Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The other day, I stumbled across an album of my first few years with Dave. At the end was a pile of letters we had sent to each other, just before our wedding, while living in different towns. Before tucking them away for another who-knows-how-long, I took the time to read them. I was a little disappointed. The letters seem so shallow to me now. So empty and void of...something.

At first, this made me sad. I've often thought of those years as the time we loved each other most. When everything was blissful, uncomplicated, new. But now I realize the way I loved Dave back then is like a beautiful, brand-new book. One with a nice, shiny cover, pages clean and bright. But no words.

The way I love Dave now is like an old book. The cover is smudged and worn. Some pages are dog-eared, some wrinkled from tears. Some chapters we cling to, others we'd like to forget. But our book is still bound and the words are filling up fast.

The way I love Dave now is...more. Rarely blissful, seldom uncomplicated, never new. But more.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

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.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

a miracle if it did

Last week we took the kids to Lagoon. Since Max had never been on the Ferris Wheel before, it was one of our first rides. Being more than a little uncoordinated and thus extremely cautious, Max has never been a great lover of heights. The first time we made it up to the top, he expressed some concern about falling down.

I assured him, through a clever combination of probability and science, that falling down was so unlikely to happen, it would be a miracle if it did. Abby agreed. Max still looked concerned, but conceded that I made sense. Dave, (only half listening?) suddenly burst into song: "I believe in miracles...."

I'm not really sure where he was going with that, but it was enough to make us all laugh. Max forgot his fears and here we are a whole week later, laughing about it still.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

a new kind of girl

Back in the 70's, when I was a kid, men blatantly ruled the world. I guess it was somewhere in that decade that the first real wave of feminism hit, but I lived in Spokane, Washington. We were pretty sheltered from the world.

Although I personally was a tomboy, most of the girls I hung out with at recess were not, so I remember doing a lot of girlie-type things, all involving rhymes and chants, and most reinforcing gender stereo-types.

Like those clapping games:

Say, say oh play mate, come out and play with me,
And bring your dollies three, climb up my apple tree,
Slide down my rain barrel, into my cellar door,
And we'll be best of friends,
Forever more, more, more, more, more, more.

And jumping rope:

Cinderella, dressed in yella,
Went upstairs to kiss a fella,
Made a mistake and kissed a snake,
How many doctors did it take?

One, two, three, four....

And cheering:

Boys got the muscles,
Teachers got the brains,
Girls got the sexy legs,
We win the game!

I now know that girls don't have to do girlie things. The fact that I enjoyed hot-wheels and legos and horses more than dolls didn't make me any less of a girl. I know this now. But looking back, it's entirely possible I didn't really, truly know this until I was in college. It's possible I always thought of myself as a little less than perfect because I wasn't the girlie-girl type.

Which is why it made me smile to see two sweet little girls out at recess the other day, in skirts and ruffles and bows, practicing the girlie-girl cheer of a new generation:

Payson High is number one,
We're gonna beat the crap out of 'um!'

Granted, it's not all that eloquent, and their rhyming flat out stinks, but I think their message is clear - no one better mess with this new kind of girl...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

apple crisp

Two little words can turn the mood at my house right around: apple crisp. If you haven't made it in awhile, do it now. It is well worth your time, and your family will love you!

The Best Apple Crisp Recipe I've Ever Made
(and I've made a lot!)

10 cups sliced apples (or enough to fill the pan all the way to the top)
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1 cup oats
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350*
2. Peel apples and slice them directly into a 9x13 inch pan.
3. Mix white sugar, 1 Tbsp. flour and cinnamon together, sprinkle evenly over apples.
4. Pour water evenly over all.
5. Combine remaining ingredients, crumble over apples.
6. Bake for 45 minutes or until apples are tender.

* You can probably use margarine, but I've never tried it. Butter is just so much more lovely.

** I sometimes double the topping recipe, because I love it so much, and I have been known to add some coconut and/or nuts to the topping mixture, which I also love, but my family does not. They prefer their apple crisp pure and unadulterated.

Friday, August 26, 2011

of mice and me

I have an irrational but well-founded fear of mice. I grew up in the country, where the standard house sat on at least a 1 acre lot. Our house was next door to my grandparents house and directly behind us, my grandparents owned most of at least half the block, on which they raised horses - lots of horses - and 5 acres of alfalfa. If you know anything about horses and alfalfa, you probably also know that mice are a fixed part of this world. We found mice all over the place, and often heard them skittering around at night between the walls.

I have post-traumatic-stress-type memories of teetering on one of those old spinning office chairs, trying to avoid a mouse that popped up in the laundry room and ran dangerously close to my toes, and of finding a dead mouse or two while scooping out grain from the giant bin in the barn. Another time, my brother and I found a mouse in the kitchen, and cleverly managed to shoo it outside and into a giant pickle jar with a broom. I don't remember what happened after that; I was most likely standing on a kitchen chair, yelling at Paul to get it away from me.

Mice continued to haunt me at our cabin, in college, in my first married place. We actually moved from that place not long after finding a mouse. Really. Partially because of the mouse.
I had a bit of a break from mice after that until we moved into our little old house. It seemed mice were everywhere (I saw probably 2 or 3) which is the biggest reason why we now have a cat. In the contest between mice and cats, I definitely hate mice more.

Since the cat's been around, the only mice I've seen are dead; sometimes gruesomely torn apart. I hate them in this form too, but they are easier to avoid and the family knows to shelter me from them as much as humanly possible. After a few months of her being here, our cat had pretty much killed everything that moved and was smaller than her; mice, moths, beetles, birds, snakes, and what not. But occasionally she still hunts one out from somewhere. Last week she twice left dead things by the door, which always makes me fret there are more.

Then on Wednesday of this week she started stalking a space between the kitchen cabinets and the wall. She sat there for a couple of hours, sniffing, looking up and down. I let her into the cabinet under the sink and she did the same thing. A bad omen, I thought.

Last night, in the kitchen, I heard a scratching noise. When I got up to see where it was coming from, it stopped. Later, I opened the cupboard door to throw something away, and thought I saw a tail shoot behind the garbage can. I had Dave check it out. He found nothing; no tracks.

I went to bed and tossed and turned due to a number of things. I heard Dave come in and he soon fell asleep. I fell asleep too, but then woke up to a huge scratching sound. It sounded like the cat clawing the wicker chair, but I knew she was outside. I listened again; it was in the living room. I shook Dave, but he didn't wake up. I heard it again. So loud. I thought it might be a mouse stuck in the basket I keep by the piano. I shook Dave again, but when he got out of bed it stopped. He looked in the basket and shook it around. Nothing. No movement, no sound. He let in the cat. She ate, and went back outside. He offered to go get some traps. I said that was silly, it's late, I'm crazy, we know. But he looked at my face and left for the store.

I laid on my bed with the light on, staring at the basket with dread. Nothing. No movement, no sound. He came back, and let the cat in again. She ate, and went out. He set up the traps and blocked the space under our door. He knew I wouldn't sleep, but he quickly did. I tossed and turned about a number of things, but now, also this mouse.

A few hours later I heard it again. I sat up in bed and listened my best. It was the same scratching, the same noise, but not quite as loud, and it was in my room. I turned my head and saw Dave's feet move. They moved back and forth, quite a few times, brushing against the duvet. He was the mouse. I relaxed and went back to sleep, thinking how foolish I had been. Imagination is a powerful thing...

But he left the traps out, just in case. ;)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

big blue meanies

I'm having a hard time sending my kids back to school this year. I'm not really sure why. Except that Abby is starting her first year at the high school and Max his last year of grade school. I guess it just feels like they are growing up too fast.

At home I trick myself into thinking I can completely protect them, shelter them from the evils of the world - big blue meanies and such. But at school they have to face all kinds of madness. Bullies, tyrants, disloyal friends. Okay, so they have never really had a problem with bullies or tyrants, but still! They are my babies, out there on their own.

Sometimes I wish I could still hold their hands, walk them down the hall and make sure their teachers know how truly great they are. Set up play dates with their friends. But I know I have to let go. I have raised them well. Now it's time for them to fly. And I will, they will.

But good heavens it's hard!

Friday, August 5, 2011

one more notch on his DIY belt

We have lived in our little old house for almost seven years. And for all of those years, we have needed a new toilet. But it was at the end of a long list of things we needed, so we put it off until this week.

Inspired by a recent dream Dave had involving himself in a toilet showroom (with toilets in a vast array of colors and styles) and motivated by a forthcoming marching band sleepover, we decided to take the plunge.

Aside from starting too late in the day (my fault) and then inevitably needing to buy a new water supply line after the store was closed (causing much yelling and I-told-you-so's on my part), Dave heroically installed the toilet himself, adding one more notch on his DIY belt.

Although I have been coveting other people's toilets for quite some time now, I was still unprepared for how much I love our new one. Here are a few of the things I love most: It is really, really, super clean and sparkly. The handle doesn't stick (causing the water to run endlessly in the bowl, or occasionally out onto the floor.) We have gone 2 whole days without having to plunge it.

So forget diamonds. This week, a toilet is a girl's best friend!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

the best kind of girls

I spent 6 hours with 2 teenage girls, shopping for swim suits today. But not for the reasons one would expect. It didn't take 6 hours because they wanted to find the skimpiest suit I would allow them to buy, or because they wanted a certain brand name.

It took 6 hours because I willingly and gladly drove them all over town, to every possible suit-selling store, to reward them for wanting to buy a practical suit, at a reasonable price, that would cover both their boobs and their butt. A noble goal for any of us girls, but especially for young girls of today!

So hats off to these, the best kind of girls - kind, smart, funny and good - right down to the core!

Friday, July 8, 2011

a safe place

I had an interesting experience last weekend that caused me to reflect on family relationships. After spending several days feeling desperately sad about the tendency of some families to break each other down, I have renewed my commitment to not let this happen in mine. I have come up with a new mantra for myself: our family is a safe place.

That my kids will never know a parent who tears them down, a sibling who condescends, or a dictatorial spouse is my deepest hope and prayer. That our home will provide unending love and hope and respect to all is the biggest accomplishment I ever hope to make.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

spreadsheet junkie

Since I have both diabetes and high blood pressure and am doing everything I can to avoid more medication, I have been monitoring my blood sugar and blood pressure on a daily basis. As you can imagine, this is a drag.

Not only do I hate having to think about every calorie/carb I consume or burn, I also hate writing it down. I've been keeping it all in a notebook, but I find myself not wanting to record the higher numbers; evidence for the doctor that I need another pill.

But I flipped through the book the other day and noticed some interesting patterns - like my blood pressure is always high on Sundays (go figure!). And my blood sugar is high when I first wake up and for a couple hours after I run. Finding these patterns makes me want to find more, so I've decided to throw it into a spreadsheet. Then I can easily sort it by day of the week, time of day, amount and type of exercise, or however else I want.

This thought made me unreasonably happy. Almost giddy. Why? Because I am a spreadsheet junkie. I am addicted to spreadsheets. I love them. Give me a bunch of information, randomly scattered about in my head, or the house, or wherever information scatters, and I will plug it in to a color-coded document, ready to sort and display in a variety of ways.

I first started creating spreadsheets for work, but now they are a daily part of my personal life. My "gateway" spreadsheet was a basic ledger I set up in Excel. It is simple, but much better suited to my needs than any of the money software programs I've tried. From there, I was hooked.

I now have spreadsheets called "run times," "2011 goals," "home improvement projects," "piano attendance," "piano ledger," "practice cards," "diabetes journal," "calorie list," "garden planning sheet," "gardenplanner2," "garden planner large," "garden planting calendar" and the list goes on and on. In fact, those were just the ones that came up in my recent documents list.

Sometimes, while day-dreaming about a new way to set up or sort a spreadsheet, I feel like an enormous geek. But I guess as far as addictions go, spreadsheets are not so bad...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

harmonicas and such

By choice, we live in a very small house. 900 square feet upstairs, 900 square feet down, and a bonus room behind the garage, nicknamed the "Room of Requirement." That is where Max's drum set lives, so technically it's not in the house. But all the other instruments are.

We have collected such a ridiculous number of instruments, that I counted them the other day: 4 guitars, 1 bass. Abby's french horn, trumpet and mellophone, and a flute from my mom. A ukulele, a banjo, and a tambourine. Bongos and cowbells too. A tiny violin Dave's mom loaned us when Abby was four, and an accordion I occasionally pull out of its case. I will spare you the list of harmonicas and such.

Sometimes I'm tempted to get rid of a few, especially the ones we don't know how to play. But then I hear Abby writing a song, or practicing her horn(s). Or I hear Dave and Max discussing some band. Or I play the piano for a couple of hours, until my heart and mind are at peace. Then I know music is the soul of our home and I'm glad the instruments live here too.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

14 funfetti-filled years

From the time Abby was old enough to point at a box, she wanted a funfetti birthday cake. Every single year. Eventually we started to complain. I don't know why. It was only once a year, and it's not like I never baked a cake at any other time. Nevertheless, by the time she was 10, we had teased her into better flavors.

A couple weeks ago, she had a party to celebrate the end of the year. I offered to make some cupcakes but, short on time, told her we would just spice up a mix. We went to the store, to the baking aisle. I was looking for a few other things. When I turned around I saw Abby, her hand on a french vanilla mix, but eying longingly the funfetti box.

I encouraged her to get it; you're only young once. You should have all the funfetti you want!

Note: We added 1 box of vanilla instant pudding and used buttermilk in place of the water. We made our own buttercream frosting from scratch. The "funfetti" cupcakes were really quite good. :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

i am your monster friend

For some reason, when my kids were little, my mother-in-law was fond of giving them gifts that make noise. Most of them were Christmas things, like a creepy little tree with a Santa hat and big white eyeballs that popped open when you walked past him, followed by an unbelievably annoying voice singing "Deck the Halls" or some such carol. Or a bright red and green angel with yellow yarn hair, wings that beat gently back and forth, and a head that moved eerily around on her body as she lulled you into the Christmas spirit.

But one time, she gave them an extra-large stuffed monster who faintly resembled Animal from the Muppets. He didn't sing, but had two or three sentences he would shout out when roused. He was big, blue and furry, with a black mouth, scary monster teeth and pink (or was it red?) hair and beard. We tried to get them to like him, but they were never too interested in playing with him (What do you do with a monster friend?) and eventually we stuck him up on the closet shelf. He stayed there for weeks, months, maybe a year, until his batteries started to die.

When that happened, he would occasionally call out from the closet shelf, in his gruff monster voice. It only took a few times of him scaring me nigh unto death before I donated him to the D.I., but in memory, he lives on. Just today, I found myself telling the kids, "I am your monster friend!"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

hard things

When I turned 40 I decided to start running. I figured instead of looking back on all the things I haven't done, it would be more productive to choose one of those things and do it. Part of my process was to look at all the reasons I had never run before. Most of them were obvious: A) It's hard. B) It's hard. C) It is really, really hard.

I then tried to look past these reasons to figure out the ones I could more easily solve: A) It hurts my feet and my knee. B) It's too cold/hot outside and I don't have time. C) I'm too fat; I don't want people to see me, which eliminates running outside or at the gym. I found solutions to these problems fairly quickly. New running shoes helped a lot, and a little ibuprofen at first. I bought a treadmill so no one would have to watch me strain, and I could fit in my runs (mostly walking) without leaving the house.

But then I was back to square one: running is hard.

I am not good at doing hard things. I know this because I have, occasionally, tried and given up. I have always required some natural ability at a thing in order to continue, and running was never my thing. I have accomplished other things, like playing the piano, serving a mission, graduating from college, becoming a mom. But none of those things ever made me simultaneously want to throw up, scream out in pain and cry all at the same time. Running has.

When I decided to start, I started out slow - like one minute at a time slow. I figured I could do anything for a minute. And I could. I did. But in truth, it was hard. I can remember counting down the last 30 seconds of every minute I ran. Gradually I worked up my intervals to 2 minutes, then 3, with an 8 to 10 minute walk in between. I still didn't love it. I never "got in the zone" and forgot to stop, but every minute I gained was a victory. I was taming my beast and it felt good.

In retrospect, running has definitely improved my health. But maybe more importantly, it has improved my attitude toward hard things. A few weeks ago I ran every step of my first 5k. I feel it is one of my biggest accomplishments, ever. Not because it is the most important thing I have done, but because it was one of the things I was least likely ever to do. And by doing this hard thing, I know I can do other hard things as well. Which is a powerful thing to know!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


41 pages is a good start on a book. $41 is spent way too fast. 41 carbs is (almost) 2 pieces of bread. 41 days is too far off to think about right now. For 41 minutes I can endure just about anything, even running. 41 years is starting to freak me out.

Monday, March 21, 2011

what could be

Yesterday was the day my dad was born. He's been gone for years now, but I still miss him terribly. He wasn't perfect, my dad, but he embodied possibility. There was no "I can't" in my dad; there was only "let's try" and "we'll see."

A dream could be one or a million steps away from real life, but either way, it was worth a shot. So what if it ended in a pile of failed attempts? We were no worse off for trying and, no doubt, learned something new along the way.

I hope to instill possibility in my kids, the way my dad instilled it in me. I pray they will (sometimes) ignore my warnings of what will be and embrace what could be instead.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

utah in march

For at least 6 weeks I've felt restless and worn. There have been a few days when I've crawled into bed, fully dressed, to get warm. And then today it was Spring. I know it won't last - not in Utah, in March. But for one lovely hour I worked my land. I could feel the sun through the coat on my back; I could feel it burning my face. As I walked, the ground was soft beneath my feet, not dried out and parched from the heat. Even the weeds were a hopeful shade of green, all mossy and wet. I know it won't last - not in Utah, in March. But for a minute I stood perfectly still, took a breath of fresh air, and felt completely at peace.