Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Broken is as Broken Does

This post goes out to all of you who are feeling broken today. If you broke a nail, I'm sorry. If you're flat broke, my sympathies. But my heart mostly goes out to those of you who are silently suffering from broken dreams and broken hearts and broken promises. Those of you who feel part and not all, skim and not whole. To those of you who feel in disrepair or beyond repair, I know that feeling.

And to those of you who feel like banging your head against the wall because of all the things you cannot fix, I throw my window open wide, and call to you across the sky! (I plagiarized that line from Pink Floyd)

And to those of you who spend your time trying to help others fix things, I throw my window open wide and speak in normal tones to you across the front porch--cause you're my smack-dab next-door neighbor. (That line was my own).

And to those of you who don't feel broken, or in need of repair, but you just can't figure out how to work the perfectly healthy equipment you've got, I know that feeling too.

My daughter had a stressful technical media problem yesterday that lasted 7 hours and we couldn't fix it. Did I mention it was stressful? I haven't been that stressed since I was making rockumentaries for the singles ward my husband bishoped himself out for. I got up at midnight and tiptoed into her room to find her wide awake and teary eyed.

"We tried," I told her.

"But I thought if you tried and tried and tried and tried you're supposed to be able to fix things," she said.

It was poignant moment. (At least at midnight it felt poignant.) A poignant punctuation mark to a poignant day. (Okay, I just said poignant four times. I promise I won't do that again.)

A poignant (that's five) day because for 16 years I've been here on the North Shore of Hawaii and how many times do you think I have I driven along the Ko'olaou mountain range past the little yellow shack where the lovely Hawaiian's are sharing a lovely sunrise together? As many times as grains of sand I can hold in my hand.

Yesterday, on my way into town the lovely Hawaiians were in their usual places, but on my way home they were not.

These lovely Hawaiians are now sharing a lovely sunset, and that made me cry.

I've always had a fascination with things that are cracked or flawed or missing . . . not like broken dishwashers, but like broken shells and busted trees. Things that were once together, and then aren't. I've come to appreciate that beauty. My sister often says she feels broken inside, but she's the kindest, most generous, compassionate and beautiful woman I know.

I guess broken is as broken does.

It's good to remember that when something falls apart or caves in or snaps, it's not just the end, it's also just the beginning.

I know this now, but I still don't like it (at first).

Let me drive the point home on an acecdote note (even though this isn't sacrament meeting). When my son was 7 years old, he broke the biggest bone in his body, his femur. He spent 3 days in the hospital and 9 weeks in a body cast. The doctor said the break had taken an inch off his leg, leaving it shorter than his good leg. But what he didn't know was that the broken leg was already an inch shorter to begin with, so it was actually 2 inches shorter.

Curs-ed spite!

"However," said the doctor, "a bad break like this will often stimulate the bone growth and the broken leg will eventually grow about 2 inches, making it longer and stronger than his perfectly healthy, normal (did I mention) PERFECTLY unbroken leg." (I put a few of those last words in the doctor's mouth).

What an odd way to even things out, I thought.

Like I said before, broken is as broken does.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Today we shalt break the sabbath in fresh and original ways . . .

Yesterday I stumbled off to my ward council meeting at 6:30 am and didn't stumble back home until noon. Upon my return I cast my eyes upon my twins bickering heatedly at the computer over Runescape, then to their church clothes strewn across the living room. I also cast my eyes upon my husband watching a FedEx Golf tournament, then to his church clothes strewn across the living room. Finally I cast my eyes to the kitchen counter cluttered with breakfast, lunch, dinner and breakfast dishes.

"Today we shalt keep the sabbath day holy in fresh and unfamiliar ways," I declared and I switched off the computer and the T.V."

There was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

"And today we shalt break the sabbath in fresh and original ways," I declared as I dusted off the vacuum, the broom and the mop. "First I will yell at you, and then I will put you to work."

"But we're not supposed to work on Sunday," they whined.

"Well, put your church clothes back on and perhaps God will have mercy," I replied.

And so they commenced to scrub and sweep and complain and when all the scrubbing and sweeping and complaining was sufficient unto my needs we sat down to eat lunch in silence.

My husband reached for the remote control but I raised my finger and my eyebrows and I did smite him, saying, "Don't even think about touching that dial."

After dinner we had a family meeting and I did murmur against each of my children and I did punish them according to their contentions.

Punishment #1: Thou shalt not watch any T.V. for the rest of the day until you can all just get along.

Punishment #2: Thou shalt not play Runescape for the remainder of your life--or at least for the remainder of your life today.

"What if we all just get along?" they cried, but I would not concede. "Why, why, why?" they cried. "Because cause cause I hate Runescape and thou shalt not hate on the sabbath," I cried back.

Punishment #3: Thou shalt each get a haircut for picture day tomorrow.

And they did murmur exceedingly.

"You are so unfair," said son #1.

"You just don't get it," said son #2.

"You always cut my sideburns like little squares," said son #3.

And my daughter, in her infinite wisdom, held her tongue.

And still in my church clothes, that I might receive mercy upon me for what I was about to do, I proceeded to cut each of their sideburns into little triangles, until my husband picked up the remote once more and said, "Gee, it sure is nice we are all getting along so well," to which I smote him mightily once more.

And when the haircuts were complete I began to itch uncontrollably in my church clothes, and I did suffereth long for the better part of an hour until at last I put on a pair of sweats and took a holy nap.

When I awoke, my boys were playing x-box and my husband was dozing in front of a muted FedEx golf tournament.

And I, in my infinite and well-rested wisdom, did hold my tongue.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What's the difference between a soccer mom and a poodle?

Depends if I wash-and-go or not.

But that's just me, and we're not going to talk about me today. We're not going to talk about bad hair today either (cause we're not talking about me). We're going to talk about soccer beacause soccer is a lot like life.

My husband always says life is like sports . . . and then he spews forth mouthfuls of platitudes about team work, effort and attitude.

In a way he's right. Life is a lot like a soccer game (if you're trying to photograph it). You never know what you're going to get (especially if you have one of those digital point and shooters, which is camera-speak for point-shoot-and-miss-the-shot-due-to-that-stinkin'-delay.

Well, I don't have a digital point and shooter. I have a digital SLR with a zoom lens (nani nani boo boo) which allows me to take continual action shots to my hearts content.

But yesterday I realized that life is still like a soccer game (if you're trying to photograph it) because you never know what you're going to get, but, with a digital SLR, you also never know what you're going to miss.

I can press that button down for 30 seconds and still capture everything just before or just after something really incredible happens.

Yesterday, for instance, here is my son just before he blasted the ball into his opponant's face, knocking him clear into the state of California.

And this was just before he did a triple axel pass that would have made Scott Hamilton dizzy.

Here I just missed him doing his Riverdance-dad impression.

And here I just missed him doing his crash-test-dummy-mom impression.

And this is just as my umbrella slipped from my fingers and flew backwards like a tumble weed into a cluster of unsuspecting spectators, taking out an eye in it's wake (parent of an opponant, fortunately). Like I said in my statement, it's very hard to hold an umbrella and take photographs at the same time. And the tradewinds in Hawaii can be mischevious.

Finally I just decided to hold the button down for the entire game . . .

I got nothin'.

But as soon as the camera battery died my son scored the game winning goal.

Missed it, of course! Ain't that just like life!

(Actually he didn't score a goal, and they lost by 2 points, but that doesn't make a perfect Murphy's Law (and Order) ending now, does it.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

ENJOY now! COVET later!

I broke a commandment today, and it wasn't the stealing one, although I did kidnap my 1st counselor's kids. They were wandering around outside the post office so I figured they were fair game.

(Before you go turning me in, I did get permission).

To all you tired new mom's, insecure young mom's, frustrated mom's of small children . . . today I coveted you.

I coveted how much fun you have with your little sticky fingered creatures under foot and in tow (I wish that was spelled t-o-e)

I completely forgot how much fun it was! (Or maybe it wasn't as fun back in my day when I was actually doing it).

This is Junior after I gave him a make-over.

And this is Naomi. I took the flat iron to both of them. (In my day I don't recall make-overs being so much fun when getting my kids ready for church).

(I could dig up a dozen or so photos of my own kids just like this.)

(Covet Covet Covet Covet!)

I had a Tele Tubbie flashback.

And here is Junior after the make-over (was over).

This was after we pulled out all of our Little Bear movies. (I have every single episode of Little Bear ever made on VHS. My son spent time in the hospital when he was about Junior's age and I would sneak down to the vending machine when the nurses weren't looking, buy Starbursts by the arm fulls, then hang out with my boy watching Little Bear until we got cavities.

Today we didn't have Starburst, but we did have popcorn so I gathered Junior, Naomi, my twins, my twin's friends, and my twin's friends friends around me on the couch and the whole lot of us snuggled together and watched Little Bear. Dinner came and dinner went and there we were still jammed together on the couch watching. (Not because we wanted to be, but because we were seriously stuck together and had to wait for my husband to pull us apart).

But it reminded me how nice it is to do nothing but cozy up with a warm, sticky, smelly, chubby toddler. I forgot how fun it is to try to decode their language and listen to them cry. I forgot how fun it is to cook dinner with one arm and to clean up the eggs they crack on your husband's left over pizza. (Even he had forgotten that joy.)

So the way I see it is this:

ENJOY now! COVET later! (And you WILL covet later).

(Didn't see that punchline coming, did you?)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Remember when I wasn't complaining, but . . .

Yesterday my husband came home from work at 1pm, grabbed me and said, "Get your suit."

We dropped everything, told the kids to do their homework, and ran off to our favorite bay, where we raced like raving lunatics into it's cooling waters.

(Or rather crept like whimpy lunatics into it's chilling waters, as it was pouring rain).

Upon our return I got ready for my night class and, lo and behold, my husband prepared dinner--his famous pipeline pizza, yum!- so I could have food in my stomach. "Better to teach with, my dear" he said.

When I came home from my night class I rubbed my eyes and blinked hard. Then rubbed my eyes again. The dinner dishes were done.

I stayed up late helping my daughter with her history day project then woke up at 5:30 a.m to . . . you know, get-a-life again. My husband came down at 6:00 a.m. and said "You look tired! Why don't you go back to bed."

My eyebrows furrowed into a question mark. "Is it my birthday?" I said.


"Our anniversary?"


"Christmas? Valentines? Labor Day? Arbor Day?"


"Season premiere of The Office?"

"You just look tired. Go back to bed and I'll get the boys off to school."

So I DID . . . And HE did.

I woke up just in time to wave to the boys from my bedroom window and shout, "Have a nice day!" before falling back into bed.

I slept and I slept and I slept and I slept and finally, twenty minutes later I awoke refreshed, smiled sweetly at my husband and said, "Thank you! But I'm only a closet feminist now!" to which he smiled, raised his eyes to the ceiling and said, "Hallelujah!"

Then I did something I haven't done in years (or weeks, maybe). I ironed his work clothes.

Honestly I have no explanations for this sudden turn of events. He doesn't even read my blog! (But that's a different complaint).

FIVE HOURS LATER: My husband just picked me up from my class, carried my books, and took me to lunch at my favorite restaurant, where he dropped-kicked 35 bucks on me.

Maybe he does read my blog.

(If he keeps this up, I may just fall in love with him.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Here's a true story that never happened (another lesson before lying)

Truth: I'm a God-stalker
Truth: I wear my religion under my sleeve
Truth: I'm the R.S. President of 100 plus sistas
Lie: My sistas get 100% visiting teaching each and every month.

Sometimes a thing may happen and be a total lie. Other times a thing may not happen at all and be truer than the truth. --Tim O'Brien

So here's a true story that never happened. If you're a R.S. President or an aspiring R.S. President, this story is for you:

Last week I went to one of those semi-annual Mormon stake motivational seminar thingies. You know the ones where they tell you to put your shine on and turn your magnifying glass up an extra mile. After we split into auxiliaries the Stake R.S. Prez asked me how I get 100% on my visiting teaching report each month.

So I gathered the sistas around me and I shared 5 secrets:

First I told them the most important key to achieving 100% visiting teaching is to nurture the sisters. Nuture them with some old fashioned in-your-face psychological warfare. Keep on them. Don't let up. If you really want 100% then hard-core nurturing is required. But you have to really WANT it.

1. The Guilt Trip: The number one most effective nurturance strategy is the guilt trip. Tried and true, this strategy works wonders. For those of you unfamiliar with the guilt trip, it goes over well in large groups--group guilt--but group guilt can put your sistas on the defensive so one-on-one is most effective. Eye contact is important. Now and then sigh and glance down, but sustained eye contact will let your sista know you're serious and you're depending on her to keep the percentages up. Throw the word should around a LOT, and do some name-dropping--God works best, but prophet names are effective too.

2. Classic Reward and Punishment: There are always a few sistas who are immune to one-on-one guilt trips, so you may have to stoop to group guilt once in a while. Public humiliation, shame and fear are great motivators and should get the job done. When making announcements during R.S. give treats out to the districts with the highest percentage and mention the names of the lowest. Graphs, flow charts, power points, visual aids and cute crafty posters have a powerful impact, but only if the names of the good, the bad and the ugly are highlighted. If someone hasn't done their visiting teaching for over 6 months, don't be afraid to mention their names in lessons about service or love or responsibility or testimony. And while you're at it, mention the struggles of the sisters who they haven't visited. Making connections between inactives and truant visiting teachers also packs a powerful punch.

3. Trouble-Shooting: There will always be a few scragglers who resist being nurtured into fulfilling their calling from God. This is where the president comes in. A good R.S. Prez should always carry the VT message around with her in her purse. When you see any of the sistas in your ward, say at the grocery store, waiting in line at the library or at taco bell, you should promptly pull it out and deliver the message with sincerity and love. Don't forget the prayer, or it doesn't count. Oh, and don't forget to let her know that if she needs anything at all, you're there for her, unless it's inconvienent. When you finish, mark it off. It counts, baby!

4. Out-Reach: Now for the problem of inactives. Some sistas just don't want to be visited, but inactives need love too. If a sista is absent from R.S. more than 4 weeks, it's a good idea to call her during the R.S. announcements, hold the phone up and have everybody yell, "We miss you, sister________ (fill in the blank) Wish you were here! See you next week." Don't forget to include "see you next week." It plants a seed and an expectation at the same time. If a sister does't answer the phone, you may have to resort to what we call the group hug. We arrange to have all the sistas in R.S. walk to her house after church and knock on her door. When she answers we all, one by one, give her a hug to let her know we love her and are thinking about her. If she doesn't answer we sing "you are my sunshine" outside her house. Don't forget refreshments if you use this approach. Sistas are more inclined to participate in the group hug if there are brownies or cinnamon rolls involved.

5. Inflation: If there are still a few left-over sisters who don't get the message, rather than waste time making home visits yourself, the easiest thing to do is inflate the numbers. Notice I didn't say fudge the numbers. That would be lying. Inflation should only be implemented if you've already got at least 95%. A 5% inflation rate is not a big deal, so go ahead and report 100%. It's close enough and it helps let your ward's spiritual light so shine, like a beacon on a hill for others to see and emulate. Keep in mind that sometimes the end really does justify the means. And vice versa.

Happy Nurturing!

Not complaining, but . . .

when it comes to marriage I try to be enlightened, progressive, eyes-half-open-eyes-half-shut. I'm all about happy families forever and harmony in the hood and I try (OMG how I TRY!) to pull the right strings and push the right buttons to make that happen. But I'm no pushover. I've had 20 years to set some limits, bust some myths, push some boundaries.

Okay, so I went through my roaring thirties as a flaming feminist. (Check Crash Test Dummies Are People Too for my funny flaming feminist writings.)

It's a thorny path, ain't it, this marriage gig! And this week has been particularly thorny.

So this morning I was up at 5:15. I helped my daughter come up with a thesis statement for her Huck Finn paper while I was touching up her tresses. (I know, get-a-life!) Then it was on to the boys. My husband took care of the breakfast, while I took care of the botherings.

Did you brush your teeth. . . with toothpaste? Take your bath . . . with water? Did you apply sunscreen . . . beyond your nose? Did you say your prayers . . . and not just in your heart?

In between the botherings I changed the laundry, emptied the dishwasher, showered, shampooed and shined and then spread all my class stuff across the kitchen table to begin preparing for this morning's lecture. Meanwhile my husband was dozing off to Regis and Kelly.

Not that I care. I mean I wouldn't even mention it if it weren't for the passive-aggressive way in which he was dozing. His passive-agressive dozing aggravates me because I can't call him out on it. No matter how I argue it, he always says the same thing back, "I was JUST sleeping!"

But I was on to him.

Later, when he came downstairs to depart for work, I was perched at the computer inputting grades. He had that you-are-perched-at-the-computer-and-I-really-was-just-sleeping look on his face. So I put on my yes-I-am perched-at-the-computer-but-the-house-is-clean-and-the-children-are-well-cared-for-and-anyway-I'm-not-blogging-I'm-grading-which-I-get-paid-for look.

And then he spoke for the first time all morning. "There are two things you could do for me today," he said.

Is it bad that I wanted to scratch his eyes out?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lessons Before Lying: (Plus a Ghost Story)

There were enough blank stares and furrowed brows over my truth and lies post that I feel inclined to shed some light on the fine art of deception. Before you begin breaking this golden rule at home, there are a few things you should know.

But these few things you should know are gonna take me some time to learn you them, longer than you have right now, so allow me to break it down in chunks. Grab a pencil because the first two rules to effective lying are comin' at ya! (I'm an expert so take my word).

The first rule is this: Never ever evereverever lie simply for the sake of entertaining or inspiring your reader. You can lie for the sake of beauty because truth is always beautiful, but never lie for the sake of uplifting because truth is not always uplifting.

The second rule is this: Your reader must know you are lying. You can't pull a Paul H. Dunn and create stories out of thin air. What you say must be true. But the way you say it can be false. As long as your readers know you are deceiving them, you're only bending, not breaking any commandments.

Everything I know about truth and lying I learned from one of my favorite books by Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried. A brilliant work set in the Vietnam War. O'Brien says lying is not a game, it's a form. A way of making a reader feel what you felt. Truth isn't just in details, it's in emotions too.

O'Brien says if you don't feel something it's a lie.

He also says there are two kinds of truth, happening truth and story truth.

Mull that over for a minute.


Here's an example of happening truth. When I was 14 my dad overdosed. It was a tragic death to a tragic life. It was sad. It's was hard. I felt guilty about it for years.

But that doesn't make you feel what I felt so I collapse time, add a few details and tell you the story truth, or the truth as it seemed to me.

The great part about story truth is it allows you to change things you wish you could change. It allows you to bring people back to life, talk to the dead, say things you wish you had said and do things you wish you had done.

If you're up for it, and want an example of this, go to my sister site Crash Test Dummies are People Too for the story truth about my dad's overdose.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Today I Had an Original Thought . . .

It came to me during church while we were pondering the plan of salvation. I was thinking about ghosts at the time. (I've had ghosts on the brain since I saw Ghost Town on Friday, but you'll be reading that post soon). The teacher began talking about books and the Notre Dame cathedral and the Bible and knowledge and power and this completely unexpected original question crashed into my thoughts with Dave Matthews precision.

Can ghosts read?

We've all had that be-careful-what-you're-addicted-to-when-you-die-because-you'll-go-insane-trying-to-quench-it speech. But what if you're addicted to books? I mean, ghosts can't turn pages, right? So do they have to hang out at the library and look over people's shoulders to scratch that learning itch?

Near death stories fascinated me for quite a while after my dad's death. I wanted to know exactly what went on after we shuffle off this mortal coil. I'll never forget two near death stories that gave me chicken skin. I'll save the first one for my next post, but the second one was about ghosts in bars, waiting anxiously for the drinkers to become drunkards. Being drunk somehow made the living vulnerable to all those thirsty dead alchoholics waiting to jump inside their skin and share the buzz. It creeped me out to imagine all the dead stalkers out there floating around trying to satisfy their appetites.

But never had the thought of a book stalker crossed my mind. Until today. I don't know what gave me more of a jolt, the question itself or the joy of a brand new thought. How many other brand new thoughts are out there just waiting to accessed?

But seriously, will we be able to read in SP (spirit prison) or while we're waiting in line at the FJ (final judgement)? And what about the CK? (Celestial Kingdom) Don't even tell me there are no books in the CK?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ode to the Blogging Sistas!

A successful writer must be good at two things: lying and telling the truth. And the best writers are able to do them both at the same time.

Neil something, (check Jami's blog, Superfluous Miscellany for the citation) says it so well in his Writer's Prayer: "Lord, let me be brave, and let me, while I craft my tales, be wise: let me say true things in a voice that is true, and, with the truth in mind, let me write lies."

Isn't this every writer's prayer? Those of you who write because your heart will burst if you don't, know exactly what I'm talking about. You know what it feels like to kneel down at your bed side each night and ask for more courage to tell the truth and a greater capacity to lie.

Marianne Moore, in "Poetry" says that writers are "'literalists of the imagination'--above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them.'"

You don't even have to mull that over do you? Because you understand so well that writers have to lie, else no one will listen to the truth.

Just to clear the air before we get more serious, I lie a lot. I didn't really wear those plad shorts to the temple. And my husband didn't really ignore me when I did those yoga poses while he was watching T.V. He told me to move over so he could watch the game. But that information didn't make my point so I changed it. (phew! Glad I got that off my chest).

But you already knew that too, didn't you, because you do the same thing. And that's why I listen to you.

Here's something else I have to get off my chest. My daughter thinks blogging is stupid, my mom thinks blogging is an ugly word, and my husband wishes I'd be content to clean out the garage and steam vac the living room. When people ask me what I want to be if I ever grow up, I don't say I want to blog! I blog late into the night when everyone is sleeping so no one thinks I'm wasting time.

But we're not really blogging, are we? We're writing! We're planting imaginary gardens around our real toads. Blogs are like a playgroup for writer's. They are our playground. Skaters meet at skateparks to skate and show off their tricks with other skilled skaters. Writers meet at blogspots. Blogspots lend instant gratification to an isolating hobby/dream/skill. Nothing shameful about instant gratification.

Here's something true, but don't tell my daughter I told you because she hates being the daughter of a blogger. (People who are related to bloggers have no privacy). She made me cry the other day, (and I only cry twice a year) while I was sharing my first success as a blogger. My first feedback from a fellow writer/blogger stranger. You all remember your first? She thought I was bragging and so rolled her eyes and wagged her tongue rudely. So I told her, "I'm not a blogger. I'm a writer! I've wanted to be a writer since I was 9 years old. While my brothers were out playing flag football and my sister was sewing Laura Ashley Dresses, I was borrowing my neighbors typewriter and hauling it home in my little red wagon so I could write the New York Times Best Selling Osmond Biography." I've told her all this before, but tears have a way of driving a point home.

But then I blogged about my awkward mother/daughter relationship and I heard myself say "I'm YOUR mommy!" and it hit me that I'M HER mommy, and I should grow up and break down some doors here. So I've been trying. And last night I went into her room while she was reading and I crawled into bed with her and we hugged. We didn't giggle and gossip. She didn't spill her guts, and I didn't spill my guts, but we hugged . . . and we're best friends forever.

This wasn't what I was going to blog about this morning. I was going to blog about how happy I am because it's Friday and it's pouring rain and I have 3 new friends, Jami, Lisa and Mary, and they are all great writers. And I was going to write an ode to all of you bloggers who are really writers. But now it's 10:00 am and I need to go clean out the garage and steam vac the living room.

(okay, that's a lie).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Men Reveal Ulterior Motives for Tying the Knot

My husband is in the medical field, but he also teaches a marriage and pregnancy health class every Fall Semester at the university nearby, which means this is the time of year dad pats the kids on the back and asks questions like, "How are you with this stage of the family life cycle? Are you satisfied?" and the kids reply, "Yes, dad, our physical, social, emotional, intellectual and moral needs are being met. But thanks for asking."

This morning he split his class into groups--the marrieds, the singles, the marrieds-who-wish-they-were-single and the singles-who-wish-they-were-married. He facilitated a lively discussion to determine the #1 perk of being married. Surprisingly, (or maybe not) the females overwhelmingly agreed it was companionship. But guess what the males unanimously decided was thee best thing about being married . . . Financial security.

You heard me correctly. Financial security!

When asked, HUH??!? they explained their reasoning. Being married brings two incomes to the table and you can get better paying jobs when you're married because it looks better on your resume.

Does anyone else think this is backwards?

And is this the final shred of evidence that life really does boil down to two things? (Don't make me spell them out).

Postpartum Flashback

My friends think I'm lame because I get up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to curl (or straighten) my daughter's hair before seminary. They don't actually say, "you're lame," they say things like, "I could never be such a good mom," which we all know is code for "Get a life, girl!"

What they don't understand is the hypnotic power that beauticians (and bar tenders) have over the human soul. My daughter doesn't talk to me unless I'm doing her hair (or pouring her a stiff drink). For me 5:30 a.m is the witching hour when my little girl lets me into her world to have a look around.

From a distance, mind you.

Who would have thought this mother/daughter thing could be so . . . awkward. I always pictured myself as the cool mom, snuggling up in her bed at night and giggling about the cute boys and gossiping about the cute girls. She would spill her guts, then I would spill my guts, then we'd hug and be best friends forever. I never took into consideration all the eye rolling or the fingers in the ears, and I certainly didn't predict the talk-to-the hand wrist flip.

Last Mother's Day my tween son was required to write a list of 100 things he loved about me. My favorite was, "You don't mean to be mean, it's your job."

Now that's something to snicker over. That's almost something to brag about, like when I get evaluations from students that say "Too HARD!" or "WAY tooooo much homework!"

But the other day I was bringing my daughter and two of her teammates home from their soccer game. One of them went off about how mortifying her mom was because she yelled through the whole game (at least I don't have a loud obnoxious embarrassing voice).

But my daughter immediately piped up: "Well, at least your mom doesn't freak dance in front of your friends." Okay, that was only once and to my credit I was driving so their view was obscurred. Anyway, since when has freak dancing been uncool?

Mean I can handle, but embarrassing????


Postpartum flashback: I recall one Sunday afternoon vividly. My daughter was a classic daddy's girl from the start--always had to be in his arms when he was shaving and eating--wouldn't sit in her car seat or her high chair . . . or her stroller . . . or her crib (she was actually a little brat come to think of it) because the only place that suited her was daddy's arms. That Sunday was the only time I gave her a good scolding about it. In between sobs I told her how it was--how I had carried her around for 9 months and gone through 19 hours of blood curdling labor, in the snow, uphill, BOTH ways! I really let her have it. "I'm your mommy!" I kept saying.

Someday she'll be saying the same thing to her little brat, I've already cast that curse on her, but until then I'll be up at 5:30 a.m. curling her hair.


Monday, September 15, 2008

How to Get What You Want and Still Live Happily Ever After . . .

I used to play games with my husband (as recently as last week). Partly because I've read all those how-to-please-your-man books and know the best ideas are the ones he thinks he came up with himself, and partly because during those rare moments when I burst into tears and tell him that he doesn't understand me OR my neeeeeds, he always has the same reply: I think I understand you AND your neeeeeds very well.

One thing you should know about my husband is that he subscribes to the notion that if you say something it will magically become true, so every so often I can't resist putting him to the test.

There are two things I need right now--something to sit on and something to wear.

At my computer is a cute wooden shaker chair. Easy on the eyes, but hard on the back. When I was younger I could sacrifice one for the other, but not now?

Hence test #1: If I was grading, emailing or writing when my husband was nearby I would sigh, stretch and shift around on my wooden chair. As soon as he would sit down to watch T.V., I would promptly jump up and do yoga poses in front of him while moaning about my aching back. In the mornings I would pull myself out of bed slowly and groan about being stiff. Nothing worked, so on our last trip to Costco I accidentally-on-purpose strolled over to the office furniture. He didn't take the bait. Yesterday, I just moped. All day my lower lip was turned down until there was a split second when my husband looked at me quizzically, his eyes flashing with insight.

I know what you need! he exclaimed. I beamed with anticipation until he did the double brow lift and smacked me on the behind, which meant he knew exactly what he needed.

Test #2: New clothes. I had a brilliant plan. One morning I threw on an old baggy pair of plaid shorts and a ratty Addidas t-shirt. I wore it all day and the next. Nothing. So I wore it a third day. Nada. I began dropping it beside my bed at night and then sliding back into each morning. Then I stopped bothering and just wore it to bed. Soon I was wearing it to the beach and to teach my class. I even wore it when we went to the temple, but without incident. You okay? my husband finally asked yesterday while I was pulling the plaid shorts on for church. Just feeling a little . . . I don't know . . . frumpy maybe, I said.

He thought for a moment before the light went. I know what you need! he beamed.

So this morning I woke up and I said to myself, Sister, it's time you take control of your life! I jumped up, despite the stiffness, put on some snug Pac Sun jeans, my favorite Charlotte Russe bolero and a pair of hemp wedges. When I marched down the stairs my husband's eyes lit up and his brows did a double lift. He knew exactly what I needed.

Going shopping! I called behind me. Be back before dark!

So bottom line, girls, here's some advice on how to get what you want. Throw on a pair of hemp wedges and go get it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Forty somethin' somethin'

Being forty somethin' somethin' (which is less than forty somethin' btw) has it's perks, but those same perks can really bum me out sometimes.

For instance, the other night I was waiting in line at Sears to buy my twins new church pants for their 10th birthday and a woman in front of me was bouncing an adorable, but restless newborn. Even though I enjoy things she doesn't enjoy right now--like sleep and sanity and clean clothes--she enjoys something I'll never enjoy again. At thirty that thought never crossed my mind, but at forty that thought bums me out.

At the cash register was a young girl in a teensy tank top and hot pants, with long, brown, blemish-free legs.

At thirty I would have thought to myself, For only a gallon of self-tanner, a daily 10-mile run, and a lazer gun for my spider veins, I too could look like that. But at forty I sigh and think, These legs will have to do.

There was a cute little family at the front of the line. The cute little boy, no more than five, was sitting on the floor next to the T-shirt display reading a cute little book. Before long a cute little girl with cute little pig-tails was next to him reading along. Their super hot dad kept nuzzling his face into the neck of their super hot mom, and then he'd look into her eyes with a twinkle. The super hot mom would grin in turn and do a little shimmy.

At thirty I might have thought, My next child will read books instead of playing cowboys and indians under the clothing racks. I also might have thought, My next husband will twinkle and nuzzle! But at forty I sigh and think, These kids and this husband will have to do.

It's a perk . . . but it sometimes bums me out. See what I mean?

Right before the cute little family reached the register, the children got slightly restless and the little boy politely ditched his sister. When the little girl skipped up to her twinkling dad and tugged on his pant leg saying Daddy, Brayden won't let me read with him, and the little boy tugged on his grinning mom's purse saying, Mommy, Bailey won't stop copying me, the super hot mom's head suddenly spun around 3 times and her eyes began shooting flames.

SIT DOWN . . . NOW! she commanded.

Both of the cute little children dropped to the floor and resumed reading in perfect harmony.

For some reason that cheered me up considerably.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Terrorism 101: Physics for Dummies

Who likes drudging up painful memories?

So let's not drudge them up. Let's talk psychology or philosophy instead. Let's talk physics. How about Newton's third law? To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Cause and effect.

After 9-11 I cringed and ducked every time I saw a low flying plane, I fixated on taking photos of flags, and I bought flour and sugar by the truckload and sealed it up in mylar bags.

I went to candle-light vigils, tossed coins into fountains and prayers out to the universe. I even started listening to country music.

Funny what you do when you don't know what to do.

Even my daughter, who was only six years old, went from drawing pictures like this . . .

To pictures like this.

But then this is Physics for Dummies because you all know exactly what I'm talking about.

Moment of silence. . .

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Today is CUBWORLD day!

I just love it when little people follow big dreams! (and when big people follow little dreams). I especially love it when those little people are from little towns on little islands in the middle of the big wide world.

And when I know those little people personally, I love them even more.

So today, September 10th, I'm deeming CUBWORLD day because today, Jake-CUB (aka Jacob Kongaika to laie locals) is back on

I first met Jake when we traveled with the Concert Choir to Korea and Japan a few years back. We'd sit on the back of the bus with Jacob and listen to him play his Ukulele. Little did we know back then that this kid had visions and dreams of busting out of the choir scene and hitting the big stage.

And he's hitting the big stage, big time.

I'm so happy for him. But even better, I LOVE his music. He's groovy. I mean, the guy's got skills.

The whole sellaband concept is: aspiring artists upload a few songs and fans buy the artists way to a record deal. The first time Jacob uploaded his stuff on sellaband, he became the first American artist ever to reach the 50k mark. And it only took 4 months. Today he uploaded 2 more lovely songs on sellaband and in just a few hours, he's already the top selling band with almost 4k.

I took my boys to his concert when he came here last spring. They LOVED it and made me humiliate myself by scrounging for $10 so we could buy a copy of his album that night. That album quickly became their favorite (and no joke, it saved our sanity this summer while we were on vacation and driving 6 hours a day). And I might add that it does a heart good to hear your kids singing songs from a little local artist while they're playing x-box.

But he's on his way to turning global. Sooooo jealous because he got to sing a Labor Day gig with Augustana in Provo. (Did I mention sooooo jealous? I pretty much broke the coveting commandment that day. In my next life I swear I'm going to be a rockstar.)

Check him out today and if you like him buy one part of his dream. It's only $10 and who doesn't want to own part of dream?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Labor Day Season: I know where God hangs out

Last week I sent a shout out to all the moms, but this week I've got nurses on my mind.

It's because yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of my twin's birth. (Okay, my eyes are springing a leak at the thought of it). Exactly one decade ago today, after spending 2 weeks lying in a hospital bed trying to hold back the impending premature labor, I was rushed into an emergency c-section, and at 29 weeks my twins arrived into this world weighing in at less than 3 lbs each. It was the most frightening time of my life.

I say time and not day, because it wasn't just a frightening day, it was a whole season of frightening, and anniversaries can bring back a whole season if the emotions attached are intense enough.

This week I've been feeling the pangs of what I call Labor Day season because, fittingly, I gave birth to my twins on Labor Day. To me it's a season as real as Christmas or Easter, accompanied by equally real emotions. But it's impossible to tell you how Labor Day season felt to me without generalizing about it. It was hard. It was frightening. There was guilt and anxiety and pain. But that doesn't help you feel what I felt.

I can only try to show you the effects of how it felt. This week I went to the hospital a few times to see a woman in my community who had taken a bad fall. On both visits I ducked into the hosptial bathroom, washed my hands with that industrial soap on the wall, then pressed them to my nose and inhaled deeply. During Labor Day season, that instantly makes me cry. Why? Because it's time travel. That industrial soap lingered in the air for 9 weeks while I had some of the most intense experiences of my life.

So tis the season to inhale industrial soap and celebrate the small kindnesses of the nurses who comforted me through it, because when you're confined to a hosptial bed, heavily medicated to the point where words on a page swim, musical notes split and spin, and T.V. makes you throw up, you not only come face to face with your own demons, but with the sharp realities and consequences of life and love.

So this post is for the nurse who chatted with me every day in bright yellow scrubs and told me dreamy stories about Seattle. She'll never know how much that bright yellow cheered me up, or how close I came to moving to Seattle. And she'll never know how close I came to confiding in her my deepest secrets.

This post is for the nurse who secretly slipped an ice cube into my mouth in the early morning after I begged like a crack addict all night. I had been given a hearty dose of Magnesium, which immediately transforms your tongue into the Sahara desert, and the nurse had been given specific instructions: LIQUID? ABSOLUTELY NOT! UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES! LET HER SUFFER AND DIE FIRST. LET HER DROWN IN HER OWN FIXATION OF TALL ICEE GLASSES OF MOUNTAIN DEW!

And for the nurse who told me I looked like a Victoria Secret model every time she came into my room, this post if for you. When you're pregnant with twins and flat on your back in a hospital gown for 2 weeks, something about those words gives you the strength to brush your hair each morning.

This post is for the nurse who held my hand while the phlebotomist shoved a needle the size of vermont into my neck, the nurse who placed fresh cold cloths on my forehead while the room did summersaults, and the nurse who rubbed my feet while I signed waivers that the doctors were not responsible if my babies came out blind, deaf, dumb or deformed.

This post is for all the nurses who made me feel safe and secure when I wasn't. Because of them I now consider hospitals a sanctuary. A place of refuge.

Some people feel God in church and in temples, some people feel him in nature, but I know where God hangs out. He's rolling up his sleeves with the nurses in the hallowed halls of the hospitals.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Humble Pie Before Breakfast

There are certain inevitable laws that govern the universe, one of which is she who boasts publically about her little mommy victories, even if they only come once a year, shall surely eat her words before breakfast.

This morning, for the first time in 4 weeks, I stood in my daughter's doorway, blinking and rubbing my eyes to make sure I wasn't seeing things. She had gone to school without making her bed.

This startling discovery came on the tail of an earlier realization. A 5:00 am realization. I stumbled upon it completely by accident as I was gathering laundry from the hamper in the boys room. I happened to glance to the left. Son #1's bed was empty . . . and made. I glanced to the right and up. Son #2's bed . . . empty . . . made. I glanced down . . . where they slept . . . all three of them, piled onto one bed. Son #3's bed. The bed that never gets made!

I have been duped by my own offspring.

And then came the clincher. My husband pulled me aside before he went to work.

I need to show you something, he said. I braced myself. He spoke slowly as he led me to their bathroom.

This is why there are no towels on the kids floor anymore. This is why the towel rack in our bathroom now holds only beach towels and car wash towels.

And there they were, every towel in the house, in a heaping pile behind the bathroom door.

It's obviously September.

Ode to August: one small step for mom, one giant leap for momkind

Today I want to send a shout out to all you mom's.

Moms ROCK! (But it sure ain't an easy gig, especially for workin' moms.)

I always tell people I feel like a stay-at-home-mom that works, but this morning I realized it's just a catchy phrase that downplays the reality of my job as a teacher. Yes, I'm only in the classroom 5 hours a week, which is an ideal mom-job, but when I awoke this morning, looked around at the clothes I'd left on the floor, the dinner dishes in the sink, and the stacks of mounting papers on the kitchen counter, I thought, I guess I'm more of a work-at-home-mom that works.

This happens every fall when I start teaching again. I only notice it because August is so pricelessly dull. I get to clean the bathrooms in August. In August I get to water the plants and send out the belated Christmas cards and look for my grail. But the thing I love most about August is that I get to be consistant with my kids. It's an aggravating, monotonous, repetitive process, but someone's got to do it (at least once a year).

Today, as I feel my grasp on domestic order slipping steadily away and I mourn it's passing, I am trying to stay on the sunny side of life. I am looking back longingly to when I was seriously so bored, and I am looking forward reluctantly to being frantically so stressed, and I am holding on tight--like water in a net--to all my little mom-victories of August.

Small steps . . . like teaching the kids how to bargain rather than bully for what they want. For instance, yesterday one son asked the other son to make him a sandwich . . . and he did. Why don't you let him make his own sandwhich, I told him. Because, he said, if I make him a sandwich he'll let me play his Halo III for 2 days.

Now that's progress.

And so is this:

  • 3/4 kids are making their beds regularly every morning, without being asked, and have been for the past 4 weeks.
  • 2/4 kids are applying sunscreen every morning before school, without being asked.
  • 4/4 leave for school on time, without being asked.
  • 2/4 are putting their back packs away after they finish their homework, without being asked.
  • 3/4 are reading for at least 20 mintues at night, without being asked.
  • 4 /4 are doing their homework after school, without me badgering them to death.
  • 4/4 are badgering me to death after school about their homework. (They could just ask!)

Can't wait until next August!

Maybe by then I'll be making sandwiches for my son too.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Women are from IKEA, Men are from Mars

Not to perpetuate the over-simplified, stereotypical sweeping generalizations about the differences between men and women, but a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Need I say more?

IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION: (I guess I do need to say more.) This post is about the differences between the way men and women make beds. When my husband saw it he thought it referred to country matters, if you get my drift, which hadn't even crossed my mind-- just another example of the over-simplified, stereotypical sweeping generalizations about the differences between men and women.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Smart Dogs with Morals

Human contact teaches dogs morals.

This recent headline caught my eye, mostly because it reveals a startling discovery: "Scientists say dogs are becoming increasingly more intelligent and are even learning morals from living in close contact with humans."

Whoa, hang on here! Dogs learning morals from humans?

First off, what does a moral dog look like? More importantly, what does a moral dog act like? Does he relieve himself on the toilet rather than the neighbors front lawn, or does he just bring his own pooper scooper and pick up after himself?

Does a moral dog refrain from wolfing down a plate of unattented prime rib? Does he at least ask permission first? Or maybe he wolfs it down but then apologizes and takes responsiblity for it?

When his owner takes him to breed does he say, "I'm sorry, I can't do this. I don't feel good about it. You pimping me out like this just feeeeeels wrong."

Here is the actual photo that ran with the article.

Is this the most intelligent, moral looking dog they could find? This dog will obviously mess with your head.

Why not use a photo like this:

Here's an intelligent looking dog.

But is he moral? Hmmm . . .

Maybe these photos would have been better:

Mentally awake and morally straight.

This dog could help a little old blind lady across the street, and call 911 when she gets run over.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't think dogs can learn. In fact the article did make some valid points. For instance, it claims that animals abide by social rules.


Researchers also found that when they tested two dogs together but rewarded only one, the dog which missed out soon stopped playing the game.

This dog cracked the dating code almost as quickly as the human female.

One study observed dogs in an experimental setting where when they held up a paw, they were rewarded with a food treat, but when a lone dog was asked to raise its paw but received no treat, the researchers found it begged for up to 30 minutes.

This dog learned the mating game almost as precisely as the human male.

Overall, many scientists believe that the human inclination to invest dogs with human-like states of mind isn't as unscientific as it might appear. I think there's plenty of evidence to back this up. Dogs are definitely learning a lot from human contact.

Like yoga poses named after them . . .

How to chill out when dogs in authority are barking at them . . .

And how to pamper themselves. (Cuz girlfriend, U R so worth it!)