Monday, August 30, 2010

Yucky Blueberries! Bleahhhhhh!

Good day today. I got to spend time with one of my dear friends, although she was not in much of a mood to enjoy it. She didn't feel well at all. Still, we had a long drive and plenty of time to talk.

I love blueberries. Of all the fruits in all the world, I have a passion for little, blue berries that grow wild in Northern Minnesota and other parts of the country with the right climate and soil pH. When summer comes around, I eagerly anticipate finding boxes of blueberries at the grocery store. Last year, I was so excited about finding five pound boxes of them for $5 that I nearly made my family crazy with talking about it. (Sorry, family. I'm getting over it, I think.)

One year, the year this picture was taken, I had done my usual crazy buying of blueberries, followed by many bowls of blueberries, cream, and sugar, and making things out of blueberries. This particular day, Sian, Gabrielle, Husband, and I had run some errands. It was summer, and it was hot. On our way back home, the girls tired and quiet in the back seat, we pulled up to a stoplight (and I can still remember exactly which one), and Gabrielle suddenly shouted, "Yucky blueberries!" and then vomited all over herself and the leather seats in our Buick Park Avenue. Sian looked at her with surprise, then vomited all over herself and the leather seats. Then Gabrielle vomited again. Husband and I watched in horror. There was nothing we could do, stuck as we were in the middle of traffic, and certainly with an inadequate amount of cleaning supplies to take care of that stinking mess. Looking at each other, we burst out laughing. I glanced over at the car next to us, and laughed even harder. There were about three or four people in that car and they had all seen everything. Their faces looked back at me in mute appeal and nausea. They probably thought we were the worst parents in the world for laughing at our sick little children.

By the time we got home the girls were fine, but the car smelled awful. I took the girls inside and got them cleaned up and dressed in dry clothes and Husband put on a determined face while getting a bucket to clean the car. Thankfully, leather seats clean up easily.

My girls love that story. They have asked me to tell it a hundred times. And I'm reminded of it every time I buy blueberries. I guess all things are better in moderation.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Picking Plums and a Busy Kitchen

This post may only be interesting to my immediate family, most of whom do not actually read this. I think my dad does, occasionally, and Husband when I sit him down and say, "Read this and tell me if it stinks or what." He usually tells me it's an okay post and even kind of funny, which is why I keep him around. That and I love to hear him sing in the shower. I am hoping my youngest brother and youngest sister, who live far away from the rest of us, also check in once in a while.

So, anyway, a bunch of family came over last Sunday for a family dinner, as frequently happens, and my dad had his new camera. With said camera, he took a series of videos, which he then uploaded to my computer. I, being the brilliant technician that I am, uploaded them to YouTube (motto: If Eva Aurora can figure this out, it's easy!), and now I share them with you. There is no rhyme or reason in these clips. They are just a slice of life.

The first one is of Husband, my brother (we'll call him Aaron), my mother, and my children (minus Joseph) out in the backyard picking plums from our prolific trees. I want you to notice Little Gary with his uncle. He loves Uncle Aaron dearly and is always excited to have him over. Alas, the lawn has had a tough summer, so it's a bit dry.

This clip is of the inside of the house, specifically the kitchen. My mom, in the blue blouse, is making her famous chocolate lava cake, I'm peeling potatoes while talking to Sian, Husband is in the orange shirt, and Gabrielle does all the posing. The cat is Lincoln, Gabrielle's baby.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rejected Facebook Statuses

I need sugar. I haven't allowed myself to spend any money on sweets, and I have talked myself out of baking anything of a dessert nature, much to my family's dismay. I'm not doing it for the weight loss potential. Seriously, I could eat or not eat and I would still hover in the very same 5 pound zone forever. Even exercise doesn't make me drop weight, although I love the muscles. I'm doing it because I'm saving my money for better things, like vegetables and fruits. And hash browns for Cheesy Ranch Potato Bake. But I may just break down and bake something delicious before I go to choir practice tonight, hoping the family will leave me a wedge. What will it be? Cake? Pie? Plum cobbler? Pie?

Just now, I got so hungry I speared a hot dog on a fork, slathered it with ketchup and ate it. I vow to never, ever do that again.

I am as excited about going to choir practice tonight as a teenage girl getting ready for the hottest date of her life. THAT is how much I love this choir. And THAT is how long it's been since I've been a teenage girl.

And now, I'm off to wash a load of whites.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I've Got Fractals On My Mind

This is going to sound totally weird, but I remember the first time I saw an image of a Mandelbrot set and what that did to me. I was somewhere in my young teens when my family went to California to visit my grandparents. We also visited my dad's best buddy, who worked for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He took us on a tour of the place and we ended up in his office. While we were there, he pulled up a picture of a Mandelbrot set on his computer. Nice. Whatever. But as he started zooming in and zooming in, I began to understand what fractals were and it BLEW MY MIND!

Last night I was reading some more Turbulent Mirror, and I had to stop, close the book and just think about the fact that a coastline is of infinite distance. In fact, all the coastlines of all the continents of the world have the same distance: infinite. Now, fractals have been in my mind for the better part of 23 (or so) years, but it was like a fresh punch in the head to be reminded of just how cool they are. Wow! Take THAT, geometry!

Less obscurely, I managed to write five articles in one day yesterday. I got up at 5:30am and wrote two before the kids went to school. Then, I hung out with Little Gary during the morning and part of the afternoon, and when the older girls got home, they watched Little Gary and I pumped out three more. Husband came home from work and wrote one, as well. Six in one day. It's definitely a record. Every little bit helps.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I am Maintenence Girl! Hear me roar!

This photo was taken on August, 26, 1991. I was working at a family camp in the Wasatch Mountains and I was on Maintenence Crew. What that effectively meant was that I and my work partner cleaned up after everyone. We cleaned bathrooms, we mowed the lawns, we hauled rocks, we dug holes, we completed the outdoor projects that needed doing, and we even cleaned up the wreckage of a cabin that the director rolled down the hill in order to build a new one. THAT was fun, let me tell you!

The good thing was that I learned to fix a toilet, clean vomit out of urinals without vomiting myself, and drive all kinds of really big (and small) pieces of equipment. I could back a one-ton truck down a very narrow and winding path at a pretty good clip. I could work the big tractor to mow the huge field once a week (and, of course, the smaller mowers to mow all the other lawns), and I almost got to drive the forklift. Dang. Missed opportunity.

When a hummingbird got stuck in the main lodge, they called us. When the director wanted to put in a shuffelboard court and then decided to move it three feet to the left, they called us to come move it and clean it all up. I mentioned the cabin all over the hillside. When campers woke up in the morning or went back to their cabins at night, the bathrooms were sparkling no matter how much mud and junk was tracked in during the day. And we did it all so quietly in the background that people used to ask me if I actually did anything around there (and my work partner would have to hold me back. I did the same for her. It wasn't good PR to try and maul the campers.) When you're a laboror, you're invisible. Not that I'm bitter or anything...

It was an interesting summer. Thanks to Robert Redford, it was much more interesting than it needed to be, but maybe everyone needs a good bout of shigella to be grateful for her health.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just Wondering...

Gosh. I wonder what super-intelligent, interesting, the kind of person you want to invite to all your parties writer wrote that article?? :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Laundry Prose

I have a first grader who is as moody as a teenage girl. In the days leading up to the first day of school, I kept thinking there was no way he would walk into that classroom, with a new teacher, new classmates, going for a whole day. He just won't do it. I prepared myself for a battle.

Last night, suffering under the oppression of a cripplingly fierce headache, I realized he didn't have any clean clothes to wear to his first day of school. He's hard on his clothes, so they get tossed in the dirty laundry pretty quickly. My laundry oversight meant I had to gather his things and throw them in with a load I had forgotten to put into the dryer (I mean, I forgot really well. I think it must have been a couple days they were sitting in the washing maching), along with half a bottle of white vinegar and some detergent.

Later, after I had climbed wearily into bed and lay there for a while, hashing through some stuff on my mind and trying to fall asleep, I heard the machine beep. I groaned.

"What?" asked Husband, who was sitting up and reading with the light on.
"The washing machine beeped. That means it's unbalanced." I sat up and my head throbbed despite the pain killers I had taken earlier.
"Stay there. I'll take care of it," said Husband, and I gratefully sank back in under the covers. I had opened the window earlier because it was so cool outside, and the air in the room was pleasantly chilly, which soothed my head somewhat.

From the laundry room, there came the sounds of Husband sloshing heavy, wet towels and shirts and pants around in an effort to make the machine balance enough to spin and complete the cycle. He closed the lid and the locks shot home with an audible snick. As the drone of spinning drums began, I quit listening and nestled into my pillow.

Husband came back into the room and retrieved his book. All was silent for a time except for the hum of the washer. Then it beeped again.

"I don't know what else to do," said Husband. So I got up and staggered into the laundry room, muttering curses at Murphy and his stupid law. "dC, dC, dC," flashed the machine display. I tried to remember what that actually stood for as I opened the lid and shoved wet clothing around. After I had started the cycle again, I stayed, leaning over the machine and resting my head on my arms, waiting to see if the cycle would finish. I thought about things. Life. Chaos and order. The unexpected occurrences that happen in an ordinary day. How much my head hurt.

The machine beeped again. I fixed it. And fixed it again. The third time, as I draped myself over the washer to rest my head and close my eyes, I prayed. "Please let it work this time. I'm so tired." I thought about my prayers and how I have faith that my big questions will be answered but that my little questions are not worthy. How many times had I scoffed at myself for saying a prayer that I could find something I'd misplaced, or that a baby would just fall asleep finally, or that the washing machine would finish its cycle so I could go back to bed? I tried to feel that place in my heart that opens to faith, even to the hope of faith. "Please let the washer finish. Thou knowest what's in my heart. Please help me." The drums began spinning, but this time, instead of immediately slowing down, they continued. Water gurgled out of the washer, through the pipes. I waited still, unmoving as my body vibrated with the busily humming machine. I smiled. My heart felt full, and not because my little question about the washer was answered. Or not only because of that. The warmth of a god's love for his creation spread through me, answering the questions of my heart that I had not voiced. Finally, I pushed myself upright and walked back down the hall to my room. Husband was still reading. I climbed into my beautifully soft bed with a happy sigh.

"You got it working?" asked Husband, surprised. "Okay, I'll make sure the stuff gets in the dryer."
"Thank you," I mumbled through my hair. "I love you."
"Good night. I love you, too."
I slept.

This morning, Joseph surprised me. He was anxious for his first day and accepted the clean, dry jeans and underwear I gave him, although I had also washed other pants in case he needed a choice. He even went into his classroom after only a moment's hesitation and found his desk. He was sitting there quietly, backpack still on, staring straight ahead and covering for his nervousness when I exited the room. Cute little guy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Illustrated Guide to the Inside of My Head? Too Chaotic!

It was while sitting at stoplights with my car blinker on that I first became interested in Chaos Theory. I didn't realize that was what I was interested in until much later, but it was the start.

Have you ever watched your car blinker relative to the blinker on the car in front of you? Okay, I'd like to know who hasn't waited with nearly breathless anticipation as the blinkers blink completely out of sync and then slowly, slowly, get closer and closer together until that one glorious blink when they're both completely in tune with each other. Then, following that briefest moment of unity, they again go their separate ways until the cycle repeats.

What I've thought about while watching the blinkers is how order and chaos seem to circle each other, seemingly opposing forces in the universe. And yet, once in a while (or more often), they touch, kiss, unify. With car blinkers, it's a fairly straighforward mathematical equation, but since I tend to extrapolate my "deep" thoughts into universal terms (especially when faced with an extraordinarily long stoplight), I wondered about the polarity of all things. If there is opposition in all things, what are the opposites? And if there is order and its opposite, chaos, are they really opposites or, like Janus, two faces of the same god? Can you separate the opposites without damaging the entire nature of...everything? Aren't they inherently linked, and if they are instrinsically linked, what does that mean?

You can imagine my delight when my dad brought over the book, Turbulent Mirror: An Illustrated Guide to Chaos Theory and the Science of Wholeness, by John Briggs and F. David Peat. I have dived in headfirst, trying to wrap my mind around strange attractors, iteration paradoxes, fractals, and the ancient Chinese parable of the Mirror People.

All I can say is it's a dang good thing this book is illustrated.

What is so fascinating to me about all of this is that we know nothing. We are infants -- less than infants -- in our understanding of The Big Picture. When I think about how difficult we find it to predict anything that has more than two or so factors, I just get all giddy. Here we have what would seem an ordered, Newtonian reductionist universe, and suddenly! nothing is what it seems. Order and chaos swirl violently, like oil and water, but still mix at some astonishingly regular points, and we are still astonished. How fun is all of this?

Rather than bore you with the mathematics (which implies that I actually understand the mathematics but simply don't want to set them in front of you, who don't, and cause you much yawning agony. In reality, it's all a bluff since I need the illustrations to help me understand enough to barely make sense of it all, and I have to close the book and spend long moments pondering what I have just read. So, rather than bore you with the mathematics,), I will let you know if I come up with anything worth blogging about.

The other two books I'm reading are an autobiography about Sam Wyley, the entrepreneur (which I picked up because I have no idea how really successfull entreprenuers think. It's like a foreign land inside their heads), and The Conan Chronicles, by Robert Jordan. But the really interesting one is Turbulent Mirror.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lion Tamer

Husband, Sian, Myself, Husband's Paternal Grandmother, and Husband's Father in Southern England

Husband and one-year-old Sian in the turrett of Caerphilly Castle in Wales

Sian was too scared to get a drink from a lion at the zoo, so Husband showed her the lion would not devour her. Sian thought her dad was pretty silly.

At the park for a birthday party, 1999

Husband was able to visit his family in England in 1999. His parents and sisters and brothers are all in this picture with the exception of his next youngest brother.

I have been searching and searching for Husband's baby photos. You wouldn't think they'd be that elusive, considering we don't have that much stuff piled up, and, yet, I haven't located the box. When I do, I'll post a few of him as a kid. When you see the twinkle in his eye, you'll know where my kids get their mischievous natures.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Teach Me to Dream

I've been getting calls from online universities, sometimes two or three a day. You know why that happened, right? You click on one thing in a fit of curiosity and suddenly your name has made it to a sucker list. The only reason I even gave my correct information was because I thought I was filling out a form for something else. Stupid me.

Well, since these people were calling, I thought I might as well get some information. I have some college credits, but I never did finish my education -- unless you count the education in home management, cooking, accounting, child care, janitorial, maintenance, therapy services, nursing, tutoring, and a few other areas of enforced study I have dived into by getting married and having a passel o' kids. One young man gave me the idea of getting an associates in Business Management since I plan to one day run my own construction company and build homes out of non-traditional materials and in non-traditional ways. The architecture and construction part would have to be done in a traditional school environment, and then I figure I would intern or get a job in a company where people are building like I want to build. So, anyway, I'm dipping my toe in the water.

Speaking of architecture and construction, I had a major Architecture Dream last night. in my dream, I was alone and looking at houses to buy when I knocked on the door of a house on a hill (me and hills... There's some connection there.) and a little girl answered. The house was for sale, but her parents weren't home. I asked if she could show me around and she was quite proud to be thought old enough to be my guide, so she let me in. The house was fairly large with three or four bedrooms. One odd thing was that each stair on the staircase was covered in a different pastel shag rug, and when I say shag rug, I mean the shag was so long you could trip on it. It looked like dreadlocks. One room was pretty beat up and needed some new drywall. And then, I saw the master suite.

Oh, heaven. Three walls opened entirely to the outside. You could slide all the wall panels away until the bed seemed to sit on a platform surrounded by valley views, but the overhang on the terrace was so long the room still had almost complete privacy. Outside, a brick patio extended out along the top of the ridge on which the house sat and down in steps and landings as it followed the curve of the land.

I don't remember there being any danger, which is odd. Usually, all my dreams have some element of danger, but this one was strangely placid. No tidal waves, no snakes or S.W.A.T. teams, no sense of imminent doom. Maybe that's because I was rudely awakened by some guy that I could hear outside harking and hacking until I was worried he would cough up an organ. Every time I leave the window open, I hear this guy. I don't think I'm prepared to know which of my neighbors it is, so I just try to close my eyes and ignore the expulsion of lung cookies echoing up to my second story window.

Tomorrow is Husband's birthday. Happy birthday, my fellow life traveler!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dancing Trees

This is what happens when you try to scan pretty but wrinkled wrapping paper. This particular wrapping paper was lovingly placed around a present for Husband which was sent from his mother in Great Britain. Just like his youngest son, Husband can't wait, so even though his birthday is not until this Saturday, he opened the package the day it came in the mail. Husband also insists on eating dessert first at a resaurant. And why not? Why not enjoy things as they come? Anticipation has its place, too, of course, and it's not like Husband can't wait for important things, but why not just revel in the joy of eating creme brulee before your prime rib or opening your gift before your birthday?

A few weeks ago, Little Gary was in my room looking out the window. I glanced over to find him leaning against the sill, one foot resting on the other, his arms crossed on the bottom ledge. Kneeling beside him, I asked, "What are you looking at?" He pointed.
"The trees are dancing."
Like a textbook, I saw in my mind's eye diagrams of moving air, explanations of high and low pressure systems.
"Is the wind blowing the trees?"
He turned to me then, his eyes solemn as only a toddler's eyes can be.
"No, Mommy. The trees are dancing."

I have loved that since he first told me. That he saw the branches move and twist and decided that the trees must be dancing is a pearl of a thought. Now, of course, I only see dancing trees who happen to be dancing when there is also a breeze.

I hope I always see dancing trees.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More of My Life in Pictures

I've had a full day of writing, so my brain is pretty fried. Therefore, pictures will speak a thousand words for me unless I get my second wind.

This is me on a horse behind Prince Charming. My dad took me (age 8), my younger brother and younger sister camping in the Sawtooth Mountains when Mom had a new little baby girl. The people in the next camping spot had horses, and I was so enchanted that I screwed up the courage to ask them if I could ride. They were kind enough to say yes, and this guy took me around the area at a slow walk. It wasn't until years later that I noticed he was a hunk.

After a couple years of hanging in my high school locker, this picture got understandably battered. It represented such happiness that I loved to see it every time I went to get my books. July 4th was my absolute favorite holiday all during my growing up years. In Northern Minnesota, it meant setting up the branch's booth at the big city festival down by the lake (back in the day when wards could do fund raisers) and having practically the entire congregation crammed in there making bread dough, shaping elephant ears, and frying up sugar-coated discs of deliciousness. We always sold out before nightfall, so the booth would be abandoned in order to watch the fireworks show. I was about 15 in this picture, and I'm standing with two of my good friends, Sarra and Tanya.

I took ballet for years. This was the first year I was in The Nutcracker as a flower in The Waltz of the Flowers. I did not fill out the bodice on my costume yet, but I didn't even care. I had so much fun. I did, however, manage to break my foot during one of the dress rehearsals and had to sit out the performance in favor of the understudy. That made the director understandably perturbed (he was the kind of guy who would get perturbed about things like that), and he told me off for it the next year. I am in the back on the right, and my then-bff is in the back on the left.

I was in the jazz choir in high school, and during my junior year I got to sing a solo part in one of our pieces. I think I had to rap, if I remember correctly. Note the acid-washed button-fly jeans. Does that not take you back?

In my series of bad hair decisions after having babies, I developed a mullett. Wow. And mulletts weren't even in style by this time, either. It wasn't intentional; I just let my hair grow out and this is what happened. The baby is Gabrielle, aged 3 months, and in 1997 we were living in Wisconsin in a one-bedroom apartment with two little girls. Husband was working as a carpet cleaner, and I was a full-time mom. I would soon go on to become a telemarketer for a company that sold crap for a lot of money. I quit a few months later on principal.

Thank you for taking this little journey with me today. My brain has cooled down somewhat from the overusage I put it through today, and I guess I should get the kids into bed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To All of Those I've Loved Before...

Back toward the end of July, I saw the culmination of a 15+ year goal I had set for myself. It's one of the few really long-term goals that I've ever spelled out, as most of the others are sort of nebulous; things like "Age with grace," or "Endure to the end" are more my style but don't have that really definitive moment when I can sigh with satisfaction and say, "DONE! What's next?"

This particular goal was written on a post-it note in my scriptures since about 1996, so every time I opened up to the Old Testament, there it was: "Find Elder Z- and thank him." We had had a Relief Society lesson about showing gratitude to those who do good to us, and his was the first name that popped forcefully into my mind.

The hard part was that I didn't know his first name. He was an elder who served in my home mission when I was just graduating from high school in Northern Minnesota (on a side note, what does a guy do when he gets his mission papers and then finds out he's going to exotic...Minnesota?? I actually had a couple college friends who served in that mission during the time I was home working and preparing to send in my own papers. They were kind enough to never tell me they were probably a little disappointed at first to get called to Minnesota instead of Japan or Brazil or Germany or somewhere exciting and less cold.) and he influenced me for good with his example. I didn't know him really well then, but I wanted to thank him for showing me that a person could literally be surrounded with the Spirit. That's what I wanted to be like.

Not knowing his name or where he was from made it pretty much impossible to find him until the advent of Facebook. It still didn't occur to me until just recently that I might actually possibly locate him, and I asked a good friend who also knew him what his first name was. Now Elder Z- and I are Facebook friends, and I was able to thank him for being a very positive influence on me. He was surprised but pleased that he had an effect on me, and we exchange the occasional message about family or business (he owns a bunch of websites for Google Adsense revenue, and some of them are very poorly written, apparently. He needs an editor.) I am very glad I could finally express my gratitude. I don't need him to be my best friend, but I'm glad we're friends and that he's happy with his life and still trying to do good in the world.

I tell you this because it was an important thing to me. I am extremely grateful for all the people in my life who show me a better way of being, who make me want to be the best person I can be, and who open my heart. It's like a literal punch in the gut when any of those people suddenly drops away for one reason or another, and there's a period of mourning; however, I'm so happy to be in contact with many whom I have loved over the years. If you're reading this, you can be pretty dang sure I love you and appreciate you.

Unless, of course, I don't know you at all and you're stalking my blog, in which case, say hi and we can become friends. :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Cycles of Textile Art are Mysterious Indeed

I am the proud owner and operator of my very own, 100% perfect crown. My anal retentive dentist pronounced it worthy of his name, and I will not need to drive into The Big City to the Office of Young and Beautiful Dental Professionals until something else goes wrong with my teeth. Knock on wood. They're all very young and beautiful and skilled at that office, but I and my teeth feel very old there, and I really am not all that old, so it's a vaguely unpleasant feeling. Or maybe the unpleasant feeling is just the way they like to blow cold water and air all over my sensitive chompers so that I grip my hands together hard enough to leave nail marks for hours.

During this particular visit, I learned that my dentist (who is older than I thought he was. He's 35 and I thought he was somewhere in his 20's, and he's single, ladies!) does NOT consider Sarah Jessica Parker to be in any way cute. The assistant was trying to convince him SJP is the ultimate in beauty, but he wouldn't budge. Nope. He admitted he was shallow enough that he could tell right away that she is not one whit pretty or cute or whatever, although she wears nice clothing. Meanwhile, I tried not to laugh too hard so that the crown he was cementing in wouldn't fall down my throat and necessitate yet another go-round of dental visits.

My CB2 Fall catalog arrived today. Although I've never ordered anything from it, the pictures give me a lot of inspiration. I'm looking at the Waberlerbeler wall hangings (crafted by a guy in Taiwan who is "reviving the matriarchal art of jute weaving"),

and they're reminding me a whole lot of that free-form macrame wall hanging that caught my eye in the 1970's craft book I checked out from the library. I bet hanging that macrame creation in front of a really great wall would make it pop.

You wouldn't even be thinking about mushrooms and Jane Fonda and two-hour lines at the gas station and kitchens with wooden plaques on the walls that feature Holly Hobby. It would be totally contemporary and NOW. That's it. I'm making it. Someone advised me where to find a good rock and glass tumbler, so I could incorporate little bits of sky-blue "sea glass" into the artwork, as well. Can you imagine that over the top of a copper-washed orange wall?

Hello? Are you still there? Wow. I put you to sleep.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Red-Hot Applesauce Jello Doesn't Even Really LOOK Like Ketchup!

ca. 1977. In this photo, taken in California, I am wearing the one and only bikini I have ever owned, and I was always putting it on upside down. I just couldn't seem to figure out which end was up, although my mother must have helped me here because I am wearing the top correctly. Also in this picture are my younger brother, J, and my parents and little sister, sitting beside the pool.

A friend of mine told me a story I have not forgotten. He was a zone leader in his mission, and when he happened upon the car of some elders who had strayed far from their area, he didn't yell and scream and tell them off in a phone call. He merely slipped his card under the windshield wiper and let it speak for itself. They knew he knew, and they were left to wonder if he was following them (he wasn't) and perhaps if he was all-knowing (he might be). I found that story amusing but also extremely impressive. Sometimes a quiet reminder speaks louder than the most hysterical temper tantrum.

The reason I brought that up is because I smile about that story all the time and not because I've mastered the principal behind it. Still working on that.

Yesterday, I accomplished the following:

1. Made two batches of cinnamon red-hot applesauce jello, one for my family and one to take to the Relief Society Mother/Son activity in the evening.
2. Made four loaves of bread.
3. Wrote an article.
4. Registered most of the kids for school. I missed Sian's registration for 10th grade, due to some erroneous information I received and believed.
5. Nearly had a heart attack at the total cost in fees for the junior high schooler and the high schooler.
6. Visited the libry as per Sian's desperate request (SHE HAD NO BOOKS TO READ!!), and actually checked out a couple books about crafts that were written in the 1970s. Having lived through the '70s, I have no desire to re-create any useful household items sporting pictures of mushrooms, slices of fruits or vegetables, or that combine the colors goldenrod and avocado. My desperation in checking out these books is due to the fact that our small library doesn't have any decorating or crafting books that date later than, say, 1985 (which is a decorating era perhaps even more obnoxious than the '70s) and that a free-form macrame wall hanging caught my eye. I admit it.
Also, the libry is not hiring, so my dream of being a repressed librarian is still on hold. The very friendly librarian who checked me out did inform me that I could apply for city road construction, and I had a momentary vision of being one of those sunburnt women in an orange hat and day-glo vest standing on the side of a road with a "SLOW" sign. Hey, if it pays well...
7. I returned home to find that someone had found great pleasure in punching down my rising loaves (my money is on my three-year-old). I cooked the two in the loaf pans and remade the two loaves that I had to let rise as round loaves on a cookie sheet. Then I put the cookie sheet in a safer location to see if they would rise again without tasting exclusively of yeast.
8. A quick check on the jello molds caused concern, as they were not setting up as quickly as I'd hoped.
9. Attempted another article.
10. Some friends from our old neighborhood stopped by to drop off their daughter for a sleepover with Sophia, and then insisted on taking Husband and me out for dinner.
11. I had to insist we leave the restaurant when I was already late for the RS activity. We went back to my house, where I grabbed a still sloppy mold of jello and a spoon. I also practically threw a loaf of freshly baked bread at our friends as I ran out the door, and then wondered if the round loaves were too yeasty. A later taste check (after I got home) confirmed all was well.
11a. It wasn't until I arrived at the chapel that I realized I'd forgotten my son. I would have run back to get him, but rationalized not doing so because I had to be there to help set up and because Joseph knew nothing about it and would not miss it.
12. During dinner, I had to assure the ladies and their sons that my red-hot applesauce jello was NOT ketchup, and it actually tasted pretty good despite melting even more in the hot air.
13. Got to know some of the ladies even better (we have astounding women in this ward). One woman told me that she had had a dream about me when we first moved here. Her best friend was moving, and they were joking about how S would now need to start interviewing for a new best friend. That night S dreamed she came to my house to ask if I would be her new best friend and I said no. We all had a good laugh. I hope she knows me enough by now to know I would never do that.
14. Cleaned up and returned home. Three of my girls were having friends over for a sleepover, so Husband and I were not able to use the TV in the family room. During the course of the evening and into the night, we had to settle a physical dispute between Gabrielle and Elannah (roll eyes), tell the girls to stay downstairs and quit tramping up and down between three levels, turn off the computer in their room (or at least reduce the volume), and check the kitchen to make sure milk and other items weren't being left out. By morning, Husband and I were exhausted. No more sleepovers. Plus, the milk WAS left out after we finally fell asleep, and Sophia used a pound of frozen sausage as a cold pack for her head and then failed to return it to the freezer. If leaving a card under the defrosted and warm sausage would have sent the subtle but firm message that I am watching and not pleased, I would have done it. Sadly, such subtleties would be lost on one of that age, assuming she ever looked at it in the first place. I resorted to stern lecture mode.

Today is not so busy. I am sitting here with a bowl of dark chocolate chips placed temptingly on my desk (Little Gary likes to take care of me), and the tang of 70% cocoa on my tongue is loverly. Maybe I'll be able to get to that bench today.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'll Show You the Bench, but the Faience is Up to You

I said I'd post pictures of a bench. That's a bench, all right.

Husband had already done the grunt work on this bench, so I can't claim credit for more than spray painting, which is fun in itself. When I post "before" pictures of the other bench, you'll appreciate what a labor of love it was for him, but this time I'll be in charge of the entire thing.

I had a busy day today when I finally got up. Since my back and neck have been iffy the last few days, I haven't gone walking like I normally do, but for some reason, lifting heavy objects yesterday seems to have been a good cure. I'm back to having full range of motion and no pain. I am very pleased with that outcome.

I wrote a couple articles, which took me longer than it should have. I now know more about different types of glass than I used to, and I also have a greater appreciation for whoever it was who figured out how mix flux with glass, along with metal and metal oxides for certain properties and color. When did someone say, "Hey, I bet if we mix wood ash in with silica sand and heat it up real good and stir it around, then cool it precisely and carefully, we'll get this substance we can use for cups and windows and stuff!"

All right, it wasn't quite like that. They had to go through the whole nater glass and faience periods first. PLEASE, don't ask me to explain that, cause I will, and then there will be this silence and I will hear crickets chirp and I will realize you're asleep and have been asleep since I first opened my mouth. I just don't think I can take that kind of rejection. Do your own research if you're so all fired up about nater glass and faience.

I also wrote an article about kitchen appliances. That was kind of fun because I got to research innovative kitchen gadgets. I've been wanting me an induction cooktop for some time now, along with a steam oven. Together, they would cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $7000 -- $10,000. No big.

Since it was Little Gary's 3rd birthday yesterday and I didn't get a chance to take him, today I let him roam around his favorite thrift store for an hour and a half. He loves the toys. There is the aisle of toys inside the store and then another bunch of bigger toys out in the yard area. Good, free fun. I don't think I've ever taken him out of that store without him throwing a tantrum about leaving, though. He would live there if he could. And I did make sure we cleaned up after ourselves, thank you.

I would take a picture of him right now, but he is so filthy you would be utterly disgusted. I am now signing off to throw him into the bathtub so he doesn't start some sort of plague.

But before I go, I have to mention that when Husband came back and hung out with Little Gary and me at the thrift store (he had dropped us off to run Gabrielle home), we were sitting on some chairs and I was going on about how they would look great painted a brushed nickel color with new seats and I looked over to find him staring at me. "You're so beautiful," he said. "Your eyes are like the ocean. I love looking at you."

Am I not the luckiest woman?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Will I still get my magazines after the Apocalypse?

I love magazines. I don't know why, but opening the mailbox and finding a magazine inside is a very satisfying experience, not to mention the joy of being able to plop down on the bench at the dining room table and peruse its contents thoroughly. Although I've had to cut back on the number of my magazine subscriptions, there are three I won't do without: Better Homes & Gardens, Architectural Digest, and Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Sometimes I get free trial subscription issues, which I also love, and which I read all the way through. Some of them have been magazines for which I would never have thought to look and others are magazines I'm familiar with and enjoy. Hey, the more the merrier! Arrr, they be me treasure.

In other news, and less randomly about me (although it will still be about me, of course), I did a little research on the internet and found out that you can, indeed, transport an upright freezer in a horizontal position. Good news! Husband and I immediately drove to The Big City with the van and brought home the freezer my parents wanted us to have and which has been sitting in their garage for the better part of five months, defrosted and ready for a loving home. It's in our garage now, cleaned and having its oil gurgle back down into the compressor before I plug it in and fill it up with frozen pizza. Well, frozen pizza and other stuff, of course. Butter is a big one when I buy it on sale. Okay, I lied about the frozen pizza, for the most part, but the point is that my indoor side-by-side freezer is so space-challenged I can't even fit a small frozen pizza into it, even if the freezer were completely empty. Pathetic. NOW, should I choose, I can store a whole pile of frozen pizzas. It's the freedom to store frozen pizzas in my freezer that I cherish so dearly.

On the way home from The Big City (and close to our house), I spotted some really great sky-blue glass crushed on the side of the road. I am going to go back and pick it up. What a great color it was. I also visually planned out an art project involving the old vinyl window blinds Husband took down in order to replace them with something more sturdy and less likely to be ruined by small boys. I've got my mojo back, people, and this time, I'm DOING something with it.

If nothing else, giving in to my creative instincts gives me something to blog about, unlike all the previous drivel you've read here, and even if no one read this little blog, I still (mostly) enjoy writing it (when I'm not lamenting about how my writing is actually getting WORSE!). Husband and I were discussing how so much of life can be lived vicariously through multiple forms of media, whether they be books, magazines, television, or movies. You can see what other people do and think and say and never do and think and say anything yourself. I'm so done with that. Therefore, broken glass projects and vinyl window blind repurposing. Also, my job tomorrow is to sand and repaint the dining room table benches. Wish me luck. I'll take pictures.

Broken glass shards. Why? Because.

Found art from the garage. It was hiding behind a shelf. Wha...?

Reflector ovens: the cooking trend of the future (after the apocalypse and when cyborgs rule the earth). Yes, I made this. And, yes, I HAVE cooked with it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Amateur Black and White Photography

Pardon the dust. I forgot to give the scanner a quick swipe and I can't be bothered to scan it again.

This is Husband, our oldest, Sian, and I in 1995. We were back in Minnesota and Husband was attending college. I was going through a string of very bad hairdo decisions (you'll see as I post more photos) and Husband had decided to go with a goatee/mustache combo, which he later abandoned and then questioned with his very soul, since his facial hair never came in as more than sort of scrappy. I notice it's back in fashion now, but he won't be trying it again. Nor will I ever, EVER wear bangs. I should have learned my lesson by then.

I took a photography class with Shanna once and so I used my family as subjects for my black and white phase. Here is Sian, above and below, age 9 or 10. I probably took all these black and white photos in 2003.

I captured Husband working hard on his journal. This was the beginning of his writing career. He claims that I made him what he is, in a somewhat literary sense, because he never read much before he married me. Now he's as big a bookworm as I am.

Gabrielle was about 7 or 8 here.

Now why this picture of the dining room? I was thinking about still life photography. Here you can see the way I usually leave walls blank, like canvases waiting to be painted. Is it the anticipation of art? Is it a comment on my mental state? Or is it that I can't afford my style?


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Never A Bridesmaid

Since Husband fixed my scanner and showed me a few tricks I didn't know before (which is not hard to do), I've been going through old pictures. I had to blog about this particular picture.

The year was 1990. I was a senior in high school in Northern Minnesota, and I worked at my best friend's mother's flower shop, which she co-owned with another woman. When these two women had an opportunity to show off their floral talents in a wedding show, they jumped at the chance, and they signed up Kim (my bff) and myself to be models for the gowns. Kim got to be a bride, and I was her bridesmaid in teal.

That was my first experience with runway modeling. Well, I guess it was my second. My first experience was back when I was 8 and in a 4-H group in Southern Idaho. I had made a skirt, and all us girls were taken to an auditorium and taught how to walk a runway and how to pivot in order to show off our less than stellar seamstress abilities. Those lessons helped me out during this later gig.

What you can see in this photograph is my hair. Oh, the hair. I had long, permed 80s hair (without the Bangs to Heaven), and the hair lady teased it up into this bouffant of enormous proportions. Then she lacquered it with a continuous spray of Aquanet long enough that I was choking and gasping in a desperate attempt to breathe. I just want you to know that I was not responsible for my hairstyle OR my makeup in this show.

What you can't see in this photograph is that the dress was backless. I had never, ever worn a backless anything, and I admit I felt very exposed. You can't tell from the front, can you? I guess the idea is to walk down the aisle during a church wedding and have everyone think how sweet you are in your modest teal gown. Then, when you pass and flash all that bare back, people get an entirely different idea about you. Who knows? I think that in a situation like that, the bride should also be in a backless dress. I've never been a bridesmaid, so I don't really know the etiquette surrounding all that.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Veil Story

Kimara has requested the veil story, so here it is. Kimara, by the way, also served in our mission, so we have a lot of friends in common.

The day before I got married, I was with my mother-in-law (MIL) and my sister-in-law (SIL) wandering around downtown Salt Lake with no clue where to go or what to do about traditional wedding attire. The dress was taken care of (and honestly, I would have liked a big, fancy dress, but I didn't want it enough to go into debt for it), but I had no veil.

My MIL has great faith in the kindness of strangers. She especially has great faith in the kindness of strangers in Salt Lake City, so she suggested we walk into the LDS Church Office building and ask someone for some sort of advice. It helps that she has that gorgeous British accent. It makes people really want to help you when you sound refined, I've noticed, so I have often thought of developing a really good fake British accent; the problem is that I start laughing and give myself away. Anyway, we walked into the office building and proceeded up to the information desk. Two older women were working the desk, and they immediately turned their attention to us. My MIL explained what we were looking for and asked them if they had any good recommendations for some place I could buy, rent, or steal some sort of veil (okay, not steal). One woman blurted, "I have a veil that's been sitting in my closet. My daughter used it for her wedding and left it with me a few months ago. You could use it."

Now, I've often wondered if she immediately felt like taking those words back. She didn't know us at all and here she was offering a veil that probably had some sort of sentimental value to her daughter. Nevertheless, we seized on it and accepted her offer, sight unseen. Addresses and phone numbers were exchanged, and later that evening, we went to her home to collect it. She was very nice about it and had a lovely home.

The veil worked just fine. It was a little heavy in the back, so by the time the reception was coming to an end, it had kind of sagged back so that the ring of flowers was more on the top of my forehead than around my forehead.

Incidentally, an old mission companion of mine, Shannon, who happened to be dating an old mission companion of Husband's, Merlin (gosh, there's another story!), told me she would return the veil. Actually, I asked her to make sure it got back to the kind woman who lent it to me because Merlin lived in the same ward (church congregation) as she did, but he is a guy, and I didn't really want to entrust a guy with something he might not think was all that important. Shannon solemnly promised she would get it back (and she did), and I met that woman again at Shannon and Merlin's wedding reception a few months later. It's a small, small world.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Big Day

Our engagement photo

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the day I was sealed to Husband for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake Temple.

We got married during a heat wave. I believe the temperature in Salt Lake that day was 104 deg. F, which made me glad that I hadn't been able to afford a big, fancy gown. I wore a temple dress to which my dear mother-in-law painstakingly sewed hundreds of pearls. My veil was borrowed from a complete stranger the day before the wedding (that's a funny story. Maybe I'll blog about it tomorrow). We had ridden into Salt Lake with barely any money and had been put up by kind friends of Husband's family, who also put together the reception and designed my bouquet of daisies (my favorite flower at the time). I had no idea where to buy or even rent a wedding dress, as I was completely new to Salt Lake, but even if I had known where to go, I didn't have the budget. We did buy a cake, though, small as it was.

On the day of our wedding, I had to go wake up Husband. We were both sleeping in the same house owned by a wonderful older couple (the ones who spearheaded the reception and made my bouquet), although he was in the basement and I was up in the attic, on the third floor, and while it's considered bad luck to see each other before the wedding, I figured it would be worse luck to be late. So I woke him up.

Of course, I was jittery, as well. And, just to give me a taste of what I was in for, the more jittery I got, the more purposefully slow he seemed to get until I thought I was going to beat him to death. We had to be to the temple at 9am, and they'd warned us not to be late: lots of weddings that day. I couldn't eat breakfast. I tried a few bites of toast, but my stomach was roiling with nerves. Husband, however, ate everything and savored every bite. Jerk.

Finally, we left for the temple. We stopped by a bank to grab some cash at an ATM, but Husband pulled in in the wrong direction. He wasn't, at that point, deliberately trying to goad me, but we almost had our first fight. The nerves, you see. Normally I could laugh something like that off no problem.

I was relieved to arrive at the temple on time, but it turned out my in-laws weren't so punctual; and because my MIL had been sewing on pearls to my dress, she had the dress and I didn't. Panic, nerves strung tight. Eventually, they all showed up, my MIL and FIL, as well as the five kids they had brought with them from Wales for the wedding (the oldest of Husband's brothers wasn't able to come). My family were there as well, except for my next oldest brother, who was still serving a mission in Belgium. It was time.

The ceremony was beautiful. Temple weddings take place in a special room inside the temple called a sealing room. There, the couple kneels across from each other at an alter and simple words binding them for time and eternity are said. Only close family and friends attend the sealing, as the rooms are not very large.

After, my mother and MIL fussed over my hair and veil until they let me out to see my new husband. Pictures were taken in the hot sun and everyone tried not to wilt too badly.

Everyone began heading off to the reception, which was being held in a chapel quite a distance from the temple. The photographer kept us a bit long taking pictures, so by the time Husband and I headed for the car, almost no one was left. Husband reached for the keys...and found nothing. Oh, no! He'd left the keys in his suit jacket pocket when he'd changed into his tuxedo, and his mother had his suit. And she was gone to the reception. This was in the days before cellphones, although even if we had wanted to call anyone, we didn't know any numbers.

For ten minutes we tried to figure out what to do. Surely, when we didn't show up to the reception, someone would ask questions and come looking. Wouldn't they? Or was it more likely they'd figured we'd ditched the reception to find our hotel room? We could take the bus, but we didn't even know which bus would get us to the chapel. Nor did we have any cash or change for bus fare jingling in our wedding attire pockets. (But wouldn't that have been a story?)

Finally, we spotted my parents and brothers and sisters coming out of the temple grounds. Their chronic late tendencies had saved us. We hitched a ride up in their van to the reception. I sat in front and Husband had to squeeze himself into the back seat as best he could.

The reception was lovely, and we saw lots of family and old friends who came to wish us well. My stomach was growling, but I couldn't eat because I was talking to guests. I got a small piece of the cake, but that was pretty much it.

One of Husband's brothers met his future wife at our reception. She was an old pen-pal of Husband's, introduced to Husband through her older brother, a missionary who had served in Wales and become friends with Husband's family. My brother-in-law and this beautiful young woman were married a couple years later, after both of them had served missions. Through them, Husband's youngest brother met his future wife in Indiana years later. We like to think we started it all.

Anyway, after the reception, my new husband and I retired to our hotel. I was, understandably, nervous. And hungry! Before anything else, I insisted on ordering a cheeseburger from room service. Most expensive cheeseburger I've ever eaten, but it was dang good. After that cheeseburger was eaten,I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Here's to another 16 years and more with the man who makes me laugh and love like no other. We are still "poor Welsh peasants," as he puts it, but we have everything we need to be happy.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bad Haiku

It occurred to me during my morning walk yesterday that the following is a haiku:

"I'm bad to the bone!
"I'm bad to the bone!"