Saturday, May 31, 2008

The End of Six Words, and Possibly This Blog

Well, I've been writing at least six words nearly every day for over a month now, and I'm still not sure what I want this blog to be. Many of those daily posts have come and gone without comments, which leads me to wonder whether I am posting more often than most readers can keep up with. Or perhaps the commentless posts were just the blogging equivalent of peanut butter sandwiches--unremarkable, and therefore forgotten as soon as you finish consuming them.

These questions have been lurking in the back of my mind for some time now, but they stood up and demanded my attention this evening when I read STM's account of her recent trip to D.C. Many things she said moved me or got me thinking, and I felt like a better, smarter, happier person for having read them. I'd like my own blog to serve at least one of those purposes for people. If it doesn't, then frankly it is a waste of my time and yours. I have my journal as an outlet and our family blog to let you know what we're up to these days, so unless this blog plays some unique and meaningful role there is no reason to continue it.

On the other hand, if some aspect of this blog has enriched or entertained you, please let me know what it is. If there's something you'd like to see more of (e.g. recipes, thoughts on mothering, my ongoing quest for happiness and serenity, posts about ice cream), let me know that, too. There are many facets of my life that I am happy to write about, but I'd prefer to share the ones you actually enjoy reading.

So there you have it. I'm going to stop posting for a few days so you all have a chance to read this and share your input, then I'll review your comments and act accordingly.

Oh, and all you lurkers who the sitemeter says continually visit this blog but apparently choose not to comment, please consider this a formal invitation to at least share the reason why you keep coming back. If you don't have a Blogger account but you want to add your two cents, you can click the word "comments" at the bottom of the post, then click the little circle next to "Name/URL" and just type in your name which will appear with the comment you leave. After you do that, you are more than welcome to go back to lurking.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Family, A Park, and Ice Cream

Today was a lovely day. I planted potatoes and some lettuce seeds in my little garden, I had a pleasant chat with one of my neighbors, and for dinner we had a low-key picnic at the park. We bought deli sandwiches and ate them at a picnic table while Joy toddled here and there, occasionally rejoining us for bites of Daddy’s Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich. Phillip and I tossed our Frisbee a while, then headed to Rite Aid to for some ice cream—Phillip got two scoops of black cherry and I savored a scoop of Rainbow Sherbet. Joy seemed baffled by the chilliness of these unfamiliar substances we offered her, but she kept coming back for more. I can't blame her.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

If Ye Are Prepared, Fear Not

As the price of gas (and consequently food) continues to rise, I find myself thinking of President Hinckley’s address in General Conference just weeks after September 11. He said that while he was optimistic and did not intend to be a prophet of doom, he could not “forget the great lesson of Pharaoh’s dream of the [seven] fat and [seven] lean kine.” He reminded the saints of repeated counsel to be thrifty, avoid debt, and have food storage.

Seven years later, as costs are rising and our country is sliding into a recession, I am grateful that we have heeded prophetic counsel to pay off our car, maintain some savings, and build up our food storage. While those things may not mean the difference between life and death for us, they may allow us to breathe a little easier if times get tougher.

Of course, President Hinckley concluded his talk by emphasizing that "safety lies in repentance [and] strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God." In any situation, temporal preparation is important but spiritual preparation (which encompasses temporal) is even more vital. Ultimately, it is the only thing that matters.

Guidelines Don't Count On Holiday Weekends

I really do try to write at least six words (plus commentary) each day, but let's face it, when you're kicking back in a cabin with spotty internet access, blogging and most other aspects of every day life go out the window (except for eating and sleeping--I tend to do more of those when I'm up there). In other words, I'm sorry to have neglected you fine folks for a few days, but for once I had a good reason instead of a bad excuse.

And while we're on the subject of mountain cabins, let me just say that I can see why ancient prophets headed to the mountains to commune with God. Whenever we go up there the bustle and stress of life seems to stay behind, and there are fewer distractions from what really matters. I always seem to spend less time doing and more time thinking, or just being.

Friday, May 23, 2008

It's Sure Fun To Be Positive

Yesterday's principle of "casting a positive spell' over yourself has really stuck with me, and I found myself trying it many times today. The day had its ups and downs (as most do), and whenever the tough stuff started getting me down I would turn to Joy and say, "I can't wait to get home and have some nummy fruit, " or "It sure will be fun to become better friends with our neighbor Marie" (who has started coming to me for gardening advice, for better or for worse). If Joy wasn't around to hear my little pep talks I'd just talk to myself, because crazy is better than grouchy, right? :)

Joking aside, it really was amazing how these little (and sometimes borderline cheesy) statements would improve my outlook on life. I will definitely continue this experiment another few days, if not indefinitely.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

So, What Story Do You Tell?

"Our lives are the stories we tell ourselves." (Gina Trapani)

This evening I was reading the Happiness Project blog, and I was struck by the above quote. Gina went on to say, "I love hearing people cast a positive spell over themselves and say things like 'This is going to be great. I am so lucky. What a beautiful day. I'm so looking forward to this. . . . Look at how cool this is!' You can tell a lot about people by the casual remarks they make."

I used to tell myself there were lots of things I couldn't do, lots of skills I just didn't have. For example, when I was a teenage wallflower I spent years wishing I had my mom's gift for being warm and friendly with everyone. Then one day Mom explained that she was once a shy violet, too, but in her twenties she made the decision to be more outgoing, and she's been working at it ever since.

Her words were a revelation to me. I realized if she could evolve from shy to outgoing, I too could develop positive traits that didn't seem to come naturally to me. Of course, those changes don't happen overnight, but I've definitely noticed changes in my life since I began saying "I can and I will" instead of "I can't."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

'Twas Definitely A Day Well Spent

Phillip is currently between semesters, and he kindly volunteered to watch Joy this afternoon. The purpose of this offer was to allow me to get some things done, but we ended up just having a fun family day together. No regrets.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mid-Life Crisis Will Be A Bose

No, not "a bore," a Bose.

I have long been aware that my husband has a much finer ear than I do when it comes to music and audio systems. Tonight as he tried to explain to me why he wants two different sets of high quality earphones because they lend themselves to very different audio situations, I suddenly understood how he feels when I rave that fresh basil is exponentially superior to dried.

I think everyone has something that that we are passionate about, and our loved ones quickly learn to nod and smile even if they never quite grasp why surround sound is crucial for survival or a lemon zester is an absolutely necessary piece of kitchen equipment.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Lesson From Kip: Forget Camouflage

Aaron Ruell, the actor who played Kip in Napoleon Dynamite, spoke in our ward today. I always assumed I would see a celebrity around LA sooner or later; I just expected to see them near the ubiquitous film crews rather than at church.

Brother Ruell is a fairly successful director, and it was interesting to hear him talk about sharing his beliefs with people in show business. He said people often have misconceptions about what he can or can't do as a Latter-day Saint, or what might mortally offend him. He enjoys the chance to clarify things, and share the principles that have made him so happy in life. I sometimes hesitate to discuss religion with people for fear of how they might stereotype me, but he seems to welcome any opportunity to talk about the religion he loves.

His advice to discard the camouflage and be cheerfully open about our beliefs made me wonder what I'm so scared of when it comes to discussing religion with people I barely know. Truthfully, it seems I'd have nothing to lose and much to gain from being straightforward. If a stranger misjudges me, it's their loss and I'll probably never see them again. On the other hand, if I can share something that makes their life a little (or a lot) better, we'll both be happier for it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Funny How Blessings Follow Adject Terror

I think it interesting that the church assignments which have blessed me most are typically the ones I have most dreaded. When I was invited to serve in Primary and later Young Women, I felt completely out of my element but I trusted the Lord enough to say accept the assignments, and I ended up loving them.

Consistent with that pattern, when I was asked to teach a lesson at this weekend’s stake Relief Society celebration, I felt totally unequal to the task but I said "yes" and trusted in God. I wound up learning so much from the women I worked with, and my faith grew as I saw once again that when you put your hand in God's he never lets you fall. His blessings to me always far outweigh my humble contributions to His work.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Put Your Shoulders To The Wheel

The Proclamation on the Family states that work is one of the principles successful families are based on.  I always assumed that meant helping your kids (and yourselves) develop a good work ethic, but I found it to be true in another sense today as I helped Phillip load some boxes into his mom's rafters.  Something about working and sweating together lifted our spirits and drew us closer.

I reflected that at home he and I tend to each have our own chores which we work on separately, and we don't usually enjoy them much.  On the other hand, I actually like drying the dishes as Phillip washes them.  Somehow I connect with him better when we're working side by side.  Perhaps I'll start drying every night rather than just hanging out and talking to him while he and the dish drainer have all the fun.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cooking, Capitalism, and Pretty Hair Bows

A couple weeks ago, Suzette from church announced she was organizing a boutique tonight, and she invited anyone who had something to sell to come set up shop.  Well, the only fashion accessory I can make is a scarf and those are way out of season, but somehow I got the harebrained idea to compile 80 of my favorite recipes into a cookbook and offer that for sale.  With my husband's help I was able to get it put together in time, and I even sold a few, which was gratifying.  Best of all, I finally have all my favorite recipes typed up and easily accessible.  And that makes me happy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Today Was Lousy. Better Luck Tomorrow.

Today I got an unexpected opportunity to test yesterday's insight. The choice to be as positive and good as you can in the face of a lousy experience doesn't necessarily make you feel good, but it does help you BE good, and I think the former ultimately follows the latter.

And who knows--if I'd been a grouch instead maybe I would have felt even worse. We'll never know, and I certainly don't intend to experiment next time. 'Cuz let's face it, there will be a next time. Lots of them. Fortunately, there will be lots of good times, too.

Let's hope tomorrow will be one of them.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Take Charge - Choose Your Own Adventure

Today I got to thinking that we cannot choose how people or fate treat us, but we can choose what we are and will be. Every action, word, and thought shapes our character and destiny, for good or ill.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Joy Meets Indigo and Carnation Pink

I introduced Joy to crayons today. I had fun drawing tigers and happy faces, and Joy did her best to follow my example. She didn’t apply much pressure so she only managed a few faint lines, but at least she grasped the basic principle. Not bad for her first time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Our Baby Is His Daughter, Too

This morning in church, one of the speakers noted that our children are God’s children, too. It led me to consider what Joy’s Heavenly Father thinks of the principles I am teaching her. I think if I could keep that perspective all the time, I wouldn’t go far wrong in my parenting--an appropriate thought for Mother’s Day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Igneous Popcorn In My Little Garden

If you're going to coin a gardening phrase, by golly it ought to be something like "igneous popcorn."

In case you're wondering what igneous popcorn could possibly be (don't be coy--you know you want to know), its common name is vermiculite, and you add it to soil to improve drainage but also help retain moisture. As Alice the gardening teacher explained it, vermiculite is a type of volcanic rock that was heated so hot it exploded like popcorn. The actual phrase "igneous popcorn" is my own creation, for good or ill.

Alice said kids love to work with this stuff, and as I mixed it into some soil today I understood why. It's amazingly light, and it made the soil so wonderfully fluffy that I wanted to stuff a pillow with it. But far more important than my soil fetish or the creation of an esoteric gardening term (alas that such a delightful phrase is most probably doomed to obscurity) is the fact that . . .

. . . I have dirt! In the ground! Sort of. One day when I was following Joy around our apartment complex for the tenth time, I had the epiphany that since no one else was planting anything in this long planter, perhaps I could. The manager gave me the green light, and I've spent the last week planning what to plant there. I took the above picture after adding vermiculite, peat moss, and some potting soil to the tired dirt that was already there. I then planted tomatoes, bell peppers, and herbs until the sun went down, and I still need to add some seeds for lettuce, onion, and carrots. Hopefully that won't have to wait until the next time Daddy is free to watch Joy all afternoon.

In the meantime, huzzah for the garden!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I Walked In Someone Else's Shoes

Phillip and I went bowling tonight. We're not that bad, but we're not that good, either. We did manage a couple strikes each, though, and it was kinda fun to watch the kid next to us roll his ball down the bumpered lane at 1.8 mph. Almost made me forget I was sharing a pair of shoes with half of Los Angeles.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ah, The Joys of Fresh Herbs

I've been meaning to post my recipe Tomato Basil Pizza on our website for a while, and I finally decided tonight's the night. It's not as fancy as STM's Sweet Pork and Cilantro-Lime Rice recipes that I'm dying to try, but there can be a certain elegance in simplicity and I think that's definitely the case with this recipe.

You can make this with dried basil, but if you use fresh basil from your yard, from a pot, or from your grocer's chilled produce section, it takes this simple pizza to a whole new level. No pressure, though.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

In Touch With My Inner Child

As if Chuck E. Cheese wasn't enough playtime for one week, today Joy and I went to Disneyland with some friends from church. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed our trip to The Magic Kingdom. For several years I have felt a certain antipathy toward it, mainly because I dislike the notion that you have to pay an arm and a leg to take your family to “The Happiest Place on Earth” (Grandma Sorenson says that title rightfully belongs to the temple--amen, Grandma).

Nevertheless, after spending several hours immersed in the fanciful sights, sounds, and smells of Disneyland, I discovered that I really did feel happy and I wanted to come back. Perhaps it helped that I was seeing it all from the perspective of a child—my own daughter, as well as the dozens of little girls wearing Princess ball gowns (and one girl in a Buzz Lightyear costume--rock on, girlfriend) who were obviously having the time of their lives.

Speaking of children, this evening I got to talking with some other moms about some of the sweet experiences of motherhood (when we're not changing diapers and wishing there were five more hours in the day). It occurred to me that I have achieved some fine things in my life, but somehow I feel even greater happiness watching my daughter reach her little milestones. I think we take more delight in the success of loved ones than we feel for our own achievements, especially when those loved ones are innocent children whose lives are so intimately tied to ours.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Skee Ball Plus Pizza Equals Fun

When was the last time you went to Chuck E. Cheese? Until tonight, I couldn't remember, either. Our church youth group went there this evening and we all ate (surprisingly good) pizza and played skee ball and other arcade games to our little hearts' content. The place really does make you feel like a happy-go-lucky kid, even if you're pushing 30. By golly, I think our family may pay Chuck a visit sometime soon.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tiny Harvest, But A Harvest Nonetheless

I've already harvested a few little things from my current container gardens. There's something rather satisfying in eating something you've grown yourself, even if it's just a tiny part of your meal.

I planted the lettuce seeds way WAY too thickly in their little planter, so I thinned some of the sprouts today and had them on my turkey sandwich. Of course, it's much easier to just grow sprouts in a jar so you don't have to rinse them, but there was something rather relaxing about letting my mind wander a little as I worked in my little garden. "Lettuce-thinning meditation"--that's what it was.

Speaking of small harvests, I also added some fresh basil to a pizza the other day, and I think it added a lot to the flavor. Must post that recipe soon . . .

Monday, May 5, 2008

Miracles And Wonders Not A Few

I love the Holy Ghost. I loved feeling its deep, sweet peace today as Sister Lang shared her experience with fasting, and as Laura taught the Young Women about the Restoration and how the Gospel has blessed her family. I loved feeling it as I prayed for help tackling an assignment that overwhelmed me, after which I was blessed with ideas that leave me excited about a project that once scared me to death. Truly, as you put your trust in God and strive to draw closer to Him, your life fills with miracles and small wonders.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Early Bird Gets The Radio

I participated in a group garage sale this morning, and I learned a couple things from the friends who organized it. First, you can advertise your upcoming sale on Craig's List. Second, the ideal time to start your sale is the unholy hour of 7:00am. We probably sold more in that first hour than in the next three combined, mostly to professional garage sale shoppers who probably own thrift stores or sell things on ebay.

I am grateful to say that my profits more than compensated for the enormous sacrifice of getting up early. Now, if I can just convince Phillip that we should invest this little windfall in our garden . . .

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Fresh Air Does A Body Good

Joy is still recovering from some fun illness (probably roseola) and I suspect she's getting more teeth in. For one or both of those reasons she was fussy today and I decided she wasn't up to toddling around the park. So what did we do instead? We toddled around the neighborhood, of course. Hey, I never said parenthood made sense. At any rate, let's hope she feels better tomorrow.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pistachio Cheesecake Is Really Ridiculously Good

Cheesecake Factory has added yet another option to its seemingly endless list of cheesecakes. When the waiter described their new Pistachio Cheesecake, it sounded intriguing and I couldn't resist trying it. It didn't supplant Tuxedo Cheesecake as my all-time favorite (let's face it--what could?) but it was still pretty dang dreamy.