Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Mom's Lesson Learned

If we didn't find the Christmas holiday magical, we at least found it educational.

This is what I learned:

Sometimes pre-teens can get confused by the onslaught of emotion they might feel in a certain situation. I believe maturity creates opportunity to feel things that are new and strange. Things like guilt and remorse, for example. Hormones most certainly play a role in this onslaught.

All these new feelings can be overwhelming and unpleasant. It might be wrongly assumed that to ease the misery, one must create conflict. What a crazy idea. Conflict can't bring peace. Where in the world would anyone get that idea? (Any thoughts Church Lady?)

Maybe if the miserable person can get you to lash out, suddenly the misery will be YOUR fault, not theirs, and they will feel better.

This never works.

The only thing that will bring peace is forgiveness and repentance.

The great thing is, forgiveness and repentance not only bring peace to angsty pre-teens, they also bring peace to irritable, cranky adults.

Along with this great insight, I also remembered that sometimes when you are about to make a really important decision in your life, when you are choosing the path of righteousness, shall we say, all kinds of opposition pops up that is specifically designed so that you will not have the Spirit.

The Spirit, as popular motivational youth speaker John Bytheway points out, is our only piece of offensive equipment in the Armour of God (Ephesians 6:13-17). Everything else, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation, etc., are all pieces of defensive equipment. The sword of the Spirit is for fighting. He pointed out that the adversary will do whatever he can to get us to lay down our swords, our only weapon. In other words, to put ourselves in situations where we can not have the Spirit of the Holy Ghost with us.

Contention and anger are just a few of the things that drive the Spirit away, so it's important that when we feel anger and want to lash out (because we all feel that way at some time) we quickly do the things necessary to get past those feelings (forgive and repent) so we can pick up our sword again in our fight off those fiery darts.

Forgiveness and repentance will bring us peace.

That is what I learned this holiday season.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Twelve Years Ago Tonight...

I can hardly believe my little 6 pound baby is a big, pre-teen, braces-wearing, soon-to-have-the-Aaronic Priestood, boy. It has been an emotional week, filled with a failed Christmas and lots of moody unhappiness. I was starting to worry what the next 6 years will hold for this mom and son.

I think I can say that things are getting a little better though, and Ethan's mood seems to have improved by leaps in the last 3 hours. He didn't even complain at the "I give up" birthday party I threw him. Robert made the scrumptious blueberry pie (his first crust and everything!) and I offered to write him a check in lieu of gifts that I would most likely have to later return.

Sometimes I feel as inadequate and confused about mothering as I did the day we brought Ethan home from the hospital.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

In Which I Explore my Inner Nerd

Here we have all our Star Wars Galactic Heroes set up in a rough "good versus evil" configuration. I would like to say that one of the boys spent the afternoon quietly working on this exciting display but if I did, I would be lying.

I'm the one who spent part of the afternoon setting up all these little guys. Isaac helped me decide who was good and who was bad, so if there are mistakes, it's not my fault. However, if you say anything, I will know you are a bigger nerd that me.

These are some of our bad guys.

This is a shot in the middle. Since I couldn't tell who was a clone trooper and who was a storm trooper, and since clone troopers are good in episode 2 and part of 3, but bad at the end of episode 3, I I stuck them in the middle ground.

I counted approximately 100 Star Wars characters set up on the train table, but I know for a fact we are missing a few. I couldn't find Sprit Obi Wan Kenobi and there is a battle droid missing as well.

If I had three girls instead of 3 boys, maybe I would have spent the afternoon decorating Barbie's townhouse and making sure all the clothes were hung her her closet. As it is, I'm clearly a Star Wars mom.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Making Pajamas Is So Hard

The hardest part about making these pajamas was getting to the cash register to buy the 8 yards of fabric and finding that my 40% off coupon had expired.

The second hardest part of making these pajamas was having to run to JoAnn's on December 24 for more elastic.

The third hardest part of making these pajamas was getting locked out of the house just as Robert drove off to take the kids swimming so I could have 3 hours of uninterrupted alone-time, specifically to work on the pajamas.

The fourth hardest part about making these pajamas was staying up until 1am to hem them. But I watched "Little Dorrit," while doing it, so it wasn't really that hard.

And finally, the fifth hardest part of making these pajamas was getting the boys to sit still for this picture.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Stinking Christmas

I'm not one of those moms who continually comes up with fun and exciting activities for her kids to do. There is a lot of down time around here. I could justify that this down time gives my kids time to be creative and learn to entertain themselves. In reality, the down time is probably more for me to get in my daily allowance of reading and writing.

So when I told the boys we were going downtown to see Santa this morning, I naturally thought the boys would be thrilled they didn't have to face another day of sitting around the house.

They weren't.

Ethan said he was too old to see Santa, Jonah said he was afraid, but Isaac seemed excited. My approval rating was 33.3%. That's worse than Obama!

I made an executive order: Everyone was going downtown to see Santa and they'd like it. Now get in the car you lousy, ungrateful kids!

Well, Ethan did stand for a picture with Santa thanks to Santa's helper who said all the right things. This isn't my favorite Santa from the old Meier and Frank days, before Macy's turned the 10th floor from Santa Land to Consumer Land. True to the radio advertisement, Macy's did bring back the monorail, but it was parked, on the floor. Not running around the ceiling like it should have been. Sigh.

I should mention now that Jonah can not smile naturally for photographs. I'm not sure why this is. I should also mention that I was happy to see Donder's name spelled correctly. I recently found out it is indeed "Donder" and not "Donner." Who knew!

Ethan was determined to be bored and miserable.

After our visit with Santa, we wandered across the street to Pioneer Courthouse Square to see the giant Christmas Tree. I know it doesn't look that big in this shot, but it's 75 feet tall. I had to take several pictures of the boys standing in front of it to get one I liked. After this one I said, "That's the money shot." Jonah quickly replied, "We get money?!"

Then we walked a couple blocks to the mall where Ethan found Game Stop. Finally, he could admit the trip was not a complete waste of time.

As for me, I did something I've wanted to do for a long time: Drink a cup of Moonstruck hot chocolate. I chose the Mayan Chocolate. It was delicious.

On the way home I asked the kids: Did you have fun this morning?

Jonah: Yeah!

Isaac: Yes!

Ethan: Kind of.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to Be a Boy: Flushing the Toilet

If you are a boy, it's important to remember this bathroom rule: Never. Flush. The toilet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

First Line Results

With one vote, "It was an October morning in the year 1872, and New York City's air was so befogged with white moist and dark smoke that I could barely see across the street" is the start of "The Seer of Shadows" by Avi. How cool is that cover? I can't wait to read this book, but because I own it, it will have to watit for the steady stream of library books to cease before it gets its turn. (Juvenile)

Also with one vote: "Han Alister squatted next to the steaming mud spring, praying that the thermal crust would hold his weight." I loved Cinda Chima Williams Heir series and have been eager to get my hands on her latest book, "The Demon King." It looks intense. Here is a trailer. (Young Adult)

The book I should be reading got 2 votes. "Cry the Beloved Country" by Alan Paton starts, "There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills." This is our book club's selection for January. I have not yet started it. (Adult)

"The Magician's Elephant" by Kate DiCamillo tied with 3 votes. The first line reads: "At the end of the century before last, in the market square of the city of Baltese, there stood a boy with a hat on his head and a coin in his hand." I also have purchased this book because there was some hubbub about it's Newbery worthiness. Also, it's Kate DiCamillo and I don't think it ever hurts to have a few Kate's on the bookshelf. (Juvenile)

"Tiger's Curse" by Colleen Houck is a self published book by the daughter of someone from my ward. The first line is: "The prisoner stood with his hands tied in front of him, tired, beaten, and filthy, but with a proud back befitting his royal heritage." There is also a 600 page sequel called "Tiger's Quest." There are a few encouraging reviews on Amazon and I'm eager to read both of them. It also got 3 votes. (Young Adult)

And the winner, with 5 votes is, "If you started to squeeze your brakes right in the middle of heading down Maple Hill, just as you were passing old Mr. Normore's mailbox, you could coast into the bike rack in front of Lippy's Market without making a single tire squeak." Lisa Graff's "Umbrella Summer" is a sweet, well written story about how a young girl and her parents grieve the summer after the death of her brother. Thanks to your votes, kind of, I read it this weekend.

Thanks for voting everyone. It's interesting to see what types of first lines appeal to you all.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nine First Lines

I've done this before, I'm doing it again. I've got a stack of books and am wondering which one to pick. Which book would you choose to read based on the following first lines?

1. "The prisoner stood with his hands tied in front of him, tired, beaten, and filthy, but with a proud back befitting his royal heritage."

2. "A high-nosed cedar canoe, nimble as a seabird, atop a tumbling white ridge of ocean."

3. "There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills."

4. "At the end of the century before last, in the market square of the city of Baltese, there stood a boy with a hat on his head and a coin in his hand."

5. "It was an October morning in the year 1872, and New York City's air was so befogged with white mist and dark smoke that I could barely see across the street."

6. "On a hairpin turn, above the dead forest, on no day in particular, a white Toyota crashed into a black Mercedes, for a moment blending into a blur of gray."

7. "If you started to squeeze your brakes right in the middle of heading down Maple Hill, just as you were passing old Mr. Normore's mailbox, you could coast into the bike rack in front of Lippy's Market without making a single tire squeak."

8. "Cities are never random."

9. "Han Alister squatted next to the steaming mud spring, praying that the thermal crust would hold his weight."

I know which book I should read first and which book I want to read first, but I will probably choose neither of those to be my next book.

Which would you choose?

Friday, December 11, 2009


When it rains, it pours, or so they say. This week the inconveniences have come down like a steady stream. Here is what I'm talking about:

Frozen Pipes
Since Monday, the temperature has not risen above freezing. Our kitchen sink pipes must travel through an outside wall because Monday morning we had no water running in the sink. I spent the day with a space heater under the sink and the faucet open, hoping to see a drip, drip, drip--but nothing. Since then we've decided to let nature take it's course, which may or may not be our undoing. When it warms up in 3 days, we hope to have water running in the kitchen sink. (Please don't tell me if this is the worst thing ever...let my ignorance be bliss for just a little longer.)

As a result of the frozen kitchen pipes, I'm hauling water like a pioneer. You know--walking up carpeted stairs in my heated house to fill up a large basin with instantly hot water from the bath tub. It's rough. I only do this when I have to do dishes. By. Hand. (I told you things were tough.)

I've purchased paper plates and cups and we have a nice supply of plastic utensils to cut down on the water-hauling, hand-wrinkling, time-consuming dish washing that generally results from eating or baking. Comments from the kids on our current situation range from: That looks like fun! Can I scrub? This is the best! Can we do this every night?

Broken Dryer
I had one more load to move from the washer to the dryer on Tuesday and then every single washable thing in the house would be clean, folded, and put away. It's a pretty good feeling to have empty laundry baskets in every room and clean towels in every bathroom. When I opened the dryer to remove the load that had just run through the cycle, I found wet, cold clothes. My dryer was no longer heating.

While my neighbor kindly dried my clothes, I called an appliance repairman. See, letting nature take it's course with the kitchen sink is one thing. But the clock was ticking on that dryer. I had 5 days, tops before I'd need to start laundering again or things were going to get ugly.

Appliance guy couldn't come out Wednesday, but promised Thursday, "sometime in the morning." I didn't leave the house all day and had my phone with in arms reach from 7am to 4:30 pm, when I noticed I had a message on voice mail. It was him! He'd called, sometime, who knows when, and I'd missed it. Missed it!! I quickly called back and found out that my 20 minute delay in contacting him meant he was too far away to come to my home and would try again Friday.

"I've been waiting for you all day!" I complained, which, in hindsight, might not have been the best strategy seeing as how my lack of dryer repair expertise could put him at a billing advantage should he develop some kind of annoyance with me.

So, I'll wait again today. Which might seem like an additional hardship except....

The Car Won't Start
Well, to be honest, the car starts now.* But after I got off the phone with phantom repairman and resigned myself to another day of being home bound, I got in the car to run to the grocery store for a few things for dinner. Specifically, frozen Kid's Cuisine dinners. But the car wouldn't start.

Our car is 12 years old and has 120 thousand miles and a cracked exhaust manifold so the possibility that the car's time had finally come was definitely there. However, when Robert got home from work (after 8pm, another hardship...but I digress) he did a little battery jumping and got the car running.

Not that I'll be needing it today.
*Update, the car didn't start this morning. It's just too cold and the battery too weak.

In Summary
I see the irony of complaining about my hardships as I sit here in my warm bed, forced air heat warming our early morning home, typing on my laptop which is wirelessly connected to the internet--the world, literally at my fingertips--as Robert gets ready to go to his job. The kids are healthy and will wake soon to a breakfast of their choice of three different cold cereals (three!), or instant oatmeal, or peanut butter toast, or, because I'm in a good mood, possibly eggs.

It's easy to take my every day conveniences for granted, but the sting of having to do without is uncomfortable.

I'd pontificate on this topic more, but it's time for me to get up and have pre-heated water shower over me at my very command (i.e. turn of a handle). I feel like royalty.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Culinary Christmas Controversy

Christmas has very specific treats that we don't normally enjoy any other time of year. Some of these treats are widely enjoyed while others are nothing more than a punch line to a joke. Love 'em or hate 'em, everyone seems to have an opinion on which Christmas treat is the worst.

Here's what I think about a few of the season's most controversial victuals.

Candy Cane - Not a fan. I know, candy canes are hardly controversial, but everyone seems to love them, and I just do not. Sometimes the peppermint is simply too overpowering and gives me a headache. I love a subtle taste of peppermint candy though, as in peppermint bark or white chocolate peppermint coated popcorn. Yum.

Eggnog - Love it. Sure, it's a little thick and weird and leaves a creamy coat of "nog" in my mouth, but I definitely enjoy a small glass of eggnog during the holiday season every now and then. Extrapolating the data from the Nelson household, I'd guess that 1/3 of all children also enjoy eggnog while the remaining 2/3 can hardly stand to see the container in the fridge
Fruit Cake - Meh. I'll eat it--if there is absolutely nothing else. I would never use it as a door stop though. Never.

Divinity - Love it! I'm always surprised to hear all the vehement exclamations of disgust for this simple, yet scrumptious Christmas candy. I'm lucky if I get to sample divinity once a year because no one makes it anymore. I tried to make it last year and failed miserably. Maybe I'll try again this year.

What holiday goodies or gross-outs do you love or hate? A lovely, home made cheeseball? How about cathedral window cookies with those weird colored marshmallows? Ever tried mincemeat? Come on--I'm giving you permission to do a little Christmas venting. Think of it as my gift to you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thoughts at 1 AM

I woke up this morning at one am and was not able to get back to sleep until about 5. These are a few of the things that went through my mind.

Global Warming
What if the polar ice cap is really just a water supply for when the population of the world gets too big for our current water supply? It's activated by larger levels of methane gas and other emissions being released into the atmosphere. The water melts, the climate changes, it rains in Africa, the lakes and rivers rise and everyone gets more water. Except the people who lost their lives in the flood.

Star Trek
In the new Star Trek movie, when young James T. Kirk steals his stepfather's old Corvette and goes speeding across the Iowa landscape and somehow manages to find a cliff leading into a massive canyon (In Iowa!) he makes the car drift right over the cliff and then at the last possible moment, opens the door and jumps out. Great scene, but I am pretty sure the laws of physics would make it impossible for a small boy, under his own power, to exert enough force to propel himself away from a car moving at least 50 miles per hour in the other direction. I will have Robert do the math later.

I found $400 without getting out of bed! I remembered that we could get reimbursed from our health savings account for the first installment of Ethan's braces. At this point I wanted to wake Robert up so badly. Then I thought about writing a note and leaving it for him on the bathroom mirror, but it was so cold last night I didn't want to get out of bed. Finally, I promised myself that I would remember to tell him when he woke up. I didn't.

I debated for a long time whether or not I should get up and read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon until I was tired enough to fall back asleep. I didn't want to get out of bed because it was cold, but I couldn't turn on a light because I'd certainly wake Robert up. I thought about using a flashlight to read under the covers but didn't know where a working flashlight was. Mental note: make sure there is always a working flashlight in my nightstand drawer.

Maybe I should write a book about a woman who lives 3 separate lives in 3 different alternate realities. In the first life she is married and has a loving relationship with her husband and a cute family. In the second she and her husband haven't met yet, but she knows about reality number one and so she tries to make herself known to him so they can get married and have the cute kids she knows they will have. Also, reality #2 is post apocalyptic. In reality number 3, the kids are there but not her husband. They are in trouble and she has to do something to save them and get them into reality #2. Also not sure what kind of process makes her involuntarily switch from reality to reality.

Compromised Scientists
Is there such a thing as scientific truth? Scientists are either paid by the government or corporations to get desired results. So they are all biased and the information we get is most likely skewed. Who can we trust? Maybe academic scientists!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How To Be a Boy: Extinguishing a Candle

Anyone can blow out a candle with their breath. There's no challenge there. Why not try to extinguish a candle more creatively? How about trying to shoot out the flame with the Nerf N-Strike Recon Dart Blaster?

If you are a boy, the most important part of extinguishing a candle flame with a dart blaster is not to think anything through. Just do it. If you think ahead even the slightest, you might realize that your mom has just spent 30 minutes cleaning the bathroom. The towels are clean, the mirror; spotless, the counters; shining.

You might also notice that there is quite a deep pool of liquid wax in the candle; enough to make a big, hot splash.

If you'd ever in your life cleaned up spilt wax, you might stop for a moment and think about how difficult it can be. You might reflect on the time involved it will take to clean up a mess, should any hot, melted candle wax splatter when your dart blasts into the flame.

Whatever you do, do not think of any of these things. Just act.

Ooops. That made a mess, didn't it?

Well, just take the clean towel and wipe it up. Hmmm--the towel doesn't seem to be very effective; kind of spreading the wax around more than wiping it up, isn't it.

Well, don't worry. Just leave the towel in a heap on the counter and look for something else exciting to shoot with your dart blaster.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh Fake Christmas Tree!

I never thought I would have a fake tree. We live literally minutes away from 4 or 5 different Christmas tree farms and could easily find a lovely live (until we chop it down) tree for a great price. In fact, cutting down a Christmas tree used to be one of the fun things we looked forward to doing as a family each year.

Then it happened.

I don't think it helped that that was the year we deviated from our strict Noble-Fir-Only rule and got some ugly thing called a Scotch Pine. I hated it.

Also, unknown to us, there was a very small crack in our Christmas Tree stand. "Boy, this tree sure drinks a lot of water," we thought the entire 4 weeks we watered it faithfully. Then on Christmas Eve I sat the boys in front of the tree for a picture and felt the wet carpet.

Christmas morning all the presents under the tree were damp.

The tree came down almost as soon as we had finished present opening. The next week a water damage restoration company came out and replaced the sub-floor and dried out and cleaned the carpet, making that year's tree the most expensive ugly one we'd ever had.

The following year we looked for a fake tree. I have to admit, I felt like a Christmas traitor. I'd often thought it was sacrilege that any Christian Oregonian would have a fake tree. It just didn't seem right in Christmas Tree country. God's Country!!

At the same time, that ugly, water leaking mess from the year before was still an open wound on my Christmas spirit. So we got the fake tree.

Now after 4 years, I feel like the tree is part of the family. It goes up and down in a snap. The lights are already attached, there is no dripping sap, no colony of spiders waiting to migrate into every nook and cranny of my house, no watering schedule to keep to, no dropping needles to vacuum up. We don't have to spend an afternoon cutting it, strapping it to the top of the car and lugging it in the house and we don't have to pay the boy scouts to come and pick it up when everything is over.

The only drawback, of course, is the lack of fabulous pine scent. It's sad, but I can live with it.

So we decorated the tree last night. Actually, I let the kids do most of it. Which is why there is a heavy concentration of ornaments on the front, lower half of the tree. It looks very dorky. And I love it that way.

Friday, November 27, 2009

It's (fill in the blank) Friday!

It's Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The day the retailer's books finally go from the red, into the black. (I highly doubt that, but whatever.) But "black" is not the only way to define this Friday in November.

Today, was also Wet Friday. We stood in the rain from 4am to 5am, but thankfully were well prepared with lots of layered clothing, rain coats, rain boots and an umbrella. Thank goodness we only stayed in Target for 15 minutes. It was hot in there!

It became Score Friday when Ethan was able to get one of the few Polaroid Digital Video cameras Target offered for $39. But it soon turned into Sad Friday when the $19.99 4gb video mp3 players were sold out at Fred Meyer. However, Ethan went right into Happy Friday when we saw Fred Meyer's free donuts and juice and the $8.99 N-Strike Recon Nerf gun.

At 6am I was happy it was Go Back to Bed Friday and that Robert didn't mind my freezing feet warming up on his toasty legs.

Disappointment Friday happened when Ethan realized that his new digital video camera only had 12 seconds of recording time and that he had to purchase an SD card separately. Second Wake-up Friday was when Ethan came in at 7am to tell me to take him back to Fred Meyer right away.

Now it's about 9:30am and I'm enjoying Quiet House Friday as Robert has taken all 3 boys to Fred Meyer for Ethan's SD card and N-Strike Recon guns for Isaac and Jonah. But before I was able to sit down with a cup of hot chocolate and blog about my morning, I encountered Rip-Off-All-The-Packaging-From-Everything-You-Bought-And-Drop-It-In-Twenty-Different-Places-All-Over-The-House Friday. That did not make me very happy.

Later the kids will enjoy Build-a-Gingerbread-House-From-The-Twelve-Dollar-Kit-From-Costco Friday and I will indulge in Flavinol Antioxidant Friday and Read-a-Good-Book-All-Afternoon Friday.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Which My Mom Gives Me a Stack of Old Pictures

Here I am at 2 years old. I know because it's the only picture with anything written on the back. There is something very Mary Tyler Moorish about this picture. I look like I'm ready to take on the world. Either that or I just saw a pretty bird fly by.

The candles on the cake tell me I'm three. The poinsettia on the counter top tells me my mom hung on to Christmas decor a full month after Christmas.

Here I am on my 4th birthday in a fetching outfit. I can tell you the pink fabric was some kind of velour, and that the white lacy thing is a cravat, and that my mom made the whole ensemble.

I don't know where my early school pictures went. Let's just say they were so cute my mom gave them all out. I think this might be 3rd grade and I remember hating the picture intensely (because I thought the fold in my turtleneck, across the chest, made it look like I was getting boobies.)

Although this was probably a retake of my 3rd grade picture, I'm going to call it 4th grade. I have nothing more to say about it.

I call this 5th grade picture, "The Many Facets of Afton." I'm happy, I'm pensive, I'm cheerful, I'm thoughtful. Why don't they do school pictures like this anymore? It's a travesty.

In 6th grade several things became clear. I needed a better hairstyle and I needed braces. "You looked like a boy" was the comment Isaac made when he saw this picture. I remember I got that necklace at Fetch's in Lakeview, Oregon and loved it because it was the first personalized thing I'd ever had. (It had an 'A' on it.)

I do believe this picture makes a case for perms. This was 8th grade and I remember thinking this was one of the best school pictures I'd ever taken. You know when your friends would get their pictures back and be embarrassed to show anyone and act all put out like it was the worst picture ever? Well, I had a hard time pulling that act off this year. What can I say?

Freshman year I wanted to go for the preppy look and wear my collar up but my mom was convinced an upturned collar was the first step on the road to h - e - double toothpick. (I was her first child, you see). Although there were plenty of days I wore my collar down when I left the house but put it up when I got to school (total rebel) I could not wear it up in this picture because I knew the photographic evidence of my disobedience would be forever preserved.

My sophomore year I cut my own hair. Mullets are one of the easier styles to self cut.

Junior year I went with this lovely blue sweater vest ensemble by Esprit. I did not buy it at the outlet, but paid full price at Macy's. Also, I had finally gone to see a real hair stylist and gotten a super trendy short haircut. This is the haircut after it had spent 5 months growing out.

Ahh! The Senior picture. So much to say and so little space. The perm had to be perfectly timed so that it was neither too kinky or too relaxed. The make-up took an hour to apply. The tan (yes, that's me with a tan) could not show any lines. And then the excruciating decision between the white fur and the blue feathers. And finally, on the way to the photography studio, I backed into my grandparents new Cadillac and burst into a fit of tears.

This was my freshman year at BYU. I had the best roommate. Marina let me borrow her sweater and her earrings for this picture. I do believe she borrowed my clothes for her picture.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Better Place

Grandma Lillian at age 19

My first thought when I heard the news one week ago today that Grandma Lillian had died was that she had gone to a better place. Isn't that what everyone always says? "They're in a better place."

I could picture Grandma, free of her aged, useless body, reuniting with Grandpa, with her brother and sisters and parents, and with her two babies she lost shortly after birth, both who would have easily survived with the medical advances we have today. I knew she was happy. She'd lived the best life and deserved this blessed reunion. I know I'll see her again.

So yes, I believe Grandma is in a better place.

But you know what? This life, this world--whatever you want to call it--is a better place because of Grandma Lillian. She made it a better place for me. I respected her and loved her. I wanted to do the things she did, which is why I spend much of August canning peaches and pears and tomatoes and why I made a quilt and entered it in the County Fair.

I found out at Grandma's funeral that I was not the only one of her grandchildren who made moral decisions based on the maxim, "What would Grandma Think?" I did not want to disappoint Grandma.

I suppose if there is anything at all I can do to honor my Grandma's memory it would be to try and make this world "a better place" for my family. And that is what I plan on doing for the rest of my life.

My brother John was a pall bearer and wore Grandpa's tan shearling coat.

This poem, by Henry Scott Holland, appeared on the back of Grandma's memorial service program.

Death is Nothing At All

I have only slipped into the next room.
I am I, and you re you,
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put not difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes
That we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort,
Without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight;
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
Somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Keep Calm

When people ask, I always find it difficult to explain how I know Erika.

I've never personally met Erika.

Her sister used attend church with my brother and his family in California. I think we might have met once.

Erika found my blog through a link on her sister's blog to my sister-in-law's blog. (Are you still with me?) From there she made a comment on one of my posts and asked me the golden question; the one question which I love to answer, on which I could, and have, written volumes.

"How do you like Oregon?"

Ever since finding out that Oregon was on Erika's radar as a possible future home, we've been communicating mostly via blog, but sometimes e-mail too.

We're friends on Goodreads and have common taste in books.

We both enjoy home canning and gardening. (Tomato jam? That was Erika!)

We both love being mothers and seeing our children grow and develop.

I think she has fabulous taste in home decor and when I saw this poster on her blog a while back, knew I had to have one.

"Stay Calm and Carry On" was a propaganda slogan and poster made for the British people, but never widely distributed, as World War II loomed on the horizon.

I'm not sure that this is where my "Stay Calm" poster will live forever. (See picture above.) This area of my house is currently under construction and I'm waiting further direction from another good friend on how to proceed. But I still wanted to show my great poster (a simple message that is quite profound) and establish its provenance (The British Government's Ministry of Information, Erika, Me), and most of all, I wanted to procrastinate a bit on writing my novel.

Too bad my book isn't about a 40 year old mom who blogs to avoid writing a novel.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Books I Will Not Be Reading...Yet

National Novel Writing Month has left me very little time for reading. Which is sad. Because I have a stack of books sitting here from the library that I'm dying to read, but whose due dates are quickly approaching.

Here are the books I will most likely not read this month:

I first heard about this book on Shannon Hale's blog where she interviewed fellow author and Utah resident, Sara Zarr. I really liked Sweethearts by Sara and after reading her interview with Shannon, knew I would like this book too. I also LOVE Sara's philosophy on photoshopping personal photos. Finally, Once Was Lost uses the word "xeriscaping" in like the first 3 pages, which I find bold and fantastic. Due November 30th.

I'm sad to have to return this book by Uglies Author Scott Westerfeld. The jacket flap says: "With the great war brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way...taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever." Even though it says over on the right that I'm reading this book now, I'm not. Due November 20th.

I think I saw this book on a short list of books getting Newbery buzz. Looks to be set during the civil war. I know that's a bold assumption based on the front cover artwork and the excerpt on the back cover. Maybe I checked it out of the library because my favorite children's librarian, Betsy Bird, recommended it so highly? Here's her detailed review. Due on November 30th, (Angela's Birthday)

This book caught my attention at the school Book Fair. The cover looked interesting, and the back cover description mentioned two of my favorite book topics: Alaska and Oregon. The author of Schindler's List is quoted on the back saying, "The Sea Runners has all the grace, charm and spaciousness of his book This House of Sky, but combined with the drama of a great escape. The sea, wind, space, are palpable in this exquisitely worked book." Due December 5th.

Again, not sure why I chose this book, but I think it too was on a Newbery short list. Maybe there is another Betsy Bird review around here somewhere? Nope, but here's a great article about the author, Grace Lin, on School Library Journal's website. (It's long, but very interesting). Here is a link to her blog, and here is a link to her author site. Due November 20th.

Finally, judging a book by it's cover just happens sometimes and that's what lead me to pick up Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos. I love the cover with the family of rain boots. From the jacket flap, "A devoted city dweller, Cornelia Brown surprised no one more than herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to leave urban life behind and head for an idyllic suburb." Due November 23th.

So, I'm a bit sad because all these books will have to go back to the library soon. I might be able to renew a few, but since they are clearly such great books, I'm sure there will be a bit of a demand for them and I'll probably end up having to wait until Spring.