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Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet

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A mother who is really a mother is never free.

- Honore de Balzac

I have, in my office, a copy of the front cover from Provo City Parks and Recreation Activity Guide circa Fall,1996. On the cover is a photo of a cherubic-looking little blond boy about 3 or 4 years old swinging on a swing. He’s working hard to pump the swing into action on his own and you can tell that he’s working hard because his little tongue is sticking out of the corner of his mouth indicating his serious concentration. I’ve kept this cover for the past 13 and ½ years because the cherubic-looking little blond boy is (or was) my little Ebay.

I remember the day we got the activity guide in the mail. I don’t pay as much attention to them now, but at the time they were kind of important because they had all the information about signing kids up for swimming lessons and soccer and whatnot and my boys were at an age to be involved in that. So I was glad to see it in the mail when I came home from work that day. I can remember pulling it out from under an envelope and kind of doing a double-take. “Holy Cow – that’s Ebay!” I hollered. And we all gathered around the full cover color with the photo of our cute little cherubic-looking boy. Cherubic-looking is the optimum word there because between the ages of three and four Ebay was this adorable blond dimpled demon from the darkest deepest pits of ….well you get the idea. He was becoming very serious about independent thought and action at that time and whoa to any who thought to stand in his way – but he was awfully cute. Anyway his dad and I were alternately pleased and alarmed that our son was on the cover of this booklet that blanketed the homes of everyone in the city of Provo – especially since we had no earthly idea of where or when the photo had been taken. But with a few phone calls around we were soon able to figure out that Ebay had been at the park with Grandma several months before when the city photographer had come by and asked to take a few photos and mentioned that they might be published in the Fall edition of the city’s activity guide – an episode Grandma had neglected to mention to us - his parents. Anyway it was fun for us, although older brother Superdude was pretty green with envy as you can imagine. And as for Ebay himself…he really didn’t seem that impressed - that’s just kind of the way he was (and still is kind of).

I mention this today because I’ve been looking at this picture a lot lately. All of the family pictures I have up in my office are of my boys when they are little. Partially because of where I work – a junvenile detention center – it’s not very prudent to have family photos up for all to see. But all of the photos that I do have up are like the 1996 Provo City Cover – a blast from the past and the subjects are not easily identifiable as the grown up young men they are now. Ebay at 4 years old, Superdude during his 3rd grade read-a-thon complete with his Power Ranger pillow case and both little dudes at the Hogel Zoo, ages 6 and 9 respectively, staring at the backside of an elephant.

I’m guess I’m feeling nostalgic about these old photos of my boys when they were little because they just so aren’t anymore….little I mean. As I’m mentioned before, Superdude is 21 and just came home from his mission a couple of weeks ago. And Ebay is in the last months of his senior year in high school. I am enjoying them as young adults and hopeful and enthusiastic about their goals, but I find that I am really feeling the ground shift beneath my feet as the door closes on their childhood and a new one opens up to their future. A future where the place I have in their lives isn’t nearly what it used to be.

I read somewhere once that as a mother, when your children grow up and leave, they take your life with them. I think that’s true to some extent. I’m not morose enough to think that my life is over because my children are growing up. But my life as I’ve known it for the last 20 or so years is certainly over.

Now that I think about it though, we’re all kind of in the same boat , my boys and I. Their lives are about to shift and change and mine certainly is too. So maybe if we all keep rowing we can get to a place that we all want to go.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Write or Right?

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photo from utexas.edu

I have a confession to make.

I keep all sorts of things to myself because I don't like confrontation. Honestly, if I were the type of person who enjoyed a good "discussion" (a.k.a. argument) I would have plenty of things to write about when it's my turn to post each Wednesday. However, because I live in a world where I want everyone to be happy and nice to each other, I am almost constantly at a loss as to what to say here on 4P.

Part of my problem is that my emotions run much too close to the surface. I cry when I am passionate about something. I laugh when I am frustrated. I write with zealous words when I am feeling defensive or have strong opinions. My emotions tend to over-emphasize my thoughts. I suppose you could say that I have plenty of ideas of what to write but I worry about whether I can express myself well enough to make my thoughts appear on paper the way they do in my head.

Instead, the controversial opinions (a.k.a. confrontational opinions) I have on many topics are kept safely tucked in my brain-arsenal so that I can conduct little debates with myself when I hear anyone else bring up or see anyone write about something that I disagree with.


Healthcare reform.



Country music.

Clothing and hairstyles.


Social Security.

Family roles.


The good part about keeping these things to myself and only having personal mental debates is that I always come out on top...

The bad part is that I have difficulty coming up with anything substantial to write about.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Service, with a Smile

Pin It Ever had one of those days when somebody did something nice for you, only you didn't have any idea of who'd done it? You know, one of those 'acts of anonymous service?' It seems that these are often the greatest things, and can carry the biggest impact.

A difference.

Today I'd like to do something a little bit different...and I'd like to invite you HERE to read all about it. Be forewarned though, there is a challenge at the end. You just might not want to click over...

...or maybe you do.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lighten Up, Already

Pin It My long-time friend Becky and I were driving home from a concert the other night when she reminded me of this little deer incident that occurred back before the kids and houses and jobs and everything else started taking over our lives--back, really, when we were just kids ourselves. We were probably in our early twenties, and driving down a relatively uninhabited stretch of 29, heading out to go hiking at Crabtree Falls.

I remember rolling down the highway in the middle of the morning in my little hunter green Suzuki Sidekick, and pausing in mid-sentence. "Is that....yeah, I think it is. Look at that crazy deer!" I squinted up at the opposite lanes in the far distance. My eyesight wasn't great to begin with, but that sure did look like a deer, bounding across the two opposing lanes of traffic.

Becky looked and murmured her agreement. I slowed down a little and we watched in silence as it dodged cars left and right until it made the relative safety of the grassy median. There we lost sight of it for a few moments. The median was wide and interspersed with trees and scrub bushes--plenty of cover for an animal to shelter in. "Wait! There it is!" I caught sight of it again. It had come to the edge of our side of the median and paused, watching the oncoming traffic. "Unreal," I muttered. "I can't believe it actually made it across--"

Around that time, the deer apparently decided it had waited in the median long enough. Or perhaps some flashing red "RUN NOW!" signal that only deer can observe lit up. Whatever the reason, the deer took off, directly into the approaching cars.

Naturally, the only vehicle that made contact with the deer was mine. While I watched, mouth agape at the animal's daring, it leapt directly into the side of my Sidekick, glancing heavily and in awkward slow motion all along every single panel there was to actually make contact with before lumbering off into the woods that lined the other side of the road. I pulled over on the side of the road to inspect the damage.

There were beautiful big indentations all along my vehicle, and hair caught in the wheels. (I'm sure those aren't the technical terms, but hey. I'm a girl.) Random thoughts skipped through my head. My insurance is going to go up. Does it count as a hit-and-run if I leave the scene? Or is the deer the hit-and-run culprit? Who do I exchange insurance cards with? What a loser deer, playing in traffic. Dang. I really wanted to go hiking.

After a few minutes I put my hands on my hips and shrugged my shoulders. "Well. It's done now. Let's go."

I climbed back in the car. Beck followed, a little slower. "Umm...are you sure? What about insurance? Or the police? Aren't you going to call them?"

It was Saturday. "I'll call them later," I said. "Right now we're going hiking."

She looked at me like I was crazy. "Are you sure?"

"Can't do anything about it now. I'll just take pictures later."

And so we went hiking, and enjoyed the day. And I took pictures, and perhaps received a teensy-tiny lecture from my insurance adjuster's secretary about not calling the police at the scene of an accident, but I pled a blond moment and was forgiven.

Beck reminded me of this incident as we drove home along the same stretch of highway, and warmed my heart a little when she told me that she'd never forgotten how I'd managed to shrug off and get past something that would have bothered her profoundly. It would have ruined the day, she said, and probably more than that. It taught her a lesson about lightening up, and not taking things so seriously.

I thought guiltily, jeez. Here I am, more than ten years later, needing to learn my own lesson. I'm a mother now, and I take life way too seriously more often than not. If I got a flat tire out on the road with my kids in tow, I'd probably freak out. Let's face it: I freak out when Lawson forgets when he's supposed to exchange Valentines. I freak out when someone changes plans on me unexpectedly (you mean I need to adapt!?)

It's a fact of this life that things will happen that are out of our control. Handling them with grace and humor eases the load a little...I'd forgotten that.

I've gotten way too serious. I need to lighten up. Thanks, Beck, for reminding me of who I used to be.

Here's to deer with timing issues: may they dent your Sidekick but not your spirits.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Pin It I will never forget my first good friend, Robin Irene. I met up with her at recess every day so that we could share stories. I never tired of the tales she would tell. I was especially mesmerized by the stories of her life as a princess and her friend, Morgan... who was a unicorn.

As I grew older Laura Ingalls became my closest friend and we endured all sorts of trials together; braids, buck teeth, bullies and moving to a place that was new and unfamiliar. It was wonderful to have someone who understood.

The list of book-friends I have made over the years is endless, but this is where my love for books and the friends I have made within their pages began.

However, this also presented a problem throughout my life. The books themselves had become precious possessions and I could not part with them. When we would move from place to place, my collection of books always came with me and it continued to grow throughout my teenage years.

By the time I was ready to set off on my own, I had nearly 7 good sized cardboard boxes filled with these old friends and I had to leave them behind for lack of room. I placed them in a corner of my parent's storage room along with a few other things and promised to come back for them soon.

When I returned home that summer, my friends were gone. Some sold at a yard sale, the rest donated to a thrift store along with the other items I had left behind. And so I began again, making new friends as I had the time and keeping them in a small bookshelf fashioned from crates.

When I married and started having children I could not wait to share these friends with my family. I slowly began to acquire the books I had loved as a child and loved seeing my kids enjoy them as I had. Again, this presented a problem. After nine kids and eighteen years of collecting, where could we keep so many books?

My husband, who has an amazing talent for woodworking, determined that we needed a library. (You see why I love this man?) He set about turning our front room into a thing of beauty for lounging in and reading to our hearts' content. The room is finished, except for one thing... the bookshelves.

The shelves will be built and line the walls of our library room before too long, but for the time being we have our books, boxed and waiting, in here:

A few years back Allen made the older kids some nice cabinets in which to store the things they wanted to keep out of the reach of their littler brothers and sisters. What do they keep in them?


Books also adorn their dressers, our kitchen counters, a few shelves in the hall closet and even our tables.

Some may call us crazy, but I agree with these words from Henry Ward Beecher:

"Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's All About the Laundry

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When I was a kid I remember loving it when the clothes were finished in the dryer. For me, there was nothing better on a cold day than to pile these clothes on my bed—or the living room floor—and burrow into them, allowing the warmth to coat over me.

I know, it’s crazy.

That’s also what my mom said when she found out that I was doing it. After all, I was getting the clean clothes dirty.

I grew up, as so many of us do. When I was college-aged, I had a roommate named Ryan. We’d just returned from the laundry mat and had our clothes in garment bags and laundry baskets. On our walk back to the apartment, we were talking about childhood memories, and things we missed from the time when we were still only one digit in age.

I admitted to my childhood practice of rolling around in piles of warm clothes.

When we got back to the apartment I started working on some homework when Ryan called to me from my bedroom; he said to hurry because it was important.

“What’s up?” I asked, heading to my room.

Ryan turned to me with a grin, and indicated all of our shirts and jeans in one big pile on my bed. He winked and said, “I know that you really miss this…go head and live it up.”

He gave his hands a flourish toward the pile of dryer-warmed clothes.

“You’re kidding, right?” I asked. “That was something I did as a kid.” Did he really think that as a college student I’d be prone to doing this type of thing again?

Ryan shook his head. “Nope, I’m not kidding. In fact, you’ve even got my permission. Now go ahead before I change my mind—or they get cold.”

Needless to say, I enjoyed burrowing in the warmth of the clothing on that day, and relived a fun memory from years gone by.

This evening I went to a friend’s house for dinner. When I got home I took my laundry from the washer, and tossed it into the dryer before getting a few things done. When the buzzer went off, I put all the laundry into the basket and carried it to my room. As I got ready to fold and put it all away, I looked at that pile of clothes I’d just dumped on my bed.

Nobody else was home…

Aren’t memories of childhood wonderful?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Minefield

Pin It It's Monday, for sure.

I heard my husband going about his ablutions quietly this morning, careful to keep the bathroom door closed to shield the light from falling on my face and waking me too early. He leaves the house by six a.m., so he's thoughtful that way. For the past several weeks, though, I've grown accustomed to his softly murmured "school's closed today," as he leaves, absolving me from the responsibility of rising and starting my day.

There was no murmur today.

Regardless of the fact that snow has blanketed the ground since December 18th and the kids have not had a full week of school since returning after Christmas break, I felt the loss of that murmur keenly.

I couldn't sleep past 6:30, and rose, pacing in to the bathroom to peer out of the window at the leaden sky. Nothing appeared to be falling, but maybe it was a trick of the eyes. I pulled on my flannel pants and a sweater and went in to the den, where I could the driveway. Nothing. "Dang," I whispered, startling Izzy into a sharp bark. I let her out to do her morning business, and settled myself at the computer for a quick search of school delays. Surely it would be delayed...

No. Every other county was delayed, it seemed, since last night's forecast had called for morning and afternoon snow. Apparently, though, the forecast had shifted to mere rain this afternoon, and our superintendent had actually got it right. With a sigh, I let the dog in, and went to wake the kids.

Showering, I mentally revised my day. I would need to do my writing in the morning, and knock that out. Go to the store, get stuff for Bible study tomorrow, because after three weeks that would for sure be on. Then I would need to spend the afternoon catching up on laundry and cleaning I hadn't been around to do this past weekend. It would be a tight day.

I was ready roughly ten minutes before time to get the kids off to school and remembered to grab Lawson's signed report card from my desk as I was hustling them through breakfast. It had been so long (a month?) since they'd had to hustle they'd forgotten how. As I picked up his report card a pink 1st Grade Newsletter fluttered to the floor. I started to scan it idly, barely skimming the news of what units were going to be covered when and who was reading what book and etc. Then a single little sentence, enclosed in a little box of hearts, caught my attention. "The 1st grade classes will be exchanging Valentines on February 15."

My heart dropped into my Crocs.

That.Was.Today. The kids had been to school exactly one day last week, and precisely one day the week before that. Two the week before that. I had actually asked Lawson last night (the only day I'd seen him all weekend, since Autumn and I had been out of town for a tumbling meet) if they were exchanging Valentines. He.Said.No.

I looked at the clock. It was time to leave. I would like to say that I handled the next five minutes with grace and tact and patience, but I would be telling a big fat lie. I yelled. "Lawson! You told me you weren't exchanging Valentines!"

Lawson looked at me in confusion.

"What's exchange mean?"

"You're supposed to have Valentines to give to your friends!"

"Yeah, I made my bag already."

"But you don't have any Valentines!"

"That's alright. They'll still give me Valentines."

"YOU CAN"T DO THAT! IT ISN'T RIGHT!" Autumn and Lawson just looked at me, all 'who is this crazy woman in our kitchen and what has she done with Mom.' I tried for a kinder, gentler tone. "Autumn, are you supposed to exchange Valentines?"


"Are you SURE?"

"Yes, I'm positive."

"Let's.Go." We then had to wait ten minutes for Lawson to put his shoes on, find his coat, tie his shoes, and get in the car. And then the cell phone rang. It was Duane.

"Don't forget we have that meeting today at 1:30." AAARGH. All of my well-laid shower plans, down the shower drain.

"I don't have time for this..." I muttered, then recovered. "Okay. I'll be there." I had agreed, I vaguely remembered, several weeks earlier. It wasn't his fault the weather hadn't cooperated.

I am now tiptoeing gingerly through my Monday minefield, waiting for another shoe to drop. I'm trying to figure out where I can cram another task in order to complete everything I need to complete. I suspect I'll either be vaccuuming at midnight, or serving Panera tomorrow. Or both. And we may be wearing dirty clothes.

But you know what? Tomorrow's Tuesday, and this too, shall pass.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


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"Hosting 'The Tonight Show' has been the fulfillment of a life-long dream for me. And I just want to say to the kids out their watching, you can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too." –Conan O'Brien

So I’ve noticed that none of “we four” on Four Perspectives have weighed in one of the most recent and pressing of national debates – Jay vs. Conan and I’m wondering what everybody thinks.

For those of you who have been living under a rock or are early to bed early to rise types let me give you the lowdown. Around a year ago Jay Leno announced that he was going to retire from “The Tonight Show” and that Conan O’Brien, the long-time host of Late Night would take over as the host. Then a few months later we find out that Jay is going to set up what was essentially a carbon copy of the Tonight Show during prime time (9pm in the case of Mountain Standard Time). So Jay steps down, or rather over to his new show and Conan moves his entire operation from the East Coast to the West Coast for the Tonight Show. Then 7 months later we find that Jay’s show is not doing well and is totally tanking NBC’s prime time line-up. The affiliate stations are complaining because Jay’s show was a lousy lead-in to the news and they were losing their viewership. So NBC started trying to figure out now to get Jay out of prime time and back into late night. NBC suggested that The Tonight Show be moved back to 12:05 am (that would be 11:05pm MST) with Jay doing a ½ hour show right after the news at 11:35. Conan didn’t think it was right that the The Tonight Show should start the next day (at least on the East Coast) and agreed to step down. Like David Letterman said, “At 12:05am, that’s not The Tonight Show; that’s The Tomorrow Show!

I have to admit that I’ve been kind of flakey when it comes to late-night television over the years. Sometimes I’d watch Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. Sometimes I’d watch David Letterman (at least until he jumped over the creepy man-skank line recently). And if I was up late enough I would watch Conan or that Scottish guy on CBS. Then again just as often I would watch Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) on PBS at 10pm.

Personally I don’t think that Jay Leno is all that funny. He’s kind of like that Uncle, cousin or co-worker everyone has that think they’re funny, but are really just kind of cheesy. But I did like the “Headlines” segment and also “Jay-walking” could be hilarious – alarming but hilarious.

On the other hand I think Conan is really funny. Genuinely unforced funny because he just his own skewed view of the world - but he’s also kind of a spaz. He’s like the twitchy kid in high school that was a riot to sit by but would never shut up. Conan isn’t everybody’s brand of funny and I get that.

But at the end of the day it doesn’t seem to me that this situation is really about who is funnier. It seems to me that Jay Leno stepped down from The Tonight Show - he shouldn’t get to just step back in. It’s kind of like stepping out of line at the movies, doing a little shopping, and then wanting to get your place back – that’s not the way it works. Cut-backs we used to call it in Elementary School. If you voluntarily left your spot, you didn’t automatically get it back – it was just against the code. It seems to me that Jay is the big mean kid in 3rd grade that pushed his way back into the lunch-line – Cutbacks! It would be a much classier move for Jay to just take his classic car collection and drive off into the sunset…or at least to Vegas where I’m sure he could headline a show if he wanted to.

Now I didn’t watch Jay on Oprah, so I don’t know if he has a good story about all of this or not. And it’s not like Conan isn’t going to end up a multimillionaire with some free time on his hands. But I think Conan is right. The Tonight Show has a long legacy like Good Morning America (oops, wrong network but you get the idea) and it wouldn’t be right to turn it into The Tomorrow Show.

I like the idea of tradition and continuity of the national consciousness that can sometimes come with Television shows. Like when the whole country tuned in for the last episode of M*A*S*H. It will be interesting to see if The Tonight Show tradition is strong enough to withstand this train wreck.

As for me, I’ll probably be watching more PBS.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Umbrella Day!

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I know, I know, you've all been waiting months for today's holiday. What do you mean, what holiday? It's Umbrella Day of course!

Okay, in all honesty, I had no idea about this holiday until I noticed it on my calendar which lists all sorts of obscure, little-known celebrations. But Umbrella Day? Now that's a holiday I can get excited about.

First of all, you can send Umbrella Day ecards to all of your friends. (see? It's for REAL!)

Today would also be the perfect day to watch Mary Poppins or Indiana Jones.

I know that I'm going to be pulling my umbrella out of my closet (the one I bought just a few months ago because it was going for a price I couldn't refuse and because I fell in love with the pure cheeriness of it!) and carrying it with me wherever I go.

If you don't have an umbrella then I think that today is the perfect day to buy one. I'm thinking that this one is at the top of my wish list because, unbeknownst to most people, I am secretly a ninja (Let's keep that just between you and me, shall we?) and I'm all about multi-tasking.

Imagine the look on the faces of your family if you were to serve drinks at dinner festooned with little paper umbrellas!

And it's always a good idea to take one of your kids (or any random child from your neighborhood would do) and have a photo shoot with an umbrella.

Is she really flying?

You decide.

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate (YOU WILL BE CELEBRATING) (that was me using The Force... did it work?) I hope that you have a wonderful Umbrella Day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Just Lovely...

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I entered the grocery store to purchase a few odds and ends on my way home. I’d been listening to movies on my iPod while I was running errands, most especially a few British films, and words and phrases were flitting about my head as I moved to the checkstand at the local grocery.

Barmy, bloody, brilliant, dodgy, quid, smashing…

“Would you like your eggs in a bag?” the cashier asked as I swiped my debit card through the reader.

“Yes, that would be lovely,” I responded distractedly, still listening to About a Boy through one earbud.

A moment later, a sudden realization of horror stole through me as I realized what I’d just said. I began to backpedal and explain why I’d just used that particular choice of words.

“I was just listening to a British film on my iPod,” I said pitifully, hoping this would explain everything. “I don’t usually use the word ‘lovely’ when I talk.”

The cashier smiled as she put my items in a plastic bag and handed them to me. The people behind me in line began laughing. “I’m sure you were,” she said with a wink. “You have yourself a lovely day, sir.”

Monday, February 8, 2010

...and the Law Won

Pin It We'd been sitting in the elementary school cafeteria for almost two hours, and my butt was slowly growing numb to the too-small plastic chair that it was perched upon. I had stopped feeling the little metal thingamabobs that had been digging into my flesh around thirty minutes ago, which I suppose could be considered a good thing. There were only two girls on the stage now; Autumn had lost out in round number sixteen or something like that and had come to sit beside me, Fourth Place Winner in the Fifth Grade Spelling Bee.

Some might look at it as losing; I was too proud for that. Every time she spelled a word, she radiated confidence. She tossed back that blond ponytail and rushed headlong into the dialogue of the letters, knowing they were right, not really concerned if they weren't. She missed "significant," starting it with a "c" instead of the requisite "s." With a shrug and a smile, she accepted her defeat gracefully and made her way down to me amidst the applause that accompanied every such battle lost.

But the last two girls...they just wouldn't give up. Back and forth they went, spelling correctly all words given them. We all kind of knew who was going to win: M. She was, if there was such a thing, the valedictorian of the elementary school. She was a nice girl, but, as one of my friends had once described her, she was Angela of the Rugrats in the flesh. Accustomed to getting her own way. Accustomed to winning. Accustomed to being first.

She was accustomed.

We all sat back, and waited for her to win.

I wasn't familiar with the other girl. J. Her mother wasn't present--she had to work. I felt a little sorry for J. We lived in one of those "upper middle class" areas where it wasn't the norm for mothers to not be present at functions like this, and while, as a former latch-key kid and a mother who had struggled with working through both of her children's babyhoods, I well-understood the necessity, I felt badly for J. And for her mother, because I feel certain she would have given anything to have been there.

It was J's turn to spell a word. She began to spell, started to choke, wheezed phlegmatically and somewhat inarticulately over the first letter, and then continued. The judges looked at each sorrowfully for a long moment. The head judge started to speak. "I'm sorry...that is incorrect...the correct spelling is 's---"

A sharp gasp went up around the room, my own included. The very same thing had happened earlier. J was apparently suffering from fairly potent allergies, and had a tendency to speak through sputum--not a very pleasant occurrence, but still. I guess you had to make allowances. At the beginning of the bee, when rules were being read, the head judge had declared the bee an "oral and written bee," referring to the white board placards each contestant possessed. It wasn't how bees were conducted in my day, I remembered thinking, but fairly cool, considering different learning styles and how much more comfortable many people were writing words down and seeing them in print. All of the kids were using the placards to first write their words and then read the letters off to the judges. Earlier, when J had mumbled something unintelligible, the judges had viewed her placard, deemed the word correctly spelled, and that was it. She was safe.

Before I knew it, I was rising to my feet. The judge was blathering something about how M needed to spell two words correctly in order to win the bee, but my hand was shooting into the air. I could feel a hot blush staining my cheeks. "I'd like to make an appeal. Can I appeal that decision?"

There was another gasp from somewhere to my left, M's mother, I was sure. An uncomfortable silence as the table of four judges stared at me, along with the entire fourth and fifth grade, and all of their teachers. And everyone's parents. And then the judges started shifting papers around.

"Ummm....sure. Yes, of course."

I started walking toward the table. "I'd like to appeal that on basis of J choking on phlegm as she was spelling her word, and also on basis of the same thing occurring earlier in the bee with a different outcome. I feel certain if her mother was here she would do the same thing." Despite my shaking hands, my voice was strong, and carried over the cafeteria. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw to my right the fifth grade teachers nodding and smiling encouragingly. I reached the table. "I feel if you checked her placard, as you did earlier, you would see that the word is spelled correctly."

The judges were skimming the rules sheet. "Well, it is an oral bee, so it really doesn't matter what she has written on her placard. It clearly states here that if you retrace your letters, and re-spell something incorrectly or differently, you are disqualified," the head judge stated impassively.

The principal looked conflicted, as did a couple of the other judges. "Let's confer about it," she suggested. "This is a tough thing."

"That's all I ask."

I started to make my way back to my seat. On the way I was startled when a little girl came up and flung her arms around my waist. "Thank you," she murmured. "That wasn't fair." I hugged her back.

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens," I told her, "they have rules they have to follow."

The principal came to me around fifteen minutes later. "Thank you for doing that, Lori. It needed to be done, and I know it wasn't easy."

I shrugged off her words. I didn't want thanks. "Bottom line, the judges have decided that they have to uphold their decision. They probably shouldn't have passed her through the first time she choked on her letters and they reviewed her placard, honestly, but they did."

She kept talking for a few more minutes in this vein, her expression tortured. I finally put her out of her misery. "It's okay; I understand completely. Rules are rules. I just couldn't let J feel too alone up there, you know?"

The principal smiled. "I know. Thanks for that."

The bee resumed. M missed her first word (intentionally? I've always wondered) and they continued their back and forth for another ten minutes or so until J finally succumbed to the inevitable. M triumphed, as she was accustomed to doing.

J walked out, though, with a smile on her face. It was a hard-fought victory for M. J didn't make it easy, and I was as proud as someone else's mother could be at her dignity in defeat.


Pin It Okay, my post is coming, in all seriousness. I just had to start your Monday off with a little giggle, though.

Does anyone else out there watch the Superbowl purely for A) the commercials B) the half-time show (The Who. was. AWESOME!) and C) the "pool"? I mean, granted, they're always really fun games to watch, but those other things are just kind of iconic by now. It wouldn't be the Superbowl without them.

Duane didn't win the Foster Electric pool because he ended up with totally lame numbers for not only the first quarter, but also the half-time score, third quarter, and of course the fourth quarter, but as I said, The Who was terrific (even my kids enjoyed rocking out to Teenage Wasteland--what delicious irony) and the commercials were pretty good for the most part.

Here are my two top picks. Enjoy:

Even though I personally despise the taste of beer, and Duane has never touched a drop in his life, I don't care who you are, this is funny.


And of course, the E-Trade commercials never fail to leave us gasping. The Milkaholic was too much.


(And sorry about the links--I can't seem to upload the web address into the video browser for blogger...help?)

Friday, February 5, 2010

I am a Material Girl...or not

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Don't move! I want to forget you just the way you are.

Henny Youngman

I seem to have an automobile disability.

I have a hard time telling which kind of car is which and whose car is whose – even my own sometimes.

Now if you have a distinctive kind of automobile then I can usually keep up. Z for example has a fairly distinctive red kind of car thing. I know when I see a Z-type car. I don’t always know for sure if it’s him I see bopping around town, but I know from that red type of car thing that it could be him. But if it’s a vehicle that is fairly run-of-the-mill or somewhat nondescript, I’m just not “in” to cars enough to know or remember.

For a long time I drove a bright red Pontiac Grand Prix and that worked for me pretty well in trying to find it out in parking lots and stuff. I didn’t really go to the car dealership looking for the bright red car – it was more about getting a good deal, but as it turned out it was useful to be able to look for that color. Now however, I drive a metallic grey 4- door midsized sedan. It’s been a good car and I like it well enough, but it seems to me that every other car I see is about the same size and shape and that every automobile manufacturer must have gotten a great deal on the metallic grey paint because there’s millions of ‘em out there. I hate to admit it because it makes me sound kind of dotty and addled, but I am constantly walking up to the wrong car in parking lots - because they all look the same to me.

Now I’m not so dotty or addled that I can’t tell if it’s my car once I look inside of it – I do recognize my own car trash and floor mat stains etc. It’s just the initial approach that I have trouble with sometimes. Luckily I have one of those remote control lock things so when I’m really looking for my car I can push the button and the lights flash etc. And if I’m really lost I can get the horn to honk.

But sometimes I think I know where I’m going. I’ll walk out to the parking lot with my mind wandering, not particularly concentrating on auto-recovery, carrying a bag or pushing a cart or something and walk towards the general area of where I parked my car and somehow make for the first midsized metallic grey 4-door sedan that I come upon without really concentrating on whether or not it’s the right one or not. I have to admit that due to my condition, there has been more than one time that I find myself standing outside of a metallic grey 4-door sedan pushing the button on my remote control wondering why the doors aren’t unlocking only to realize that it’s not my car.

Ebay just doesn’t understand this disability. But in all fairness to me, Ebay is an automobile mutant. His X-men power is to be able to tell the make and model of every single car that he sees on the road. He knows what every kind of car is, foreign and domestic from Mercedes to Hyundai even going back to late model cars. I’m thinking that there’s got to be some kind of FBI or Secret Service kind of agency that would really appreciate this kind of ability – although clearly it isn’t hereditary. So whenever I’m with Ebay in a parking lot and I tend to start drifting towards the non-specific metallic grey 4 doors, I have to suffer through a fair amount of eye-rolling and snarky teen-age mutant auto-geek kinds of comments.

I’d like to think that I’ve developed this disability because I’m just so wonderfully non-materialistic that worldly possessions such as cars just aren’t important enough to register with me. I’d like to think that….but I think it’s more likely, and I’m sure Ebay will agree, that I’m just getting to be a little bit dotty…and yes, even addled.

The Call


Pam was laid off from her Fancy Corporate Job in December and is enjoying everything about it except the pay. She blogs about her adventures in gardening and thrifty living at www.brownthumbmama.com.

The call came during a quiet afternoon at work. “Honey? It’s Mom. I need you to come to the hospital. Dad needs emergency surgery.” I told my boss I was leaving and zipped down the freeway to them.




The words repeated over and over in my head. They had diagnosed him with pneumonia in the emergency room, but I figured a few days in the hospital would set him right.

I got another call from Mom that night. Dad had recovered from surgery and was breathing fine with the ventilator. He would stay in ICU until he could breathe without the vent during the day.

We visited him every day—Mom and me, his brothers and sisters, family friends. The only one who couldn’t visit him was James, my 4-year-old son and his only grandchild. Dad had to be out of ICU before James could visit.

I was worried and afraid about James visiting Dad. I didn’t want him to be scared of all the wires and tubes. There were monitors and alarms connected to the equipment and Dad was stuck in the hospital bed.

A friend suggested that I take a picture of Dad in the hospital to show James. That way, he could ask questions and process his thoughts before the visit. He looked at the picture, said, “Yep, that’s Grandpa,” and kept on playing.

I worried. I was sure he would be upset, curious, or fearful. I thought he would ask me a thousand difficult questions that all started with “Why?” The only question he asked was when he could visit.

It was 47 days until Dad was out of ICU and they could see each other.

Finally, the day came. Nervous and upset, I put on a brave face. How would he react? Would he hide behind me, away from the beeping alarms and monitors? Would he refuse to go near Dad?

Nope! He hopped right up on the hospital bed and showed off a book he got for Christmas. They talked about racecars, trains, and football. All the wires and tubes didn’t bother him one bit.

I thought I knew what he was thinking. I assumed I knew what was going on in his head. And yet I was proven wrong.

How many times do we think we know what we need, or what to ask God for? We think we can orchestrate the world according to our plans. But we don’t know what’s going on in His head…what His plan is and how everything will work out.

All those years of Catholic school, catechism, Bible study. And who teaches me to listen to God’s call? A little child.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Power of Music

Pin It My littlest kids were watching Pooh's Grand Adventure yesterday.

I have actually never had the pleasure of sitting down and watching this particular movie with them or of hearing any of the soundtrack for that matter. I'm not sure how I've gotten away with this for so long, but yesterday it finally caught up with me and as I stood in the kitchen fixing lunch, I heard the lyrics to this song.

I'm not going to lie to you. It totally made me cry. Not a sobbing, audible sort of cry, but tears were present nonetheless.

I tried to reason with myself.

Gerb, seriously, Winnie the Pooh?

I know! You're preaching to the choir here. It's humiliating.

What exactly is it about a cartoony song that could possibly make you cry?

So I thought about it. And here's the thing... music gets to me. Sometimes it's the lyrics, sometimes it's the melody or the way someone knows how to make a guitar sing to my soul. It can be the beautiful combination of certain notes which strikes a chord somewhere inside of me when I hear them. It is almost as if music opens up a sixth sense somewhere - an untapped reservoir of memories and emotions which only responds to a beautiful blending of words or specific cadence of sound.

I suppose you could say that if feelings were audible, they would sound like music. Music is a sort of foreign language with varying dialects which are only understood by those who have been immersed in them and lived among them.

I don't know... my words seem convoluted and insufficient.

I guess that what I'm trying to express here is that music has an unexplainable power over the part of my mind which determines how I will react to things.

Including songs sung by a silly old bear.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

About Yesteryear

Pin It “Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers; the next day you're gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul.”

~Kevin Arnold – The Wonder Years

Moments pass in our lives like the playing of a favorite song on the radio. For a brief instant it is there, weaving itself into the fabric of now, becoming part of the tapestry of living. Then it is gone, leaving behind the memory which, like that weaving, can become faded with the onslaught of time.

Last night I found myself slipping into yesterday.

I had a visit after school from a boy I had mentored for several years; he’d showed up without warning. It wasn’t long before he was telling me about his recent experiences of life, about his upcoming graduation from high school, and his countless memories of yesterday.

As I listened to him talk of the past, I found myself slipping into the days back when he was much shorter than I was; I was his mentor so long ago. It seemed another lifetime, really; back before facial hair and critical life decisions.

As we talked about the moments he’d—or I’d—forgotten, we both laughed. It was a moment where I found myself, just for just a minute, stepping into yesterday. After nearly an hour, this young man left. Yet, I found myself still milling over the words of our conversation.

When I came home I did a little digging; it wasn’t long before I unearthed a DVD I’d put together of a camping trip I’d recorded of this young man and two other boys I had been mentor to. As I slipped the disk into the player, and the room ignited with the light of the screen, as also it did with the remembrance of times past.

I laughed out loud. I found myself inundated with memories of a trip with these three boys which was a lot of fun. I missed them. I started to miss all of the kids I’ve been a teacher or mentor to over the past decade of my time on this earth.

As the video came to and end, I sat in the darkened room; I began to wonder about them all. What were they up to now? Where had the pathway of their lives led them? What kind of people had they grown up to be?

I could only hope that they had all turned out…good.

“Over the course of the average lifetime you meet a lot of people. Some of them stick with you through thick and thin. Some weave their way through your life and disappear forever. But once in a while someone comes along who earns a permanent place in your heart”

—Kevin Arnold, The Wonder Years

Monday, February 1, 2010


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I'm being forced to do a lot of introspection in this Children's Lit class that I'm taking, mainly about the books that I read as a child and why I read them and how did they make me feel and so on and so forth.

I remember the comforting illustrations of Velveteen Rabbit and Where the Wild Things Are, and then it's like I took a flying leap to the Little House series, Nancy Drew, and Judy Blume. Blume was a bridge in herself--I progressed in the space of a year, I think, from Blubber and Are You There, God...It's Me, Margaret to Forever (gasp!). And then, of course, there were such classic favorites as Bridge to Terabithia, Anne of Green Gables, and the Chronicles of Narnia. They shaped my world, focused it, really, down to a narrow little pinpoint of existence: the page.

Beyond the page, I was like everybody else: your typical eighties child with Converse hightops worn over scrunchy doubled up socks in varied colors. I had my culottes and my friendship bracelets, painstakingly worked and blithely traded to girls whose names I don't remember anymore. I had my waist-length, feathered hair pulled into a side pony-tail, and I knew every word to every Madonna and Cindy Lauper song there was.

I still do.

It's funny, but the simple act of recalling the books that I read as a child has led me down rabbit trails of recognizance that I haven't visited in some time. Snapshots of memory, unattached to any real meaning, are nonetheless incredibly vivid. It's interesting--the things that your brain remembers, and recalls, when you least expect it.

Smurfs, for example. Remember waking up early on Saturday morning to watch Smurfette prance around the Smurf village? What were those writers thinking, to put a lone female in a village full of blue Smurfs panting after her? What message did that impart to us children?

And my dad's orange VW Bug. I remember sitting in the back of that tiny little car, my legs sticking to the leather seats and listening to the rev of its engine while wind poured in through the windows and beat my hair around my face. I would gulp it in, along with the sounds of Elton John on the tape deck. "Rollllling like THUNDER....under the cooooooovers....." Dad would croon, beating the steering wheel in time to the melody.

I remember a big, eager classroom of fifth graders, all of us seated expectantly on the carpeted floor. The lights were dimmed, and a television hovered in front of us. There were around five minutes of preliminary stuff, and then a rocket went airborne. And then....it exploded. Quiet pandemonium in that classroom. A teacher crying. "Christa McAuliffe..." Us: "What just happened? Did the rocket just blow up?" For a few moments, our world stood still.

There were my brothers (three of them) and their G.I. Joe figures and Lego building blocks that were just that--building blocks. None of this fancy stuff that Lawson has now. I'd marry the G.I. Joes to my Barbies sometimes, just because they were a little more butch than Ken. Barbie needed a strong man, with a strong hand. I'd heard that somewhere, but didn't remember where.

I remember bikes with streamers, plastic streamers that sang in the wind as I hurtled downhill in a mad rush to be the first to crash and skin my knee. There were forts in the woods behind our house, and castles in the pine trees that were perfect for reading those books I was so fond of. The creek was a rushing river, with gold if you looked hard enough.

I was a latchkey kid, but never felt scared, and rarely locked the door. You could count on supper to be served round the table, chores to be done before playtime, and somebody to be in your business at all times.

You could also count on Kool-Aid and sandwich cookies. I can still remember the exact placement of the cookie package in the lower cabinet, and how the pitcher was stained pink from the Kool-Aid.

When I was a child, all I wanted was to grow up. Now I struggle, with halting words and closed eyes, to regain the perfect essence of those memories. To smell the honeysuckle that scented the curve in the road next to our house, heavy in the summertime. To see how beautiful my mother looked when I was ten. To feel the velveteen of that ugly sofa in our livingroom one more time. To hear Smurfette's teasing voice on the tube.

The essence of my eighties childhood was double-edged. Uninhibited, and yet protected and secure. I want that back, for my own kids. I want them to be able to confidently run through a neighborhood, carefree, with no regard for personal safety. I want them to be able to listen to music and be innocent enough that they don't wonder about Jack having his hand between Diane's knees. I want them to be able to inhale red Kool-Aid and sandwich cookies and not worry about the effects of sugar on their bodies.

Or maybe...maybe the wondering and worrying is all on their parents, and not so much on them? Maybe that essence is still there, but I'm just blind to it because I've crossed that invisible line between childhood and adulthood.

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