Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Cyber Monday, Can Someone Log On And Get Me A Life?

This post is going to make me look bad, so before I get into it I would like to brag about my Thanksgiving triumph, just to even things out.  I don’t know if you guys know this about me but I make really good caramel.  (Care-a-mell?  Or Car-mull?  I say “car-mull”, not because I feel strongly that it’s correct, but because it’s fewer syllables.  And I’m lazy.)  I mean, REALLY good.  Not like I’m trying to toot my own horn or anything but…what’s that?  Oh yeah, *beep*beep*!  It’s slap-your-mama-smoke-a-cigarette-to-calm-you-down good.  Not that you should slap your mama OR smoke a cigarette, because both would be bad.  I’m just saying this stuff makes a person do cRaZy things, so you have to be careful. 

Anyway, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for the name tags to label the place settings at my Thanksgiving table and decided that I would make (make!) chocolate caramel apples with toasted almonds, using my homemade caramel recipe.  So I did.  I dipped granny smith apples in the homemade caramel, let it set, then dipped it in milk chocolate, and coated the bottom with chopped, toasted almonds before settling it onto wax paper.  The next day I gathered each apple into a cellophane bag, tied it with a ribbon, and attached a name tag to the top to mark each guest’s spot.  This is probably the point where I should grace you with a picture but, remember?  LAZY.  Unless I’m making homemade caramel, then I can be quite stellar. 

Okay, so we’re all clear on the fact that I CAN be impressive when I really want to be, right?  Excellent.  Now for my confession.

Remember a few weeks ago when Samantha ended up in the hospital and I couldn’t sleep so I watched Friday Night Lights on my iPhone?  Well, see, what I didn’t tell you is that I hadn’t ever watched this show before, so I started with season 1, episode 1.  It was brain candy, which was exactly what the doctor ordered.  (Well, technically the doctor ordered morphine, but I was noticeably absent on that recipient list.  Trust me, I asked.)  But then I wanted (needed) to see episode 2, and since I still wasn’t sleeping I went ahead and hit “Play”.  Then Samantha came home and Cory left for China and I was all alone day and night for 9 days, leaving a ripe environment for the over consumption of predictable television where The Breakfast Club meets a football field and a modern day Ward & June Cleaver take over Dillon, Texas.

That, my friends, was the point of no return.  It’s been 3 weeks and I’m on episode 58.  Do you know how much television that is?!  Let me tell you, it’s enough television to make a girl who is still on the couch in her underwear at 11:00 am ask the tough questions like, will Landry be convicted of murder for saving Tyra from her rapist?  Can Coach Taylor lead the Panthers to a State Championship?  Is poor Tim Riggins going to put down the bottle in favor of a better life?  Will Jason Street ever walk again?  Is Lyla ever going to be able to hang her head in disappointment without having a perfect strand of bangs fall across her face?  Like I said, the tough questions.

I’ve watched it in the car. 
I’ve watched it in bed.
I’ve watched it at the kitchen table.
On the couch.
In the (seriously) bathroom.
I would watch it on a boat with a goat or in a house with a mouse. 
Here or there. 
It’s shameful.  I’m not proud of it, but I still have to finish seasons 4 and 5 so I’m not out of the woods yet.

But I make really good caramel.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rock, Scissors, Dynamite

If you are checking blogs on Thanksgiving you probably got a really easy assignment for dinner.  Be honest, you're in charge of the olives, aren't you?  (Olives!  I almost forgot.)  Good for you.  Nevertheless, I assume if you are bored enough to be checking blogs on Thanksgiving you are in serious need of some entertainment.  Or maybe you're just kickin' it until Black Friday starts AT MIDNIGHT so the consumer gods can point down at us and laugh.  Either way, I'm here for you.  At least until 11:30 pm, which is probably when I'll need to grab a leftover turkey leg and head to Target.

My niece (Hi Meg!) sent this to me the other day and I almost wet my pants, which doesn't really convey how funny it is because I've had a hysterectomy and my bladder works about as well as a water balloon at a porcupine festival.  But, here you go.  Love it or leave it.  I recommend the former.

That's only the beginning though, because once my niece sent me that one I had to have more.  So I clicked on "Happy As A Clam" and almost wet my pants AGAIN.  Because, yeah.

There's something about his accent that elevates the beauty of this whole experience.  He seems genuinely annoyed, which makes me feel genuinely amused.  Which is why I had to watch one more:

So much better than Black Friday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More Precious Than Rubies But Not As Precious As Jumping Off Waterfalls in Kauai.

I knew it would happen eventually.

Last week I sat next to my daughter who was about to receive an award of recognition (in the form of a necklace) at church for doing a crap load of admirable stuff.  It's called her Young Womanhood Recognition, and is earned through a rigorous, lengthy process that begins when they are 12 and ends whenever they finish all the requirements, but must be completed by their 18th birthday.  Most people wait until they are 17 years, 11 months, 29 days and 23 hours old to complete everything, but what can I say?  Samantha takes after her father.  Although the necklace's design has changed over time, women have been earning these awards for decades and many resurrect their medallions for such a night as this.  Jewelry that has sat at the bottom of the box for months will get pulled out, dusted off and displayed around one's neck as a unifying symbol of generations of good works and obedience.

I used to have one.

I don't anymore. 

This was the first time Samantha noticed.  Just before the program was to start she settled into the seat next to me and noticed the woman next to me who was fielding questions about the snazzy chain cradling her medallion.  After peeking at my bare neck she asked,  "Hey Mom, why aren't you wearing your necklace?"

I looked at her and smiled.  "You're so pretty."
"What?  No seriously, where is it?"
"Ummm...I sold it?"
She laughed.  "No, really."
"Uh, that IS for real."
"You SOLD it?  Why?"
"I needed the money to take your Dad to Hawaii."
"Wow.  That's just sad," she said as she sat down, shaking her head at me and smiling in amused disbelief. 

The medallion these days has a small red gemstone below the emblem of the temple, our holiest place of worship.  That night Samantha approached me and asked, "Do you think we could take this gem out and replace it with my birthstone instead?" 
"Well," I answered, "do you know why they put a red one in it?"
"It's from the scripture that talks about your value being more precious than rubies (Proverbs 3:15) so no, I think you should keep that one."
She didn't miss a beat, "Oh!  This coming from the one who SOLD hers?!"
She proceeded to take one more crack at it and added, "Couldn't we just change it and say that my value is more precious than aquamarine?"

That girl.  Not even the Crown Jewels hold a candle.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's All In The Reflexes

We are fortunate that Cory doesn't have to travel very much with his job but when he does he goes to one of two places, Missouri or China.  As you might guess there are numerous similarities between the two, like both have people who live there and both have "i's" in their name.  It might stop there.  One of the differences is that when he goes to Missouri he is in and out pretty quickly, but China is another story seeing as it takes two days just to get there.  For real, he flew out on a Monday and got there on a Wednesday, skipping Tuesday entirely.  I think this is good information to have in case you have a really busy, horrible day coming up and you don't want to deal with it - book a trip to China and you can just skip it.  It's a coping mechanism the therapists won't tell you about.

Another difference can be noted in our phone conversations.  When Cory is in Missouri he calls me every night and we can talk as long as we want, and with Cory's passion for talking on the phone these exchanges can last as long as 5, even 7 minutes on a really good day.  Calls from China go more like this:
"Hey Vern."
"Hi honey!"
"I'm not dead or anything."
"That's excellent."
"I had pig's feet jelly and yellow watermelon for dinner."
"That's disgusting."
"Well, this is costing about 18 dollars a minute so I'd better go."
"Ok, bye."
Still, it's nice to know he's not stuck somewhere with Kurt Russell in a semi truck trying to free an innocent woman from a street gang.

People sometimes ask me if I would ever like to go with him to such a far away land, and while there are a lot of far away places that I would follow my one and only, China is not one of them.  On account of the pig's feet jelly, mostly.  The way I see it, if you live in a place that makes a soy granola bar sound like fettuccine alfredo based on your other options, it's probably not for me. 

Anyhow, we are really starting to miss him around here and it's not just because he usually drives Samantha to seminary at 6am every day.  Although Samantha has admitted her preference for her Dad's tendency to drive 55 in a 30 when she is late, and my speech about how in 18 years of marriage I have never received a single speeding ticket and Cory has 9...carry the one... I don't know, SEVERAL, is completely lost on her. 

For the most part we have been holding down the fort just fine during the past eight days, seven hours and fourteen minutes.  In fact, this last week has included four parenting pay off moments that he has completely missed - I feel badly about it, but at least I can text him certain details and he can mull it over while hunching over his pig footed stew.  However, we did hit a bit of a weak moment without him last night when Drew got home from basketball practice.

I was in the office that faces our driveway when Drew's ride pulled up to drop him off and seeing the headlights hit the window, I got up to go open the front door.  Unfortunately, when Drew came flying in so did a bird.  A BIRD!  WAS FLYING AROUND MY HOUSE!  Samantha was the first to jump in and help out as she shut herself in her bedroom, screaming.  I stood frozen in the entryway at a complete loss for how to proceed.  After fluttering around for a bit the bird calmed down and perched itself at the top of our stairs, allowing me to gather my thoughts.  Which I did, and after gathering them all together in one little pocket of my frontal lobe the one that cried out the loudest was, "Get your camera!"  So I grabbed my phone:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Keeping Mediocrity Alive

As a self proclaimed expert on mediocrity it shouldn't really surprise me when people aren't all that impressed by me.  It's not like I don't try, I'm just regularly upstaged.  Like in 5th grade when we had a cake decorating contest.  I thought, "Dude, I've GOT this."  Because I made a cake in the shape of a BAND-AID!  And surely nobody else was going to think of that, and if they did I bet they didn't make their cake from SCRATCH let alone use highly evolved tools like a toothpick to add texture, and who doesn't like to think about scabs and neosporin when biting down on a nice layer of buttercream anyway?  Like I said, I had this in the bag.

What I hadn't counted on was the castle cake.  Needless to say, sugar cone towers swathed in sparkly, blue sugar quickly relegated the band-aid cake to the honorable mention table.  My cake wasn't bad, it just wasn't the best.  Which was okay, it probably prepared me to ride the bench throughout my high school basketball career.  Which reminds me, the bench?  WHERE THE MEDIOCRE PEOPLE GO.  People like me were the ones who got invited to the party with the new Dutch exchange student who was cuter than a pillow pet at a carnival, but the Friday night one-on-one date always went to the starting forward, no matter how good I was at burping the alphabet to try and impress him.

At any rate, I like to think of this blog as an avenue for embracing my mediocrity, a place where I can say, "I never took a high school AP class and still got several B's," and you might like me anyway.  A place where I can vent about being voted the 'Just Happy To Be Here' award at Girls' Camp in 1983, which I am still bitter about.  I mean, really?  "Just Happy To Be Here?!"  That's the award for the girl who takes to macrame like Octa-Mom to the tabloids, declines your licorice in favor of the trail mix she brought from home, and reads Sci-Fi novels during her free time instead of playing cards and saran wrapping the toilet seats.  It's the laziest award I've ever received and that's coming from someone who got a green participation ribbon at her 4th grade track meet. 

But I'm evolved now.  Somehow blogging about mediocrity makes me feel more powerful, which is why I can share the following story with pride.  About a month ago I was asked to take over the teaching of a Sunday School class full of 9 and 10-year-olds at church.  I said yes, despite knowing that their previous teacher was a stellar overachiever who pored over her lessons for hours and then brought treats to the class in the form of chocolate covered cake balls on a stick.  She was awesome, and the kids LOVED her.  I showed up on week one with an object lesson and a few Skittles and thought I nailed it - the next week I got this note from one of my new students:

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Mean It, I Can't Do Cartwheels

We’re somewhat experienced with hospitals in our family.  I’ve had 2 babies, 4 pregnancies, and 2 surgeries, Cory has been hospitalized for a blood clot, and Drew has been under the knife 3 times.  Samantha is the only one who has skated by without drama but as a witness to most of the above, it has caused her a bit of anxiety to think about what might land her hooked up to an IV.  Well, now she knows.

When she woke up Friday morning with stomach pain we considered all of the obvious possibilities and treated it accordingly with Advil, TUMS, and a full DVR.  Nothing seemed to be working and by noon, the pain was getting worse.  I made an appointment to see her Pediatrician and by the time we showed up she was managing the stabs to her gut with short breaths, a firm grip on the door jam, and tightly shut eyes – like watching Courtney Love wake up in the morning.  He proceeded to ask her all the questions that challenge one’s dignity – when was your last period? Last bowel movement?  ARE YOU SEXUALLY ACTIVE?  I knew it was coming, that question, and I knew the answer.  But to interrupt the gentle yet humiliating exchange that was happening between daughter and Doctor with “Of course not Doc, she is perfect.  SHE GETS IT FROM HER PARENTS,” didn’t seem like the right move either.  So I kept my mouth shut and let her answer “No,” on her own.  Even though I already knew it, hearing her say it made me do a little cartwheel inside.  That’s how I do all my cartwheels since doing a cartwheel OUTside would require safety gear and a body double, and perhaps a life coach to build me up afterward.  Following the Spanish Inquisition he probed her stomach in all the right (and therefore wrong) places and after peeling her lifeless form off the ceiling, determined that she needed to go to the ER.

One CT scan, urine sample, pregnancy test (What part of “Not sexually active” was confusing to you?) and 40 MINUTE ULTRASOUND (“I’m sorry, it’s just that her hips are casting a shadow,” were the tech’s precise words) later, they decided she would need an appendectomy.  We were to meet with the surgeon in the morning and in the meantime, morphine would get Samantha through the night as I slept on the fold out couch made of bricks and toilet paper.

Morning came…wait a second.  To simply say “morning came” makes it sound like we dreamed of butterflies for 8 hours and woke up to the song of birds outside our window.  More accurately, I slept for 3 hours before the heretofore mentioned sleeping on bricks routine trumped my exhaustion and I was no longer able to abide trying to spoon the arm of the sofa under the coziness of my blankets manufactured by Kleenex so I got out my iPhone and watched Friday Night Lights on Netflix at 2:00 am.  Have I shared my testimony of iPhones lately?  Because I know they are true.  With every fiber of my being.  But this isn’t about me it’s about Samantha, who is 15 and smart and beautiful and not sexually active who happened to be sleeping…like one of the bricks that made up my bed. 

Good for her.  Even more good for her was when she woke up and her pain was gone.  GONE!  She was a little sore, probably from the lady trying to cast Samantha’s hip shadows into outer darkness but the pain that had played the role of the Exorcist only hours previously was gone.  Her white blood cell count leveled out and after further observation the surgeon determined that operating was no longer necessary, the new theory being that she had merely suffered from inflamed lymph nodes.  Only one more thing – they wanted to make sure she could hold down a regular meal.

Samantha had me call room service immediately.  Four French toast, two eggs, a piece of toast and some apple juice later, we got our discharge papers.

Friday, November 4, 2011

When You Meet A Werewolf Be Sure To Stop And Get A Picture

Yesterday's post may have seemed kind of random, but the truth is we had a little experience at Disneyland last week that exorcised that particular memory from my brain.  Samantha doesn't have a celebrity crush like her under-the-influence-of-Tiger Beat-mom did, but she does watch a lot of Disney channel with her younger brother. 

At first we didn't notice the small group of teens walking ahead of us along the waterfront of California Adventure, but eventually we observed that every time this young crowd passed by a set of girls, their eyes got big and the girls turned and excitedly whispered to each other.  I can't remember who in our group figured it out first, but we soon realized that one of the kids ahead of us was Gregg Sulkin who plays a werewolf and Selena Gomez's boyfriend on Wizards of Waverly Place.  

I turned to Samantha and begged her to go ask him for a picture - I could tell she wanted to, but she hesitated.  "Don't do what I did Samantha!" I told her, the Pierce Brosnan regrets now fully engaging my frontal lobe.  She didn't want to go alone but when she tried to rally Drew for company he vehemently shook his head and retreated further behind.  Finally, she approached my friend Jill and asked her, "Jill!  Will you go with me?"  Being the good sport that she is and someone for whom the word "shy" never applies, Jill was game and saved the day.  She ran up to him, tapped his shoulder and politely asked him for a picture.  And now I know that if Samantha ever marries a werewolf, they will look really good together:

(thanks to Jill for making it happen, and thanks Gregg for being a good sport!  You know I know you're reading this.  Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

And Now You Know The Rest Of The Story

If you have followed me here for very long you may have noticed my frequent yet brief references to my adolescent love of Pierce Brosnan.  At this point, however, I feel it is necessary to stress that there was nothing brief about my obsession with Pierce Brosnan and all of his Remington Steele-ness of the late 1980’s.  I loved him.  When his wife died I felt sad for him, and if he had taken the time to return my calls he would have known that.  When the show went off the air, I wrote NBC a letter and begged them not to steal my happiness.  I wrote about it in my journal every time I watched the show on Tuesday nights at 9/8 Central.  One time I saw his picture in a magazine and was so inspired I used a drawing technique to sketch my own copy of it:

I have even forgiven him for running like a dork and agreeing to sing in Mamma Mia.  I can do that because I’ve seen him walk along the beach in khakis and a white linen shirt. 

Which brings me to my next bit.

The year was 1989.  I had just wrapped up my first year of college and my sister, Suzi had just graduated from BYU.  She wanted to do something fun before accepting post-grad reality, and I didn’t have anyone begging me to be their roommate for college year #2 so we put our 22 and 18-year-old heads together and decided to go backpacking to Europe.  It was a brilliant plan, really, especially considering neither one of us had any money.  So we called our Mom, asked her if she would spot us until we could pay her back, and would you believe?!  She said yes.  My mother, who had 7 children and ground her own wheat to make bread and used chocolate powdered milk to make fudgesicles because she had to be resourceful as a stay-at-home mom being supported on a teacher’s salary, said YES.  Not, “Excuse me, but the last trip *I* took out of the country was to cross the border to Tijuana to get the car painted, so how about I go to Europe and I’ll send you a postcard.”  To this day I consider it one of her greatest acts of love.  I’d like to think I pay her back every time I write something warm and inspiring on this blog…oh, crap.  Maybe I should just get her something really nice for Christmas…?

So, Suzi and I went shopping for backpacks and money purses that we could strap on under our shirts to protect our cash and hopped a plane to Europe. One major bonus was that my other sister, Lori was living in London at the time so we enjoyed some serious sister bonding with her before exploring the continent.  One such day took us to downtown London – we posed in Picadilly Square, lunched at the Hard Rock CafĂ©, and posed with the Royals at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.  We gallivanted through Harrod’s and eventually the three of us took up the sidewalk as we strolled the side streets to window shop.  There we were, chatting and shopping and moseying along when all of the sudden I looked up, and there he was.  Pierce Brosnan.  With one hand in the pocket of his black suit he was sauntering toward me like any other citizen on the streets, except to me, THIS WAS NO ORDINARY CITIZEN.  I still remember thinking, “Holy crap, he’s even more beautiful in person.”  His eyes were mesmerizing, so much so that I stood in a trance before realizing that he was passing me, and I was missing it, and AREN’T YOU GOING TO DO SOMETHING YOU STUPID GIRL?!  I had a camera!  In my pocket!  Because I was a tourist!  And the love of my life was passing me AND I WASN’T ASKING HIM FOR A PICTURE! 

Truth be told, I didn’t want to bother him.  I wanted to show him that I wasn’t like all the other silly girls who giggle and act ridiculous, no, I was way too mature for that.  Except celebrities tend to respond better to the gigglers who ask for a picture and pose for a split a second better than the really mature ones who are like, “Dude, I mean ‘Chap’, I don’t need a silly picture I just want to settle down and have your babies and make you oatmeal in the morning.”  He ducked into a clothing store and I paced outside of it as I watched him trace his hand along the sleeves of a suit, and I wondered what to do when he came out.  I’ll tell you what I did!

I watched him leave.

And then in total frustration and panic to capture at least a portion of this moment, I snapped a picture…OF HIS BACK.  This is all I have to show for it:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Our California Adventure

"It's a small world, but I sure wouldn't want to paint it." 
~ Stephen Wright

I've been gone from California longer now than I ever spent living there, but visiting still feels like emotional CPR.  The vines climb the bridges and guide me to Balboa Park, the ocean air whispers calm to my whole being, and the smell of eucalyptus transports me back to a moment as a child, driving in our family suburban with the windows down.  Ask me about any slumber party I ever attended as a child and I couldn't tell you much about it (except maybe the one that got a little wacky with the Ouija board for the girl at school who preferred to go by "The Golden Unicorn" as opposed to her given name), but pull out a fresh branch of eucalyptus and it's not just a slave to the glue gun and a bad Michael's craft, to me it's home.  Family.  Security.  Love. It's ME, minus the stretch marks and sarcasm.

This recent jaunt to my home state packed in 3 full days at Disneyland, one day in Hollywood, and one day in San Diego.  One key observation about Disneyland is that I would like their staff to come clean my toilets.  Dude, that place is spotless.  You know how most public trash cans look like chewing tobacco depositories for all the New York Yankees?  Disneyland's cans must come with their own cleaning fairies because not even once did I go to throw something away and think, "Jackson Pollock has been here experimenting with a new medium of vanilla soft serve and ketchup."  Also, have you ever met an amusement park that didn't have several corners that smelled like urine, especially indoors?  Well peeps, meet Disneyland.  Not even through the 2 miles of cave that form a line to the Indiana Jones ride did I get a single whiff of urine, and seeing as I can't even accomplish this within the walls of my own home I give serious props to the cleaning powers that be at Disneyland.  We wrapped up night #1 with the World of Color show and would you believe I thought of you guys during the program?  I totally did, because I was wishing all of you could be there to see it too.  I had no idea you could do such cool stuff with water and left feeling like this show should write a letter to all the tsunamis that says, "Here's how you can play nicer with your friends."  But since you guys couldn't be with me I took a little video to share - it doesn't do it justice, but it's still kinda cool.  Imagine you are Jack Sparrow and it hits even closer to home:

The "It's A Small World" ride was closed while we were there but the sentiment wasn't lost on us as we ran into EIGHT families that we knew from church and school.  Samantha was able to hook up with one of her buddies while rubbing elbows with Pluto which worked for all parties involved:

Oh Mickey, you're so fine this roller coaster blew my mind:

Space Mountain: I'm the one that looks like I was just told that I was about to undergo a colonoscopy using a scope with razor blades and no anesthesia.  Cory looks ready for a Motley Crue concert, and Drew (sitting in the back row behind him) is pretending to be asleep.  He ain't afraid of no ghosts.

Me and my friend Jill pretending to be trapped in the Toy Story box.  A Disney employee approached us afterward and said, "I've seen a LOT of pictures taken in that thing but I've never seen anything quite like THAT."  I think he liked it, in a twisted Disney janitor sort of way.


Why do I always look so wrinkly?  And why does Jill look stoned?

I don't remember the joke, but I bet it was good.


The picture that left me wondering how I would ever manage to get myself back on the plane to Colorado:

I still don't know how I did it.