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 Ty 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.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Couple New Musical Obsessions

I get a little obsessed sometimes when I find an artist whose work absolutely stuns me. I have a hard time getting any writing work done, which is one bad side effect of being transported to musical nirvana. It's probably also yet another way my brain demands rest and relaxation because I don't let myself read fiction anymore.

Recently, we had a young man serving his mission here who has the voice of an angel. He sang for us once while visiting our home, and then he sang in our Sacrament Meeting last Sunday before getting transferred to another area this last week. He gave us a CD his mother had put together of some of his best pieces, and my girls listen to it over and over.

Here's a little video of Elder Vizzini from South Africa singing "Skyfall."



Here's another recent obsession. This guy is amazing. I've spent a lot of time not writing a travel guide to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) today because I've been exploring his YouTube channel.

Here's one of my favorite offerings from Chase Holfelder.

Monday, August 15, 2016

And Something Sweet, PLZ!

We have a running grocery list on a white board by the fridge. I love that the kids occasionally add their personalities to it. Sometimes it's drawings, sometimes it's additions to the grocery list such as this:


There's nothing like Mondays for a new start.