Monday, February 27, 2017


Things I Collect on Purpose

If you need me, I'll be in the study. 

1. Books
    a. Cookbooks
    b. Books on subjects I wish I had time and money to master (domestic arts like sewing, upholstery, gardening, interior decoration, etc.)
    c. Books on crochet (afghans, crochet blocks and edgings, bedspreads, crocheted wire jewelry)
    c. Books on subjects I have had to write about extensively in my freelance writing work (plumbing, home repairs, personal injury law, divorce law, car repair, real estate, etc.)
    d. Books on disappearing cottage crafts (i.e. lute making, building a homemade non-electric lathe, building a house by yourself)
    e. Books on miscellaneous subjects that catch my fancy (quantum physics, energy healing, history, health and nutrition, writing, architecture, psychology, etc.)
    f. Fiction (i.e. classic English literature, young adult fiction, books I loved when I was a kid, etc.)
    g. Blank books
    h. Books of house plans
    i. Music books (piano, cello, guitar, voice) and sheet music (piano, solo voice, choral)
2. Magazines
3. Pens
5. Odd and quirky thrift store art
6. Perfume
7. Empty cardboard toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls -- how many times do those come in handy, am I right?
8. Plain white ceramic mixing bowls, soup bowls, mugs, and plates
9. Spices
10. Bottles and boxes of ingredients for foreign dishes I don't make all the time but that are essential to have on hand if I do (i.e. various curry pastes, fish sauce, pho seasonings, rice vinegar, seaweed, rice wrappers, etc.)
11. Shoes
12. Personal letters my friends and family wrote to me when snail mail was still a thing, including the original copies of letters I wrote to my dear friend and former college roommate (who sent them to me recently after making digital copies of them in order to reduce the amount of stuff she has to store while her job takes her around the world)
13. Cheap jewelry

Things I Collect on Accident

Bath salts: a great idea for re-gifting.

1. Bath bombs and bath salts (these are gifts, but I can't remember the last time I had a bath instead of a shower)
2. Ingredients for experiments that are cheaper to buy in bulk (i.e. 10 pounds of diatomaceous earth, five pounds of magnesium chloride flakes, sunflower lecithin, a gallon of vegetable glycerin, boxes of Borax, etc.)
3. Jars
4. Beads
5. Yarn
6. Credit card offers with sensitive information that need to be shredded
7. Fabric remnants

Things I Used to Collect but Never Had the Space to Display

Beautiful milk jugs just mock the lactose intolerant among us.

1. Ceramic milk jugs

Things I Collect Digitally

The key is to remember where you put all your thumb drives for safe-keeping.

1. All the yearly anthologies of Backwoods Home Magazine
2. My painstakingly typed up collection of all my journal entries from the time I was six years old
3. Digital copies of all the letters my mother wrote me after I moved away from home

Bottom line: I'm planning a massive yard sale when the weather gets warm enough. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Rumination in Four Parts

Part I

Life is funny, no?

The ebbs, the flows. The ups, the downs. The twists and turns. Just when you're sitting on top of the world, your throne is yanked out from under you. And when you're at your lowest and most desperate, a guide appears to lead you back up to the light.

I'm not saying I'm currently on top of the world or in the lowest valley at the moment. I'm just tired. I face yet one more setback just as I am presented with a possible opportunity. Both feel exhausting.

Part II

On Sunday, I was sitting in church. It was Fast Sunday, which is a day in the month when you are invited to refrain from eating for two consecutive meals (health permitting) and donate the money you would have spent on food to those in need. During your fast, you spend time in prayer, meditation, and scripture study. It's amazing how fasting can enhance your ability to feel the Spirit--and not just because you're light-headed and hungry.

On Fast Sunday, anyone in the congregation who feels moved to do so can stand up and bear testimony during the Sacrament Meeting.

I was sitting quite comfortably on my bench, smug with the knowledge that I was teaching a lesson in Relief Society (and that I had remembered that fact with enough time to actually prepare!) and, therefore, didn't feel it necessary to take away from someone else's chance to bear their testimony.

But as I sat there, I started thinking about what Sun Tzu said in his book, The Art of War: "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."

Why that suddenly popped into my head, I couldn't say. Yet, suddenly, I could feel the Spirit move me (warm feeling, heart beginning to pound) to get up and speak about that. That's not your normal testimony fodder, so I just tried to shake it off. But it kept coming at me in waves.

"Dang it," I whispered to Husband. "I have to get up there, but I don't know what the heck I'm going to say. Sorry in advance."

After I walked up to the pulpit, I stood in front of the congregation and tried to catch my breath. Usually, I have little fear speaking in public. Sure, I get butterflies in anticipation, but I never feel paralyzed with fear, even when faced with a very large room full of people. So I breathed for a moment, and then I opened my mouth and started speaking. I spoke about the need to understand the enemy--in this case, the enemy of all mankind: Satan. In knowing the enemy, we can predict some of his actions and spot his propaganda. Satan laces truth with fatal lies. What he says often sounds so good, so true, so wonderful. But almost always, his propaganda includes the lies that a) there is no God, or b) if there is a God, there certainly is no devil who opposes him and wishes harm to mankind, and c) humankind can ascend or become more and greater without the need for the atoning sacrifice and grace of Jesus Christ. Then I bore my testimony of Jesus Christ as the only savior, the only way to gain eternal life. In order to defeat the enemy, each of us must know Jesus Christ.

I wasn't eloquent. I didn't feel like what I said at the pulpit was profound or moving to anyone--not that bearing testimony is about you as a speaker; it's about the message. But I had to say it, so I did. And then I sat down, feeling decidedly foolish. Husband rubbed my back and whispered that I'd done a fine job. I appreciated it, but I didn't believe it.

Others got up to speak, and as I sat there, contemplating why I had had to get up and speak about that particular subject, the thought suddenly came to me that my thoughts were a piece of a larger puzzle, which was being put together as others also bore the testimonies in their hearts. I felt comforted by that. I listened to the things others said as they bore their testimonies, and I was touched by the truthfulness of what they had to say. All of our testimonies built on each other, like those puzzle pieces coming together to create a bigger picture.

Part III

As I'm sure you've experienced, knowing what you need to do and actually doing it can be difficult. It's especially difficult if the thing you need to do is scary. In my case, I fear failure. I often succumb to the false idea that everything rests on my shoulders, and when the problem is financial in nature, failure could have serious consequences. So when I allow that false idea to consume me, the fear naturally grows until I am overwhelmed and paralyzed.

I've dealt with fear before, sometimes more successfully and sometimes more poorly. I find it is always best to name it. Once you name it, it loses its enervating power over you, and you can start working your way around it. In this particular case, fear is unnecessary. I'm not going to hurt myself if I fail, yet I find that, while I am generally laid back about many things, I can be intensely perfectionist about certain things. That perfectionism creates an aura of fear, sometimes the paralyzing kind.

Here's the issue: I've been working as a freelance writer for years. I spent about six months as a full-time writer for a startup digital marketing company, but they laid me off when revenue went down. Then they hired me as a contractor, and I've been doing that for another 18 months. They kept me busy enough that I didn't have the brain power to take on other demanding clients. 

In January, they had no work for me. I don't know if they will have anything for me in February, either, as they have been less than communicative. I am not sure if they found cheaper writers or what, but here I face the pitfall of freelancing work: no work unless I seek it out. 

Ironically, maybe, it was in January that I started taking courses in website monetization, up-to-date SEO practices, and honing my content writing abilities. I would have used my sharpened skills for the contract work, but since that resource seems to have dried up, I have the excellent opportunity to work for myself. I can do for myself what my client is doing for their clients. The investment is small enough not to be an obstacle. All that remains is that I try.

Part IV

All these things that make me afraid, that make me stretch are part of the bigger puzzle. Would I be forced out of my comfort zone if everything always went my way? After all, the things that really count are already mine.

This is nothing you don't know. All of this is common knowledge. Sometimes I just have to work myself through it once more and remember how far I've come. It's easy to forget that you've already accomplished a great deal when you face that fear again, that fear that whispers, "You can't do this. You're not good enough." 

I just have to keep my eye on the opportunity and the prize. It will all work out.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Resolution: Thin out the Bookshelves (and Other Things)

Happy New Year, everyone! I'm currently lying in bed trying not to move much because my stomach is in a decidedly iffy state. It started last night, which I tried not to take as an omen for the upcoming year.

It was probably my favorite Christmas ever this time, but that may be because I have a short memory. Still, it was mostly lovely. The best parts were:

  • Husband did all of the present shopping, since he's the best at that (I wrap them all on Christmas Eve). He is an expert at finding the perfect gift for each person--and usually for less than retail. For instance, he took my old laptop that wouldn't even turn on anymore and revamped it, bought a new battery, loaded it with Windows 10, got it running all smoothly again, and gave it to his mother, who has been dealing with a clunky, incredibly slow machine for years. Another example: Elannah accidentally permanently corrupted the PS3 when she turned it off while it was downloading something. It just wouldn't work anymore. So Husband took Elannah's broken laptop, removed the hard drive, replaced the PS3's hard drive with the laptop hard drive, and now we have a working PS3 again. For free. 
  • And yet another example of my dear spouse's magic: Husband found the transcription of my mom's letters to me, which I'd painstakingly typed up in 2011, saved on a thumb drive, and then promptly misplaced. Of all the gifts I could have received, that one was the best possible gift. Now I get to format the letters and have them printed into a book for my mother. She wrote me incredibly detailed, multi-page letters from the time I went off to college in 1990, and then when I was on my mission in England until June of 1994. I'm pretty sure she didn't write all those details into her journals, so this will be a treasure trove of all the little things that were happening with my family during those years. She is going to LOVE IT! I am beyond excited.
  • I had all of my children under one roof for almost three days. Gabrielle came up from Utah Valley, and it was so much fun to have them all here before Sian also heads down to Utah Valley for school at the end of this week. Sophia just turned 18 right before Christmas, so she's graduating from high school this year and will make her plans to head off into the wide world. Having all my children together was my favorite.
  • While I mostly did the wrapping, I did make a few gifts by hand. For Little Gary, I crocheted a Sack Boy from Little Big Planet, which he was thrilled to play with (he's still young enough to have that active imagination that turns inanimate objects into thinking beings). For Gabrielle, I crocheted Yoshi, which she loved. For Sian and Gabrielle, I typed up all our favorite family recipes--culling them from my loose recipes clipboard and all my cookbooks--and collected them all into binders. The girls were so excited, and they spent quite a while on Christmas Day reading through all the recipes I'd included and shouting, "I love this one!" I added little notes about who loved which dishes most, who gave the recipes to us, and occasions when the recipes were used. For instance, the recipe that we call "Grandma Lee's Casserole" is actually a dish my 90-year-old grandmother ate when she was very young and living on a farm with her Swedish relatives in Minnesota. She says they just called it "Hot Dish," which is the Minnesotan term for "casserole." After she was married, she made it for my mother and my aunts, and my mother often cooked it while I was growing up. I've cooked it for my family, and my kids love that casserole. Now they'll never forget where it came from. I printed an extra set of recipes for myself, as I thought it would be very handy to not have to sort through all my loose recipes and cookbooks anymore. When Sophia and Elannah (and further down the line, the boys) move out, I'll make more binders for them. All of them can add additional favorite recipes to the binders as they find new ones.
There were many ways in which this Christmas was absolutely wonderful. There was one very sad thing that happened, however. Sian had been dating a wonderful young man for a while, and they had talked about marriage after the upcoming semester (they're both attending the same school). She was so happy, so in love. This was the guy. And honestly, they were a match made in heaven, so perfect for each other in the way they think and view the world and in their future goals. I would have loved to have him as a son-in-law, husband to my darling daughter, and father to my grandchildren. But he abruptly broke up with her right after Christmas, and she was heartbroken. 

It's been a very rough week for her, with lots of long mother-daughter talks and sobbing and general misery. Now we're all glad they didn't end up finding housing in the same apartment complex, where she would probably catch frequent sight of him and have her heart broken over and over. This will be difficult for her to overcome because he was The One (and he told her the same), but she's starting to see a light at the end of that tunnel of grief, even though I warned her that the grief will come back in waves, and unexpectedly at times, and that it's completely normal. It's so hard to watch your children suffer so much, but she's becoming more philosophical about it now. Time will help. 

We're fortunate in the fact that Sian has convinced Gabrielle not to break his face in sisterly retribution. Gabrielle says that she won't hurt him as long as he runs really fast. It's a compromise, but we'll take it. 

Last night, my in-laws came over and we ate tons of junk and watched London's New Year fireworks and a couple old movies before they left at 10pm (close enough! Happy New Year!). Today, my parents and brothers were supposed to come over for dinner (I was going to make Chinese food), but I'm burping egg (blech), Joseph has the trots bad, and Elannah just barely crawled out of her basement bedroom after being sick all night. The smart choice is to cancel. None of us want my 90-year-old grandmother to catch this. Bummer.

But this new year is full of promise. I love the anticipation of wondering what it will bring. Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pie and Song

I've written about three blog posts that are deeply personal and cathartic. Obviously, I haven't posted any of them, and that's probably a good thing as they were mostly devoid of humor, although I did mention my Shoulder Demon several times. But none of those blog posts was political, which should come as a surprise. Let's just say that I've had some major stresses lately, and caring about the staged theater that is this year's presidential elections falls far down my list of Stuff to Worry About.

But at this point, you're probably wondering if I still love pie. You were, weren't you?

Yes. Yes, I do. Deeply. Forever. I just can't shake that pie thang. I would be upset about it if I thought that was a bad thing.

But to keep things completely superficial (and to avoid waxing poetic about my favorite pie--or to avoid talking myself into eating my feelings), I've got some new music obsessions that I thought I'd share.

I was working on a Da Nang, Vietnam, travel guide, which naturally led me to YouTube, where I explored music in an effort to cool my overheated brain and do a little procrastinating at the same time. Bonus: my brain is really going to have to perform in a hurry because the deadline is tomorrow and I'm only 1/3 of the way through a very, very long travel guide about a city and a country I've never been to. I've already completed travel guides on Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Long Bay, and Ha Long City. This should be a piece of cake, right? No worries.

I do mean it: no worries. My adrenal glands have completely shorted out. They're done. Kaput. The good thing is that I now have a hard time getting too fussed about anything inconsequential, and if I'm a little late on my deadline, the assignments will be done by Monday. Whatever.

Here's what has grabbed hold of my ever-loving pie sensors:

Zayn Malik may once have been part of One Direction (or 1D, to the rabid fans), but he's got chops all on his own, too. The chorus of "It's You" sends me. There is one gentle F-bomb in the first verse, but I've embedded the clean lyrics version. Also, the posted lyrics are slightly incorrect: where the video reads, "So my silence won't be mistaken for believing," it should actually be, "So my silence won't be mistaken for peace." That's a big difference. The poetry of the correct lyrics must be preserved. Except for the F-bomb.

At risk of making you think I can't get enough of men singing in falsetto, I must also share Borns's "Past Lives."

Just for fun, Borns does a cover of Zayn Malik's "It's You." You can compare and contrast, if you wish. Personally, I prefer the original by far. You know what would be great? If Chase Holfelder did a cover of "It's You," I'd probably wear out the replay button.

Watch out: this one doesn't cover up the F-bomb, but it's an easy F-bomb to miss.

I was in the car with Sophia, and I insisted she listen to "It's You," which, surprisingly, she hadn't heard yet. After she listened, she said, "Wow, Mom! You actually like cool music!" Um, thanks, young one. I'll be DJ-ing your next high school dance. But what she said next made me howl. Literally. Like a wolf.

"Mom, have you ever heard of 'Open Arms' by Journey?"

SMH, as the kids say. S.M.H.

She loves "Open Arms." We both belted the chorus, and I proved to her that I remember all the lyrics. Mostly.

Singing at the top of your lungs in the car with someone you love, that never gets old. Pie and song.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Their Anger Ferments...

I remember this time Husband and I were talking to someone we knew. Somehow, the famous book about the Great Depression came up. Husband said, "It's The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck." But the other guy was pretty sure it was The Wrath of Grapes. He kept insisting that was the title, and he was very serious about it.

I still laugh at the image his title put into my head.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Vicariously Attending Homecoming with My Girls

In a lovely break from our usual Saturday activities, Husband and I got to chauffeur six teens (two of them our own) around on their Homecoming Day Date. What is a Day Date? you ask. It's a Utah thing. It's not enough to just go to a dance. No, you have to make an entire day of it. That's perfectly fine if you like your date, but it's torture if you find out you can't stand the person you're with.

Fortunately, the boys who asked my daughters are great kids, and my daughters are good friends with them, so they all had a good time.

The boys had planned a hike, a visit to a mystery room, and dinner at a swanky Brazilian restaurant--all of which required them to be in The Big City. However, a couple days before the event, their driver bailed, so Husband and I woke up early on a Saturday to pick them up and cart them to their various destinations. While the kids were busy, Husband and I hung out with each other. A win-win situation.

It was a lot of fun. The kids had a great time, and Husband told them a joke that they found so funny that Elannah's date was repeating the punchline the rest of the day. I don't even think he was sucking up.

The only annoying part of the day was that all of the kids in the car are drama kids (kids who love being in the plays at school), so when I put Sophia in charge of the music (because I really like Sophia's and Elannah's taste in alternative music), all we got to listen to were show tunes. All the kids (and Husband) were singing along at the top of their lungs to selections from Les Miserables and Grease, and I just had to deal with it. I realize it makes me a heathen and a Philistine, but those are my two least favorite musicals of all time. I loathe them for reasons I can't explain. But I kept my mouth shut about that.

In the evening, when we got back to our fair town, all the kids went to get themselves gussied up before going to the dance at the high school. I think they cleaned up well.

Elannah and her friend, who, in this picture, looks like he's about 12. These two are hilarious together.

Sophia before her date picked her up. She pulled her waist-length hair into a low bun at the back, which I thought was a very practical way to keep from overheating at the dance.

The gang. Sophia's date, A.J., looks like how my youngest, Little Gary, will look in seven or eight years--tall, lanky, large eyes, similar mannerisms. The girls and I have told him that, but I don't know how he feels about it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Great Service Dilemma

I'm having the second round of vertigo that I've had in a few months. I've never had this problem before, but it's both uncomfortable and inconvenient, as you can probably imagine. When the world is spinning like a top even when you're lying down or sitting as still as possible, it isn't pleasant.

It also makes you so nauseated you puke a lot. Before I took some Dramamine for motion sickness on Monday, I wasn't keeping anything down.

Things are a bit better now, thankfully. I'm pretty sure I'll live. Almost 100% sure. :)

In other news, I got a phone call today from an older lady I know. She's a nice lady, and our family and others have given her and her daughter a lot of help getting settled in their new house. She's called several times to ask for rides or to get a little help unpacking and lifting something or other, and I haven't had a problem with that. She's always very grateful for the help.

I have been extremely careful in the last couple years about setting boundaries for myself when it comes to service. That is based on past experience. For me, it's very easy to extend my help so much and so far that I end up actually hurting the person I'm trying to help while feeling a great deal of personal resentment in the process. That's no good for either of us. Better to know where my boundaries are so that I can actually provide some quality assistance without "serving" another person right into dependency. I think that's much healthier, don't you?

Today, I missed a call from this lady, and I caught her voicemail a little later. She was asking for someone to go and clean her kitchen. She's recently had shoulder surgery, and if she were living alone, I could completely understand needing help in keeping things tidy in the kitchen. But she's not alone. She has some other able-bodied people living with her. She explained, however, that one of them wasn't feeling well and that the other of them was in court.

My immediate reaction was, "And why is this my problem to fix?"

While a messy kitchen is certainly inconvenient and problematic when it comes to fixing meals, the fact that there are able-bodied members of the household available would seem to negate the need to ask for outside assistance. Temporary unavailability on their part does not constitute an emergency on my part, does it? I have to battle with my children just about every day when it comes to loading the dishwasher, wiping down counters, and keeping things at least clean enough that we can move freely around the house. If I or they don't feel well or have other things scheduled, it never occurs to me to ask someone else to come in and take care of it because it's bothering me. It's my problem, I have the means to solve it, and it will get solved eventually.

That was my first reaction.

My second reaction was to chide myself with, "Now, don't be selfish! She's asking for help, and we are on this earth to serve each other."

And yet I saw the results of such knee-jerk service on my part spread before me: I respond to this call, though I, myself, also feel quite unwell, and she is gracious and grateful. I am pleased that I could do some good, and that makes me happy. Yet there is another call in a few days because of the same problem or another little problem, and who will fix it immediately when no one else in her household has the time or inclination? ME! I grit my teeth, remind myself to be generous with my service, and respond to every call. Eventually, I hate her and her lazy family and she is so dependent upon me that she becomes demanding and resentful when I don't jump at her command.

Think that's extreme? I beg to differ. It's happened before because I didn't know when it was all right to say no.

So I'm saying no today. This is where it starts, and from this point I must make the boundary clear. When it comes to people I know are potential vampires (people who could end up sucking your life away in serving their personal needs and wants), even if you are very nice people, I will not do for you what you or someone you live with can do for yourselves, even if you are momentarily inconvenienced by it not getting done. I will certainly try to assist you in things you cannot do and that need to be done, even if it is occasionally inconvenient to me. But I will not put my family or my needs permanently at the end of the list in order to serve you. In that way, we can both keep our dignity and still be friends.

Sound fair? That's how it's gotta be.