RIP, Joe Anderson

How does one tell an 88-year-old woman that her first-born son has tragically died? There is no good way. We were as gentle as we could be when we faced that task last Wednesday, both Peter and I holding Rusty’s hands as he shared the devastating news that Joe had been killed near the curb as he started to cross a busy street at sunset in Idaho Falls on Tuesday night.

We were concerned the shock could well do her in, but she is a strong soul, immediately more concerned about Joe’s wife Sandy, his twin daughters Erika and Michelle, and how the other boys (Bill and David) were taking it. Everyone is heart-broken.

Truly, such a shock; we are all stunned, and it has been a very rough week.

Joe’s passing leaves a gigantic hole in our family. Joe was the spark for Anderson get-togethers, always curious about everyone’s travels (although he much preferred to stay home), the first to help bring in stuff from the car, build a fire, to do whatever needed  to be done.  He had a giant guffaw of a laugh and a lopsided grin that couldn’t help but touch your heart.

As Rusty put it — and it’s completely absolutely true to those who knew him — Joe was “the most positive person she ever knew.” He was faithful about calling her every single night, no matter where he happened to be — home in Jackson, on the road somewhere for his sales job, or at the Jackson Hole airport fulfilling his hosting duties there.  She didn’t want to talk to anyone but family, crying so often and rubbing her eyes so hard that by the end of that day, her sweet face was marked with a raccoon-like mask of bruises.  Poignantly, Rusty said sadly that he was the last person to remember her when she and Emory were young — what a sad realization.

Normalcy seems distant. As Rusty said, she doesn’t feel like life should go on — dressing, eating, thinking about things like whether the cat box needs to be emptied and if there’s a kink in her oxygen hose. “Parents shouldn’t have to bury children,” as my sister Judy put it, and at 67, Joe should have a lot more time to enjoy his grand-kids and serve on the ski patrol (which he has done for FIVE decades). But such is not the case.  We are now in the logistic muddle of memorial planning and at last reaching out for support. I appreciate the words of concern and offers to help. At the moment, there’s not much to be done.

Joe’s death is a terrific — in the true senses of the word (“of great size, amount or intensity,” and archaicly, “causing terror”) reminder of the fragility of life. It offers much needed perspective…. of what truly matters and what is valued.

Hug your loved ones today, or if they’re not in reach, call and share your love. We never know what might be our last communication with those we care about (and who care about us as well.)

Three special pix —

Peter, Joe and Bill, top of the tram in Jackson, from September 2009: w_-peter-and-bill-top-of-the-tram-sept-2009

Rusty and her sons Bill, David, Peter and Joe, on her front porch on Easter, 2013:


Celebrating Easter 2016, at Rusty’s — Joe’s wife Sandy and the twins and their family were with Sandy’s sister but this was the first time the four boys had been together for a while, with Leslie and Theresa there, too.


Lastly, here’s the link to the story that was in the Jackson Hole Daily on Thursday. Joe’s obituary will be in Wednesday’s weekly Jackson Hole News and Guide.




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On traveling — 2015.4

All year I’ve been feeling philosophical about the notion of wanderlust. We joke about the desire to travel being in my blood — after all, my parents were travel agents, some of my first memories are of trips with them, and I learned early where every bathroom is in the world (you know, down the hall and to the left — or it might be on the right side, or in a corner, but think about it — it’s true!)

Peter in doorwayAnyway. I love to travel.

Luckily, I found, fell in love with, and married someone who likes to travel as much as I do.

We watch out for each other well. We have regular routines — passport check, carrying a food bag for picnics, that sort of thing.  When in doubt, we grab a coffee and water and reconnoiter.

I’d have to say that we’re still holding hands, and I’m glad of it.

We go through many doors, usually together, but occasionally one or the other must lead. This is one of those photographs that seems to capture our mutual spirit of adventure….

Peter has a lot more vacation time from work that I do; although he doesn’t likpic of Peters flighte going without me, he took a couple of flying-solo trips last year (to ski in the Alps and to check out Stockholm), and in February he headed to Japan.

Through the wonder of technology — United’s flight status on my cell — I even know where his planes happen to be at a particular point in time.

The biggest miracle of modern-day travel is that we can go so far so fast.

Between us, we’ve been lucky to visit 62 other countries (along with several visits to a small handful of locations).  We love the challenge of discovering the layout of a previously unknown place, like Madrid’s “bow-tie.”

We like knowing how to navigate somewhere new.

We love learning about history by walking on what’s left behind after centuries. “When in doubt, walk on cobblestones” is one of the philosophies we share.

We believe one’s world is enlarged in trekking about places like the Acropolis, Machu Piccu, Pompeii, Teohuatican, Tikal, or Easter Island — the perspective on time alone makes the journey worthwhile. (You can see photos on my Facebook page of many of our journeys.)

sunset on the Rio PlataWe’ve shared some fantastic sunsets (this one, in Colonia, Uruquay, looking across the Rio Plata, Buenos Aires off to the south), ferries across famous waterways, meals of fish pizza and Florentine steaks and frites in a paper cone.

We’ve stayed in a variety of spots: next to a metro under construction in St. Petersburg; in an apartment up 112 steps for three weeks in Rome; and with a host-family on Isla Tequila (on Lake Titicaca in Peru). We’ve booked rooms in a wide range of B ‘n Bs over the years — from a Rick Steves’ recommend for “best loo in Britain” to a place in Ireland where condensation ran down the walls overnight. We’ve even lodged a few nights in a five-star hotel or two.

It’s not about notching our belts with passport stamps, though. There’s so much more that we’ve learned from our experiences.  Serendipitously, we’ve encountered the red-balloon peace rally in Sibiu, Romania; a near-empty Vatican Square (the next day, it was filled to the gills with the faithful); colorful parades in Lima and Oslo.  I’ve written about many of those memories in this blog. I’m optimistic this won’t be the last entry about our ballons peace event in Sibiu Romania

The most important thing we know about traveling is not to take it for granted. We have no idea what tomorrow might bring, whether we’ll be healthy enough or whether we’ll be able to afford to do what we like to do.

That’s one reason we’re not “waiting until retirement” to have these adventures.

In July, the two of us were in Norway, following several days of amazing sunshine in Oslo and some time recharging our batteries (and resting our feet) on the Sognefiord. feet on the fjord

Then I worked on this post while we were sitting in the airport of Philadelphia, homeward bound (albeit on two different flights — Peter through Chicago, me through Denver).

On the eve of the last day of August, Peter was packed to take another trip on his own, this time to Malta. Malta? Yep. It’s one of those destinations that calls us — charming and historically significant, but not all that well-known — yet — as a tourist-dominated spot.  It was a good trip for him; the solo reconnaisance provided a chance to check things out, and we’d like to return on another occasion to soak up its heat and history.

We like to think we’ll always return, that a place we love will stay constant — and that we’ll get everywhere we want to go — on an African safari, to hike in New Zealand, listen to an opera in Sydney, see the sunrise over the Taj Mahal — but there are no guarantees. We work at our jobs to be able to afford to go, and we work on ourselves to stay healthy so we can go.

So far so good….

Enjoy your next travels, wherever they may take you!

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Old friends — 2015.3

The late-60’s song Old Friends never fails to bring me near tears. But as I’m closer to the “terribly strange of seventy” than I’d like to think about, the song now vividly reminds of the riches in friendships that last decades.

A couple months ago, a woman I worked with — about 30 years ago, when Peter and I lived in Seattle — “found me,” not via Facebook or in some other techno way, but instead by asking about us at the local Ace Hardware and calling me out of the blue on the phone. It was so fun to reconnect! She was in the Tetons visiting her mom, and we had a good chance for catch up on the decades and miles between us.

Renee sounded exactly as I remember her — and well, of course she did! I love that, even as we age and our physicality changes, whether due to wrinkles, weight or hair color, our voices, expressions and mannerisms stay the same.

A week ago, I spent a fabulous day with another old friend, from even farther back (i.e., my cast year in Up With People, 1973-74). Pam and I have been in closer touch more recently — an absolutely wonderful rekindling of our relationship and much of it online — but that certainly didn’t diminish our quality personal time together on a sunny early-summer Sunday…

Well, just this morning I heard from another UWP castmate. She happens to be coming to Philadelphia — where I’m working remotely this week — for a conference. I haven’t seen Mary since 2011 at an Uppie reunion in Colorado, and I can’t wait to see her again.

It’s a long way from her home in Alaska and mine in Idaho, but what a wonderful coincidence that we happen to be here, on the far side of the country, at the same time. Whoohoo!

While the Simon and Garfunkel song is sometimes heartbreakingly poignant, the reality of old friends is a sweet and special treasure.

UWP pic in Breck -- Mary and PamThis pic is from our cast reunion in Breckenridge four years ago (Pam in yellow, Mary in red)! Looking forward to seeing many of them at UWP’s 50th, in Orlando later this summer. Unfortunately, Rufus Barkley, the fellow I’m standing by (back row) passed away about six weeks after we were together — another vivid reminder that life is precious and we never know what tomorrow will bring.

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Watching the ball game — 2015.6

dad as ref

One year for his birthday, Judy found Dad a ref shirt — he loved it! This is one of our all-time favorite photos of him.

Growing up, it was almost a religious rite to “watch the ball game” at our house. That comes from a sports-crazy dad with three daughters (whose initials were the same as Baltimore Colts’ star Johnny Unitas) and no sons to push from the sidelines. It’s not that we weren’t athletic — all three of us played something competitive in high school and Judy co-majored in Phys Ed in college — but from an early age, we learned that when there was a ball game on the TV, well, we’d likely be watching it.

OK, I must admit, it was mostly certain kinds of sporting events — and we also attended plenty in person. We rarely missed anything played by the University of Wyoming and never stuff at our high school, the now-gone Cheyenne St. Mary’s. But mostly, on a staticy black and white televsion, we watched both football and basketball.

Our dear grandmother, Mimi, was a huge baseball fan — she followed the Kansas City A’s closer than her soap operas (and that was pretty darn close!) But baseball wasn’t *it* at home. Honestly, tennis was not a ball game; neither was golf. And although we went to a hockey game in Denver once, neither was hockey — it just didn’t quite enter into the Uphoff consciousness.

But the pros rated — think Denver Broncos, primarily — and of course the big events like the NBA finals, the Super Bowl, and March Madness (did they even call it that then?)

A lot of history behind this family tradition…. for example, Dad was the president of the Cheyenne Quarterback Club when we were kids. While Joan and I were visiting Judy recently, we found a letter signed by six Green Bay Packer star football players (Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Boyd Dowler, etc.), from when they’d visited Cheyenne in the early 1960s. Dad had arranged the whole thing! What a treasure!

But we knew it wasn’t about winning. We learned to cheer for our favorite teams even when they were on a losing streak….  And that seemed to be the case more often than not. In the early 1970s, St. Mary’s struggled on just about any kind of playing field. The Gaels once lost a football game to Torrington, by a score of something like 96-6 — how sweet it was when we came back and beat Douglas for our first victory in several seasons (and then were undefeated my junior year in high school!)

My mom was such a good sport, too. She was the best escort for football tours. And for us kids, she took care of us when injured, made cheerleader uniforms, baked countless chocolate sheet cakes for bus trips, put up with tears about boyfriends being hurt before Homecoming dances, etc.  She ultimately said she “couldn’t stand the excitement” of a close game — but boy, dad always loved ’em.

So tonight, when the Golden State Warriors are playing Game 2 against the Cleveland Caveliers, and a few days before the 24th anniversary of my dad’s passing — I’m thinking about “watching the ball game,” Uphoff style.

Even today, when one of my sister use that expression, I know EXACTLY what she means.

Here at our home in the Tetons, we’re not quite as crazy about it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think of this family ritual fondly. I stay aware of what’s on, and check for the final score — if only to check in with my siblings and keep my father’s memory alive.


PS. For those of you who watch such things, I still have posts for 2015.3, 2015.4 and 2015.5 to write.  Don’t worry, they’re coming 🙂


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On inspiration in art — 2015.2

I started creating with “jewelry and junk” after my Mom moved to an assisted living facility and weren’t sure what to do with her 27 drawers of jewelry — some of it of the costume variety but all of it special for one reason or another — mostly because it was hers.

Both Joan and I were looking for a way to celebrate our memories of which shell earrings she used to wear with which muumuu, the stunning pieces that she purchased on her travels — Mexican silver, a crown-shaped ring from Thailand, a seemingly endless supply of pins from cruiClock by Joanse-ships and state capitals and special events. We sifted through it all and separated out the “good stuff” between the three of us.

It wasn’t long before Joan was making bookmarks with beads (we sold these at Dark Horse Books), and treasures such as this lovely clock — which has been a beloved part of our home for a LONG time.

I started making frames and tins for friends, then tried my hand at more difficult pieces using all kinds of recycled bits. It didn’t matter whether it was a cap off a Bic pen or a spangly rhinestone earring — everything seemed to find a place somewhere (even if it rested a good long while in my collection of  “stuff.”) You can check out a lot of my work here and here, (this latter is one of three FB photo albums of my work).

Soon people were saving things for me; I’d be gone for an afternoon from the bookstore and might come back to find a box or baggie of jewelry, or odd-shaped bits of packaging, that some thoughtful person had brought in for me.

And then I started to hear Game Fish by Larry Fuenteabout “real artists” doing this kind of work. For example, “Game Fish” by Larry Fuente is at the Smithsonian Art Museum!

This giant piece is made of hundreds of pieces of kids stuff — toys, dominos, plastic figurines, even a baby-doll arm. Inspiration indeed.

And suddenly, in February, after years of doing my artwork, I have discovered many others who are working with found materials to create amazing pieces.

Check this out — by a British artist named Jane Perkins — a reproduction of one of my favorite VermeeJane Perkins Girl with a Pearl Earringr paintings but all done in  pieces!

She has created amazing canonical works — including Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” and portraits of Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe. She calls herself an “artist in found materials” — love that description.

I also recently learned that several of my cousins are making tins and other multi-media pieces, like these two made by my cousins Janie and Laura.

This was afJnJ_Janie_made_for_Margeter I had created “great women doodads” for all my girl cousins, and a tin for my Aunt Marge Rambo, which another cousin says sits on her kitchen. JnJ_Laura_made_for_Ally


I also really like these shoes, which a friend saya on Facebook and tagged for me. They’re of Swarovsky crystals, mostly…

I’m not sure how they get the beads to stay on them but they are certainly inspiring!

Sparkly shoes from FB

Which brings to my latest effort….

Last week, I donated this little book tin to Ollie-Fest, a fundraiser for the Eva Dahlgren/Dan Hundere family. It was given away in the raffle; not knowing the recipient, I found him on Facebook and send him a message, saying that I was hoping to chat with him about this unique piece.

book tin for Ollie FestHe wrote back that his daughters, four- and six-years old, “absolutely loved it. They filled it with all sorts of fun stuff and have carried it around the house the yard and collected shells and leaves from all over the yard.”

I’m so happy to know they are playing with it and enjoying it —  lots of good synergy there. The tin is from the Girl Scouts and the dominant color of green represents all things that are healthy and growing, as well as recycling, long a passion of Eva’s. This tin’s shape,  a “book,” is special because Ollie’s such a good reader — no surprise since Eva’s a librarian and was a long-time employee of ours at the bookstore.

All of this encourages me to work on yet another piece for a fundraiser, and to remember that inspiration comes from others’ joy in your work, from the examples one finds elsewhere, from sharing your ideas with others  — but mostly from within.



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Starting with appreciation — 2015.1

After writing so rarely over the last 14 months, since I started back to full-time work, over the holidays I committed to writing on my blog at least once a month in 2015. Here it is, January 31 — I better get on it!

What’s funny — ironic, really — is that I’m having such a hard time deciding on a topic.

Plenty of engaging activities in Teton Valley this weekend, and lots of wonderful friends having birthdays, but it’s kind of late to write about the former, and invasive to broadcast the latter (at least without permission.)

I know families who are facing health challenges — I mean terrible health challenges — but that’s too private a subject as well.

I have something like 50 posts in draft form, all worthy of development; my tiny travel journals contain pagefuls of scribbled ideas, too.

But there’s nothing burning I simply HAVE to write about, no one subject that keeps coming back into my head over and over and over, nothing that has been popping up when I’m in the shower, driving the car, or sitting in a meeting this week.

Rather, I face the “too-much-potential” problem: when one has a plethora of possibilities, it’s difficult to choose just one option.

Compare it to the comfortable lives most of us enjoy. We don’t have to worry about clean water, food, shelter, or power; we have access to health care and opportunity and political expression.

In too much of the world, survival on the most basic level means individuals don’t have the essentials we take for granted, let alone the many luxuries of technology and wealth.

I don’t always realize when I’m in a situation of saturation. Could it be that my angst of dissatisfaction, over something as silly as not easily selecting something brilliant and profound to write about,  arises from my overwhelming abundance?

Let me say right here: I am not complaining! Here I am, well-fed, sitting in my cozy and colorful home, with the woodstove blazing, a library of books to educate and entertain me, incredible support of friends and family, rewarding professional challenges, and more cherished memories of travel than I can count.

So, rather than find something to expound on, it seems like a perfect time to just be grateful.

Hopefully that’s enough.

Next month I intend to find a just-right subject.

For now, I’m following my friends from Peanuts, and …. hmmm, skating into February!

Goodbye January for blog



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Favorite books!

Going through some old files and found this one…. I might make some revisions as of this writing, but these really are “all-time favorites.”  Enjoy!

pic of big pile of books croppedPS on the image: not sure where this is; I discovered it when I was looking for something to illlustrate my last blog post, about my Giant Journal of Joy.

This is just one list of Jeanne’s 25 all-time best recommends for reading.

Note: I put this list together for a friend who hasn’t yet read all that much but wanted a good background in books, both contemporary and classic.

It was compiled Nov. 9, 2008 (in no particular order, but fiction first) along with a little commentary on each…with additions made Jan. 21, 2009 (when I realized I couldn’t leave out some of these!)

1. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: a Pulitzer Prize winner that deserved the honor; based on a real woman and real place, with a contemporary character sure to make you think.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; though you might have read this in high school, it’s even better as a grown-up (and one of the few books ever turned into a movie that actually conveyed its authentic sense.)

3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; a must-read story if one wants to have an inkling of the cultural differences between Westerners and those who call the Middle East home.

4. The Way West by A.B. Guthrie; a thoughtful look at those who crossed the country on the Oregon Trail by a Montana writer who gave his state the notion of The Big Sky (forerunner to this book.)

5. Oh Pioneers by Willa Cather; Peter did his Master’s thesis on another book by this early 20th century writer—this one captures a sense of community like none other.

6. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck; after winning the Pulitzer for Grapes of Wrath (and the US joining World War II) Steinbeck went to work at the Propaganda Office—this is a short look at collaborators and resisters that was smuggled into many countries in Europe to provide inspiration to the latter.

7. The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham; another short one, a lyrical lovely story of a painter who leaves his conventional life and eventually ends up in Tahiti (think Gauguin.)

8. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: brings post-WW2 Barcelona to life in vivid color: a little mystery, a little obsession, a little of the book world (and less well-known than many of the titles in this list.)

9. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry; another Western? Yes! But really a wonderful tale of adventure and two men who are friends to the end.

10. Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig; again, another Western? Yet another yes. This one’s a tale of adventure and two men who are friends but NOT to the end.

11. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway; if you’ve ever tried to reach a goal and thought you’d done it (only to find it had slipped from your grasp), well, this one’s for you. (Besides, I HAD to include at least one Hemingway.)

12. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; I like to think I can’t imagine a world without books—after reading this book, you can…

13. A Brother Cadfael mystery by Ellis Peters: I especially like A Morbid Taste for Bones or One Corpse Too Many—first and second in the set but any would do—the lack of widgets (they’re set in the 12th century Britain) and the deep understanding of human nature make this my favorite mystery series (oh, but what about Tony Hillerman, Steven Saylor and so many others? Mysteries make worthy reading, especially when you’re in the mood to be entertained.)

14. Night by Elie Wiesel: while Diary of Anne Frank may be more famous as Holocaust literature, I find this recollection of the author’s teen years in a concentration camp more horrifying (and insighful) by far.

15. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder; the story of Dr. Paul Farmer will give you inspiration about making a difference.

16. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson; more inspiration about one person’s ability to create miracles and the power of education.

17. Where Rivers Change Direction by Mark Spragg; Teton Valley’s 2007 One Book One Community choice, a remarkable memoir of growing up on Wyoming’s oldest dude ranch; An Unfinished Life is also worth reading (is’s a novel.)

18. Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams; one of the most beautifully written books ever, interweaving the saga of her mother’s death from breast cancer against the story of the flooding of the Great Salt Lake.

19. Any “big book” by Edward Rutherfurd: my go-to of his historical, multi-generational epics would be Sarum, which brings Stonehenge and England’s Salisbury plain vividly to life.

20. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller; the memoir of growing up in Africa by our friend, Bo Ross, of next door Jackson Hole, this was (deservedly) the BookSense Book of the Year in 2002.

21. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby; another very short book (I reread it several times a year) Bauby was the editor of Elle Magazine in Paris when he had a stroke, and ended up communicating by blinking an eyelid—an amazing reminder to live fully.

22. Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose; this book truly brings history to life. While the bulk of the story is about the adventures of the Corps of Discovery, it also illuminates Thomas Jefferson’s vision of America, his faith in his friend Meriwether Lewis and his wisdom in choosing William Clark as co-leader.

23. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin; another history lesson in a book. During the Union’s time of strife, Abraham Lincoln surrounded himself with people who disagreed with him, much to the country’s benefit.

24. Any history by David McCullough; I like the ones about particular events (i.e., the Johnstown Flood, the building of the Panama Canal) but the ones about particular historical figures (i.e., Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, John Adams) are also spectacular!

25. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien — completely different in tone, time-period and subject matter than any other title on this list, this writerly book seems to blur fact and fiction within its stories. While ostensibly about the Vietnam War, it is really about America and Americans, especially those, like O’Brien, who saw combat duty in Vietnam.

Note: Did not include co-authors’ names or sub-titles (mostly going from memory here!) Tried to assemble a variety of settings and styles of writing, but does seem to have an emphasis on Western Americana (what can I say? I live in Idaho!)

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