Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - So Long, Farewell

As the final hours of 2008 tick away, I decided to write one last post this year. It's been a crazy year to be sure and I am keenly aware that for some folks it has been utterly terrible. I guess I am more blessed than most because personally it's been pretty good. I really don't have a whole lot that I could complain about.

I mean sure, I've had little afflictions and some disappointments here and there but 2008 has been a decent year for me. I lost my girls which was pretty terrible, but not completely unanticipated and, while I definitely miss them, I don't really feel overwhelmed by grief. And like most people I know I suffered some dramatic losses in the stock market but I don't really feel freaked out about that either. In fact in some ways, I'm quite pleased with how well my portfolio has held up. There's still a couple of stocks I'm right side up on. My little friends ruined my computer and I had to buy a new one when I would have rather used that money for something else and I lost a couple of files that were important to me and some pictures that weren't backed up. The pictures I really regret... The only other thing that I'm thinking didn't go my way is that I had to take on some debt to replace the roof on my house. I hate owing money! But with the weather we've had so far this winter, I am very happy to know that the roof is safe and sound.

On the upside, I have a job that I think is secure. And I work with some of the nicest people on the planet. I have friends who I love and who love me. My faith is strong. I continue to learn and explore new ideas. I'm healthier now than when the year began. My house is inching closer to being done and I have conquered a bunch of my clutter. I had a date for the first time in years and I not only lived to tell about it... but it was pretty fun!

So like most years, 2008 had some wonderful and some not so great. And isn't that something to be thankful about in and of itself? For about as long as I can remember I've heard people say they are thankful for whatever their troubles were and I never understood that. Why in the world would you be glad that unpleasant things happened to you? I think I started to grasp what they meant this year. I'd always kind of got the concept that you have to experience the dark to really know what light is... that the universe is made up of opposing forces. But I don't think I've ever seen my life challenges as good before. I don't think that I'd ever considered what purpose they serve in making me grow and become a better person by working to overcome them. Or that maybe they are uniquely suited to me. I do what other people say they would stagger and crumble under and I see them accomplish things that would be my undoing. A thought I've begun to consider is that these challenges are unique to each person. A kind of test designed by a loving Heavenly Father to help each of us develop the particular strengths we most need. And if that's the case, then I am even more blessed than I had realized before!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Golden Rule

I'm assigned to give the thought during our weekly devotional at work in a couple of weeks and I've decided to talk about the Golden Rule as found in Matthew 7:12.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.

Several years ago I remember reading a magazine article that talked about it as a code of conduct that is common to nearly all major world religions. That makes me think that our ability to get along and treat each other well must be a fundamental truth... one that Heavenly Father considers vitally important to our growth and development during the time we are here on the Earth. While I can't locate a copy of that specific article, I've reconstructed as best I can remember the quotes from the sacred writings of many churches via the magic of websearch.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them. Matthew 7:12 KJV

Bahai Faith:
Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee… Baha’u’llah

Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. Udana-Varga 5:18

Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence. Mencius VII

This is the sum of duty: do not do unto others what would cause pain if done unto you. Mahabharata 5:1517

None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself. Number 13 of Imam

What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary. Talmud, Shabbat 31a

The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful. Tao Teh Ching, ch. 49

An harm it none, do what thou wilt. The Wiccan Rede

That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself. Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5

Ancient Egyptian:
Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do. The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, translated by RB Parkinson. The original text dates to 1970-1640 BC and may be the earliest version ever written.

As I was thinking about these quotes, I was reminded of the time I was in the hospital with the badly screwed up thyroid meds. I quit breathing in ICU that first night. And while the whole experience is quite surreal, I remember the internal struggle between that part of me that wanted to stay and the part that kept saying 'it's too hard, I can't.' And I was aware of that last breath and of my spirit slipping out of my body. No... there was no white light, no welcoming committee of dead relatives and friends to greet me, no Jesus to pat me on the back and tell me my important and unique mission earth wasn't complete yet. I do remember being very much at peace and on the edge of a grand adventure - there was nothing fearful about it, just nothing spectacular either. And that's not the part of the experience that takes me back to ponder the lesson to be found in it.

What I find fascinating is the struggle between staying and going. My thoughts were about the people in my life and how they would be affected. Would they be okay? Would they figure out what I was doing with some project and be able to pick it up and finish? Did they know how much I loved them and cared about them? Every thought was consumed with people and my relationship with them. There was no care or consideration of what I did for a living, a bank balance or any possessions.

Kind of affirms that idea of a fundemental truth being we need to treat each other well, huh?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back Up and Running

After a long (at least it felt long!) hiatus, I'm back up and running and typing my first blog entry on my new computer. What happened to the 'old' computer, you ask? Well... that can summed up in the names of my two young friends, Jon and Bryan. Little boys and expensive electronics are a deadly mix. Anyway it was deadly for the electronics!

Anyway, I got another notebook. An HP Pavilion dv4t-1000 Entertainment PC. I'm not sure I think it's the greatest, but it was cheap and I think it will fill my needs. After all I'm not a highly technical user. Right now my biggest complaint is the sound is kind of tinny like the very old $15 clock radio that wakes me up every morning.

Thanksgiving came and went and found me kind of boohooing my situation in life. It wasn't a very good holiday this year. Kind of sad and lonely. Besides I lost both of my girls that week. Lizzie went on to cat heaven on Tuesday and Mittens went right behind her on Friday. And since I feel myself getting all emotional, I don't think I'm quite ready to write about them or that experience quite yet. At least not beyond saying that we're going to try living life without a litter box.

For the last week the house has felt even more big and empty and lonely and in need of a family. But that's probably me... I'm only now starting to feel like I'm back on a level spot emotionally. Then again, it is a BIG house for just me.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bail Me Out!!

Are you as disgusted with politics and business as I am right now? I mean this bailout joke our government has now succeeded in foisting off on us taxpayers should be a crime!! All we are doing is rewarding corporate greed and gluttony.

The banks who made all these bad and questionable loans knew they were bad and questionable right while they were making them. They know what the indicators of credit quality are and chose to overlook them on the way to bigger profits and bigger paydays for their CEOs. Think rationally for just a moment... they are banks, credit is their business. They acted irresponsibly and made foolish decisions and now we, through our elected officials, are saying "Oh poor baby, let me make it all better for you." like they are toddlers with a skinned knee.

The bailout package that's been recently passed through Congress and signed by our President is a tiny, though bancruptcy inducingly expensive, band-aid on a big gushing dirty wound. There's no hope it will stem the bleed. It may even be enough of an irritation to make the problems worse as the American people realize they are going to be the ones who pay for this mess through higher taxes and more corporate expectation to shift the results of faulty decision making rather than taking the appropriate responsibility and action.

Would the results of making these big banks take responsibility be painful? Very much, I'm sure, for everyone and especially in the near future. But, I believe, the lessons learned would be supernally valuable. In the long run, I think it would be better to let these drunken giants go down as monuments to unabashedly immoral behavior. The American people, in deed the whole world, wouldn't soon forget that all decisions carry consequences.

Maybe this kind of setback is what we all need. Americans need to take back America and make it great again for the right reasons.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Reverend Jim Jones

My friend Jim, who in spoof calls himself The Reverend Jim Jones, recently learned that he has a brain tumor. Very, very recently. He's actually in surgery right now so it can be removed and/or so the doctors can learn more about it to determine a prognosis and treatment plan. Not much is known right now... he had a seizure on Sunday and his wife took him to the ER where they admitted him and started doing tests. Apparently the tumor is just smaller than a grapefruit near his right forehead. It's all very scary and I'm so concerned for him. For his whole family.

Jim has a daughter on a mission and a son getting ready to go. He also has a younger son who is profoundly handicapped. It can't be easy for them. And if I remember correctly Jim's dad has terminal cancer. I know he spent part of the last holiday season recording his dad's personal history. It was a big job, but he was so thrilled with how it came out and how touched his siblings were when they got copies of the CD for Christmas. It was pretty inspiring to get started saving some of my own family history.

Part of why I like Jim is his boundless enthusiasm. He gets more tickled over a silly email joke than anyone I know. And invariably if there is one with even a hint of innuendo, I hear "Oh... that's bad! Kathy you gotta see this one!" I even hear that in my head when someone else sends me a joke now.

Well Jim, even though you may never see this... I'm pulling for you! You are in my thoughts and prayers. I'm gonna try to get out to see you on Thursday evening so be awake and taking visitors, okay?

(And for those of you who didn't understand the reference, here's a brief story of the real Reverend Jim Jones: You can easily see all that's shared is a name.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pondering the Pomegranite

I was reading earlier that pomegranites are one of nature's "super foods." Chock full of vitamins, fiber, high powered antioxidants and all kinds of other good stuff. And you never even thought to wonder why they are so good for you, huh?

I have a different theory. I think, after just eating one, that it's because it takes so dog gone much work to eat one!! I mean think about it... first you have to pry the thing open, then figure out how to pick out the little seeds one by one, and chase the dropped ones all over the kitchen. It's got a full plethora of benefits - you get a workout for mind and body and a tastey snack to boot. The vitamins, fiber and antioxidants are like frosting on the cake.

Umm.... Cake.

Okay, okay... enough of the drooling. Here's a cold hard slap of reality from Divine Caroline:

(By the way, I didn't ask for permission to post this link so if they notice it and complain, I'll be taking it down.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Homework from Church

I didn't go to Church yesterday. We had some unexpected company drop by and decided to stay home and visit with them. My mom and her brother are both well into their 80s and not in the greatest of health so this seemed like a worthwhile and important thing to do. Afterward, my Visiting Teacher dropped by all worried because I wasn't there and to give me a copy of the "homework assignment." Yesterday was the 5th Sunday of the month. In my Ward, on 5th Sundays the Relief Society and Melchizedek Preisthood Quorums meet together and usually have a message from the Bishop.

He asked us to begin a personal study on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This is the second time that I remember hearing this counsel from Bishop Lewis. And this time it is stronger and more formal which I find notable. I've been studying since he gave this same assignment early this year. I will certainly up my efforts now.

Specifically, he asked us to prepare a written study plan by September 7 and to track our progress and complete the plan by December 25, 2008.
  • Use the index from the Book of Mormon under the various headings for "Jesus Christ" (especially "Jesus Christ -- Atonement of").
  • Read or listen to General Conference talks about the atonement of Jesus Christ.
  • Consider re-reading the Book of Mormon by December 25 focusing on the passages of scripture relating to the Savior and His Atonement.
  • Share your study plan with a spouse, family member or friend and let them know your progress (consider sharing what you have learned and how your feelings for the Savior have been affected).
  • Consider developing an action plan to go along with your study plan -- seeking inspiration for things you feel the Lord would have you personally undertake because of your increased faith in Christ and His Atonement.
  • Keep a notebook with entries of things you learn.

I pulled out my notes from my previous, though less focused, study and boy do they seem disorganized. Some of the thoughts are profound and I want to keep exploring them, but I don't know how to fit them into this new plan the Bishop has put forward. As I was laying on the bed pondering all of these things, I started thinking about the ways the Atonement applies to my life in a personal and intimate way. And I was surprised at some of the things I could come up with.

Recently I've been struggling with some fears of being hurt. I've fallen completely in love with some of the neighbor kids and as their dad's divorce is finally nearing a conclusion he's starting to think of his future. One night I was completely overcome by the thought that he will get married, move away and I will never get to see those kids again. That will leave a gaping wound in my heart and I wasn't sure I could bear that kind of a hurt. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and praying about it and I finally felt a comforting touch in my soul. Maybe almost a confidence that whatever happens I will be okay and able to move forward richer for the experience of having loved this deeply. Last night I realized that the swallowing up of this pain and fear is an application of the Atonement in my life... real and tangible and meaningful and personal. My own little miracle. I am so thankful for this manifestation of God's love and awareness of me.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Juno slammed me!

For a long time, I used Juno for my ISP. Great service, cheap price, decent speed, even the spam filter worked pretty good. I was happy. Except... I wanted to go wireless so I could roam around the house and Juno couldn't offer me wireless service.

I arranged wireless service got it up and working right and called Juno to cancel. The lady on the phone was very nice and told me my Juno account would be active as a "backup" for about 45 days as a FREE service. I didn't really think much more about it until the other day when I was looking at my credit card statement and saw a $4.95 charge from Juno.

I looked back through the past few months and those dirty buggers have been charging me every month! So I called them for an explanation. The first guy can only verify that it is for backup service. He can't do anything to change it... so I get transferred to a slightly abrasive and argumentative guy who just can't understand why I wouldn't want their backup service. Could be a language problem, from the accents I'm guessing their call center is in India... (Argh!! I hate companies who offshore these jobs!)

I keep telling him I don't want it, didn't ask for it, don't use it. Finally, he puts me on hold and a few minutes later comes back to tell me he's canceled the service. And then I ask him "what about the unauthorized charges?" Which, by the way, he admits he can't find any record of me asking for the service or authorizing charges beyond April 15. More time on hold and he comes back saying he can refund $9.90 (2 months worth). And I ask him, what about the other two months charges of $5.44 and $4.95? He rattles off some email address where I can make my complaint.

The dollars are not important at this point, I'm just pissed about the principle so I tell him, "Wait a minute. I'm the party that's injured here, I've told you - their customer service representative - about it and now I have to put out more effort to get your company's mistakes corrected? That's not right." He argues with me for a few minutes about that is their policy, but I keep telling him "no, it's not right and I'm not satisfied with the response." Finally, I go back on hold. After awhile he comes back and says he's refunding the entire amount... a whopping $20.29. I can expect to see it post to my credit card in 1 or 2 billing cycles. Why do they get so long to fix this?

Why do companies feel like they have to use such dishonest tactics? Is the dollar really that almighty and important that you have to sell your soul for it? Not to me. I know what happens when you climb in bed with the devil!!

You know, until this happened, I'd have gone back to Juno in a heartbeat. Now I won't. Ever. Under any circumstance. And if you use their service, I urge you to drop them like a pile of crap, too!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is Occasional Angst Normal?

Have you ever felt like things are just not quite right in your world even when life is going pretty well? Very much is good and right and even I have to admit that I'm usually quite satisfied. Just sometimes I catch myself kind of in a daydream state wondering if this is all there is in store for me. Sometimes I lose focus on what I'm doing at the moment and sometimes I feel, I don't know how to describe it, homesick.

That happened at work today... that kind of disjointed, unfocused feeling that I ought to be somewhere else. I tried to counter it with a 5 minute walk around the plaza. It felt good to be outside in the sunshine and look at the flowers. The colors seemed especially vibrant today, too, with blooms in shades of purple and pink and orange and burgandy and all the shades of green. It was a riot for the eyes. A very cheerful riot. I felt better afterward but still somewhat angst ridden.

I've been thinking lately that maybe I'm not being completely authentic to who I am in this job. Maybe, maybe not. I've gone through periods of the same feeling with basically every job. And I don't mean I've changed my values or personality to fit into the job environment but that the act of working outside the home feels somehow untrue to myself. When I was a little girl and people would ask that inevitable question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" My thought, not always verbalized, was "wife and mom." Not a popular answer for a child of the '70s... but that's who I am. Who I've always been. That's what I really want from life. What would make me feel complete and authentic. And I bet I'd be darned good at it, too!

But unfortunately, life happens while you are making other plans. And it is what it is. And for me, it doesn't include what I want most. Business success and all the trappings that go with it seem like hollow little trinkets but that's what I've got to amuse myself with. And just wishing isn't going to change it. Not sure what to do to change the course of my life. But I would sure like to.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Our Own Private Redwall

Yesterday the long awaited 'Paint the Castle' day arrived.

As usual, I tried to cram too much into the day. But it was very fun! Alan brought his kids, Loren, Jonathan and Bryan to help. Kerri came. And Orrin. And John and Jerilee came and got started on my sad looking patio furniture. I spent more time checking on the different groups and bringing out treats and drinks than actually painting. But hey, it's a good tradeoff... get the neighbors to come do the work and I feed them.

At the end of the evening, we barbequed Cambodian Chicken and had corn on the cob, green salad and a big Texas Cake (currently my favorite!) and had dinner with the 3 missionaries currently serving in our stake. One of them is brand new, Elder Cammie, and came from Thailand. He told me I had the spices right on the chicken. And for their spiritual message, he told us his conversion story. Wow!!

His family is Buddhist and traditionally the children in the family get no say in their future. The parents decide their occupation, spouse, religion, etc. He first came in contact with the Church wanting to learn to speak English and later became interested in the teachings. Het met with missionaries there for several months and gained a testimony. But his parents refused and told him if he choose to get baptised that they would disown him. He was very sad but followed their instructions, finished his schooling and got a job. Still the desire to join the Church persisted and he approached his parents again. They finally agreed, with a big caveat... First he had to become a Buddhist monk. He did but said he felt hollow and sad the whole time. When he'd completed that requirement, he walked away from the monestary and was baptised. Then he felt the desire to serve a mission and was finally called to serve in Salt Lake City.

Just before noon, Kerri came to make the cake. She has been asking to learn how to cook and her mom won't teach her. I don't know why... So anyway, I kind of had a chocolate dipped kitchen but her first cake was a roaring success! We ate every last crumb.

A short time later the painters showed up and got started. Jon had so much paint on him, he looked like a dummy for a disaster drill! But he was so thrilled. He told me over and over that it was the "best day ever!"

Like I said it's not quite done yet. There's some edging and fussy stuff to finish up. I think I'll work on that evenings this week. And then, because Loren and Jon always call it Redwall Castle and make up games with the characters from those stories, we are going to put some Redwall features on the castle. There is a 12 point compass I agreed to paint onto the front wall. And Loren and Kerri want to help make a flag that looks like the crest on Mathias' shield which I think we can accomplish with a little time and fabric. And since a big part of the Redwall charm lies in solving riddles, I'm going to letter a few riddles around different parts of the castle walls. Here's a before picture. I'll post completed pics in the next couple of weeks.

I discovered looking for some information on a few days ago that the yellow slide is visible in the satellite image of my house. How wild is that?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

NOAC 2008

Well... last night was the night. Our annual Night Out Against Crime BBQ. And it was really a lot of fun!! Other than attendance and that I forgot to bring the camera out and take pictures, everything came off pretty much as planned.

There were about 12 neighborhood kids (ages 2-13) who participated in sidewalk chart art, horseshoes, frisbee, playing on the Castle and... everyone's favorite the water balloon fight. One of the sidewalk chalk drawings had a little heart in one corner that said "Kathy Rocks." How cool is that? I liked all the soaking wet hugs, too!

Along with the kids, we hosted about 30 adults. Everyone had a good time socializing and meeting some of the neighbors they didn't know or don't see very often. I think everyone met at least one neighbor they didn't know before. Which is, at least partly, the point of these shindigs.

We also got incredible support from the Salt Lake City Police Department!! I had called asking if we might get a patrol officer to stop by and socialize for a few minutes and give a "tour" of the technology they have in the cars now. What we got: the Chief of Police, 5-6 patrol officers, 2 motorcycle officers, a SWAT officer, a gang officer, reps from Youth Services, Victim Advocates, Mobile Neighborhood Watch, Parking Services and a couple of detectives. I'm not sure my neighborhood has ever had so many police in one spot at the same time before!

SLCPD talked to most of the adults for a few minutes and I think we found the right resources to solve a problem with a little converted garage apartment thing in the alley where someone has run drugs and that was supposed to be closed to habitation many years ago. That it was inhabited and causing problems again sure seemed to get the detectives' attention, anyway. One of the cops took several of the kids out back to play cops and robbers. Can you imagine being a 9 year old boy and playing cops and robbers with a real cop? You could see they were having lots of fun and getting more positive attention than usual which was great. Jonathan looked he was about to burst from excitement a couple of times...

The two motorcycle officers gathered all of the kids (and adults who tagged along) out by their bikes. They talked for a few minutes about the technical stuff like engine size and how fast it goes. Then they had a couple of stories about catching a bad guy that had the kids really intrigued. Then they invited several of them to come see how the lights and sirens work. My young friend Loren was really excited to push one button and see the blue lights and another for the red. Then the officer told her to push a different one... and it was the siren. She wasn't expecting the loud noise and was so startled she jumped back about 5 feet to hide behind dad. Before her feet even hit the ground, she realized what it was and came down with a huge ear-to-ear grin. It was so good to see her let loose and be that carefree and happy!! Life too often weighs heavy on that little girl.

I declare NOAC 2008 a success!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

95+ Weather

I am sick of this 95 degree or higher weather!! Bring on the autumn season!

Why does the heat just make me wilt into a pile of (very) grouchy mush? Yes, I know, at least it's a "dry heat" here in Utah. But there's a point when the humidity doesn't matter - it's just plain hot. And we've reached that point and sat there for weeks on end now. Or so it seems.

Even the grass and trees are looking mighty unhappy. And I can't seem to pour enough water on them to do any good. The grass looks completely dead in patches and many of the other plants are visibly stressed. Even the sick maple tree in the parking strip has given up the ghost. The city is supposed to come cut it down. They just won't commit to when. Then next spring they will plant a new tree... as long as I'm willing to give it 5-10 gallons of water every single day all summer long. Even though I'm not paying for the tree, the water bill makes it an expensive investment. But I guess I shouldn't complain. At least I will get to enjoy the shade. Eventually.

Next Tuesday is Night Out Against Crime. It's supposed to be 94 that afternoon. What a break, huh? But I think (I hope) the party will be a lot of fun. I'm hosting again this year and I've put a bit more planning into it. Okay, a lot more planning. On the agenda is sidewalk chalk drawing for kids (with a prize), a "get-to-know-you" game for the adults and a water balloon toss for everyone. We are grilling hotdogs and hamburgers and having a pot luck of salads and desserts. I've invited the police and fire departments to come show off their vehicles and do a meet and greet with all the neighbors. I handed out 69 invitations this year. I'll post more about the shindig on August 6.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Blue Ones Really Do Crack Easier

A few days ago, a friend at work handed me this goofy little story. I chuckled and passed it along to my friends all over the country. Then... unexpectedly I was confronted with a bowl of plain M&Ms. Come on, you know you'd try it, too!

Here's the story:

M&M Genetics

Whenever I get a package of plain M&Ms, I make it my duty to continue the strength and robustness of the candy as a species. To this end, I hold M&M duels.

Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one cracks and splinters. That one is the "loser" and I eat it immediately, weeding out the inferior genes. The "winner" gets to go another round.

I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theatre of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world. Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment.

When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to:

M&M Mars
A Division of Mars, Inc.
Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503

along with a 3X5 card reading, "Please use this M&M for breeding purposes."

This week they wrote back to thank me and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this "grant money." I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the true champion. There can be only one.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What Is This Glow?

Last Wednesday I had to stop at the bank to make a deposit and I was chatting with my friend David there. They were slow, the server was down, etc... I haven't seen him for months. He kept commenting on my "glow" and that I look really happy and then came the suspicious "who is he?" I wish I could have told him I'm in love, but that's not really true. I have a crush... yes, there's a man I'd like to get to know better... yes, my heart gets a little thrill whenever I see him... yes, but love? No. Not yet anyway. But I'm working on it!

My young friend Jonathan lied to me last weekend when he was here. He wanted to play in the water on Sunday evening and kept stepping into the spray where the sprinkler was overshooting the fence just a little. He was a bit dampish, but not really wet and he started rubbing his hair. I told him if it dried all spiky like that he'd look like a rock star. Of course, then he wanted his hair spiked. Silly me... "Okay, go ask your Dad first." Minutes later he comes running back telling me it's okay and he has this huge bottle of hair gel. So I spiked his hair. Or rather I tried. He looked more like a porcupine on the loosing side of a battle with an egg beater, but he was thrilled with it. Until it was time to go home. Then it was "My Dad is going to kill me!" And then Dad saw the hair... Yeah, his face was a mixture of horror and surprise. He obviously didn't know about Jon's plan beforehand. Right then I wanted to choke Jon, too. Great way to make an impression on your crush, huh?

But hopefully I turned it around on Monday evening when I took him a jug of chocolate milk (his stress reliever) and an "I'm Sorry" note with my phone number in it. Along with the suggestion that next time I'll wait for him to call and let me know that he's really okay with whatever plan Jon has cooked up first.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Nasty Secret Out in the Open

The doctor has always bugged for me the reason I hate doctors so much, so this last time I told him. Anyway the major part of the reason and where it all started from... I lost all trust in the medical professional when I came home from the hospital following my tonsilectomy and I was goo-ey and bruised down "there." Not sore muscles in my legs or a bruise on my thigh, but internal. I mean (or I imagine anyway) sore like rough "can't walk tomorrow" sex. This would have happened during or just after the surgery while I was still unconscious. And I remember already being slightly awake when I was wheeled into the recovery room.

I didn't pursue any legal action at the time. Who wants the stigma of being the victim of a sex crime? And I really didn't have anyone to talk to about it or even know quite how to verbalize the happening or what I was feeling. So it got all bottled up and came out as anger, distrust, and a need to always be in control of the situation. For a long time that was directed at the whole word in general and at the medical professional very directly. Anyone I met who had any link to the medical field was automatically my enemy. I was angry with everyone and everything... doctors did bad things to you, my family and friends who didn't understand, myself because it happened to me, other people because it didn't happen to them, God, the universe, fate. You name it, my ire went there!

People had to be very persistent and thick skinned to get to know me. Most didn't stick around that long. So I was very alone and lonely. And that made me even more angry and withdrawn.

It's taken a long time to work through all that. Opening back up and trusting other people, in any situation, has been a long hard journey. Getting to the point that someone else can casually touch even my arm without me freaking out has been a great internal war. At a past job, an interviewee reached over and stroked my forearm during a job interview. Inappropriate, yes, but also innocently done. I had to leave the room to control my impulse to slug her. You know, a good upper cut to the jaw and lay her out flat on the conference room table kind of slug? My reaction was truly that extreme. I think that violent streak would surprise a lot of people because I'm pretty generally one of those non-violent, granola-munching, tree-hugger types. I know it scared me.

Little by little, I have gained trust in most people and in my Heavenly Father. Putting myself out there and being vulnerable is still difficult even though doing so has been a mostly positive experience. It is getting easier to enjoy and trust people. But I still get a wave of gripping nauseaous panic just walking into a medical office. I don't know if I can ever learn to control that but it does feel good to get that secret out in the open and not bear the burden all by myself.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What the heck happened to May?

My bad! No posts for a month...

Well, I was sick. I caught a cold right at the beginning of the month. And I put off everything "for a few days" hoping the bug would pass on by and I'd feel better and more like I actually wanted to do something. But no, it hung on and I kept coughing. And coughing... and coughing. I sounded like a barking seal!! Finally I gave up and went to the doctor. I hate going to the doctor - actually hate isn't nearly strong enough a word - but after 2 weeks of not sleeping because I was up coughing, I had a moment of weakness and did it. His words were, "I don't know what you've got. But, I think we should throw an antibiotic at it." Also, one of those codeine-laced cough syrups. Ten days later? I'm still coughing! Admittedly not as much or as hard, but argh!! Enough already!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You Could Beat Him With a Stick...

There's a guy at work who has the most positive outlook on life that I have ever experienced. No matter what happens, he can find a list of reasons that it's just great. Not just good, but great. Pile on the work, make him cover for a slacking co-worker, have computer problems all day... everyone else is tense and snappy but Steve is still happy and will tell you how great it is to work there. I truly think you could beat him with a stick until he was bloody and he'd still tell you everything was great!

And his attitude is infectious. I know I walk away smiling every time I talk to him. We all want to hang out with Steve because he is so uplifting. Or maybe we are just hoping even a wee smidgeon of his positivity will rub off on us... I don't know how he does it. Where does his overwhelmingly upbeat outlook come from?

It's not like Steve's life is perfect. He has stresses and trials just like the rest of us. He's got a challenging full-time job, a full classload working on his Masters, an ugly divorce in his past, a cute new girl friend and who knows what else going on. For me all that would be like the recipe for a stroke. I regularly get overwhelmed and grouchy over the details of my relatively simple life.

I'd sure like to figure out his secret...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Polygamists in the News

Like many people, I've been watching this whole FLDS polygamist/child-abuse raid thing happening in Texas with interest. There's something about it that makes me really uncomfortable. Actually several things. Strangely all sides of the argument make me feel like squirming in my seat a bit.

One minute I'm looking at a photograph of a weeping woman dressed much like a pioneer. It's a little bit eery -- almost like looking at living history and suddenly being confronted with the human aspects rather than just the cold facts of what has happened. It's hard to condemn something or someone when you feel a personal connection. You see some of my own ancestors practiced polygamy.

The next moment I'm confronted with horror stories of abuse and fear. There are some published accounts of life within the FLDS community that are getting a lot of publicity right now. The details of their lives make me shudder. At the same time, I'd expect them to be less than enthusiastic supporters of a group they disassociated themselves from. People just don't leave something because they really, really, really like it. On the other hand, I personally know a man who did leave this lifestyle and religion and have no reason not to trust what he tells me about his childhood.

And then there's the legal issues. Did the State of Texas drastically overstep their bounds and trample on the rights guaranteed us citizens by the Constitution? While it's looking more and more like the impetus for this raid was a hoax call, I can find merit in this argument and I feel some distress for what it means. Freedoms once lost cannot be easily regained.

I'm just not quite sure what I think about all of this. At the end of the day, though, I think I'd have to say I'm not patently against polygamy. If consenting adults choose this life I'm really not offended by it. Actually if you get past the sexual issues and politics of sharing a husband... it might have some intriguing benefits. My great grandparents had passed away many years before I was born, so I only know the family stories about them but it seems they were very happy in their chosen shared life. Great grandpa was married to 3 sisters. Between them they had 30 children. My grandfather often said it didn't matter which house they were in as children, they were treated the same. They knew they were loved and wanted and welcome and treated as a gift from our Father in Heaven. The stories passed down in my family say that it was the wives who chose polygamy. Great grandpa fell in love with, and wanted to marry, the oldest sister. She told him the only way she'd agree was if he also married her two younger sisters following their 18th birthdays. My great grandmother was the youngest sister.

But I don't think the polygamy they lived is anything like the polygamy that I understand is practiced in the FLDS communities. For perspective, I'm relying heavily on Dave's story. He was born into the FLDS community of Colorado City as one of 56 children - I don't remember how many wives he said his father had. He said the first word he learned was "more" because with that many kids there was never enough food and as soon as it hit the table everyone was clamoring for their share. He tells of deciding it wasn't the life he wanted to live as a teenager and trying to run away from home... only to be hunted down, beat nearly to death and drug home where he was forced to kneel before their "prophet" to confess his sins. He tells about being so scared afterward that he knuckled under and tried to conform and eventually found a girl he wanted to marry. He went so far as starting to build a house. One day this "prophet" came by and declared it a fine house for "5-6 little doves" and expressed the expectation to... shall we say, produce quick and visible results. He ran again. This time he was successful.

The way I see polygamy, like most things we encounter in life, has a good side and a shadow. It can be a joyful shared life or it can be full of force, abuse, loneliness and hard thankless labor. It's very hard to judge someone else's life. It's hard to know why they do the things they do. And in this case, I think the "why" matters.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

One Step Closer To A Homeless Person

My friend, Marcy, teased me last year that my acquisition of a new purse left me "one step from a homeless person." (Isn't that a Seinfeld line?) I'd been shopping at The Gateway and one of the stores had a promotional thing where if you bought $250 in clothes, you got a free purse. I liked the purse. I wanted the purse. I felt a great desire to own this purse. But I couldn't spend that much on clothes right then so sadly I left the purse on their rack and moved on. A few minutes later we stopped in the bathroom and... what was poking up out of the trash? My coveted purse!!

After a quick glance around, I decided I wasn't too proud and lifted it out of the used paper towels, emptied the bubble wrap out of the inside and went merrily on my way. It's my favorite purse still today!

If Marcy is reading this, her "homeless" opinion is about to get a major reinforcement. Several weeks ago, one of the units in the duplex on the corner was unexpectedly abandoned. The owner has hauled stuff out like you can't imagine. I can't figure out where in that apartment they had so much stuff!! It's been like 6 or 8 trailer loads they've hauled off and that's not counting the bigger pieces of furniture they drug to the curb and tagged with "FREE" signs. Of course, I snagged one of those pieces... an antique table.

Now it does need a couple of repairs... but they're ones I think I'm capable of making. And when I do, I will have the most amazing upstairs desk. It will be great to hold a lamp, my laptop and a few papers. Then if I ever need it, I can pull the sides out, drop in a leaf and have a dining table for up to 6 (as if I'll ever need to seat 18 for dinner!). I'm not sure if it's mahogony or cherry - a little dirty, plus I don't know woods that well - but it's dark and has some reddish tones like the rest of my furniture. The legs are intricately turned and the braces have a graceful arching quality. And considering I've only invested a little effort in dragging it home and about $6 in wood putty and glue, I'm quite thrilled with my find!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Near Fatal Case of Pack-Rat-itis

For the first time in 8 months, I have all my stuff under one roof! Nevermind that the bulk of it is stored temporarily in my future master bedroom... I thought that sounded like a grand accomplishment until I started looking at just how much 'stuff' there actually is... No wonder moving has been such a trauma!

What was I ever thinking in accumulating so much 'stuff?' I'm overwhelmed, disgruntled and a little repulsed by the sheer volume of 'stuff' I have to sort through. I think, not only am I a horrid pack-rat, but I have a shopping addiction. That's a deadly combination! Some of this 'stuff' will surely get tossed, some will be given away and some I'll have to find a place for here.

Time for the confessions:
Some of it will get tossed - When I emptied out the pantry I found a ton of expired canned goods. Worst was some very expensive salad dressing that was 4 years past its "Best When Used By" date. Yeah... full garbage can this past week and probably for several more to come.

Some will be given away - When I emptied out my closet there were pants I don't remember buying that still had the store tags hanging in them. Obviously they were really important for me to have, huh? I took a huge box (24"X48"X20") and filled it so that the top was rounded over nearly as deep as the box itself and gave all of it away. Sadly, there's still more clothes I'm pretty certain I will never wear and don't want taking up space in the closet here. I've also given away boxes of food that isn't expired but I know we won't be able to get it eaten before it does. Yes, that was boxes... as in more than one and it's likely there will be even more as I get the rest of the 'stuff' sorted out.

Integrating the rest of that 'stuff' into my new home... There are some obvious pieces that already have a designated place but the place isn't ready for them. Like a couch and slipper chairs and TV (+ the stereo/home theater components that go with it) from my old living room that are destined for my new family room. And some craft and office supplies for the office which also isn't ready yet. Just getting these things out of the way will make a huge difference in the space and how I'm feeling about it.

Just keep me away from any store that sells anything... Seriously, if you see me whip out the debit card, slap me!! Trust me, whatever it is... I've probably already got three!!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

New Church Calling

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to be the Home, Family and Personal Enrichment Leader for my Ward's Relief Society. I think this is going to be a lot of fun!

Basically I am charged with arranging activities for the Relief Society sisters that in some way enrich or improve their lives, homes, family or spiritual development. I have a committee to work with me and they are wonderful and intelligent and so willing to work to make these activities successful. We must hold 4 activities during the year and then there are small, or special interest, groups to fill in the gaps. This Ward has always had more successful big activities and the small groups are kind of struggling along. And if I'm honest, I will have to admit I haven't quite caught the vision on them.

The first activity is one we partially inherited... The speaker was already arranged by a past leader. On April 22, we have Joy Bossi of the radio and tv program Joy in the Garden coming to give us gardening advice. Not just as the leader getting a successful activity right out of the gate, but I'm personally excited for this presentation! Remember that big empty garden spot?

Then there are no general activities until September. Traditionally that has been a Back-to-School night, but I'm hoping this year we can agree on something a little different. I'd like to do a service auction...

And finally there will be a spiritual evening in November to set the tone as we prepare for the holidays. The Relief Society President arranges the speaker normally, so we will just have to plan the evening and any food.

Between now and September, though, the small groups need to fill the gap. We've bounced some ideas around that include a Mom & Tot Exercise Group, a Family History Group, and an evening to learn to make bread and strawberry jam. I know how, but I still think that would be fun... and yummy!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

7 Qualities of a Good Wife

This afternoon I was bored and aimlessly poking around the web reading whatever came up that looked interesting. E Lawrence Welch's Blog caught my eye and got me thinking. Lately I've been lamenting my utter lack of what I tongue-in-cheek call man-chasing skills even though I've found a man I'd surely like to chase.

Maybe my problem isn't skill, maybe it's my outlook on me that's flawed. Maybe I need to rethink some things and work a little harder on being a better me before I try to become part of an 'us.' At this point it would be easy to digress into a nitpicking fault-finding hullaballoo of a pity party. Goodness knows I've got some bad habits and who knows how to beat me up about them better than me? Afterall, I've had 40+ years to bury skeletons and dig them up again to rattle their bones. But would that really be constructive? Well... it hasn't worked so far so maybe I should try something new.

I was particularly intrigued by Mr. Welch's post titled 7 Qualities of a Good Wife. Dig around his blog and find this one. It's worth the read, as is his 7 Qualities of a Good Husband. I tried to imagine how my personality and habits fit into each of these 7 qualities. Maybe I do have a shot at catching Mr. Wonderful afterall!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rainy Thursday Night

It's been raining off and on most of the day... kind of gray and melancholy and a bit cooler than we were enjoying for the last several days but so clear and clean when the sun would break through that it would nearly take my breath away. I guess some people would call this Seattle weather. I rather like it.

On a lot of the trees you can see the first hints of swelling buds. A few in sunny sheltered spots are even starting to turn green. I love that promise of spring! It's so hopeful and energizing and full of hope. It makes it hard to be cooped up in an office all day. I think I'll start walking at lunch time. There are two nice parks within a block plus the plaza at the Church Office Building and Temple Square and the roof-top garden at the Conference Center to wander and explore and study the gardens. At worst I'll get some really over ambitious plans for my garden and being out in the fresh air moving around will be really good for me.

I've been watching the green stuff starting to poke up in the flower beds with curiosity... and I have some of the big hyacinth starting to bloom. There are a couple of dark purple ones on the side of the house and some pink ones out front. Those are kind of a surprise! There are lots of other leaves that look like they might be tulips and the whole flowerbed on the west of the driveway is jam-packed with what I *think* are grape hyacinth. That might be kind of pretty when they bloom. It looks like whatever is there has been allowed to take over and naturalize for many many years. This spring will be interesting as I see what comes up and start making decisions about what to add to it.

One thing that I had at my old house that I miss here is violets. One flowerbed by the door was full of them and in early spring (now) they smell so good! It's a very delicate and faint scent, but completely and intoxicatingly beautiful. Maybe I'll have to transplant some...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Progress Notes

A collection of updates to former posts...

REMODELING: I could just about ask, what remodeling? In the last 6 weeks the following has been accomplished... my kitchen sink is now affixed permanently to the countertop and the trim is down between the hearth and floor in front of the fireplace. Oh, and the stairnose molding is glued down again on the steps leading from the kitchen to the back door. It was some of that super-duper high tech polymer stuff that would NEVER come loose... uh huh, sure. Took about a week to wiggle and about three more to come all the way off. I know I sound like a broken record, but I am so sick of living in a construction zone. My humor with "camping" here is long gone!

GARDEN PLANNING: Still working on solving the water issue. Maybe if I get a tax refund... Guess I should get busy and get that chore done, too! But just in case I get water there, I have a basic drawing of what goes where and it passes Master Gardner Jim's scrutiny.

WORK: That's been a challenge the past week or so. I hope it's just the ebb and flow of things and not a signal that I made a bad choice in accepting the job. Sarah and I have argued about a bunch of unwritten "policies" several times the past week. And I'm just as much a bull dog as she is so the harder she insists that it's one way, the more I resist and say "prove it."

HEALTH: New job = new insurance = new doctor. Ran out of thyroid drugs so I found a doctor with an office in a somewhat convenient location and went willing to do the obligatory blood draw to get a new scrip. That's ALL I wanted from him. But oh no, there's the poking and prodding and sticking things in bodily orifices and my personal favorite, the interrogation. Then he says, "You're blood pressure is unually high today. Here's a scrip for.... blah, blah, blah. Come back next week so we can find out if something is wrong with your kidneys that causing the BP to spike." No!!! I don't have the time or patience to be sick right now and experiment with a bunch of new drugs/dosages and endure (and pay for!) endless tests. This is why I HATE doctors! I guess I'll keep the Thursday appointment and let them run that first batch of bloodwork, but if there's not something compelling there I'm putting the kaibosh on taking it any farther. I have a history with periodic inflammations that produce some rather dramatic symptoms which go away before they can even get all the tests done. And I really think this is just another one of those episodes. My BP is down, my heart rate is down... on their own. I feel good enough that I puttered and shopped and was on my feet going all day today.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Cop Cars At MY House

Coming home from work tonight - a little late I might add - when I turned the corner off of 1100 West onto Simondi, I could see two cop cars parked in front of my house. Now that's a sight that kind of makes your heart seize up and beat a little faster! So I hurried along, thinking to myself "Oh no...."

Closer to home, Gary stops me and asks what's going on. Great... the neighbors have all seen the cops, too, and think I've been leading some secret criminal life in that always dark back bedroom and am about to get busted and hauled off to jail. Wonder how many of them were sneakily peeking from behind pulled drapes?

Well... the story just goes downhill from here. Totally anticlimatic. Don't know what the cops were out here for - they never came to my door. They were talking with one of the neighbors five or six houses up the block. Not long after I walked in, one of them left. 10-15 minutes later the other walked back to his car with some papers in hand and after sitting in the car for a few more minutes, he left too. Guess this will have to remain one of life's great mysteries!

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Last summer, I had the opportunity to spend some time reflecting on what makes great neighborhoods as I prepared to host my first barbeque at my new house in commemoration of Night Out Against Crime. The party was fun and it was great to get to know everyone a little better. Starting to think about the coming summer season, I've had neighbors on my mind again. Here are some of my thoughts...

Great neighbors make for great neighborhoods! And I think I've got some of the greatest neighbors in the world!

So, what makes a great neighbor? It takes more than a random collection of people sharing a common geography to truly be called neighbors. Neighbors know each others' names. They wave and smile and stop to chat. They look out for each other. They share garden produce, child-rearing advice, a great new recipe, a job lead, chicken soup when the whole family is sick... and thousands of other things big and little that make life better. They share good times and bad. Simply put, they are friends. That's the kind of neighbor I'm striving to be.

I also gave a lot of thought to some of the examples I've had to follow. A little more than year ago, I watched a friend work through a bad time when one of the neighbors in her cul-de-sac died from unanticipated complications during childbirth. The grieving husband, now with 6 small children to care for alone, was enveloped in love by his neighbors. And it wasn't just the expected gestures of condolence cards, babysitting and food for the funeral luncheon... The entire neighborhood also pulled together to deep clean the home before out of town family arrived, finished and partly furnished the plumbing/electrical/drywall to make bedrooms and a bathroom in the basement, stocked the pantry, and brought them cases of diapers, baby wipes, formula, etc. He had only to concentrate on getting his family through this tragedy – their physical needs were met, most often before he could even think of them to ask for help. These neighbors have a sincere love and consciously look for ways to show it by serving each other.

The folks in this neighborhood really like each other, too. They chose to do fun things together throughout the year. I find inspiration to create our own neighborhood traditions in their annual Easter Breakfast and Egg Hunt, summer Crawdad Party, Halloween parade, and some really fun Christmas customs. Outside of these events, they also share dinner together often as an impromptu pot luck on Sunday afternoon.
Because they love each other AND like each other (and there is a difference), they’ve banded into a tight-knit neighborhood that none of them want to ever move away from. This is the kind of neighborhood I want to live in. And I think I do!

I have neighbors I love and serve and who love and serve me. Alan (+ kids) and Ken make sure my walks are shoveled in the winter. Ron gets home from work before I do on Friday and always takes my garbage can back up by the garage where it waits while I fill it again. (I can't tell you how thankful I've been coming home on a Friday night when it's cold and dark and I've had a hard week to find that last disagreeable task is taken care of for me!) Mandy and Jason came running over very late one night to save me from who knows what... only to have a very comical encounter with my handyman where he told them he loved them even if they aren't Mormon. I have a play castle (with swings, a slide and climbing bars) that's filled with neighborhood kids all summer long and I hand out otter-pops like I own stock in the company! I take cookies to neighbors I notice aren't feeling well and stay to visit for a few minutes. We loan that proverbial cup of sugar (or teaspoon of soda) to each other and then return it with a sample of whatever needed that one last ingredient.

The traditions and examples of how we love and serve each other are different than what happens in other neighborhoods, but then this isn't other neighborhoods. The magic of being neighborly comes in the noticing and celebrating what's good in those around us. "Good" makes people easy to love and it makes it easy for them to feel loved. And when you love and feel loved in return, you know you're in a really great place!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Letter From Heaven

A few weeks back, I went to a funeral for the husband of a friend. Their family chose a very unique poem for the back of the funeral program. The author isn't listed so I don't know who to give credit to, but it is touching so I thought I'd share it here.

A Letter From Heaven

To my dearest family, some things I'd like to say,
First of all I'd let you know that I arrived here okay.
I'm writing this from Heaven, where I dwell with God above
Here there's no more tears of sadness, here is just eternal love.

Please do not be unhappy just because I'm out of sight.
Remember that I am with you every morning, noon and night.
That day I had to leave you when my life on Earth was through,
God picked me up and hugged and said, "I welcome you!"

"It's good to have you back again, you were missed while you were gone.
As for your dearest family, they'll be here later on.
Right now I need you here badly, you're part of my great plan.
There's so much we have to do to help our mortal man."

God gave me a list of things that He wished for me to do,
And foremost on that list was to watch and care for you.
Know that when you lie in bed, the day's chores put to flight
God and I are closest to you... in the middle of the night.

When you think of my life on Earth, and all those loving years
Because you are only human, there are bound to be some tears.
But do not be afraid to cry, for it does relieve the pain.
Remember there would be no flowers unless there was some rain.

I wish I could tell you all that God has planned,
But if I were to tell you, you would not understand.
One thing is for certain though my life on Earth is o'er,
I'm even closer to you now than I ever was before.

There are rocky roads ahead of you and many hills to climb,
But together we can do it by taking it one day at a time.
It was always my philosophy and I'd like it to be yours, too;
That as you give unto the world, the world will give to you.

If you can help somebody who's in sorrow and in pain,
Then you can say to God at night, "My day was not in vain."
And now I am contented that my life was worthwhile
Knowing as I passed along the way I made someone smile.

So if you meet somebody who is sad and feeling low,
Just lend a hand to pick him up and on your way you go.
When you're walking down the street and you've got me on your mind,
I'm walking in your footsteps just half a step behind.

And when it's time for you to go - from that body to be free -
Remember you're not going... you're coming here to me.

Friday, February 22, 2008

What a Week!

I have a co-worker who has been speaking to us in analogy all week. I (and the rest of my team) have been compared to both an untrustably incompetent Home Teacher and a crumbling stone block in the foundation of the Salt Lake Temple from when it was first under construction in the 1800's. I don't know whether to laugh or be offended!

First the Home Teacher analogy... The Home Teachers' job is to visit each family in the Ward and report back to the Bishop if there are problems or unmet needs in the home so they can be addressed. The inference here is that Karl* and I aren't keeping close enough tabs on the set up clerks and raising and correcting issues so at some point the whole system will blow up.

Now for the stone foundation analogy... It is true that the original foundation blocks for the Salt Lake Temple were cut from limestone (?) and cracked under the weight of the granite stacked on top to begin the outside walls. The lighter softer rock just wasn't strong enough to bear the weight of the granite. Those 1870-ish era workers had the grueling job of digging them up and starting over with a stronger granite foundation. It is important to the overall endurance and stability of the structure to have an adequate foundation. Again the inference is that we are all idiots compared to her intelligence, expertise and experience.

Now I have an observation... the person making these thinly veiled criticisms is the one who was sent to teach us. We just can't follow her logic because it flip flops from time to time and there's nothing to quantify why you do it one way this time and under the same set of circumstances do something entirely different next time. It goes round and round and round - sometimes I just feel dizzy. And I didn't even get started on how it's not necessarily the best way to do something just because that's how it's been done for 20 years...

*Karl is not my supervisor's real name. But since I don't know who's reading this I changed the name to protect the innocent. (Always wanted to say that - thanks for the indulgence!)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Africa Is Life Changing

Last Tuesday night for Relief Society Enrichment Meeting, we had invited the co-founders of a non-profit group called Africa Is Life Changing to come and tell us about the things they are doing. They work mostly in Kenya with women and girls. Their stories were interesting and engaging and sometimes heart-wrenching. Be sure to check out the link to their web-site!

One of the things they do (and this is the project my Ward's Relief Society has participated in) is take strips cut from plastic grocery bags to Kenya. The women there crochet them into purses that they sell at their weekly market and are able to make enough money in a month to feed their families. I've been so impressed with this project because we are using something so humble and simple as a used plastic grocery bag (which we all have in spades no matter our economic situation) to help these women lift themselves out of the oppressive poverty they live with. And I feel extra good giving it my full support because it's a hand up rather than a hand out.

Cutting a bag into one long continuous strip is quite an ingenious process that I'm sure someone put a lot of thinking into. You start by laying a plastic grocery bag out flat and smooth on the table in front of you. Then you cut the handles off so that the top is relatively even and smooth. Next you cut across the seam in the bottom and set this aside to tie the bundle you'll end up with at the end. Now you unfold the pleats from the sides and smooth it out as one big tube. Next fold the uncut edge nearest you toward the opposite uncut edge stopping about 2 inches short of folding it in half. Fold the folded over portion in half again by bringing the edge nearest you to meet the top edge of the layer you just previously folded. Fold it one more time the same way so you end up with a piece that's about 4 inches wide where half is two layers of plastic thick and the rest is sixteen layers thick. Now you cut 1 1/2 inch strips through the sixteen layer part but not the part that has only 2 layers so that you end up with a strip of long fringe. Pull that strip over your left arm (if you are right handed) so that the uncut portion is on top and the loops of fringe hang below. Starting nearest your hand, cut on a 45-degree angle from the outside edge on the inside of your arm to the first cut on the outside of your arm and repeat all the way across. You end up with one long, though slightly wavy, strip of plastic. Wind this around your hand into a neat little bundle and use the cut off seam from the bottom of the bag as a tie to keep it together. It takes 50 of these to make a purse.

This was an activity where I was "in charge" and it was hard! There are a ton of details to keep everyone focused on - many of which I didn't anticipate. It felt like a huge portion of them went haywire as the evening got started and I said to a couple of people "This is horrible... I don't ever want to be the leader again!" The Elders Quorum didn't have a key to get into the building to set up tables for us (who'd have guessed that?). The Young Women who we invited to participate spent 90% of the entire budget on table decorations (they were wonderful and whimsical and added to the atmosphere of the evening!). The committee member who was to do all the shopping forgot bowls for the soup and had to make a last minute run to the grocery which got us off to a late start. Another committee member who was making reminder calls didn't start until 8:45 the night before and then went into meltdown mode because we weren't providing a full meal for the kids in nursery (and she doesn't even have kids that young!). And there were more problems... But by the end of the evening, I was happy. Feeling like I'd learned a tremendous amount but pleased nonetheless. We worked through the problems and everyone had a great time visiting and eating. The presentation from Africa Is Life Changing was amazing and inspiring and we all felt spiritually nourished. And in the end, that's what counts!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines Day!

Last night two of my favorite kids, Jonathan and Loran, brought me some Valentines candy. It was kind of funny... I'd bought the same kind of candy to give them and was still sticking on some paper heart doilies and stickers and stuff and making them really mushy and silly. So tonight I'm sitting here sucking on "Sweethearts" while I type.

While we were kind of horsing around and sticking the final stickers down - I got some with the same kind of sayings as on those little candy hearts - Loren told me I needed some step kids. Much as I'd like for her to be one of them, I tried to make a joke out of it and said something like "I'd love some step kids... who do you know who needs an evil stepmother?" That got some giggles and snickers, then they both said "You're not evil. You're nice."

So, what do you make of that little interchange? Part of me was thrilled they were thinking about me in those terms. I've long said if I could roam the world and pick any children I wanted to be mine, Loren and Jonathan and their little brother Bryan would be the ones I'd pick. But not only does their dad seem pretty much not interested, I have NO man-chasing skills. Maybe I should work on that. Got any hints?

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm So Big and Mean and Tough

I jumped into the middle of a dog fight on the way home from work this afternoon. I'm okay... a few sore muscles and a bit of a scratch across the top of my right hand and maybe a little hoarse from screaming my guts out. But all in all, I'm kind of pleased with myself for keeping one dog from killing another dog... in a grizzly fashion... in front of a bunch of kids.

There were 7 dogs in total - 4 Pit Bulls and 3 Lab/Mix muts. The biggest Lab had the smallest Pit Bull by the neck, shaking him and dragging him on the ground while the smaller dog was screaming in agony. The other dogs were looking for a place to lunge in, but hadn't actually got involved in the altercation yet.

I was walking down 1100 West when I saw some kids running after a group of dogs. The oldest girl was yelling for "Getty" to come. Getty is the attacker. Obviously he didn't come. He jumped on top of the other dog and clamped his jaws down on its neck and started shaking it. I ran across the street and grabbed Getty's neck in both fists, squeezing and twisting as hard as I could. Every time I could get angled right I kicked him in the butt or the ribs full force. Getty didn't budge. So I tried to force him to the ground with my full weight (and that's a lot). He still didn't budge. But I finally got his head twisted so he was having a hard time breathing. I could actually hear him gasping for breath. I yelled at one of the bawling kids to go get an adult NOW!!! And then I started screaming at the top of my lungs right next to his ear.

People must have heard me because all of a sudden there was a Mexican lady with a baseball bat and an old man with a big stick beating the other 5 dogs off. Getty finally let loose of the other dog who quickly found a protected corner in some rubble on the front porch of that house. Getty went after him, but couldn't get hold again. The kid who owns him finally got hold of his chain and drug him home.

Still shaking I called the cops. Got a great response. The respective owners didn't even have their dogs all gathered up yet when the patrol car arrived. Given his history, I think they should take Getty away. But who knows what will really happen?

Getty, aka "evil blood-thirsty beast", is kind of a reddish gold color Lab/Mix that lives in the white house on the north corner of Simondi Av and 1100 West. If you live in the area and have occasion to be on the sidewalk - BEWARE OF THIS DOG! He is vicious. Given the opportunity he will attack you. He's nearly come over the fence at me with teeth bared a number of times. The people who live next door, the Raso's, say he's bitten their kids and grandkids without provocation.

Now I am a great animal lover. And a firm believer in second (and third and fourth) chances. It takes a LOT for me say any animal should be taken away from its family or worse, put down. But this is a case where it would very appropriate! The owners can't, or won't, control him and that is their obligation. We, the public, should not have this menace inflicted upon us!!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Taters, Maters and Other Aters...

No silly... I'm talking garden planning! Along with a big house, I bought a BIG yard last summer with plenty of garden space to supply the whole neighborhood's produce needs. Not that I intend to dive into that gung ho, mind you!

What I have now (under about 6 inches of snow) is a prepared plot about 30X40 feet. There's a little "thicket" of raspberry bushes in one corner but otherwise it's all open space. And yes, I do intend to get that thicket thinned of its dead wood and plant the new growth canes into a row. There is also an apricot tree and 3 kinds of grapes other places in the yard. And with additional and separate spaces to make great flower gardens, this big plot can be all herbs and vegetables. So the big question right now is, what am I going to do with it?

My friend, Jim, from work is a master gardner in his spare time. He's already got tomatoes up and growing in his basement!! After grilling me about the soil condition (I dunno) and the sun exposure (seemed pretty sunny whenever I looked last summer) and what kind of amendments I planned to use (huh?) and a bunch of other things, he told me to start thinking about what I want to grow. And when I had decided on what, I should take a piece of graph paper and draw it out. Then he'll help me change it around so plants with like water needs and compatible sun situations can be grouped near each other. That then becomes my plan.

Okay... so I know I want to grow some red potatoes and some tomatoes. I also want to plant some onions and a jalapeno pepper (think salsa fresca!). And I'd like some tomatillos to experiment with some cooking ideas. Somewhere, either here or in one of the flower gardens, I want to plant perennial herbs like taragon, sage and oregano. Some of the less long-lived ones like parsley, cilantro and basil would also be nice. And I want rhubard and horseradish (yes... I realize it is tear inducing pungent).

So what else goes in a garden? Should I plant radishes, carrots, beans, corn and lettuce? What about a cucumber vine? How much can I realistically take care of after I come home from my day job? How much do I want to commit to?

And there is one caveat. This is all dependent on getting an in-ground water supply from the house out to the garden plot 'cuz I ain't gonna be dragging hose!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Gordon B. Hinckley

On Sunday, January 27, 2008 a man I love and revere passed quietly from this life. He was 97. Tiny, old and frail in body but with a lively spirit and unmatched capacity for goodness. It may seem odd that I've waited for more than a week to add my own personal memorial for this leader of my faith, but I wanted to wait until I had my emotions about President Hinckley sorted out. You see, I haven't felt even the slightest twinge of sadness. When I first heard the news my reaction was "I'm so glad he's with his beloved wife, Marjorie, again! I know how he has missed her." And that's still how I feel today.

The only time, really, that I've felt anything but complete peace was at the public viewing on Friday afternoon. President Hinckley's name has been almost an action verb to me because he was so busy and constantly at work and traveling all over the world to meet Church members. His counsel always urged us to action... "Stand a little taller," "be a little better," "do your part and the best is yet to come." I struggled with seeing him so still. In that same moment, however, I was flooded with a knowledge that ALL is as God has directed and that he's happy and healthy and busily engaged in the Lord's work on that side of the veil now. It's an experience that's hard to describe... there were no words came to my mind, yet it pierced me to the very core of my being as a gift of absolute knowing. And I was able to walk away with a smile while reflecting on a life well lived.

There are so many things that I appreciate about President Hinckley. His sense of humor is just one of them. Among Mormons and many belonging to other faiths it was legendary and endearing. One story I heard told about a Mission President in Japan (maybe?) who had just experienced a devastating flood. A giant wall of water had come down the mountainside and crashed into the Mission Home nearly destroying it. He wrote a very distraught letter to President Hinckley asking what he should do. The answer recalled a similar experience in building the London Temple. President Hinckley mentioned being in waist deep water bailing it out by bucket. And then he suggested that Noah had had it worse.

Another thing that I especially appreciated is that he was fearless in answering questions about LDS doctrine, history and culture. And not just that he was comfortable with tough questions, but that he could answer them with candor and assurance and in a way that no one could find offense. President Hinckley's passion and conviction were ever evident but always tempered with compassion, empathy and a desire to reach out and be inclusive with the rest of the world. We do this most visibly with humanitarian aid the world over. I feel priviledged that, in my own small way, I've had many opportunities to participate in this blessing of other lives.

And finally, what left the greatest impression on me over the past week was the answer given by his biographer, Sheri Dew, when asked what President Hinckley worried about. After talking about his eternal optimism and how he always said "oh, it'll work out" she paused thoughtfully and serious for a moment. Then she said he worried most about creating opportunities for the good people of the world to "bump into" the gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that they'd be inclined to listen when it was presented to them in an organized way. I guess that's where I feel like I fit in. The best and most lasting tribute I can offer to him is to simply live what I believe.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Has anyone else watched and wondered about the spate of recent Hollywood meltdowns? It's with near morbid fascination that I daily tune into the latest Britney saga. Or Paris or Lindsay or any host of other starletts. It's like a train wreck and I just can't help but look.

How does one make such a mess of one's life? How do you get that far off course? Those who knew Ms. Spears early talk about how she was totally focused and goal driven and actually smart about how she approached things. I can't point to specific things she did or didn't do along the way because I've only recently followed her story. I've only seen the meltdown.

But generally speaking... tiny, incremental, almost imperceptible changes magnify themselves over time into completely altered lives. When these changes are good, we sometimes refer to them as course corrections and draw from the example of a large ship being guided by tiny movements at the helm. When the changes are bad, we find ourselves shocked at someone's "sudden" meltdown.

My friend, Brenda, describes these negative changes in terms of sin. She says, "first you hate it, then you tolerate it, then you embrace it." Sounds kind of trite on the surface, but think about it for awhile. There's a profound truth in there.

I think you could also describe it in terms of King David from the Bible. Now this guy had a meltdown of epic proportion! You know the story of lovely bathing Bathsheba? David should have been on the battlefield with his army not roaming around the castle spying on the neighbors. First bad choice. When he saw Bathsheba, he should have done the gentlemanly thing and turned away but he didn't. Second, and bigger, bad choice - he blew his chance to correct his course. Then he chose to act on his lust and to have her husband killed in a cover up... His choices just keep getting worse until David ends up loosing everything - most painfully the eternal blessings he'd been promised by God. Gotta hate that little catch about being faithful to the end. This is the same David who stepped out in youthful faith to take on the giant, Goliath, who had Israel's armies quaking in their boots. I think his story is one of the saddest in the Bible.

The whole thing leaves me pondering questions like... How do we know when we're making good decisions? What keeps us from correcting course when we don't? Why do we humans like the "rush" that comes from doing something risky?

Monday, January 21, 2008


Wow! What a transformation!! I guess living with it, it's easy to forget just how much it's changed over time. But seeing those pictures together sure brought it home and I had to add a little more commentary. Still planned for the backsplash, when I find some money, is glass tile. Also planned for that far off day of having the money to work with is molding for the top of the cabinets and getting rid of the decidedly not beautiful shop light that shines on the task area.

The kitchen is already one of my favorite rooms to hang out in. It's very comfortable with plenty of space to work and/or enjoy a snack. The window looks out in a west-southwest direction and we can see the most beautiful sunsets over the Oquirrh mountains. Though you can't see it in the picture, there's a pocket door just to the right of the range that opens into a formal dining room at the front of the house. At the opposite side is another pocket door that opens into the back hall, stairs to the basement and back door. Sanding and restaining those pocket doors is another project still on the list...

House Before Pictures & Stories

Last June, in the midst of knowing my job was coming to an end (but not when yet), I bought a house. A big house. Nearly 2,800 square feet of house. And while it was a wonderful home to the family that lived here before, it just wasn't me. So I've spent the last several months tearing it all apart and redoing.

I hesitate to really call it remodeling because I haven't gone to the extent of tearing out walls or anything nearly so drastic. But somehow it seems like a little more than simply redecorating. By myself I ripped out around 1,400 sq feet of carpet and padding (and that nasty tack strip!). I had help putting in a new laminate floor everywhere but the master bath. The bathroom was already done in marble tile - too nice to take the sledge hammer to - so it stayed in place. Also had help with the new kitchen cabinets, the (as yet unfilled and unpainted) beadboard in the kitchen. What painting is done, I've also tackled on my own. But there's still quite a bit more to do. It's taking so long to get done that it seems like there should be more accomplishments to list, but that's about it. New flooring, new cabinets, some new paint.

I have regrets about the handyman I picked to help me. Sure he does good work for cheap, but he's such a drag on time I'm thinking it would have been worth the extra money to hire real professionals. What's really slowed things down to less than a snails pace is getting him to finish up details. It took 60 days for him to get the closet doors rehung after the floor was down! And another 45 to get the baseboards put up and caulked. Okay, so that isn't even completely finished yet. Even withholding payment doesn't motivate him!! This is now the middle of January and I'm still trying to get him to do things he promised would be done before the first of September. And my (hopefully someday) master bedroom is so full of his tools and construction rubble, that I can't even get in there to finish painting.

Here's some before pictures. Soon there'll be some in progress pictures and as we get there, after pictures.