Since the pursuit of over- the- counter sleeping pills was feeling more and more devious, I finally called my doctor for some prescription sleeping pills.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“Nothing,” I stammered—not daring to say that I had ventured into alien territory.

Even worse, I was part of the “What me worry?” generation of Alfred E. Newman.  I wasn’t supposed to have anything wrong with me. I wasn’t supposed to worry.  Worry seemed like a sin.

My doctor prescribed some Valium—a brand new drug back then. But every time I asked for a refill, he always asked how I was doing.

And I always tried to dodge the answer.

My worry seems absurd in this day and age when women embark on a variety of careers.

But forty-five years ago, wives and mothers who went back to work were usually returning to a job for which they were already trained.  They already had office experience, teaching certificates or nursing degrees.

Sure, I had a college degree in English—but no work experience other than summer jobs—at Woolworth’s and Penney’s.

But here I was—taking a stab in the dark—by embarking on—on what? What in the world was I doing?



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Dear Readers: This is the 14th episode of the series: Help, I Want to Get Out of the Kitchen. If you are new to this series, you may want to start with Chapter One–If They’d Had Hamburger Helper Back Then. Thanks for reading.


Shopping for sleeping pills was sort of like robbing a bank back 47 years ago.  With Kathy bundled in my arms, I sneaked into Westlake Pharmacy—casing the joint—hoping I wouldn’t see anyone I knew—and more importantly—that no one would see me.

I plucked the over the counter sleeping pills off the shelf and bought shaving cream for my husband—in  hopes of giving legitimacy to my venture. Looking over my shoulder as I approached the cashier, I hoped to get out of the store as soon as possible.

Shaking when I got to the car, I put Kathy in her car seat, drove home over snow crusted roads, and got home just as our car pool dropped our older girls home from school.

It wasn’t until years later—and lots of good therapy—that I realized much of my insomnia was linked to the question that invaded my sleep on a nightly basis.  “Could I be a good wife and mother if I pursued an education and career out of the house?”

Today’s women seem to juggle both home and career.  I had no role models—among my friends—on this venture.  I continued to feel alone.

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Dear Readers: This is the 13th episode of the series: Help, I Want To Get Out Of The Kitchen. If you are new to this series, you may want to start with Chapter One–If They’d Had Hamburger Helper Back Then. Thanks for reading.
Not long after Shirley and I started back to school, insomnia became my persistent nighttime visitor.

Some nights I’d fall asleep right way, but then wake up at 3 a.m. Other nights I had trouble falling asleep. After I few weeks, I became obsessed with getting enough sleep.

One afternoon in late winter 1970 stands out. I was holding our youngest—Kathy—then two years old—warm and sleepy after her nap. She snuggled in my arms as I rummaged through the medicine cabinet looking for sleeping pills.

“As soon as Kathy wakes up from her nap, I’ll bundle her up and drive to Westlake Pharmacy.”

As eager as I was to get the sleeping pills, I dreaded running into someone I knew while shopping for the pills.

In today’s world, sleeping pills are advertised on TV.

Sleep problems are openly discussed between doctors and patients, between spouses and between friends.

But in 1970, I didn’t know a single soul needing help to sleep at night.

I felt alone and afraid.

What was wrong with me?



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Dear Readers: This is the 12th episode of the series: Help, I Want To Get Out Of The Kitchen. If you are new to this series, you may want to start with Chapter One–If They’d Had Hamburger Helper Back Then. Thanks for reading.

When Shirley and I headed back to school, I thought I would be learning subject matter.

If I worked towards getting my teaching certification, perhaps I’d learn how to teach handwriting or spelling. Geography and history—with a little math and science thrown in.

What I didn’t know was that over the next decade or so, I’d have to acquire a different type of mastery—a mastery more difficult than subject matter.

Mastery over myself. Over my fears, my doubts.

The elixir of being on campus—being out at night—being in an invigorating and exciting environment—soon gave way to fear.

The first of many fears I’ve have to conquer was that of driving on snowy nights—on what was then a 20 mile two lane highway—from Loveland to Greeley.

Please join me on my journey as a faced fear, panic attacks, insomnia and depression.

Stay tuned.

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Dear Readers: This is the 11th episode of the series: HELP, I WANT TO GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN. If you are new to this series, you may want to start with Chapter One–IF THEY’D HAD HAMBURGER HELPER BACK THEN. Thanks for reading.

In writing this column last month, I reflected—not without a bit of envy—about the way Shirley’s large extended family celebrated Thanksgiving.

Back in the 1960’s, I knew I had to establish our own family traditions. But how?

I described my steps and missteps in holiday celebrations in the column below which was published in the print edition of the Loveland Daily Reporter Herald on November 19, 2015.

I don’t usually repeat a column but thought this might be of interest as young families develop their own traditions for holidays.

Thanksgiving tops the holiday list for many folks—no gifts to buy—good food and football. And who can resist the spray cans of Reddi-Whip topping we glob atop favorite pies?

So how do we go about celebrating this holiday? Have your traditions evolved over the years? What are the mishaps you’ve experienced on the way to getting that turkey on the table?

In nuclear families like ours—no grandparents or relatives nearby—we’ve had a kaleidoscope of Thanksgiving adventures—with chips falling where they may.

When Bill and I moved to Loveland with three very young children and no family nearby, I wondered how we’d celebrate Thanksgiving. I convinced myself our kiddos would prefer to have us play board games with them rather than fuss over a turkey dinner. Hot dogs with Twinkies for dessert, anyone?

Actually, using kids as my excuse was just a sneaky way of avoiding being a grownup and fixing a proper Thanksgiving dinner. But there was no way I wanted to get up at dawn to stuff dressing into the rear end of a cold, slippery turkey.

My dilemma was solved that year when a friend of a friend invited us to a potluck Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, it was a second hand invitation, but I jumped at the chance

Soon I became brave enough to host others at our home—keeping in mind that—just like the first Thanksgiving in 1621—potlucks are the way to go.

Over the years, our Thanksgivings have been marked by mishaps as well as merriment—sick children on Thanksgiving Eve—a Jell-O-salad that landed on the floor. These became the “Remember When?” stories of our lives.

Fortunately, Thanksgiving traditions are not written in stone—either in our home or in society at large. Many men now take over the kitchen or the grill—and grandma—and great grandma—may be donned in sweats, running in the Loveland Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk.

Perhaps the best Thanksgiving for folks who work hard all week—is simply to enjoy a day off—hang out on the sofa—order pizza and relax. The turkeys will thank you. To all my readers—however you spend Thanksgiving—I send the best of wishes on this holiday.

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Dear Readers: This is the 10th episode of the series: HELP, I WANT TO GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN. If you are new to this series, you may want to start with Chapter One–IF THEY’D HAD HAMBURGER HELPER BACK THEN. Thanks for reading.
When you carpool with a friend, you’re enriched by the details of their lives.

So it was with Shirley and me. We talked about everything.

The pot-roast Cleon had fixed for dinner. The 5th Grade Science Fair which was as much work for parents as it was for kids. The Johnny Carson Show. Our kids’ bouts with colds, ear infections, stomach flu. Mini-skirts. Maxi-skirts. Why did husbands always take the last dollar from our purse or cigarette from the pack? Yes, we smoked back in those days. It was 1969.

The friendship Shirley and I forged on the way to classes spanned the years.

I’m not sure when the subject of holidays came up in our conversations. Perhaps it was on a Wednesday before Thanksgiving while we were trying to juggle term papers and turkeys.

Or was it a decade later when—settled in our work lives—we spoke by phone before holidays?

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” I must have asked.

“We rent out the basement at St. John’s Church. There’s so many of us that Thanksgiving works out best if we all get together in a large place.”

I knew Shirley and her husband Cleon had six children, but I didn’t know a host of their relatives and family friends lived along Colorado’s Front Range. If I remember right, their family gatherings always hosted more than 50 folks. Although both Shirley and Cleon are gone now, this tradition continues.

The idea of celebrating Thanksgiving in a larger setting—with space to invite a host of family and friends—has remained in my mind over the years. What a great idea!

That way there’s always room at the table.

Next year, I’m going to copy this idea.

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Dear Readers: This is the 9th episode of the series: HELP, I WANT TO GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN. If you are new to this series, you may want to start with Chapter One–IF THEY’D HAD HAMBURGER HELPER BACK THEN. Thanks for reading.


In this series, I haven’t said much about the two important men that held down the fort while Shirley and I took classes at UNC.

Shirley and Cleon met as third graders in Hettinger, North Dakota. Cleon was smitten—fell head over heels in love with Shirley—from the first day of class.

Much to Cleon’s dismay, Shirley, one of the prettiest and most popular girls in her class, dated other guys during high school.

But Cleon didn’t give up. When Shirley was in her early twenties she said “yes” to Cleon’s marriage proposal.

The young couple moved to Colorado, where Cleon graduated from DU and then opened several bakeries, including the Batter Bowl Bakery on 4th Street in Loveland.

In talking to Shirley, I learned that bakers’ hours are not bankers’ hours. Cleon arrived at the Batter Bowl at 2a.m. to create the breads, pies and coffee cakes for the day.

He and Shirley tag-teamed at the Batter Bowl throughout the day so Cleon could get some rest after his pre-dawn start.

Though babies came along in rapid succession, there was no time off for this busy couple. No time off for the young parents of a growing family of four tow-headed boys and two blond girls.

Morning sickness was often a companion during Shirley’s pregnancies. “If someone else was minding the store, I’d often take a half-hour nap further down 4th Street at W and T pharmacy—where there was a cot in the back room.”

But as I came to know Shirley and Cleon, there was no complaining about being overworked or overtired. Just a family with an abundance of love and laughter—no matter how the cookie crumbled.

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Dear Readers: This is the 8th episode of the series: HELP, I WANT TO GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN. If you are new to this series, you may want to start with Chapter One–IF THEY’D HAD HAMBURGER HELPER BACK THEN. Thanks for reading.


Shirley and I found a parking space on the brightly lit McKee Building on the UNC campus.

The building was buzzing with students—many of them older students—taking night classes which ran from 7pm to 10pm on Wednesday nights.

I don’t remember what class Shirley took. I’d been admitted to the Department of Special Education and my class—The Psychology of Exceptional Children—drew a number of teachers getting their Master’s in Special Education.

I’d chosen Special Ed as my focus because I felt a deep empathy for parents of children who faced challenges in their lives.

I loved the excitement of learning and meeting new people in class. I found that a couple of my classmates were teachers from Loveland. We exchanged phone numbers and made arrangements to include them in our car pool.

On the drive home from class, Shirley and I both concluded that we liked our professors and the small size of our classes.

Only recently did I give away my first textbook—The Psychology of Exceptional Children–with its avocado green cover—which I poured over during the next week.

The page of the book are covered with crayon scribbles as our daughter Kathy—about 18 months old—enjoyed sitting on my lap while I studied and she crayoned.

The textbook represented my first step out of the kitchen.

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Dear Readers: This is the 7th episode of the series: HELP, I WANT TO GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN. If you are new to this series, you may want to start with Chapter One–IF THEY’D HAD HAMBURGER HELPER BACK THEN. Thanks for reading.

When Shirley and I arrived on campus—I drank in the elixir of nighttime lights. You’d have thought I’d gone to a Broadway show.

Years of being a housewife left me more than a little mentally unstable, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Night school was a breath of fresh air, a taste of freedom.

If I could have bottled this sweet potent, I might have invented the first 5 Hour Energy Drink.

The lights and bustle on campus left me feeling alive again.

Don’t get me wrong, I was crazy about my kids and husband, but I didn’t have a fond place in my heart for defrosting the refrigerator and waxing floors.

I still have nightmares of lunging at my frost-filled refrigerator with a sledge hammer.

And I never felt as happy as the 1950’s ads depicting women happily waxing their floors.

And don’t even ask me about cleaning the toilet.

What would become of me—a housekeeping misfit—a slacker—a disaster?

I had no idea where further education would take me. I was already out of my mind. Where would I go next?

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As Shirley and I journeyed back and forth to school, I realized Shirley had the confidence I lacked.

At some level I hoped her courage would rub off on me.

Shirley planted her roots of courage early in life. As a seven-year-old, she made a key decision about her life.

The year was 1937 and Shirley’s father, a rancher in the area, tipped the bottle once too often and this didn’t sit well with the straight laced citizens of Hettinger, North Dakota.

Rather than be a burden to his family, Shirley’s father left Hettinger—but not before small town gossip threatened to shed a dark cloud over Shirley, her mother Alice and brother Don.

But seven-year-old Shirley decided not to be weighed down by the criticism of her father. She recalls sitting on the steps of her school saying to herself “I’m not my father. I’m me. And I’m going to be the best that I can be.”

And Shirley went on to be the Valedictorian of her class—as well as Homecoming queen.

When Shirley and I started our venture, I knew nothing of her early life. Nor did I know that I would learn as much from Shirley as I did from some of my classes.

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