Monday, December 31, 2007

Ben Stein on Religion in America

My mom recently forwarded me something that Ben Stein wrote about Christmas and religion in our society. Many parts of resonated with me and got me thinking, so I decided to post it. Enjoy. (Incidentally, the reference to Dr. Spock's son is slightly inaccurate - it was his grandson.)


The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday
Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bo ther me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If
people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away .

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessi ca came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it lon g and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar
and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspa ce, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards.

Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

Yoga = More Cookies

Now that holiday madness and our trip to my parents' cabin are behind us, it's time to dust off my poor, neglected blog and reestablish contact with the outside world. Until I get back in the groove of things, here's a little holiday food for thought (pun totally intended, I regret to say).

According to Food and Health Communications, in order to burn off two average holiday cookies (140-160 calories), you can . . .

Spend 20 minutes:
Doing low impact aerobics
Vigorously playing with children
Shoveling snow
Ice skating
Walking 4.5 mph
Working out at the gym

Or spend 30 minutes:
Ballroom dancing (or square dancing, if you prefer)
Food shopping
Raking leaves
Walking 3.5 mph
Doing Tai chi
Doing Yoga

I've been meaning to learn more about yoga (exercise + stress relief = good thing), and now I have yet another good reason to study it: I can eat more cookies! What's not to love?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Tale of Daring, Danger, and Lots of Sugar

A week ago, my friend Beth coined the whimsical phrase "yon candied maid," and one of her friends decided to write a poem about it. Do the words "brown sugar beach" and "swarthy knave" intrigue you? Then by all means, read on.

Don't Waste It

George Bernard Shaw once said, "Youth is wasted on the young." Sometimes I certainly feel mine was. As a young single adult, I didn't fully appreciate my freedom and opportunities until they were long gone. For example, during my early college years I often saw fliers for studying abroad, but the challenges of living in an unfamiliar culture outweighed the appeal for me. To put it more succinctly, I was too dang scared to go.

My mission eliminated that fear (once you've survived a year or so in in South America, the rest of the world is a lot less intimidating), but by that point I couldn't think of an excuse to go to Spain, England, Chile, or even Nauvoo, Illinois. My course of study didn't justify a semester in any of those places, and it didn't occur to me to save my pennies and travel there (sometimes I'm too practical for my own good). Now that I'm married and have a baby, we talk about visiting Europe or our Latin American missions, but goodness only knows when we'll actually get there.

Most of the time I don't mind having my roots so firmly in the ground (husband hugs and baby giggles beat a trip to Italy any day), but every now and then a bit of wanderlust makes me heave a loooong, wistful sigh. For example, I recently read in the Humanities at BYU magazine (see pages 6 & 7, and be patient - the page is a bit slow to load) about a teacher and two dozen students who hiked across England and Scotland during Spring Term. They visited historical sites, read essays and poems, discussed literature and life. . . . Yeah - that's about where the "loooong, wistful sigh" kicked in.

So, why am I writing about missed opportunities and trips I'd love to take but can't? I admit it's partly to vent a bit of regret, but the main thought in my mind is that I don't want to let my current stage of life slip past like the last one did. Don't get me wrong, my youth was pretty good, but I could have made far more of it than I did. Looking back, it seems like I spent most of my time just getting through life, rather than exploring the opportunities it offered.

I don't want to look back on my current stage and just see a long sequence of grocery runs and diaper changes, when with a little more thought and effort I could make this a time of sweet, exciting memories for my family and me. The housework and such is needful, but if that's all there is to our lives we're surviving, not living.

Of course, all this is easier said than done. The old "carpe diem" philosophy doesn't come naturally, but by golly I'm going to give it a try.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Apparently Rejection Makes Me Snarky

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, everyone. I'm tempted to guilt-trip you all and say that I've taken to my bed in a swooning depression because my blog has been viewed 83 times this week, and only ONE of those people saw fit to add a joke to the previous post (thanks, STM). But I won't. Cuz the real reason is that between a baby birthday and general holiday madness, I've just been crazy busy.

Anyway, to prove that I still love you, I invite you to have a laugh (or at least an empathetic sigh) over a stressed-out mom's "letter" to Santa, courtesy of my cousin's blog.

And hopefully inspiration and free time will coincide in my life soon (hey, I can dream), so I can post something of my own before another week goes by.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Joking Around

A while back, a fellow blogger asked her readers to share a favorite joke or two, and the result was a pretty entertaining comment section. I had so much fun reading it that I decided to try something similar here. I'll share a few favorites myself, then I welcome your contributions, be they long, short, or anywhere in between. I only stipulate that they must be clean - this is a G-rated site, folks. :)

Short Joke (no, not you, Siobhan):
Two men walked into a bar. The third one ducked.

Medium-Sized Joke:
A woman walked into a podiatrist's office and said, "Doctor, I think I'm a moth."

"A moth?! Ma'am, you need a psychiatrist, not a foot doctor. What on earth are you doing here?"

"Well, the light was on, so I came inside."

Long Joke:
An engineer died and found himself at the pearly gates. When he tried to go inside, St. Peter looked in his book and said, "I'm sorry - I don't see your name on my list. I'm afraid you'll have to go Downstairs."

Well, the engineer hadn't been in Hades very long before he decided he didn't like it much. It was hot and stuffy, and there was nothing to do. So, being an enterprising, mechanical type, he built an air-conditioner, a great sound system, and a flat screen TV that received about 3,000 channels (hey, he had limited resources). Pretty soon, the Inferno was a pretty happenin' place.

One day the Devil got a call from St. Peter. "There's obviously been some mistake - you're not supposed to have any engineers down there. You'd better send him Upstairs immediately."

The Devil snorted. "Are you kidding? I love this guy. There's no way I'm letting him leave."

St. Peter replied, "If you're not willing to observe the law, I'm afraid we'll have to take you to court."

"Yeah, right. And where do YOU expect to find a lawyer?"

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Romney on Faith

I heard on the radio yesterday that Mitt Romney planned to give a speech addressing questions about his faith and his candidacy. I assumed he planned to set straight what Mormons believe, and how it compares with other Christian faiths. As it turned out he did no such thing, but I think what he did say had much more bearing on the situation.

Romney pointed out that he was running as an American, not as a member of any particular faith. Furthermore, he declared that listing off doctrinal details would be tantamount to a religious test for candidacy, which the Founding Fathers sought to prevent.

As for Romney's personal beliefs, he did firmly state his conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and he mentioned many of his values that he believes most Americans share. He assured his audience that he would not favor one particular religion as president, but he declared that we should acknowledge our Creator and our duty to him in government and public affairs - basically we are a nation under God, and we need all the reminders we can get that "in God we trust."

The one (minor) issue I have with the speech is his statement that when he takes the oath of office (notice "when" not "if" - ever the optimist, eh?), "that oath becomes [his] highest promise to God." As important as that oath is, it doesn't outweigh the commitments to follow Christ's example and to be the best spouse and parent one can be. I'm not saying a president should skip a summit because his daughter has a soccer game, but when anyone is balancing their numerous important roles in life, we should keep in mind that decisions affecting our character and family will have more eternal impact than anything else we might do, even as president.

If you want to know more about the speech, CNN wrote a good breakdown of it, or you can listen to it at Mitt's website (about 3 minutes of the 10 is an intro by Bush Sr - apparently he's hosting candidates from both sides at his presidential library). There are also excerpts by CNN or on YouTube, each totaling about five minutes. Interesting that CNN focuses more on the political and historical aspects of the speech, while the version I found on YouTube includes Romney's list of values Mormons share with most other Americans.

Frankly, I think the latter is what most people are concerned about when they say they won't vote for a Mormon. Since they consider Mormonism mysterious and different from their own faith, I think they worry that a Mormon president would not demonstrate the same values when making major decisions. I suspect Romney's biggest hurdle will be convincing those people that deep down he values the same basic things they do, and will act accordingly as president.

Friday, November 30, 2007

What Next?

Have you ever received unsolicited food in the mail? Until this week, I hadn't either. Then one day my husband found this granola in our mailbox. The food-loving, fiber-junkie cheapskate in me was delighted. The post-X-files, slightly-paranoid chicken in me wondered whether I should be accepting food from strangers.

Of course, the foodie voice won the argument, but I'm still a little baffled by the idea of getting breakfast from my mailbox.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Solar Google

This evening I read something that reinforced my impression of Google as a an innovative, forward-thinking company that is truly driven to make the world a better place. I knew Google was taking steps to make America's cell-phone system more customer friendly like Europe's, but today I learned that they've also set a goal to develop cost-effective, solar energy technology. Cool.

The Biker Blinks

Dreams are bizarre. At least, mine are. The premises, settings, and cast of characters shift constantly. One minute I could be fighting aliens, the next I could be stuck in a 70s film with Burt Reynolds and a bear (probably my dream brain's weak attempt at a pun: "Smokey (the Bear) and the Bandit" - nyak, nyak. Cough - moving on).

The funny thing is that I usually accept the bizarreness as reality, even when it means doing things I would never do when I'm awake. Of course, that raises all sorts of moral questions. The only one I intend to address this morning is why when I faced two objectionable choices last night, I went along with one and not the other. Don't worry - it's nothing racy unless you're offended by biker fights in bars. On the other hand, if that's your cup of tea, by all means continue reading.

So, Burt, the Bear, and I pulled up to a bar in Burt's 18-wheeler, and I got out and headed for the bar's front door. At this point in the dream I was a burly biker dude, complete with beard, long hair, and black leather. I knew my role as if I were reading it from a script. Part One: Knock someone across the room to establish a reputation as a tough-guy-not-to-be-messed-with. No problem. Some random guy went flying and everyone else subsequently avoided eye contact. Part Two: Saunter up to the bar, scowl, and order a drink. It can be anything, even something weird or campy, as long as I'm convincingly gruff about ordering.

For some reason, I just couldn't do it. I couldn't even order a virgin strawberry daiquiri, a tame, non-alcoholic beverage I've always been kinda curious about. I just stared at the bartender, then turned and stalked out of the bar. The dream went on unruffled - we continued merrily along to a waterslide park with a great buffet - but after I awoke I wondered why I could sock a total stranger but not order a fake drink.

My best guess is that actions in my dreams often seem to happen with little mental input from me and I just accept them as normal, but ordering the drink would require words, and that requires thinking. Once my brain was engaged in the decision-making, my moral standards were, too, and I refused to override them.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Art of Enjoying People

A post on Beth's blog got me thinking tonight. She is living outside Utah for the first time in years, and encountering a lot of people with very different standards from her own. She's trying to figure out how to see these people not as "sinful," "wrong," or even necessarily "other," but as folks trying to live life the best way they know how. Her questions highlighted some similar challenges I've been struggling with.

I sincerely try to be the best I can in every sense, and when I meet people with different values I'm often tempted to be critical and focus on how I'm different (translation: "better"). I think my behavior is motivated by pride ("I'm so much better than them. I rock.") and fear ("If I tolerate that in them, maybe I'll let my own standards slip.").

Of course, both attitudes are sheer twaddle. First of all, life isn't a competition and God doesn't grade on a curve, so focusing on the differences and/or shortcomings of others only distracts from the real road to progress: looking inside ourselves to improve our own character.

As for the fear that acceptance will lead to moral laxity, Christ was the ultimate example of loving others despite their (often egregious) mistakes. He cared more about what a person truly desired to be than about the mistakes they made along their way. That applied to everyone from weak apostles to reformed persecutors to repentant harlots.

All that being said, I still struggle with the temptation to judge and compete. It may take years, or even my whole lifetime to break the habit, but I'm determined to keep trying. Lately, I find two principles have helped me a lot.

One is encapsulated in this quote from Sister Hinckley's "Small and Simple Things": "Fifty was my favorite age. It takes about that long to learn to quit competing--to be yourself and settle down to living. It is the age I would like to be through all eternity!" A nice dose of perspective from a woman who was definitely comfortable in her own skin. I just hope I can learn those lessons before my fifth decade.

The other principle is from Stephen R. Covey's original "7 Habits" book. Years ago one of his sons was struggling socially, and Covey realized that he was trying to change his son's behavior mainly to gratify his own sense of self-worth as a parent. He decided that what his son really needed was a father who would let him make his own way and enjoy him for who he was, rather than struggling to mold him into the personality he expected him to be.

That principle of enjoying people rather than wishing to change them has really stuck with me. Of course, there are many instances (especially for parents) when we need to teach correct values and behavior. Most of the time, though--with friends, co-workers, grocery store clerks, etc.--efforts to change behavior would be futile, and probably even inappropriate. In those cases, we are faced with the choice to either grump about what we don't like, or enjoy what we do.

There is something fiendishly tempting about the grumpy road, but I find that when I look for things to admire and enjoy in people, I always find them and come away from the encounter a happier person.

Now, if I can just remember that when I don't have Beth to remind me . . .

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Purple Thoughts on Red and Blue Entertainment

A while back, I mentioned to a neighbor that I listen to NPR. He grimaced and said, "You listen to that bunch of liberals?" His response baffled me because I think NPR is pretty balanced, especially compared to some of the screaming shock jocks you hear on other stations. Well, a few days ago I heard about a study that puts our conversation in a much clearer light.

Earlier this year, The Normal Lear Center conducted a study on political views and entertainment preferences. They surveyed people about numerous political issues, then asked them questions about what TV, music, and books they like. They found that political views can be a huge predictor for what entertainment a person enjoys.

I'll refer you to the press release and the Center's web page on the study if you want to read the details. For my part, the study's most interesting finding was that liberals tend to enjoy entertainment that presents diverse viewpoints, while most conservatives prefer things that reinforce their existing values.

This makes conservatives sound rather close minded, and in some cases that may be true (for that matter, I've met a few close-minded liberals, too). Be that as it may, I suspect the difference stems from the fact that conservatives' values are often linked to religious beliefs, and in that context exploring other viewpoints would always be considered a negative thing. I think liberals tend to base their values more on intellectual reasoning, and since one idea is as good as another until it's disproved, liberals feel there is nothing to lose and possibly something to gain in considering different viewpoints.

Of course, views on taxes, health care, immigration, etc., are probably not religiously based in most cases,* but I think since many conservatives have moral objections to some liberal views, they tend to think all liberal ideas are tainted by association.

Back to the entertainment issue, it's interesting to see how it plays out in my life. I'm conservative on some issues and moderate on others, and I find that the more conservative I am about a given topic, the less I want to watch or listen to something that conflicts with my beliefs about it. I feel such media is degrading, and think it has a negative impact on our society. On the other hand, I'm more than willing to hear diverse opinions about my moderate issues, as long as it isn't an arrogant monologue or a shouting match. That's probably why I like NPR.

And it's probably why my neighbor didn't. He's one of the most conservative people I know, and I suspect he prefers all those AM stations where conservative talk show hosts shout about what idiots liberals are. I don't have much patience for arguments whose main premise is that the other side is evil and/or stupid. I think that view stifles dialogue and progress, and I know too many good people on both sides to believe it.

*There are certainly exceptions to this statement. For a look at some differing Mormon views on religion and economics, check out STM's recent post.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I have a confession to make: I'm a sucker for forwarded email surveys. You know, the ones that ask questions like, "Favorite ice cream flavor?" (Anything with chocolate.) "Summer or winter?" (Spring. Ok--winter, if I have to choose. Why the discrimination against seasons that actually have pleasant weather?) I like reading what my friends write, and for some inexplicable reason I enjoy answering them myself.

A friend recently posted a blogging equivalent of these surveys, and tagged me to do the same. So here, for your reading enjoyment:

5 Things I was Doing 10 Years Ago:
1) Trying to figure out whether to switch from an English major to Linguistics.
2) Wishing the cafeteria would serve Beef Tips again instead of radioactive Curry Chicken.
3) Teaching eight girls in my dorm to crochet.
4) Debating whether to serve as a missionionary.
5) Struggling to get a peppermint plant to thrive in a dimly lit dorm room (I'm not great at gardening, but I can't resist trying).

5 Things on my To-Do List:
1) Find time to read for personal enrichment.
2) Review the family budget.
3) Create a weekly exercise plan.
4) Write my personal history.
5) Scrub the shower.

5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire:
1) Pay off our debts (student loans and car).
2) Buy a modest home with a modest yard.
3) Put a big chunk in savings.
4) Make large donations to the LDS Church's Humanitarian Aid, Perpetual Education, and temple building funds.
5) Take a university class each semester. My first class would probably be some British literature course. Or perhaps woodshop.

5 Things I Would Never Wear Again:
1) Big scrunchies.
2) Those clunky snow boots that gave me blisters freshman year. I vowed never to buy shoes from a catalog again.
3) A semi-see-through top that was part of our Women's Chorus uniform in high school. I don't think the director realized how bad they'd be. Of course, she always did like Vocal Ensemble better . . .
4) Humongous earrings.
5) Braces.

5 Favorite Toys:
1) Joy :)
2) Computer
3) Kitchenaid
4) Bookstore gift card
5) Digital camera

5 People to Tag:
1) Snowdragonne
2) STM
3) Serena
4) Nicole
5) Jodi
(No pressure though, folks.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

End of an Era

Joy has decided that she is done nursing. Last evening she started to latch on, then pulled away and looked at me as if she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do. I encouraged her to eat, but she showed no further interest in what I had to offer. The same scenario repeated itself this morning, and frankly, she hasn’t been very interesting in nursing for most of this week. Apparently she has decided it is time to stop, and I feel it will be best to follow her lead.

I didn’t weep over the loss of our special, daily bonding time, as I’ve heard some mothers do, but this ending of an era did hit me harder than I expected it to. In the past, when I’ve contemplated the end of nursing, I’ve focused mainly on my increased freedom. Now that it’s actually happening, the idea foremost in my mind is that a sweet part of Joy’s babyhood is gone, never to return.

I suppose I should get used to this pattern. When babies first arrive they are totally dependent on us, and their parents are their whole world. Then slowly but steadily they learn and grow, becoming more and more self-reliant, needing their parents less and less. Of course, that’s as it should be, but that doesn’t make it easy. Tomorrow I’ll try to focus on the many adventures that lie ahead of us, but for today I’m indulging in the absurd wish that my sweet baby could stay a little bundle of Joy forever.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Cold, Hard Facts

My baby is finally starting to get over her cold. This one was a doozy - high fever, nursing strike, sleep deprivation (for both parents and baby), you name it. Still, at least I can say I learned a few things. Here are my hard-won lessons (for the information of fellow rookies, and the amusement of veterans):

1) Tylenol (available in drops for infants) is very effective at reducing fever. Maybe the rest of the planet already knew that, but I had to have a doctor tell me. Administer 15mg (or .15mL) per kilo of Baby's weight (1 kilo = 2.2 pounds).

2) It's also helpful to strip a feverish baby down to her diaper (and maybe a light shirt) in a room heated (or cooled) to about 70 degrees. Surprisingly, a cold bath is NOT a good idea, because it causes the body's heating system to kick in and can actually make a feverish baby even warmer.

3) If you're worried about dehydration, it's better to give Pedialyte or Gatorade than water all the time. First of all, they supply needed electrolytes which would be diluted if Baby got nothing but water all day. Second, since they're sweet she'll be more likely to accept them if she's shown little interest in food or drink. If severe dehydration isn't a concern yet but she's not eating or drinking much, it still might be better to offer juice than water because it has some needed carbs and vitamins, and again, the sweetness may make her more willing to drink it.

4) If Baby refuses to nurse (perhaps because her nose is stuffed), you can pump milk and sneak some into her apple juice so she's still getting the health benefits of nursing.

5) If your OCD nose-wiping makes Baby cry, sometimes it's just better to let it run.

6) If you keep wiping anyway, she may eventually just get used to it and not mind anymore.

7) This too shall pass!!! (Hard to remember at 3:00am, but true nonetheless.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Quote of the Day - "Reality"

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." –Albert Einstein

It's so easy to get caught up in career, school, hobbies, fashion, or just the day-to-day struggle to get stuff done. Some of these legitimately require a lot of our attention, but sometimes we forget that the things we spend most of our time and energy on aren't necessarily the most important ones. In the end, the only things we can take from this life are our family, the character we've developed, and our relationship with God. The rest is just details.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thanks, Honey

My dear husband gave me a fabulous gift today. He stayed home from school* and took care of Baby all day while I finally sorted through piles of clutter and cleaned up longstanding messes. I worked for hours on end, but I did it with a spring in my step because I knew I could labor away without worrying about when naptime would end or Joy would get bored and want some Mama time.

Of course, there were still occasions when I couldn’t resist stopping to play with her, but most of the time I was grateful to let Daddy take over so I could get some solid hours of work in. Bless his heart.

In addition to my progress with the piles, Phillip and I both gained a bit of empathy from the experience. Phillip said that after hours of entertaining, protecting, and running errands with Joy, he can understand why I’m so eager for him to take charge when he gets home so I can devote my full attention to making dinner.

For my part, I now understand why many parents hire nannies. If it wasn’t so important to me to establish a tight-knit family and teach my children certain values, the liberation of having someone else take care of them would be awfully tempting.

*His only class on Thursday is Book of Mormon at the Institute, but he usually spends several hours working in the lab, too.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Play Dates

A young family just moved here from Utah, and the mom recently shared an interesting story about interstate differences in the definition of "playtime." She was picking up her oldest child from kindergarten, and the daughter asked if a schoolmate could come over to play. They walked over to ask Mommy A if that was all right, and the woman seemed taken aback by the request. Seeking to diffuse the situation, Utah Mom invited Mommy A to come over, too, to get to know the family. She even offered to come to Mommy A's house instead, if that would work out better. In the end, Mommy A said she "just wasn't comfortable with that."

The next day, Utah Mom's daughter asked if a different girl could come over. UM approached Mommy B about the prospect, thinking that perhaps Mommy A was just unusually protective. To her surprise, she got the same reaction from Mommy B. Both Mommies seemed to think that spontaneous, unscheduled play was a totally alien concept.

After Mommy B walked away, Mommy C (who had overheard the exchange) said, "Look--that woman probably has her child scheduled for sports, music lessons, and who knows what else throughout the week. If you really want your child to interact with other kids, you'll need to schedule a play date. Or better yet, just sign her up for gymnastics."

When Mommy C moved on, Mommy D (who had heard BOTH conversations) approached UM with a smile and said, "I think our daughters need to be friends." So while the rest of the kindergartners are working on everything from ballet to Chinese, these two girls are just playing. Like normal kids. Revolutionary idea, I know.

For some reason, the idea of play dates has always struck me as odd. When my daughter is older and my life busier, maybe the idea of scheduling time for her to have fun will seem reasonable, but right now it seems to represent an inversion of priorities. Don't get me wrong--I'm all in favor of extra-curricular activities, but when they completely crowd out good, old-fashioned fun, there's something wrong with that picture. There are important lessons to be learned from playing, too.


In one of my previous wards, I knew a man who detested Halloween because he didn’t like the idea of celebrating evil. I can understand his point of view, but I think he and I think of very different things when we consider that holiday.

When I think of Halloween, I visualize jack-o-lantern carving and kids dressing up as their heroes or favorite cartoon characters. I see Halloween as a great excuse to be imaginative, eat tasty sweets, and generally have fun with family and friends. In short, it’s a positive, uplifting holiday that I look forward to each year.

While there are certainly plenty of people who give Halloween a dark slant (costume stores wouldn’t stock all that fake blood and severed plastic limbs unless there was a market for them), but I think that mentality is no worse than associating Christ’s birthday with stress and materialism two months later. In either case, the holiday is as uplifting (or unuplifting) as the observer makes it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Farewell to Another Gene

Today I attended my second funeral this year for someone named Gene. The first was for my friend Siobhan's grandfather. The second was for Gene Barrows, an elderly man I knew from church.

Most of us have been taught the principles of right living, but every now and then you meet someone who demonstrates how to live them. Gene was such a person. He was a physicist of vast intelligence, and one of his relatives commented today that he only seemed aware of matter at the atomic level. He never noticed whether clothes, cars, or houses were fancy or plain, cheap or expensive. If he measured people at all (which I don't think he did, frankly), it was by their heart.

Gene may not have been interested in things, but he cared a lot about people. When family members daydreamed about what they'd do with a million dollars, Gene declared he'd spend every cent helping his stepkids with their careers. In a Sunday school lesson, he once said that in the next life, the reward for those who have discovered the joy of service will be the ability to serve much more quickly and efficiently, and thus experience even greater joy.

Funerals are such bittersweet things. I feel for Gene's grieving family, yet I'm so grateful for all that I learned today about his life, and I'm excited that he's gone home to a place where he can learn and serve even more than he did here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

American Values

About decades ago, I saw an image on the news that troubled me. A grown man was standing atop a Toyota, taking a sledge hammer to its hood as a small crowd cheered him on. The reporter called this pastime "Japan-bashing," and said it was growing in popularity.

You may recall that in the 1980s, most Americans assumed Japan was poised to take over the world. The Japanese seemed to be smarter and have a stronger work ethic than we did, and their high-quality products were steadily crowding out our homemade versions. American anxiety was understandable, but what bothered me was that people didn't respond by studying and working harder. They simply took out their frustration on an inanimate symbol of someone else's hard work and commitment to quality.

Fortunately, the car-smashing fad was relatively short-lived. I had always assumed that was because the Japan's financial bubble burst, and consequently it didn't knock us squarely off our superpower pedestal. I learned on the radio today that there was a little more to the story.

This afternoon, NPR aired a piece on the car manufacturer Toyota. Apparently many of the folks wielding sledge hammers years ago were American auto workers fearful of losing their jobs (as well as a fair number of politicians currying favor with the masses). Toyota executives responded to the Japan-bashing by stepping up plans to build factories among the very people that vilified them. By providing so many jobs in the U.S., they apparently allayed workers' fears of unemployment and the furor died down.

Fast forward two decades. American car makers are still struggling to compete with Japanese quality, and earlier this year Toyota finally supplanted GM as the top international car seller. There were no riots; no destruction of Corollas or Celicas. Apparently Americans don't mind mediocrity as long as it doesn't impact our bank accounts.

Japan may not have overtaken us yet, but sooner or later they or someone else will if Americans as a rule maintain a comfortable sense of entitlement, rather than the commitment to work and innovation that put us on top in the first place.

Nature vs Nurture in the Pumpkin Patch

Our little family went to pumpkin patch together for the first time last night. Last year I just bought a couple pumpkins at the grocery store, and the year before that we were newly-minted newlyweds with too many boxes to unpack to deal with frills like jack-o-lanterns. I'm glad we all went together this year--it's just one of those family tradition-type things that makes me happy.

Speaking of family traditions, it’s interesting--when I was growing up, my dad always selected tall pumpkins because he likes carving long, thin faces. When Phillip picked up one short, squat pumpkin after another last night, I found myself thinking, “Wait—daddies are supposed to like tall pumpkins! Something’s wrong with this picture!” I quickly realized how illogical this train of thought was, but deep down, part of me still can’t figure out why there’s no tall pumpkin on our porch.

Monday, October 22, 2007

As Requested

Who am I to oppose the will of the people?

Unless, of course, the people want me to do an interpretive dance to the theme song of Mission Impossible, in which case the people are doomed to disappointment.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Water For Thought*

OPTIMIST: The glass is half full.

PESSIMIST: The glass is half empty.

REALIST: The glass is.

IDEALIST: The glass should be full.

FEMINIST: My glass seems less full than HIS glass.


ANARCHIST: Break the glass!

CAPITALIST: Let's sell the glass.

CHEMIST: It's approximately 50% dihydrogen oxide, 40% nitrogen, and 10% oxygen.

*These quotes come from a shirt someone once gave my husband. Wish I could reproduce the cartoon faces that go with them - the environmentalist has really wild hair.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lesson from a Nosedive

This afternoon, I glanced up just in time to see Joy lose her balance and plummet forehead-first toward the carpet. They probably heard that "BONK" as far east as Detroit. After the standard 1.7-second pause during which a toddler mentally registers that they're hurt and not happy about it, Joy started wailing while I did my best to comfort with hugs and few favorite toys. I found myself wondering why baby stores don't sell infant-sized helmets with full face guards in their childproofing sections.

I also got to thinking about the oft-used analogy that we should approach life like toddler learning to walk. Most people focus on the fact that babies don't let the frustration of mistakes deter them from their goal of walking. I think it's also significant to point out that learning to walk isn't just difficult and fraught with mistakes - it hurts! If Joy invested a dollar for every time she bopped a body part in the pursuit of mobility, we wouldn't have to save a cent for college.

What makes babies persevere despite all the bumps and tumbles? Is it because they have such short memories? Is it because they have no concept of failure, or simply that they don't yet care whether they fail at something that interests them? I would guess it's a combination of all those options.

As an adult, I can't simply forget that I have failed in the past and will no doubt fail at things in the future. However, I like Joy's example of making decisions based on interest and curiosity rather than fear. I'm better at that than I used to be, but I still have a little room for improvement.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Its Good to Know You're Grammer

I don't usually think of grammar lessons as entertainment, but this post's dry humor was rather amusing, in a sheik sort of way. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Define Hobbie

Someone once said there is a fine line between a hobby and a mental illness. That line becomes particularly blurry when your hobby is composting. The concept itself (carefully tending a pile of decaying organic matter) seems squarely outside the realm of normal human behavior, and I find my involvement with this hobby led to some slightly bizarre behavior.

For example, this afternoon I was explaining to Phillip the need to add some dry material to the compost pile to keep it from becoming a slimy mess full of smelly, anaerobic bacteria. My husband politely reminded me that we were having lunch, and asked if we could continue this riveting conversation later.

As for the aforementioned dry material, since I lack a yard to supply fallen leaves or lawn clippings (which you can dry out and then add to the pile), I have to seek alternative sources of dry stuff. I find I’m almost excited to get junk mail these days so I can shred it and add it to the compost pile. If the credit card pushers start slacking off, though, sometimes I have to load Baby into her stroller and pay a visit to a neighbor that doesn’t rake their leaves very often. I’m sure they appreciate the anonymous disposal of their yard waste, but I can only guess at the thoughts of passing motorists who watch me with slightly furrowed brows.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sobering News

This evening, my brother sent me a link to Utah's Deseret News website. I was happy to learn that Elder Wirthlin's "ailment" during Conference was just a case of locked knees. However, the main reason Andrew directed me to the site was an article on what Utahns Google.

The good news is that Utah ranks number one in the nation for searches on things like "Jesus" and "family history." Oh yeah - and "Lord of the Rings" and "Mitt Romney." The bad news is that it also leads the nation in searches for "pornography" and other more unsavory words which shall not be written on this blog.

I should clarify that the Google Trends site employed for this article measures the ratio of searches, rather than the total number. That means that even though highly-populated areas like California may have a higher total number of "Jesus" searches, if you compare an average 100 Californians to an average 100 Utahans, the Utahans are more likely to search for Jesus. And porn.

Experts cited in the article speculate about why such a highly religious state would have such shady internet habits. Some point out that in a society where there is lots of pressure to conform, there is also temptation to rebel. Others suggest that since immorality is so strongly forbidden among Mormons, many become curious and use the anonymous internet to explore what all the fuss is about. Some specialists also raised the question whether those searching for wholesome subjects and those searching for unsavory ones tend to be separate people, or the very same people. The Trends site offers no clues on that one.

The most sobering statistic in the article was the estimate that 35% of Church members view shady material on the internet (that's slightly lower than the national average). This doesn't mean they view it every day. Apparently most of those people wander to questionable sites, then catch themselves and sheepishly log out, only to repeat the process a few months later.

So why am I writing about this? I don't usually like to post depressing things, but I felt we need to be aware that this problem is not restricted to the rare reclusive stranger. Most likely, people you know personally struggle with it - not necessarily every day, but enough to haunt them and slowly poison their lives. If we're aware of the danger, perhaps we can prevent it or help someone who already has a problem get help for it.

How tragic that people who have access to so much light are still so tempted by darkness.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Happy Blog Unmasks Fallacy

I stumbled across an interesting blog today. It's called The Happiness Project, and the author has set a personal goal to try practically every existing theory, principle, and tip for increasing happiness, then report what works for her and what doesn't. Interesting idea. I might just choose a few promising theories and try it myself.

Today's THP post particularly resonated with me. She discusses the "arrival fallacy" - the assumption that we'll finally be happy if we can just attain or achieve a certain thing. That future-focus blinds us to sources of happiness in the present, and it overlooks the fact that our desired achievement (be it a baby, a job, or even just getting your little apartment clean) often brings with it not blissful euphoria but additional responsibilities (e.g caring for baby, learning new job skills, or KEEPING the apartment in its pristine condition). As the saying goes, life doesn't get "better"- it just gets different. Moral of the story: enjoy the journey.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Conference Reflections

Conference weekend has come and gone again. I’m still trying to process everything, but one thing I will say is that I love the calling of Henry B. Eyring to fill President Faust’s seat in the First Presidency. He embodies all the qualities I so loved in President Faust: gentleness, dignity, and messages that always resonated deeply with me.

I must also say that the most memorable talk of the conference was Elder Wirthlin’s on Saturday afternoon. Halfway through his talk he suddenly began trembling terribly, yet he continued on for five or ten more minutes, determined to finish his message. Elder Nelson (who is a doctor) came to his aid immediately, and stood protectively by his side until the end of his talk. The principle Elder Wirthlin felt was so important to teach was Christ-like love, and I can think of few more powerful lessons on it than the image of those two apostles side by side: one feeble and trembling, yet determined to teach us a crucial truth; the other tall and strong, eager to both protect and support his friend

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Doing Violence to a Book

I'm glad that the success of Harry Potter, Narnia, and other fantasy book/movies has convinced the movie studios that such family-friendly films can be a worthwhile investment. Unfortunately, they still don't always understand and honor what made the books popular in the first place.

Case in point: This week saw the release of "The Seeker," a film loosely based on "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper. I say "loosely" because whereas the Harry Potter people worked closely with J. K. Rowlings to stay true to her vision, the folks behind The Seeker made such major changes to the plot and characters that Cooper sent them a letter requesting that they make alterations (which I don't think were made).

For example, the book's main character is a cheerful 11-year-old British boy from a well-adjusted family. The screenwriter apparently decided audiences would relate better to a 13-year-old American struggling to adjust to life in Britain, cope with a dysfunctional family, and deal with relationship angst. Oh yeah, and save the world.

In a radio interview, Cooper said she deliberately placed her hero at the end of childhood rather than the beginning of adolescence because he would still be figuring out who he really is, rather than how he (and his hormones) relate to others. She conceded that you can't avoid "doing violence to a book" when you try to translate it to the screen, but you could sense the disappointment in her voice as she discussed how her book has been reworked.

I suppose that pain I heard in her voice was what made me want to write about all this. I couldn't help thinking how difficult it would be to I pour my heart and soul into into a story, then see it transformed into something I barely recognized. It seems almost like a sad form of plagiarism. The story's been reworked so much that it's no longer really Cooper's, yet the new version borrows so much from the old that the writer can't really claim it as his either. Perhaps if he'd added a subtitle: "The Seeker: An Unauthorized Retelling."

This sad business alone was enough to turn me off of the film, and since most reviews range from lukewarm to outraged I don't feel any great temptation to go see it. As one critic put it, the studio took a charming children's adventure and removed all the adventure and charm.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Someone Called for Chocolate?

STM, these are for you (and anyone you care to share with).

Because sometimes life's just a bear.

Life and Death

My friend Snow Dragonne recently complained about a show in which her favorite character sacrifices his life for the cause and to achieve his own redemption. Of course, this happens right as he finally begins dating his long-term love interest. SD wanted to know how come our media often equates heroism with sacrifice and death, rather than just letting the good guys live happily ever after. Her frustrations got me thinking about how (or whether) media reflects life.

We all know that triumphs purchased cheaply are valued cheaply, and pain and struggle strengthen our character far more than ease. Of course, I don't enjoy or invite tribulation, but on the other hand I know God didn't send us to this world to take a vacation. Life is supposed to be a mix of happy and hard, because if it were all easy and fun it would actually be a waste of our time. It would be like trying to work our muscles with inflatable dumbbells.

As for wanting to see the good guys live happily ever after, there are actually many shows and movies where that happens. They're produced by a company called Disney. I like those scenarios, but what I'd like to see more of is the sense that death is not the (often tragic) end of a story. Most of our tales treat death as the worst possible tragedy, to be avoided at all costs. If a beloved character dies, there is wrenching grief, but rarely any mention of hope for a reunion or that they have gone to a happier place. One of the things I love about the last Harry Potter book is the concept that death is merely an (admittedly intimidating) gateway that leads a good person on to something better, and to loved ones who are waiting eagerly to greet them.

Don't get me wrong--I am not overly eager to experience tribulation or death. However, I think it's important to remember that life is SUPPOSED to be hard, that trials serve an important purpose, and that the death of a good person is neither a tragedy for them nor a permanent separation for us (assuming we're good, too :).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

New Template

Yes, you're at the right blog. I've been meaning to change my template for some time because I wanted something a little brighter, and because it always seemed strange to log onto other blogs that looked almost exactly like mine. I've never seen this template before, and it just seems to fit me better than most others I've seen. Plus, I like the little wingdings at the beginning of each post.

Of course, if I start seeing this one all over the place now, I may change again. We'll see.

Quote of the Day - "Life"

"The trick is to enjoy life. Don't wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead." Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Sometimes I do pretty well at this. Other times I still take life--and myself--too seriously.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Don't Worry, Be Happy

When Baby and I were out for a walk today, we encountered an older gentleman who decided to strike up a conversation with Joy. I noticed she was grinning as he spoke to her. In fact she was smiling more than I'd seen her smile in the last few days. I realized it was probably because he was smiling at her, too.

That in itself was no great epiphany, but it made me recognize that I have not been smiling at my baby much lately. Most of the time that she is awake, I imagine I wear a very serious face as I try to determine what basic needs must be met (hunger, rest, sanitation, etc.), what comes next on her eating/sleeping schedule, or how best to entertain her (you know you're a grown-up when playing requires significant mental effort). I'm so busying managing that I forget to just have fun.

Ironic that this revelation occurred right after my post about showing Joy we like her. I can just imagine her thinking, "It's great that they feed me and change my diapers, but I sure wish that mom-lady was a bit more friendly." I want to teach her that home life - and life in general - should be enjoyed and not just endured.

Monday, September 24, 2007


On our recent anniversary, Phillip and I decided to purchase The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. We're currently a few chapters into it, and it has provided some helpful insights.

A statement in his introduction particularly struck me. Chapman said a child's most important, basic need is "to sense that he or she belongs and is wanted." I think that is at the core of every relationship - we all want to feel that we belong in a group (whether it be a family, a circle of friends, etc.), and that people like us and want us to be there.

I think that is also at the heart of my relationship with Joy. First of all, she belongs with our family. Other babies are cute and all, but when I see her, I think, "Ah! There's the baby that is inseparably connected to me. I'm hers, and she's mine." That said, I need to make sure she likes this family she's stuck with, and that she knows we like her.

Funny that a book on marriage makes me think about parenthood. Perhaps that's because I've been preparing for and nurturing my marriage for years, but I'm still very new to motherhood so any new advice is a revelation.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Shocking Language

My little family is pretty careful about the words we use. We eschew the major swear words, but there are also minor things like "butt" or "that sucks" that we just don't feel comfortable saying. We don't mind if YOU say them, of course, just as long as you don't mind that we don't. :)

Well, this morning I uttered a word that shocked my dear husband. We had disassembled our vacuum to replace a broken belt, and when I picked the lot up to move it across the room, a heavy part came loose and landed with a lout thud on our table. You know--the table we spent hours sanding yesterday so we could refinish it. The table that now has a vacuum-part-sized ding in its surface.

I grimaced and said, "Dang!"

Phillip raised his eyebrows. "What did you say?"

"I said, daNG." (I emphasized the nasal glottal on the end of the word, lest my dear husband think I'd said something really offensive).

Phillip's expression became very thoughtful. "Wow. I don't think I've heard you say that more than once or twice in our marriage."

So there you have it. I guess "dang" is about as edgy as we get in this household.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Anonymity is Bliss

NPR recently interviewed members of the Sikh religion about their beliefs and the post-9/11 persecution some have experienced. Since male Sikhs are required to wear turbans they are often mistaken for Muslims, and following the September 11 attacks, the first person killed in retaliation in the U.S. was an Indian Sikh named Balbir Singh Sodhi. The interviewees on NPR said they are working hard to spread awareness about their religion, because they fear if another terrorist attack occurs, they will once again be targeted by people who think they are Muslims. (Incidentally, the second and third people murdered to "avenge" 9/11 were also non-Muslims. Apparently some Americans can be just as violently ignorant as the terrorists they vilify.)

At the end of the interview, one of the Sikhs agreed to wrap the reporter's head in a turban. Of course, none of his listeners could see the result, but he said he still felt very different. He's used to wearing clothes that let him blend in. Now all of a sudden he was wearing something he knew would draw lots of attention, and not necessarily the kind he would like. Even in the privacy of his studio, you could tell the idea made him a little nervous.

This episode got me thinking. I've never experienced serious prejudice, and I do a pretty good job of blending in most of the time (unless I'm in a classroom, in which case I speak up rather more than I should). I'm white, I'm 5-foot-something, I weigh one-hundred-and-something, and I wear clothes that are just interesting enough to not be totally bland. If I did decide to wear something that drew attention, it would probably be something pretty or fun, but still not too outlandish.

What if my beliefs required me to wear something that would draw everyone's attention wherever I went? What if it made some of those people suspect me, fear me, or hate me. The prospect gives me greater respect for people committed enough to their beliefs to wear a turban or veil in spite of the possible consequences.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stress Management

People deal with stress in varying ways. Some go on a shopping spree; others eat way too many brownies. As for me, I decided to buy a compost bin.

I’ve been wanting to try composting for some time. For some reason, it rankles the depths of my soul to toss out lots of kitchen scraps and garden prunings when I could compost them instead. It would be ecofriendly and it would save me having to buy more potting soil to support my gardening habit. What's not to love? But I digress--back to the stress management thing.

Yesterday was a rough day. I won't go into the details--basically it was the usual round of too much to do and not enough time, exacerbated by the fact that Baby woke up very early from naps. Several times. By late afternoon I was getting close to meltdown stage, so I declared the second Tuesday of September Official Hendrickson Composting Day. Baby and I drove over to Rite Aid where I bought a 10-gallon plastic storage bin, then we went on a walk to collect some dry leaves to offset all the green stuff I intend to add to my “pile.” Phillip will drill holes in the bin tomorrow for drainage, and I’m going to do a bit more online research to make sure I produce useful compost rather than a smelly mess. I'm sure my neighbors will appreciate that.

All of this did wonders for my mood. That is, until I discovered the ant infestation. My husband came home to find his typically benign wife squashing wee beasties with rather more force than was necessary. I think that scared him a little. Apparently it scared the ants, too, because they haven't returned. Apparently they decided it was unwise to steal food from mentally unbalanced humans.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Cake, Not Books

I'm sure you're all wondering how my "reading day" went. Let's just say Baby chose this day to NOT take her morning nap, so I didn't even fill my daily quota of work, much less play. Sigh.

The day wasn't a total loss, though. First of all, I tried a new recipe for dinner which turned out well (always an epicurean ego-booster). Also, we had some friends over this evening. They supplied cake, and we supplied ice cream and introduced them to the delights of "Sink or Swim" (our favorite card game). Good food and friendly company - not a bad Friday, all things considered.

Of course, I'm still determined to actually crack a book open next week. Gotta feed the mind, too, after all.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Quote of the Day - "Right"

"Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do." --Jason Love

My brain took an extra millisecond to process this one. Maybe it was the heat . . .

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Time Well Spent . . . Sort Of

The temperatures in Southern California have been in and out of triple digits for the past week. We were enduring the heat as valiantly as possible with our little wall A/C unit, then fate (or the electric company) decided to kick us when we were down. The power in our apartment building went out last night, and stayed off through this whole, long, hot summer day. For all I know it's still off (rather than fire up the stove in our sauna-like apartment, we ate dinner out and then fled to my parents' home for the night).

In addition to sapping my strength and making me sweat profusely, the power outage presented me with an interesting dilemma. Since the computer was in a coma, I couldn't telecommute, blog, research infant-toddler car seats, or do practically anything else on my to-do list. So what to do with my time while baby napped? Of course - read! And which of the many tantalizing tomes did I pull from the shelf? "What to Expect the First Year," to read up on age appropriate baby feeding.

I am such a mom.

Don't despair, though. I've set aside Friday as my reading day, and though I haven't yet decided what book I'll choose, you can rest assured it won't have "What to Expect" in the title.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Still Life Meets Crazy Life

Last night Joy stayed with some friends while Mama and Daddy went out to dinner. The night was still young when we left the restaurant, so we decided to poke around the Barnes & Noble Bookstore a couple doors down. Books from countless genres called out to me as I strolled through the store, but it seemed most practical to use my gift card to expand Joy’s board book library (I find myself reading the same three or four books all the time). While Phillip skimmed a computer programming guide, I browsed through the board books, selected a couple I liked, then headed to the counter to make my purchase.

The plan was for me to pay for the books and then find Phillip in the computer section, whereupon we’d head for the train and home. However, on the way from the cashier to computerland I was waylaid by a book with a black cover. The photo on its jacket could have been a French still life from two centuries ago—red grapes, cheese, a meaty bone, and a mushroom. Above them were the words: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Ah, food, history, and pretentious vocabulary—three of my passions.By the time Phillip found me, I had read the entire introduction.

The author proposed some interesting ideas (which I promptly related to my longsuffering and rather tired husband as we walked to the train station), but what struck me most about the experience was how delicious it felt to read a book for sheer pleasure. These days, most of my reading carries with it a sense of duty and urgency. I keep up with friends’ numerous blog posts and try to think of meaningful responses to them. I feel it my responsibility to at least skim the news and wrestle with difficult questions it raises. I read the Ensign partly because I know I should, and I’m currently rushing through Psalms because I’m behind on my goal to read the standard works in a year (I’m considering ditching that goal—what’s the point of reading the scriptures if you go too fast to take anything in?). What’s more, all these literary liaisons are crammed into bits of spare time which could abruptly end at any moment if Baby wakes up.

Please don’t misunderstand me--I really do enjoy all this reading. However, the pleasure often has a rushed, even burdened feel to it, as if it is actually another task rather than a break from work.

I suppose this is just a variation on my recent theme of "Stop rushing to do so much stuff! Slow down and actually enjoy some of it!" Specifically, I think I need to take a little time each week to just read something I like.

Also, I think I'll forget the "scriptures in a year" goal for now and just read at my own pace.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Enjoy the Journey

I just read Snowdragonne's thoughts on enjoying the night sky, and it made me think about the beauties of this earth that I enjoy so much but see so seldom these days.

One of the best hikes I've ever been on was the one where I decided to focus on my surroundings rather than my destination. I had a limited amount of time and I realized I wasn't going to reach the summit before I had to turn around, so I slowed way down and started looking around me instead of just ahead of me. I started noticing flowers, birds, and other beautiful things that I'd been missing before. I'd been so intent on not tripping as I hurried along that I focused entirely on the dirt trail rather than natural beauties I'd come to see in the first place.

That seems to be the story of my life lately: I get so busy doing things that I forget to savor the people and experiences that really matter.

Gotta work on that.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quote of the Day - "Physics and Fashion"

"Once you can accept the universe as being something expanding into an infinite nothing which is something, wearing stripes with plaid is easy." --Albert Einstein

Doubt this one will change my life, but it sure was good for a laugh.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Family Togetherness

A friend recently wrote on her blog that her once close-knit (if somewhat dysfunctional) extended family has started drifting apart. Her grandpa died a few months ago, and now that the generation that united them is passing away, the aunts and uncles have started drifting in different directions. They still care about each other; they just don't spend as much time together as they used to.

I haven't yet suffered such a loss, but my extended family is experiencing a similar phenomenon. My dad's side of the family used to gather once or twice a month for birthdays and every major holiday. Now all the cousins are grown up and going their separate ways, and it is hard to get even the local aunts and uncles together very often. It's kind of sad, but what is is and you just have to roll with it.

The river of life and generations flows on, and though I miss some of the old traditions, we've kept a few of them and we're creating new ones with our immediate families and our new little family. I'm curious to see what traditions stick or evolve with Baby and her future siblings. It's kind of fun to think we're creating a unique, hybrid family culture that will be even more than the sum of its parts.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quote of the Day - "Roommates"

"Love ebbs and flows, but it goes on being love. We are used to the fluctuations in our own feelings. I know, for example, that I don't love my husband exactly the same way every day. We go through periods of living more like roommates, bumping up against each other matter-of-factly in the ordinary course of living in the same house. I'm busy; he's busy. Love ebbs. Then something happens: I don't know what it is. Maybe I get a little extra sleep one night, maybe he does--maybe something nice comes in the mail. Maybe he says something that makes me laugh and look at him, really look at him, for the first time in days. Maybe absolutely nothing I can identify happens. But one day we decide on the spur of the moment to go out for ice cream together after dinner, or maybe I suddenly feel like giving him a hug, and it isn't just roommates anymore. Love flows back up around us again, warm and familiar." --Beppie Harrison

I came across this quote a few weeks ago. It paints an incredibly accurate portrait of my marriage (and probably yours, too, if you're married). Phillip and I are both a bit introverted, often content to spend hours working alone on our individual tasks and projects. We respect and love each other, but sometimes we do seem more like roommates than sweethearts.

Then all of a sudden a word, a gesture, a thought wakes my sleeping heart, and I feel so lucky to have this man in my life. I'm almost overwhelmed with gratitude for his good heart, for the fun we have together, for our ability to relate to each other.

I'm glad I have a roommate who does the dishes, a partner who shares my principles, and a sweetheart who makes my life so much sweeter than it would otherwise have been.

Barak & Mitt

P.S. For those of you who commented on the "Candidate in Pink" post, I just posted a reply. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and I'm sorry I didn't respond sooner - we've been out of town for a few days.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eavesdropping Encouraged

The blogosphere is a funny place. In everyday interaction eavesdropping is generally frowned upon, but on blogs it's practically encouraged. You're free to read about anyone's lives, loves, losses, and random musings, whether they know you or not.

What's more, you often get to know people more quickly and intimately than you could through normal conversation. In face to face interaction, you can't just walk up to a stranger and ask about their hopes and dreams. We don't generally feel comfortable revealing that kind of stuff to people we've never met. You have to wade through several layers of smalltalk about hometowns, college majors, hobbies, etc., before you find out what really makes them tick.

In the blogosphere, though, the first day you encounter a blog you can read for fifteen minutes and get a pretty clear idea about what the auther is like, what interests them, what they value. And if you like them, you're free to visit as often as you like and participate in their conversations. Jane Austen might be appalled at the social anarchy, but I love it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Candidate in Pink

I'll give you one guess who the title refers to. That's right: John Edwards.

Just kidding. The other day, I heard a radio piece on Hillary Clinton that I found rather interesting. They were discussing, of all things, her campaigning wardrobe. On the one hand, it's an utterly frivolous subject; on the other hand it raises some intriguing questions.

As a pre-candidacy senator, Clinton favored power pantsuits and no make-up. Now that she's courting America's favor, she's had a serious makeover and she's wearing skirts and dresses, some of them in shades of pink. The radio folk drew the conclusion that she's trying to appeal to American's traditional, subconscious ideas of womanhood, even if our conscious expectations of women are somewhat different these days.

I'm still trying to figure out what I think about that. Part of me is kind of amused at the disconnect between what we say a woman can be and what we really feel comfortable with. On the other hand, part of me is a little irked that a female candidate has to look and act like something she's not in order to court public opinion. But then, I suppose that's the nature of politics - they're all trying to become what we want, rather than convince us to want what they already are.

I probably won't vote for Hillary Clinton (pink dress notwithstanding, we don't see eye to eye on most things), but I'm still excited to live in a time when she can make a strong run for the presidency. In the past the question has always been, "Could a woman be president?" Now the question just seems to be what title they'll give Bill if she wins. I love that our country has reached a point when a woman, an African-American, and a Mormon all have a decent shot at the presidency, and no one seems particularly fazed about it. 'Bout time.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Grass is Always Greener . . .

This afternoon I read a post by my friend Beth about her struggles to enjoy singlehood. She pointed out that there are so many things to love about being single - freedom, solitude if you desire it, sole management of finances, etc. - but it can be hard to really enjoy them when what you desire most is marriage and children.

I completely relate to that, partly because I spent several years living that paradox, but also because (irony of ironies) I face a similar challenge now that I'm married. I have the world's sweetest husband and an amazingly cheerful and well-behaved baby, but sometimes I forget those incredible blessings as I focus on things I wish I had - more time, freedom to come and go unrestrained by nursing and napping schedules, a yard, central air.

Wishes are human and goals are divine, but if we can't appreciate our current blessings while striving for additional ones, we'll spend our entire lives waiting to be happy. And that's sad.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What Women Want

I once heard someone relate the story of a husband who decided to sincerely compliment his wife at least once a day. He expressed his admiration of her virtues, her strengths, the way she nurtured their children, etc. After several days, his wife said, "I know what you're doing, and I thank you for it, but all I really want is for you to tell me I'm beautiful."

Now I won't deny that it is very important to me to know my husband thinks I'm beautiful. However, it disturbs me that the speaker implied that this is what EVERY woman wants MOST. Maybe some do (more power to 'em), but for my part it is even more important to me to know that my husband respects me, and that I inspire him to be better. In turn, those two qualities are what I love most about him.

In a recent post, Scienceteachermommy referred to this as the Darcy Effect. The term refers to Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy, whose love and respect for Elizabeth Bennett inspires him to be more humble and selfless. STM thinks Darcy's enduring appeal lies in the fact that his sweetheart's example motivates him to be better. I think there's a bit more to it than that (e.g. Elizabeth finds him inspiring, too; and her influence on him is more meaningful because he already has such high standards), but I definitely think STM has a point. I (like most women I know well) want a sweetheart who finds respects me and finds me inspiring, and I want to feel the same way about him.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


As most of you probably already know, President James E. Faust of the Church's First Presidency passed away yesterday morning. I will really miss that man. I have long felt a warm affection and respect for him, as if he were some sort of third grandpa to me. Perhaps it was because he often flavored good counsel with a bit of personal experience, like a dash of seasoning that makes wholesome food delicious. He invited us into his life and his memory, so he seemed familiar to me, even though we've never met.

I'm glad he has moved on to greet the Lord he loved, but I'll sure miss him down here.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Bonding Over Dishes

A few days ago, Phillip pointed out that we used to wash dishes together (him washing, me drying), but for some time now he has washed alone. I’m not sure how it started; perhaps it was when I needed every free minute to work on my thesis. Whatever the reason, Phillip said he missed my company, and asked if I would mind joining him again. Yesterday evening I resumed my post, towel in hand, and we had a good time talking and just enjoying each other’s company. The companionship with my husband is definitely worth more than whatever housework or leisure I’d have been doing instead.

I had planned to join Phillip for dish duty again tonight, but by evening I had a splitting headache. I was torn between spending quality time with my husband and curling up in a fetal position with our big, stuffed iguana. I decided to compromise and just pull up a chair near Phillip while he was washing. I'm glad I did--we had a thoughtful discussion about things we've been reading lately.

It's funny--lately we've been struggling to come up with activities to do at home together (Joy goes to sleep pretty early, and we lack the funds for expensive dates anyway). You can only play so many games, watch so many movies, etc. I never imagined that housework would be our magical solution, but it's turning out to be a great way for us to hang out and just enjoy being together. And hey, you can't beat the price.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Quote of the Day - "Happiness"

"You don't find happiness; you make it." - Bishop Crabb

Today we attended the wedding of a couple who are about to join our ward. Bishop Crabb officiated, and I found some of his remarks very touching. In addition to the above quote, I liked his comment that the bride and groom will be forming a unique family, born of their personal qualities, interests, and strengths. Phillip and I each come from families with distinct personalities and we, in turn, are forming a new family with its own quirks and traditions. I'm excited to see how we will evolve as the years go by.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Not Alone

"We read to know we are not alone," according to a character in the film "Shadowlands." I assume he meant we seek confirmation that others share our ideas, desires, fears, etc. I confess I've never really felt that way about reading (frankly, I just like a good story), but the principle definitely applies when it comes to blogging.

When we are around other people we tend to be on our best (or at least our better) behavior. It's not necessarily hypocritical - we're just trying to accentuate the positive so socializing will be an uplifting experience. The only trouble is that when everyone leaves their problems home, it can give each person the impression that they're the only one with a disorderly life or misbehaving children.

In the blogosphere, though, we're less concerned with keeping up appearances. We share our highs and lows - the former inspiring, the latter comforting as we're reminded that we're not the only ones who get discouraged by our challenges and faults. I'm grateful for a forum that allows me to see both the divinity and humanity of the people I know.

Bookstore Ambiance

I hung out at a bookstore today. I had met a friend for lunch, then we wanted to find a place to chat so we walked over to Borders and sat at a table outside for an hour or so. I suppose we could easily have found a park bench, but there was something about being so close to all those books that we found strangely appealing.

Do you have a place like that - a place you comforting because of what you associate with it?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


I volunteered to be on the national bone marrow donor registry today. I wasn’t aware there was such a thing until a few weeks ago. Twin baby boys in a nearby stake have a blood disease that will claim their lives if a suitable bone marrow donor is not found soon, so all the surrounding stakes are holding drives for people to find out if their bone marrow is similar enough to the twins’ to be of use. The test is simple enough: you rub cotton swabs on the inside of your cheeks, then the swabs are sent to a lab to find out if your tissue is similar enough to that of any patients needing donors. Even if I’m not a suitable donor for the twins, my data will be kept in a registry in case it matches someone else who needs a donor.

When the drive was initially announced in church, I understood that I would need to donate blood in order to be tested. We were later informed that that wouldn't be necessary, but before I learned that I was prepared to give blood in order to be on the registry. That was a big decision for me. I absolutely-from-the-bottom-of-my-soul hate needles, and the only time I ever tried to give blood it was a traumatic and fruitless experience (they couldn’t even get enough to use what they took), but I was determined to be tested no matter what I had to go through. If my baby was sick I would be desperate for anyone and everyone to be tested, and with that on my mind there was no question that I had to go today. The odds of finding a suitable donor are long, but with God all things are possible.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Book Review - #7

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've spend the last couple days hanging out with a guy named Potter. Harry Potter. Maybe you've heard of him.

I'd have to say this final book is my favorite one of the bunch. It is suspenseful, sometimes heart-wrenching, and above all fascinating to see how Rowlings weaves old and new elements together into complex yet captivating story. It always surprises me how minute details and events from past books are later revealed to have enormous importance.

I think one of the most brilliant things about Rowlings' work is the balance she strikes between imperfection and inspiration. The characters’ human foibles make them both engaging and unpredictable, yet the values those imperfect protagonists strive to emulate are inspiring: family, loyalty, compassion, duty, faith.

Interestingly, the final chapters made me very grateful for the Resurrection. Whether we die young or live full lives, it is comforting to know that if we live right we will eventually find rest and be reunited with those we love.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Define "Accomplish"

Update on the bonking: I've been making brief to-do lists and trying to accept my limits, which seems to be helping. However, I often find that I'm busy all day, yet don't feel I accomplish much. I think I've finally figured out why: my definition of “accomplishing” no longer applies in my current situation.

I used to assume that finishing meant you completed a project, then set it aside forever as you moved on to something new. As a student, I finished papers, then finished classes, then finished my degrees, and so on. I also finished my mission, and finished my quest for eternal companionship.

Life isn’t so linear now that I’m a stay-home mom. The things I finish each day (study scriptures, play with Baby, tidy up, make dinner, hug husband, etc.) are right back on my to-do list the next morning. By my old definition of progress, I don’t seem to be getting anything done because I never move on to the "next thing." The new circular arrangement isn’t necessarily bad, but I need to adjust my mindset if I want to stop having weekly meltdowns.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Delish Dessert

I like food that is delicious and easy to make. Any recipe that meets those two criteria is a definite keeper in my book (assuming it's fairly good for you, too). I encountered such a recipe tonight. It's called Five Minute Fruit Parfaits from "How to Cook Without a Book" by Pam Anderson:

Five Minute Fruit Parfaits

4 cups berries, or peeled and sliced peaches
1/2 c plain yogurt (the original called for sour cream)
1/4 c brown sugar

Put 1/2 cup of fruit in each of 4 stemmed goblets or small bowls. Top each with 2 T yogurt then sprinkle each with 2 t brown sugar. Repeat layering of fruit, yogurt, and brown sugar. I like to reserve one berry for each parfait and put it on top of the last layer. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Serves 4.

OK, so it's a bit of a misnomer since they're supposed to chill a lot longer than 5 minutes, but I'm not complaining. You can throw these together and pop them in the fridge before you start making dinner, and by the time you're ready for dessert you have a refreshing treat waiting for you. These were so good that if raspberries are still on sale when I drop by Vons tomorrow, I'll probably make them again. And again. And again. Mmmm . . . raspberries . . .

Monday, July 16, 2007


I hit the wall today, figuratively speaking. It seems to happen about once a week - I think about all the things I need to do, want to do, really ought to do, ad infinitum, and it all just weighs me down like ten tons of dust bunnies and unread books. Then I cry for a few minutes, my dear husband gives supportive hugs and asks how he can help (bless his heart - as if he isn't busy enough already), then I wipe my eyes and get back to work. If I'm having a particularly rough day, we go out for dinner (you know I'm in bad shape if I don't feel like cooking).

Fortunately these minor breakdowns never last long, but the fact that they occur on such a regular basis just doesn't seem like a good thing to me. I think the best solution would be to plan my time better, so I have a clear idea what I need to do and when I'm going to do it. When I don't write my to-do list down I always imagine it's five times longer than it really is, and I live in constant fear of forgetting something--two sources of stress that could easily be avoided. Plus, planning would allow me to prioritize, so I would at least get the most crucial things done.

Of course, this is just a theory I'm still testing. If you have any thoughts, advice, jokes to lift my spirits, etc., they would be most welcome.

Movie Review - Ratatouille

Phillip and I have had terrible luck with movie theaters during our marriage. We did manage to see Narnia with my family once, but we’ve been foiled every time we’ve tried to go on our own. Either tickets are sold out, or the only seats left were on the very front row, etc. Considering how hard it is for us to find a film we both even want to see, the continual thwarting of our plans was extremely frustrating.

Bad movie luck notwithstanding, I decided to tempt fate this week and try seeing a movie with Phillip for my birthday. I was curious to see Ratatouille, a computer-animated film about a rat who wants to be a chef. It seemed a safe bet: the G rating meant no offensive junk, and Pixar has yet to produce a film I didn’t enjoy.

This time we played it safe and bought our tickets ahead of time, but we still barely made it. It took a while to find parking, and when we hurried up to the box office window they told us we were at the wrong theater. Fortunately, the right one was just down the block. We made it to our seats just as the previews began (good thing - sometimes the previews are better than the movie).

The film's moral about being yourself and trying new things was a bit heavy-handed in spots, but other than that I loved the film. Being a food enthusiast myself, I enjoyed watching the main character’s discovery and exploration of good food. I also liked the way the film encourages you to pursue your passion, whatever it may be.

One of my passions is cooking, and though I don’t necessarily aspire to be a gourmet chef, I did feel inspired to learn how to make food taste and even look better. I believe that the secret to good cooking is just mastering the fundamentals of technique and flavor coordination. That being the case, why survive on mediocre food when a little effort and know-how could make it delicious, and even beautiful?

A final note on the film: One of the characters I most identified with was a person I wholeheartedly disliked at the film’s outset. He tried to demonstrate superior knowledge through criticism, which is something I used to do and still struggle to avoid. In the end, though, the character learns to stop criticizing and start savoring both food and life. He ended up being my favorite member of the cast. I guess there’s hope for all of us.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Della's Glass is More than Half Full

There is truly power in perspective.

My friend Caitlin Calder has a baby daughter named Della who is about Joy's age. Della has struggled with some serious health problems. The doctors still aren't quite sure what her ailment is, but they know it's serious. At best, it is a metabolic disorder than could cause physical and mental handicaps; at worst it is a degenerative disease. As I read this on the Calder blog today, I felt deeply saddened. I found myself, like Caitlin, "mourning the loss of the future they had hoped for their child."

The last paragraph of her post left me with a different perspective, though. Caitlin wrote about Della's calm, loving spirit. How affectionate she is. How lucky they are to have her in their lives. By the time I finished reading, I was left not with a sense of tragedy, but of awe and gratitude that the Calders have been blessed with a daughter like Della.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Supporting Our Troops Against Their Will?

I heard 5 or 6 differing opinions on the Iraq War today - some saying we're crazy to stay, others saying we'd be crazy to leave now, still others saying we'd be crazy to leave in the next decade. Personally, I think if we can't help Iraq we should leave, but if we can we owe it to the Iraqis to help them get their country back on its feet, even if that means considerable sacrifice for us. It's not their fault we plunged their country into chaos.

Trouble is, it's hard to tell whether there is any chance of success in Iraq. There are as many opinions as there are experts, and many of those with the most expertise admit they just don't know if we can win. I certainly don't claim to know, either, but I do think that any progress would be slow and hard, and I don't think our country has the patience for that. I know most of Congress doesn't.

That last point is actually what prompted me to write this post. I find it ironic that many politicians insist they want to get our troops out of unnecessary danger, and yet the soldiers I know and most of the ones I've heard from on the radio want the military to stay in Iraq and try to finish what they started. Granted, I haven't taken a survey of every soldier in Iraq to find out if the majority feel that way, but if they do, is it paradoxical that Congress wants to withdraw them in the name of supporting our troops? If the legislators' main concern is for our troops' lives, but soldiers themselves want to risk their lives for this mission, should we let them do so even if we worry their sacrifice may be in vain?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Next Fad Diet

I've been assigned to work with the young women in my congregation, specifically the 12- and 13-year-olds. Here's a fun snippet of conversation I overheard last night:

YW #1: I love custard-filled donuts. I could live on those things.

YW #2: No one could live on JUST donuts.

YW #1: Well, I'd have milk, too.

Hey, I could live on that diet--for about 2 days. But boy, that'd be a great couple of days.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Losing Yourself

In my last post, I said that if I had to name a single blog for my whole character, I would probably have chosen a different name. In response to that last statement, Siobhan asked what I would have chosen instead. That really got me thinking.

My faith and my role as a mother are the factors that most profoundly influence everything I do and am, so for a short username I would probably just choose “ldsmama” or “mormonmama.” For a blog name, though, I would want to be more specific. There are millions of Mormon mothers out there, and I wanted to add a word that could impart a little Kimberly flavor to my definition. After considering several options, I settled on part of my actual blog name. I’d probably call my hypothetical complete blog Mormon Mama Bluestocking. References to my faith, my current role in life, and my tendency to be a bookish academic would yield a pretty fair sketch of my character.

I was all set to post about this when I noticed another comment on my original post. Roxy wrote that she is glad I have a blog for non-family thoughts because she knows people who focus entirely on their family and lose their identity. She cites the example of her mom who lives only to serve her kids and doesn’t take care of herself. Ironically, a few hours before I read that comment, I was thinking about mothers I admire who throw themselves 100 percent into raising their children. The women I have in mind don’t seem to lack personality or a sense of identity. Rather, they are some of the most vibrant people I know.

So what makes the difference? Why is it that when people throw themselves into any profession—be it motherhood, law, teaching—some shine while others are just consumed by what they do? I think the difference lies in loving what you do, and remembering that you have something unique to contribute to it. What’s more, as a mother you can’t effectively teach your children to develop talents, take care of themselves, and love life unless you do so yourself.