Friday, February 26, 2010

Nine Beaches In Five Days

So I am here in St. Thomas. And the waves are lapping at my feet. And I am lapping at a piƱa colada. And it is my last full day. And I want to cry. I know, poor me. Well, i will be back in the land of cold and frost and Internet access tomorrow night. Talk to you then. If tou are still out there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Technology and Me

It all started when I was trying to get pregnant 6 years ago. I found a website to monitor my cycle on and ended up joining several of their "buddy groups" (smaller, semi-private message boards for women with something in common--location, fertility issue, etc.).

A few years later, when that fertility website wanted to start charging us to sit around and gab all day about our cervical fluid (AS IF), the LDS buddy group I had joined split off and started our own forum. But I kept up with a couple of the groups who stayed as well.

A year or so after that, one friend from the LDS forum became an avid blogger. And she kept asking me, "Did you read my blog today?" I hadn't. And I thought at the time, "What do you think I do? Sit around and read people's blogs all day??"

HA.HA.HA. If only I could have foreseen my own future....

Slowly, more and more people I knew were beginning to blog. By this time, I was reading emails, had kept up with 3 different buddy groups, plus my LDS forum, and had several internet "pen pals" that I wrote back and forth with regularly. I couldn't imagine finding more time in my day to be on the internet. Well, actually I could. But I was seriously afraid of what it would do to my life. Well, a year or two later I finally gave in to the whole blogging thing, not sure if I would like it or even have something to say (AS IF). And what do you know, I quickly found myself doing exactly what I had previously scoffed at....sitting around and doing nothing all day but reading people's blogs!

But that is IT, I told myself. I already spend way too much time on the internet. I have got to cut back somewhere.

Then along came Facebook. I consider myself a pretty technologically savvy person. I like to stay on the cutting edge of things. But I had a feeling Facebook would make me even more likely to neglect my children, get yelled at by my husband, and have my fingers permanently meld to the keyboard. So I did sign up, and I added friends little by little, but I never got into the whole constant-posting-of-every-tiny-aspect-of-my-life part of it. And even less into the constantly-reading-about-every-tiny-aspect-of-your-life part of it. I mostly used Facebook for the "So THAT's what he/she looks like after all these years!" feature of it. And I think I'm pretty comfortable leaving it that way. Especially since I'm seriously rubbed wrong by the fact that some people seem to think that posting things on Facebook is the same thing as talking to someone in person. (It's NOT, in case you're not clear on that, some of you.) I literally discovered, in a one week period, missed announcements of one friend's baby's birth, one friend moving to another part of the country, and one friend getting married. ALL OF THESE EVENTS WERE ONLY POSTED ON FACEBOOK. No mailings, no phone calls, no "hey let's get together before I move to Oregon"s. Just "I'm flinging this out there to the whole world and if you happen to check my status during the 3 hours it shows up in your feed, then you'll know this super important thing about my life, and if not, oh well." See.....that's just not how I want to live my life. I know everyone says the internet is here to bring us closer together, make connections, blah blah blah... It's all lies, if you ask me. The way I see it, internet technology has allowed us to become so isolated from the real people in our lives--our next door neighbors, our kids' friends' moms, the people in our office, etc.--that we can avoid actually talking to another human being that we care about for years if we utilize all the technology available to us. We can spend 8 years in a house without our next door neighbor ever knowing our name.

And then there's Twitter. I can't even go there.

As much as I feel like this may mean that I've reached the point in my life where I will start being "old," or stop being hip, or will no longer be as technologically advanced as humanly possible......I think I might be OK with that.

Because my next door neighbor on one said is named Dave. And my next door neighbors on the other side are Steve and Marilyn. And my neighbor behind me is Heather. And their dogs are named Cooper and Regis and Ein. And I bring them muffins sometimes. And they lend me Paprika when I need it. And I send out real, actual, paper invitations in the mail and pick up the phone to talk to the people I love. And that makes me feel like the people around me are real and I am real. It makes me feel connected to the world. More connected than 140 characters of text on my iPhone ever could.
p.s. This doesn't mean I don't love you if you're way more technologically advanced than me now. It just means I think I'm going to stay here for a while. I hope you'll still love me too.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Don't Hate Me

Starting Wednesday, my wardrobe for the next 6 days will consist of:

I still need a sundress to fill in the gaps between lying on the beach and traveling to and from the beach. I know it won't be very much time I'll need to fill, but, you know, I might want breakfast on the terrace once or twice. Anyone know where I can get a cute sun dress this time of year?

I know, I know, I'll be collecting your hate mail shortly. You can mail it to ST.THOMAS!!!!!

(But I'm serious about the sun dress ideas....anyone?)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

I just read the best book I've read in several years: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

I saw this book about two years ago in a book store and thought it looked intriguing. I wrote it down in my phone so I would remember to look for it at the library. But I never followed through. And I missed out on this fantastic book for two years!

It's the story of how one man sacrificed everything to bring education to girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. An extreme mountain climber, Greg Mortensen got lost on his descent from a failed climb of K2 in Pakistan and ended up in a remote village. The village chief took him in and nursed him back to health. There Greg discovered that there were no schools anywhere in this mountainous area, and he decided to find a way to build a school there. The book goes on to tell his amazing adventures in raising money, building a bridge and then a school, and traveling to other remote and poverty-stricken areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan to bring basic education to the area, especially its girls.

It is such an inspiring tale. First of all, it points out what one person can do with some determination and hard work. He managed to build over 40 schools by the time of publication! But more importantly to me, it highlighted an area of the world I knew only a little about and demonstrated how these poor, simple Muslim people would sacrifice everything they had--the few rupies they had collected over the years, their own labor and health, land, materials, etc.--to give their children, their daughters, a chance at a better life. They're such a misunderstood people. We think of Muslims from that area as extremists and terrorists. But all of the people in the book, including some of the highest Muslim leaders in the country, hoped only for a better life for their children, peace, education, understanding, and condemned the hateful, violent behavior of a few of their countrymen.

I was so inspired by the end of this book that I was, first of all, in tears. And secondly, motivated to do something. The book said that one penny could buy a child a pencil, a dollar a month could pay for a child's education, and a dollar a day was enough to pay a teacher's salary. I spend enough to pay for all three of those things in one meal going out to eat on the weekend. It's amazing to think that that small amount of money could mean a child in Pakistan grows up loving life, believing in him or herself, and understanding the world beyond her village instead of being recruited by terrorist schools.

Anyway, read this book. It is wonderful, touching, and exciting. And it will change how you feel about the people in that part of the world who get such a bad name by a few extremists in their midst.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


This commercial totally cracks me up. Anyone seen it?


Plus he's hot. That is some gooood advertising.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crazy Eight

Once upon a time, a girl got a job at a restaurant. Despite years of serving experience, she was forced to do the lowly job of bussing tables for a time. The one bright spot in her dreary job was the funny assistant manager. He didn't check her tables at the end of the day to make sure they were wiped clean enough. He didn't pull the chairs out to see if she had missed a crumb. He turned the music on really loud once all the customers were gone for the night, and he challenged the employees to 1980's sitcom and movie quote quizzes.

Soon the man was promoted to manager. He never let it go to his head. He continued to be fun, lenient, and easy to get along with. He made everyone laugh. He had a nice butt. He was great. But he was taken.

After a couple of years, the girl completed her university studies, all except her student teaching. She decided to go abroad and fill that requirement in Fiji. She packed up her things and scoured the phone book for a cheap place to store her stuff while she was gone. She hit on one place; it was several miles outside of town, but it was cheaper than all the rest. She stowed her things, and off she went to the South Pacific.

Four months later, the girl returned. She drove down to the storage unit to pick up her things. She loaded them in the car. Just as she was driving out of the storage place, another car was driving in. She thought she recognized the small, gold Montero as that of her former manager. She slowed down and peered out the window to see. The Montero slowed and a head popped out, looking back at her. It was the manager. So the two got out of their cars to talk. His former relationship was over. He was single. And he just happened to be going out disco skating that night with a couple of other former employees from the restaurant (who, incidentally, he had never hung out with before or since). He asked the girl to accompany him. She agreed.

That night, the girl got to witness her former boss shaking his groove thing in tight brown bell-bottoms with a silky v-neck shirt, buttoned low. It was hot. He was a good skater. She was impressed.

That night they talked at his house long into the night. The next day he called her and they hung out again. They kept on hanging out for several years until, finally, they decided to hang out forever. They took the requisite cheesy pictures, smiling at each other and kissing. And then, eight years ago today, they gathered their closest family into their 108-year old Victorian house's sunny front room, exchanged $20 rings from the silver kiosk at the mall, and vowed to love each other forever.

So far so good. Happy eight years, Sweetie.

Hare Today, Goon Tomorrow

The other day we started teaching our kids the Little Bunny Foo Foo song. They really liked it. But I couldn't quite remember all of the words. I knew that the good fairy threatens to turn him into something or other if he doesn't stop bopping the field mice on the head, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what. So finally tonight after I made up half the words again, Big Daddy decided to look them up. He plugged the title into You Tube to see if there were any cute videos to go with the song. And here's the little gem he came up with...

Uh.....I might not be showing this version to my kids.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Can you say, "precocious?"

I am having teenage conflicts with my daughter right now. She is not a teenager. She is not even a tweenager. She is four. She is four years old and causing me such angst that I've been lying awake at night trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong and what I can change to make her behave and if that older couple at church who thinks she's so cute might want to adopt her.

She is what the psychology books like to call "strong-willed." She is what I like to call "a brat." Up to this point in my life I thought that bratty kids were the product of too much indulgence. Wishy washy parenting. Push-overs. Never being said no to. Having ice cream for breakfast and presents whenever you stomped your feet.


I consider myself a good parent, and by good I mean that I make my kids eat their fruits and vegetables, I limit their TV time, I don't allow them to run through the neighborhood with no coat and shoes in January (and this is a real example from my neighborhood, I kid you not), and I actually enforce discipline. I say no way more than I say yes, and I follow through on consequences.

So what gives? Why does this method work fine on my second child while making my eldest child so horrible that her teachers at school have had to talk to me no less than five times this school year? About PRESCHOOL. She isn't mean. She isn't snotty. She isn't belligerent. She's actually very charming and cheerful. She is just very very sure that her way is the way things should be done and if you don't agree with her, she will explain it to you until you do. Or until you jump off a bridge just to end the discussion.

This tiny, willful, 32 lb package of joie de vivre is making me crazy. She's making me feel like a bad parent. She is making me shake in my boots about the day she turns 13. Because if we can't seem to get along now, what is going to happen once the REAL hormones kick in???!!!!

Normally I feel pretty confident about my parenting. I managed whole classrooms of six, seventh, eighth, and ninth graders for six years without any problem. But this child has thrown me for a loop. So if anyone has any books that they highly recommend that will instantly make my daughter into a saint, please feel free to list them now.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Texas Check-In

I guess that last post was a bit much for most of you to chew on. (Or it could be that I have completely slacked off on reading other blogs since I've been here, so I have been forgotten.....weep, weep.) Anyway, let's try something simpler.

So, I'm in Texas. It is supposed to be 50-70 degrees this time of year. It was 38 today. With sleet. I want my money back.

On the other hand, I've had a whole week of hanging with Jennie, so that pretty much makes up for it.

I've had two canker sores on the inside of my bottom lip for well over a week. They hurt like hell and will NOT go away. And since the area is swollen, I keep accidentally re-biting them. Stupid vampire fangs.

On the other hand, I've been eating some seriously good food since I got here. Barbeque, Mexican, Greek (the best greek chicken salad on the face of earth. Twice), desserts, Blue Bell ice cream (Ok, that is just Big Daddy's indulgence, but it is pretty good ice cream. Even one day where I ate breakfast, then lunch, then I had cookies and brownies for dinner. AWESOME. Tomorrow? Boston Market. Yeah!

I'm staying at a hotel with TWO bedrooms, a kitchen and living room and two bathrooms. Let me just tell you, it is a saweet way to travel with kids. You lock one in one room, one in the living room, and then you get to sleep in peace in your own bedroom. Why did it take us so long to find this hotel???

U.S. Airways SUCKS. I've got a whole other post about this, but it's a doozie, so I thought I'd just sum up here in case anyone misses that post. Once again, U.S. AIRWAYS SUUUUUCKS.

A good pillow can make all the difference to whether or not you get a good night's sleep at a hotel. So can ear plugs.

I'm reading a super good book right now. Three Cups of Tea. I can hardly put it down.

Exactly two weeks until I will be waking up to this view:

and not this one:

I've had a cold since the day I arrived here in Texas. I am so incredibly snotty. I hate it when my vacation is dictated by how close I am to a box of tissues. Can I go mini-golfing with my kids? Hmm, that depends. How close is the nearest box of tissues? Can I go to dinner? That depends. Can I carry enough tissues in my purse to make it through the meal? Shopping? Probably out of the question. Too far to go to get to tissues. See? LAME.

OK, I think that does it. I'll be seeing you on your blog again soon, as soon as I return to the REAL LIFE. Wah.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Very Belated Thank You

On a cold, foggy night in January, 1994, I arrived in New Delhi, India. I had flown all day and most of the night, and I was exhausted. But it would be several hours before I would be able to sleep. First I had to clear customs and immigration. I tried to rub the sleep from my eyes.

I found my extra-large backpack--the largest Jan Sport made--stuffed until the seams nearly split (for it would need to provide clothing and basic necessities for 4 months) rotating slowly on the baggage carousel. I made my way through the crowds of foreigners and locals-coming-home to the area where my bags would be searched. Customs was thorough. I repacked as best I could.

Time for the crazy part: Getting out of the airport. Despite the hour (3am), the cold (40 degrees) and the thick nightly mist, the exit from the airport was packed with pushing, shouting men offering their services as taxi and rickshaw drivers. I'd been warned by my professor ahead of time about this situation. "Just keep looking straight ahead," he had said. "Don't speak except to say 'no thank you,' and don't make eye contact with anyone. And hold on tight to your bags." So I did just that. I won't say it wasn't intimidating, maybe even frightening to have several dozen men try to steer you to their vehicles while shouting, "This way, Madam!" "Cheap ride from me! This way!" But my imitation of confidence must have been convincing because soon I was through the throng in once piece and heading towards my bus.

There were only half a dozen of us on the bus, including my friend and travel companion Rachelle. The driver was snoozing while he waited for the proper time to leave. Soon we were on our way. It was hard to see anything through the darkness and fog, but I caught glimpses of cement walls along the street plastered with Bollywood posters and scrawled with Hindi graffiti. A few late-night rickshaws dartied in and out of side streets. But most of the world was asleep.

We reached our hostel, the Blue Triangle YMCA, after half an hour. And despite our reconfirmed reservations, the man at the front desk seemed to have no idea that Rachelle and I were coming. He told us we would have to sort it out with the morning manager. In the meantime, he would send us to the two available beds in the hotel--those in two separate dormitory style rooms.

My room was a long rectangle, maybe 50 feet long. A row of perhaps 8 or 10 low beds flanked one wall while lockers flanked the other. At the end were a couple of sinks and a door to the toilet and shower room. The dormitory was cold. Though the curtains were drawn on some of the windows, others were bare. I could see several broken panes of glass letting in the cold, damp air.

All of the beds were filled with sleeping occupants; all but one, at the end closest to the door. It had a cushion-like mattress, no pillow, and no blankets. The porter who showed me to my room threw up his hands when I asked him for bedding. "All full" was all he would say. It was well past 4am at this point and I was just too tired to argue. So I took out a sweater from my backpack to use as a pillow and curled up on the bed to sleep.

I shivered awake for a while, too cold to sleep. I replayed the last few hours in my mind, recalling the details I had been too overwhelmed to notice--how dark all the faces had been, the lack of women at that hour, the thick smell of pollution, the strange trees, the mangy dogs roaming the roads, and men in turbans and lungis warming their hands over make-shift stoves. As I thought, occasional noises from cars or buses would make their way through the broken windows, but mostly I heard only the sounds of sleeping strangers. Eventually fatigue must have overcome me, because the next thing I knew a faint light was coming through the windows. There was movement and soft voices in the room. And I was suddenly very warm. I forced my weary eyes to blink open a few times, and I saw the sweet face of a young Japanese girl leaning over me as she placed a thick blanket on my curled up body. I think I tried to smile. But before I could squeeze out a thank you, I had relaxed into exhausted, contented sleep.

When I awoke a few hours later, it was full daytime. I got up and went to the window. The mist outside was nearly gone. Somewhere in the distance, a muezzin was calling the faithful to prayer. I turned to examine my surroundings, but the room's occupants were all gone for the day. I repacked my sweater pillow and found the day manager downstairs. Soon I was situated in the correct room two floors up with the other students from my group. We got busy exploring Delhi, visiting the temples and gurdwaras, sampling the local food, and basking in the ecstasy of dirt-cheap shopping. I never saw the group who I had shared a room with on the first night. And I never got a chance to thank the girl who took the time to cover the shivering stranger the end of the room. She is out there somewhere. And she has no idea that I still think of her with gratitude, 16 years later.

So wherever you are, Angel, thank you.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Forever Young

Yesterday I bought my first age defying product. AGE defying. I hate that I am of an age that I have to say "age" like it's a dirty word. Maybe I should start using it to replace some of my usual cuss words. "Age it!" "You age face!" That sort of thing.

I didn't buy it because I feel old or because I'm worried that I look old. I mean I do feel old, and I am worried that I'm starting to look older too. But I mostly bought it because I wanted a cream blush and evidently they are VERY hard to come by at the old Target. So when I found a cream blush in the right color, I got it. Regenerist serum and all.

And you know what? I like it. It's a good color. Very creamy. And I think I might be looking youmger already...

What about you? Do you buy age related products? Do you find that they help at all?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

The other day I was sitting on my bed, messing around on my computer. It was mid-morning . The kids were upstairs playing, the cat was dozing in her usual spot on my comforter. In the corner of my mind, I noticed a sound. Tippity-tap. Tap tap tap. Tap. Tippity-tap. Tap. "What is that sound?" I thought. It kind of sounded like icicles melting and dripping. Only there weren't any icicles outside my window. So I went back to typing. A few seconds later I heard it again. Tippity-tap-tap. TAP. "What IS that?" I wondered more emphatically. I looked around, tilting my head to catch the direction of the sound. Almost on cue, the cat started looking around as well. And then her eyes drifted upward, to the ceiling. That's when I noticed the crack in the ceiling above my bed. That crack that was DRIPPING WATER ONTO MY CEILING FAN!

CRAAAAP! I thought very emphatically this time. OK, I might have actually yelled it out loud. And I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter, only I was pretty sure it wasn't the dancing and prancing of little reindeer hooves.

It wasn't. I was the pouring and gushing of water onto the floor in the upstairs bathroom. And it was an inch deep! One of my lovely children had turned on the sink to play in and had wandered off, leaving it running. And it just happened (I now noticed) to be one of those rare sinks with no hole do-hickey at the back of the sink to let water out when the sink gets too full. So instead of draining out the non-existent hole do-hickey, it had drained out the top of the basin and onto my floor and through the floor onto the ceiling and through the ceiling onto my ceiling fan, and from the ceiling fan down onto my comforter.

I wasn't sure what I should do first...clean up the water or beat my children. I decided that the beatings could wait (although I did a fair amount of shrieking and ranting, just to set the right mood for what was to come) and pulled all the freshly washed and folded towels onto the floor to mop up the mess.

That done, the interrogation began. Daphne, of course, blamed it on Beck. Beck, of course, said it was him because he admits to anything you ask him, even when he wasn't around when it happened. This was one of those cases where I honestly had no idea which one of them it was. So I did the only fair thing I could come up with--I spanked them both. And though I'm not much for physical punishment, when the ruination of the house is the issue at hand, I find it helpful to punctuate your remarks in a more memorable way than the usual screaming and hair pulling (that would be my own in these lesser cases).

After all that, I realized it was nearly 11 and I still hadn't gotten dressed. So I got in the shower. And when I got out and walked into my room, the cat was staring more intently up at the ceiling. And there was a new sound. Tink, spat. Tinkity tink tink, splat splat splat. This would be the sound of a serious amount of liquid RAINING onto my comforter, my laptop, my iPhone, and my house phone, all of which were clustered under the ceiling fan where I'd left them when I ran upstairs.

Luckily, none of them were ruined. I powered them all down and let them air dry, and they all seem fine. My ceiling, however, has seen better days. And my cat has moved her mid-morning nap spot to the floor a few feet away from my bed. Just in case.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Cockoo For Cocoa Puffs

You know that saying that you have to choose your battles? Well, I finally waved the white flag when it came to the Great Battle of the Cereal. Big Daddy wanted to buy the sugary kind, I wanted to give the kids something more nutritious. I actually threw out the Lucky Charms a couple of times because my kids would only eat the marshallows (that's what they call them). But the Corn Pops, Sugar Smacks, and Honeycombs kept coming in, and naturally they liked them better than the Dirt & Bran Twigs and Pecan Pine Cones I kept buying, so I gave in.

Personally, though, I prefer less sugary cereals. For one, those sugar cereals aren't very filling. But also, breakfast candy just isn't the same now as its 1980's counterparts. Sugar cereals used to be delicious treats on the rare occasions that we got them. But now Cookie Crisp and Peanut Butter Captain Crunch are made of a strange space materials that resemble cereal......until it gets wet. Then it blows up in to this nasty, frothy goo. EEEWWW. No thanks. But for some reason my kids still love it. I guess cause they don't know any better.

Well, this week I found a new sugary atrocity in my cabinet, care of Big Daddy: Cocoa Puffs. I couldn't remember actually ever buying these, even as a kid. But somewhere in the furthest recesses of my mind, a dark chocolaty flavor waved around like a cocoa mirage. I wondered if I actually had eaten this cereal and if it might actually be tasty, as my memory seemed to suggest.

IT WAS! Sweet heaven of chocolate breakfast, it was. My first bite almost made me drop my spoon, it was so good. It tasted like super fudgey brownie bites! FOR BREAKFAST! I quickly scarfed up a whole bowl. Then another. Then another. I guess those sugary cereals CAN be filling. All you have to do is eat three bowls.
Hmmmm.....maybe losing a battle once in a while isn't such a bad thing after all.