Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hate Mail to Perimenopause

Hello, Perimenopause. I suspected it was you, and now I'm pretty sure. You cranky old witch, I don't appreciate what you're doing to me. I am so tired and sluggish. My brain is fogged. I can't sleep deeply. I gain weight just by thinking about eating a salad, and it's mostly going to my middle. My waistbands are tighter. I feel puffy and fat and ugly. It's hard to fight off depression. I want to eat carbohydrates just about all the time. Normal cycles are off, and there's a particular week of the month when I turn into Horrifica, the Amazing Screaming and Eating Machine. You're killing me here!

The fact that you could be hanging around for a decade or so just makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry, although knowing that a visit from your sister, Menopause, is somewhat imminent is even worse. You must love misery and company.

I will vanquish your effects, Perimenopause. This I vow. I may have to live with you, but I don't have to take your bullying. I will figure it out so I can enjoy life, since I still have years left in me. I will bring you to your knees and laugh in your face.

And once I get you pegged, I imagine I won't be quite so tempted to talk to myself through the forum of a blog post. One can only hope.

What's Left of Eva Aurora

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fun Fact: Hippos Love Tomatoes

Ernesto Sirolli is an Italian entrepreneur who helps people. But he learned a thing or two about what is actually helpful and what is not before he embarked on his career, and the method by which he learned his lesson is both amusing and incredibly instructive. I'll paraphrase, but it's not as funny here as when he tells it here. Nor do I have such a great accent.

When Ernesto was young, he and a bunch of Italian do-gooders decided to go to Zambia, Africa, to help the natives learn agriculture. They selected a luscious valley by the Zambian River that seemed perfect for a thriving farm and set about trying to get the natives excited about what they were going to be taught. The Italians tilled the land and planted tomatoes and zucchini. Though they paid the natives to work, the natives were pretty casual about when they showed up and when they didn't. In fact, the Zambian people in that area were pretty blase about the entire operation. But that was okay because the Italians were going to help them anyway. They felt very good about themselves and their righteous and charitable works.

When the harvest started coming in, it was amazing. The tomatoes were huge. The zucchini was ultra-bountiful. The earth was so well suited for growing it was incredible no one had figured it out before!

And then the hippos came and ate the entire crop down to the nub.

"Why didn't you tell us about the hippos?" asked the Italians. "You never asked," answered the Zambians. The Zambians knew very well why farming that land was useless unless you really liked feeding hippos.

He makes a very good point about the fact that going to a country and helping entrepreneurs requires you to find their passions, which isn't possible until they trust you and they are willing to talk to you. I think that's true of most people. We walk into a situation thinking that our good intentions and ideas are the best and only way, and when the person we're trying to help balks at our charity, we get angry. Don't they know what's good for them? We tend to have an empire mindset where we are either paternalistic toward the people we want to help or we patronize them. We think of them as slaves or as children. Either way, it isn't the proper mindset, and you won't ever do any real good until you change how you think of and approach people you'd like to help.

Good stuff. Here's the link again if you want to watch his 17 minute talk.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Old, Dark Fear

There's a certain sense of dread I associate with dark, cold mornings. It's not just the fact that I have to stumble out of bed after an unsatisfying sleep in order to drive my oldest girl to the school for early morning seminary. It's not just because I know that after I get home the day will have well and truly started and there will be no more chance to snooze, or that I will be under pressure to produce billable work while also running a household bent on entropy. No, this horror and dread go way, way back.

I was in first grade. My teacher, whom we quickly nicknamed "Mrs. Shark," was an older woman who didn't seem to like children very much. Looking back now, I realize she had probably been teaching for decades by the time I arrived, small and quite intimidated by authority, and she wasn't willing to put up with any funny business. Frankly, she terrified me. I absolutely hated getting into trouble, so while I was a model student, I was probably also kind of annoying in my shrinking fear. The worst thing I could possibly imagine was to make a mistake, because if I made one single mistake, I and the other mistake-makers had to stay in during recess and fix it. It was even more worrying because I had no clue what the awful punishment could possibly be for failing to adequately correct the mistake. I really liked recess. What if the next level of punishment was a visit to the principal's office?

Back in those days, principals were still allowed to spank naughty children. Every once in a while during lunch, our principal would walk out of his office and just stand casually by the front doors, kind of swinging the board that was used as a paddle. The noisy room would suddenly hush, and we would whisper to each other  rumors of spanked children past and present. I still remember the room itself with its huge Peanuts characters painted in happy colors on the walls. Snoopy and Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus looked down on our antics, contented smiles on their faces, a stark contrast to the smirking principal with the awful piece of wood in his hand.

One day, I made a mistake. When I got my boardwork paper handed back to me, red pencil had been slashed across it like blood. My fate was sealed. My stomach hurt and my head swam. The awful day I had been anticipating had arrived. I would miss lunch recess, and if I was really unlucky, I might get to visit the principal and his paddling board.

I was completely relieved to find that Mrs. Shark's duties took her out onto the playground that day, so at least I was spared her presence while I attempted to correct my paper. I sharpened my pencil, pulled out my paper, and began erasing the misspelled word. But to my horror, the paper ripped. The rip ran right across the space where I needed to rewrite the word. I almost passed out with fear, and tears burned my eyes. I remember saying, "Now what am I going to do?"

A boy who was also missing recess happened to hear me and looked at my problem. "Why don't you put some tape on it?" he suggested. Great idea. I taped the rip. But now I couldn't write the word in the right spot. And worse, my pencil made no discernible mark on the tape, so I couldn't write over the top of it. The same boy came to my rescue again (I wish I remember who it was). "Just write the last part of the word after the tape," he offered reasonably. There would be a huge gap in the word, but Mrs. Shark would understand that the tape was to blame, wouldn't she? I fixed it as best I could and then ran out for the rest of recess, though I wasn't completely at ease. It wasn't until the rest of the day passed and I heard no more about my paper that I finally relaxed a little.

So you see my fear, even if it was the fear of a 7-year-old. I lived with it on a daily basis, and it was very real to me then even if it looks completely irrational to my grown-up eyes. But the soundtrack that will forever remind me of that year was the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy talking alarm clock I got for my birthday. The clock itself was cute: when the alarm went off, Raggedy Ann and Andy had a little conversation about waking me up. So sweet. But the sweetness of their conversation morphed into some sort of dreadful death sentence in my head. Oh no! It was time to go to school! Raggedy Ann and Andy had betrayed me yet again!

I started getting stomach aches and headaches. My mom took me to the doctor, and he diagnosed me with stress. And then, thinking they were doing me a favor, my mom and the teacher agreed to take me out of the special little class for kids who read a lot, where we would leave the classroom with another teacher and do experiments and talk about cool stuff. It was the one place I felt absolutely safe, and now it was gone. The other three kids left in the class teased me about being dumb, which didn't make me feel any better.

I probably got used to Mrs. Shark over the months, and the rest of my years at that school were fabulous. I loved my teachers, who were all young and idealistic and believed in encouraging my interests. I really thrived. But the feelings of horror associated with those dark and cold mornings of the winter of my first grade year have never quite left me, even if I now have an adult perspective on Mrs. Shark (whose real name was Mrs. Sharp) and making mistakes. It's not as acute, of course, but it lingers. At least I can laugh about it now as I drive Sian to school.

Remind me to tell you about the time I got teeter-totter splinters in my behind and ended up half-naked and standing in the teachers' lounge while Mrs. Sharp picked the bits of wood out. Good times. Especially with all the other teachers walking in and out and laughing about my predicament. But that's okay, because I was wicked good at crazy and highly unsafe teeter-totter tricks when the teachers weren't looking. Best in class.

UPDATE 12/11/2012: My dad found the recording of the Raggedy Ann and Andy Talking Alarm clock. Of course, he sent me the mp3 file of just the Raggedy Ann and Andy clock, but I am stoopid with technology and will have to embed the entire YouTube video. Listening to it now, it's hard to believe the enthusiastic little message turned so sinister in my mind. But, then, the blaring of a regular alarm clock heard at any time of the day is enough to put me into fight-or-flight mode.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

It Wouldn't be Thanksgiving Without the Red Mung

Happy Thanksgiving. I've celebrated twice now, and I still haven't started using the leftover turkey. We had everyone over yesterday because that was the only day schedules all meshed, what with one of my brothers and his family traveling in from out-of-state as well as the need to incorporated my British in-laws into their first American Thanksgiving celebration. Since the Wednesday meet-up was kind of a last-minute decision, there was no time to cook the turkey; instead, we had ham, cheesy potatoes (the kind we in Utah call "funeral potatoes" because everyone always brings them to a funeral luncheon), homemade rolls, and chunks of fried zucchini. The zucchini was thanks to my chef brother, and it was immensely popular with one and all.

Today, Thanksgiving Day, some (but not all) of the same family members came back and we had a more traditional feast, though I completely forgot to bake the sweet potatoes. Fortunately, to make up for that horrific oversight, my mom made her famous Red Mung jello salad.

Red Mung has been a family tradition for holiday dinners since before I was born. My mom got the recipe from the wife of my dad's best friend back when they were all newlyweds, and Mom has been making it ever since. My children, nieces, and nephews demand it at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It just isn't a holiday without Red Mung, and now it's a multi-generational thing.

Don't ask me where its unattractive name came from because I don't know. I wasn't born yet, remember?

Red Mung
3 oz. box raspberry or strawberry gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 lb. can crushed pineapple, undrained
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 lb. box frozen strawberries in sugar
3 Tbsp lemon juice (or juice of one lemon)

Pour dry gelatin into the boiling water and stir until dissolved. Add the frozen strawberries, breaking them up and stirring them until thawed. Mix in all the other ingredients. Refrigerate until set. Serves 6. Double or triple the recipe for a crowd, but separate the gelatin mixture into several containers so it will still set up in time. 

If there's a more American recipe, I don't know what it is. A sweet gelatin salad with dinner? No, we don't count it as dessert. Slap it on that plate next to the mashed potatoes and boiled carrots and never mind if the juices mingle a bit.

Wait. I've done the math and there wasn't time for Mom and Dad to have any holiday dinners before I was born. They got married in January and I was born exactly nine months later -- to the day -- in October. We hadn't hit Thanksgiving or Christmas yet. So I was around, I guess, but I still don't know the reason for the naming of this salad. I really didn't care at the time.

Also, Mom must love me because she always makes me a special batch without bananas. Me and fresh bananas, we don't have a friendly relationship, but she doesn't want me to miss out on the tradition. I'm grateful for that, among many, many other wonderful things.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Intelligence is Relative

I had a happy moment today: as I was preparing to write a blog post for a sewer repair company, I decided to check the client's website for some specific information. As soon as I saw the website, I knew it had been created by the company I work for (that isn't always the case. Some clients pay for SEO without also wanting us to write their websites). I started reading it and immediately noted how well-written it was. Then I realized that it sounded like something I would have written. Curious, I looked it up, and sure enough, I was the author of the text, which had been completed back in April of this year.

That may sound like bragging, but it's really not. If you've read as many amateur websites as I have, you'll note that far too many of them contain a large number of astounding spelling and grammar errors. They also might be terribly long-winded or frustratingly uninformative. My job is to answer a potential customer's questions about what the business can do for them in a clear and concise manner, highlighting relevant information, and making it all very easy to scan in about 10 seconds or so. I also have to include at least 350 words per page, even if the current website from which I must glean information is scanty at best. Yeah, it's a hard, hard job I do.

Anyway, as I was reflecting with some pride on that, I ran some errands and stood in a line or two at stores. Then later, when I went to pick up the girls from school, I looked down and noticed my sweater had been inside-out the entire time.

Friday, November 16, 2012

An Introspective Moment Flavored with Both Joy and Sadness

One of my best friends back in high school was a boy with whom I fought on a very regular basis. We would sometimes go weeks without speaking to each other because of some misunderstanding or disagreement, and since I never fought with anyone else like that (I'm really not confrontational), I found it both disturbing and oddly fascinating in a satisfying way. We didn't have a dating relationship at all; in fact, I was often his sounding board for ideas on how to get the good looking girls to go out with him. Over the years we got used to our particular brand of relationship and developed a tight bond despite our constant arguments.

When his birthday rolled around during our senior year, we happened to be in one of our not-speaking modes. He had said something very hurtful to one of my female friends and I had chewed him out about it, and that caused an argument which led to the somewhat inevitable "Fine! I'm not talking to you anymore!" But as his birthday got closer, I spent some time dealing with a dilemma. On the one hand, what he had said to my friend was almost unforgivable; on the other hand, I wanted him to feel special on his birthday. So I quietly created a birthday poster, photocopied it about a dozen times, and taped the photocopies up around the school. It was a common practice in our school, and it meant you were at least somewhat popular if someone would go to all the trouble to do that for you. I watched him to see his reaction, and I was pleased that he was pleased. We still didn't start talking again for another couple weeks, and I don't think he ever asked if it was me and I never volunteered the information. To this day, though, that memory makes me happy. And I'm also pleased to tell you that we are still friends, though we haven't fought since we were at least 20.

I was thinking about that not only because it was his birthday this week but because I was feeling grateful that we'd managed to apologize to each other so many times and still pick up that thread of amity, that our friendship has lasted through decades of growing up. Here's to you, Mark. May your life be blessed. Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

What's difficult are the apologies you never gave and the pain you feel when you realize that the reasons you told yourself that apologizing was too difficult or impossible were, in reality, so petty and small and stupid. Such an unsaid apology can haunt your soul forever. I have one of those to give to someone, and perhaps it's too late now that so much time has passed and our lives have never intersected again. But I'm sorry. I truly am. And I always will be.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Primal Scream

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! No. No. NO, I can not write another article or blog post or website. I just can't do it, especially when I'm on my fifth article about colocation. I'm not a computer nerd (though I'm a nerd in many other respects), and I just don't want to do the research anymore. I got a break today and wrote about Japanese erasers, but I've got nothing left in me. It's gone.

Help me. Someone write a book I can edit. Someone offer me a job that won't make my brain sizzle out of my ears.

I need to go find my cheese, which I hope has been placed in the "we'll pay you to travel the country with your family and write about it" section of the maze. Or I'd even take the "we'll pay you to be a cosmetology guinea pig" nibble as long as I can make a good hourly wage.

Sigh. Pardon my outburst. Sometimes it just builds up to the exploding point and I have to yell for a while to calm down, even if the yelling is purely virtual. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Beasts I Live With

Our menagerie has slowly  -- and, perhaps, inevitably -- grown over the last three years of living in our home here in our small town. We do love animals, though as the adults in the family (usually), Husband and I have had to put our collective foot down several times. It's not foolproof, though it did spare us the addition of two cockatiels, but only barely. I actually wanted those birds, but they ended up in a home with a very attentive and loving person who doesn't have constantly hungry cats. Probably best.

The oldest and most venerable animal who allows us to feed, pet, and house him is Myles. He was the only one in his litter who didn't end up in a new home, so we've kept him for 10 years. He is still my dad's favorite cat of all time. He rules the house as the grumpy old man who scares the dogs nearly witless and doesn't put up with not being fed every five minutes. But he's really a soft and cuddly teddy bear who snuggles up for a good session of fuzz therapy whenever you need a cuddle. Of course, his habit of leaping onto the bed at 5:30am and kneading me with his claws until I stumble down the stairs and shove him out the door isn't my favorite thing in the world, but we all have our trials in life.

Lincoln is the polar opposite of Myles. We found Lincoln pacing back and forth in his cage at the pet store, an unfortunate inmate of the animal shelter because of his penchant for running up trees. Gabrielle used all her birthday money to purchase his freedom and then spent a week begging me to take him back because all he did was hide behind the couch and try to scratch people. He did eventually grow used to us and adopt us as his people, but it wasn't until after he was neutered that he and Myles finally became best buddies. Lincoln is outgoing and playful where Myles is quiet and brooding. And he's very much Gabrielle's cat. He loves her dearly.

I've talked about Jazzee before in this blog. She's not officially our dog, but she shuttles back and forth between our house and my friend Ruth's. It was kind of hard getting used to having a dog, what with the constant and sincere devotion and attention she pays to me; I was used to the much more disinterested cat personality up until that point. I pick her up nearly every day and she goes home at night, which suits her fine, since no one except her plays with her toys or chews on her chewy rawhides at her real house.

 Marmite came along earlier this year -- in February or March, I think. He was the stray that won our hearts, and he's the one who finally made me understand what dog people have been saying all along. He and Jazzee are best friends and they follow me wherever I go in the house -- my own little jingling parade of tags and fur and pure excitement. Whenever we put on our shoes and get ready to go out the door, Marmite is there, whining in anticipation of a car ride; and maybe, if he's really lucky, he'll get to go on a long walk in the field without wearing his leash, sniffing everything and running three miles to our one. He is fiercely devoted to all of us. I can't help but smile at his constant enthusiasm.

And then there's Yu. As lost kittens, she and her brother stayed with us for a few days until we located their owners. Turns out the owners live just around the corner, but they are fairly disinterested, and Yu visits us just about all the time. She is a cat with many names depending on which neighborhood kid you talk to (and all the neighbor children know and watch out for her): Ninja, Thunder, Dark Star, Midnight, Shadow. I never liked any of those names and simply called her Little Girl or Baby Girl until Husband suggested we name her after Granny Weatherwax's cat (one of Terry Pratchet's many delightful characters in his Discworld novels). So Yu she is. It makes for some hilarity of the extremely nerdy type. I enjoy saying things like, "Is Yu hungry?" and "Does Yu want to go out?" Just hand me the coke bottle glasses and the pocket protector.

Yu loves to tease Marmite. Loves it. It's practically her favorite pastime, though she does get a kick out of attacking my foot under the bed covers. Marmite, for his part, views her with some trepidation, but he doesn't like going out into the backyard without either Yu or Jazzee for company, so he puts up with it.

Funny how animals shape us and change us, isn't it? I get a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that an animal trusts me completely, and it makes me want to be a better person. It's like being smiled at by a baby: the sheer rush of joy you feel in that sweet moment seems to encourage some deep-seated desire to rise to any occasion where courage, honor, and integrity are required. Such is the power of this ingenuous innocence.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Half Month in Review

I turned 41. That's right, I said it.

Sian was named English Sterling Scholar for her school, which is a big accomplishment. We also took her to visit the Brigham Young University campus, which Husband enjoyed almost as much as Sian did. He was ready to sign up right there. Sian was very excited, and not just because our tour guide was a cute 22-year-old returned missionary with a great sense of humor.

Linnea and I almost started weight lifting this week.

There was a pair of shoes, these light green satin slingback heels, that I talked myself out of buying on my birthday; but today I went back and bought them. I guess I'll end up buying the perfume I talked myself out of purchasing on my birthday as well, though I can't give you a date on that yet since I don't know myself. Some things must be done purely spontaneously, and perfume is one of them.

I had a desperate week at work (total brain burnout) and started looking around for something else, but then I got an email that they were going to start paying me more. It's amazing how a raise can renew your enthusiasm.

Sian, Sophia, Elannah, Joseph, and I went and saw the junior high school play production of How the Rotten Pickle Gang Robbed a Bank...or Got Turned Into Jailbirds for Tryin' to support one of the girls in our neighborhood. You haven't seen it because tonight was the premiere performance of it anywhere. I was mildly disturbed by the fact that there were four "ladies of the night" who made a blatant attempt to quit "the business" and hook them some town men. The town women tried to run them off in order to keep their men. I mean, really. I know it was a melodrama, and I booed and hissed or awwwed as much as I could understand what, exactly, was going on (it was a junior high production, after all), but prostitutes in a junior high play? Sophia, who had dropped out of the play early on, said to me, "They cast me as one of those girls, but I didn't like it so I quit." I guess I can understand that.

I took my friend, Ruth, to the doctor in The Big City. She's pretty much homebound and hasn't gone shopping for about five years, so because she was feeling good, we went out after her appointment. She treated me to lunch at IHOP, her favorite place. Then we went to the craft store and Walmart. By the time we got home, I was exhausted. Hauling a wheelchair in and out of a small Kia about 50 times really took it out of me, not to mention pushing her around acres of store. That makes up for some of the weight lifting I missed.

Speaking of Ruth, it snowed so heavily today that I had to go over and shovel her walk and wheelchair ramp twice, plus climb up on the ladder and brush snow off her satellite dish. Service brings blessings -- in this case, more weight lifting as well as some stretching.

I bought a huge stack of books from the thrift store. It's cheaper than paying the inevitable late fines at the library, and then I can keep the books  in big stacks (I ran out of bookshelf space long ago) until I get into a cleaning frenzy and make myself edit severely. For some reason, I have an affinity for old needlecraft books. I love the bright, stylized shapes of the 70s, though I would choose different colors. I don't know who I'm kidding, though. When am I going to be churning out tons of vintage-style embroidery? Lest you wonder (yeah, right), I only bought one needlecrafting book. I also found a great Mexican cookbook, a book about persuasive speaking, a clearly written herbal reference book (you'd be surprised how difficult that is to find), and something on home decorating. I love thrift store bookshelves. They're a treasure trove of odd and interesting topics.

Now, aren't you glad you know all that about me?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Miss Congeniality 2012

When the chance came to sign up for this year's high school Homecoming pageant, Sian took the opportunity. She and several of her friends put their names on the list, and thus began a rush of workshops, practices, and shopping, which finally culminated in the pageant contest on a Thursday night.

Being frugal (or "poor Welsh peasants," as Husband calls it), the challenge was to find suitable formal attire that didn't require taking out a loan. Despite the horrific crowds, Sian located a lovely, full hot pink skirt on 50% off day at our favorite thrift store and paired it with a new cream cardigan from Rue 21. I thought the effect was lovely. But even more important than the clothing changes was the fact that her personality shone through during her interview and as she performed her talent, a piano piece. She, did, however, short herself on her bio, I thought. Her escort read it to the audience as Sian took her final walk around the stage, smiling and poised. Instead of touting all her many achievements, as most of the girls did, this is what she wrote:

"Sian is a girl who loves to use her imagination. She enjoys reading, writing, and both playing and composing music. She loves her family and enjoys the occasional ride on a flight simulator.

"Sian firmly believes that a life lived with no regrets is a life lived well. She loves trying new things and going to new places. Her goal in life is to be like her mother, whom she thinks is the most perfect, raddest mama in the universe."

What mother would not get at least a little teary-eyed at that?? She left out the stuff about her being Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper, serving on the Seminary Council, taking AP courses, and still maintaining a high GPA. She also neglected the part about having played with the Chamber Strings orchestra on her violin. But I know that what Sian put in there about family and living well are the most important things to her, and I couldn't be more proud.

Though she didn't end up on the Homecoming Court, she did win the Miss Congeniality award. And when it was all over, her escort asked her to accompany him to the Homecoming dance.

Above: on-stage after the pageant finished. Below: Sian, her escort (in gray), and some congratulatory friends.

Below: Sian and her date leaving for the Homecoming Dance.

The great thing about that skirt was that it was so full she got to wear comfortable shoes to the dance and no one even knew.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Patting Myself on the Back

I've had a brilliant idea about how to store all my earrings for easy access. Now that my ears are pierced, I find I'm a bit of an earring junkie. That adds to my necklace fetish and my urgent need to visit the shoe department of any department store I happen to be in (and also all the thrift stores, too. Ladies, I found a pair of the most adorable purple suede Steve Madden booties for $7 a few weeks ago. That's right, bow to the master.).

The nice thing about earrings and necklaces and shoes is that they fit you no matter what your current dress size. Even if (when?) I manage to lose the chub, I can still wear those booties. And my appreciation for chunky necklaces and interesting danglies is not a wasted investment, either. I would certainly love to be forced to shop for a new, thinner wardrobe, of course, but that's in the future.

Anyway, my brilliant idea is neither expensive nor difficult to create, so I'm going ahead with it. Maybe this fit of creativity also produced what I like to think of as an incredibly well-written website yesterday. I was very proud of it. I try to write well on all my work items, but sometimes the brain juices are really flowing and I turn out a masterpiece.

I'd say this calls for a celebration with ice cream, but there's the chub issue. I'll celebrate by using the Total Gym when sitting in front of my computer gets to be too difficult to take.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I've Still Got a Couple Years Left in Me

So when does a person start feeling old? I mean mentally? It's not hard to notice the effects of aging in a physical sense (like every time I stand up after sitting for a while and have to give my right knee a moment to catch up), but I feel just as young -- if a little more wise -- as I did when I was...well...young.

Last night, it was my turn to hang out with the young single adults in our stake (the kids who are 18 - 30 years old and not married) and play volleyball. The only other woman my age who was there was one of the young single adult advisers. Her name is Renee, and she's petite and fun and has no problem fitting right in with the younger crowd despite the fact that a couple of her kids are in the young singles category, or maybe because of it. She brings great snacks, she knows all the kids by name, and she teases them like they tease her.

While I didn't walk in feeling as awkward as I would have had I been younger (yay! a benefit of age!), I still got the feeling those kids look at me as a sort of oddity, a reminder that youth eventually dies and the glorious dreams of the young morph into the reality of trying to live a good, if somewhat obscure, life.

Or maybe they don't think that. Maybe they just don't know my name and are curious about why I crashed their party.

I set my stuff down and watched the games going on for a moment, but when I realized one team was short a player, I kicked off my shoes and joined in. And I had a blast! With Renee shouting out hilarious advice and playing her hardest, everyone relaxed and had a good time. It helps that I'm not terrible at volleyball, as well. Yeah, this old girl with her bum knee and extra jiggle did manage to make some dang good plays, if I do say so myself; and though I'm not as outgoing and bubbly as Renee, I got to know the kids around me a bit. We laughed and joked, and I saw them begin to accept me not as a chaperone-type person but just as a person.

If I could go back to my youthful body and keep my hard-earned knowledge, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But if the choice was to be young again while forgetting everything I've lived, I'll keep my creakier body and my decades. I don't feel old. I'm still surprised I'm going to hit 41 in a month, and, really, age and youth are all relative. When I'm 80, 41 will seem pretty spry and bouncy, and I'm sure at 80 I'll still feel excited by all the stuff I don't know yet that's just waiting to be discovered. And when I'm 80, I'll be offended that my younger self thought being 80 was so old.

Meanwhile, I may just show up to play volleyball next week, even if it's technically not my turn. We old people somehow never manage to organize volleyball games for ourselves. I haven't slept that well in ages.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It Only Took Four Years to Figure This Out

Last week, I decided something needed to change. Since Husband and I had had that conversation about being more organized, I really have been trying, but I still can't force my brain to fully cooperate within the prescribed hours of official writing time. Frustration.

It did dawn on me one day, however, that I always do better after allowing myself a completely guilt-free break from writing for a day (a day that is not Sunday. I never do writing work on Sundays, but I am plenty busy with a multitude of church meetings), so I concocted a clever plan: I write every other day. On writing days, I do nothing else but write. I do not stress over anything else, including housework. On non-writing days, I do not stress about writing in any way (except for checking to see if any plumb assignments are up for grabs so that I can do them the next day).

I don't know why I didn't think of that earlier. I remember one semester in college when I crammed all my classes into three days and then had Tuesdays and Thursdays to mentally de-stress and get homework done. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were long, long days, but I always knew that the next day I could take a bit of a break. The kind of writing I do is extremely mentally fatiguing, and dreading the dawn of yet another day when I have to sit in front of the computer cranking out well-crafted articles and websites only hinders my thinking powers (which are already somewhat limited due to my chronic sleep deprivation). Knowing that the next day is a break helps me focus and concentrate with good will.

So far, it's been working really well. I am far more productive on writing days because that's all I worry about. Plus, I know that tomorrow morning I can plan out any activities I want to do without being chained to the computer. Spend a morning washing dishes while listening to talk radio? I can do that! Successfully complete 30 loads of laundry? Ready! Wile away an hour at the library? Acceptable! The end result is that I actually finish more paid work in three days of focused writing than in five days of scattered and stressful attempts to get everything done.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bankruptcy Court

I went to bankruptcy court a few weeks ago -- not for myself, but because I was accompanying a friend who didn't want to go by herself and who needed a ride. Having written numerous websites for bankruptcy lawyers, it was interesting to finally see the process in action. Since the beginning, I've been the liason between my friend and her lawyer, running paperwork back and forth, helping her fill in the mountains of information her lawyer needed in order to successfully file on her behalf, and finally watching the finale of the long and stressful journey. I feel I can write with far more knowledge and depth on the subject. How ironic I haven't picked up any bankruptcy lawyer websites lately. Personal injury, Social Security Disability and Workers' Comp, and divorce lawyers, yes. But it's been a while for bankruptcy.

If you've never been to bankruptcy court, I'll tell you all about it. After we finally located the correct building in The Big City's downtown area, we entered a room decorated in what I like to call Government Bleah: gray carpet, white walls, florescent lighting, gray waiting room chairs, official posters in both English and Spanish hanging on the walls...you know exactly what I'm talking about because you've been there many times yourself, or at least in some government office that looks exactly like it. At the front of this long room were three tables set in a U formation, behind which sat a bored but pleasant-looking middle-aged woman typing away at a computer. To her right was a microphone, behind which were three surprisingly comfortable looking chairs. On another table sat another microphone and a chair. Facing these tables were rows of far less comfortable waiting room chairs, and here is where we sat down, along with a number of others who looked just as hesitant and confused as we did.

The woman, dark-haired and somehow official despite the fact that she wore nothing too distinguishing or flashy, stood and announced that we were in bankruptcy court. After giving us a few instructions, she sat down again and called up the first case. Those people went and sat in the chairs to her right along with their lawyer. The official woman then asked a series of questions, to which they answered yes or no. There was some shuffling of papers and an unanswered call for any creditors who wished to make a statement (in fact, not one creditor showed up for any of the cases I witnessed), and then the case was closed and another was called.

The only amusing thing that happened in two hours was that a tall blonde woman walked in at one point and sat very deliberately near a couple who were sitting in the row in front of us. The blonde woman sat and glared at the couple, who ignored her for a few seconds. Then the man turned back to us and said, "I'm getting the staredown," and laughed. Not knowing if "the staredown" was something that normally happened to people in bankruptcy court, I furtively watched the angry blonde woman and came to the conclusion that she must be a creditor who was very upset with the fact that these people were declaring bankruptcy; but when she leaned over and angrily whispered something  to the man and woman, it was immediately apparent that she knew them on a more personal level. From what I gathered from subsequent events, the woman of the couple was an ex-spouse to a man who was declaring bankruptcy, and the angry blonde woman was the bankrupt man's current wife or girlfriend (or someone who was strongly on his side). A house had not been sold as per the divorce agreement, which caused the official a little concern. The ex-wife stood up and told the judge she'd had it on the market for a year without success, and the blonde woman snorted in disbelief. When the ex sat down, the blonde woman stage-whispered to her, "Yeah right, it hasn't even been listed yet. Way to lie!"

Bankruptcy court AND a show!

My friend's lawyer was late, but he walked in before any of his cases were called. When it was my friend's turn, the questions were asked and answered and it was all over in about two minutes. Nothing dramatic, all routine. (Interesting side note: it was the first time my friend had ever met her lawyer in person.)

I guess I kind of thought something more dramatic would happen. There wasn't even any weeping or wailing, no stern looks from the official, no explosive denunciations from a creditor. Nothing like that. Just a lot of sitting and waiting, which has always been my experience when dealing with government sorts of things.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Even Demigods Have it Rough Once in a While

I had fourteen things on my to-do list today and only managed to accomplish four and a bit. The bit was in turning on the lawn mower, mowing a strip, and finally putting the stupid thing away after I couldn't figure out how to keep it running (and yes, I checked the gas tank, thank you).

Husband and I had had a talk last night about my organizational skills -- or lack thereof. Now that I am required to produce a quota of completed work items each week (a quota set by the company and not by me, as was formerly the case), and given that I'm often desperately sitting in front of my computer trying to make my brain work long enough to spit out at least six work items, each at least 400 words of something having to do with whatever obscure keyword I've been assigned, everything else kind of gets left in the dust. Dinner, for instance, happened somewhere south of 9 pm last night, long after I wanted the kids to be in bed.

Husband argued that because I work from home, there are no boundaries between work and everything else. I need to have a quitting time, after which I do other things that do not involve work writing. It's not like I love what I do so much that I can't bear to leave it alone; it's that I struggle to keep the gray matter going day after day, and when I haven't completed my daily quota, I feel horribly guilty until I fall into bed. There's a lot of pressure to produce as many work items as I can, since I get paid by the piece and not the hour, and that need bleeds into every hour of every day.

I've been thinking about my favorite poem. I know I've stated I'm not much of a poetry lover, but this poem was sent to me during my LDS mission and it hit me hard. I've loved it ever since. We often forget, in our struggles to accomplish enormous lists of responsibilities, that our efforts do make a difference, even when we feel we fall far short. So, without further ado, I present my most favorite poem ever:

The Labors Of Thor

by David Wagoner

Stiff as the icicles in their beards, the Ice Kings
Sat in the great cold hall and stared at Thor
Who had lumbered this far north to stagger them
With his gifts, which (back at home) seemed scarcely human.

“Immodesty forbids,” his sideman Loki
Proclaimed throughout the preliminary bragging,
And reeled off Thor’s accomplishments, fit for Sagas
Or a seat on the bench of the gods. With a sliver of beard

An Ice King picked his teeth: “Is he a drinker?”
And Loki boasted of challengers laid out
As cold as pickled herring. The Ice King offered
A horn-cup, long as a harp’s neck, full of mead.

Thor braced himself for elbow and belly room
And tipped the cup and drank as deep as mackerel,
Then deeper, reaching down for the halibut
Till his broad belt buckled. He had quaffed one inch.

“Maybe he’s better at something else,” an Ice King
Muttered, yawning. Remembering the boulders
He’d seen Thor heave and toss in the pitch of anger,
Loki proposed a bout of lifting weights.

“You men have been humping rocks from here to there
For ages,” an Ice King said. “They cut no ice.
Lift something harder.” And he whistled out
A gray-green cat with cold, mouseholey eyes.

Thor gave it a pat, then thrust both heavy hands
Under it, stooped and heisted, heisted again,
Turned red in the face and bit his lip and heisted
From the bottom of his heart—and lifted one limp forepaw.

Now pink in the face himself, Loki said quickly
That heroes can have bad days, like bards and beggars,
But Thor of all mortals was the grossest wrestler
And would stake his demigodhood on one fall.

Seeming too bored to bother, an Ice King waved
His chilly fingers around the mead-hall, saying,
“Does anyone need some trifling exercise
Before we go glacier-calving in the morning?”

An old crone hobbled in, foul-faced and gamy,
As bent in the back as any bitch of burden,
As gray as water, as feeble as an oyster.
An Ice King said, “She’s thrown some boys in her time.”

Thor would have left, insulted, but Loki whispered,
“When the word gets south, she’ll be at least an ogress.”
Thor reached out sullenly and grabbed her elbow,
But she quicksilvered him and grinned her gums.

Thor tried his patented hammerlock takedown,
But she melted away like steam from a leaky sauna.
He tried a whole Nelson; it shrank to half, to a quarter,
Then nothing. He stood there, panting at the ceiling,

“Who got me into this demigoddiness?”
As flashy as lightning, the woman belted him
With her bony fist and boomed him to one knee,
But fell to a knee herself, as pale as moonlight.

Bawling for shame, Thor left by the back door,
Refusing to be consoled by Loki’s plans
For a quick revision in the Northodox Version
Of the evening’s deeds, including Thor’s translation

From vulnerable flesh and sinew into a dish
Fit for the gods and a full apotheosis
With catches and special effects by the sharpest gleemen
Available in an otherwise flat season.

He went back south, tasting his bitter lesson,
Moment by moment, for the rest of his life,
Believing himself a pushover faking greatness
Along a tawdry strain of misadventures.

Meanwhile, the Ice Kings trembled in their chairs
But not from the cold--they’d seen a man hoist high
The Great Horn-Cup that ends deep in the ocean
And lower all Seven Seas by his own stature;

They’d seen him budge the Cat of the World and heft
The pillar of one paw, the whole north corner;
They’d seen a mere man wrestle with Death herself
And match her knee for knee, grunting like thunder.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Don't Know the Real Eva Aurora? Maybe That's a Blessing

I used to write in a journal. I wrote long, long entries, full of angst and joy and deep thoughts. I wrote until I couldn't keep my eyes open late at night. I wrote when I was frustrated or feeling like a loser. I wrote when something beautiful happened. In short, I wrote a lot and I recorded my life from the time I was about 6 and my mother gave me my first red journal full of blank pages to the time I was married and I had filled up many notebooks.

I looked in my current journal the other day and realized that the last thing of note that I had recorded in my journal was in 2006. 6 years ago! Not only that, but the event about which I wrote was terribly significant for me. Unfortunately, as I read that entry, I could only remember the bare essence of it. This amazing spiritual experience was mostly lost in the mists of my mind. Had I not written it down, I would have nothing of it left. What else of such importance have I forgotten?

I don't, of course, have all that time to write in my journal anymore -- at least, not with a pen on paper. I tried on Sunday, and after a mere 200 words, my hand was so sore I could barely grip the pen. My blog -- my poor, neglected blog -- has sufficed as a place to record some things, but with a blog like this, I can't put all my deepest feelings and thoughts and emotions out into the open as freely as if I were writing in a private journal. Even if I use a pen name, it's still too public, and many of my friends know who Eva Aurora really is. I don't think they really want to read about my deepest thoughts and feelings and then see me at church or at the grocery store.

Or maybe they do. Sickos.

Anyway, the point is, I am making a go of writing in my journal again. I could just type things and print them and collect them in a binder (which I have done before), but I miss the quiet, contemplative moments needed to shape words into sentences and then write them out, letter by letter. Even if I can only write a little bit, I figure it's better than nothing. And, if worse comes to worse, I can always spend five minutes and type it all up.

The one problem I have that I didn't face as a younger, single person, is the thought that my journal will be read by my posterity. At least, the idea that anyone else would want to read it never seemed quite so real until I had my own children. Now I measure what I write by the yardstick of what I want to leave as a legacy to my kids. I should quit thinking like that and just burn everything when I reach the age of 80.

One thing my journal is lacking, like my blog, is pictures. At least I'm consistent in that way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


You may see my blog morphing through changes. Do not be alarmed. My lack of technology genes is combining with my need for something different. All that can result is a riot of chaos, but this chaos will not affect you in any discernible way (unless, of course, I accidentally push the wrong button and then BAM!)

That is all.

Friday, August 3, 2012

I'm Not Planning to Riot. Are You?

Here's something worrying: I have a friend in the military who says they've been trained numerous times in the past few months on riot control. He is stationed in California. Along with all the other stories about military being trained for domestic policing purposes, this makes me veeeery nervous.

Here's something else: I can't stand this blog format anymore. Not only is it confusing, it's just all...gray. Boring. Bleah. I might be changing that very soon.

That is all. I cannot sit here and type any more words on this computer today. I will probably go absolutely and unequivocally nuts if I don't get up and do something else -- even if it's laundry.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Kind of Miss Deja Vu

Remember deja vu? That odd feeling you've been in that situation before, saying those words, listening to someone else say those words? It's a strange sort of minute or two.

I was talking to my friend, Dennis, last week, who happened to be in town for a family reunion and whom I haven't seen since the college years, and the subject came up. We compared notes and realized neither of us had experienced deja vu in a long time -- several years, in fact. Since we're roughly the same age, I wondered how many others in the 40-something category have quit having those deja vu moments. Or is it just us?

He mentioned that he'd read someone's near-death experience (he couldn't remember whose or I would go and find the exact quote for you), and the author stated that deja vu happened because we'd been given an overview of our lives before we were born. That assumes, of course, that each of us existed in some coherent, intelligent state before being born on earth (which I happen to believe, since I believe the soul is eternal), but it doesn't answer the question of why deja vu would stop after a certain age. In my case, and assuming what the author said is correct, did I see enough and say, "Yes! Sign me up! I'm ready to go"? Or did I make a turn somewhere on my road of life and choose a different path, thus negating any future deja vu moments because I'm now treading new ground?

I don't really care either way. I was just wondering why the deja vu thing was over for me, but if I have another deja vu moment, I'll be sure to note it with surprise and curiosity. Now that I'm really aware, I'll be looking.

Friday, July 27, 2012


This makes the 10th time I've begun this post. The only reason for all the false starts is that I am writing so much for work that I can't stop editing myself into oblivion when it comes to writing for my own pleasure.

But just so you know, I'm still here. And here are some highlights of my summer thus far:

I gave myself a very effective pedicure with Husband's orbital sander and some fine-grit paper. If you have been assuming that combining power tools with beauty maintenance is a win/win situation, you are absolutely correct (exhibit A: the power sander for facial skin cleansing that's all the rage on infomercials). It was a bit ticklish, and one must keep the sander moving constantly to avoid burning the skin, but now I can confidently wear my strappy leather heels without feeling at all self-conscious. Plus, it saved hours of sitting around using a hand file, even if I justify the watching of a movie during that type of pedicure.

Sian and I have been taking an organ playing workshop from Linnea. Our skills will be put to the test on Sunday during church.

Husband landed an agent for his book! The agent is now pitching the book to purchasing editors of major New York publishing houses. This is a huge step, and we've been very pleased, but we haven't started spending money like he's J.K. Rowling just yet. Meanwhile, Husband has completed the outline and first few chapters of the next book in the series, which his agent strongly encouraged. While Husband thought selling a standalone from an unknown author would be easier, the agent told him that in the YA fantasy genre, they're happy to get series (serieses?).

I'm just a little bit overwhelmed with my to-do list of responsibilities lately.

For your information, this post took me nearly three hours to complete. Maybe editing can turn into a disease at some point: you become so worried about getting it just right that you can no longer write anything at all, and eventually my blog posts -- when I publish anything -- will consist of a single word. Or letter.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"MOM?? You're going to climb a rock wall?? At your age??"

Today I climbed an entire rock wall. The National Guard set up a climbing wall in the parking lot of a local grocery store. Why not? I thought. Even if I'm (mumble) pounds overweight, I'm going to give it a shot. In fact, the whole family gave it a shot. I am proud to say that I made it all the way to the top despite a sudden and nearly paralyzing fear that the wind would blow the entire structure down on top of me. I pushed the button and I earned my National Guard lanyard fair and square.

See? That's me.

Husband, Elannah, and Sophia also made it all the way up, Elannah and Sophia multiple times. But everyone tried, including the little boys.

Here's Elannah just getting started on one of probably three or four climbs.

Above, from left: Elannah, Husband, Joseph, and Sian. We dominated the wall.
Below: Joseph had had enough, but Husband kept going.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shoulder Angel, Take a Bow!

Somehow, the word has been going around that I'm great at putting together posters and flyers for events. So far, I've been put in charge of three publicity committees relating to stake and regional church activities.

The problem with this is that I have explained over and over that it is not I who has the skills, it is my husband. He's the one who is a whiz with Adobe Illustrator. All I do is say, "My dear, I need to create a flyer, and by I, I mean you. Can you help me?" And he sits down at his computer and I sit nearby on the Total Gym to give him moral support (which, sadly, is the only time I touch the Total Gym) and within 15 minutes he's put together something fantastic. Everyone oohs and ahhhs at the finished product and I modestly flutter my eyelashes at their compliments and make it a point to remind them that all I did was cheerlead and tell Husband what information needs to be included. But people don't listen to that part. I guess, as the messenger handing over the finished flyer, I get all the glory.

I find it truly unsettling to be given credit for skills I just don't have and couldn't even begin to fake in a pinch.

The other day, I was attempting to sing. Sure, I can read music and carry a tune, but what comes out of my mouth is nothing like what I would love to hear coming out of my mouth. I am extremely aware of the difference between reality and fantasy in my singing abilities, and you'd never catch me showing up to one of those reality television show auditions absolutely convinced of my phenom status only to become the butt of a horrible joke. For a second, I was tempted to feel badly about myself, but decided I really didn't want to go down that road. It's just so depressing, and I don't have time to be all depressed about stupid things. Therefore, I was able to hear Shoulder Angel reminding me that I do have talents and skills in other areas, talents I have worked hard to improve, even if they aren't always as polished as I impatiently wish they were.What's even more exciting is that I could add to my arsenal, given enough time and quality practice.

Husband can manipulate Illustrator better than I can play the piano. He has spent time and effort learning it and utilizing it. If it was important enough to me, I could learn it, too. And he could learn to play the piano and read music. I've signed Sian and myself up for a course in playing the organ, which is being taught by Linnea, who is fantastically talented musically and in other ways. She is sharing her talents and I get to improve mine. Human life value is exploding all over the place!

Monday, June 11, 2012

24K Food Analysis

My in-laws are all settled in their new home, and things are getting back to normal again. It's very nice having them just down the street.

My mother-in-law (MIL) showed me something she's been doing. She's been "gold-chaining" her food, and it's really working for her. I had never heard of it, but being the enthusiastic learner of all things light and energy, I took to it right away. My FIL and Hubby? Well, they're far more skeptical, although they see it works for MIL and can't deny the results.

What you do: hold a gold chain (must have some real gold in it, even if it's a lower amount) over whatever food it is you wish to test. It's best to stand or sit at a height where you are not stretching or straining to hold the chain. Tuck your elbow into your side (for support) and hold the top of the chain (or a gold pendant that is attached to the chain) with your thumb and first finger on your dominant hand so that it is hanging vertically over the food. Keep very still. After a bit, the end of the chain will begin to swing back and forth, eventually turning in a circle. If it's a counter-clockwise circle (or "anti-clockwise," if you're British), the food isn't good for you. If the chain swings clockwise, it's something that will benefit your body. A few times, I've watched the chain swing back and forth but never circle. Since it happens over and over with those particular foods, I figure swinging with no circling means the food is neutral -- neither beneficial nor detrimental.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "You loony nut, the phone's ringing. It's the 60s, and they want their hippies back." Fair enough. Read on and decide for yourself.

MIL has had a touchy stomach for a number of years. The wrong foods will cause her stomach pain, so she's very careful about what she eats. When a friend of hers suggested using a gold chain and a doctor admitted that though he sees no logical reason why it should work, many of his patients use this with great success, she decided to try it. She immediately found that avoiding foods that were not beneficial according to the chain has nearly eliminated her stomach pain. She'd avoided pain altogether for a while until I cooked a family dinner last Sunday and roasted the carrots in vegetable oil (I had forgotten to buy coconut oil). The carrots are fine, but vegetable oil is a no-no for her. She liked them so much she still had some, but she paid for it.

Curious, I bought a gold chain and put on it a gold heart locket I've had for years so I could try it for myself. It's been a very unscientific study, but the results are very interesting. I tested things I already knew I can't comfortably eat (cow's milk, bananas) and things I know make me feel good (almond and coconut milks, quinoa). I don't have a clue about most foods, so I've been trying everything, including separate ingredients and combinations. Grapes are neutral for me, but I'm a "go" for cherries. Almond and coconut milks are, indeed, beneficial for me, but quinoa merited a resounding counter-clockwise circle. NO! I love quinoa! Corn is a no, and so is pork. Chicken and turkey are okay. Butter is good but mayo and shortening are bad. And so on. MIL's and my results are often not the same, but, then, we have two very different blood types. For instance, she's okay for eggplant, but I got a negative result. She's okay with corn and pork, too.

I realize how this sounds, and I'm writing this a little tongue-in-cheek. For the record, I also tested the dining room table (neutral) and my own arm (definitely a no). I still have the chain in my pocket, and I'm testing just about every food I eat out of curiosity. (Also curious: I found the chain doesn't work very well if it's been stored near money. When I keep it away from coins and close to my skin, it seems to work better and faster.)

I figure it's merely another form of kinesiology. You can do a similar test on foods by holding up one arm parallel to the floor while holding the food (or another edible substance, like liquids or medication) in question in your other hand. If another person can push your extended arm down easily, the food you're holding is not beneficial to you. If you can resist the push, the food is beneficial. It's all about energy, and I'm far more inclined to believe this sort of thing is efficacious because of my reading on quantum physics. And besides, it's just fun. Great for parties.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Kids are Going to be So Spoiled with All These Grandparents Around

A long while back, I caused a bit of a family brouhaha and I wasn't feeling very happy when I wrote this post. What happened was this:

Last May, when my in-laws came from England to visit us, we were walking by a darling red stucco house down the street that was for sale. We had known the previous occupants, and feeling curious, we climbed the fence into the backyard and looked through the back windows. Maybe we would have felt more guilty about it if we didn't happen to know all the neighbors.

As we stood in the backyard, taking in the glorious view, my mother-in-law (MIL) sighed in delight and said, "I just feel like this is where we are supposed to live."  After that, we went around and looked at some other houses for sale, but none of them had the same effect as the first one. My FIL teased my MIL a bit about the whole thing during the rest of their stay with us, but she kept referring to that red house as her house.

When they left us, they went to stay with one of Husband's brothers in another part of the country (the brother who met his future wife at our wedding reception). While there, both MIL and FIL had a very strong feeling they needed to go ahead and buy the red stucco house. Long story short: they did.

My mistake was in one day posting a status update to Facebook about them moving in down the street. I wasn't thinking, and I normally think before hitting the "enter" button and putting something out there into the open. Well, since the British rellies hadn't been told yet, phone lines began to burn up in England and then in trans-Atlantic calls of shock and horror to my in-laws. With so many more children and grandchildren living in England and Wales than the States (including the only daughter of those seven children), how could they possibly think about moving here permanently?!? 

I got a brusque phone call from my FIL requesting that I delete the Facebook update immediately. While the cat was out of the bag with the rest of the kids, he was worried that word would get around to MIL's and FIL's workplaces, triggering firings. Since both of them only had months left before they could begin drawing their pensions, it would have created a financially devastating tragedy.

I felt absolutely horrible. Really, I had one of the worst days of my life that day. I don't find it at all amusing to be on the business end of family anger, even if I knew it would eventually fade and go away. Fortunately, Husband wasn't angry with me and kept telling me it would pass with no permanent harm done.

Now, a year later, MIL and FIL are finally making the big move.They fly in next Tuesday. I've been officially forgiven as the bearer of bad news, though the kids and grandkids in England and Wales are very sad about losing two people who have given them so much support and love. They understand that Husband and I were not involved in a conspiracy to get MIL and FIL to move here. And the silver lining is that they'll have a place to stay when they visit the States. With three big bedrooms and a huge family room, MIL and FIL are ready for guests.

Now the interesting part begins. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I Better Get This Offshore Drilling Injury Taken Care Of

A few weeks ago, I was writing about offshore oil drilling and injury. I googled the topic and visited a lawyer's website that specializes in offshore injury cases in order to get some information, as I like to be at least somewhat accurate in what I write. Since then, that particular law office has been trying to get my attention. The ad pops up everywhere I go, sometimes twice on a page. Have you been injured offshore? it desperately asks, worried I might be missing my opportunity to get justice. Call us!

Just so you know, the Law Offices of Arnold & Itkin LLP are ready to help you. They have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars. And now that you know that, whatever you do, do NOT look them up because if you use the same browser I do, they'll be trying to get your attention, too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I've Just Written for 6 Hours, so This is What You Get

It's getting warm, but I haven't yet succumbed to turning on the air conditioner. That may not last much longer.

Little Gary passed his kindergarten assessment with flying colors. For a kid I thought would drop out of preschool within the first week, he's come a long way. And while I was thinking I'd hold him back a year because he'll barely be 5 when school starts in the fall, I'm now satisfied he'll do just fine.

We cleaned out the garage and put a bunch of stuff we don't want on the curb for trash pickup. Already the pile has diminished as people come along and ask to take things. Hey, be my guest. 

Marmite the dog is finally to a place where he doesn't tear off down the road the moment he gets a chance. I guess he's decided to stay, which is a good thing because we are all thoroughly in love with him now.

So, have you bought the books yet?

Monday, May 21, 2012

But When Kimbra's New Album is Released, I'm Making Some Purchases

I burned a mixed CD a while ago. It's called Totally Cool Music, which, I agree, is a pretty lame title, but it works for my purposes.

Here's what's on it:

This Moment   ~French Horn Rebellion
Ordinary World  ~Duran Duran
Wheels  ~Jamie Cullum
Fallin' For You  ~Colbie Caillat
You and Me are Gone  ~Jamie Cullum
Crush  ~Dave Matthews Band
Sideways  ~Citizen Cope
Nobody  ~Eliza Doolittle (a few of my girls would keep this one on a constant loop if it wouldn't drive me crazy)
All About Your Heart  ~Mindy Gledhill
White Flag  ~Dido
Black Velvet  ~Alanah Myles
AB_Machines  ~French Horn Rebellion (the kids like this one)
No One is to Blame  ~Howard Jones
No Air  ~Jordin Sparks
Get Your Way  ~Jamie Cullum
Losing Sleep (Still, My Heart)  ~Vangelis

So...have you bought the books yet?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's Not "The Secret"

I've been reading about quantum physics and subatomic particles. For the last few weeks, I've been having a hard time getting anything else done because my mind has been so happily distracted. So even if I'm churning out my daily quota of paid writing (with Husband's help, now that Little Gary has graduated from preschool and has only his mommy for entertainment, and that situation is hardly conducive to the quiet, reflective thinking I require to write anything coherent), I've frequently found myself staring off into space, daydreaming about The Zero Point Field.

It's good to lead off with the fact that you're reading about quantum physics, or even mention subatomic particles in casual conversation. In general, it sounds impressive, which fools your friends into thinking you're really smart even while you're laughing at yourself for your utter nerdiness. The other day, however, I got a little overexcited and actually did bring up the concepts of nonlocality and coherence in casual conversation in an attempt to illustrate a point. My problem is that I am excited to share these things not because I can look intelligent but because the implications of those concepts are so profound and I want everyone to be as thrilled about it as I am. My other problem is that I am not familiar enough yet with the information to be able to clearly describe what it is I want to say.

So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to go back and start sorting out my thoughts so I can share them here in little increments. Meanwhile, you'll go and find and read these two books: The Field and The Intention Experiment, both by Lynne McTaggart. I promise they're great reads, and maybe you'll start feeling the urge to talk about the fact that we create our reality every second of the day and how we're all connected to each other and to the cosmos through the Zero Point Field.

C'mon. It'll be fun!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Politics of the School Playground

A big part of my fascination with politics is my fascination with what makes people tick. There are the big and obvious motivators of money and power working alongside the much more subjective motivators of the unique filters and perceptions each individual forms about life and reality. That stew of ambition, self-perception, personal opinion, character strengths, character flaws, and the deeply ingrained beliefs of the subconscious all work together to steer these men and women toward a certain goal.

My theory is that you can explain and predict just about every aspect of society based on what happens on an elementary school playground. Kids, after all, are simply expressing the unvarnished truth of who we are as adults, and even if adults are more sophisticated in their desires, the underlying cause of any given desire can usually be traced back to the basic personality you had as a kid (and no, I'm absolutely not of the Freudian philosophy).

Does that make sense or am I way off base do you think?  I'll explain myself better in future posts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Rarity of Photographs to Celebrate Spring

 During Spring Break, we did nothing. Then, on the last possible day, we went to the park, which is a lame excuse for a Spring Break activity, I agree, but better than nothing at all. I remembered to take the camera (yay, me!) and got some shots of the kids. After the park, we got burgers for lunch and a movie to watch at home. That is how we rock and roll, people, when we're cash strapped and ready for fun! Above is Elannah, recently turned 11.
 In this shot and the one below, Sophia is attempting to scale the soccer goal posts. Elannah, the little gymnast, had already managed it. Sian (in the green jacket) is trying to help.

 My little Joseph is getting so tall we buy him new clothing every single week, or so it seems.
 I don't know if you can see it very well, but Gabrielle had the tips of her hair bleached by a neighbor as a birthday present. I told her she should have been a little more bold and gone completely blonde. In the background, you can see Elannah clinging to the goal post. What you can't tell is that she's screaming because Husband is attempting to hit her with the big, yellow rubber four-square ball we brought to play with. All in good fun. And no, he wasn't really trying to hit her, but it was just too tempting because of all the dramatic screaming.
 Picturesque, no? Add a few sheep and some shaggy goats to this picture and you could imagine it was a scene from Heidi, if Heidi were hanging out with her sibs playing soccer (actually pictured are Elannah, far left, Sian, middle, and Gabrielle, right.). No sheep were injured in the aftermath of this photo, but if I remember correctly, there might have been a ball to someone's head.
 Little Gary, also of the constantly growing club. He is also constantly hungry. He will probably grow to about 7 feet tall at this rate.By his 6th birthday.

 Husband played Bomb Drop with the kids, as well as soccer.

In other news, Sophia did the Napoleon Dynamite dance in front of her entire school when she was running for student body officer. That takes some serious courage.

Little Gary is having issues with his bladder. He hates his bladder, as he frequently tells me, since it ALWAYS HAS TO PEE! Usually, this inconvenient full bladder sensation occurs during some very interesting activity. Then he runs upstairs to my room, slams the door, and yells, "I hate my bladder!" It's his fault, though, since he keeps drinking liquids.

Husband and I got to visit with a very dear friend from our mission days. She flew from England to be here over General Conference weekend. It was so much fun to see her again and meet her friend, who came with her.

I used to write blurbs for a well-known but recently notorious Lap-Band surgery center. I wrote 60 blurbs a month for 11 months and one week (total blurbs: 675), but I saw the writing on the wall when Allergan, the makers of the Lap-Band, announced they were no longer selling their product to this company. Sure enough, after I had completed the first installment of blurbs for April, I got an immediate email from my supervisor informing me that it was all over. My distinct relief is mixed with sorrow, for though it was a hard thing to come up with new things to say for that long, it was really good money for relatively easy work.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Marmite, a Wag of a Tale

We accidentally acquired a dog last month, one that is entirely ours and does not go home every night. He was a stray, a little poodle (or something) who has a penchant for adventure. He came to us slowly, by degrees, and it was only after he finally won Husband's heart that we could really call him our very own at last.

His previous owners, so the tale goes, also had a pitbull and this pitbull thought it good sport to attack Marmite, who is a fairly small dog. Rather than give Marmite away, the owners just let him loose to fend for himself, which was exactly what he did for a month until he was caught. Then, somehow, he ended up with Ruth, who is Jazzee's  mom.

Jazzee, as you'll remember, is our day dog. She's the sweet little shih tzu I pick up every day because Ruth is disabled and can't play with her. Marmite and Jazzee were instant friends, but Ruth couldn't handle another dog and was forced to call the animal shelter to arrange a pick-up. I said I'd take Marmite (who was being called "Petey" at this point. Are you still following me?) along with Jazzee that day, but the animal shelter never showed up and so we took him home the next day and the next, as well. Finally, on a Sunday night, the night before the animal shelter really was going to come and get Marmite, Husband found himself smitten against his will and decided to keep him.

The family voted and named him Marmite because, as Husband said, he just wants everyone in the family to love Marmite (and if you've never tried Marmite, you probably aren't sure why loving it or not could be a question. Believe me, it's an acquired taste. What is Marmite, you ask? Marmite is a very salty yeast extract, rich in B vitamins, beloved of some British persons; and if that description doesn't get your tastebuds tingling...well, I can't help that, since I believe those who crave Marmite probably also crave black pudding.) Marmite's full name is Sir Marmite, Earl of Toast. We're casual people, though, and don't stand much on ceremony.

 He loves to run, which is what he does when someone leaves the front door open. I've chased him one too many times through the neighorhood, yelling epithets all the way. Stupid, cute, adorable, extremely lovable dog.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lion Taming for Introverts: Fail

March came in like a lion and went out like a lion, if you take my personal busyness scale into account. Personally, I prefer lambs because I'm exhausted with taming all these lions. I'm an introvert who can pretend to be an extrovert sometimes, but when it comes to planning fundraisers, conferences, and parties, I am simply not the person you want to call on to be in charge.  I just don't have the ambition and drive to do what it takes to make large social functions become all that they can be, what with the marketing and phone calling and Facebooking and Twittering and e-mailing and face-to-face schmoozing and food planning and setting up and arranging and all. I like parties that are small in nature, involve close friends and/or family, and don't require anything extraordinary that I can't produce from my kitchen. Centerpieces? Please kill me now.

A few observations:
I don't get this obsession with cupcakes.
Are dollar store plastic bowls filled with M&Ms truly pathetic centerpieces or what?
Say the word "fundraiser" and watch all the adults suddenly have a hard time making eye contact.
Maybe origami isn't the best entertainment idea for 30 rowdy 7-year-old boys.
I had no idea until I got my ears pierced last December and could finally start wearing dangly earrings that earlobes can feel like they'd had a long and tiring workout.
Who knew there was such a thing as a melatonin hangover?
It's never a good idea to fake-Riverdance in high-heeled boots unless you're much younger and much more in shape.
I'm not taking Little Gary to the movies again until he's approximately 23.
It IS possible to eat only two (2) Thin Mints during the entire Girl Scout cookie sales season.

For the record, I don't Tweet. I do have a Twitter account, but I have only ever sent out two tweets, and that was probably last year. I never could get into it, but I really should have in order to better advertise all those fundraisers, conferences, and parties from last month. Thank goodness the issue is now moot.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Yeah, Me and Jon Schmidt. We Hang Out, You Know

Back when I was a young, slim thing attending college, I got asked on a date that would create reverberations throughout my life. No, it wasn't with Husband; if you'll remember, I didn't date Husband at college. In fact, I didn't date him at all during our nine months of engagement. But that's another story, and I've already told it.

No, this date was with a boy I had known when he was an LDS missionary back in my home state in the North. I guess he called me up after he finished his mission and we went out a couple times. Nothing ever developed from those two or three dates we went on, but one night he took me to an exclusive concert held in one of his friends' homes. There were a group of young men and women around my age who attended, although I didn't know any of them (they were my date's friends). We had a casual dinner, and I remember feeling distinctly shy and somewhat uncomfortable. They were friendly enough, I think, and I was as outgoing and chatty as I could be, given the fact that I am a natural introvert and hadn't yet learned the extrovert skills that would help me on my own mission.

During the concert, Anthony (my exceedingly handsome date) put his arm around me and then held my hand a bit. I don't know who was more surprised, I or his friends. I caught the girls constantly casting glances our way and I suddenly had the impression that maybe he was using me to get someone's attention. But when the pianist was playing, I forgot everything else and just soaked it in.

This young pianist, a tall, skinny newly married man who had brought his glowing, pregnant wife with him, was so skilled and so entertaining that he made a deep impression on me -- enough so that I went home and wrote his name in my journal when I described the evening. Nearly 20 years later, I heard his name again, and I eagerly attended a concert he gave for our stake a few years ago. But it wasn't until late last year that I got to speak to him in person when he came to our little town and gave a concert in our local music store. You may or may not have heard of Jon Schmidt, but he's got some YouTube videos that feature him and the extraordinarily talented cellist he collaborates with. The videos are produced by The Piano Guys.com.

Anyway, after the concert, the attendees were able to go and buy his CDs and music books and get them autographed, and since there were only 30 or so people in the room, I didn't feel bad about taking a few moments and telling Jon that I had seen him play way back when at that little concert in Anthony's friend's house. He laughed and joked that it was probably a pretty bad concert, since he had been so young. No, I had thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the weirdness of the rest of the evening (which I didn't even mention, of course).

If you ever get the chance to meet him, he's one of those genuine, friendly, and very humble people you warm up to in a moment. During his concerts, he talks to the audience, laughing and joking even while his fingers fly up and down the keyboard. He reminds me a lot of my next youngest brother, in fact. 

As for Anthony, he stopped calling me soon after that date. I called him once when I was in his town watching one of my roommates sing in an opera, but he was so distant and cold, I got the hint pretty quickly. If my impression at that little concert was right, I hope he got the girl's attention and lived happily ever after.

Here's Jon Schmidt playing one of his most popular compositions:


Monday, January 30, 2012

The Bunnies Hopped to Their Little Home in the Woods, Ate a Good Supper, and Went Straight to Bed. The End.

Sian just passed her driver's license exam. She is officially a licensed driver. I hope she's happy, since I am now sending her on every errand I can just so I can sit home and watch movies all day. Well, okay, not really. I don't watch movies all day, but I can still send her on all my errands for me and she actually enjoys it. I'm getting used to this really fast.

The other day, as I was reading Little Gary into sleepy oblivion, Husband walked by and said, "When is the last time you read a fiction book?" Yes, I was reading Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, by Robert Bork, out loud to my four-year-old. In my defense, Little Gary often enjoys listening to me read my books aloud because the sound of my voice soothes him when he just wants to take a nap -- especially if I'm speaking gibberish as far as he's concerned (there are times when he only wants stories about bunnies in the woods or monkeys on the bed, you understand, and won't be satisfied with the idea that the welfare state is only getting more support because of envy). I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time not being soothed by my reading material. Bork's book isn't exactly easy fare, either intellectually or emotionally; however, I feel compelled to educate myself as much as possible. At least when I read non-fiction I can get stuff done while I digest ideas. When I read good fiction, nothing at all gets done until I finish.

Case in point: I finished Bork's book and picked up The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. When I finished it the next day at around noon, I was still unwashed and in my pajamas, the kids were talking about eating their own shoes for nourishment, and I had to swim up and out of the story for what seemed like hours. In fact, my emotions were extremely close to the surface for a long time afterward. That's what happens when I read fiction. It's just a mercy that The Lovely Bones is fairly short or Husband might have had me committed.

Book report: Slouching Towards Gomorrah, though written in 1996, is incredibly insightful and applicable to events going on today. Bork intelligently interprets cause and effect for the radicalization of American institutions and the reasons behind our slackening morality as a country. I think Bork is as much a prophet as Tocqueville, whom he quotes extensively. There is so much I would like to say about his points, and maybe I will in future posts (this is your only warning). Even if he sometimes sounds like the Grumpy Old Man, I would love to be able to write as well as he does.

And, as a bonus, it puts four-year-olds to sleep quite nicely.

Just now, I sent said four-year-old with his older sisters to get an ice-cream cone from the grocery store. How sweet is that?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why Bollywood Has My Vote

This morning when I went to collect the whites from the dryer, I found a dead mouse. It was all wet and bedraggled, stuck to the metal next to the lint catcher, a smear of dark blood trailing down to its body. I admit I squealed in surprise when I realized it wasn't lint, and then I fetched some tissue and disposed of the broken little carcass. Somehow, poor, wee mousie got himself in with the wash, where he died a horrible death. His revenge, however, was in getting blood all over the whites while he whirled gaily with them in the dryer, so now I have a pile of clothes that need to be hand washed for blood spots before being re-washed in the machine. I have the blood of a mouse upon my garments. Well, I actually have the blood of many mice upon my garments in the more figurative sense. I do feel bad for them, the little vermin. I usually say something over the body before disposing of it; something like, "You were the perfect mouse, doing exactly what a good mouse should do. I'm sorry you had to die, but we are at cross purposes here, since good mice are exactly what I don't want  and can't have in the house. You poop and pee indiscriminately on everything and make nests in all the wrong places, which is horribly unhygienic. You also have a creepy way of rustling about at night and scritching on the drywall. I hope you're frolicking in pleasant fields now, where there is nary a cat to hunt you or evil humans who desire your demise."

I guess that's not so much a eulogy as an indictment and justification.

So I've found that Bollywood movies are smashing entertainment when I'm on the treadmill. They're perfect because they're often silly in a lighthearted and fun way, colorful, full of music, romantic, and lengthy (thus prolonging my workout). Plus, the English subtitles can sometimes be hilarious. I have always been fascinated by India, and while these movies aren't often extremely deep, they're surprisingly insightful. They usually revolve around a boy and a girl and love. I'm a sucker for love stories, but unlike the shallow, amoral, and insipid fare of American romcoms, Indian romances Bollywood style are good for the whole family. They convey a sense of morality and duty to family. They compel you to root for the triumph of the love of the two main characters, which is always threatened by something dire -- whether the threat is from family or circumstances -- or both -- but you want them to triumph in the right way and not take the easy way out.

In American romances, the movie ends when the hero and heroine finally overcome the obstacles and share love's first kiss (or its equivalent). In Bollywood movies, it is forbidden for the hero and heroine to kiss on the mouth, so that first kiss never happens (though they tease you with it constantly). Instead, the hero and heroine declare their love and do a lot of dramatic hugging. You'll probably also get a music video at that point. Then, just when you think it's over (because that's where an American romance would end), a Bollywood movie provides a thoughtful intermission, following which you're off and running into the second half of the film, where a new set of obstacles arise and must be overcome. It's like getting two movies in one.

And the dancing! So fun.

They're insightful because they give you a glimpse into what Indians think of themselves in relation to the world (remember, they spent a long time as part of the British empire, and that had a huge impact). You also get a sense of what honor means in their relationships with family and in the romantic arena. Bollywood, of course, produces just one type of Indian films. There are plenty of exquisite Indian movies that are beautifully filmed and highly dramatic, sometimes extremely disturbing and heart wrenching, and exhibit the real pain of life. Bollywood concentrates on humor, music, and comic romance, but they're still very interesting. Plus, it's hard to walk on the treadmill when you're crying too hard; exercising while laughing is just so much easier.