Friday, March 28, 2008

A Super Hero Near You

Who wouldn't want these two preschoolers chasing bad guys, fighting crime, and taking names?

At least, we'd be assured that, come what may, there would be no cerebral damage inflicted on either subject.

Batman and Robin live again. And I just want to squeeze them.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Watching: Fit for the Kingdom

I read about some documentary films from BYU in this Mormon Times article. The films are available at and began as a collaboration between a student and professor to make films that briefly focus on one aspect of living life as a Mormon. The website is titled Fit for the Kingdom: Documentary Films about Mormons. The filmmakers' goals are to show
films [that] are raw and basic, devoid of theatrics and excess emotion-inducing elements. The titles are also simple, with most being named after the person who is the subject of the film.

Most are really very simple films: a mother trying to get her pre-teen kids to turn off the video games, a young mother raising two little kids, a family reading the scriptures together (or trying to), a missionary cleaning out her car the day before she leaves.

Most are only ten to twenty minutes long and are great snapshots of the dailiness of living an LDS life. Here are a few that I saw and liked:

Girl's Camp--because snipe hunting is still an integral part of camp
Lloya--mother of eleven who is still growing as a mother
Lorien--thoughts from a missionary a day away from leaving home
Primary South London--this is the life of a Primary teacher
Ramona--young mother who is busy raising two little ones and sees her husband's sacrifices
Robinsons--a farmer in the colonies in Mexico (Dad, you will like this one)
Scriptures--does your family look like this when you read the scriptures?

But really, the documentary that is the most tender and evocative is the hour-long Angie. This film follows the three-year arc of a mother fighting breast cancer. It really comes from home videos that a film professor took to chronicle his wife's journey through the highs and lows of battling cancer. After her death, friends of his lovingly shaped the footage into a tribute to her for her family. It is not a graphic film, but it is a bit terrifying in its simplicity and dailiness. Angie is your neighbor, your friend, your sister, or you.

Maybe you will see your reflection in one of these films.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The After-Easter Sale

How much chocolate is too much chocolate? I mean, really. Two bags? Four? Eight?

I'm even burping chocolate. (Note to self: marshmallow bunnies don't taste better the second time around.)

Reading: Gluten-Free Girl

I finished reading this book, Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found Food That Loves Me Back . . . And How You Can Too, over a month ago. It comes from one of the first websites I happened across a few years ago when I really started getting interested in blogs. The blog and the book are by a woman named Shauna James Ahern. She was diagnosed with celiac disease when she was in her mid-thirties and writes that learning to eat gluten free revolutionized her life.

Always a cook, Ms. Ahern really pulled out all the stops once she was diagnosed with celiac disease and had to learn to eat in an entirely different way. That is how her very popular blog Gluten-free Girl began. She would spend hours in the kitchen each night cooking and baking delicious, succulent, yummy food that was free from gluten and that made her fall in love with food all over again. Then she photographed and wrote about it on her blog.

In the space of three years, Shauna's health improved dramatically as she ate gluten-free, her blog became well-known, she changed jobs, she was given her first book deal, she met a man who is a chef and who she refers to as "Chef" on her website, she married Chef, and now she is expecting her first child at the age of 41. It has been quite a ride for her and she has blogged about it all.

I find Shauna's blog writing is thick with descriptions of tantalizing, amazing food. Sometimes I get hungry just reading her words. She is also a romantic in her writing--which isn't a bad thing, it just wears a bit thin at times for me when everything she does is inspiring and beautiful and chock full of meaning.

Her book is a bit different than the blog. She doesn't just compile a bunch of her blog entries into a book which is what other bloggers have essentially done with their book deals. Shauna instead writes a sort of "food history" of her life: what she typically ate growing up (white bread and packaged foods), how her food tastes changed as a young adult (she experimented with all kinds cuisines: ethnic, vegetarian, organic, etc.), how certain foods ultimately made her very, very ill (the symptoms of celiac disease), and how she experienced her own food revolution when she cooked and ate gluten-free. I really enjoyed this part of the book as opposed to some of her other reviewers who found this part a bit tedious. In fact, I was so inspired by Shauna's writing that I wrote a food history of my own.

Shauna also delves deeply into the challenges of eating gluten-free: the shopping, the investigating, the limitations, and the triumphs. I think what I like best about her book though is her attitude. She does not feel deprived by eating gluten-free. In fact, she feels like it is a great blessing because it has given her her health again.

So, pick it up and give it a perusal the next time you are at the bookstore. You might find her journey as interesting as I did.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Paper Pansy

Absolutely loving a website I just discovered called It does my heart good just to look at it. I especially love their section on paper clutter. Yep, that is me, a desperate little paper clutterer if there ever was one.

My mother raised eight children in an super-orderly home (she's got a touch of OCD). She was ruthless about divesting her surroundings of junk (or semi-junk, or things that may be loved by a child but considered junk by an adult) and would regularly do things like go through my closet and trash anything and everything but my absolute favorite toys and clothes. I think I developed a rather hardy nature as a result and don't feel a lot of attachment to things (at least I would like to continue to believe this about myself, so don't try to dissuade me).

But paper? Well, paper and I have a love affair.

Give me a large desk space with a computer, printer (very important piece of equipment) and nary a paper on it and within 4.3 seconds flat, I can have towering paper piles the likes of which would dwarf the leaning-loving inhabitants of Pisa.

Yes, I'm a treasure. And my heart is given to paper.

The digital world may be my one great escape from this increasingly overwhelming habit. At least that is what this post is leading me to believe.

Oh, I believe! I believe!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Isn't That Nice?

I remember a phenomenon that used to occur in my house as a kid: my mother would be upset with one of us (and there were eight kids, so this could occur frequently) and she would be using her frustrated voice--or as we liked to say, she was yelling. She would be angry about something like we were caught jumping off the garage roof on to the trampoline below or that we had poured motor oil down the driveway just to see how fast it could go or we had locked a little kid in the dryer and turned it on. You know, normal stuff.

This would raise my mother's temperature enough that it would raise her voice as well. So, one of us might be the target of a bout of yelling when: the phone would ring. This ring always did something to my mother. She would point at the child she was yelling at and give him or her a look that said, Stay there if you know what is good for you, and then she would turn and answer the phone. And somehow that voice that had just been screeching at us would drop ten decibels and turn as soft as butter and as polite as the Queen. As if she hadn't a care in the world.

I found it remarkable that my mother could turn on the charm so quickly and move so effortlessly from one volume level to another. The phone conversation might last a minute or ten minutes and my mother would move fluidly from polite and welcoming through efficient and kind to even funny and amused while the recently-yelled-at child stood near by afraid to move for fear of his or her life. If we moved even a smidgen she might employ The Look again and that couldn't bode well for the child's life expectancy.

The yelling might or might not ensue following the phone conversation. It would amaze me when it did, when she could ramp right back up to her previous frustration level. Whether it did or not, I would still walk away from the whole encounter a little bemused. I was bewildered by the fact that adults could modulate emotions and voices with what looked like so little effort and I was deeply absorbed in reviewing that event in my head. I'd even laugh a little as kid and think, I will never do that when I grow up, like I was a superior being and would never be challenged to control my temper in the future.

Enter the future. I was in the store the other day in a long line at the checkout stand. Typically Murphy's Law applies to me when I pick a checkout line at the grocery store--you know, whichever line I pick will invariably turn out to be the longest line in the store because someone ahead of me will take 943 years to count out the exact change in pennies for a purchase totaling $71.49. (It takes a really long time. Believe me, I know.) This time my line was moving at a pretty good clip and I was pleased to see it progressing. Every line in the store was booked full of people and I thought, Wow, I picked a good line.

I was one person away from the cashier, nearly out the door, when this woman approached the 18-year-old cashier. She had apparently been in his line a few minutes before and had gone out to the parking lot and found a problem with her purchase and had come back in to have this cashier, her cashier, deal with it. This little cashier instead of telling her to wait or to go to customer service stopped everything in his line and tried to assist her. She was worried that she had been overcharged for something she had purchased. So, he ran her purchases through the scanner again and came up with the same price as on her receipt. She still didn't like that answer and so he did it again. That still didn't appease her so he did it again, for the third time. When this didn't work, he pulled out a calculator and added up the purchases and applied tax (And how would the hand calculator make a difference over the cash register??? It's a puzzle.). Then he did it again on the calculator. All of this to ensure one woman that she had been charged $10.33 for purchases that really added up to . . . $10.33. Oh, the insanity!

In the entire 7 minutes and 54 seconds it took to help this woman, my blood pressure was rising and rising fast. I wouldn't dare say anything directly and be considered rude, so I employed various passive-aggressive techniques. I rolled my eyes. Pause. I checked my watch. Pause. I drummed my fingers. Pause. I let out an exasperated sigh. Pause.

It didn't work. Neither the cashier, nor the woman seemed to register that there were six people waiting through this entire transaction. So, I sped up my techniques. I rolled my eyes. I checked my watch. I drummed my fingers. I let out an exasperated sigh.

Still nothing. My mercury level went up several more notches.

Then I started muttering. "Come on!" under my breath. "This is ridiculous," came out next. Finally, a little louder, "What's the hold up?"

The cashier finally glanced my way and dropped his pen. Great, I made him nervous now. But the customer hadn't caught on. So, I repeated.

I rolled. I checked. I drummed. I sighed.

I muttered.

Magically, my techniques worked and the woman left (or could it be, she had spent enough time trying to wrangle an extra three cents out of the cashier?).

It was soon my turn to have my purchases rung up. The cashier started by apologizing. He was so sweet and so young and I was so wicked and impatient. And then, that trick of my mother’s kicked in: Despite my anger and my impatience, I plastered my oh-so-sincere smile across my face and turned on the sweet.

“Oh, that’s okay. I’m sure it was frustrating for you too. You were so kind to help her out like that. I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been so accommodating.” More like I would have turned cashier-kamikaze and head butted her out of my line after scanning her items three extra times. "You were very patient," I said, gagging a bit on my own gooeyness.

He smiled. And didn't drop his pen through our whole transaction and hurried me through the check-out process. I left feeling better than I did after employing all my favorite passive-aggressive techniques.

See, the thing about "nice" that I'm just beginning to catch on to is that it not only affects the outcome of an interaction like that one, it also affects me. Sometimes by acting nice on the outside, it makes me feel a bit nicer on the inside too. I start to see it from someone else's perspective rather than my own.

Maybe being nice isn't as bad as it is chalked up to be.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


How come I sleep better (more deeply) at my parents' house than I've ever slept at my own house?

The Elephant in the Room

Okay, one show I forgot--The Carol Burnett Show. I've never laughed like I've laughed at this show. I found an old clip on YouTube where Tim Conway tells an elephant story. Watch Carol Burnett's face throughout each take. It was always a goal for this cast to crack each other up during takes and who succeeded the most? Tim Conway.

Some days you just need to laugh.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Travelin' We Will Go

I'm starting to get really excited about our trip to Denmark this summer. Way too excited.

So, I've been pouring over pictures from the last big vacation I took with most of my siblings in 2004. (Brock, Matt and Cissy, you were missed.) We went to London, Paris, Nice, and Toulouse, France. We saw the sights, ate lots of good food, and walked everywhere like the pioneers of old. We were away for two weeks with only a carry-on bag and a backpack for each of us. It was just about the most fun I've ever had.

Here are a few highlights from that trip.

Our sweet little bed and breakfast in Stratford-upon-Avon on our first day in England. This place and its owner reminded all of us of our feisty Grandmother back in the USA. She would have loved this place.

Having tea and biscuits for breakfast the next morning

Warwick Castle--beautiful and serene

Our favorite day in London--our tour with Henrietta, the best tour guide at British Tours. She was fun, vivacious and made every site come alive. In her honor on the France leg of our trip, we named each of the navigation systems in our cars, Henrietta.

Mom and Dad in front of the Louvre--we got everyone in and out in record time after seeing only the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. We had been going nonstop for four or five days by this point in the trip and everyone just wanted to crash on a bed. I stayed behind after they departed and refused to acknowledge my heavy eyelids. I had crossed an ocean to come back to this place and I was going to squeeze in every last moment of time I could here.

The view in lovely France at Rocamadour. It looks so romantic. What you can't see in this picture is that we just escaped from the mad birds in the tunnel preceding this where they dive-bombed us. Anyone caught entering walkway was immediately attacked. I didn't cover my head, but I did cover my eyes. I had seen The Birds . . . thank you, Tippi Hedren. We all made it out alive.

One of the 3,973 thousand steps in Rocamadour. At least it felt like that many that day. No one needed to work out at the gym that evening. And the views? Stunning.

There were many more highlights and lowlights of this trip. To list just a few: the Musee d'Orsay fiasco, a sunflower painting, rainy Versailles, my go-cart head injury, red poppies blanketing the fields of southern France, missing our massages in Monaco, supper on the back patio of the Toulouse mission home as the crickets sang, bread and Nutella, and a very happy birthday.

Can you tell I haven't been on vacation in a loooooooooooong time? The enjoyment has to last me at least half a dozen years. :)
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Believe It or Not, Who's Walking on Air?

I found myself humming this tune this afternoon

Believe it or not, I'm walking on air, I never thought I could
be so freeeee! Flying away on a wing and prayer, who could it be? Believe it or not, it's just me!

It brought to mind visions of some guy in red tights and a funny cape trying to fly. That song was reaching back into the dark archival hallways of my memory and pulling forth a song I haven't thought about in years. I couldn't even remember the name of the show it came from! So, a Wikipedia search later and I found the show was The Greatest American Hero about some dorky guy who is endowed with supernatural powers from aliens and he has to learn how to fly.

This memory seemed to bring on the nostalgia with a dump truck, so I did a quick listing of all the shows I remember watching as a kid (before 12 years old) and the impressions they left on me. I can't say for certain that this list is entirely ccomplete but these are the shows that came to me. I didn't watch any of them with consistency other than Little House on the Prairie and the Donny and Marie show, mostly because of the rules surrounding TV in my childhood home and the limited access we had to very many channels. Some of you will not remember some of these shows (too young!). Well, I will just tell you that these were the true glory days of television--simply because they occurred during my childhood. Isn't that the way it is for everyone?

Happy Days (the Fonz--he was ultra cool; I liked their house too--especially the pass-through window from the kitchen to the dining room.)

Little House on the Prairie (half-pint, Mary, Ma and Pa, Nellie Olsen--a true classic)

Donny and Marie (Saturday night after baths with my hair wrapped in a towel I would sit and watch this show with my mom as she put curlers in my hair for the next day)

Wonder Woman (the twirling she did as she changed into her crime fighting suit)

The Incredible Hulk (green, scary monster; very frightening)

The Love Boat (the captain, the theme song "The Looooove Boat", and the bartender with the long mustache; also Julie, the cruise director--she was so pretty)

Diff'rent Strokes (whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis? and wishing I could be as rich as the Drummonds)

Fantasy Island (de plane! de plane! that is my ONLY memory of this show)

Buck Rogers (cool white suit on Buck; the imagining of space)

The Facts of Life (Tootie and roller skates, Jo and Blair fighting)

The Fall Guy (In the show's opening credits some guy is hanging from a freeway sign, I thought that was amazing!)

The Greatest American Hero (the theme song and the red flying suit)

Family Ties (Alex P. Keaton and Mallory and Skippy, the dorky neighbor)

Silver Spoons (Ricky Schroder---need I say more? And there was a toy train in the living room of the mansion that they got to ride in all the time)

The A-Team (Mr. T didn't like to fly in planes and his mohawk and heavy chains were amazing; they all rode around in a cool black van)

What a memory trip! The early eighties are when I first remember TV. We had one downstairs in our house in Burley, Idaho. I don't remember a TV before that time. I remember my parents finishing the basement and adding this family room. It seems like it had red, fuzzy carpet and a wood-burning stove in the corner. It was a nice, new room. I don't remember a stick of furniture in the room though. Just an old green bean bag and the TV. We had only three or four channels because we lived "out in the country" about a mile out of town. I guess the "in-town" homes had access to two or three more channels than we did. Oh, the riches we would have experienced if we had only lived in town!

After this room was finished, I remember coming home after school and throwing off my backpack and racing down the stairs to watch Little House on the Prairie. I loved all the drama and varied storylines that Laura and her family experienced. I was confused though once I started reading the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder because the books were so different from the TV show.

My parents decided shortly after this that we spent far too much time watching our three channels of TV so they started placing restrictions on our TV time. We each were allowed to pick one show during the school week that we wanted to watch. That was the one and only show we could watch Sunday night through Thursday night. Between the five or six kids in the family at the time, we seemed to each want to watch different shows, so that meant most evenings somebody was downstairs watching his or her "one show." The upstairs would become mysteriously quiet at this time as each of us would slip down the stairs and in to the family room as inconspicuously as possible. If we could stay hidden (behind what? the non-existent furniture?) we might be able to watch a sibling's show and still watch our own show later that week. Well, that gig didn't last very long as the night's privileged TV watcher would start calling out "Mom and Dad, so-and-so is in here watching my show! It's not fair! I didn't get to see his or her show! I should get to watch another show now!" Waaaaaaah!

So, that rule quickly gave way to no TV on school nights. Which meant Monday through Thursday night we had to act like the 13-inch electronic gizmo in the basement held no attraction for us. But watch out Friday afternoon! We would peel off the bus in a pack of legs and flying school books when the bus driver let us off at our gravel driveway. The rule was whoever got to the TV first controlled which channel and which shows we watched. Bloody murder would ensue. We would bypass snacks and drinks and the bathroom to get to the TV. For whoever flipped it on held the ultimate control: he or she could control which channel and which show we watched. If you decided to go to the bathroom or go upstairs any time after turning on the TV, you relinquished control, so I learned early the benefits of long-lasting bladder control.

We would spend the rest of the weekend gorging ourselves on TV.

Now, I say "gorging" with a grain of salt because it felt like gorging after a week of watching nothing. But we could only watch it for a couple of hours on Friday night until dinner. Then Dad usually got first dibs on any choice of TV show for the evening. Saturday morning the TV channels didn't even run programming until 6 am. (You know, the screen just buzzed as it showed you a multi-striped page with the channel logo on it) At 5:59 am, one of the channels had a plane that would take off to show that it was beginning its programming. I watched alot of planes take off in the bleary-eyed dawn of that Saturday morning basement.

Once again the rule reigned: whoever turned on the TV got to control the channels and shows that we watched. So, as a little eight and nine year old I was waking up multiple times on Friday night to check the time, just so I could be the first one in the family room that Saturday morning. My fiercest competitors were the brother just older than me (by 20 months) and the brother just younger than me (by 21 months). Some weeks I won, and some I didn't. I don't remember what horrors of channel watching I was subjected to when either of them controlled the TV, but I do remember the only show I was ever truly interested in watching: The Smurfs.

Those little blue people, to this day, are the only cartoon I remember from my childhood. I loved watching them. Papa Smurf, Smurfette and all the others seemed so exciting and fascinating to me. I hated the orange cat and the wicked sorcerer (what were their names? Something like Gargumel and Azriel? Help, anyone?), but they certainly provided lots of excitement for the Smurfs.

Saturday morning TV only lasted until 8:00 or 9:00 am when we had to turn off the TV to do our morning chores. Our mom was so mean. Other kids got to watch cartoons until 10:00 am or 11:00 am but we had to work.

The TV went back on after our Saturday night baths when we watched Donny and Marie. And of course, we couldn't watch TV on Sunday except for occasionally a Walt Disney special movie. So, that was the gorging we did as kid TV watchers.

Those were the days of my innocence. When I was 12 years old we moved to Utah and lived "in town" with access to more than three channels. The "no-TV-on-a-school-night" rule reigned supreme for the rest of my growing up years. We still had limited channels though because my parents didn't get cable until I was in college it seems. Now with things like TiVo and DVRs we can watch whatever we want whenever we want. I even saw an episode of The Diff'rent Strokes the other day. And I love HGTV. Best cable network, ever.

Despite all this nostalgia, I did read an article recently that really got me thinking. It was about a gentleman that gave up TV ten years ago. He describes well the hazards and benefits of such a choice here.

Believe it or not, I might just follow his advice. Then, I might be freeeeee!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Biding My Time

Sorry, about the lapse of a few weeks. Let's just chalk it up to life getting a little busier than I would like. In the meantime, I just had to share this great, great news about my job.

I've been complaining for months (some might say years) about my job. This is how I chalk it up: great work environment and great people but the actual content of my job has moved more and more into the technological realm and I've grown less and less interested. And I'm not just talking less interested, but also bored stiff out of my mind. The kind of boredom that makes me daily want to drag my fingernails along a chalkboard and scream with delight at the act--simply because it is something that interests me more than what I'm doing every day.

I've felt like a giant slug too because the things I'm forced to discuss in this technological realm are things like databases, servers or programming languages. Some kind of latent guilt keeps coming up too for me that I should be interested in these things because I was being forced to discuss and think about them and I should be able to procure even a modicum of wonder in them. Nope. Nada. Nothing. I would much rather clean my toenails and tweeze the hair from my legs one follicle at a time then ever discuss these items again. Many, many times in the last few months, I've been in the middle of an important discussion that involves one of these items and I've been struck dumb when this thought clangs with brilliant clarity throughout my brain cavity "I do not want to spend my time discussing this. Ever. Ever Again."

And so has begun the long, slow dance of disentangling myself from this web of responsibility. I work for a very small company or division of a company (about 12 full-time people) and we have been trying (stupidly) to support our own IT team. In other words, we've been trying to output big products and customize our web presence the way a larger company or a better-funded company might do it. All it has done is cause me heartache and pain because I'm over this division. I've said for a long time we are trying to do a job with little or no resources but with all the expectation that accompanies those better resources. And the gap between our delivery and our expected benchmark of achievement has killed me.

But now to the good news! Finally, finally, finally after years of trying to communicate this issue, I think we've broken ground. A few of us as a team, pooled our brain resources and started AGAIN researching one aspect of the problem --a database to handle subscription services. Today we had a presentation by one of the companies we researched and that presentation was a revelation to me. My years of headache and heartache might ACTUALLY HAVE A SOLUTION!!! This sales rep for this company kept talking about their solution and the more he talked the lighter and lighter I felt inside. My stomach unclenched from a three-year long clench and my grin got wider and wider and wider until I felt like a little kid on my first trip to Disneyland. Every option he showed us solved yet another technological problem we are having or we are anticipating in our company. Every new screen he toured for us, offered options and advantages at my fingertips that I would have only DREAMED about before. It is like we have been working in a tiny grass hut with a mud floor and this gentleman came along and offered us a 30,000 square foot mansion that boasts an indoor swimming pool, indoor tennis court, and is move-in ready. We can even, at no extra cost, have a full-time gourmet chef at our disposal. It's like I was given the moon.

I'm so relieved I want to cry and dance and sing all at the same time. I've been trying to talk myself down from cloud nine all day because we only met with this sales rep for an hour and despite what I gathered from our conversation, I still have to ensure that this solution would really, really work the way I think it will. Yet, if it does, if it really delivers what I think is promised inside its lovely, lovely offering, my entire work life will change and that would be an answer to my prayers.

It all comes with giant price tag. Money, money, money, money. So that will be the next hurdle if we finally decide to go this route. But that hurdle seems like the barest ant hill to me after the mountain I've been carrying around. A completely do-able ant hill. And an ant hill I will gladly encounter, if I can only get this crying-singing-dancing under control that keeps bursting out of me.

One way or the other, I'm taking this show on the road.


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