Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday Thinking—Perfect Timing


Our daughter, Cali, can delay gratification longer than anyone I know. Candy (good kinds) can stay under her bed for months. And when the last Harry Potter book came out she allowed herself to read ONE chapter a day so as to make it last (and she read while sucking on one piece of sour licorice from the stash under her bed). I’m not very good at delaying gratification—the only thing better than one helping of mashed potatoes is two.

Nature is an expert on delayed gratification. In our yard, first she gives us the crocus blooms, followed days later by the daffodils, then the tulips. While the tulips are blooming, the cherry tree blossoms open. Just as the cherry trees start to fade, the pear trees bloom followed by the peach and apple trees and the narcissus. As the fruit tree blooms die away, the lilacs open and then the irises. Then come the pretty white-flowering bushes (I don’t know their official name) and the day lilies, soon after the little purple potato blooms pop open in the garden. After the potato blossoms fall, then the flowers in the garden start their chain reaction—first the bachelor buttons, then the zinnias, followed by the marigolds and ending with the wildflowers. It’s harmonious and sustaining.

I’ve been thinking it’s a good thing I’m not in charge of the blooms calendar. If I were I suspect we’d have a blossom explosion followed by months of dearth and drought.

What's blooming in your yard right now?

What about you? Can you delay gratification? In what? And how?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monday Memories and Self-Portrait Tuesday—Bony Fingers

The other day I heard an old song on the radio, “Work your fingers to the bone, what do you get? Bony fingers. Bony fingers.” That song isn’t true. Over the years I have spent considerable time using my fingers and they are still plump—not as chunky as my toes, but definitely on the thickset side.

Finger Exercise One: Monday afternoon was a several-hour-mega-ironing session. Calvin mentioned a couple of days ago that he hadn’t seen a couple of his shirts for a month, I countered that surely it had only been a couple of weeks, but as I ironed my way to the bottom of the basket I found a shirt I haven’t worn since I went to see Rachel’s family, so that makes him the winner.

Finger Exercise Two: I had to sew a button on a vest and mend a tear in a shirt sleeve so they could be ironed. I pulled out my 25 year old sewing machine that was ancient even when it was new, yet seams fine for my sewing abilities. I learned to sew in 4-H on a curler bag, though my hair was too short for curlers and I had no need for a bag for curlers I could not wear. I had to rip out several seams on the little curler bag that held curlers for my hair that was too short for curlers. I got a red ribbon on the curler bag that I did not need. I hated that curler bag and sewing. But at least I got exercise for my fingers and learned to sew.

Little did I know that my primitive sewing skills and my little ancient sewing machine would be a golden hen. She has saved and made us more money than any other minor appliance in our home. Curtains, shirts, little-kid pants, a hundred rag dolls, hand-stitched wall hangings and pillows, a few quilt bindings, a couple of dresses, mending, and odds and ends projects have all added to her value. But . . . for all that ironing and sewing my fingers are still not bony.

Finger Exercise Three: Today I typed and typed and typed. My niece, Abby, wrote asking for activity ideas for an upcoming youth conference so I sent several. Today’s self-portrait challenge was to be taken giving a gift to a total stranger. My gift is the hope that some of those activity ideas will help some young man or young woman feel a part of a larger group, feel valued and make some new friends. But, still . . . for all that ironing and sewing and typing my fingers are still not bony.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

52 Blessings—Scriptures

I love the scriptures—I love the counsel, truth, encouragement, ideas, comfort, revelations, stories, funny stories, even the correction. I love them. I remember learning about a boy that had completely read the Bible when he was 8. I was 14 at the time and decided then that I would become a student of the scriptures. Little did I know what a blessing that decision would prove to be. I’m not a scholar, I’m just a student, often learning very slowly, but just as I felt when I learned to read or multiply, understand the checks and balance system of our government or how the heart pumped, learning from the scriptures (even little things) has been a stimulating study.

Ande leaves for Europe tomorrow and wrote an e-mail asking for background help to some of the artwork depicted in the various scenes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. There are several scenes depicting the ancestry of Christ, some scenes portraying stories from the Book of Genesis, a few of the Creation, several from the prophet and poetry books of the Old Testament and one from the apocrypha. As I was researching and preparing a short synopsis on some of the frames, I became more and more invigorated—wishing I knew how to paint or sing or something to express appreciation for the truths found within the scriptures like Michelangelo did. Alas, I can’t sing, draw or do anything noteworthy yet to show my appreciation. . . nonetheless, I do recognize them as an immense blessing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday Thinking—Duels

I’ve been thinking about conflict resolution this week, partly because it clutters every news cast. Prompted by Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals, I’ve been specifically thinking about early American duels—the conflict resolution strategy that southern gentlemen employed to defend their honor.

I think these duels interesting:

July 11, 1804: Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and Vice-President Aaron Burr. Hamilton was killed. (Can you imagine VP Joe Biden in a duel today with say . . . former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell?)

May 30, 1806: Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson. Dickinson, with 26 dueling wins to his name, was killed; Jackson was only wounded. Jackson later became the 7th President of the United States.

September 22, 1842: Abraham Lincoln and James Shields. Lincoln was an Illinois state legislator at the time and accepted a duel by James Shields who was the state auditor. Hoping to diffuse the crises, Lincoln suggested they use cow-pies as weapons. Shields was insulted so Lincoln chose cavalry broadswords. Before the duel, Lincoln made an ostentatious display of his long arms and superior reach by hacking the upper branches of a nearby tree. Shields cowered and called the duel off. (Oh, ho. Cow-pies. Yes, that would be my weapon of choice, too—cheap, plentiful, harmless, light-weight, earth-friendly.)

Dueling in the early centuries seemed a legitimate source of resolving accusations and severe offenses—even Henry Clay, THE GREAT COMPROMISER, dueled; but it seems so savage in today’s society.

However, upon hearing the following argument I began to wonder which society (19th or 21st century society) is the more coarse, uncivilized and unkind.

Edward Bates (father of 17, mind you) was usually soft-spoken and easy mannered. However one day he got in a heated argument with George McDuffie, a representative from South Carolina, on the floor of the House. McDuffie ridiculed Bates publicly with crude language, which Bates took personally, and hastily challenged McDuffie to a duel. Fortunately McDuffie declined and publically apologized to Bates (good thing, because we’re going to need Bates as Lincoln’s attorney general). Years later, Charles Gibson, a friend of Bates reflected on the southern code of dueling, “As wicked as the code was the vulgar public behavior following the demise of the practice was worse still. The code preserved a dignity, justice and decorum that have since been lost, to the great detriment of the professions, the public and the government. The present generation will think me barbarous, but I believe that some lives lost in protecting the tone of the bar and the press on which the Republic itself so largely depends are well spent.”

Because we no longer have to put our money where our mouth is we can make offensive accusations or write rude memos (oft-times anonymously). We can spit and run. Hardly the thing you could do in dueling days.

Interesting to think about isn’t it? Do you think Gibson's assessment correct? Is society’s tenor soured and off-key because men don’t have to defend their accusations? Hmmmm. That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Homemaking Tip—Count your Bars

A few years ago I was assigned to prepare snack packs for a boy scout whitewater rafting trip and put granola bars, string cheese, and fruit leather into reseal able bags. We bought the big 48 count boxes of Quaker Chewy Granola Bars—and got gypped. One box had 47 bars, the other 46. It bugged me. I called the Quaker Oat company and the representative acted as if it were an anomaly and offered a coupon. I doubt I got the only two boxes that are short, but seldom do people count mega box contents. Hmmmm. "Count your bars" is today’s frugal homemaking tip.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Memories—Rivals

Thanks to Lanita’s excellent suggestion, I’ve been listening to Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. My goodness, what a book. It’s about the men who contested Abraham Lincoln for the Republican nomination in 1860 and then joined his cabinet. Though it has 36 discs, I’m really enjoying it and look for opportunities to listen to it—yard work has never been so anticipated and walking Seemore tonight I considered an extra lap or two . . . though only briefly. Although audio learning is not my primary learning method, I’m slowly getting more adept at it.

I love to pleasure read, but I do have a stigma attached to it. I think it comes from childhood, for though my mother was a reader, if we were found reading a book we were fair game to run errands for her—“Run to the fruit room and get a couple of cans of green beans.” “Run out to the shop and tell your dad supper is ready.” “Come burn the trash.” “Come put the clothes away.” However, if we were watching TV or playing a game of jacks, it was more like we were on base—without a dvr we couldn’t pause the show and a stalled game of jacks made two mad kids instead of one—hence it made the most sense to give the reader the chore; therefore pleasure reading must be a second rate, less important activity.

Unsound logic, I know. In fact I consciously corrected it with our kids and chose last the child who was reading to run errands, so academically I understand that I should throw out the notion; it’s intellectually debilitating. But pleasure reading still nags at me emotionally when there is work to be done. Rival thinking in one brain. Remember how Abe Lincoln’s father used to get mad at him for reading books when he should have been working? Poor boy. Poor dad. I see both sides. In the name of Lincoln family harmony, that family needed audio books.

Do you listen to audio books? When? Where?
Which books are your favorites?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

52 Blessings—Zeal

Zeal. Enthusiasm. Eagerness. Fervor. Zest. Like salt, it adds so much flavor to my life. Lucy recently wrote a post on a similar topic and it made me think. And then, I observed this and thought some more . . .

Ande is incredibly creative. I’ve loved watching her develop this talent since she was little (heaven help us in those early years when she expressed it in what she chose to wear for the day . . . they were such funny combinations and mortified Cali and yes, hang-my-head-in-shame, me). But with her creative growth, Ande has learned to admire, study and appreciate the artistic pursuits of others.

She got home early, early Saturday morning:

and sat right down and began teaching Calvin and me things she’s learned about art, architecture and performances they will soon see in Europe.


Her zest and insights made the learning not only enjoyable, but much more permanent for me.

As with good art, you will see other symbols of enthusiasm in the picture: the fact that Calvin still has his eyes open at twenty-to-two and the flowers and cookies—gifts left on the doorstep by a friend who knew she was coming home for the weekend. As I sat and watched her teach with great zeal about the ideas expressed in one painting, I thought of what a blessing enthusiasm and excitement is because they push people to greater heights.

A healthy, honorable zeal—either my own or someone else’s—really is like salt; it enhances. (But it's also like pepper because a little goes such a long ways.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Life in My World--Nothing in Particular

  • I left the house phone on the hood of the car last night. I was talking to one of the kids while Calvin and I were raking up grape vines and then set it down while I went to feed the chickens and gather the eggs. I didn't even notice it was on the hood until I was a mile from home this morning and it started to slide. It hit the road with a bounce then a thud so I was sure it would be shattered, but I was wrong. It landed face down and when I retrieved it and flipped it over the screen simply said: Place in charger. Oh ho. It was just a little irony, but it made me laugh anyway.

  • Calvin called and asked me to meet him for lunch today. I do love lunch dates portions and prices. They're perfect . . . and so is the company.

Photobucket Photobucket

  • When Cali and Ray were here last weekend for Easter, Calvin had a black-powder gun shoot off with them. I thought their different methods of loading guns was funny and it reminded me of how little boys instinctively know what to do with a toy truck and the sounds to make and little girls know just how to hold a doll and talk to her. Gender seems evident in gun-loading, too.

  • Ande is getting ready for her study-abroad trip to Europe in a few weeks. She calls me each day excited about the things she's learned in the classes preparing them for the trip or the things that are planned. It's simply amazing and humbling to me the opportunities that our kids have had to learn. Ande's coming home tonight and Calvin and I are so excited to see her, even if it's only for a little over 24 hours. I think we'll plant the potatoes in her honor tomorrow.

  • The West Point Parent's graduation guide came in the mail today. We're definitely on the countdown. Abe's graduation announcement photos came in the mail a couple of weeks ago. They were less than stunning. Handsome, yes. Stunning, no. Calvin asked Abe if he'd mind going in for a re-shoot so we could get a better picture and he said he would. I just talked to him on the phone and asked him if he'd done the retakes yet because we're running out of time. He said that he and Nathaniel, his roommate, decided the pictures looked good enough. I said, "Abe, did you even comb your hair in them?" He said, "Nope. I never do." Thank heavens he has Grace now. She came into his life none too soon.

google image

  • Ty is doing really good. He loves Taiwan. He loves the people. He loves the country. He loves missionary work. He loves it all. He recently wrote, “Our (his missionary companion’s and his) bikes are 18 months old and are always in the rain and get a lot of use, so they aren't great). My bike has not seen an oil can in over a year. The northeast coast of Taiwan is gorgeous. I mean gorgeous. We rode along, chatted and had a good time. When we had ridden about 30 miles, I decided that I should oil my chain. Little did I realize that my bike was not only used to the rust, but that it was actually a necessity. I like to ride hills in the high gears so that my legs get a good workout but this puts a lot of strain on the gears and the chain. Apparently the teeth on the gears were a lot more worn down than I thought because after I oiled my chain, the two bigger gears were no longer able to grab the chain. It just slips. That rust was the only thing that kept my bike working. Because of this, I just had to use the little tiny gear. We rode to 福隆 and decided we would take the train down to 宜蘭 because we were only half way and couldn't ride fast enough with my bike like it was (to get there in time). We found that the 福隆 train station doesn't ship bikes so we had to go buy some plastic bags and bag up our bikes. We had to take the wheels off and put them in one bag and then use two to cover up our bikes. Then carry them along with all of the stuff we carry around for exchanges on to the train. As we were bagging our bikes up, a tourist had a camera with a huge telephoto lens and she was just taking pictures like crazy. It made me feel like I was a lion in Africa.

  • In the way of other little wonderful things that added up to make life so enjoyable this week:
  1. The Stake production of Beauty and the Beast--it was great.

  2. A plate of Susan's Lemon Bars--they are delightful.

  3. Lunch with friends and an afternoon visiting--it felt so good to spend time with them.

  4. Current events in the world--it is exciting . . . . and disturbing.

And that is life in my world this week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Homemaking Tip—Anytime, Anywhere Picnic

It was the perfect day for a wiener roast . . . er, yard work. Cali and I were heavy-duty-fuel-gatherers this afternoon with 30+ wheelbarrows full of branches and leaves, so after Calvin came home from work we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. The only thing missing was Ray, who was traveling on business.

(And I quote, "This is how I keep my face from burning off.")

(And I don't quote, because Calvin is cursing his dog.)

This week’s homemaking tip is a suggestion to keep picnic/wiener roasting stuff handy (hot dogs, buns, chips, marshmallows, chocolate bars, graham crackers) for impromptu opportunities. You can even keep everything in a box or plastic container in the freezer until you need it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SPT—Gift a Friend

The challenge for today’s self-portrait is to be a picture of a gift I’ve given a friend. I actually feel quite stupid and self-conscious on this challenge—it seems gifts should be quiet, private and without fanfare. Yet I’ve come to know that each of Lelly’s self-portrait assignments that I’ve participated in has been a great learning experience. They have left a personal record for me and my posterity of the simple little details in life as well.

This week my heart took my SPT picture. I was visiting a friend in the rest home and had kneeled down next to her wheelchair. Our hands were intertwined on her lap as we visited. Hers was petite, worn and cool; mine was fleshy, warm and strong. It was not the time or place for a flash, a click or a pose. But my heart snapped the picture of two friends giving each other a gift.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

" Hope"
Liz Lemon Swindle

I love powerful vignettes. I love being blessed by others' talents. I love Easter. I love the Savior, Jesus Christ. In short, I love these:


Happy Easter, everybody.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Life in My World—Seven Month Uglies

I remember Dr. Price teaching about the seven year uglies in Child Development 210. He said there was no getting around it, your kids would just have homely stages in life so there was no need to panic, just patiently wait them out.

Every spring I’m reminded of the seven year uglies when I see our yard. It has some really ugly months and true-to-prediction it runs in sevens just like Dr. Price said—from October through April. It is especially an eye sore in March when all the tumbleweeds from the neighbors’ fields have lodged in the bushes, the wind has done her damage, there is no snow to hide the dead grass or fallen limbs and it's too cold to work in it.


But Calvin and I both love the smell of a good fire, a liberal dose of round-up weed killer and we enjoy working in the yard together (admittedly we both miss the kids' help and company however) . . .



and eventually the seven month uglies turn into





It’s a miracle that happens every year and it’s always worth the work and wait, so life in our world this week is working and waiting.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thursday Thinking—Skinny Sleep

Cali and Ande

A few weeks ago I read a study where women who faithfully slept a minimum of 7 ½ hours per night for three months straight lost anywhere from 2-15 pounds while those who slept less did not. Nothing was altered for the study other than sleep—diets, exercise and activities remained the same. Skeptics suggested the weight loss was simply a result of fewer waking hours in which to consume calories; though researchers acknowledged that obvious benefit, they suggested the body releases a chemical while it sleeps that burns fat and it needs sufficient resting time to be efficient (at least 7 ½ hours). If this information is true, this is the easiest and funnest weight maintenance suggestion ever. Move over beauty sleep (which I think is an oxymoron because my face is so gravity affected when I wake up it is anything but beautiful), I’d rather have skinny sleep.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Homemaking Tip—I'd Have Never Guessed

For the past six weeks Ty, who is serving an LDS mission in Taiwan, has had the assignment of traveling about the mission with his companion, backpack and sleeping bag and staying with the different missionaries within the mission. He’s been worried that he hasn’t been able to eat healthy because he’s always traveling. (Oh ho, I would have never predicted that he would someday worry he wasn’t eating whole grains, vegetables and fruits. He didn’t even like applesauce as a baby. What baby doesn’t like applesauce? I also distinctly remember him arguing [after studying dinosaurs in second grade] that he was a carnivore and therefore should not have to eat his peas. And, it was Ty that first tested the family rule that if you threw-up on a food you didn’t have to eat it again, but until then you had to eat it. He hasn’t eaten squash since he was three.)

However, last night Ty wrote requesting recipes for bran muffins and granola. I like this recipe and have made it since high school


8 cups oats
6 cups rolled wheat (hot cereal made of wheat)
2 cups untoasted wheat germ
2 cups coconut
1 pkg. slivered almonds
2 ¾ cups brown sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup water
2 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp vanilla
Almond extract (optional)

Combine brown sugar, oil, water, salt and vanilla in a saucepan and heat until sugar is melted. Combine oats, wheat, wheat germ, coconut and almonds in a large baking pan. Pour liquids over dry ingredients and stir until well coated. Bake for 2 hours at 225 degrees. Stir occasionally.

but I’d love another one if you have one to share. Do you have a recipe that would be good to send to him? We'd both appreciate it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Self-Portrait Tuesday—A Gift for Family

If you look close, you can see my genes for today's self portrait.

This afternoon Ande called asking for advice. After I told her my thoughts, my mind drifted to what I could do for today’s SPT (topic: a gift I give my family) and I asked, “How do you know I love you?”

She grudgingly replied, “Because you always make me do things on my own.”

I wish I had a picture to prove her wrong.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Memories—The Easter Bunny

I never believed in the Easter Bunny. He just didn’t make sense. We lived where there were tons of jackrabbits, literally. They were so destructive to the crops that all the farmers would have rabbit drives. Droves of adults and kids would run through the sage brush hollering and hitting the brush with bats or sticks and scare/herd the rabbits into large wired pens. (Think of it as a demented Easter egg hunt where we looked for the rabbit instead of the eggs.) One car game I failed to mention earlier was counting the number of road kill rabbits on the way to town. Double digits. Another reason I couldn’t believe in the Easter Bunny was my grandpa used to come out and load us grandkids in the back of his station wagon and take us up on the hill to target practice on . . . you guessed it, jackrabbits. But even if I hadn’t been desensitized to rabbits, I don’t think I would have believed there was an Easter Bunny, because often our Easter baskets were trays just like this one:

Mom spread green Easter grass in the bottom and then made a little pile of jelly beans, a little pile of malt balls, a little pile of bubble gum eggs along with a few Peeps and Reeses peanut butter eggs and a sprinkling of little, foil-covered, chocolate eggs. Each tray had a little strip of paper with our name on it and she hid them in the house (inside the dryer, the game closet, the kitchen cupboard, under the couch, etc.) and when we woke up Easter morning we looked until we found ours. I’d seen rabbits in the yard. I’d seen rabbits in the pasture. I’d seen rabbits in the fields. I’d seen rabbits in the sagebrush. I’d seen rabbits crossing the road. I knew there was no way a rabbit could hop and carry a tray (let alone ten) and still keep the candy in neat little piles. No sir. There was no such thing as an Easter Bunny. Reindeer that could fly, yes. But an Easter Bunny that could deliver neat piles of candy on a tray. No.

Did you believe in the Easter Bunny? How did your mind justify unscrambled baskets?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

52 Blessings—Fresh Perspective

Yesterday was sunny and mild. Amazing what a warm day helps you see.


This week I spent time with extended family. Amazing what a fun trip to be with your sister and her family helps you see.

Yesterday and today is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's conference. Amazing what General Conference helps you see.

Just a few twists at looking at the same world and a whole new world emerges. One of the things I enjoyed most about this past week (and a blessing) was seeing things in a new light. It's like a kaleidoscope, you twist the tube just a little and new colors, patterns and shapes emerge while the same old wonderful world is still there, too. A fresh perspective is a blessing indeed.

Has anything given you a fresh perspective this week?