Sunday, December 30, 2012

Roachly Encounters

Photo from:

I know.

But set your shivers of revulsion aside for a moment...

It's actually quite interesting!

Shortly after moving to Georgia, I began seeing these quarter-sized flying bugs that I thought looked an awfully lot like a giant cockroach but my fianc├ęs family called a Palmetto Bug.  After putting in hours of research, I've learned that the big bugs look a whole lot worse than they really are.  And that what we have here isn't really a Palmetto Bug (aka Water Bug and officially a Florida Woods Cockroach), but rather an American Cockroach.

Yup, that great big beasty on the far left of the photo (above) showing some of the varieties of cockroaches that have found their way to the United States is what I've seen occasionally scurrying across the floor.

Interesting factoid:  Despite names that hint at locational evolution, all of these roach species seem to have originated in Africa and were transported here beginning as early as 1675.

The little (usually under 1/2-inch in length) German Cockroach shown center right is by far the most common.  They are found in all 50 states and it's the one whose preferred habitat is most identified with the public perception of cockroaches and filth.  It gravitates to unclean homes... sink full of dirty dishes, food scraps and trash lying around, pantry shelves with open containers.  You get the picture, right?  Those easy food sources and the relatively even temperature of a house are the conditions it finds hospitable once transported, most often unknowingly, inside furniture or as eggs on product packaging into a home.

In contrast, American Cockroaches are outdoor bugs who crawl in under doors and through openings (plumbing, electrical, etc.) in the foundation of a building seeking warmth and water.  Their preferred diet is rotting plant material like wood mulch or broken shrubbery branches in foundation plantings.  Water-rotted wood in homes with structural damage are also especially attractive.  In the absence of other food sources, they will munch on paper products because of the plant cellulose those items are made from but a ready source of water is by far their most critical requirement.

All roaches can cause health problems in two ways.  Most often it's an allergic reaction triggered in either pets or people as they shed their outer skin to accommodate growth and broken bits spread, for example, by forced-air heating systems are inhaled.  The reaction can range from minor sniffles to a life threatening asthma attack depending on a person's sensitivity.  Less common, but more feared, they pick up bacteria on their legs which is then deposited into foodstuffs they disturb and you then consume.  E. coli and salmonella are the prevalent bacterial infections spread by roaches.

Control seems to be pretty much the same no matter what type of cockroach it is.  First and most importantly, take preventative action and keep your house clean and bathrooms, laundry and food prep areas dry.  Boric acid kills them.  Most people simply sprinkle a bit along the threshold of outside doors, in under-sink cabinets, on pantry shelves and behind appliances.  Boric acid is generally considered non-poisonous to pets and people but loses its ability to kill ants and roaches when mixed with water.  It is an odorless white granular powder sold in most places that offer pest control products at a relatively inexpensive price.

Interesting factoid:  The borax sold on the same grocery isle as laundry soap and commonly used as an additive in the wash to whiten and brighten clothes contains boric acid.  And yes, it can be used for roach control exactly the same way.

German Cockroaches reproduce prolifically so if you're unlucky enough to find yourself inhabiting space with them, boric acid needs to be a supplemental control to professional spraying until you are free of them.  Serious infestations of American Cockroaches will also need to be dealt with professionally.  Usually an exterminator will spray the perimeter of the foundation outside and around the baseboards and cabinetry inside with a powerful insecticide not available to the general public.

So, knowing all this, I guess I can get over my freak out and stop hyperventilating to the point of nausea when I see one of these big bugs.  There's a good chance the encounters will continue to be very sporadic and control is rather simple and cheap.  Being armed with the right information is always a good thing!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

These cookies are the BOMBDIGGITY!

Derek's Dad, Dave, is home for a few days to celebrate Christmas.  He made the cookies this afternoon that Derek has been telling me about for a month... the chocolate chip ones made with instant vanilla pudding and just said 'when you taste it, you'll think it's good but not say it's the greatest cookie I've ever tasted BUT you will want another one!'

My review of the recipe: soft, gooey, crave-able and delicious!  They are exactly what he promised they would be.  The first taste is good but not over the top wow and you do find yourself reaching for a second one just as soon as the first is gone.  This could easily become one my favorite go to recipes. I'm impressed and definitely adding them to my cookie repertoire.  And not just for Christmas!!

Picture copied from Pinterest.
It's the same recipe and our cookies look identical to these.

Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies
Yields 36 smallish cookies (you'll want to double or triple this recipe!)

1 cup (2 sticks) Butter, softened
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup White Sugar
1 small pkg Instant Vanilla Pudding mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 pkg ( 12 oz) Milk or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (depending on which you prefer)

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift the flour.  (I don't usually sift my flour for cookies, but it does really improve the way these cookies turn out.)  Beat the butter, both sugars, pudding mix, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat until creamy and fluffy. Then slowly mix in flour and baking soda. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoonfuls, onto an un-greased cookie sheet. Bake for ONLY 9-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes before eating.

NOTE:  They stay VERY soft!  Ours were still tender and gooey until the last one was gone a few days later.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Follow-up Post to Violence

I'd hoped to leave thoughts of violence aside and focus on the happier things of the Christmas season but my mind, along with many others' minds it seems, is stuck there.  And with trying to make some sort of sense of what happened in Newtown CT this past week.  I want to say the spark behind this post was that the infamous Westboro Baptist Church is planning to visit Newtown and protest that the killings were God's righteous judgement.  But it's really more than that.  The things that are sitting heavy on my heart and blended together in my mind are widely different.  At least they are on the surface.

Part of it is about sinking their own level to exact revenge on Westboro's founders.  And some thoughts are from the words shared by a mother with a mentally challenged son and her struggles in finding ways to treat and manage his violent tendencies   And still more of me is caught up in the beautifully expressed words of a friend's blog about the so-called 'pants day' staged by women in the Mormon Church today really being about feeling marginalized.

Actually... After staring at the page for over and hour I find I can't say any of it any better than the original authors already have.  To try and regurgitate their thoughts shows both them and you disrespect so I'm just going to leave you with the links today and ask you to read for yourself and see what your own heart tells you about the problems of the world and your part in finding a solution.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's a violent world out there...

We live in a violent world.

It's always been violent.  We just have faster and more detailed information today than ever before in the history of mankind.  When an event happens we know about it almost instantly wherever we are in the world.  Our access to information is unprecedented and that makes it easy to believe that people are more violent now than in the past.  I think that's a trick our collective mentality plays on us.

Look at nature... go all the way back to the geological formation of the planet.  How much of our landscape was formed by events like volcanic eruption, earthquakes, glaciers pushing forward and receding, floods and even meteor strikes?  Those are violently transforming events.  If you believe we are literal children of God, made in His very image, then at some level I think you have to wonder if God - the very being our minds have embodied as THE image of love and peace and light - has a violent side.  The methods He chose to create our world were violent, and if you read the Bible you'll notice that His punishments when sin has become so rampant that a population cannot be redeemed* is violent.  Could that be interpreted to say that some propensity for violence is bred into our spiritual DNA?

Could it be that violence, and the tools for bringing it about, are part of the divine creative power?  And that when we exercise our God-given gift of free agency and choose violence as a destructive force (as opposed to His creative force) we are misusing that fledgling power coded within our own spiritual being?

Today much of the world is caught up in shock and grief for the people of a small town in Connecticut where a young man with a gun walked into an elementary school and opened fire.  The last report I saw confirmed that 18 children, (27 people total including the gunman himself), were dead.  At the same time, a man in China injured 22 children with a knife at the gate to their school grounds.  To most of us both the acts and the thought processes behind them are incomprehensible.  We are struggling with sadness.  And grief.  And relief that it wasn't our family or friends.

And anger.

There's a lot of anger out there in the conversations about how awful the world's condition has become and what can be done to change the future.  Some say the answer is tighter control of whose hands can legally hold a gun.  Others say more spending on mental health and to address drug abuse is the answer.  Many look to Heaven and plead for an intervention of Biblical proportion.  A few of us say just look after the home and family better.

I live in a home with guns.  Pretty much I've always lived with one or more guns in the house and I always will.  As a child I knew where my Dad kept his guns.  They were not locked away from my inquisitive fingers.  I knew where he kept the bullets, also unlocked.  I knew most of friends' parents had guns and ammunition in their homes, too.  And yet, neither I nor anyone in my close circle of friends has ever shot another person because we were also taught respect for what a gun could do if pointed, even in play, at another person.  Guns do not kill.  A gun is merely a tool... an inanimate object to be manipulated to a person's will.

Guns do not kill - people do!  And making gun ownership illegal will not stop murders from happening.  It will not remove guns from the hands of people wishing to do harm to other people any more than making drugs like heroine and cocaine illegal has rid the world of their influence.  I oppose gun control because I believe it will only remove an honest man's defense and create even more easy victims.

The key point there was that my parents (and my friends' parents) taught me from a very young age to respect a gun for the tool that it is.  They also taught me the other important lessons that gave me my moral grounding in life.  I knew what they believed and valued because they invested their time in teaching me the difference between right and wrong.  Too often, in my self-admittedly flawed judgement, I don't see this happening as much today.  The duty of teaching children morals, values, respect, appropriate conduct and consequences gets abdicated to schools and peers with equally poor parental guidance.  Home and family life have become almost completely devalued in our society.  Without the moral compass provided by parents in a structured home environment, young people are reverting to the fear-based mindset that only the top of the food chain survives and that all means to get, and stay, there are acceptable.

What I just can't fathom is why we are all letting this continue.  We know better!  We have the power to fix the problem.  The question is... do we have the guts to step up and meet the challenge?  Or do we choose to just sit back and recoil in horror as another of our youth goes off the deep end?

- - - - - - - - - - -
*For example: the primordial casting of Satan and his group of followers from Heaven, the worldwide flood of Noah's time, the many destructions of Jerusalem, the cataclysmic events recorded in the Book of Mormon at the crucifiction and death of the Savior.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Several days ago I posed this question to my Facebook friends:  What is the difference between being used and being useful?

Just 3 answered publicly.  A few more answered privately.  And with a couple of them it opened a long discussion that revealed many of us do feel used a lot more than we feel useful even though distinguishing between them was often difficult.  It seems to be a matter of our own perception more than the task at hand.


The idea of being used brought up a lot of negative words and emotions:  stuck, powerless, a burden, worthlessness, a lack of opportunity or worthiness to have (or be treated) better, resentment and anger toward both the 'user' and the situation.  Those words sum up the idea of being used... at least from the perspective of the person being used.

But what about the times when we are the user?  As much as we may not want to admit it, there are times when we use others to get the things we want.  I'm not saying it's always conscious.  And it's not necessarily a ruthless act.  It's not even inherently bad.  I'm just asking everyone to take a good look at how they feel about the person they are using.  Do you see the cashier at McDonald's as worth less than Wall Street's hottest stock broker?  A look at payscale would indicate that society places more value on the broker... even though, ironically, they are providing the same core service:  facilitating the exchange of one item of value for another item of value.


Seeing yourself as useful was positive and included words like:  priceless, vital, being a blessing, engaged in a task (or its outcome), satisfaction and being in charge of your own destiny.  These are the powerful and empowering emotions we all innately crave.  These ideas are the things that make our ego feel good.

Also interesting was the idea that the two conditions can exist simultaneously - you can see that you are being selfishly used but because you engage wholeheartedly in the activity you also feel useful.  My dear friend, Heidi, gave an example from a Church group she participated in:  Each year for Christmas, this very small Church put up an 'Angel Tree' with information about children in the community who were in need and would not otherwise have a Christmas.  All of the Ladies' Auxiliary were to participate  in gathering the clothes and food and gifts but year after year organizing everything fell to Heidi.  Some years a few of the ladies would change the ground rules part way through the season so that instead of the 50 children they'd agreed on, suddenly they were providing Christmas for 70.  Many times the needed toys and clothing for these extra 20 kids also fell to Heidi to provide because no one else in the congregation would step up to help.  Heidi was aware that she always got the task because they knew she'd follow through to complete it.  She felt the burden, both on time and finances, every year and while in the process sometimes resented it.  Isn't that the very definition of being used?  But she was fully engaged and felt like what she was doing made a difference in the world so she also felt deeply satisfied... and useful.

The trick, it seems, is to find the switch... to open the right door from all the choices that present themselves.  Used or useful?  Finding and keeping a 'useful' mindset is something I struggle with in the circumstances of my every day.

I know that my choices have closed some doors in my life.  Now I just need to figure out what new ones have been opened.  And start taking advantage of all those new opportunities to be...


If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution. Never whine. Whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighborhood.    Maya Angelou

Monday, December 10, 2012


Not sure why I associate Fiddler on the Roof with Christmas... but, cue Tevye.

Israeli actor Topol as Tevye in the 1971 film
release of Fiddler on the Roof.
 "A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of Anatevka, every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask, why do we stay here if it's so dangerous? We stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: Tradition!
Because of our traditions, we have kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to how to eat, how to sleep, how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer-shawl. This shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, how did this tradition start? I'll tell you. I don't know. But it's a tradition. And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is, and what God expects him to do.
Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!"
Maybe more than Christmas itself it's a manifestation of my yearning to establish some meaningful traditions to help things feel okay even in the midst of life's chaos.  And Christmas is a time when family traditions are so very evident.  Last year was pretty much devoid of all things holiday and this year I'll be observing how my family-to-be does things so it's another time when I feel like I'm kind of aimlessly drifting, un-grounded and more than a little bit shaky.  That also makes it a good time to explore the traditions of other families to see if they feel like something we might want to add when Derek and I get our own home established.  I still have to wait and see what he says, but here are three that appeal to me:
Designed with 50 small acts to teach children the value of serving others rather than just collecting presents for themselves, Light 'Em Up is an idea I'd modify to 24 quirky and fun acts of service (including family, friends, neighbors and random strangers) that could be done as a couple and use it as an Advent, or countdown to Christmas.  Click the link under the picture for more details.  My thought is that it would be great fun for just the two of us and it satisfies my need to de-commercialize Christmas a bit.

And while others will likely host family festivities on Christmas day for the foreseeable future, I like the idea of a more low-key get together on Christmas Eve.  Maybe a potluck, a chili feed or a spaghetti dinner?

Vintage blown glass ornaments
I'd also like to collect an ornament from each place that we travel that speaks to what was special about that locale so that putting them on the tree is a reminder of wonderful vacation memories and tells our own personal family story.  I think that sounds so much nicer than just using the non-descript glass balls and tinsel from any mall in America.  And at the beginning of December, gather family and/or friends to decorate house and tree.  It's a great time to tell stories, drink hot chocolate or apple cider and make s'mores in the fireplace.

Those are a few of the ideas I have now.  What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Happy Holidays

Sometimes I get a bee in my bonnet... I admit it.  There are times when things just bug me so much that no matter how hard I try to hold it in, my opinions come spilling out of my mouth.  Now and then I'm even surprised by what I have to say.  Today what has me all wound up is the greed and commercialism that is the modern American Christmas celebration.  I hate that Christmas decorations start showing up on store shelves well before Halloween.  It makes me want to stomp my feet and, like the cartoon pilgrims wanting time for their own holiday, threaten the big fat man in the red suit to back off!  Or else!!

Found on Facebook 12/8/12 at:

I find it tremendously sad that a simple family observance of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has turned into an ever growing demand list of things we don't need or want, can't afford to buy for each other and are meant more to impress someone we may not even like than to add happiness and quality to our own life.  Actually sad isn't nearly strong enough a word... more like complete and utter disgust.

At the beginning of the week, this background context and question were posed in a Facebook group I participate in:
"I posted Merry Christmas on a local discussion and opinion page here in Oklahoma and they deleted the post. I posted it again and again it was deleted. I received an email telling me to stop spamming Merry Christmas on the groups page. So I rewrote the post stating: "Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays: Which do you support? I was promptly banned from the group. So Ill ask the same here; "Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? Merry Christmas everyone!"
The response was overwhelmingly Merry Christmas!

My own thoughts are that Happy Holidays is equivalent to a big loud 'bah humbug' though after seeing the cartoon above, I think it is an even better description of how I perceive the term.  Even the words, Happy Holidays, destroy my happy feelings.  It's so generic... so impersonal... so devoid of any real meaning.  But I guess that's the quest of political correctness - to make things generic, impersonal and meaningless.

If you celebrate Christmas, admit it.  Say Merry Christmas!  Embrace your holiday and speak its special greeting with pride!

I'm thrilled when my Jewish friends wish me a Happy Hanukkah.  It makes me smile when those with African ancestry include me in their Kwanzaa festivities.  And the Pagan observance of Yule fascinates and inspires me partly because so many of our Christmas traditions have roots there and partly because it embraces the simplicity I so desire.  The happy wishes of another culture don't offend me.  They don't take away from my personal beliefs or minimize my value system.  Rather, when you include me in your seasonal celebrations, I feel honored.  It shows me that you care enough about me to make me a part of what is important to you.  It shows respect and trust and value.  And when I say Merry Christmas to you, those are the unspoken things I hope you hear and choose to celebrate with me.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fancy Caramel Corn

Sadly, it didn't help the Georgia Bulldogs pull off a win Saturday in the SEC Championship game... but it is a yummy treat.  And it's super simple to make!

Fancy Caramel Corn

Start by making about 12 cups of popcorn.  Place in a large bowl and remove unpopped kernels.  It's totally up to you if it's air-popped, done in an old-time popper that uses oil or from the microwave.  Choose according to the taste you want in your finished product.  This time, I used Pop Secret (TM) Movie Theater Style Extra Butter microwave popcorn.

Next, in a medium saucepan, combine 1 cube of butter, 1/2 cup light Karo (TM) syrup (a corn syrup usually found near the maple syrups in the grocery store), enough brown sugar to absorb all the liquid - about 2 well-packed cups.  Bring to rolling boil, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn, and after a few minutes when all of the sugar crystals are completely dissolved turn to med-low so it just bubbles as you stir in 1 tsp vanilla and 1 can sweetened condensed milk.  Stir until smooth and evenly mixed.

Pour appx 3/4 of the caramel over the popcorn and stir to be sure it's evenly coated.

That's the basic caramel corn...

To make it 'fancy' add 2 cups of small pretzels, 1 cup dry roasted salted peanuts and 1 cup miniature marshmallows and gently mix into the popcorn.  Turn this out onto a lightly greased jelly roll pan and spread evenly.  If you want it crispy like Cracker Jacks (TM) place in a warm oven for a bit.  If you like it a little bit soft, move forward with the next step now.

Drizzle remaining caramel over the popcorn.  Melt appx 2/3 cup milk chocolate chips and drizzle the melted chocolate over the popcorn. You want some blobs where it's thick and some where it's thin with both the caramel and chocolate.  Allow to sit in a cool place until the chocolate sets up.

Store airtight.

It makes a nice gift in a clear bag tied with pretty ribbons or to take as a sweet finger food to a party or function.

Some ideas to switch it up a bit:  Try pecans, almonds or mixed nuts.  Add a handful of M&M (TM) candies or chop up your favorite candy bar (freeze it first and it will chop better).  Add dried fruits like raisins, apples, bananas, pineapple or apricots.  Use white chocolate or dark chocolate or multiple chocolates drizzled separately.  Put colorful cake sprinkles over the top for holiday color.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Very Very Very Fine House

For the next few months I'm living with my in-laws-to-be... and, while I appreciate the time to get squared away and on my feet again, it's quite the challenge to eat my pride and give up my independence and own way of doing things.  I'm not saying that how they do things is bad just that it's different than how I have done it in the past.  And that can be physically and emotionally uncomfortable at times.  Living in someone else's home means you adopt their standards and schedule even when they are vastly different than how you've become accustomed to caring for yourself.  It's a big adjustment no matter how positive a spin you try to put on it.

One example on my mind the past few days is toilet paper.  That's one thing I've never been terribly brand conscious about and only looked to get something 2-ply and substantial enough to do it's job.  Imagine my surprise at a long discussion on 'lint' or those little fibers that low quality TP leaves behind on your oh so delicate lady parts.  I'm not offering up any arguments whether or not Charmin Ultra Soft is the most lint free, I'm just going along with the idea that it is (for now, anyway) the toilet paper that must be purchased.  And doing my best to make sure that there's always a spare roll - my priority, not my future family's - in the bathroom because having to drip dry is just simply not OK.  And within the last couple of days I've been caught in just that horrifying scenario in 3 different bathrooms...

If you're imagining a little grimace of disdain here, you're not too far off my actual reaction.  Except that the grimace was not little.  And it was accompanied by several off-color words spoken, mostly, under my breath.  Mostly.

At the same time I recognize that in the grand scheme of life these adjustments are pretty minor.  I'm safe.  I'm happy.  I have beautiful accommodations and lots of support while I get myself oriented to a new place and back to a self-sufficient point in life.  Those are wonderful blessings and I am thankful beyond words for them.

And nature has been awe inspiring.  The natural beauty of the area is much different than either Idaho or Utah, but it is so very beautiful!  As one friend said when thumbing through some photographs of the area around Kennesaw, "If you can't live in Idaho, that looks like a good substitute!"

And it is!

A winding road through the area as photographed through our car window one afternoon last week. There are individual houses or the entrances to subdivisions/neighborhoods all along the road. The trees serve to provide a little buffer between people and traffic.

Kennesaw Mountain.  Friends had cautioned me not to make fun of the mountains here... because comparatively they are tiny, unlike the soaring 6,000+ foot granite peaks surrounding the Salt Lake Valley... but so far I'm enjoying the rolling terrain and finding the hills challenge enough for my screwed up knees to walk.

On the grounds at Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield, a National Park and the site where a Civil War battle was fought.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Ben Baldanza

When I recently moved from Salt Lake City, UT to Kennesaw, GA it was followed up by an almost immediate vacation cruise with my fiance through the southeastern Caribbean.  The vacation was beyond wonderful!  In fact, the sole black spot to mar the memory was the flight home.  And it was so awful that I still say the high point of November 12th was visiting with the Custom's agent about the duty tax owed on some jewelry we bought.  Our cruise originated from (and returned to) Fort Lauderdale, FL and we chose to fly Spirit Airlines as our connector there from Atlanta.  The flight to Fort Lauderdale was uneventful and left both Derek and I wondering what all the fuss was about... why was everyone complaining about the service on Spirit?

Sadly, on the trip home we found out.

Following is my letter about the experience to the President, Chief Executive Office and Class II Director, Ben Baldanza.  I found his name and contact information under Investor Relations on the company's website.

Dear Mr. Baldanza:

November 12 was already a day we weren't completely thrilled with knowing that we'd be spending the better part of it waiting in the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood airport for an afternoon flight home to Atlanta because of your company's sparse scheduling on that route.  The only choices we had were appx 9:00 a.m., a time when we would not have completed the deboarding process from our cruise, or 4:08 p.m.  Obviously, the only choice was the later flight even though we would be arriving at the airport around 11:00 a.m.

On arrival at the terminal, we followed the signs directing us to the counter for luggage check only to be reamed by the agent there for not checking in at the kiosk first.  I'd say she had reason to redirect us if there had been any posted directions pointing us that way but there wasn't and I found her attitude and disposition completely disagreeable.  After so very curtly directing us toward the kiosks she told us to come back once we had the boarding passes.  We tried.  But we were physically stopped by another agent roaming the area in front of the roped off lines and pushed to the opposite end of the counter to the "Fast Line" where we stepped up to the back of a full line just as all but one agent left for break.  With just a single person back there checking bags, the line could have been generously renamed the "Slower Than A Snail Crawls Line."

Finally, with bags checked and boarding passes in hand we navigated through the TSA checkpoint and headed for the gate only to learn that the flight had already been delayed two hours.  Initially we were told it was due to weather delays in New York... that our plane was stuck at La Guardia and couldn't leave there on its trip to Florida until the weather cleared.  Later that story changed to there was no plane to take us to Atlanta because of a mechanical problem until another could be scrambled out of the fleet and brought to Fort Lauderdale.  The delay was pushed back to 6:35, then 7:05.

Boarding was begun for the 7:05 time point and when approximately 1/3 of the passengers were onboard, a problem was discovered with that plane and they were asked to get off, walk across the terminal to another gate and get on a different plane where boarding was uninterrupted multiple times to clear the walkway for international flights to deboard.  Our 4:08 p.m. flight eventually pulled away from the gate around 8:00 p.m. with the captain apologizing for the "unacceptable delays."  Yes, those were his actual words.

What troubles me most is not that there were problems with the flight but your employees' response to them.  And that is a terrible thing to say because your people had so many chances to shine, so many opportunities to wow us with great customer service, so many times they could have won our loyalty instead of leaving us angry, alienated and vowing to use another carrier for future flights.  You see, we are pretty laid back and reasonable people.  We fully understand that things happen.  But we do expect to be treated with honesty, kindness and professionalism as the problems are worked out.  Our anger comes from that fact that none of those qualities were evident in our contact with your employees.  We were treated very badly and are very interested to know what, if anything, you are going to do about it.

That's the body of my letter.  Now we wait and see what happens.  I'd like to hope there'll be some response but after experiencing the way Spirit's front line employees treat customers I'm not exactly counting on it since customer service is usually a trickle down trait in corporate culture.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Farewell to Utah

The famed Wasatch Front on the east of Salt Lake City
All my life I've lived in the mountains of the American West.  For my adult years thus far I've been cradled, feeling safe and protected, in the high peaks of Utah's Wasatch Front.

Sometimes called the Great Basin (because of its scooped-out round shape) or the Great Smoky Bowl (because the mountains hold the cold air down in the valley in the winter creating a horrible smoggy inversion), Salt Lake City sits in a near-enclosed valley high in the Rocky Mountains.  The Wasatch Front is east of the city and the Oquirrh Mountains are on the west.  Ancient Lake Bonneville once covered the area in water with just the tops of these peaks showing above like islands in a vast sea.  The Great Salt Lake you see on today's map is just a small remnant from that time.  The mountains themselves arose from a combination of volcanic activity, earthquakes and erosion.  Geologically speaking, they were formed quite violently.

Oh, how I'm going to miss these soaring mountains!  And the comfort and security they represent...

I've loved living in Utah and I will miss it so very much but it's time for a new chapter of life to unfold.  And that chapter opens in another place that I can hardly wait to start telling you about!  In just a few days I'll be heading off to my new home:  Kennesaw, Georgia.  These snowy peaks I'm so familiar with will be replaced with softly rolling and very green hills and stories of Mormon pioneers seeking religious freedom with the history contained in civil war battle sites.  Stick with me and share the adventure!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Another Return & Report Update

For the past week, my tasks were:
1. Details and agreements to sell/lease house completed.
2. 30 minutes of exercise each day.
3. Spend 8 hours on off-line pursuits like drawing or crafts.
4. Decide garage sale days, begin advertising it and finish getting stuff packaged up and ready to sell
5. Research pricing for furniture to be sold and place ads on and
6. Work on the big pre-move goal.
7. Unclog the bath tub drain.
Task 1 is on track.  The details and agreements are ready to move forward with the lease-to-sell option as the folks who want to buy my house got a sad/sick appraisal on theirs.  I'm looking a huge loss but I still have equity.  They're upside down.  This real estate market is all around painful right now.

Task 2 went a little better this week.  I think I still missed a couple of days getting the full 30 minutes in but between going up and down the stairs getting stuff packed and ready for a garage sale this coming weekend and getting out to walk every day and doing some stretches specifically to help with flexibility I'm getting the time in most days.  I'm feeling pretty pleased about this, but I want to keep it on my weekly list for awhile longer so it becomes a solid habit.

Task 3 is another tough one.  Life circumstances left me with too much idle time to play around online and it became a hard habit to break!  I may have got the 8 hours in, but barely.  This one needs to stay on the list indefinitely!!

Task 4 is done.  The garage sale is going to be Friday and Saturday, September 21 and 22.  I'll have quite a bit of stuff ready to go out but (shudder) may have to have another in a few weeks to get rid of straggler items.  I advertised in my Ward's RS Newsletter and will be placing ads on KSL,com, and Facebook as well as making posterboard signs to place around the neighborhood on Thursday morning.

Task 5 is a rough one...  Pricing, generally, should be about 1/3 of what you paid (can you say financial rape?) but people here in Utah are so tight they could back up to a wall and suck a brick out.  The brown sectional and coordinating area rug upstairs, for example, cost me around $3,400.  I've been asking $1,100 and get treated like crap for it.  No one wants to pay more than $100 for anything.  I wish I could just donate it for the tax write off and be done and not have to deal with rude, horrible people!

Task 6 is more personal than I want to share on the internet, but it's coming along right on track.

Task 7 is done.  After major plungering, the bath tub drain is unclogged.  That kind of stuff happens now and then in an old house.

Other things I accomplished this week, in addition to the above, include:
  • Went to the first goodbye lunch with Marcy and Brantz.
  • Finalized which mover to use.  The truck will be here on Oct 25.
  • Got my flight to Atlanta booked for Oct 31.  Hehehe... does Derek get a trick or a treat?
  • We made the plans for our first big adventure together - a 10 day Caribbean Cruise leaving Nov 2.

My 7 'must accomplish' tasks for the coming week are:
1.  30 minutes of exercise each day.
2.  Spend 8 hours on off-line pursuits like drawing or crafts.
3.  Hold the garage sale on Sept 21 and 22.
4.  Research consignment arrangements to sell furniture.
5.  Make significant progress on the private big pre-move goal.
6.  Start the liquidation process on all remaining assets so there's cash to cover car purchase, Oct mortgage and moving related expenses.
7.  Make a list of what I need to pack for the cruise so I can hold it out separately.
And though I've given up expecting anyone to follow up with me that reinforcement would still be helpful and welcome!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

One Day That Defines Us

Every generation has it's day.  The day that lives on forever in our collective memory.  The day we will always know exactly where we were and what we were doing when an event unfolded that changed each of us.  Changed our perception, attitude, outlook and often our very way of life.

For our parents (and some grandparents) that day is December 7, 1942 - the day that will live in infamy - when Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor and brought World War II to America in a very much more personal way.  I remember my parents stopping, even 50 years later, to reflect on what had happened that day and to recall friends and family who died on ships just off the Hawaiian coast.  And it's right to remember.

As awful as the event was, so many good things happened as a consequence.  Young adults of that era went on to be the innovators with the dead-on hard working ethics that drove America to newfound prosperity.  They become known as 'the greatest generation' because they earned that title by sacrifice and doing things that had never been done before.  They set the stage for the accomplishments we enjoy today and we owe them a debt of gratitude so huge that it can never be repaid.  With so many of them now passed on it's right and good for us to pick up their torch, to remember and to mark this solemn day even if it is not part of our own memories.

My generation, so called baby-boomers and younger, have a different defining day.  For us September 11, 2001 is when our world changed.  That's when we can each recall with near perfect clarity where we were and what we were doing when news broke that terrorists had flown planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC and if not for the heroic acts of passengers onboard another hijacked flight, the White House.  Agents of hate brought their war to our own soil.  For many of us, it was the first time we really tasted the fear and horror of war.  And still today, those emotions are raw and so near the surface.

Events were happening as I was getting up and ready for work.  It was a day like every other at the bank when I walked into the office early that morning.  Then almost immediately I was called over to the reception area where a television usually played market news and a continual stock ticker tape.  As I walked up to the desk to see why everyone was huddled there I saw the second plane crashing into WTC. There was a moment of utter disbelief and denial and hope that it was some kind of hideous accident but it soon became clear that the planes had been flown into the towers purposefully as an act of war.  It was stunningly chilling to realize that America was now in a war at home.

Some of my next thoughts were for the members of my work team who were in training meetings in Boise.  They should still be at breakfast... Did they know?  What did this mean for them personally and as far as continuing on with the training?  In the end, their flights home were cancelled.  They rented a car and drove back to Salt Lake a day or two later.  Luckily everyone I knew, and their families and close friends, had escaped being touched directly by this event.  No one close to me had been killed or injured in the initial attacks or when the towers fell.

Yet, emotionally and mentally we were dazed and confused and angry and hurt.  And some combination of thousands of other emotions ran through our minds.  But there was no physical connection.

Or so I thought.

Yesterday, for the first time, I read this account of the day by my friend Mashell Jolley Anderson:  Mashell's husband worked at the Pentagon and was there when that plane was purposely crashed.  I bawled reading her account of the day.  I cried for the suffering and distress her family experienced and then I cried for a whole different reason.  Out of all this horror, Mashell has found something so positive that she can look back and call it a good day for her family. She learned lessons that we all need to know about what is truly important.  I encourage you to read her message, let its poignancy touch your heart and then make changes in your own life so that 9/11 is a good day for you, too.  I know I am.

And I know it is a day I will always remember.  Amid all the messages telling us to 'never forget' I think we sometimes lose sight of just why its good and right to remember.  The past can be an amazing catalyst for the future if we learn its lesson and do what is necessary.  So now it's up to us to make the consequence of these horrific actions something worthy of our collective memory.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

George Washington's Moral Fiber

Ever since President Obama declared that America was no longer a Christian nation there's been a bit of an uproar.  Some claim we are a Christian nation and others claim that was never the intention of the  'Founding Fathers.'  The history classes I've taken didn't really prepare to say much about it either way because honestly, I didn't know and finding out what George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others had to say themselves hadn't made it to the top of my very very long TO DO list.  Then today, in Stake Conference, L. Tom Perry quoted George Washington.  It was too quick for me to write the quote down so I came home and googled it and learned that Mr. Washington actually had quite a lot to say.

Some of the most relevant and compelling quotes, in my opinion, are:

"It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible."

"Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

"Experience teaches us that it is much easier to prevent an enemy from posting themselves than it is to dislodge them after they have got possession."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

"The time is near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves."

"Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God."

"Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected."

"Laws made by common consent must not be trampled on by individuals."

"We are persuaded that good Christians will always be good citizens, and that where righteousness prevails among individuals the Nation will be great and happy. Thus while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government it's surest support."

As Americans, we do not have a national religion.  Indeed, our Constitution prohibits it and promises us freedom of religion - the right to choose how and where we worship.  But a look at the principles underlying the country's formation and the ideals (while often not perfectly lived) of the men who took on that important job shows a commitment to the tenets common to all sects of Christianity and most other religious and philosophical schools of thought:  to act in all things and at all times with integrity and compassion and to treat others the way you wish to be treated.

So why are we having this huge debate on morality?  Have we as a people really degenerated so far that we have to question integrity, compassion, kindness and commitment?  Where is the glue that holds us united?

Sometimes I am truly frightened for the future of the United States of America.

Return & Report (and Revise)

Nobody commented on my post about some essential tasks I needed to complete or asked me about them during the week.  It would have been helpful if someone out there cared enough about me to keep me accountable and on track.  But you didn't.  I'm not going to allow myself to become my own worst enemy and let these details get past me and I'm not going to wallow in self-pity over the appearance that no one cares.

So, my 'friends' count this as your notice:  Either you walk with me or you'll watch me walk away.

How did I do with the 7 goals for 7 days?
1.  I did get the bulk of things packed up.  Planning to get to the post office Tuesday with them.  And there will be an additional padded envelope once I locate the last few items in the basement.  Gonna call it close enough. 
2.  In total, I got 8 resumes out there.  And one follow up.  Put a checkmark by that item on the list! 
3.  Got the mortgage payment made.  Woohoo for another check mark.  I like checking things off... 
4.  Some days I fell short and some days I got significantly more exercise.  I think it all balances out.  I'm going to keep this one on my list for more work but I'm rather pleased at how well I did do. 
5.  That big pre-move goal is well underway.  Thank goodness for those few people in life you know won't let you down. 
6.  The china cabinet is partially packed up.  I stopped working on this because I got the wild hare to see how much it would cost to have a full-service moving company move my stuff - and they pack it for liability purposes - rather than me doing it all and using PODS.  The initial estimates have the real movers coming in cheaper.   Pending the last 2 bids to be done early in the coming week, this task might just be outsourced.
7.  Off-line pursuits still took a backseat to on-line ones.  But I did get some time in doing enjoyable things away from the computer.  I'm also going to keep this one on my list for more work.
In addition, I managed to complete several other tasks that were equally important.  And that keeps them from appearing on future lists.  And that puts a happy smile on my face!

And my 7 goals for this coming week are:
1.  Details and agreements to sell/lease house completed.
2.  30 minutes of exercise each day.
3.  Spend 8 hours on off-line pursuits like drawing or crafts.
4.  Decide garage sale days, begin advertising it and finish getting stuff ready to sell
5.  Research pricing for furniture to be sold and place ads on and
6.  Work on the big pre-move goal.
7.  Unclog the bath tub drain.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

7 Days 7 Goals

This could just as well say, "The difference between your LIFE this week and next is what you do for the next seven days to achieve your goals."  So hold me accountable someone because if I know it can slide I will let it slide and then I'll be unhappy because another week is gone and I'm no closer to the life I want.

1. Package of grandma's things in the mail to my cousin, Sandy.
2. At least 5 resume's placed for jobs in the Atlanta area.
3. September mortgage payment made.
4. 30 minutes of exercise each day.
5. Talk to Helen about helping with my major pre-move goal.
6. China cabinet contents packed.
7. Spend 8 hours on off-line pursuits like drawing or crafts.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Woman Behind The President

It's election season and everyone is getting carried away campaigning for their candidate or choice, or more often and much to my dismay wasting their time and talent trying to convince me that the 'other guy' is a demonic monster set to lead America straight to hell.  I think both Barak Obama and Mitt Romney, the two contending candidates, are decent men with a vision for our country.  And I believe they each sincerely believe in the ideas they present.  That's one reason I'm really struggling to make a choice between them.  And often getting distracted by other things like why, with rare exception, I like the President's wife better than the President.

Ann Romney is the hopeful First Lady for the Presidential term beginning in 2013.  Much is said about her looks, style and aura of glamour but I like her sense of family values most.  I like that she took the path of stay-at-home wife and mother and shows girls today that making the home their main priority can be a desirable choice for intelligent, educated, capable women.

Michelle Obama is the current Mrs. in residence at the White House and wants to live there for another 4 years.  I think the health initiatives she's brought to the forefront are impressive with the commitment to exercise and planting a garden to supply her family with fresh vegetables.  I like how approachable she seems and that she shops at The Gap like us regular people.  I also like that she's obviously in love with her husband and not afraid to show it.

Laura Bush brought a refreshing sense of class and elegance back to the White House.  Trained as a teacher, her focus was on education and literacy.  I love her cookie recipes that still circulate the internet from time to time and I remember that she  used department store makeup during her tenure as First Lady.  She's the best example I can think of for growing older with dignity and grace and relevance.

Hilary Clinton just confounded and confused me.  She had an agenda all her own that was clouded with scandal and greed. I admire her ambition and drive to achieve prominence on her own despite the negative publicity from gifts that appeared inappropriate and the much talked about promiscuities of her husband while he was President.

Barbara Bush always impressed me as fiercely loyal and very pragmatic.  While not beautiful in the same sense as most of our recent First Ladies, she exudes a confidence, friendliness and comfort in her own skin that makes me like her.

Nancy Reagan was just so glamorous and pretty even past retirement age!  The Reagan's came at a time when we needed that shot of Hollywood. I appreciated her devotion to her husband, even to protecting his privacy and image in later years as he suffered through the ravages of Alzheimer's Disease.  Her "Just Say No" campaign against teen drinking and drugs was important and influential to me.

Roslyn Carter was, to me personally, the epitome of a real woman.  She is a humble, soft-spoken and submissive believer - all traits I seek to find within myself.  She's the first First Lady I really remember myself.  I've come to appreciate her dedication to making mental health research and care possible and the amount and scope of charity work the Carter's did following their time in the White House.  I wish I could have met her.

Hiatus Explained

Just in case there's someone out there still following along and actually wondering what happened to me... his name is Derek.

And it's an unconventional love story.  You wouldn't expect the average 'girl meets guy' thing from me, now would you?

He's not at all who I ever imagined I'd fall in love with but I did and now we're planning a wonderful future together.  For me that future means a big move is coming up.  From Utah to the very unexpected state of Georgia.  Go ahead, blink and clear your bleary eyes because you did read that right.  Georgia.  This confirmed Western girl is going Southern.  And yes, I'm a little nervous my laid back and pragmatic ways are going to clash with that famous charm and hospitality.

One of the first questions my surprised friends and family ask is "How did you meet?"  This is the 21st century, so it shouldn't be shocking that we met online.  No, neither of us signed up for a dating service which bases chemistry on a hundred-question compatability quiz (not that there's anything wrong with that!).  We've played an online game together for quite a long time now.  An in-game friendship started to develop about 18 months when we were first team-mates and then it spilled over to the rest of life and finally we decided to explore if there might be a little something more there.

There was.

Then I freaked out.  Big time!  I finally noticed his birthdate on Facebook.  Derek is a lot younger.  I've been out of high school longer than he's been walking the face of the earth.  So, yeah... I'm a 'cougar.'

Now I'm waiting out the process of selling my house and a large portion of the contents while I pack up the things I'll be taking with me.  And Derek and I are making plans for our adventure together, which right now includes new jobs, a big old house, and a Christmas puppy.

And that, folks, is why I've been so absent.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Politics and The Sunday School Lesson

This morning I took the unprecedented, for me, step of giving both presidential and both vice presidential candidates running this year a "Like" on Facebook.  I did that, not because I particularly like any of them, but because I want to see what they have to say for themselves.  Will they address the issues that are important to me like adults or lapse into the childish name calling that has me so frustrated with some of their followers?

Related to my struggle to decide on who to vote for, I had a brief discussion with a friend over this advertisement produced by the Catholic Church.

He had made what was probably intended to be a smart-ass remark about the Catholics burning Freedom and Marriage.  I tossed back an equally sarcastic "Why not?  Everyone else is jumping on that bandwagon."  Then the conversation turned a little more serious and he asked what I meant by that comment.  In large part, this was my reply:
"....we're not free. We keep giving up little bits of our basic freedoms under the guise of 'you wouldn't object if you had nothing to hide.' We get farther and farther from the traditional values that have underpinned the achievements and prosperity of our nation in the name of tolerance and saying the politically correct thing to the currently politically correct minority of the populace. We let people with evil intentions dictate the conditions of our travel and allow government-mandated invasive searches of our bodies to gain the privilege. We (or least I) pay more and more toward education every year so that schools can turn out ever less functionally educated students. We've lost the ability to treat each other with basic civility and let our language degenerate into a continual stream of f%$# this and f#*^ that to grant everyone the right of personal expression. We allow our government and agro-business/corporate farms to offer up poison [for food] and wonder why we are sicker and fatter while we allow them to shut up anyone who objects. We're not free. That's just [an ideal] we aggrandize on the 4th of July with fireworks, parades and backyard BBQs. So why not just toss it all on the fire and be done with it?"

Since it's Sunday, I bet you're wondering how I'm going to tie this back to a spiritual thought...

Our Sunday School lesson today was about possible locations related to military events in the Book of Mormon.  It included one of my favorite scriptural analogies from Alma 43 about Amalickiah tempting Lehonti down off Mt. Antipas.  Three times he tried, and three times he failed, to get Lehonti to meet him at the bottom of the mountain but for his fourth, and finally successful attempt, he came part way up which reduced Lehonti's fear of an ambush enough to agree.  Amalickiah proposed a traitorous plan to capture his own men in exchange for the place of 2nd in command and from that position of trust he slowly and almost imperceptibly poisoned Lehonti to death and gained full control of the army.  Brilliant military strategy!  And an equally brilliant way to convince each of us to give up what we want forever so we can have what we want right now.

In simplest terms, sin is deceit.  And it is easily and conveniently veiled from our conscious notice when it's spun as good the same way that freedom is eventually lost when it's spun as small concessions and labeled as honest, tolerant, safe, creative, or efficient or any number of other desirable sounding adjectives.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Walls Come Tumbling Down

I read the most touching blog post at Single Dad Laughing this morning called That Moment When...

This line really hit home for me:
That moment when you realize that the walls you put up to protect yourself were the very walls that destroyed you. Again.
Walls, limits, boundaries... whatever you call the things you do to guard your heart.  To keep you from feeling vulnerable because being vulnerable makes you feel weak and fearful.  And it can be a scary thing to give someone enough of your heart to realize that they have the power to break it.  Scary to feel naked and exposed and risking the rejection of not being enough.

But what about the times when the other person loves us despite our flaws and faults and deep dark secrets?  Isn't that the kind of intimacy that makes living worthwhile?

Keeping people out with our self-erected walls that we so carefully lay brick by brick only serves to keep us away from what we need and want most in human interaction.  It seems awfully silly to put all that effort into something we very much don't want.  And not silly at the same time because our intent in building walls and containing our self is to avoid the pain, whether physical or emotional, that has devastated our psyche in the past.

Expansion by Paige Bradley
 “From the moment we are born, the world tends to have a container already built for us to fit inside: a social security number, a gender, a race, a profession, I ponder if we are more defined by the container we are in than what we are inside. Would we recognize ourselves if we could expand beyond our bodies?"  asks sculptor Paige Bradley when speaking about her work Expansion.

I really like the imagery of this sculpture.  It says to me that when we make the conscious decision to start tearing down those walls, to let down our guard and be open to new people, ideas and adventures, that's when the light inside begins to shine.  That's how we expand beyond our body and finally find our authentic self.  And yes, I think it is a decision to take down the walls.  It's a very calculated risk.  Even if we aren't completely conscious of it while it's happening, something inside is weighing the pros and cons and always asking if it's worth it.

Yes, it is scary to step out onto that ledge where the possibility of being hurt exists.  It takes my breath away to look out and consider all the possibilities that I set aside in the past.  But it's also exhilarating.  And so freeing. I've calculated the risk, drawn a deep breath for courage and I'm taking the jump.

One by one I'm pulling the bricks away.  It's a slow, sometimes tentative, process this tearing down. I think it has to be.  All at once would be too much - too frightening, too risky.  Sometimes I'm surprised by how thick the wall is when one layer is gone and only reveals another behind it.

Looking back, I'm not sure how or when I got to be so damaged.  Maybe that doesn't really matter.  Because I am determined that what held me down in the past will not bind my future.  These walls will come tumbling down!

Monday, June 11, 2012

What To Do With Old Tires

I think the picture is pretty self-explanatory.  No, I haven't done this.  Yet.

Actually, I just wanted to pin it on Pinterest but since I found the link on Facebook and you can't pin directly from there and I couldn't find a way to get this specific picture into a format that would work, I'm blogging it here specifically so I can pin it.  And yes, that you can post from Pinterest to Facebook but you can't pin from Facebook to Pinterest annoys me.  It really annoys me today...

For those of you who want to trace the source back and see what other cool stuff they have, here's the link from Homesteading Self Sufficiency Survival's Facebook page.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Menu for Tonight

My roommate, Tami, is having a little BBQ Bash to celebrate a friend's birthday... and lucky me, I get to hang out with them.  And have dinner!

On the menu is steak.  It's marinating in the kitchen now and the whole house smells somewhere beyond incredible.  She started with Famous Dave's rub and then mixed Lawry's Signature Steakhouse and Tuscan Sun-dried Tomato Marinade together and poured it over the top of the meat for a couple of hours.

To go over the steak, once it's grilled, there's a Cucumber Raita.  Totally new to me, but oh so tasty!!

Cucumber Raita

8 oz plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 - 1/2 cup coarsely shredded unpeeled cucumber
2 T finely chopped red onion
1 Tbl snipped dill
1/4 tsp sugar
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Minced garlic and horseradish to taste

Combine and let chill for 2 hours.  Spoon over grilled and sliced steak to serve.

In addition we have corn on the cob and a couple of pretty amazing salads.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Toss together:
Fresh baby spinach
Sliced (or quartered or halved depending on size) fresh strawberries
Sliced (or slivered) almonds
Crumbled feta cheese
Dried cranberries

Dress with mayonnaise blended with a fat-free Raspberry Vinegarette just before serving.

Broccoli and Mango Salad

Toss together:
Fresh broccoli flowerettes broken into small pieces
Sliced red onion
Coarsely chopped mango
Mandarin oranges

Dress with a mixture of bottled ranch dressing, horseradish and orange juice.

Oh yes, we're eating good tonight!!

Update:  I've been holding this post back for almost a month now thinking we might make it again because I failed to take pictures.  And it was beautiful, picture worthy food!!  But we haven't and the recipes are too good not to publish and urge you to try.


If, like me, you've so far missed this acronym of modern language YOLO means You Only Live Once.  It's the impetus, and sometimes excuse, being tossed around for many adventures and personal discoveries of late.  And it has great value if you are seeking out things to enhance your life and not just a way to assuage your conscience for bad behavior and choices.

Our founding fathers went to quite the effort to promise each of us "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  Note we are not guaranteed happiness, just the ability to pursue it.  And 'pursue' is a verb; an action word; implied is getting off your butt and doing something.

Now and then we see this idea repeated by other bright thinkers, eloquent and not, with phrases like "carpe the heck out of that diem" and "life is for the living."  Today, reading the 2012 Wellesley High School Commencement Address by David McCullough Jr. these sentences stood out to me.  "The point is the same: get busy, have at it. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands."

He went on to explain further, "None of this day-seizing, though, this [YOLO]ing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you."

The fulfilled life is a consequence.  Now that's something to think about.

Over the last year, I think it's fair to say I've given myself license for a lot of self-indulgence.  Yes, I've done some hard things and learned a great deal but I'm not really any closer to the life I would call fulfilled and gratifying now than I was then.  I also think it's fair to say that in large part this stems from lack of direction, lack of tangible goals, and lack of discipline to do the hard things to bring them about.

I need a big goal and someone or something that will help me by following through with holding me accountable.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pavlov's Kissing Adventures

I think we people are more like Pavlov's dogs than we'd like to admit with our big brains and self-actualized sensibilities.  An event, it doesn't really matter what event, happens in your life and as a result you experience a sensation.  If that resulting sensation is pleasant, you forever associate that event with a happy memory and look forward to recreating it.  If it's less than pleasant, you tend to avoid similar events in the future.

That's true for burning your finger on a hot dish just as much as for a lover who, intent aside, didn't pay enough attention to meet your needs and desires.  Time heals the burned finger and the broken heart leaving just a memory of the pain to push us away from that event again... even when the people around us insist it is an amazing experience that we should try again.

Poster available from:​#Macheete-Posters
Sometimes someone comes along who is willing to not only tell us the experience can be good, but takes the time to show us through consistent caring action and helps us be brave enough to try again.  Someone who will undo the damage left behind by past lovers and open our hearts and minds to move on to even better things.  Someone who loves us, not just for what we are today, but for who we can be tomorrow.  Someone who defies the logic of time and space to help us believe again in the power of deep kisses, strange adventures, midnight swims and rambling conversations that last all night.

So glad he came along when he did...  And so thankful for the push and motivation to make some big life changes.  There's times he scares the hell out of me... but that might just be a good thing!

Friday, April 27, 2012

People in the Public Eye

I don't consider myself to be star-struck by any means...  I'm not one to "ooh and ah" over anyone's every breath but rather, I look at people with some sort of celebrity status (whether they are a movie star,  politician or a Church authority) as a normal person who's job puts their every move under the microscope of public scrutiny.

Still there are some people who I find very interesting.

Bristol Palin is one of those interesting people.  She has a blog that I follow, Bristol's Blog.  Is it a campaign trick for her mother's political ambitions?  Or a publicity stunt to boost sales of her book?  Perhaps.  But now and then it's fun to take a glimpse into the life of a well-known and sometimes controversial family.  A family, who celebrity status notwithstanding, looks an awfully lot like most families I know with their own struggles and moments of joy.

Awhile back, Bristol put up this post about why she is (now) choosing abstinence before marriage.  While I agree with her that it is best to put solid commitment before a sexual relationship, not everyone sees it that way.  And that's ok... we all have the agency to choose for ourselves in this life.  What I think surprised me is the attack mentality of those who disagree.  It is Bristol's blog... her forum to share her ideas and beliefs.

Just like this blog is my forum to put my thoughts into words.  It's my space to share the things that are important to me.  Your approval, while appreciated, isn't necessary.  I'm going to keep telling my story in my voice.

I hope Bristol Palin keeps her voice as well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Lilacs Are In Bloom!

I love lilacs!  Especially these big, substantial looking, darker purple ones.   Wish I could capture their intoxicating fragrance for a wonderful potpourri.

My childhood home in Shelley had 2 very old 'lilac trees' or bushes that had been pruned over many decades so that there were huge twisted trunks with peeling bark.  Many dolly tea parties were held in the shade below...  I love that my home in Salt Lake has the same sort of lilac tree, though not nearly as big and old and gnarled, over the back of the garage with a juniper towering above and purple grapes on the fence below

With storms moving in for tonight and tomorrow they'll probably be thrashed so I took this opportunity to capture a few photos.

Can't you almost imagine the luscious heady scent wafting through the air from these beautiful blooms?

Lilacs are one of the flowers that remind me of happy childhood memories and the start of a carefree summer.  In Idaho, where the season is a bit later, lilacs were among the flowers we picked fresh in the yard to decorate family graves for Memorial Day. After a visit to the cemetery we often had a picnic and, if we were really lucky, a swim in the warm mineral pools at Heise Hot Springs.

I truly love the lilac time of year!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Clean Up Day

I'm sure there is an annual clean up day in many communities around the world.  But for those of you who, like I did, find this a  strange new idea... clean up day is a designated day where you can haul junk to the curb that doesn't fit your every week trash can and the municipality comes around with a big truck to gather it up and haul it away.

We have such a thing in Salt Lake City!

Each year, a few weeks ahead of time, the City mails an over-sized postcard telling us the date of pickup, when it's acceptable to start moving trash to the curb and a reminder of the rules for what can be in our junk piles.  The dates rotate through all of the neighborhoods so everyone has a chance sometime during every year between March and October (I think).  We never know until the postcard arrives if our clean up day will be early in the spring or late in the fall.

When I moved here from rural Southeast Idaho, it was my first experience with a clean up day and over the years I've observed this ritual with many different emotions.  First was curiosity; almost overwhelming curiosity.  Then came a sort of disgust that the same people could accumulate so much junk year after year.  Later, I felt a bit of satisfaction as I joined the many roving 'curb shoppers' and scored some lawn furniture, planters, canning bottles and an antique dining table.  Some years I've felt relief as I had an abundance of trash that needed to be hauled away.  Other times I've sat inside and watched in utter amusement as car after car stops out front to rifle through my trash in search of their treasures.  In fact I'm watching someone out there right now!

This is my contribution for Salt Lake's Spring Clean Up 2012.  There's some rubble from tearing down the old patio structure in the back, a few odd pieces of dry wall from some minor remodeling in the basement, carpet scraps from the downstairs bedroom and a broken picnic table.  Long gone are the old metal electrical box and a couple of lengths of pipe... those are the prizes for the curb shoppers as they can be scrapped for cash.

Today is the day the truck begins in my neighborhood.  Most years, my pile gets picked up on the first day.  I'm kind of hoping to be a little farther into the cycle this round because there's still junk I'd like to add to the pile.

And I will keeping adding to it until I see the City's trucks headed down my street!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Trial Run

Off and on for a long time I've talked about a dream I have to adopt some kids.  In my mind I've always had a preference for a 2-3 child sibling group.  I've read (and re-read many times) all the information on adoption websites and felt the heart-tugs during Wednesday's Child presentations both on TV and on the web.  But I've always held back from making that first phone call to start the process because of doubts about if I could make a great parent and if I even qualified under the State of Utah's rules.   But it's time to either move forward or give up the dream and right now I have the opportunity to test my commitment, patience, sanity, endurance and probably lots of other skills I can only hope I possess while stretching my suffering finances a little farther.  I have a roommate moving in for a few months with 5 kids - 4 teen girls and a 5-year old boy.

One day soon I'll ask Tami (the mom) to share her story of just how much can go wrong in life and where she finds her resilience as she works to right their situation and create happy and meaningful memories for her kids... but for now I'd like you to meet the Nelson family:  Tami, Morgan, Rachel, Nikki, and Sarah (to the left) and the handsome little man, Jake (with mom, below).

So... if you see my focus drifting to more family-oriented topics and activities and "we" taking the place of "I" in these posts, you know why.  I'm going to be learning what life looks like with children in the home 24/7 and how to organize, prioritize and keep boundaries with them in mind.  It's going to be quite the experience!