We all have specific days that are emblazoned in our memories. Some of them are happy days, some of them are sad days, but they are there, ready to pop up unexpectedly. I have one such day spent with my Great-grandfather.

I could not have been more than ten years old. We had gone to Blanding, Utah to see my great-grandparents, Grandpa and Grandma Hurst. One day on this visit, I spent working outside with Grandpa Hurst.

It was probably a typical day for him. We worked in the yard and picked grapes in the grape arbor. The grape arbor was build around a frame with grapes growing up the sides and over the top so it was completely shaded when you went inside. We went into the root cellar and got potatoes and carrots out for dinner and took them into Grandma Hurst.

Then we worked together to make a bug catcher. We made a large flat square pan out of metal and then made a frame for it so it was about waist high for a grown-up. We filled the pan with sugar water and hung a light very close to it to attract and catch the bugs. We talked, or rather I talked, non stop and followed Grandpa Hurst around in the beautiful crisp spring air, feeling safe and happy.

That night, we sat on the back lawn eating dinner. Their house was far too small to have company inside for a meal. As we sat and visited and ate, someone commented on Grandpa Hurst’s fine bug catcher. Grandpa Hurst thanked him and said “I couldn’t have done it without Sandra.”

Now, you know and I know that a nine/ten year old girl working outside with an 80 year old man is no help. When I look back now, having moved closer to his end of the life spectrum, I know I must have been a great bother to him. However, he never made me feel that way and with that one simple statement immeasurably raised my self-esteem.

Knowing my great grandparents makes me one of the lucky ones. My great grandfather and great grandmother were George and Mary Hurst. I knew and loved both of them.

My Great-grandma’s house was huge. It was surrounded by at least 5 acres of land. The grape arbor stretched on for yards and yards. The barn was big enough to house a jet. The animal pens were so tall even Great-grandpa Hurst couldn’t see over them and he was tall. The trees surrounding the house were full grown and offered comfort and shade. At night the air was crisp and clean as we sat and visited and played and ate out on the back lawn. I used to play for hours in the grape arbor. The root cellar was a little frightening for me, I only went down there when an adult went with me, but when I entered, the musty smell of moist earth and stored vegetables was so inviting. It told my senses that there would always be food at Great-grandma’s house.

Great-grandpa Hurst had made a box for cutting homemade bread. It was simply a three-sided box; just the size of a loaf of homemade bread with a slit to put the knife in just far enough back from the front to cut a perfect slice of bread every time.

I don’t remember where I slept at my Great-grandma’s house, but I always looked forward to visiting this place in southern Utah.

Several years ago I revisited Great-grandma’s house. I drove right to it after a 30-plus year absence. There it was in all its run-down-splendor. A little bitty, one bedroom house sitting on about 1 acre of land. The grape arbor, long since dead, was there--about 10 feet long. The barn was there, about the size of an average barn. The bug box Great-grandpa made and filled with honey to catch the night insects while we sat in the backyard was still there, dry and useless. There was a bed frame and springs sitting out on the front lawn, well used by the local small animals. The windows were all gone and the remnants of curtains blew out through the gaping holes. This grand palace was just a little, pitiful piece of property no one wanted. I stood looking on and remembered that I was surprised to find out that the reason for the bread box cutter was because Great-grandma had gone so blind she could not see to cut a straight piece of bread. And I remembered the story my mother related to me about a time we were all there sleeping—outside, on the floor, on the couch—she had to get up in the night and go to the bathroom. There was only one bathroom and you had to walk through Great-grandma’s room to get there. When she tip-toed in she saw Great-grandma with her head on Great-grandpa’s chest, he with his arm around her, both sound asleep, they were both in their 80’s then. I feel grateful to have been included in that kind of love.

Maybe no one wants that land, but oh, how I hated to walk away.

You all got me curious. Okay, so my picture was taken 15 years ago, but I don't mind having Rachel Welch and Sally Field on my look alike list. They probably don't look like their pictures any more either. :-)

This is my husband, Lee. They really missed the best look alike for him. Magic Johnson.

This is my middle child, Tori. Jennifer Jason and Fergi. Kewl. She looks a lot like Jackie Kennedy too.


This is my youngest daughter, Celia. She had a bunch of people I have never heard of. Christie Brinkley was a good match, Norma Shearer--definitely, Vanna White--no doubt. Indira Gandhi only intellectually and compassionately.

Today, April 20, 2007, we had a bomb scare at the Arizona State Capital where I work. We all went outside to wait and there was a young man there who was visiting the Capital. He had blue hair, parted down the middle with a goatee that was braided with blue beads to match the color of his hair. It reminded me of another Christmas memory.

I think it was 1961. We were living in the "Ellsworth house" in St. Johns, Arizona. My Mom gave my sister, Inez, and I several cans of colored hair spray as Christmas presents. She bought us one of every color, green, blue, pink and silver.

After opening them Christmas morning and trying them on our hair, which was fabulous dawling, Inez and I decided to spray some on Mom. She resisted so a chase ensued. Inez and I got her down on the floor and sprayed the bottom of both of her feet blue. She then got up and began chasing us to spray both of us when one of us stepped backward and stepped right on her foot and broke her little toe.

It immediately swoll to three times its size and turned black and blue. We put her in the car and rushed her to the emergency room. When she put her feet up on the gurney there they were, both feet bright blue on the bottom.

We all still laugh about the look on the dotor's face when he saw it.

That year we spent Christmas in Illinois with Uncle Howard and Auntie Patty and their children, Bruce, Cindy, Karen and Craig. As you can imagine, this was a devastating time for us. Mom was, understandably, depressed and trying to deal with the heartache that accompanies such events.

I don’t recall anything that happened leading up to Christmas morning, but I will never forget that day. The girls were all sleeping in one room and the boys in another. The girls woke up early and whispered out into the hall to see if the boys were awake. When we realized everyone was awake we schemed to wake up Uncle Howard and Auntie Patty. It must have been very early. They told us to go back to sleep. When our giggles were more than could be contained, they called us into their bedroom where we all knelt down for family prayer. This singular event was so awesome. Uncle Howard humbly reminded us--all that we possessed was a gift from our Heavenly Father--and expressing our gratitude before opening our presents was mandatory. Only then were we allowed to go downstairs where the tree was. I was ten years old and am not sure what I expected, but never did I expect what actually happened.

Sitting on the couch right where we could see it when we went downstairs was a bride doll that walked. One for each of us and a princess dress for each of us that my Mom had made. Mine was gold brocade with black netting ruffled on the straps.

Uncle Howard and Auntie Patty had made sure that we did not feel left out. We got just as much Christmas as their children received and more than anything, we were loved and we knew it. That probably did more to save my delicate psyche than anything else. My good mother made sure I knew that they had done this and I can never thank them enough for their kindness and love.

I have been to:
--see the Tulip festival in Holland
--Norway, Denmark and Sweden
--England with Flat Maddison
--Cancun with Celia
--Grand Canyon with Lee and his Mom, Nellie Bagley
--Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Hawaii, Illinois, California, Washington State, Washington DC, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Tennessee, Arizona, Alaska and Pennsylvania
--Navajo Reservation
--Apache Reservation
--Arlington Cemetery
--a rodeo
--a Phoenix Suns game, a Cardinals game, a Rattler's game, Diamondback's game and a Coyote game
--the Electronic Show in Las Vegas
--a boxing match with my Dad when I was 8
--Real Estate Convention in New Mexico
--the Statue of Liberty
--the Eiffel Tower
--the Leaning Tower of Pisa
--the Arch de Triomphe
--the Roman Coliseum
--the Louvre

I have been in:
--the Mesa Arizona Temple, Manti Temple, Salt Lake Temple, Logan Temple and Dallas Temple
--the Vatican
--an art class
--heaven in ecstasy
--the deepest pits of self-pity
--restaurants that treat you like royalty
--restaurants that were simply holes in the wall
--two different bands
--the desert
--an infomercial
--an audition for Warner Brothers
--a Sylvester costume for Warner Brothers
--the presence of new life

I have been:
--swimming in the Mediterranean
--on the roof of the Temple in Bern Switzerland
--at the top of a Mayan Temple
--riding on a zip line
--blessed by a Mayan Priest
--swimming in a Cenote
--white water rafting
--performing live on a stage as an actress, dancer, singer, and guest speaker
--a witness to 2 accidents where someone died
--swimming in the Great Salt Lake
--healed by the power of Priesthood
--playing the tabernacle organ
--flying in an airplane
--jumping out of an airplane
--riding on a bicycle
--riding on a train
--riding on a bus
--riding on a horse
--hoeing loco
--herding cattle
--fishing in the ocean
--on two cruises
--dancing on a table
--riding on a motorcycle
--riding in a limousine
--riding in a Hummer
--riding in an Air Force transport plan strapped in on a webbed seat that runs along the side of the plane with a Hummer strapped in the back of the plane being send to the US for repairs
--hopping on a pogo stick
--on more than one mountain top
--watching a life end
--deathly ill
--the picture of health
--among the beautiful things in the world
--among the ugly things in the world
--filled with the Holy Ghost

Looked in the mirror and realized I was not young and cute any more. You don't say that to people because they feel obligated to say it isn't true, but believe me, it is true. That does not mean that I hate myself, or that I think I am "ugly." It simply means I recognize my maturity of age and accept it with dignity.

Now, what did I do for my birthday? I did a tandem jump out of an airplane at 13,000 feet.

For a year before the event, I told everyone I knew that I was going to do it. That kept me from backing out. I didn't think much about it until someone died in a tandum jump the week before my jump. I thought about changing my mind, but wanted to try it bad enough that I did not cancel.

The day of the jump, Lee and Dan Erwin, a computer programmer from the Arizona State Legislature, went with me to Eloy, Arizona. Dan jumped. Lee kept his feet firmly planted on the ground. We had no preconceived ideas so each thing that happened was a marvel to us. Upon arrival, we found this is no "fly-by-night" operation. Rather, it is one of the largest jump sites in the United States. People were jumping and landing everywhere.

After a brief video giving us every reason to back out possible by scaring us to death, we got our gear. I was given a jump suit big enough for Shaq. At first, I was going to just wear it, but I knew a video was being taken of everything I did and I just could not stand to have that on in the video. So, I got up my courage and asked for another jump suit. It was tight, but it looked and felt much better. Trying to recall the entire day, the next hour is all muddled together with the videographer taking pictures, my jumping partner outfitting me with a harness, seeing the "Warning, Danger!" sign on my back, going to the bathroom, twice and waiting.

We got on a little open bus that took us to the airplane. We walked across the tarmac to the plane and entered from the rear where the plane opened up for the jump. With an altimeter on my wrist to let me know when we were high enough to jump, I sat back and “relaxed.” Funny thing, I was not nervous, excited, but not nervous. My jumping partner sat behind me and fell asleep. Why that disappointed me, I don’t know, perhaps it was because I wanted him to realize how exciting this was for me.

When our turn to jump came up, he instructed me to put my head back and let him walk me to the edge. If I were doing it again, I would not put my head back. I wanted to see us jump, with my head back, I didn’t see it coming.

Out of the plane, we tumbled a couple of times and then put our arms out and leveled off in a free fall for 55 seconds. At about 30 seconds I recall thinking, “Okay, I have done the free fall, now pull the chute.” The wind was so strong it was as though we were not falling at all. It was like we were lying on a clear plastic plate with a very forceful fan blowing in our faces. My mouth got dry, it was cold and my hair was standing right straight up. Doing it over, I would wear something warmer and wear a hat.

I pulled the ripcord and put us into the float mode. It was an amazing transition. No wind, no sound, no feeling of danger, just floating. We could see for miles. Airplanes were taking off, people were jumping and landing. All this going on around us and yet, while we could see it, it was as though we were all alone in the world and at peace.

Landing was another story. We were going to land on our rear ends, however, my partner changed his mind at the last minute and decided we could land standing up. He didn’t tell me in time and we landed with a thump. It did not hurt, but a few days later, I had quite a bit of back pain, it took me about 3 weeks of stretching to get rid of it. When we landed I quoted Kathryn Hepburn from The African Queen “Never has any mere physical experience been so exhilarating.” I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.

Would I do it again? Nope, like turning 60, once was enough.

I asked my children what they recall about dinner at our house.

I recall eating each meal together as a family. When the children were small it was easy to plan meals around their father's schedule and eat together, when they were teenagers we lived in the small town of Eagar, Arizona, where restaurants and fast food places were scarce. That meant that eating at home was the normal thing to do. I was the cook. The hard part was being creative. I owned a bazillion cookbooks. They were all stollen when we moved in 2000. Strange, the only thing stollen from us was the box of cookbooks with all my notes and favorties marked.

Conversation came naturally to us. We did not have the TV on during meal time. My recollection is that this was a relaxed and pleasant moment in our day.

Here is what my daughter, Tori, told me.

"I remember every Sunday having roast and when we were younger always making Jell-O. In Round Valley [Springerville/Eagar] I remember having tacos on New Years [she meant Christmas Eve, I'm sure]. I also remember times when we had enchilada casserole and spaghetti with the noodle bars [I asked her what noodle bars are--when she tells me, I will add it to the post]. I remember in Mesa one time you made cold soup. I didn't eat any, I thought it looked gross. I also remember having Sunday dinner with Aunt Velma. And of course I remember you making liver and onions and waiting until you left to have Brian eat it. In turn, I ate his peas. I don't know why I don't remember eating together, I just remember what we ate."

Here is what my daughter, Celia, told me.

"I remember having to eat that entire case (seemed like 10 cases) of beets. It was the only time I wished our family were bigger. I remember the flowered plastic plates all having beet stains on them and we always put the beets on the same spot. In my memory, we ate them with everything, enchilada casserole and 2 beets, meatloaf and 2 beets, etc.

This memory is followed by the next item we were to eat from our year supply, the peanut butter. I remember being VERY happy when Dad loaded up his toast with generic peanut butter, took a bite, spit it out and said he was drawing the line there. He suffered through the beets but there was no way he was eating this nasty peanut butter. We could afford to buy real peanut butter and we could give our year supply stuff to someone else.

I also remember eating that gender-confused chicken Dad killed because it crowed every morning at 5:00 am and he was on vacation. Mom decided we would eat it, so she plucked it and let it cook all day while we were out (seems like it was a Sunday - but I am sure I am wrong). [She is correct, it was a Sunday.] We came home and she served it up and we all sat there looking at it. Someone finally tried it and it was just gross, tough and stringy and blah. She didn't make us eat it and I was very relieved.

I remember eating together most of the time. Sunday slow-cooked roasts are a big memory as well and the Christmas Eve tacos."