The Anniversary Dinner – Middle Eastern Style

The Anniversary Dinner – Middle Eastern Style

Just after Don received his Master’s Degree from BYU, we set out on a Middle East adventure by moving to Iran.  After three years there, we continued that adventure with seven years in Saudi Arabia before returning to the United States and settling in Greeley.  With a child born in each of those countries, and many great experiences involving friends, travels, sights, sounds and smells from that part of the world, we have very fond memories of our time spent there.

So we were delighted when our kids surprised us with an anniversary dinner at Rumi’s House of Kabob right in our very own Greeley.  No, it doesn’t look at all middle eastern, but that actually adds to the authenticity of the whole experience.  Because why wouldn’t a middle eastern restaurant be housed in an old  home on Colorado’s eastern plains?

Rumi's - Greeley, Colorado
Rumi’s – Greeley, Colorado

The kids had reserved a private room upstairs, those windows over the porch, and Nikki and Brittney handled the decorations.

Celebrating 40 years
Celebrating 40 years

The menu brought back so many memories – nothing is printed to any particular standard in the middle east!

We started with hummus, which was some of the best we’ve ever eaten.  That was followed by a fabulous red lentil soup (recipe, please?) and a traditional salad.  When the main course was served, we determined we’d probably ordered way too much food!

Don and I especially loved the Lamb shank with Kabsa Rice – #3 of the family style choices.  The first luscious bite was enough for us to remember that we had eaten that dish at some Saudi weddings we had attended.  The smell and taste transported us right back to Dammam.  Don was grateful that this time he could eat at the table using a fork instead of on the floor eating with his hand as he had done at the weddings!

Warning – this group shot was done as a panorama and the resulting picture is a little distorted.  At least I’m telling myself that it’s the picture . . .  But I’m posting it here to remember that we were all together.
The whole group
The whole group

After several hours of eating and reminiscing and a very pleasant evening, we remembered that we had the next generation of Butlers who probably needed some parental attention.  Those children and the fact that the restaurant had closed moved us reluctantly down the stairs and out the door.

The happy couple
The happy couple

Thanks Mike and Emily, Nate and Nikki, Mark and Kate, Pete and Brittney!  It was a fabulous meal, a very fitting celebration and an evening we will always remember.  Your thoughtfulness has not gone unnoticed!

It’s a girl!

It’s a girl!

Birth Announcement
Birth Announcement

The phone rang early on that Sunday morning in the Pratt home in Flint, Michigan with a long-distance call from Saginaw – about 40 miles away.  When Gram answered, Dad simply said, “Happy Mother’s Day”.  Her immediate response was, “What is it?”  “It” was a long, skinny baby girl with dark hair who was soon named Lynnette.

2 or three months old
two or three months old

At 9 pounds, 9 ounces and 21 1/2 inches long, I was big and healthy.  However, during my first months of life, I was plagued with digestion problems and couldn’t tolerate regular formula.  Following  the doctor’s orders, my parents fed me a smorgasbord of concoctions in an attempt to find something that my system could “stomach”.  In the mid 1950’s, commercially produced formula wasn’t widely available – even for babies without stomach problems.  So whatever they tried didn’t come in a can, but was mixed by my mother in her own kitchen and then poured into sterilized glass  bottles that she stored in the refrigerator. That must have been a chore for her.  I have vague memories of Mom mixing formula for my younger siblings using evaporated milk, water and some corn syrup.  Horrors!

On the bassinette - changing table
On the bathinet - changing table

Projectile vomiting was my routine after every feeding, and my parents soon learned to never burp me while I was facing them.  After weeks or maybe months of trial and error during which time my dad regularly carried my stool sample to the hospital for evaluation (talk about a father’s love!), I think they finally found some soy formula that I could handle. After following that regimen for several months, the doctor was still somewhat concerned when I weighed only 17 pounds at 1 year.  However, after a few more months of growth along with solid food I began to put on a little weight and before long was measuring in the “normal” range.  Oh, to be plagued with an inability to gain weight now!

Mom holding me
Mom and me in our classic 50's attire

I was the third child in the family.  David, born 20 September 1951, was not yet three and Yvonne, born 9 September, 1952, was not yet two.  In September of that year when I was about four months old, Dad returned to Michigan State at Lansing to finish his Master’s Degree.  So Mother was left alone (remember this house?) with three little children and no car during the week – Dad came home only on the weekends.

My mother was a strong woman.  Thanks for the great example!

Dear Tom,

Dear Tom,

Tom - Lynnette - Carolyn - Yvonne - Jeff - David  -- 1962
Tom - Lynnette - Carolyn - Yvonne - Jeff - David -- 1962

Happy 51st birthday!

September, 1970
September, 1970

You were just a kid when I left home – a 13 year old pest to be exact!  At that time you were still making dumb and inappropriate comments about and to my friends.  You were still wrestling with Jeff until something or someone got broken.  You were fighting with Mom about cleaning your room.  You were avoiding daily showers.  You were so obnoxiously normal.

High School Senior - 1978
High School Senior - 1978

As you grew up, you became a very likable guy.  (or maybe I’m the one who changed?)  You had a great sense of humor and made me laugh a lot.  You did some great impressions – remember “H-e-l-l-o, B-e-a-r”?   You were a great football player, even though you were part of a couple of heart stopping moments on the field.  You were fun to be around, and my kids thought you were the best.

Tom with son, Brandon - 1983
Tom with son, Brandon - 1983

You handled leukemia with faith and courage.  I learned a lot as I watched you establish priorities knowing that your time on earth was limited.  After doing all you could do to prevent or delay the inevitable, I watched you accept the outcome gracefully.  I have a good memory of our last phone conversation the day before you died.  Who knew the end would come so soon after that?

January 22, 1989
January 22, 1989

Because your life was so short, we haven’t had a chance to be adult friends and siblings.  I’m pretty sure we’d have had a good time together.  But I’m also sure the chance for more good times is in our future.

We still miss you, but we know that you’re in a good place.

I’m thinking of you on this day.  Give my love to Mom.

Love, Lynn

The stockings were hung – part one

The stockings were hung – part one

. . .by the chimney with care –
in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.

The mystery of Santa Claus and the anticipation of what surprises would fill my Christmas stocking were huge contributors to the mood of excited, noisy chaos that filled our home on Christmas Eve.  I felt something almost magical when I carefully positioned my empty and flat Christmas stocking in its place on the couch – in line with those of my brothers and sisters –  knowing that in the morning I would find it lumpy, bumpy and filled with presents, candy and an orange in the toe.  Settling down to go to sleep was almost impossible for all of us.  We could hardly wait for morning!

Berrett family Christmas - 1959
Berrett family Christmas - 1959

I think it was 1959 when my mother made Christmas stockings for each of us six children.  After cutting them from red felt – with pinking shears, of course – she decorated each stocking the same.  Shapes of a Christmas tree, snowman, and star were carefully sewn to the front of the stocking and then further trimmed with sequins and beads.  On a strip of white felt at the top of the stocking she wrote each of our names in glue and then sprinkled red glitter over that so that individual ownership was sparkling clear to Santa.  The jingle bell sewn to the toe of the stocking was just the right finishing touch, and we sometimes imagined we heard those bells jingle when Santa was at work. . .

Vintage Christmas stocking - 1959
Vintage Christmas stocking - 1959

I have put out that same stocking every Christmas since then.  The snowman no longer has a mouth, the hanging loop has been torn off, and the bell went missing years ago.  The glitter is patchy, but the name is still readable – Santa still fills it every Christmas Eve.

Freshman creation
My freshman creation - 1972

In December of 1972 I was a freshman at BYU dating Don Butler and wondering what would be an appropriate Christmas gift for my new boyfriend.  Deciding to go the “not too serious, but still casually personal route,” I made a red felt stocking, filled it with a variety of little gifts and treats, and then gave it to him somewhat nervously.   That stocking was a success that year, and has been hung every Christmas during our 37 year marriage.  His name, spelled out in bold blue letters (no glitter here), leaves no question about ownership.  Like my 51 year old stocking, Don’s is also showing its age, but Santa makes sure that it is never neglected.

Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve.
Yuletide excitement is a potent caffeine, no matter your age.
~Carrie Latet, poet

Faith in Every Footstep

Faith in Every Footstep

Jemima Brown Rogers
Jemima Brown Rogers

Among my ancestors in the Berrett family are many pioneers who made the trek from England and Wales to Utah in search of religious freedom.  They traveled by ship, covered wagon, and foot to establish their new homes in the Salt Lake Valley.  One  great-great grandmother, Jemima Brown Rogers, was a handcart pioneer who arrived in Salt Lake City in 1856.  Her story, which I remember hearing from the time I was a young teenager, is remarkable, and I have always been in awe of her courage and determination.

Pioneer Pete
Pioneer Pete - far left

In June 2003 as Youth Conference attendees, Peter and I made a trek of 20+ miles along part of the same route that Grandmother Rogers followed through Wyoming.  The handcarts were heavy and awkward to maneuver – wooden wheels on rocky roads don’t pull smoothly. Our days were hot, the nights were cold (frost on our tents in the morning), and we felt near exhaustion when we crawled into our sleeping bags at night.  But our experience truly pales in comparison to the hardship Jemima endured during her trip many years earlier.  Some excerpts from her history as recorded by her grandson, Nephi James Brown, follow (in green print.)

The Elders found Jemima in her native land of England, and she was baptized [as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] about 1844.  She saved all the money she could, so that by the early summer of 1856 she had enough, together with some aid given her by her son Thomas who was already in Utah, to start on the long journey to Zion.  At that time she was fifty-three years old.  She and her adopted daughter Lizzie who was 8 or 9 years old, sailed from England in an old fashioned sailing boat, The Thornton.  It took them six weeks to cross the ocean.  This old vessel was at the mercy of the wind and the waves.  They did not have enough food or water on the ship.  They ate a kind of sea biscuit that were so hard they had to break them with a hammer and then soak them for quite a while before they could be forced down.

They continued traveling with a difficult journey across the States to the edge of the Great Plains, but their real difficulties had only commenced.  They were to cross the Plains by handcart.

Replica of a handcart
Replica of a handcart

Three successful handcart companies had crossed the Plains that summer of 1856, arriving safely in Salt Lake City the latter part of September.  However, the fourth handcart company, a group of about 400 under the leadership of Captain James G. Willie, and the fifth, numbering 576 led by Captain Edward Martin met with tragedy.  They were delayed at Iowa City and Florence while gathering tents and supplies and waiting for their handcarts to be constructed.  But rather than waiting until spring to begin the trek, the majority of the group allowed their enthusiasm to overshadow good judgment and they started too late in the year to be reasonably sure of reaching their destination before winter.  Their handcarts had been constructed of green timber and before long they dried out and began to fall apart, requiring repairs that caused further delays.

Area of Rocky Ridge Wyoming - June 2003
Area of Rocky Ridge Wyoming - June 2003

Wyoming is desolate in the summer.  I find it hard to imagine making that trip in the winter.

Grandmother Rogers and Lizzie were with the Willie Company.  They all had a scant supply of clothing and bedding and found it impossible to keep warm at night even by the middle of September because of the early  heavy frosts.  Heavy snows and extremely cold weather set in much earlier than had been the case for many years.  Their food supply was rationed, and they didn’t have nearly enough to eat.  Snow storms came every few days, and accompanied by fierce howling winds, piled the snow more than a foot and a half deep on the level.  A number of the weaker ones soon died of exposure and lack of food, and were wrapped in sheets by their loved ones and buried in graves hastily dug by the wayside and covered with rocks to keep away the hungry wolves which were a constant menace.

When will it end?
When will it end?

The courageous emigrants continued on pushing and pulling their handcarts,  but their food supplies were rapidly vanishing and there seemed to be no chance of having them replenished.  They slowly trudged forward seeking shelter in hollows and willow thickets until from sheer exhaustion and with scarcely any food, these destitute pioneers established a camp and decided with little hope of survival to await their fate.  Grandmother Rogers recalled that when their food was all gone, all she had to eat was what she called pepper corn – kernels of black pepper which only helped to keep her stomach warm.

Jemima used all the extra clothes and covering she had to keep her young daughter from freezing to death, and as a result suffered such exposure herself that her scalp was frozen and all of her hair dropped out.  She wore various little black lace caps all the rest of her life.

Already established in Salt Lake City, upon hearing of emigrants struggling to arrive in Salt Lake City, by inspiration President Brigham Young organized relief parties in early October, not knowing the real plight of these two handcart companies.  The rescuers started out to meet the handcart pioneers with horses, mules, good wagons and plenty of warm clothing and food.  As the caravans approached the camps of these starving Saints they saw some of the children eating bark from willow trees and in some cases they saw small groups of Saints huddled around and sitting on the bodies of those who had just died until the heat had left those bodies.  Most of the emigrants had given up hope knowing that death would overtake all of them very soon unless help arrived.

Plaque marking the site of the Willie Company rescue
Plaque marking the site of the Willie Company rescue

After initial contact with the rescue teams, the Willie Company waited two days hoping for more supply wagons before undertaking the worst ordeal of the journey – the five mile climb over Rocky Ridge in a howling blizzard.  The distance between their initial rescue and the campsite was about 12 miles and took some emigrants more than 20 hours to complete.

Rocky Ridge is aptly named.
Rocky Ridge is aptly named.

The surviving pioneers were provided with food and warm clothing and under the direction of the teamsters and their own Captains, they arrived in Salt Lake City the latter part of November 1856.

Grandmother [died] on 25 January 1891 when she was 87 years old.  She was one of the stout-hearted, noble and devout pioneers of Utah.  She did lots of good, her faith was unwavering, and she had a genuine and sincere testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel.

I hope I never forget the feelings I had as I pulled a handcart over Rocky Ridge on that summer day in 2003.  I tried to imagine my grandmother struggling in a blinding snowstorm, worried about her young daughter, and cold, tired and hungry beyond my comprehension.  I was humbled as I considered the sacrifice she made – and the blessings I enjoy – because of her faith and testimony.

For a greater explanation of handcarts and the role they played in the emigration, go here.

Images of  handcart and Rocky Ridge here