My bottom drawer–a technology cemetery

There are places in my office that store old, outdated, once expensive devices that seem wrong to throw away.   I have my first Palm Pilot.  It was such a novel device in it’s day.  It kept a calendar and notes in the palm of your hand.  I have Walkmans that held cassette tapes, then later CDs.  I wore them on my daily walks and listened to books like Lonesome Dove and My Antonia as I circled the walking path at Mountain View High School.

I have my old flip phones, in progressing generations. I remember how angry I was when John gave me my first mobile phone for my birthday.  I couldn’t imagine why I’d ever want to be that available to anyone who wanted to call me at any time.  I imagined it ruining my life.

There are dozens of external drives, each with a bit more space than the last, each a bit cheaper than the one before.  They were my only back up at the time to keep my words safe for future generations.  I wonder what’s on each of them.

There are recording devices for gathering oral histories.  There are magnifying glasses to help me decipher old German documents and handwriting.  There are cords and rechargers, and batteries separated now from their devices.  Which ones did they once service?

Then there’s the camera cupboard.  Once it held my very expensive SLR cameras and lenses, always easy to reach while the kids were growing up.  I tried hard to document their lives every week.  The cameras and lenses were large and cumbersome, especially my sports lens that went with me to basketball games, volleyball games, track meets and tennis matches.  As the self-appointed team photographer, I captured spectacular and not-so-spectacular moments, emotions and faces during wins and losses for all the years our kids and their teammates competed.  Now this cupboard is a cemetery for old pocket-held cameras, throw-away cameras from weddings and other events, and lots of camera instruction manuals.  I’m noticing now in the bottom left the small wooden container that holds someone’s baby teeth.  The nice cameras and lenses are packed away in fancy camera bags in the basement.

Last week we went to the BYU campus and Book Store to pick up a t-shirt Adam ordered online.  I’m happy he’s still loyal to his BYU Blue.  I took the pics below as we walked through the Wilkinson Center, past the Cougareat, to enter the BYU Store (formerly the BYU Bookstore when it really used to sell lots of books instead of mostly clothing and gifts).  (It was my favorite place on campus.)

What caught my eye was this new study area, filling the walkway to the Book Store.  A good use of space, I thought.  But what really amazed me was the power strip running along the countertop.

Look at all those outlets!!  Every few inches there’s an outlet.  Dozens and dozens of them.  Hundreds of them.  Each is ready to receive a device of some sort.  Holy Cow!

When I was a freshman in 1977, our dorm rooms had an outlet by the desk.  The only “device” I can remember owning was an immersion heater that looked something like this one:

We used it to heat a cup of water to boiling.  The coil heated the water.  That coil could burn a hole in the desktop if you weren’t careful.  We’d make single serving Lipton Chicken Noodle Cup-A-Soup (introduced in 1972) or hot chocolate on cold nights when the cafeteria was closed.  We thought we were so modern and ahead of our times!

I didn’t own a blow dryer or any “devices” for my hair (I dried my hair in the community bathroom down the hall by sitting under the hand dryer).  I didn’t own an electric typewriter until a few years later.  All of our papers were hand-written.  Each room had a land-line phone with a rotary dial.  We simply didn’t need to plug anything in.  My, how the world  has changed.  I wonder what today’s students do when the power goes out.

Here is my latest piece of modern technology.  This is a wireless, bone-conducting headphone.  I got one for John for his birthday last month, then ordered one for myself.  They cost about $70.  We love using them.  They comfortably rest on your temple bones outside of your ears.  The sound is excellent.  Others don’t hear it.  Your ears are free to hear what’s going on in the world around you.

I had to teach John how to create a music playlist so his headphones would sync with his  phone.  Now he can listen to music while he works in the yard.  It’s a whole new world for him.  I’ll walk by and he’ll say, “it’s Gentri,” or “now it’s Eva Cassidy!”  He wants me to know who’s singing to him!  This latest device will now bump a few older headphones into the cemetery drawer!

If you look closely, you can see John’s headphones in action.

Even though new technology is sometimes scary, diving in and trying something new is not so bad once you get used to it.  It’s probably time to clean out my cemetery drawer and camera cupboard to make room for the future.

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A Cave Woman’s Panniculus

I found this lovely lady posted on Facebook and want to memorialize her here.  She is a woman after my own heart–and shape!

This was posted with the picture:

This piece of art was created in 23,000 BCE, on the walls of a cave in what we now call France. Opinions vary as to whether it represents a woman in childbirth, or an appreciative ode to the female form, but either way her pouch is clearly visible, and she was important enough and interesting enough and beautiful enough to commit to rock for eternity.

The part of the body we affectionately refer to as a pouch has a proper scientific name.

Ladies and gentleman, introducing the panniculus, “an apron of skin and fat that sags below the navel, particularly after pregnancy or weight loss”.

It can be hard to feel good about our bodies after pregnancy and birth, and there’s no denying that we have been forever changed by the experience inside and out, but it’s even harder when we try to live up to unattainable and constantly shifting beauty standards.

That’s why this piece of art brings me such joy, the figure is undeniably and unashamedly female, lumps and bumps and all. And if a woman 25,000 years ago, whose life was undoubtedly much harder than mine, can handle this jelly, then so can I.

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Our Midway Quilting Group

Our little Midway group of quilters is off to a great start!  Today was our second meeting.  We’re settling on meeting Tuesday afternoons at 1:00, every other week.  We may meet in different homes once we get going.  Here are a few of the beautiful quilts we shared today.

String Quilt made by Kristen Sumsion

Red and White bunkbed quilts made by Caryl Angelos

String Quilt made by Ann Lewis

Wensleydale Quilt made by Ann Lewis

Story Teller Quilt made by Ann Lewis

A flannel snuggly quilt made by Melissa Clark

I feel sad for anyone who has not found their creative outlet.  There is such energy and excitement when you share beautiful things made with your own hands with those who do the same.  We are beautifying the world in our own little way.

The placemats and bags below were made by our dear friend, Bernice, in Accra, Ghana.  Pauline and I both know and love her and sent this pic to her today so she would feel our love from here.  I love my fabric-loving friends!

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Artificial Intelligence Meets Ann Laemmlen Lewis

My techie son, Aaron sent me a bio about me that he found using his Artificial Intelligence app, which, he tells me he uses all the time in his workplace to help compute technical things I don’t understand.  When I asked him how it works, he said simply, “it searches the internet to find things about you and then it compiles that information.”

We both got a kick out of what the AI had to say about me:

Ann Laemmlen Lewis is an American author, genealogist, and historian known for her contributions to the study of Mormon pioneer history.  She was born in 1943 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and grew up in a family with a long history in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lewis has published several books on Mormon pioneer history, including “In the Eye of the Whirlwind:  A History of the Upheaval and Uncertainty Accompanying the Mormon Pioneer Trek West,” and “The Saints of the Salt Lake Temple:  A Family History.”  She has also written extensively on genealogy and has taught classes and workshops on the subject.

Lewis has been recognized for her contributions to Mormon studies, receiving awards such as the Utah State Historical Society’s Best Family History Award and the Mormon History Association’s Best International Article Award.  She continues to be active in her research and writing, and her work is widely respected in the field of Mormon studies.

I looked up the books it says I authored.  They do not exist.  And if I’ve won any awards for my family history stories, I’ve not been told.  I have written more than 800 stories from information I research, gather, collect and post on my blog, Ann’s Stories found here:

I’m not 80 years old and I was not born in Salt Lake City.  I was born in 1959 in Reedley, CA.  My father is the first and only member of the LDS church on that side of my family, however my mother’s side is full of faithful good Pioneers.

I’m going to keep an eye on this thing they call “AI.”  Professors in universities are pulling their hair out when it comes time to read and grade term papers and research reports.  They apparently have a program they can run the text through to see how much of it was generated by artificial intelligence.  Students are using it as an easy way to have something (not someone) write their papers for them.    Based on the accuracy of my bio, I’d say the process has a long way to go!

Here’s a excerpt from this article defining artificial intelligence:

Artificial Intelligence: What It Is and How It Is Used

Artificial intelligence is based on the principle that human intelligence can be defined in a way that a machine can easily mimic it and execute tasks, from the most simple to those that are even more complex. The goals of artificial intelligence include mimicking human cognitive activity. Researchers and developers in the field are making surprisingly rapid strides in mimicking activities such as learning, reasoning, and perception, to the extent that these can be concretely defined. Some believe that innovators may soon be able to develop systems that exceed the capacity of humans to learn or reason out any subject. But others remain skeptical because all cognitive activity is laced with value judgments that are subject to human experience.
Here is another misuse of AI in the news this week:

AI presents political peril for 2024 with threat to mislead voters

WASHINGTON (AP) — Computer engineers and tech-inclined political scientists have warned for years that cheap, powerful artificial intelligence tools would soon allow anyone to create fake images, video and audio that was realistic enough to fool voters and perhaps sway an election.

The synthetic images that emerged were often crude, unconvincing and costly to produce, especially when other kinds of misinformation were so inexpensive and easy to spread on social media. The threat posed by AI and so-called deepfakes always seemed a year or two away.

No more.

Sophisticated generative AI tools can now create cloned human voices and hyper-realistic images, videos and audio in seconds, at minimal cost. When strapped to powerful social media algorithms, this fake and digitally created content can spread far and fast and target highly specific audiences, potentially taking campaign dirty tricks to a new low.

The implications for the 2024 campaigns and elections are as large as they are troubling: Generative AI can not only rapidly produce targeted campaign emails, texts or videos, it also could be used to mislead voters, impersonate candidates and undermine elections on a scale and at a speed not yet seen.

“We’re not prepared for this,” warned A.J. Nash, vice president of intelligence at the cybersecurity firm ZeroFox. ”To me, the big leap forward is the audio and video capabilities that have emerged. When you can do that on a large scale, and distribute it on social platforms, well, it’s going to have a major impact.”

AI experts can quickly rattle off a number of alarming scenarios in which generative AI is used to create synthetic media for the purposes of confusing voters, slandering a candidate or even inciting violence.

Here are a few: Automated robocall messages, in a candidate’s voice, instructing voters to cast ballots on the wrong date; audio recordings of a candidate supposedly confessing to a crime or expressing racist views; video footage showing someone giving a speech or interview they never gave. Fake images designed to look like local news reports, falsely claiming a candidate dropped out of the race. . . .
Our world is getting more interesting every day.

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He Knows Where I Am. He Knows Me

I’ve been sitting in the warm sun in our backyard. Yesterday John pulled out all of our old worn patio furniture and I’ve decided, now that our exceptionally long winter has passed, that every morning I’m able to, I’ll sit in the warmth  and read a chapter or so in a book about writing.

Today I read from “Tell it Slant,” a book I first read for a Creative Non-fiction Memoir class I took at BYU more than 10 years ago. I’ve got a writing project stewing in my mind and I want to feed some ideas.

As I was reading, I listened to the birdsongs in the old and large Honey Locust tree and my eye landed on a bluebird there, perched on a large limb covered with dry moss. She was eating a worm. I watched her head, bobbing as the worm was ingested bit by bit. A second bluebird, perhaps her mate, was nearby on another limb. He suddenly left his perch and flew to the grass near where I was sitting with my book. I watched as he hopped quickly here and there, then plunged his beak into the grass. Immediately, he pulled out a long writhing worm, secured it in his beak, and flew up into the tree to enjoy his meal. It all happened within seconds.

I sat there astounded. How did he know exactly where in that expanse of grass to land, to poke, and to find his meal? As I sat, book on lap, contemplating this impressive show of nature, the words came into my mind, “And I know right where you are, dear Ann.”

I looked at all the grass in our back yard and felt a wave of warmth and love fill my heart as I listened to the birdsongs around me.

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My Bits and Pieces Quilt–The Chunks Come Together

This week in my spare moments, I’ve been working on this “Crumb Quilt.”  It’s symbolic in so many ways.  Each little piece in this quilt is leftover from one of a dozen or more quilts I’ve made in the last 20 years.  Almost all of these pieces were scraps cut off the ends of strips or saved from applique projects.  Hardly any pieces were cut to make this fun quilt.  And the pic below is the ENTIRE amount I trimmed from the blocks as I went along.

To make this quilt, I matched a random scrap with another random scrap that was the same size.  After pressing the twos, I sewed them into fours, then eights like these:

Each chunk was ironed, then trimmed if needed before combining it with another like-sized chunk.  My chunks grew and grew, all were different sizes.  I didn’t want to have any obvious seams.  If one chunk was a bit smaller than another, I’d sew a strip or a pieced strip on to the short side, trimming and squaring them as I went.

When I got to the bottom of my tub of scraps, I took my chunks and laid them out on the floor like a puzzle, trying to find the best way to put them together.  When there was a hole, I pieced, sewed and trimmed a chunk of pieced sashing or strips of fabric.

Here’s how I added to an outer edge that was a little bit shy of the rest of the edge:

It’s coming together!

It wasn’t hard to fit it all together into a beautiful whole.

Here’s the finished quilt:

Update:  Now it’s quilted by my good friend, Penny, and waiting to be bound!

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McKay Lewis and McKenzie Dodge Marry!

This weekend we celebrated the marriage of our nephew, McKay Lewis to his bride, McKenzie.  The wedding was held at his parents’ home in Alpine.  It was a beautiful day in a beautiful place.

Brothers: James and McKay Lewis

The James and Adrienne Lewis Family

Brothers:  James and McKay Lewis:

John’s siblings: Dave, Chris, Dave’s wife Celeste, John, Barbara with her husband, Lowell

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A Writing Workshop With Donald Davis

This week I participated in a special writing workshop with Donald Davis, Master Storyteller.  I’ve said before, he is a National Treasure.  A small group of us met with him at Karen Ashton’s home to learn and talk about capturing our stories.  This focus this week was on writing them down.

Our first day, he said, “When you have to create something, you drop back to your easiest language.  With story, our creative language is talking. Writing is the language you learn to translate into when you find the story. You don’t often find stories in the process of writing. You find them while talking.  It’s like making quilts. You don’t start off sewing. You gather scraps.  We will start by discovering ways to do scrap gathering. It’s pure fun.
Then we’ll lay them out and ask, “Is there a quilt/story there?” Where is the story??
Once we’ve found the story, what are the ingredients that it has to have to be whole?
Not just a plot summary. How to move from a starting place to a whole.
Last, how to move the story into words on paper.”

So we spent the first day looking for scraps.  Donald said, “Let’s think about what we brought with us today. Whenever we go somewhere, we take things with us. Things attached to our body. Stuff like jewelry, stuff that just clings to us. Pockets, what’s in them? Purse, what’s in it? Examine the inventory of the stuff you brought with you today. Pick something, which if you tell us about it, will tell us more about who you are, and will help us appreciate you more.”

It was an interesting exercise to spend that first day listening to each participant talk about something they brought with them.  Stories started emerging.

The second day we talked about Places.  Donald had us think about and visualize the first place we remembered living. “Could you take us to visit that place?”  He suggested we think about the following:
Can you see the first place you remember going to school?
Was going to a grandparent’s place important to you?
Going to town? Can you take us on a walk through town?
Summer camp?
Family trips to same places?
A trip you took only once?
A favorite store?
A not-so-favorite store?
Doctor or dentist office?
Childhood church settings?

Not all places are geographic
The car/truck in which you learned to drive?
Other relatives’ homes?
Friends’ homes

We spent the second day picking one place in our lives that was important to us and then we practiced taking each other there, describing the place in as much detail as we could remember.

Donald said, “As you do this, you’ll remember little events that might turn into stories.
As you listen to each other, help their place building grow.  Ask about things they already know, but didn’t think to tell us.  “Was there ever trouble?”  Naming places really really helps. Naming people helps. Give names to pets, streets, addresses.  Names give it reality.

On Day 3 we talked about the people in our lives.
Donald said, “We build places out of places we’ve been. Same is true with people. We make people out of people we’ve known. True stories are ABOUT the people we know. Sometimes people we know the best are the hardest to describe. We know them so well. Easier to describe people we meet one time. You assume others know what you know.
I started a notebook years ago of all the people I could tell a story about.
Started with the day I was born.
Mother and Daddy
Little brother, Joe
Relatives who came to see us
Grandmother, Granddaddy
Other relatives, aunt Ester, Uncle Mark, etc. 36 aunts & uncles 1885-1936 born
That’s just in the family.

Who were the people who had already died when I was born who I grew up hearing about?
My father’s daddy died long before I was born.
He was gone, but the stories were still there.

Childhood friends you could still call and talk to today.
Lost friends from childhood you always wonder what happened to.
List all the people with whom you were in love (handle from a distance, relationships involve learning, hurt, growth)
Did your mother have a little list of people you were not supposed to play with?
My mother was a 2nd grade teacher and she knew them
Roommates, mission companions, going to camp in the summer
Pets (I didn’t grow up with pets because on the farm, they didn’t work. Mom: I won’t feed an animal that doesn’t work).
Find a person you could possibly tell a story about.
Are there some people who would be lost if you didn’t tell about them?

We each chose someone in our lives to talk about and spend the day hearing what came out.  It felt like stories were beginning to surface.

The 4th day we talked about what Donald calls “Thresholds.”  He said, “Don: I grew up hearing stories. We didn’t call it “stories” we just talked. Sometimes we’d say, “I want to hear that again.” The stories we knew we wanted to hear again were always stories where someone learned something. There was reason for it. I began to absorb a sense of where to find a story.”

He said, “A helpful way to find stories is by using a metaphor: The Threshold. The bottom piece of the door. You step across it. Our lives are divided up by multiple thresholds. Anytime we cross a threshold, there is a story. Typical thresholds include marriage, having a child, moving from one place to another, especially if it’s a cultural move, graduating from college, job changes, etc. Trips that change our experience. Going on a mission. Retirement. Losing a spouse. Divorce. These are big story times. World events. The whole world was pushed through a door on 9-11, and with COVID.”

Our Threshold experiences carried us into day 4.  Then we talked about the differences between telling and writing our stories.

Donald said, “When you move to writing, you have no gesture, no sound, no attitude, no feedback. You have to compensate for all those losses. Compensate for having no Body.”  We spent the rest of our time together talking about how to do that in our writing.

It takes practice.  Practice talking and telling, practice recording and writing.

This week has been a good week.  I’ve learned and I’ve observed how others talk about things in their lives.  In the end, it occurred to me that I’m not a very good storyteller.  I don’t like TALKING about things in my past or things that I’m stewing on.  I’d much much rather write about them.  Words on paper are more comfortable to me than words spoken.  This is something I can practice, and hopefully get better at.

It also occurred to me that I am more of a Documentor than a Storyteller.  It’s what I do and how I do it.  It’s my comfortable place.  I capture things and record them.  I feel anxious when things slip away, unrecorded.  I feel compelled to write.  My journal is my highest daily priority.

I’m grateful for my laptop, for my hands, and for the words that come out of my fingers, as I try daily to keep writing my fingers to the bone.

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The 2023 Ouelessebougou Gala and Auction

We work all year with the Ouelessebougou Alliance to prepare for what happened today–our annual gala and auction, where we hope to raise enough money to keep our programs and projects moving forward for the rest of the year.

We were up early this morning with our car filled with goods to drive to the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper where the auction was held this evening.  John is the Chairman of the Board, a job he often lands in, and I’m a board member.  We and others showed up to help set up donated goods and services for tonight’s silent auction.  All of these gifts and items have been gathered for months from kind and generous people in our communities.

We had a fine display of African art and carvings from Mali, always favorites.

Artist, Greg Olsen donated this beautiful piece of art:

Pascal’s carvings were a highlight.

Food and restaurant gift cards filled one table.

Children’s toys, books and experiences filled another table.  We also had home and yard, health and fitness, outdoor equipment, and more.  For $25 you could buy an opportunity flower that was attached to a gift valued more than $25.  About 85 of these flowers were sold.

By 6:00 everything was ready and friends of the Alliance started to arrive.  This year we had more than 300 participating!  The silent auction went on throughout the evening as dinner was served in the grand ballroom next to the shark tank.

We had a program after the silent auction ended.  John and I welcomed our guests and introduced the MC who led us into the program that featured Veronica,  a scrub tech who told about her experiences working with the eye expeditions and an OBGYN Doctor Ty, who has accompanied our medical expeditions the last 2 years.  As the dinner hour ended, we started the live auction and opportunities for people to donate/bid on specific programs like women’s health or education and other crucial programs in the villages.

It was a Wonderful evening filled with energy and generosity.  As the numbers came in late in the evening, we found we met every goal we’d set.  It’s going to be a fantastic year ahead!

Several of our family members showed up to support our work.

At the very end of the evening, it was hard to believe this tent, once full of excitement, hope and colorful silent auction items, was now empty.  I always like to look at the aftermath, knowing good things happened here.  Thanks to any of you who participated!

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My Dear Friend, Marjo Rietveld

Meet my dear friend, Marjo Rietveld from the Nederlands.  The first time I met Marjo was on my wedding day in October 1990.  She and her husband, Ad, flew across the ocean to celebrate with John and me.  I had no idea then, what dear friends we would become.

John and Ad worked together at WordPerfect.  Ad later moved their family into our neighborhood for 3 years in the early 1990s.  Marjo and I learned to quilt together–we often went to our little local quilt shops to find fabric for our projects.  We cheered each other on and we loved raising our kids together.

Marjo is a happy and creative person and the heart of her home.  She loves gardening, painting, sewing and cooking.  She notices details and beauty wherever she goes.  Even in hard and challenging times, she is strong and sure.

Marjo, her daughter, Susan, and her 2 granddaughters visited us this week in Orem.  For old time’s sake, I took her to visit some quilt shops and we enjoyed picking up where we left off the last time we were together.  Some friends are like that, distance doesn’t separate us, our hearts are stitched together in love.

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