Thursday, November 28, 2013

Still in a food coma...

I know I am getting older because I could only eat four small slivers of delicious pies before my body said YUCK, NO MORE SUGAR PLEASE. YOU ARE DONE GROWING. YOU DIDN'T STOP FOR A LONG TIME BUT NOW YOU ARE DONE. THERE ARE NO MORE GROWTH SPURTS TO FUEL.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful (among other things) for a responsive body, and also for many previous years of gluttony. :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

South of the Border

We made it to Virginia! Praise be! On our way from Atlanta to Richmond, we crossed paths in Greensboro, NC with Josh's parents who were on their way from Franklin to Raleigh. Fortuitous timing! We had a joyous reunion at the Taco Bell. We are eating Thanksgiving with my family this year so it was a fun surprise to get to see them too. Now to sleep and dream of turkey and pumpkin pie...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Belief, Revisited

(The title is a reference to my facetious post from NaBloPoMo, Day 2)

I had choir practice last night, which gets me nostalgic for all my past choir days. Do you ever get the sense when you're in the middle of something that "This is amazing. This is going to change me and stay with me forever but it's not going to last long so I need to savor it!" I feel that way now about lots of moments of motherhood, but I also felt it frequently in choir at BYU. I knew it was a singular experience at the time, but the years since I've been out of school have thrown that truth even more into relief. So much of that music made an impression on me - the harmonies and the lyrics - at a formative time in my life, and those impressions constitute much of what I consider my limited knowledge of God. In other areas of my life God has felt somewhat distant or abstract at times, but music has always been one of my primary means of intuiting God's existence. I've had in mind the past couple nights a song I sung back at BYU, a choral setting of a Robert Frost poem, "Choose Something Like a Star". Here is the poem for your devouring: 

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Choose Something Like a Star 
O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud --
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says "I burn."
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

And here is a good clip of the choral setting: 

(And now I will awkwardly attempt to wax eloquent and philosophical, with probably too many rhetorical flourishes and not enough clarity or editing. Please forgive the attempt.) 

In this poem, I see man and his longing to understand the universe. It's funny, because from one perspective I can see this poem having great appeal to an atheist. In the absence of God, choose something like a star. But as a believer, I also see a parallel to man and his longing to understand God. Here is my rambling vision, prompted in part by this poem: There is so much in the physical world and in the spiritual calculus of the universe that we want to know, but we don't. How things work, why bad things happen to innocent people, etc. We can't even know how much we don't know. And yet we sense that things have explanations, have meanings even when it's impossible for us to comprehend them. We are meaning-making creatures - we try so hard to explain everything - but our reach exceeds our grasp. We grow frustrated - we overcompensate - we embellish what little we know - we talk up our certainty of what little we do. We see the stars burning silent and distant and we can't leave them alone to burn - we sense, we insist that they have something to say. We are part of the universe and we feel entitled to comprehend it all, to know it's deepest corners, to resonate with it and hear it speak to us.

But we forget that we are children. We demand to know, we demand because demanding is the bulk of our skill set, and I imagine God as empathetic towards our flailings and lashing out. I also imagine His attempts to speak to us as not dissimilar to my attempts to speak to my pre-verbal children. Each one, I have spoken to from birth in a daily ritual, watching their eyes as I touch my face and say "Mama", then put my hand on their bellies and repeat their own name. Over and over. I want them to know me and to know themselves in relation to me. There is a cloudiness in their eyes, but also such concentration! So much attentiveness as they study my face and see my lips move and hear my words. As months and more months pass the cloudiness recedes, but even as their recognition grows they have no language to articulate what they recognize - only noise.

When I try to conceive of God, I imagine Him in my place and myself as the neonate. When I imagine my soul in communication with God I see my infant whining and wailing, and I see those times in my life when I believe He was communicating back to me His existence - always simply - no angelic voices, no bright lights or specific instructions for me - but like Frost's star, "I burn" - "I am here" - "I exist". Nothing more, but nothing less either. A sense of warmth from a faraway burning. "It gives us strangely little aid, but does tell us something in the end." I could dismiss that sensation of warmth, of mercy, as emotionalism, as a mere cocktail of hormones gifted to me by evolutionary biology, and that picture's not wrong, but incomplete, I think. Just as a star is a giant ball of gas millions of miles away, and yet something more than that, the science behind my emotional responses to music (and literature and art and scripture) is insufficient to me in explaining their significance.

As I've mulled over this poem the past couple nights, I've also been reminded of an essay I read a few months back by one of my favorite Mormon writers, Rosalynde Welch, titled Disenchanted Mormonism: Practicing a Rooted Religion, that offers an alternative narrative to the common one of "faith, faith crisis, then faith resolution or abandonment":
"My experience has not been one of conventional religious doubt, an agonizing knife-edge demanding resolution through insight or decision, but rather one of puzzlement. Puzzlement is a gentler and more sustainable state of mind. It entails patience, an internal stillness, and an acknowledgement of my own failure to wring answers from an inscrutable world. Puzzlement implies humility. If provisional doubt must be mastered by individual judgment and choice, then puzzlement marks the limits of our intellectual and moral mastery. 
Moreover, the notion of puzzlement allows us to uncouple belief from faith, and faith from choice, in the troubling but inescapable logic of doubt. Puzzlement allows us to think of faith not as a moral victory over uncertainty but rather as an encounter with uncertainty itself, which is to say an encounter with the limits of our own capacity to comprehend or control the world. When we encounter church doctrines or practices that we fail to understand or can’t justify, or when we taste suffering in our own lives or the lives of those we love, we find ourselves puzzled by God’s will. These moments of hesitation become the personal occasions of faith. They originate not in our capacity to choose, in our strength of will, but on the contrary in our own limitations of mind, in our insufficiency to comprehend or our present inability to decide. Faith begins at the moment we say “I don’t understand.” Faith here is not a choice to believe but choice’s opposite, born in a moment of spiritual hesitation or aporia; not first a triumph of the moral mind, but its fortunate failure."
I find myself in a state of puzzlement all the time. Similar to the author, my natural bent is not to see God in every little lucky coincidence or mishap. Elsewhere in the article she talks about a spiritual otherworld visible to some believers, where every boon and bane confirms His existence - I don't know that world. What I do have is puzzlement about why things are the way they are, why I am the way that I am, and in the face of that confusion, a quiet "I burn" communicated through others by kindness, by music, by compassion, by art. It stays my mind, and asks of me a certain height, and I'm certain that I am not reaching it, but I am reaching.

(I am not sure if or how to end now, but)


Monday, November 25, 2013


I was working on a thoughtful post, but it's late and my brain has turned to mush so I'll have to hash out the rest of my thoughts over there tomorrow..ish.

Here instead is a picture of George sleeping, which is what I should have given up and done hours ago.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My First Date

I am pretty awesome at being a wife, if I say so myself, but I was a terrible girlfriend, and before that, terrible at dating. I had this idea to do a post of some of the bad dates I went on, but upon reflection I decided that it was probably ME that was the bad date in many of those instances! In any case, here's the story of my very first one (awww). 

I got asked on my first date shortly after arriving at BYU. That's right, I never went on a single date in high school. To be fair, I didn't turn 16 until June of my junior year so there was only a year's worth of opportunity. But I was a babe, check me out! Note the glasses and braces: 

[Incidentally I look exactly the same today, just with less metal on my teeth.] Why were the boys not lining up? That's what I want to know. Dummies!! Actually, it was for the best - I was glad to begin my dating life far, far away from the uncomfortable interrogations of my parents, so I had no regrets on that score. (Hi Mom! Hi Dad! Love you!)

Anyhow, my first week or so at BYU I got asked on a date and it basically made my life up to that point. He was a little nerdy, but super nice, and TALL!! Taller than me! I could not have been more thrilled. I don't remember at all what we did, maybe got ice cream and walked around? It was a warm night and I was hanging out with a tall boy who kind of liked me! I mean, not really, since he didn't know me at all yet, but he thought I was cute enough to ask on a date at least! Heaven was a place on earth and that place was PROVO, UTAH. (Are you laughing yet?) I don't think we had a ton in common but the small talk came easily enough so my armpits were only mildly sweaty instead of profusely sweaty - winning!

Everything was going swimmingly until the topic of conversation meandered to the Very Serious Issue of "Who Was the Coolest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle." Now. Obviously. And clearly. And indisputably, as decreed by the heavens, the answer to this question is Michaelangelo. Before my date brought it up it had not occurred to me that this was an issue of any contention. MICHAELANGELO! He was hands down the funniest! And he had the coolest weapon, the nunchucks! He was the one that said "Cowabunga" all the time!! That's it. Case closed, he wins. My sister Courtney and I were such fans in elementary school that we may even have kissed the screen on occasion when he was on it. That's normal, to have a childhood crush on a cartoon reptile, right? (I had to google whether a turtle was a reptile or an amphibian just now...surprise, it's a reptile! I guessed wrong.)

Knowing my convictions, then, you can imagine what a shock it was to me when he confessed that his favorite Turtle was Donatello. Donatello??? The most forgettable one in the bunch? In my rankings, Donatello was dead last. He was boring, and nerdy, and his weapon was just a big stick wrapped in some tape. Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, in that order. Wikipedia tells me that "In all media, he is depicted as the smartest, quick-witted, and most intelligent of the four turtles, often speaking in technobabble with a natural aptitude for science and technology" and I seem to recall that maybe my date was going into engineering? Don't ask me his name, but I think I remember that. So in retrospect it makes perfect sense that he would have gravitated toward that turtle, but at the time I did not comprehend it at all. All I knew was that I had been having a pleasant evening getting to know this person, when all of a sudden this Donatello thing came out of left field and it was a DEALBREAKER. A sure sign of our incompatibility and conflicting worldviews.

We laughed off our differences and moved on to other subjects, but secretly, I think we both knew it was a dealbreaker. We ran into each other on occasion afterward but he never asked me out again. I wasn't particularly disappointed.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Jamie Louise

Once upon a time four and half years ago I joined Twitter. I tweeted about twenty times and then stopped. HOWEVER, I remembered today that among those tweets were a couple of real gems of quotes from my grandmother/namesake, Jamie Louise Collins Powers, a lady of class and spunk (whose mind has taken a precipitous turn south in the last year or two, sadly) who was unintentionally hilarious (to me, at least) on these few occasions.
Grandma was born in 1919 and grew up on a farm during the Depression, and then raised seven children on a budget of pennies and smiles. Even though she managed to see some of the world later in life (Israel, Egpyt, Rome, Ireland, Russia) and she was very proud of the mink stole she found at a Goodwill in Swarthmore, PA, her "luxury-o-meter" was always modest in scale. I love that she was so impressed by a Days Inn in the middle of nowhere. I imagine her thinking, "Does it have hot water? An indoor toilet? A TV with a clicker? I do declare, this must be the Ritz-Carlton!"
My attitude at a Chinese buffet: skepticism about how long each dish has been sitting out
My grandma's attitude at a Chinese buffet: wide-eyed amazement. I love that. And she is right! So much bounty! So much choice! And for so cheap! The modern world is amazing. For proof, just go to a Chinese buffet.
Grandma has always been a talker. (I have wondered sometimes if my sweet Chatty Cathy Tessa-lou is actually related to me, her taciturn mother, but really there's no mystery that her loquacity comes straight from her Great-Grandma Jamie. The talkative gene is hiding on a recessive allele somewhere in my DNA, but in my daughter it decided to EXPRESS ITSELF *jazz fingers*.) Grandma is also one of those people who was born without whatever mechanism that is between brain and mouth that stops you from saying just anything. With Grandma, you always know exactly what she's thinking because she will tell you, for better or for worse. :) No filter at all. Sometimes, like in this particular quote, this leads to saying things that just make no sense. :) I love the stream-of-consciousness of her correcting herself, and her obliviousness to what this says about her own dancing. LOL

My sweet Grandma always had a little more spice than sugar, and was not much of a cookie-baking kind of Grandma, at least in my memory (though she was famous for her whole wheat bread, made with wheat she ground into flour that I think about it, practical, nourishing, unsweetened, no-nonsense whole wheat bread is a pretty good metaphor for what kind of grandma she was). She expected me to get up early, not be sassy, and turn off the lights when I left a room. I grew up in her home until age 11 so maybe other grandchildren have a rosier memory of her grandmotherliness, but they possibly never knew her talent with a switch, either. :) (Maybe? I dunno.) I have used the past tense a lot in writing this because even though she's still around, she's not all there. I get to go home to see her this Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I'm so thankful, because I don't know how many more she's got in her.

She may not have been an indulgent Grandma, but I know she loved/loves me and her influence in my life has been indelible. I have watched her strike up conversations with complete strangers in thrift stores that led to new bosom friendships and the discovery of mutual pals. I am naturally shy but I'm not as nervous to meet new people as I used to be and I do pretty well at small talk now - smile, joke, ask questions, look for commonalities. That's how Grandma does it. Her work ethic is famous, and while my natural tendency is to sloth, I am finding myself more and more as I get older thinking of my Grandma, wanting to hit the ground running in the morning on my days off (well, once I drag myself out of bed...natural sloth, you see), push against my natural laziness and do, do, do, no, don't sit down b/c you'll never get up, ugh you checked your phone and now half an hour is gone STOP THAT, pick up that sock, that toy, that paper, put away that dirty dish, wash that load of colors, fold that pile of laundry. "What would Grandma do?" I'm still nowhere near her productivity - I don't vacuum near as much, I don't hang my clothes to dry, I don't fill paper grocery bags with the sweet gum balls I've picked up in my yard, I don't have to haul buckets of dirty wash water outside to dump after doing laundry (her laundry setup was wacko...I still don't understand it), I don't spend evenings shelling beans - but I think of her and can aim a little higher. Maybe, by the end of my life, I'll be a little more deserving of her namesake.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday movie night

Kids are in bed and Josh and I are starting a new Friday "classic" movie night tradition. My film literacy is woefully lacking. I grew up "in" the 80's, but not "of" the 80's, you could say. (Mormon joke.) Anyway, there are a lot of movies I haven't seen, and I'm closing in on 30 so it's about time to remedy that. I am using the term "classic" loosely - could be from any decade in the 20th century, really. There are a lot of "classics" that I've seen parts of, or I'm familiar with from pop culture references, but haven't actually watched the whole thing.

We are starting tonight with Groundhog Day. Never seen it! Also on my list from the 80's are E.T. and Ghostbusters. Never seen 'em! Any other recommendations? You name it...I probably haven't seen it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nothing to see here...

Here is the thing. I've been having a hard time blogging the last couple of nights. I've started to write things, but then they feel too vulnerable or too self-absorbed - I just don't want to share them. I have a weird confluence of complexes where I vacillate between feeling either really confident, to the point of being convinced of my own genius, or insecure and convinced of my own idiocy. The truth is somewhere closer to genius in between, of course, but I've been feeling the idiot side of the spectrum more this week. So I could explore here all my ridiculous angst at age 29 but I think I will spare you tonight. :) Good night, all!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What I Have Been Doing Instead of Writing a Blog Post Tonight

  • Browsing pianos and piano movers on Craigslist. I really want a cute little spinet piano. Isn't this one cute? I want to get Tess started learning to play, and I have my keyboard from work that I lug around everywhere, but I just want to be able to sit down at the real thing. Josh is very anti- because they are so heavy and whenever we move it will be awful. Move, schmove, I say. Who cares about then? Live in the now! Someone else convince him I need one. And then come move it for me. ;)
  • Making a pumpkin pie for Tessa's Thanksgiving party tomorrow at school. I only had one frozen crust and I'm a little bummed I won't get to sample the fruits of my labor. I only like cooking as much as I do because I LOVE eating what I cook. 
  • Writing a third of a post about Tess (a positive, complaint-free one)
  • Reading this article about Taylor Swift. 

"Still, is Taylor Swift really a “feminist’s nightmare”? You could argue the ­opposite. Her straight-laced fashion sense and dance moves—the fact that she’s never writhed across a concert stage wearing a negligee, or less—may make her more square than some other singers. But she’s also less beholden to that old feminist bugbear, the Male Gaze. In fact, seeing Swift live is revelatory: It’s in a setting like Bridgestone that her uniqueness, the weirdness of her conventionality—and, yes, her feminism—snaps into focus. I’ve been going to arena shows for three decades; I’ve never experienced a louder, more rabid crowd than at Swift’s concert. Nor, for that matter, a more female crowd, music critics from New York and creepy dudes from Oklahoma to the contrary. Even at a Justin Bieber show—even at a women’s-studies seminar—you won’t find as pronounced a female-to-male ratio, nor such a wide age range: toddlers and teens and tweens and their moms, for sure, but also college co-eds, and grandmothers, and rowdy thirtysomething office workers, like the gals who sat in the row behind me, passing a flask of booze. To push through the turnstiles of a Taylor Swift concert is to enter, as the saying goes, a women’s space. Swift has the power to turn a hockey arena into a room of one’s own."
          Team T-Swift!

  • Reading about Mormon Women Bare, an art project by photographer Katrina Barker Anderson featuring nude portraits of Mormon women. I just told you what it was, so if nudity really bothers you, don't click through, but I am really impressed with this project. What brave women! I also read another article, supportive, but still critical, here. I love the "Sistaz" but have to disagree with them on this one. I don't find the nudity uncomfortable at all, and far from being unnecessary I think it feels needed. It feels like truth. Yes, there is already too much gratuitous nudity in western culture and media, mostly highly sexualized, but that to me seems an argument for the importance of seeing real bodies, not airbrushed or sucked into spanx - real bodies with real imperfections in nonsexual circumstances. These are what normal women's bodies look like, with rolls and droop and stretch marks, all beautiful but diverse in size and shape. Nudity does not equal porn and it makes me sad when people have been conditioned to think so. 
  • Watching an episode of Parenthood - loving this season so far! - and pretending to fold laundry. 
  • Cutting out leaves from construction paper for a "gratitude tree" I wanted to make tonight but realized we don't have any brown construction paper for a gratitude tree trunk. Will have to improvise a trunk out of something tomorrow. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pretending to like pretending

On the days when I work, I don't get to see Tess much because she's at school all morning, and then I'm at work all afternoon. I get to see her for a few hours between when I get home and when she has to go to bed. I usually get to work right away making dinner while Tess tries desperately to play pretend with me while I cook. Do you enjoy pretending with your child? I try to have a good attitude about it, and I'm usually in a good mood when I first get home, but after a while my patience starts to fray. Partially this is because she talks SOOO MUUCCCHHH while I'm trying to remember what ingredients I'm missing, and partially it's because I'm not really "playing" pretend so much as I'm being stage-managed in the game of pretend that's happening in her head. I don't get to make any choices! It is so frustrating! Try and tell me any sane person wouldn't also chafe under these acting conditions. Here's one scene from while I was cooking tonight:

Tess: "Hi, I'm Sunset Shimmer. Who are you? Are you a new girl?"
Me: "Um...I'm Twilight Sparkle."
Tess: "No, you be Summer Girl now!"
Me: "What? Uh, ok. Hi, I'm Summer Girl."
Tess: "How old are you, Summer Girl?"
Me: "Uhhh....I'm...twelve. Twelve years old."
Tess: "No, Mommy you have to say six!"
Me: *not breaking character* "What? Why would I say I'm six when I'm twelve? Also, why did you just call me Mommy? Didn't you say a minute ago I was your sister?"
Tess: "No, Mommy, pause the game! You have to say six because Summer Girl is six!!"
Me: "What game are you talking about? I'm not playing a game. I'm Summer Girl, I'm twelve years old, and I'm not your mommy, silly!"
Tess: *crying*
Me: *irritated* "Ugh whatever okay I'm six" *muttering to self under breath* "dammit, I've burned the garlic toast again...why am I constitutionally incapable of NOT burning the damn garlic toast"
Tess: *cheering up* "See, Summer Girl? I told you I'm older than you because you're only six and I'M seven."

Maybe she'll take after her Aunt Lindsey one day, but for now, her improv skills need some work. :) It's scenes like this that make me wish we had had another kid close after her for her to pretend with.

You guys, I am doing awesome at positivity, clearly.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Math (not a Jaime NaBloPoMumu post)...

At dinner, we had resorted once again to giving Tess a certain number of bites (5) before she could be done. When asked how many bites she had taken, she said she had done 5 already. To which I replied with unbelief. And then the math lesson started:

Tess: If I took 1 bite and then 4 more, then I took 5. See? I'm not lying.

Me: I guess that is right.

Then she thought we were just doing math problems. And hit me with the greatest word problem I've ever been asked to solve:

Tessa: If I had 100, and you had 0, then what would you do to get my 100?

Why wasn't math that interesting when I was in school?

Inconclusive Soul-Searching, with a smidge of Schizophrenia

Vignette #1: I was looking through old pictures from the past year on Josh's and my phones, and it brought back lots of warm fuzzies. Compared to 2012, which frequently felt like a roundhouse kick to the face from life, 2013 has been like a big hug. It's had lots of highlights. Reminiscing made me happy.

Vignette #2: I was playing around with the "what-would-i-say" app on facebook - it's a thing that generates a status for you based on what your previous statuses, comments, and messages have been. It jumbles your past phrases together and the combinations can be really funny. However, I noticed that at least a third of my automated statuses had the phrase "I hate" in them. "I hate how..." "I hate when..." "I hate that..." I'm sure most of those were hyperbole but still, it stung to see so much negativity in my reflections from the same time period.

Contrasting these two has scenarios has led me to some ridiculous, overly-analytical hand-wringing soul-searching. Usually my soul-searching takes the form of me playing devil's advocate with myself at a pace too rapid for my brain to keep track of the connections and eventually I lose interest with the argument or distract myself with technology. This is my attempt to document a sample back-and-forth in list form.

  • All those "I hates"....they were taken out of context. It's just your personality to try to complain or be sarcastic in a funny way.
  • Well, sarcasm is bad. The Ensign said so
  • Sarcasm is bad when you use it to hurt other people, when it's merely observational about life you are just using your God-given wit. 
  • Ok, but still that article made a lot of good points. Would it kill you to just be a little more positive? People like uplifting things. You like uplifting things. Positivity makes people's days better.
  • Yeah but sometimes you just feel crappy and you want to express it. What's wrong with that? Sometimes the world is a terrible place, maybe not in your life but in many people's lives, and to put a shiny veneer of positivity over it can feel fake. Don't you get frustrated with all the airbrushed images of perfection out there? Sometimes it's more inspiring (or a least more relatable and therefore lovable) to be real, and sometimes sarcasm can be a useful tool to cut trenchantly through those airbrushed images.
  • Touche. Fine. Anyway, at least you aren't sarcastic in a mean way with your kids, so who cares where else you deploy your sarcasm. If anything you smother those two with earnest, uncool love every day. 
  • True. And George is too little to understand that it's not a term of endearment to be called "the cutest little dummy" for running into walls. When he is, he will probably be old enough to stop running into walls. 
  • Actually maybe don't get too comfortable with your sarcasm. People use it on the internet all the time and call each other names and talk past each other and get in ridiculous epic comment wars -  
  • UGH SAY NO MORE those are the worst. I changed my mind. It's nothing but positivity from me from here on out. Rainbows and puppies and rainbow-colored puppies. That's it. 
  • You realize what you did just then was sarcastic. 
  • Ugh again. Old habits die hard. Also complaining about things is fun if you turn it into something funny! Obviously just straight up complaining is boring. It is the worst. Everyone hates it because it is awful. 
  • I think your problem may actually be an over-reliance on hyperbole as a form of expression. Didn't you read an article about that somewhere?
  • Sort of related, yes, it was about irony. Dang, that was a good article. Here's to more unironic living, free of fake positivity but also of caustic complaining, just expressing real emotions and considered opinions. 
  • Good grief, do you think this post is long and rambling enough yet? Do you even have a way to wrap up this nonsense? Who do you think you are, some kind of...long-article writer?
  • There's that God-given wit.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Deja Vu

Anyone else seeing all the "list-of-things-about-me" posts on Facebook right now and having deja vu of five years ago? 25 Random Things? Anyhow I haven't done a new list, but I did this one back then and thought it would be a timely and convenient thing to post here on the blog tonight in lieu of doing actual writing. I've got lots of thoughts kicking around in my head but they are all sort of half-formed, so 25 Random Things from Five Years Ago it is! :) (They are all still true...well, except #19, now that I have a smart phone and can't function without it.)

1. I am half Samoan, half Southern. Basically there was cannibalism on one side of my family and in-breeding on the other. 

2. Dubious heritage aside, I love my family more than most things. I would rather hang out with them than do just about anything else. 

3. I am related to Tori Amos. She is my second cousin once-removed (my great-grandmother was an Amos, and Tori is her brother’s granddaughter). I got to meet her at a concert in Salt Lake a few years ago. 

4. I only went to kindergarten for a few months and then I skipped up to first grade because I could already read. I turned 17 three days before graduating from high school. 

5. I am the worst procrastinator ever born and I am late to almost everything. It makes me fail at life sometimes but at least it gives other people something they can rely on in their lives…right? 

6. I wrote a satirical essay for my 9th grade English class about Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal in which I said that we should just create a new post for a Presidential Mistress, because the President is an important man with important “needs.” Just institutionalize the adultery and take away the shame, I said. I’m not sure what wellspring of cynicism that came from at age 13, but I read my essay in front of the class and it made people laugh, so it’s a good memory.

7. In high school I was on the debate team and the track team and (for one year) the soccer team. I am not very confrontational or very athletic – I just wanted to try things that didn’t come naturally to me. That may sound brave but it was pretty embarrassing at the time. I lost a lot of debates, I scored a goal for the other team in soccer, and my attempts at the high jump probably should have been taped for America’s Funniest Home Videos. I like to think of them as “character-building” experiences now, it makes me cringe less when I remember them.

8. Probably half of all the guys that ever asked me out when I was single were shorter than 5’8”. Not sure what it was about me that inspired such confidence in shorter men. Sometimes I like to think it was some sort of evolutionary drive to ensure the continuation of their genes – if they could have taller offspring, their children would have a better chance of finding mates and therefore having their own offspring, etc. But really, it was probably just me finding them non-threatening and being able to be myself. 

9. I didn’t eat spicy food before I met my husband. Now I say, BRING THE HEAT. 

10. I like to cook, especially for other people. I've made an entire Thanksgiving meal including turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, rolls, green beans, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pies. YUM!

11. In my ideal future home, I would love to tear up the front yard and plant a big garden. Front yards are a waste of space anyway IMHO – a lot of mowing and maintenance for something that’s just for show and never even gets used. 

12. I only cry when I’m angry. 

13. I am not an animal person. I can’t handle their hair being everywhere. I think they’re cute and I’ll pet them and whatever, but then I’ll immediately want to wash my hands and will keep a mental track of everything I touch until I can. My husband loves dogs though so we’ll probably get one one day and then I’ll have to get over myself. 

14. I am very sensitive to violence in movies and TV shows. When I was little, I used to run out of the room if things got too intense during Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. I feel like I could probably desensitize myself to it if I made myself watch it, but something about that idea strikes me as really immoral. Turns out I prefer being a weenie. 

15. I love to sing. I was in the BYU Women’s Chorus for 3 years and loved every minute. I got to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle and in the Conference Center. 

16. Josh and I traveled to England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Italy last May with only backpacks for luggage. Parts of our trip were really fun, and parts of it were really miserable (see #17).

17. Coming home from Europe, we almost missed our flight out of Rome b/c we were told that it would cost 45 euros ($60) to take a taxi to the airport but if we wanted to walk it was only 30 min away on foot. Cheapskates that we are, we tried to walk and ended up getting lost in a neighborhood where no one spoke English…carrying our 20 pound backpacks…at 5 AM…in the pouring rain…with only one umbrella. And not enough money to buy new tickets home if we missed our flight. It was pretty much a miracle we made it back to America.

18. At some point in my life I would love to go to: Scandinavia; Peru, Chile & Easter Island; Australia, New Zealand & Samoa; Japan; and Greece. 

19. I have a cell phone that I rarely use for anything but texting.

20. I’m a spelling and grammar nerd. I definitely notice typos and misplaced modifiers and all of that. I’m a slow writer because I can’t not fix them right away. The double negative in that last sentence is yelling at me right now. Also, there is a comma splice in my #7 that I'm going to ignore.

21. I wanted to be an architect when I was little. I drew lots of floor plans for my dream house on huge sheets of paper. It was basically the same house every time – a big rectangle filled with luxuries like a movie theater, an indoor pool, and My Own Room. I dreamed big. 

22. My religion informs the best parts of who I am and who I try to be and it frustrates me when people dismiss it (or religion in general) as warped or evil. It’s because I believe that people are all children of God – that the people around me are all literally my brothers and sisters – that I try so hard to empathize with others and to put myself in their shoes. 

23. I can’t stand when people are rude or condescending or hateful. I hate politics and the internet (and especially politics ON the internet) for that reason because they seem to bring out everyone’s inner douchebag, and that really interferes with my trying to see people in a positive light. :)

24. Getting married to my husband was the best decision I’ve ever made. I was nervous about it until the day of our wedding (b/c forever is a long time, and I always second-guess myself), and now my husband likes to tell people I didn’t love him until 6 months in, but it’s the one decision I’ve never regretted. 

25. I absolutely love being a mom. I am unfazed by diapers or vomit.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I started reading a new book on the trip up, called Hild, by Nicola Griffith. I read a glowing review on NPR that piqued my interest so downloaded a sample on my kindle. It's historical fiction (my favorite!) about the early life of St. Hilda of Whitby, a seventh-century abbess and an important figure in the establishment of Christianity in England.

Well, I finished the sample and it was awesome! Which is terrible because now I have to pay money for it if I want to finish. :) Cheapskate that I am, I usually just stick to the free classics or the $1 or $2 daily deals. It's so new the library doesn't have it yet.

Some of my favorite YA fiction is also set in medieval Europe featuring strong female protagonists (Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife's Apprentice) so I am excited about this title, although I don't think it's YA. (So, don't hold me responsible for content if you pick it up yourself. :) ) So far, the characterization is great and the amount of historical detail describing life back then has been amazing-  obviously deeply researched, but blended seamlessly into the story.

What are you reading these days? I am also working on The Place of Knowing, a memoir by Emma Lou Thayne.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The funnest thing about traveling with young children is when your four hour trip turns into an eight hour trip because of crawling traffic.

Sarcasm off now, the funnest thing about finally getting to where you're going after an eight hour trip is arriving to homemade chicken pot pie and ice cream.

Good night, all!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A stream of consciousness list, heavy on the My Little Pony

  • If I were a betting woman, and I wanted to make a wager against you that I knew I could win, it would be "how many times have you seen the movie "My Little Pony: Equestria Girls," where the ponies all turn into humans. 
  • I guess My Little Pony felt they had exhausted the pony market, so they had to get into dolls. I hate how corporate strategizing is so utterly transparent. "How can we get more of their money? I know, turn all the ponies that they already have into dolls so they have to buy them AGAIN!" 
  • We've already discussed with Tessa how we're not buying them again.
  • Why do all Barbie-esque dolls, now including the MLP dolls, wear only mini skirts? Why are there no other sartorial options? Mini-skirts are so impractical. Also I don't like the subtle message that you have to wear a mini skirt if you want to look cute. If that carries over into tween-hood so help me........I guess there are also dolls in ball gowns, so there are two options for looking cute. Just like in real life! 
  • I've gotten several junk mail ads this week from stores like Express and Limited, and all their holiday party dresses are mini dresses. Half the models are bare-legged. It's freaking winter outside! Why are you selling clothes that will make women freeze? Why do you hate women so much? Why do women buy this nonsensical garbage? Why do women hate themselves so much that they will voluntarily freeze their nether regions just to meet society's ideal of what is "cute"? And don't tell me tights make it all better, as if tights provide warmth in any way. I don't understand people. 
  • I loved Barbies so much as a kid. I turned out okay in spite of it I suppose. 
  • I may or may not have used My Little Pony to motivate Tess to be brave tonight about getting out a splinter..."Being brave means doing things you know you have to do even though you're scared. Do you think Twilight Sparkle was afraid when Sunset Shimmer was about to destroy the portal back to Equestria?"
  • We had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for dinner. Tess wouldn't eat the ham on hers. George only ate the ham on his. They're both weirdos. 
  • I would like all my grilled cheese sandwiches henceforth to be made with fontina cheese. Holy cow it melts like a dream...
  • I have a hard time sticking to a grocery budget in part because I like to buy fancy things when I see them marked down. "OMG fontina cheese I've never had that! $3.99 instead of $8.99? Get in my cart!!"
  • I'm getting the munchies again writing about that sandwich. I might need to go make myself another one. "Working on my night cheese..."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"I don't know how"

This is my daughter's favorite phrase. And it drives. me. NUTS.

If I had a dollar for every time she said this phrase (followed by an irrational meltdown, of course), I would...have a lot of dollars.

So far, things she doesn't know how to do include:

  • sitting up in the morning
  • finding her hairbrush
  • NOT making a hideous choking sound while eating something she doesn't like
  • wiping toothpaste off the counter
  • finding a thing I am pointing directly at
  • using a ball of playdough to pick up tiny scraps of dough
  • rubbing lotion on her hands
  • stopping crying (not real, sad, crying, I mean the whiny kind)

These are all just from today. I mean, a lot of those are understandable, but...rubbing lotion on her hands??? I just...I don't know. What does she want, a manual? I put the lotion directly onto her hands and started rubbing it in myself. You can't demonstrate that action any more clearly. I just mean...her talent for giving up when something gets difficult is pretty impressive so far. I'm sure some of that is age 4/5, but also some of it is genetics straight from her Mom. Yikes! In internet lingo, SMH.

What do you do when your child's most exasperating qualities are the ones you know she got from you? When you know you are supposed to be empathetic since you are basically watching a miniature version of yourself, and frequently you do feel a lot of empathy, but sometimes it's masked by a layer of irritation?

Soliciting tips from all of you saintly, patient, more-evolved-than-I-am parents out there. :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Time for your whippin'!

NaBloPoMo, Day 12

I'm co-opting the story for tonight's blog post from my lovely mother. Hi Mom! :)

My Mom is a natural-born storyteller and this is one that my siblings and I always requested growing up. She has such a good sense for the rhythm of telling a story - knowing when to pause for dramatic or comedic effect, letting the suspense build, and just generally keeping an audience at rapt attention - I'm sure I won't be able to do it justice in writing, but maybe when you see her in person next you can ask her to tell it so you can hear it in her own charming, Southern cadences. I don't know if any of her children have inherited this talent in person, but maybe we should have a contest this Christmas, eh siblings out there?

My Mom grew up the youngest of seven children in an idyllic little neighborhood on top of Marion Hill right outside Richmond, a place sort of halfway between suburban and rural, where there were plenty of other homes around (not right on top of each other like today's neighborhoods, of course), but no fences. The lot of their home is about an acre in size and runs in a long, rectangular strip. The house sits toward the front, behind it is the yard, beyond that are the garden and my Grandma's famed blackberry bushes, and farthest off of all is an empty field.

In summer the garden was in full swing and was instrumental in feeding the family. It was huge, maybe a quarter acre, about the size of your average small house lot today, and my Grandma was a real taskmaster with her kids about it because that thing needed to be weeded and watered and debugged, and why else would a person have seven children if not to put to them to use as manual laborers? They toiled in that garden every day of the summer, a few hours each in the cool of early morning and in the evening.

One day my Mom and her next-oldest brother were supposed to be weeding in the garden when they got into a fight. My Mom was maybe 7 or 8? And my uncle 9 or 10? Maybe they were 6 and 8? I don't remember and I haven't done the phone research to confirm. Anyhow, it was not a good fight - there was rolling in the dirt involved, and crops damaged, and my Grandma was pissed.

She was not a woman averse to corporal punishment (honestly...would you be if you had seven children and no driver's license to escape them once in a while?) and after separating the two brawlers she told them to stand right there and under no circumstance were they to move a muscle until she came back with a switch. Do you know about switches? I don't think I've used that word in so long that as I'm writing this it sounds so funny to me, the word "switch," and it occurs to me that maybe that's just a regional term, not universally known? A switch is a long, skinny stick for use in amplifying the sting of spankings administered to naughty children. Stick isn't quite the right word - it's too brittle-sounding - and a really good switch is ultra-thin and flexible, so that it won't break, and it makes a fearsome whip-like sound, not unlike Zorro's blade, when brandished.

My mother, dutiful child that she was, did as she was told, remained in place and took her licks. My uncle, on the other hand, decided that there had never been a better time to take off running across the back field, over into and across the neighbor's field, and into the farthest, most unreachable corner of the neighborhood, hoping that some other neighbor family would take him in until my Grandma cooled down. If I remember right, I think this plan must have worked, because he didn't resurface until hours later at dinnertime that night.

This is the part of the story where I am always amazed by my Grandma's acting ability. She played it cool when he slunk back home and continued her facade of nonchalance all the way up to bedtime, waiting until just the right moment - when my uncle was stripped down to his skivvies and about to put on his pajamas, guard down and self-satisfied that he had gotten away with the scheme - to emerge with the switch and declare, "Time for your whippin'!" And then I am sure that she really laid into him, poor guy, so he probably ended up getting his just desserts and then some.

I think the fury of injustice my mother felt after my uncle's return, watching my Grandma ignore his punishment, must linger in her heart a tiny bit and contribute to the relish with which she tells this story, because she always did tell it with a smile. :) I doubt that it ends in as gleeful a flourish when my uncle retells it. :)


Monday, November 11, 2013

A poem a day...

Keeps the doctor away. That's how that saying goes, right? Or maybe that's apples...

This is one of my favorite poems. I'm not particularly well-read, at least not enough to have accumulated a "favorite poems" list of any great length - I found this one one day in college as I was skipping ahead through my American literature anthology when I was supposed to be reading what was actually assigned. But I've loved this ever since. It's about marriage and I think it is perfect. Enjoy!

Most Like an Arch This Marriage

Most like an arch—an entrance which upholds   
and shores the stone-crush up the air like lace.   
Mass made idea, and idea held in place.   
A lock in time. Inside half-heaven unfolds.

Most like an arch—two weaknesses that lean   
into a strength. Two fallings become firm.   
Two joined abeyances become a term   
naming the fact that teaches fact to mean.

Not quite that? Not much less. World as it is,   
what’s strong and separate falters. All I do   
at piling stone on stone apart from you   
is roofless around nothing. Till we kiss

I am no more than upright and unset.   
It is by falling in and in we make
the all-bearing point, for one another’s sake,   
in faultless failing, raised by our own weight.
John Ciardi, “Most Like an Arch This Marriage” from I Marry You (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1958). Used with the permission of the Ciardi Family Publishing Trust.

Source: The Collected Poems of John Ciardi (University of Arkansas Press, 1997)

(found on the interwebs here:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why the Matt Walsh Blog Drives Me Crazy (Even When I Agree With Him)

Matt Walsh seems to be the internet's new favorite conservative commentator. If your Facebook feed is like mine, then he is all over it. I've read several of his pieces over the last few months, and every time I come away incredibly frustrated. Frequently, I agree with the underlying point he is making, but it's buried under so much polemic and name-calling and other general wrongness that it's nearly unpalatable to me by the end. Some people like to think of this kind of snark as straight talk, simply "telling it like it is." I think of it as doing your damnedest to ensure that anyone who might not see things your way right now, never ever will.

His most recent article is a case in point.

It's all about abstinence before marriage and how lamentable it is that people consider it such a strange idea these days. I assume anyone reading this will probably already know this about me, but I could be the poster child for abstinence before marriage. It has worked out very well for me. I'm a Mormon, I got married at age 21, my husband and I were both virgins at the time, and we've been happily married now for 8 years happily doing all the things that happy married people do. Basically, I am right in the demographic of readers of this article whom you might expect to read this and shout out an AMEN!! PREACH IT! afterwards. And on some of it, I do!

On casual sex:
Even the term “casual sex” is insane. It’s an oxymoron. Denim is casual. Restaurants can be casual. Casual: without serious intention, careless or offhand, informal. A high-five is casual. Sex can only be viewed in this same vein once we have dehumanized ourselves enough to see human sexuality as something no more significant than a pair of jean shorts.

On the selfish logic of accepting casual sex as simply one form of "sexual expression":
"To “express” means to SAY something. It means you are indicating something of meaning. When you “express yourself” you are conveying a message about your thoughts, feelings, and character. So shouldn’t we, rather than encouraging sexual expression for the sake of it, encourage MEANINGFUL and POSITIVE sexual expression? In the context of commitment and loyalty, sex expresses something. It expresses: “I love you. I give myself to you.” But what does casual sex express? “Use me and I’ll use you.” "
Agreed! Agreed x1000!

On the blunders of a health teacher overstepping her bounds in sex-ed class:
She seems to think there’s a “safe” way for emotionally immature juveniles to have casual sex. 
If your own brain is still 10 years away from being fully developed, it's probably a little premature for you to be in the business of spawning new brains for new humans.

On sexual liberation:
We’re told that we are sexually “liberated” if we throw ourselves at strangers and give ourselves over to people who couldn’t possibly care less about us. This is yet another lie. If modern attitudes about sex have “liberated” us, what, precisely, have we been freed from? Security? Commitment? Trust? What, we’ve broken the Shackles of Purity and Love and run gleefully into the Meadows of Pornography and Herpes? 
Meadows of Pornography and Herpes? Come on now...that's pretty funny. :)

But then...but then. To get to those nuggets of awesome, you have to wade through passages like this:
You could ask any married person who slept with other people before meeting their spouse (I wouldn’t recommend actually asking this, I’m just trying to illustrate a point here): are you happy about it? Are you glad that you gave yourself to someone other than the person you now love eternally? If you could go back to those times, would you stop yourself?
Was it worth it? 
Really, was it worth it? 
Do you wish you could say that your spouse is the only person who has experienced these intimate, sacred moments with you? Are you proud that there are other men or women in the world who have seen this side of you? Are you satisfied that what you give to your spouse is now secondhand? 
If they tell you they feel happy or neutral about the fact that they gave themselves to someone other than their spouse, you’re dealing with someone in a very dysfunctional marriage. Any honest person in a healthy relationship would tell you they’d erase those moments from their lives if they could. They can’t, of course. Nobody can. We can’t live in the past and harp on our mistakes, but this all leads to an important point: the myth of “casual sex” persists, even though many of us — millions and millions — have seen it for what it is. Marriage as an institution is in rough shape, but people still do get married in this country. That means millions have had to look at their spouse and say — probably silently in their own heads, deep in their subconscious — “I have nothing new to give to you.” (emphasis = mine)
Here is where I think his argument veers straight off a cliff, because he is conflating casual sex (promiscuity) with any premarital sexual relationship, including those that may be committed or lengthy. Anyone who has had sex prior to marriage, even in the context of a long-term relationship, and doesn't regret it after later marrying someone else is "in a dysfunctional marriage"? What? Regretting casual sex, where your only interest in the other person was what they could do for you in the moment, where you treated a fellow human being as no more than a tool for your own gratification? Yes. By all means please regret that. As you should. Regretting any and all sexual relationships of any emotional commitment and length? Umm...why would that be a given?

Why would the only or even the primary emotion you should feel about those potentially years of your life spent in a different relationship be regret that you had sex with that other person? If you have had any sex at all in any relationship prior to marriage, then the self you are giving your spouse is "secondhand"?? What about people whose marriages fail, who have already "given themselves" to someone else and it didn't work out? It's supposed to be healthy to say your partner, "I have nothing new to give you"???? That is classic equation of chastity as virginity, and characterization of virginity as purity - as something that, once tainted, can never be pure again. Here, the suggestion is that if you've had premarital sex, you've lost something you can never recover, you've sullied yourself beyond redemption. You should feel ashamed and you should always feel ashamed because you can never erase that mistake. You have nothing new to give, because whatever it was was finite, and you've given it all away.

Not only is that kind of rhetoric emotionally damaging (see: the Elizabeth Smart story), if you're Christian like me, it's not even Christian. That's the whole reason Christ died was to redeem us and make us new creatures, and purity rhetoric, with its insistence on the finality of the loss of virtue with the loss of virginity, denies his ability to do so. And the assumption that everyone must regret their life's premarital sexual experiences, or else be living a lie, is...bizarre.

Obviously, people with no qualms about premarital sex (which, also btw, a distinction lost on Matt Walsh seems to be that it is possible to feel no qualms about premarital sex but feel definite qualms about casual sex) wouldn't necessarily feel any shame. But, even if you are religious like me and think premarital sex is wrong, if you have had premarital sex and you do feel regret, the emotionally healthy (and, I think, doctrinally sound) response is not to wallow in regret. You don't dwell there. You don't write yourself off as worthless, as having nothing new to give. You dust yourself off, look at your life choices as water under the bridge and simply make new choices going forward. Those relationships you had and all your experiences (including sexual ones) while in them changed you as a person, some for better, some for worse, and the best thing to do is to look back and learn from them rather than wish them all away.

Anyhow, getting back to Matt Walsh. If I were an average modern person, of the opinion that premarital sex is normal and good, it would be hard for me to embrace the sound logic of his points above because I would get to the part about how my marriage is dysfunctional and think, never mind, this guy is a loony, and then roll my eyes and click away from the page. Why do that to people you could potentially persuade, Matt Walsh? To ensure that people will not listen to you by casting aspersions on them seems like a pretty inefficient way to try and convince people you are right. 

(And that is why he drives me crazy.)


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Willkommen to Georgia

NaBloPoMo, Day 9

Today we went up to the tiny mountain town of Helen, Georgia, and hiked the nearby Anna Ruby Falls - a very short-but-scenic, kid-friendly hike of only about a mile roundtrip.  We also spent some time afterwards in the town itself, which is notable for being modeled to look like a Bavarian village. I'm not sure how much of it would truly look at home in Bavaria - for starters, I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be a traditional Bavarian Blimpie's on the corner in real Germany - but all in all it was good kitschy fun. And I know where to go now if I ever need to buy lederhosen! We ate bratwursts and funnel cake, and I doubt that funnel cake is authentically Bavarian either but I don't really care because funnel cake. Mmmmmm....

I was going to add pics to this post but Josh is too quick with the camera and already loaded them all to his computer, so I may come back and add them later, but for some German-themed fun in the interim, enjoy this SNL parody of Angela Merkel! I laughed so much...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Parenthood (the show)

NaBloPoMo, Day 8

Unfortunately this post is going to be even more lame than yesterday's...this is the post where I tell you that instead of writing a real post, I am going to catch up on a couple episodes of my favorite show, Parenthood. 

You should watch it too! I am outsourcing my entertainment of you on this blog during NaBloPoMo to this show tonight. It's on Netflix!

If that's not enough, I'll point you in the direction of Tina Fey, who unlike me tonight, always delivers :)