Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Parachute Games

Having a parachute to play with turns out to be a task of learning how to cooperate.

Having a parachute also is a task of finding enough people to hold the ends of the parachute while others take their turns running under it.

Or over the top of it.

Or wanting to be encircled in it.

I would't have had the idea of curling up at the middle of the parachute and then having its ends twisted until I was wrapped in a little ball.  I felt like we were doing the Maypole tree but in reverse, that is from the ground up, not the top down.

But apparently this is what everyone in the back yard wanted to do.

Everyone except Betty who wanted to take a flying run across it, though who knows why.

A great toy.

I am looking forward to more spring fun with our parachute!


Purple Tea Lights

... I had to buy 12, not 2 ..
... Michael extinguishing match with a wet finger ...
... Alice wondering if it would really work ...

Long ago I purchased some purple tea lights that match the pastel hellow and purples of Easter ornaments.

I bought them at a grand sale – 90% off, so I overbought.

One day as Michael walked by them in my kitchen, I thought, here is a chance for him to learn to light matches. So I took down a box of matches and let him go to work.

I should have thought, if Michael comes in the back door, won’t Alice and Betty be far behind.

I hadn’t thought that far ahead.

He had just got the knack of striking the match on the side of the package and keeping it level so that it wouldn’t burn his fingers, when in came Alice and Betty.

So I split the kids onto 3 different sides of the free standing counter and then I supervised, either getting a lit match into Betty’s hand or showing Alice how to hold the package firm enough that she could strike the match along it’s flint side and get a flame to occur.

I don’t think I taught my own kids to light matches, for it took me a while to get my own rhythm at having 3 children at different levels of expertise holding matches.

... my German tea light ...
We spent part of the afternoon lighting candles, blowing them out, lighting them again, blowing them out.

One of the skills I hadn’t thought about teaching was how to blow the candles out so that there isn’t wax all over the counter from the power of their breath.

Betty didn’t get to practice the skill of lighting the back matches first and working forward.

... Alice with a successful strike ...
I just gave her one candle to light.

She got the same thrill with that, that the others got with having more fire to work with.

I thought I had everything contained but at one point I looked over and Alice had gone to the china cabinet and taken out a small German wooden tea light, one with a house and small wooden people standing around it.

I have never put a candle to the wick of the tea light it holds – but Alice had it out and into use in the split second that I was distracted by something Betty was doing.

All I could think of was, “it just goes to prove that they know where more things are in my house than I do”.
... a place for used matches ...


Church Parking Lot

I thought my morning walk would be more interesting if Michael and Alice were riding along beside me on their bikes, or ahead of me, or behind me. There is just a long stretch between my house and the Children’s Hospital, my preferred walking and exercise route. So we walked their bikes across Crowchild Trail, but when we got to the church parking lot, suddenly there was this big patch of black pavement, split into four large sections – west of the church, east of the church, north of the church and then the corridors that connects all of them. Of course they wanted to be turned loose there. The parking lot has huge iron gates that are mostly closed, so the chance of cars coming in there is next to zero. Walking that pavement may not be the perfect ground for me, but watching them ride their bikes is more entertainment than I had thought it would be.

Our Back Yard
April 28th a day we didn't go biking.
In fact, it was hard to find the bikes
under all of this snow.
Alice can’t help but try to keep up with Michael: his spins, his braking, his exploration of the lips that slide off of sidewalks onto pavement, the breaks on the curbs that give him space to ride on the just beginning to green lawns.

If he tries them, she has to try them.

One of her accidents was more than she could bear and she wanted me to call her mom to bring the car and get her.

There was blood. No shredding of the knee of her leotard, but her knee beneath the leotars was bleeding from a cement scrape. I did have Michael at my side, wondering why I don’t always carry band-aids. Apparently his mother always does. He is like the voice of a conscience that I no longer wish to carry.

Michael rides until he is breathless, back and forth on the pavement, and then spilling onto the lawn, splayed out there, resting, arms stretched out on the grass and his legs straight down. I go over and show him how he can bend them up and get a little relief for his back. He complies and then must like it for he stays that way while he catches his breath.

On the way home Michael pedals ahead of us and beats Alice to their front door. That fact is worse than the spills Alice has taken in the parking lot. She wants to be first at least part of the time. Her flood of tears begins just as we pass the coffee bistro on the corner. Like clockwork wailing begins just at that curb. Some of the outdoor patrons idly drinking coffee stare at us. There is nothing I can do, though it looks like I am the cause of her unhappiness.

I have watched her carefully as she rides, each knee just barely missing the handle bars and her shoulders are crouched down. That bike is not going to last her the whole season, though it is hard to know when to get her a new bike. At her rate of growth, she just barely gets comfortable on a bike before she has outgrown another it and needs another set of wheels.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Athens - Wyona and Greg


I planned another day off the ship in Athens, taking the bus, metro, tram and heading off to the Acropolis Museum which Greg was keen to see.

.... trolley in Athens ...

We headed for the tourist information, found out that we should take bus 843 not 859 like google said and we found out where to buy the bus ticket.

We were so smart, took the bus, took the metro, got off the metro but could not find a tram stop.

I asked a girl who got off where the tram stop was located.

We saw it but had to cross three lanes of traffic to a medium, cross another three lanes, cross the tram tracks, run up a path next to the tram tracks and there was the tram stop.

We made it.

Tram 3 came and we took it.

The ride was amazing.

We went by the sea, up some interesting streets and saw that all the buildings were five or more stories all the windows had balconies covered by large awnings, spied the ‘Hop On Hop Off’ a number of times so we knew we picked a good route.

... Athens apartments with awnings ....

When I went on google the night before all the stops were in Greek and written using the Greek alphabet.

So I carefully copied all the stops we needed in Greek.

Greg went up to check the map while we were on the train to see if we were on the right track to get us to the Acropolis Museum.

photo taken from bus in Athens; notice how long and hilly
After coming back and sitting down, he told me my Greek was perfect so we were on the right track, and we should get off one stop before the end of the ride.

Trouble was, the tram stopped two stops too soon and the tram track was blocked off. After walking, too long for me, I saw a bus 40.

This was the same bus I saw at the bus stop near the ship.

I informed Greg that I could not walk any farther so I was taking that bus 40 back to the ship.

by the sea on tram ride
Asked a Chinese girl which side of the street I should be on to get back to Piraeus, the port.

Followed her instructions and waited for the bus while Greg walked on without me.

The bus went through some pretty scary streets but I just took a seat, watched people get on and off the bus and held onto my bag.

So 50 stops and one hour later I was the last person on the bus and got kicked off but there was the ship and a smile on my face.

Safe at last!


More from Wyona

Photos which were not in my messages of Naples and Athens

.... trolley in Athens ...

... Athens apartments with awnings ....

photo taken from bus in Athens; notice how long and hilly

by the sea on tram ride

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Note from Curtiss Pilling

Hi Arta: 

At Kay Crabtree's funeral I told the congregation how, during high school study hall time, I used to hide a western pocketbook or magazine behind my textbook.  

One day the principal wondered what I found humorous in a Science text and caught me with a Mad Magazine. There was a cartoon about a summer cabin.  Later my cousin was building a cabin and I wrote this "Summer Cabin" poem. Kay heard me do it and liked it. 

Every time he would see me, quite often he would say "so they burned the damn thing down" as only Kay could say it. 

One Sunday I wrote this short note to him, the family found it and wanted me read at his funeral.

~ ~ ~


There’s some folks you meet that you wonder about,
Are they really on the square?
Can you count on them to just be the same
Anytime and anywhere?

Do they know you well one day
and seem to be your friend
But tomorrow they might walk right by
As if their neck won’t bend?

That’s what I like about you,
anywhere, anytime, any day,
You’re always fun and friendly,
you really are O Kay!

Curtiss Pilling
July 2009

~ ~ ~


We bought a Summer Cabin to fill a lifelong dream
Located on a boating lake, close to a fishing stream.

We planned how every summer we'd spend our time in play,
We'd boat and fish a little, then in the sunshine lay.

But the first year we discovered that the raindrops could get in
So we covered those old shingles with a new roof made of tin.

Next year we decided 'fore the playing would commence
To "spruce up" the place a little bit, we built a brand new fence.

Then something must've happened when we left there in the fall
"Cuz next year we did the sewer system, sceptic tank and all.

Last year it got a paint job, and we added a sundeck,
An’ replaced two rooms of carpet cuz the old ones looked like heck.

But this year on vacation, we'll get a hotel there in town,
When we figured the cost an' all the hard work, we burned the damn thing down!

Curt Pilling
Summer 1993

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

My Birthday is Coming

sitting in the plaza
... waiting for the Marble Slab Creamery to open ...
 I know that the best way to have a happy birthday for me is to plan it myself: think up an idea and execute it.

Now I could really care less about my birthday and in a perfect world, I would let it come and go.

But I noticed that Betty, Alice and Michael perked up when the first part of my sentence began with, “My birthday is coming …” and before I knew it, the second part of the sentence said, “… and I am having an ice cream party.” 

Right away they knew to start giving me two or three flavours each that I might choose to bring to the party. Michael wants vanilla with Nerds covering the top of the cone. He doesn’t care if it is a sugar waffle cone or not, but no glass bowls, please. Alice is staying with Tiger, Tiger, probably until she sees what Michaels looks like and then she will switch over. Betty is undecided.

On our trip today, Michael and I explored Aspen Landing and found a Marble Slab Creamery. Our noses were against the door until the woman who was opening the shop came over to ask us what we needed. We told her we were just window shopping and that we knew she didn’t open until 11 am, which was lucky for me, since Alice had picked the new shoes she wanted and we were on the road before then.

Anyway, my birthday is coming. If you will be around, please give me the flavour of your heart’s desire.

On the Absence of Colour

There was a time when having white hair was a sign of aging.

And indeed, women have been able to look ten years younger when they have applied dye to their hair.

Still, some women just go with the natural look.

I met up with Narda Nelson and Brenda Card, both of whom have hair as white as mine.

We are separated by decades as far as real years go.

LtoR: Narda, Arta, Brenda
So for us, white is a colour to be celebrated, except that white is not really a colour at all.

Absence of colour is to be celebrated.

Jean Card: March 5-1921 – April 9, 2019

March 6, 1921 - April 9, 2019
Mike Card’s grandmother died.

Of course Richard wanted to go to the funeral, since Mike’s grandmother had talked to him the same way she talked to Mike: frankly, giving lots of good advice.

I came to the funeral pay my respects and Alice wanted to go to the funeral as well, so her mom got her dressed up in church clothes and away we went.

Jennifer Logan gave the biography for Jean and her granddaughter, Caitlin Logan gave the gospel message.

LtoR: Arta Johnson and Mike Card
There were some take-aways which Richard and I discussed long after the funeral was over.

Take away number one: Jean like a good funeral.

The criteria was a short programme and lots of good food, so that was the intention of those who spoke.

After some funeral biographies I am left feeling, I wish I had known this person better. 

Mike told me we would look better in black and white
so he took an alternate picture.
Fewer skin blemishes, he said.
I think Jean would have laughed at that.
This was the case for me at this funeral.

Jean was a brilliant woman, graduating from school at the age of 14, but they had to wait until she was older to give her a diploma.

Jean was a child born during the depression and knew well the phrase, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

She married a career military man and so she became accustomed to moving her children and her household, sometimes at a minutes notice and she did this for the course of his career.

I think I was touched by two things.

When they moved back to Calgary, she taught at Van Horne, a school that gathered together teens with multiple problems.

She taught in the Home Economics room – training people to make beds or simple meals. Many students kept in contact with her long after they had graduated.

The miracle of her room was that often there were people sitting in class who were not registered to be there. Jean gathered everyone in.

While she was teaching there, she also went back to school since she her training had only been one year at the Normal School back in the 1930's.  Jean got her degree while teaching and still taking care of her family.  Once at church a man spoke on the evils of working mothers.  Jennifer remembers her mother approaching the man and letting him know that a woman could work, take care of her family, take courses at the university and still have time to crotchet the yellow dress her 9 year old daughter was wearing that day.

The other outstanding sentence for me at the funeral came from the talk by her grand daughter who said, "I lived with my grandmother for four years. I love her.

Alice wondering how long the funeral will be.
She doesn't know the answer is short and good food.
Caitin’s words reflected how she treasured this woman who had to have been at least 60 years her senior. I consider that some small feat.

Although good music was not a criteria for a good funeral, there was that also for Jean Card: a professional string quartet – 2 violins, a cellist and a pianist – all of whom were her relatives.

... Alice's hair finished off with a white ribbon...
Richard did like one other phrase that Caitlin reported Jean would use with people, a phrase from Thoreau: by wasting one’s time, one does injury to eternity.

Thus, Jean’s knitting needles were always moving, doing projects for others.

As I said, an acquaintance for me, a distance relative for Kelvin and a person I wish I had known better.


Living Next Door

The kids next door needed to have their teeth cleaned today. Miranda asked me if I wanted to go along to the dentist. That would make the ration of kids to adults would be 3:2 and not 3:1. This was an event not to be missed, if only to celebrate paying big bucks for a day’s work. Writing a cheque to the dentist is only rivaled by having to go to court and pay for a lawyer. Both sometimes necessary; both come with peeling hundreds of dollars out of one’s wallet. The kids were astonished at the cost. We explained that everyone has to be paid: the receptionist, the hygienist, the financial controller, the janitor, even the dentist. Still, the whole experience seem astronomical in terms of cash.

I played Lego’s in the dentist’s waiting room since a beautiful Lego table was set up . I also read to the girls, beautiful books, classics like “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein were at hand.

Betty, learning to light a tea light.

Whom else but grandmother will teach you
how to use a match.
As I was turning pages, Betty’s hands were pushing mine away, trying to do the turning, and I noticed her palms.

So dirty. I got the kind of glimpse of her hands that made me think instinctively, I have got to get her into the bathroom next door and wash her hands.

I have to lure her away from the dental office.

She refused to go.

I said I am going anyway by myself.

She followed.

When she follows after saying no, I always think, go figure.
Then I had to show her how much fun it is to wave my hand under the soap spout and that it is OK to take not just one or two, but three piles of creaming green soap on my hands, and then scrub, scrub, scrub. She followed but the soap did nothing. Still those dark creases on her hands like the gummy part of duck tape. I took her hands and began to work them myself picking that dirt off, which is when I had my aha moment. That little three year old girl’s hands have been on the geodome monkeybar-like structure in our back yard so much that she has created heavy callouses on the palms of her hands. Oooh, poor little thing.

I don’t know what I was thinking about. I have seen her hanging from the top bars, her feet not quite touching the ground, swinging her legs back and forth and reaching out her little foot to get stability on some part of that rounded structure. I am pretty sure if I lined up all three kids, it would be a toss-up as to which set of palms is the most calloused. No use trying to clean those marks up.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

On the Death of Kay Crabtree

Kay Crabtree was a real person.

He was also an enigma and a character of mythological proportion.

I get the two mixed up.   Cindy asked me if I would write a bit about her dad. I will write some fact and some fiction. I will leave it to you to figure out which is which. I am not too sure I could help with the question of which is which myself.

On Becoming a School Teacher
I knew that Kay Crabtree lived in Lola McPhee’s boarding house when he went to school in Calgary. Lola was a an older single friend of my dad’s, perhaps she was about his age. Doral must have told me that over the years many people had boarded with Lola. In those days there was something indiscreet about men and women boarding in the same house. But the community deemed this space safe for Lola was there to oversee the establishment. Boys downstairs. Girls upstair. Lola in between. She worked at Eatons during the day and cooked for her boarders in the evenings. Doral seemed to know her well enough that when he and I were in Eatons one day, he said, “Come with me over here. I want to say hello to Lola. And I bet she will give me candy.” At the counter they chatted for a minute and on his good-byes he said “Lola, have you got any good candy today.” She pulled out a white bag from her pocket and both Doral and I took a piece of what was offered.

And that is how I learned, in my teens, that it was just fine to go to the candy counter and buy just enough chicken bones or licorice to enhance the joy of my day. If Lola could do it, so could I. I also knew Lola had cats – at once time perhaps up to 20 of them which is something that Doral, as a dog person, couldn’t understand.

On getting to know Kay’s wife
Kay married a girl who was in Laurel’s with me at church. She was eighteen when they married. As the years passed by we had a passing acquaintance and then soon a deeper one when our children were older. Marge and I got to know each other through our joint love of playing racquet ball. During that period, I learned that Marge was looking for a deeper way to do service in her community than the church was offering and so she volunteered to help new immigrants learn how to speak English. I think Marge is the one who told me that her husband liked to read about the history of the Mormon church. Really liked it!

I wonder where Kay's autographed
copy of this book is.

I wonder if he even had Brooks autograph it.
On Stopping in to see Juanita Brooks
I don’t know how I learned that Kay had stopped in to see Juanita Brooks. She wrote an even handed history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre which implicated Mormon men in that shameful act, naming especially John D. Lee and Brigham Young was, at the very least, responsible for keeping a silence around that reprehensible act. This probably wouldn’t have been a story that was talked about from the pulpit, nor rehearsed in any Sunday School class. So when I learned that Kay, on one of his trips to Utah, had looked her address up, and then just stopped by and knocked on her door to talk about the reading he had done, and then to know she had invited him in. I don’t know who told me this. Maybe Marge. I was never brave enough to ask Kay to tell me more about the story of meeting Juanita Brooks face to face.

On Deeper Ways to Do Service
Kay had a different way of looking at things. He wasn’t happy to sit in a Ward Council and worry about how to take action when the need of a family in the ward for a new fridge, for example, became the subject of discussion for a few weeks in a row. He just wanted to go out and get the job done. Someone told me that once a family in the ward needed a significant amount of money and found that cash in their mail box, never knowing where it came from. The person who told me this said that the Crabtrees had been saving money to take their kids to Disneyland, but that trip didn’t materialize.

On going to the Crabtree’s home for a gospel discussion
Kelvin and I were invited to an evening fireside at the Crabtrees. As part of the trivia around that event, I can remember that Marge served us cranberry juice mixed with Sprite. I guess telling you this makes me feel that you will believe the rest of my stories – since I can add such trivia to my tales. Fred and Doreen Henderson were there. The talk turned to the practice of polygamy in the early church. I had just begun to take some Women’s Studies classes at the university and it was hard for me to buy into idea that women. who had other choices available, would want to practice polygamy. That night, I had the feeling that Kay was teasing me, and I didn’t want to take that bait. I could not read him well. Was he serious or was he laying out a problem, though I am sure I did not keep my mouth shut. Kay was looking at ideas that the early church embraced and now distanced themselves from. I could see why distance should be developed between those ideas and now.

On Wanting to Get a Better Grasp of the Bible
I heard that Kay and Marge had joined a community group that met during the week to study parts of the Bible. I might have envied that a bit, but my life didn’t have the extra time for that yet. I did bring home books from he library and study about Biblical texts on my own, but I had a secret desire to do as they did – find like-minded people and then chat about what was being learned.

Going to dinner at the boarding house
The Crabtrees had a cabin closer to the Shuswap Lake Narrows than the place where we lived in the summer. Sometimes the Crabtrees, the Dows, and others would come in their boats to Sicamous and then drive to a boarding house where the public could join the regulars at the boardig house on certain days of the week. Kelvin and I went along. The meal was fabulous, home-made and a chance to socialize with in the rural atmosphere of the boarding house. An evening to remember.

On Canoing up to the Crabtrees
I was looking for a way to bond with Rebecca. She was hardly in her teens yet. I told her that we would travel up to the Crabtrees by paddling the canoe up there. I had never been, had no idea of the distance, and I wasn’t really that good with the canoe. I told the Crabtrees we would be coming. When we arrived they were surprised. Probably horrified to find that we had come that way. We slept overnight and then they drove us home with their boat though I have no idea how the canoe came with us, when I think back to that event. And by the way, the trip had a negative effect. If Rebecca ever had wanted to canoe a bit, the length of the trip made any glimmer of that hope, disappear.

On Going to the Pinesdale Polygamy Colony
One Christmas season, Kelvin and I accompanied Kay and Marge to the Pinesdale Polygamy Colony. I don’t remember how long we stayed, though I do remember one of the days was a Sunday because I can remember that Sunday with great clarity. When we arrived in Pinesdale, Kay pulled groceries out of the back of his car. At least two turkeys and I can’t remember what else. “I have been here before. These people are poor,” he said. “I cannot come and eat their food without bringing a few groceries.” I have written extensively about that trip – pages of writing that I have put away and will probably never find again. Some of that story even appears in an essay Catherine did at University. I don’t need a clamour of people asking to read that. Just one or two requests would encourage me to find that.

On going to visit other polygamist groups
I don’t know when Kay was making trips to see other polygamist communities nor why he was interested in how they operated. For some reason, I was interested in what he was finding there. He told me once of a group of polygamist who were wealthy: professional people. They lived in a cul-de-sac, which gave them some privacy. The women were always dressed beautifully, and even did their housework in high heels and good clothes, always ready for the coming of the Saviour. I couldn’t see how that would work for me. I splash and stain my clothes when I am doing heavy duty house work – even light house work like loading the dishwasher can be a messy job for me. If God comes when I am doing that, he is just going to have to deal with finding me in messy clothes, I thought, while listening to Kay.

On Reading about Kay’s Life
After Kay and Marge joined the True and Living Church Community (TLC), I saw them once at Cindy’s. In the conversation, Kay told me that he had been keeping a journal of his time at the TLC I asked if I could read it. He told me no, that he was going home to Cardston and someday would start a fire on the prairies and burn it. I was aghast. I wanted to read those pages so much.

I am so sorry to have missed the funeral in Cardston. A legend. Bigger than life.

I loved Marge. I loved Kay.