Sunday, July 29, 2012

Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten

That was the title of a popular book in the late 1980s.  I had the poster on the wall of my dorm room.

I'm not sure if it is because I'm getting older or because we just graduated our oldest daughter this week, but I've been a bit nostalgic these days.  For today's Saturday project, I tackled one of my closets that has been neglected for a long time.  When we moved into our house 6 years ago, the last bits and pieces from my childhood that remained at my mom's house were boxed up and shipped to me in Utah.  I've opened the boxes a few times....then promptly closed them because I was overwhelmed by the amount of work it would take to go through those boxes.  Today, I tackled the job head on.

I wasn't too terribly surprised by the contents of the boxes.  I had packed them myself.  I was surprised by the stuff that I had held on to over the years.  I graduated from college 20 years ago, and I found all of the ballots from my college speech tournaments (or several of them).  Why did I ever hang on to that stuff?  I also found almost ALL of my exams from my undergraduate political science courses.  Again, who keeps that stuff?  Apparently, I'm three steps way from being a guest star on "Hoarders."

Then I got to the "good stuff."  I'm a sucker for kid art, and I knew that deep in the dark corners of these obnoxiously large boxes were some art projects dating back to my Kindergarten years.  My mom had seemingly kept almost everything from that first year.  As I was admiring my handiwork, I found the Kindergarten handbook for Millington East Elementary School.  I attended Kindergarten in Millington, Tennessee where my dad was stationed in the Navy.  For those who aren't aware, it is not far from Memphis.

If I had seen this document before, I wasn't aware of it.  I remember many things about Kindergarten.  I know that might be difficult to believe, but it is true.  I actually remember my very first day of school.  I went with my parents and met my teacher with a small group of kids....I think there were four or five of us in the group.  We got to play on the playground equipment.  I remember that I had a locker at school.  I remember doing crafts...lots of crafts.  I remember learning how to read.  I remember that we had nap time.  Most of all, I remember my teacher:  Mrs. Carter.

Over the years, I have wondered about her.  She was a young teacher in 1975.  Last year when Dean and I took the kids to Memphis, we drove out to Millington to get some Steak and Shake.  I had programmed the GPS to head to the the elementary school, but by the time we managed to get out of the restaurant, it was too dark to drive by.  There is not a year of my life that has gone by that I haven't had fond thoughts of Mrs. Carter.  Now that I have children of my own, I appreciate teachers more than I ever thought possible...and I already had great respect and admiration for my own teachers.  I cried when Dominique was done with elementary school, and I'm sure I'll cry when she's done with middle school next year.  Those young years are so important, and the teachers that we have are such an important part of our lives in so many ways.

I had randomly googled Mrs. Carter over the years, but I was at a disadvantage because I didn't know her first name.  Then, wouldn't you know!  In the Parent's Handbook...on the very last page....there it was!

Ginger Huffman Carter.  It took me about three minutes of searching online to track her down.  It was a long shot that she'd be home in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday, but without a real plan, I picked up the phone and called.  Wouldn't you know that she answered the phone!  I was so glad that she did!  I told her that I was one of her students from 1975, and I thanked her for being my teacher.  I meant it, too!  If it weren't for hard working and dedicated public school teachers, I wouldn't be the person that I am today.  It all starts in Kindergarten.

This is me on my very first day of school with my Raggedy Ann and Andy lunch pail (with thermos, I might add).  I would never let my own kids out of the house with a dress that short, but I am pretty sure it was cool back then.  Those knee socks?  One of my trademarks.  What color is that fridge....I'm going to call it "tract house brown."  That's my little sis in the chair at the table.  My parents also lost their minds and let me walk to school all by myself.  It wasn't that far, but if I remember correctly, it was across a big field.  It definitely would not meet the standards for "safe walking routes" by today's regulations.  But...just like all kids in the 1970s, I managed just fine.

This is my "official" school pic.  The yellowing at the top and bottom is from age....37 years will do that to a picture!  See the liberty bell that I'm holding, that's because it was the Bi-Centennial Year!  We put on an amazing American EXTRAVAGANZA performance.  I still remember all of the songs.  I was becoming politically socialized at a very young age.  Patriotism is learned, and I think I received my "booster shot" of it in Kindergarten!  We sang, "You're a Grand old Flag," "Yankee Doodle," and "Davey Crockett.  There is a line in Davey Crockett that goes, "Kilt him a bar' when he was only three."  I remember one of the teachers asked the children, "Does anyone know what a 'bar' is" (referencing the song)?  One young boy responded that it was where his dad went to get away from his mom.  The teachers laughed and laughed and laughed.  Then then explained that it was a "bear."

We sang "Home on the Range" and "This Land is Your Land."  I'm telling you, this performance was a BIG deal!  I searched all night for my pictures from that night.  We met in the classroom before the performance, and my mom took pictures of me and Mrs. Carter.  I know that I'll find it as soon as I stop looking for it.  I did find one picture from that night, though.

That is Mrs. Carter on the stairs.  I'm the cowgirl that is in the top row, far right.  I fell of the risers that night because I didn't wear the shoes my mom told me to.  (I told you I remember a lot from Kindergarten!) 

Two more stories, then I'll end this post.  I remember one time we were in gym class, and there was a boy misbehaving.  Mrs. Carter whacked his bottom with a ruler.  (Trust me, the kid deserved it!)  Then, he stuck his behind out further and said, "It didn't hurt."  Well, let's just say, I'm pretty sure it hurt when she got done with him.  :-)

There was one time that we were making this project where you stepped in a bucket of paint then walked along butcher board paper.  I remember his boy...who was standing in the paint said, "I have to pee."  And then he the paint.

Why do we remember some of the things we do, I'll never know.

To Mrs. Carter, thank you again!  I called you today because I wanted you to know that you made a difference.  I may be just one of thousands of young people that you've taught over the years, but you were important to me!  When I went to first grade in Illinois, I was much more advanced than the other members of the class.  My reading skills were far superior to the other first graders, so my teacher would have me read out loud to the class.  I did very well in school...elementary, through middle school and through high school.  I received several academic scholarships and was able to attend Bradley University, a private school in Peoria, Illinois.  I have had a very rewarding career working for a technology company, and my career has afforded me the opportunity to travel the world!  I'm a step mom to four great kids, and I have an amazingly smart granddaughter.  I went on to receive my masters in political science from Virginia Tech, and three years ago at the age of 39, I decided to take on the PhD.  I plan to graduate from the University of Utah when I'm 45.  I love to learn, and I plan to do so for the rest of my life!

Teachers don't always get to see the fruits of their labors.  I just wanted you to know that I am happy, and I've had a very good life.

Thank you for being my Kindergarten teacher!


Wendy Danley Davis

Friday, May 11, 2012

Softball Season

Elle just finished her 2nd season of Softball playing for the Jordan High School Lady Beetdiggers (yes, beetdiggers). 
Elle is a great hitter! 
 She played 3rd Base this season.
The Diggers beat Alta (their arch rival) earlier this week but failed to make the playoffs after a loss on Thursday.  Elle had a good season, but she hurt her knee and was out for the past several weeks.  She's looking forward to two more years of softball!

We're very proud of her!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"My baby"

I do most of my posting about my granddaughter, Layla, on Facebook.  Today, I wanted to write a post about her for my blog.  See this picture here?  This pretty much sums up how much I love this baby girl.  Her smile is so infectious that It is impossible to not smile back.  This picture was taken last week on my birthday. 

This series of pictures was taken on Sunday in our front yard.  It was an unseasonably warm day in March, and we all were outside (some without shoes) to enjoy the warm day.

 She's a good crawler...and she'll be walking in no time!
"Come to grandma!"  I'm the one pointing the big camera in her direction. Seriously, what is not to LOVE about that face?
Then there is this picture....her mom sent it to me last week.  The picture on the wall is of Layla when she was just a day old.  It is Elise's favorite picture, so I had it made into a canvas print for her for Christmas.  There is Layla in her crib waving at her younger self.  Elise says that she always gets so excited when she looks at the picture...that she jumps up and down.  All I have to say is that this child also likes looking at herself in a mirror or reflective surface (so does her dad, by the way).
There you have it.  Shameless grandma bragging about her cute little granddaughter, Layla Rae Davis.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

100 Years Ago Today-This is for you Grandpa Danley

On March 21, 1912, my grandpa was born.  His name was Eugene Howard Danley.  He was born in Springfield, Illinois, and as he wrote in his life history, "just a few blocks from the home of Abe Lincoln, the finest President this country ever had and I'm proud to have come from that vicinity!"

My grandfather wasn't a perfect person.  By accounts of living relatives he sometimes had a temper.  He could be a cantankerous man...difficult to get along with at times. (I think I inherited that genetic attribute.) Some have even said that he felt that he'd been given a raw deal in life.  I wish he had lived long enough to see his children grow old and his grandchildren grow into adulthood.  Gene had a hard life, and he might not have realized what he would call personal success in his own life.  But he has a progeny that he would most certainly be proud of.

1912.  Wow.  In that year, the modern day Republic of China is established ending nearly three centuries of reign by the Manchu Dynasty.  1912 was also the year that the Japanese gifted the famous cherry blossom trees to our nation's capitol.  This was the year that the Titanic struck ice in the North Atlantic and resulted in the worst maritime tragedy in history.

Gene worked a variety of jobs in his life.  At a young age, he sold newspapers for the Peoria Journal and the Peoria Star (now the Journal Star).  He never completed schooling past elementary school, but he learned skills as he went through his life.  He drove a taxi cab in Peoria for many years, and he tells his stories in a memoir that you can read HERE.  He entered the US Army and while in basic training, he was injured.

According to my Aunt Judy, there was a man at basic who open fired on soldiers, and my grandpa was instrumental in stopping him.  In the process, he was also shot.  He was honorably discharged from the military and received his veterans benefits for the remainder of his life.  I heard this story for the first time just this past summer.  Oh, how I wished that I could talk to him about his experiences in his life. 

On my grandpa's 58th birthday, I was born.  I have the distinct honor of sharing his birthday...March 21st...the first day of spring.  One time when I was little...maybe 7 or 8, I remember that I sat in my grandpa's lap on my birthday, and he told me that I was his special granddaughter because I was born on his birthday.  I honestly still remember that.  It was one of the few times that I remember him addressing me directly.  I know that sounds weird.  He talked to me...don't get me wrong, but I remember this time as being particularly special.

This is a picture of a cake that my Aunt Donna made for a joint birthday party for me and grandpa. This summer, I was looking at this picture with some of my aunts and uncles, and there was a disagreement over whether this cake was for me or grandpa.  My aunt actually had me convinced that it was my grandpa's cake...until my Uncle Bill said, "And what day is YOUR birthday?"  (meaning mine).  Man, did I feel silly.  I just assumed that Aunt Donna was right...because she usually is ;-)

Here is a picture of that same birthday.  That is me in my 70s garb and unattractive hairdo.  My sister is to my right and my cousin Billy is to my left.  My grandma is standing behind me.  That is dad and Kathy by Grandma...and way in the back...peeking in on the action from the Grandpa Danley.
The little girl and fisher man cake theme reminded me of one of my favorite pictures of me and my grandpa.  My dad drug me along this day on a fishing outing with his dad.  I LOVED to go fishing as a little girl. I mean I really loved it, and I have good memories of fishing with my dad.  This picture cracks me in my patent leather a life jacket (probably at my mom's insistence) as we are fishing off of what looks like a country road "overpass."  Makes me smile every time I see it.    
You know what other picture makes me smile? This one.  He looks happy hanging out with me on the floor.
It reminds me of another grandpa I know who loves to hang out with his granddaughter while she plays on the floor. 
This picture is how I remember my grandpa...always sitting at the kitchen table..always playing Pinochle.  He loved to play cards, and he HATED to lose.  When grandpa was playing, I knew better than to bug him.  Every once in a while, he'd let me sit on his lap and touch the cards for luck, but I soon grew bored of this task.  I learned to play Pinochle when I was probably 13 or 14 years old, and I really do enjoy it immensely.  It is a Danley Family tradition.  Seated in this picture are my grandparents, my dad (with the sideburns ;o) and my Aunt Wilda..who I adore.
I can't believe that grandpa would have been 100 years old today.  He died on March 30, 1981.  I had just turned 11, and he had just turned 69.  I wish that he lived long enough to know that this granddaughter born on his birthday turned into a happy and successful woman.  Because of him, there are hundreds of descendants who are linked to the Danley name.  Every one of them I know has honored that name...each in his or her own unique way.  I am hopeful that when we all re-connect in the next life that he'll smile with pride and see how his children, his grandchildren, his great grandchildren and his great-great grandchildren have lived good lives in large part because of a trail that he rugged and jagged and sometimes troubled as that trail might have been.

I love you, Grandpa.  I'm proud to be your granddaughter!  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Heart and Soul: Appreciating Fine Art and Artists

Tonight Dean and I visited the art studio of our friend, Jeff Hein. Click >> here<<  to see his website.  We met Jeff and his wife, Jen when we were first married and lived downtown.  We were all in the same LDS Ward (congregation).  Jeff taught our Sunday School class, and I gained a lot of respect for him while I listened and participated in those classes.  When I learned that Jeff was an artist, I didn't necessarily have more respect for him, but it was different.  You wouldn't know that he's a phenomenal talent.  He's super cool and way chill about the whole thing.

I have always been a fan of fine art; I think my time in Europe helped my appreciation grow.  You don't get much exposure to fine art in Pekin, Illinois.  One of my favorite places in Chicago is the Art Institute---where I could stare for hours at the impressionist artwork.  I saw a Van Gough exhibit that the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my friend Steve in 1999.  I have been to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL.  Dali is not necessarily fine art, but viewing his pieces really opened my mind.  I saw a Picasso exhibit in Hungary, and that caused me to wonder if I was missing a few boobs on my own torso....Picasso loves his boobs.  And in a completely inappropriate segue, I've been to the Vatican museum to see all of the emasculated marble, male statues.  I've seen the Sistine Chapel with my own eyes.

I know I'm biased, but I've got to tell you that I hold Jeff in regard with the masters with respect to his talent.  I have a copy of one of Jeff's paintings on the wall in my office, and I look at it every single day.  The painting tonight was one of Christ.  It was commissioned for the LDS Temple in Boise, Idaho.  It was brilliant!  It will bring people a lot of joy.  He is working on two other commissioned pieces for the Honduras Temple, and I hope to see those when they are complete, too. 

You know what I appreciate most about Jeff?  When Bradley was 12 years old, he was going through some really rough times.  Jeff, at that time, had an art class that he offered on Thursday nights.  Bradley had expressed some interest in art, and I thought that if he could have some structure that he could explore his talent...and learn from Jeff.  Jeff had never allowed a child that young to join his class, but he made an exception for Bradley.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate that. 

I wish that I could tell you that Bradley discovered a miraculous talent during his time at art class, but he didn't.  That's OK.  It was important to me and Dean to give him the opportunity to explore his talent.  Jeff was willing to give Bradley every opportunity that Bradley wanted to pursue, and I appreciate that.

When Bradley experienced some serious trouble as a young teen, Jeff was one of the people that I called.  I wanted him to know what was going on with Bradley so that he could be a positive influence.  I am a big believer that "it takes a village," and Dean and I decided that Bradley's troubles were beyond our capacity as parents...we couldn't manage them alone.  We enlisted several trusted adults in Bradley's life with whom to share his struggles so that he would have a support group.

Tonight when I walked into Jeff's studio (and I haven't seen him in many years), I said, "Hi Jeff, Wendy Davis..." He said, "I can't believe you just introduced yourself.  I know who you are!"  Well, ya know...he's kind of a big deal, and he kind of had some star-struck fans there....and I didn't want to assume.  It didn't surprise me one bit that he inquired about Bradley right away.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate that.

There are many qualities of great artists that the experts have debated for centuries.  I can tell you what makes Jeff one of my very favorite artist....more than is the person he is and how he represents that in his art.  And I seriously appreciate how he was important in Bradley's life at a crucial time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Life Watching Politics on Television

As I sit down tonight to watch the State of the Union Address, I was thinking of all of the past presidents I have watched on TV in my 42 years.

My very first presidential TV moment was in 1977.  I was in first grade at Homewood Heights Elementary School in Creve Coeur, Illinois.  My first grade teacher was Mrs. Kluge.  In January 1977, the first grade teachers gathered all of us into one of the little classrooms, rolled in a big TV, and had a group of 6 and 7 year olds watch the Inauguration of President Jimmy Carter.  It seem boring and torturous at the time, but I remember it.  I remember being excited that the president had a little girl, just like me.  So, at the age of 6, I remember my first moment with politics and TV.

I remember March 30, 1981.  As I left my 5th grade classroom at Willow Elementary School in Pekin, Illinois, the parent of one of my classmates sent the child back in to the school to tell Mr. Muren that the "president had been shot."  I spent that entire day glued to the TV at my babysitter's home watching the coverage.  I remember Alexander Haig (and yes, I actually remember this) saying, "I am in control here."  To get out of the 5th grade, I had to pass an Illinois State Constitution test and a US Constitution test.  I had the most amazing 5th grade teacher on the planet, and I knew that Alexander Haig was not one of the people we had discussed when we talked about presidential succession. 

I remember President Reagan addressing the nation on January 28, 1986 on the evening of the Space Shuttle disaster.  He seemed like a grandfather to me (and he was older than my own grandfather who, ironically, died on the day of the Reagan assassination attempt).  I somehow felt better when Reagan spoke.  I can see why people have fond memories of him.  Memories are funny, though.  The Teflon President still seems to have few bad things associated to him.  I won't badger him on this post, but perception and reality are quite different.

I was at a school in Texas during Reagan's funeral.  At my request, we paused the demonstration for about 45 minutes and watched the funeral live.  What can I say?  I'm an American first and a Democrat second.  He was the president during my growing up years, and there is a soft spot in my heart for "Uncle Ron."  I call all of the president's "Uncle."  Don't try and understand it.  It's a Wendy thing.

I have to tell you, I think I skipped both Nixon's and Ford's funerals.  Back to TV memories....

My Clinton memory is not the one you may be thinking of (the "I did not have sex with that woman" memory).  1988 was the first year I could vote.  The summer between my senior year in high school and my first year at Bradley University, I lived with my aunt and uncle in Arkansas.  I worked my last summer at the famous family Donut Shop.  I had a lot of time on my hands that summer, so I took it upon myself to watch the Democratic National Convention.  That was the first Clinton speech that I ever heard, and I remember it.  I actually remember thinking, "He might be president someday."
My dad told me this past summer that I had actually heard Clinton speak a few years before the DNC convention in 1988.  I spent most of my summers in Hot Springs, Arkansas with my dad, and one year on the 4th of July, he took us to see the fireworks that were....wait for the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Clinton (according to Dad) spoke at that event.  I can't make this crap up....Clinton, Wal-Mart...parking lot.  I probably don't remember that because I was so traumatized by the falling firework debris that was LANDING ON SPECTATORS! 

I also remember watching TV the day Clinton left office.  I have to admit, I cried a bit.  Interpret that however you will.

You notice I skipped 41?  I have no powerful memories of George H.W. Bush.  I have more memories of Dana Carvey's portrayal of Bush than Bush himself.  I liked 41; I actually thought he was an OK President.  As I sit here thinking about why I have few memories of watching 41 on TV, it probably was because his tenure as president coincided with the four years that I was in college.  Quite simply, we didn't have a TV in our dorm room.  We had one in the TV lounge, but I didn't do too much TV watching in college.  Honestly, it probably has more to do with accessibility to a TV than anything else. 

George W. Bush.  Oh, he was not the orator.  In fact, watching Bush speak made me terribly uncomfortable.  My most memorable TV moment with Bush was during the State of the Union in 2003.  I was traveling that day, and I was in the Delta Connection Terminal at the Cincinnati Airport.  I stood close to one of those TVs mounted from the ceiling and listened to the SOU.  I will never forget hearing the famous "16 Words,":  "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."  I think I said (in my out loud voice), "What the F---?"  My gut told me that it wasn't true.  I knew that there was NO WAY that this info was making its public debut in the State of the Union.  I would like to say thank you to George Bush for putting a fire in me that propelled me all the way through the completion of my thesis.  I spent a year of my life writing about why the US invaded Iraq in 2003.  We now know that those 16 words were unsubstantiated and false, but back when I was writing my thesis, people still believed.

That is all I have to say about Bush...because I'm trying to be kind (-ish).

Obama.  I have a few TV memories of Obama.  I remember when he teared up at the DNC when he talked about his grandmother who recently passed away.  I was alone in my hotel room in Portland, Oregon in 2008 when he was named the president-elect.  I cried and cried and cried as he gave his speech in Chicago.  I was so hopeful.  I watched the Obama Inauguration with ALL of my kids; they happened to have the day off of school.  The many people in Washington, D.C.  I will never, ever forget that.

I'm grateful for all of my presidents in one way or another.  I'm also grateful for the technology of television that brings my president right into my living room, my office, an airport TV, my first grade classroom....

Here's looking forward to 42 more year of presidential TV memories....