Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Identity Theft Warning Light's Flashing Madly

I joined Facebook today. I want to go hide under the bed now. The thing asked me for my birthdate, my email address, my hometown, and a few other things I don't want random strangers reading. I don't keep my blogs private, but I don't exactly post my mother's maiden name on them, either. As soon as my Facebook account was established, I hid basically all identifying info except my name, schools, and general location.

As if the sign-up process wasn't harrowing enough, once I logged in the thing told me every person I know who's got a Facebook account, and asked if I want to invite everyone I know who doesn't have one (um . . . no). Then it opened a profile page with a dizzying array of stuff whose purpose still escapes me. Within thirty seconds, two people I'd contacted and one person I hadn't became my friends and MORE stuff began appearing on my page. If I could type from a fetal position, I would so be curled up on the floor right now.

This must be how my tech-challenged mom felt when I asked her to attach a document to an email a few years ago.

I will confess that it's been fun to see what a few old friends are up to, but as I looked at their accounts two things became abundantly clear to me: 1) Many people spend a country ton of time on this social networking site, and 2) I probably won't. Blogs are more my speed and I barely have time to keep up with them, so I don't think I'll do much more than check in with Facebook every now and then.

Exploding the "No Leisure Time" Myth

I often lament that I don’t have time to study all the things I want to learn. Today I realized that I actually do have leisure time, but I choose to use it on other things. Nearly every day I spend some time blogging or reading things online (some educational, some frivolous), and I spend literally hours a week writing in my journal (what else would you expect from a history major?). Instead of wishing for more spare time I need to evaluate how I spend what I’ve got and then make any needed changes based on what activities are most important to me.

Perhaps that seems obvious, but I think it demonstrates an important principle. When I say, “I never have time to do X,” I feel powerless. When I say, “I choose to do X instead of Y because X is more important to me,” I feel that I am directing my life in accordance with my principles. I like that much better than victimhood.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Garden Junkies of the World, Unite!

At the Earth Day Festival on Saturday, one of the booths focused on a local family who are trying to be as self-reliant and eco-friendly as possible. They've installed solar panels, eliminated all possible electrical appliances (except the fridge and TV), and—most appealing of all to me—they produce thousands of pounds of produce a year on their scant one-fifth acre of land. While their bike-powered blender is a little more eco than I'm prepared to go, I am curious to learn more about their gardening techniques.

For future reference, of course . . .

Monday, April 28, 2008

One Answer To The Vine Question

A couple posts back I said I didn't understand how to tap into the Savior's power in my life. Since then I've been praying a lot to learn about that, and I expected to receive some sort of logical, intellectual answer. The Lord had other plans.

It was my turn to teach a lesson in Young Women today, and going into it I was very nervous. I have a firm grasp of Church doctrine, but I struggle to explain it in ways that twelve-year-old girls will connect with. My students listen politely, but often with glazed expressions indicating that every word I utter is sailing right past them.

As I prepared this week's lesson I made a conscious and prayerful effort to make it more interactive. Going into it today, I knew my plan was better than usual, but I also knew that my limited teaching skills alone wouldn't be enough to deliver it effectively. I needed help. Lots of it. I prayed earnestly and often for the Spirit's guidance, then I went to class trusting that the God who called me to this assignment would help me fulfill it.

He didn't let me down. The lesson was by no means spectacular, but the girls stayed engaged throughout and there was an atmosphere of cheerful peace rather than the awkwardness I have become far too familiar with. I have rarely been so keenly aware of the difference between clumsily struggling to do something on my own, and smoothly and cheerfully doing it with the Lord's help. Doing it on your own is like trying to eat a frozen pizza that is only halfway thawed--it's hard and not nearly as enjoyable as it would be if you followed the Maker's instructions.

Circling back to the vine analogy, today I learned one way that connecting to the Savior blesses our lives. We ask the Father for help, but He allows His Son, Who knows us so well and has experienced everything we face, to give us the blessings we need. Today when I recognized that I couldn't teach effectively on my own and pled for divine help to make up the difference, Christ knew exactly what I needed and blessed me beyond my expectations. This morning I believed He could help me; now in a small way I know it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Being Adventurous, In A Small Way

It really doesn't take much to make something an adventure. Joy and I took the light rail to Pasadena's annual Earth Day festival today, and somehow the mere fact that we were doing something we'd never done before made it kind of exciting. Even taking the train instead of our car made it a little different from the norm, and therefore a little more fun. Ah the simple pleasure, no?

A Confused Branch on the Vine

A couple posts back, my friend Cathy shared something she gleaned from Corrie ten Boom's A Hiding Place. Corrie was in a WWII concentration camp, and in Cathy's words "she realized that it wasn't important if she was a positive force (though she needed to be)--the only importance was in bringing people closer to the Savior so that he could be the positive force. She was only the conductor and he was the electrical force."

So very often I forget that. I try to do it all myself, forgetting that I can't do it alone, and that I shouldn't because there is a much better and more effective way. In the Bible Christ compares us to branches on a vine, able to grow and bloom when we are connected to Him, but doomed to be a withered shadow of our potential if we separate from Him.

I think I struggle to remember and apply this principle because I don't understand it. I trust the Savior and I do my best to apply his teachings, but I don't yet have the vision of how this one is supposed to work. I think I need to go give this some serious thought.

I suspect it's actual a fairly simple principle, and once I finally grasp it I will sit back and say, "Oh . . . duh." I also suspect that I'm already living the principle to some extent, but not seeing it in those terms. Even if that's the case, I think I could be doing better.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Abridged Version Never Beats the Original

There are many adjectives you might use to describe me, but alas, "prompt" is not one of them. At least two-blog friends have tapped me for this particular tag, and I'm finally getting around to it. Here's how it works:

1. Pick up the nearest book (at least 123 pages)
2. Turn to page 123
3. Find the 5th sentence
4. Post the 5th sentence on your blog
5. Tag 5 people

We happen to have President Hinckley's Way to Be! on our desk, and the 123rd page is in his concluding chapter when he's summing up his advice. The 5th sentence: "Be Humble." Good thing he didn't say, "Be Prompt."

STM, Caitlin, Dragonne, Kerri, and Dori--hope you have fun with this one. :)

Was Holding Happiness Map Upside Down

Lately I’ve often felt stressed and unhappy, and today I finally figured out why. I’ve been seeking happiness from things and activities, thinking if I buy this or find some free time to do that it will make me happier. Those things can be fun but they aren’t a source of lasting happiness.

Real happiness comes from making the effort to be a better person and a positive force in the lives of others. How ironic that happiness comes not from indulging ourselves, but from being generous to others and bridling (but not muzzling) our own passions. I’m grateful that the Lord helped me see that this afternoon. My whole outlook and emotional state has changed since I realized that I had things backwards.

Let's hope I remember the lesson this time. Goodness knows it isn't the first time He's had to teach it to me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dreading Naptime's End, But Savoring Smiles

Sometimes I still struggle with the fact that parenthood (and adulthood in general) involves a lot of work and not much leisure time. I often dread the moment Joy wakes up from her nap and my "freedom" ends, but then I see her smile when I open the bedroom door, or we read Jamberry for the hundredth time and she still grins when they go over the waterfall, and I think, "I wouldn't miss this for the world."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I'll Write At Least Six Words

This blog is at a crossroads right now. I don't want to give up on it, but I'm not sure how to find time to write posts of the depth and quality that I want to. Until I sort this quandary out, I have an interim plan inspired by the six-word biography project.

Every day I'll write at least six words about that day. Of course, I'll probably write a bit more than that (let's face it--I won't be able to resist the temptation to expound on my cryptic phrases), and some days I'll probably write full-blown posts if inspiration strikes and I have enough time. At any rate, I'll be able to keep this blog going without worrying it'll take an hour each time I post. When I know something is likely to take a big chunk of my very limited time, it can get relegated to my back burner for weeks on end.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Making Memories

At FHE tonight, Phillip shared an article from the Ensign entitled “The Joy of Nurturing Children.” It contained messages from several people about their experiences raising children, and Phillip said that a statement in one of the sections particularly reminded him of me: “We no longer make messes; we make memories.” I still struggle to embrace the chaos sometimes, especially when it involves dirt or spilled food. For that very reason, I’m grateful for the reminder that creating positive, fun memories together is far more important that keeping everyone clean all the time.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Have no fear - I haven't given up on this blog. Currently I'm just trying to figure out how to fit it into my busy mom-life, since writing takes more time and mental energy than I ever seem to have available. Until I figure it out, I would at least like to share this little thought from my day.

When Joy got up from her nap this afternoon we headed out the door for our weekly trip to the grocery store. As we walked to the car, I noticed my little daughter grinning in anticipation of our next adventure. I savored the sight of her smile, and the sound of the little quasi-words she loves saying lately. I felt these were sweet memories I want to treasure through eternity. I’m sure it was experiences like these that Elder Ballard had in mind when he encouraged parents to treasure the fun little moments that fly by so fast.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Container Gardening

A few weeks ago, Angela Motta and I decided it would be fun to host a class on gardening in containers (pots, buckets, etc.). Angela's friend Alice is a professional gardener, and Angela arranged for her to come teach us a thing or two. Since I've had mixed luck with my containers over the years, I was eager to hear what Alice had to say.

Here's Angela preparing her little garden according to Alice's instructions. She included a tomato, basil, thyme, a bell pepper, and three marigolds (Alice said she'd probably need to remove a marigold or two as all the plants get bigger). I didn't realize you could cram so many plants into such a small space.

The class inspired me so much that I decided to create my own garden. I put in a tomato, two bell peppers, two basils, and a habanero pepper (Phillip was excited about that). Wish me luck.

In case you're interested, I'm including the info from Alice's flyer, plus my own notes from the workshop. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. And remember, if you don't get around to planting a container garden this spring, you can always plant some lettuce in a pot this fall. It's fun to have a fresh salad waiting outside your door whenever you want it.

The notes fall into eight basic categories:
1) Four keys to success
2) Suggested materials
3) Choosing supplies
4) Potting instructions
5) Watering
6) Easy Fertilizing (I emphasize "easy" because this subject always used to intimidate me. Little did I know how simple the process could be.)
7) Troubleshooting
8) Miscellaneous Notes

Four Keys to Success
1) Put your garden where you will enjoy it and see it often!
2) Put your garden where it is easy to care for!
3) Keep it simple!
4) Observe your plants! Look them over often to enjoy their progress and to nip any problems in the bud.

Suggested Materials
Potting soil
Peat Moss
Pebbles, pottery shards, or foam packing peanuts
Wooden kabob skewers
Granular fertilizer

Choosing Supplies
- Virtually anything can serve as a container if it holds enough soil and has at least one hole in the bottom for drainage.
- Keep in mind that small pots and those made of porous material (like pottery) will need more frequent watering.
- Choose plants with similar light and water requirements for your container. If you buy a plant from a nursery, the tag in the pot should say whether it needs full sun, etc.
- Find out how big a plant will get so your pot won’t be overcrowded.
- Buy healthy plants with new growth.
- If you get multiple plants in the same container (i.e. three basil plants in the same pot), you can separate them and plant them in different spots in your big container.
- Avoid buying plants with discolored leaves or bugs on them.
- You may want to plan your container garden before you go to the store so you don’t go overboard and buy more than you really need.
- Add fun stuff to make the pot yours.

Potting Instructions
1) Place newspaper in bottom of container, then add a 1/2” layer of pebbles, pottery shards, or foam packing peanuts. This will keep soil from draining out the bottom each time you water.
2) Mix soil. You can buy straight potting soil and just use that, but Alice suggests mixing three parts potting soil with one part peat moss and one part vermiculite. The additions help retain moisture, and the process of making your own blend makes the project more your own.
3) Moisten the potting mix, then add it to your pot until the soil is 3” below the rim.
4) Arrange your plants (still in their pots) in the container to get an idea of where you want to place them. Keep in mind how big each plant is likely to get.
5) Starting with the central plant, remove it from its pot. Gently spread the roots out and place the plant in its spot in the container. Mound soil around the base to hold it in place.
6) Plant the other plants the same way.
7) When all plants are in place, fill pot with more soil and gently tamp it down.
8) Add more water and some fertilizer, unless the potting soil already contains it (the soil package will indicate whether you should wait a few weeks to fertilize).
9) Trim off any damaged leaves so plants spend their energy on healthy growth.
10) If one of your plants is much bigger than the others, you may want to trim it back so they start at the same size. This is purely aesthetic – the plants will be fine either way.
11) You may want to spray the plants with safe spray (something like this).
12) Add a reminder card for when to fertilize next.
13) Enjoy! Watch! Learn!

- Keep soil moist but not soggy. In the summer you may need to water once or twice a day.
- An easy way to test soil dampness is to stick a wooden kabob skewer a few inches into the soil. If it comes out clean, the soil is dry and needs water. If it comes out with some dirt on it, the soil is fine. Do this every day or two at first, until you get a feel for how often your container needs water.
- Pour water on soil, not on the plants themselves. Moist leaves can mildew or attract bugs.

Easy Fertilizing
- Use granular fertilizer which you sprinkle on top of the soil, where it releases nutrients over several weeks. Alice likes this organic fertilizer which you can find at Home Depot, but any all-purpose granular fertilizer is fine. Instructions on the package will tell you how much to apply, and how often.
- To remind you when to fertilize next, write the date of the next feeding on a little note, poke a skewer or stick through it, and stick it in your container. You may want to laminate the note (or tape it on both sides with clear packing tape) if it’s likely to be rained on.
- Most fertilizer packages display a three number series (such as 5-10-5). The numbers show the fertilizer’s percentage by weight of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, respectively. Nitrogen is necessary for foliage growth (leaves, etc.). Phosphorous is important for producing roots and flowers. Potassium contributes to overall health of the plants.
- If you want to go the extra mile, fish emulsion does wonders for food plants (tomatoes, etc.). It smells terrible, though.

- If your plant is overrun with little green or white bugs, spray it with safe spray.
- If plant is long and gangly with small leaves, it needs more light and less fertilizer.
- If holes have been bitten out of leaves, check for snails or slugs. Remove them if you find them. If you don’t find any, spray the plant with safe spray (make sure you spray both over and under the leaves).
- If there are whitish stains on the pot, salt is building up in the soil. Soak the entire pot in water.
- If the plant is droopy, it probably needs more water and light.
- If spots or powdery areas appear on leaves, that is a sign of disease. Remove the affected leaves. If spots keep appearing on other leaves, you may need to remove the entire plant so it doesn’t infect anything else.

Miscellaneous Notes
- If you chose a large container, place it in its final destination before adding soil, water, and plants. It will be very heavy once it’s full.
- Full sun = 4-5 hours for a container garden (as opposed to 6-8 hours for plants in the ground.)
- Don’t use the same soil for more than two years. If you want to keep some plants that are in old soil, simply repot them in new soil. If they have a big root system, you may want to remove part of the root clumps so the plants can spread out into fresh soil.
- You can start seeds growing in straight vermiculite, then transfer them to soil once they’ve started growing. You may want to start seeds a few weeks before you plan to remove a spent plant.
- If you don't wear gloves and you want to keep your fingernails clean, scratch a bar of soap before you garden.
- Swabbing rubbing alcohol on plant stems can deter bugs (they dislike the strong smell).
- You can also swab rubbing alcohol onto your garden shears and trowel to clean them.
- A plant that trails over the side of pot can add dramatic flair.
- Marigolds and nasturtiums attract bugs away from other plants.

Hooray for nasturtiums!