Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good Taste

It was one of the most beautiful things I had seen. It certainly was the most lovely of our Christmas tree ornaments. My mother’s visiting teacher had given her a handcrafted cardinal whose intricate detail shimmered in the light.

Mom and I established a new tradition as we argued over the placement of this gorgeous bird. I wanted to hang it front and center on the tree, at my eye level, for everyone to see and admire. Mom was generally very flexible in the tree-trimming ritual, letting us help with very little censure. But with the cardinal, she was insistent. It was a gift to HER, not me, and she would hang it where she wanted. She explained that the perfect location for her decoration was nearer the top of the tree and toward the rear, so that passers-by could see its beauty from the front window. I had to admit that this made sense. Sharing this ornament with as many people as possible was indeed charitable. Yet I was left discouraged with the lessened opportunity for my own enjoyment.

This continued for years. I was in high school still trying to convince my mother to hang the cardinal on the front of the tree. I came to understand at that time, however, that mothers are entitled to possessions as well as children, and that mine loved her cardinal as much as I did. It was therefore only fair to let her hang her treasure where she pleased, no matter how silly a place it seemed.

Christmas break, home from college my freshman year, was a turning point. The tree was decorated upon my arrival, but I helped take it down, as was the custom at our house, on New Year’s Day. Perhaps it was because I had been away from home, or maybe it was one of the first times that I had actually handled the bird, but as I put it away, I looked at this thing with fresh eyes. In truth, it must have been the first time I had done so since about age 9 or 10. It was with a great deal of shock and some disappointment, not only in the ornament, but also in myself, that I saw that cardinal for what it was.

It was one of the ugliest things I’d seen. It was a bright red piece of felt, edges pinked, trimmed with metallic cording, perched on a green pipe-cleaner, and covered with a gaudy pattern of glued-on sequins--blues and golds and greens and more reds, creating the bird’s features. “Mom,” I exclaimed, “this thing is hideous.”

“I know, Merinda, why do you think I always hung it on the back of the tree?”

Wow. She'd known. All that time. She didn’t hang it in back to be generous to our neighbors. She did it to hide it.

It was time for some serious self-evaluation. Was I that lacking in taste? My whole life I had believed I had great taste. Yes, it had certainly evolved, matured. But for some reason that I still can’t place, the cardinal had escaped the notice of the greater refinement of my eye. It was as if my 6-year-old self had dressed my 19-year-old self for a party and I hadn’t discovered that fact until half way through the evening. I felt exposed. I had loved and adored this horrendous, cheap, ugly bird. The previous year.

A few years back, my mother gave me the cardinal. It spends all year with my other tree ornaments in storage, but spends Christmas alone, still in the bottom of the box.

People with no relation to myself now frequently compliment me on my good taste and talent in decorating. Last summer my design for a decorative flag for the city was selected. A friend recently enlisted my help in choosing the color scheme for his new restaurant. My shameful past is safely concealed in a red and green Rubbermaid tub.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Can you say "midlife crisis"?

An Open Letter to the Baby-Boom-Age Man I Encountered Whist Grocery Shopping Today:

Dear Mr. Walmart Shopper,

Some may call you snobby, others, ridiculous. But me, I call you an inspiration.

Your spiked hair-do lifted my spirits as I remembered back to my college days in the very early 90s when my boyfriend sported the same style. Of course, he was blond, and you are heavily salt-and-pepper, but it still took me right back. Who doesn't love to feel like a college kid again?

And nothing takes one's mind off of being in Idaho in November like spying a good, dark, fake tan peeking out from behind Ray-Bans worn indoors. No need to be pining away for the summer past or lusting after Christmas Caribbean cruises when the tropics come strolling down the deli aisle in the form of your pre-skin cancerous self!

A cream colored turtleneck sweater, a fine Italian leather blazer, and black dress slacks. It worked for wealthy sea men in the 1930s, afro-picking swingers in the 1970s, and remains a classic today. Well played, my friend.

Lastly, though perhaps I should have mentioned it first as it was what originally caught my eye, I thank you for your air of superior derision as you graced the rest of us lowly Walmart shoppers with your very presence. It sent a signal of solidarity--a reminder that although some of us would rather be at Neiman Marcus, these hard financial times have reached all walks of life.

Thank you, Mr. Walmart Shopper. Thank you for your style and class. Thank you for a fine example of holding your nose, er, I mean your head high in the midst of the undeserving. Thank you for reminding us all to leave our holey sweats at home. Thank you for the opportunity to practice stifling a laugh.

Most sincerely yours,

The Mousey Mom in the Cape Cod Hoodie in Aisle 9

Friday, October 30, 2009

F2: Friday's Feast, Soup or Treat

Some occasions just taste a certain way to me. Food is such a central element of celebration and, as I am sure is quite common, I often get flavors stuck in my head as representing certain holidays. Some of those flavors traditionally make sense. Others are a little less obvious. For years, Halloween has tasted to me like taco soup.

I can't recall when I first made Taco Soup as the pre-trick-or-treat meal, but I did it for years. It's warm, it's hearty, and it's a little spicy--all a nice prelude to a cold, sugar-laden evening. Then we moved up to a small mountain community where Halloween was celebrated in the middle of town, complete with parade, carnival, haunted house, and businesses passing out candy. Those years dinner was hot dogs and hamburgers prepared by the Lion's Club.

Now we're back in a regular neighborhood, more or less, and so we will be able to reinstate our soup tradition. If you'd like to join us, I'll make a double batch. Alternately, you can make your own pot of soup. Make it ahead, even. I see no reason why this couldn't sit in a crock pot all day on low. Serve it with some corn muffins and apple slices. At our house, we also have a bowl of toasted pumpkin seeds, courtesy of our jack-o-lanterns, sitting out to munch on. (Dessert graciously supplied by the neighbors.)

Taco Soup

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 1-20 oz. can stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 c. water
  • 1-8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 can corn, undrained
  • 1 can kidney beans, undrained

Cook beef and onion together in soup pot. Drain fat. Mix in taco seasoning. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Top each serving with:
  • coarsely crushed tortilla chips
  • sour cream
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • chopped avocado, if desired

Visit Ca-Joh for more Friday Feast Halloween Fare.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

F2: Friday's Feast, Recipe Swap

I love autumn. I love the weather, I love the colors. I love Halloween and Thanksgiving. I love cinnamon and nutmeg and all of those warm spicy scents and flavors. And I love pumpkin! Pumpkin bread, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin ice cream (I recently had a pumpkin malt to die for at a local ice cream shop), pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin pasta (sounds weird, I know, but I once had an amazing pasta dish with a pumpkin cream sauce at a place called Café Aroma we used to frequent back in Cali), pumpkin roll, pumpkin Peeps (which, I grant, taste just like every other Peep), pumpkin bisque, and pumpkin cheesecake.

CaJoh is doing a recipe swap for his Friday Feast feature today, so head on over here for more great culinary contributions. Being the time of year it is, I decided to submit my new favorite Thanksgiving dessert, Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake. I nabbed this recipe off of two years back. It was originally printed by Bon Appétit in October 2002. It is the best served with freshly whipped cream. I've thought about replacing the graham crackers in the crust with ginger snaps. I'd make the swap ounce for ounce. It makes one tall, rich, 10" cake.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
Makes 12-16 servings

9 whole graham crackers (about 4 oz.), broken
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 c. butter, melted

4 8-oz. pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 15-oz. can pure pumpkin
1 c. whipping cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350. Wrap a double layer of heavy duty foil around outside of 10" springform pan. Combine crackers, sugar and cinnamon in food processor. Blend until crackers are finely ground, drizzle in butter, and pulse until crumbs begin to stick together. (Alternately, crush the crumbs in a plastic bag with a rolling pin, and mix together with remaining ingredients with fork.) Press mixture into bottom (not sides) of springform pan. Bake until crust is slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Remove to cooling rack but maintain oven temp while preparing filling.

Cream cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add pumpkin and remaining 7 ingredients. Beat until just blended. Pour into prepared crust. Place pan in large roasting pan. add enough water to some halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake until slightly puffy and softly set and top is golden, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer springform pan to cooling rack and cool. Cover and refrigerate cake overnight.

I guess I need to admit here to being at times a poor reader of directions, and I do not believe I have ever put the cake pan in a pan of water. And my cakes have always turned out great. Maybe I'll try the water bath this year, and see if I can tell a difference.

Well, I wish I had a great photo of this to share, but I haven't taken pics before, and there's no way I will make one of these just for that purpose. Because then I'd eat it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Gift

Occasionally one receives a gift from an unlikely source or in an unexpected form.  Yesterday mine came as a fast-moving front, bringing with it earlier-than-predicted rainfall, and ill children.

This autumn has been crazy.  #2 and #4 are both in soccer.  We've had more in the sport at a time in the past, but this year their practices do not overlap.  Someone has soccer every night.  And of course Larry is coaching #2 again, so he is also committed to three 90-minute practices and one 70-minute game per week.  The evenings they are home, I am sitting at practice with #4, who I consider still too young to be dropped off.  Two Tuesdays per month #3 has Activity Day with the 9 year-old girls in our congregation.  Every Wednesday she has guitar lessons.  Wednesday nights #s 1 & 2 have Mutual, our church youth group activities.  One night a week I am supposed to be going on visits as a Ward Missionary.

I'm not listing all of this to earn awe or respect or pity.  Many families I know have crazier schedules than that.  I am listing it to simply complain.  For me, at this point in my life and marriage, I do not like it.  We have fewer family dinners.  Our Family Home Evening gets bumped around and sometimes missed entirely.  Family scripture study is suffering.  Errands requiring more than just myself all get crammed in around Saturday games.  With other stresses we are currently experiencing, I feel only further unsettled and disconnected at a time when I see that consistency and intimacy are just what we all need so desperately.

Yesterday morning my husband informed me that it was supposed to rain  that night.  (He is my sole weather source.)  But the precipitation began around 2:00.  About that time, I came home to a phone message from #3's Activity Day leader.  Sick kids, no activity.  I knew my girl would be disappointed, but I suddenly had an extra hour.  Email from #4s coach:  no practice.  Suddenly we had an entire afternoon and evening!

I've been meaning to get to a local pumpkin stand with Larry's truck for weeks.  They sell pumpkins, hay bales, and cornstalks on the cheap.  Since I had arranged to pick up #s 3 and 4 from school, I decided to take them to get our hay and cornstalks.  With my Suburban.  In the rain.  I think they thought I was nuts.  I loaded two bales into the back, and a cornstalk along three rows of passenger seats, put my cash in the drop box, and made good use of my side mirrors on the way home.  I was soaked and dirty and stinky and downright giddy.  The kids were excitedly chattering about the holidays and the weather.  I wondered aloud if the car would fit down our front walk, shortening the distance I had to carry this wet hay.  I decided not.  I informed the kids that we'd get some cocoa on arrival home, or at least after I'd gotten the hay out of the car because heaven knows I wasn't going to let it sit in there longer than necessary.  #4 replied, "Kevin knows we've got hay in our car?"

We drank our cocoa, arranged our hay, made spaghetti sauce, and had dinner all together.  I vacuumed out the Suburban and coated the back floor with Febreeze.  (The car smells fine now, but the garage still smells like horse manure.  The bales were out of the car before I ever parked it in the garage.  Go figure.)  We listened to the Family Home Evening lesson that #4 had had ready for a week and a half.  We drove to the Boy Scout pumpkin stand and bought pumpkins for carving and some to last through Thanksgiving.  #1 and I even had time to help Larry with some work he's been behind on.  It was a great night.

Today my back is sore, and two of my kids are sick.  So back to the grind.  I guess if every day was such a gift, we wouldn't appreciate them.  And I am still smiling.  

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Too Cool for School

This week we had rain.  So, being the good mom that I am, I made sure that everyone had an umbrella in their backpack.  (I will pause here for nods of approval.  Thank you.)  #3 informed me that she needed a new one.  "Is yours broken?" I asked.  "No.  ...  But Mo-om!  It's Hello Kitty."

#3 is in the fourth grade this year.  She'll be 10 in January.  And I guess this is the age when little girls start to want to grow up, disassociate themselves from their baby-ish interests of the past.  It's interesting to watch.  Because it's not as if the girls suddenly find little-kid things unappealing.  It's just that they believe they will not be cool if such a penchant is made public.  So every girl in 4th and 5th grade puts on the too-cool show for all the rest.  My theory is that if they all knew that every one else still liked Barbies and baby dolls and Polly Pockets and My Little Pony, they'd all be a lot happier.  But no one wants to be the first to admit it.

... until about eighth grade or so.  Then all things "little-kid" are suddenly not only cool, but verging on retro-chic.  The girls have established their maturity by this point, and now are willing to indulge in reliving the good old days of their youth, way back four or five years ago.  To this level of self-confidence #2 has finally arrived.  Of course, she and #1 had an advantage over #3 even during their too-cool phase.  They had a younger sister they could "have" to play with.  Even #2s friends would be so kind as to humor #3 with little-kid play when at our house.  Poor #3 only has a little brother, and as her interest in Star Wars and Legos is severely limited, she's just forced to play it cool for a while.  

Now a very generic, very mature striped umbrella sits in #3s backpack.  And on #2s cut shin is slapped a Hello Kitty Band-Aid.

Me, I'm digging Star Wars chat with #4.

PHOTOS--   top left:  #3 at age 3 with Strawberry Shortcake
bottom right: #3 at age 9 with the big girls

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Busy making other plans

There have been several times in my life where I've found myself re-defined.  Not because I was wanting to make a change, but because I discovered that I am, in very essence, different than I thought I was, or in different circumstances than I had hoped for.  Some have been small things, relatively easy to come to terms with.  Others were much larger in scope.

I always thought I would love the maternal thing.  You know--being pregnant, nursing, caring for tiny babies.  My mother did.  I loved other people's infants.  Baby dolls were my favorite toys for more years than I really care to admit.  My mom used to tell me about a friend of ours who really didn't care too much for kids until they were a bit older.  Even her own.  This story came with a judgemental undertone.  What kind of mother, after all, didn't just adore her own babies?  Something must have been wrong.

I got married young and became pregnant quickly.  And I was sick.  Very sick.  Lose weight kind of sick.  That finally subsided.  Then I was uncomfortable.  Water retaining, back aching, rib crushing uncomfortable.  I could not wait to be done being pregnant.  #1 was born 6 days early, which was good for my morale.  Except that then I had the baby.  A baby who had difficulty nursing.  When she did nurse, she'd immediately projectile vomit most of what she'd consumed.  She had a blocked tear duct.  I had an over-active let-down reflex.  We were wet and miserable a good deal of the time, or so it seemed.  Breast-feeding was not comfortable for me, physically or emotionally.  But I knew it was best, so I did it.  And I felt guilty, because I did not enjoy it at all.  

My pregnancies only got harder and much more painful with each baby.  I never became comfortable with nursing.  I continued to resent the infant schedule.  I did, however, finally stop beating myself up for not being what I thought I should.  I finally came to terms with the fact that I prefer older children.  I loved each of my babies, but I enjoyed them more and more as they grow up and become more independent.  I decided that nothing was wrong with me.  Just different.  As soon as I made that decision, the added stress of living up to unrealistic expectations lessened tremendously.

It was only a few years after that epiphany of mine that #1 was diagnosed with mild mental retardation.  I can't say that it was a complete shock.  We'd been testing her for different things for several years at that point.  We knew that she was not developing  at an expected rate.  It was the beginning of her 1st grade year.  I was happy on one level, because she finally started to receive the help that she so clearly needed.  She also got more understanding from faculty and staff at the school.  But I was also full of negative emotion.  I was embarrassed.  Silly, I know.  I felt guilty for feeling that way.  I never looked down on people with disabilities or their families.  But some vain, arrogant part of me did not want that to be MY child.  I was very smart.  Did well in school.  So did my brother.  My dad has a PhD. and is well known in his small, specialized field.  I married an intelligent, articulate, analytical man, in graduate school himself at the time.  I fully anticipated having brilliant children.  #1's disability was a blow.  

I didn't share her diagnosis with many people right off.  For some reason, it felt to me like admitting to failure.  I was afraid that she'd be treated differently by family.  I actually kept telling myself that she'd catch up at some point in the near future.  That she was just behind and would turn out just fine and normal.  I was waiting for that.  I was impatient for it.  I was not happy.

The best thing I ever did was sign her up for VIP soccer.  VIP is the AYSO's special ed program.  That first year was intimidating for #1.  Our region only had one team, and so she was a 3rd grader playing with High School aged kids.  But it did wonders for me.  I watched the other moms.  They acted like any other group of parents.  They complained about bad attitudes.  They laughed at funny things their kids said or did.  They cheered when their kids made goals.  They hassled them for not paying attention.  Life was normal, and these moms were happy.  And though it seems obvious in retrospect, that was the content of my next big epiphany.  It didn't matter if #1 was retarded or not.  She was the same girl I have loved her whole life.  It would really be fine if she never caught up to her peers.  Maybe her peers were a different set than I was thinking.  Not a worse set, just a different one.  I started to drop my unrealistic expectations of my daughter and started to be happy with my family as it was.

We moved to the mountains the next year.  #1 had a much better experience at school.  We were also in a different AYSO region;  one that was incredibly supportive of their VIP program.  I became very good friends with the coach, and got involved with the kids.  Some of the kindest, sweetest, most genuine people I have ever interacted with I would never have met had I only been the mother of "brilliant" children.  

One of the first things I do now in way of introducing my daughter is tell people that she is mentally retarded (because you don't notice right off).  It's who she is.  And it helps people to interact with her more appropriately.  When we built our home we added an apartment in the walk-out basement to be used by #1 when the time comes for her to have some more independence.  I love seeing that space.  Larry and I want to serve a mission together.  We really hope that #1 will be allowed to come with us, and serve as well.  I'm proud of her when she reaches out of her comfort zone, when she makes friends.  I love what a nurturing, caring person she is.  I delight in her simple faith.  She makes all of us in her family better people for knowing and loving her.

I'm not living the life I had planned, or in the way I figured.  But it is my life.  It's a good one, too, and I am grateful for it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

See you 'round the net

After a two-plus month long hiatus, I can be found today posting on Ca-Joh's blog.  He has guest bloggers posting all this week while he's on vacation.  Read my post about the New Year here.

Ca-Joh is a thoughtful and interesting bloggist, with personal philosophies, funny stories, poetry, and a weekly Friday Feast food-themed feature that all can join in on.  I lovingly refer to him as my "man-reader."  He had become a good internet friend.  If you're not familiar with his blog already, check it out here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Today on the way home from church we saw a tom turkey who appeared to be posing for a Thanks-giving Day portrait.  My son was impressed.  We see the turkey all the time, but never with his tail feathers fanned out in display.  He wanted to know why Tom was strutting his stuff.  I told him that the turkey was trying to impress the girls.

Speaking of which ...

Just this past week as I was driving home from the grocery store I spotted 4 turkeys walking along the side of the road.  These turkeys were human males, appearing to be in their late teens or early twenties at most.  They were fully clothed with the notable exception of their rear-ends, which were exposed.  I was not impressed, and surprisingly not even very disgusted.  I was simply confused.  Questions to pose the quartet flooded my mind as I passed them.  "What are you all thinking?  Are you serious?  What is the goal here?  Trying to be funny?  Racy?  Tough?  Imposing?  Want another beer?"  Some level of intoxication seemed to me the most rational explanation.

The last day of school was a Wednesday, my regular day in #3's classroom, and I went in.  The first hour of the day was taken up with a fifth grade "graduation" assembly.  At the end of the assembly we all rose and waited for the new grads to file out.  Most of the kids proceeded down to aisle toward the back door.  A handful of turkeys raced up to the stage and began, er, dancing, I suppose.  They were gyrating in awkward, preteen craziness, looking ludicrous.  I noted to #3s teacher that only boys were goofing-off on the stage, my assumption being that the girls were more mature and taking the event more seriously.  His response was not what I'd been thinking.  He said, "Well, we don't have colorful feathers or big manes, and we've got to show the girls what we have to offer somehow."  Hm.  I don't know about their female classmates, but I failed to see the charm.

It starts young.  Years ago when #2 was five, we were at a rehearsal for a Primary Christmas program.  The children were singing "Away in a Manger."  #2 was seated next to a little boy who was a year ahead of her in Primary but sat next to her in kindergarten.  A friend of mine got my attention and motioned to the kids.  I looked over to see the boy flexing his muscles for my girl.  My high school psych teacher would have added to this picture the caption: "It's THAT way to the beach."  #2 in turn was looking very impressed, batting her lashes, and giggling with one little hand demurely covering her mouth.  Seven plus years later, I'm not sure what kind of turkey is now earning her admiration.

So many strutting rituals seem very silly to me.  And yet, there are indeed feathers that will catch my attention.  Some are physical--nice shoulders, nice back and chest.  More important ones are intellectual.  I know that an intelligent sense of humor will make a regular-looking guy seem quite enticing in my view.  And of course, a sexy, raspy tenor or baritone singing voice makes me weak in the knees.  We all have our turn-ons.  I'm not sure that most of the turkeys out there are thinking about these sorts of subtleties in their efforts to show off.  Maybe I'm an odd bird.  But my guess would be that I'm not so very unique.

So to all you Toms out there, I'd suggest that simply being yourself will attract the girl that is right for you.  And for heaven's sake, cover your bum.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

It's not good bye, just see you later ...

When I started blogging a little over three years ago, my goal was to post twice monthly.  My audience was myself and my close friends and family.  Subject matter varied somewhat but was essentially commentary on my life.  Not a diary of the minutea of daily life, but insights in to how I experience what goes on around me.  I've always been overly introspective and this blog served as a stage for indulgence in that activity.  

Then last summer we moved to Idaho.  Several other very personal stresses developed about the same time, and I felt alone.  I didn't really have much of anyone to talk with here, and I've never been great at keeping long distance friendships going.  Also around this time my cousin Lisa began dipping more deeply into the blogging pool, and I started to watch the interactions going on in her comment section.  I eventually started making blogging friends myself, and realized that in order to keep interest going in my blog, I needed to up my posting efforts.

So began my journey through the blogosphere.  I must admit that I enjoyed having a slightly broader audience. That was my biggest motivator.  Of course, this is largely a mutual admiration soceity--I'll read yours if you read mine.    I found some great blogs out there, funny, honest, articulate, and I even made a few friends.  Most of those friends I have yet to meet, but one, at least, is in my ward, and it's been a great way to get to know her.  I also became much closer to my cousin than I think I've ever been.  So good things have come of this.

But as all of you wonderful bloggists know, reading blogs and making meaningful comments can become rather consuming.  And I am done.  Spending hours a week on Blogspot is not really how I want to spend all my time.  I'm not great at balance.  I tend to obsess.  Usually, however, I can obsess in an ADD kind of way, bouncing from one project to the next.  I actually have come to appreciate Facebook that way.  I can be on there for five minutes or nearly an entire day if I want, and then ignore it for weeks.  My friends are still there on my return, and no one has really even missed me.  Blogging is a bigger commitment.  I already have as many big commitments as I can handle.  

I'm not removing my blog.  I reserve the right to post now and then, as the spirit moves.  I plan on visiting my fellow bloggers now and then.  I might even leave a comment.  Then again, I might not.  I realize that this means I may loose some of the friendships that I have started.  And I think I have decided that that will be okay.  I will miss you.  I hope at least some of you will miss me.  But life sort of goes that way, doesn't it?

So friends, email me, leave a message on my Facebook wall, and I promise I will keep in touch.  Otherwise, if you're interested, check in now and then.  I may very well have something to share.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pencil it in

I keep myself organized with a wall calendar.  I like that everything is posted there for the entire family to see.  Of course, the youngest two kids haven't caught the vision of checking the calendar yet.  I'm also pretty sure that Larry never looks at it.  If he did, he'd not be so frequently surprised about our plans.  But #s 1 and 2 always have a pretty good handle on the schedule.

This method also has its limitations.  The biggest one is pretty obvious.  The calendar is on my wall.  At home.  It doesn't come with me to the doctor or the dentist or the hairdresser.  So as I'm setting appointments, I'm always hoping that nothing conflicts.  I'm also banking on the fact that I will remember by the time I arrive home to write the appointment on the calendar.  If I have errands to run first, I may be in trouble.

Years ago I bought myself a planner.  I really wanted it to work out.  I used it very sporadically with limited success.  For several years at least its only function has been that of address book.  Secondary address book.  I have a primary one, which I received as a graduation gift from my young women presidency, that contains most of my addresses.  There are only a few entries that are current only in the planner.  Fifteen minutes of transcribing would eliminate the need for it entirely.

Here are my hang-ups with my planner:

1)  I'm not bad at writing things down in it.  I am bad at remembering to always have it with me.  I am also bad at checking it to see what I have going on that day as it simply becomes part of the clutter on my desk.  Or on the counter.  Or on my nightstand.  Like everything else.  

2)  I don't like seeing only one week at a time, I prefer putting my schedule in a larger context.   Perhaps I should have listed this first.  It's a big problem for me.  And yes, I know planners come with monthly inserts.  But then the little squares are too small to write more than one item in.  I often have four or more.

3)   When I use my planner, it becomes the place to jot down my  to do list.  This makes for a very filled up, hard-to-read, easy-to-miss-events calendar--even with the larger weekly sized squares.

4)  I can never get over the feeling that I need that wall calendar, so I end up recording information in duplicate.  That gets old pretty darn quickly.   And if I'm not perfect about writing appointments in both places ... well, I'm sure you can imagine the potential problems.  I think that if ever I want to make the transition once and for all I will need to give up the wall calendar.

For the gluttons for punishment still reading at this point, I will now share the story that necessitated this dry, wordy build-up.  It may not, in truth, be funny enough to have warranted this post.  What can I say?  The muse is still on holiday, I am assuming somewhere warm where she is sipping fruity beverages and getting a very nice tan.

Last summer I was given a small, paperback 2009 planner.  I thought, okay, not as bulky, cute--maybe this will work.  So far this year there are only three weeks that I've written in.  The first week of January, the second week of February, and the week before Easter.  I found the planner today, under a pile of papers on my desk, opened to that pre-Easter entry.  I chuckled to myself as I remembered filling in everything that had to be done that busy week and never looking at it again after that.  I checked out the page more closely.  The events happened three weeks ago.  But the dates read May 3rd through May 9th.  I hadn't noticed.  

The really funny part is that when I saw what I'd done, I was annoyed because I now cannot use the planner next week.  I'd written in pen.

Friday, April 24, 2009


My muse must be on holiday, for I am uninspired.  Bemoaning this fact to #2, she procured a dictionary from the library, opened up to a random page and asked me for a number from 1 to 20.  The 18th word on her selected page was "knowing."  That is my writing assignment.

No redos.

KNOWING is a good word.  I like to know.  In fact I hate NOT knowing.  That's the worst part about childbirth.  When is that baby going to come?  Well, here is your due date, and a 4 week period surrounding that date will be considered "full-term."  We won't let you go much later, and we'll try to keep you from going earlier, but really, we're not sure.  Somebody please shoot me now.

So what do I know?  Less than my 7 year old.  At least, that's his perspective.  He knows much.  He knows all sorts of facts.  Some of those facts can be verified in reference books.  Others are of a more, er, obscure origin.  He knows how to light a fire.  He knows what a pterodactyl sounded like.  He knows how to talk to animals.  But not sheep.  He can't talk to sheep.  He can also see in the dark with his one owl eye, but I suppose that's really more of a super-power than knowledge.  

My 14 year old knows that I am a mean, nasty mother who never lets her sleep in and expects her to do preposterous things like bathe.  She also already knows whatever it is that I am about to tell her.  I'm useless.  I know.

#3 knows how to play the guitar.  She knows how to sing very loudly in the shower or in her bedroom.  She does not know how to sing loudly when she's performing with her guitar.  Thankfully, at our house we know how to plug a mic into a guitar amp.

#2.  Where to begin?  Well, #2 knows how to be funny.  Larry and I are pretty proud of that fact.  She now knows how to sew an Easter dress.  She knows how to spell a lot of words that I cannot.   She knows how to be an incredible friend and support to her disabled sister.

I know that I am ready for sustained warm weather.  I know school will be out before I know it.  I know that I am putting off my brain surgery indefinitely.  I know that coming to Idaho was a good move.  I know that I spend too much time on-line.  I know that my husband adores me.  (I adore him, too.)  I know that the folks in D.C. are ridiculously out of touch.  I know that if I track what I eat I will lose weight.  Knowing how to motivate myself to follow that course seems to be the problem.  I know that I'm currently crushing on a 27 year old Idol contestant with a phenomenally sexy voice who may or may not be homosexual.  Don't worry--Larry knows it's someone's voice that gets me every time.

I don't know exactly how things will work out for us with our business and personal finances, which frustrates me.  Knowing that I have no control over any of that frustrates me as well.  But I also know that no matter what, the most important things will remain intact: my husband, my kids, and the Gospel.  What else, really, is there to know?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Withering interest

Nearly 21 years ago I was assigned to read Wuthering Heights in my sophomore AP English class.  I think I may have read three chapters.  It was all I could take.  I have no idea how I managed the chapter quizzes and final test on the book.  Maybe I failed them. 

Ever since, this title has rested on a dusty shelf in my mind labeled "To Read."  This past Christmas, a paperback copy was wrapped and under the tree with a tag addressed to "Mina."  I anxiously began.

Last Thursday night, I finished.

It's important to note that I often get through a novel in 2 or 3 days, depending on how much I like the book and how much time I can steal from my other responsibilities at the moment.  Lately, I've been able to steal a fair amount of time.  Since starting Heights, I've read The Host, Spires of Stone, The Friday Night Knitting Club, Tower of Strength (which I reviewed here), the entire Twilight series for the second time, and the Midnight Sun partial draft.  I also moved, I felted two purses, I sewed two dresses and guided the sewing of another dress.  However, anytime I'd pick up Wuthering Heights, and I'd fall asleep after a chapter or two.

How do I hate thee, Wuthering Heights?  Let me count [a few of] the ways ...

I dislike the multiple narrators.  Mr. Lockwood, to whom the story is being related by Nelly the servant, seems entirely extraneous.  I see that his existance just provides a platform for the telling of the tale, but I think it's too much.  It's even a little consfusing at times when Nelly is describing accounts given to her by yet other characters.

The main characters, Heathcliff and Catherine, are anti-heros.  They are in love, but their insanely bad behavior and selfishness not only destroys their lives but the lives of most all around them as well.  I read a piece on this book that claimed that this was a more true to life situation than the typical love story with a happy ending.  Well, happy endings may be slightly unrealistic, but I can't say that I often find violent, malevolent, murderous, vindictive narcissists falling in love and ruining everything they touch, either.

Even the non-evil characters are not really good.  They are spineless and manipulative in their own rights.  There is not a redeeming personality in the lot.  There isn't even an endearing one. Nor were they characters I loved to hate.  I will conceed that by the last two pages the younger Cathy and Hareton appeared that they would fare well together with the all rest of their family finally in the grave.  Yet it hardly seemed redemptive of the story at large.

I don't get in to the Gothic themes of the mid-nineteenth century.  Plot twists become over the top for literature not meant to be fantasy.  The crazy first wife in Jane Eyre is about the most I can handle;  I at least found that story line somewhat intriguing.  Heights, no.  It's plot was just, in my opinion, long and drawn out and messy and not the slightest bit interesting.  I'd call it a train wreck, but I had no problem looking away.  It was maintaining enough interest to continue that was difficult.

I am glad I read and finished this book.  I am also glad that I ate a plate of escargot once on a cruise.  That way, if offered them ever again, I can simply reply that I'm not in the mood for snails at the moment.  But I think that neither Wuthering Heights nor escargot deserve the "classic" status that they enjoy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

F2: Friday's Feast, OCCD

Obsessive Compulsive Checkout Disorder.

I have had this disorder in varying degrees my entire grocery shopping career.  And right now I am at a high point.  Or maybe that's a low point.  I guess it depends on who you're askin'.

I like to put things on the checkout belt in categories.  This habit became more ingrained when I lived in the mountains and needed to put all of my cold things in a cooler for the half-hour drive home.  One would think that a bagger would do that automatically.  Uhhhh, no.  One might then think that if a customer specifically asked that all of her cold things be put together, that they could manage it.  Wrong again.  I always had to look through my bags to take out the stragglers.  And if I'd asked, I would become extremely irritated at the necessity of that obnoxious, time consuming task.  So I stopped asking and became extra diligent about my categories.

Boxed items all are put on the belt together.  Then meats.  Freezer, refrigerated, and deli items. Cans and jars.  Any bottled juices.  Baking goods.  Fresh produce.  Breads.  That's pretty much it.  I do group non-grocery items together after the food items.  

This really doesn't take as long as it may seem it would.  That's why the boxes tend to go on first.  Those are bulky, easy to spot.  Once they're out of the cart, it's easy to sort the rest.  A lot of it is already grouped in my cart that way, just because of how the aisles are arranged.

I never thought that anyone noticed this.  Maybe they haven't in the past.  But the last time I went grocery shopping, the cashier, who was also bagging, commented on my anal behavior (her words).  Rather than criticizing, she was thanking me.  It was so much easier to bag that way, she said.  I told her she was welcome and felt gratified.  I instantly realized that any hope I had at rehabilitation was just dashed.  Reinforcement like that will sustain my OCCD for quite a while.

Visit CaJoh for more Friday Feast links.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

At the risk of being put on watch as a potential domestic terrorist by the MIAC* ...

A few weeks back Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) questioned Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Chairman Bernanke of the Federal Reserve about the constitutionality of the radical bailouts which began last year.  Continuing to point back to the authorization given by the House of Representatives, Geithner never answered the basic question of where in the Constitution authority is given to the Treasury to interfere so drastically with the private sector.  As Congresswoman Bachmann pressed the point, he had a look on his face that would say, "I do not know this 'Constitution' of which you speak."  It's like that old Andy Griffith episode where Barney cannot repeat one word of the preamble correctly.  But at least Barney thought he had it memorized!

I'm a member of a book club of several women in my ward who are interested in learning and discussing and becoming more involved in politics.  Yesterday, we had our second meeting, and reviewed the Constitution.  As I read the articles for the first time in decades I realized that while we site the occasional Amendment here and there, we as a society have forgotten much of the vision the Founding Fathers had for this great Democratic Republic.  

George Washington said:
"This Constitution is really, in it formation, a government of the people ... No government before introduces among mankind ever contained so many checks and such efficacious restraints to prevent it from degenerating into any species of oppression ... The balances arising from the distribution of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers are the best that have [ever] been instituted."  
-from a proposed address to Congress, 1789, as quoted by W. Cleon Skousen in The 5000 Year Leap
The Constitution is wrought with wisdom, laying out an incredibly ingenious format for a government, including the method for changing the document should change become necessary.  Dependence on case law and a desire to emulate other countries have in many cases kept us removed as a Nation from using this defining document to maintain our way of life.  Some see this as a positive progression.  Others, myself included, do not.  Republican and Democrat politicians alike seem to have trouble setting limits for themselves as the governing body of the country.  They all seem, for instance, to ignore the 10th Amendment.  (Kudos to Texas for invoking it yesterday.)  

Regardless of one's position on the usefulness and relevance of the Constitution, I think it is important for United States Citizens to know what it contains.  I think it is the most useful way to analyze the direction that the country is headed in at any given time, not just now.  Be informed.  Read and re-read the Constitution.  Pay some attention to politics.  And then use that information to become involved in whatever small way you can.  The greater the level of public involvement in politics, the better able we are to keep this a "government of the people."

*Read here to see why it's dangerous that I not only voted for Bob Barr and lean Libertarian, but that I obviously feel the country is moving away from the Constitution and am a States rights supporter.  Those are only a few of the reasons why you should apparently never sell me manure.

Monday, April 13, 2009

General Conference on-line Book Club

I'd like to bear my testimony of blogging ...

Well, not exactly.  I have had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this consuming pass time.  I often think I waste too much time on the blogosphere that would be better spent in service to my family.  But then there are elements of this community that are not only fun, but seem genuinely worth while.  Today I found one such element through my bloggy bff Erin.

The site is called Diapers and Divinity and the author is Stephanie.  She is starting up an on-line reading club.  Each Sunday she'll assign a talk from the latest LDS General Conference.  Those participating will read and hopefully get a dialogue going in the comment section of the weekly post.  Her personal goal with this is to base her scripture study for the week on that particular talk.  She's starting with Elder Holland's fabulous talk on the atonement.

I am so excited for this.  Every season my goal is to re-read all of the conference talks before the next session.  I have done it a few times, but I often don't quite get there.  This will be a great way to pace myself with a more directed plan.  If you're interested, link over to Stephanie's site for a better description of her club. 

Yeah, blogging!

Friday, April 10, 2009

F2: Friday's Feast, Easter Menu Light

My good bloggy friend CaJoh has created a recurring feature post called Friday's Feast, dedicated to all things epicurean.  If you're interested in his vision for the feature, click here.  

This week seemed like a no-brainer.  It's Easter weekend.  Time to meditate core beliefs.  Time to celebrate hope and new life.  Time, also, to eat.  Time to eat a lot.  I guess one upside here is that, opposed to Christmas Season which runs a month complete, Easter feasting generally only lasts the weekend.  That's a little easier on the waistline.

The past few years, however, I have tried to lighten up our Easter dinner, mostly to lessen the guilt of eating my weight in jelly beans, m&ms, and Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs.  I have given up some of the traditional foods that I grew up on and adore, but I have found the replacements to be quite elegant.

  • Ham
  • Cheese Potatoes (funeral-style)  
  • Artichokes
  • Jello-Salad
  • Rolls
  • Several Desserts

  • Roasted Pork Loin
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Fresh Fruit Salad
  • Orange Rolls (This one is worse.)
  • Green Salad
  • Carrot Cake bunnies

I got a recipe from Kelly a few years ago for a spiced maple marinade that gives the slightest sweet crust to the pork loin.  The sweet potatoes I peel, cube, and toss with a little olive oil and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and allspice before roasting.  The asparagus is only better than the artichokes because of the dipping factor.  I saute´ them in a little olive oil and freshly pressed garlic.  Now the rolls.  Regular rolls are healthier than these orange rolls of my grandma's that are an unglazed cinnamon-style roll.  They are scrumptious, though, and remind me of my grandma.  So they stay.

The carrot cake I make is pretty good, if I do say so myself.  It is my mother's recipe, lightened up just a touch.  It gets rave reviews.  I use applesauce in place of the oil, and I use neufchatel
 cheese in the frosting.  Still not a diet food, by any stretch, but I like to pretend it's healthier.  I need to try it sometime with wheat flour to see what that does to the recipe.  But not on Easter.  I make the bunnies by baking two 9" round cakes.  Each round makes one bunny.  Cut the round in half across the diameter and frost together taco-style.  It will sit on it's cut ends.  You then carve out a little chunk to create a neck and stick that on the other end of the cake for a tail.  You end up with a three-humped cake.  Frost that.  Add jellybean eyes and nose to the head.  The ears you can cut from construction paper and insert into the head.  I often surround the little guys with green tinted coconut and more jelly beans.  (The photo I got on-line.  I don't cover my bunny with coconut, because some of my kids don't like it.  I also make a slightly smaller head by cutting the notch further down the arc.  I think it's a little cuter that way.)

Have a blessed Easter weekend!   And bon apetit!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

But when she was bad ...

There was a little girl 
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good 
She was very, very good.
But when she was bad she was horrid!

This nursery rhyme took on new, personal meaning for me with the birth of #2.  She didn't have curls right away.  In fact, she was nearly two before there were soft little ringlets framing her face.  But her Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality reared its cute little pink head with in days of birth.

#2 was a delightful baby and toddler.  She was smiley and smart and funny and cute as a button.  Until she became upset.  And becoming upset was not, unfortunately, a rare thing.  Sometimes there was a clear cause of the tantrum, but many times there was not.  Not that it mattered.  Remedying the problem did not end the fit.  #2 held grudges.

One such grudge was created when Larry's parents took #2 and her older sister down to visit Larry's grandparents, about 20 minutes away.  #2 was about 4 months old.  They weren't going to stay long, and they were armed with some expressed milk and a bottle.  #2 was fine all during the car ride down.  She was fine visiting her great-grandma and grandpa.  Then she started to get hungry.  It wasn't even the hunger that sent her over the edge.  It was the bottle.  Forget the fact that it was filled with the good stuff she was used to.  Forget the fact that she was addicted to pacifiers, and therefore no stranger to the silicon nipple.  The combination of the two was absolutely unacceptable.  She screamed.

The visit was cut short.  She screamed for 20 minutes on the car ride home.  She screamed when she saw me.  She screamed as I tried to give her what she'd wanted in the first place.  She rigidly screamed for an entire hour in my arms before she settled down and nursed.  And then, of course, she fell asleep.

When she was a little older, maybe almost two, #2 would often get angry because of something she was not allowed to do or have.  I discovered a trick, quite inadvertantly, that worked very well.  I would put her in her crib and tell her she could come out when she stopped crying.  Then I'd watch covertly from the door.  After a certain amount of time, she'd throw her pacifier to the floor.  Gradually she'd shift her screams from whatever the power-struggle had been about in the first place to indignation over an out-of-reach binkie.  I'd usually let her go a few minutes like that, just to be sure the anger was fully transfered, and then I'd walk in and with an, "Oh, did you drop your binkie?  Let me get that for you," I'd swoop her out of the crib, insert the plug, and cuddle the pacified little monster.

I was often afraid to go places.  A fit could, and did, occur at any time.  Some folks were understanding, but a shocking number were not.  I got suggestions and glares and rude comments galore.  "Believe me," I'd tell them, "if there were anything I could be doing to make it better, I'd be doing it."  I vividly remember finishing a grocery shopping trip in tears with a crying #2 sitting in the cart and too much time invested to simply walk away.  An elderly lady had given me a, "Well, I never,"  in produce, and I couldn't pull myself together until we were in the car.  Poor, sweet #1 was so worried about me and kept asking what was wrong.  I didn't know what to say.  She clearly had no concept that this perpetual screaming was not normal.

It was at about age 3 that the tantrums stopped.  #2 has no memory of the Mr. Hyde episodes.  Interestingly enough, she has become my most even-keeled, pleasant kid.  It's as if she got it all out those few, miserable years.  There are still situations that make her get teary-eyed.  But they tend to be times when she feels uncomfortable or nervous.  And even then she tries very hard not to cry.  

**Photos taken Christmas Day 1997, within less than an hour of each other.  She was 13.5 months old.  I can't remember why she was crying.  It could have been anything, really.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Graduation Photos for "Pride (4 of 5)"

What a sweet-heart.  Larry fixed the scanner situation this morning for me.  If I'd have known it would take actually posting about something without the photos I wanted, I'd have done this sooner.  

So here are the photos that go with the post directly below.  Please read that as well, if you're happening upon this all for the first time.

My dad and me, all dressed up for the Geek Prom.  
Brigham Young University, April 1997 

Bachelor of Science, cum kids

Larry, all dressed up in a long sleeve t-shirt and tennis shoes.

With Larry's mom and dad

Pride (4 of 5)

Back in January my bloggy BFF Sherrie sent me an interview to complete, and I intended to do it over the following two or three weeks.  It's taken a bit longer.  For these last two questions, there are photos that I want to scan into my computer and add.  Our scanner has been non-functional.  But at the moment I'm having a hard time thinking of anything to post about that wouldn't make my readers go running for the nearest cliff to jump off.  I'm not sure if this will contain photos, but it is at least positive.

Sher asks, What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in life, other than having a family?

The accomplishment of which I was the most proud was getting my bachelor's degree.  It's not such a unique thing, and it's not like school was so very difficult for me.  It's that my dad was proud of me that day.

I grew up around the university.  My father was an undergrad student at San Diego State when I was born.  When I was 18 months old we moved to Western Massachusetts where he began a doctoral program.  That took him 8 years.  Dad had a tendency to get distracted by tangential research lines.  He told me once that if he could be a professional student, he would.  Well, by the time he became Dr. Dad, PhD, my parents had divorced.  My mother had no intention of moving, and so my dad stuck it out at UMass.  Making a name for yourself at the institution where you got your degree is rare, and he worked hard and did it.  For two summers I worked for him as a research assistant.  It was great.  If I were nearby, I'd take the job again in a heartbeat.

It was never a question of whether I was going to college, but where.  I considered several schools, but in the end only sent in an application to BYU.  It seemed safe, like I'd know what to expect.  I was accepted, and I went for a semester and was miserable.  (I don't handle change too well.)  Over Christmas my mother convinced me to stick it out for one more semester, and I was glad because this time I loved it.

My sophomore year I met Larry and we got engaged my junior year.  We also got married my junior year.  I also became pregnant with #1 my junior year.  That was a big year, I guess.  I think all of those changes seemed bigger to my dad than they did to me.  I had felt very grown up for a very long time, and was sure of my decisions, but when I look at 20 year-olds now and think of myself then, I must admit that I cringe a little.

We moved to California in August 1994, just before #1 was born.  I was a senior at that point.  Larry started his graduate studies at UC Riverside that winter.  The following fall I started taking some classes at a local college and independent study courses from the Y.  We just made sure that our classes never overlapped and truly shared parenting for a while.  #2 was about 1 month old when I took my last BYU psych final.  I just had to transfer the credits I earned in California, and apply for graduation.  

I graduated in April 1997.  We drove up to Provo and my dad flew out.  My mother and father-in-law had three in-law children graduating that day and came as well.  

In my mind, like the certainty of college attendance, I always knew I would graduate, even with a marriage, an out-of-state move and two kids.  My dad, apparently, was not so sure.  I think rather than a lack of faith in me, he simply better understood the difficulty of adult life and how easy it is to never get to something that you vowed to do.  I understand that myself more and more as life goes on.

As the time drew near, he proudly informed his colleagues of my upcoming graduation.  He told me in a congratulatory card that they ought to award an honored degree "cum kids."  I can't think of another, non-family related, event that made me as happy and satisfied as that.

**Note:  The scanner is scanning to Larry's computer now, but still not mine.  He's working on it.  I'll post photos as soon as I can.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I'm a sucker for romance ...

... which may not seem too extraordinary.  Lots of girls are. 

Favorite movies?  Romantic comedies.  Favorite TV shows?  Well, those are rarely romantic, but it sure helps if there is some husky, manly lead character with great shoulders that I can lust after.  Books that I read over and over?  Romances.  Or maybe I should re-categorize that as love stories, since the traditional "romance novel" is generally trash I avoid.  I adore love stories, especially love stories set in times when men were gentlemen and women were modest.  Hence my Austen compulsion.  I often loose myself for days in the countryside of Regency England, falling in love over again with dapper young men in riding coats, preferably with a small fortune at their disposal.  I'm no classics snob, though, and I've even been known to fall for an old fashioned vampire and a modern werewolf all in one story.

I have discovered a new author who transports me to another time and place,
 introducing me to strong, compelling women and honorable men who love them.  Annette Lyon is an LDS author with six titles under her publication belt, four of which are historical novels centered around Utah temples in the 1800s.  Having read and loved Spires of Stone (which I would briefly summarize as Much Ado About Nothing builds the Salt Lake Temple), I was quite excited and very flattered to be asked by Annette to preview and review her new novel, Tower of Strength, set around the construction of the Manti Temple.  See a beautifully done book trailer by clicking here.

Tower of Strength features Tabitha, a young bride who is tragically widowed before the birth of her first son.  Fear has kept her from returning to her hometown of Manti for nearly seven years.  Now a woman with greater maturity and courage, the purchase of the local Manti newspaper brings her back home to face her past, in the form of her cold and accusing mother-in-law.  

Enter Samuel,  a simple yet charming British immigrant himself recently widowed.  Together Tabitha and Samuel find fast friendship and companionship that progresses into something more.  

Far from a sugary story of love at first sight with a ride into the sunset, Annette addresses themes of pain and loss and reluctance to love for fear of losing more.  And far from a flat telling of boy meets girl, Annette knits and purls rows of texture--equine adventure, news reporting, crime sleuthing-- and colorful characters who make you cringe and smile and laugh and cry.  The resulting creation is a compelling tale that you can wrap around your shoulders and warm up with.

Though the setting is early Mormon Utah, I am confident that my non-LDS friends would enjoy Tower of Strength as well as my Mormon friends.  Annette's writing has universal appeal.  Her characters are real, their stories ring true.

Find Tower of Strength at Deseret Book.  Annette's work can also be purchased on Amazon.  

On a personal note, I'd like to add that happy as I am to have found a new source of romantic prose, I am more happy to have become acquainted with Annette through her blog, The Lyon's Tale.  Annette is funny and kind, articulate and interesting, with diverse talents and interests.  (Plus, she's practically my long lost twin!)  If you're a grammar fanatic, or even just a sometimes wannabe writer like me, be sure to check out her Word Nerd Wednesday posts for an academic laugh.  (Ooh, it's Wednesday--click over now!)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Boys and Girls

Mina had finished cleaning the kitchen, dusting, and vacuuming with about 10 minutes to spare.  She headed upstairs to put on a bra and deodorant and brush her teeth.  Larry was in the shower.

"Hey, come on in, the water's fine," he tempted.

"Sorry.  My visiting teachers will be here at 10," was the matter-of-fact reply.

"And we'll never know if we're in the shower."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Owa Tagoo Siam

Have you ever done this singing exercise?  It's really a joke, demonstrating proper diction.  Sing it long and stretched out, all on the same note, connecting the syllables.  That will give you the punch-line.  And the proper title of this post.

#1 is preparing for high school next year.  This is not necessarily the straight-forward process that it is for most kids.  (Read why here.)  So we got an email last week stating that the transition meeting would be held at the high school on the 16th and 17th from 8am to 3pm.  The two-day time frame of the meeting led me to believe that this was open-registration style.  Which made some sense, because that's pretty much what we're doing.

So first thing this morning, with a sick #2 at home with dad, who was now also responsible for making sure the little kids exited the house in time for their bus, #1 and I headed over to the middle school to check out and then to the high school.

Reaching the HS office, the secretary greeted us in a slightly confused fashion.  She's usually notified about the transition appointments.  Uh-oh.  Appointments.  I didn't actually have an appointment--just this meeting time.  But I was positive it was today--the 16th and 17th.  I was trying to imagine what dates I could have confused them with, but we are on spring break the 26th and 27th and I only received the notification on the 10th.  She called the HS resource person.  No answer.  The vice-principal answered, but had no good information.  She tried to call the middle school resource person.  No answer.  So she very kindly said, "Wait here.  I'm going on a walk."  

I decided to call Larry to have him check my email.  Machine.  But he called me back quickly at which point I was glared at, likely because of the sign on the office door that reads: No Cell Phones.  I answered anyway, and Larry began to read over the email, "blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, April 16th and 17th."  What?  April?  Really?  Oh my goodness.  I am SUCH a dork.

So now, I had to explain to the student office assistant the situation, sending my apologies to the secretary through her.  I had to take #1 back to the middle school to check her in and explain there how I got the wrong month.  Talk about embarrassing.  It was in fact, a runner-up for a most embarrassing moment, except that everyone involved was so darned nice about it.  I'd made a comment to #1 in the car about what an idiot I am, and she even replied, "Mom, you're not an idiot!"  I appreciated the vote of confidence, but I must admit that in my head I vehemently disagreed.

At least I mistook the month for one earlier, rather than one later.  I'd rather look like an air-head than an uninvolved, unconcerned parent.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Even New Music Makes Me Feel Old

So I have a little bit of a thing for John Mayer.  It's mostly the guitar playin' and the sexy voice and all.  What can I say, I have a history of falling for guitarists with sexy voices.  Ask Larry.

Many mornings as the kids are eating breakfast and I am making lunches, Room for Squares is playing over our marvelous sound system.  (Yes, it is the first album, but it is still my favorite.)  He's also frequently on throughout the day right now in a little of a rotation with Ray LaMontagne, Paul McCartney's Flaming Pie album, and the occasional Carly Simon.  I'm in a mellow music mood at the moment.

I also have this slight internet compulsion.  Maybe you've noticed.  When I read on Erin's blog about John Mayer's Twitter page, I enthusiastically signed right up.  I don't check it out often.  But it's a little interesting.  I sometimes wonder if he's trying to sound more deep than he is, in a random sort of fashion.  (Randomness is difficult, by definition, to create.  A lot of bloggers try.  For most, it's not a great idea.)   That's probably just me being skeptical.  Well, tonight I read this twittered gem:

Since when did news headlines come with question marks? "Is Talking To The Taliban The Right Approach?" I don't know! You tell me, THE NEWS.
 Wow. I'd hardly call myself wise, or very politically savvy, but it occurs to me that the answer to that questioning headline would be what's called editorializing.  In other words, not fact.  Opinion.  Political commentary.  Spin, perhaps.  Sunday morning panel fodder.  Not the job of THE NEWS.

Is THE NEWS supposed to tell us what to think now?  Plenty of them do, but we take that with a grain of salt, right?  And we're a little put off.  Am I a fuddy duddy?  I'm only 4 years older than this guy, but I suddenly feel like his mother's bridge partner.  Maybe that's not a bad thing. 

Especially considering the fact that I can't figure out why this composing formatting has a tendency to go all funky on me when I copy and paste.  Like huge letters, and the wrong color font.  Trying to fix it makes it worse.  It usually publishes correctly.  It's a gamble.  See.  I fit right in with that canasta and pinochle set.  Rambling on about crazy kids today, muddling my way around these complicated machines ...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Flashback: "The Good Wife"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I received an email from a good friend. It was supposedly an article from Good Housekeeping Magazine from 1955 entitled "The Good Wife's Guide." While of questionable origin, it is interesting to reflect on. It was comprised of 18 bullet points, the main gist of each one being how to treat your man to keep him happy. We've come a long way since 1955. Some of those changes have been good, but in my opinion, not all.

GOOD CHANGES I almost have to laugh reading bullet #18, "A good wife always knows her place." Are we pack animals? I come in right after Larry? I could make some semi-nasty comments on "position," but I'll refrain here. My grandma used to say that the man is the head of the household, but his wife is the neck, and the neck turns the head. It's by no means an original, but leads me to believe that even in 1955, women had different ideas about their place.

Bullet #17: "Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him." Hello? I guess I'd be raving mad at this one also were I not busting a seam from laughter. When Larry was going back and forth with the grad school question, he always wanted my opinion. I never felt it was my place to give one because I was not the one having to attend school and do the work, and it was determining his profession, not mine. From Larry's point of view, although he is the one working, he's doing it on behalf of us as a couple and a family, and therefore didn't feel right about making that major a decision with out my input and mutual agreement. We have indeed come a long way.

UNFORTUNATE CHANGES If this were slightly altered, the same article could be called "The Good Spouse," and the information would be invaluable. I suppose it could be argued that it is precisely because if the one-sidedness of the suggestions that the article is shameful. I could see that point. I think as a society however, many of us try to drop the expectation on wives rather than extend it to husbands. 

The end of bullet #6 reads, "After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction." Someone (not, I believe, my friend) had incredulously underlined this statement. But it is true. And unless you have married a total jerk, catering to his needs with be rewarded by his catering to yours. That, my friends, is the basis of a good marriage. If I do all I can to take good care of Larry and he does all he can to take good care of me, both of our needs are then met in a very unselfish, giving way.

Bullet #3 reads, "Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him, His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it." Guess what, my day needs a lift, too. If I am fun and interesting, Larry will be, too. I've heard it said that people who are bored are people who are boring. There is a lot of truth to that. I married my best friend for, among other reasons, companionship. If I am a lousy companion, what was the point?

Bullet #12: "Your goal: try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit." Wow. That should be the goal for the benefit of us all! Easy to manage? Uh--no. But a good goal none the less. 

Bullet #8: "Be happy to see him." Do I even need to say "duh?" 

I am sad that our world becomes increasingly unconcerned with manners and respect, with kindness and selflessness. I think of an extreme case of a miserable person I know who feels that he is never shown enough love. But it's because he doesn't know how to show love himself. He only looks at what he thinks he's not getting, never at what he's not giving. It's a pitiful situation. Many of us, I'm sure all of us at times, could do wonders to increase our happiness by looking outside of ourselves and giving more. The Savior said that those who lose themselves for his sake would find themselves. I think that general sentiment applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. There is great satisfaction to be had in being a good wife, husband, mother, father, friend, child, citizen of the world.