Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SPT—All Because of a Blogger

Like I can stop with one?

This week’s self-portrait Tuesday challenge is to spotlight a blogger that has inspired me. I knew this assignment would be impossible because I am convinced to my core that everyone has a lot to teach me. When I see homeless people on the side of the road I often wonder what they would teach me if we had a day together. It goes without saying that when I think of great teachers and leaders through the ages I wonder how they would school me. So to ask me to spotlight one blogger who has inspired me is like asking me to eat just one Lay’s potato chip. It just can’t happen because I have been taught and inspired in one way or another from every blog I’ve read. Even the posts or opinions I strongly disagree with have inspired me to love better, write more clearly or live with more conviction. Thank you to all fellow bloggers, I appreciate your willingness to “put it out there” so that I can be inspired.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Memories--Salt Lake City

First things first: I passed! I got a C on Physical Science. I even called to ask and make sure. Indeed, it’s over. I never have to take it again. I can't decide whether to throw the book away or enshrine it.

Sunday I had such a fun day. Calvin and I went to Utah for a wedding on Saturday. Saturday night he dropped me off at a hotel in Salt Lake City while he went to Idaho to go hunting. Sunday morning I got up at 5:45 and read while I was waiting for the sun to come up. After I showered and ate breakfast (oatmeal, apple juice, granola, milk and a banana) I took off walking. I passed only one man on the street. He asked me, in a thick British accent, where a pharmacy was and I explained there wasn’t one close. When he wondered why the town was so quiet, I explained that the businesses in downtown Salt Lake City shut down every Sunday. He couldn’t grasp it because it seemed even the homeless people had found somewhere to go. The two of us pretty much had the streets to ourselves.

I walked to L.D.S. Temple Square via the Beehive House and admired the flowers and the gardens. (Note: parsley is beautiful in a flower bed.) It was so calm and peaceful and I had no agenda. Sometimes I think I need to throw away my plans more often. I wasn’t in a hurry. I stopped to think and look and listen. I even sneaked in a few minutes to watch the Tabernacle Choir practice for their early Sunday morning broadcast. I don’t think I can articulate what a peaceful and restorative morning it was for me. I didn’t try to cram an extra thing in, I left myself plenty of time and I soaked up everything. In short, I felt balanced, my word for the year.

I made my way back to the hotel and rode the shuttle to the airport. I was plenty early so I sat down to read and wait. I was reading a book that a friend asked me to read on abusive behaviors. It was a bit of a snoozer and soon I was asleep. After twenty minutes I awoke and saw half a dozen women gathered around a man in a business suit about five yards away. The women were all laughing and happily interacting and I wondered what was entertaining them. I looked at the man and saw it was Donny Osmond (funny to think at 50-something we still call him Donny). What a nice, nice man he was to those women. They were in their fifties and giddy—laughing, asking him for autographs and for individual pictures. He just pleasantly smiled and visited with them. When they finally left, the college volleyball team who was sitting next to me stood and asked him for autographs. Very congenially he kept signing his name and then started for the main terminal again. A woman in her 30’s approached him to say something and he patiently listened to the woman for a minute or two and then said a few words back. I was so impressed with how kind he was. I thought how terribly annoying and frustrating it must be to never be anonymous, but he good-naturedly endured the attention without seeming to either thrive on it or be annoyed by it. I didn’t even try to catch a picture; it would have broken the spell —he being so nice and then me trying to capitalize on the scene. I was glad I woke up in time to see him be so polite . . . and mature. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the interchange, but the women reverted back to high school behavior at seeing him (which was rather sweet) and he just seemed so professional, mature and kind to all of them.

After he left I went to find a seat closer to my gate and found a friend from Moses Lake. It was wonderful getting to visit with her for awhile. I sat on the plane next to a sixteen year old that was flying to Idaho for her grandpa’s funeral. She had just gone to her very first dance on Saturday—homecoming. She was so excited and told me all about the date and her hair and the food and the music and her dress and showed me the pictures on her camera. She is a Jane Austen fan and so we talked about favorite scenes from Pride & Prejudice and Bride & Prejudice. She is taking a religion class with only special needs kids in it. On the first day of class, the teacher came and explained he needed volunteers to join his class and be partnered with the kids with special needs. She immediately stood up and offered to go with the other class. I thought that incident spoke volumes about her. She stayed glued to me after we got off the plane until her mom showed up. Her mom gave me a wonderful, knowing handshake. It was a very sweet way to end a good trip.

We used to go to Salt Lake City often when I was young. It was right up there with Disneyland as one of my favorite places to go. Salt Lake City was where I first rode an escalator, learned to cross a street by myself, tasted scallops and saw The Sound of Music. Salt Lake City has lots and lots of happy memories for me.

How about you? What city holds happy memories for you?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

52 Blessings--Deodorant

I forgot to pack deodorant in my suitcase this weekend. I went down to the hotel lobby this morning to buy some and there was only one kind available. I decided it would be easier to will myself not to sweat than to smell like a group of men working in an Irish bog in the springtime.

Deodorant is such a little thing, but it blesses the person wearing it and everyone around them too; blessings have a way of doing that don't they?

What's your favorite kind of deodorant?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Luck of the Draw--Scruples

I'm in a motel lobby tonight and just realized I've never stayed in a motel by myself. Ever. We made a quick 750 mile trip for a wedding and I'm flying back tomorrow while Calvin continues on to Idaho for a week of bow hunting.

I have a few scruples questions for you:

1. There is a group of women meeting in the lobby of my motel discussing affairs of their local parish. They are arguing. Sometimes loudly. It's quite funny listening to them as they appear to have come together for the peaceful purpose of fund-raising, but the meeting must have lasted a little too long because they are getting on each others' nerves. My favorite frustration is when someone raps her pencil on the desk. Scruples question one: Is it okay to overhear a conversation and then post it?

Yes or No?

2. Is it honest to order a child's plate/senior plate off the menu if one in your party meets the criteria, but it is someone else that wants to eat it so they switch plates? Scruples question two: Is the food yours once it comes out of the kitchen and whoever eats it is up to you or is it dishonest to order one from those menus knowing full well you plan to switch plates?

Yes or No?

3. Is it okay to use the handicapped stall in the bathroom if it is available? Scruples question three: Is the handicapped stall for everyone or just for those with special needs?

Yes or No?

What do you think?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gift Idea--A Place for Inspiration

( I'm sorry, I don't remember who to give credit for this picture)

It's begun! Better Homes and Garden's 100 Days of Holidays started sending e-mails a few days ago and from now to the end of the year they send a daily e-mail newsletter with ideas for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. I really enjoyed the tips, pictures and recipes last year and this year promises the same.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Monday Memories—SPT—Homemaking Tip

potato harvest 2008

This week our neighbors to the North started potato harvest. To me, the smell of potato dirt is finer than roses. I love potatoes. I only have one pet peeve and it has to do with my sacred cow, the potato. I dislike it when I’m standing in line at a buffet dinner and the person in front of me says, “Laws of mercy look at the size of these potatoes. I can’t eat a whole thing” and then turns to me and asks if I’ll split one with her. I have to patiently live with my peeve because I do not have the courage to say, “No ma’am. I eat potatoes three times a day and a half would only qualify as an appetizer. This is a meal and I think I’d better have a whole, but thank you for your offer.”

Last night as Cali and I finished our walk we gathered a shirtful of potatoes that the digger had dropped on the row ends. It reminded me of harvesting spuds, as Cali puts it “in one of your other lives,” and of the first personal essay I had published. It was fall and I was in Hawaii attending my first semester of college. Though plumeria smell wonderful and the ocean smells just as good neither is potato perfume and I missed it, so I wrote an essay on potato harvest for an assignment. An art teacher illustrated the essay and he gave me a strong resemblance to Romana or Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins’ friends. In all of my wildest aspirations, looking like Romana or Beezus wasn’t one of them; however his work was free and far be it from me not to be grateful for free, Romanafied or not. Here’s a couple of paragraphs from the potato harvest essay:
SPT—Me, the clodpicker model
Each fall my sisters and I helped with the spud harvest on our farm. We began by tugging on skin-tight, butterfly-spotted long underwear, sweatshirts or leather vests, overalls, and goose-down coats. For accessories we added old red and white Filer High School ski caps, leather hiking boots, pairs of cotton cloth gloves with plastic Braille imprints on the palms, and goggles. Then, and only then were we ready to help harvest potatoes in Southern Idaho. We were the clod-pickers. No glamour, no thrill, just clod-pickers who picked clods, rocks, weeds, and rotten potatoes from the freshly harvested potatoes. We usually rode on the back of the harvester—the spud digger as we called it. Hooked onto the back of the tractor, it dug the potatoes and blew out most of the potato vines. Our harvester was dried-blood red and it shook convulsively when the tractor started. On the back of the harvester was a platform big enough for two people to stand to do their job. There weren’t many seconds to pick the clods before the conveyer chains stacked the potatoes onto the piler and into the back of the truck. We had to work quickly to pull as much debris from the potatoes as we could, guarding our hands and gloves from the conveyer rollers. The rollers turned so fast, I was sure our hands and arms would be swallowed by a gradual slurp of the machine if we weren’t careful.

One night I wished I wasn’t clod picking at all. It was not only late at night, we were late getting the harvest in and winter was early. It was wheezing cold wind and coughing snow. Water rot had attacked the potatoes. Water rot breaks down the potato membrane and makes it gushy, slimy, and black; it also stinks. I was cold and cross, my thin brown gloves were soaked and I was tired of scraping potato slime from them. My feet were refrigerated in the mounds of rotting potatoes and mud. My back ached from the hours of stooping over the machine. My head swam from the oscillating lamp that sloshed the light over the rolling spuds. I wanted to quit and go home. I knew most of the family was home and so was roast beef, potatoes, corn and peach pie. I couldn’t go home. The potatoes provided our livelihood and it didn’t matter that there were some rotten ones, there were still a lot more good than bad that needed to be harvested.

I learned many practical skills from harvesting potatoes. Scanning for weeds, rocks and clods taught me to scrutinize the kids’ faces quickly while on a run for the school bus. Ear wax, dirty glasses and unbrushed teeth didn’t stand a chance with a former clodpicker. But, even more important skills were learned that one frigid night. Sometimes water rot attacks a family. Unwanted breakdowns happen. But no matter how bad it stinks, no matter how cold it gets, no matter how bad it hurts, families are our livelihoods and even with some rotten spots there is more good than bad—it just takes harder and faster picking to save the crop.

Homemaking Tip: You guessed it. A potato tip because potatoes are high in fiber, completely natural, good tasting, and cheap. Here are some of my favorite toppings and a recipe for one. Chive Butter is so very good and it's nice to serve at large gatherings because it eliminates bowls by combining things and speeds up the serving process, too.

Broccoli & Cheese Sauce
Morrison's Magnificent Meatballs
Pizza Style
Taco Style
Chili & Cheese
Chive Butter
Sweet & Sour Chicken
Shredded BBQ pork or beef
‘Tater Pigs (a cooked link sausage slid into a potato)
My sister, Marcia, tops her baked potatoes with a cooked, frozen-pot-pie for a quick and easy meal

Chive Butter
1 cube butter
1 cube margarine
16 oz. sour cream
¼ cup chopped chives
½ pound cooked, crumbled bacon (*opt)
Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.
What's your favorite baked potato topping?
What is a practical skill you learned at work that helped you in an unexpected way at home?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

52 Blessings--Random Acts of Kindness

It's as Mark Twain said, "Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." The last few hours I've received several random acts of kindness, just little things but little things that made my life better. Here are four examples:

  • A friend saw an article on Abraham Lincoln that she thought I might enjoy and e-mailed it to me. I don't know which I enjoyed most, the article or the idea that she was looking out for me.

  • Our neighbors called to borrow our ice cream freezer. When the daughter came to get it she brought us a stack of magazines to read and stayed a few minutes to visit. Her merry laugh was delightful. Later they needed hot peppers and since I still have lots in the garden the daughter was soon at our door again. Because I was in the middle of canning peaches, I just hollered "Come in" out the kitchen window when she knocked. She came in the door waving envelopes and said, “Here’s your mail!” She reminded me of Mr. McFeely saying, "Speedy delivery." Our mailbox is ¼ mile down the road and she had stopped to bring it to us. Her fun laugh, the free magazines, hand delivered mail . . . good, kind gifts.

  • A friend called and left a message that I was being thought of and hoped I was adjusting and okay with being an empty-nester. The message was later followed up with a wonderful phone call.

  • I got a call from an 82 year old woman named Betty. She lives in a farming community not far from ours. She asked if I was Mrs. Payne and when I told her I was she said, “I have a son who lives in Taiwan with his family. He ran into your son this week and said to call you right away and tell you your son is just fine.” She went on to explain that after her son had met Ty and learned that as a missionary he didn’t have frequent phone contact with us, her son called his mother and told her to immediately call us and give us a report on Ty. Literally, this was a game of Telephone and not only do I love a fun game, but that two strangers would take the time and effort to play and pass on a message that was intended for me made it the game of games this week.

It really is true, "Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness." (Seneca) I'm grateful for people taking the opportunity to show me kindness.

How about you? What's a random act of kindness that you have enjoyed this week?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Life in My World-Part B

A very peaceful place is in Palmyra, New York on the old Joseph Smith, Sr. homestead. There is a grove of trees behind the family home where Joseph Smith, Jr. went to pray and received a vision from our Heavenly Father and his son, Jesus Christ. It is beautiful and reverent, in fact it is referred to as the sacred grove. On Monday Calvin and I left West Point and drove up to Palmyra.

restored Smith family home (there is also a log cabin on the property where they lived before this one)

If I could choose another time period to live in it would have been in the early to mid or late 1800’s (I’m glad I wasn’t around during the Civil War . . . other than I would have liked to vote for Abraham Lincoln.) Joseph Smith was born in 1805 so the family home and farm in front of the grove is like my dream pioneer playground. I would just love to move in and play house for awhile.

And even though it would mean no king size bed

or dryer to hide our laundry in,

it would mean we would get to be very practical and resourceful and make beehives from hollow logs and

carve water-troughs out of stumps.

And this would be our beautiful back yard with no sprinklers to move or need for a lawn mower.

After walking through the grove and visiting the Smith family homes and barns, we went over to the Hill Cumorah were Joseph Smith was guided by the angel, Moroni, to unearth an ancient record of the Americas which tells of Christ’s dealings with her early inhabitants. It was just a great day to walk around with Calvin and visit about so many things that are important to us and have so much for which to be grateful.

If you had to choose to live during another time period, when would it be?

Have you ever been to Palmyra, NY ? Did you obey the sign or bring a leaf home?

Life in My World-Part A

In today’s Neighbor Jane Payne’s newsletter I wrote about our weekend at West Point. So for you newsletter subscribers, this post is a repeat.

Cadets’ uniforms fresh from the dry cleaners and ready to be delivered by Plebes

It’s said of West Point “We taught the people you read about in history.” So, as you walk throughout the post it is as if you are walking through a living museum.

Founded in 1802, the uniform patterns, the buildings and many of the traditions are two hundred years old. The river, granite and trees age the post indefinitely. There are statues of great statesmen like Thomas Jefferson, and soldiers like Washington, Eisenhower, Patton and McArthur. Quotes of great men and women throughout the ages are engraved in granite throughout the post. West Point was a Revolutionary War battle site and there still remains a palpable spirit.
I'll share a few highlights of our trip:

Flirtation Walk. A cadet must accompany you to walk on this trail as it is reserved for the privacy of the cadets. It is a beautiful path that winds through the woods and down to the Hudson River. It passes Chain Battery, a strategic fortification where an immense chain was stretched across the Hudson River to deter the British ships from passing and thus controlling it and conquering the colonies.

Piece of the chain as well as a British cannon captured in the Revolutionary War

Each link in the chain was 114 pounds and 2 feet long so it wasn’t like a little hacksaw would do much damage to it. The chain didn’t catch the ships as much as it intimidated them.

Sadly, Abe had to walk Flirtation Walk with only his dad and me and Cali and her friend, Ray, for company. I’m certain it wasn’t the romantic walk for him that it was designed to be.

the Hudson River from Trophy Point (notice the heavily wooded banks
where the cannons were stationed)

A cannonball launch pad (for lack of a better description, because I can’t remember the name). This battery is a mile and a half from the Hudson River. It started to rain as we climbed to the crest which made it seem even more incredible that the soldiers could maneuver heavy cannons through the slick and heavily wooded terrain. The overlook was situated on a river bend and as the British ships slowed to make the curve, it left them as sitting ducks. I felt a reverence for the men who fought and died in those battles. Later at Trophy Point, an area on post where different “trophies of battle” are displayed, we touched cannons taken during Revolutionary battles.

Constitution Corner. The oath that a cadet takes is written on a plaque as well as the oath he takes upon graduation from West Point as an officer in the army. It is sobering to read the price to which a soldier pledges to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The plaques are mounted on a brick wall and shadowed by a large oak tree with a few benches nearby. It is not far from the infamous Washington monument.

Beings as National Constitution Day was celebrated this week, here are a few interesting facts about it and the people who helped frame and sign it:

· James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” is on the $5,000 bill. (Have any of you ever seen a $5,000 bill?)

· At the time of the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia was the most modern city in America and the largest city in North America. It had a population of 40,000 people, 7,000 street lamps, 33 churches, 10 newspapers, and a university.

· There was a proposal at the Constitutional Convention to limit the standing army for the country to 5,000 men. George Washington sarcastically agreed with this proposal as long as a stipulation was added that no invading army could number more than 3,000 troops! (By the way, Washington wanted to create a military academy at modern day West Point for training a standing army but was defeated in his efforts. Thomas Jefferson was one of the most vocal opponents. Ironically, when Jefferson was President he founded the United States Military Academy at West Point.)

· John Adams referred to the Constitution as “the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen” and George Washington wrote “It (the Constitution) appears to me, then, little short of a miracle.”

· Although Benjamin Franklin’s mind remained active, his body was deteriorating. He was in constant pain because of gout and having a stone in his bladder, and he could barely walk. He would enter the convention hall in a sedan chair carried by four prisoners from the Walnut Street jail in Philadelphia.

· The U.S. Constitution has 4,400 words. It is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.

Farleigh Dickerson University in New Jersey. The sprint football team’s first football game of the year was held while we were there. FDU has a gorgeous campus with lots of oak and maple trees. It was extremely hot and humid and we wore Army black to soak it all in. If there were any heavyweight players before the game, they were underweight after it. Notwithstanding, it was a very enjoyable afternoon and once we fans took our shoes and socks off in the stands it wasn’t even overly warm.

Army won and Abe played well so that was an added bonus. And the cadet who had a neck injury only cracked a vertebra instead of breaking it so that was a blessing, too.

Father and Son. Calvin planted the idea of West Point in Abe’s head several years ago and when Abe expressed an interest, Calvin helped him make that goal become reality and has helped him stay focused on his goals since. It is very inspiring to me when I see men be good fathers to their children. Every time I caught sight of these two together—whether walking a trail, sneaking away for updates on the football games on a public TV, hugging or offering advice—I smiled. I smiled lots.

Ray finding where a culvert out of Lusk Resevoir leads

One of the highlights of the trip was to take Ray with us. Among other things, Ray has a gift of insatiable curiosity and seeing things through his eyes was like seeing everything for the first time.

Whenever we receive e-mails or notices from West Point they always close with Go Army. Beat Navy. Far be it from me to know of a better way to close a blogpost on West Point than the Army. So. . . . .Go Army. Beat Navy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Gift

Dick, Jeremy, Abe

Our purpose in going to West Point last weekend was to attend Ring Weekend ceremony for all Firsties (seniors). The idea of a class ring originated at West Point in 1835 and the tradition is very strong still. The rings symbolize more than a fraternity or alma mater, they symbolize that the cadets who wear one stand as a part of the long gray line—a group of men and women who have pledged to protect our Constitution from tyranny or outside forces. Some of the former graduates’ families and widows have donated the deceased's rings to be melted down and poured into the current class’ rings, continuing the tradition of service.

Abe listening to Plebes reciting the ring poop

After the Firsties receive their rings they must walk back to the barracks where the Plebes (freshmen) are waiting for them. Plebes have NO privileges at West Point. They are treated as nonentities and this is the one time they have a token of power. A Plebe may stop the ring-bearing Firstie to admire his ring. And then, as part of the admiration they obnoxiously say:

Oh my gosh, sir!
What a beautiful ring!
What a crass mass of brass and glass!
What a bold mold of rolled gold!
What a cool jewel you got from you school!
See how it sparkles and shines!
It must have cost you a fortune!
May I touch it? May I touch it please, sir?

The Firsties must stand there until the Plebe has finished his verse and stared at the crass mass of brass and glass. (Abe said when he was a Plebe he would say it painfully slow or even make mistakes while saying it so that the Firstie would have to stand there for a long time.)

unknown firstie trying to escape

This year it was raining and such a funny scene—Firsties trying to dodge and outrun hordes of Plebes. It reminded me of tag in first grade, because the Firsties were only safe from the chanting Plebes when they hit the base of barrack steps. When we got to the inward courtyard between the barracks, Abe took off on a dead run to miss the barrage. He was able to skirt them (he must be a quarterback or something), but the Plebes looked like galloping gray ghosts chasing after him.

We went up to Abe's room and met his roommates while he changed his clothes and we hoped to dry out some. Since parents are only allowed in the rooms a couple of times during a cadet’s tenure at the academy, it never gets old seeing their neatly made beds. Each year the cadets are given more privileges and Abe and his two roommates can now have a mini-fridge and futon in their room. Abe sleeps on the hard futon every night rather than sleeping in his bunk and having to make a neat bed in the morning.

The night of the ring ceremony, Ray took us out to supper at the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate. After we had ordered and were waiting for our food, Calvin tapped the glass with his knife and said, “Can I have your attention? Abe has something he’d like to say.” Then Abe pulled out a little black box and said, “Mom, this is for you.”

I opened it and inside was a pin in replica to his class ring. He said how much he appreciated me helping him get through West Point and how he never would have made it without my encouragement and support. It was one of those moments that my heart will replay often for the pin symbolizes more than “thank you” to me. A son must cut the apron strings for proper growth, but even though you know it must be done doesn’t mean it isn't painful. What a wonderful gift to discover that after those apron strings have been cut and your son has learned to balance and walk on his own that he can and will bind himself back to you with bonds much stronger, more durable and flexible. To me, that gold pin replaces the strings and I wear it with as much pride and humility as I wore the apron, but probably with more grace and definitely more patience. I just love it and am so grateful for the gift and all it represents.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Homemaking Tip--Goblets and Birds

top bowl upside down, plate covered with program

We attended a formal banquet this week at West Point in Washington Hall. Washington Hall is a magnificent building that seats 4000 cadets and the staff can have them all fed and back outside in less than 25 minutes. When the table is set, the plates are turned over to protect them from birds that have errantly flown into the hall and fly around the 40 foot ceilings. Square dark wood panels stretch four feet up the walls and a central granite support is in the center of the hall with a nested alcove where famous speeches have been given (McArthur’s “Duty, Honor, Country” being one of them). A mural representing various battles throughout the ages covers the entire end of one of the wings of the hall. It could provide hours of table conversation.

The ambiance and pageantry of the event was very entertaining. Cadets in their starched uniforms and red sashes with their dates in bright dresses (or, in the case of female cadets, their dates were in military attire or suits), and the colonels and generals in full dress with a chest full of medals made a colorful display.

the most matching outfit of the evening

I watched this woman take a picture of her husband, a former WP grad, with their daughter. She seemed pleased when I asked if I could take a picture of her and happily limped over to the wall (two days walking up and down the hills on post had worn her feet out) in her gold-gilded shoes to pose.

Abe pouring Sparkling White Grape Juice for his guests

For dinner we had Caesar salad, baked chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, vegetables and cheesecake. The wine goblets used for the toasts were given as mementos. They’re etched with the West Point crest and class motto and sing when you play them. In short, they’re not something you want to break. I had forgotten the reminder to take bubble wrap to protect them, so while Calvin went to the restroom to retrieve paper towels I watched another woman stuff her goblets in tube socks! I thought it utterly brilliant, so when we packed to come home I stuffed our goblets in Calvin’s socks and tucked them in among the dirty clothes.

Homemaking Tip #1: If you have trouble with birds flying in your rafters, don’t be embarrassed. It happens at the important places too; just turn your plates upside down until it’s time to eat.

Homemaking Tip #2: Pack your breakables in tube socks when you travel and hide them among the dirty clothes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

SPT-All Because of a Blogger

Two years ago I was the recipient of Michelle’s Pink Christmas gift. It was a beautifully hand-covered and hand-painted recipe box with many of her favorite recipes; each recipe card was hand-stamped and laminated. I can’t help but be inspired by her creative projects, but I think I’m mostly motivated by the Creative Friday’s that she hosts for her friend, Jill. Michelle actually sets time aside each week with the sole purpose to be creative. I want to follow her example this Fall.

In truth, I could thank every blog I’ve ever read for sharing their creative genius with me. The photography, ideas, projects, opinions, problem-solving—incredibly creative posts dot the web. Simply stringing words together into a sentence requires creativity and so many bloggers inspire me with their sentences.

This morning while we were sitting in the New York airport, I began visiting with the woman in the seat beside me. She was terrified. She had only flown once before and that was several years ago. She was on her honeymoon and flying to see Yellowstone. I spoke encouraging words and then we boarded. After we landed I ran into her in the bathroom and she reported she’d taken some medicine and was doing much better. While we were sitting in the Detroit airport, a woman who had just finished visiting her granddaughter in Maine sat next to me. She said she’d had a marvelous time and was well rested, which she needed as she is the primary caregiver for her husband who has Alzeihemers. We had a short, lovely visit and as she toddled her way to the airplane, Calvin leaned over and whispered, “You are Abe’s and my worst nightmare to sit next to on a plane.” I promised him that I only visit with people who want visited with. He said, “How did you know that last woman wanted to visit.” I explained her body language had encouraged it and the free flow of her information confirmed it. He was not convinced that I am quasi-fluent in conversational body language.

We found our seats on the plane and as luck would have it, I had the middle seat. My least favorite. I begged Calvin to switch me spots. I whispered a reminder that I would feel a responsibility to visit if the person next to me wanted company and that four hours is a long time to converse. He just laughed, but would not budge. He reminded me that he had held middle-seat-duty on the flights out. So, I settled in the center seat. The woman next to me apologized for not being very friendly before I’d even buckled my belt. She said sh'ed had a difficult weekend and I correctly read her body language that said she needed a book to escape to rather than a new friend to rehash the last few days with.

Thirty minutes into the flight, Calvin, who had fallen asleep, snored. LOUD. Loud enough it woke him up. Loud enough the stewardess probably heard it. I leaned over, smiled and said, “You are my worst nightmare on a plane.”

So though he doesn’t have his very own blog spot, today’s honorable mention Self-Portrait-Tuesday goes to Calvin because if I’m patient enough I don’t even have to think of creative new sentences to say, I can just repeat his. Now that's creative inspiration.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Memories-West Point

Abe and Calvin--"R" Day 2003
This is “R” day at West Point in 2003 and the look on Abe’s face says it all. Misery. Survival. Recognition or “R” day is the day all prospective cadets are initiated into the life of a military officer in training. In this picture we were waiting for busses to transport us to the auditorium where the prospective cadets were given their charge. Once in the auditorium, the commanding officer gave a briefing and told the prospective cadets they had 90 seconds to say their good-byes and be on the stage at the front of the auditorium. Abe hugged us and started down to the stage. Hundreds of other prospective cadets were hurrying there as well. As soon as they reached the stage the initiation began and the cadre began yelling instructions. They took the prospective cadets to the barber where their heads were shaved. They herded them through a medical line where they were given shots and then told to change into black shorts with white t-shirts and their dress black shoes with white socks. Those who needed corrective eye wear were issued prescription goggles. In short, the prospective cadets looked hideous . . . the intent. The breaking-down-so-that-they-could-be-built-back-up had begun.

R day was very emotional. Everywhere we turned people wanted to talk about their cadet and were hoping for a glimpse of their child. Parents were encouraged to stay on the grounds all afternoon so that they could see their sons and daughters take the oath in the late afternoon. And while the barracks and training grounds were roped off for several yards, every parent hoped for a glimpse of their child that afternoon. (However, seeing your child would have been bittersweet, the strict training was painful to see and hear and if you had caught a glimpse of your child it meant he had been singled out. So really, you hoped you didn’t see your child, and under my breath I cursed each shouting cadre and hoped they’d have a sore throat the next morning.) It was confusing and yet, it all made sense. As the parents waited the afternoon away on the grounds, they talked to whoever would listen about their cadet and the journey to get to West Point. One father told us over lunch about his boy and dabbed at his eyes with his napkin while he recounted his son’s accomplishments. A mother sat on the grass and talked for over an hour about her son’s activities. Everyone’s story was similar and everyone felt intensely proud of their cadet and also emotionally strained.

Abe and Calvin--Ring Weekend 2008

This is "Ring Weekend" at West Point on September 12, 2008 and the look on Abe's face says it all. Accomplishment. Confidence. He is a Firstie (senior) cadet now and we just returned from celebrating a wonderful weekend with him. I'll post about our trip for the next few days.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Life in My World--WP

Life in my world is extremely fine. We're at West Point (New York). It's been an incredible event and I can't wait to tell you about it.

I'm having trouble with my laptop recognizing the wireless signal, (who'd have guessed I have an internet snob? The signal is strong and friendly, but the laptop won't let it in) so I'll have to post on what we're doing a little later.

by the way....to get your peach cubes (or tomato cubes) out of the trays you may have to run some warm water over the bottom of the trays. You could also spray them with cooking spray.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Teaching Idea—Penny

My sister, Lynn, sent this object lesson idea. I like it and have used it a couple of times the past few weeks.

1. Let students guess how many pennies they have seen in their lifetime.
2. Tell them the US Treasury says that on the average we see 1,000 pennies every year of our lives!
3. Give students a few minutes to draw the front and the back of a penny. (The vast majority of us cannot accurately draw a penny.)
4. Hand students a penny to compare to their drawings.

One application is that even though we have seen thousands and thousands of pennies we still can’t draw it accurately. So even if we have “heard all this information before” chances are we only retained a small portion of the information and can still learn at least one thing today.

What other applications to do you see for this object lesson? I'd love to hear what you'd do with it.
How close was your guess on the number of pennies you've seen?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homemaking Tip—Peach Cubes

This is a cool little tip (pun perfectly intended); however it isn’t new because you’ve probably done this since your kids were babies with leftover baby food.

On Monday I had a little bit of peach puree left over from the jam I was making so I froze it in ice cube trays for smoothies this winter. Last night I was making rice for apricot/cashew chicken and put a couple of peach cubes in with the rice to cook. It gave it a wonderful, subtle flavor. I’ve also done this with leftover tomato sauce and thrown them in with a stew or soup. I think I'll blend the leftover peppers in the garden in a little bit of water and cube them, too.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

SPT--A Dozen Entertainers

just a little sliver of yellow in a world of blue

Lelly’s Self-Portrait Tuesday challenge for September is to root out blogger influence and this week’s challenge is to share which blogger has influenced us in entertaining and parties. First I must confess to those who have read The Color Code. I have only one slim strip of yellow in my personality. Yellow means playful, charismatic, sociable, FUN and I have only one very undersized piece of it.

I watch people like Emily or Gwen or Darla and they have a party just bumping into someone at WalMart. They must have yellow hearts. I read about the incredibly fun parties that Marie plans for birthdays or national hockey day or . . . actually just give Marie a roll of crepe paper and a few $tore items and she can turn any day of the year into a party. She must have a whole yellow section in her brain. I read about Susan feeding a passel of high school kids every noon or a big group of missionaries every month and she makes fish sticks festive. She must have yellow hands or at least a yellow thumb. Any time Donna visits she brings a party with her because she plain oozes yellow. Mary always has a great recipe she’s served at book club or stamping parties and she looks good in yellow. Give Heather a free weekend and she’ll have a family RV party planned in her back yard and Jill doesn’t hesitate to organize an entire community of bloggers into a bash. Jessica and Jared can turn a snowstorm into a huge party in their front yard, complete with a train made of snow that carries kids. And Ande, my own blood and kin, can take a loaf of bread, a couple dozen cookies and a few decks of cards and turn our living room into a five hour party.

But me? Well, I’m very, very blue and blue personalities . . . well, they’re not known for being fun but rather for appreciating all those entertaining people who can pull off a party. And that thin strip of yellow in me? Its job is to remember where all the ideas are posted so that I can find them the next time I’m in a party pinch. And, if I forgot to mention you in this post it will just make the blue side of me feel so badly, so we'll blame that on the yellow strip too for being too carefree.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Memories-Pears and Bears

Today I’m canning pears and though canning is faster without little helper hands, it is much more difficult to get the pears to lie on their bellies in the jars without them. You can fit lots more pears in a jar if you stack them core-side down, so Cali would skinny her little fists into the jar and turn the pears over for me. When she outgrew the narrow jar necks then Ande took over. Abe and Ty carried buckets of peels and cores to the chickens.

As I stood at the sink this afternoon trying to flip a slippery pear over I wished for a little girl in pigtails with tiny hands sitting on the counter helping me. When the bucket was full I wished for a dusty little boy to dump the peels.

In the home where I grew up we had a “fruit room” where food stuffs were stored. I hated the job of retrieving a jar of pears or a can of green beans. Hated it. The fruit room was down 13 steps, past the pool table, beyond the fireplace, behind the furnace room and in the back corner of the basement. There were dozens of places for monsters or boogie men to hide between the kitchen and the fruit room—the bin heaped with black coal being the most likely place. But more than boogie men, more than monsters, I was afraid of bears in the basement. Bears that wore clothes and carried a fishing pole so that if I outran them they could cast their line and catch my lip with a fishing hook and reel me back in to them. Nursery rhymes and fairy tales were not safe in a mind like mine and one of the smartest things my parents did was carpet the stairs. Do you have any idea how many bottles were dropped and rolled back down them in my escapes?

Did you have a scary place in your house?
Are fairy tales safe in your head?
Do you eat canned pears (home bottled or boughten)?
(I was wondering today if very many people even eat them because I never see them in grocery carts.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

52 Blessings--Prophets

Surely the Lord God will do nothing,
but (until) he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
Amos 3:7

Thomas S. Monson, living prophet of God

If I believe the Bible, and I do, then I must believe in prophets, which I do, because the Lord has used prophets to provide direction and revelation for the world since the time of Adam. I am grateful for that guidance and inspiration. Prophets have made my life richer, safer and simpler.

Richer: When a prophet speaks or writes, the Lord promises that the Holy Spirit will witness of the truth that is spoken. Though that witness is hard to describe, it is unmistakable and my life is richer because of it. Prophets’ words have provided me not only with wisdom, but also encouragement and hope.

For example, I remember the prophet Ezra Taft Benson teaching us that family scripture study is vital. Well, I know what vital is: vital is my lungs, my heart, my brain. I don’t live without vital organs. I took the prophet’s words literally. Our family’s life has been rich because of the study of the scriptures. It has navigated us through stormy times. Family scripture study has been vital to our success. I’m grateful for the words of the Lord written through prophets in our scriptures.

Safer: Because prophets sound a warning voice of dangers, both physical and spiritual, I can avoid them and feel security and safety. I remember Thomas S. Monson recall a time when he felt impressed to go and visit a friend. Thomas S. Monson was swimming when the impression came. He swam to the end of the pool, dressed and quickly went to the hospital where his friend was staying. When he went to his friend’s room, there was no one there. He asked a nurse where his friend might be and she suggested he was at the hospital pool. Thomas S. Monson quickly went to the pool and found his friend, paralyzed, sitting in his wheelchair down at the deep end of the pool. The two visited and Thomas S. Monson’s friend confessed that he was thinking of taking his life—plunging into the pool where he could silently leave this world—when Thomas S. Monson entered. At this point, Thomas S. Monson urged all who were listening to “never, never, never postpone following a prompting.” He told us how grateful he was that he had acted upon the inspiration to visit his friend immediately. I have thought of Thomas S. Monson’s counsel many times in many different types of situations. It has been beneficial to me and those in my charge numerous times. I’m grateful for spiritual warnings that prophets deliver.

Simpler: Some times it’s easy to feel that the charge to keep the commandments is too complicated or too demanding. I have found that keeping the commandments as revealed by prophets is so much simpler than trying to undo the problems that disobedience to them brings.

In my jewelry box is a string leftover from an object lesson. The string represented our lives and when we broke a commandment a knot was tied in the string. Pretty soon, as the knots accumulated, the string was no longer useful. However, if we repented of our sins the knots were untied. Each day I see that string I am reminded of the frustration of trying to unknot a necklace before I can clasp it. Each day I see that string I am reminded of the complication of breaking commandments and not repenting of my sins.

Prophets make my life simpler by revealing the Lord’s will. Knowing I know so little, it is nice to know I don’t have to rely only on my wisdom or intellect to get me and those in my care through this life.
I am grateful for prophets, ancient as well as living today. They are a great blessing in my life.
In what way have prophets been a blessing in your life?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Life in My World--Four for Friday

3. Melanie cut my hair and sent me home with a box of wonderful peaches. They are gorgeous and have great flavor. Food is so good this time of year: peaches, pears, raspberries, firm apples, potatoes, tomatoes. It makes cooking easy . . . especially since I’m happy with peaches and toast.

Sunday afternoon nap on the trampoline

1. Ande went back to college. Cali will be gone for two weeks and then move away shortly thereafter. I miss them both, but they’re thriving in what they’re doing so I won’t wish them back. I’m on a cleaning spree. It always happens when someone leaves. I’m even filling salt and pepper shakers, rearranging the ibuprofen cupboard and cleaning out the water heater closet while the grapes are juicing. I’ve never had lots of storage space and am consequently a tosser, so while I’m cleaning I’m also tossing. (Note to Abe, I didn’t throw out yours and Ty’s super Nintendo. I was tempted three times, but overcame it. It’s safe another spree.)


4. I’m not very good at surprises. I’ve discovered that there are bad surprises in life as well as good, so “expected” is the range where I function best. There are a few surprises I do like though: one is stepping on generous scales and being three pounds less than expected and the other is to find a twenty dollar bill in my pant’s pocket. Today I’m adding a third: get a C on a final when I only know a D’s worth of stuff. I took the “Final” in Physical Science this week. I had high hopes of coming home and ceremonially tossing the textbook into the trash, instead I put it back on the shelf for round two. I won’t know for sure if I passed until another week or so, but barring a good surprise I’m going to have to relearn the difference between fusion and fission.

Cali says our chickens are racist.

2. We’ve got to butcher the chickens. Quick. They're eating way too much. (I’m no Andrew Zimmern, but add chicken liver and gizzards to good food this time of year.)

If I invited you to supper would you spit the gizzards in a napkin while I wasn't looking?

Are you a tosser, too?