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.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

What's in a Name?

My friend Beth made and interesting observation on her blog yesterday. When she worked at a scrapbooking company, she noticed that many visitors to their online forum chose family-related usernames like "billysmommy" and "lovemyhubby." I notice people define themselves the same way on a baby website I frequent (e.g. momoftwo, billysmom, etc.). Maybe it's because baby sites (like scrapbook sites) get us thinking about family. In the case of mothers, though, I think the biggest reason they choose parenting-related names is that we tend to define who we are by what we do.

Before I became a mom, I might have defined myself by a job or hobby, but now that I'm home with Baby the majority of my time, energy, and thought are devoted to her. I don't go to work, I rarely have time to read, and the only hobby I still find time for is cooking (gotta do it anyway, so might as well do it well). So, in keeping with the "I am what I do" mentality, when Beth asked what her readers would choose for a non-name username, the first things I thought of were mother-related. "Joysmama," or perhaps "ldsmama".

Ironically (for the sake of this discussion, anyway), when I created my blog I chose a name totally unrelated to motherhood. I suppose that was because we already had a family (translation: "baby") blog, and I wanted mine to be just for my random musings and things that sparked my interest. Consequently, I chose a name that encapsulated that aspect of me. If I had to pick a name for my whole package, though, it might have been something different.

What would you choose?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Quote of the Day - "Good Judgement"

"Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment." - Barry LePatner

Yup - that's my life in a nutshell. :)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Pursuit of Happiness

Sorry I haven't posted in a while - we've been out of town at a family reunion for the past week, and internet reception was hard to come by in Georgia's backcountry. Enough excuses - on to the post.

I've noticed that I write a lot about being happy and positive these days. It's not because I'm particularly good at being those things; rather, I wish I were better. I suppose that deep down I believe if I study and ponder cheerfulness enough, it will come easier to me. When I hang around positive, friendly people I find those virtues rub off on me a bit, so maybe positive thoughts will have the same effect. Or perhaps through continual research I'll discover the key that unlocks wells of good cheer within us.

Yeah - I don't think it will be that simple, either. Nevertheless, I can't resist trying. As previously stated, I like positive people and the effect they have on me, and I'd like to be that kind of blessing to others, especially my family. My baby daughter smiles so much, and I want to encourage her to keep doing it. Of course, the best way to teach is by example . . .