Saturday, December 30, 2017

I Are Smart

I remember a few months ago that I was driving alone down the road (I even remember which road it was and where on that road it happened), and I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling that I used to be so much smarter than I am now. I could almost remember being that smart--orders of intelligence greater--and I could feel the difference between how much smarter and more intelligent I was then and what I am now. I knew in that moment that at some point, information I took in was effortlessly analyzed, leading me to an accurate big picture forecast because of my clear grasp of all possible details, and that my mind was able to lay out the possibilities before me in crystal clear detail in the blink of an eye.

It was an incredibly frustrating moment. It was like having a strong memory flashback without getting the key details. I knew it was true, but I couldn't remember why or how. The feeling kept slamming into me strongly for a week or so after that, while now it hits me only on occasion. But it was such a significant event that it has carved out a well-traveled neuronal pathway in my permanent memory.

If this is a memory, when was I that brilliant? It certainly isn't in this lifetime, even though I know I'm reasonably intelligent on my best days. Echoes of that "memory" suggest that I still think in the same manner, and that the way I approach and analyze information is part of my core personality; but now it's like my head is full of porridge, and I'm struggling to break through that sticky mess every time I learn or analyze information. Given everything else I know and believe, I concluded that this memory is somehow connected to my existence before I was born into mortality.

Before I had a mortal body, before I was born into this world, I was wicked smart.

That's both frustrating and uplifting to think about. It gives me hope that at some future time the porridge in my head will be gone. Sure, I'll be dead then (or "graduated," as I like to think of it), but I'm not afraid of dying. For now, though, I wonder why I was allowed to have that glimmer. I suspect it was to give me hope and to spur me on to do what I need to be doing in this life. I've been really slacking lately.

Anyway, what brought on this little mental musing was that I was watching this guy on YouTube take stuff I've been learning about for the last few years and assemble it clearly into a step-by-step series of actions. His conclusion is my conclusion, but he doesn't seem to have porridge in his head. He is able to retain what he learns and speak about it very well. I always admire that in a person. I envy it, too, even if my envy is without malice.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Beautiful People of the World

I'm always amazed at the variety of personalities this world contains.

My substitute bus attendant, Tay, finally managed to get his own route on another bus. He'd been on my bus for weeks, so the kids were used to him; but it was good for him to be able to have his own route. Having a route of his own gives him a lot more financial stability, and that will help him reduce his anxiety.

We got along fine, even if sometimes I was tired and tended to respond to his constant monologue about his life with grunts and short responses. I did realize after a while that his social anxiety drives a lot of what he does and how he is, so I had patience most of the time. We found common ground in talk of cooking, occasional politics, and various funny YouTube videos he showed me during our break. I count him as a friend, and I know he felt safe to be himself in my presence, so that was good.

Now that he has his own route, I've been getting other sub attendants on my bus. Each of them are so different. Each of them has different interests and hobbies and beliefs and personality traits.

Yesterday, my attendant told me about how she found out her mother was not being cared for--contrary to what she'd been told--and how she went to rescue her from what turned out to be a fairly hellish existence. Now they live together, and her mother is loved and cared for even as she deals with the onset of dementia. While she loves bland foods, her daughter likes to sneak in new and interesting dishes just to see how she likes them.

My attendant for today is fantastic with the kids. She's probably the best attendant I've ever worked with in that way. I just started a new route that takes me out to the far reaches of a nearby town during one of my runs, so it's a long ride for the kids to school and back. All the way, she sat by them, talked to them, played "I Spy" with them, and discussed their innocent little interests. When I told her that I suspect one little girl might be on the autistic spectrum because of her behavior and that the only words I'd ever heard her speak were the alphabet song, this attendant sat next to her and whispered quietly to her, humming the alphabet song. The little girl actually responded to her with words. That's the first time I have ever seen that happen with this adorable little child.

This attendant has also made herself a mom to various teenagers who live in difficult family situations. At her house, they get fed and nourished with both food and love. Though she could only have two children of her own, she is a true mother to many more who need a safe place to be that contains plenty of love and high behavior expectations. The kids live up to her example and expectations because they know she truly cares. I imagine that their lives have been turned onto a much better path because of this woman.

It was very easy to see how she is a life changer by the way she interacts with my little preschoolers.

Unless I get called in to do a substitute bus run for another driver tomorrow, today is my last day of driving before the Christmas break. I'm not sad about that. I could use some napping time.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Wedding Pictures!

You wanted pictures, I finally have pictures. Thought I'd share some of my favorites of Sian, her new husband and my new son-in-law, Nathan, and the family.

Before you look, yes, I'm fat. I started seriously gaining pounds after Husband was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, when I literally felt my adrenal glands break from the stress. The weight piled on after that. I hate it, but there it is.

So now that my vanity has made this all about me, try to enjoy the pictures of that wonderful, poignant, joyful, amazing day.

The newly minted couple exit the temple annex doors to cheers and applause.

In front of the east doors.

In front of the Salt Lake City Temple
I call this one "Loving Look"

This is just cute. Also, it shows off Nathan's boutonniere, which my mother-in-law made.

Left to Right: My MIL, Sian, my mother's mother (she's 92!), me, and my mother.

It's like they're walking down a hallway of flowers with the temple in the background. It was a lovely (though windy) day.

I want to frame this one. My little girl is so beautiful. Sigh. Also, it showcases the amazing bouquet that my MIL and SIL put together in Sian's wedding colors.

Sian and her brothers. Left to Right: Little Gary (10), Sian, and Joseph (13)

All my daughters together. What you don't see is that Elannah was trying to push Sophia's head down from behind, so they were busy giggling the whole time. Left to Right: Sophia (18), Elannah (16), Sian (22), and Gabrielle (20)

I just love this one. I will frame this one, as well. All the time when my daughters were little and squabbling with each other, I reminded them that they needed to watch what they said to each other so that they could all be friends when they got older. Now they're all friends, and every time they get together, there's lots of laughter and joking.

Our family with the happy couple. Left to Right: Elannah, me, Little Gary (in front of me), Sophia, Sian, Nathan, Gabrielle, Husband, and Joseph

The extended family with the happy couple. We were really happy that Husband's sister's family travel plans from Wales coincided with Sian's wedding, so the British contingent of the family were well represented. My brothers are also there, as were my next oldest brother's wife and their children. 

She's still our baby, and we still get to kiss her.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pork Chile Verde Recipe

I tried Taerell's pork chile verde recipe and it worked out really, really well. We feasted yesterday! I brought some of it to my neighbors, who just had a baby, so the new parents wouldn't have to cook dinner.

This isn't spicy unless you use a very hot chile verde sauce and/or red chile flakes. I didn't because I have kids who would refuse to eat it. I used medium heat sauce, and it was just enough to give your tongue a tiny tingle.

I played with the recipe Tay gave me by adding some cumin. If you don't like cumin, it tastes just fine without it. If you really want to play, try adding ground coriander, as well, and then topping it off with fresh cilantro to serve.

Pork Chile Verde

Ingredient portions are based on a 4-lb roast. Use less if your roast is smaller.

1 (4-lb) pork roast (size doesn't necessarily matter, although using a 4-lb roast will yield plenty for a crowd of 10 to 12, or leftovers for freezing or sharing)
1 1/2 cups of your favorite chile verde sauce per pound of meat
1 large white onion, diced
1 Tbsp Garlic powder or minced garlic, or to taste
1 Tbsp cumin, or to taste
1 Tbsp lime juice, or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp red chile flakes, if you like your food spicy

1. Place diced onion on the bottom of your slow cooker. Place the roast on top.

2. Mix chile verde sauce with garlic powder (or minced garlic), cumin, lime juice, and red chile flakes (if using). Pour over roast.

3. Cook on low for 10-12 hours or overnight. Remove meat and shred with two forks. Return meat to the sauce, mix, and reheat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use for burritos, taco salads, over rice, or in soup.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Who's the Man?

I don't always appreciate music videos. If there's a strong storyline in them, I'm not always happy with the way the band or artist interprets the music--which just sounds selfish, right? I generally prefer to make up my own interpretation to other peoples' music.

But The Killers are an exception. They make some really good music and videos, and nothing beats "The Man." So well done. Plus, it's such a catchy tune that I find myself singing it at the top of my lungs even if I am very much not a man. When I first heard it on the radio last summer, the DJ declared he liked it so much he was going to play it again--and he did. It was the perfect call.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

My previous substitute bus attendant, Jessica, selfishly decided to go ahead and get her CDL and become a driver herself. Good. Fine. I'm happy for her and all that.

I'm not really bitter. I just miss her. We got to be pretty good friends, even if she is 20 years younger than I am.

My new substitute attendant is a guy named Tay (pronounced "Ty," and short for Taerell). He's an interesting fellow.

How do I describe him? He is the first politically conservative gay pagan Tae Kwon Do black belt I've met. He's also passionate about Shakespeare.

If he hadn't told me he was gay, I would not have guessed. He actually looks like a guy who plays Dungeons & Dragons and smokes marijuana and got beat up in high school for being a total geek. He neither plays D&D nor smokes marijuana (or takes any other illegal drugs, for that matter), but he was beat up a lot in high school.

We get along fine, although he tends to talk a great deal. Jessica knew and appreciated golden moments of silence, but Tay keeps up a steady stream of chat for most of the time we're on the bus. I quit going to the library during our break because he just talks in normal voice while we're there, and that is one of my pet peeves. He doesn't really enjoy reading because he is dyslexic, but rather than sit quietly messing with his phone or something, he just keeps the conversation going--even while I hold a book or magazine prominently in front of my face. So rather than get mad at him, I just changed plans, and we've been heading to the Maverick gas station to sit outside between runs and soak up the warm rays of mild fall sunshine.

At least at the Maverick I'm not agonizing about him chatting away while people studying nearby are shooting us dirty looks. We share funny YouTube videos and discuss various conspiracy theories. It helps that I'm still a total geek at heart.

While he's pagan and I'm Christian, there haven't been any arguments about faith and belief. He tells me what he believes, and I listen. I'll ask him questions about it, too, which he appreciates. His beliefs are the gentle pagan precepts that call for a oneness with nature and a deep respect for all living things. I'm not surprised by that, as he really is a gentle, compassionate soul. As the frequent victim of bullying and abuse from various stepfathers and classmates throughout his life, he could be hard and bitter and unkind; but he still chooses to be an advocate for the ones who get picked on, and his heart is still tender.

Today he brought me a homemade chile verde burrito. It was massive. I ate half of it on the way home, and it was so good--better than any TexMex restaurant could have produced. I gave the other half to Joseph, who declared that I must get the recipe. So I texted Tay and thanked him profusely and got the recipe. I'll be trying it out in the next couple days.

One Last, Cute Story

Today I took Joseph and Little Gary to McDonalds for the first time since they reopened after weeks and weeks of renovation. They were interested in the new play place.

While I was standing in line, this adorable little three-year-old girl looked down and exclaimed in her piping little voice, "Oh, I love your pretty red shoes!' and bent over to get a good, close-up look at them.

I told her I loved her sparkly flower barrette. We were best friends after that.

Have I mentioned that I am very excited to be a grandmother? I'm not making an announcement or anything, but all my girls know that when the time is right and they have children, I will be the happiest, most devoted grandmother in the world.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

No More a Stranger, Nor a Guest, but Like a Child at Home

I was scheduled to attend a suicide prevention workshop this morning, but I had to miss it for a very sadly ironic reason: to sing at the funeral of a young lady who committed suicide after a lifelong struggle with mental illness. 

This young lady, who was 24 when she deliberately overdosed, is the daughter of one of the couples in our choir. While I didn't know her personally, I know her incredible parents and one of her sisters. Her parents and several of her siblings stood at the podium and talked about her brilliant mind and creative ability. Though she battled demons, she loved her family and her friends fiercely. Friends and family were reassured that nothing they said or failed to say would have changed the outcome; but despite the grief expressed, the overall feeling in the room--though there were plenty of tears--was one of hope and faith.

We sang Mack Wilberg's beautiful arrangement of "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need." Below, you can hear the song as performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, along with the lyrics. 

My favorite lyrics in this song speak of the Lord's heavenly home, where it says, "There would I find a settled rest while others go and come; no more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home."

We've sung at several funerals this year--mostly for choir members' parents, who have lived good, long lives--but it's really hard to sing for young people's funerals. As a parent, I just can't imagine the feeling of losing one of my children. To sing in that situation, I have to keep my thoughts very light and distracted. When the tears well up, I imagine someone sitting on a cactus, which helps for some reason. Otherwise, my throat closes up and I make these gulping, croaking sort of noises, which sounds awful during performances.

After we're done singing, we can let the tears flow, of course. I snagged a box of tissues before the funeral started, so I was ready for the emotion.

This beautiful young woman is not lost. As her parents said, she died of complications of mental illness, just as some die of complications of heart disease or cancer. Though she went through a great deal of pain in this world, Jesus Christ descended below all of it to satisfy the demands of justice. 

How grateful I am for the Savior's atonement. How grateful I am.

Monday, October 2, 2017

End of Summer

Summer is over. This crazy, crazy summer is finally over.

My oldest is happily married to her wonderful new husband. All of my kids have started back to school--whether it's college, high school, junior high, or elementary. Finally, things have settled into a predictable routine.

I'm still freelance writing, but with the start of school, I started back up with bus driving, as well.

I was given my own bus route a little over a week ago, and that made me very happy. Being a route driver has advantages over being a sub: less stress because you know where you're going and when; a slight pay raise; and the ability to bid on other routes when they become available. There are people who love being substitute bus drivers because they don't have to drive in the same circle every day, but I didn't like never knowing where or when I'm driving. When a bus route became available and I was the next person on the seniority list, they gave me a call.

I'm now driving a preschool route with three runs. Between runs, I have enough time to drive back home and check on Joseph (13) and see how his schoolwork is coming along. I managed to get him into the middle school's Homebound program due to his crippling anxiety at being in crowds, and it's been really good for him. He has an outside authority to whom he has to answer, but the work is not overwhelming. His teacher is really great, actually.

I've written probably a dozen drafts over the summer, but they were all long. I couldn't be bothered to edit, so I just didn't publish them. The summary of all of those posts is that lots of stuff happened (mainly getting ready for Sian's wedding) and I was very busy, which is not a state I enjoy being in. Fortunately, we have all survived, the reception went off smoothly, and nothing seriously bad happened.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

It's Been Quite a Week

I've survived the last week. Barely.

Joseph turned 13, and he was very happy to be our fifth child to have aged into teenager-hood. But his birthday wasn't the problem.

On Joseph's birthday, Elannah had her tonsils out.

She's been wanting them out for months, and they have become increasingly more bothersome. Tonsil stones, multiple canker sores at the same time, and bad throat pain every time she sings or acts made her eager to set a tonsillectomy date.

Now, she says, "I'm never doing that again!" Fair enough.

Along with the pain of having her huge tonsils sliced out of her throat came her desire to have her mother with her at all times. I was very flattered to have my 16-year-old want my presence in her time of need, but I should have taken a page of advice from when I had little babies: sleep when the baby is sleeping. The worst times for Elannah were at night, and the Lortab did nothing for her pain until three days in. Therefore, I was up all day and then all night with her for several days in a row. I'm an old woman. This is hard for me to do now.

I am always simmering at the chronic fatigue level just before Crying Tired, so staying up with Elannah knocked me hard into the Stupid Tired stage of sleep deprivation pretty quickly. It was during that stage that I put my water kefir into a bottle in the fridge for its second ferment--the first time I've done this process.

By the second night of little sleep, I had descended into the Seeing Things Out of the Corners of My Eyes that Aren't There stage. I did nothing but sit in stupefaction watching "The Office" episodes, one after the other, while Elannah either slept fitfully on the couch, holding my hand, or cried silently and wrote me notes of desperation and regret. Occasionally, I jerked when I thought a bug was coming at me from my peripherals.

By the third night, the Lortab finally started doing some good. Elannah and I are similar in that Lortab does little or nothing for our pain. I have to have Percocet when I have acute pain (like the pain from a tooth infection) or I'm writhing. But, finally, the Lortab did something, and Elannah went from agony to blissful, pain-free euphoria. She could finally talk a little, too, and she broke her days-long silence with a long monologue on how happy she was to be pain-free and how she would never, ever do something like this again. Hindsight.

She finally agreed to try to sleep, though I had to talk her into it (it was somewhere around 2 am when this happened). She was worried she would waste this pain-free time and wake up in agony, but she finally slept. I crawled up the stairs and collapsed into bed. Around 5 am, she texted me to ask me to come sit with her again because she was dizzy and starting to hurt again. I dragged myself back downstairs.

I convinced her after that night that she wasn't going to wake up dead, and that I really, really needed to get some sleep before I had a breakdown. She was apologetic for keeping me up, and she let me get some sleep the next couple nights, though she kept me up late and asked for me early in the mornings. I ascended back to the Stupid Tired stage of sleep deprivation, and it felt pretty good.

That was when I tested my refrigerated water kefir and realized it had not developed any carbonation at all. After a long, slow, and confused think, I remembered that refrigeration slows down the fermenting process. I should have left the bottle on the counter. So I took the bottle out of the fridge and set it on the counter, the lid tightly screwed on. I figured two days should do the trick.

Two days later, Elannah was still in a great deal of pain, and I was still in Stupid Tired sleep deprivation when I decided to "burp" the water kefir and let a little of the pressure out.

I'm happy to report my decision to let it ferment on the counter was correct, because the kefir was fully carbonated. The moment I wrestled the cap off, the liquid inside, which was under a massive amount of pressure, shot straight up in a column of bubbles and pieces of ginger. It hit the ceiling so hard that is created an umbrella spray effect, and within seconds, everything in the kitchen (including me) was drenched. I whooped so loudly in surprise that family members came running to see if I was hurt.

Fortunately, the glass bottle didn't shatter, so other than some mopping up and finding pieces of ginger is the strangest of places, no damage was done. And I learned a lesson.

I now have another batch of water kefir on its second ferment (but not sealed too tightly), and a third batch on its first ferment. There was just enough kefir left after the explosion that Husband, Sian, and I got to have a taste. Sian, who made water kefir during her mission in Ukraine, pronounced it perfect, and she liked the added flavor of the ginger I put in.

Elannah is up and around now. She keeps thanking me for being there for her and taking care of her. I keep telling her that she is always my baby no matter how old she gets. And I have been able to get some more sleep at night, putting me back into the Exhausted but Functioning stage of sleep deprivation/chronic fatigue syndrome.

It's been quite a week.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Short Tale of Two Hikes

Last Sunday, one of my friends talked about two different hikes she had taken down in Southern Utah.

One of the hikes was fairly short in length, but the trail led entirely through deep sand. With each step, the sand pulled at her feet, and by the time she reached her destination, she was exhausted.

The second hike was quite long, but the trail was laid over solid rock. Despite the ups and downs and some difficult twists and turns, this hike was far easier to navigate because the rock provided a firm foundation.

As the world goes mad more quickly every day, you get to choose which journey you'll take in your life. Personally, I prefer the longer hike on a firm foundation.

My extemporaneous preaching for the day is finished.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Update on the Kefir Situation

It turns out that I really, really like dairy kefir. I love its sour tang (like plain yogurt), it's thick, rich texture, its brilliant white color, and the sizz of the carbonation on my tongue. I could drink dairy kefir like water and eat coconut oil like ice cream. Husband and Joseph also like dairy kefir, but they like to add a little fruit nectar to it to make it a little sweeter.

My dad, on the other hand, described dairy kefir as "part mucilage with a touch of gum paste." Descriptive but not complimentary. And he likes yogurt. So, obviously, dairy kefir is not everyone's cup of tea.

The bad part is that drinking dairy kefir like water and eating coconut oil like ice cream (which I don't do, by the way--either one--despite the temptation) is that it creates a diet very high in calories. I already eat a crappy diet, so even insanely healthy foods like dairy kefir and coconut oil can't overcome that. Also, just because a little is good for you doesn't mean a lot is better, which is true of so many things in life.

So here are some tips to drinking dairy kefir, assuming you like it enough to develop a taste for it:

1. It's better cold. Also, it gets a little more fizzy as it sits in the fridge.
2. Initially, it can cause some uncomfortable gas and bloating as the happy little microbes you've introduced into your gut start chomping away on your high-carb diet. While a diet made up mostly of plants and small amounts of meat protein is much better for you, in my opinion, many people who drink kefir tend to veer toward a high-protein diet because they feel less bloated at first. My remedy: start small by drinking four ounces of kefir in the morning and four ounces right before bed. Or less, if that still gives you discomfort. Then work your way up as you also start including more plants in your diet. Sian found she had instantaneous gas and bloating when she started drinking it, even though she liked the taste.
3. The grains multiply quickly, so either increase the amount of milk you're feeding them, divide them into multiple containers, or start giving away your extras. You need about a teaspoon of grains for, roughly, four cups of milk. When the grains multiply too much, your milk will still ferment, but it won't get fizzy. My grains started producing so much kefir we had it coming out our ears, so I had to let the grains go dormant in the fridge for a bit while we caught up. I pulled them out and did a ferment and they've woken up just fine after several days in the fridge.
4. Remember that even though the grains are eating the lactose in the milk, they aren't making it any less calorific. A couple glasses of dairy kefir each day could add 300 calories to your daily count. While I don't believe in counting calories if you're eating a healthy diet, 300 calories does do damage if you aren't eating a healthy diet.

So, to solve the "I love kefir and how it makes me feel but I don't love the calories part," I just bought some water kefir grains. I've got them feeding on sugar water right now because they were dormant in the lady's fridge from whom I bought them, but in a few days, I should be able to give you a report on how virtually calorie-free water kefir tastes.

Last note: it's pronounced "keh-fear'", not "kee'-fir." Sadly, most people pronounce it "kee'-fir," but there's not much you can do about that. It's just that I always see a picture of Kiefer Sutherland in my mind's eye, and while that isn't entirely unpleasant, I think ke-fir' sounds much more exotic and drinkable.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Relaxing before the 4th of July Rodeo

When I was in my young teen years, the NPR radio station would play "Music from the Hearts of Space" followed by "Pipe Dreams," two hours of auditory bliss on a Sunday evening. Having always been a daydreamer, I looked forward to this particular night. I would turn off all the lights, lie in bed, and just listen while my brain spun stories out of the notes.

Electronic music has come a long way since then. Now you can enjoy mixes like this one whenever you want. Not great for driving, but perfect for sending you into an alpha state--or theta or delta, if you're really tired.

Sometimes I just love technology so much.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Unconventional Thoughts: the Military

I write largely off-the-cuff here in my blog. That means I have stacks of unfinished, unpublished posts sitting in my list, whether it's because I ran myself into a logical fallacy, got tired of hearing myself talk, or found the topic too personal to share at the moment.

But when I find someone else who describes what I'm thinking far better than I can, I'm thrilled. I realize that some of the things I think are not conventional compared to those around me, so I don't always say what I think unless I find it necessary. Cowardice? Probably. I hate needless confrontation. It makes me feel all sick inside. Getting off Facebook was necessary for my personal well-being.

But we don't grow unless we learn new things, consider differing opinions, and remain flexible enough to change what and how we think when presented with new, true information no matter how inconvenient it is to our current world view. Truth will set us free, but it's not always a pleasant process. Sometimes, it really, really hurts.

One of the unconventional things in my head is that I do not worship the military. For Conservatives, that's particularly affronting. I'm not a Conservative (note the capital "c"), though I am conservative. I would never encourage one my children--or anyone else's child--to join any branch of the military. If one my kids decided to do so, I would try to talk him or her out of it with all my strength.


I find it abhorrent that our government sends troops into places where we have no business. We do not fight defensive battles. We are always and ever on the offense in this phony War on Terror. And why do we invade so many different countries who could not hope to harm us even if they had all the evil intent in the world? Because of money and power. Always follow the money to see why American men and women are sent anywhere to be cannon fodder for American corporations tied to politicians to subjugate and control the resources of another country.

I cannot support duping men and women into becoming cannon fodder. They are not fighting for freedom and liberty. They are not preserving our rights. They are not protecting us from the Other. They are trained to kill, and for what? No matter which way you try to spin it, they're trained to be mercenaries. So many of them come back broken, mentally and physically. So many of them kill themselves to quiet the horror in their minds. And for what? A lie.

Therefore, I cannot abide the sick worship that people heap upon the military. I'm a patriot, not a nationalist. I would fight to defend my country and my family and friends if we were under attack, but I do not swear my allegiance to a corrupt, bloated, deceitful Deep State that has no interest in preserving anyone's personal, God-given rights, including those of the people of this nation. My dad is a vet, and I have friends who have and do serve in the military who are excellent, decent people. None of them deserve to be cannon fodder to the self-styled elites.

Laurence M. Vance has this particular bee in his bonnet, as well, but he says it much better than I can.   Read his latest here.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The State is God. Little Charlie Must Die.

This is disturbing. More than disturbing.

Here is the story.

According to the Daily Mail, young Charlie Gard must be killed rather than be taken to the United States to undergo a last attempt at saving his life.

In a nutshell, Charlie Gard was diagnosed with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome at the age of eight weeks old. He was only the 16th person in the world to have this diagnosis, and it has required him to be in a children's hospital in London since September of 2016. There is currently no known cure or treatment for this condition.

Desperate, the parents found a doctor in the United States who was willing to offer their son a trial therapy. The parents started a Go Fund Me account and raised $1.6 million in order to transport little Charlie by air ambulance to the States and fully pay for the procedure. All the hospital had to do was release the child so the parents could take him to the U.S. and see if this trial would help him.

But the hospital refused, and the parents were forced to take their rights as parents before the High Court, where the judge decided the parents must just let the child "die with dignity" and allow the hospital to remove him from life support. But the parents are not allowed to remove the child from the hospital.

The parents then appealed to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the High Court judge's ruling of killing the child instead of allowing him to leave the country with his parents to seek help in the U.S.

Matt Walsh wrote about this, and I really like his analysis of what is happening. Read it here. But I feel that he missed one vital point as to why the courts and the government of the U.K. and the EU must be able to supersede parental rights:

In socialized medicine, money for treatment becomes a serious obstacle. A socialized society does not have the money to pay for new or costly treatments because the burden is on the system to care for all the people in the same way regardless of economic status (though we all know that in such a system, some people are more equal than others and will receive better care). This approach suppresses any incentive for innovation, as innovative technologies tend to cost more (at least at the outset). Worse, if they work, then people will be clamoring for them, and if the people are little more than serfs (as they must be in a socialized society), they become bothersome in their pleas for salvation when there really is no money to afford the technologies. Matt Walsh is correct about the need for this death cult, this "die with dignity" emphasis. Life is too expensive when medicine is socialized.

The danger for government in allowing innovation of medical technology in a socialized medicine system is that the people might start realizing that the government is not the loving parent it portrays itself to be--especially when real life death panels become obvious. There may be a revolt.

If the U.K. and the EU allow Charlie's parents to take him to the U.S. for treatment, they run a huge risk: the treatment might work. If it works, it means that the socialized healthcare system is faulty, even if only 16 people in the world have Charlie's particular syndrome. Innovation in medicine and in any part of a socialized society becomes a threat to the establishment, the State. It cannot be allowed if you want to keep the status quo. If the State is God, then the State must supersede parental rights, which means suppressing innovation or refusing to allow parents to utilize innovative technologies from countries that are not yet completely socialized.

Even if the treatment didn't work, the fact that Charlie's parents had the ability to make the decision about Charlie's care is dangerous. Socialized medicine must offer the same treatments for everyone, regardless of outcome. The State is the parent/god of Little Charlie, but his parents are not.

A socialized society means that all must live at the same level of misery.

Therefore, little Charlie has to die to maintain the myth that the State is God.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

My Initial Foray into Kefir Culturing

I am inordinately pleased with myself, and I haven't even done anything that would justify being so smug.

I bought some kefir grains two days ago from a lady in The Big City, and I made my first batch of kefir. Here's what I did:

  1. Bring kefir grains home.
  2. Put them in a glass quart jar (I used a pickle jar that I had thoroughly washed out with filtered water).
  3. Fill the jar with whole milk.
  4. Let the jar sit on the counter for 24 hours.
  5. Strain the fermented result into another jar, put the kefir grains back into the first jar, and fill with milk again.
  6. Drink the first batch of kefir while a new batch is brewing.
I basically filled a jar with milk and kefir grains and let it sit for a day before drinking the results. So easy. No reason to feel so pleased with myself, right? It's not like I did much.

And, yet, I am pleased with myself. Making and drinking kefir is one step closer to gut health. 

Here are the facts:
  • While yogurt contains 2 -- 7 types of live cultures that help heal the gut, kefir contains 10 -- 30 (or more). 
  • Kefir contains 100% mesophilic strains, which culture at room temperature. Yogurt contains mostly thermophilic strains, which require heat to culture.
  • Kefir cultures eat the lactose in dairy milk. When the kefir is fully fermented, even people with lactose intolerance are able to stomach dairy kefir because all the lactose has been consumed, making the result very digestible.
  • Kefir grains are hard to kill. As long as you feed them and don't expose them to extremes in temperature, they'll thrive. The best way to feed them is to keep making kefir. You can even store them in the fridge when you don't want to make kefir so the grains will go dormant but won't die (just feed them a little new milk once a week).
  • Kefir grains multiply. Your initial supply will grow so you can make larger quantities of kefir or give some of the grains away to friends and family. 
  • You can also use nut milks or coconut milk to make kefir, though you'll need to make dairy kefir every two or three ferments to fully feed the grains (they need the lactose).
  • Making kefir is so easy you'll wonder why you never tried it before.
  • Kefir grains contain no actual grain and are naturally gluten-free. They kind of look like blobs of tapioca pudding.
  • The beneficial bacteria cultures in kefir stick to the lining of the alimentary canal (your digestive system) and help heal leaky gut syndrome and repair the gut lining. Yogurt cultures also help heal the gut lining, but they only stay in the system for about a day. 
Why Drink Kefir?

Kefir cultures produce the kind of beneficial bacteria and yeast that your gut needs to be healthy. A healthy gut is able to absorb nutrients from the foods you eat and correctly distribute those nutrients to the rest of your body. The more diverse your microbiome is (the microbiome is the ~3 1/2-pound collection of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that live in your gut), the healthier your gut will be. The healthier your gut is, the healthier you will be overall. You'll be able to absorb nutrients for energy, all your body processes will be working at optimal levels, and you'll even think more clearly and feel more optimistic.

Think of your gut lining as a shag carpet. The pile of the carpet is the villi, little fingers that increase the surface area of your gut lining. When the balance of beneficial bacteria and yeast in your gut gets upset, flora like candida yeast begin to flourish. The pile of the shag carpet gets cut down, and the backing of the carpet begins to crack, allowing small bits of improperly digested food to get into the bloodstream. These particles of food alert your immune system, which rushes to deal with the intruders. This immune response causes inflammation in the body, and that's a good when it is needed to heal a wound on a temporary basis; but constant inflammation from an immune system always on high alert causes a grocery list of chronic and serious illnesses. The doctor who wrote Gut and Psychology Syndrome blames leaky gut for everything from asthma to schizophrenia. 

When your gut flora is imbalanced, the thugs of the bacterial and yeast world take over. They make you crave sugar and processed foods because that's what the thugs need to survive and thrive. They also make you feel tired and depressed. 

A healthy gut, on the other hand, loves healthy foods like plants. When your gut is healthy, the ruling culture is one of calmness and happy productivity. The thugs are held in check and are forced to be good citizens.

Kefir alone won't heal a leaky gut and reduce body inflammation--especially if you haven't changed your bad eating habits--but it's one great weapon in the battle to a healthy microbiome. It packs a powerful probiotic punch. If you're drinking kefir while eating a diet very high in vegetables (raw and cooked), fruits, and some quality protein from meat sources, and with little to no processed foods or junk foods, you'll be able to heal the gut and keep it healthy.

This is long enough, so I'll stop. I'm just so happy that something so healthful is so simple and easy to make and produces so many good results. 

If you want to learn how to make kefir, this is where I bought my kefir grains and learned the simple process of making kefir. Just do a search on making kefir, and you'll find plenty of resources. 

Hubby's Happy Place

The art show was going on at the city park. One of Husband's favorite flute makers had a booth, so we decided to go check it out.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Feral Post-Apocalyptic Children, TCM, and Wedding Plans: a Normal Summer So Far

I had a dream last night that involved an absolutely fantastic old-fashioned mansion--the kind with acres of polished mahogany paneling and lots of stone lintels.

In my dream, it was a post-apocalyptic world, and I was leading a group of survivors to find shelter when we stumbled upon this gorgeous and massive house in the woods (not the one above. I was just giving you something to imagine). We set up shop in the house, and we kept finding new and amazing parts of it, including a sort of fourth-dimensional storage system with clever, interlocking cylinders that made perfect sense in my dream but obviously makes no sense now that I'm awake.

After some time had passed, groups of feral children and teenagers started appearing and attempting to get into the house. I kept trying to warn the others that opening the doors and letting them in would lead to our doom, but they laughed and threw open the doors to invite them in. The intruders were in the process of totally wrecking the house, and no matter how much I tried to warn my friends, they just kept laughing at me. I woke up with a terrific lack of self confidence. I just felt stupid.

The feeling of stupidity lasted for a good 20 minutes while I contemplated my tasks for the day. I had one more article to write from a long list of titles, and it had kind of stymied me for a bit. But as I got busy with the research, the feeling of stupidity dissipated, which was a relief. Nobody enjoys prolonged feelings of stupidity--especially when it seems to be your subconscious taunting you.

I've been writing and thinking about TCM lately. In my writing, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been heavily featured by the guy who gives me the titles of the articles I write. I know a lot more about yin/yang, qigong, and wu xing than I used to, for what it's worth. I finished up the last article today, which went pretty smoothly once I'd completed the research and made myself an outline.

What's really exciting is that I suggested the topic of gut health for future articles, and my liaison was very enthusiastic about it. He told me to go ahead and invoice for three 1000-word articles on any gut health topics I choose.

Getting paid to write exactly what I want to write about? Priceless!

In family news, all my daughters have found gainful employment, so there's a lot of juggling of schedules going on. Sian and Elannah work at restaurants (Sian works at Dickey's, and she always comes home smelling wonderfully of hickory smoke; and Elannah works at McDonald's, which is good because now she can't stand to eat any of it anymore), and Sophia landed a position at a beauty supply store, where she gets samples to try out every month. Gabrielle doesn't live at home, of course, but she is also doing well where she works at a credit union.

Joseph and Little Gary are occasionally feeling the effects of the summer boredoms, but they've quit complaining about it to me because I kept telling them that if I was forced to entertain them, they would get extra chores that I would require them to complete. Now they keep themselves entertained. Joseph is catching up in math, and he has to do 10 pages in his workbook every day. Not his favorite.

Husband and Sian and I went wedding dress shopping, and we found the perfect dress after only a few hours of looking. It's simple but elegant, which is exactly what Sian wanted. What's more, it is a thrift store find of $35. The dress was about $1200 new, so Sian feels like she got an incredible deal (which, of course, she did, because the dress is in pristine condition). We're having a seamstress sew an adorable jacket to go with it, as the dress is strapless, and Sian is going to be the most beautiful bride ever.

It's been hard on Sian having her fiance gone until just a few days before the wedding in August. It's been on Sian's shoulders to make some of the big decisions that couples usually get to make together: what apartment to rent, registering for gifts, making plans for the reception, etc. I'm helping her as much as I can, but she misses her fiance so much. He's off making lots of sales commissions to pay for their future lives, and they talk every night, but they miss each other terribly. Sian has a plane ticket to Washington, D.C., for early July so she can visit him for a weekend, and they're counting down the days.

Husband has been perfecting his flute-making skills. He set up a tidy little workshop area in the garage, and he's produced several really good flutes out of PVC pipe. He's toying with the idea of offering them to teachers for classrooms. He's also taking a few classes over the summer as he works toward getting sufficient tech credits to bump him up a bit in pay.

I've been very newsy lately, I know. It's not that I don't think about things, but I'm not sure I want to share what I've been mulling over quite yet. I've got a couple projects I hope to report on soon.

Oh, we went and saw Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, last week, and I had so much fun. We went to the theater's $5 Tuesday on a whim, and the boys and Sian came with us to the 9:55 pm show. We all loved it. I'd pay to see that movie on the big screen again, and I only say that about once every five years or so. We saw the Batman Lego Movie earlier this year, and I laughed so hard then, too.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Kyrie by Stephan Carlson

I just found that someone posted a video of the high school show choir women's ensemble piece that they performed at state competitions. They won the highest marks for this piece. They performed it again at the end-of-year concert in the high school auditorium, and did even better, with the girls singing high soprano hitting those notes so perfectly dead on that it rang like a bell. It was so beautiful that it made me teary.

Sophia is the one who announces it at the beginning.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Picture Pages

 Here are some of the photos that have been lurking on my phone.

Gabrielle texted last week and asked for the recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I always keep notes in my recipe books, so it is easy to find. When Sian makes these, she makes her own brown sugar using molasses and white sugar, and it gives the cookies an incredible depth and richness. But Gabrielle made them from this recipe and said they were a hit with all her roommates and friends. I always use this recipe, and, so far, absolutely no one has complained.

In case you can't quite read it, here's the recipe:

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup margarine (I use butter, and it makes the cookies slightly flatter and a little crisper. I just hate margarine)
3 beaten eggs
12 oz. chocolate chips
3 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt

Cream the sugars and margarine. Add the eggs, chocolate chips, and all of the sifted-together dry ingredients. Mix well. Bake at 350 deg. F for 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies are very moist. If you have an electric stove, lower it to 325 deg. F [which is what I do]. Very delicious.

Sophia had a lead role in the high school's production of Oklahoma, her last play before she graduates from high school this Thursday. She was Laury, and a very nice young man named Robert played Curly.

Elannah and Sophia worked together to choreograph all the dancing, and they did a right fine job of it, if'n I do say so myself.

In April, one of Husband's sisters-in-law came to town with her twins. We all spent the day together, including going to a thrift store. Elannah, Sophia, and their cousins all managed to find floral shirts, which, I guess, are a thing right now. My girls wear theirs all the time.

During that day, we took a tour of the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, which the boys had never done before and which the girls were too young to remember doing. Here's Little Gary in the main hall that seats about 20,000, with the iconic organ pipes behind him.

I've been lucky enough to sing in a conference choir here. Who knew how many back hallways and tunnels this place has to keep things going smoothly?

Here are Little Gary and Marmite, perching on a stack of chairs in the kitchen. I think we'd had my family and Sian's future fiance over during General Conference, which is why the chairs were stacked after being used at the table.

Little Gary happily announced today that he made the honor roll at his elementary school--the first time that's happened. I'm just relieved that about halfway through the year he started doing his homework on his own with me having to nag him. I guess he's growing up. He'll be a fifth grader next year.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Adventures in School Bus Driving

In the early dark, the school buses at the bus garage start rumbling through their pre-trip inspections. Drivers must check the lights, horns, tires, and gauges before roaring out into the surrounding neighborhoods and towns to pick up happy, alert children and drop them at their schools.

I am one of them.

No, I don't have my own route yet. Since the end of the school year is fast approaching, I might not even be subbing all that often--though I have been driving nearly every day for the last two weeks. But next school year, there's some hope that I may get my own route.

Being a substitute bus driver is exciting, of course. Sometimes, it's a little too exciting. As a sub, you're just hoping that you'll manage to hit all the right stops on all the right streets in a town or neighborhood you aren't all that familiar with, and you hope you won't neglect to pick up some poor elementary school kid whose parents have already left for work and now the door to their house is locked and they have nowhere to go.

I mean, I don't care about the junior high and high school kids, cuz they can figure it out. They've got phones.

But what wakes me up in the wee hours before a run is my brain deciding to stew and stew over a new route, reminding me every three minutes from 3 A.M. on about what time I need to get to the bus garage (even though I remind my brain that I have set my alarm), and going over all possible negative outcomes.

So far, I haven't made any major mistakes. Minor ones, yes. Major, dangerous ones, no. Knock on wood...

For instance, I ended up sitting on the side of a road with a bus full of junior high school kids while we waited for the mechanics to come and fix my battery box door, which wouldn't stay latched (I didn't kick the battery tray hard enough, it turns out. In my defense, I had no idea I could kick it!).

Because I didn't enunciate my location clearly enough on the radio, the mechanics ended up in the wrong neighborhood and took even longer to find me. Meanwhile, I had to keep the kids from going all Lord of the Flies (which is a very real possibility when children that age don't have access to wi-fi for too long) by playing "School Bus Trivia," a game I made up on the spot. We all had a good laugh, and now they know how drivers get out of the doors after the bus is turned off.

And they STILL made it to school in time, much to their disappointment.

Last week, I was driving a route that takes me into a new street with only one entrance/exit. The street is lined with multiple new houses all under construction at once, so there's always cement trucks and other construction vehicles scattered around. This particular route takes me into this street three times a day in order to pick up or drop off a total of three kids.

On Thursday, I was able to thread my way through in order to turn around at the end of the street and get back out. Barely. On Friday, however, the road was entirely blocked--and even if I had been able to get through to the turnaround at the end, the turnaround was littered with the parked cars of the construction workers, making it impossible for me to get the bus turned around.

So there I am: a load of elementary kids are already on the bus, and two cement trucks pouring a new foundation are completely blocking my way forward. Then, when I look in the mirror, I see a guy double-parking a pickup truck with a trailer, completely blocking my ability to reverse out. What?? Does it seem normal to him that a big yellow school bus full of students is just going to sit and idle in the middle of the road for the indefinite future?

I'm now locked in. Dilemma.

I can't leave the bus to talk to the construction workers (there are kids on board), the construction workers can't hear my air horn over all the noise (not that they can move until the foundation is poured, anyway), and I'm not supposed to reverse--not that I can at the moment.

Obviously, I must reverse or I'm never getting out of there, so I radio the bus garage to let them know what's up. I tell them I'm backing up all the way to the entrance of the street. They are nervous. They request that I at least put an older child in the back window to give me directions. I comply by assigning a sixth grader to tell me if I'm going to hit anyone or anything (not that I can hear anything she says because of the construction noise).

So I put the bus in reverse and watch the pickup truck driver scramble to re-park his vehicle as soon as he hears my reverse alarm (miracle!). Then, dear reader, I backed that big bus straight through all the parked cars, pivoted perfectly into the the dead end to get myself facing out to the highway, and got those kids to school on time and with no other problems. My palms were sweaty, yes, but I felt a certain thrill of triumph.

Substitute bus driving = living on the edge. I'm just a crazy kind of gal!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Let Me Brag about My Kids a Bit

Each of my children have very specific interests. In the case of Sian and Gabrielle, their interests were very different. Sian is a musician and composer and has written many amazing voice and piano pieces. She was also her high school's newspaper editor-in-chief because she enjoys writing.

Gabrielle realized she loved to draw at an early age, and she's never stopped.

Sophia and Elannah share interests in drama, voice, and dance, but each of them have their own individual style.

The boys are still figuring out what they want to pursue, but I see a native talent for drawing showing up in Little Gary, and Joseph has been trying to figure out the concept of humor and comedy since he was old enough to talk. He would also be very good at dance if he cared to pursue it, but it's much less socially acceptable for a boy to do that than a girl, I think. Especially when you are junior high age. While I've never discouraged the idea, he would be horrified if I signed him up for dance classes.

As you know, Gabrielle is taking a digital media course as part of her game design degree. She had to create a YouTube channel on which to display her completed assignments, and I thought you'd like to see one of her videos. This is a speedpaint video of a picture concept she first created when she was a young teen. Right at the end, she shows the original drawing so you can compare it to her updated drawing. It's quick, so you have to pause the video in order to really appreciate how much she's improved. I am amazed at the progress she's made.

Oh, FYI, Sian is now engaged to be married! The wedding is set for August 31st. After I hyperventilated a bit at the thought of my baby becoming a wife (and, eventually, a mother), I'm very happy about the whole thing. As is her dad. She's marrying a great guy. He's intelligent (Applied Physics major) without being condescending. He's spiritual without being self-righteous. And he absolutely adores my daughter (and she adores him, of course). He's the kind of great kid who just gets better with age.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Faith Precedes the Miracle

OMGosh! Can we talk about Bill Nye and his amazing transformation from a very mediocre comedian/actor/mechanical engineer into an expert on all things science? He totally, like, proved it with that song and dance that Rachel Bloom performed on his new show. No, no, don't look it up. You'll hate it. Well, if you do look it up and watch it, just trust me that it's horrendous. I could only get through a little bit of it. It's called "My Sex Junk." And if you do watch it, don't say I didn't warn you. (shudder)

But I digress. Bill Nye the Psycho Guy is not something I want to discuss right now. I want to discuss miracles.

The Miracle

I could go on and on about faith (and I have already, though I haven't published any of those posts), but it all boils down to this: each of us has to learn that when you lay your burdens at the Lord's feet, leave them there and don't pick them up again. Picking them up again to worry and stew over them entirely defeats the whole purpose of laying them at the Lord's feet in the first place. Picking them up again shows a lack of faith. Laying them at His feet and then leaving them there with a lighter heart, trusting that He knows your needs, is what builds faith.

Not that that's an easy lesson. It's taken me years. A lifetime, really. And I'm generally a laid-back person.

I believe you know that I told my last writing client to take a hike, as I did mention it two posts back. When they recently said, "Hey, after all this time of you doing excellent work for us, how about we cut your rates to less than half?" I responded, "Hey, how about I don't work for you anymore?"

It wasn't just ego, which I did try to suppress in order to look at their offer objectively. I mean, yeah, I was insulted, but I did consider whether or not I could still work for them and not feel overwhelming resentment, because money. Conclusion: nope. I'm human, not a robot. I was already charging them rates on the lower end for my work as a professional writer, so I didn't see any advantage to tying up my time and mental energies writing for them for pennies.

By severing ties with them, I now placed myself into a position of not having an extra source of income. The whole thing had soured me on trying to find new clients and haggling about rates, so I decided to do something that gets me out of the house and allows me to talk to people other than myself. Thus: I am now a fully licensed Class B driver with school bus and passenger endorsements.

But another problem: I can't drive a school bus over the summer, which means I don't earn anything over the summer. Uh oh.

Also: taxes were due and we didn't have enough tax credits to reduce our federal and state taxes to reasonable levels. This year, we owe a lot. More than we can afford. Uh oh.

Proposed solution: get a maintenance job over the summer (or something) to make up the income shortfall. If I squint really hard, I can totally see how fun that will be. I can work with young people and learn lots about changing light bulbs and painting schoolroom walls. Right? And we'll sort of wing it with the taxes and take the penalty fines while we pay them off in chunks (bites nails).

And yet, I felt calm and peaceful. I laid my burdens at the Lord's feet and explained the situation and why I couldn't work for my former client anymore. I also explained how money is an issue. We're trying to pay off debt and increase our self-reliance, but a family still has to eat--at least a little. Then I made a conscious effort to not pick up my burdens again and just trust and have faith. Every time the worry tried to well up inside, I reminded myself that faith and fear are mutually exclusive. I choose faith.

On Sunday, April 16th, we had no way to pay our taxes, which were due on Wednesday, April 18th this year. I was also barely recovering from a raging tooth infection that had brutalized me with pain all Saturday night and Sunday.

On Monday, April 17th, the antibiotics I got from the urgent care doctor were finally starting to have some effect (and being able to pay the urgent care fees in order to get the antibiotics is a another miracle I won't go into at the moment). I also got a text. It was from a colleague from a former writing job who now works for a large nutritional supplements company.

"Hey, I need a good writer," he said, "and I'd like to pay you an insanely good rate--and also pre-pay you, starting today!"

I immediately responded, "Hey, I'm your new writer!"

It's amazing how getting paid what you're worth can resurrect your interest in writing for other people, amiright?

He sent me a list of the articles I need to write, and I sent him an invoice. He paid me within minutes. It was enough to cover the federal taxes, due the next day. The money hit my bank account on April 18th.

Now I'm a freelance content writer with a client again--a client who is also a writer, I might add, which is why he isn't trying to pay me pennies for my mental exertions. I have a way to earn good money over the summer. I get to write about natural health topics, which is one of my favorites.

This is a miracle, folks. It's one of the obvious and mind-blowing ones, the kind that makes you fall to your knees and cry out your gratitude to a God who knows you personally and answers prayers. While I know answers don't always come like this, I'm not going to argue. Even if we hadn't received such a brilliantly unforeseen miracle, I still choose faith. My last two writing jobs have followed this very miraculous pattern, which has allowed me to stay at home and and be there for my kids (though the bus driving gig does take me away for a few hours at a time).

And I know that miracles are always happening to me; for every miracle that I see, there are probably hundreds that I am completely unaware of. How can I be anything but grateful at all times? How sad is it when I find myself grumbling and groaning about my lot in life?

I'm feeling very blessed.

Monday, April 24, 2017

I Am a Bus Driver

I passed the CDL test, HR has approved me, and I am now an official substitute bus driver.

That's all you need to read unless you want a bunch of details (below).

Tomorrow I go on a ride-along with a driver for whom I will be substituting this week. It's just nice that I get paid for the ride-along at bus driving rates. Cha-ching.

You're probably wondering how difficult the CDL driving test was. In terms of the anticipation factor, it was pretty bad. In terms of actual experience, it wasn't bad at all. My co-trainee was so stressed and worried and turned so white I thought he was going to pass out. He still managed to pass, though.

I spent the entire time my co-trainee was out doing his test (about 90 minutes) studying and studying to keep everything fresh in my mind. I used my own body to memorize the steering components (steering wheel, steering gear box, pitman arm, drag link, steering ring knuckle, spindle, steering arm, and tie rod. Hey! I still remember all of it!), and I visualized myself going through every part of the pre-trip inspection. By the time they all got back, I was confident.

Because it was starting to rain, the tester only made me do part of the pre-trip inspection (I didn't even get to describe the steering components after all that memorizing!). Then I aced the parallel parking skill test, mostly aced the cross-over backing skill test, picked up and dropped off an imaginary load of children, and then headed out onto the road.

My trainer and the tester, who are good friends, chatted the entire time I was driving. I knew they were keeping an eye on how I was doing, so their easy conversation helped me relax and loosen up my shoulders. I didn't hit any curbs, cars, or pedestrians, which is always good. I didn't hit even one construction barrel when we headed into a narrow, one-lane construction zone during rush hour traffic in the pouring rain. I managed not to get hit by any trains at the railroad crossings, as well.

After a good two hours (they asked me stop at the Target so they could grab some stuff for an inservice meeting--and then didn't come out for 30 minutes!), I pulled back into the bus garage and was told that I had done a "lovely job." I don't like to brag, but I'm pretty good at driving large vehicles--even when I'm sitting forward of the front axle. Who knew?

Want to know what it's like to steer a vehicle when you are sitting forward of the front axle?

I thought you'd never ask.

The next time you're grocery shopping, watch your cart. Every time you swing around a corner, notice how you have to push the front end of the cart out into the middle of the aisle before turning the wheels. Now imagine you're sitting at the front of the cart like the figurehead on a ship, steering it. That's what it's like driving a bus: you have to take into account the fact that the front axle is behind you, and then watch carefully to make sure you also account for how big the tail swing is and where your dual tires at the back are going. Without mirrors, the whole thing would be practically impossible.

Also imagine that your cart weighs over 10,000 pounds, and that stopping it takes more time and space than you think.

Now imagine me cheerily waving at you from the driver's seat. I'm waving because I'm thrilled you obeyed the blinking red lights on the stop sign and didn't try to pass me while children are crossing the road. Major thumbs up!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Everything's Gonna be OK

It's been a busy week.
  • Myles the Cat died. He was old, so it wasn't a total surprise, but it was still sad. Some of the kids don't remember life without him around.
  • My youngest daughter turned 16 and has been asked out on her first date.
  • I told my former client to shove it, though not in so many words. After over two years of doing my best work for them, they decided they wanted to pay me less than half what I had been making as a contractor. While that is the best thing for their bottom line, it was the last in a series of straws breaking this camel's back. We parted ways, though I used the opportunity to offer the name of one of my friends who wants to break into the content writing profession and for whom the new rates would be appropriate. They were very interested.
  • My oldest daughter's boyfriend wants to have a little chat with Husband and me in order to ask for Sian's hand in marriage. Gulp.
  • I have mastered parallel parking and backing into a dock with a 40-foot school bus.
  • I agreed to take on two beginning piano students but also asked my driver trainer to set me up with a summer job that runs Monday through Thursday, 10 hours a day. We'll see how it all works out.
While you could interpret the following song as whistling in the dark, I really like it. I always feel encouraged every time I listen to it. Certainly I love the singer's voice. (It's like butter.)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Little Shredder Music

You wouldn't believe how many snowboarding movies I've watched in the last few days. I know the season is pretty much over, and, no, I haven't suddenly become a shredder. It's part of my research for a blog post for Ship Skis's snowboarders to watch in 2017.

I found this piece of music in the Full Moon movie, in the section that features Robin Van Gyn. I have become a little obsessed. Thought you might also enjoy. Click on the link below.

Easy Nothing | Youngblood

Monday, March 6, 2017

Virtual Relationship Disorder: My Story

I deactivated my Facebook account some weeks ago. It's funny, but when I know I can't log on, I do not miss it one tiny bit. I suppose that because I grew up before the Internet--and certainly social media--was a thing, I don't have this visceral need to know what everyone I've ever known is doing, has done, or is about to do, no matter how trivial.

In the time I've been on Facebook (since one of my friends talked me into creating an account in 2008), I've been able to contact people I knew earlier in life and had wondered about and could find out where their lives had taken them. While that was thrilling at first, reality did settle in quite quickly. Now that I had re-connected to old friends and had exchanged enough data to satisfy my curiosity about how they were, the relationships usually devolved into a sort of gray and lifeless limbo, a highly unsatisfying turn of events, to my mind. I'd rather have no relationship at all than one that is only kept alive by the life support of knowing they are "out there" and we can contact each other whenever we want to, but don't.

It's amazing the amount of stress reduction I've felt after FB deactivation. Also, I do other things with the time I used to spend scrolling through my newsfeed.

Yeah, right.

But here's one more observation about the duality that relationships take on in the virtual vs. real world:

I have been looking for a new gig. Sick to death of writing for other people, and exhausted from being a freelancer and having to constantly look for new clients, I reached out to my friends and asked if anyone knew of something--anything--that I could do that would get me a paycheck. One of my friends responded that a data entry job had come up in her department. She warned me that the job often requires 10 hours of work per day--and often also on weekends--and that workers are paid by the piece, averaging around $9 an hour.

The fact that I shuddered in horror at the thought of working those kinds of hours for slave wages isn't the point, even if it was a work-from-home job. Even Husband agreed that I couldn't stay sane under those conditions.

The point is that I don't often talk to this particular friend face-to-face, even though she lives just around the corner from me, and so my interactions with her are usually through text messages--and those are infrequent. We usually see each other at church on Sundays, but she works with the children and I work with the adult women, so our paths don't cross there, either, except for the occasional "hello" in the hallways. My relationship with her, therefore, is almost entirely virtual, even if we are friendly with each other in our extremely rare face-to-face conversations.

If only texting were an aerobic activity.

It was a day after she had told me about this job, and I was getting more worried that I'd have to take it out of desperation, when another friend called me and told me he had put my name in with a friend of his in the county school district's transportation department, and that I had a job as a district bus driver if I wanted it. Get out of the house for a few hours a day? Check. Drive large vehicles? Check. Satisfy my love of a good road trip (even if it's local)? Check. Get paid far more per hour than data entry and get my CDL for free in the bargain? Check. Obviously, I submitted an application, called them up, and went in for the interview the next day. I'm now their newest trainee substitute bus driver/attendant until I get my CDL and the district approves me as an official driver.

I texted my other friend and thanked her for the job info, but told her I wasn't going to apply. I told her of another of our friends who was looking for physically undemanding work and asked if she'd like to reach out to her, instead. She thanked me for the information and said she'd contact this other woman.

Later that day, I was parked in my usual spot to pick up the afternoon carpool of children from the high school and junior high. This guy who got me the job jumped off his bus and came up to my car window, where we had a face-to-face conversation, and where I thanked him in person for landing me the job. We always joke around with each other, and we had a fun, casual conversation before he had to get back to his bus. A short but highly satisfying exchange. He reminds me a bit of my dad. I have only ever texted him about this job. Otherwise, our relationship is all face-to-face.

Yesterday, at church, I had the opportunity to lead the singing time for the children. The woman who told me about the data entry job was the pianist. I interacted with her through the duration of the singing time about the music, but it wasn't until after I got home from church that it struck me that during that interaction, I had entirely forgotten that she is also the same woman who told me about the data entry job. In my head, I have totally compartmentalized my virtual relationship and my face-to-face relationship with her. The compartmentalization is so effective that I fail to remember that both of those relationships are with the same person.

I wonder how I even have any friends who will talk to me at all? I forget, when I'm talking to them in person, that we have this other relationship that is virtual, and vice versa. In my subconscious, the two relationships are with two separate individuals, even if I know, consciously, that they are one and the same person. I realize that I don't even meld the two worlds of our relationships: I don't mention things to them in person that we have discussed via email or text message, especially if that is our primary form of communication.

Does that make sense? Am I the only one who has developed this psychological dichotomy between real and virtual relationships? Is it any wonder why I had such a rage issue with Facebook?

Ah, the endless psychological wonder that is our brave new world of virtual interaction!

This would be my favorite cafe.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


My youngest son, Little Gary, is nine years old. His best friend is a girl of eight, and she's so absolutely cute, she's going to be a total heartbreaker when she's old enough to date, I guarantee it! Her name is Molly.

Little Gary and Molly often collaborate on ways to earn money for the purpose of having me drive them to the dollar store so they can purchase snacks to feast on while they play video games. Their ideas are pretty creative, too. A couple times, they spent a while drawing and coloring comics, which they then sold to people we know. They've made a surprising amount of money selling those comics.

Today, they figured it was too soon to sell comics again, so they choreographed three different interpretive dances and then went and offered to perform the dances for a dollar. To my surprise, they came back with about five dollars.

They're now feasting on cheese crackers and candy while they play a video game together.

Little Gary and Molly have been friends for a couple years now. For a long time, Little Gary used to come to me and complain that the boys in the neighborhood and some kids from school who saw them walking home together would tease them and make mean comments about them being boyfriend and girlfriend. It just bothered Little Gary so much.

I told Little Gary to try and ignore it. I told him that, in fact, those boys are going to be incredibly jealous in just a couple years. When Little Gary asked why, I told him that he is learning how to talk to and become friends with girls, and that's a skill those other boys are going to wish they had--especially in this neighborhood, which appears to have produced a massive gaggle of boys and just a few girls. And especially as Molly gets older.

Molly's mother told me Molly has come to her with the same complaints, and she's told her to just endure it for the time being.

So now they just brush off the comments and hang out together at our house or her house.

"Wouldn't it be great if those two grew up and got married?" Sophia said to me the other day while we watched them playing. I gestured at her to be more quiet. We don't need to give them any ideas. Let them just be friends for now.