Friday, April 30, 2010

Life in My World in Which I Combine All Posts for the Week with Only One Picture of Asparagus

Traveling Tuesday, a Tip from Someone Else

When Grace called to tell me about their first ultrasound she said, “It looks like a grain of rice.” A few weeks later, I asked Abe how their grain of rice was doing and he said, “It’s a blueberry now.” A week after that when I asked how the blueberry was he said, “It’s not a blueberry anymore it’s a kidney bean.” A month later it was the size of a shrimp.

Each Friday Grace looks up on what size the baby is and where it is in its development and then Ty calls her and finds out what it says and names the baby for the week. This week he appropriately named it Bell as it is the size of a pepper. Bill, Bell. No matter. Grace finds out next week what it will be and then we will do our very best not to weasel it out of her while she waits for Abe to call from Iraq so she can tell him. We’ll do our very best not to eavesdrop while she’s on the phone with him for then Abe will call us and tell us what it will be. My guess this week is Bill. Last week it was Bell.  

"Mini-Makover" Self-Portrait Tuesday (Minus the Picture)

I thought I was the luckiest girl when Melanie began cutting hair in her home. And I was for many, many cuts and colors. And then she moved away and I felt sad and unlucky indeed. And then my luck returned when Grace moved home with Calvin and me for now we have a cosmetologist living WITH us. In the last couple of weeks she has colored, cut, waxed, filed, and painted. For the next year a makeover is as close as our kitchen sink and I’m counting my lucky stars.

Saturday Calvin whistled when he saw my nails all freshly painted and said, “Whoo-eee!” and then, “How much would that have cost Grace?” We both know how to count our lucky stars.

Homemaking Tip, Asparagus Bokay

“Pray, how does your asparagus perform?”
(John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail)

Ande’s job this summer is driving through various fields taking soil and water samples. She asked the other day how to find asparagus so Calvin taught her where to look along the ditch banks. She doesn’t even like asparagus. I’ve tried steaming, grilling, and creaming it and she has always turned up her nose. But now she has a friend that likes it and all be darned if she hasn’t decided it’s good. Enough so that she wanted to gather a bunch of it for him. Asparagus makes a lovely bouquet. Since Ande hadn’t been able to gather any, she suggested we buy some at the mercantile next to the asparagus fields when Grace and I went down to the temple yesterday. Hmmmm. What do you want to bet a few more meals with this friend and she learns to like stew, green beans, broccoli, and squash, too? I like this friend.

Thursday Thinking

I recently read about a study conducted on fish in the Potomac River. The scientists discovered that the female fish were normal but that 80% of the males were producing eggs instead of sperm. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Scientists discovered a similar phenomenon of emasculation in male alligators in central Florida. The study suggested phthalates (which plastic bottles are made from) as the contributing source of the hormone havoc. Further studies suggested that this chemical may actually damage a boy’s brain and encouraged aluminum or glass beverage containers instead of plastic.

I picked up a few bright colored aluminum water bottles at the store today—gray for Calvin, green for Ande, pink for Grace, and blue for me. Later I remembered the experts’ suggestions that there may be a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s.

Hmmmmm. Aluminum or plastic? Alzheimer’s or Feminization? Decisions. Decisions. I liked it better when I thought we were invincible and seldom paid attention to studies.

Kid Catch-up

Ty leaves for a summer exchange program in China soon, but is only 52% as excited as he was a month or two ago . . . something about missing someone while he's gone. 

Cali no longer works the dreaded ICU night shift but works days instead.

Ray was promoted.

Ande likes her job, and her friend, and asparagus.

Grace is noticeably pregnant.

Abe sees orange skies during the sandstorms and rarely eats dessert or chocolate anymore.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Memories—Just the Same

One of the best things about being married is, year after year, having someone to help you with the crappy chores—like shoveling out the chicken coop or getting the garden ready to plant.

And I’m pretty sure you’d think these pictures were both taken Saturday if Cali didn’t give it away. I mean, she is nearly 27 years old and all, but Calvin and me? We look just the same.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

52 Blessings--Candy

The red snack box is empty. The green pottery bowl on the end table in the living room is empty. The red bowl on the top of the fridge only has an old chocolate bunny in it. And when I asked, nobody wanted me to make caramel popcorn (except me). I was almost Sunday evening desperate, but then I saw Grace's box of Easter basket milk duds. She shares. What a blessing.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Life in My World—It’s About Time

I got this e-mail from Cali this morning:

Yooo Hooo,

BLOGGING, Isn't it about time.


Yes. Yes, it is Cali. And that is why I didn’t get to mark it off my list once this week. I didn’t make time for it. But we did have time to plant five or six rows of potatoes in the garden and go to Diary Queen for buy-one-get-one-for-25 cents-Blizzards.

And we also had time to read a few chapters aloud from Dave Ramsey’s money book. (Calvin gave each of the kids a book along with an ounce of silver for Christmas so Calvin, Grace, Ande, and I started reading it together this week.) Did you know you’re never too old to be read aloud to? I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

We also took the time to celebrate Grace’s birthday, which included watching Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea; except I missed the romantic closing Gilbert-is-sick-and-dying scene because I had to go to bed.

We also took enough time each day to go on a walk or jog and to pick a few lilac or plum blossoms to smell on the way.

And of course we made sure there was enough time to cook supper and eat: taco salad, bacon and tomato sandwiches, chicken fried steak/mashed potatoes/gravy, Hawaiian haystacks, etc.

There was time enough to talk on the phone to you, and Ty, and Aunt Krista, as well as write family e-mails, the weekly newsletter, and a half dozen thank you letters, too.

I did take the time to finish two books: an Amish novel that I will never admit to having read and The Faith of the American Soldier.

I also made time to take a couple of naps, by this time of year those 4:00 am mornings have just about run over me.

But you are absolutely right, blogging is all about time and, regretfully, I didn’t make time for it. But all that is behind me now . . .

Wink back,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

52 Blessings—Mentors

Every now and then I’ll sit down to play the piano for a congregation and my head does a little flip and loudly whispers, “How do you know how to do this? What if your fingers won’t obey your eyes? What if you suddenly forget what to do next, then what will you do?” And then I breathe. And count. And play. This week I had such a moment and realized one of my blessings is my old piano teacher Rachel C.

I began piano lessons when I was in third grade. Each week we drove to town for the lessons and it meant I missed a couple hours of school. I hated missing school mostly because my lessons were usually during art, music, or p.e.. It was a good thing my piano teacher Rachel C. was so kind and happy and that we often stopped for a hamburger or I’d have really been miserable. My teacher, Rachel C., always put on fresh, bright pink or dark red lipstick right before my lesson. She wore bright pants and usually had a colorful strand of beads around her neck, too. She wore white bobby socks with high heels. She kept at least two freshly sharpened pencils on the piano keys. She laughed easily and often had a little smudge of lipstick on her nice white teeth. She had thick black hair. She had a vivacious personality that enthused me and I grew to love her. Her husband had big, dark, bushy eyebrows which made him look fearsome. I was always relieved when our ride home came before Jack got home from work.

Rachel C. taught me to count. After seven years of lessons I may not have been able to play complex pieces, but it wasn’t because I couldn’t count out the value of the notes. She focused on the hymns so that I could be our ward pianist and then later when our church got an organ, she gave me organ lessons. I still think of Rachel C. fondly. From the way she laughed and met life’s challenges to the way she insisted that I count, she was a good mentor and a blessing that still blesses me. I appreciate Rachel C. more than she would ever know.

What’s the name of one of your mentors?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday Thinking—Tea, Anyone?

This afternoon Calvin and I went to the city park for the Tea Party rally and joined a thousand or so other citizens . I’m so glad we went. We heard the candidates who are opposing our seated senator in the November election. One candidate was a physicist that teaches at the University of Washington, one was a doctor, one was a farmer, one was a businessman, and one was a radio talk show host. They stood on the back of a wooden flat-bed hay trailer and addressed the concerns and interests of us fellow citizens. There were no promises, pledges, or mocking of current leaders. Instead they called for us to come forth and serve in whatever capacity we could to help restore America to its founding values.


One speaker called for our government to live within its means. Another mentioned that if one citizen had paid $1,000,000 each day since the birth of Christ, he would still have to pay $1,000,000 a day for another 32,000 years in order to pay off the 12 trillion dollar deficit we face. I called Ty and asked him if we heard it right. Yup. We did. Whoa. Suddenly I could comprehend 12 trillion dollars. So must this little boy. He carried a sign that said, “I’m only 5 and I’m already in debt.”


One of our fellow ward members came and sat down on the grass by Calvin and me during the speeches. After listening to a few speakers she said, “I’m going to go and offer to sing Amazing Grace.” And she did. (Calvin leaned over to me and whispered, "Now that takes guts." I concurred.) She went and found the organizer of the event and told him she’d like to sing. After the speakers were finished, he turned the microphone over to her and she invited the crowd to sing along. She has a beautiful voice and backed by the crowd it sounded especially good. She took the charge to stand up and serve to heart.


Calvin and I were both really glad we'd gone. It was a great way to spend a tax day. It was a great way to spend any day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tricky Tuesday—Something to Smile About

Today’s suggested topic was to post a joke or something funny. As you know, comedy is all about timing and I’m terrible with time. But, I can laugh and smile easily so I’ll share some things that recently made me smile:

We live on a gravel road that makes a mile loop. One day last week Grace, my niece Rachel, and I went on a walk. After two miles I asked Grace, who still throws up on occasion, if she wanted to go one more lap or call it good. She said, “How about if we start walking and then we can turn around when we get tired and come back if we need to?” Rachel and I agreed that was a good idea and started back around for the last mile. When we got nearly half way Grace said, “How about we hit the half way point and then turn back around again?”

I laughed and said, “That’s sounds good . . . or we could just finish it out since we’ll be half way home.”

Grace hit her forehead like she always does when she says something funny or is a bit embarrassed, then laughed that infectious laugh of hers and said, “Oh geeze, that reminds me of a blonde joke my dad always used to tell me. He always tells me blonde jokes.”

For the next hundred yards Grace entertained me and Rachel with her dad's jokes. I thoroughly enjoyed it for I have only one joke in my repertoire and Grace's were all new.

Self Portrait Tuesday’s Topic is “How’s the Weather?”

We had misty weather today. It was perfect for jogging—cold enough I had to keep moving and a light cooling mist when I did get going. Whenever conditions are near perfect, like today for instance, I can’t help but attach a monetary value to it: “I’ll bet they have to pay big money to have misters like this in important races," I thought, "But today, for me, it’s FREE! I get to experience it for free without being in an important race. I’m so lucky.”

This afternoon I stopped at the grocery store to get a couple of gallons of milk. As I was loading our groceries into the trunk, a lady who was parked near me came by with a bouquet of yellow roses and her groceries. She appeared to be a simple, older woman with thinning teeth and long hair. The back of her pick-up was loaded with neatly boxed and strapped belongings. She smiled a great big warm smile and, pulling a rose from her bouquet, said, “Here. I’d like to give you one.”

I said, “Really? For me? I’d love one!" I expected her to ask for a donation, but she didn't. She just insisted I take it.

I thanked her again and told her how much I appreciated it and then asked her again if she was sure she wanted to give me one.

She said, "Yes. It's for you."

I smiled, and she smiled again then leaned a bit closer and said, “Pass it on someday.”

And then she climbed in her pickup with the rest of her groceries and bouquet. As she pulled away she smiled and called out the window, “I hope you have a happy day.”

I did.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Memories—H2O + NaCl

Ande and Calvin at USAFA '05

Calvin and I had just gone to bed when Ande came and crawled in next to us like she has a thousand nights before. We were visiting about the price of rice in China when, like he’s done a thousand times before, Calvin asked Ande to bring him a drink of water when she went to her bed. Ande continued talking about China and before long Calvin started quietly singing the Sons of the Pioneer’s song “Cool Water” mostly focusing on the echo part that repeats water, water, water, water.

I said, like I have a hundred times before, “Calvin you have really got to quit asking Ande to fetch water for you.”

He said, “But Ande’s always done it . . .”

I said, “I know, bless her heart, but it’s annoying and no one likes to fetch . . .” (besides Seemore).

He said, “But I do all of these little things for her, too . . ." and then reminded us that he had fetched her from Seattle last night, fetched a prescription for her from Rite-Aid that evening, etc . . .

Ande started laughing, and when she’s in the prone position it is a deep guttural laugh. She said, “When I was little I used to get so mad at you some nights when you’d ask me to bring you a drink that I spit in it, and . . . ” after a long pause “. . . and other times I poured salt in it.”

Oh ho. I KNEW there was a reason I never kept arsenic in the cupboard.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thursday Thinking--Bullets

  • Ande is on her way home from college and she just called—1 ½ hours from home. I’ve got to get the cookie jar filled with chocolate chip cookies. She likes milk chocolate; Ty likes semi-sweet. Right? Or do I have them reversed? Is Ande the one that likes ham and beans? That will certainly be a disappointing pot if she’s not. The kids get so frustrated when I can’t remember their preferences. If they could only appreciate how many preferences I have to remember.

  • While discussing current events the other day and lamenting that the news is so heavily editorialized it's hard to discern truth, a friend asked me what news sources I listened to/read. I couldn’t rightly say. I mentioned two or three sources, but wasn’t satisfied with my answer. I have thought about her question the last few weeks, paying closer attention to my news sources and how my opinions are formulated. I discovered more sources than I originally thought and realized one predominate source was The Book of Mormon. I have found it is as Hugh Nibley said: “It (The Book of Mormon) is as modern as today’s newspaper; the situations it describes are those characteristic of our own generation.” Another news source I have appreciated is a monthly publication called Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College. Each month they address a current topic with experts around the nation. It’s free and informative. If you’re interested you can sign up at
(I had to soften it. I forgot how much courage it takes to post a picture of myself just for the posting.)
  • Lelly started Self-Portrait Tuesday’s (SPT) again this week. You’re right it’s not Tuesday, but lucky for me Tuesday and Thursday both start with "T". This week’s theme was “A Homecoming Party” celebrating SPT's return. Our challenge was to come as we are and photograph ourselves on a regular day, doing what we regularly do. Lucky for you I have to be in my Sunday best by 7:00 AM. SPT’s are a great way to document the little things in our lives. Everyone is welcome to join in on SPT's, just click on over to Lelly's for more information.

  • Tonight the author of The Giver, Lois Lowry, is coming to town. I've been thinking about this for weeks and am interested in what she has to say. I’m picking up a friend and we’re going to listen to her speak. I think an ice cream cone will be in order. Between ice cream and chocolate chip cookies I think I'd better forgo food for the day.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Homemaking Tip—A Dose of My Own Medicine

It's Spring. I need to take a big swig of my own medicine . . .

My mother was a new-stuff junk-aholic. She would go shopping for hours, turn around a few weeks later and go shopping again, buying the same things all over again. I loved my mother but over-buying was a frustrating habit. I liked the stuff all right, but she had no place to put it so she stashed it everywhere. The stairwell and hall to our bedrooms were lined with stacks of towels, clothes, books and wedding gifts–all brand-new. On a given day the end of our kitchen table had piles of new fabric, genealogy supplies, cake-decorating tubes, and tart pans. The storage room had bags of groceries, Christmas presents and cases of candy. But her sewing room was the worst. She piled the ironing board high with our tissue paper art projects, while her working area was piled with papers, the mimeograph machine, typewriter, a box of mate-less socks and, of course, additional new purchases.

When my grandmother came to visit us she spent her time cutting quilt blocks from old fabric, organizing baby books, filing papers, making puppets from lonely socks and tidying my mother’s sewing room. Shortly after I left for college, Grandma Erma went to see my folks and wrote me the following letter:

“You know your mother’s tiny room where she tries to do the laundry, ironing and sewing, but which she also uses as a study and office? Well, she needs a warehouse. I told her that I longed to solve the muddle, but that it reminds me of Mt. Ararat. I read that on Mt. Ararat there is a place where the human voice can start an avalanche. I’m afraid if I get in her study, and try to make it orderly, that I might forget where I am and call for help then I’ll be forever lost in the avalanche that is sure to follow.”

My mother was such a powerful example of collecting excess that I adopted the other extreme of getting rid of things. Some may think I'm heartless, but I've almost always lived in a small (ish) home and so it has served us well, and I have only gotten rid of two things in the last 25 years that I regret: Raggedy Anne and Raggedy Andy.

I bought the much worn, essentially ruined set of dolls at a yard sale for 50 cents. As I carried the soiled dolls to the vendor for purchasing, the 60-ish woman said, “Oh good. I was hoping someone would want these. My grandmother made them for me.” Looking at the fabric, then at the vendor I supposed those dolls were made in the 1930's. I brought the dolls home washed them, re-stitched their faces and hair and sat them on my pie-safe. They were darling. But as I was preparing items to sell in a craft show, I rashly decided to sell Anne and Andy. I put the hefty price of $40 on each of them, thinking $80 would erase any chance of remorse if they did, by chance, sell. Imagine my surprise when they were gone 30 minutes after the show began. But I was wrong, $80 was not enough. I still feel an occasional twinge of regret when I think of those two darling dolls gone. But to only have two regrets after all these years? The peace of an orderly home has more than made up for the mistake.

With that disclaimer (or endorsement, whichever you prefer to call it) –I offer a de-junking tip. Start. at. the. bottom. William R. Bradford said, “A cluttered life is a life that you do not have control of. I have learned that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to declutter one’s life by starting at the top of the pile with the idea that the solution is to just get things sorted and better organized. It is nice to get better organized, but that is not enough. Much has to be discarded. We must actually get rid of it.” (“Unclutter Your Life,” Ensign, May 1992, 27)

Clutter refers to many areas of our lives. Our minds can become cluttered with negative thoughts or images. Our schedules can become cluttered with insignificant appointments and events. Our hearts can become cluttered with jealousies and unforgiving attitudes. But for the purpose and intent of today's post, we’ll focus on THINGS—things that clutter our home, garage, yard, and car. Here are four decluttering articles:

When we unclutter our surroundings, we unclutter our time and energy as well—and that is priceless. It’s even worth throwing out a Raggedy Anne or two.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday—Dear Jane

Dear Jane, I wish you would share your secret on keeping up traditions with kids that are older. Did you do hunts when the four of yours were teens? My kids are good sports and never complain, but I'm pretty sure that if there were no Pal or Hy we would just let many of those things slide and just lay on the couch. What's our deal? Tell me where we are going wrong. Love, Rachel

Dear Rachel,

My suggestion is to find a Ray and Grace to add to your family. I couldn’t get the kids to do an egg hunt for years. And then . . .

Cali and Ray came over late Thursday night to spend the Easter/Conference weekend, which ended up being positively providential because the pass closed on Friday. Ray told Cali he had to get a lot of work done and she assured him she could take care of that. She put a table up in Ande’s room and a sign:

On Friday Calvin came home with this year’s new batch of chicks. He promised he’d only bring home ten. Welcome twenty new chicks. "But one was free, Jane."

Ray came out a time or two and suggested we go to Clash of the Titans. Oh ho. What a pleasant surprise it was. I expected a night of pain. I was Greek Mythology ignorant, now I am Greek Mythology conversant—which is a whole lot of borrowed Bible stories with a heavy sprinkle of human. We came home and watched The Ten Commandments.

We had a wonderful time listening to conference on Saturday. Cousin Rachel came to spend the weekend with us too, which added to the Easter egg enthusiasm . . . and the Church’s humanitarian service mitten pile.

In between sessions Calvin, Cali, and Ray got a little shooting in.

It's not really a successful weekend for them without it.

While Calvin and Ray were at the Saturday evening Priesthood session, Grace cut Rachel's hair.

And in keeping with a new tradition we started last fall, we made cherry bread so it would be fresh and hot when Ray and Calvin got home.

We also colored eggs. Ande joined us via speaker phone.

hands and eggs from L-R: Cali, Rachel, Grace

And then, because we hadn’t had enough screen time in the last 24 hours already, we watched the three hour movie of Joseph.

We woke up in good time Sunday morning. The Easter bunny didn’t hide the baskets this year because where do you hide a bunch of these? He was perplexed too, so he just put them on the breakfast table.

In between the morning and afternoon session of General Conference, but before dinner, we had an Easter egg hunt. Everybody was in charge of filling six plastic eggs to hide. They were filled with ring pops, coins, Cadbury eggs, fruit snacks, chocolate bunnies. We divvied up first the eggs and then the lawn. Everybody went out and hid eggs in their section of the lawn and then we met up for the hunt.

I don’t know what I was thinking, but I hid my eggs easy—3 year old easy. Habit not brain guided me. When we said, “Go!” everybody took off running. It was the funniest thing to see.

Ray was a big hunter and because his stride is one for every two of the girls’ he covered a lot of ground. His sack was clear full. But when he bent over to pick up another egg, a bunch fell out and Grace was there to nab one of them.

Cali found the super egg.

And since we were out by the chicken coop I gathered the unboiled eggs that the hens had laid.

We watched the afternoon session of Conference with differing degrees of consciousness and then played several rounds of dominoes before Ray and Cali had to take off.

I’m telling you Rachel, the key to making sure your traditions stay alive is to invite happy, fun cousins, have a daughter that loves to make memories, and welcome people into the family that are willing and ready to make any event a success. That's the secret.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thursday Thinking—Confetti of Hope

One common thread of my thoughts this week was Hope. What a happy week: Call it Easter. Call it the Passover. Call it Spring Break. Call it pay day. Call it new shoes and a healed toe. Call it General Conference weekend. Call it what I will, hope has been the thread through it all.

First. One of my favorite Easter pictures:


by Liz Lemon Swindle

John and Peter, upon hearing of the empty tomb, raced to the garden that Easter morning. The part I like best? That John never calls himself by name in his book, but he makes certain to record: “Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter and came first to the sepulchre.” (John 20:3-4)

Oh ho. I just love that. The two apostles having a foot race and telling us he won. I’m sure there is more significance to the story, but even on a simple note the inclusion of such details makes me happy.

Second. I’ve been re-reading two books this week The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe, and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Both have sobering subject matter, but I can’t deny the hope I’ve felt studying them . . . despite the unraveling of our society.

Third. Last night on TV we watched a program hosted by Sarah Palin on everyday American heroes. My goodness so many people are resilient and generous. It was a refreshing program about making a difference—giving others hope. After the segment about a soldier who died in Iraq, Grace quietly retreated to her bedroom so Calvin and I joined her. We had a most wonderful . . . and hopeful conversation.

Finally, this video. It’s a party of hope. I dare you not to feel happy . . . and hopeful . . . by the end of it.