Saturday, February 23, 2008

Beauty and Permanence

When my family travelled to historic Nauvoo several years ago, we visited the brickyard, among other places. The living history missionary explained how bricks were made in centuries past, then he commented that to the Latter-day Saints who settled there in the 1840s, bricks represented beauty and permanence.

The saints (like Brigham Young, whose home is pictured above) had spent years moving from place to place in Missouri, always being driven out before they had a chance to put down roots. When they reached Nauvoo they hoped their wanderings were over, so instead of settling for quick log cabins they took the trouble to build brick homes that would last the many years they hoped to stay there.

So what represents beauty and permanence to me?


And also berry bushes and asparagus patches.

Why? Because you can't just stick them in a pot outside your apartment and harvest something to eat a few months later. They need wide patches of open ground, and you can't even harvest anything from them the first year you plant them. If I ever plant these things, it will be because we have a house and a yard, and we plan to stay there for at least a few years.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not laboring under the delusion that a house and rhubarb are critical to happiness, or that all my worries will end once I obtain them. Nevertheless, when I saw those little red-stemmed plants at the garden center today I sighed and thought, "Someday. . . . Won't that be nice?"

One Year Ago . . . Secondhand Flowers

Rosemary for Remembrance

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. No good reason - I've just been busy lately. I have a few posts swimming around in my mind, and I'll try to get them written down in the next few days, but for now I just want to say . . .

. . . my rosemary plant has finally bloomed, and that makes me happy.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Blast - I forgot to highlight the link to the recipe in the last post. It's now visible, in case anyone wants to try it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shepherd's Pie with What?!?

Do your eyes ever light up when you see that asparagus is on sale? Until about a year ago, I never dreamed mine would either. My parents never served it when I was growing up (my dad and his brothers intentionally threw long passes to each other so they'd be "forced" to trample through Grandma's asparagus garden), and my few encounters with it in adulthood were somewhat underwhelming.

Then I ran across a recipe for Asparagus Shepherd's Pie. For reasons I still can't explain, I decided to give it a whirl. Phillip and I both loved it, and I cheerfully devoured the leftovers for lunch the next three days straight. Now whenever I see a bargain on asparagus, I pick up a pound of it, a can of cream of asparagus soup (sounds vile, doesn't it?), and a few potatoes. I usually have the rest of the ingredients on hand already.

Incidentally, this entree freezes well, and it passes the toddler test, too - Joy loves the stuff. Any recipe that can get a baby to gobble asparagus is a winner in my book.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Perfect Pick-Me-Up

I was feeling a bit down today, when Phillip (who was carrying Joy as we walked) asked if I wanted to hold Baby. When I took her into my arms, my whole attitude immediately changed. Suddenly I was getting a hug from my sweet baby, and my focus had shifted from stewing about my troubles to looking for ways to make someone else happy. The scriptures say perfect love casteth out fear; I would add that giving and receiving love casteth out sadness.

One year ago . . . Quote of the Day - Joy

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Election Reflection Part 2 - Democrats

When I sat down to study the two Democratic candidates, I was determined to make a choice based on issues, not personality. To my surprise, I found their positions so similar that personality is one of the few things that separates them. They propose nearly identical health plans, though Clinton would require participation and Obama would let people choose (I appreciate that). The only difference in their approach to Iraq is that Obama insists we’ll be out sixteen months after he takes office, while Clinton estimates it will take a year but declines to give an exact date (which I think is reasonable). Their plans to address illegal immigration are essentially identical: border security, crackdown on employers, learn English + pay fine = citizenship. As for the experience issue, I don’t think either candidate has a monopoly. Clinton knows more ins and outs of the system, but Obama recognized Iraq was a quagmire from the get-go.

The more I read about these two candidates, the more I became convinced that the question was not “Whose positions are most similar to mine?” but rather “Which of these candidates would I want as my leader?” I view Senator Clinton much the same way I see Governor Romney. Both are intelligent and driven. They do their homework and are tireless in the pursuit of their objectives. I do not doubt that both would be effective leaders, but I’m not convinced they would lead in a direction I want to go. Clinton is a divisive figure, and she represents a political establishment that I think has some serious flaws. Perhaps she works the system grudgingly, but she certainly doesn’t make an effort to improve it.

By contrast, Senator Obama stands for openness, unity, and positive change. In the weeks leading up to the Iowa primary, his advisors begged him to respond to Clinton’s attacks by smearing her back. He insisted that went against what he stood for, and he’d rather lose the campaign than compromise that principle. I’m impressed that he has largely stuck by that commitment, and I love his idealism. While I don’t think he’ll be able reform Washington or the world in every single way he proposes, I think he will accomplish more in the attempt than others would by embracing the status quo. I love the idea of a president who is both capable and inspiring. In short, I cast my vote in Obama’s favor, and I’m intrigued to see what he’ll do with it. No doubt my Barack Star brother-in-law will be pleased to know that.

I’m not sure how I will vote in November. While there may not be much difference on issues within the parties, there is a vast gulf between them. This jury is still out on health care plans, illegal immigration, and how best to handle the war in Iraq. Good thing I have nine months to think about it all before my next trip to the polls.

One year ago . . . Small talk is a means, not an end

Monday, February 4, 2008

Election Reflection Part 1 - Republicans

California’s primary is tomorrow, and I’ve been reading last week’s CNN debate to get a bit more info on the Republican candidates. If I were to vote purely on likeability, I would probably choose Huckabee. I like his down-to-earth manner and the respect he seems to have for human dignity. By contrast, I didn’t enjoy watching McCain and Romney bicker over who wrongly smeared who, then refer to each other as “a fine man” as if they hadn’t just called each other two-faced, flip-flopping, well-poisoning scoundrels. How sad to see grown men who want a position so badly that they’ll demean themselves and others in that way.

That being said, the only real choice Republicans will have on Super Tuesday is Name Caller #1 and Name Caller #2. Huckabee hasn’t won a state since Iowa, and though I admire Ron Paul for staying in the race to get his voice heard, I think he’s out of touch with most of America. That brings us to Romney and McCain. Both are determined to curb the overspending (which I applaud), and both insist they will do all possible to win in Iraq (which I think is important, if it’s attainable). What sets them apart in my mind is their experience.

Romney made the excellent point that serving as a successful governor is good preparation for the presidency because he learned to manage dozens of different agencies and address many interconnected issues. A senator, by contrast, does little administration and tends to specialize in a narrower range of subjects, depending on which committees he’s on. Moreover, Romney impresses me as one who does his homework, who sees the big picture but pays attention to detail, who identifies problems and finds creative but practical solutions.

By contrast, I was rather unimpressed that McCain’s answer to nearly every question was: 1) I’m an expert on National Security (I’m sure Romney could find an advisor who’s just as capable), 2) I was a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution (so was Ron Paul), or 3) I was an officer in the military. For example, he gave #3 as his qualification to boost our slumping economy. Leading fellow soldiers in combat is admirable and can potentially teach many useful skills, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he has the economic know-how to stave off a recession. It’s like saying you’d be a great chef because you studied food photography in college.

In short, I think Romney has the brains, skills, drive, and experience to be a better president than McCain. My biggest concern is that while he may be an efficient president, he may not always lead in directions I want to go. His personality strikes me as more adversarial than compassionate. He takes a very tough line against political opponents, illegal immigrants, non-democratic countries . . . essentially anyone different from him. That superior hostility grates on me, but I’m not convinced that McCain is a good enough alternative to win my vote.

Ironically, my decision won’t have any impact on tomorrow’s election. Though I tend to lean Republican, I’m registered as an independent and therefore I’m not allowed to vote in the Republican primary. I can vote on the Democratic candidates, though. I already have a pretty good idea who I’ll vote for, but I want to do a bit more research just to be certain.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again

This morning Phillip and I watched a broadcast of President Hinckley's funeral. It was a sweet remembrance of a kind, optimistic, and genuinely good man. I loved hearing sacred memories and sweet moments from throughout his life. I think President Hinckley’s governing philosophy can be summed up in two favorite phrases that President Eyring mentioned: “Things will work out” and “The best is yet to come.” They weren’t just idle words or wishful thinking. He knew better than anyone the challenges and sorrows of our modern world, but he always focused on the many people who rise above them.

I became misty-eyed a few times during the eulogies, but I never really cried until the final musical number. The song “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need” is a favorite of mine, and as the choir sang, pictures and video clips from the Prophet’s life appeared on the screen. One of the pictures was of the First Presidency a few years ago, and when I saw the late President Faust in the background I just broke down and cried. I think it was at that moment that I finally realized President Hinckley is gone.

I’ve seen so many pictures and clips of him lately that it almost seems like he’s still with us. When I saw that old photo, though, it struck me that just as dear President Faust’s chair was left empty and then filled by someone else, there will be a different person in President Hinckley’s chair next General Conference. I’ll never again hear the warmth in his voice, or see him emphasize another point with that characteristic wave of his hand. Not in this life, anyway.

I speak of loss and things I’ll miss, yet my tears weren’t really sad ones. I mainly felt deep love for the Prophet, gratitude to have known him, and—far in the background—regret that I won’t be seeing him again for a very long time.

One year ago . . . French Fries and Sharks

Friday, February 1, 2008

Recipe - Corn Tortilla Lasagna

For me, "comfort food" entrees are only truly comforting if they're reasonably healthy, too. I'm not necessarily talking about "tofu and flaxseed" healthy, but I do like dinners to be fairly balanced. It's also nice if they're a complete, one-pot meal - easy to cook and easy to eat.

Corn Tortilla Lasagna
is my idea of comfort food. It's easy to put together, the tortillas and beans provide balanced proteins (there's some chicken, too, but you could probably omit it if you don't want to bother cooking some specially for this dish), the salsa and bell pepper fill the veggie requirement, and the cheese and light sour cream add comforting creaminess. The leftovers freeze well or make great lunches the rest of the week, and even my toddler enjoys eating them. She won't eat chicken or bell pepper on their own, but she can't get enough of them in this dish. That alone makes it worth making on a regular basis.

One year ago . . . Sociology and Second Place (and my blog's first comment!!!)

When A Stranger Is Not A Stranger

As Baby and I waited in line at a store today, the woman in front of us smiled at Joy and spoke in glowing terms of her own grandbabies. She commented that Joy was very content, and I said the Lord was kindly easing us into parenthood with a good-natured baby. She said, “Oh, you’re Christian! So am I. What church do you go to?”

My response rolled off my tongue easily enough (“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some people call us Mormons. What church do you go to?”), but I found myself tensing up inside. So many people in other Christian denominations have heard crazy rumors about Mormons, and I wondered if the mere mention of that word would affect her attitude toward us.

I didn’t get a chance to find out. Just as she said her church’s name (it was a Protestant church I hadn’t heard of), she reached the front of the line and our conversation ended. As I reflected on it, I realized the best way to handle the situation would be to just act like the Savior would: be loving, respectful, and positive. If a Christian really knows Christ, they’ll recognize him in another disciple’s behavior, and realize that they worship the same Person.

One year ago . . . Teacher on Fire