Monthly Archives: March 2010

Blessed with grace

To the best of my recollection, this is what I said at mom’s funeral service in Cheyenne, March 24, 2010: 

            First, we’d like to thank Father Steve. We’re all pretty sure that my mom would have really liked you! Secondly, thank you ALL for being here and a special thanks to our cousins from Kansas and Colorado who made it here despite the snowstorm.

Our mom Eileen was quite a special lady. We always knew it – what’s amazing to us, however, is that we’re not so sure SHE knew it!  

 We have shared many giggles and tears the last few days, and in that process, one thing that’s clear is that she made a strong impression wherever she went.  

She had a ready laugh and a practical streak a mile long. People at hotels in Hawaii remembered the friendly lady with the big smile – and the big hair – from Cheyenne.

She was a handicraft maker, and in so doing, created heirloom treasures for many. She knit and knit and knit — we don’t remember when she didn’t have a project underway.

 Eileen also sewed: band uniforms, and prom dresses, and cheerleading uniforms and costumes for plays we were in, and when she was discovered the art of beading, she made necklaces for every lady on her bus trips. 

And she cooked. Eileen always also found time to whip up flat-sheet chocolate cakes – I think some of you might remember eating them — for away games and family trips, and she also had loaves of home-made banana bread to share with bus-trip passengers at rest stops.

If this makes it sound like she was an early Martha Stewart, well – she really wasn’t.  Long before it was fashionable, Eileen worked alongside dad in the travel business, running branch offices on her own, keeping track of airline tickets, doing the books.

She didn’t work hard to be a role model – she just worked hard at whatever she did.

And she knew how to make things fun.

She was smart, too, better at just about anything involving numbers than anyone would imagine. Educated by her travel, she encouraged us – and expected us — to excel in the classroom. And although she would brag about each of us for different things later, I know the fact that all three of us earned college degrees meant a lot to her.

She knew what mattered more than anything – her family and her friends and, yes, Father Steve, her faith. At a time when the term “community service” hadn’t yet been coined, she gave of her time, talents and treasure to our school, our churches, our town, and our state in ways that were usually behind the scenes, but still important.

And she never hesitated to help someone one-on-one, either.  Friends I knew 35-plus years ago while traveling in Up With People recall her visits to the cast fondly – I heard from many of them over the last few days. And last summer I learned she’d cashed a check for someone, in Spain, in 1973, a kindness well-remembered by my fellow-castmate but something I’d never even heard about.

Maybe you are getting the picture here.

Our mother was generous and resilient, in a word — classy.

As most of you know, Eileen took several world cruises during the last 15 years of her life. During those trips, she took part in a project called the “Gifts of Love,” in which she and fellow craftspeople would make things while underway for charity. 

She could be gently persuasive, which gave her a unique kind of power. For example, she was the one who talked Holland America Cruiseline into buying the yarn for the knitters.  Yes, she was already in her late 80s, and traveled mostly to avoid Cheyenne’s harsh winters; she recruited many other volunteers to assist her and that made it a social thing, as well as a work of mercy.

Like Father said Steve, we can’t talk about Mom without talking, at least a bit, about Dad. There’s a scene in Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, in which Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin join hands, and the one says to the other: “I just wanted to be sure of you.” (We called Mom and Dad Moo and Pooh, so this has special significance to us.)

Well, they were always sure of each other. And we were always sure of them.

They gave us roots, and they gave us wings. First they appreciated their own roots – both born in the Kansas farm fields, they were gutsy and created a strong business and a successful life here in Cheyenne. Their own wings were evidenced by their willingness to open new worlds to others.

I wonder how many people would never have taken a cruise themselves, or seen the tulips in Holland, Michigan, or traveled to Iowa to see the Pope, or gone to Europe or any place else — without the fact that they trusted the guidance and expertise offered by Eileen and Larry – and later Joan.   

My mom taught us how to laugh at our own foibles, and relish time with family and friends; she gave us a lifelong interest in travel and many other wonderful, warm memories.

There’s a popular series of books out right now called “Six-Word Memoirs.” The idea is to capture someone’s essence in just a short phrase.

To write one for Mother would seem to limit her, but I believe this works:  “Heaped care on others, was loved.”

“Heaped care on others, was loved.” We can only hope to leave such a legacy behind.

We love you, and we thank you, Mom. And one last thing – please forgive us for all the times we caused you to roll your eyes, and say “oh you girls.”

Here’s to you, Margaret Eileen Murphy Uphoff.


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Things can change fast

The morning I wrote my last blog post, I talked to the head nurse at LifeCare Center in Cheyenne, where my mom, Eileen Uphoff, has been living –and received a glowing report about Mother’s health (she hadn’t even caught a cold this winter!)

Within just a few hours, however, Judy called because Eileen’s temperature had dropped and the LifeCare staff was going to keep an even closer eye on her.

Friday, she couldn’t swallow, and by Saturday was unresponsive. Judy raced home to Cheyenne from Tucson (thank God there’s still such a thing as “flying standby”), and was holding mother’s hand about 8:15 p.m. Judy told her we loved her and that it was OK to let go and be with Dad. And she was gone.

Joan and Peter and I were en-route (driving) when we heard the news; we were all together again in Cheyenne by Sunday afternoon after Joan made the trip from near Portland in record time.

Since then, we have been overwhelmed with all the love and care from so many friends and family members, due in no small part to cell phones, FaceBook, and the Internet. Oh, and we have plentyof food on hand too, from Cheyenne folks…  

Until we’re able to express our appreciation in person, please know that this means SO much to us!

Everything’s in place, and everyone has been wonderful here. The Rosary is tonight, funeral Mass tomorrow, with interment next to my dad at Olivet Cemetery a half-mile from the first house they bought here in Cheyenne.

We only wish the weather was co-operating. We’re in a whiteout here right now — with seven inches of snow expected tonight; we’re hoping two cousins on their way from Kansas can make it. We know many would have liked to come and are here in spirit (and they all better not fret, as Eileen would have been the first to understand!)

I’m thankful I’d posted that little tribute BEFORE all this happened, so many of you had a chance to “know” her at least a little bit.

She had a wonderful, long life!  While we are sad to lose her, we know she didn’t suffer; her lifelong warmth, humor and friendliness was appreciated to the very last (several staffpeople at LifeCare said she was their “favorite patient” because of her big smile and good cheer) and the family stories are pouring in about the blankets she made, the way she made trips special, and the fun times we all shared….. and we can all imagine the marathon bridge party going on right now in heaven!

Several people have asked about more details on my mother’s wonderful life.  Here’s a link to the obituary printed in this morning’s Cheyenne newspaper; there may be a short notice in the Teton Valley media as well.  And this photo is from fall of 1977 — the best one I have scanned in and handy to post.

Once again, thank you for your support and care.

May you rest in peace, Mom.

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Aye, ’tis a blessin’…

…to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. And, at least for me, ’tis a blessin’ EVERY DAY!

I come by my Emerald Isle roots honestly, on my mom’s side, where my forebears hail from County Mayo — REALLY. (My grandmother was a Fritz who married a Murphy. ) You always wondered where I got my bit of blarney, right?

Anyway, this seemed as good a chance as any to pay tribute to my Mother, who continues to inspire me. Though her Alzheimer’s has stolen her memories and at 92, she no longer recognizes our faces, (and as of today, I’m told she’s not so sure what to do with a cup of water when they help her with her meds) —  she DOES remember she’s been well- loved and that her life was filled with travel and adventure. 

I like to think I got my sense of fun from her, too (as evidenced in this “Indian chief” picture of her  –the back of the photo says it was taken in 1941, when she would have been about 24 years old.)

More than anything, though I think my mom’s generosity has always been one of her most remarkable attributes, as evidenced in a blog note I found on-line from a cruise-ship passenger about the “Gifts of Love Yarn Distribution.”

I tried to post the link, but it didn’t work. Anyway, this was an on-board project in which items hand-created while underway were given to an orphanage somewhere to the latter part of a world-cruise’s itinerary. 

You guessed it — there’s an “Eileen” mentioned in the story, and that’s my mother.  She knit 62 blankets and 100 hats the year before the posting by the other passenger, and already had completed 200 hats on the trip the blogger wrote about.

Actually,. she STARTED this cruise-ship make-and-give thing — yes, in her late 80s, while traveling to avoid Cheyenne’s harsh winters, recruiting many other volunteers to assist her in this wonderful effort.  What a legacy!

I can only hope the world will see she gave her children much more than just the Irish twinkle in our eye….  Here’s to you, Margaret Eileen Murphy Uphoff!
No matter what your heritage, I hope you all had a good “wearin’ of the green.”
P.S. Below are a couple of photos of my parents in one of their favorite places — Hawaii. The one on the left was taken sometime in the mid-1960s; aren’t they glamorous? (Gotta love that TV and Dad’s skinny tie.) The one on the right is from fall 1978, when the family all escorted 600 football fans from the University of Wyoming to Honolulu for the first matchup after the University of Hawaii joined the Western Athletic Conference.  We all had varioius pieces of clothing made out of that same muu-muu material. I’m sure, thankfully, all the photos of  me, Judy and Joan have thankfully been destroyed by now (!) but I like this one of them….. Just look how relaxed and confident they were!


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March 14

Still with me here? Moving into this last week, I started out with something equally as inane as the movie books –a young adult fantasy called The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison. A fairy-tale romance, this is the story of a prince and princess slated to marry to unite their two countries.  Must admit, it WAS entertaining! I’m not even sure how we ended up with this around here, but I was glad to put my hands on it on at that particular moment; I *might* even read its sequel (The Princess and the Bear).  

 Then, because I need some grown-up reading, I absorbed from cover-to-cover the collection of poems by Michele Glazer that I’d picked up in Bozeman a few weeks ago (It is Hard to Look at What We Came to Think We Came to See). And then, because I was on a roll, I picked up the wonderful little punch-drunk with vino Brian Doyle book I’d bought for Peter called The Grail – both of these are inspiring and I’m so looking forward to meeting them both when they serve as ICA panelists next month – and because I was REALLY on a roll, I went back to Wild Life by Molly Gloss (the third writer I’ll meet in Boise) because I’d started it a month or so ago but hadn’t read past the first 30 pages of so. That’s what I’m reading at the moment….

Oh, and then in the middle of the week, I received the giant binder of literature-fellowship and writer-in-residence entries from Cort Conley (literature director at the ICA and phenomenal author in his own right: Idaho for the Curious, Idaho Loners, and many MANY more) . I started to read those, too.

So, this photo shows what I want to read before April 10–the whole  binder of submissions, a couple more books by Molly, including finishing Wild Life and The Dazzle of Day, and these others by Brian (Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies; Spirited Men:  Story, Soul and Substance; and God Is Love–Essays from Portland Magazine, which he edited [only] and thus is the last on the priority list); I’m still trying to get ahold of another collection by Michele called Aggregate of Disturbances. (Told you the binder was big!)

And in between will come some magazine work, some artwork (I’m working on something for Jeff Newsom’s benefit), AND I might just have to squeeze in some time outside (especially if we continue having these wonderful “bluebird” days). Who knows, I might even find time for a few other books and perhaps even watch a movie or two – ya think?

Here’s to feeling better…. and happy reading to you all!

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March 7 (a week late)

Can it possibly be Sunday again already? Yes indeed!  The week that ended last Sunday, I was, *sigh,* too ill to write.

Yes, my friends, I should be combining two weeks into one (but will split them for length reasons). Here’s a photo of the stack that I went through. About ten days ago I came down with a severe cold, which developed into a major earache within a couple days.  Even though I’ve made several visits to the doctor, the pain’s been on-again, off-again, with a noticeable hearing loss the real problem.  And I’ve been somewhat fuzzy, no surprise – totally rallied mid-week last week to take care of some magazine work (the new issue will be out in early April!) In spite of all that (or maybe because of it) I have a lot of reading to report.

First off, I *did* pound through all 600-pages plus of Into Temptation by Penny Vincenzi. Peter was gone the first part of that week (pre-illness but I still not sleep that much when he’s gone) and I found the characters as mesmerizing as I remembered. Too bad the trilogy basically ended with Lady Celia’s death.

That took me through part of the start of the cold. Then I picked up Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian, the Women’s Book Club selection for April. My friend Kris Giger recommended it to the group, and it’s yet another one I’m looking forward to discussing – multi-layered and complex, written omnisciently but from several points of view. It brings up a number of issues of interest to me personally, from gun control and righteous fanaticism to family dynamics and  the pressures of being a “tween” (or the parent of one). Good reading.

By this point I was pretty well out of it healthwise; since the Academy Awards were coming up, I turned to total escapism: a picture book of old black-and-white stills called The Filming of Gone With the Wind by Herb Bridges, and another corny GWTW favorite from our library bookshelves (I’ve had this one since college!) called Scarlett, Rhett and a Cast of Thousands: The Filming of Gone With the Wind by Roland Flamini. Both are pretty silly but chockfull of wonderful vintage photos of some truly unforgettable characters – not just the two leads but also Melanie, Ashley, Mammy, Prissy, Aunt Pittypat, etc.

Also, these titles provide some interesting insight to the days when movies were made on the backlot (never on location), when the studios  wheeled and dealed for the services of various stars, and when a 1,000-page book could be translated onto the screen into a blockbuster of equal proportion. Interestingly, GWTW employed a half-dozen screenwriters who worked on the script, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, and all of them vowed to “keep true to (author) Margaret Mitchell in dialog and action,” a lesson that would, in my opinion, still serve Hollywood better these days than many screen adaptations!

Oh, and because I still couldn’t focus too well then I pulled out The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time (according to Entertainment Weekly), just to see where some of MY favorite movies fall into that list.

This makes it sound like I’m really into movies, when in fact nothing could be farther from the truth —  but I do appreciate the role film plays in our contemporary culture.  In fact, I would go so far as to say movies are a little bit like books; the more you watch (or read) the more discerning you become as far as analyzing plot, character development, special affects, dialog sophistication, etc. And sometimes you just want to be entertained!

Hopefully that’s what this note will do! More in a minute!!!!

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Eva’s shaving her head!

You read it right — Eva Dahlgren, very good friend and former employee at Dark Horse, is shaving her head next week. It’s part of an international effort, taking place March 18th, called “St. Baldrick’s” (a play on the fact that it takes place the day after St. Patrick’s Day)  and everyone who shaves their heads does so to show solidarity with the young ones who lose their hair while taking chemotherapy. What a way to raise awareness! And at the same time, they raise money to help fund children’s cancer research.

Talk about a good cause.

Eva’s part of a four-person team at the Teton County Library.  A total of 40 people are doing this in Jackson but Eva’s just one of three women (and the only person from Teton Valley, as far as we know).  The local organizer, Ken Mahood of Jackson, lost his little girl Claire to cancer a few years ago.  A fellow librarian named Cindy did this last year and inspired the library to created a team this year (and Eva and Maria to do it too) to try to help out in some small way.

Eva isn’t one to blow her own horn, but I sure will. This is such a gutsy thing to do!!! I’m far too vain to ever consider it — but I want to help her as much as I can. To that end, I wrote a press release for her and am letting all my blog readers and FB pals know about it.

Give if you can. As she puts it, “a five dollar donation may not seem like a lot, but collectively we can make a difference.”

The St. Baldrick’s folks make it pretty easy. Click here — from that page, click “Make a donation.” From there, go to the “Donate on behalf of a Participant or Team” and enter: First Name: Eva; Last Name: Dahlgren; Team: Teton County Library; Shavee # : 377367. (And from the original link you can find a team, participant or event in your OWN area, should you be so inclined.)

 This is a secure website for credit card donations. If you don’t feel comfortable donating online, drop me a note and I’ll send you Eva’s snail-mail address and you can send a check to her made out to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation (you’ll still need to pull a donation form from on-line and complete it before you send it to her so everything’s legit.).

If someone you know has been affected by cancer — and who among us hasn’t lost someone (… or many?),  please pass this on.  (And just FYI: Eva’s also cutting her hair (prior to having her head shaved) and sending her long tresses to “Locks of Love,” an outfit that makes wigs for kids out of donated hair. (I did this a couple years ago, as have MANY women I know here!) 

Lastly, Eva’s eight-year-old daughter Ella drew these before and after portraits of her mom….. aren’t they awesome?!?

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Feb. 28

Hmm, another diverse week, diverting between the ridiculous and the sublime (depending on your taste) and interesting (for complete understatement) — greatly touched by the loss of Wray Landon, marked by my birthday (wonderful notes from friends both near and far!), discussion of what might constitute my next professional step, and a satisfying night at the Woontanara Aid fundraiser. Life is a journey. 

Oh yeah, back to reading. Just in time for the discussion tomorrow, I finished the book club book, Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent. It was as as unlike most book club books as anything we’ve ever chosen — specifically because it carried a strong religious overtone and although we don’t ALWAYS read something from a female viewpoint, both voices were male (i.e., from Ron and Denver). Lynn Vincent is a conservative writer (she helped with Sarah Palin’s memoir, I learned) and frankly, I’m sure this is NOT one I would have picked up on my own. But I’m glad I read it.

The story itself — and especially as it dealt with “Miss Debbie,” Ron’s wife — walked a thin line betwen preachiness and sincerity — and I feel it stayed, mostly, on the latter side.

It will be interesting to hear what everyone else thinks on Monday night.

One thing about belonging to a book club: it’s always best to stick with a book if you can, just so everyone’s (literally) on the same page — i.e., DONE — when we we’re talking about it.

Friday evening, Peter brought home this lovely cover-table book called Seeds: Time Capsules of Life, by Rob Kesseler and Wolfgang Stuppy, edited by Alexandra Papadakis (and with a preface by “HRH The Prince of Wales,” Prince Charles himself). The book had been sitting at his office for some time–of course within seconds of when he set it on the counter, I was totally immersed in the photography and text, letting something burn on the stove in my distraction!

I think my glass-blowing friend (and expert naturalist artist) Mary Mullaney turned us on to this one.  It’s filled with the closest-of-close-up photos and the most minutely-detailed information (i.e., about how some seeds are spread by ants, and why some nuts are seeds and some are not) Encylopedia Brittanica type lessons that sounds like they would be wildly mundane but is instead fascinating! 

Again, this is not a book I’m “reading” from end to end; rather I look at it from time to time, and savor every single second and image. Certainly all books aren’t meant to just pound through, do you think?

And then of course, on Saturday morning, I started Into Temptation, by Penny Vincenzi, the third piece in the Lytton Family Trilogy (it might have some other name, but this is how I think of it.)   No Angel was the first — it started during World War One and Something Dangerous continued through WW2 — this one starts with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.  Celia Lytton—publisher, philanthropist, philanderer and family matriarch certainly is one of my favorite characters, and this follows her and her kin in the book-industry worlds of Londons and New York.  

Though I wanted to resist beginning a 650-page epic, I was hooked about four paragraphs in…it’s one I might actually pound through (Peter’s gone this week); hopefully, I’ll find I can relish this story as well.

Interesting to me how many food analogies (i.e., savoring, relishing, and taste!) spring quickly to mind when talking about books. Seems appropriate to include a photo of these wonderul and whimsical cupcakes donated to be sold at Friday night’s event.  I don’t even know who was the talent behind them, but bless the baker! And the decorator, too!

Happy reading, you all. Talk to you next week!

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