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Every Life is a Story
    A place to share my own family stories

Monday, September 29, 2008


My grandparents lived on a farm. They had apple trees and cherry trees- big old ones that were great for climbing- if you got a little boost from someone. August and September at Grandma's house meant pitting cherries, and picking apples.

One day while my grandmother was watching my sister and I, she pulled out buckets and ladders and we set out apple picking. It was a lot of fun, climbing up the ladder to try and reach all of the apples. A perfect fall afternoon.

It was especially perfect for my sister who was in preschool at the time. She told everyone that when she grew up, she wanted to be an apple picker.

She didn't become an apple picker. She's not terribly excited to hear that I have apples that need to be picked on my tree. Maybe I can convince my girls that this would be a great future career...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Brushes with Fame

My husband served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when he was 19. Generally, when you get a mission call, it is an exciting event. A person could literally get called to serve in any part of the world. Jay was attending school here in Utah, but his family lived out in Maryland, so that's where he put in his papers. It meant that his mother got the mission call out there, and had to call him here to tell him where he was going. After that, he called me. The list of exotic locations was long, and I was just as excited as he was to find out where he was going. I was a little surprised when he told me that he was going to....the Salt Lake City Utah North Mission. He was staying right here in Utah. Where I was going to school.

We were very very good, and except for one truly accidental meeting while he was at the Missionary Training Center, we never saw each other beyond that. My packages always got to him, and his letters didn't take very long to receive, and that's as far as it went. We just never expected for him to serve in such an....ordinary place.....

It wasn't ordinary for very long. Soon after Jay left the MTC, and was placed in his first area, I got a letter from him describing missionary life, and his first companion. He wrote in his letter that his first companion, Elder Herrey, was a Swedish rock star. I thought he was kidding. His letter continued to describe Louis Herrey, who was in a band with his brothers called Herrey!. They had won a Eurovision song contest, and were well known throughout Europe. They hadn't made a debut in the United States yet, so when the time came to go on a mission, they were sent here where not many people had heard of him. He wasn't kidding. Jay was really missionary companions with a Swedish Rock Star!

Was he changed by his brush with fame and superstardom? Not really. Elder Herrey was his favorite companion. They had the same taste in music, for the most part, and Jay liked his sense of humor. They both had a strong devotion to the work that they were doing, and worked well together doing it. And that's really the way it should have been, and what serving a mission is all about.

Rock Stars aside, serving a mission in northern Utah turned out to be a wonderful experience for him. While it may have been pretty darn close to his college home, it certainly wasn't just an ordinary experience.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Teacher Moments

I taught second grade for three years before I became a mother and decided to stay home. I loved teaching, with all its ups and downs. Of course, I found that telling stories in the classroom was a powerful way to not only teach, but to get good behavior! The class always settled down for a story, and when I found myself with five minutes to spare, then I started telling a story.

I was stunned when I did the math and realized that all of the children that had been in my classroom had graduated from high school. I did NOT feel that old. How could they have grown so fast?

A few years ago at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, I was sitting in the crowded audience at the Scera Shell Theater waiting for Laughin' Night to start. It's a chaotic time, with people showing up hours early to get good seats. I was surprised when a lovely young woman came up to my seat from the crowd.

"Are you Mrs. Barnson?" she asked.

Surprised, I said, "Yes...."

She smiled, "I don't know if you remember me, but you were my second grade teacher. I'm Alicia..."

How could I forget her? She was in my very first class and she was lively and smart, and loved talking and doing things- something that sometimes got her in trouble. But only sometimes. Her home had burned in the middle of the school year and she had lost everything. I made very little as a schoolteacher, and was paying to put my husband through school. Money was VERY tight, but I had wanted to do something to help her situation. I used my scholastic book order points to get her a book. I'd wished I could do more...

"Alicia?! Look at you! You're so beautiful!" I really think that the joy you feel when you are reunited with someone after a time away from them is what it's going to feel like in heaven. It was a joy to see her.

"I just wanted you to know that I remember you telling us stories. It's why I come to the festival every year with my mother. I'm studying to be a teacher, and I want to tell stories to MY students. Oh, and I'm getting married!" she smiled and showed the diamond on her finger.

We talked for a little while, and she went back to her seat. I waved to her mother, a truly wonderful lady. I was stunned. There are teachers who teach for decades and never hear from any former students. I had only taught three. Hardly enough to be considered anything more than a beginning teacher. I had never expected such a gift. My stories really had made a difference.

"To be a person
is to have a story to tell."

- Isak Dinesen  

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