Tuesday, January 30, 2007

too late to say good-bye

Norman "Dale" Rex
January 22, 1938 - June 26, 1982

My daughter was helping me make spaghetti tonight and she wanted to break the noodles in half. Purist I am, I stopped her. And then it came back to me...

It was our favorite way to break in the new missionaries. Not new in the field, but new to us. My dad would order these 48" long spaghetti noodles from Portland. I remember the two-foot long box they arrived in. They were carefully curled in half at one end which made it just possible to ease them slowly into the rapidly boiling water and cook them whole. We never ate them whole except when we had the missionaries over for dinner. Watching the 19 and 20-year-olds try to keep their white shirts clean and politely lift their forks higher and higher trying to get to the end of the noodles seemed like great fun to us kids. It must've amused my dad, too.

His birthday was last Monday, January 22. Usually I make his favorite cake from scratch--spice cake with caramel frosting--and serve it to my kids so they will remember the grandfather they've never met. And I always tell them the same old story. How he would point across the room in order to distract us and then sneak our caramel frosting, which we had painstakingly saved for last, and eat it.

We fell for it every time.

I remember one year he got some great bonus at work. We had a choice: a boat or a swimming pool. We kids all voted for a pool. The neighbors had a pool. But my dad, in his wisdom, cast the most weighted vote and bought a boat. I think he knew that a boat would be a better way for him to take time away from work to be with his family. We made good memories together out on Fern Ridge in that boat.

Later, as my mom sold off many of our possessions and packed up the house to follow her daughters out to Utah, the boat went too. I think that's the only time I remember crying over a material possession. I knew it wasn't about the boat. It was about the memories.

His health took a turn for the worse the year I moved to Utah and started school at BYU. And in that self-absorbed and oblivious way of the typical college freshman, I never read enough between the lines of the letters from home. I didn't have a clue. It wasn't till he made the long drive out to Utah that next spring, to pick me up and visit his family and the ranch in Randolph, that I even noticed how thin he had become. Even then, I still had no idea what was coming.

By the end of June he was hospitalized with what we thought was ulcerative colitis. I vaguely remember talk of a procedure they would do and a possibility if it didn't go well that things wouldn't go well for him. I don't know what eventually means, but it sounds like a really long time.

But I was working two jobs and still too self-involved to really consider the possibilities. In any case they needed to keep him in the hospital for the rest of the week and build up his strength before they would do the procedure the next week. I do remember writing him a letter and promising to come see him at the hospital on Saturday--the first time I would have some time off. I think I still have that letter somewhere . . .

About 2:00 in the morning I remember being awakened by my mother with the news. He was gone.

I never got to say good-bye.

One brother punched a hole in the wall. Another brother kept everything inside until he bawled like a baby while watching the Lion King twelve years later. Grief worked its way out of six of us kids in different ways, I guess. I cried. I dreamt it was all a dream and he came back to us. I was mad at the world and all the people who loved me until a good friend of mine who was also grieving cared enough to tell me off one night. Tough love. He was right, of course and I came around. But I still have issues about saying good-bye.

"A cowboy with a heart." That's how the local newspaper columnist described him. And I'd never seen so many people at a funeral before. It was truly standing room only. People traveled from far and wide. As a kid you never stop to consider who your parents are outside of being your parents, but I learned a lot about my dad that day. About how he was a friend to everyone and how he had a reputation for treating people fairly. About how well he must have loved to become so loved by so many. People who were complete strangers to us showed up because they knew my dad considered them a friend.

The autopsy revealed it was cancer that took him from us. Cancer of the colon, the stomach and the liver, I believe. Back then the "C" word wasn't so common. But it always meant a death sentence. And we never knew. Later we would speculate over whether his doctor knew and told him and he wanted to spare us the pain, or whether he ever knew what hit him. Not that it matters now. But know you know why I take cancer diagnoses in my friends--even in people I don't know extremely well--a little personally.

It's only been recently that I can try to see it all from the perspective of my mother. I imagine watching the funeral procession from afar--seeing a 41-year-old widow file out of the chapel behind the casket. Followed by her six children--ages 19 to 11. Stricken with grief, yet still in shock from the loss. Surely wondering how she would be able to manage alone. Surely incapable of fathoming the effects of an entire life of loneliness.

Almost 25 years later the edges of the hurt have worn down. But simple moments like cooking spaghetti with my daughter can bring back the memories. Maybe I am more keenly aware because I recently turned 44, the age he was when he died. Somehow that makes him more real to me. Seeing myself this age and going through these stages of my children's lives makes him seem less distant.

At the same time, knowing I see things from the same time and space that he did when he was called home also makes his death seem more tragic. My seven-year-old tells me I cannot ever die before he does because he could not live without me. I know he could, but I'd rather he not worry about it. So I will share with him memories of the good times. Tell my daughter about four-foot long spaghetti. Bake birthday cake with caramel frosting.

And always remember to say "Bye, I love you."

Monday, January 29, 2007

...when you realize your children and your clothes are about the same age...

With so much discussion about turning 30 and so many (too many to link) of you having babies and such, it has drawn in sharp relief the inescapable fact that I am biologically old enough to have given birth to the whole lot of you. OK, well most of you anyway (the exceptions shall remain nameless, of course).

In any case, I usually try to avoid acting my age, but the effort has become futile of late. So today I'm coming out:

I'm 44 and I think I'm having a midlife crisis.

The good thing about this is that if you do the math, having a midlife crisis at 44 means you've still got a long way to keep going, baby.

Granted you all have entire decades ahead of you before you have to worry about this, but I still feel it's my duty to prepare you for what lies ahead, Forewarned is forearmed. Or something like that.

Here's a short guide to the upsides and the downsides of middle age:

Downsides first:

Midlife crises are a sexist phenomenon.

Cases in point:
Harrison Ford - ear piercing and practically adolescent (and anorexic) arm candy
Many men I know - motorcycles and/or new cars
Many men I don't know but about whom I've heard tell - new affairs.

Women I know - hysterectomies and estrogen therapy. We get squat I tell you!

I am invisible. A nonentity. Null and void. How, you may ask? Well, it took me almost a decade to get a clue, but it seems I've been dumped by the whole of coporate America. At least that nice boy who works at Bath & Body Works still seems to care about how I wield my buying power. Apple should too, thank you very much.

That's all for now. All the rest of the downsides are too depressing to mention.

But yes, there are upsides:

Apparently I am considered to be in a protected class. I like being protected. Well, mostly I like to joke with my half-my-age co-workers about my being in a protected class. Feigned shock amuses me. In truth, I'd like to hope I am competent enough to keep my job through my own merit, not my maturing age.

I am still not old enough to eat off the senior citizen menu at Denny's, Chuck-a-Rama or Sizzler. Trust me, this is a good thing. The other upside of this is that I am still young enough to have discerning enough taste that I only frequent restaurants that don't offer senior citizen discounts.

Kids are finally old enough I'm not changing diapers anymore. Parents are still young enough I haven't had to start changing theirs, either. 'Nuff said.

I can say out loud how much I love my minivan. Because I am so far beyond achieving hipness or coolness, it just doesn't matter any more. OK, it's true that some over-thirties really rock. And others are really cool. But it's not a universal truth or anything, so now I kind of feel the pressure is off. And I'm good with that.

Surprisingly, there are also a couple of aspects of middle age about which I am ambivalent.

Most of my kids are old enough to start having a social life. This means one of two things: Either my house is almost completely empty and my husband and our seven-year-old and I just look at each other and wonder what we do now. Or my house is packed full of teenage boys and/or pre-teen girls. This is generally a good thing, except when I worry about spending $45 on pizza that will disappear within mere seconds.

As I mentioned before, I'm oddly stuck in the no-woman's land of post-babies and pre-grandbabies. It may seem I should have less responsibilities, less worries. (Are you kidding me? I've got two teenage drivers!) But it's kind of lonely here.

I am an open book. It's bad enough I can't help but speak my mind, but as of late I apparently don't even have to open my mouth for someone to know exactly what I'm thinking, even when they'd rather not. It seems to be written all over my face. This is a bad thing when I deal with people who don't really want to know how I really feel. But it's kind of freeing at the same time. And it's probably a good thing as my memory starts to decline. At least I don't have to try to remember what I've said to whom.

Now, if only I could remember where I put my car keys . . .

But seriously, the purpose of this post is also for you, dear readers, to suggest some ways I should act out my midlife crisis. I'm not interested in following in the footsteps of Harrison Ford. It's so overdone. And besides, my ears have been pierced for ages. So get creative here and dream up something wildly exciting. The boys can't have all the fun.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Because it's the middle of the week and original thought escapes me...

My Life. My Card.

My name... never mind, most people pronounce it incorrectly anyway.

Childhood ambition... to be a detective

Fondest memory... probably never really happened

Soundtrack... "Sweet Home Alabama"

Retreat... Never. I'm a fighter not a runner

Wildest dream... insomniacs don't dream

Proudest moment... well, it wasn't when my 9-year-old stole a car and hopped a plane and led police on a high-speed chase

Biggest challenge... juggling

Alarm clock... I don't own one, but my husband's and at least two of my kids' go through snooze at least three times before they get shut off

Perfect day... would have to involve lunch at Sundance

First job... I was a hoer at the tender age of 12

Indulgence... homemade ice cream

Last purchase... You seriously have got to smell my new lotion

Favorite movie... "So I Married An Axe Murderer"

Inspiration... simple things

My life... is not remotely as interesting as Kate Winslet's, but thanks for reading.

My card... A.) is so well-worn you can no longer read the signature, B.) gets paid off every month, C.) all of the above

So I sort of picked this up where someone else left off, but I tag Geo because she loves memes; b. because I laughed so hard at her weirds; Lyle because they have snow days in Texas; and Sister Pottymouth, in hopes she was just kidding when she said that about maybe going on haitus, too. I mean, we can't all go on haitus now, can we? And anyone else who, like me, has always wanted to play.

Monday, January 22, 2007

the news from Rome isn't quite as good . . .

In what's clearly going to be the most overused phrase of the decade, it appears we have a number of historic bids for the presidency. First Mormon president aside, we could have our first woman president . . .

. . . or our first African American president.

At this point I might be more interested in our first woman African American president.

So that's not going to happen in '08.

What I truly long for is the day when one's gender or race or religion is completely a nonissue.

. . . around the water cooler

Someone call the wahmbulence! I don’t mean to be unsympathetic, but to hear a guy whine about being objectified is a little over the top.

Seven must be this guy's lucky number.
Killer line: The window was double-paned, and had a safety bar, he said, adding that hotel officials will investigate and "will take whatever steps we have to do to ensure safety." (Because hotel management should’ve taken better precautions against inebriated men running the full length of the hall and into the window.)

I’ll have a bottle of your best Cold Duck.

Holiday leftovers:

The Nightmare before Christmas.

Must be Santa!

Bite me!

More holiday fun.

Let's conclude the holiday wrap-up with something sweet.

Contributions welcome:

Thanks Lianne, for the heads up on this moving story. It was just too good to pass up!

In other news:

I've been robbed! (Obviously of my senses.)

One more reason I love my iPod. (An oldie but goodie.) Because I don't know about you, but I often find myself alone in the woods digging for truffles.

Saved by the bra?

. . . and in completely unrelated news (so OK, it may possibly be related to me!)

Here is the latest update on this previous story.

Which you may or may not have read.

But about which at least one of you inquired.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

If you haven't already...

...you must see this in person.

And don't miss the post of the week.

Monday, January 15, 2007

don't it always seem to go...you don't know what you got till it's gone

NOT! Just yesterday as my nostrils were defrosting from the arctic (no--it's actually colder here than in some places in the arctic right now) air I sent up a little prayer of thanks for things such as central heating, Milguard double insulated windows, shoes and socks, black leather gloves, cozy quilts, but especially that central heating.

At precisely 3:20 a.m. I was awakened from my toasty slumber by Z~. "Mom, the power is out." Normally I'm not so worried by such an announcement, but when it's below zero outside that kind of news alarms me. I round up all the candles I can find. First order of business is to shed some light on the subject. I never go anywhere without my trusty reminder of my all-time basketball hero, Larry Bird

Next we call the power company. I love calling the power company because even though our instructions during a power outage are expressly spelled out that we are to call them and inform them of the outage they always reply, "Duh, we're on it already." Not this morning. I got a very polite gentlemen who patiently asked, "Are you in the northwest part of town?" "Yes," I replied. "It should be on by about 7:30 a.m." "Thanks!" I said, as I tried to calculate exactly how much colder the house could get over the next four hours when it was well on its way to negative 2 degrees outside. BRRRRRRRR!within an hour I had the place lit up with candles, all the critical (read: expensive) appliances unplugged, and extra blankets on everyone's backs
most perplexing challenge: how to keep cold-blooded Buddy warm enough. I realized the candle cup was pretty warm and glass is a good conducter of heat. Sometimes I amaze even myself. (Buddy, however, remains unimpressed.)
sadly, my emergency lamps are of absolutely no help to me
bad, BAD virgin

Of course by that time I was wide, WIDE awake and even if I were not there was no way I could've slept with that many candles burning throughout the house. After about an hour of shivering--I'd given all the good blankets away--I got up to check on Buddy and as I was getting ready to light another emergency candle Voila! the rest of the lights went on as well.

Hurray for Provo Power! And how 'bout the fact that they exceeded even their own expectations!

The best part was hearing the beloved sound of the heater kicking on and warming up.

Mmmmmmmm. Toasty! Did I mention how grateful I am for central heating?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Keepin' it in the family

Hey, if you get tired of seeing things from the mixed-up files of a middle aged mind, please drop over to Z blog and take a look at things from the eyes of my favorite 15-year-old. Z~ got a digital camera for Christmas and has some interesting stories to tell. And I can guarantee he will take you to at least one place you have never before been. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I get by with a little help from my friends...

this is my only daughter, "Susie Q"

Susie Q LOVES to play in the snow

this is one of Susie Q's best friends, W~ with Susie Q and one of my best friends, the Lo Down

the Lo Down also happens to be favorite aunt of W~ and my favorite friend du jour for capturing these loverly Kodak moments today at Soldier Hollow

Thanks Lo!

Monday, January 08, 2007

to denote a quality of the thing named


entry: 2 adjective (so I may use the term loosely)
Function: noun
: a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages and typically serving as a modifier of a noun to denote a quality of the thing named, to indicate its quantity or extent, or to specify a thing as distinct from something else
Mirriam Webster

Melancholy: January, thus far.

Brilliant: The particular shade of blue of Sunday's morning sky.

Interesting, Entertaining, Embarrassing: This is the last thing I would have thought about giving someone for their wedding night.

Heavy: My heart. Witnessing the suffering of people I love. Witnessing the suffering of anyone, for that matter. But especially that of people I love.

Validating: A book describing "How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place."

Happy: My heart. Because while I was driving to work this morning feeling crummy about myself I was blessed with the opportunity to help a friend in need. The experience--and my friend's gratitute--was like a little gift from God to say “Happy Up Already!”

Smashing The blow to my budget and my day as I watched my not inexpensive Lancome foundation fall from the shelftop down into the sink and disintegrate into tiny pieces of glass and great big globs of goo.

Beautiful: Monday’s sunset.

Pathetic: NOT this post. But my reaction to it. I managed to find something to beat myself up about in each of the three categories--which were clearly meant to be separate (oh yeah, and funny!). Clearly I have mutliple personality disorder along with my obsessive compulsive disorder (which remains latent in terms of meticulousness, but quite active when it comes to reading, writing and blogging).
p.s. Dear J.P., The pig died. I don’t know if the implications for that are as significant as when the rabbit dies, but I hear poor Clooney was crushed.

Boring: My last post.

Three, Guilty: Pleasures. "Best in Show," "The Wedding Singer," "So I Married An Ax Murderer."

Amusing, Rewarding: Watching my second grader (who has struggled with school at times) pretend he doesn’t want to show me last week’s spelling test for fear I’ll be very disappointed. Seeing the subtlest suggestion of the smile he’s holding back as he reluctantly hands me the test. Sharing the sense of accomplishment he feels over a big 100% circled at the top of his paper.

Pleasurable: The sun peeking through the clouds, spreading across the back of the sofa, both warming and comforting me as I curl up under the blanket for a much-needed 10-minute power nap.

Proud: The feeling the tomboy in me gets when I get this call from from my daughter from school on Monday: Mom, I was playing football at recess and I crashed into someone. I’m a little dizzy and I can’t see very well. (She’s fine now, just recovering from a head-on with another kid.)

Sated: My appetite. White Bean Chili for dinner. Fresh pineapple lightly (or-not-so-lightly) coated with li hing mui(?) powder for Family Home Argument treats. No-Bake Cookies (or, as we affectionately call them "Moose Poops") just for fun. Because if it did get any better than that (it was) already, No-Bake Cookies would be (were) just the ticket.

We could talk or not talk forever, and still find things to not talk about

Shamelessly stealing from the too long and too irrelevant survey by the Daily Herald, I want to do my own poll on your picks for "Best of Utah Valley"
You can particpate even if you don't live here. You can participate even if you've never been here. (If you live in the Northwest you can tell me where to find the best of whatever in your neighborhood. I could potentially find myself in Portland sometime, desperate for a good pedicure, you know.) Have at it!
Disclaimer: I have also shamelessly tried to sway your votes in just a few categories. I make no apologies, but please forgive.

Best of Utah Valley

People to know:
Best local artist
Best local painter
Best local illustrator
Best local poet
Best local photographer
Most famous B-list or lower celeb
Best has-been
Favorite woman to watch
Best local recording artist or garage band
Person most likely to bump into a celeb (people who used to live here count)
Best wedding cake designer
Best person to be seen with

Places to be:
Best-looking historic building
Best-looking modern building
Best place for a picnic
Best campground
Best park and/or playground
Most under-appreciated tourist attraction
Best place to make out
Best one-night getaway
Best winter day trip
Best summer day trip
Best place to see a movie
Best live theater
Best music venue
Best gym
Best skiing or snowboarding
Best pool
Best place to play pool (or go bowling)
Best place to be seen
Best second-hand store
Best comedy club
Best art gallery
Best place to get a good education

Places to eat:
Breads and rolls
Asian Food
Chips and Salsa
Mexican Food
Indian Food
French Fries and/or onion rings
Fry Sauce
Thai Food
Italian Food
Best place to take the whole family
Best place for just you and a date
Best steak
Best deal for a good meal
Best reason to splurge
Smoothie and/or ice cream

For you:
Cut and color

For your car or Harley:
Lube and Oil
Car Wash

For your house:
Window washing
Carpet Cleaning
House cleaning

Places to shop:
Clothes for men
Clother for women
Clothes for kids
Shoes and/or accessories
Fabric, crafts and/or quilting
Home Improvement
Home Decor

Did I miss anything?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Does that come with the soup of the day?

I just got my umpteenth chain e-mail. This one is a recipe exchange. Been there. Done that. But I've got a better idea. How about a recipe chain post?

Here's how I hope it will work. I will post a most delicious soup recipe. Then each of you will contribute your favorite soup recipe as a comment.

I'm thinking that if weren't for the fact that it's almost the weekend (we all know everyone goes back to their real lives on weekends) we could potentially have a month's worth of meals if everyone plays along. How? Well, if we get at least 15 recipes and each batch of soup makes enough for two meals, you can eat half one night and freeze the rest. And that could take care of all the cooking required for the rest of the month of January. Cool!

Any players?

I'll start.

White Bean Chili
this is a kid friendly soup--even my kids who won't eat beans love this soup

4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (methods vary for getting this far; take your pick)

1 TBSP. oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced

2 4-oz cans chopped green chilis
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

4 16-oz cans white beans
3 c. chicken broth (I just use three cans)

1 c. sour cream
3 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese

Heat oil in a very large skillet or stockpot. Lightly saute onions and garlic. Stir in chicken.

Add chopped green chilis, cumin, oregano and cayenne pepper (I used this fine company's chili powder instead, just for fun).

Pour in white beans and chicken broth. Heat through thoroughly, bringing almost to a boil but not boiling.

Stir in sour cream and Monterey Jack cheese. (Don't panic if the Jack cheese is a little rubbery at first, it will melt and make a nice broth.) If soup is too chunky you can add a little more chicken broth or even a little water as desired.

Serve with another dollop of sour cream or more grated cheese or however else you like.

If you are hungry for more than just soup, here are a couple of my favorite food blogs with more great recipes:
Serrano Sisters' Savories
Cooking with Anne

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Stop the inanity!

Main Entry: 1inane
Pronunciation: i-'nAn
Function: adjective
Inflected Form(s): inan·er; -est
Etymology: Latin inanis
2 : lacking significance, meaning, or point : SILLY

Main Entry: 2inane
Function: noun
: void or empty space, a voyage into the limitless inane

It's gone. An entire hour of my life sucked into the void. Just like that. I'll never get it back.

Two conversations.

It's not even like they were worth becoming passionate over. Inanity (no, it wasn't a word till I just made it up) at its best. Or maybe its worst?

First one. Someone needs a form. I've never seen such a form. I inquire about said form, calmly ignoring the pointed comment that indeed someone went over this form with me already. So I spend the next 30 minutes of my life chasing down said form, filling it out, and then participating in one of the most inane conversations ever. You know, those kind in which someone tells you one thing and then the next sentence out of their mouth completely contradicts the prior. You can't believe that an experience this pointless isn't just as obvious to the person creating it . It's almost surreal. I patiently plod through the mostly one-sided exchange that results in this parting shot.

"Oh. I guess you don't need this form afterall." As if I were the one who had instigated the entire episode.

OK. C'est la vie. Eventually moments like that become almost funny.

Unless you have to relive them again the very same day.

Second one. This afternoon I arrive home to find my cell phone service has been suspended. Knowing I just paid my bill on Monday, January 1, 2007 (invoice dated 12/20/06, received 12/26/06--it is the holidays, you know), I call the phone number printed on my Cingular cell phone bill--a number specifically designated for such queries. Immediately I am transferred to another number and an impersonal voice tells me, "To avoid being transferred in the future, please call our correct contact number..."

Should have been my first clue.

The customer service (has there ever been a worse oxymoron than "customer service") person begins a routine that sounds remarkably like the one I experienced earlier. She says one thing. I don't even have to bother with a response because her very next words contradict her last. The best part is when she tells me AT&T has cancelled my service.

"I don't have an account with AT&T," I reply. This bill and all those prior clearly state they are from Cingular (which, to my knowledge, bought out AT&T ages ago).

"Well, it's really AT&T." (The duality of a company name that sounds like "singular" is not lost on me.)

Whatever. So I ask how to contact AT&T. I'm told I can't. Apparently they can suspend my service, but I am not allowed to contact them to ask why or to have it restored. I promptly but politely express my dissatisfaction with that situation. Something about that being ridiculous and how customers are not going to be very happy being treated in this way (meaning since when is it OK to shut off a good customer for nonpayment without any notice less than a week after they would've received their bill and then render them powerless to restore service?).

Then I am told almost with a snicker that things are going to be even worse when Cingular becomes AT&T.

"Say what?"

AT&T became Cingular and now Cingular is becoming AT&T. "Don't you ever watch the news?" The woman sneers. She informs me that soon I won't have any choice buy to jump through the hoops they set out for me. They're buying up everyone and will eventually be the only cellular service provider anywhere, she says.

How Clintonesque: Because we can.

I ask if I could speak with a supervisor. "They can't help you," I am told.

Finally, toward the end of the pointless call and completely out of the blue I am offered a bread crumb. Another phone number. This is the old accounts management number for AT&T. It may or may not work.

After another 20 minutes of inane conversation and coma-inducing hold music my service is restored. (The best part of that call? When the woman trying to restore my service asked me if I was talking to her on my cellular phone. Duh, no!) Still never an explanation how a bill I received from Cingular and paid within less than a week of receiving it is somehow past due to AT&T, who hasn't owned my account for ages. How or why my service was suspended and I ended up suspended between two separate entities specializing in customer nonservice. Never an apology. Nothing.

Just the ticking by of thirty more minutes in the realm of the absurd.

Don't you ever wonder, "Is it really worth it?"