Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Memories – Run Jane, Run

Today the spring sports practices started at the high school.  Just hearing the announcement made my stomach tie a quick granny knot.  For while I loved competing in high school fall and winter sports, I d.r.e.a.d.e.d. the spring sports, especially track; but I was expected to compete and meeting expectations was my high school goal.  Funny how after all these years, even the mention of track still makes me quiver.

That stripe around my calf is not a garter, it's the red stripe on a pair of
nylon knee socks with sprung elastic that are falling down.
They always fell; perhaps because I often stuffed a stick of gum,
a comb, and lunch money down inside of them.
Obviously, we can see that one of the reasons I was not fast was that I
paid more attention to things like my socks falling down or how much my
side hurt rather than how fast I was going.  

Pictures can be deceiving, for even though I won the 440-yard-race in this picture, I was s-l-o-w.  This picture doesn’t tell you it was the slowest heat.  The only way to explain the win was the advantage from the functional, feathered, aerodynamic hair.  If I’d had the pretty mane that the girl behind me was sporting I could never have won -- too much resistance.

All this to say spring sports have begun . . . and I feel such relief I no longer participate.  Jog Jane, jog.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

52 Blessings – Windshields

A couple of days ago I was driving down the highway when a truck flipped a rock my way.  It was a big enough rock that I closed my eyes and flinched when I saw it coming.  It left behind a big pock-mark in the windshield and I thought, “Whoa . . . I do believe that rock had enough force if it weren’t for the windshield it would have gone through my skin, hit my heart, and stopped it.  Whoa . . . I’m sure glad someone invented the windshield.”

Shielding bugs, rocks, snow, wind – windshields have a pretty hard life, but this week I remembered to be grateful for them.

How about you?  What is something you normally take for granted, but that you appreciated this week?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Life in My World – The Week in Which I Only Cooked Supper Once

On Monday, with Calvin gone moving Grace to Colorado, I celebrated President’s Day by cleaning the garage, emptying old bottles of canned beans and tomatoes, and cleaning house.  I didn’t cook supper, unless you count popping popcorn. 

On Tuesday I drove to Spokane to pick Calvin up from the airport.  His plane wasn’t due until 10:30 pm, but I didn’t want to drive over late in the evening. (Nowadays for me, 9:00 pm is a time for bed, not going somewhere new for the day.)  I drove to Spokane while it was still daylight so I’d miss the forecasted storm, see any deer on the freeway, and still be awake.  I ate a turkey sandwich on honey-oat bread from Subway with no cheese, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, and tomatoes before I saw a movie.  A really good movie.

On Wednesday we were invited over to our friends’ house for supper – grilled salmon, red potatoes, green beans with bacon, green salad, with double-strawberry ice cream for dessert.  I often choose salmon from a menu because it’s a lower calorie/fat choice, so while I’m not a salmon connoisseur I’ve eaten enough to have an opinion.  This grilled salmon was the very, very best I’ve ever had.  Every few bites I’d tell our friend that.  He showed us the seasoning he used and then, after my last bite, said it was slathered in butter.  No wonder it was so good.  I ate seconds . . . or was it thirds.

On Thursday Calvin and I attended the Cub Scout All-American Blue & Gold Banquet of hot dogs and potato salad.  Calvin was asked to tell why we have a flag and how to fold it.  I was asked to do a reading on the flag.  It was a great night and fun to be a part of those little boys’ events for the evening.

On Friday, I cooked.  Well, kind of.  At least I put something in the oven.  Calvin took me on a lunch date earlier in the day, so for supper I just popped a pan of earlier-made potato and ham casserole in the oven.  After supper we attended a lecture on Current Events and the Constitution.  It was really good – especially in light of the events in the Middle East as well as in Wisconsin.  The presenter travels the world speaking and has particularly close ties in Jordan and some of the other Middle Eastern countries.  While I’m not very good at puzzles, I do enjoy seeing the pieces of history and current events and how they fit together.  Afterwards Calvin and I went to Baskin Robbins for an ice cream cone – world class chocolate for me. 

Today we’ll attend an all day seminar on the Constitution and then attend a ward dinner – grilled salmon (our friend was practicing earlier this week).  And since we’ve already had a taste of the salmon and the lecture, we really look forward to both. 

And that is how our kitchen came to be spotless all week long.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Homemaking Tip – Baby Gift Idea

            A few years ago Amy S. shared a new baby gift idea on her blog.  It was an accordion file folder with personalized tabs.  She suggested such titles as

Documents and Certificates
Health Records and Immunizations
Cards and Letters
Age 0-3
1st grade
2nd grade
3rd grade
4th grade
5th grade
6th grade

           I thought Amy’s idea was great and our kids would have definitely benefited from a gift like that.  I passed the idea on to Cali and she has made several for her friends and co-workers.  I finally made one myself today.  Because our two stores in town didn’t have folding files in boy colors without pre-stamped dividers, I embellished one to make it work.  It turned out really cute. 
For a 19 pocket file folder, cut 18 ( 2" x 11") strips of patterned cardstock paper.
Fold the strips in half so that they are 1"x 11"

Using a glue stick, apply glue heavily to the paper strips and place over the existing file headings.

I used paper in complimentary patterns and colors to give the files contrast.

Make tabs with the file-headings that you want and apply to the folders.  

I wrapped it by adding a several-ribboned bow, pacifiers, and gift tag.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Memories – Happiness is a Warm Puppy

by Charles Schulz
Mrs. Roberts, my 3rd and 4th grade teacher,
gave us a copy of this book for Christmas one year.
I still have it.

I like animals, but you wouldn't necessarily call me a pet person.  Even so, I do love three dog books:  

Beautiful Joe by Margaret Saunders.  It's a book written in 1893 about a dog that's abused by the milkman.

Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day.  It truly is a picture book for it has maybe ten words in it:  “Look after the baby while I’m gone Carl” (or something close to that).  The rest of the book shows Good Dog Carl tending the baby.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  My great-aunt Ethel gave me an autographed book which endeared the story of a boy and his two hound dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann, to me even more.

When we got our two dogs last summer we named them Old Dan and Little Ann.  They haven't been separated since they were born.  They wrestled, ran, and danced (literally) together.  They ate together and slept curled up with each other.  Yesterday Old Dan barked and whined when Calvin, Grace, and Little Ann pulled out of the yard.  It was a mournful howl.  It was sad.  Later when it got light, I let him out of the kennel and he ran as fast as he could to the front of the house where the pickups are usually parked to see where they were.  When he couldn’t find them he trotted back to me with his tail between his legs.  I said, “I know.  I know.  I’m the consolation prize.  They're gone.  It’s just you and me now Dan.  It’s a disappointment to you I know, but it is what it is.”

Old Dan spent the better part of yesterday lying on the kitchen doorstep or sleeping in the sun.  He didn't run.  He didn't play.  He didn't dance.  Occasionally I’d knock on the window to let him know I knew he was alive, or sometimes open the door and call his name and pat him once or twice.  Because Little Ann wasn’t here to get in trouble with him, he got to stay out of the kennel all day.  At supper I gave him a piece of meat and he got to eat the whole thing because Little Ann wasn’t there to steal it from him.   I took him on a long walk by himself and he stayed next to me and licked my fingers.  He didn't even try to find a rabbit.  It was sad to see the two dogs parted, but by the end of yesterday Old Dan seemed to enjoy the perks.    

Today he went jogging with me just like always, and he trotted along behind me.  The last half mile I stopped to dump rocks out of my shoe and put my coat back on.  I accidently dropped my ear warmer, but didn’t notice.  I kept walking.  Fifty yards later I turned to say something to him and there he was three steps behind me carrying my ear warmer.  Good Dog, Dan.

This is his "I love you look" with his eyes dreamily half-closed,
not his "don't you dare" or "I hate you" look with his eyes in a glare.
I'm not a pet person, but I can speak dogese.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

52 Blessings – Being a MIL

I never knew being a mother-in-law could be such a great thing.  I never knew that I would enjoy it so much.  It’s a best kept secret.

Last week Grace invited me to . . . well, you can see what she invited me to do.
Every time she laughed (which was every time she looked over at me) her little nose flaps blew in the wind.  

Grace calls me Mom.  She moved back to Colorado at 3:30 this morning.  Ouch.  We have had such a good year together.  I love how Grace puts an “s” on the end of her words – monies, jewelries, underwears.  I love how quickly she can laugh and watching her laugh really, really hard.  I love how excited she gets at little things like corn on the cob and gas station hotdogs and all things sparkly.  I love doing things with her like scrapbooking, walking, shopping (we both like to shop solo, but cross paths every so often to get the other's opinion), getting snowcones, and going to the temple.  Grace is a fun buddy.  I love how she takes such good care of Abe.

At a Seattle Mariner's game with Ray.  The world is his oyster.

Ray calls me Janey Payney and dubbed himself a Janer Payner.  He sends the funniest texts and makes funny comments on my blog posts via e-mail.  He makes people feel like a million bucks.  He remembers details.  One thing I love about Ray is what a great listener he is.  He has loooong legs that stretch a loooonng ways, but when he is listening he pulls them in, leans forward, looks straight at you, nods, asks questions, and then responds, “Yeah, yeah, yeah” real quick, three times in succession when he's excited about what you say.  He is very generous (most often namelessly), but not to a fault.  I love how he takes such good care of Cali.

This mother-in-law business is a huge blessing to me.  Ray and Grace’s talents, love, kindness, ideas, energy, personalities, faith, and abilities make my life (and others') so much better. 

Can you imagine how blessed I’ll be in another couple of months when I’m Joe’s and Michelle’s mother-in-law, too?  I’m just so grateful for this very unexpected and wonderful blessing.  

*What's something you love about an in-law of yours?*

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Thinking – Pretty Hard to Think of Anything Else

view from Cali and Ray's deck above their patio

Ray and Cali live in a great little neighborhood in Seattle – the kind where they borrow eggs from their neighbor and the little girl who lives next door skips over to feed their turtle a couple of times a week.  The neighbor across the street takes their packages in out of the rain, and the neighbor to their left rolls their recycle bin to the curb when he takes his.  Cali and Ray are the newcomers.  The other neighbors have lived together for years and years and take good care of each other, including the newcomers.  Except one.  The 60'ish-year-old neighbor to their right keeps to himself, has some bizarre habits, and has young men coming and going at all hours.  Make that kept to himself, appeared to have bizarre habits, and had young men coming and going at all hours.     

A little after midnight on Tuesday, Ray and Cali were awakened by a young man screaming on their backyard patio.  His screams were repeated and shrill.  Ray crawled out of bed and went to investigate.  Within minutes several police cars swarmed the house next door, soon followed by crime vans, sniffing dogs, and paramedics.  Their neighbor was stabbed to death and, after hearing Ray’s report, believed the suspect was the one who had screamed on their patio.

The murder suspect eluded the police for several hours, but remember this is a helpful little neighborhood, so when some of the neighbors saw a young man that wasn’t familiar to them climbing out of a nearby park ravine, they called the police.  The suspect, a 19-year-old friend of the victim, was apprehended.   

That’s pretty much been what I’ve been thinking about for the last few days . . . and the merciful fact that Ray wasn’t traveling on Tuesday night so Cali wasn’t alone. 

Oh, and Egypt .  I’m still thinking about Egypt.  And now Bahrain.  Well . . . the whole Middle East really.

Crazy.  Crazy things are happening next door.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Homemaking Tip – Three to Choose From

While our garage and yard may be in disarray, the big wind the other night blew all these 
leaves into one big pile just outside the garage door.  It was such a sweet act of service. 

I’m not very tippy today.  In fact I’d feel like a hypocrite if I even tried to share one, for I have no answers.  Our garage is a mess, the lawn is at its ugliest, the outside of the house needs painted, the garage door needs replaced, the chicken coop has half a tree lying across it, and I’ve had wet clothes sitting in the washer since . . . yesterday?

However, while jogging this afternoon I listened to a podcast about the pioneers on their travels west.  Those women had a few tips to share:

One woman went off among the brush to gather buffalo chips in her apron for fuel and came back the next morning with her newborn baby wrapped in it instead.  
Tip:  Wear an apron. 

Another woman baked an apple pie in her cast iron pan and put it on the buckboard to cool.  While she turned back to the fire to tend the rice, the cow ate her pie.  The rice burned when she climbed in the back of the wagon to tend the baby, and the buffalo chips blew into her biscuits.  
Tip: Don’t put too many pots in the fire at once.

The pioneers still managed to sing and dance around the fire at night even after long days of walking and birthing and cooking and tending.  
Tip:  Save some energy for the evenings. 

I could benefit from all three tips.  As Wallace Stegner said of these early settlers, "The men were strong and the women were amazing."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Memories – That’s My Valentine

Twenty-four years ago Calvin and I were asked to be in charge of our first stake handcart trek.  Some of the boys that were on that handcart trek were survivalists.  They had worked in the Anasazi wilderness program and knew what plants were safe to eat and didn’t squirm at killing chickens and frying them for supper.  (They even saved the shell-less eggs they found in the hens for their breakfast the next morning.)  They were a fun group of boys to trek with.

A year or two later our community had a grasshopper infestation  – chemicals and insecticides kept them from rivaling the Mormon cricket situation or the great grasshopper plague that Ma and Pa Ingalls endured – but they were numerous, troublesome, and caused crop-loss just the same.  The local newspaper had a big article about a family that cooked and ate the grasshoppers.  First they herded them into a trench by banging on garbage can lids and then roasted them.  It was the family of some of the boys on that handcart trek.  Calvin has wanted to deep fry grasshoppers ever since.  He said whereas they don't eat carrion they would be good.

He finally got his chance.  He teaches Sunday school to sixteen years olds and they were studying about John the Baptist this week.  They discussed John's mission to prepare the way for the Savior, his humble personality, his commitment to truth.  They talked of his miraculous birth and his mother raising him in the wilderness on “locusts and wild honey.”  That scripture, and Calvin’s interpretation, was the only encouragement he needed to finally deep fry grasshoppers.  He even battered a few.  He graciously shared them with me . . . and his class.  And we ate them.

Calvin pulling the legs off the crickets.  He didn't think the kids should have to eat the legs.  I told him I thought that was the least of his worries, but admitted it was a thoughtful gesture.

I know this isn't a cooking blog and so step by step pictures are unnecessary;
nevertheless, here are the crickets floating in the batter.

Calvin insisted they be seasoned before we eat them.  I don't think that pepper made a lick of difference.   (Thank heavens he didn't garnish them.  I'm not sure I could have eaten them if they'd been lying in a bed of parsley.)

That’s my Valentine.  He brings me flowers and writes me love notes and shares his crickets.  I love him intensely and appreciate him immensely.    

Sunday, February 13, 2011

52 Blessings – Three Year Olds

            I love three year olds.  They have imaginations and imaginary friends.  They can feed themselves, but want to be held.  They mimic your face when you tell them a story, and sing one line behind you in a song.  They still need a nap, but can feed the dog by themselves.    

            Yesterday Grace’s friends held a going away party for her.  Three year old Daisy twirled in a ballerina tutu and then changed into a Cinderella dress.  Daisy told Grace when it was time to open her presents and handed them to her in the order Daisy wanted them opened.  Three years olds are adaptable.  Three year olds have an opinion. 

            Austin was a cute, little, stocky, three-year-old boy, with fine blonde hair.  We used to babysit him.  Every day he wore levis with a belt and buckle, a western shirt, and cowboy boots.  He was generally adorable.  He also wanted to be included in everything.  One day, however, he wouldn’t stay out of trouble.  He jumped in the puddles in his good clothes, fought whoever came in his circumference, and was generally irritable.  The last naughty thing he did was throw rocks at the big kids.  I brought him inside, sat him down on the bench under the kitchen window, and told him he’d have to sit there until he figured out how to be nice. 

            I continued to peel the potatoes for supper while the rest of the kids played outside.  They were playing basketball and roller-blading and having a good time.  Austin sat and listened to them – sheer hell for a little boy that wants to be included in everything.  Pretty soon he mumbled, “Bad agency, bad consequences.  Good agency, good consequences.”   Then again, “Bad agency, bad consequences.  Good agency, good consequences.” 
            I was a more than a little surprised at his vocabulary . . . and even more so at his correct usage:
            “Bad agency, I got in the mud.  Bad agency I fight with Sarah.  Bad agency I throw rocks at Abe.  Bad agency, bad consequences.  Now I have to sit on the bench.  Bad agency, bad consequences.”
            Three year olds are teachable.  Three year olds are capable.

            This week my sister sent notice that a friend of ours little three year old boy was killed in a farm accident.  He looked like a little version of his dad.  His cute smile and crinkled nose confirmed all that three year olds are.  Three years olds are sweet.  Three year olds make a happy difference in the world. 

            I love three year olds.  It’s one of my favorite ages and all week long I have thought about three year olds and our kids when they were three:  Cali spanked her dolls, Abe wore his overalls backwards, Ty stuttered, and Ande believed she hatched under the house from a dinosaur egg. 

            I’m so glad we don’t skip from two to four.  Three year olds are a great blessing to the human race.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Life in My World – 11 on 11 of ‘11

Ande:  I made bruschetta!! I'm a chef!  

Abe:  It's sad when my day is just paperwork.

Joe:  It's called, Ande cleaning up for Ande. The papers from my tables downstairs and furniture Ande didn't like, were relocated to my upstairs office by Ande. You can see my exercise equipment and computer stuff buried amidst the rubble. 
Calvin and Jane:  Temple trip.  Calvin keeps a clip-on bow tie in his pick-up for just such occasions.  Oh sure, it gets a little dirty, but well . . . it matches my sweater better that way.
It's still the season of love.  Valentine gift from Ande that sits in the kitchen window.

We listened to this audio book as we drove to the temple.  Malcolm Gladwell is a fun author to listen to.

Grace:  Checking Valentine boxes before bed -- gummi hearts, snickers, m&m's, milk duds, sourpatch kids, and   . . . another bottle of mini hot sauce

Yes.  Yes.  You're so right.  This is only seven pictures.  Seven is not quite eleven, but seven and eleven rhyme and we'll settle for that this month.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday Thinking -- ?

I'm reading Bonds That Make Us Free by Terry Warner.  If I remember right, Dr. Warner and Dr. Scoresby are/were colleagues.  Years and years ago Dr. Scoresby taught me there are four different kinds of personalities that emerge in conflict:  aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.  Aggressive says there is a fight even where there are no fists.  Passive pretends there is no fight even when fists fly.  Passive-Aggressive feigns ignorance and then gives a kidney punch when the opponent’s back is turned.  And Assertive sees fists drawn, holds her shoulders back and says, “I may not be a fighter, but I will not be bullied.”  Dr. Scoresby said it was our job to tame the aggressive, flame the passive, and flush the passive-aggressive.  He said only the assertive should be left standing. 

Another time he said, “You’re always apologizing.  That’s passive.  What would Jesus have done if he were like you?  He’d have tried to bake enough cookies to share with all the Sadducees and Pharisees and then apologized that they were mad at him when he handed them out.  That’s not what the real Jesus did.  No sir.  He spoke to the Sadducees and Pharisees forthrightly, but he did not tolerate their drivel because that would not have helped anybody.”  I got his point.  WWJD was not What Would Jane Do.  I had pretended that being passive was being patient and Christ-like.  (That’s easy enough to do, you know, pretend your faults are virtues.) 

I liked Dr. Scoresby.  Passive is not attractive and I’m glad he told me so.  (I was also relieved he didn’t call me passive-aggressive, because passive-aggressive is plain ugly.)  And that’s what I’ve been thinking about, out of all the random floating in my brain today that was one I focused on.  I wondered if I’ve done Dr. Scoresby proud.  Did I successfully move from passive to assertive and sidestep passive-aggressive?

Another thought:  Calvin makes me laugh.  At noon when Grace and I sat down to eat, she said, “Mom.  Guess what?  Dad always peeks in his Valentine box to see if anybody has put anything in it yet.”  Oh ho.  Somehow I was not surprised.  He peeks during prayers, too.  Guess what else?  Yesterday I got a cute little popcap looking tin full of mints from a vine-wine company and Grace got an itsy-bitsy, inch-sized bottle of Tabasco sauce in her mailbox.  Grace gave us each our own bag of mini-Reeses cups.  Five more days of surprises.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Homemaking Tip -- Love, Love, Love


Last week we poured white chocolate over popcorn, pretzels, corn chex, and cheerios, and then sprinkled red, white, and pink M&M’s over the top.  

We also made Valentine packets.  Grace made 14 of them for her nieces and nephews. 

On Monday I was switching the laundry around and Grace said, “Mom, are you happy today?”
I answered, “I am happy today, Grace.  Are you happy?”
Grace sighed.  She did.  She sighed.  Then she said, “Yes.  I’m happy.”
I asked her why she was happy and she said, “Because it’s the season of love.”
She sighed again and I laughed.

Later it was time for family night.  It was my turn to be in charge.  First we sang Love at Home and then Grace said the opening prayer.  Next I told the Valentine’s Day story: 

       Claudius the Cruel was mad because no one would enlist in his army.  Claudius couldn’t be cruel or conquer without enlistments.  Thinking that it was the men’s wives and girlfriends that were convincing them to stay home, Claudius the Cruel banned marriage.  Just like that.  
       Valentine was a priest.  He believed in families.  He married people secretly.  When Claudius the Cruel found out what Valentine was doing he imprisoned Valentine and starved him to death.  Valentine died on February 14th but was later sainted for his heroic efforts to save the family.
       Years later, Christians tried to turn pagan holidays into parties with a purpose, so they turned the pagan winter fertility festival into Valentine’s Day.  And there you have it.  Nobody remembers Claudius and everyone remembers Valentine . . . which just goes to show that love is more lasting than cruelty. 

After the story we decorated mini Valentine mailboxes.  When Calvin saw me pulling out the tin boxes, mod podge, paintbrushes, and paper scraps, he audibly groaned and said, “We don’t have to do knick-knacks do we?”

I told him it was my turn to be in charge and that yes, we did have to do knick-knacks, and that we would be happy about it, too.  I explained we would leave little notes or treats daily in each others' boxes until Valentine's Day.  He dared to let another little groan slip, but I pulled out my secret weapon to distract him:  a label maker my sister gave me for Christmas.  I told him that he could paint his box, or mod podge hearts on his box, or make labels for his box . . . whatever he wanted.  Grace and I started mod podging paper on our boxes while Calvin tried to figure out the label maker.  It didn’t take long until he was cursing under his breath at it.  

Grace said, “Remember dad, this is the season of love.”
The side labels say "Fill me up . . . please"  

After we decorated our boxes we sang As I Have Loved You, Calvin said the closing prayer, and we had angel food cake with whipped cream and blackberries.  It was a fun little family night.


Last night Calvin came home from work and I reminded him that we’d be checking our mailboxes at supper.  He squinched his eyes tight, shook his head, and quietly cursed (it seems to be a pattern in this post).  I reminded him he could always write a note if he forgot.


At supper I told everyone it was time to check our mailboxes.  Calvin and Grace both hollered, “Not yet!” 
A few hours later when it was time for family prayers and bed, Calvin finally said we could check our boxes.  I opened my tin and there was a sweet note wrapped around a caramel . . . and a carrot.  I’ll let you guess which one Grace gave and which one Calvin gave.  

Oh ho.  I can hardly wait to see what he finds for tonight.  I hid the butter just in case, but he's been gone to a farm conference all day so I'm guessing a free calculator, pen, notepad, or chapstick.  Can't wait to see.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday -- Family Update

Michelle and Ty
 (Hey kids, does this remind anybody of Elbert's Bad Word, 
the masquerade ball, and Madam Frittata's feathered boa?)

Last weekend Ty and Michelle attended a masquerade ball.  He’s nearing 100 days left at the academy and 102 days until he and Michelle get married.  Michelle moved home this semester so that she can be closer to Ty.  It was a notable sacrifice and he’s been so happy having her close.  He literally whistles when he calls.  Ty and Michelle are awaiting his next assignment.  It will either be graduate school or pilot training. 

Abe is nearing the end of his deployment.  There is a lot of excitement about that in this house.  It was great to see him in this video, see what he is doing, and hear his voice.

As far as Calvin, Ray, Cali, Grace, Joe, Ande, and me.  We're doing fine.  Great really.  Ray's and Cali's baby's feet are growing nicely said the ultrasound technician.  After all, it is the year of the rabbit.  Ray thinks they may have a track star.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Memories -- Bridal Showers

1982.  Vera and Elsie hosted it in Vera’s big family room in her basement.  Vera gave me beautiful blue glasses.  Isabelle gave me a pewter bread plate that says, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  We drank punch and I wore a paper plate hat made of ribbons and bows.  I was very humbled that the women of our community would be so generous and kind.  It was my bridal shower.

 One of the things I love about Ande is her enthusiasm.  Several times in the last few weeks when I talked to her on the phone, she would pause and then say, “Guess what, Mom?  They’re going to have a party!  For me!  I can’t wait.”  She was speaking of these three women who were hosting a bridal shower for her:

Shelly, Becky, Brenda

And it was a party. 

Shelly is so dependable and such a follow-through person.  She held the shower in her beautiful home and made sure the guest list was covered and complete and that everyone felt welcomed and wanted.  Shelly is the one that taught our girls that a shower is a time for the older women of the community to welcome and include the new brides into that circle of friendship that women have.  Shelly offers the hand that pulls them into that circle.  It’s the feeling of being wanted that makes a party.

Becky is a thoughtful, detail person.  The girls often refer to special things as “It has that Becky flair to it.”   Becky planned the invitations and games around Literature and Art, two of Ande’s favorite things.  (One game was called The Perfect Literary Man.  Becky asked Ande to write a description of Joe which she added to the descriptions of the likes of Rhett Butler, the Phantom, The Count, Mr. Rochester, etc.  We matched the descriptions to the men.)  And since one of Ande’s favorite pieces of art is Starry Night, Becky had us all write a wish for Ande and then compiled them in a darling, bejeweled book.  It’s the details that make a party.
Brenda is a fun and bright conversationalist.  She includes others in the talk and laughs easily.  She’s a breath of fresh air.  Brenda personifies party.  She also comes with a platter of hand-dipped chocolates.  One of my favorite times of any party that Brenda helps to host is when she personally serves the chocolates to the guests.  I love watching everyone’s eyes light up at choosing and Brenda identifying the different shapes and designs while visiting with each guest.  Laughter, fun conversation, and chocolates make a party.

The bonus to these women’s party talents is that they are all very good cooks.  

Ande was thrilled.  It was her party!  It was a fun time to share with her and women who love and care about her.  It was humbling to be with women of the community who are so generous and kind.

Betty Lou, LuDeen, Betty

. . . the hands that pull them into the circle of friendship . . . 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Life in My World – It’s Like Old Times, But It’s Not . . .

Cali and Ande came home for a bridal shower for Ande this weekend.

It’s like old times: Ande asked for fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn for supper.  Then she sat up on the kitchen counter to visit. 

But it’s not . . . she bossed us from her perch on how to cook the meal.  Before she only sat and visited and stirred the gravy every now and then. 

It’s like old times: Cali came home with a list of conversations to visit about.

But it’s not . . . she also brought home her laundry because her laundry room is under renovation.  She never brought home her laundry.  Ever.  She’s too efficient to have dirty laundry.

It’s like old times: Calvin went into the district wrestling matches tonight.

But it’s not . . . Ty wasn’t wrestling and I didn’t go with him, and I bet he never yelled, “You’ve got to want it!” even once.

It’s like old times: the girls and I sat down with cookies and ice cream to watch Pride& Prejudice.

But it’s not . . . Cali fell asleep lying on the couch in the first scene and I fell asleep lying on her hip.

It’s like old times, but it’s not.  It’s even better . . . because now Ande knows how to cook her own meals from scratch, and Cali is getting a new washer and dryer and laundry room, and Grace is here and she wasn’t in the old times.  It’s like old times, but it’s not because, well . . . the best is yet to be. 

Grace, Ande, Cali

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thursday Thinking – Expert Level

I listened to a presentation that gamers (as in video gamers) could be the world’s next secret weapon in problem-solving so we should encourage more gaming.  The presenter sited Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that we become experts after 10,000 hours of concentrated practice and that most gamers easily have that by the time they finish high school.  The presenter has a PhD in gaming and argues that 1) few people have the concentration and commitment that serious gamers have – they can suspend basic human needs and desires in order to perfect their craft; and, 2) gamers also have an all-pervasive optimism that they are on the cusp of conquering and this confidence could be helpful in solving complex social issues.  Truly.  This woman seems to believe her argument (at least her enthusiasm and conviction is measurable) that more gamers, and more games for more gamers, will solve our problems. 

As I ironed away listening to her, I concluded that she was simply a persuasive salesman selling . . . addiction.  Anybody that is addicted to anything, be it substance or behavior, suspends basic human needs and desires while staying extremely focused on the substance or behavior; but that is hardly the definition of a leading problem-solver. 

But her comments made me wonder what I have spent my blocks of 10,000 hours doing, and where my expertise lies.  Do I even want to own up to what I’ve done with my blocks of 10,000 hours?  It’s easy enough to scoff at others' hours spent out-jumping dragons and falling down tubes of underworld pipes, but I wondered what have I to show for my time.

I’ve been alive 420,459.013 hours.  That’s 42 blocks of time. I’m not ashamed of the time spent cooking and washing dishes, clothes, faces, and floors.  I’m grateful to have been able to log lots of hours in mothering and wifing.  I wouldn't mind accounting for most of my reading hours.  And sleep . . . well, everybody’s got those.  But the rest of my blocks.  What about those?  And perhaps more importantly, what am I going to do from here on out with my 10,000 hour blocks of time?  I could have another 30 or so.  In what do I want to become an expert?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Homemaking Tip – Tortellini Soup

This is for safe keeping.  The original recipe is hand-written in an orange, water-based marker on a torn piece of notebook paper.  The name has already begun to run off the page.  The paper has a doodled flower in one corner, a heart in the other, and exclamation marks written across the bottom.  In short, this paper is not far from being mistaken as trash, but it holds the girls’ most oft-requested recipe.  Yesterday Ande called for it, Cali called for it a week ago, and I’ve read it over the phone to both of them at least a half dozen times.  Now it’s safe . . . besides being easy and good.  With that introduction, here is Tortellini Soup:

Tortellini Soup

3 tsp olive oil
1 carrot sliced
1 rib celery
20 oz. chicken broth
13 oz. tomato/basil marinara sauce
3 cups tortellini
Grated parmesan cheese

In saucepan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil and sauté carrots and celery for 5 min.

Slowly add chicken broth and marinara sauce.

Bring to low boil and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Add tortellini and cook 4-8 minutes or until tortellini is tender.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

 * optional:  add sliced cabbage, zucchini, green beans, cooked sausage, whatever vegetable or meat you have that you think sounds good in it.  (Add a little more broth and sauce to accommodate for the added ingredients.)  Ande is a purist and adds nothing.  Cali is an opportunist and adds everything.