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Thursday, July 29, 2010


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Nature reserves the right to inflict upon her children the most hilarious of jests. ~Thornton Wilder

I started writing last week’s post last Thursday evening. But then got caught up in a conversation with Superdude about the future and wedding plans and life lessons and it turned into one of those rare times with my grown-up son where it seemed we were talking as two grown-up people and not just his “mom” if you know what I mean. Anyway, I hated to break it off and the chat went kind of late so I thought to finish my blog in the morning and post it then.

But on Friday morning when I logged into Four Perspectives I noticed that we had a guest blogger, Rebecca, who did a very poetic post about how much she loves nature. Coincidentally, having just come back from a week in the mountains, I too had a blog about nature. However, mine has a somewhat different tone than the lovely Rebecca’s and to post it over the top of her ode to trees just didn’t seem all that hospitable. So I elected to let post slide last week in the name of familial relationships and Four Perspective hospitality.

But now, here it is - my own ode to nature.

I’ve mentioned in my last few posts that I was heading up into the mountains for a week with the young women from my church. As I’ve also mentioned, it is a beautiful and very picturesque spot. The air is filled with the smell of warm grass mixed with the sharp scent of pine. The wind plays it’s own symphony as it rushes and dances through the trees and when the stars come out at night they are as close and bright as diamonds on black velvet. It is indeed one of those intoxicating nature spots that, like a handsome man, can seduce you with its sites, scents, sounds and spirit…right before he dumps all over you.

Let me explain.

As the official camp cook, I was up an hour or so before everybody else in the morning and had time to sit in the stillness and watch the morning peek over the glacial ridge. Wildlife is abundant and apparent at Mia Shalom content in the knowledge that none of these humans intend them harm. And the little creatures of the forest are especially inclined to visit when there is just one lone person in the camp, and when that person is obligingly offering them pieces of pancake as a welcome. I had a couple of picturesque mornings like this where the animals would come to visit me as I stirred the fire and scrambled eggs – even a mother deer and her fauns came through the camp. It came to me that I had discovered a new identity. In the quiet solitude of the morning I had become….a Disney Princess. Yes indeed I was as one of the pantheon of Disney beauties that charmed the very birds of the air and beasts of the field with their sweetness and light. Ok, so I was bribing them with pancakes, but still I was surrounded every morning with this vast array of woodland creatures that, quite frankly, seemed to enjoy my company…and my pancakes. I proudly announced to the girls after one of my morning encounters I had become a Disney Princess. The girls responded with an empathy and an understanding of that state of grace that only teen-aged girls would understand.

However, the next morning I started to notice a kind of disturbing trend. The day started in it’s familiar enchanting fashion. I was mixing and cooking while the animals arrived one by one watching and seeming to wait politely, entertained by the birds singing and hopping from branch to branch in the morning sun. Distracted by the dance of nature, I had cooked some scrambled eggs into a too-well-done state and so tossed a few into the tall grass a few feet away from the cooking area. One little chipmunk went to take a look sniffing gingerly at the eggs. At that moment, the tone of the bird song changed a bit. Two birds swooped aggressively towards the little chipmunk kind of chittering in a not particularly friendly manner. The chipmunk backed away to his shady spot under the picnic bench while the birds landed and apparently staked their claim to the scrambled egg domain. While I couldn’t help but wonder how Snow White would have handled this little territorial dispute, it wasn’t enough to completely dispel fairy-tale haze of the morning. But then the gangster-birds started eating the scrambled eggs.

Do you understand what I’m saying?

The birds were eating, well, other birds sort of!

Now I’ve seen The Lion King so I understand the “circle and life” and all that. But this seemed to me to be decidedly un-Disney-like cannibalism! What would Cinderella say?

And before you start thinking that it was just a couple of bad “bird-seeds” stirring up trouble and rebelling against nature let me just tell you that before I could even collect my spatula a whole bunch of other gangster-cannibal birds busted in with their bird-buddies and starting chowing-down too.

So that was troubling on a lot of levels. But I could shake it off. I’ve never been that big a fan of birds anyway – they’ve always kind of creeped me out. Plus I still had my little furry friends. But even that fantasy was deflated a few minutes later when a new chipmunk visitor came calling. What made this little guy unique was that he was on the hunt, on the prowl, makin’ the moves and just plain lookin’ for love in all the wrong places. And judging by the reactions of the all the other chipmunks he wasn’t exactly the prince charming of the chipmunk world – or maybe that’s just how it goes down with chipmunks – I don’t really know. Anyway most of the other chipmunks (apparently females) scattered to the trees. But one female was just a tad too slow (distracted ironically, by a plump ripe cherry I had thrown her way) and he was…I don’t really know how to say this…all over her. Well she wasn’t having any of it and the chase was on. Round and round and up and down and ending in a frenzy of fur that quite frankly is going to take me awhile to forget. Again, this isn’t something that Giselle had to deal with in Enchanted – even the cockroaches behaved themselves for her.

So my princess crown had kind of slipped a little bit and I’m sorry to say that other cracks were starting to show as well in the gossamer glow of my morning fairy tale. There was group of 3 little round ground squirrels or pot guts, as they are known up here. They seemed to be genially sharing a bit of leftover pancake – kind of passing it around. But as I watched them they began to take on the rather disturbing quality of a group of beer-bellied rednecks. I could almost imagine them slapping each other on the back and cracking open another keg – was I actually witnessing some kind of Pot gut poker game? And then there were the bugs. In the movies Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella were surrounded by beautiful butterflies or glowing fireflies, while I was spending an awful lot of time trying not to have most of my blood sucked away by the ever-increasing army of mosquitoes. And what is with those big horseflies? Every couple of minutes I had one of them banging into my head. Do they have no internal navigation? No sense of direction?

The piece de resistance though came a couple of hours later. The girls were up and a few of us were sitting around the table having just finished breakfast. The girls asked me if I had had another “Disney-Princess-Morning.” I smiled wanly through my memories of beer-bellied pot guts and lascivious chipmunks as I assured them that, yes indeed my forest friends were in attendance this morning and had seasoned their breakfast burritos with nature’s harmony. Just then about 10 feet away on the small trail above the campsite a deer pushed his way through the bushes and stopped to look at us, blinking his large expressive brown eyes in what seemed to be surprise, but not fear.

“Oh my gosh! You are a Disney Princess!” one of the girl’s exclaimed.

Unfortunately the dear deer picked that exact moment to charmingly shower the bushes with his own version of Mountain Dew. That’s right he had to pick that exact second after the declaration that I might actually be a Disney-princess to urinate all over that possibility. And not only that but he punctuated this pugilism by turning around, lifting his tail and giving as a full view of the deer pellets dropping out of his little furry butt.

Well we all cracked up. What else can you do? We laughed and laughed and I admitted to the girls that while I had indeed had my moments of Disney-Princessness, I seemed to invite more of the dark-side of Disney. Maybe I’m more of a reality-show kind of Disney Princess.

Anyway I’m really not surprised. You may remember that my own children compare me to the best of the Wicked Queens so what was I thinking? Besides, as Princess Diana, the ultimate reality princess said, “Being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Practical Gifts

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photo from uprightpiano.com

Back when we were dating and having those get-to-know you conversations Allen asked me if there was anything I wished I could have done in my life, but hadn't. My answer came easily: I never learned to play the piano. It was a dream I had since given up on and I was okay with that now, but I was still fascinated by those who could flawlessly tickle the ivories and produce beautiful music.

A few Christmases after we were married Allen suggested that we be a bit frivolous and buy each other something more pricey and unpractical than we normally would. This came as a surprise because our gifts to this point were always something practical. Things like car parts and needed clothing. I immediately knew what I wanted to buy him but could not keep it a secret because he would have to be sized - a pair of skis and ski boots. I personally held NO love for attempting to balance myself upon two narrow sticks while barreling down a snow-packed mountain but I knew that it was something he would enjoy owning and something we would likely never purchase otherwise.

As Christmas approached he would drop hints about my gift, but nothing which gave it away. In fact, I was thoroughly convinced that I was getting a deep-freezer and tried to be excited about it.

Christmas morning came and we went to his sister's house to celebrate with his family. There my gift sat in the front room, larger than life among the smaller gifts scattered around the tree. My guesses were confirmed - something that large could only be what I had imagined. I kept telling myself that it would be great to have a place to store lots of ice cream despite my slight disappointment that my gift was once again something practical.

When I opened the box, I was shocked to see it - a piano! He reminded me of our conversation a few years back and told me that we would both be taking lessons and learning to play. I was in shock... it was the most thoughtful, beautiful gift I had ever received. And completely unpractical! I loved it.

We did attempt lessons for a while, but with small children underfoot and Allen in school we eventually had to change our plans. I resigned myself to the idea that I could look forward to the day when my own kids could help the piano to sing.

Fast forward a few years, when my oldest turned 8. He started lessons and seemed to pick things up fairly quickly but he refused to practice. We were up in arms with each other for almost a full year but eventually I could no longer justify the cost of the lessons if he would not do his part. I wondered if my piano would ever produce the music that I dreamed of hearing in my home.

This brings me to today. As I write this post, my 5 oldest kids (even my oldest boy who eventually learned the benefit of having a musical talent) are taking their turns practicing on my piano. The oldest 3 can play some of my favorite songs, and they often do. It is such a thrill to hear how they have progressed over the years, from Pop Goes The Weasel to Fur Elise to some of my favorite songs from the radio, musicals and our church hymnal.

It turns out that my most favorite gift, one that I saw at the time as magnificently unpractical, has turned out to be the most practical gift of all - and it is a gift which keeps on giving. It has given my children the gift of learning the benefits of practicing and sticking to something. It has given them the ability to gain a talent which can benefit our home as well as others. The best gift of all, however, is the gift I have been given - my home is filled with the music that I could never produce myself. Instead I produced children who, in time, have shared their gifts with me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Creepy Factor

Pin It There are moments throughout my life where creepy things just seem to happen; of course, this can usually be attributed to disturbing-ish people. You know about the people of whom I speak: maybe it’s the stranger staring at you with eerie eyes from across a room. Perhaps it’s when you get the anonymous phone call late at night, and it’s mostly just heavy breathing. And sometimes—just sometimes—it happens when you get that message on Facebook with no profile linked back to it…

Does anyone else find that this is particularly creepy, with just a hint of flattering thrown in for good measure?

Of course, I find the bad grammar much more disturbing, but the overall message is blindingly clear…people want me.

Creepyness can do so much for the ego.

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's all Quite Simple


I'm a New Zealander who has lived in Italy for the past four years. I have two beautiful kids, and a hot husband! I love, love, love to write. I am very passionate about books and the outdoors. I am a seeker, I hope I may inspire my children to be such also.

I watched the full moon rise above the hill behind our house tonight. It was gorgeous. The sky tinged blue above the trees as if a somber sun was rising. Yesterday I pulled up lettuce from our garden and made a big, lush salad. I took a long walk in the rain and held my face up to the sky. I closed my eyes to listen to a bird's song. I smiled at a spider making its way down our hall. I took my shoes off to walk in grass. I sat on a hill to watch black storm clouds rush across the blue sky.

I simply love this world around me.

There's a tree on our neighbour's property that I adore. I made friends with them originally just so I could go see this particular tree. Fortunately they are really nice, but I'm sure I would have allowed anyone to visit that tree if it belonged to me. It stands amongst the others like a wise old chief. I spent a lovely hour of this afternoon lying under it.

I grew up being entertained, inspired, and quite nearly babysat by the trees.

Growing up in a tiny, country community on the West Coast of New Zealand meant an absolute abundance of virgin earth to play in with my friends. Beyond that, however, it kindled within me a poetic spirit. I am filled with awe on a daily basis, and I need only walk the same simple wooded hill near my home to enjoy this. I may marvel at the same thing today as I did yesterday.

The same tree, my quiet Chief, the same blades of grass, wildflowers, rolling hills; but they never do look the same to me. With the glorious flowing seasons, and ever-changing shades of light from minute to minute, the landscape around us can be our constant 'change of scene' that so many of us desire in perilous and insatiable amounts. The intimacy that may be cultivated in rediscovering over and over again that the beauty in one simple patch of our good Earth is awesome. With our current economic and environmental situation would it not be a gift to ourselves - to our world - to reteach ourselves to be more easily pleased? To feel holiday-kissed after our daily walk in the park? After our evening walk with the kids? After a cup of tea in our own back garden?

I enjoy travel, and have traveled a bit, much more than some, much less than many. I've discovered many beautiful places, but it is the places I know as well as a dear friend that I am truly inspired by; the places I've seen in countless (but hardly all) shades of light. It's the places I've seen in rain, dew, frost, and sun that move me so deeply.

Tomorrow I'm planning a trip, I'm heading down the hill to lie under my favourite tree. Perhaps the wind will be blowing the leaves about, perhaps a bird has made a nest, the sunlight will do what it will to gift me with diversity, and I need not go far from home.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Starting Over

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photo from countrysideucc.org

I know what you're thinking.

What the heck is Gerb blogging on Mel's day for?

Actually, I know that the truth of the matter is that you likely didn't notice. And it's okay. No hard feelings. Because, guess what? I forgot that yesterday was Wednesday. And no worries, I'm sure you'll still have a post from Mel to look forward to later.

I realized that today was Thursday at around 3:00 this morning as my husband and I spent some time with our feverish, but very happy (delirious, maybe?) 2-year-old. I'm not sure what triggered a switch in my brain right then, but that was where I realized that I had missed my opportunity to write here at Four Perspectives.

Just before my sickie son woke up he had finished a long string of talking in his sleep by singing a condensed version of the Veggie Tales theme song.

Maybe this is what happens when you combine Otter Pops with children's Tylenol before bedtime? Who knows. But either way, it was soothingly humorous to lay in bed and listen to my little man chatter to the unknown in his dreams.

Earlier that day we had sent our 9-year-old daughter to the rodeo with some friends, after which Allen and I took our 14-year-old out to dinner and an amazing show for her birthday. When we got home from our excursion we discovered that not only was our 2-year-old burning up with fever, but the 9-year-old had thrown up all over the stands at the rodeo and her friend's mom had cleaned up the resulting aftermath. Did I mention that half of my family had been pukey-sick the day before that with a 24-hour flu sort of thing? I swear they all seemed fine when we left. So, yeah. I'm Mother of the Year.

Before that I was attempting to buy some clothes for the birthday girl who is at the in-between stage where she is too big for Little Girl clothes and too small for the Junior section. We were gone for somewhere near six hours and finally found her an undershirt that fit. Happy birthday, sweetheart! I hope you love that undershirt. (That's about as awesome as getting underwear for Christmas, I'm pretty sure.)

I'll tell you what.

Let's all just pretend that yesterday didn't even happen.

I'll be back next week.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Walk on the Ocean

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I went to the beach with my friends while here in California. I sat on the shoreline, listening to the waves crashing endlessly against the fine-grained sand, and felt the film of sea salt coat my lips. Children frolicked in the waves, and dogs paraded up and down the beach with their owners, chasing rubber balls and Frisbees.

I munched silently on handfuls of peanut M&Ms and watched the seagulls soaring overhead, their cries caught in the salty breeze and whisked away. After some time, I moved quietly down to the frothy water and submerged my feet in the coolness of an ocean thousands of miles across. The waves danced around my ankles and eddied back and forth with a thousand flashes of broken light across its surface

I was touching water touching all the continents of the Earth. I never before felt so connected to this world around me.

I smiled and moved from the breaking waves, feeling the parched sand gripping my sodden feet as I walked back from the water’s edge to the blanket farther up on the shore. I sat down and sprawled back in the California sun, soaking up its warmth and golden richness. I felt that I could have sat there all day long.

And though I soon became burned on my legs, arms, and face, I couldn’t help but look back on that moment as one of wonderful introspection. My red-hot skin a reminder of the moment I had connected with the world, and the world with me.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Pin It You know, I really felt Mel's post last Thursday: "all things are difficult before they are easy."

It probably has a lot to do with the fact that she was writing her Thursday post on Monday and here it is... Monday, almost 8 p.m., and I'm...sort of...blank. It's Monday. And it's difficult.

My brain is cluttered today with grocery lists, Lowe's lists, swim practice, tumbling practice, four hours in 95 degree sun re-potting the twenty or so containers of mid-summer plants that have decided to take over my patio, a house that hasn't been cleaned since we left for vacation in June, and laundry. Piles upon piles of laundry. I have taken a break to blog, but I really don't know what to blog. I could tell you that I have made terrific progress but before I go to bed I still have a pumpkin to dig out of its home in a pot, because it took up residence uninvited, but now refuses to actually grow any pumpkins on its vines, which are currently spreading mayhem all over my flower bed, but that would probably bore you.

The fact is, my brain is slowly, irrevocably being squashed into submission by the mundane.

I just thought you'd like to know.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


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All things are difficult before they are easy.

Thomas Fuller

Maybe it’s because it’s Monday.

You see my blog day is usually Thursday, so I don’t really start thinking about what to write about until….well Wednesday evening at the earliest and, to be honest, sometimes Thursday evening at about 11:59pm.

But it’s Monday today and I’m trying to come up with a topic to kind of pre-post because, like Lori with her VBS and Gerb a few weeks ago, it’s my turn now to exercise my talents, patience, fortitude and faith and head up to camp with the young women I go to church with each week.

Unlike Lori’s VBS though, we don’t take phones or ipods or laptops out to the wilderness, so I’ve got to take a minute to write a blog that will post on my usual Thursday even though I will actually be far, far away attempting to perfect my campfire cooking skills.

I’ve written about this upcoming event a little bit already and I was really trying not to repeat myself, but frankly I don’t have anything else on my mind at all – I am all consumed with all things camp this evening because I’ve reached the culmination of all the planning – ready or not we leave bright and early tomorrow morning. Superdude and Ebay both took the day off from work to help me pre-cook some of the food and organize and pack (thanks SO much guys) and we now have a mountain of coolers and totes stacked in the hallway and waiting the packing of the trailer in the morning.

Since I’m not as nice a person as Gerb is, I can’t honestly say that I’m excited to go to camp. I have kind of a hard time being away. With my aforementioned Martha tendencies, I worry about what I’m not doing that I should be doing while I’m gone with regards to work and school. I recognize that it’s a little crazy and I haven’t always been this way, but that’s just where I am in my life right now. Plus with my social pariah sort of personality, I mentally have a hard time being with a group of people, any group of people 24/7 – which is also a little crazy, but it honestly does take some effort for me. And finally, I’m just reaching the age where I’m noticing that it’s just kind of physically demanding to spend a week hauling coolers and totes and firewood and trudging the equivalent of four or five blocks every time one has to go to the bathroom – may my pioneer fore-mothers forgive me, - but it just makes me tired.

But on the other hand, it’s something that I know I can do…and I know that I can do it well. I can’t play a Mozart Violin Concerto, I can’t sing a Puccini Aria, but I can organize the heck out of a camping trip (among other things) – which I’ve learned isn’t something that everyone has the knack for. So even though it takes me a little more effort to find my enthusiasm, I recognize that my particular peculiar talent is of use in this situation and I actually find that I am glad to be able to provide this service to these young women.

I am glad that it’s finally here – that camp time has finally come.

I’ve been at this planning thing the past 4 months or so.

I’ve been packing totes for the past couple of weeks or so.

I’ve done everything I can do and I am, yes I am feeling a bit tired.

But maybe it’s because it’s Monday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leave It To Bieber

Pin It Today's post surprises me more than any of you. I never, ever in my lifetime thought I would be writing about Justin Bieber, but here we are. Life is sort of funny that way, isn't it?

I first heard about this kid in snippets of conversation among my teenagers. "I don't get the whole hype. He sounds like a 5-year-old girl!" "Forget what he sounds like, he looks like a 5-year-old girl."

I asked who they were talking about and they imparted their limited knowledge of this YouTube discovered singing sensation who was melting the hearts of 10-year-old girls everywhere. "I think you're just jealous," I told them. "He probably already has more money than you'll ever see in your lifetime."

They got me curious. I looked him up on YouTube and read about him in Wikipedia and I came to this conclusion: Justin Bieber is the New Kids On The Block of my day. Everyone either loved them or hated them, there was no in-between. The group of friends I was with every spare moment were of the haters-club and so I became one as well. Until I heard one of their songs on the radio. I didn't know who the singers were (had actually never heard their music before my friends started bashing them) and really liked the song. So I became a closet semi-fan. At one point I even purchased some 'I heart NKOTB' stickers and plastered them on my friend Terry's locker at school, thinking it would be funny. He was furious. That secret has remained with me... until today. But I'm pretty sure he doesn't follow either of my blogs, so it's all good.

Anyhow - my point is this. Justin Bieber seems like a decent kid who lucked out in the music industry. I could never follow him on Twitter because his grammar is atrocious; but hey, the kid can sing. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he's got some talent - at least until he hits puberty.

Oh, wait - I guess he's already 16.

I have to concede one thing to my kids, though - I'm not sure about a 5-year-old, but he does look a lot like my 3-year-old girl...
Or maybe it's just that they both need haircuts.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Absences and Archives

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By the time you read this post I will have been on the freeway for at least 2 ½ hours guided by my newly-acquired TomTom. Of course, I will still have somewhere near about 9 hours to go before I arrive at my destination - provided that you read this right after it was scheduled to be run...

This would probably be a good time to let you know that I decided to take a week or two off from the blogging scene. This is partially because I am headed to California for a few weeks to visit with old friends.

Who moved without telling me.

I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t want the pressure of blogging hanging over me whilst I was gone, so decided to take a temporary leave of absence.

What would you then that I should read today, Teachinfourth?

Oh, I’m so glad that you asked.

For the readers of my other blog, I provided a page on which I’ve created a ‘greatest hits’ so to speak of my favorite posts by basic groupings. Out of the 700+ posts I’ve written over the past three years, I narrowed it down somewhere in the area of 90%.

So, my friends, I provide you with a collection of the best of the best. No fluff and pointless one-sentence posts about paltry or worthless items, contests, or herds of magical unicorns (well, maybe one post about magical unicorns). Imagine this as Journey's Greatest Hits (or Rumors by Fleetwood Mac which should have been a greatest hits album since every song on the thing is simply amazing).

See you in a week or two. Until then, happy archiving

Sunday, July 11, 2010

At Least the Decorations Look Good

Pin It If you've been clicking fruitlessly on my "Day's End" blog, wondering why I've been hovering at the precipice of Blog Earth, the truth is, I'm not a bad blogger, I'm just a really absorbed Vacation Bible School Director who has discovered that she no longer knows how to multi-task.

VBS began today (er...that'll be yesterday tomorrow). I can measure my summer thus far in blocks of time: bathroom remodel, Tennessee, visit with Dad, Nationals (yay, Autumn!), three weeks of VBS prop and set design, and now VBS Week. Summer is really kind of slithering away too quickly for me to relax and settle into it the way I'd like to, too slick for me grasp hold of it and just inhale. I'm reeling from "vacation" to "vacation," making it from day to day, and now it' already VBS. It's here. Which is good, which is great...don't get me wrong--I love VBS. Just really, at times, sometimes...a body just wants to curl up and read another body's blog, you know? Or maybe stroke out at the pool. That's all.

But it's VBS week. So picture me doing the aidiadiadiadiadiadaa head spin thingy (who does that, anyway? Is it Chester Cheetah?) and getting my head on straight. Okay. It's there. Kinda.

VBS Week is always a Really Big Deal around these parts. I apologize for the caps, but VBS Week kind of warrants them in my life. I've directed it at my little country church for several many years, and it's a big evangelistic event, even for a small church. There are so many witnessing opportunities, and so many lives that are reached through it, year and year. I love being a part of it.

But after building a hundred or so polystyrene rocks, a covered wagon, and a nice little western tableau with a ranch entrance, evergreens, and a howling coyote, I'm thinking I probably should've postponed that whole healthy eating thing. Caffeine sounds pretty good right about now. We even have a horse roped to a hitching post. Very cute, our decorations.

Our kids are pretty cute, too. We had a great little group of them, sitting expectantly in the pews chitter-chattering away while I attempted to keep from pulling my hair out at the roots ten minutes after the Worship Rally was supposed to have begun. Parents sat in the back rows, their foreheads furrowed with the "wasn't this show supposed to have started?" query.

It's a truth that I hold to be self-evident that if something can go wrong with your computer, it's going to go wrong on Day One of VBS. Even if it didn't go wrong during your dry run the day before. Or the Sunday before when you used it for Children's Church. But when you have the pews packed full of a captive audience and the clock is ticking, it's going to happen.

We run a powerpoint with Worship Rally that flashes slides of the song lyrics, plus a dvd that helps the kids learn the accompanying motions to the songs. It's our visual hymnal. Without it, we're pretty much sunk. In our dry run yesterday, the sound tech was having difficulty reading the sound off of my computer, so decided to use a different computer--no problem. Today, however, the LCD projecter wouldn't sync with that computer. Solution: send a runner the two miles down the road for my computer and forgo the DVD motions. We'd wing that part--as long as the lyrics were on the screen, we could teach the motions and be fine.

Only it was taking a little longer than anticipated for the computer to actually arrive and I was running out of material to keep my audience entertained. I'd done everything I could think of that we didn't actually need the computer for...the pledges, the motto, the verse, ...I was so frazzled though, that I'd forgotten all the important stuff. Like, "Hey, guys. It's so awesome you're here. I'm Ms. Lori, in case you're a visitor and you have no clue who this strange woman about to blow a gasket up here in front of you is. I'm usually much cooler but these are extenuating circumstances."

And then there was the child who didn't want to come out of the bounce house.

Extenuating circumstances, indeed.

At least the decorations look good.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Requiem for the Perfect Chips

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Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine.
Robert C. Gallagher

I’m in mourning today.

Ok maybe mourning is too strong a word, but I am kind of bummed.

My favorite Mexican restaurant is a little mom and pop place at the mouth of Provo Canyon called Mama Chu’s. My longtime friend from high school, John, introduced me to Mama Chu’s and JP knows his restaurants. I myself am not a sophisticated enough traveler to comment intelligently about whether or not an ethnic restaurant is truly “authentic.” I mean how do I know if sushi from Osaka restaurant in Provo can hold a chopstick to sushi in actual Osaka, Japan? And having never been to Kentucky, I’m just trusting that Kentucky Fried Chicken really is. But according to the more well traveled palates in my circle of friends, Mama Chu’s is a really authentic Mexican restaurant - but even if it wasn’t I’d still like it. I like the chicken tacos, and chicken chimichanga, and the chicken (or steak) fajitas and I really like the rice and beans. But by far my favorite menu item at Mama Chu’s are the tortilla chips they bring out right when you sit down. They are usually warm and come with salsa (of course) and they are the toastiest, crispiest, crunchiest, corniest tortilla chips that I have ever had….and I lived in Arizona for a number of years. Even Ebay likes them - and he doesn’t like anything. They are almost flakey, I don’t really know how they do that but you don’t get any of those almost too tough to chew greasy kind of chips that you get at most Mexican restaurants.

But last night Ebay, Z and I took a trip to Mama Chu’s in anticipation of the marvelous chips. We’re always excited when they bring them – truly - we like them that much (well, Ebay and I do - I can't really speak for Z on the question of chips)! They brought the chips and we dug in. But after only a few crunches we noticed that these were imposter chips. These weren’t the wonderful crispy creations of Mama Chu’s. These were regular, greasy, kind of tough ever-so-average-chips that you can get just anywhere? How can this be? When the waitress came back around we wailed that “these aren’t the usual chips!” She confirmed that indeed they were different because they supplier they had used in the past no longer made the marvelous chips.

No longer made them?!! How can you stop making manna when you obviously got the recipe directly from heaven?

First of all it was kind of disappointing to learn that Mama Chu's even had a "supplier." Wasn't Mama Chu herself making everything from scratch just behind the swinging doors? But ok, so there was a supplier. Was the chip supplier yet another small business brought to its’ knees by corporate greed and the national economic downturn? Was there a death in the family -an ancient Mexican grandmother who knew special chip making secrets and sadly took the recipe to her grave? Or, I hate to be cynical about my favorite dive, but could it be that Mama Chu’s was just stiffing us with cheaper chips?

We didn’t get any answers.

We stared dejectedly at the imposter chips.

Oh we ate the imposter chips – don’t be ridiculous. But I think it was obvious in the way we ate them that it was a gesture of protest.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Building A Dream

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computer genius at work, master craftsman at home

I used to dream of all sorts of fantastical things.

When I was young I dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina and then, when I discovered that I did not have the knack for dance, my dream changed to a future as a nurse.

That dream was shattered at the age of six when I hit my brother on the back of a head with a large rock at Waterfront Park (I thought it would make it into the Mississippi River with a brilliant SPLASH! but my strength deceived me) and the sight of his blood caused me to faint, leaving him to his own 5-year-old devices to seek medical attention. Nursing was definitely not in my future.

I wanted to become many things - an astronaut (afraid of heights), a Mouseketeer (too shy), an author (no patience), an illustrator (no talent), a rollerskater (it was my greatest disappointment to learn that this was not a true profession)... the list goes on forever.

I mention all of this because recently I had a blink of a dream that my home could appear in a magazine after reading these words on a blog that I follow:

Would you like your house featured in a magazine? I would. Lucky for both of us, I get to be in this magazine too. It should be fun.

My house is awesome! was my immediate thought. My husband is a master with woodwork and details! Plus, my eldest daughter ElemenoB is bordering on obsession with reading home decorating magazines, so the thought that our home could gain ultra cool status in her eyes was what made me even consider clicking on the link with instructions on how to get your house in the running. Then I started to read the description of the kind of house that they are looking for...

Clean (well, most of the time), fresh (sure, unless a diaper is in need of changing), light-filled (we have lights!) modern (built in 1996, does that work?) sensibility (?) with interesting collections (do Lego Star Wars figures count? Or children?) and a description of some of your HOLIDAY traditions.

I was still feeling semi-hopeful at this point. Until I saw that they also wanted 5 pictures of the inside of our home and their suggestions for areas and rooms to photograph do not exist here. (mantel, staircase, kitchen table with large window behind, etc.)

Isn't it funny how things can be awesome until you start to look at them from someone else's perspective? Well, I decided to quickly dismiss the thoughts that my home was inadequate or unamazing. Because you know what?

For us, our house is perfect. In fact, it is not merely a house, but a home. It is perfectly lived-in and comfortable. The woodwork in our front room and girls' bedroom is one-of-a-kind, lovingly created by my husband's talented hands. Much of the furniture throughout our home is also his workmanship. Every room is simply decorated and filled with evidence of what exists here - a family.

I have no doubt that ElemenoB's future home will be magazine worthy. She has the eye for decorating and color that I was not blessed with. As for our home? I'll be perfectly content with photographs in our memory books.

For now, I have other dreams to pursue. More realistic dreams, like getting my 3-year-old potty trained.

Now THAT would be a dream come true.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Shooter

Pin It I went to the local parade yesterday to commemorate July Fourth (which was celebrated on both the 3rd and 5th – chalk it up to living in a community which heavily endorses Sabbath day observance). As I was watching the floats and carriages, fire engines and ambulances, mayors and dairy queens, I came to the realization that I don’t really enjoy parades.

Sure, parades have been around for about 10,000 years—well, according to archeology. In Spain, caves have been discovered with wall paintings depicting parade-type formations to celebrate the hunt.

Parades must have been important. Really.

In fact, I remember that as a kid I’d loved them. I mean, what kid doesn’t? Free candy given away like…well, candy? However, add twenty years or so into the mix and suddenly parades just aren’t as much fun as they once were.

This year I attended the festival of following, and soon noticed a 15 or so year-old young man sitting with his family group just a short distance away. While many people were throwing Snappers into the roadway, this kid was shooting them much the same as somebody would spitwads.

He shot them at the cars. He shot them at the fire trucks. He shot them at the people in the parade. One teenager he hit on the arm cried out in pain and gripped the spot where the firework had hit. The boy in the mass quickly lowered the projectile shooter and feigned innocence as the teenager on the float scanned the crowd. As the teenager looked away, the boy raised his shooter and hit him again.

The teacher inside of me reared up because I’d had enough with this boy’s unchecked disrespect. I walked over to where this young man was sitting and politely informed him that what he was doing was downright rude, and to envision himself in these people’s places. I also let him know that he was well out of line and if he didn’t stop, I’d speak with his parents. The boy wouldn’t look me in the eye but uttered a slew of ‘yes sirs’ while staring at the ground.

I returned to my place and continued to watch the parade.

The boy sat in his chair for a few minutes then retreated back to where his family had been sitting four or five feet behind him. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him watching me and then, very discreetly, he started shooting Snappers into the parade again. At one point, we made eye contact and he grinned at me and then faded behind the shielding protection of a family member.

I was a fifth grade teacher. If I’d had a student at my school not follow through with instructions from any adult, I’d have done something about it—after all, I was an authority figure. However, here in the midst of parade-goers I was a nobody. After the boy fired a few more shots at a couple of grandparents on a wagon, I stood and walked to where he was sitting. Authority or no authority, something had to be done. I stood in front of this family gathering and asked who this boy’s dad was. It was the man with the stomach sagging well beneath his T shirt. I politely explained what it was his son was doing, (but really, how could he not know because his son was right in front of him?) The man wore a look of surprise on his face.

The father replied, “Look, they’re just Snappers. They don’t hurt anyone.”

“Did you see the teenager on the float that your son hit twice? Did it look like these things felt good to him?”

The man was silent and I plowed on, “In reality, it’s disrespectful what your son’s doing to all of these people; I’d appreciate it if you’d tell him to stop. I’ve got friends in this parade and he’s been shooting at them, too. That really bothers me.”

I was waiting for this man to get upset and tell me that I had no right to tell his son anything, but I was surprised as he said that he’d have his boy stop. I thanked the man and started to return to my place when somebody else in the crowd called out, “You go, guy! Good job!”

As I sat down I thought about this person’s statement telling me that I’d done a good job. In reality, others around had noted the boy’s actions, and it had bothered them, but nobody had done a thing. I guess this comes from living in a society where all too often we don’t feel it’s our place or responsibility so we don’t say anything.

It does, indeed, take an entire community to raise a child.

P.S. I still hate parades…

Monday, July 5, 2010

Detox Her Quick, She's Gonna Blow

Pin It Sugar. Caffeine. Fat. Does anybody know what these things do to a woman's body? I can tell you what they do to mine. They provide it with peace, comfort, and the ability to move through the day without wanting to kick a tree stump until my toe is bloody.

I'm just saying.

I really kind of wanted to kick that tree stump instead of writing this blog post this morning, because that's the kind of mood no sugar and no caffeine put me in after a night of insomnia and restless legs, but I opted for a yet more therapeutic means of expressing myself. I want a Coke. Or even a glass of SWEETENED ICED TEA. Instead, I am writing a blog and sticking to this super delicious mango-peach green tea, along with other assorted choices such as water with mint, lemon, and cucumber, multi-grain pita chips that are hard as the rocks that line my flower bed, veggie-soy-black bean burgers (they're actually pretty tasty), assorted fruit and leafy green vegetables, and an impossible list of "no's." NO sugar, NO caffeine, NO dairy, NO refined white flour, NO salt...and lots of others that I don't remember until I get hungry and open the refrigerator or cabinet door.

Oh, wait. I'm kind of hungry all.the.time.

It's called Clean Eating, and it kind of stinks.

To make it worse, I'm really bad at it. I cheat. For instance, I put a pat of butter on my sweet potato last night, because as I looked at it, sitting all forlorn on my plate beside my grilled pork tenderloin, I just couldn't convince myself that I could actually eat it without butter and enjoy it. So I skimmed a tiny, transparent slice of butter and settled it into the folds of potato. "It's roughly a fourth of what you normally put on there." I told myself, licking the tip of my finger. "You can be a heathen next time."

How on earth do people actually eat like this? It's so...hard!

I attempt the ascent into Clean Eating every now and then, when I am seized by the conviction that my Southern upbringing has ill-prepared me for anything remotely resembling long-term health. Southern cooking, after all, bears the hallmarks of all that is both right and wrong with the belly: sugar, butter, brown sugar, lard, cheese, flour, butter (oh...already said that, didn't I? well, some recipes call for it twice), mayonnaise, eggs, milk, bacon...just take a look at a few Paula Deen recipes if you're not convinced and you'll see what I'm talking about.

To eat cleanly is the almost comical antithesis of eating southern. For example--many of us have gardens and we eat vegetables. We usually take those vegetables and "cook them down," though, in salt, pepper, a little sugar, and...wait for it...butter until they're nice and soft. Examples: butter beans (limas), squash, stewed tomatoes, pole beans, and virtually every type of the ubiquitous vegetable casserole known to man. So, where eating cleanly is concerned...there's a learning curve that goes along with that whole sugar/caffeine/bad junk detox process.

I'm hoping that by next week I'll be sans headaches and random spasms brought on my Coca-Cola and sweet tea cravings. In the meantime, I'm just going to go eat another stinking banana, because I am positive that that will make everything much, much better.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Personal v. Personnel

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Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame. ~Erica Jong

I have a brother that is serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. I think I’ve blogged about him before at least a little bit. He works at the military air base with getting the troops in and out of the country. The end of each of his emails contains his military rank, name, job description and location:

CW3 Mel’s Big Brother - Personnel Accountability - Al Asad Airbase

Personnel Accountability?

That struck me as kind of a funny title for a job – especially in the army. When I first saw it I read it as "Personal Accountability" - would that be just accountable for himself or everyone else too?

I’ve been thinking about it though and I think that Personal Accountability and Personnel Accountability really aren’t that far apart. Whenever you’re in charge of Personnel you come to quickly realize that the only things you can control are personal because the personnel are hardly ever going to what you want them to do.

For example…

In just a couple of weeks I get to go to the very same Camp that Gerb blogged about a few weeks back. It is indeed a beautiful place with pine trees and aspen trees and a lake and a really nice feeling and spirit about the place. I know I should say that I am excited about Girl's Camp. But on the personnel side of things, I’ve got quite a few of what seem to be kind of flake-a-potomus girls and leaders that are stressing me out a little. Problem is, they don’t know they’re stressing me out, so I need to take some personal accountability and admit that I’m ultimately doing it to myself.

So I've just recently decided to change my approach and not worry about getting everyone together for pre-camp activities (since the turn-out has been lacking) and just worry about doing stuff at camp – ‘cause once we’re there the personnel is much easier to account for.

I had blessing about this same time last year (just before last year’s camp). I was going through a challenging time and a blessing is special prayer that gives counsel and comfort. Anyway, that blessing, among other things, advised me to be less "Martha-ish" in my camp preparation. You know Martha, as in Martha and Mary the disciples of Christ from the Bible? I almost laughed right out loud during the prayer because I have to admit, yes indeed I do, that I tend towards the Martha side of things when it comes to planning stuff. It’s a little bit comforting, yet also kind of humbling and embarrassing to realize that my Heavenly Father knows me well enough to mention that in a blessing.

To be honest though I always kind of came down on Martha's side in the whole Martha/Mary sitting at the feet of Christ vs. getting the meal ready to feed the house full of hungry apostles story. I mean stuff has to get done. Who wouldn’t want to sit around and listen at the feet of Christ? Maybe if everyone pitched in a little everyone could enjoy a good parable.

But I digress.

In support of personal accountability I am...I really am trying to squelsh my inner Martha, scale down the offerings and stamp down the stress because if I'm the only one that is stressing then it's probably not worth it. The projects are planned and packed and once we’re actually at camp the girl’s will have to exercise their own personal accountability and either take it or leave it. Hopefully they'll take it and enjoy it and learn from it and it'll be good. But if not, the only thing I can do is personally is be happy with the work I did.

In the meantime though I do still need to buy the food for camp (the personnel probably will care very much about that) so more-Martha, here I come.

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