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Friday, April 30, 2010

Beethoven Lives Upstairs


My name is Alexandra, and I can best be described as a SAHM homeschooler by day, fancy-dancy caterer by night. I am the ever grateful mother to 3 boys, and am smart enough to live in a small town, where everything you need is 3 minutes away and comes with rock star parking.

I began my own blogging after following the blogs of a few others. I wanted to have a place for my words, and to practice writing. The pile of frayed notebooks next to my bed just weren't cutting it anymore. Since blogging, what has happened is nothing short of wondrous. I have met like-minded people, read so many heart-moving things, been inspired, and have "entered" other worlds many times a day.

I think the internet is fabulous.

I hear it from upstairs, but I still can't believe it. I am hearing it through my own ears, in my own home. My brain processes it as reality, but my soul tells me it can't be so.

From the upstairs bedroom, I hear my 14 year-old son playing the piano that is in our front room. I know it is him; it has to be him, since he is the only one able to play the piano in our family. I've seen him sit at that piano daily; a piano that just five years ago a friend gifted to us. He plays and plays all his favorites: Journey, Coldplay, and even movie themes. I've seen his fingers moving along the keys, so know it to be true.

But my soul tells me it can't be. How does a woman like me - one with no musical ability - get blessed with a child like this? A musical child, how does it happen? I've never dreamed it possible, even in my wildest dreams. Yet, it's so. So, though I'd like to have the greeting on our answering machine just be him playing, I know that I can't. And though I'd love to tell everyone, from the bagger at the store, to the town librarian, "My son can play; I mean he can really play!" I know that I can't. I know society doesn't find that acceptable.

So, I instead find myself having to sit down on the bed upstairs, with tears of pride and disbelief springing to my eyes too quickly for me stop them. I let him keep on playing. I don't want to walk downstairs just yet...

I might break the spell.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Proms

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Actually, this was going to be a tale of THREE proms, but I decided that you'd think I was making all of this up if I told you about my junior prom with the boy who thought he was a vampire, the mortuary limo and my dress that was a perfect example of what NOT to wear.

On to the real story...

Twenty years ago (that dang reunion invitation has dredged up all sorts of things!) I was a high school senior who wanted to attend a senior prom with every fiber of my hormonal being. There was a certain boy who I had been in love with (meaning: We were friends, but I would call his house, hear him answer, then hang up. Also I would drive past his house under cover of darkness in hopes of catching a glimpse of him in the kitchen window making a peanut butter and honey sandwich.) and I hoped beyond hope that he was going to ask me. No dice. I found out that he had inquired of my brother whether he should ask me or another girl. My brother, not wanting to appear biased (or SO HE SAYS!!), chose her. (Traitor!)

One can only drown their sorrows in Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia for so long. Prom was less than a month away! I knew I needed to take action.

There was another boy, from another school, who had shown some interest in me. He did not share my standards and was not my type; he rode a bullet bike and confidently carried out the bad-boy-who-looks-good persona. I was desperate for a prom date. Despite what my gut (and all of my friends) told me, I called him. We went out a number of times before I subtly mentioned his senior prom. He asked, I accepted. He promised me a night that I would never forget - and he was right.

I went all out for this date. I found the perfect dress, had my hair done... I even wore lipstick. This was serious business. He arrived in a stretch limousine, perfectly dashing in his tuxedo and full of compliments for me. We looked great together. It was all like a dream. The dinner, the dancing, the flowers, the pictures - everything was perfect. Regardless of the cliche, I felt like a princess.

On the way home, my date told me that he had another surprise in store. A room - in a very nice hotel. At first it would be a large gathering, but eventually it would be just the two of us. My smile faded. The dream abruptly ended. I told him that I would absolutely not do any such thing. He became obviously agitated, but maintained his cool. "You know, tonight wasn't cheap," he told me, reaching for my hand. I pulled it away and responded, "It is now." He ignored me for the remainder of our drive to the hotel.

My date still went to the hotel room to meet up with friends (who had similar plans for their dates) and sent me home in the limo without a word. I later found out that he had a back-up plan in place in case I didn't work out as expected. Nice. What was I thinking?!

I cried myself to sleep that night, yet I had learned some valuable and important lessons - no guy, no dance, no longing to be loved was worth lowering my standards for. Gut instincts are almost always right. Outward appearances are not as important as what's on the inside. And, most importantly, if it slithers like a snake and hisses like a snake and looks like a snake, it's a SNAKE.

The next morning I awoke to a sad realization - it was the day of my school's senior prom. I tried to get some friends to go to the beach with me (the ocean has always had a way of washing away my melancholy) but they were all busy getting ready for the big dance later that evening. In a completely uncharacteristic move, I went to the beach by myself and soaked up the sun's warmth while rollerskating along the strand.

After I returned home I received a phone call. It was my friend Mike who had graduated the previous year, just calling to catch up. In the course of our conversation I told him all about my experience the night before - how everything had seemed so perfect and ended so terribly. I tried to joke about the whole matter being no big deal but Mike knew me well enough to understand that I was hurting. "West's (my high school) prom is tonight, right?" he said, not really asking. "You're going."

I tried to argue with him that it was starting in a couple of hours and I didn't have a date or a prom ticket. "All you need is a dress and a date," he told me. "You have both. I'll be there in an hour."

True to his word, he showed up - sharply dressed all in black. "I couldn't get a tux," he informed me, "Too last-minute. But I did get these." He handed me two clear floral boxes, one with a corsage and one with a boutonniere. "The big one's for you. The little one's for me." I stood there, unsure of what to say. I couldn't believe he would go to all of this trouble for me. "Well, come on! Pin that little flower on my shirt, Cinderella!" he instructed me. "We've got to get going or we'll be late for the ball!"

The whole way to the hotel where our prom was being held, we talked, sang to the tunes being played on his radio and laughed.

When we walked into the hotel lobby I asked him how he was able to secure a prom ticket. "Um... I didn't. But it's going to work out," he told me. We walked to the table where various teachers were admitting students to the dance and Mike began to strike up conversations with the ones he knew from his previous years at the school. One teacher finally said, "You two better get in to the dance before you miss dinner!" So we did. Easy as that. He winked at me. "What did I tell you?" he whispered as we rode up the escalator to the hotel's ballroom.

I could not, in good conscience, eat dinner knowing we had not paid for it. But we danced and talked and enjoyed spending a wonderful evening with many great friends. As Mike drove me home, he apologized that I would likely get into trouble for crashing the prom without having purchased a ticket. I told him that it was worth it to have the terrible experience of the previous night replaced with a much happier one. (Disclaimer: I am in no way promoting the crashing of a prom. If you are my kid and you even attempt such a thing you will be clipping my toenails and massaging my feet for the rest of eternity.)

Mike was right. I did get into trouble when some teachers reviewed the guest list and discovered that we had snuck into the dance without a ticket. I was called in to the office, I apologized and worked out a plan to eventually pay for my ticket. I was forgiven. It was worth the embarrassment.

This second dance taught me a lesson as well: Happiness can come in the most unexpected ways, from the most unexpected people.

And it's a lot more enjoyable to go to the prom with a friend... than with a snake.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Take a Good, Long Nook...

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There is just something that I love about going to the bookstore; there’s that smell of new books which permeates the air, bringing with them a feeling of excitement in knowing that there are adventures to be had, unbelievable stories to be told, and new, fun characters to meet.

About a week ago, a friend and I ventured off to a nearby city in order to test-drive an automobile or two—well, I test-drove whereas my friend had merely come along for the ride. As we passed by a Barnes & Noble, we both felt the distinctive urge to go inside. Pulling into the lot, we found a space and shuffled toward the entrance.

Upon entering the building, the smell of hot chocolate, cappuccino, and baked goods blended in a potpourri of familiarity. The instrumental music playing from overhead lent itself to the overall feeling of coziness as we both moved to our favorite section.

As we passed by the magazines we were hailed by a woman, Shaylee, who was working for the Nook Company. Such a clever word, really…nook, as in ‘nook and cranny’: the definition of a small place for storage.

As it turns out, Shaylee had an earful ready for us in regard to her company’s newest little toy. As we stood, we listened to the spiel for this new-fangled and amazing gadget, which, as it turns out, is to be the futuristic replacement for paperbound books.

I was intrigued.

Shaylee told us all about the storage space, the ability to download your favorite titles instantly, and just how many ‘books’ you could carry along with you. As she spoke, my mind left temporarily and reverted to my fourth grade classroom.

My friends and I all sat in the upper-grade room of the two-roomed schoolhouse, while Mrs. Hopkins waved her arm in a flourish.

“One day there’ll be a reader,” she proclaimed. “Everybody will have them. We won’t even need books anymore!”

The class gasped in astonishment. Really, this couldn’t be true, could it?

“There will come a time when you’ll just get your books on little cards and slide them into your reader. No more trees will need to be cut down either. Even your textbooks will be on your slate.”

Having just read James and the Giant Peach, this most certainly sounded like magic to me—the type of which even James and his insect friends hadn’t even begun to dream of.

“How will they do it?” I asked tentatively.

“Technology,” Mrs. Hopkins said solemnly. “Thorough the advances in technology.”

I snapped back to the present as Shaylee pressed the display model into my hands and encouraged me to, “Check it out and see what this little baby can do!”

Check it out, I did.

As I scrolled down the page, I found myself amazed at just how closely the display resembled a real piece of paper. The screen’s ‘ink’ looked just like it were printed there. In reality, this thing was amazing.

It figured that the model’s displayed book would have had to be something by Jane Austin.

After nearly a ten-minute rundown on the functions and sheer awesomeness of the Nook, Shaylee let us go on our way to peruse the physical titles in the rest of the store. In moving to a shelf containing several copies of books I loved, I snatched one up and opened the cover. The pages gave away grudgingly, as if they didn’t want to give up all of the crackling words upon of them. I brought the spine of the book up to my nose and inhaled slowly. The fresh aroma of glue and paper was intoxicating; I felt like a literature junkie who had been in need of a serious fix.

As I held the book in my hands, I came to a conclusion that though devices like the Nook just might be the global answer to saving down trees, but there’s just nothing quite like the feeling of holding that paperback novel in your hands.

Besides, I find it hard to imagine myself curling up with a good Nook on a cold, winter’s night when there is a real book out there just waiting to be held—and enjoyed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Next Generation

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Even though your kids will consistently do the exact opposite of what you're telling them to do, you have to keep loving them just as much.
Bill Cosby

I spend a lot of time around teenagers. I work at a school so of course I spend some of every day with teenagers. I’ve mentioned before that I work at a detention center school - so the kids that I’m working with are in trouble. They broke the law and now they are most definitely detained. This can be a discouraging place sometimes. It’s a place that brings front and center all the problems in society with drugs, alcohol and all of the many issues that can affect families and kids. And so many of these kids come back over and over and over again. They have the court sessions here at this building as well and as I walk back and forth through the lobby on my way to the classrooms I see the parents that come for the court hearings. As you might imagine there is every type of emotion possible on display before those court sessions - Anger, embarrassment, sorrow, fatigue, apathy even relief sometimes. There are a lot of kids that are in trouble and there are a lot of families that are in trouble. Being faced with the constant barrage of negativity, it can be easy to despair.

Now, to get to my point today I need to side-track here for a minute. The other day I was watching an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation. I don’t run across Star Trek so much anymore, but I have to admit I am a fan so I also have to admit that I remember seeing this episode before. In this episode Warf was returning to the Enterprise after competing in a Bat-leth tournament. Somehow his shuttlecraft passed through a space/time continuum vortex or something and he woke up in the wrong universe for his quantum vibration. Now before you get too confused, I really do have a point. The idea behind this episode was that any time the possibility for a choice or action occurs, all of those possibilities break off and form their own parallel quantum universe. So the when Warf returned to the Enterprise he found that he had a different rank than he remembered, he was married where he hadn’t been before and some of the people who had been there before -were gone …and other’s who had been gone were back (you know how it is with those expendable crew members in Star Trek – the ones that die to prove the situation is serious). Anyway, things were different because for any particular situation there are hundreds of variables and ways that it could turn out. So Data had to configure a quantum flux-capacitor or something to get Warf back to his correct universe and everyone lived happily ever after (except for the Enterprise that was destroyed by the borg ship before the time fissure sealed….but that’s another universe)

But what does this have to do with troubled young people? Well like this episode of Star Trek I think sometimes about all the different directions that lives can take. What is it that makes one kid a relatively normal, relatively good kid and another a constant visitor to the detention center and probably future State Penitentiary inmate? The answer is….I’m not really sure.

I am grateful every day that I have good kids and I like to think that part of the reason my kids are good is because I never let them have any fun. Seriously though, both their dad and I expected them to be a good kid and have tried and are still trying to teach them to be responsible. But before we parents take all the credit, they had decisions to make too. Many of the parents I see come for juvenile court every day are no different than I and no doubt had the same expectations for their kids. But for whatever reason their kids took a turn and ended up in the wrong universe. It can be frightening to think about the choices our kids can make, how fast things can go wrong, and again it can be easy to despair.

But I’m going to go Mormon here for a minute. There was a scripture I ran across the other day in The Book of Mormon that made me start to think. It was a prophet named Samuel who was talking about young people. Helaman 15:5 And I would that ye should behold that the more part of them are in the path of their duty, and they do walk circumspectly before God, and they do observe to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments according to the law of Moses. Whether you are religious or not, all Samuel is saying that while not all the young people are doing what they are supposed to do, the more part of them are. And even faced with the daily evidence to the contrary, I think that for the most part this is true and I saw the proof of this recently.

I mentioned a blog or two back that I was going as a chaperone on a cruise with Ebay’s team. When we were getting ready to go, there was some concern about how much trouble we might have keeping some of the kids away from some of the evening entertainment and amenities on the ship. For any of you that have been on a cruise you know that while there are a lot of things to do on the ship, drinking and gambling seem to be some of the major pastimes onboard. Plus there were apparently some “rated R” shows available late at night as well. So the chaperones were anxious that the kids not be tempted to cross over to the dark side, and that if they were tempted we at least had a plan to deal with the issue. But after all that worry and concern we found that the kids were extremely capable of occupying themselves with decidedly “G-rated” activities. Some of them would play spoons (it’s actually a card game despite what it sounds like) up on the highest deck because they liked how windy it was. Some of them would have ice cream cone eating contests in the buffet (Ebay got through 14 soft-serve cones and he didn’t even win) and some of them would just hang out on the deck, watch the ocean and enjoy their teenage banter. I found that I was relieved, although, I have to admit, not surprised. I think I would have been more surprised if we had run into trouble with this group of kids.

So if you (or I) look around and despair for the future, I can testify to you that like the scripture says the more part of the kids that I know are trying to follow the “path of their duty.” And even the ones that have slipped into the wrong universe are redeemable. I guess all we can do is continue do our best to fashion the flux-capacitor that somehow brings them back to the right universe - and to hope that, despite some evidence to the contrary, the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm Not Sure What To Title This Post

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(My alma mater)

This week I received an invitation in the mail for my 20-year high school reunion.

This brought about some mixed feelings. I want to attend, but I also don't want to attend. I've reconnected on Facebook with most of the people who I would want to see again; however, it would be fun to visit some of my old stomping grounds and see others face-to-face. For sure I'd enjoy reminiscing with a handful of friends, but some of the memories that can be dredged up at such gatherings of my past are painful. The verdict is still out on whether or not I'll make the trip to be there.

You know what, though? I think that reunions are sort of like blogs. No one wears their comfiest jeans paired with a favorite bleach-stained t-shirt to a reunion. Everyone comes dressed in an outfit that makes them look their best - perhaps even clothes that were purchased specifically for the occasion. People put extra effort into what they look like when they're becoming re-acquainted with acquaintances they haven't seen for years. Hair is trimmed and styled, nails are done. No one is disheveled or unkempt. Children are perfect, marriages are happy and jobs are secure... unless someone chooses to present themselves otherwise.

Blogs are much the same way. Most people put their best-self forward and portray their lives as much more awesome than they may be in reality. There are usually not pictures of the holes in the wall or the skeletons in the closet. Everyone puts their best self out there - their funniest and most sarcastic stories, the pictures of their adorable family dressed in the latest modern-yet-retro clothing, their cleverest observations on the things we all encounter each day. Of course, there are always a few bloggers who feel comfortable sharing the intimate details of their life with these people who they haven't ever met. And that's okay, too. It's a matter of choice.

My point (and I think I have one) is that we all choose the way which we want others to perceive us by the way that we present ourselves, whether it be in the choices we make daily or weekly or even once every twenty years at a high school reunion.

If I choose to venture out to California for the reunion this summer I'd love to say that I'm going to show up in my favorite Levis, a comfortable sweatshirt and my black Converse. I wish I had the confidence to show up with my hair in braids and my face make-up free, but I know that I won't.

Either way, it's all good - because I know who I am, and I'm good with that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


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I am a sufferer of a dreaded disease; it is an illness that usually strikes without warning. Many times it is evidenced after being introduced to a simply amazing blog post via a link on a friend’s site, or being taken there though the medium of Google Reader. I read over that particular blog and think to myself, “Now that was BRILLIANT!!” (Notice that it warranted two explanation points).

I usually then go on to think something along the lines of, “Why in the name of all that is holy didn’t I think to write about that? To have that cool link? To have such an amazing header? Why didn’t I post that video? How come I’m not that funny? Why don’t I have as many comments as they do?

Blah, blah, blah, blah…

The list goes on and on.

The crux of it all comes down to the one obvious truth: I am afflicted with blogvy—much the same as the curse which took hold of Cinderella’s evil stepsisters over their mice-friendly, fairy-godmother having, and much better-looking sister who ended up with it all.

I’d have abhorred her, too.

The only real difference is that my voice isn’t nearly as grating as either of theirs. And I don’t want to go to a ball. And I could really couldn’t care less about gowns and glass slippers. Oh, and I’m not a girl. Other than that though…it’s just like it.

It is in these pathetic moments of my modest, little illness that I begin to question what I write, and wonder whether or not my minor contributions to the realm of cyberspace are really worth the time and effort involved. After all, many hours get lost in the work of writing a post that may—or may not—be brilliant.

I find myself wondering why I allow myself to compare myself to all of the Joneses out there, and all that they seemingly have. Why do I not instead concentrate on that which I do have, and my little contribution to the literary world via blogger?

Just human nature I guess.

“Teachinfourth, there’s all this horror and suffering in the world, and you’re worrying about a blog?”

Yep, guess I’m just superficial and shallow at times. However, I do have moments where I redeem myself…

I listened to a song last night by a little-known band by the name of Sanctus Real. One line of their song, Things like You, jumps out at me every time I spin it up on my iPod:

“Everyone wants everyone else's everything; sometimes the more we have the less we really gain…”

I thought of blogvy, or whatever type of desire I have at the time for those things which someone else has—or is—that I don’t have or am not; I then realized that it all comes back to me. Should I concentrate on that which I don’t have, or that which I do?

I choose the do-haves.

I can write. I have a certain boy in my class who offers up plenty of fodder from week to week. I have a place to share my photography with others. I have met some great friends though this medium. Quite simply—I love to blog.

So, this post was all about my dreaded disease, blogvy. I know that there will be times when I will still suffer from its effects, but I don’t think you need to worry, I’m pretty sure it’s not contagious.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Laundry Day

Pin It I will never again disparage the miracle of ready-access to a washer and dryer. At times I've felt that access is too-readily available, and we pile clothes in the hamper just because that washer and dryer are there...just down the hall. I complain about the number of loads I have to wash, and then the same number again to dry, and fold, and put away. I complain that before the last load is washed, another one is impatiently awaiting my attentions.

Never again.

Since we were officially out of clean clothes as of this morning (probably, honestly, as of yesterday), today was Laundry Day in Roma. This was an event, because as we've learned over the course of the past week and a half: nothing is ever easy. Because, you know...that would be too easy.

We walked yesterday, suitcases full of dirty clothing in tow, from the hotel to the airport. We'd been informed that there was a laundry service in Terminal 1, and it seemed like the perfect solution. The perfect solution, until we were standing in front of frosted glass doors and windows that were locked and barred against us. Apparently no laundry is done on Sundays in Rome.

We made the hike back to the hotel, over mechanical walkways and cobbled paths and multiple elevators, resolving to wait until the next morning.

This morning we made the hike again, thankful for those mechanical walkways that cut the distance by a little. Now we stood before a little Italian woman with glasses perched precariously on the end of her nose. "English?" I asked, the syllables lifting hopefully at the end.

"Non," she replied.

I exchanged sighs with Barbara. "Okay." We started the communication dance, an intricate ballet of gesture and carefully spoken words, as if enunciation would help to bridge that language barrier. I sent a sweeping gesture down across my suitcase and bag of dirties. "Wash? Dry? Ummmm.....lave?"

The woman's expression brightened. "Lave, si!" Then it dimmed. "No, no..." She gestured toward the suitcase, making a circle with her hands and arms. "Too beeg." She motioned toward the smaller plastic bag. "That--si." Then the suitcase, "That--no."

Well, that settled that. "Grazie," we replied, and walked away. In silence we trekked back to the hotel, pulling our bags behind us.

Once inside the Hilton, I asked the concierge about laundromats in Rome. He was very confused, but finally circled a small area on the map. "Here. Laundry service here." Hmm. It sounded similar to the same type of "service" that we'd just departed, more of a dry cleaning service than anything else.

At this point I was very determined not to walk anywhere else or do anything further until I was certain that the end result would be a suitcase full of clean clothes. Up to my room we went, where I logged on and started searching the internet for laundry solutions in Rome. Can you believe that there is actually a message board for this? Hundreds of travelers detailing their experiences with cleaning their clothes while in Rome.

Many recommended a place called OndaBlu, and upon googling it I managed to find a location close to the train station. Off we went, haunting the same mechanical walkways through the airport to the train.

Fourteen euros one way to ride the Leonardo Train from Fiumcino to the train station. A ten minute walk up and down a few streets to the address online. Eureka--OndaBlu. Load our clothes in five of the ten or so machines, and another eight euros to wash and dry. An hour and a half later, during which it storms and hails outside the glass door, and we're done. Clothes, folded and rolled neatly into our suitcases.

Another ten minute walk back to the train station, splashing through grimy puddles with those suitcases full of clean clothes, and another fourteen euros to get back to the hotel. Another hike back to the hotel through the airport.

Back in the hotel, I open my suitcase and breathe in deeply of clean clothing and exhale renewed appreciation for my own washer and dryer.

Without a doubt, the best fifty-two euros I've spent all week.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Birthday Blues

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It sometimes happens, even in the best of families, that a baby is born. This is not necessarily cause for alarm. The important thing is to keep your wits about you and borrow some money.
Elinor Goulding Smith

My little Ebay will be turning 18 in just a couple of weeks and I’m having a problem.

It’s actually not what you think. I’m not having a problem with my youngest boy entering the magical land of “legal-adultness.” I guess because I’ve already had to deal with first-born son Superdude, turning 21…what’s 18 when you already have a kid old enough to purchase alcohol legally?

No, the problem is that Ebay is turning 18 – kind of a milestone, and I am completely blanking on any kind of birthday celebration idea. As my boys have grown up, we’ve always had fun with birthdays and we’ve had some great parties over the years. Here are some of my favorites.

CAT/DOG PARTY: When Ebay was a little guy he went through a phase when he just couldn’t be bothered to speak to people and would…well…meow instead. In honor of this anti-social animalistic behavior we had a Cat/Dog party. The young guests were provided with either cat or dog ears and nose and served cookies in the shape of dog biscuits and fish served in animal-type food bowls on the floor. I can’t quite remember what the games were, but I remember that it was a fun party.

COWBOY PARTY: This one was for Ebay too. The kids made their own stick horses and then we had a rodeo in the back yard complete with cardboard box cows that we would rope and rustle. Then of course we cooked hot dogs over a fire in the sand pit and had IBC Root beer in those old fashioned brown bottles.

HOTEL POOL PARTY: This one was for Superdude in about 5th or 6th grade I think and was probably one of my favorites. We rented a room at a local hotel with a swimming pool (the La Quinta in Orem I think). Super dude invited his three best friends and they all went to have sleep-over at the hotel. They swam in the pool, ate pizza in the room and jumped on the hotel beds. Then Mommy went home and the boys stayed in the room with Dad to watch videos and maybe even …sleep (or not).

As I’ve mentioned before, Superdude was smart enough to have his birthday coincide with the ultimate party day (New Year’s Day) so as he grew up, having parties for Superdude is pretty easy and kind of came with the territory at that time of year.

Ebay’s birthday has always been a little harder at this time of the year – still good because at least the weather is starting to be nicer, but not as automatic as a New Year’s Party if you know what I mean. We’ve had a lot going on lately too with the cruise and everything– plus I’m taking a really hard (for me at least) math class and my brain is just completely full of trying to remember how to solve for X. So now Ebay is quickly approaching the big One-Eight and I got nothing - No ideas at all, or at least no good ones. It is easier having teenage birthday parties because it can be as easy as putting food out and then getting out of the way. But I would like to up the stakes just a little bit for the 18th birthday. Something cool but not too expensive? Something fun but not too juvenile? Something memorable but not too messy?

So what do you think everybody…any ideas?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The World Through Dark-Tinted Glasses

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photo found at thrivesmart.com

I like to wear my sunglasses for many reasons, the main one being that my eyes are a very light color, which makes them ultra sensitive to sunlight. However, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. My favorite reason for wearing sunglasses is that they allow me to be more observant of the people I encounter each day.

I was thinking about this recently and wondered why it is that strangers tend to avoid eye contact with each other. In my opinion, human beings are the most interesting entity on our planet. I mean sure, nature has its beauty and intricacies. Architecture has lines and shapes which can be striking and fascinating. Technology also never ceases to impress me. But the individuality and personality reflected in every human being alive is absolutely amazing if we take the time to notice each other.

Behind every face is a story to be told. A lifetime of stories, really. Each person we encounter is a walking shell which encompasses so much more! Our bodies are simply containers for the hopes, fears, dreams, disappointments and experiences that we carry within us. Just one look into a person's eyes is all I need to get a feel for the life that exists inside the exterior. The whole idea that 'the eyes are a window to the soul'? I totally buy into that. I love to look into people's eyes and get some idea of what's really there.

I think it's why most of us enjoy people-watching. Do you ever create stories for the people who pass you by? We are some pretty amazing creations, and no two are exactly alike! Think about that.

Check us out! We're incredible!

Another point of view that comes to mind in regard to all of this is how technology comes into play with the increasing lack of actual human interaction these days. That, my friends, is a whole other post. For now I'll just say that I miss the days where letters and a knock on the door were the primary ways we communicated with each other. Don't get me wrong - I love my computer and cell phone as much as the next guy. But when there is a flesh-and-blood person, a real-life human being around, how could people be more interested in typing abbreviated messages into some handheld technology than enjoying a little face to face conversation?

Actually, come to think of it, I may not need to hide behind my sunglasses anymore as an excuse to enjoy the diversity of my fellow earth-inhabitants. Most of them would likely not even notice my curiosity. Maybe I'll just smile and boldly look into each of the multitude of faces I come across each day. And if someone happens to find the time to meet my gaze?

I think I'll start with a simple, "Hello."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Poet

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I walked the vibrant sidewalks of Haight and Ashbury. Loud noises and colorful individuals weaved their way in a sea of bodies. I made my way down the bustling avenue where sound—as well as smell—played part in this concoferic assault of the senses.

As I came to the next street corner, I saw the man. He was sitting—quite simply—at a small fold-up table with an ancient typewriter before him. His fingers touched the keys and metal arms flew to the paper, making that familiar clicking sound; the one I remembered so well from when I was a kid.

The sign sitting next to him read: Pick a subject & price then get a poem.

I was captivated.

My mind fell back to Goonies, a small knick knack oddity store, and felt somewhat disappointed by the prophecies of Zambini—the digital fortuneteller I’d spent a quarter on. You know, I’ve always wanted to have my palm read and my fortune told, only I could never bring myself to pay for them—especially since it mostly likely would be a sham. This prospect was far more promising. To hear the words of a live person, which would write about whatever subject I wanted?


I fished a few dollars from my pocket and extended these to the man at the typewriter. He took the bills and sized me up with deep eyes. “What’s your subject?” he asked in a light voice, sounding like the whisper of air though organ pipes.

“Adventures and daily living,” I said quietly.

The man drew a crisp, new sheet of paper from his backpack and slid it into the typewriter. He sat for a moment or two, then began to form thoughts and ideas onto the page before him. The rhythmic clicking of the keys was the indicator of his free-flowing thought.

I took a few photos as the muse recorded the final words that unfolded from beneath gloved fingers. The sheet was ceremoniously lifted from the carriage with a mechanical grating of the gearwork, and his chocolate eyes scanned the words he’d written.

He handed me the ashen page, the back of which felt rough, like raised Braille to a sightless man.

I folded the paper in half, tucked it into my pocket, and waited to read it.

To see mountains in mashed potatoes and canyons in curly fries… is an adventure indeed.

By the way, another photo or two of said man can be found HERE, as well as the absolutely lame Zambini prophecy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

To Be Safe

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From the time I was around 15 years old I have always worn a safety pin on my clothing.

The favored place is around a belt loop on my jeans, but they have been pinned to other places as needed; a tag on the underside of a skirt, through shoelaces, just inside a pocket. The location of the safety pin is not important, what IS important is what they do for me.

They keep me safe.

This habit started with a friend who did the same thing. His name was Jason Killilea and I noticed his safety pins along the bottom seam of his Jimmy'Z shorts for weeks before asking why he wore them. "To keep me safe!" he countered, and it made perfect sense.

Safety pins = safety.

Their name suddenly opened up a whole new mindset. And so I borrowed his unique idea and made it my own.

Safety pins along the seams of my favorite jean jacket. Safety pins as jewelry. Safety pins adorning my shoes. Safety pins everywhere! And when asked why I wear them, I have always echoed the answer that Jason gave to me decades ago: to keep me safe.

An added bonus is that I am amazed at how often someone is in need of a safety pin - and I get to be the hero who happens to have one handy.

I never would have imagined that this was something I would carry into my adult years. The funny thing is, though, I have remained safe.

Is it because of the safety pins?

Well, who am I to say that it's not?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Pin It I should have something to say this week.

Really, I should. I should have planned better and taken care of my responsibilities to blog on my day at my regular time.

However, I didn’t.

I could blame it on the fact that I am still down camping in the wilderness and won’t be home until later tonight. I know, I set this to post before I left and wrote it in a hurry amidst packing for my southern expedition. I am such a fickle friend.

Tomorrow morning I leave for California.

I will return though.

I promise.

In the meantime, you can always watch this because it made me laugh. Thanks, Shanna.

Don't worry, I'll be back in full force next week.

Try to smile without me...

Monday, April 5, 2010


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In roughly five months, Autumn will enter the not-so-hallowed halls of the county middle school, ready and eager to be forever changed by the Dread Middle School Experience.

I've always described these grades--six through eight--as the absolute only grades I would NEVER, in a MILLION, BAZILLION years, EVER teach. I mean, really...why would you subject yourself to that perpetual sloppy tween angst, the indescribable skin horrors, the shuddering pubescence...the...smells? Ick. I'm so glad I only have to revisit it one child at a time. Small, contained doses are okay. I'll be okay.

At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

What brought this on? I took my car in to the car wash today for its annual ultimate cleaning (I do mean annual), and, needing to kill some serious time, strolled across the four-lane to the mall with the kids. Has anyone ever attempted to cross a busy four-lane road with two kids in tow? I had a death-grip on Lawson's sweaty seven year-old hand, convinced that he would attempt to make a break for it at any moment and dive in front of a speeding Escalade. Forbearing that, I was sure that a rogue bus driver would decide that the curb was The Spot To Be. All other considerations aside, you know those eyes just aren't what they used to be, and I was positive I had missed a vehicle at some point in my look once, look twice, look a few dozen more times just to be on the safe side routine. I'm such a freak.

But we made it. We did a little spring and summer clothes shopping and then settled in to watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This movie was amazing....Ferris Bueller for middle schoolers. I cackled all the way through, and empathy-cringed at some of the more painful moments.

Diary is about this kid, Greg Heffley, who suffers acutely as he tries to fit in and discover the secret to the elusive "popularity." He condescends terribly to his best friend, whom he worries will just "never get it," because he's so different. He runs in circles trying this, and trying that, and failing miserably at each and every thing...because nothing quite fits. Meanwhile Rowley, that best friend, walks his own unique path happily and unapologetically. To Greg's frustration, it is Rowley who gains popularity without even trying while Greg's desperate efforts glean him nothing but a seat on the cafeteria floor.

It hit me about half way through the movie: what a hero Rowley is. What a fabulous movie for my daughter to be seeing on the cusp of entering middle school. I leaned over to Autumn and whispered into her ear. "You know why everyone likes Rowley so much?"

"Why?" she whispered back.

"Because he knows exactly who he is, and he doesn't try to be someone he isn't," I told her. She nodded, and we went back to watching the movie.

I hope she gets it, and lives it. It's something so many kids really struggle with, for a long time--being unafraid to be true to themselves. She's fearful of being labeled as different right now, and I understand that. It's difficult to see past being different to the other side of yourself--the strong, secure side.

Strong, secure...even when you're just this side of wimpy.

Friday, April 2, 2010


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A writer is rarely so well inspired as when he talks about himself.

- Anatole France

First of all, I have to apologize to my fan (I think I’ve got one specific Mel fan out there – or maybe a stalker?) about being a wishy-washy poster this month. I’ve had a bunch of papers to write for school and I’m afraid there’s only so much ram in my brain for producing written word on a weekly basis.

Second I just had to agree with Gerb’s blog this week. So much so that I’m tempted to just cut and paste and add a “Ditto from Mel” at the bottom of the page.

You may never guess from reading my posts, but I am actually better in writing than in real life – articulation-wise that is. I feel like unless I am VERY well prepared I can very quickly turn into a blathering idiot in real-life conversation. But I’ve also come to realize that I’m kind of a mood writer – probably comes from journaling. You know when you write in your journal when your happy you write the happy thoughts when your sad you write the sad thoughts. So consequently when I am feeling weary and down-trodden all that seems to come to mind is the Mel version of the “Hamlet Soliloquy” (in the “To be or not to be” sense not in the quality of prose). I do have one of those “little black rain-clouds” that can follow me around from time to time, but it’s not such a great idea to indulge in that on a weekly basis - plus so not fun to read about either.

I do have a frivolous thing on my mind today however. Ebay and I are going on a Cruise! Ebay’s ballroom team is going to perform on a Cruise ship for their tour this year and I get to go along and make sure that all the teenagers are minding their manners. I’m pretty stressed about getting ready for this right now, but once we get there I’m sure it will be totally fun.

So apparently on a cruise there is a formal night – where everyone gets dressed up a’la The Love Boat for the Captain’s dinner in the formal dining room. Now it’s been awhile since I’ve had to dress for anything formal so I had to go out and buy dress for this occasion – well I actually bought it online which leads me to the next issue. I like the dress pretty well but I’m having….how do I say this…cleavage issues with this dress. It’s pretty modest, it’s got sleeves and all of that. But it’s got this kind of wide neckline that in the real world,would probably be fine – prudish even. But I find that I am just not used to that much….exposure. But on the other hand I’m on a cruise – why not show a little cleavage? But on the other hand I’m supposed to be a chaperone and cleavage isn’t usually part of the chaperone uniform. But on the other hand I’m probably the only one that thinks it’s too low. But on the other hand I’m the one that has to wear it and how comfortable will I be if I spend the whole evening worried about over-exposure. But on the other hand I may be seated in the dining room by a dashing man that I might want to flirt with. But on the other hand I haven’t flirted with anyone for along time and was never really all that great at it in the first place – I’d hate to freak anyone out.

So there you go. I find that I am frivilously alternating between the push-up bra cleavage version or the wrap-around-scarf-nunnery version of the formal dress. I’ll be weighing this decision over the next couple of days… while watching LDS General Conference come to think about it. I guess that’ll pretty much make the decision for me.

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