Saturday, April 18, 2015

Visiting the Salt Lake City Cemetery

Spring at the Salt Lake City Cemetery

I love cemeteries. I always have. I know some people don't love them, but when I visit a cemetery it calls to mind all the Memorial Day trips with my parents and grandparents. As children, my siblings and I were especially partial to cemeteries with headstones of all sizes and shapes. It was amazing to see stones taller than me. Some monuments begged to be climbed on, although my parents informed us it was not allowed in cemetery etiquette.

Rolling terrain of the Salt Lake City Cemetery

Cemeteries say a lot about who we are. A Shoshone cemetery in the Wind River area in Wyoming is different from the ones I visit on Memorial Day weekend. And I love them both. Each culture has its own burial traditions.  I have been to the sobering fields of Arlington and I have visited the artistic tombs of Pere Lachaise in France.Someday I really want to visit Highgate cemetery in London.

I have been to Charles Lindburgh's grave on Maui, and stopped at small family cemeteries on road trips. I have visited a Catholic cemetery and a Protestant cemetery in a small mining community in southern Utah, each with its own unique style. The Chinese cemetery was no longer there; a wealthy Chinese businessman paid to relocate it to China so that the remains of the Chinese immigrants could be buried in their ancestral homeland.

Sentiment on a headstone.

I love the poignancy of the human experience recorded in granite and sandstone: an infant buried near its parents, a family together in repose, a woman of ripe old age. I love the sculptures. The epitaphs range from humorous to profound.  I like history, too. Once on a family vacation we stopped by the grave of Wild Bill Hickok. I am forever grateful to a woman I will never meet who many years ago transcribed the headstone information in the Old Abercorn Cemetery in Quebec. I gleaned so many names, dates, and other important information about ancestors from her painstaking work of recording what was carved into fading headstones.

Apparently a relative of "The" Daniel Boone rests here.

On this visit to the Salt Lake City Cemetery, though, I had specific goals. First, a pair of great horned owls has been nesting in the cemetery for the past six years. I wanted to see an owl for my bird list. They nest in the cemetery in April, and it is easy to see why. The area has ample trees, wide open spaces for hunting squirrels and small rodents, and it is peaceful.  We tromped around for quite awhile before a cemetery employee pointed us to the trees the owls prefer this year. Sure enough, we found a great horned owl resting on a branch.

Great Horned Owl

It was impossible to get a great photograph, but you get the idea. We also saw an abundance of magpies, and one brown creeper. Brown creepers are on my short list of favorite birds, so that was fun.

Several years ago, I visited the Salt Lake City Cemetery looking for the marker of my husband's ancestor, William Lewis. We were unsuccessful in locating it that day, so armed with a map and location information, I set out to try again.

William Lewis marker, Salt Lake City Cemetery

It is pretty big. And prominent. I am not sure how we missed this the first time! However, it is also worn and faded, and I think the horizontal slab with detailed names and dates on the west side of this sandstone monument is new.

Surely we would have noticed this if it had been there before.

But, there he is, William Lewis. This marker calls him the "Poet Laureate of Wales." Who knew? 

Another great epitaph.

The Salt Lake City Cemetery has its share of stories. One is that a ghost will appear at Emo's grave if you go perform the proper ritual. "Emo's Grave" is really the grave of Jacob E. Moritz. (I hear cemetery security discourages people from attempting to summon the ghost. Bear in mind the cemetery closes at dusk). There are also tales of Jean Baptiste, who infamously robbed graves during his tenure as a gravedigger. He was eventually exiled to Fremont Island in the Great Salt Lake. One grave I wanted to visit is that of Lilly E. Gray. 

Grave of Lilly E. Gray in the Salt Lake City Cemetery

For some unknown reason, her gravestone is carved "Victim of the Beast 666." Lilly lived a pretty long life. The best information I came across in reading about her headstone is that her husband (who survived her) was considered to be a little bit crazy. So maybe he had this put on her marker because he was insane. I couldn't help but feel a little bit sorry for Lilly.

Sculpture in the Salt Lake City Cemetery

Overall, I thought my visit to the Salt Lake City Cemetery was a resounding success. Besides accomplishing my goals of seeing an owl and finding William Lewis' grave, I had a good walk, enjoyed great weather, soaked in the peace and solitude of the cemetery, and read several wonderful epitaphs. Also, the cemetery employees and caretakers we encountered were very nice and helpful.

Military section of the Salt Lake City Cemetery

If you visit the Salt Lake City Cemetery, you can pre-print a map showing the grave locations of prominent Utahns, many of them past presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Have an ancestor buried in the cemetery? I suggest a search of the online database or a visit to the cemetery office to find the grave location before heading out into the grounds. As the cemetery covers 250 acres, it is a good idea to know where you are going! The cemetery streets are laid out in a grid, so with a map, it is pretty easy to find your way around. Some of the "streets" are very narrow, so park on the wider roads and be prepared to do a little walking.

A request from one of the cemetery's residents!

This cemetery is a wonderful place to visit for all ages. It is beautiful, well-maintained,  and contains wonderful parts of our local history. You just might see some great birds as well!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Visiting The Lego Americana Roadshow

Iconic American buildings and memorials built out of Lego--what's not to love? Yesterday I checked out the displays at a local mall, and was amazed by the intricacy and detail of these models.

A view of the Capitol building

The Lego Americana Roadshow is touring malls around the country. This stop, in Utah, is the second mall on the tour.  The displays feature nine incredible models of American landmarks:  the Capitol, the White House, the Supreme Court building, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Old North Church, Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell. 

The Statue of Liberty

Master Builders spent many hours creating these wonderful models. I found the fabric design in the Statue of Liberty's dress particularly interesting. The design skill that went into forming Lego bricks into convincing fabric folds is pretty spectacular. 

Independence Hall

There are signs near each model giving the details about the construction, as well as information about the historical building or monument.  For example, the Liberty Bell took two Lego Master Builders 430 hours to complete. The sign also informs the visitor that the spelling of Pensylvania with one "n" was correct for the time period. The words are formed in Lego brick on the model bell.

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell is a 1:1 ratio construction, meaning this model is the same size as the actual Liberty Bell. The infamous crack on the bell is captured in brick. Each model has incredible attention to detail.

The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument towers over mall visitors. This giant obelisk may not have the intricate details of some of the other buildings, but is still impressive.

The White House

The White House compound includes the annex buildings. Make sure you walk around these buildings to see the details on all sides. I loved the little doorknobs on the building doors.

The Supreme Court

The model builders even built the relief sculptures on the building facades. The Lincoln Memorial has a Lego Lincoln inside. Mall patrons tossed pennies inside the model. I liked the statues outside the Supreme Court building.

Statue in front of the Supreme Court

The grandest model of all, by far, is the Capitol. It spans 25 feet 7 inches in the mall, and it took a team of eight builders 1700 hours to complete. It is a stunning centerpiece to this exhibit.

The Lego Capitol Building

If you need something to do this weekend with the kids, stop by Fashion Place Mall and check out the Lego. These models are impressive for visitors of all ages. There is also a Lego play area in the mall where your little builders can try their hand at building their own creations. 

The Lego Americana Roadshow has been at the Fashion Place Mall since March 7. This exhibit closes in Utah on the 22nd, so if you haven't had a chance to see it, swing by the mall today. The construction is amazing, and best of all, the event is free. The tour will continue in Colorado. For the complete roadshow schedule, check out the event's Facebook page.  For information about Fashion Place Mall, including a map, click here.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House - Week 10: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Cleaning, and Me

Mary & Laura Ingalls doing chores - illustration by Garth Williams

In the novel, Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Laura describes her mother's cleaning schedule. After the beds are made and the dishes are done, Caroline tackles the work for that day.
  • Wash on Monday
  • Iron on Tuesday
  • Mend on Wednesday
  • Churn on Thursday
  • Clean on Friday
  • Bake on Saturday
  • Rest on Sunday
I love the simplicity and rhythm of her routine. My days vary so much, I have not yet successfully assigned a particular chore to a set day. I am learning, though, that I need to accomplish basic chores early in the week. My chores also differ from Caroline's. She didn't have such items as "pay the bills," "clean the bathrooms," and "go to the grocery store" on her schedule. But then again, I don't have to devote entire days to ironing and mending clothes, either.

This week I struggled to fit in regular cleaning with the other things on my calendar and then inspiration hit. Mary and Laura are doing the chores. I have children! I assigned out some Saturday jobs and while they were being done, I got another file drawer under control. 

I might even have time to do some reading today! 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 9 - Creative Names for Filing Labels, and Other "Assign"-ments!

I am still de-junking the office! I haven't finished yet, but I haven't quit yet either. The sorting and purging goes on...and on...and on.  How on earth did I ever accumulate so much stuff?  On the bright side, I have purged enough papers that some of my file drawers are pretty empty and ready for the next step.  Under Julie Morgenstern's SPACE organization acronym, "Assign" follows "Sort" and "Purge. With 2015 financial papers piling up, it was time to assign them a new home.

There is room in the file drawer!

Of course, assigning means no more files labeled "Papers to File" or my favorite, "Miscellaneous." I had to actually make decisions about the papers. In the book "One Year to An Organized Life," Regina Leeds suggests several filing categories to contain the paper tornadoes that whirl through our lives. I read her ideas, and then went to work on my own system.

There just isn't a way to make file drawer photos interesting. But it IS all organized.

I have my prior-year financial information in one drawer, along with old tax returns, and then have my current financial files in the other drawer. Yes, that should keep me from searching frantically for my 2015 papers during next year's tax season. I also made files for insurance information (life, auto, homeowner's, health, and the insurance I bought on our aging water line that could disintegrate at any time).  Then I ran into paperwork on my AAA membership. Where, exactly, am I supposed to file that? Hmmm.  Miscellaneous? No, not again. I am NOT making new "miscellaneous" files.

I ultimately decided to file the AAA papers in a file near my auto insurance. After all, AAA is my insurance for roadside assistance, right? And I decided I am more likely to look for the information near my insurance policies than in a paid bill file.

After my files were set up, I took my stack of 2015 documents and filed them away. It takes a little time to get used to a new system, and it felt a little awkward at first. I am sure I will make adjustments to my files along the way. I am hoping as I use these files regularly, I will get more efficient at my filing.

The box pile is shrinking!

This "Assign" phase entails a lot of decision making. What will happen if I grow weary of making decisions about all of these papers? I think I will check a thesaurus and see how many other ways I can label "Miscellaneous."  (Sundry, Odd, and Motley all sound promising. I think I might be on to something!)

Happy Filing!

Friday, February 20, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 8 - Organized People Don't What???

When I was young, I shared a bedroom with my sisters. On Saturdays, we cleaned our room. Usually this was a "dust and vacuum" kind of job, but periodically it was time to clean under the beds and inside the drawers. My sisters magically whipped through this task, and I was left alone in my room with, well, stuff. I would organize and tidy a drawer, and then there was always this little pile of things left over. Things I wanted, but didn't really know how to categorize. How could my sisters put away all of their things and have their spaces look so tidy so quickly? What did they do with their little odds and ends?

I have since read that organized people don't have "miscellaneous." What? They don't have a miscellaneous drawer. They don't have a miscellaneous file. They don't have a miscellaneous pile of stuff left over. What do they do with all their miscellaneous?? Apparently, the belongings of organized people have a home. A place for everything and everything in its place. It makes sense. I mean, if I like an item enough to hang on to it, I should honor it with a place to stay, right? But all my life, I have had these little piles of things or or little stacks of papers left over when I clean. That is one habit I need to change!

I am determined not to have miscellaneous hanging around when I am through with this cleaning project. The office is testing my commitment, but I am pressing forward. As I cleaned out old files this week, I noticed evidence of my cleaning issues archived through the years. For your reading pleasure, here is a list of actual labels on old file folders I found this week:
  • Current!!
  • Immediate!
  • Miscellaneous (you knew it had to be there, right?)
  • To File (really? A FILE of things to file? Why didn't I just file those papers in the first place?)
  • And my favorite...RANDOM RECEIPTS.
I laughed, too. And I am not going to use those labels ever again.

Maybe new filing supplies will help?

Filing is taking a toll on my motivation, so today I sneaked in an errand to the office supply store. I love looking at new office supplies and notebooks. Maybe having new, colorful folders will make filing less of a chore. While at the store, I found a little notebook on clearance with a great Dr. Seuss quote. Maybe it will keep me motivated until the end of this project.

Great quote for inspiration.

Because the sorting is taking so long, I decided I needed to tackle one project that I could actually finish today and feel good about the accomplishment. I decided to sort, purge, and tidy up one shelf in my office. This shelf holds National Geographic magazines. I love National Geographic. I love it because it is a great magazine. I love the articles. I love the photos. And I have a lot of nostalgia for this magazine. When I was growing up, my grandparents had a bedroom in the basement they called "the library." Now, I have always wanted a library, so of course this room was a favorite place to explore. There were books on the shelves, some of which we read when we were visiting. And there were National Geographic issues. I could read current issues upstairs while the adults visited. But I could also look at old issues down in the basement. I remember following Jane Goodall's chimpanzee research through the years, and I eagerly awaited the regular updates that appeared in the magazines.

Sorting National Geographic

I don't have a library or the shelf space to keep all the magazines that come through my mailbox. And I have subscribed to National Geographic for most of my adult life. Today some more magazines had to go. It was easier than I thought it would be. I did a quick sort, let my kids save a few they were interested in, and fit them all neatly on one shelf in my office. There is even room for all of the new 2015 issues yet to come! I am happy to have something to show for my work today. Wish me luck ridding my life of "miscellaneous!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 7 -The Paper Chase

Place I Would Rather Be!

 Last week I was pretty hopeful as I dug through boxes and generated bags of paper for the shredder and the recycling bin. I cleared one file drawer, and could see the potential in a couple of other drawers.

One File Drawer Ready to Go!

However, my clutter-attention span is notoriously short. And this week seems very daunting. Those tax back-up documents I need are also proving to be rather elusive, which should teach me to set up a good filing system right now for the 2015 papers. Then at least I will avoid the paper chase next year!

Before I dive into yet another box and chase more paper around in the sort and purge phase of this process, I am going to digress. Here are the things I would rather be doing right now:
  • Relaxing on a beach
  • Skiing
  • Taking a nap
  • Reading a book
  • Eating chocolate...
Oh wait! I can make those last two happen!!

What are your favorite distractions?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sophie Scholl and The White Rose - What Would You Do For Freedom?

I am a bit weary of film sequels and  remakes crowding the theaters with their long action sequences and heavy-CGI. The Sundance Film Festival just wrapped up in Utah, and the Oscars are approaching, so I was craving a movie that was a little different from standard theater fare. On a whim, I browsed the Foreign Film shelf at my local library last week and found "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" on DVD. (The film is in German with English subtitles).

Sophie Scholl particpated in the The White Rose resistance movement, along with her brother Hans, during World War II in Germany. I had actually seen a film about the White Rose at the International Cinema when I was in college, and then several years ago, I read a book about Sophie and the White Rose, so I was familiar with the story.

Sophie and Hans Scholl honored on a stamp.

In 1942, Hans Scholl (Sophie's brother) and some friends from the University of Munich started a resistance movement which Sophie (also a student at the university) joined. Over a period of about 8 months, this group produced and distributed leaflets that called for the German people to actively oppose the Nazi regime. One of the six leaflets they produced called for "Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states."  The pamphlets drew quite a bit of attention (anywhere from 6,000 to 9,000 copies of the fifth pamphlet were distributed in multiple cities, mostly by mail). The production and distribution of these leaflets was quite a feat given the difficulty of acquiring paper, stamps, and the equipment to make copies in  war-time Germany. The Gestapo was working hard to find and punish the perpetrators.

Spoiler Alert:  the film is titled "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days." It takes place during the distribution of the sixth leaflet and shows Sophie's capture, interrogation, and trial. Sophie and Hans Scholl, along with fellow-resistor, Christoph Probst were executed on February 22, 1943.

Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst.

Is the film worth a look? Most definitely! This film was nominated for an Oscar in 2006 for Best Foreign Film. The acting is superb. I loved this film for several reasons.

  • The historical account is fascinating, and much of this film is taken from transcripts of the trial and eyewitness accounts. The film manages to capture the drama and suspense of the events.
  • I think it is important to recognize that many Germans were not complacent during Hitler's rule in Germany, and not only knew what was going on, but were trying to unite other Germans to act against Hitler. 
  • Freedom of speech is something that is easy to take for granted here in America. Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst were executed for speaking freely...a right that had been theirs in Germany prior to Hitler's rise to power.
  • This film makes me question what my actions would have been in similar circumstances. Would I have acted to reclaim freedoms of speech and religion? Would I have spoken out against the murder of fellow citizens? This is a very thought-provoking film.
  • Sophie Scholl was an incredibly intelligent and articulate young woman, and this film portrays those qualities.She and the other members of the White Rose were not trying to be cast as heroes. They simply wanted to do the right thing.  Watching Sophie (played by Julia Jentsch) handle her interrogation and trial with strength and dignity is amazing.

Sophie Scholl was only 21 years old. Her brother Hans was 24.  As Sophie walked to her death, she said "The sun still shines." 

Sophie Scholl

Yes, Sophie, 72 years after your death, the sun still shines on you and others like you who stand for what is right with courage and grace.

For more information on Sophie Scholl and The White Rose, check out these links:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

52 Weeks to a Clean House: Week 6 - If I Don't Come Out, Send a Search Party!

Home Office Space

I am loving the organized kitchen, and we are happily maintaining clear counters and clean sinks (no dirty dishes piling up!) The whole family is on board, and it is great. That almost gives me enough courage to tackle the catch-all space we call the "office."   There are lots of reasons to tackle this space next. The biggest reason is that this space is probably the most difficult space in the house. I believe if I am able to get this room organized and functional, then the rest of the house will be much, much easier.

My kitchen flows in one straight line into my dining room. It is all one big room. We did that intentionally when we remodeled, and I love it. At the dining room, however, the space turns north 90 degrees forming an L-shape. It is this northern open area that is our family disaster area. It holds books, scrapbooking supplies, photos, files, magazines, crafts, school supplies, office supplies, family history records, the home computer, and more. It is used by the entire family.

Books, scrapbooks, Lego and more!

 There are also some boxes.  What is in those boxes? I am not quite sure. But I am sure they all contain PAPER. Paper is my nemesis. Getting control of the tornado of paper that swirls through my home would be a major accomplishment and a big improvement in my life.

Dreaded pile of boxes

Since tax season is upon us, and since the papers needed for me to work on those tax returns are somewhere in this space, I figure it is time to go to work. I wish the documents I needed had a tracking beacon, but I know they are in here somewhere.

Photos (at least they are in boxes by year!)

I am planning to work through my office using organizer Julie Morgenstern's SPACE acronym.  SPACE stands for Sort, Purge, Assign a home, Containerize, and Equalize.  Today my goal is to sort and purge at least one of those annoying boxes. I have a feeling the office will take longer than the kitchen, but I am trying to stay optimistic.

Someone's projects.

If you don't hear from me the next week or so, send out a search party. I am lost in a mountain of paper!

Do you deal with paper clutter effectively in your home? What are your best tips?

Great link to tips on using the SPACE system

Monday, January 26, 2015

52 Weeks to A Clean House: Week 5 - Refrigerator Wars

I once had a poster that listed 101 ways to say "No" to something. One of the excuses included "I am making a movie about the thing that grew in my refrigerator."  If you have ever lived with roommates at college, you know what a viable excuse that is.

Removing everything from my fridge so I can clean.

My sophomore year of college, the kitchen of my apartment took on a horrible odor. My roomies and I were stumped. We took out trash, cleaned, and tried to locate the smell. Finally, we realized it was coming from beneath the refrigerator. Someone had spilled milk in the fridge, and it had flowed down into the area beneath the appliance, rotted, and now smelled like vomit. It was incredibly awful, and I think the roommates who cleaned up this rank mess deserve a medal.

Today as I started to clean my refrigerator, I was happy to find it was not in such a messy state, My husband routinely helps put away groceries, and while he is at it, he wipes out refrigerator produce drawers and tosses old food, so the fridge stays in pretty good shape. Still, it was time for a thorough cleaning.

Squeaky clean refrigerator!  Now if I can get those shelves back in...

Here are my observations from today's kitchen cleaning:

  • I almost needed an engineering degree to remove refrigerator drawers and shelving, and get it all put back together.
  • Baking soda is my favorite kitchen cleaner for tackling grime.
  • It is a great victory when you remove expired food from your refrigerator AND get it in the trash can before garbage pick-up that day.
  • If you don't know how long something has been in your refrigerator, chances are it has been there too long.
  • It is best to clean the fridge before a trip to the grocery store...fewer items to take out!

I just have this week left to finish my kitchen, and things are looking good. I still have to clean a few miscellaneous cabinets and drawers, and the stove and oven.  Thankfully the oven is self-cleaning. And there are two clutter piles left for me to deal with, and one tiny landfill of papers by the toaster that belongs to my spouse, but I am pretty confident the kitchen will be clean and organized by January 31!

Fridge art, yes or no?

A last thought about refrigerators:  many organizing books say a fridge should have a clean exterior, meaning no items on the outside of your fridge. I admit the look is uncluttered, and it is easy to wipe off fingerprints or marks if there is nothing on your fridge. But my family is used to our fridge calender. Our fridge is also a mini-art gallery sporting magnets of famous paintings collected on various trips, as well as scenes from national parks. Those fridge magnets are fun memories of family vacations. So, I am torn about having a pristine refrigerator exterior, and having things I love on the front of my fridge.

What is your preference? Fridge art? or clean slate?

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Art By the Side of the Road...

Sign for Moqui Cave

One of the things I love about road trips is the odd and wonderful things you find by the side of the road. On a trip to the Grand Canyon, as we neared Kanab, UT, my husband and I saw a sign for the Moqui Cave. It looked like an obvious tourist trap, but we weren't in a big hurry, so we decided to take the tour.

Entrance to the Moqui Cave

It was a much better stop than I anticipated. Not only did the Moqui Cave have a colorful local history, but cavernous rooms inside now contain geology and artifact collections of museum quality. The cave has been used by humans since the Anasazi period. It was a Speakeasy during the 1920s, and in the 1950s it was converted to a tavern and dance hall. The inlaid bar counter contains semi-precious stones from Brazil, and is beautiful. The cave also houses pottery and artifacts from native peoples, and a big collection of fluorescent rocks. We enjoyed our time at Moqui Cave, and thought it was well worth the stop.

Here are a few other oddities I have seen by the side of the road.

World's Largest Dinosaur

Yup, we paid the fee here, too. We climbed up into the mouth of the World's Largest Dinosaur in Drumheller, Canada. Also worth the price of admission.

I love road signs.

Road signs are great, and this one had an amazing cloud formation behind it. When you see signs that say things like "Plates on the Road," it is completely worth it. 

Cemeteries are always worth a look.

I am a sucker for cemeteries.  This little cemetery in Utah is surprisingly well-kept. Family members still gather here every year, and it is very pleasant. Again, just something we saw out the car window by the side of the road that begged us to stop for a few minutes.

Wilson Arch

Wilson Arch outside of Moab, Utah, is a great natural roadside attraction. I've passed it many times, but one lovely day we stopped to take a closer look.

Truck in Nine Mile Canyon.

Who can resist this great old truck? The sagebrush in the hood is almost comical. I am not sure if it is a statement about man's blight on the land, or on nature's power to reclaim its territory. Loved seeing this, though.


We passed this rock on the way to the Spiral Jetty.  Looks like a likely spot for an alien landing. Perhaps this rock is giving directions?

Shoe Tree

One of my new favorites was this tree full of shoes we passed driving from Great Basin National Park back to Delta, Utah.  I don't know who started throwing shoes in this tree, but obviously several other people have joined the fun.  Litter? Art? Social bonding? Whatever your perspective, it is a sight to behold.

I can't wait to plan another road trip and see what else I will discover by the side of the road!
What are some of the best "roadside atractions" you have seen?