Category: #8minutememoir




Sometimes being a sheep is not a bad thing. When I was in sixth grade our teacher had us write a letter to ourselves to be read in 6 years. I realized that I would be graduating from high school in six years and decided that maybe I should write about what I would be doing after graduation. I wrote—

Dear Me,

I will be attending Brigham Young University.



I am not sure why I wrote BYU. I didn’t know anyone who went there. My mother had attended the University of Utah for a short time, but no one else that I knew went to college.

My friends all decided to go to Utah State in Logan, Utah. I thought that was a great plan because I wanted to be with my friends. I started filling out that application. Baaaaa! I was definitely a follower.

Then just before applications were due, they changed their plans and were all applying to BYU! Yikes, this required more work!

I had never met with my assigned school counselor, Maree Rees, until I approached her because I needed a transcript. She was surprised and said that she never imagined that I would want to attend college, let alone BYU. I found out that she had been meeting with my wealthier, more intelligent friends all along. Hmmmm! I got the transcript.

The next stop was meeting with my Bishop. He too was surprised that I was planning to go to BYU. I hadn’t been too active in his ward. I went to church all of the time, but it was usually in another ward with a friend. Since my family didn’t attend church and none of my closest friends were in my ward, I just went to their young women activities and my ward on Sunday.

I would love to see the letter that he wrote for my application. I think it must have gone something like this—

Dear Admissions,

Please accept Vanalee to BYU. She comes from a dysfunctional family. Accepting her will be her salvation.



Surprise! I got accepted right away for fall semester. I had arranged housing and was ready to go. It was part of the plan because I met Rick there and as a bonus I discovered that I actually loved learning!

Cookies #8minutememoir


IMG_5095-768x1024 (1)While we were living in Tokyo cupcakes were a very popular treat. Cupcake shops were popping up everywhere in the US, but not many in Tokyo. I loved cupcakes before they were cool. Kristina and Ruth always seemed to find a new spot to try cupcakes when I would visit from Japan. I worked with young women and many others in Tokyo to teach them the art of frosting and decorating cupcakes. It was a lot of fun.

I think cookies have taken over and I have always loved cookies, too. When I was young my mother’s method of home baked cookies was to buy the refrigerated dough from the grocery store and bake it. It was fun for us, but they were usually hard and dry.

Both of my grandmothers made cookies, but they each made just one kind. My dad’s mother baked oatmeal raisin with chopped maraschino cherries added in. She always had some of these in her deep freezer, but they were a rare treat. We loved these! My mother’s mother made frosted sugar cookies for Christmas and Easter. She kept them in a Tupperware container for weeks.

Susan and I asked for the oatmeal cookie recipe and tried to make them. It was sad when we realized she had left out a main ingredient and they failed miserably. I have grandma’s sugar cookie recipe and when I baked them they turned out like dry hockey pucks. I need to try and recreate them.

During our CES mission in Oklahoma City I baked cookies forever. I didn’t keep track until our last semester and I baked 1,205 cookies or cookie bars. That is a lot of cookies. I made a lot of other food, too.

Currently, my cookie favorite remains chocolate chip, but I like brookies, oatmeal chocolate chip and white chocolate chip with dried cranberries. You can find many of my favorites at Vanilla Carrots

In My Bag- #8minutememoir


I haven’t taken time to write recently and I decided to look at the list of prompts for the Eight Minute Memoir. For some reason this topic is the one that stood out. I am not sure why anyone would be interested in the contents of my bag.

When I was young I watched a game show called “Let’s Make A Deal.” The thing that amazed me was a game where Monty Hall asked for women to produce random items from their handbag in return for money. Most of the woman had huge handbags and could produce just about anything he asked for. Who carries a hard boiled egg or a hammer in their handbag? As a child I really thought that those women always had those things with them rather than walking around the house before the show and filling those huge purses with every random thing they could find.

I don’t carry that kind of handbag. Here are the everyday contents of my bag followed by the things I add on Sunday:

Today I have-
My very old, red Kate Spade wallet
A pink and fuchsia striped Moleskine notebook
1 red Keller Williams pen (needs to be put back in the car)
1 black Staedtler triplus fineliner pen (my current favorite pen to write with)
Crumpled receipts from Walgreen’s, Kroger, James Avery, Dollar Tree, La Madeleine and
Chase Bank
Hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes
Grocery list from earlier today (I actually remembered to get everything on the list, but
forgot to put something on the list. I will have  to go back tomorrow)
Zippered Cath Kidston pouch (lipstick, lip gloss, bandaids, Neosporin, mirror and lotion)
5 wooden $1 coins to spend at On the Park Toys and Candy
Flip phone (ancient)

On Sunday I carry a larger purse and usually include-
1 or two clipboards filled with computer paper
extra pens
A flowered drawstring bag containing several varieties of gum and fruit flavored Mentos
My iPad
I share everything, but the iPad

I am wondering what the contents of my bag say about me- I like to write with a cool pen, shop too much, care a bit about how I look, don’t care much about talking on the phone and have a complete phobia about germs and bacteria. Ha!


Reading #8minute memoir


When I was in first grade our reading groups were named after birds, blue birds, red birds, yellow birds. The best readers were in the blue birds, then red, then yellow. I know I was not in the blue bird group. I think I was with the red birds. This bothered me a lot, but probably wasn’t surprising since I don’t really remember my parents reading to me or helping me learn the alphabet or my numbers before I started school. With each advancement to a new grade I became a better reader and loved reading more. I spent a lot of time at the public library and in the school library. By sixth grade, I was reading constantly and discovered I loved reading biographies. I read every biography in the Backman Elementary school library that year. I got to be a library assistant part of the day. My job was to reshelve the books that had been returned. It was an excellent way to discover new books.

As an adult, I have wondered why I loved reading so much and it’s because the books and stories opened a whole new world to me. They allowed me to escape from the not so pleasant parts of my life. And they gave me hope that my life could be different. It seems like every biography that I read was about a person who was able to become “someone” after a rough start in life.

I still love reading and my favorite book for a long time has been, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I read it every couple of years. Other favorites are “Things Fall Apart” and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” I also like to read books set in the Southern United States.

Lately, my favorite books to read are the scriptures.

Mourning With Those Who Mourn #8minutememoir


I love how Heavenly Father puts us in the right place at the right time. Rick and I have been serving in the temple every Thursday. I have rarely been assigned to be in the dressing room on the first hour of my shift, it’s usually the last hour.

Not too long ago, I was standing near the door where patrons come in after they have finished their session. A woman came in and although I couldn’t see her face, I could tell that she had been crying. She approached the counter opposite me and I could see her tear stained face in the mirror. It was Ruth’s dear friend, Dixie. Her mother had passed away just weeks before. I softly spoke her name and she rushed into my arms and we hugged for what seemed like a very long time. She whispered to me that she felt her mother close as she attended the temple that morning and that she had had an “ugly” cry in the celestial room. As she sat there she wished that there was someone to give her a hug.

There are no coincidences. I loved that Heavenly Father knew that Dixie would need a hug. I love that He inspired my shift coordinator to assign me to the the exact spot that I needed to be to see her immediately when she came in. Most of all, I love that He allowed me to be there to give her the hug from heaven that she desired that morning.

Halloween #8minute memoir


I don’t remember too many details about the Halloween’s when I was young. I remember only a few costumes that I wore. My Casper the friendly ghost costume was purchased at the Grand Central variety store and so was the little Dutch girl costume that came with bright yellow, yarn braids attached to the side of the mask. Later, in elementary school I was a Beatnik, a costume that was sewn by my grandmother. She made Susan and I matching sleeveless, short tunics. They were made out of fabric with a white background and large pink, purple and teal modish flowers. We wore our tunics over a black turtleneck shirt with black tights. We thought we were pretty cool. Author Jack Kerouac introduced the phrase “Beat Generation” in 1948, generalizing from his social circle to characterize the underground, anticonformist youth gathering in New York at that time. Elements of the beatnik included pseudo-intellectualism, drug use, and a cartoonish depiction of real-life people. Yikes!!!!! What was my mother thinking?????

We went trick or treating every year. I don’t remember ever going with friends or an adult. Susan and I were allowed to go out into the neighborhood alone. There was one house on our street that we were scared to death of. In those days, there was almost always a house like that on any street in the city. This house was older than the rest of the houses on the street and it was occupied by an older person, who liked to eat children, or so we had been told. The yard had a chainlink fence around it and all the hedges and plants were overgrown. Truly, a Boo Radley house. I would run whenever I had to pass it or walk on the other side of the street. On Halloween the porch light was on, a signal that they were giving out candy or luring kids in to eat them for dinner. I remember only going there once and thinking that the lady who answered the door was kind, not at all what I was expecting. Plus, she had candy.

As an adult Halloween has not ever been my favorite holiday. It involved figuring out and making costumes for my children. I was opposed to store bought costumes back then. I was always sewing through the night on Halloween Eve. Then always spending too much on candy. I took my children to just enough houses to get the amount of candy that I would let them eat that night. Then we would go home and they all sat at the table and traded candy and ate everything. Finally, I would make sure they had brushed their teeth really good and that was it. As they got older they went with friends and took pillow cases to hold their candy.


When Andrew was in 7th grade we worried about how much candy he was going to collect with his friends. Rick made a deal with him to pay him so much per pound. When he came home he weighed his candy and collected a fairly hefty sum. He and his friends had covered most of the town of Clayton, CA. (That has to be one of the creepiest clowns I have ever seen, John Hulme or David Neiman?)

Now as a grandmother I love seeing the costumes my grandchildren choose and love giving out candy and going trick or treating with them.

Decorations and Ice Cream #8minutememoir


The only holidays that I remember decorating for when I was growing were Valentines day and Christmas. I think mom decorated for Valentines day because it was easy to stick the paper hearts and cherubs in the windows and they were probably inexpensive, too. I think it also brightened up the drab winter. Really, I like to believe that she decorated because my birthday was in February. I loved cakes from Mrs. Backer’s Bakery on South Temple Street in Salt Lake and I often had one. I think my most favorite was the ice cream from Snelgrove’s. It was vanilla ice cream shaped like a large brick and some how they had magically put a cherry ice cream heart down the center. This ice cream was not meant to be scooped, it was meant to be sliced so that you could see the heart. When it wasn’t February, my favorite Snelgrove flavor was Canadian Vanilla.

Christmas was a different story. My mom liked decorating a beautiful tree. We didn’t have a lot of money and so she bought the tree and we used the large multicolored lights. One year she was tired of the old ornaments that her mother had given her. The very old ornaments that I would cherish if I had them today. She hung them up by their little hooks on the clothesline in our basement. Then she spray painted them all shiny black. Really! Black ornaments on a Christmas tree. She loved that tree, but as a child I thought it was awful.

She got a new favorite when we moved to Bountiful. She had become friends with some designers and they offered to decorate a tree for her. It was flocked white so it looked like it was covered in snow. The ornaments were birds, fans, bunches of grapes… really who puts bunches of plastic grapes on the Christmas tree. She refused to take it down until my dad borrowed the Polaroid camera from work to take a photo for her so she could recreate it every year. He refused, he hated that tree. She stood firm and our tree was still standing in the living room in February. Susan or I closed the drapes because we both knew that the absolute longest a tree should be up is the first week of January. We were embarrassed. It was a live tree that was being held together by the flocking. When large chunks of the flock filled with pine needles started to fall off she finally took it down, just before February ended.

A Sibling-My Sibling #8minutememoir


I only have one sibling. Growing up I always wished we had more brothers and sisters. Not because I didn’t love my sister, Susan, but just because I thought it would make life more fun. My best friend had six siblings and life at their house was always fun. Susan and I got along most of the time. I remember one summer possibly when I was about twelve our parents decided it would be okay for us to stay home while they worked. The alternatives were going to Gramma’s house or having my mom work the night shift. We thought we could handle being alone.

One day when were supposed to be cleaning our room we got into a fight and started throwing stuff around. Then through the open window we heard Mrs. Hutchinson from downstairs yelling at us to stop the ruckus or she would tell our parents. Both of us were surprised and started making slapping and screaming sounds so she would think we were really hurting each other. We threw more stuff around and she yelled her threats up through our window. We sat on the floor laughing so hard we couldn’t breath. We finally decided to stop faux fighting to give her some peace.

I will never forget another time a few years later. Susan and I had come home on a snowy evening. While we waited for our parents to come home we sat in the darkness of the kitchen watching the snow fall. It was a beautiful scene, no one was out. The world was quiet and white. I think we were scared that our parents wouldn’t make it home. We began to sing Christmas carols. The singing  calmed us and we waited for what seemed like forever before Dad’s truck swung up in the driveway. I think of this night whenever I am somewhere with snow or sometimes when I sing Christmas carols.


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