Sunday, June 27, 2010

Touchstones: Robert Lewis Brobst

One might think that an eighteen-year age difference would preclude any kind of real relationship—or friendship—between a brother and sister. At least in my case, this is not so. Love between my older brother Bob and I has embraced a series of events—or touchstones—where we have been there for each other in perhaps an even more durable way than siblings who are close in age might ever be.

It was the spring of 1954, and two very important events were supposed to happen almost simultaneously—my birth and Bob’s high school graduation. I won the race and arrived the end of April. Of course, I don’t remember this event, but I’ve heard the stories about how my dad was so happy to have another baby girl that he took me from my mother’s arms and rushed into the house to rock me while my brother Bob and sister Sue helped Mom into the house from the car.

Having been an older brother twice before—Sue was seventeen and Don was nine—Bob knew that babies spent an awful lot of time crying. With graduation ceremonies only three weeks away, he was worried.

“Mom, what if she cries during graduation?” Bob asked. “I’ll be so embarrassed.

"We’ll take care of it when the time comes,” our mother assured him.

But his concern was unfounded. Almost as if I knew the importance of staying quiet for him, I slept through the entire ceremony, well, like a baby.

After his graduation, Bob left home for awhile to attend training camp with the Washington Senators, a baseball farm team. I continued to sleep and grow and do all those things babies are wont to do. By the time he returned I was sitting up and starting to pay attention to the world around me. Bob must have spent a lot of time with me and made a huge impact on my life because my first recorded words that had meaning were. “Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob.”

Never was an older brother more proud than mine.

As a toddler, I spent time with my big brother and must have begun to believe he was mine—mine, mine, mine—like most two-year-olds believe of everything they see. If Bob went on a date with his girlfriend, then he owed me a date, too. Photographs of me sleeping on the living room floor prove that I would attempt to wait up for him for the promised trip to the A&W Root Beer stand once he got home. But gosh, anything after eight was just too late for a little girl like me to stay awake. Soon he learned to take me on my date before he left on another. This satisfied the little girl who adored her big brother.

I was four when Bob got married, but not to be outdone by the bride, I had a brand new blue satin dress made for the wedding. After all, my part was nearly as important as hers. I was the flower girl, and if I didn’t proceed down the aisle, dropping petals onto the white runner—and tossing a few toward the seats of close family—then the organist would never be able to play “Here Comes the Bride.”

The next year, Bob made me an aunt for the second time. (Sue's daughter, Connie, beat Bob's son, Tony, by two days.) I spent some of my own childhood with these two, trying to be a good aunt to babies who were closer in age to me than my own siblings, but Bob moved around a lot for the next several years and family gatherings—holidays, summer picnics, an occasional Sunday dinner, and relatives visiting from out of town—seemed to be the core of most memories.

As time passed, I became a teenager, old enough to babysit for Bob’s three boys for an entire summer, then in high school my summers became filled with marching band practice. Bob’s house was at the end of the practice field, and I often stopped in to say hello. Soon I was a high school graduate myself, with Bob and his family attending the ceremony. His youngest was six so I didn’t have to worry about the crying like Bob did with me. The events of our lives had come full-circle, and now I had at last caught up with the moment where he had been when we first started.

The next few years flew by with me off at college then into a teaching career, but visits home always included a few hours with my big brother. Out next touchstone moment was one of sadness, when in 1980, our dad unexpectedly passed away, and somehow the title “Head of the Family” was passed on to Bob. At the age of 44 he was now the one Mom, Sue, Don, and I looked to for comfort and wisdom. He became more than a brother—now he was like a dad as well. And that was a title he wore when at my own wedding he “gave the bride away.”

Since then, he’s been there through our adoption of five sons—willing to provide insight learned through the raising of three of his own—the death of our sister Sue, an illness of his own, his bright optimism continuing to guide the way for his baby sister as she faces the future that may someday come without him.

Yes, our life has been one of touchstones—birth, graduation, marriage, and death—but never once has the eighteen-year age gap made a difference. There’s something special that happens between brothers and sisters—a bond that doesn’t seem to match the one sisters have together. Maybe brothers and sisters are closer because there was never a need for rivalry. Maybe because they didn’t share clothing, rooms, or even crushes. Maybe because older brothers are a little protective. Whatever the reasons, brothers and sisters have a special love for one another—a love that can span the barrier of time, both in ages and across the years.

Those little touchstone moments—the quintessential parts—provide the safe places that make up the journey of family togetherness, and the basis of love that will last beyond life and into memories of generations though the ages.

October 2009
Lu Ann Brobst Staheli

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Week in Review: Summer ‘10

I love movies, almost as much as I love books. I remember the very first movie I saw in the theater with my parents: a screening of the classic Gone with the Wind. I don’t remember for sure how old I was, but I’m pretty sure we saw the film in the Alexandria Theater, located across from Kyle’s Funeral Home. The cool thing about that theater was the soundproof room where parents could take their crying babies so they didn’t disturb the other patrons.

After the last couple screenings I’ve been to here in Utah, I would pay extra to have one of those soundproof rooms so I could hear the movie over the whimpering, chattering, and out-right talking I’ve sat through recently—and most of that was from the parents!

Sorry, I stray away from the purpose of this blog. I’m here to tell you about the movies I’ve seen so far this summer. Since I tend to find myself spending a lot of hours during the summer sitting in the local movie theaters, and since I’ve been known to express my opinions on things a time or two, I thought I should share. I’ll be careful not to include spoilers, but I’m also warning you—I WILL be honest.

So far, I’ve seen ten movies. Of those ten, I’ll likely buy eight to add to our home movie collection. The other two, I won’t even rent. One time watching them was painful enough, or at least satisfied my curiosity. So, here we go, starting with the best movie I’ve seen so far in the summer of 2010.

Letters to Juliet. I am a hopeless romantic. I have had a passion for Shakespeare since I first saw Leonard Whiting walk onto the screen as Romeo. I’ve taught Romeo & Juliet now for 31 years, and the biggest regret I have from my trip to Europe was that our train only passed through Verona on our way to Venice. I had heard the story before about the ladies who write letters to Juliet and leave them under her balcony, so the story premise made sense to me from the very beginning, and since Venice was my favorite stop on my own trip, I was absolutely in love with the scenery. Add all of these together with a totally clean and incredibly romantic plot, and Letters to Juliet was a perfect date night movie with my husband. We both loved it, and shed a tear or two in joy.

Toy Story 3. In 1999, my husband and I were blessed to welcome into our home two little boys to be ours forever. Chan was 6 and Kent was 5, and they loved, loved, loved movies (How appropriate in a home like ours where my husband works on film sets, and I write scripts). One of their favorite movies was Toy Story, and one of the first movies we took them to the theater to see was Toy Story 2. Woody and Buzz dominated everything in our house from toys to Halloween costumes, birthday cakes to home video nights for the next couple years. “Reach for the sky” and “Are you mocking me?” became family institutions. Is it any wonder that the boys have been non-too-anxiously awaiting the premiere this weekend? Today we went to see the movie in 3D, and although Tommy and Zach went with us, I don’t think they quite understood why Mom and Dad blubbered like babies toward the end of the film. These characters are indelibly linked to our years with Chan and Kent, and the idea of Andy moving out to go to college struck a chord that soon we would be seeing our own little boys moving on with their lives as adults. Where did those little boys years go?

Shrek Forever After. After a forgettable Shrek the Third, I didn’t think I’d be able to drag my kids to see this one, but Zach and I went and I actually liked it—a lot! Enough that Chan and Kent decided to finally go see it as well, and the consensus is in—they ALL liked it. Maybe because this one takes us back to the beginning and lets viewers see an alternate outcome, what might have been in Shrek had never made it to rescue Fiona in the first place. The humor still shines for both kids and adults, the romance makes sparks fly, and the ending was truly satisfying at saying, at last Shrek feels like it’s over, and that’s okay. Of course, I cried a tear or two at this one as well. Are we seeing a pattern?

The Karate Kid. Okay, I told myself there was no way I was going to see this movie in remake. How could you possibly get better than Ralph Macchio and Pat Morika as Mr. Miyagi? Besides, why would I want to go see Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s spoiled son Jaden in a role he got simply because Mommy and Daddy were the executive producers for the film? Okay, okay, so it also stars Jackie Chan and his comedies always make me laugh, so off I went. And, WOW, was I surprised. I was on the edge of my seat during the final match, terrified that Dre Parker (the new name for the Karate Kid) wouldn’t make it back onto the mat. And Jackie Chan showed a whole new depth to his acting that totally sold me on him being the new Mr. Miyagi (So he was renamed Mr. Han) I LOVED the new version, and, you guessed it, I even cried!

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I’m not a huge fan of video games, and think some of my kids have wasted too many hours of their lives attached to the PS 3, but what the heck, I decided to go see what the screenwriters came up with in their quest to turn a mindless video game scenario into a two hour film, and I liked it! Jake Gyllenhaal was funny, agile, and even a little cute in his role of Dastan.  I had Ben Kingsley pegged from the very beginning, but his acting was, as always, superb. The movie was filled with action, adventure, and humor, and so you won’t be disappointed, yes, I even found a moment to cry.

The A-Team. You know, I was thinking it was my dad who used to watch The A-Team on television then I checked the air dates on IMBD and realized, my dad was already dead by the time the show was on, so The A-Team fan in my house had to have been my MOM! This strikes me as pretty funny, until I consider how much I liked the movie. The cast provide a perfect bridge between the original actors and today’s action, adventure movies. I loved the humor, and I wasn’t offended by any of the violence. I wanted to stand up and cheer at the end, and hoped that someone in Washington would get a clue and hire this group to work for the defense of our country. I can’t remember if there were any tears on this one, but I do know I left the theater hoping there would be a sequel to this one.

Iron Man 2: If I can keep the theme song out of my head long enough so that I can think, I’ll tell you that I did like Iron Man 2. Oh, maybe not as much as Iron Man 1, but enough that I would recommend it. Once again, Robert Downey, Jr. is looking fine, and it’s great to see him holding his life together to make the string of movies he’s been in the past two years. I loved the romantic elements that continue to develop between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. The only negative about this film was that I thought Tony’s health issues got solved a little too quickly and without enough difficult to sustain the angst the audience needed, but hey, what can I say other than there were still a couple of minutes that made me cry!

Marmaduke. I have a ten-year-old son. That’s what got me to the theater to see this movie, based on a cartoon character I once hated, and that’s why I’m so surprised I actually thought the movie was cute. Okay, cheesy romance and gang fights between talking dogs doesn’t make for high quality entertainment, but Owen Wilson and pleasant memories of Marley & Me helped me get past the faults and see the fun. I’m sure Zach will want to own a copy, which means I’ll probably have to sit through at least parts of this one again. At least it won’t be totally painful!

Killers. I loved the premise. Some of the romantic and action scenes between Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl were enjoyable, but there was much to be disappointed in with this one. I usually love Tom Selleck, but I never really connected with   him in this one. The look was wrong, the lines didn’t seem to fit him, and the usual charisma he shows in his other films was simply missing. My biggest complaint was that it seemed like the producers were worried about running out of money and chopped the movie into ill-fitting pieces. The story arc was missing, and the resolution didn’t feel well developed. If they had added another ten minutes after the wedding in the beginning and after the climax in the end, I think the story would have been better crafted and worth seeing again (this time without the giggling grandmas who could hardly contain themselves every time Kutcher was on the screen!) As it stands now, I’m hoping that Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz bring me a film that is much better at putting it all together.

Robin Hood. By far the biggest disappointment of the summer. Russell Crowe’s mumbling was rarely understandable. Cate Blanchett was the ugliest Maid Marion I’ve ever seen. If I hadn’t already known the back story, I would have been completely lost for the entire three hour movie (it only seemed like it lasted three days!) And, despite its length, never once did we get around to Robin Hood taking from the rich to give to the poor, seeing the Merry Men as his Merry Men, or ever finding Robin Hood to be the kind of hero I would trust to do anything. Boring, boring, boring, and the only tears I cried were those of joy that this painful movie was finally over.

That’s it for this time. I’m sure I’ll be back soon with another ten movies to review. The calendar is already filling up as we await Knight & Day, Grown Ups, The Last Airbender, Despicable Me, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Inception (my husband worked on this one), Eat Pray Love, The Expendables, and Nanny McPhee Returns.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Signings: All a Mystery to Me

Annette Lyon blogged about book signings over on her post today, and included this video from mystery author, Parnell Hall. Like both Annette and Parnell, I've been in similar book signing situations. You just try sitting next to Richard Paul Evans at a signing and see how you do. Parnell's signing next to Mary Higgins Clark all over again.

Anyway, after watching the video, I had to know more about him, so I popped over to Amazon where I discovered he has three book series, comprised of over 40 novels, is an actor/screenwriter/songwriter, and is a former President of the Private Eye Writers of America. I love mysteries. Why have I never heard of this guy before now?

Anyway, good book buyer that I am, I ordered the first of the Crossword Lady series (I love to do the crossword puzzles in the newspaper), and I'm looking forward to discovering if I like his novels as well as I did this song. I'll be sure to let you know.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Okay, so maybe it's not quite so bad for me because I've had full cover credit on both of my published ghost-written books so far, but today's comic in the New Yorker made me laugh. Is this where my writing career is headed?

New Yorker

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Wisdom Keys: What You Repeatedly Hear You Will Eventually Believe

Perhaps you’ve heard the line often attributed to Adolph Hitler: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” Based on the source alone, you might be hesitant to believe it is true, but, like it or not, the idea is sound.

Politicians use repetition all the time to sway our vote. “Vote for me. I’ll solve all your problems. My opponent believes. . .(insert an option here that the people won’t like). Then the campaign runs that commercial repeatedly on every form of media at their disposal, pounding the negative idea into our heads until there is no way we will vote for the other guy, unless we do because we’ve heard the other candidate’s name so often in the negative campaigning that it’s the one embedded into our memory once we reach the polls.

According to the advertising industry, a potential client needs to see your ads at least seven times before they'll act on it. Only seven times and the new information is in your long-term memory forever. Consider the new song you hear on the radio. The first few times you might hum along, catching a phrase or two that sticks with you. Usually the first words you remember are the oft-repeated chorus. Eventually you learn the rest of the words, sometimes whether you want to or not. I’m sure each of us knows the lyrics to a song we can’t stand–“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”–and finds the words stuck in our heads the rest of the day anytime we run across the song out of happenstance.

The things we hear repeatedly bore into our minds and become a solid part of who we are. Too often the things we hear come from our own minds, and they are usually negative. When we assign ourselves negative labels–You’re fat. You’re too stupid. You can’t do that.–we can be guilty of stopping our own progression toward the goals we want and the potential within us. We become our own worst enemy.

But what can we do to turn our lives around? How can we change that little negative voice with so much power into a force for good within our own minds?


Think and Grow Rich author Napoleon Hill once said, “Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” Protestant preacher and author Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking) said, “Change your thoughts, and you change your world.” We are even told in the New Testament book of Matthew: “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

Did you catch that? All things. Not just some things, yet how many times have we been guilty of picking and choosing those scriptures we will believe and those we do not? If we believe part of the scriptures to be true, then why not all? As we learn in Proverbs 3: 4-5, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”

Change the negative thoughts in your head to those which are more positive, and you will find your life begins to change for the better. Trust and believe that you can lose weight, and you’ll find your actions become more supportive of that goal. Tell yourself you can learn whatever it is you need to know, and you’ll find a sudden hunger for knowledge that can be gained through reading or taking courses. If you want to change an aspect of your life or relationships, you can do that, if you only believe in yourself and you are willing to put forth the effort to do so.

Find those positive affirmations that work best for you and repeat them often. Act as if the things you say are true. Then watch the changes that come about in your life, and perhaps in the lives of the people around you. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish, if you only believe.