Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Gift of Air

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. One's late and the other is timely. I think I may get my Christmas cards out in spring, if I can manage to continue thinking about getting it done after another week or so. I'm not holding my breath.

Speaking of breath, asthma shaped our Christmas celebrations this year. Sophia, who was having a slumber party for her 13th birthday, dragged herself up the two flights of stairs from the family room early last Friday morning and sat outside my bedroom door, crying and trying to breathe. I thought I heard an odd noise, sort of a mewling sound, and went to investigate. There I found the poor girl, gasping for air, fearful tears running down her cheeks, her lips blue. My brain, which does occasionally kick into useful action, told me to get her to the emergency room right away. Since the hospital is only a five minute drive from our house, it would have taken longer to call an ambulance, so I put her in the car and away we went. Her birthday party guests, some of whom had driven in from The Big City, were left abandoned. I only shouted to Sian on the way out the door that I was taking her sister to the hospital.

The doctors didn't let her out for four days,but Husband and the other kids hauled the presents to Sophia's room on Christmas morning and we opened them under the kind and watchful eye of the respiratory therapist, who had to give Sophia her breathing treatment. Otherwise, Sophia's hospital experience was kind of pleasant, even if she was hooked up to a bunch of tubes. No one fought her for TV control, and she got to pick whatever she wanted to eat from the hospital menu. By Monday, however, she was pretty done with it, and we were very glad that she was released and allowed to go home. She's been fine ever since.

And her birthday guests did eventually get home, poor things.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why it Takes Four Days

I made myself stand on the scale this morning, just to see. Lo and behold, I've lost six pounds, and that's without actively cutting my caloric intake. I've been a lot more thoughtful about what I eat simply because I am not fighting cravings now. If you've never had the overwhelming guilt that comes with your weakness against food cravings, you don't know the relief I'm feeling. To let go of that constant tug-of-war between rational thought and irrational wants is like taking a vacation in the most peaceful, relaxing location where there are no cell phones, no insurmountable expectations to fulfill, and no guilt. I'm sitting on a beach, watching and listening to waves crash on the shore. I'm in the shade (since I'm not a sun lover) on a cool, deep patch of grass (hey, it's my dream. I'll have grass on the beach if I want it) under a palm tree.

Another side effect of all this mental work is that I'm dealing with stress better. Not perfectly, but better.

As promised, here is the reason why Martha Beck called her book The Four Day Win. Through her own studies and those of others, she noticed that beginning to make a change takes about four days. It's the first four days that are often the hardest, but after that, it's an exponential rise to making a habit if you don't quit. Habits take about 21 days to cement, so going through a series of five 4-day exercises plus one day will help you create a new, healthy habit. Since we humans really, really resist change -- even when the change is good for us -- it's easier to make these ridiculously easy daily goals for four day increments than it is to focus on the long term. Each day you achieve your ridiculously easy daily goal, you get a reward. You get a slightly larger reward for accomplishing four days of that goal. Setting ridiculously easy daily goals helps you ease into change without resistance.

One of her examples of how these four day increments can really work is from her own experience. When she wanted to begin working out, she knew that it would take a bit to get used to going to the gym and doing a workout routine. Based on her past failures to maintain a workout regimen, she started ridiculously easy. After the kids were dropped off at school, she drove to the gym and sat in the parking lot for the length of one song on the radio. Then she drove home. She did that for four days, and after four days, she was used to driving to the gym right after dropping off the kids. Then she went into the gym and walked on the treadmill for the length of one song. Then she left. After four days, she walked for the length of two songs. Suddenly, after all these extremely small goals were met, her body decided it really liked to work out, and she found that she was completing full length workouts with no resistance and no need to make that daily decision (do I go or don't I?). After 21 days, when the habit was cemented, it had become something that was difficult to change. The key was to start easing into that new habit without causing a "fight or flight" reaction inside.

Oooh, the latent psychologist inside me has been grinning from ear to ear.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Watcher

The Watcher is neutral and stands apart from the constant tide of thoughts and emotions running through my body and my mind , but The Watcher is full of nothing but compassion and love for Wild Child and The Dictator.

Following Martha Beck's instructions in The Four Day Win, I've been practicing becoming The Watcher. It's not very easy at first. You have to be able to step back from all the millions of big and little thoughts that race through your head and all the ups and downs and sidewayses of emotions that attend those thoughts. When I have sufficient quiet time, I have successfully achieved this state. Then I look kindly at Wild Child and The Dictator and tell them how much I love them and am grateful for them. After all, each of them is only trying to protect me in her own, extremely specialized way. As The Watcher, I speak to both Wild Child and The Dictator, thanking them for the role they play in my life and then asking how they can work together instead of fighting each other. I've had some incredibly insightful experiences doing this, and this visual has really helped me "see" the changes that have been made. Wild Child is starting to comb her hair and The Dictator has taken to wearing bright red lipstick. The Dictator is learning to ask rather than demand, and Wild Child is learning to trust.

Another exercise Beck has me doing is to communicate directly with Wild Child. Since my dominant brain hemisphere is the left side (I'm right handed), and I have begun to pay even more attention to the language of Wild Child (emotions), I'm teaching Wild Child my language as well. First, with my right (dominant) hand, I write down a question. Then I switch the pen to my left (non-dominant) hand and answer it. Here's what happened the first day I did this (Wild Child's answers are in italics, and she doesn't believe in punctuation):

How are you?

confused scared hurt

What can I do for you?

give me time don't judge don't starve

I won't starve you. What do you want to eat today?

bread olive oil apples

If we eat those, will that help you start trusting me?

We'll see need proof HCG was awful like a war zone don't do that again

I have no intention of doing that again. That was awful. I want to eat plenty of foods that make us feel good (healthy) but never deny us anything.

Good. I'll cooperate if we don't go hungry

What's crazy is that as I've been doing this, I have begun to lose serious cravings. I'm always reassuring Wild Child that I will not deny her anything, and because she's content that she won't be forced to go hungry, she doesn't make me fixate on how yummy a pint of ice cream would taste or linger on the smell and texture of pepperoni pizza. Peanut M&Ms haven't even been an issue. I love pie, but I haven't been compelled to seek it out. With most foods, I can  take it or leave it. There's no temptation to binge.

I keep checking to find out if I'm hungry, rate how hungry I am, and then decide (as a committee with The Watcher, Wild Child, and The Dictator) what to eat. I keep tabs on how my hunger is doing as I eat, too. It doesn't take very long and I don't spend inordinate amounts of time doing it, and at this stage, I haven't actively begun limiting caloric intake. Though I'm still in the pre-contemplation stage, it's already put me farther ahead mentally than with any diet I have ever attempted (or any non-diet guilt trip, for that matter).

I do know how weird it sounds to refer to myself as multiple people, but I know it's all just different aspects of me. Creating visuals for each aspect and referring to them as "she" helps me identify those pieces of me that are in conflict and give them a chance to have their say.

Tomorrow, in my final installment about this book and my preliminary experiences with it (until I want to report something again), I'll explain why it's called The Four Day Win.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Oh, I'm Just SOOO Complex!

Meet Wild Child and The Dictator. They both live in me, and both of them are very good at what they do. The Dictator is extremely talented at telling me what I need to do in order to reach my weight loss goals and also very good at telling me what a failure I am when I have a weak moment and lose control. The Dictator not only harasses me about weight loss but also about all the shoulds and must-bes and impossible standards I have floating around in my head as ideal states of being. With her hair pulled painfully back into a tight bun under her military hat and her little whip cracking ferociously, she's scary and powerful.

Wild Child is extremely timid, dressed in her bark and moss, with her dark hair a wild halo around her head. She might appear to be compliant and docile, but oh, she is so stubborn when she's backed into a corner. Put enough pressure on her and she'll literally grow in size, hissing like a cat and baring sharp teeth, threatening total annihilation to the enemy.

Up until now, The Dictator and Wild Child have been locked in a constant battle for survival, each against the other. The more The Dictator imposes strict diet regimens and goals, the quicker Wild Child whips out irresistible food cravings.

Martha Beck, in The Four Day Win, took my nebulous theory about what is going on inside my head and turned it into a vivid visual. The Dictator is my mind, the computer, trying to grant me my wish of effortless weight loss without the use of harsh diets and dangerous "miracle" pills and potions. The Dictator is logical and educated, if not entirely rational about her approach. She threatens and bullies and dictates in order to get me to comply with eating less and moving more. She's just doing what is natural for her to do, which is to pursue my desires, and she'll boss me into being thin if it's the last thing she does.

Wild Child is my body, the creature. Where The Dictator is the predator, Wild Child is the prey, and she reacts to the harsh orders from The Dictator by defending herself and her existence with every trick she knows how. In her view, The Dictator is ordering her to commit suicide, and the survival instinct is simply too strong. Her job is to keep me healthy, and if The Dictator is going to starve her, she will react by going into famine mode: eat as much as possible and store fat.

When Beck had me visualize Wild Child and The Dictator as two-inch beings on the palms of my hands, it was an ah-ha! moment of incredible clarity. There they were, those two warring factions in my self, suddenly so defined and crisp. But how to get them to stop fighting and work together toward the common goal of reaching a healthy weight?

Enter The Watcher.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Not Losing Hope, Just Hoping to Lose

It is a tomorrow, and I am continuing my thoughts from my last post. I simply can't make myself finish my work this afternoon since I've been writing exhaustively for the past few days while dealing with all the million other things that have come up. So the orthodontist is going to have to wait, along with the people who want their Lap Band blurbs. Sorry, y'all, my brain only works for free today (but I'll have it all finished by Monday, I promise.).

I believe I was in the process of telling you of my weight loss hope.

A while ago, a friend of mine was sharing what he has called his "Sneak Up on You Weight Loss Plan," where he basically made some minor changes over time that have added up to losing over 40 pounds. Instead of starting a formal diet, he just made sure half his plate was covered in vegetables, and he learned to enjoy the pleasant meditation of a daily walk. I was thinking about how I've often thought the same things, only when I think them, I suddenly crave an entire pizza. It must work to make these small lifestyle changes, I thought, because he's been losing weight, but how do I make it work for myself without going food postal? The big and sudden changes of a formal diet are out, but how small do small changes have to be to stop triggering that rebellious streak in me?

Then, last week, I suddenly felt a very strong and sudden need to go to the thrift store and look at the books. Since I had a little time that evening, I asked Husband to accompany me, and I went to check out the books while he went to find those amazing deals he has a knack for finding. After a while, I came across a book called The Four Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace, by Martha Beck, PhD. I did a quick perusal and decided to buy it, although I left numerous other diet books on the shelf. I hadn't gone with the specific intention of buying a book about dieting, just some vague notion that I simply must go and look at books at the thrift store, so I also grabbed a book about Color Code personality (turns out I am very definitely a White with almost equal secondary Blue and Yellow aspects), a thick coffee table book about China with some excellent text and amazing pictures, and a world Atlas that seemed pretty much up to date.

I read The Four Day Win in two days because I couldn't put it down except to attend to things like working and feeding hungry children. Not only is Beck hilarious (I couldn't help laughing out loud frequently), but she addressed every single one of the issues I've been dealing with when it comes to my dieting failures. In fact, after I read the entire book (because I like to read the entire book before I go back and start implementing things) I had already begun to change.

Tomorrow, I will tell you what has begun to change in my head so that when I woke up this morning, I absolutely knew that the pain of staying the same has become greater than the pain of change and that I am already making and keeping the "ridiculously small daily goals" that will make a big difference.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reaching Metabolic Nirvana Again, I Hope

I have often wondered why it is that the moment I even contemplate starting a diet, I balloon out like a desperate puffer fish on steroids. You know how people joke that  just thinking about a piece of rich, chocolate cake makes them fatter? That's me. With the power of my mind, I can literally add pudge to my thighs.

Now, I don't want you to get any ideas that I'm using two chairs at once to sit comfortably, or that I'm wider when I turn sideways than I am when I'm facing you, but for the longest time I've carried more weight than I like. I have thought of myself as somewhat defective in the whole losing weight area, since my childhood, teen, college, and mission years were spent in some sort of metabolic Nirvana. I ate what I wanted and never, ever worried about getting chubby. After I started putting on weight with each pregnancy (have I mentioned there have been six?) is when I learned of my defect. After all, I know what to do: eat less and move more. So why, oh why, if I have the key piece of knowledge to lose chub, is it so %&*$ hard?? Why do I immediately, upon contemplation of cutting out sugar or being virtuous about never eating after 8pm, run to my nearest grocery store and stock up on peanut M&Ms? Why do I -- without fail -- sabotage my righteous intentions?

Actually, I know why, because I've thought about it long and hard while I snorked down a pint of Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup ice cream or absent-mindedly whittled my way through a bag of Fritos and a container of cottage cheese. I have a very stubborn streak. When I'm told what to do, even by myself, I rebel on principle. I can't even make a to-do list without feeling smothered. The thought of restricting my diet to celery, cabbage soup, or a slice of dry Melba toast makes me absolutely frantic. I obsess about food when I'm dieting. I think of nothing else, and I count the hours until I can eat another meager, unsatisfying meal. That HCG diet? Torture. And have I gained it back? Really, do you need to ask? I admit to having been extremely disappointed in my lack of iron will.

And yet, I have still searched for a diet that would allow me to eat what I want while I changed my gastronomic desires to more closely resemble a person who doesn't crave access to pounds and pounds of sugar and refined flour at every turn. If only, I reasoned, I could somehow WANT to eat healthfully while finding unhealthful food to be pleasant but not necessary (so I could indulge in the occasional slice of cheesecake but feel fine with leaving half of it on the plate, for instance). Is this diet heaven a possibility?

Yes. The answer is yes. Weep with me, gentle readers, for joy.

And I'll tell you more about it tomorrow (or, well, I say that, but lately things have been crazy, so I can't really promise that it will be tomorrow, per se, as much as a tomorrow. I'm just keepin' it real, my peeps.).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Whole World of Pain

I've made the trip back to the office of Young and Beautiful Dental Professionals again, this time with Sian in tow. The girl needs a root canal and crown, bless her, at the tender age of 16. She's meticulous about brushing and flossing, so she's understandably annoyed that she ends up with cavities while her younger sister, who isn't quite so fastidious, never has any.

As it turns out, I, too, need expensive dental work done. A while back, I had a tooth break apart while I was eating a burrito, and now that tooth needs an implant. I know I should have visited the dentist right away, but as I wasn't in any pain, I kept putting it off. I think another bit of the tooth must have fallen out because suddenly I'm in agonizing pain at times. The dentist looked at it and said, "How are you sleeping at night? The nerve is exposed!" and promptly prescribed antibiotics and a narcotic pain killer. The antibiotics have certainly helped alleviate that tight, feverish feeling I had developed, but the pain killers make me loopy and dizzy so I only use them at night if I really, really need to and rely on ibuprofen during the day. For now, I have a barometer jaw. If we have a storm front coming in, I can tell you about it as soon as I get over the desire to scream.

Sian is getting the root canal done today, and I'll have this troublesome tooth extracted in a few days and begin the process of getting an implant. Funny that I just wrote a couple articles about dental implants not that long ago. It helped me sound somewhat intelligent during my dental visit. I also managed not to burst into tears when they handed me the papers outlining the costs, so I was really on a roll.

A couple weeks ago, Sophia, Elannah, and Joseph tried out for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Sophia and Elannah both made it in this time, and Joseph was perfectly happy with his consolation prize: a VIP ticket for the performance. Sophia was Phineas Finch, avian friend to Snow White, and Elannah snagged the role of Bob the Head Dwarf.

Sophia is the bird in bright orange, which I think is a great color on her.

Elannah is on the upper right, sporting a black beard and unnaturally rosy cheeks.

They auditioned and began rehearsals on Monday and performed on Saturday. Husband, Little Gary, Sian and I went to see it, and since we could only get seats in the back, I plopped Little Gary on the floor at the front so he wouldn't get bored and start wandering. It worked. He stayed there the whole time, completely fascinated.

I found this when I was uploading the pictures:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mom: Superhero

Yesterday was my mom's birthday. She's only 10 years older than I am, since she's holding at 39 and I just turned 29 again. Funny how that happens.

My mom is one of my greatest examples of charity. Since I can remember, she's been serving other people. She'll help whenever and wherever she can. She has spent hours and hours doing things for others that will alleviate suffering, bring joy, help out in a time of need, and make people feel special. She'll help to the point of exhaustion, in fact, and she's had to learn to take care of herself, too. She's a wonderful woman, and I love her so much. Happy birthday, Mom!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Since I didn't take a picture of any of the kids in their Halloween costumes, this is definitely not a post about Halloween and trick-or-treating or anything. It's not cause I don't love my children; it's just that I have a blank spot when it comes to grabbing the camera and taking lots of photos to provide happy memories for years to come. I think if you opened my brain (assuming I was not currently using it, which might be more often than I care to admit even if I'm breathing), you'd see a big open area where good scrapbooking skills are normally kept. There's nothing there. Just a big hole.

I'm currently fighting a pie craving. Well, to say that's only a product of recent days is misleading, since that particular craving is usually on the ebb side of ebb and flow. Just when I think I've got it licked, back it storms. I should probably ramp up my Zumba efforts.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

No Slide Guitars Were Smashed in the Making of this Post

I have a distinct loathing for slide guitar and jazz flute. I don't know why. It's one of those visceral hatreds that has no rational logic behind it, but this loathing has prevented me from ever being a country music fan. And I'll just turn any music off if I hear a jazz flute. Either that or I will mock it mercilessly. There are a few exceptions to the jazz flute rule (Dave Matthews Band's Crush being one of them), but if it smacks of the '70s in any way, I don't hold back. There are no exceptions to the slide guitar rule.

What's sad about that is that I know the people who play those instruments not only love what they do, they're really good at it. They've practiced for hours and hours over the weeks and months and years, and then they perform their music and I'm over here, immediately biased simply because of the fact that for some reason, I can't appreciate it in any way.

On the other hand, I will always listen if it's a guitar not being slid upon. My brother, Aaron, studies the fine art of classical guitar, and when he gives us a concert during our frequent family dinners, it's always something I could soak in for hours. Sadly, there is usually a cacophony going on in the background. Did I mention I have six kids? And my house is particularly echo-y?

My dad sent me this little video recently. He found it on an old flash drive of his. It's a couple years old, it's not great quality, and the lighting is truly awful, but I love it. Aaron would hate it because he wasn't perfect during this impromptu performance, so I didn't ask permission (shhh!). (I imagine you couldn't possibly care that we've since painted the walls, removed the red curtain, and moved that black bookcase in the background, so I won't mention any of that.)

He's written a few of his own amazing pieces since this video was taken, and when I can get the stars to align, I'll get a good recording. I honestly think he could sell an album. I'll tell you right now (because he's not here) that when he's in his music groove, it's like sitting next to a lighthouse. His fingers fly, and the sound is incredible. It shines.

I've asked my other brother, Robert, to send me a recording of his band, but so far he's forgotten. Robert wrote a song called "Getaway Car" that I really like in particular. It's the juxtaposition of the lyrics (a guy running from a crime he's just committed) with the soft, sort of ethereal quality of the music.

I own a CD of music my dad composed for my sister, the massage therapist. It's peaceful, quiet, and utterly magical -- just the kind of music you want to hear while you're having a relaxing massage. I remember being ill with some sort of flu a few years ago, and that was the music that helped me cope. He also composed a piece called "Seattle Machine," inspired by the huge junk sculpture in the Seattle Airport. I can never listen to it and not dance. I have got to figure out how to get that on here, so if anyone with more technical expertise is reading this, please give me a clue.

Me, I don't compose. Like my dad and sibs, I hear new music in my head (which my sister-in-law assures us is not the norm, which surprises me), but I don't have the skills to write it down. I also don't take the time to plunk it out on the piano. What I do love is that I just spent my birthday money on new piano music and I made excellent choices. In fact, I stayed up until way after midnight a couple nights ago just playing. I can get away with that because I can put on headphones, but I can't get away with the fact that I am a lot older than when I used to play that late on a regular basis. I'm still paying for the short night. But it was worth it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Half-Way to 80

I am officially middle-aged. Yes, yesterday was the red-letter day, and while I would like to claim that I am a mere 29, everyone who reads this blog and knows me would know that I have one too many wrinkles to make that claim. But just one. Really, most people would assume I'm 30. Right? Don't answer that.

For my birthday, I was fed breakfast in bed by Elannah and Joseph, who whipped up some granola with milk, two slices of wheat toast with butter, a sliced apple, a leftover waffle cookie (Gabrielle made them for a youth activity), and a big glass of milk. I'm not a milk drinker, so I kind of wasted all that milk, and I was full after two bites of granola and a couple apple slices, but it was a lovely sentiment.

Next, Sian took me out to breakfast. I couldn't eat much (see above), but it was a lot of fun to hang out with my darling oldest daughter for a while. When we got back home, she presented me with a homemade gift: a necklace holder.

It was perfect! Up until this point, I hadn't done anything to sort my jumble of necklaces that were either tangled in a plastic zip-top bag or thrown on my closet shelf. I mean, I've talked about doing something, but it never seemed to be an important enough task to spend time on. But Sian heard my complaints and made this all by herself, the wonderful, smart girl. She also hung it up and organized my necklaces for me by color while I was being whisked away to The Big City for a few hours by Husband.

In The Big City, we spent some time doing what I liked, which included visiting a book store and eating a week's worth of calories at Five Guys Burgers. (Best burgers and fries ever?? Uh-HUH!) We even went to see a movie. We bought tickets for Rise of the Planet of the Apes because it started sooner than anything else, but on the way to our theater, we got sidetracked by the fact that Real Steel was just starting in the EXTREME HD THEATER SURROUND SOUND BLAST YOUR HEAD TO BITS THE SCREEN IS SO BIG AND COOL, that we ended up watching that instead. Sure, it's Rocky with robots, but it was a lot of fun. Cause robots! (They didn't explore any of the other obvious uses for robots in other parts of society, such as the potential to use them as really big and scary military tools, but perhaps that wasn't really what the movie was trying to talk about. Hugh Jackman as a cool dad? That was good enough for me.)

On our way home, we picked up pizza (though we were both still very full from lunch) for a family movie/pizza night. Some of my kids still hadn't seen Napolean Dynamite, but maybe they weren't really old enough for it when it did come out. They all loved it now that they're six years older.

All in all, it was a wonderful, calorie-intense way to turn 40. I loved it. Today I got to crochet a lot after writing some web text. Work and play. When did "play" morph from going dancing half the night to crocheting a twin-size ripple afghan in single crochet stitch?

And who cares?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Creeper of Walmart

The saga continues at Walmart. Turns out, Anthony, my Walmart Boyfriend, has been two-timing me all along. In fact, he may very well be three-, four-, or even five-timing me! Anthony is a busy, busy boy. (Get up to speed on my soap opera here and here.)

Here's how I found out I am not the only woman who receives his creepy affections:

About a month ago, our ward congregation had a potluck picnic. There were softball games, water bottle rockets, and, of course, food. It was a grand time. I even managed to hit some balls, which was very satisfying even as I cringed at my sore obliques the next day. Husband, taunted by the outfielders and their good-natured  ribbing, also hit some balls (I couldn't stay to see the entire thing since I was called away to rescue Elannah from a tree into which she had climbed). He showed them the Brits are no pansies.

During dinner, I had to take Little Gary to the bathroom, and as I was coming back to the pavilion where everyone was eating, I distinctly heard my name spoken in a loud voice. When I walked into the pavilion, Linnea called me over.

"Listen to this!" she exclaimed, and beckoned to our friend,Carol, to start talking.

"There's this guy at Walmart who keeps telling me how beautiful I am. Every time I run into him, he tells me I just make his day," said Carol.

"Tell her his name!" said Linnea excitedly.

"ANTHONY!" Carol and I shouted at the same time, and I burst out laughing.

"She was telling me about this guy at Walmart who is always complimenting her, and I thought that sounded familiar," said Linnea.

We had a good laugh with all the people sitting around us.

Then, two nights ago, I ran into Carol again.

"Eva, I have to tell you," she began, "I'm scared to go to Walmart by myself! I've been trying to avoid it as much as possible, and I definitely stay away from where he works. But last night, I was just walking in, and he came right up to me at the entrance and told me how beautiful I am. I said, 'Thanks' and tried to walk away, but he followed me and said, 'Can we exchange phone numbers so we can talk and text each other?'"

We spent a few minutes shuddering. I mean, at first glance, Anthony seems completely normal. Friendly and complimentary, of course, but normal. And then it starts getting weird. I don't find men creepy just because they tell me I'm beautiful. That would be stupid. But Anthony takes that a step further and you feel like he's in the middle of a relationship with you that you don't remember having.

Linnea wants to make it a girls' night out. Carol and I and Linnea (and whoever else wants to come now that they've heard the story and are curious about this guy) will go to Walmart, find Anthony, and then get a group photo which I will post on my blog. Either that will make his day or he'll be unpleasantly surprised to be outed as a Walmart Casanova.

I still avoid the cereal aisle.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You Already Are Perfect. You Just Forgot What that Feels Like

So here's the thing about love: it's additive. When you really feel the pure love of Christ, or charity, your ability to love grows as you love. It's a muscle that gets stronger with use, just like running or lifting weights makes you stronger the more you do them. The more you love one person, the more your ability to love all people grows, and vice versa. Unconditional love is the very makeup of the universe, and it's available in buckets and truckloads and planetfuls for those who want it. There is nothing more joyous than feeling unconditional love for yourself and being able to then feel it for others. It puts you on a very high energy vibration, where you are open to truth.

If you think love is subtractive, meaning that the more you love one person the less you can love another, that's not love. That's something based in fear. Charity, unconditional love, is based in faith. Where there is faith, there cannot be fear.

Whew. I just had to get that out of my system. I've been thinking about this for a very long time, and I am convinced that I came to this earth not only with the ability to love but with the desire to grow in that ability. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.

One of the many pieces of knowledge that set me on that path of thinking is one that I was given years ago by a good friend. It's called Remembering Wholeness, by Carol Tuttle. My friend, a woman who was going through some struggles of her own, told me about this book and how much it had meant to her. I checked it out at the library and read it, and I cannot tell you the utter joy I received from pondering and praying about the concepts within. For some reason, I never bought it, though I wanted to find and read it again (it was always checked out at the library, and I guess I justified myself out of buying it because I didn't feel I deserved it or something).

Recently, Husband found it at the Deseret Industries near our home, and I have been reveling in it once again. This time, however, I have a slightly different perspective. I have already been making use of many of the concepts Tuttle talks about, and now I can see not only how far I've come but where I still need to grow. Isn't life such a great adventure? There is so much to learn and experience, even when you are doing the mundane activities that support your physical survival.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Last Book You'll Need About How to Write a Book

I just finished the best book I've ever read about how to put together a story well. If you're a writer or wanna-be writer, this is the one for you. I was so excited when I was only two pages in, I could barely contain myself. Now I've finished and I'm working on my outline for my novel with a lot more confidence and delight than I had before when I was kind of confused and vague about what needs to go where. Plus, knowing this stuff makes me a much more effective manuscript editor.

The book? Oh, you want to know? It's called Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing, by Larry Brooks. Never before have I seen the process of writing a novel so well broken down, with all the necessary elements of what makes a great book defined. Brooks' constant and deliberate use of fragment sentences annoyed me quite a bit (the editor in me wanted to grab a pencil, and since I often read out loud in order to cement concepts in my brain via both visual and auditory methods, it was awkward to get those fragments read right), but the book is informative and the author is knowledgeable. He really, really has a problem with people who write organically (meaning that they simply write multiple drafts, letting the story take them where it will and then going back to see what's wrong). Brooks also calls it "pantsing," as in "writing by the seat of your pants," and he gives the reader many good reasons to abandon the practice without giving up creativity. Not being one to pants, I was already sold and I'm even more sold now that I'm armed with the tools I need to lay out my story.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

School Daze: Food for Thought

What, exactly, are teachers supposed to do? Do they just teach reading, writing, and 'rithmatic? Or are they also responsible for a child's emotional well-being, his grasp of societal norms and taboos, basic manners, and mentoring?

It's a good question, isn't it? I mean, our kids are with their teachers almost more than they are with their parents, so teachers, in some ways, are forced to fill the role of parent in many situations. A teacher with a class of 35 or more kids somehow has to help those kids learn all the basics in any given subject and deal with classroom management. And then we get all upset when they don't also spot every single problem our kid is having emotionally, physically, or spiritually; in fact, some parents get downright sue-happy when they realize that their precious little one isn't being treated with all the special, tender one-on-one time that the parents deem necessary.

I'm not being bitter or cynical here. I'm just throwing out some food for thought. Are teachers actually supposed to be responsible for all of that or is it possible that parents have now placed on teachers too much responsibility while avoiding it themselves?

A conversation I had with a friend today really brought that issue to the fore in my mind. She has intimate knowledge of what goes on in schools in our area, and one school in particular is atrocious. At this school, the principal has cultivated such an image of being a "pal" that he does not in any way demand responsibility or accountability from the students. The kids, who are in high school, attend class when they feel like it, leave school grounds when they feel like it, and abuse their teachers when they feel like it. The teachers at this school have no recourse. If they send a student to the principal's office for discipline, the principal lets them hang out with him, telling the kids to wait "while the teacher cools down." No one gets punished for multiple tardies or unexcused absences. If a parent comes to complain about their student's failing grade in a class, the teacher of that class is ordered to allow the student to make it up, even if the failing grade was a result of homework and attendance negligence.

I wonder what the principal thinks his duty as the leader of his high school actually is? When those kids graduate with what amounts to an eighth grade education (or less, depending on how well they did before they made it to this high school), they will be ill equipped to enter the workforce or attend college. Not only will their academic skills be lacking, they'll find that attendance is required, they have to be accountable for their performance, and no one is going to cut them much slack if they continue to act as if everything is to be run on their own time. They won't be ready to transition to adulthood.

This has already been proven. When a new high school was built in a town close by, students from Atrocious High (not its real name) were allowed to transfer. Nearly every single one of those who began attending the new school eventually transferred back because they couldn't handle having to show up to school on time, stay all day, and hand in their homework. There was no Pal in the head office willing to let every bad behavior slide. Plus, the principal of this school didn't appreciate being called by his first name.

The Atrocious High principal is an example of exactly what education should not be. He's incompetent and dangerous, and those kids will have to work for years to undo the damage that's been done to them by his personal desires not to upset anyone at any time. So again, it raises the question: what, exactly, is a teacher responsible for?

Because where are the parents of these kids? Why haven't they demanded that he be fired? Why are there no letters to the editor or calls to the district Board of Education? The teachers at Atrocious High are afraid to speak out because they'll be fired, and no one wants to be fired in this economy. Yet, they have all the responsibility and none of the authority because the parents of these kids and the principal are working together -- whether through open approval or silence -- to ruin these kids for life. Teachers can teach to empty classrooms or demand homework from kids who openly mock them, and in the end, they will be blamed for not giving them an education in life as well as letters and numbers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Last week, I made rice pudding. I do that once in a while, much to the joy of my family (and my brother, Aaron, who happened to be visiting). But this time, I did something so crazy, so off-the-wall, that people just weren't sure it would turn out okay; and it turned out to be a brilliant success! Tonight, I'm going to share that success with you, and if you play your cards just right, you might become almost as popular as I am around these parts. But you'll be popular in your parts, of course, assuming people in your parts like rice pudding. These parts are my domain. So step away.

Here's what I did to the rice pudding (oh, aren't you excited??): I used only coconut milk instead of cow's milk. I know! YUM! The recipe is absolutely divine with regular milk, but when I put in 1/2 gallon of coconut milk instead, I totally ramped up the exotic taste factor along with the calorie count. And not only that, but I (wait for it...) sprinkled ground cardamom over the servings of those who felt a little more adventurous. Bliss. I don't know what it is, but that subtle, delicate whiff of cardamom that settles onto your palate like a flitting butterfly a moment after the creamy, softly textured pudding hits your tongue...well, it's indescribably delicious.

If you're thinking to yourself, "That's all fine and good, but not all of us are as rich as you are, Eva, to buy 1/2 gallon of coconut milk!" then I can't blame you. I did buy the milk at such a steep discount from my favorite grocery outlet that I'm worried that telling you how much I paid for it would sound like bragging of the most uncouth kind. Let's just say that I didn't spend over $2.00. I'm not made of money.

Here's the last rice pudding recipe you'll ever need. Play with it how you will, but as-is, it's perfect. It makes a lot, so share some with family and friends.

Anna's Pig-Out Rice Pudding, by Anna Tanner (I don't know Anna Tanner, but I definitely want to give her the credit for coming up with this.)

2 cups hot water
2 cups long grain rice (don't use jasmine rice. It clumps. I found that out the hard way)
1 cube butter
2 teaspoons salt

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan and boil until almost dry. Then add 1/2 gallon milk. Stir really well and turn the stove down to medium/low. Cover. Stir occasionally for the next 45 minutes to 1 hour. You'll know it's done when the rice is tender and the pudding starts to thicken a little.

When the pudding is ready, whisk together:
6 to 7 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 TABLESPOONS vanilla (yes. That's right)

Add the egg mixture to the pudding and stir to combine. The pudding should begin thickening up right away. Let the egg cook about 30 seconds or so, and then turn off the heat. Serve it hot, room temperature, or cold. You can sprinkle individual servings with cinnamon (or add a dollop of jam) if you like.

If you want to try my version, replace the milk with 1/2 gallon coconut milk and sprinkle with ground cardamom when serving.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Solved: the Guy is Cuckoo

I've had so many people ask me for an update on my Walmart boyfriend  that  I've decided to indulge your curiosity, you voyeuristic fans of mine. I hate to be the one through whom you must live vicariously, but if that's what it takes to satisfy my public, then so be it. I will go out and enjoy all these new experiences just so you can imagine how thrilling it would be if you were me. (sarcasm fully intended)

I believe the questions were these: was the worker at Walmart conducting some sort of sadistic experiment, or did he actually think I'm beautiful? And what would he have said had he come back from his break and I hadn't scampered quite so quickly and anxiously through the opposite exit?

I now have the answers, gentle readers! Prepare to be thrilled and amazed as I relate the ongoing saga of Anthony the Walmart Guy: Crazy for Me or Just Plain Crazy?

So here's what's happened so far (cue olde tyme soap opera organ music). After that little incident I related in the previous post, I managed not to run into him for a few weeks. In fact, I avoided that section of the store as often as I could, just to be sure. Why it got me so rattled I couldn't say, but Husband had a pretty good time laughing at me and my nervousness. Then, one day when my in-laws were here, the four of us ran to Walmart to pick up a few of the things they needed to take home to the British rellies (that's how they sometimes say "relatives" in England. They also refer to presents as "pressies," and vegetables as "veg." I think they have some sort of aversion to saying words full-length, since they also tend to chop off whole syllables in their place names, as well. For instance, when a word is spelled "Leicester," any normal human who can read English would assume it's pronounced "Lie-chest-er." NOT SO! If you say that, you're a tourist! You must say "Lester." Don't yell at me about it. I'm just the messenger here. Spend a good 18 months or so in England and learn all the silly rules yourself while exploring cool castles, eating real fish and chips, and attempting to speak to the locals about God. This message is not endorsed by any linguistics professors, tourism boards, or fish and chips councils.). The British rellies always fancy a bit of Lucky Charms cereal (probably because they live so close to Ireland), so we were standing in the cereal aisle discussing the relative merits of buying brand-name cereal in a box as opposed to generic stuff in a bag, when lo and behold! Walmart Boyfriend stepped up with fresh stock for the bins.

He gave me a big grin and probably would have spoken to me, but I did the whole smile with dismissive nod thing. Then, when his back was turned, Husband and I started giggling like fools. The in-laws didn't notice, but if they did, they probably assumed we were acting exactly as we normally act (is that sad?).

Another few weeks went by, and I had become complacent -- dangerously so. I was alone, walking down the baking aisle, when Walmart Boyfriend suddenly appeared like a somewhat tall, slightly dark apparition before me. Fortunately, when I am startled I often revert to Confident Mode (except in some critical situations, of course), so when he smiled at me, I smiled back and said with great elan, "Hi." Then he said, "You always look so beautiful." As if I receive lovely but outrageous compliments from perfect strangers all the time, I responded, "Thank you." He stuck out his hand. "My name's Anthony." I stuck out mine. "Eva. Nice to meet you." Then I smiled pleasantly and sailed blithely away down the aisle before he could think of something else to say.

Was I suave? Absolutely. Was I confident? Oh yes. My heart didn't even beat any harder with delayed adrenalin than usual. Is he crazy? Without a doubt. I got a really good look at him, and he should be hitting on my daughters, not me. Definitely crazy.

One of the good things about this is that I now know I haven't met him before and just forgot. I thought I might have suffered a serious memory gap there. I would post a photo of him, but you can't expect me to walk in and ask him to pose while I take a picture, can you? That might give him the wrong idea entirely. We constantly beautiful beings have to be careful (sarcasm fully intended).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Husband Wrote the Last Line

Today was Husband's three month checkup. Blood was drawn, vitals were taken, and the verdict was delivered: all is well. Hemoglobin up, platelets up, and all other signs indicate continued good health.

As we were leaving the parking garage, Husband said mysteriously, "And now I can continue the gaseous exchange with the infinite." Thinking I had somehow missed the profound meaning of that statement, I shot him an astute, "What??" Then I laughed because I couldn't help it.

"It's a phrase that keeps going through my head," he explained. "My brain keeps telling me it's terribly clever and I keep telling my brain it's incredibly stupid."

Now, I completely understand having an argument with your brain (though I try not to delve too deeply into the question of who, exactly, is doing the arguing), and I have written before about the strange and disturbing heated discussions one can have with oneself over flawed ideas, logic, and reasoning (including, but not limited to, waking up in the middle of the night just so you can stew and stress over something you know perfectly well you'll take care of the next day; or being plagued by luscious thoughts of eating dirt when you're anemic but knowing it's not a good idea to indulge). So I just laughed and laughed, and he laughed with me. If we are crazy, let us be crazy together. Maybe it's a writer's curse.

We celebrated the good news of his continued health by going to my parents' house and picking up my wheat grass juicer and sundry other items like CDs, books, and the like, which had been hiding under stuff in the garage or the spa/workout room. (It's been two years that we've lived in this house, and I think we'll be done moving very soon. Won't my parents be glad?) I've been wanting my juicer for a while now. If you've never slugged down an ounce of fresh wheat grass juice, you haven't lived. You certainly haven't lived with the intense and repeating wallop of fresh green grass tickling your tongue and punching you in the throat all day long. Take my advice and only drink a half-ounce or less until you get used to it -- if ever you do. It's kind of an acquired taste.

Since I haven't forced Husband to ingest any hippy health remedies like wheat grass juice lately, I don't think he can blame me for his terrible gaseous exchange with the infinite, now can he?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kid History Makes My Mouf Feel Aw Tingwy!

The family behind the Kid History movies are at it again, and I have two new ones to add to the collection. I embedded the first four videos here and there are now two more for your viewing pleasure. I personally think the sixth one is the best so far, but as I have laughed repeatedly and heartily over all of them, it's kind of hard to pick a favorite.

The kids and I are always quoting these movies, proving that the geek genes that compel a person to quote movies at random moments, to the annoyance of everyone around them, is as much a product of  environment as heredity. We're in good company, though. Even the neighborhood kids have taken to creating their own t-shirts with quotes from the movies. One girl around the corner has a shirt that says "Girls are mermaids" on the front, and on the back, "Some boys are mermaids, too."

Gabrielle was sitting in one of her high school classes last week, supposedly reading quietly from her textbook. She started thinking about Kid History 6 and couldn't stop herself from laughing out loud. Her teacher asked her why she was laughing, since the textbook was not really conducive to humor, and Gabrielle explained she had remembered a quote from the movie. The teacher started quoting from it, as well, and soon all the kids were giggling over their favorite parts. It's become a phenomenon.

And here's a little bonus:

Those Roberts boys are geniuses.  Genii? Those Roberts boys are really smart.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Seriously, Though

Seriously, though.

Yesterday was a red-letter day. The part for the vacuum cleaner arrived in the mail and Husband replaced the old, broken part. The vacuum now sucks. Yay for Husband! We could have spent the $50 on a new vacuum, but since you can't buy anything that will work longer than, say, five minutes for $50, it was well worth it to spend the money to fix our otherwise excellent vacuum cleaner. Sure, it's mostly held together with duct tape, but that sucker does a fantastic job.

Today, carpets were Hoovered. That's how they say it in England. That's just a bonus fact 'cause I'm feeling all generous and whatnot.

Tonight, I went downstairs to fetch Little Gary from the family room since it was bedtime. He had finally managed to snag a turn on the TV and was playing a video game, so he wasn't excited to hear I was going to end his fun and force a tooth-brushing. I'm tired, and dragging a small but determinedly stubborn boy up two flights of stairs was suddenly too much to deal with, so I plopped down on the couch and put my face in my hands.

"Are you going to watch me play, Mommy?" he asked excitedly, always happy to have a parental audience.

"No, I'm going to sit here and cry," I said in martyr tones.

"I will give you a hug and a kiss to make you feel better. And a raspberry. But a raspberry is gross," he said, not missing one move in his game.

"Thank you. But I also want to go to bed," I said.

"Well, go then!" he said helpfully, waving his hand at the door. He leaned over and nudged my shoulder. "Go on, then, Mommy! Go to bed."

Aww. How sweet. He's much more concerned about my well-being than his own, and he's only four. But as his mother, I can't let him wear himself ragged on my behalf. He's in bed now, the poor, selfless dear.

Monday, August 29, 2011

One Music-Induced Stupor Coming Up

The Christmas season has started for choirs everywhere. This may or may not be good news depending on the choice of music, but for me, it's EXCELLENT!

Our choir director has chosen a good pile of great stuff; I like all of them. But by far the best two pieces are the ones about light: Lux Arumque, by Eric Whitacre; and O Nata Lux, setting by Guy Forbes. I have ever been a huge fan of ethereal a cappella pieces, and Eric Whitacre is one of the most amazing composers of this type. Those distonal chords and the resonant high sopranos...the sheer magic of it is enough to suspend me completely in a music-induced stupor.

The words of the song are taken from a poem by Edward Esch.

warm and heavy as pure gold
and the angels sing softly
to the new-born baby.

Whitacre had the poem translated into Latin:

calida gravisque pura velut aurum
et canunt angeli molliter
modo natum.

Here is Whitacre's virtual choir performing the piece. Enjoy. Then come and see us perform (minus about 160 voices) in December.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Musings on Becoming Expert

I just finished up editing and evaluating a manuscript. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of handing it back to the very nervous author, who was expecting me to tell him never to write again. Instead, I congratulated him for having actually written a novel, since many people have it on their bucket list but only a few ever accomplish it. Then I showed him the pages of notes I had written for him; he nearly fainted when he saw the editing marks covering every single page of his book. I think in that moment he really felt like throwing up his hands and never trying again, though he was paying me to tell him what worked and what didn't.

I told the author that he had the beginnings of a great book, despite what it looked like after I got through with it. I told him that constantly practicing his writing will only make him better and better, and if he gets sick of his current novel, he can start another one. Why not? Plus, even the most famous published authors have often written multiple novels before getting that one acceptance letter among a huge pile of rejection slips.

While dropping off Little Gary for his first day of preschool today, I saw a poster outside one of the classrooms at the elementary school. It said, "Every expert started out as a beginner." I love that. No one is naturally perfect at doing anything without hours of dedication and practice. Even if you have a talent, only the time you put in to honing it will make you an expert. You don't even have to have a natural ability for something to get good at it if you're willing to work. Nothing is out of bounds for anyone; you just have to decide where your efforts will be placed.

Sounds like good advice to me! I think I'll finally pull out that dusty old manuscript I've had sitting on the shelf for far too long and start becoming an expert.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thar She Blows!

I tried out some spray wax last week. The hairstylist used it at the salon on Elannah and convinced me to purchase some, dangling the carrot of a 50% discount. Elannah looked adorable, and I wanted to do something with my new, shorter do, so I went ahead and bought a bottle. It feels a bit odd (like having wax in your coiffure!), but I was able to scrunch my hair into light waves and have them stay put all day.

The next morning, I looked in the mirror and laughed so hard I nearly took a picture. Nearly. Obviously, I couldn't keep the wax in my hair unless I was willing to sport some ultra-funky look (which I wasn't on a Monday), so I took a shower to wash it out. I shampooed once and shampooed again. Then I checked the spray wax bottle, which said, "A second shampooing may be necessary."

Phhht. Understatement. I shampooed my hair five times, and I still couldn't get it all the way out. The only reason I gave up shampooing was because I was running out of hot water.

Several showers later, I think it's finally been washed down the drain. I now view that sleek, white bottle with a jaundiced eye, though I haven't thrown it away yet, thinking there must be some good use for it. What if I want a mohawk? A girl never knows when the urge will strike.

Word to the wise: Paul Mitchell is laughing all the way to the bank.

Other than using myself as a guinea pig for crazy hair products, I've been so busy that I have spent the last month ready to puke with stress at any moment. Some people thrive on stress and busyness. Not I. I crumple. My brain functions take a vacation, my hands wring themselves, and I occasionally try to hyperventilate for good measure. Where did my tolerance for stressful situations go? Has age and experience put me at a level where the smallest things will send me over the edge?

I do remember being this stressed in high school. In my senior year, I found myself as the yearbook editor-in-chief AND layout editor, co-editor of the literary magazine, choir president, and occasionally involved in the school's drama productions (once as a singing narrator in a Russian play and once as living scenery during Shakespeare's Twelfth Night) (and no, I wasn't an overachiever. My GPA was never a 4.0. Necessary involvement was the bonus of attending a school where my graduating class was only 40 strong). I was also in the city youth orchestra, president of my seminary class, and dating a boy I could only see in the late evenings because of his schedule. There was some hand-wringing going on that year. In contrast, college was a huge relief.

I have, however, come through this month's numerous deadlines, duties, and responsibilities with only a few new twitches. I never did throw up, and getting the kids ready for school in the mornings seems easy in comparison. This morning, I took time to dance to some 80s music Husband bought for me. Nothing relieves stress like belting out "Because your kiss, your kiss is on my list. Because your kiss, your kiss, I can't resist. Because your kiss is on my list of the best things in liiife!" with Hall&Oates, or rocking out to "Eye of the Tiger."

No pictures were taken to preserve your sanity.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Let Me Fly

If you've been reading this for a while, you'll know I love singing in my county choir. They're a fun bunch of people, and the director is absolutely amazing. Not only does she pick challenging music, she's very good at what she does, and that makes all the difference in the world in a choir.

Here we are singing "Let Me Fly" in our last concert. It wasn't my favorite song, and it's the first one of the concert, so those sopranos were really reaching for the high notes, but I thought I'd share it because you can actually see me in this video. After all, this is my blog. I'm in the second row, right in front of the white column. When the female soloist steps down to sing in the microphone, you can see just about all of me.

You're lucky my daughter ran out of disk room before we got to "Pink Panther," when I went just a little crazy with a pink feather boa. How embarrassing. My alter-ego completely took over.

Oh, you love it when I let loose.

You scare me. I mean, I'm lucky there wasn't a pole right there or I'm not sure what you would have done.

Naw, nothing that bad, but it was hilarious watching Husband's eyebrows try to climb into his hairline.

Believe me, I'll never forget.

The choir director did encourage me to have fun, remember? Right before that number, she whispered to me, "Let it loose! Just like dress rehearsal."

I'm not talking about this anymore. My parents-in-law were there. I blush just thinking about it. Hee hee hee!

I am so much more a part of you than you'll ever care to admit, and you don't mind one bit.

Hush, now. That's our little secret.

Ahem. Anyway, I'm pretty glad there's no recording of that part of the performance. Honestly, when I get on stage, sometimes I really do just let it all go, and I'm never quite sure what's going to happen. Never hand me a pink feather boa and ask me to sing "Pink Panther." It will be better for all of us. Besides, it's hard to sing when I'm shimmying. In my defense, if some of the other women hadn't been laughing so hard I wouldn't have been encouraged to be quite so outrageous.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

She's Got Brains, She Does!

I was trying to explain socialism and communism to Elannah. I talked about how all things are held in common and no one has any personal possessions. I talked about how a few elite members of such a society are in charge of distributing everything that is produced and telling people where and how to work -- about how any money earned above a certain benchmark is taken and given to someone else who needs it more. This "utopian" society is supposed to create equal outcome as well as equal opportunity.

Elannah thought about it for a while and then said, "But that means no one would feel like it was worth it to work hard. Whatever they did would just be taken away and given to someone else."

Ah, my dear. At the tender age of 10, you have uncovered the great fallacy of Marxist reasoning.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Ganja Brownies Explained

Let me preface this little tale by stating unequivocally that I am so boring and straight that I have never even been tempted to use illegal drugs of any kind or abuse prescription drugs. There was never any positive consequence that I could see from them, and I'm wise enough in that respect to be able to benefit from others' bad experiences.

Besides, even the legal medications I've taken haven't produced anything that equals the natural high of living a life full of joy. Laughing gas was a huge disappointment -- I never even cracked a smile. Excedrin makes me feel spacey, and I absolutely loathe the jittery feeling pseudoephedrin in sinus and cold medications gives me. I'd rather suffer. I've had several prescriptions for heavy-duty painkillers that I've filled but never used, simply because I got along just fine with ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is great for headaches and other pain, and I don't have to worry about feeling all weird and loopy. I hate, HATE, HATE feeling weird and loopy because of a medication.

I've also steered clear of alcohol. Never touched a drop. That wasn't a hard decision, either, even if it was such a general part of high school life (not college. I went to Brigham Young University, and I don't think I met anyone there who drank. And yet, my friends and I had so much fun anyway!). Besides the fact that drinking alcohol is directly in contradiction to my faith as a Mormon, I know I've got alcoholics in my family tree. Even if that wasn't enough, the thought of losing control of my upper faculties always scared me to death. I never knew if I would be a social drinker or end up as an alcoholic, and it just wasn't worth it to find out, even if I had ever been tempted.

So it was with huge disappointment that I realized that marijuana did absolutely nothing for me except induce such an intense need for a nap that I almost fell asleep standing up. I mean, I get that feeling when I've spent too many nights taking care of sick kids, so there's certainly nothing novel or exciting about being dreadfully sleepy.

Little Gary, on the other hand, apparently just can't handle a little marijuana.

What happened was this: a woman whom I have met a couple times offered brownies to me and my son. Given the setting and the situation, I had no reason to suspect they were doctored, although I had begun to notice that the woman was acting high. Little Gary got three brownies, which he downed in a flash. I got one brownie, and as I chewed, I detected a distinctly herbal quality not normally found in brownies that I eat.

I asked the woman if she'd made them herself, and she said she had and then rambled on about using applesauce instead of oil. I have never noticed applesauce to cause an herbal tea flavor, and when Husband came around the corner, I told him my suspicions. We briefly considered forcing Little Gary to throw up the brownies, but didn't know how we'd manage that.

About ten minutes after eating the brownies, Little Gary was hyper. HYPER. His pupils were dilated, he was terribly thirsty, and he was manically running around like a crazy thing. We watched him for a bit, and then I suggested he get a Priesthood blessing. Husband and another man gave Little Gary a blessing right away, and immediately afterwards, Little Gary's pupils began going back to normal. His hyperactivity, however, remained quite, quite intact.

Husband went and asked the woman if she'd put marijuana in the brownies (he was furious, of course), and she denied it, though she was swaying on her feet so badly she nearly fell over. She was also questioned by two off-duty policemen, but they apparently didn't find enough reason to do anything further. The woman drove away, which was not a good idea, given her condition.

We went home and Little Gary spent a few hours running full tilt through the house until he suddenly stopped, lay down on my bed, and fell deeply asleep. I also wanted so badly to lie down and take a nap. I was not only horribly lethargic, I couldn't really think all that clearly; but I had family coming over and didn't have time to sleep when I needed to cook dinner. It was terribly unpleasant.

A week later, I got the news that the woman had confessed to baking marijuana into the brownies, although she hadn't meant to harm anyone -- especially any children. Several other kids had also been fed the brownies. I was asked not to press charges and to have mercy on her since she had told the truth. After all, we'd eaten the evidence, and she didn't have to 'fess up, but she wanted to be honest and apologize. Since no permanent harm had been done, I didn't press charges, knowing a little about this woman's history and her present difficulties in life. I ran into this woman at the store (you run into everyone in this town at the store eventually), and she apologized personally. She's gotten help since that incident. Regardless, I won't be eating anything she makes. Ever.

Wasn't that a fun little adventure? We have a new tale to tell, and Little Gary might feel a natural aversion to brownies for a long time yet. And I can keep my utter conviction that nothing that is meant to artificially increase enjoyment, happiness, or relaxation comes even close to the natural joy that dwells inside you when you're living a life you can be proud of and from which you gain so much real happiness and joy.

Those ARE Little Gary's real eyes. Undrugged. And his face is dirty as usual.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I May be Feeling Low but at Least I'm Not High

You wouldn't think my life had a lot of drama going on, but you'd be wrong. In the last little while, I have:

* Caused a Family Brouhaha of Epic Proportions Through My Own Stupidity
* Gotten High From Being Fed Ganja Brownies

That might not sound like much, but for the nearly middle-aged, stay-at-home-mom, quiet writer's existence that I have cultivated, it's pretty horrible.

I am just teasing you with this because I'm not at all in the mood to write more about either topic.

What I AM in the mood for is to eat a gallon of peanut butter/chocolate ice cream, but that's because I am stressed and craving carbs and not because of any illegal substances in my system. Besides, I ate the marijuana brownie days ago. That's over. I will explain that incident later when I feel more humorous, because it's kind of a funny story. Funny hmmm. Not funny ha ha.

In the meantime, I'm going to distract myself so I don't eat a gallon of ice cream. Tempting as the thought is, I find that extra pounds don't make me any less stressed. Hello, cello. Be my friend this evening.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Visit from the British In-Laws


Last week my parents-in-law dropped by for a little visit from England. They brought suitcases full of presents and British goodies and financed some very fun adventures. Sure, Husband's car's transmission went CLUNK 50 miles from home (fortunately, it stopped right by a mechanic's garage), and my mother-in-law (MIL) caught the stomach flu from me, but we generally had a wonderful time while they were here.

This week, it's time to pay the piper. Because Husband is off-track from teaching at his year-round school, we're writing eight hours a day. We worked out that if we total 20 articles a day -- 100 total before the pay period ends -- we can pay the mortgage. It's a worthy goal, but UGH! it's been a long three days so far. Next week, when we go down to five articles a day per person, it will seem like a vacation. I've written about Kansas City real estate one too many times. Ditto Florida country clubs. I did get to write an article about spandex bodysuits and one about whipped cream chargers, which was a nice break. But by about 6pm, my brain is well and thoroughly shot. Done. I'm only writing this post because I'm not getting paid for it.

Tomorrow we still have to get our 20 articles written, but we're taking a break in the late morning to have a picnic with family friends who are visiting from out of town. I'm very excited about that.

Now you're all caught up. And I'm going to bed.

My MIL and FIL. Lovely British accents, even lovelier people.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eva Aurora: Indiscriminate Smiler

I am a smiler. I smile at people. I smile indiscriminately at people. I've been an indiscriminate smiler for as long as I remember, but I made a conscious effort to smile at people for a reaction during my LDS mission in England. People in England are not indiscriminate smilers. In fact, they can be very conservative about doling out smiles to strangers, and sometimes in that often gray and rainy country, I just wanted someone to smile back at me. I took a liking to that infrequent and startled genuine smile some fellow pedestrians or mass transit users would flash back at me -- a woman with small children, an old man in somber black shoes and fedora, a college student caught up in his internal thoughts. I smiled then and now at men, women, and children. Especially children. Who can't smile and make funny faces at a baby sitting in a grocery store cart? What greater reward than that sudden, explosively honest grin of an innocent toddler? Extra points for a giggle.

Occasionally, my habit as an indiscriminate smiler gets me into trouble. For example, one evening I walked into my local Walmart to grab a few groceries. On my way through the entry, a Walmart employee, whom I have seen several times stocking shelves and who has smiled and acted as if he knows me (though I have tried and failed to remember ever having any conversation with him at all) happened to be walking toward me. I smiled at him, as I always do, in what I -- perhaps, erroneously -- imagined was a neutrally friendly way, and he walked right up to me and said, "Hey, beautiful. I'm going on break right now, but maybe after that I'll see you around here." Then he walked off.

Say what?

He said it so quietly I almost didn't hear him, and he didn't say it suggestively. It was like we were continuing a conversation we'd had earlier, as if we were familiar. Except I've never talked to him. I have certainly never winked at him.

I'm not used to being hit on as a woman of nearly a certain age with six kids and some stubborn baby and pizza weight to lose, so I freaked out a little bit. I forgot half the things I went in to get because I was suddenly very anxious to leave. I waited in a busy line that was surrounded by tall shelves of impulse buys rather than the more visible express lane, and I left through the opposite exit, walking through the parked cars in the lot instead of taking a straight shot to where my car was parked. It wasn't that I felt threatened by his demeanor. I just felt really, really stupid.

I told Husband about it later, thinking he would laugh. Oddly enough, he seemed a little upset at first, but that may have been because I went for the "exaggerated for grand effect" approach by starting off with, "So, it seems I'm dating someone at Walmart." I got the "What does that mean?!" without an accompanying "laugh of disbelief awaiting the inevitably humorous explanation." I told him what had happened and how stupid I felt about it.

He said, "Well, you do smile in a friendly way at men."
"But I smile at women, too!" I said.
"Yes," he answered. "But the men don't know that."

The reason I've cultivated an attitude of indiscriminate smiling is two-fold: I genuinely enjoy getting a smile back, and in the back of my mind, I'm making mental notes all the time about who is more likely to smile at a stranger. I had a friend in high school who once said to me with some exasperation, "You're always conducting an experiment, aren't you?" He was right, though I only conduct my silly little social experiments in a very benign sense.

Do you want to know the results of this years-long, unscientific study? It's harder to make eye contact with women (probably because I am a woman and therefore subconsciously uninteresting and non-threatening to other women), but when they do make eye contact, they are quick to smile back, although if they're very preoccupied, they'll only acknowledge your smile with a little forehead twitch while they're thinking about something else. Men are generally a little startled by eye contact and a smile but they almost always smile back. It's a cultural thing, too. Americans are simply more likely to smile or grin frequently, which makes us seem like superficial idiots to people from cultures where smiling is reserved for special occasions. In some cultures I frequently come across, eye contact and a smile is obviously considered a come-on from a woman, and I'm always forgetting that in my indiscriminate smiling habit. This may be where my troubles at Walmart lie.

Children of all cultures smile readily, up to a certain age, where the strong heritage of their parents begins exerting influence.

Husband eventually saw the humor in my dilemma, and I have decided to be more circumspect in my smiling habits. It will take a lot of constant inner dialogue to break that habit, but while I may not smile indiscriminately, I will still smile.

Neutrally Friendly? Or Just Too Friendly?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Man of Integrity

I just added another link in my Blogs I Love to Read sidebar. It's called Gay Mormon Man, and I stumbled across it when researching information for an article I had to write about blogging. I was really impressed by the viewpoint of the author, a man who calls himself Calvin Thompson, and who describes himself as a somewhat conservative Mormon man who is also gay. Cal is married and has children and his wife is fully aware of his sexual orientation, but Cal is also convinced that the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are true and wants to be in full fellowship with the church (which, I might point out, doesn't mean that any person would ever be forced to be married, gay or not!). He seems also not to be anti-gay because he doesn't loathe himself and all others who undergo same sex attraction.

With all the hubbub of California's Proposition 8 (which was passed and which states that marriage is defined as between a man and a woman), Peter Vidmar's resignation as the Chief de Mission of the US 2012 Olympic Team over the issue of his having voted for Prop 8 and contributed money to the cause, and the question of whether or not homosexuality should be considered absolutely normal and healthy as a lifestyle, I have thought a lot about what it would be like to be gay and LDS. Cal's blog is a great example of one man's decision to accept himself and to also accept that he is in charge of his own happiness.

I don't know the author at all. I also have no idea what it would be like to have same sex attraction. I have to rely on the experience of others to gain some insight, therefore. I absolutely believe that every single person on this earth is a child of God, no matter their skin color, economic status, or sexual orientation. I certainly don't care to have the burden of judging anyone else's heart, and I'm relieved that Jesus Christ repeatedly stated in the Bible that His is the job of judgement because He does not view us by sight or sound alone. He knows us better than we know ourselves; He knows our hearts, and He will be absolutely fair and just and also as merciful as He can be with each of us when we stand in front of the Judgement Bar and account for our mortal lives.

While I uphold the LDS Church's stance on chastity, which applies to all people, both heterosexual and homosexual, my heart has often cried out for those who feel same sex attraction and who also want to be a worthy, temple recommend-holding member of the Church. How awful it must be to undergo not only the questions about the value of one's own self as somehow "broken" but to get through it while often hearing insensitive and hateful remarks from others around them, and also to be consigned to a state of eternal singlehood if they choose not to marry. Singlehood can be hard on heterosexuals, of course, but for a homosexual with a testimony and who wishes to receive all the blessings of the temple, that state must also be accompanied by the knowledge that to have a relationship that is more than just friendship with someone of the same sex that they are attracted to is forbidden. I imagine it must be a horrible and lonely burden sometimes, even if they are seeking to follow the Spirit and have a strong and abiding testimony.

To me, Cal is not a hero for being homosexual, just as I would not choose for a hero anyone else based on sexual orientation. Cal is a hero because he has reasoned and pondered about his options and has chosen to follow a path that may not be easy but means that he is living what he, personally, believes. Consistently living what you believe means having personal integrity, and that integrity makes a person heroic. I'm sure he's been vilified by those who believe that when you accept your homosexual orientation fully, you should also fully embrace the proscribed lifestyle or you are somehow a traitor to your kind, as well as other "well-meaning" individuals who have too much judgement to spare when it comes to knowing who is going to hell and who is going to heaven. I can't say I'm sorry that I'm spared this particular test in life, but I admire people who can go through it with as much grace as this man.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

It's about time Joseph learned to ride a bike. He's nearly seven, and the thought that he can't yet ride a bike might be horrifying in the extreme to many parents out there. As if we haven't fulfilled our parental duties and he will be scarred for life!

Please. Get real. We've just saved him a couple years' worth of accidents is all.

No, seriously, we didn't teach him before because he wasn't willing. Always a cautious child around bikes, swings, teeter-totters, and other pain inducing technology, it's only recently that he's come out in favor of his own bike riding lessons.

Since I'm putting pictures in today, let's see what else I have. Oh, yes. The back splash in the kitchen. Husband measured it all out, and somehow I ended up doing the actual work. I had a good time and learned a lot about laying tile. It ain't perfect, but I was learning as I went. Note the glass canister on the top shelf. It's got half a batch of Husband's brown sugar fudge in it.

When we went to The Big City, I was gifted with something I've been sighing about for a very long time (just ask Husband). My mom's neighbor, with whom she was very good friends, recently passed away; the son offered a lot of her things to my mom. One of them was a glass cake stand with a glass dome. I saw that on Mom's counter and just gasped. "Ohhhh! Cake stand...with a glass dome! Ohhh!" Mom laughed and graciously gave it to me on the spot. She did remind me that with it comes a very important responsibility: because her neighbor always had something in it, though it wasn't necessarily a cake, it was now my duty to have something to keep in it at all times.

Right now, it's holding half a fresh coconut, which isn't shown here. Hey, I didn't have time to bake.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm So Blue

It's blueberry season. I don't think I need to say much more than that, as I'm sure you're all scrambling out of your seats and heading for the blueberry patches or the grocery store. If I had a blueberry patch nearby, I'd probably be grabbing my buckets that I had stored in the garage for this very purpose and then spending a long, sunny day stripping bushes of their blue bounty. As it is, I have to rely on the grocery store. Expensive, but soooo worth it.

Sooo worth it.

I'll see you later. I have a date with a bowl of blueberries.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Truly Horrible Poetry, But With Meaningful Intent

Late owls salute dawn.
Honeysuckle scents the breeze.
A mouse-blessed cat leaps.

I'm back outside getting an early morning constitutional these days. I go despite my tired eyelids and my neck, which is still a bit painful. Funny, but after Sian, Husband, and I had an hours-long relaxing and humorous shopping trip in The Big City yesterday, my neck was just fine. I woke up this morning and it was painful again. I imagine that has to do with getting back to work with the addition of all six kids now being out of school and gearing up for whiny boredom.

To counter that small stressor, I composed the above pathetic verse during my walk/jog today. I would have added something about "The incongruous sight and sound of a trim, red minivan blasting gangsta rap," but not only did that very real experience not evoke the bucolic imagery I was going for, but I couldn't figure out how to include it within the restrictive syllabic requirements of a haiku.

I walk naked, but only in the sense that my ears are not stuffed with music-conducting electronics. I used to run with music, but I gave that up long ago in favor of quiet contemplation -- and you can see the inerudite results. Still, it's very peaceful to concentrate on the movement of your arms and legs, listen to your breathing, savor the mental observations about the world around you, and let your thoughts take you where they will. If bad poetry is born of such contemplation, well, there are worse things in the world. (I think.)

As I mentioned already, Husband, Sian, the two little boys, and I took a trip to The Big City yesterday. Our purpose was to shop, and to obtain our goal we needed to drop off Joseph and Little Gary at their grandparents' house. I thought that taking them to The Big City was a better idea than leaving them at home, where their sisters might not enjoy watching over them as closely as they require. Grandma and Grandpa were happy to spend some time with them, so Sian, Husband, and I embarked on a journey for new birthday clothes for Sian.

Five and one half hours later, we were still looking for the perfect pair of jeans that didn't also cost as much as next month's mortgage payment. Sian was getting very discouraged when Husband suggested we stop in one last store at the mall. At Sears, we found jean perfection and steep sales, a happy combination. Sian walked out three pairs richer, with a smile on her face.

To Sian (Though She Already Knows This and Lives It)

The true beauty of a girl
Cannot be measured by the makeup on her face
Or the brand names sewn on her clothes.
True beauty is not defined by her body measurements
Or the money in her bank account
Or the adornments hanging from her ears, encircling her neck, or sparkling on a finger.
The true beauty of a girl
Is measured by the light she carries inside,
Which grows brighter each day
That she recognizes her inherent and divine worth as a daughter of a loving
The world measures beauty in fickle terms,
And to be beautiful to the world is but a fleeting and empty accomplishment.
True beauty is lasting, and rich, and meaningful,
And will only be found through study, prayer, a joyful heart, and loving service.
But the promise of true beauty is that it transcends the fickle, worldly measures
To adorn a girl as she becomes a woman, and a woman throughout the decades of her life,
Until she stands once again before her Father and offers to Him the whole of her heart
To be encircled about by His arms and hear the words, "Well done, my darling and beautiful daughter. Welcome home."
That is true beauty.

(The above was written on Tuesday, May 31)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Such a Pain in the Neck!

Arrr! What happens when your stressed-out, rock hard shoulders meet a sudden leaping out of bed in the early morning to turn off the high decibel house alarm system set off by a three-year-old trying to get into the garage to find a popsicle in the freezer?

Pain happens.

Fortunately, it was a bad enough pain in my neck to warrant a day of rest Saturday (and since it was too rainy to work in the yard, no residual guilt), during which I watched several movies. Sian wanted to have a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon movie night for her birthday, so we had rented the first three movies for Friday night, but no one but Gabrielle and I made it through the first movie. That left us with some serious movie watching to do on Saturday. No writing, no heavy labor -- nothing but couch.

But the pain wasn't enough to keep me down for too long. I was feeling much better in time to go to choir practice last night. Husband was concerned, but I told him I would come home if I couldn't handle it. The endorphins released during practice prevented me from feeling much pain until it was over, when I kept dropping my keys on the floor for some reason. I suspect the key dropping was due to latent frustration at not being able to consistently nail that interval between "cares" and "I" in Star Wars: A Tribute to the Music of John Williams, although that might be overthinking it a bit.

Little Gary is fully potty trained. Yes, as long as he's completely and utterly naked, he never has an accident. The trouble happens when he starts wearing any sort of clothing on his lower half. Sigh. A friend of mine says that potty training isn't so much about training the kid as training yourself. Little Gary trains me all the time, though. He'll say, "Mommy, I say 'I love you,' and then you say 'I love you, too,' and I say 'I love you, too.'" Today, he climbed up onto the headboard of my bed and instructed me, "Mommy, say 'be careful, my darling!'"

After potty training five other children, I wonder why I still feel completely new to the situation every single time?

Well, me hearties! I'm getting up early tomorrow to get me some exercise before the little landlubbers begin awakin' and demandin' food and attention. That means I'll be needin' to get to bed at a reasonable and decent hour o' the night. And I'll need to lay off the pie (is that possible?).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Don't Look Up With Your Mouth Open, and Sweet 16 Already??

There must be a mathematical law for the multiplication of seagulls. Clearly, it's a function of available food, so if S is seagull and F is food,

S = F(ST)+ sMD
Or, to put it plainly, the number of seagulls equals available food multiplied by seagull telepathy added to the seagull multiple dimension theory (because it's just common sense that seagulls couldn't multiply that fast at an outdoor BBQ without coming from some near dimension).

Pigeons might operate on the same mathematical principle, but seagulls are uncanny. I've lived around seagulls or herring gulls nearly my whole life, and I believe my study of them warrants some publication. Maybe a book deal. Any takers? I'll call it Bold and Hungry: the sharp beaks behind the plaintive cry. Oprah will read it and weep, and it will become an instant best seller.

Ooh, I can't wait!

While I'm holding out for the millions coming my way, I have been attending end-of-year school functions that include dancing and grilled hot dogs (and thus, seagulls), and singing. Elannah had her gymnastics recital, after which the manager told her that she would love to have her on the competition team. Sian has finished her final round of tests and homework assignments just in time for her 16th birthday (today!). Gabrielle pulled up some low grades and turned them into high grades at her dad's urging by slogging through missing homework assignments and completing all the extra credit she could get. Sophia received a certificate signed by the President of the United States for achieving perfect straight As throughout her entire elementary school career. Joseph is mentally done with school and getting him to go this last week has been a Herculean exercise, but since the first grade had more homework than any other grade this year, I can understand his mental exhaustion. And Little Gary had a test for preschool.

And now, a note about my beloved first daughter, who has reached the tender and frightening age of 16.

She is a lovely child and she was born knowing right from wrong. When she was little, perfect strangers used to stop me on the street or in the supermarket aisles and tell me she was just like a porcelain doll with her fair skin, bluest of blue eyes, and darkest brown corkscrew curls. She's all grown up now, and she's beautiful inside and out. She loves goodness and doesn't understand badness. Her stack of books to read is taller than mine. She tries hard to push herself and achieve so many things.

I'm not sure where she came from, frankly.

I credit both her grandmothers when I see Sian's manifesting genes, and she is certainly her maternal grandfather's willing disciple, listening intently as he shares his knowledge and wisdom with her.

Happy birthday, my darling girl. You are precious to me, and I am so proud of you for what you are becoming and have accomplished already.