Thursday, November 11, 2010


My kids are getting older and the are being pulled in a thousand directions. Jobs, college, romances, band gigs, church. The only time they seem to settle is when their little bodies can't take it any more and they get sick. Like last weekend Tradition and Potential were both recuperating, one had the sniffles, one still had a post-flu headache. I checked in a couple of times, asked them how they were doing, they replied by writing their response in the dust in the coffee table.

What I am really saying is that I am stuck with all the chores these days. Except I will NOT bathe the dog. Nope, don't like him that much. I support all the good things they are doing, really I do. But I do feel a bit whiney when I have to vacuum the halls now for the first time in 20 years since I started pawning off jobs on them, all in the name of good parenting, of course.

Still, Monday rolled around and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself as they all rode off to school and work, and I was left wondering how many rolls of paper towels it would take to get through the mess? So I wrote this on the white board...

"Did anyone do their chores last week?"

Before bed someone replied...

"We love you"

Tuesday morning I wrote...

"Actions speak louder than words"

Later that day I stopped dead in my tracks as I read...

"I can yell super loud"

Where did they learn to be such smart alecs?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Secret of Life

Whenever I am feeling like I would rather sit in my comfy desk chair, with it's padded seat and arm rests, then get up and do the stuff I should be doing, I justify my sitting by researching nutrition. I love those "Ten Foods to Make Your Ankles Skinnier" and "The Miracle Cure For Disobedient Children Found in Rhubarb". Last week I learned that eating a carrot a day can cut your chances of some cancers by 50%. So once I finally made it out of my desk chair I rearranged the things in the frig so that by moving the rhubarb to the top shelf I couild fit a lot more carrots in the veggie drawer. Phwew, nutrition is hard work!

Now in a previous posting I told you about my darling neighbor, Melba. You will be pleased to know that she is recovering nicely from a fall she had this summer where she broke her back. At least once a day I see her walk past my house with her cane, taking small steps, unrushed, glad to chat with the neighbors with her voice that is barely above a whisper.

Melba's sister was visiting recently from somewhere out of state. Her sister is about ten years older, every bit as whispy in form and no less determined. I chatted with them in church last week, always amazed at how these two widows never miss a beat, a meeting, a smile. I was hauling through the grocery store a couple of days later and saw them slowly emerge from an aisle. They didn't see me but I saw them, and more importantly, I saw what was in their cart. Two gallons of chocolate milk! So awesome! Here I am stuffing carrot after carrot into my mouth and all this time the secret to a long and useful life is Chocolate Milk. Maybe the secret to skinny ankles could be to soak them in chocolate milk, do you think?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's All In The Name

I knew better. I knew better than to go into Joann's Fabrics that close to Halloween. But there I was, number 12 and they were calling 87. All I could do was hope that the numbers turned over at 100, not 1000. But one quick look around made me wonder if the number might not be higher than that, the sea of faces looked more like the amount you would see in a line at Disneyland. Except this was not the happiest place on earth.

I got bored and wandered a bit, looking at rows of ribbons and aisles of buttons, but I did not stray far as I had noticed that the clerks counted to three and a half after calling someone’s number , and if the poor soul whose number they called did not show up, too bad, the next number was called, no mercy. I finally became so insecure that I just parked my cart close enough to see the menacing "Now Serving..." sign and rudely called my daughter on my cell phone. I really did try to keep my voice quiet, but I still got some looks. Twenty minutes later when they called my number, I squeaked out, "gotta go, love ya" and didn't even wait for the reply before hanging up on the poor thing. But she frequents the Joann's near her, so I knew she understood.

The clerk who waited on me was surprisingly cheerful, considering the generally growl-ly nature of the crowd. I commented on the Halloween crowd being it's usual density for this time of the year, and asked her if she thought it would be worse by Christmas. Her eyes got big, and I sensed great fear as she nodded affirmatively. I told her I usually tried to get my Christmas shopping done by Halloween, as I didn't handle Christmas rush lines with any dignity whatsoever. She expressed some admiration that I could be so organized. I told her I was motivated more by desperation after years of some calamity that seemed to hit faithfully in early December (like the three years they called me the week before the church Christmas Party and asked me to organize the entertainment). I laughingly told her that this year I had even scheduled my Winter Cold early. She jokingly said, "Wow, with that kind of efficiency, you could be the next Stephen Covey."
"Na," I said looking down at my fingernails, "that would more likely make me the next Stephen King".

Sunday, October 17, 2010

All There In Black and White

We had the most fun party on Friday night! I got the idea from my little brother, to have a black and white themed night. So I sent out invitations as follows…

"The night will be all black and chill,
So come to the house upon the hill.
Dress in black and/or dress in white.
Do let your imaginations all take flight!
Don’t be shy, but do be wary...
Dessert in your arms you must carry.
It too must be just white and/or black;
Of course it’s best if…
it threatens to attack!
Please, oh please RSVP in time,
To miss this, indeed, would be a crime!"

We decorated the table all in black and white, served Sprite in a black punch bowl with a fozen face floating in it (that was the hardest part, getting a mask filled up with water and frozen took two days), and served a soup that had black and white beans in it. Here is the recipe:


1 T oil
1 c chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c chopped red bell pepper
1/2 c matchstick cut carrots
4 c chicken broth
2 T cilantro, chopped
2 t ground cumin
1/2 t dried oregano
2 T lime juice
1/4 t red pepper sauce
1/4 salt
1 1/2 c frozen corn
2 can (15oz) black beans
2 can (15oz) white beans
2 c chopped cooked chicken breast

Sauté onions and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except chicken. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Stir in chicken; simmer until hot. Serve with fresh chopped tomatoes and tortilla chips.

And everyone came in black and white costumes! My husband came as a highway, with a white strip down the front of black clothes and road signs taped all over, I came as Animaniacs Dot, Potential was a Gothic Raggedy Ann, Tradition came as a Baker, and Wonder came as Eve from Wall-E. We then played Black and White Jeopardy, with the categories being: Movies, On The menu, All Hallow’s Eve, Jack Black,...And Red All Over. We crammed about 20 people into our little front room and we had a blast. Our guests brought black and white desserts, brownies and homemade oreos and Nutterbutters dipped in white chocolate to look like ghosts. Good people, good food, good times! I am already planning my costume for next Halloween!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

For Your Night Time Viewing Pleasure

So I have been sleeping on the couch for a month. The good news is that it is NOT because my husband is not speaking to me, though heaven knows I have given him many chances. I have had bronchitis and it is so much easier to sleep sitting up, and some nights, when it was impossible to sleep, it has been nice to be able to turn on the TV and have some sort of distraction from my beleaguered lungs.

After I had gone through several sets of batteries searching all 700 channels for a show I was allowed to watch, (remember, my children have forbidden me to watch any NCIS or CSI or Criminal Minds), and, heaven forbid, for something that would not set my diminishing IQ back any further, I went to the “On Demand” feature on my remote. From there I began to search through “All TV Series”. So here is a sampler of my favorite viewing options:

Bridal Boot Camp
Chasing Mummies
Deadly Women
I’m Pregnant And I Didn’t Know It
Modern Sniper
Monsters Inside Me
Prison Wives
Scream Queens
Swamp People


I had peeked at “Bridezillas” one night, and with four unmarried children of my own, it gave me nightmares, so I skipped “Bridal Boot Camp”. “Chasing Mummies” really didn’t interest me, and I imagined that “Deadly Women” couldn’t be much worse than back to school shopping with my girls when they were teenagers. I started to watch “I’m Pregnant And I Didn’t Know It”, but it was insulting. “Modern Sniper” and “Prison Wives” sounded too much like the shows I have been banned from watching, and “Monsters Inside Me”, “Scream Queens”,
“Swamp People”, all sounded like something that 15 year old boys who spend too much time playing Halo on the weekend would watch.

So instead, I found an episode of “Animal Hoarders” and watched that.

I want my lungs back. And maybe my life,too.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Visiting the Past

On our first day of vacation we headed to Colorado Springs. I was born there, but my family moved when I was four and I have never returned. We left pretty close to on time, punched the address into the navi and trusted it would get there the fastest way. I am not sure it was the fastest way, but it was a beautiful drive! We drove through all sorts of small towns and the scenery through Colorado was breathtaking! We even got to see a black bear running through an opening in the trees somewhere between the Continental Divide and Colorado Springs. The drive took two more house than we thought, so we missed getting into the cemetery. See the reason we took our route through C.S. was so that I could visit my little sister's grave. She was born 18 months after I was, but only lived three months. We got up a bit earlier the next day, and found her grave marker with very little difficulty, considering it was a huge cemetery. Her name, carved in Granite, Melissa Ruppel, was tucked up against a large tree, but was a little overgrown. I dug around it, and Wonder collected stray flowers, while Potential snapped photos. It was a lovely experience, topped off by Tradition feeding Fruit Loops to a Fox who posed with great dignity for out camera.

Day two was 16 hours in the car! Again, we trusted the navi, which someone inthe back named "Delores", and she took us through beautiful stretches of the Mid West on the way to Nauvoo, Illinois. We own a building there, one built by dragging the original stones that had once belonged to the original Nauvoo Temple just up Mulholland. Along the way I read "Remembering Isaac" to the three girls in the back, finding ourselves increasingly enraptured with the town of Niederbipp. The highlight of the day was as we wandered down some delightfully verdant back road, we almost missed a sign that read "Adam Ondi Ahman, 4 Miles. I had no idead that was on the route, as we had left all those decisions up to Delores. We screeched to a halt and backed up. We made it through the gates just as the sun set, but the sky was still full of pinks and oranges. As we tumbled out of the van in the deserted parking lot, we were instantly aware of the completely different feeling that the paths and fields there evoked. I wish I could write how we felt, but words just don't begin to capture the sunset, rolling hills, quiet, potential and fireflies! Oh the fireflies!

Day three was a warm one in Nauvoo, there on the banks of the Mississippi;, they told us later it was 110 counting some index. Undaunted, we walked from our hotel to our store. Each visit finds us more enthralled with the bits and pieces of the temple that clearly mark the hand work of some pioneer who chiseled and carved at the stones with such devotion. We wandered up and down main street and then it was finally time for lunch at our favorite place, the Nauvoo Mill and Bakery. We ate all of our meals there, squirreling away bits for snacking later. In the evening we went to see the pageant that told the history of Nauvoo. We have ancestors who lived and died there, so we feel connected besides our building.

Day four, on the way out of town we finally caved and stopped at the darling quilt store, which used to be housed in our building, but hard times hit everywhere, and the quilt shop is now part of another gift shop. I bought some lovely pieces to make an apron, my favorite is a fat quarter covered with speckled eggs for the pockets. Potential caught amazing photos along the way, our favorite ones were Amish clothes out to dry on a line. We used great self discipline not to take photos of the darling amish girl who waited on us at the little grocery stand, run without electricity. Again, Delores took us down long country back roads and past amazing old churches, schools and barns. At last, we arrived in Terre Haute to see Childhood and her thriving family.

No time for edits and fine combing, there are three little grandsons waiting to show their Grammy how well they can jump into the water from the side of the pool!

Friday, July 9, 2010


As the four and a half of you who follow my blog know, I have to post once a week or I have to do Potential's laundry. Potential hasn't used the washing machine in weeks, so I am very motivated to stay as far away from her bulging laundry basket as possible. Now here I sit exploring all sorts of morsels I could potentially write about as they pop into my head.

The problem, is that I have been trying to give up complaining. I don't just mean not whining about stuff, I mean completely getting away from saying anything that is not constructive. That means giving up saying things like, "It sure is hot" and "I gotta get new shoes, my feet are killing me", both of which I think I said this week anyway. I am trying to get away from saying anything that doesn't take the conversation somewhere better. I am trying to say things like, "Let's cool off and go get a frozen yogurt" or "According to my calculations, these shoes have walked about 1,500 miles in the last 3 years, aren't they awesome?"

Not complaining is surprisingly boring, which is not a complaint, but totally a statement of fact. The not complaining conversation goes like this:
"How has your day gone?"
"Great, how has your day gone?"
"The wife and kids, how are they?"
"Great, thanks for asking. How about that new car you got?"
"Humms right along, no problem at all."


Now notice, that I switched to a conversation as if it might be between two men? That is because years ago, the first time I started thinking about not complaining all the time, I called a friend and asked her what she thought it might sound like if the two of us gave up complaining, what would our conversation be like? She thought for a minute and said, "We would sound like men." I'm not going to elaborate, just putting that out there.

So as I searched my wee brain for current events, I found I had to eliminate them or figure out how to put a positive spin on them. For example, I took the car in to be looked at and came home with a bill twice as big as the current blue book value, not exaggerating. If I were trying to put a constructive spin on that particular morsel, I could say this, "Hooray, what a wonderful time we live in. There are so many options available when disaster strikes. We can dip into the kid's tuition fund, sell a kidney, or just simply learn to do without, blessing our lives with additional patience and understanding. Think of how many more miles my wonderful shoes could go if we didn't have a car!"

I'm going out now for a frozen yogurt. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the car made it there and back?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

the big and small of it

"I'm sorry you had to step in, there is just so much time I can spend with one mortal at any given moment. So what did I miss?"
"Pretty much the usual wallowing. She's sure she has missed too many opportunities, missed too many chances to develop talents, personality is too difficult, has no potential, yadda-yadda. Today the big deal is she remembers feeling that she was supposed to do something big with her life and thinks she blew it."
" Well what did she expect when all her elementary teachers were hippies who went and got teaching certificates? That decade has been driving us nuts ever since they were told they could be anything they wanted, even be the President of the United States."
"And you can see..."
"Let's stick to the mortal at hand, shall we?"
"Sorry. Got any ideas?"
"What did we do last time?"
"Sent all those hymns to rattle around in her head. Woulda worked, too, if she hadn't had the sound track from "Glee" turned up so loud."
"Let's send Jane."
"Brilliant! That is why I love working with you"
So the two of them watched as the floundering mortal walked down the hall of the church to wait for her next meeting. Along the way the mortal bantered with a young father about the candy dripping down his two year old's face, and laughed about what it would do to her fancy Sunday Dress, and then turned to the approaching Jane. Jane stopped in front of her, in all her five year old glory, arms straight out, face lit up with a huge smile. The mortal wasn't sure if Jane was gesturing for a hug or a compliment, so she gave her both. Jane asked, "When are you coming to teach us again?" The mortal replied with delight and commitment, "the minute someone calls me and asks me too. I love to sing in Primary with you." Jane gave one more twirl, in case the mortal had missed any of the splendor of her Sunday best, and skipped off after her retreating family.
"Did she get it"
"Hang on, let me listen a second...Yep, there it is. For the moment the mortal remembers it is a big deal to teach someone something good, even if it is just a small child."
"We will just remind her, for the umpteenth time, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass."

Sunday, June 27, 2010


"Get In Here, NOW", I yelled from the 5 year old's bedroom. I was trying to get as many small humans into bed as possible at one time, and Tradition* was not making this easy. I was tossing clothes in the hamper and giving the 3 year old, Wonder, the evil eye as she began to hop back out of her pajamas. Fed up waiting for Tradition, I started to count to five and stomped down the hall. I rounded the corner as I hit "FOUR AND A HALF", and found her sitting cross legged on the bathroom countertop, staring at herself, nose less than an inch away from the mirror, barely breathing. I may have mentioned this before, but in those days I was trying to practice the advice "Always listen first at least as long as you plan to talk". So I took a deep breath and through gritted said, "Alright, missy, what are you doing?" Still in her frozen state, eyes beginning to turn red, she said, somewhat petulantly, "I am in a staring contest."

Now, why is it we don't eat our young?

"With yourself?" I asked in exasperation. She refused to even dignify that question with a response. I raised both hands to physically remove her from the contest, when I heard Peace, then 8 years old, call out in a voice full of far more sarcasm than any 8 year old had any business commanding,

"Oh, ya, whose winning." Ba-dum ching.

I told the kids I forgot to take my vitamins and fled before they saw me cave.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Because we have spent most of the last 23 years living out of state, we have had few opportunities to visit her grave. Besides, my thoughts have always been quite clear on the subject. She is not there, only the body that made life both possible and miserable is there. Yet, our family has visited the cemetery on Memorial Day since we moved back to the area recently, because it just seemed like the right thing to do.

This year I had planned on writing about our trip to the cemetery as we got into the car to leave, and asked one of my daughters to grab her camera, thinking I might finally be able to make the jump to adding photos to my blog. When we got home from the cemetery, my daughter downloaded all the photos and I watched over her shoulder as she ran through them. I looked at my face in the photos, and saw it again.

Our daughter was four and a half years old when she passed away, 23 years ago. Her life expectancy was 6 months, so we did pretty well, I think. Her life was short, but not all that sweet. In fact, she had a really hard time. My husband, the most diplomatic person I have ever met, the kind that ALWAYS tells me I do not look fat in my jeans, would look at me after a long and difficult evening while she was still alive, and say, quietly and with concern, “You look old”. I doubt I looked as old as I felt.

She was buried on a cold windy February day, just a short graveside service. Two days earlier I had sat in the office of a very kind man while making a ridiculous amount of necessary decisions that follow death. I remember being handed a book of grave markers and he wanted to know if I wanted any additional engravings on it. At first I was going to say no, but a butterfly caught my attention. A voice inside my head said, “You think butterflies are silly, childish, highly tacky, and have always been quite snobbish about their use”. And my mouth said firmly, “I’d like this butterfly, please. Her body was like a cocoon, and now she is free.”

When I looked over my daughter’s shoulder at the photos she had just taken, I saw the echo of those days still in my face. Whereas my thoughts on visits to her grave may have been clear in my head, what was in my heart was clear on my face. When I visit that place, I visit the hard stuff.

All that happened a long time ago, it feels longer than twenty three years, sometimes, it feels like it happened to someone else, and I just carry the story. I once made a list of the top ten hardest things that had every happened to me, and her life and death were not the first on the list, but the fact that I made it through her life and death, gave me the hope and will to move through the whole list. The benefits have far out weighed the difficulties. I am a more tender person than I would have been and I rejoice more in the children who are still here with me and thriving. I like thinking that she watches over us and is waiting until we are through goofing around down here and get to be with her, and I think those lovely thoughts every day.

Except maybe, for a moment, if a camera catches up with me thinking more about cocoons than butterflies.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mighty Fine

I believe that I have discovered the most versatile word in the English language. Now, this not just some sudden burst, I have been thinking about this for years. In my spare time, of course. Are you ready?


Not, “Fine, here we go”, but indeed the word “fine”. See this simple word can be used in a surprisingly diverse manner of ways, because it’s use is more often based on the tone of voice of the user. In fact, I believe that no one really thinks about the dictionary definition of this word any more, unless you are into fine dining or paying of fines or Fine, a French Brandy, it is simply a communication vehicle for the attitude of the moment.

Let me give you some examples…

When asked, “How are you feeling today?”

“Fine, How are you?” This use is very basic and said as if one is checking off something on a TO DO List.

Or, when asked, “How are you feeling today?” and the word is conveyed with a hint of suffering, “Oh, fine, I suppose.” That one is loaded; only ask for further information if you are saintly, otherwise, run.

Or the “fine” you use when your kids ask you if they can do something like borrow the car, and you say, slowly, “Fine”, usually beginning on a low note, sliding your voice up several notes and following with a slightly louder, “ BUT…” which means that there is about to follow a list of things that will make the request possible once completed.

Now I believe that teenagers have a way of making this word into a compliment, like “Girl, you are looking mighty fine today.” Alas, in my old age, that just makes me wince. Teenagers can also use this poor unsuspecting word so as to propel it straight to the list of Forbidden Four Letter Words in a single bound. This usually happens at the conclusion of an argument, once sentencing has been pronounced, and the offender is leaving, using this poor unsuspecting word along with a combination of stomping and slamming.

My own personal favorite is the fine said as the last word. Like when you are having an argument with your spouse and you realize there is just no winning and you concede with “fine”. That one means “I’m done talking but you better hide all the sharp objects and stay out of my line of vision for at least the next 6 hours.”

This list is not as thorough as the 19 links provided on Wikipedia, where it is actually discussed with some intelligence. This will do just fine for now.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Crybaby Cookies

Several weeks ago I had a request from one of the 3 people who check in on my blog for the cookies that “make people cry like a baby they are so good.”

See, the deal is, it is as much the process as the ingredients. Some of the process I can include here, but a bit is just my own personal magic. I will try my best.

On Wednesday evening, after you have cleaned up the dinner mess, pull out your mixer. It is a good idea to listen to James Taylor in the back ground, but Anita Baker is a good second choice. Here are the ingredients:

Crybaby Cookies

2 c butter
2 c peanut butter, smooth or chunky
2 c sugar
2 c brown sugar
4 eggs
3 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp vanilla
2 c oatmeal
4 c flour
1 2lb bag Guittard Real Milk Chocolate Chips

Place butter and peanut butter in mixer and turn mixer on to lowest setting. Add ingredients to mixer in the order listed, allowing the mixer to continue on low. Once the chips are just blended in, turn off mixer and place walnut size scoops on a heavy, light colored, ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes or until they just start to turn brown. Do not over cook.

It is important that this be done in time to watch “The Middle”, so check TVGuide to see when it is on, or, do what I do and make sure you have a series recording. Once one dozen cookies have been baked, take a towel, the mixer bowl, small spoon and a cookie sheet and go sit on the couch in front of the tv. You have made a double batch, so this next step this will probably take the full time it takes you to watch one episode. Place the towel over your lap, place the bowl on the towel with the cookie sheet next to you. Using the spoon or your best guess, take chunks of dough the size of a walnut or a bit bigger, and roll the dough into balls and place them close together on the cookie sheet next to you. If the show is pre-recorded, it is a good idea to get an assistant to help fast forward through the commercials, so you don’t get cookie dough down in between the buttons on the remote. I haven't had much luck getting a new remote for free once they discover all the cookie dough.

Now, this is the important part, don’t get too caught up on Frankie’s mothering skills or the expression on Axel’s face. You need to closely inspect the quality of the milk chocolate chips. If there are any poorly formed chips, then you need to eat them, right then and there, with any dough attached of course. Quality control, people, quality control. Once you are done, immediately place the cookie sheet with the carefully formed and inspected cookie dough balls in the freezer overnight. The next day separate the frozen dough balls into two separate large baggies and leave in the freezer.

I usually only bake cookies one dozen at a time, as I tend to eat as many as I bake, and most of the real magic in the cookies is in having the chocolate chips all warm and melty. They bake up just fine without being thawed, so I just pop a dozen frozen dough balls on a pan and stick it in the oven the second it is hot enough, usually for the same 12 minutes as above. So far in-house testing has shown the dough is good for up to two weeks. It probably would be fine longer than that, it’s just that we usually eat them, baked or as is frozen, by the end of two weeks.

Oh, and always buy two bags of Guittard Real Milk Chocolate Chips, one per batch of cookies, one for eating straight out of the bag.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Stuff I Do Get

Two weeks ago, in my blog dated April 26, I mentioned that there were some things I didn’t get. One of them was golf on TV. Really? Golf on TV? Shoot me now. Weeding is more interesting.

So I came home several days later to an empty house and found the TV had been left on. It was on the golf channel! I immediately figured it was one of my teenagers seeking revenge for not getting them an Art History Major Barbie for their 7th birthday.

Then today my daughter, “Keeper of Traditions” (see blog March 27) came into the family room where I was sewing, crawled into the Love Sack and turned the TV onto the golf channel.

“AH-ha! So it was you that left the golf channel on the other day. Very funny”
“So joke’s over, lets watch something that doesn’t drop our IQ”
“But it’s the PGA tournament”
Blink, blink. Does she even know what that stands for?
“OK, really, what’s really going on here?” I ask.
“I just like it. Everything is outdoors and green, the guys all really wear cool clothes.”
Really cool clothes? I am waiting for the hidden camera attached to a really irritating person to jump out from behind the couch.
“That’s it, you have a crush on someone on the school golf team, huh?”
“Mom, whatever. I really like to watch golf. I like watching to see if they get the ball in. It’s all outside, I can hear the bird’s chirp, everyone is calm, and I really like the way the men all talk in quiet voices.”
It’s peaceful, like a small town. I finally get it. So we compromise and she puts in the DVD “the Greatest Game Ever Played”. I am still not convinced that it is the “greatest game ever played”, but if we call the movie “How Cute is Shia LaBeouf?”, I’ll cooperate.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Should Be Committed

I sat at my daughter’s track meet yesterday and watched the kids in the region giving their all to win their events. There was fall out everywhere, kids limping, ice-packs on pulled muscles, arms over shoulders as cramps were being walked off. I was sitting next to the dad of one of my daughter’s friends and we couldn’t help but wonder at them. He asked me, “Which is more important, talent, hard work or commitment”. I queried, “Without commitment, there wouldn’t be any hard work”, to which he agreed, but we were stumped when it got down to deciding between the other two.

I have actually been stewing on the question a bit anyway. I was with a group of couples several weeks ago, and over dinner we discussed what we would study if we could go back to school. I sat quietly and listened as I had nothing to offer. I left college after my freshman year, choosing to work before and after getting married in that next year. But honestly, if I had told my husband I wanted to complete my education, I would have gotten full support, it’s just that I was relieved to get out. ADD was not understood in those days, I just thought I was dumb. It troubles me both that I have no degree and do desire to get one. Or at least at this point I have not yet thought of a talent of interest I want to work that hard at to get a degree in.

If I am going to get down and ugly with myself, I have to be honest and admit that most of my life I have just wanted to be comfortable. Yep, without ever having really put it quite like that before, that seems to sum up my life. Why go camping? I have a perfectly comfortable bed and who wants to smell like campfire and bug spray? Why would I jog two miles when I can walk the same two and make my doctor and my knees perfectly happy with me? Ever see anyone who was jogging and smiling at the same time? Why in heaven’s name would I buy cheese in a block and go home and shred it when I could buy it already shredded?

I was beginning to look back on my life and think maybe I hadn’t accomplished anything at all, but no, I have given my all to comfort. Hey, and though I may be patting myself on the back, I have worked hard at it! I have scrubbed, polished, shined, organized and decorated 15 homes in the last 30 years, filling them with dusted tables and homemade cookies and amazing people. I may have some talent, at the risk of bragging, I have created a Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that makes people cry like a baby when they eat one. I learned to quilt, so now, over a hundred quilts later, somewhere or another there are warm comfy people wrapped in talent AND hard work.

I am committed, I have a modicum of talent and I am willing to work hard at it. Anyone know a University with a degree in Living the Comfortable Life?

Monday, April 26, 2010


Things I don't get:

Golf on TV.
Brussel sprouts.
What happened to the script writers for LOST.
The statement "Don't take this personally" as permission to then say whatever you want.
Why dog rescue stories are always the fallback when there is a lack of interesting violence or arson on the local news.
The way everything at Target seems to jump in my cart when I am not looking.
Pierced tongues.
Metabolisms that slow down a pound a year after 30.

I have lots more, but I need to get this posted TODAY as I have already had to do extra laundry for three weeks in a row. (see first post on this blog)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Both Sides

“How was your birthday?” I asked her.
“What? After that awesome party we all went to the night before?”
“I got suspended from school…”
Sputter, sputter…
“These two guys kept teasing me, so I beat one of them up. I told two different teachers about what those guys were doing, but they just told me to ignore them. Those guys just kept getting in my face.” She shrugs. She knows it was wrong, yet I am not sensing much remorse, either. She is in Jr High and lives down the street and around the corner with her Dad and two brothers. We all pitch in, knowing it isn’t easy to raise three teenagers as a single parent.

I immediately think about the girl in Massachusetts who took her own life after being bullied for 3 months. The article I read online left me shaking my head. It seems to me there isn’t just one person or one attitude that is to blame. I talked to my mom about it as I washed her hair the next day. Mom had surgery on her hand and can’t get it wet for a month. She spent most of her life gluing teenagers back together if they would let her and she was darn good at it, so she is always a good source to vent with on such subjects. That poor head of hers got a darn good scrubbing that day.

We talked about all the shoulda’s and coulda’s. Obviously, more kids need to learn and follow the advice, “if you don’t have anything nice to day, don’t say anything at all.” Still, the other message I feel is more prevalent amongst us is, “You can say what ever you want to as long as you think you are right.”

On one side, what the teachers said to my young friend was right, “Ignore them. Rise above it. They will wear themselves out and go away eventually.” On the other side, when you are 15, you can’t see farther than 4.3 seconds from now. What she heard was, “It’s no big deal to us, we aren’t helping, you are on your own”. So she did what would remove the threat for her 4.3 seconds of foreseeable future.

Mom agreed with me as my inner protective mother came out and I threatened to just head down to the school, grab some collars and tell them they dropped the ball. Or were those teachers just “saying something nice?” Then, with as much zeal, I am ready to turn on this little 15 year old and tell her...a thousand different reasons that hitting someone was not the best way to handle the situation, that there will always be jerks, and we can’t hit them all, just because we are right. Or can we?

I can see both sides. I stand here with sword in hand, ready to do battle, not sure which battle to join.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


So once upon a time I was given a handout that described the roles of children in a family. They were something like “The Hero”, “the Angel”, “The Clown”, I don’t remember the rest, there might have been a fireman and a newspaper carrier? I can’t remember if was for the typical family or for the dysfunctional family, of which I came from, spelled with a capitol D.

That list came to mind recently when I was thinking about my kids, there are five still here with us, the sixth one watches over us from heaven. Any one of them doesn't seem to fit into just one of the categories, or if they do, it isn't long before they have traded with anther sibling. I was thinking about them on an unusually good day, a couple of them had made their beds, one emptied the dish drainer without being asked, another had said something complimentary about what another was wearing, one of those rare days I was wasn’t scratching them out of the will, again. So I made up my own categories for them (no handout yet, though). I call them Keepers.

The oldest seems to be the Keeper of Childhood. Like Peter Pan, she never wanted to grow up. If I ever talked about going away to college or having a family of her own one day, she would want to stop talking about that. She has a great capacity to play and an innate understanding of what children consider just and fair. I watch her with her own kids and see that though the boundaries are clear and non negotiable, inside there is plenty of tenderness and fun and space, and each individual is rejoiced over for their individuality. She brings out the child in all of us.

Child two is the Keeper of Potential. She sees the potential in any situation and gets better everyday at helping others see their own potential. We love to have her around because she manages to find our potential, even if it takes a lot of searching. It is an exhilarating experience to brainstorm with her, optimism distills as the dews from heaven.

Child three is the Keeper of Peace. Though he would never sacrifice his integrity in an effort to keep the peace, he seldom starts trouble, but looks for peaceful resolutions and pops in if we are leaning towards being offended, even if we really, really want to be offended. I can’t remember the last time he seemed ruffled.

Child four is the Keeper of Tradition. She loves movies about small towns, where everyone grew up together, knows each other, then loves and sacrifices for each other in spite of it all. Her siblings are her best friends, and she is as fierce with their imperfections as she is with any threat to them.

Child five is the Keeper of Wonder. Her room is filled from top to bottom with all of the things she finds wonder in, old hubcaps, new seedlings, a tool box, Nancy Drew books, Wall-E stuffies and anything manufactured that is less than 1/2” around.

They take turns being The Hero, they are all Angels at the most difficult of times, and the later they are for bed the bigger Clowns they are. They are, most definitely, keepers.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Years ago we bought a big lot with a little tiny house on it. It’s only source of water was a well. At first we were thrilled, feeling all self reliant, loving the thought of long showers and rainbird sprinklers that would make that lovely ch-ch-ch sound I could listen to all afternoon long in the middle of a hot summer day. I must admit I used to really worry about drinking water that came straight out of the ground, even though it passed all the tests when we took samples into a local lab. I would lie there in bed at night and imagine that we all became medical mysteries due to strange chemical agents in our water. Maybe one of my kids would grow an eleventh finger, or another would have super powers they would use to terrify the others into doing their Saturday chores. Wait, that would have meant the chores actually got done, which would have been totally awesome.

Anyway, one morning I got up and set an appointment with someone who could come out and talk to me about putting a filter on the water from our well. This gentleman and I sat at the counter in my kitchen where I announced that I wanted to filter every ounce of the water that came into my house and I wanted the highest level of filtration possible. He said, “Actually, you don’t”.

What? Here was a chance for him to make some bucks and for me to quit picturing my children with extra ears! He explained that the purer the water, the more aggressive the water would be. It turns out that water, filled with the usual minerals, is content to just sit in pipes and do nothing. He said that if we filtered out all of the impurities from the water, no matter what those pipes were made out of, the pure water would work away at the material and eventually the pipes would break down and leak. I thanked him half heartedly and went to Costco and bought a water filtering pitcher that I used for two weeks.

I have thought about that principle a lot though, about how the purer the water is the less content it is to just sit there. I have noticed that in some of my favorite people. I seems like the more pure their hearts are, the more active they are in doing good. They just get in there and break down those barriers, washing over the lives of folks with kindness. Not water like a tsunami, but quiet and constant, refreshing in that life giving way that water can be. Okay, enough with the water analogies, but now I wish it were warm enough outside to go turn on the sprinklers.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I am a fair weather friend. Should I admit that out loud? In my own defense, I speak strictly with regards to the actual weather. I will only walk outside with the girls in my neighborhood from April thru November, after that, you will find me in the deep dark recesses of the basement, plodding along at 3.7 miles per hour for exactly 2.0 miles, no more, often less if I can think of any reason at all. It is mind-numbingly boring but at least I don’t shiver the whole rest of the day.

It is a shame I am such a wimp, because these girls I walk with are anything but boring. We discuss everything, from politics to the dismal reality that we can only sneeze if our tanks are empty. My favorite thing about these girls is that they never say anything about anyone who is not there that they wouldn’t say if they were there. Classy. However, there is one group for which we have no such boundaries: our children. This is where we let out our frustrations so that we can better keep up the façade of a calm demeanor in their presence.

One morning, toward the end of May last year, one of the moms was sharing how thrilled she would be when school got out so she could quit being “the Home Work Bully.” She said, “ Sometimes I think I should just go get one of those barbed wire tattoos right here on my upper arm, that way, maybe when I flex my arm to make a fist, it will frighten them sufficiently that I won’t actually have to say “Get Back To Work” for the 100th time.” One of the other girls piped up with, “Oh, yes, a tattoo! I want to go get wings tattooed on my upper arms. It is not like these ham hocks I have goin here are going to get smaller, and this way as my upper arm keeps expanding, my wings will get bigger too.” That was too much, we had to stop walking so we could cross our legs 'till we quit laughing.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Be The Cloud

My son, serving amongst the Spanish speaking people in Phoenix, Arizona for the last two years, wrote this to me in his next-to-last letter home, “I just did what I was supposed to do, there's no possible way I could have convinced any of these people to support the church or to join it. It all belongs to the Savior.”

It reminded me of the briefest moment I had with my oldest daughter when she was five. We had stopped at a light and I heard her from the back seat say, “look, a rainbow”. The sky was mostly sunny, just bursts of large white fluffy clouds here and there, so I didn’t pay attention, but she was relentless, what children do best, and I finally made an effort to see where she was pointing. Sure enough, there was a rainbow. Not a huge one, just a bit of one reflecting off single cloud. That was all she needed, she just added her imagination to fill in the rest. All she needed was that cloud to be in the right place at the right time and one of the most magical phenomenon of childhood was hers.

So my son now understands what I call the “Cloud Principle”. On our own we can’t create a rainbow, but if we are in the right place at the right time, we can reflect the most magical thing of all-God’s love. I don't think there is any criteria for what kind of cloud we need to be, small, large, grumpy, fluffy, in my case pear shaped with a bit of chocolate on my chin. We just need to rise to the occasion and be the cloud.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


When I grow up, I want to be just like Melba. Melba lives all by herself down the street from us in a little brick rambler, where the leaves are always carefully raked away. And for a visual here, there is not much more to her than the rake she goes after that yard with. She is one-good-wind-would-blow-her-away thin, very soft spoken, and when she smiles, which is almost always, her wrinkles, which have wrinkles, all move gently upwards in a gracious sweeping gesture that just makes you just want to hug her...gently.

And she is always there. Not at her home, I mean if there is a ward party, she is there. If there is a Relief Society event, she is there. Of course she is at church every week, but not just for the first hour, she’s there for all three hours. If there is a family event, and she has one of those huge Mormon family things going on, she is there. Her job in our ward is to publish the Ward Newsletter. So she is everywhere, collecting all of the good stuff. Births are announced with wonder, deaths are encased with sincere and eloquent mourning. Every new calling in the ward, right down to the latest Beehive President, is heralded with the same celebration as upcoming nuptials. She can be seen late at night through the window of her study, diligently typing to meet her deadline.

If there are volunteers needed, yep, you guessed it, there she is. Canning, there. DI, there. A sign up clip board went around recently asking for volunteers to clean the Salt Lake Temple, but cleaning didn’t begin until 10 pm and would go until midnight or later. I was so impressed with myself for signing up until Melba called and asked if she could ride with me. Just like the Energizer Bunny with a grey wig, she keeps on going and going and going.

Yep, I want to be just like that when I grow up. I think my kids will gladly rake my yard for me if I it were possible that I could be half that cheerful someday. I just tell them if I get to be too much to handle, they can just roll me out on the front porch and let me swear at the cars as they go by.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


One of my favorite moments when we lived in Tokyo, was when we decided that for Christmas we would take our Christmas card photo smack dab in the center of the busiest intersection in the world, where an average of 1,500 humans cross at every light change. We took the train on over late one evening in November, dragging along a friend who could do the camera work. We waited anxiously on the corner and when the lights changed we all plowed through the crowd, with the determination of salmon swimming up stream, until we finally made it to the middle of the chaos. The flash went off repeatedly as we took as many shots as we could before the light changed. It felt both invigorating and surprisingly comfortable to be in the center of all the coming and going.

Since we moved back to Utah, we have learned to enter intersections in our cars with much greater care. Here we seem to see a higher amount of people who plow through, even if the light is looking a little “pink”. The pinker the light, the faster folks seem to be going.

I have been thinking of intersections lately. My husband occasionally prays for intersections, and, believe it or not, he isn’t just hoping we will live through the ones we enter in our car. He prays that we will have intersections with people, on the chance that we might be of some use. Intersections are one of his strengths. His instinctive kindness makes him a natural at navigating in and out when crossing the paths of others.

In the past I have been the kind of person who plows through intersections, viewing them as just a means to get to the safety of the curb. More and more as I age, however, I am becoming the kind of person who likes to hang out in the intersection. I am beginning to see that opportunities to intersect with other humans are both invigorating and surprisingly comfortable. As other travelers cross my path, I do look for ways to be useful, but more often than not, my life is filled with treasures brought by criss crossing of other travelers. In traveling a road that has chances for human intersections, the “pink” lights don’t mean hurry faster, they mean slow down, stay awhile, let’s talk.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Place Your Bet

Last night on the news I watched as they pulled a woman from the rubble of the Haitian earthquake after being trapped in a collapsed building for 6 days. She was still alive. It took them three hours to dig her out, all the while anxiously hoping that there would be no further after shocks. As they slowly inched her stretcher out into fresh air and across the piles of debry, a reporter pushed his microphone into her face and asked, "Did you think you would live?" "Live?", she asked incredulously, then, with not quite enough time actually think the question, "What a stupid Question", though it would clearly sound in her voice, she answered, "Why Not?"

I thought back to an interview I saw once of a Jewish woman who had survived one of the death marches during World War 2. The Nazi's had gathered up all the young women in the area and forced them to travel, with no food or water, through the winter cold. This woman recalled that one evening as she and her friend sat huddled together for warmth, they had discussed the food they missed the most, and settled on strawberries and cream. Her friend shared her fears that they would not live to eat strawberries in the early summer. The woman being interviewd bet her that they would live and told her friend she would owe her strawberries and cream once they arrived. Her friend took that bet, betting they would never make it. As the interview proceeded, sadly it was revealed that her friend did not wake up one cold, snowy morning. I remember thinking at the time that what they believed would be the end of the story, did indeed become their story in the end.

Bet on living. Why not?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


So, it turns out that when you have your own live-in web designer, and they are temporarily unemployed, you can find yourself with a blog you never knew you wanted. And somehow you can end up with attached consequences, ie, if it doesn't have a new post every week the errant blogger will have to do afore mentioned web designer's laundry. That's what I get for reading "How To Raise Self Reliant Children In A Self Indulgent World" in the middle of child rearing. Eh, who am I kidding, it was "Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book" that did it.

Am I supposed to have a pithy sign-off here? Hmmmm, maybe next week...unless I am up to my armpits in someone else's laundry...