Author: vanalee (page 3 of 64)

Memories of My Grandfather


My grandfather, Alma Alexander Gren, was very artistic. He was a sign painter, as in- he painted billboards all over the state of Utah, he did this by hand with paint and brush. He also was a glass blower making neon signs and small blown glass decorations. I remember seeing a neon candy cane and a snowman in the closet at my grandmother’s house when I was young. They used to put these on their Christmas tree. He never brought the Christmas tree home until the night before Christmas. One year this got him into trouble because he could not find a tree anywhere. Finally, he found a scrawny one missing branches. He gathered discarded branches from around the Christmas tree lot and took them and the scrawny tree home. He drilled holes in the trunk of the tree and inserted the branches he had collected. My grandmother told us this story each year and said that it was the best tree they had ever had.


He married my grandmother, Helen Madeline Brown in 1927 and they had 3 children between 1931 and about 1940. I am not sure how long he stayed around after that. He was a wanderer. He was not living with my grandmother by the time I came around in 1954 and I think he was gone long before that. I only remember seeing him at my grandmother’s house once. Another time on a family trip near St George my dad stopped the car abruptly and turned around and went back to a man painting a billboard. My grandfather climbed down and talked to us through the car window for a few minutes.

I remember when the divorce papers were brought to my grandmother, she signed them and cried. She was sad a lot after that and often sang songs that I know made her think of him like, I Love You Truly, The Red River Valley and the Old Rugged Cross but, mostly I Love You Truly.

He soon married Cleo Belle Larsen. I remember seeing him once or twice after that. We went to Las Vegas to see him when he was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease and later at the hospital in Salt Lake when he was there. We went to Roosevelt, Utah for his funeral and that is where he is buried.

First Crush


I had to think about this for awhile. I don’t remember my first crush, I do remember that no one I had a crush on liked me back, until Rick. I didn’t like the boys who had a crush on me as anything more than friends. Oh, the unrequited love on both sides!

The first crush I remember was in kindergarten when a boy named Stewart had a crush on me, it was super annoying even as a kindergartener. He chased me constantly at recess and I couldn’t play with my friends because I was constantly running away from him. One day he caught me and kissed me. The next day he was absent from school because he had the chicken pox. I was relieved for the two weeks he was absent. I could finally have a normal kid’s life at recess, but then two weeks later I was home with the chicken pox. After a four week separation, he had found a new girl to have a crush on and I had a great time at recess.

My Bedrooms- Growing Up

My first room was in an apartment that once been part of a grand old Salt Lake house. It was small and had french doors. It was probably intended to be a study instead of a bedroom for two little girls. The closet in the corner had stairs leading up to it. It was originally the entrance to the attic. Our room was small with just a twin bed and a crib for my sister, Susan. I don’t remember having any toys in my room. In fact the only toys I remember are a wooden rocking horse that our landlord Johnny Farrell made for me, I was terrified of it when I got it, and a small red piano. My room had dark green wall paper on the walls. One night I noticed that a tiny piece of the wallpaper had flaked off. I picked at it a little and it looked like the moon. Every night I would pick at it and turn it into different things, a dog, a tree, a rainbow. It grew and grew. Each night it became something different. I would work on it until I fell asleep.

My next bedroom was in a small house in the Rose Park area of Salt Lake. It was also small with two wooden twin beds that used to belong to my uncles. Still no toys in our room, just the beds. We each had a drawer in the bottom of my parents dresser in their room. I remember the sheets on those beds, they were embroidered by my grandmother and I loved it when I got the one with a patch. My mother always put the patch near my feet and I liked running my toes over it while I went to sleep.

We moved from there to another apartment. It was the same set up. This time I remember toys in our room, Barbies! We also had new turquoise chenille bedspreads. I loved their bumpiness.

I guess we moved a lot. After I witnessed a knife fight during the first weeks at my new junior high school, my parents quickly relocated to Bountiful, Utah to get us away from the thugs they believed attended West High School. We lived in a duplex in a nice neighborhood. My new bedroom was equally small. This time we got rid of my uncle’s wooden beds and were all modern with metal “Hollywood” bed frames. Still, not too much in our room-just clothes in the closets and we inherited a desk from my grandmother that my mother painted antique white.

Our next move occurred because our landlord sold the duplex we lived in and the man who bought it, Brother Adams, was in our ward. I remember that he took Susan and I aside one Sunday and tried to explain why he was kicking us out of our home just before Christmas. He was moving his elderly mother in so she could be close to his family. A very good reason, but it has always felt like we were thrown out at Christmas. My parents found another duplex to rent that was a bit run down and it was still the same little bedroom, with the same beds and chenille bedspreads, the same desk and the same little girls who were growing bigger. I think we may have actually gotten a dresser from somewhere this time. I was a little OCD in this house and always had to have everything in it’s exact same spot before I could go to sleep. This was my last bedroom in a house with my sister and parents. I graduated from high school while I lived here.

I remember when… #8minutememoir

I remember when I thought summer was the best time ever. I remember one summer when Cindy Smith and I would ride bikes everywhere. One Sunday we decided to ride to Farmington. I ended up with a flat tire and we stopped at every gas station on Main Street between Farmington and home to put some air in my tire. I think it was the summer between our Junior and Senior years. What I wore– I remember wearing a green and white striped tank top that I had made with white shorts a lot that summer. I also remember riding bikes to Baskin and Robbins a lot that summer and eating my favorites, chocolate brownie and peppermint fudge ribbon. My flavors always have to match. We rode in the back of Ray Priest’s truck to Pineview. I thought we were going to die. He was a crazy driver. After a day of waterskiing I think I found another ride home. Life was different then- I am not sure how we all figured out what we were going to do and how we were going to get there without the technology we have today. We did have fun!

Camping #8minutememoir


I didn’t spend much time camping when I was young. I spent a lot of time at Girl’s Camp as an adult, most of it in Texas. But there was this one year when we we living in California and I got to go to camp. It was a big deal to go to camp as a leader. Everyone wanted to go to camp but they only allowed so many leaders to go and it cost me something like $110. I thought that it was outrageous to make leaders pay to go to camp.

After getting used to the snakes and bugs in Texas, camping in California had even bigger surprises— bobcats and bears in addition to the snakes and bugs. We were told we could not have any food in our camp area. In Texas we had “slabs.” A slab was a concrete foundation with wooden walls about 3 feet high on the sides and the rest of the wall was made out of screen. They each had two ceiling fans and we plugged in additional fans. There were rolled up tarps on each side in case of rain.

In California the a tarp was your shelter. We laid a tarp on the ground put our sleeping bag and all of our stuff on half of the tarp and then covered it by folding over the other half of the tarp. then we held it down with rocks. We slept under the stars!

After our first night we were all herded past a very damaged cooler before breakfast. Someone had left a cooler of food outside the mess hall the night before and a bear had destroyed it…our campsite was not that far from the mess hall. The second night I laid awake listening to a bear growl as he/she pounded on the dumpster up on the road. Yikes!!! The next day while we were cleaning up our camp area we found candy wrappers in the area next to ours. We really let those girls have it! We could have had the dumpster bears in our camp.

My Most Important Hair Moment #8minutememoir


I have been coloring my hair for most of my adult life. I started coloring it forever in June of 1990 and continued on sometimes doing it myself and other times going to a salon. After Rick retired in 2012 I told myself that I would embrace my natural grayness after my 40th high school reunion. I colored it one last time before my reunion and then went to my stylist for help going gray.

She really didn’t know what she was doing back then and neither did I. It was a painful process. I researched online and discovered that if I just let it grow and have it trimmed it would take 18 months to have a short gray bob (the hairstyle I was sporting). I decided that the faster way was to cut it off really short. It looked better, but was still whitish with some brown splotches. Like I said, it was painful.

In March of 2013 I was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma and started chemotherapy. I was going to lose all my hair. The Tuesday after my first chemotherapy treatment it started to fall out. Each day I’d lose more and by Saturday I was ready for it to be gone. Rick shaved it off for me. Now while being bald was interesting it wasn’t nearly as hard as it was to go gray. Sometimes I think that if I’d known I was going to be bald I wouldn’t have gone through the painful process of going gray. In reality, I think the process of going gray made being bald easier.

8 Minute Memoir

I have decided to use prompts from Ann Dee Ellis’s blog to get me writing again. I am going to need to find something similar to get me taking photographs again, too. The idea is to look at the prompt, set a timer for 8 minutes, and write. I like it and 8 minutes is just long enough to complete something.

Stacey is also sending me prompts to get me writing. So the Ann Dee Ellis prompts will appear with #8 Minute Memoir. Stacey’s and those I write from my list of stories will just have a title.

The long walk home


To write or to begin to finally write the stories of my life is a step towards finishing the unfinished or the things never begun, but always there in the back of my mind.  It is a step to changing things that need to be changed.  Whenever I visit Caitlyn, Aimee, Lainey, Havana, David, Holli, and Mark they ask for bedtime stories.  They don’t want me to read from books, they want to hear about my childhood or experiences or stories from the childhood of their father or aunts and uncles.  I find it hard to think of new stories on the spot and often end up retelling their favorites.  Earlier this year I started a blog project where I post a new photo every day, something I have seen that day. It has been great and has caused me to look around and up to see things I’ve never noticed before.  My next project is this, to write my stories.  Every day may be a bit much but, I will try this for one week…a new story a day and then I will be ready for my next visit.  I’ll have my stories!

I didn’t start playing the violin because I really wanted to.  In fact, I wanted to play the cello, but my father’s friend gave him an old violin and it was free so the cello was not an option. I think I started playing an instrument because it was something to do.  I began in 3rd grade and never really practiced at home.  I played until the end of 7th grade when my mother told me I could quit.  I never had to do anything I didn’t want to do.  One day after school I saw a huge group gathered in a circle and I walked over to see what was going on.  In the middle of the circle there were two boys fighting and one had a knife.  I felt sick and hurried home.  When my parents got home from work I told them about all the excitement.  They really didn’t say anything, but at the end of the month we had moved to a new school in a better town.  The new school was South Davis Junior High.  I continued in orchestra, but didn’t like it at all.  The teacher was very strict and we had chair challenges weekly.  When we had a concert coming up we had after school practices.  One day, just before the Christmas concert the practice was unusually long. I remember coming out of the school to a world covered with new snow.  It was packed on the roads and the sun was gone.  I realized that my father had grown tired of waiting for me as his green truck turned the corner just beyond the seminary building.

I was walking home on a dark, cold and snowy night.  I imagine the walk was about two miles total but it seemed like much further in the snow and darkness. At first I was feeling quite grownup and brave to be walking home alone.  Then I remembered I would have to walk past the city cemetery.  I had been in cemeteries many times and was never frightened during my daytime visits. This time it was different.  This was a new cemetery, in a new town and I did not know anyone who lived over there.  It was also dark and the snow made everything quieter.  As I passed by houses I could see families inside eating dinner.  Everyone looked warm and happy.  I felt like the little match girl.  Why hadn’t my father waited just a few minutes longer?  I realized that there was no traffic on the road.  As I got nearer to the cemetery I left the sidewalk and walked in the middle of the road.  I wanted to be as far away from it as I could.  The pine trees cast eerie shadows on the snow.  I couldn’t run it was too slippery.  I cannot ever remember being more scared.  It must have taken me 30 to 40 minutes to get home.  When I arrived home everyone was eating dinner and acted as if nothing unusual had happened.  I was scared and they acted like me walking home on a dark and snowy night happened every day.

Speaking in church, superman, an old friend…


Elder and Sister Carruth-Courtesy of the very talented Susan Larson

Today was an interesting day in a funny sort of way and I have no pictures to show for it. I stayed up late last night and got up early. We were speaking in the Mustang 1st Ward today. I stayed up to finalize my talk and I also got to talk to Leigh for awhile. She requested advice on cooking a venison roast…I don’t eat venison and I have rarely cooked a roast with any success.

I got up early and hurried to get ready so I could go to the institute and print out my talk (no printer in our missionary apartment, although I have been looking at buying a smallish one). We left in plenty of time. The first thing I noticed when we entered the chapel was that the podium was higher than in most churches. Most have two steps up to them, this one had three. I made a comment about it being like the Rameumpton, it wasn’t really. It just seemed so much higher!

As we waited for the meeting, I looked around the congregation. I keep being surprised by the man wearing the bright blue superman hoodie. It’s not that I cared that superman was there, it just surprised me every time I looked that way. It was a bright contrast to the muted colors of winter the rest of the congregation had decided to wear today. Soon after the meeting started we learned that superman was very special today. He has had a fairly long association with the Mustang 1st ward and he was baptized yesterday. He was confirmed by one of the missionaries today. What a great day for him!

Our talks went well…we think. After the meeting a familiar looking face came up to greet me. Immediately I recognized my friend from high school, Paula Muir Brammer. I guess when you get to be almost 61 and you have moved to 18 different houses or apartments in four states and four foreign countries, you might see someone you know somewhere. She is living here temporarily while her husband trains air traffic controllers.

After sacrament meeting we drove some backroads to get to the Midwest City building and to attend the meetings of the YSA branch. It was great to see everyone and I love being there. Sunday school class was quite hilarious, the discussion was about how John the Baptist came to teach repentance. A member of the branch presidency has the funniest stories and today he told one about his grandson, potty training, and how he blames the “wiener” dogs for his accidents. This good man was trying to tie the story to repentance and how this little boy needs to repent. I was nearly rolling on the floor. The teacher also confessed her sin of stealing her sisters fruit snacks and hiding the wrappers in her toy drawer. It was a good Sunday!

Now, I’m off to prepare my next lesson-Paul teaching on Mar’s Hill in Athens.

P.S. I need to take more photos!

Time flies…



Choose your own ending…

A. …on wings of lighting.

B. …when you are having fun.

As far as our mission is concerned I think the answer is both!  We have been having fun and the time is flying. As of today we have exactly 11 months left of our 18 month mission.

We have fall semester classes behind us. We learned so much about the first half of the Book of Mormon and four gospels in the New Testament. We learned much about teaching,  ourselves and the students in our classes. We taught two classes and visited two others. We baked a tremendous quantity of treats and watched as they were devoured. I watched one young man eat up to 12 cookies at a time.

We start teaching again next week. We will continue on and complete the Book of Mormon and the New Testament. There are plans for us to teach a Building an Eternal Marriage class that will begin as soon as the students have been identified.

Each month the institute plans a Family Home Evening for the University Ward. We take turns with the Bailey’s so we have planned a few…Write your own obituary, Minute to Win It Games and Making a Gratitude banner. We continue to attend both the ward and the branch alternating between them for Sunday meetings and FHE nights.

Alex, Stacey, Ellie, Daniel and Tyler came to spend Thanksgiving with us. We had a fun weekend hanging out and going to various playgrounds. We even made it to the zoo one morning. The time was far to short.

In our free time we have tried many mediocre restaurants and found three great ones so far, Simply Falafel, Pho Bulous and Cafe Icon. We drove to Okarche, OK during the Christmas break and had the famous fried chicken and okra at Eischen’s Bar…the oldest bar in Oklahoma. The week before Christmas we were in Houston for my scan at MD Anderson. It went well, the cancer is still gone. It was fun to spend time with James, Kristina, Andrew, and their families. David turned 8 in November and decided that he wanted to be baptized when we were there in December. So far we have been to all of the baptisms. We plan to be in South Africa at the end of the year for Izzy’s.

Andrew, Leigh, Rorey and John came for a visit the week after Christmas. the days that they were here it was cold so we played and hung out here. We did get one day of duck feeding and play grounding in.

Things are going well in Edmond.


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