Wednesday, September 16, 2009

stupid presidents

My son is worried he will be the only one in his class watching "The Obama Speech" tomorrow. It was delayed because our school district opted out the day it was originally shown, then realized they looked like they weren't supporting the President and sent a letter around asking people to send a form if they don't want their kids to watch the President on tv at school tomorrow.

You know, for 8 years we had a president I didn't vote for. I could have "opted out" of supporting him. But I didn't. I supported the stupid Republican president - maybe now we could all support the stupid Democratic president...

After all, as that one annoying country song says, I'm proud to be an American - not I'm proud to be a Republican...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

on my best day

I woke suddenly last night thinking of an old friend. As I lay there, I realized I have known her, quite literally, as long as I can remember and memories flooded my mind: playing Barbies at her house when we were very young, playing games and going to dances with her and a large group of friends, long talks about boys.

I remember working as partners in French class, watching as she defended her beliefs (and mine) in an Advanced English Lit class to a wonderful but obstinate teacher who doubled as a debate coach.

I remember sharing a business class to which she once came in late (beaming) with the only excuse the teacher said he would ever accept - she had been hit by an STA bus (luckily she was in her car), and a wild and week-long scavenger hunt resulting, ultimately, in invitations from our dates to the junior prom.

I have memories of accompanying her as she sang at so many events, always with a beautiful voice and a smile. And I have memories of her in college. Although we didn't see each other as much, when we did, it felt like nothing had changed.

The semester my brother Mark died, I ran into her on campus. She asked how things were going and reluctantly I told her my woes. Based on other friends' reactions, I wasn't sure what to expect. College kids are not adept at responding appropriately to tragic situations. But Anna was different. I remember her response, because it mirrored my own emotions. She empathized perfectly and made me feel like my grief was okay.

Among all these thoughts, there was one thing I couldn't remember. I couldn't think of an instance when Anna spoke an unkind word, or was caught up in some silly social drama. I couldn't think when she had ever lacked faith, or complained about anything she was expected to do. I couldn't think of a single time when Anna had been anything less than a perfect example.

For several years after college, Anna and I were out of touch. An occasional Christmas card let us know what was going on, but it wasn't until last year that I was able to keep up more with her life. Not surprising, in the face of her very real challenges, which surpass some of my darkest dreads, it is clear Anna has not changed.

She is amazingly patient and positive, steadfast and stalwart where others would simply give up.

If I, on my best day, could be what Anna is on her worst, I will have made great strides.

Monday, August 10, 2009

pot roast on sundays

I don't serve pot roast on Sundays. This may not seem like a big deal, but the big Sunday meal is kind of ingrained in my religious culture. I would say a large number of women in my church have their Sunday dinners prepared before I am typically awake on a Sunday morning. Simmering away in a crock-pot or slipped in the oven just before church, their families arrive home to the lovely aroma of meat and potatoes.

Not mine. When we get home, all things edible are fair game. Fend for yourself or starve. If we haven't gorged ourselves on snacking, I might make dinner later that night but sometimes, I am ashamed to admit, we make cookies or caramel popcorn after church and no one is hungry come dinner time.

The problem with this (aside from the general nutritional issues) is my enormous sense of guilt about my lackadaisical attitude toward Sunday dining. I long ago realized it's not the pot roast I feel bad about, but the event of a big shared meal. Something different and important to mark the Sabbath as special.

In the years that have followed this realization, I have implemented several new "traditions" for Sunday meals (waffles for dinner, leftover day, brunch right after church) but none of them have stuck. Some of them were just bad ideas (leftovers!) but the biggest problem was that none of them really lent themselves to time shared together in the kitchen or at the table. There was nothing special about them.

Another tradition I have been wanting to start is a weekly home-made pizza night. Last week I brought it up again. I suggested we try it on Fridays, but we never know what a Friday will bring, and Saturdays are no better. Dave suggested we try Sundays. I stared at him blankly. Pizza on Sundays? It seemed wrong somehow. But it makes perfect sense for us and it couldn't be worse than waffles or leftovers.

Last night we tried it. After a nap and watching a movie with the kids, I started the dough and then called everyone up to help. Abi made the sauce - with full control over seasoning. Max helped with the veggie prep and put on the cheese. Dave was in charge of the meat (sausage) and I sauteed the flavor (onions, garlic, peppers). The pizza turned out beautifully!

It took some tenacity, on my part, to keep everyone in the kitchen, but over time I think it could fulfill all my Sunday meal dreams: family togetherness, a meaningful meal and (start to finish) no more than an hour and a half.

It may be a little unorthodox, but I think that makes it even better!

Friday, July 24, 2009

the all-american housewife

I've been thinking with fondness lately of the All-American Housewife. The June Cleavers, Marion Cunninghams and Ethel Mertzes of the world, dolled-up in delightful dresses and perfectly polished pumps as they served their husbands three squares a day and washed all the dishes by hand.

I wouldn't trade my life today for the lives that they lived then (I'd be more of a Lucy Ricardo if I did), but I'm beginning to admire them more - for taking a moment each day to dress up, for wanting to take care of their homes. I admire them for waiting patiently at home, for keeping a dinner plate warm. For growing geraniums and mopping their floors, for ironing everything they wore. For wearing white gloves and polishing silver, for making elaborate jell-o molds. For putting their families before everything else, and spreading their beauty around.

I'm grateful that now all this is a choice - pants or a skirt, stockings or not - that ironing and jell-o are an option. But I do find joy in baking bread and making jam and greeting my husband at the door. And at these moments I think the housewives knew best. A happy home is a happy life and I should do whatever it takes to make it so.

Maybe I'll start wearing dresses more often...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

queen of the house

I am not a cat lover. Or a dog lover. In fact, I really don't enjoy any animal small enough to put its genitals on me. This may sound absurd, but I grew up with horses - fifteen hand, thousand pound horses. They didn't come in the house, I changed clothes to ride them, and there was absolutely no way they could pee on me. Cats, on the other hand, can and did pee on my sleeping bag, and claw and bite without provocation; the only dog I remember once ate all my crayons then puked them up in my toy box.

This is why I was "allergic" to cats until a few years ago when the kids found a kitty hiding in our back yard. After Max named her and told the neighbors she was ours, I consented to let her live in the shed where she would keep the mice and birds away. That lasted a few days until other cats began eating her food. We then moved her to the garage where she had food and water and a nice place to sleep. A few weeks later we installed a cat door so she could go in and out as she pleased.

Come Fall, the cat sat outside the window while I taught piano, meowing regularly and clawing the screen. Inevitably my students stated the obvious, "I think your cat wants to come inside." "Yes," I replied, "but she isn't allowed in the house." "Why?" they asked. "Because. I'm mean." "Oh," they said. But, as it turns out, I am not as mean as I seem. The first truly cold day ended the "outdoor" cat arrangement and cleared the path for Gigi Harriette Quincompoix, Queen of the House.

It wasn't an easy transition. It took weeks to accept that the cat loved me best. (Why?!) But gradually she won me over. I eventually became desensitized to finding cat hair in my house (Yuck!) and at some point allowed her to sit on my lap. Now I cannot imagine our home without her. She has taught Abi to empathize, sympathize and love unconditionally and has served as a younger sibling to Max. To me she has shown unwavering devotion and Dave she allows to believe he's the boss.

So I find her today with a swollen right jaw and my heart is filled with fear. Ridiculous, I think. So stupid! She is just a cat. But this cat is a part of our lives and to lose her will break all our hearts.

I really hope she's okay...

Friday, May 8, 2009

indestructible bread

After searching for a really great bread recipe meeting all our family requirements (quick and easy to make in a mixer, at least some whole wheat, no powdered milk or wheat gluten blah, blah, blah, moist enough to not crumble, and tasty enough to please the kids) I finally found a recipe for "Fabulous Homemade Bread" on

The first time I made it, I scaled it down from 6 loaves to 2, so the recipe turned out with ingredient amounts like "3 tablespoons and 1-3/4 tsp. brown sugar." I rounded to the nearest tablespoon. The dough still looked good, so I let it rise. Perfect! I punched it, rolled it and put it in pans. I covered the pans and went out to lunch with my friend, forgetting to throw it in the fridge to slow the 2nd rising. Two hours later I returned to flat loaves. I baked it anyway and it was great!

The second time I made it, I activated my yeast around noon and then unexpectedly had to leave the house. I stuck the rising yeast in the fridge and remembered it around 7pm. I threw in the other ingredients to see if it would work. It did and it was great!

The third time I made it, I started the yeast and left it to sit for 5 minutes as instructed. Two hours later I remembered the yeast. It was big, but still bubbly. I mixed it anyway, adding two or maybe three times as much flour. It was a little less flavorful, but still great!

So, if you if you're interested in an indestructible bread recipe, here it is:

Fabulous Homemade Bread (2 loaves)

1. Stir the following ingredients in a mixer bowl and let rise 5 minutes: 3 Tbsp. warm water, 2-1/4 (or one package) active dry yeast, 1-1/2 Tbsp. whole wheat flour, 1 tsp. sugar.

2. Add the following and start mixer on low: 2/3 cup oats, 2/3 cup whole wheat flour, 1-1/2 cup warm water and 1-1/2 tsp salt.

3. Add the following and gradually increase mixer speed to speed 2, mixing until the dough clings to the dough hook and cleans the bowl: 4 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp honey, 4 Tbsp vegetable oil, 3 cups flour (or more, as needed, to get dough to clean the bowl).

4. Transfer bread to a greased bowl, let rise for about 1 hour or until double in size.

5. Punch dough down, roll into a log and cut in half. Tuck ends under and set loaves into 2 greased bread pans. Let rise again until double in size.

6. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Monday, May 4, 2009

a good lesson

I spent several hours today digging up raspberry plants I allowed to spread too wide. I knew a couple years ago I was supposed to keep them in check, but I so hate to dig up a growing thing, that I let them all go.

So now my arms are scratched from elbow to wrist. My fingers are tender from thorns. My back is aching and my shoulders are sore, but the raspberries seem so happy now; they have so much more room to grow.

Overall... a good lesson on repentance.

Friday, April 24, 2009

i am sleeping

I tuck in my children, too late as usual, fall asleep on the couch, watching t.v. with Dave. I wake up and drag myself up the stairs, then fall asleep reading, propped up in my bed. I wake up and put down my book and my glasses, turn off the lamp and close my door.

The cat starts meowing (I hate her, I'll kill her) but after 5 minutes, she goes away - bored. I fall back asleep for a couple of hours, then a myriad of noises wake me once more. It's 2:45 but Dave's not in bed yet. I go to down to see if he's asleep in his chair.

He isn't, he's working, I go back to bed. Irrational worries pile up like laundry. What if the roof leaks, or the wind blows that tree down, what if it lands on the house or the shed? I sing soothing songs to myself, in my head.

I'm sleeping again, but then someone's snoring. I grope for my ear plugs (they're gone, I can't find them), knock down the clock and it clangs on the floor. I pick up the clock, make sure it's still ticking, look at the time, it's 5:04. A few minutes later, the cat is meowing and I hear the birds chirping, so I go let her out.

I fall asleep (easy), then a cell phone is ringing. A few seconds later, I shove on Dave's back. Ten minutes later, the cell phone is beeping. He gets up again, how can he live without sleep?

Soon footsteps are pounding up the stairs, in the bathroom. The door squeaks...and slams shut.

The shower is running, it's calming (I love it!), I'm asleep once again till the water goes off. Drying her hair now, searching for hair clips. She remembers we're sleeping and closes our door.

I can still hear her, I should just get up now. But I'm tired, I am sleeping, just a few minutes more...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

this egg stinks

We dye eggs every year. Some of us put in more effort than others, us being Abi and Max and I, others being Dave, but there is always an egg or two that is the "cool" egg. The great idea. The star.

This year I came up with the idea to make our egg-selves, which I thought was pretty darn cool. But then I noticed one of Dave's eggs was missing. I asked him where it was and he said he didn't know. Being a bit OCD-esque, I checked every cup until I found it.

As I lifted the turquoise egg from its long-lived bath, I read the words Dave had quickly etched in wax, "He who finds this egg stinks."

Cool. The great idea. The star. Without even trying...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

a poem inspired by the "free milk" man

In this day and age
isn't it strange
to offer free milk
from a van
with a man
standing on the street corner?

Monday, March 30, 2009

he thought i was hot

I went to the store today and passed a young guy who caught my eye and looked me over, up and down. I thought at first my shirt was undone or maybe I had stuff in my teeth, but no...

In reality he was probably checking out my whole-wheat pitas, but I'm pretending he thought I was hot. ;)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

happy birthday mom

Today is my mom's birthday. Since I am not the type to say these things out loud (we are not a touchy-feely family) I will write a few things here that I have always loved about my mom:

* She allows me to be who I am.
* She supports me in everything I want to do.
* She taught me choice and consequence but never says, "I told you so."
* She loves me when I don't deserve it.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

i think of my dad

Now that the weather is warmer, I have a list of big projects staring me in the face, daring me to put them off another year. And when I think of big projects, I think of my dad. And I really, really wish he was here...

So in honor of his would-be birthday this week, here is a short list of the projects Dave and I remember most, in no particular order...

  • Cooking a turkey in the old wood-burning stove at the cabin one year.
  • Taping the Endeavor's numbers on with duct tape the first year at the Bonneville Speed Show.
  • Water-witching in the back-yard on Barker. Presumably there was a reason for this...
  • Tractor-pulling.
  • Putting a stem on Dave's orange Bug to dress it up for Halloween.
  • Paul's Dodge Do-More.
  • Packing all our belongings on a flatbed truck and hauling them 800 miles home, in an early October snow storm, just to avoid renting a truck.
  • Installing a push-button starter in Dave's bug to by-pass the actual starter (it was quicker than fixing it.)
  • Taking the whole family to the bowling alley on a school bus.
  • Countless last-minute musical numbers at McCombs Family Reunions.
And the list goes on and on...

Friday, March 13, 2009

expecting nothing, hoping for the best

If I could just be perfect in every way, I would be really, truly happy. But in the meantime, I would settle for having a green thumb. My husband has a green thumb (and he doesn't even care), my mom has a green thumb, my grandpa had a green thumb - he even grew his own grapes to make his own wine and had a whole plant room right in the house. I always liked going in there. It was like entering a foreign land, with vines and cacti and the smell of hot peppers...

So for the last 4 or 5 years I have been trying desperately to learn how to garden. It may be the constant reminders from our church about the importance of provident living, or the 9 million ads and articles about sustainable living, or maybe it is just who I am, but I really want to grow my own food. Flowers too, of course.

Over the years I have gathered enough advice (good and bad) to put together my own gardening book, but I am still not a success. I have had a few good crops here and there, but it's been hit and miss at best. At times I have sat in my garden and cried with frustration over plants that just wouldn't grow, soaker hoses that had burst into geysers, mildew on squash leaves, holes in tomato leaves, dry ground, flooded ground, too much or too little sun...

But this year, I think I have finally learned. I am expecting nothing, hoping for the best and experimenting however I want... expandable peat pots here I come!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

fat jeans

The moral of the story is, never buy a pair of fat jeans. (Story itself has been omitted because it is too painful to tell.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the right thing

If you have ever read "Bridget Jones Diary" you may find it surprising that Bridget Jones is one of my most favorite characters. It's not that I drink like a fish, smoke like a chimney or think of 136 pounds as excessively fat, but I completely relate to her "verbal diarrhea."

I have long known I speak my mind too freely, voice my opinion at times I should not. I often prep myself before heading to work or social gatherings, thinking "I'm just going to keep my mouth shut, I won't say anything, I'll just keep my mouth shut." It has become something of a mantra to me.

And yet rarely a day goes by when I don't regret at least one conversation I've had. If I could choose one trait or skill or talent to have it would be to always say the right thing...but sadly this talent eludes me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

chuck e. cheese for grown ups

Our kids have been curious lately about Las Vegas. I guess this is because so many people talk about going to Vegas, commercials talk about things staying in Vegas and let's face it - the photos you see of Vegas would seem pretty enticing to a kid...or anyone, really.

Since we are in St. George this weekend and had some free time, we decided to take them down to Mesquite and give them a taste of what they are missing. We went to the Casablanca buffet for dinner so we could walk through the slot machines to get there.

Just walking in the building made the kids uncomfortable. Abby hated the smokey smell (it was getting stuck in her new shirt) and Max's face looked like he expected the devil himself to jump out and grab him. In hind sight, we probably should have prepared them more...

Nevertheless, we had a nice chuck-a-rama style meal and discussed why we avoid gambling. At the end of the conversation, Abby's eyes lit up and she said, "I know what this is. It's like a Chuck E. Cheese for grown ups!"

I've never heard it put better.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

such a poor example

Abby has been participating in a missionary experience with the youth in our ward for the last month or so. It has been a great program; the youth seem to love it and are learning a lot.

This week is "power week" meaning they are living (somewhat) by mission rules. No tv, no music (except church music), up by 6:30, in bed by 10:30, attend all church meetings and have personal study each night. She has been firm in her commitment to follow all the rules.

I, on the other hand, have found it a little taxing. As it turns out, there is a large dose of mother's guilt that comes from watching tv when your 12 year old is upstairs avoiding it. Likewise with music, computer and such. I actually found myself saying today, "I can't wait until Abby comes home from her mission." Such a poor example!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

when they come

I had another piano student start lessons today. I taught her before, for several years, and by the time I quit teaching she was getting pretty good. She still struggled with reading music a bit, and dynamics were more practiced than natural. When she came today, a year and a half later, I asked her what she has been working on. She responded with a beautiful piece that she taught herself, learned from music, but played from memory with proper fingering, hand position and dynamics. It was lovely and nearly moved me to tears. Teaching may sometimes be difficult, but the rewards, when they come, are so great!

Monday, February 2, 2009

music to my ears

After taking more than a year off from teaching piano, I just started teaching again today and I am amazed at how much I have missed it! I have always liked working with kids and find great satisfaction in teaching just about anything, but the sound of a little person learning to make music is...well, music to my ears.