sarajevo – beauty from sorrow

by jani on January 30, 2013

Several years ago, I received a beautiful vase, gifted to me by a woman who had worked, along with her husband, to help in the peace process of the wartorn regions of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The vase was carefully and painstakingly carved out of brass. She told me that she had always placed a live flower in this vase to remind her that something beautiful can come from something so tragic. I often think of the “Cellist of Sarajevo” (Vedran Smailovic) and how he gave of himself, oftimes performing in the decimated areas of his beloved homeland. If you don’t know his story, I would recommend your clicking my link to learn more.

Here is my beautifully carved vase with one of my favorite flowers… the rose.

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The artist who meticulously carved this beautiful brass vase had included the name of his city, Sarajevo.

Sarajevo Collage 1

 Now, there’s so much more meaning behind the making of this vase. You see, it was found in the streets of Sarajevo, where so many were killed by these shells. That’s right, it is the shell casing of a 50 caliber automatic weapon. It was used for horrific reasons – to kill oppressed people over religious and political differences. The artist who carved this shell and turned it into an object of beauty, had thousands to choose from…. for they were found everywhere in the bombed-out city that had once been so beautiful prior to this terrible war.

Sarajevo Collage 2

I don’t understand hate –  I don’t understand anything that would hurt, injure or kill a fellow man, woman or child. It is so foreign to me. But, I do know that out of tragedy or sorrow, we can often find beauty or goodness, even if but a tiny shred. This small vase is a daily reminder to me of this principle.

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In recent months, we’ve had many tragic and horrific incidents invade our lives. Some of us have had closer ties to these events than others. However, I would like to believe that for every evil act, there are many more that emanate goodness and show, through kind deeds, that our world can be a better place.

May we all strive to not only look for beauty during sorrowful times, but also bring beauty through our own thoughts and actions.


rockin’ three root canals!

by jani on January 16, 2013

As I was getting ready for my dental appointment with my endodontist, Brent C. Sonnenberg DDS, MS, I overheard Kathie Lee Gifford telling Hoda Kotb on the Today Show,  that over the Christmas break she had to have a root canal…the  first in her life and how fearful she was. I couldn’t help think, I hope she went to an endodontist!  After all, would you go to and OB/Gyn if you broke your leg or better yet an orthopedist if you thought you might be expecting?

I feel the need to express my opinion here. I have had dental experiences that would make you sick if I described them. From the time I was about eight and broke both of my front teeth, I’ve had a whirl with dentists. I even worked for one as his assistant for several months as he trained me. Without question if you are recommended for a root canal by your dentist – please go to an endodontist for the procedure!

This may be the first thing you see as you venture in the room.

root 1

Well, actually more like this. After all, here’s where the work will take place in your pretty little head!

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I began to scan the room and was completely impressed with the variety of precision tools and equipment. I suppose if one were to become nervous, it would be at this moment… but I wasn’t in the least. I’ve had root canals before and knew about the rubber shield (actually called a dam… but, Dr Sonnenberg reminded me, “We don’t say ‘damn’ in this office!”  I don’t know what else to say about having this procedure other than,  it’s just not a big deal. Losing a tooth is!

root 3 root 10

Then I got comfortable in the chair with its cushioned headrest. At this point I was totally ready…absolutely calm and anticipatory. I watched his assistant, Andrie, prepare for my procedures. I was fascinated how she could tell everything apart (there is a lot to know). But I was  in secure hands and I had absolutely no ounce of fear.

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Then the doctor walked in and by his gentle actions and calming tone, I was assured that I had chosen the perfect endodontist!

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If you live in the Utah area, I highly recommend this professional, Dr. Brent C Sonnenberg, DDS, MS. As he was working on one of my more “struggly” (my son and his friends made up that word, but it works here!) teeth, he continuously used a powerful microscope. I knew his comprehensive methods were what I would always look for in the qualities of one working in such a highly specialized dental field.

I felt a few tiny pinches. There was virtually no pain and I was comfortably rocking to the fun rock music selections (I’ve actually been singing one of them all day long) piped into the overhead. So the next time you need a root canal, check out Dr Brent C. Sonnenberg, DDS, MS or a respectable endodontist in your area. You won’t be sorry… and you just may save your tooth!

Now, my advice to my readers. Gum disease or infected areas near the roots of your teeth are not to trifled with. If you let these go, simply because you’re fearful of the procedure or worried about the cost , you will be doing yourself a great injustice and will most likely lose one or more teeth! Brush, floss and take care of this very important part of your body. But if you know you need a root canal… don’t wait. If you do… it may be too late!


traveling back to the ol’ homestead

by jani on January 2, 2013

HB was raised in a tiny berg in southern Alberta. He was born in Taber, but grew up in Barnwell, a hamlet of about 250. Everyone knew everyone – and it was a very tight community.

If you ever want to learn more about your life’s partner, simply visit their old homestead. It brings a much clearer image of what life must have been like. In the case of Barnwell (as bucolic and rustic as it sounds)… well, the land is flat, and very cold in the winter-  pretty much in the middle of nowhere. But, I immediately fell in love with this place… this childhood home of my sweetheart.

The home his father built, in the early forties, is still standing today…  albeit quite different in color! It’s difficult to even imagine that HB was the youngest of ten children and that they did not have plumbing for the first few years of his life. Back in the day, plumbing  just didn’t exist in the middle of nowhere!

The province built a highway straight through, bypassing HB’s Barnwell.  So when we recently visited it, we were saddened to see his favorite country store and soda shop closed… all in the name of development! I remember how lively this place was when we first visited Barnwell in 1990. Now it just looks like a deserted shell!

HB’s grade school and middle school still stands. I was happy to see that! In Canada it’s always called grade one… versus how we refer to it in the States… first grade!

 So until I met HB, I didn’t really know what a coulee was, let alone how to spell it. I’m gonna let him tell you about his memories of coulees.

“The word coulee is enigmatic to many Americans, even those living in the West where such visual delights of nature proliferate. The word may be a bit more understandable if substituted by “hollow”, which for unknown reasons is the term preferred south of the 49th parallel. By definition, a coulee (from a similar French word) is a natural depression caused by water erosion – but very recognizable due to its undulating nature. Typically there will be a river or small tributary running through the coulee.
Being raised in southern Alberta, where the prairie lands are extremely flat, coulees create a distinctive break in the landscape, existing in stark contrast to the level countryside. In many locations coulees provide shelter for deer and other wildlife, and are often replete with deciduous cover and several kinds of edible berries.
As a boy, I trekked many miles through the coulees that run a short distance from the  rural community where I was raised. There was a tantalizing assortment of elements that served as diversions to a boy… among them firepits and artifacts such as arrowheads from uncounted generations of Native Americans that had pitched their campsites there. A boy could take his .22 rifle to the coulees and, with no humans for miles, plink cans at the garbage dump site, or the ubiquitous gophers popping up out of their holes.
It’s funny now when my wife asks me, ‘Honey, who went with you on these hikes of yours?’ – and my answer is simply, ‘I went by myself!’ Back in those halcyon days of my youth, it simply seemed like the most natural thing to pack a sack with a PB&J sandwich or two, and head for the coulees. Never mind that there were rattlesnakes and other critters that would give a mother unspeakable dread had she known what was really ‘out there’. But like so many things that were just taken for granted in the laid-back world of growing up on the Canadian prairie, it just wasn’t worried about – and amazingly, most of us have survived!”

Oldman River (pronounced “old man”)… that’s honestly the name of it.  HB gave a low chuckle as he first laid eyes upon this favorite childhood memory. He always told me about “Oldman River” – but it was quite another experience to actually step on its bank and watch in wonder as deer grazed just around the bend – a quiet, serene and perfect place to be together.

This was quite a reflective trip for my husband. It gave me a greater appreciation and understanding of him. Funny, after all these almost thirty years together, I still find new insights to the man I love.

I would recommend a trip like this to anyone in a relationship that they would like to nurture. HB and I can’t go back to my childhood home because it’s now a bustling strip mall. When I grew up, there was nothing but fields to graze our horses in and wide open spaces for wonderful imaginative games to while away our afternoons.

Have you ever visited your partner’s hometown and walked where he or she walked as a child? Be prepared to ask lots of questions. It will spark memories… some good, some not so good. But in either case it can become very cathartic and beneficial to you both!


Aunt Tilly (she’s not really my aunt) was my first nanny. I loved her – and I know this because my mom told me I cooed and gooed with her and she called me “her perfect baby”. That has to count for a lot.  From what I know, she was tender and dear and always read to us. She went back to her native England when I was very little, but every year at Christmas, we would receive a wonderful book from her. My first memories of truly loving to read come from this sweet woman, whom I know so little about. Here she is pictured of her with my three cousins on the left side, my sister and brother on the right (I’m sure I was off dozing in my crib!)

aunt tilly 1

For about 63 years Aunt Tilly’s Christmas book has been on display in my home during the holidays. It is as bright and colorful today as the day we received it from England (albeit the pages have expectedly yellowed a bit over time). My kids grew up looking through this book. So I thought… why not replicate it for them. A few years ago, we did just that – and now each of my seven children has a copy of this book that they display with their Christmas collection!

fav christmas book 1This is the back cover.

fav christmas book 2

These pages are so retro… it’s now cool! But for me it just floods me with warm, fuzzy memories!

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fav christmas book 5

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And this is the inside hardbound back cover… I always imagined that this is what Santa and his reindeer look like!

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I have so many wonderful Christmas books.. .I’ve collected them through the years and  just don’t think any technical device (although I do love reading from my Kindle with its built-in back-light) will ever be a replacement for holding a cherished book in your hand!

A few of my friends have wonderful traditions involving children’s books. One of these, Queen Scarlett of Frankly My Dear, wraps 12 Christmas books and reads one a night for The Twelve Days of Christmas Books. Now that’s a wonderful tradition!

I love hearing from my readers… did this spark memories in your family? What are some of your Christmas, Hanukkuh or Kwanzaa book traditions? I’d love to hear.