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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Making it Real

Disclaimer: This is a contemplative work, not whining, and meant mostly for my own benefit. It's not meant to hurt feelings. If that happens because of this post, we need to talk. Make an appointment.

I haven't been here much because in November I was working on my honey badger book and December has been a full out nut house around here. Now I'm starting to take stock in life. I have to figure out why my daughter (who rarely sees me) thinks I'm depressed all the time.

I'm actually a pretty even-tempered person. I don't often have huge highs or lows. It's possibly due to having a fairly controlled schedule. Wait. No, I can't say controlled. I have teenagers who always seem to need to be dragged somewhere at the last minute. For some reason I can usually control how I deal with it, though. (Some pointed muttering, a few evil looks and I'm done.) Also I get some good exercise, which helps.

I usually spend much of the day writing or doing something creative. This Christmas I drew wedding portraits for both my parents and my Hubs' and did some other artwork for people. I also sang in three choirs, one quite challenging for me as I work to learn to be a better musician. I get a kick out of creating things and performing. I've also been running three or so days a week.

Somehow at Christmas things all get thrown out of whack. The tension mounts when I have to go buy things or juggle appointments. The house is a total wreck and there is extra cooking and baking to do. The kids are on vacation and going extra places, but doing fewer chores without complaint. I suffer from a chronic lack of sleep at that season, especially on Christmas Eve, since that's when I tend to wrap all the presents since several situations combine to force last minute shopping. I dread that night-long binge wrapping necessity. The only things that make that sort of torture bearable are German radio playing carols, and watching movies as I wrap. I get to bed around 5am and the rest of the day is a hazy blank punctuated by cups of cocoa, blackmail pictures (the kind with double chins and drool), and board/card games. My girls like to sing and play instruments. They rarely allow me to sing or play with them, although I'm in a semi-professional choir. They have very rigid ideas of how they want performances to go, which don't include me, although they vociferously deny it.

This year I broke my rib in a freak plant hanging accident. Who knew climbing onto my desk to hang a plant so it wouldn't freeze outside would mean getting flattened by my rickety bookcase and knocked onto my desk chair? The resulting broken rib meant I haven't been running. So I feel like a three-legged, locoweed-afflicted cow. (As in sluggish, not high.)

Plus my out-of-town kids came to visit. I love them and enjoy being with them and playing with them, but they not only necessitate late nights and throw things out of control (like completely) with schedules and needing to be entertained, but I feel like sometimes they sort of decide who I am and then mash me into that box. Sometimes the compartment isn't very comfortable and is claustrophobic. It's a little like being a reluctant, though gratified and honored, magician's assistant who has to climb into the trunk and be submerged in a pool of piranhas.

It seems like I'm exceptionally sensitive when it comes to this daughter. I feel like a shabby excuse of a mom against her. She's gorgeous. At several months pregnant, she weighs much less and has less of a belly than I do. Plus her kids actually work hard and mind her better than mine do. And they're all little. I find myself comparing myself to her and come up lacking in every way. She has a nicer house with much less clutter. I'm betting nobody tells her regularly she has to get rid of all her crap. And I know people stay with her because I've done it several times. They have everything figured out. I feel like the ugly step sister in comparison. She's extremely talented in art and is actually working as a freelance artist. People acknowledge that she's an artist. Not the same here outside of my mom and a few others.

This year she told me I'd gotten too many presents for her children and that I should take them back. At two toys each, I thought I'd been pretty thrifty. I had fun hunting for just the right things. When she told me, I deflated like an old rubber balloon. I understood that they are trying to teach their children not to be spoiled. It just seemed like a total let-down on my end--a commentary on how I'd become so worldly or something.

It took some time to dig back out of that ditch, especially when she then told me I was always depressed around her and that I need to see a professional. I think she sees me through a kinescope of time when I'm most out of my element, when I'm off kilter, and when I'm running on fumes. It's an inaccurate frame of reference. I doubt many of my other friends feel the same way. Maybe I just felt comfortable complaining about things with her. Maybe I can't, though. Not if it makes her think I'm clinically depressed. Maybe I finally need to find some friend who'll listen and help me dig out.

She also indicated that I hadn't been there for her. She has a point there. I haven't written to her enough. And I rarely call other people, including her. There are a whole list of excuses why I don't call. It's something I can change. I should have known when she was feeling low. But being told that way made me feel like she'd kicked me in the head while I was on the ground.

So why do I do this to myself? Why do I allow myself to feel so vulnerable around her? I don't know. Maybe it's because I feel as though she should be my best friend. I raised her for 8 years alone, for crying out loud. I feel we should be able to tell each other anything, but it's not that way. She's there to take the other side of things...like most of my children. I guess because that's how it is, I feel alone on my side of the river. I wish sometimes they'd see my side of things, before I'm 95 and can't move anymore.

I feel pulled apart and twisted like an old dishrag at times. There are things my father yelled at me for when I was a child, the opposite of which I get yelled at for now as an adult. Sometimes I want to yell, "WHAT THE HECK??? This is my house. You are my children, not the other way around."

So the point of all this is to find ways of digging my own self out of the few dips along the way. I have to solve my problems on my own. I have to find ways to change the bad things and expand the good. I have to find my own roomy niche and own it. Maybe that last most of all. Self, own your niche. You are the queen of it.

Here are some things I'm working on:
*I'm doing a paint run in January. For that to happen, I have to go back to running at least three days a week.
*I'm cleaning things out and putting stuff out for donation or bulky pick-up.
*I've got to work on the back yard so we don't look like the Clampetts before they moved to Beverly Hills.
*I'm putting a book out this month (SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO).
*I'm getting back into reading the scriptures--something I slacked off about during the most important part of the year to do it.
*I'm getting back into my writing groove.
*More service.
*Better care for others.
*Put myself last more often by giving the burden away to God. My mom is my example here.
*Prayer--talking to the Person who made it all and who always cares.
*Really examining the negative thoughts I have to be certain they belong in my head and if they don't, pushing them out.
*Somehow repairing my relationship with my kids.
*I need to acknowledge better when they do something positive.
*I need to blast out of the box and not let other people jam me into one. I have unlimited value to at least one person. Don't forget that.
*And no, I'm not going to see a shrink. Why do that when prayer and a good friend can do just as much?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Filling Up Life

It's 1:19 am and I really should be in bed, giving my body time to heal from all the germs ricocheting through the air at this time of year instead of living on ecchanacia (or however you spell this dratted word). But I felt this place calling me and wanted to thank the people who come regularly to read my blog.

Thank you for coming and participating in the madness. Thank you for your patience and caring. Thank you for your loyalty.

I know how busy people are. Heck, I have, at any given time, about 14,387 different things I'm neglecting to do. Yeah. Really. I have a sickness called helium hand. Hopefully I eventually get to the things that really matter and learn to take a hard pass on the things that don't.

Let's just say that I'm glad I'm not juggling running chainsaws, lit candles, and raw eggs, because the dropping balls have hit hailstorm proportions.

I'm the membership secretary for a national writer's association. My work there is pretty undetectable since I haven't yet figured out how to do that job yet. I need a visual.
I also work for the Boy Scouts of America as a unit commissioner. Let's just say I'm not getting my commissioner's knot until I finally get the last twenty six or so visits in and recorded. My units and my ADC have forgotten I exist.
I am the women's president for my church congregation, which means I'm the busiest woman in that body of people except for the compassionate living person, who is a saint. People call me all the time to do things for them or help them out in some way. I should be doing more.
I'm also the mother of six nearly all grown children and at this time the coughchokenanacough of three and a half, which means I get to drive them lots of places and try not to look stupid in comparison to their brilliance.
I'm trying to lose about six and a half stone (I believe that means lots of pounds) by running two miles very slowly three days a week. Or I was before I broke my rib, a post I'll get to when it isn't the middle of the dang night.
I also sing Tenor in two and sometimes three choirs, complete with loads of practices, plus practicing playing various instruments and composing now and then. I draw and paint and dance and write poetry too.
I spend way too much time making an on-line presence writing for four blogs and Facebook and Twitter.

And I write books, one of which (SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO) is coming out in January (YAY! Dancing in the street). Which means I'm getting even more busy doing the marketing for that book as I work on edits for SUMMERHOUSE and finish books YEAR OF THE HONEY BADGER and MARIN AT THE WELL I was already halfway through. I have some eighteen or so books in various stages of dress or undress, plus new ideas for books queuing up all the time.

I've filled up my hours. Will I look back at them when I'm ninety and feel I've done my best to fulfill my purpose? Am I coming within stabbing distance of my potential? Am I selling my minutes for crumbs? Should I be doing something else? Not? Who knows? It's a gamble. I just hope that at the end of my life, when I kneel at my Maker's feet, that I don't look up into His incredible eyes, to hear Him say, "What have you been up to, you lazy thing? You've squandered all My gifts of minutes on meaningless fluff."

So what am I saying with all this night rambling? Besides that I'm really busy and maybe a little contemplative? Basically that life is never boring. Good night.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

THE PENNY PROJECT Review

I'm supposed to be working on a speech I'll give on Sunday. I'm supposed to be finishing off the Christmas decorating, checking lists, buying gifts, making 65 little presents to give out Sunday, or working on my honey badger book. I have a slush pile of books to read a mile long.

But Betsy Love's book THE PENNY PROJECT totally jumps the queue. I really want to finish the book I'm already reading, but something speaks to me when my friend Wes hands me the book with a quirked eyebrow.

At first I'm thinking kids can't be that continuously mean. But then I remember my sojourn on the geek throne at the front of the bus. I wore ugly, calf-length skirts at a time when everyone else wore miniskirts or jeans. Not only was I four-eyed, clumsy, plain, and lousy at math, but I had a dad who taught German and English. Every time he flunked someone (daily, it seemed like) they'd come after me. They'd corner me in the bathroom or against the lockers and beat the tar out of me. They'd call me names a dock worker would be proud of. Back then I cried. Or sat alone on the bus and memorized the dictionary. Or stared out the window and vowed to give up talking forever.

Now I know I can take them. Back then, the hatred worked like poison inside me, and I'm amazed now that I never had an ulcer. I chalk that up to ballet and books and the love of a kind Heavenly Father. Words, always my friends, always stood by to take me to Mars or Oz or Narnia or Middle Earth and dancing set my body free.

Penelope doesn't have much of an outlet. I at least had a few fellow geeks who would let me hang with them at lunch. At first Penelope has no one. But one two many distancing strategies backfire for brilliant, hunky football-player Jake and his teachers force him to tutor the ugliest, stupidest, smelliest girl in school. Instead of Lexi, his crush, he gets double helpings of Penny.

And boy do his teammates let him have it. They bully the pair so consistently that it's a wonder the teachers rarely get a clue (which is also believable). He has to become a hero and save them both. Luckily Jake is, while cocky at first, a good person at heart. He has much to learn and Penny has much to teach.

I really actually fell in love with this book. It spoke to me on an intrinsic level. I got both Jake's longing to be "in" with Lexi and the team, and the basic empathy he keeps buried until Penny's gift unearths it. Jake finally learns that outer ugliness is only skin deep and can be remedied. Inner ugliness is a blight much harder to cure.

Do yourself a favor and pick up THE PENNY PROJECT this Christmas. You'll be glad you did. You can get it here.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NANO SLAYER

YES!!! I slew NANO a week early! And I'm still going strong. It's just taken off so well. For a while there I nearly ran out of gas, but the honey badgers seem to have taken the story by the scruff of its neck and shaken it into waking up for me...like honey badgers do.

I'm actually going back to writing on this thing after I bake a few pies for Thanksgiving tomorrow. I can't leave the gang hanging.

Just came to crow a bit. Thanks for being patient while I worked. More later.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Day at the Vampire's

I'm hard at work on my NANO book, YEAR OF THE HONEY BADGER, so I won't stay long. I just wanted to catch up on the news.

Last week I went to give blood. I do that because I have rare blood and they keep me on call. So I'm sitting in the seat getting all ready to accommodate the vampire in the white lab coat. I have my book all out and am joyfully reading away when he says, "That rots." Just that. So I look down there and he's thumping the hose. "It's sluggish," he says, still thumping.
Then he asks, "Do you mind if I adjust the needle a little?" which is vampire for, "Okay if I stab you repeatedly with this huge needle and perforate your vein another four times?"
Stupidly I agree. So stab he does--like the dude from psycho at the woman in the shower. Then he says, "This isn't working. Let me go get xxxxxx. She's better at it than me." By this time I'm not listening, thinking that a two-year-old with a butter knife would draw blood better than he is.
So xxxxxx comes over and plunges around another ten times or six and by this time the old arm is feeling distinctly like one of those watering hoses you don't have to stand there and hold because it's full of holes. Water just squirts out in seventy-five different places. "Well this isn't going to work," she says.
"Can't you use the other side?" I ask, not wanting all that time to be in vane (or vein...ar ar).
"Nope. You just threw a huge clot. Look," she says, holding up the bag with a finger-sized blotch in it. "And look. There's more clot coming out of your arm."
By that point I'm thinking, "Wow. It's a really good thing blood doesn't bug me. 'Cause if it did, I'd be out cold by now."
So I'm out of there after giving a measly third of a bag of clot-blighted blood. They try to appease me by letting me know that my donation will not go into the dumper. "It's going to science," she says. Probably Vampirish for, "This blood's going into the back where the newbs will get to ogle and exclaim over it before it goes into the dumper."
"Does this mean I should run, not walk, to the nearest doctor or ER?" I ask more than mildly horrified at the size of that monster.
"Naw. You're just a little dry," says the Vamp guy (who does not sparkle, by the way).
"What the heck does that mean?" I ask, wondering how he pegged my version of wit. Only it wasn't wit he was talking about.
"You're a little dehydrated today."
I think that's kind of crazy, since after I got done caving the day before, I'd gone home and drunk about a gallon of water. So off I trundle after the requisite fifteen minutes of eating and drinking their goodies, feeling just a little impotent about the whole thing. By the next day there's a big old lump and a nice bruise.

I'm not paying much attention to the bruise, though, because I've broken a rib. I'll tell that story another time.
80-oss (my rebel bow at the local lingo).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To My Daughters


To My Daughters:
I recently wrote a letter of sorts to my sons. This one is to my daughters:
I grew up, like lots of little girls, playing dress-up and dreaming of the day I would find my handsome prince and he'd toss me up on his horse, jump on behind, wrap one arm around me, and gallop off into the sunset to live in his castle happily ever after.
Well for starters, riding double with a saddle is highly unpleasant. And jumping on there hurts like a mother, I'm told. Castles are damp, drafty, moldy and often infested with rodents. I know this because I've been to many of them. Don't let the movies fool you.
Welcome to reality. Your handsome prince might not be either. He could be really cute but really twisted and ugly inside. Or slightly toad-like on the outside, but princely in his ways. He might not own a horse. Ever. Or he might gallop into the sunset with someone else, leaving you with a screaming princess under your arm, towering debt, a wasted body, and a shattered life. Maybe your castle is actually a hovel to begin with. Or always. Maybe you have to go be a scullery maid to put him through school. Maybe your handsome prince gets sick and dies early. Maybe he likes you...and twelve other dancing princesses from the next
castle over. Don't just latch onto the first dude who smiles at you. And don't expect that just because he takes you to get married in the temple it's an automatic lock on a life of Eternal Bliss. It takes two of you working like crazy to keep even a temple marriage intact.
Date lots of people so you have a frame of reference. You need lots of toads to kiss before you find the Prince. Don't just fall into his arms because nobody else has opened his, or because all your friends are getting married. Or because he sweet talks you into it or serenades you under the stars. Or any other reason but that you love each other deeply and know you can build an Eternal life together. Love alone can't do it. You need hard work on both sides. To start with, you need to have a good enough frame of reference so that you can spot fallacies and problems before they blow up in your face. It's like not relying on one grape to make your juice with. What if that grape is the sourest, most awful grape there is, but you only find out after you've opened the bottle and taken a swig? You need a whole bunch of different grapes to choose from. After the choice? That's it. No more tasting other grapes. You're done. Cap the bottle and rejoice in the vintage.
Life doesn't conform to your plan. You plan for life. Don't just wait for a rescue. Make your own stories. Don't just wait for his. You might not meet your handsome prince until you get old and prune-y. You might not meet him at all. Things happen. Make a plan. If you sit around waiting for the cherry guy to fall into your arms, you could be waiting a long old time. Go out into the world. Learn how to live on your own. Learn how to live within your budget. Go to school. Get a skill set. Learn to work hard. Go on a mission if you feel called. Explore what kind of Child of God you really are. Get a degree. Learn to do things that make you happy. Learn to serve others. Get out of your cocoon and be a butterfly. Be worth something. Learn to be a well-grounded adult person before you become an "us." Be flexible, because if there's anything I've learned, it's that plans always change. But at least have a plan. Do your best. Above all, be excellent. 

Be logical about your must-have list. Expecting a guy to be perfect is ridiculous. There has only ever been one perfect man on this planet and you'll not be lucky enough to go out with Him. So you're going to have to logically decide what are definite must-have qualities and skills, and what items are just perks. Because if your guy is missing a few of your must-haves, they might not be changeable. Remember, though, that if your guy's nearly perfect, (somehow) won't he expect the same kind of perfection? Who is he when you aren't around? Does he change like a chameleon with his surroundings? Do you trust him? Do others? Ask.
Expecting him to change for you is ridiculous. You might be completely ga-ga over him and find out that he can't keep a dime in his pocket. Changing that will be impossible. If he's casual about his priesthood responsibilities, that probably won't change. Laziness will stick. Dishonesty will still be there when he's eighty. If he skates along the raggedy edge of the law, hit the ground running, before he brings out the ring. Essential things about him will stay the same or only change for a little while. It's human nature. Keep that in mind. That's why you take your time.
Make a must-be list. For yourself. You can't expect him to do all of the changing. He won't. You're going to need to make changes. You're the one you can control. So choose right, before the problems arise. Change things about yourself that are weak or unpleasant. Make this a habit, not just something you do right before he comes to the door to pick you up. I had a roommate in college who was a full on slob. She'd race around the room tossing things in the closet and under the bed, hoping he'd think she was a good housekeeper, when in reality she sucked at it worse than the vacuum she never used. That's bait-n-switch. How would you feel if he was doing the same thing? Danger Will Robinson! Danger!
What are you like when he's around? And when he's not? Does being with him encourage you to be a better person? Or do you turn into the owner of a few dozen flying monkeys?
If you're a horse and you marry a rhinoceros, expect trouble. You're already going to have some problems meshing your lives together. If you add in extra differences, the mountain of problems increases exponentially. If you have mismatched (or nonexistent) spiritual beliefs, or come from other cultures, you'll have a much rougher road. You'll have to make extra decisions not only for yourselves, but for your children. If you go bullishly ahead with your choice, just know that you'll have to deal with the consequences sooner or later. You need to discuss how you'll make it work before he slides that ring on your finger and the kids come along.
Great Expectations can be a killer. Go into it with your eyes open. Life isn't going to be all roses and smiling cherubs. There are Maleficent Moments in everyone's existence. Be prepared. Be strong. Suck it up. Running home to mommy is for pansies. But getting occasional wise council from her is smart. Your parents love you and want the best for you. They've been there, done that, and ripped up the t-shirt for rag material.
Train him early to talk with you. It's supremely important. You can't expect him to read your mind because half the time he'll be in his computer game world and you won't even be a blip on the horizon. You have to be able to work things out in a way that doesn't give you ulcers or get you locked up for assault with a deadly frying pan. 
Take some time. Some girls take more time to pick out a pair of shoes than they do a boyfriend. I had dated lots of other guys. But when it came to my previous husband, I was stupid. I only took four (4, vier, quatro, chi, IV, yes four) days of dating and hanging out to decide to say 'yes' to my ex (the operative word being EX). Don't get me wrong. He had credentials. He was talented, studly, and sweet. I simply didn't give myself long enough to really explore the guy's personality. I had no good idea what made him tick. I had no clue what happened when he got mad. I could have talked to his best friend and found that, in reality, he was a pathological liar. I could have found out that he was actually in love with himself and any girl who worshiped him. I could have found out that he couldn't be bothered to keep a job. And I could have found out that he had a drinking problem. I didn't give it enough time. I didn't want anything to pop the euphoria bubble I was bouncing around in. Bad mistake. Take plenty of time to get to know him. You need to let him reveal that seamy underbelly if he's got one. And that'll take longer than a month or two. What's he like when he's mad? What's he like when the money runs out? Or if he gets lots of it? What's he like when it comes time to make major decisions?
Infatuation isn't love. We went straight from the ex guy serenading me in the Spanish from his mission, to the physical kissing. I was completely hooked. If you go straight to being physical, hormones take over your brain and you lose that ability to think intelligently about anything at all. And you won't listen to council from friends or family, either. After the initial loss of all cognitive ability that comes with the kissing and cuddling, comes that period when you've ripped off the mask and see the not-quite-as-handsome guy beneath. Give yourself a chance to experience that before saying "I do." Too many girls just jump at that bubbly feeling they get from kissing (or Heaven forbid sleeping with) the guy. Then when the mask comes off and they see the warts and moles and boils of his actual personality, they freak.
When you marry him, you marry his family. If you don't think that's true, you'll be in a world of hurt. His family raised him. Sometimes people can rise above their upbringing. Sometimes they can't. Sometimes they go the complete opposite of their parents' upbringing, instead of finding a happy medium. How he treats his mother (especially when he doesn't think you're looking) is how he'll treat you. Remember, his parents are going to be your kids' grandparents.
Sitting around all the time eating bon bons and watching Netflix or reading romances all the time is uncool. He'll hopefully be going off every day to work hard to put food on your table and a roof over your head. If you sit around all day doing nothing, how is that fair? You don't have that right. Growing up means you accept responsibilities, not just that you can stay up longer and eat what you want. It means your efforts should match his. You aren't the Queen of the World and you aren't the scullery maid. You're his partner, which means you work hard too. It means sometimes you have to fix things. Sometimes you have to kill your own mouse. Sometimes you have to dig up the garden or landscape the backyard. And you can't always expect him to come home from his grueling job and do all your work too. Do your own. Give 130%.
Remember that relying on someone else to make you happy is a fallacy. You choose to be happy or not. If you need a guy to prop you up, you're going to be disappointed and unhappy a huge chunk of your life. Because at some point he's going to disappoint you. He'll definitely do things that make you want to bury him in the backyard. That's a given, probably by the end of your honeymoon if not sooner. If you let those things knock you off your perch, you'll be running to a lawyer as soon as he does something stupid or treats you like you are. You have to know who you are and that you are loved and a valid, intelligent, gifted, worthwhile person in your own right. His love doesn't make you worth something. God's does.
You didn't marry Mr. Goodenough. Stop looking for Mr. Right after you get married. Your husband is IT. The words "Married for Time and all Eternity" should mean something to you. Those words don't mean married until rough seas make you feel like barfing. They don't mean married until someone cuter or richer or better in bed comes along. They mean you're married until long after the world ends and the Sun explodes. They mean you've got your man forever. Stop looking. Stop comparing. Be true to him in your heart and mind and actions. He'll be able to tell. He'll be your Prince if you let him be.
 Be true to your man. You expect him to be true to you. Return that service to him. You wouldn't want your guy to be off with his friends discussing your every fault and foible behind your back. There's a fine line between working out your troubles with a trusted female confidant and just spouting off the things that bother you about him. This is something I've had a difficult time with. 
Don't allow other guys into the marriage hideout. Don't make someone of the opposite sex that isn't your husband a confidant. It's too easy to get emotionally involved with them and destroy your marriage because you've allowed another man to dig into personal and intimate details of your marriage. They can't solve your problems with your husband. All they can do is commiserate, which is juggling dynamite.
There are absolutely some things you DON'T have to put up with. Things can change even if you've done all your homework. You don't ever have to put up with being battered. You don't have to put up with him sleeping around with other people. You don't have to put up with porn. You don't have to put up with someone who hurts your children (and I'm not just talking about the occasional much-needed smack). You don't have to put up with criminal behaviors. If you choose to put up with these things, you do so at your own and your children's risk, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You are not a punching bag or a doormat. You are a Child of God. You are the Queen he chose to marry. Don't risk your Eternal Salvation to stay with an evil person.
Always remember that there are people who will love you whatever happens--God, Christ, and your parents. We want and expect you to succeed. We know that you can't do that without being close to the Lord and following Christ's example. If you make the Godhead the third partners in your marriage, you'll have a successful life. Your parents are there to talk to, and sometimes council with. But remember that the Bible asks us to cleave unto our husbands (no, that doesn't mean take a meat cleaver to him). That means when you get married, your husband is in charge with you, not your parents. Run to Heavenly Father first, your husband second, and anyone else last.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

PERCEPTION Review

I think I would have titled this book THE ETERNITY GAME. It's all about longevity treatments, cloning, cybernetics, and chips.

PERCEPTION by Lee Strauss is a gripping must-read. The intrigue clenched onto me like a vice grip. So many dystopian books lately emphasize the hopeless nature of the situation. The idea of a GAP (Genetically Altered Person) girl finding out who she really is and has become because of what's been done to her appeals to me. It gave me hope that she forsook the heritage her parents thrust on her to follow her conscience.

 The premise of religion surviving the massive overtake of science is a hopeful one. Mankind and all of his creations, which are powerful in their own way, still cannot dig God out of their trench. The indomitable search for freedom in a rapidly caving society grabs at me. I want to stand up and root for them. I liked that they didn't stoop to the level of those after them and resort to desperate tactics. Through it all runs a thread of budding romance between Zoe and Noah. That they didn't immediately throw off all their clothes and have wild sex on the nearest church bench makes me wildly happy.

GAPs live in idyllic cities, separated from the unaltered have-nots. Zoe is no different. She's been raised as a privileged socialite on the fast track to success. She'll probably marry her GAP boyfriend and settle down to have her allotted two children and shop for the next 200 years.

At least that's what she thinks until her brother goes missing and is found dead on the wrong side of the 'wall'. Zoe heads to the 'Outside' to find answers. What she finds is more questions--and the son of her family maid, who helps her hunt for the information everyone else is withholding from her.

Shadowy people are trying their best to keep all information about her brother's demise close to their chests. They'll do anything, including erasing memory, murder, and alterations to bodies to guard those secrets. What they don't plan on is Zoe's tenacity and Noah's ingenuity--and their capacity to love each other.


The possibility of a chipped future chills me to the bone. The thought that we could soon in actuality be forced to be chipped makes my teeth itch. The technology is already in use. We already know that cloning and chipping are being done on animals. Certainly somewhere cloning is being illicitly performed on humans. Chipping is. Technology has far outstripped our ideas of what is actually possible outside the realm of sci fi. So what's to stop our civilization heading in exactly this direction?

Nothing.

Not law. Not ethics. Not lack of money. Not lack of talent or drive or greed for money or power. That's why I loved the hope I found in the end of this book. We are starting to experience the potential for mankind's evil.

But can we also experience the potential for overarching good? Please let that be the case. Let there be people like Noah and his father who won't stand for being forced into second class citizenship because they won't mess around with the human soul. Let's hope there are Zoe's who, though born to privilege on a grand scale, still can shuck it off and rise above it.

I've already gone out this morning and purchased the boxed set. I definitely have to know what happens to Zoe and Noah. Check out PERCEPTION by Lee Strauss. You won't need any but the edge of your seat.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What My Sons Should Know


I believe the scripture about men's hearts failing them in the last days is very real. And it's happening now. People are losing the ability to look beyond their own personal bubble to empathize with others' problems and challenges. Hearts are becoming vestigial organs, like the appendix.

If, my son, you are lucky enough to trap a woman into marrying you, there are a few things you need to know for future reference:

The most powerful words in a marriage? "I love you and this is why...." Find something to complement her on every day. Even if she's gained a ton of weight or she's got a bad haircut or something else has happened, there's got to be something you find appealing. Even if it's just her shoelaces or the way her hair shines. Saying something loving will get you miles down the road toward a happy home. And it will do wonders for her self esteem. If she thinks her husband is still interested in her, still loves her even after two weeks of wedded bliss, she'll bloom for you. And she'll try harder to look nice for you. Sometimes she might act like she doesn't believe you, but deep inside she'll eventually believe it if you keep it up. And if you don't, there'll always be that worry that you've lost that loving feeling and she's just running on fumes. Don't make her guess. Tell her.

Take care of your Spiritual Responsibilities. You are the Priesthood in your home. Act like it. Go to the temple. Make it a priority. When it comes time for FHE, call them together and have FHE. Call for family prayers. Give them blessings. Take your son out Home Teaching or to collect fast offerings if that's his job. Call the family in for scripture study. This is your job as a priesthood holder.

Own your own baggage. Everyone has troubles and challenges. Everyone. If you didn't have some flaw, the good Lord would have translated you already. So acting as if you don't, is pure hubris, and it's frustrating for anyone around you. Don't force your wife to consider rigging an angelic visitor because you won't listen to anyone else trying to batter through your lofty throne of pride. You do get some things wrong at times.

She's not always wrong. It's statistically impossible. Someone once said a room full of monkeys typing random letters on typewriters will eventually come up with the works of Shakespeare (poor monkeys). Well, your wife will sometimes be right. You need to acknowledge that. It really doesn't take much effort to let her know. But it will mean the world to her. When you hog all the credit, it's a total mental beat-down. Recognizing this gracefully makes you a real man.

Do your own personal housekeeping. Sure she might stay home all day with nothing to do but eat bon bons and watch Netflix (extremely unlikely) but she isn't your purchased slave. Pick up your own dang socks. Put them in the dirty clothes hamper. Take your place settings to the sink. Do your chores happily. If there is something broken around the house, it's your job to fix it. If you don't know how, learn. It'll save you loads of money not having to pay someone else to do it for you. And best of all, it'll save arguments. Also, she should be able to alert you to the fact that something is broken without being called a nag. If you have to be told countless times, that is firmly your problem.

You need to work. Hard. That's a fact of life. You are the provider for your wife and children. Nobody else should have that responsibility. That means that you need to study hard in school. Put forth the effort to make great grades so you can then get into college so that you can then get a good enough job so you can feed and clothe your family and put a roof over their head. And you need to start that now. Life doesn't have to offer you nonstop entertainment. It's not one big video game convention. And don't just think you can test video games for a living. It rarely works like that. Find something to do to contribute to society. Find the work you love and love the work you find. But you're going to have to get off your rear and DO SOMETHING. Because if you don't make that choice, life will make it for you, and you might not like what it picks.

Your wife is your bride. Never forget that. Even if she looks dragged out or chubby. You chose her. You put that ring on her finger and signed the license. She isn't your love slave, your maid, roommate, or unpaid cook. She certainly isn't your punching bag or doormat.  She's your wife. She's your Queen. Treat her like that. Remember that you aren't giving her these rights. She alreadyhas  them by virtue of being a daughter of God. She shouldn't have to earn your love or respect. And she shouldn't have to earn her children's respect either. She has just as many rights as you do. Her job is simply different. 

Be her champion. And I don't just mean just when you're out in public. Always. Don't make her fight all her own battles with the kids. If you act like it's not a big deal when they yell at her, or tell her "no" when she asks them to do chores, or lie to her, they'll push the boundaries they do come up against. Pretty soon your home will just be an armed camp, and your wife will snap. You'll have 156 lbs of screaming hag on your hands, rightfully. Yes, your wife should act like an adult. But it isn't really your job to raise her. It is your job to raise your children. And if you allow them to treat your wife like she's a third class citizen, you're reaping the tornado. They won't respect anyone. Be her champion with loving patience. Also she won't have to deal with a constant barrage of barrier challenges.


Don't abuse her children either. There's a fine line between being a father and being a friend to the exclusion of your wife. Don't always force her to be the bad guy. Be the friendly father. There are going to be some times when you can't be their friend, but you can discipline with patience and kindness and love unfeigned. Set boundaries for your children. Enforce them lovingly. Let them know with velvet gloves on, that you won't allow them to treat your Queen like they are. Believe me, your life will run much smoother when your children understand that your wife isn't champion-less.

 Ask her how she's doing, preparing for an honest answer. When she tells you, respond with kindness. If you give her a calm way to address the things that happen in her day, she'll adore you for it. If you don't, she'll have to go elsewhere to work out her problems, and sometimes it's not where you'd like her to go. More importantly, if she's going elsewhere to talk about you, she's not really fixing the problems with the only person who can actually work on the problem with her.
 Pillow talk is a fantastic thing. When she's feeling fragile, it's your job, as the Prince she married, to find out why. It's not always your task to fix it, but you need to at least listen. Find out what makes her feel loved and do that thing if it's right. If what makes her feel loved is drinking a bottle of whiskey or pushing people in front of trains, that's not an option.

I'm convinced that, in general, women think on a broader bandwidth. Men have compartments in their heads. I call them rooms. The big important things have larger rooms. Men can go into a room in their head, shut the door, and ignore all the other rooms. Women can't. That problem will bite at their high heels right up until it gets solved. I once handed my husband a penny-sized box. When he finally asked what it was for, I told him it represented the Heidi room in his head. Everything else had enormous rooms: work, computer everything, Church callings, the kids. He never responded, which made me think the cube I'd given him was much too big. Give her the second biggest room in your head. God and Christ are the only ones who should have a bigger room.

Communication isn't just a perk of a great marriage--it's essential. Talk with her. Respond to her questions and dig deeper. It's utterly essential. And it can't just be surface stuff about the kids or the bills or whether the dog needs a vet. You need to dig into the deeper layers and really get at the feelings and spiritual essence. And you need to do this while you're dating too. Practice something more than face-sucking. Surface talk is for roommates and people you don't particularly care deeply for. And don't wuss out and fall back on the "Oh men don't talk" thing. That's the Natural Man rearing his hideous, lazy head. Caring men do talk.

Show her you care about who she really is. Don't just hand her the flower you got at church on Mother's Day and call it done for the year. This is a daily thing. She uses those words of love and encouragement as fuel. Good fuel can fill your home with happiness. Bad fuel will nuke the place. You choose what you want to come home to.

Don't accuse her of nagging. If she has to tell you repeated times that something is wrong, GET A CLUE. Something is not right in her world. How else is she supposed to address it? Apparently wigging out and lopping off body parts is frowned on. Don't wait until she feels like doing that. And yes, it might be painful, but you have to rip the Bandaid off and examine what's beneath it. Maybe it needs Neosporine. But maybe, since you've left it so long, it's going to need amputation. Don't let it get that far. Hello. Man up and address it.

When you have an argument (because you will) don't lie in wait for her like a lurking shark. Dredging up all her past wrongs and flogging her with them is wrong. How can she address something you've glazed over? It's not fair. She may even have forgotten about the problem, it's been so long. This isn't a court room. She shouldn't have to subpoena witnesses, keep a record of every offense, and formulate a defense. If you have a beef, address it as quickly and Christ-like as you can, and not in front of others (certainly not the children unless you're both doing it deliberately to show them how to do it correctly and with kindness). Saving things for the next big argument will make it World War III and she'll feel like you're sniping at her from the building across the square. Own your mistakes. Work to address what's wrong. Give her credit where credit is due. Be honest about your feelings. Give tangible, logical, workable ways to fix the problem. Don't sweat the stupid small stuff. Be patient. Actually work to change what you've done wrong. Squash pride and selfishness.

Sometimes you're going to have to go out of your comfort bubble. Do it. Her happiness is worth a night of dancing or a trip to the theater. Do things she likes to do sometimes. I don't mean you have to be surgically sutured to her side, but it shows her how important she is to you when you gracefully endure discomfort or boredom to do things she likes (graceful being the operative word here. If you complain, all bets are off). And she'll be more inclined to do some things you like to do. Also, she might need a cooling down period too. Moms never get to go home from work. They live at work, and they don't get paid for it very often. You try working for the occasional child's smile or the split second the house is actually livable.

Don't ask her to do something and then make it impossible to do. My husband hates it if I touch his things. At all. And yet he likes a clean house. But to clean, I need to dust and move furniture and dusty stacks of papers. Sometimes he loses things. If I've moved anything an iota out of the way, he accuses me of their loss. He hates not being able to find tools in the shed but he won't let me clean it, putting everything in clearly marked containers. He wants to do it (or not) because he knows where everything is. But he forgets that he isn't the only one living in his house, or his bedroom. For years we haven't been able to walk into the shed or find anything out there, because he has to have it just so. All my growing up years my dad yelled at me until everything was clean. Now my husband yells at me if I touch anything. This is a great frustration to me. Don't do that to your wife.

When you want to do something, plan it with her. Otherwise she'll feel like she's only accidentally along for the ride. She has valid points and hopes and dreams (and a working brain) too. She should be your first mate, not the skivvy. And when you're out there on that family vacation, treat her like she's your love. Walk with her. Hold her hand. Thank her for things. Ask her how she's doing. If you want to buy a new car or a house, consult with her. She'll probably be spending a fair amount of time in it.

Open her door even after the ring is on. Take her out on dates. They don't have to be expensive, but something with just the two of you. Don't make her beg for them and complain when she does. You chose her, after all. In case you don't realize it, THIS IS BIG. This marriage thing is for real. It should last for the rest of Eternity. It takes maintenance. You can't just flick a ring on her like in a ring toss game and call it quits. You have to work hard at it constantly. And yes, you have to, or you'll fail. Lots of people do. It's never going to be easy with anybody. Ever. If you think it is, someone is selling you a water-spanning structure.

Treat her like you'd like to be treated, or better. If you would rather not be sniped or yelled at, and you'd like the Kingly treatment, imagine how she must feel. Nobody wants to be treated badly, and certainly not from the mate they've chosen to spend Eternity with. You're the guy she's dreamed of and planned for and secretly kissed her pillow for. You're her Prince. Act like it. Believe me, it'll be worth it.

Next time I'll write to my daughters.

(Published in like form on another blog by Me)

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Great Trek

It's been quite the week. On Thursday night (actually Friday morning) we left at around 1am for Utah via Las Vegas. We drove on the new bridge at the Hoover Dam and then went back to the dam and walked around. There was a line because they were working on the barriers. I know 'cause we asked them. We saw a mountain goat that had made its way down into the land next to the river.

Then we did a trek down the Strip in Las Vegas. It looks quite tawdry (shabby) in the daylight. Without its sheen of glittery light the cracks and rough places show up like an old

We went to find my publishers so I could talk to them. We were going to print with SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO but then they stopped it looking for another option. Anywho, because of rush hour we got there ten minutes late and my editor was gone and we never could meet back up. We had two missionary's stuff to take back to their parents's clear back by the Oqquir Mtn Temple...an hour and a half back the other way. We got to the in-laws pretty late. They're so patient and understanding.

The next am we watched Conference the first session and then raced over to Salt Lake to see the second. Unfortunately we didn't have tickets and had to watch it from the Tabernacle...the hard wooden seats behind a pillar. But it was still cool. There's just something about being that close to truly great men. I loved the talks and can't wait to re-experience them in the Ensign. It was surreal being that close to the Prophet and Apostles, even though we were so far away that they looked like they were on TV. The bummer was that when the guy spoke in his own Portuguese we only had subtitles and I couldn't take good notes. While we waited for the men to get out of their meeting, I met John Bytheway and one of the actors for Saints and Soldiers 3 and another writer. Very cool. The picture was great!

Monday am we took off for Idaho. We had lunch at Idaho Falls. Bit and I fed the birds before we saw the don't feed the birds sign. Pretty fun. Then we went and saw my dorm at Rexburg and saw the temple. We ended up seeing 13 different temples this trip! We even saw the new Payson one. We got to Yellowstone late in the afternoon and had just enough time to set up camp and go for a walk before the sun went down. We saw lots of kicking, charging bison and I think we heard a whole pack of wolves that night. I contemplated for a few minutes the terribly thin nature of those ripstop nylon walls of our tent. We also saw a moose. What I didn't see was the full eclipse. I was trying so hard to just get a half hour of sleep that I refused to open my eyes at 4:30 when it occurred. I think that was the half hour I got.

The next day we did Yellowstone. Mostly in the morning it was very misty. I got some great pictures of the mist and steam, but not so good pics of guysers until it warmed up and the steam abated. We saw Old Faithful blow twice. I hoped to see the one that's bigger than Old Faithful go off, but we weren't that lucky. We saw all kinds of bubbly hot sulfur holes of all colors. I remembered Morning Glory pool fondly as a gorgeous blue hole. Apparently people dumped too many things in there and it lowered the temp of the water and now it's no longer a gorgeous blue. Now it's a gorgeous blue-green and red and yellow. Mostly green. I loved the hike, though. No people but me and the Hubs charging along ahead of my puffing, gasping self.

On the way out we saw a huge grizzly bear heading off into the weeds across the river. We also saw lots of elk and deer and a pretty little fox right on the side of the road. We went up to the Grand Teton Nat'l. park next. Wow those mountains were jagged and majestic! I loved them, especially the jagged-iness. We got pizza in Jackson Hole and saw all kinds of elk. We passed a plethora of tiny less-than-200-people towns. But that part of Wyoming was so much prettier with trees and mountains than the rest we saw before. There is just something so post apocalyptic and dreary about a sere landscape full of nothing but calf-high sagebrush.

That night we spent with my in-laws (got there late) and then the next morning we took off for Nevada and Lehman cave. It was a pretty cave. The operative word being WAS. Most of the stalactites had been chopped off. It was really sad. Apparently in the 20's they gave a stalactite to anyone who could pull it off the ceiling. Some of them had new little soda straws growing from the stubs. I think the Hubs and I knew more about the geology than the ranger did. I kept anticipating her spiel with questions. She told me I'd probably been there before and was amazed when I said I hadn't.

On the way back to Utah and Richfield where my cousin lives, we stopped at the state line and the Boy and I stood in two states at once and two different times. In other words, we were time travelers...rofl Now I expect The Doctor to swipe me for a little Companion action momentarily.

We tried to make it to Cove Fort that evening but we missed a turn and went to Oak city first. By the time we got there, the Fort was closed, so we went to KFC and then to my cousin's. The next morning we went to Fish Lake and saw the world's biggest living entity...a stand of aspens. They blazed with color. We bummed around a dilapidated lodge and I dreamed of what it would be like to buy it and clean it up and have all kinds of things there...reunions, SCA events, church camps, Boy Scout events. Would be cool. While we were there, we saw a muskrat chugging around in the marina. It was so cute.

On our way home, my cousin got a call saying that her youngest daughter had been hit with a baseball bat in P.E. She had to have stitches in her chin and they were watching her for a concussion. We couldn't do much, though, so we went to Cove Fort. It was a way cool little fort. My aunt and uncle worked there until 2 weeks ago. We just missed them. I'll show you the pictures when we get them off my camera.

We went back to the cousin's to sleep and in the morning we went to see Scipio where my book is set. I'm happy to say that most of what I wrote was pretty spot on. We took a few pictures and then went to a glorious little camp ground called Maple Grove. Talk about scarlets and golds and all flaming colors in between!!! It'd be a great place to have a family reunion, esp. in the fall. After that we took off for Richfield Walmart and then home.

We saw AZ, NV, UT, MT, WY, and ID. We saw bubbly mud, spouting steam, and gorgeous sulfur pools. Giant aspen stands, gorgeous Victorian houses, tiny towns, ancient barns, and miles and miles of empty, waterless land, sky-ripping mountains, ranks of pines both of the pinion and fir types. There were horses, cattle, elk, deer, mountain goats, regular goats, bears, moose, bison, chipmunks (mini-bears), squirrels, muskrat, llamas, dogs, cats, and maybe wolves.

The trip back was a total fly-by. I had a good book on my kindle, so I read until nearly dark. Amazingly there was very little sleep-age, which is weird since road trips render me comatose. We hardly even stopped except to get gas, making it home at around 7:45. It was pretty strange getting home before dinner time.


Pictures to come when I get them off my camera.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why I'm Late

My blog furniture and invisible books don't 'know' me anymore it's been so long. But I have reasons.

First of all my book is coming out momentarily!!! (I can't keep my pinkie off the exclamation point button. It goes there of its own volition today.) I've seen the last iteration of the cover and love it. I've examined every inch of the inside and the work has passed my strict magnifying glass, even down to kerning. (If there are kerning problems, they had to be there. Kerning is the space between words or letters.)

So here is the cover in all its glory:





I've blacked out a couple of places until I get the news I'm hoping for (hopefully) today. (Can I just say I HATE my paint program? I've used various programs and this one I seem to be stuck with is absolutely wretched. Anywho, back to the party.) I can't wait!!! I can't believe this book is finally coming to fruition. Plus I just got the word that we're going ahead with SUMMERHOUSE for Spring and they want a synopsis of LETTERS FOR STEPS. Finally, the train is pulling out of the station.

So that's the top news. Here are a couple of other things that have kept me from coming to write as much (besides doing massive edits on the book pictured above):

I'm working on a book called MARIN AT THE WELL, researching the Middle East in the time of Christ, plus parts in the New Testament which deal specifically with Christ before He was resurrected, and writing the story of Marin Peregrin.

I've also joined an amazing choir. (They just changed the name to Tucson Interfaith Choir--TIC) The music is, for me, quite difficult since I'm not the world's best sight reader. We're singing about twelve songs, two of them in German, and most with very complex melodies. I love it. Quite the challenge. We'll be performing on the 24th and 25th of October at the Ft. Lowell chapel and East Stake Center in Tucson respectively. We're also probably going to do parts of Bach's Christmas Oratorio for Christmas among other things. At least that's what I believe Brent said.

The last thing that kept me away this last week was a trip North. I'll tell that in another post so this one isn't so long. Plus hopefully I'll have pics by that time. I have some glorious ones of the fall colors and Yellowstone in the mist and of temples (especially the Salt Lake Temple) and the family members who went.

So those things plus driving the kids everywhere (I thought when I had fewer of them home things would calm down. NOT.) and doing Rel. Soc. President-y things and Boy Scout-y things make for a huge pile of excuses. I'm going to take a running start and fling myself into that pile, like landing in a big pile of gold and scarlet leaves, scattering them everywhere.

Anyway, now I've got to go contribute to another couple of blogs and put clothes away and jump around like a crazy person and have breakfast (it's 1:50), and whittle (more like hack at with an ax) my mountainous to-do list. I have not forgotten you...;o)


Monday, September 22, 2014

Escaped Hippopotamus Alert

 Maybe you've seen me running down the side of the road. I use the word 'running' loosely. It's more like slowly falling forward and catching myself with each footstep. And if you did witness such a spectacle, you might have thought to yourself, "Wow. There's an escaped hippopotamus lumbering down the street! I wonder if I should give the zoo a call."

Don't call. It's just me trying to shed a couple of tons of flopping blubber. It probably looks as if I sit home every day eating bon bons and watching soaps, which isn't true. Actually I run at least three times a week and do probably 15 or so hours per week of service--often free house cleaning help, among other things.

I also think about doing massive amounts of sit-ups and leg lifts and other exercises. Apparently thinking about it isn't quite enough. Which is wretched. I think when I do mental calisthenics and when I turn down chunk-inducing food I should get points which, when totaled, take off a pound or two. If that were the case, I'd be another 25 lbs. lighter.

I never thought of myself as being one of "those" people who had so much time on their hands that they could sit around counting calories and obsessing over their tonnage. I was always too busy doing things.

Besides running, I like to dance, swim, and occasionally hike, fight, and climb a little. I work for the Boy Scouts and Church and I'm the Attendance Clerk for my international writing club. I ride herd on a family of eight with three teens still at home. I sing in three choirs, play several instruments, and do art gigs. I also read and write. Lots. So that means the scales of injustice are tipping unforgivably towards a widening posterior and stomach.

The funny thing is, the 'me' inside my head looks nothing like this horrid mirror apparition. (Who let that hag in? She needs to go back to being the doorkeeper at Hogwarts.) Inside Me is twenty five, slender, gorgeous, gifted, and successful. For her, the running and dancing and swimming and climbing, and sword-fighting has paid off quite well. Outer Me is always flummoxed (it even sounds like a FAT word) at the viscous nature of fat. Man, that gunk sticks to everything! Maybe glue companies should research fat as a new kind of glue.

Someone said I should carry weights when I'm running. To them I say, I already am. I carry a tube of it around my middle and two fanny packs worth on my behind. Hasn't helped.

The other thing that annoys the heck out of me is the recalcitrance of that torture implement squirreled away under my bathroom sink called a scales. Whoever invented that contraption should be put to the rack. It taunts me when I go in to brush my teeth. This is the gist of the conversation:

Scales: If you climb on, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Me: Right.
Scales: No really. You look like you've lost a little around the chest area.
Me: Yeah thanks. No.
Scales: Don't you feel a little lighter? And you didn't have that extra helping at dinner. You probably dropped a whole pound.
Me: Not likely.
Scales: Oh come on. You have to know how much you weigh. They ask you in all kinds of places.
Me: It's none of their business, really.
Scales: But you should know the number so you can know if you're healthy or not.
Me: Your weight isn't the be-all and end-all of the health index.
Scales: That's an excuse.
Me: *sigh* All right. All right. Shut up. I know I should at least check it out. But it's night time and I still have clothes on. It'll throw things off if I'm still wearing my watch and clothes. And they all say you should weigh yourself at the same time of day.
Scales: I'll be lying in wait. Hah! Pun intended.
The next morning.
Scales: Okay, Chubby. Put up or shut up.
Me: Don't let me weigh more than ***. It's GOT to be under ***.
I step on, quivering. The dang thing bursts into horrid little snickers. I step off and back on several times, hoping it was asleep or lying or I can trick it into reading less. No dice. The tonnage glows at me maleficently. 
Me: I HATE YOU!
Scales: I'll be waiting. Again, pun intended.

Someday I'm going to loft that thing into a running creek. Or a landfill right before the dozer shoves dirt over it. Or the desert along with a half ton of other garbage. (Just kidding. I'm not a litterer. Just plump.)

No. Wait. I hear hippos can be pretty vicious. I'm going to bite that thing in half and then stomp on it until the stinkin' springs pop out. Yeah. We hippopotami can be sneaky.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Own Miracle

About twelve years ago I slipped on a hidden book and dislocated my shoulder. I also broke the part of the bone off where the ligament attaches to the shoulder. Instant excruciating pain! It lasted well over three hours while the hospital needlessly (and unknown to me) waited for my Hubs to sign paperwork. I hope never to repeat that kind of searing, burning, mind-robbing pain.

A few weeks ago I revisited some of that misery. For unknown reasons, my shoulder injured itself in my sleep or something. Apparently it swelled up inside and became inflamed and the muscle "froze" up. Which is a misnomer since nothing felt icy at all. There was PLENTY of heat. In fact, there was so much ache that I couldn't lift my arm more than two inches away from straight down.

The bad thing was that my babies were here from Texas. Most of the time they were here I spent in a pain-scarred haze. All I could do was sit on the couch and veg. If people jumped into my arms I went into orbit around Saturn. Not fun.

On Sunday I consulted a couple of my chiropractor friends at church. One of them did some tests that made me dance with agony. They told me my shoulder was frozen and that, beyond some exercises, they couldn't really do anything.

I decided I needed to have a blessing. I knew that my faith plus that Priesthood blessing would make me, if not completely whole immediately, at least able to function. In my mind, I knew it would happen in a day or so. So I got my Hubs and my daughter's boyfriend to bless me. That night, for the first night since The Pain began, I slept through the night. The next day the arm was noticeably better.

Then I looked up Frozen Shoulder on the Internet and several sites (Mayo Clinic etc) said this pain would last anywhere from a year to two years. I was floored. That long? No Way. Wasn't happening. I'd had a blessing.

That day I got a call from my friend Christine, who does therapeutic massage and kinesio taping. She's very good and always studying and perfecting. (I can put you in touch with her.) Immediately she asked me what was wrong. I've got to say this isn't really that normal for her to instantly ask what's wrong. We usually chat about a bunch of things and sometimes don't get around to my own problems. It's just that kind of give and take friendship. We deal with what's happening.

That day, right to the bacon.

I told her what I'd been experiencing and she scolded me for not immediately calling her. She nearly flew over here and taped up my shoulder. She could see I was still suffering terribly and she knows the kind of pain threshold I have. I sword-fight for fun. I get honking bruises on a regular basis and don't even blink at them. I had 5 of my 6 children without any kind of pain meds. With the first baby I only had a shot of local anesthetic. So when Christine saw me wince, she knew I was feeling as if a bull shark was tearing off my arm.

I'm here to say that by the end of that day, I could lift my arm to horizontal. Without pain.

I'm not kidding. And the healing went on from there. She saw me one other time to do some massage on it and was completely amazed. We took the tape off to see if the pain would still hold off and it did.

Don't get me wrong. There's still some kind of impingement in there. But I can raise my arm clear up to vertical. I can dress myself and lift loads. I can put my arm behind my back.

I know that the power of the Priesthood is real. It calmed the agony in such a graphic way that I could never ignore it. It sent my friend to call me and then to do the things she could do to help me. She told me herself that when she saw how much pain I was in, she didn't think she could do much for me. Alone she probably couldn't have. But together with the blessing, she did it. There's no good reason why it should have worked so completely, except that the Lord needed to use me to show what He can do.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Good-bye My Babies

Every time I came out to check on the dog, there were more skeins of yarn out...like he was starting a knitting project. The sign says: Where's my scarf, Howdy?
 Sigh...Big sigh. The Grand Monsters (lovingly said, of course) went home today, back to the land of the giant star. At last my home is quiet. Almost too quiet. Nobody is demanding that I fill up their candy container. There are no calls for cartoons or mass fairy book readings. Nowhere is there a baby climbing up to clutch at things on the table or frazzled moms grabbing them back down. No one scrambles to catch the dog before it escapes out the front door to go sniff everything or eats a W&W off the floor. There are no more horse clopping sounds or shouts of, "Stand and Deliver!" or "Reach for da sky!" (I have BRILLIANT babies.)

It smells of fairy wing glue, and spilled dog food and faintly of dirty diaper and W&W's and the duct tape with which all good knights repair their swords. It no longer reeks of old doll clothes and ancient books and childhood, as they took the bags of dolls and toys we bestowed upon them, some to keep and some to give to others. It smells of Uno cards and defeat at the hands of El Scarifo. And the spicy scents of a large Pasketti dinner still hang about the dish mountain.

I must say that a few tears always escape my eyes when I see the back end of their car pulling into the distance. Such scenes are always accompanied by the echoing strains of the song from Fiddler on the Roof, Far From the Home I Love. There's always that hint of a question, "When will I see them again?"

The simple answer is, "Never." Never at that adorable age will I see them again--that moment caught in magical amber. By the next time they'll have learned to speak in full sentences, perform complex algorithms, tie theirs and other people's shoes (together), and dance the pas de deux from Swan Lake. They'll have learned to speak several different languages and crochet doilies and lop the heads off dragons with one fell swoop. 

Or something.

Will I ever be vanquished again by a sword I just gave the boy? Who knows? Will the Boo ever give such deliciously messy kisses? No clue. Will he ever come to my knee and gently eat all my breakfast? Maybe. Will he still enjoy drinking Ranch dressing straight, no chasers? Doubtful. Will the Ace ever need my help deciphering Presidential facts? Probably not. She'll be running for president soon.

Howdy-the-Dog will be greatly missed as well, even though he killed a sock, a peanut butter lid, two W&W containers, and several skeins of yarn. What will we do for jolting dog-hop exercise now? And how will we ever get our feet licked clean? My son is definitely going to miss his snoring buddy. He wants a dog so much he can taste it.

So. Even though several things lie in more pieces than they did before the Rumbling Herd got here, and even though I got exactly Zero words written, and even though we were up until well after midnight every night trying to corner the market on flax or swipe El Scarifo's rifle, I already miss them.

Ah for Christmas vacation. We shall be armed with more W&W's than even the Glazed Donut Monster can consume in a month, chew toys we don't care about, and a hefty supply of card-game vengeance.

Bring it on, Babies.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Boy in a Boat

This is my nod to Scouting leadership.

A Boy in a Boat



I set a boy adrift in a boat, out on a choppy sea.
The waves were high, 
Crashing over the bow
So I bid him come back to me.

But I gave him no oars nor a brave coxswain
Nor a captain to guide his hand
I expected the boy to save himself
Tho he truly did not understand.

Who, then, should I blame if the boy in the boat
Founders and sinks 'neath the waves?
I stood safely on shore, merely looking on
'Stead of being the one who saves.

Be the brave lighthouse, be the Captain, the rope
Be the person who shows the boy in
Don't let him founder for want of a guide
Be the one he can count on to win.

Give him the oars he can use himself
To pull the boat into the shore
Then light his way o'er the rocks and the shoals
For that's what a leader is for.
© 2014 by H. Linn Murphy



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Swamp Camping

Recently we went camping with another family with lots of little children. Those children are brilliant, as geeky as we in our family are, and hilarious. I just had to get that in there.
Ramming speed, Girl!

So we trundled out to the area, not in the mountains as once I had hoped, but in a valley. Here in the desert that means normally it would be hotter than a smoker in the Marianas Trench (pretty toasty for those of you who don't keep up with marine biology or watch Blue Planet). To add to that, the campsite was located on a road between two weed-filled ponds. I envisioned hoards of goat-sized mosquitoes plunging from the clouds to siphon up gallons of our blood. I also envisioned one or more of the tots flinging themselves (or accidentally falling) into any of three large ponds.

What I did not envision was that directly after dinner the first salad plate-sized drops of an all-night deluge would begin. Luckily we'd already set up our tents...on the road in a line. I quickly questioned the parents of aforesaid tots about whether there was any history of sleepwalking in their family, as our own is rife with it. Luckily none of their children had sleepwalked while camping. A felicitous thought.

Normally I make three or four trips to the facilities each night. I was dreading the thought. I made one trek out to the outhouses down a muck-glazed road. Before I'd gotten ten feet I looked as if I'd fallen in the pond. I found that what had been touted as a rain poncho on the cover, was actually a windbreaker sans hat. So much for being prepared for every eventuality. To add to that and the knee-deep mud, the hand washing hose pump was solar-powered. Hence no water. Which wasn't a problem right then. I could simply hold my hands in the air and they'd be washed clean in under thirty seconds.
Hunting the great carp

Upon getting back to the tents after nearly slipping to my drowning death in the pond nearby, I found that not only was I covered in mud, but I really had no wish to sit outside in the rain and chat, as my Hubs was. So I went to bed. Which would have been pleasant, except that the rain was making it inside in about eight different ways. I tried unsuccessfully to make my bed an island. It was warm enough that I slept on top of the sleeping bag in a blanket sack I'd made as a liner for cold weather camps. Unfortunately that sack made a fabulous wick. The tip of it dipped into the burgeoning puddle and as the night wore on, wicked up further and further. Finally I sat up and yelled, "OK! TAKE THE REST OF IT!" at the puddle and donated the sack to the cause of sopping up the water so that it wouldn't soak my clothes. Which didn't work.

So everything was soaking wet. I could deal with that for a night. No problem. I wasn't even chilly. What I had a rougher time hacking was the chorus of bullfrog mating honks. All night. LOUD. Right next to us. I wanted to yell, "GET A ROOM!!!" until I realized we were sitting in their room. Around two pm we heard something that seemed to be trying to get into our food coolers. Anticipating a coon or a ring-tailed cat or coatimundi, the Hubs shone his flashlight out there and the rustles retreated to the tree. We continued to chat and suddenly heard a Ca-RACKKKK and a SPLOOSH. The Hubs and I doubled over in laughter thinking that that coon had fallen into the pond. But we didn't hear any splashing of a struggle. So apparently it either didn't fall in and was still lurking in the tree somewhere, or was immediately consumed by the cow-sized carp that lurk in the ponds. At any rate, it left the coolers alone. I got maybe an hour of light dozing that night.

The next day dawned watery but sunny. We aired things out clear up until we left, not wanting to haul home exceeding amounts of muck. After a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, and sausage, we packed up most of it and went canoing.
We can beat 'em on the turn

The ponds could be called tiny lakes. I believe those things were mostly under five feet deep. I reached my paddle down to the bottom several times to check. Also, they were infested with lake weed which rose above the surface in many places. So for the giant carp to navigate, much of their bodies were above the surface. They left wakes like a motorboat. The Hubs was in front and saw several of the monsters. We chased them all over the pond. I wanted to see them up close too, but the bounders were too fast. Later when I went back out with my friend Lisa, we could find none of them. We found out that they had made their way to an underground culvert, which they used to escape to another of the ponds for safety.

After much pirate talk and plans to "ram the beggars" which we nixed after we saw how easy it would be to hole a canoe, we packed up the cars and wended our way home. That afternoon the house looked as if it was infested with mud monsters from the Black Lagoon. I still have several loads of tent and sleeping bags to wash and dry and put back together. And I hope none of those coolers contain anything other than bullrushes and air.


That 'squint-into-the-sun selfie
And of course there was the dialogue about what we'd do differently as we drove home. For one thing, I'm bringing my REAL poncho, not that stupid windbreaker. And for another, there's got to be a better way to keep the water out of our tent. And earplugs for the bullfrogs.