was attending Hermosa View Elementary School in Hermosa Beach, California.  Reading was one of my favorite subjects and, as I’ve mentioned before, I loved the school library.

One day, early in the school year, my teacher announced that the library was having a contest.  It was a drawing contest.  Each contestant was to draw and color a picture to “celebrate our school library.”  It could be any scene we wanted as long as it had something to do with libraries, books, or reading. 

The winner’s drawing would hang in the library all year.

Well, I loved to draw, too.  I loved art in nearly any form; drawing, painting, clay, fabric, paper, whatever the medium, I enjoyed any creative process.

So I was excited about the contest.  I thought I had a good chance of winning.  I fancied myself a great artist (fueled, no doubt, by the parental encouragement I received at home) and I couldn’t wait to show off my skills.  I could already visualize my drawing, with my name on it, hanging in the library for all to see.

That afternoon, during free time, as I was gathering up the supplies I would need to draw my picture, the teacher made another announcement about the contest.

It was not optional, she told the class, every student was to draw a picture whether or not they wanted to enter it in the contest.

I froze.

Ok, now this will sound crazy to anyone but me, and I don’t pretend that I had the slightest inkling of why I reacted the way I did at the time, but I’ve learned in the many (many!) years since, that this is just the way I am.

Now that the contest was an assignment, I totally lost my motivation -POOF! - just like that.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to draw a picture anymore.  Not if I had to draw one.  Not if everyone in the class had to draw one, and not just those who were interested in art and books, like I was.  The contest lost all its lustre when it became a chore instead of a way to celebrate some of my favorite things.

I’m just rebellious that way.

I squirmed and struggled and fought against what was now, to me, an unpleasant task but finally, knowing I had to do it, I started to draw.

But I no longer cared if I won the contest.  In fact, I didn’t even want to win anymore.  I decided to draw such a bad picture that it would be sure NOT to win.

With a brown crayon I dashed off three lines the length of the paper.  Shelves.  Then with several different colors, I quickly drew some very  haphazard-looking books on the shelves, and colored them in.  With a pencil I drew some squiggles on the spines of the so-called books, not even bothering to write legible titles.

Done.  I wrote my name at the bottom and turned in my paper.

Are you remembering that I started out to write about an embarrassing experience?

Well, here’s that part:

ALL the pictures were hung in the library!

Yep, not just the winner, but ALL the pictures.  Including mine, that horrible, scrawling mess that looked like it could have been drawn by my baby sister, Denise, who was still in diapers at that time.

Worst of all?  My picture was just below and to the right of the winner, which drew everyone’s attention because it was so nicely done, so no one missed mine either!  With my name on it.

Like I said, I’ve never forgotten that incident, and probably never will!  I’m still rebellious – the harder someone tries to convince me to do something the harder I dig in my heels – but I did learn a very valuable lesson that to this day I follow:

If you’re going to do something at all, do it the best you can!

FOR NEXT WEEK: “Describe a favorite outfit.”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Update on our Outdoor Projects


We’ve got four beehives now!  One day when Mike and I were both at work the beekeeper left a message on my cell phone that he was going to go to our house to “check on the bees.”

Well, when we got home we found he had not only checked on the bees in the first two hives, but left two more hives!   We now have two white, one yellow, and one blue beehive, as you can see in the below photo: 20100423_0093 Here’s a closer look at the two newest hives:20100423_0081 In this next photo are the original two hives, now with an addition.  The box on top, with the lid partially open, we believe is what’s called a “super.”  It is provided to give the bees more room to store their honey.20100423_0077 At the moment we have lots of flowers in our garden for the bees.  Here is a Pride of Madera plant in the cat’s garden – a honeybee favorite!  We dug this up, as a tiny plant, on Angel Island a few years ago.  Now it’s attempting to take over the entire garden!20100423_0094California poppies in our front yard:20100409_0052GARDENING:

Our Square Foot gardens are doing great!  In the back you can see the corn, peas and beans coming up.  On the right side second square from the back are turnips.  Other squares in that row are broccoli or peppers.  The front two rows are radishes, spinach, brussels sprouts, and lettuces.20100423_0067Spinach:20100423_0074A radish, peeking through, ready to eat!20100423_0070  Young swiss chard:20100423_0073 A variety of lettuces, with kale behind them:20100423_0072It’s going to be a great salad season!

How’s YOUR garden doing?

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Principal is Your Pal – Memories of Me Monday

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Do  you have one particular experience about school that sticks out in your mind, above all others?  Describe it.”

Oh, yeah.  Sure do.

Spring 1970.  Sixth grade.  Franklin Elementary School in Redondo Beach, California.  My best friends, Judy Rich and Jill Brunson, and I were on the playground after lunch.

We were way at the very back of the blacktop area, jumping rope, or just chatting, or some such thing.  Minding our own business, definitely.

Two boys from our class approached us.  I wish I could remember exactly who but I don’t.  Anyway, they ran up to us and started calling us names.  Why?  Who knows!  It’s just what boys did.

We were three against two, and Jill was always brazenly brave, much more so than either Judy or me, so we began insulting them back.

That just made them mad and one of them kicked me in the stomach, hard.  The kick would have been bad enough.  Even worse is that his foot got caught in the waistband of my skirt, which was a wraparound style fastened with a single button at the waist and an oversized silver pin about halfway between waist and hem.

Neither button nor pin held up against the boy yanking his foot back.

My skirt dropped to the ground.

I screamed, horrified.

Judy screamed, too, equally horrified.  Jill shouted and ran at the boy, fists flailing.

I grabbed up my skirt and held it around me.  My face burned with embarrassment.

A playground attendant ran over to see what the ruckus was all about.  She grabbed the boys each by an arm as they tried to take off in the other direction.  The five of us were sent directly to the principal’s office.

But wait.  Here’s the really memorable part.

In Mr. Cleminger’s office we sat girl-boy-girl-boy-girl and got treated to one of his lengthy scoldings complete with his jabbing finger in our faces and his scowls and his pacing back and forth in front of us and his laying on thick the guilt, humiliation, and remorse, and especially the “what-would-your-parents-think???”

Finally, he wound down and went behind his enormous desk to reign from his straight-backed wooden chair. 

“Well?”  he asked us.  “What do you have to say for yourselves?”


Someone squirmed and their chair squeaked.  A foot moved along the dusty floor and created a sound like a quiet sigh.  A car honked somewhere outside. 

The huge wall clock ticked.

Mr. Cleminger glared at each of us, one at a time.  I was last.  When his piercing blue eyes bore into mine I could no longer hear anything but the blood pounding in my head.

The clock ticked again.  Someone swallowed loudly; it may have been me.

The very next instant, as one, all five of us kids burst out laughing.

We laughed and laughed and laughed; the kind of laughter that forces you wrap your arms around your middle because your belly hurts so much, the kind of laughter that makes the muscles in your face spasm and jump uncontrollably, the kind of laughter that won’t stop until tears are rolling down your cheeks and you’re gasping and choking and hiccupping.

As we finally wound down, and were wiping our faces and noses, Mr. Cleminger sat in his chair, his face totally impassive, and said, “I don’t see anything to laugh about.”

And totally set us off again!

FOR NEXT WEEK: “Talk about an embarrassing experience from high school.”

Beekeeping for Dummies

We’ve got a new project at our house, or should I say, yard?  Beekeeping!  Here is a photo of our very first two hives: They are located in the “Cat Garden” which, as many of you already know, is fenced off with special prison-yard-like fencing to keep our cats from roaming the neighborhood; it also keeps them safe from cars and other animals.  The same fencing will protect these hives from such predators as raccoons who, apparently, love to eat bees and will raid a hive if they find one.
It’s also fairly well sheltered from the infamous Benicia breeze and the large birch tree will provide shade in the hot summer months.DSCN4338 We took these photos the day after the hives were installed.  They are owned by a beekeeper by the name of Roccus (not sure of the spelling, and you pronounce it with a rolled R sound – he is from Lithuania).  Roccus will do all the work necessary to take care of the hives as well as collect the honey, while we simply provide a location for them.  Roccus has also offered to teach us as much as we want to learn about beekeeping. When Roccus brought the hives in the back of his truck they were just empty boxes.  The bees were in separate wired containers.  Once the hives were in place, using a smoker to calm them, Roccus simply dumped the bees into the hive, added the queen, and then placed the lid on top.  I got to manage the smoker which I pointed mainly at the little slit at the bottom of the boxes.
It was late in the day so the temp was cool, which causes the bees to slow down, and the smoker was doing its job, so Mike and I didn’t worry about not having a “bee suit” and Roccus, though he was wearing the suit, didn’t put on the netted helmet part of it.  Roccus got stung a couple of times but he did have his bare hands on the cages and hives, and he hardly seemed to notice the stings.   Mike and I didn’t get stung at all.  We just moved slowly and if a bee landed on us we simply waited for it to fly off on its own or gave it a very, very light nudge.  It’s surprising how unscary it was to be in the midst of a big crowd of flying bees but we could tell they were pretty calm so we stayed calm, too!
The queen bee and the thousands of worker bees were recently purchased via mail-order and don’t know each other yet.  So the queen bee was in a tiny wire cage with a “candy” plug at one end.  Over the next few days she will eat her way out of the cage.  During that time she and the bees will become familiar with each other’s scent and they’ll all be willing to set up housekeeping together.
Already, the bees are busily learning their way around our yard and the surrounding neighborhood, searching out the best nectar and water sources.
I don’t mind admitting we’re pretty fascinated with them!  I love to stand out there near the hives and listen to the humming, and watch the bees flying in and out.  I also had to run right over to the library and check out a couple of books on basic beekeeping so that we can learn all about what’s going on inside those hives!The cats were interested, at first, in the new addition to their garden (that’s Scout, in the photo above), but it wasn’t long before they were just ignoring the hives and their occupants.
If all goes well we will get two more hives in the next couple of weeks.  Roccus has promised us 6 pounds of honey per year from each hive, in return for providing the space for them. 
Seems to me we’re getting the better end of that deal!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Say “Uncle!” (Memories of Me Monday)

Deb-and-Uncle-Jerry copy{Uncle Jerry Lutes and me; March 1995; CSU Fullerton}

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Talk about your favorite uncle.”

Ok, I hate it when I’m expected to choose one, out of a group of things or people, as my “favorite.”  Who can pick their favorite from a basketful of adorable kittens?  Each one has its little quirks and personality and one might have a crooked tail, or one especially cute ears or coloring.  They’re all favorites, just for different reasons.

That’s how I’ve always felt about my uncles.  I have two on my Mom’s side of the family, and three on my dad’s.   I’d love to talk about each one of them (and eventually will) but for this post I’m going to write about the one I was closest to while I was growing up; my Uncle Jerry Lutes.

Uncle Jerry, or Fritz, as many people called him (though not us kids; we always called him Uncle Jerry) came into our lives when I was around 10 or so.  He began dating my mom’s youngest sister, Bonnie, who at that time was in her 20’s and had recently graduated from BYU.  (It’s weird to think how close in age Bonnie and I actually are – we’re probably only about 10 or 12 years apart!)

I first remember meeting Jerry Lutes at a family picnic.  It may have been on the 4th of July around 1967.  We were all at the park with Grandma Ware and Bonnie brought Jerry as her date.  I liked him immediately.  He was very friendly, and very playful.  He played ball with us, and wrestled with us, and paid attention to each one of us kids in a very kind way.  I liked that because often grown-ups ignored kids once the introductions were done, or said annoying things like “My, aren’t those freckles cute?” or asked pat questions like “What grade are you in, and do you like your teacher?”  Like they were even interested in the answers! 

And Uncle Jerry always treated me with respect, like a young lady, not a kid.  I loved him for that, for sure!

So anyway, Bonnie and Jerry dated for quite some time.  Then, as the story was told to me by my dad (who loves romance in all forms and told this story with great relish), Jerry asked Bonnie to marry him.

Bonnie was just not sure.

She asked for some time to think about it.  A lot of time went by.  Jerry got tired of waiting and moved somewhere far away (I think maybe Utah to attend BYU?).

Bonnie realized how much she missed him and wrote him a letter:

“I miss you.  I love you.  Marry me.”

I’m tellin’ ya, I remember this word for word.  I thought it was SO romantic!  Hey, I was at that age, remember?  Ten or so?  Give me a break!

Jerry came back and he and Bonnie got married.  They lived in Utah for a time, then returned to California with their first baby, Stephanie.  I sometimes babysat Stephanie which was always fun, she was a cute baby, and very happy and easy to take care of.

Over the years Jerry and Bonnie had 8 (yes, eight) more children, my cousins Jeremy, Erin, Elizabeth, Joshua, Emily, Ashleigh, Andrew, and Heather (not necessarily in birth order).  With my other cousins in the Bisk family - Brian, Stacy, and Laurel - we had great fun gathering at my Gram Ware’s house for Easter Egg hunts, Christmas Eve parties, and Thanksgiving dinner, just to name a few.

Uncle Jerry was always there, and often in the thick of things with us kids.  Like my dad, he was young-at-heart and joined in the games with as much enthusiasm as the youngest children.  If Gram Ware organized us into baseball teams Jerry was the loudest cheering from the sidelines, or he’d coach third base where he’d urge us to steal home whether or not it was a good idea!

One of the things I loved about Uncle Jerry was his artistic abilities.  I loved drawing, painting, and other types of art myself, and admired anyone with talent in those areas.  And he had talent.  He drew portraits, designed many of his kid’s birth announcements, and painted a series of lighthouses for a collection he called “Fingers of Light” for his Master of Arts exhibit at UC Fullerton (see photo at top of this post).

And, get this?  For some years he worked at Disneyland!  First, he did caricatures of people – how fun is that?  And then!  He worked in Gepetto’s Toy Shop on Disneyland’s Main Street where he drew Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters.  These original drawings were then shrunk down to fit inside the face of a watch and sold in the store.  Can you imagine?  Truly, you couldn’t get any cooler.

Uncle-Jerry-at-Disneyland copy 
{Uncle Jerry at work in Gepetto’s Toy Shop – Disneyland}

I just wish I’d had a chance to buy one of those watches.  Not too long after he started that job Uncle Jerry died suddenly and very unexpectedly.  It was a huge shock to us all.

My life is richer for having had him in it.  I still miss him very much.

FOR NEXT WEEK: “Do  you have one particular experience about school that sticks out in your mind, above all others?  Describe it.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Tom-Boy and The Princess


TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Were you responsible for any household chores? What were they? Which did you enjoy the most? Which did you hate the most?”

I’ve always thought I started helping with the dishes when I was around eight or nine years old.  My mom says no, I never did dishes that young.  So maybe my memories of standing on a kitchen chair with my hands in a sink full of soapy water are not of times I was washing dishes, but just of times when I was playing at washing dishes.

By the time I was in junior high, though, I KNOW I washed dishes, and often.  I didn’t mind too much, and I still don’t mind washing dishes.  I didn’t like the clearing up part; the moving of dirty dishes from the table to the sink, putting away bottles of salad dressing and the salt and pepper, and wiping down the table.  But I’ve always kind of enjoyed washing dishes by hand.

When my family moved to Woodland Hills in early 1973 for the first time we had an automatic dishwasher.  It’s a story in Hansen family lore now of the first time I ever used the dishwasher.  My mom wasn’t home and I was babysitting.  I had also been told to clean up the kitchen and wash the dishes.  Well, I naively squirted liquid dishwashing soap into the dishwasher’s soap receptacle and turned it on.

A half hour later I came back to find the entire kitchen floor 6 inches deep in sudsy water!

As a teen I did a lot of babysitting of my three younger siblings.  Steve was no problem; he was a laid-back easy-going little boy who played quietly with his trucks or building set or watched t.v., or just dug in the dirt:


Denise and Lisa?  Whew, different story!

Denise and Lisa were close in age, only around 15 months apart, but they couldn’t have been more different in personality. 

Denise was a tom-boy:2010-Old-Photos-0089-cropped  and Lisa a little princess:2010-Old-Photos-0091-croppedThose two didn’t agree on anything, fought about everything, and always chose any occasion when I was babysitting to have a knock-down, hair-pulling, screaming-banshee battle. 

Sometimes I wished they’d just kill each other and be done with it!

I have to admit, babysitting those two was probably my most hated chore!

A close second would be vacuuming.  Not sure why I didn’t like to vacuum.  It was just so boring pushing that heavy vacuum cleaner around on the carpet, including the difficult stairs, and sometimes my mom would find spots that I’d missed.  I still hate to vacuum!  I do enjoy the result of vacuuming, the clean carpet, but I heartily dislike the actual task.

Chores that I enjoyed, believe it or not, were the ones that took place outside.  I enjoyed yard work.  I loved to mow the lawn, and weed, and wash cars.  I was jealous of my brothers because they were usually the ones called upon to do the outdoor tasks while I was mainly relegated to the inside chores, in the traditional male/female roles of those days.

But sometimes, on a Saturday, the whole family would team up to attack the lawn and weeds, clean out the garage, or wash the family cars.  I especially enjoyed washing my dad’s fancy lime-green Mangusta: MangustaWhenever I needed extra money I’d ask my dad if I could wash and wax that car and he would always give me $5 for the job.

FOR NEXT WEEK: “Talk about your favorite uncle.”

Sunday, April 4, 2010

From the Memory Jogger Jar

Wow, last Monday when I wrote the “Memories of Me” post I totally forgot to draw a new slip of paper from the Memory Jogger Jar!

So here it is now, for tomorrow:

“Were you responsible for any household chores? What were they? Which did you enjoy the most? Which did you hate the most?”

Read my response tomorrow!