Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mr. Lingwall

From the time I was 10 until I was 21, I played the trumpet. The clarinet was my first choice, but we were poor and we had a trumpet, so the trumpet is what I played. But that is a different story. In the small Arizona town where I grew up, I had a handful of band teachers. Mr. Lingwall was my high school band teacher.

I found out today that he passed away on Monday.

Next to my parents, I probably spent more time with him than with any other adult during those four years. There was marching band, symphonic band, jazz and pep bands; road trips, ensembles, contests and band camp. You get the idea.

Because of my huge involvement with band, Mr. Lingwall had a huge impact on my life, as well as on the lives of every other student he taught. From him I learned about discipline and teamwork, as well as accountability. He had high expectations from us and we wanted to deliver. We marched when it was 110 degrees outside. We marched in the rain. We marched during Christmas break to rehearse for the Fiesta Bowl.

As I mentioned, the town where I grew up was small. Drugs, alcohol, and teen pregnancy were very real issues at our high school. The drop-out rate was staggering -- I believe my class had over 700 entering freshman, and we graduated 327. But there was Mr. Lingwall, stallwart and steady, providing opportunities to a bunch of know-it-all teenagers that we might not have otherwise had. We marched at Disneyland. We competed at UNLV. He once awarded me a solo at a Cardinals/Eagles game. He put us in little ensembles to play around the town at Christmastime. I remember playing in an ensemble for Palm Sunday at his church. He sent us to leadership seminars and encouraged us to always strive for that "superior" rating.

Mr. Lingwall taught me to be my best.

I learned it by example.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Well, I am in the full throes of Christmas Break and I've obviously taken a break from blogging. Christmas has been wonderful, yes. A whirlwind of baking and and singing and wrapping and visiting. Toss in the fact that my husband started with a new company and training has meant that I've been on my own for most of December - he's in Sacramento as I type - and I am exhausted!

But every day I see and/or hear something, and I find myself saying, "this is so going on my blog." So here goes.

First of all, I was chatting with someone tonight who was explaining to me his violent bout with food-poisoning after stopping at a roadside diner in central Utah. It was only after he finished eating that his daughter pointed out the sign that read "Ho-made Pies." So, so wrong.

Secondly, does anyone REALLY want to see the movie where Dwayne Johnson plays a Billy Bad-A** hockey player who gets sentenced to becoming a tooth fairy? REALLY?!? (Honestly, I saw this trailer today when we went to see Alvin and the Chipmunks - The Squeakuel... and I totally regret breaking my dollar-movie-only rule).

Finally, I need to rant for a moment. About the terrorist. You know who I'm talking about. They keep calling him a "suspected" terrorist. Except that 300 people on an airplane can confirm that he tried to blow up said airplane. And that they found the explosives in his underpants. I know this is America and we give people fair trials and blah blah blah. But all the rest of us are going to have to once again change our lives and show up at the airport 4 hours early because of one idiot. One cretinous idiot. Let's not forget that our tax dollars are paying for his medical treatment, hospital stay, and subsequent hearings. Here's my anti-terrorist plan. We take the CONFIRMED TERRORIST off of the airplane straight to the tarmac and detonate his underwear. It's a lot cheaper. And what's more American than taking down the bad guy and saving some money in a down economy? Anyone?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Best Christmas Present I Ever Got

This is my son Jamison. This is one of my favorite pictures of him. It was taken three years ago, and yes, those are his sister's glasses. He was born to entertain. Today is his 7th birthday. From the moment he was born, he was a happy kid. He was born with natural comedic timing, as before he could even talk, he was doing things to make us laugh.

I remember sitting by the fireplace on Christmas eve in 2002, holding this 9-day old baby and feeling complete happiness.

Now, seven years later, if you could be a fly on the wall in our house during dinner, you'd hear things like: "There's this Spanish kid in my class named Francisco and he always asks me what my name is and I say Jamison and then he asks me what my other name is and I say Ted and then he asks me what my other name is and I say Stagg and then he asks me what my other name is and I have to yell at him because I don't have any other names, but he doesn't get it and he just keeps bugging me and now I never want to go to San Francisco."

Yesterday when I asked him how his day was, he said, "Mikey hit Jack on the forehead and now I think Jack has de-ja vu because he doesn't remember me at all."

Happy Birthday Jamison!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Importance of Staying Fit

Yesterday, I was sitting on the couch, folding laundry. My son (who will be 7 tomorrow) emptied the contents of his Transformers backpack and pulled out this paper nativity scene. He carefully arranged them on the coffee table in this position, looked at me with all seriousness and said, "Mary and Joseph are doing push-ups while Baby Jesus watches." And he walked away.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Quiet Moment

This is a blurry picture of my Nativity set that I took with my cell phone. It's not the prettiest one; I've had it for a long time. The last few years, I have only put out these three figures and left everything else in the box.

I like to think about that quiet moment this little family must have had before all havoc broke loose. Before the shepherds showed up with the animals or the wise men with their camels; not to mention some kid out there banging his drum. I imagine I wouldn't mind the hosts of Heaven singing right on my rooftop; but there had to be this quiet, perfect moment when it was just the three of them. Silent. Perfect. Joyous.

It makes me think about the fact that they were a family first, and then He became the Savior of the world.

Maybe it reminds me to take a moment to just BE with my family. We're often scurrying to do homework or to get dinner done; to finish our chores or make it to piano lessons on time. It's easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of being a young family. But to take the time to have those "be still" moments; to enjoy a cozy moment together - those are the ones we treasure.

My wish this Christmas if for each of us to find those still and quiet moments.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I Grew Up in ARIZONA!

I woke up this morning to the sight of several inches of snow on the ground and the sound of our neighborhood being plowed. I got my kids and myself bundled up before trudging off to school. It was a balmy 3 degrees out, by the way. The snow was thick and still falling. The roads were slick, but I drive a BIG four-wheel drive Chevy Tahoe, so it took me a little longer, but I got to work in one piece.

I came home at lunchtime. The snow was still coming down pretty heavily. I had to leave again at 2:00 for an after-school meeting. The snow had accumulated and I live on a hill, so I decided to shift the car into 4-Lo. For those of you who get to drive fun little roadsters and rear-wheel drive racing machines, or who live on completely flat, paved surfaces, there are three 4X4 driving options:

1) 2HI - for normal driving, on-road, dry conditions
2) 4HI - for when you need some extra traction in the snow or off-road
3) 4LO - for when you're climbing steep hills and/or are driving in deep snow or mud

Like I said, I live on a steep hill, the snow was half-way up my tires, and I prefer driving as opposed to sliding. Okay. So I made it down the mountain in 4LO to a regular, mostly plowed road. I was ready for 4HI. I pushed the button to shift the transfer case but nothing happened. I tried again, still nothing. You can't drive much over about 10 mph in 4LO because it will tear up your front axle. So I had to pull over, take out my owner's manual and learn how to properly shift out of 4Lo. And I quote:

(It begins with a warning, of course)
"Shifting the transfer case to NEUTRAL can cause your vehicle to roll even if the transmission is in PARK. You or someone else could be seriously injured. Be sure to set the parking brake before placing the transfer case in NEUTRAL.

To shift from 4LO to 4HI, your vehicle must be stopped or moving less than 3 mph with the transmission in NEUTRAL and the ignition in RUN. The preferred method for shifting out of 4LO is to have your vehicle moving 1 to 2 mph. Press and release the 4HI switch. You must wait for the 4HI indicator light to stop flashing and remain illuminated before shifting your transmission into gear. If the 4HI switch is pressed when your vehicle is in gear and/or moving the indicator light will flash for 30 seconds but will not complete the shift unless your vehicle is moving less than 3 mph and the transmission is in NEUTRAL."

Are you kidding me? It's snowing! I'm driving! 10 and 2! 10 and 2!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

He's Just Not THAT Guy

We have never been a video game family. Nor do we have satellite T.V. or a DVR. Our kids don't have their own cell phones or their own t.v.'s. What we do have is lots of books, golf clubs, tennis rackets, and an endless number of mountains to climb. Our kids are really well-balanced and imaginative. More importantly, they're very good at finding ways to entertain themselves. Just earlier this afternoon, my 6-year-old son came into my room where I was napping and woke me up to tell me that "there are homes available in our area for only $199 a month. And they're big ones." See what I mean?

So it was with great deliberation and persuasion that I convinced my husband that we should buy them a certain video game system for Christmas. You know, the one with the nunchucks. I was pleasantly surprised when, earlier this week, he told me about an ad he had seen for a major big-box retailer who was offering a $50 gift card with the purchase of said video game system. He is SOOOO not the shopper in our family. What surprised me further was that he was willing to go to the store at 8:00 this morning when the store opened. Mind you, neither of us will ever be found within 10 miles of a shopping mall on Black Friday. I'd rather have chards of glass in my eyeballs. (Not really, but you get my point).

When he got to the store, the parking lot didn't appear to be too crowded. When he walked inside, there was a line-up of about 40 people for the electronics department. He called me and said, "I'm sorry. I just can't be that guy. We'll buy it somewhere else. Is there anything else you need while I'm here?" Amazingly, he went back to the sewing department and picked me up a yard of interfacing for a project I'm currently working on. When he got home, he handed each of the kids one those cute little round coke bottles.

Most people hearing/reading this story would probably say, "You mean you got all the way to the one-yard line and then backed off?" I can understand their logic. But sometimes, you just have to be who you are.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chicken Soup Month

Because it's December and we all love those feel-good stories, I thought I might try my hand at sharing a few good ones here and there throughout the month.

This story was told to me several years ago, by my father-in-law. He is an active member of the Rotary Club in Salt Lake City. This particular club sponsors a local inner-city elementary school, where most students are minorities, many of them refugees. These children have very little and so the Rotarians help by providing books, dictionaries, and other school supplies. One summer, the school's music teacher came to the Rotarians, asking for help to purchase violins for each and every student. This was no small undertaking, but he wanted to require that all students in the school learn to play the violin. He gave many reasons for such a request; it would help improve their academic achievement, it would give them exposure to the arts that they might not otherwise have... the list went on.

So the Rotarians, doing what they do best, dug deep into their pockets and managed to provide the school with violins for each and every student. The months went by and the Rotarians had moved on to other affairs, having somewhat forgotten about their generous donation. That is until the music teacher came back and asked if the students could perform a song for them at their December meeting. He promised that Michael Ballam, a well-known opera singer and Utah native would also be a part of the performance. The Rotarians were delighted and the date was set.

My father-in-law explained it something like this: "Michael Ballam sat at a piano at the front of the room. The students were standing between the various chairs and tables throughout the rest of the room with their violins. Michael Ballam began to play and sing 'O Holy Night.' The children accompanied him. There was a little girl, about nine years old, standing right next to my table. When I looked at her she had tears streaming down her cheeks as she played her violin. Then I looked around the room at the other children and all of them had tears as they played that beautiful song. By the time the song was over, we all had tears streaming down our faces."

This is a story that I have remembered for years. Can you imagine the impact it had on those kids? To know that not only were they not forgotten, but that they were loved. To have a chance to play a beautiful song with a professional musician; to hear the words and feel the message of that song: that is the magic of music.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Today is December 2nd, so I thought I'd better get this out in the open right now. I am a Christian and I celebrate Christmas. I have a sparkly, pretty Christmas tree in my living room. There is a nativity set sitting on my entrance table. My family and I are spending the month reading accounts of Jesus Christ's birth from the scriptures. I will give my children Christmas presents on the morning of the 25th. I will wish various people throughout the month a Merry Christmas. If you happen to be one of those people, but you don't celebrate Christmas, I won't hold that against you. I won't apologize for it either, but please don't hold it against me because I celebrate it. I am simply giving you greeting of warmth, love, and general good cheer.

If a Jewish friend wants to wish me a Happy Hannukah, that's fine with me. I promise not to be offended. I will be glad for the kindness. That goes for anybody else who celebrates anything at this time of year. What a nice way of sharing a little bit of yourself with me!

I write about this today because a co-worker of mine was recently berated by a parent whose daughter came home with a paper turkey. He yelled at my friend, telling her in no uncertain terms that he did not want his daughter involved in any type of activity that had anything to do with any holidays. Period. This teacher never received so much as a note on a napkin informing her of this request. We've already celebrated Halloween and the parent never said "Boo." When this parent came in with his tongue lashing, he didn't cite any type of religious reasons or any other reason, for that matter. Thanksgiving is an American holiday, by the way; not a religious one. His child attends an American public school. What does he expect?

Let me give you non-teachers a bit of advice: when an irrational parent comes in and yells at and berates a teacher, all it gets you is disrespected and talked about behind your back amongst all the other teachers. And then, as your child moves up through the grades, nobody wants her because they don't want to deal with YOU.

Of course we teachers are happy to accommodate and will respect requests for students to not participate in certain activities for whatever reason. Many years ago I had a student whose family practiced a religion that did not allow for the celebration of parties, including holidays and birthdays. They spoke to me about it in a calm and kind manner on the first day of school; and you know what? We parted at the end of the year with genuine feelings of kindness and mutual respect. That student has to be in his early twenties now and I can imagine that he is a very successful and well-rounded young man.

I realize I live in a part of the country (Utah) where most people predominantly belong to one religion. But I have a grandmother who is a Muslim. She sends me Christmas cards. I have relatives who don't believe in any type of higher power at all. They send me Christmas cards. I have relatives who are gay, who are living with HIV, who are black, white, Indonesian, Dutch, American, Catholic... you name it. They've all got a branch on my family tree. And the fruit is beautiful.

So this December, let me share a little bit of myself with you.

Merry Christmas, people!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Comfort Food

Hot Jasmine Rice. Mmmm. The aromatic steam wafting its way from my little bowl to my nose instantly evokes an "aaahhh" from my throat. I can't help it. I love it. I need no sauces or fru-fru extras. Just the rice. As long as it's jasmine rice.

There's also an Indonesian curry-flavored soup called Soto soup that takes me home every time I eat it. The only way to get it is to make it myself (or actually go to my mom's house in Texas and beg her to make it for me). It's quite a process, but as soon as the first savory sip trickles across my tongue, I'm ten-years-old again.

If I'm sick, it's soft-boiled eggs. With a little salt.

And let's not forget hot bread, fresh from the oven. Slathered in butter, of course.

I know this is not the typical list of comfort foods, but they are my comfort foods. Maybe, in a way, they are a window into my personality; a profile of my background. Regardless, we all have foods that we turn to when we need that indefinable extra something.

What are yours?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What are YOU Grateful For?

During this week of giving thanks, there are many, many things for which I am grateful. I'm surrounded by people I love, who love me back. I have everything I need, peppered with several wants. My kids are happy, healthy well-adjusted kids. My husband takes good care of me and we share lots of laughs. I have a good life, you know?

Right now, I'm especially grateful that I can be thankful for good friends. I know there are people out there whose lives are so frantic, so dysfunctional, that they're simply in survival mode. They're so bogged down by their issues that they can't even think about having friends, let alone having time for them. Friends are a luxury they just can't afford. For me, friends are a necessity that I can't afford not to have.

Whenever I'm in Houston, I make a huge effort to visit old friends. I grew up in Arizona, but Houston is where I became a grown-up. My kids were born here. We bought our first house here. The friends I made here were a huge part of that becoming-an-adult process. Two nights ago I stopped in on a girlfriend, Liz. It had been a couple of years since we last saw each other, but as she bear-hugged me at the door, time and distance became irrelevant. A few minutes later, her sister (also my friend) Jen showed up at the door. Four hours later, our cheeks ached from laughter.

That's what good friends do. We laugh ourselves silly and love each other no matter how much weight we gain or what kind of mental trauma we cause our kids.

My life isn't a piece of cake. It's the whole dang bakery. And friends are the icing.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Happy Couple

I just thought I'd post a picture I snapped of the big day. Despite the rain, it turned out to be a fabulous day!

Friday, November 20, 2009

These Stories Need No Embellishment

My brother is getting married tomorrow, to a fabulous girl. To borrow a phrase from my husband, he is definitely marrying above himself. Tonight we had a dinner for the two families. We spent a lovely evening getting to know each other, all the while enjoying fabulous Greek food. As the oldest sibling, I felt it my duty to bestow a few words of advice to my new sister-in-law; if my little brother got roasted in the process, well, so be it.

Here are a few snippets:

When Anthony turned 3-years-old, my mother took him to the bakery to pick out his birthday cake. He chose one with a girl in a bikini. If you know my brother, that's par for the course. My mom, being the instigator that she is, allowed him to take the three candles and place them according to his desire. You can imagine where the first two went. The third was strategically placed in the frosting lady's belly button.

I gave his fiance three birthday candles to save for when there's a lull in the romance department.

Anthony has always been very concerned about his looks. I've often commented that he is more of a girl than I am. If you were to compare our two vanities, mine would have four products: soap, toothpaste, lotion, and Chapstick. His would contain the entire Clinique collection and then some. When he was in kindergarten, the big VHS movie we watched around our house was Superman II. The villain's name was Zod. He dressed in black and had very slicked-back hair. Anthony decided that this was the look for him. Getting ready for school, he would use no less than half a bottle of hair gel, ensuring his Zod-like look would last all day long.

I gave Charlotte a large bottle of hair gel, to get the happy couple off to the right start.

When Anthony was a teen-ager, he was often up to mischief of one kind or another. Somehow, our mom would hear about it through the grapevine, and would anxiously await the return of her prodigal son. Usually, she was waiting with some kind of weapon; a shoe, a wooden spoon, whatever was within reach. That, unfortunately, was often the remote control. She broke an untold number of remotes on Anthony's backside, or whatever limb he was using to protect himself. The running joke in the family became that if Dad wasn't home it was because he was at Walmart picking up a new remote control.

I told Charlotte to save her knuckles and gave her the largest remote control I could find. She's gonna need it.

And so, I wish for my brother (whom I took for show-and-tell in the second grade) and his beautiful bride, a long and happy life. And if one day, they have a little boy who chases his sisters around the house, threatening to pee on them, well, I hope Charlotte has the remote control handy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Palin vs. Mayer

I must have been on a Sno-ball sugar rush last night, because it took me a while to fall asleep. So I stayed up and watched Nightline, as Conan O'Brien spent far too much of his monologue bashing Sara Palin. Interestingly enough, there was an interview with Sara Palin on Nightline. There was also an interview with John Mayer.

Oh goody! I thought to myself, a two-fer!

You see, I adore Sara Palin. I may be in the minority of people who would actually speak up and admit that, but I like what she has to say. Plus, she's a hard-workin' mama.

I also adore John Mayer. I have all of his albums, I've seen him in concert four times, and "Try" is my all-time #1 favorite song.

Whether or not you agree with Sara Palin's views, I am continually boggled by the venom that is spit in her name. The Nightline interview, as you can imagine, was less than friendly. Barbara Walters reported that she had already made a million dollars from her book -- as if that was some sort of evil atrocity. I aspire to be a millionaire myself, and if it happens by way of a book deal, that would only be my lifelong dream come true. What really boggles my mind is how Sara Palin is constantly criticized, torn apart, and hated by other women. She's a mom. No, her kids aren't perfect. But if we were all judged by our kids' choices, we'd all be in deep doo-doo. She works hard. She fights for things that she believes in and in her words, she "calls 'em like she sees 'em." And yet, poison darts spew at her from all angles.

On the other hand, the John Mayer interview was favorable. The star-struck reporter called him a guitar god (I'd have to agree) and then went on to glorify him for all of the A-List actresses he's dated. He's a great musician, yes, and I will defend that to anyone who wants to take me on. But he's also a Mimbo (to use a Seinfeld phrase -- male bimbo).

And so in my late-night sugary coconut high, the most obvious of contrasts played out on the television infront of me. A family woman who isn't afraid to speak up is villified while a musician who gets around, is glorified.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Had Nowhere To Go But Up

Today I woke up with that lingering dark cloud over my head, but I was determined to let the sunshine push through. So I wore jeans and a t-shirt to work. Not very professional, but at least I was comfortable. And comfortable=happy(er). When the students came in, one boy handed me an envelope stuffed with about 10 papers of drawings he had made for me. I think they included one of him and I doing karate together. The happiness meter went up a few more notches. I had a few issues to resolve with my principal, which I did, and it was done respectfully and with a smile. I even managed to fill out three referral forms for students who need speech services. If you're not a teacher, let me just say referrals=mountains of paperwork. Riding on that high, I decided that spreading happiness=gaining happiness. I donated a little money to a coworker in need. I let a lady at the grocery store go ahead of me in line. I patronized a local mom and pop shop and paid probably twice as much for an item than I could have otherwise. But they needed my business more. I picked myself up a yummy lunch from a local eatery that was simply heavenly. (Okay that was more selfish-type happiness spreading, but hey - a girl's gotta eat)!

As I type this, a lovely, made-from-scratch chicken pot pie is baking in the oven. Cooking=therapy. And that will make my family happy. I even picked up Sno-balls for dessert. We don't often do dessert, much less coconut-covered mounds of refined and processed sugar, but hey - a girl's gotta eat!

As with most things in life, the more you give, the more you get.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Do Solemnly Swear

Thing are off balance. Out of whack. Off kilter. I finally realized that today when after work, I went to the grocery store to pick up some corn syrup for a children's church activity for which I was responsible. The bottle behind it fell from its perch on the top shelf and landed on the floor. I dutifully bent down to pick it up while talking on the phone to someone who was helping me with said activity. As we were chatting, I didn't notice the gaping hole from which the sticky goo was gushing -- all over my satin blouse, fleece-lined coat, and knit scarf. Not to mention my hand, the shopping cart, and its contents. Unfortunately, the wet wipes aisle was at the opposite end of the store.

I didn't have time to go home and change before dashing off to another appointment. Enroute to said appointment, lunch was a chicken leg from the rotisserie chicken I bought for dinner. Fortunately I kept the wet wipes with me on the front seat. Unfortunately I went to the appointment looking like someone had blown their nose on me. Then I came home for twenty minutes before dashing off to the church activity, where there were, of course, complaints from parents for one thing or another.

I have about a bajillion things to do this week before flying with my kids to Texas for my brother's wedding. It's time to find the balance. Get things back into whack. On kilter. From this moment on, I do solemnly swear to JUST SAY NO. So please don't ask. Because I hate to say no. But I have to. For my own sanity. I will take care of those things that need to be done and I will let go of the things I cannot control. I will do it with a smile and I will bring my blood presssure below the boiling point. I might even eat a piece of fruit... if it's engulfed in chocolate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Embarrassment Galore

I fainted today. In the LDS temple.


All I know is one second I got really hot and then the next thing I know three cute little old men and my hubby (who also happens to be cute, by the way) are hovering over me because I'm on the floor.

I have no explanation, so I'm accusing the stupid knee-high stockings I was wearing of being far too tight.

You'd think that if you faint in a sacred place, you'd at least see an angel or two.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesdays with Mrs. Stagg

I guess I'm on a kid quote thing lately.

Today is Tuesday. You'll need to know that in a sec.

My kindergarten class goes to art every Tuesday. Today the art teacher had little piles of legos for each of the kids to play with while she pulled them back one by one to do something artsy with them. Being that report cards are due tomorrow I sat in a corner and tabulated assessment scores and eaves-dropped on 5-year-old conversations. This is what I heard:

Boy: Hey - let's make a robot!
Girl: Don't spit on me!
Boy: Let's make a robot!
Girl: I said don't spit on me! That's gross! And I took a bath! I took a bath on Sunday!


Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Can't Make This Stuff Up

I have a six-year-old son and I swear the reason he was born is to keep me entertained. Here are a few nuggets from the past week:

We had lamb chops for dinner on Friday. My daughter wanted to know what a "chop" was. The boy wanted to know if there was such a thing as donkey chops.

The other morning my husband asked him if he slept okay. His answer: "Yeah- until I woke up."

We had art night at school on Wednesday. He left in search of a friend to play with. He came back a few minutes later and I asked if he found anyone to play with. "Just my teacher," he replied, "and she's too big to play with."

After being asked by his father several times to do his chores, he... ahem, released some gas and said, "that was my ANGRY fart!"

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update

At 10,040 words, I'm officially one-fifth done with my 50,000 word novel. Plus 40.
Now I should probably get out of this chair and eat something other than bite-size snickers.
Lamb chops, anyone?

Happy Fall Y'All!

We're enjoying what I'm sure are the last of the warm days here in northern Utah for a while. This is a collage of a few pictures I snapped this afternoon.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Say What?

Ah, November. Report cards to do. Arts night at school. A Primary to run. A wedding trip to plan and attend. Thanksgiving. Oh - did I mention I have a family to take care of?

But the thing I'm most excited about doing this month is this: I'm writing a novel. You know, the one I'm vomiting. It's National Novel Writing Month. Affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. The goal is to spit out a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month. It doesn't have to be good. It just has to be done. Don't believe me? Check it out here:

Why am I doing this, you ask? I don't know. So I can say I did it? So I can have an excuse for making my kids macaroni and cheese from a box for dinner? I did that tonight, by the way. No vegetables. No meat. Just noodles and powdered cheese.

As of tonight, I've got 7554 words. Go Cindy Go! Type! Type! Type!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

FIVE Layers of Clothing

I'm part of a group of teachers this year who meets once or twice a month to discuss, well, I still haven't figured that out. On Thursday we went hiking in the Uintah National Forest. I'm pretty sure uintah is a Ute word for "freezing my tail off!" Or something like that.

But I got a few good pictures, so maybe it was worth it after all.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm Not Sick... Really.

As you may know, I have aspirations of being a published children's author. Well, right now I'm vomiting a book. I use that phrase because the words are gushing out of me; they're ugly, and they stink. I know they won't always be that way. But right now, every time I sit down to type, the words flow and flow. I've never experienced this before. It's weird. But I like it.

I'm not going to tell you what it's about just yet. But I will tell you that I already have a character who's doing things I don't want him to do. And he's not a kid.

Is the suspense killing you as much as it's killing me?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


A friend of mine blogged about this today, and it's a very blogworthy story, so I'm going to tell you about it here.

Yesterday, a teacher at our high school had a heart attack. During class. With students present. This same teacher had invited an EMT to do a presentation for his class. So, as the EMT is presenting, the teacher collapses. The EMT goes from presenting to doing; he saves the teacher's life, keeps everyone else calm and manages to get an ambulance to the school. And the kids get to see what a real hero looks like.

Coincidence? Luck?


As my friend said, "He may not be invited in, but God is in our schools."

As both a teacher and a parent, I'm doubly thankful for that!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Move Over, Psycho!

I readily and willingly admit that I have an irrational fear/hatred of jellyfish. Even typing that word gives me a little shiver. I can't explain it. All I know is they have absolutely no business whatsoever on this planet. I can't look at them at aquariums or even on t.v. I won't even draw or craft them at school for my kindergartners.

I've never been stung. I once hit some cabbage heads with an oar while kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico (that expedition ended with my husband rowing us back at super speed because I was frozen with fear).

Irrational, I know. But wait.

Last night my insanity reached new heights. I had just stepped into the shower. I rinsed my face and as I shook off my hands, the water droplets hit the glass, then ran down the side, forming the horrendous silhouettes of what appeared to be a hundred tiny jellyfish sliding down the shower stall. There was only one thing to do. I picked up the squeegee and "erased" the disgusting little buggers.

As if I needed one more reason to take baths.

Does anyone else need a good therapist?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Around the World in My Kitchen

Further proof of my randomness:

Monday: Fetuccine alfredo with garlic breadtwists and stuffed mushrooms (all made from scratch, thank you very much)

Tuesday: Japanese cabbage pancakes (learned to make them when I went to Japan)

Wednesday: Chili (my daughter's favorite - she found out that day she was getting 4 teeth pulled in preparation for braces)

Thursday: Leftovers (I had a church meeting that night)

Friday: Thai food at a restaurant - beef satay with peanut sauce and shrimp pad-thai.

Saturday: I couldn't make up my mind, so I made two stir-fries. One was a garlic-sesame beef number and the other was a chicken/veggie combo. Jasmine rice included, of course.

I love to travel, eat, and cook. And yes, sometimes all at once. Can you tell?

Friday, October 23, 2009

I'm Just Sayin'...

It would seem lately that there are a lot of divisive issues out there. There are issues we might have never thought about before, even in a million years. There are things we feel strongly about; and there are those we would die for.

I was recently called a "stupid, ignorant skeptic" for saying that I was not going to get the H1N1 vaccine. My reason has nothing to do with media hype or even religious conviction. I simply choose to opt out because I've gotten the flu 3 out of 5 times after receiving the seasonal flu shot. I'm just sayin' I wouldn't go to Vegas with those odds. I wasn't trying to persuade anybody one way or the other. I was simply stating my own personal reason for making my own personal choice. Living under the good 'ol stars and stripes allows me said choice. If I get the H1N1 virus, I accept full responsibility. I will also do the responsible thing and STAY HOME.

Really!?! Stupid and ignorant?

If there are going to be issues out there that divide us, let's at least be divided over issues that matter. And let's do it without resorting to name calling.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Random Thought About Tucson

I went to school in Tucson, at the University of Arizona (GO CATS!). Some of my favorite places in Tucson included Grandma Tony's Pizza (a mushroom slice to die for) McKale Center (home of the NCAA Men's Basketball Champions) and a place called Eegees.

Eegees is a sandwich shop, but that's not what they're known for. They have these slushes, that everyone calls eegees. "What flavor eegee are you gonna get?" When you're wearing a hot (I mean that in the literal sense) polyester band uniform at a Saturday afternoon football game in Tucson in September, nothing hits the spot like a frozen lemon eegee.

Today at the grocery store as I was perusing the ice cream section, I noticed that they had these little frozen lemonade cups on sale. I could never expect a factory-made, mass produced frozen lemonade to even come close to the bliss that is an eegee, but I had to give it a try.

I'm waiting for the kids to get home from school so that I can give it to them. They'll think it's a real treat.

By the way, my husband proposed to me at Eegees.

Do you pine for a hard-to-get-treat from your past?

Monday, October 19, 2009

200,000 Reasons to be Thankful

I called my friend Stacee on Saturday afternoon. It had been a while since we'd hung out. "What are you doing tonight?" I asked.
"We're having a birthday party for our car!" she replied. She then explained how her Dodge Caravan had recently turned 200,000 miles and she promised her kids that they could throw a party for it. Her four kids had gotten up at 7:00 that morning and baked a cake. The 10-year-old supervised and the 2-year-old topped it with his toy vans. Stacee invited my family to come over later for pizza and birthday cake. As someone who has worked as an automotive journalist, I could hardly pass up such a momentous event.

We arrived at the appointed hour. We ate delicious pizza, drank ginger ale until our noses tickled, and sang "Happy Birthday" to the van. It was great!

This may seem like a really silly thing, but here's what I learned that night:

1. Gratitude for a car that has lasted 200,000 miles (and counting) vs. complaining about an old car that has 200,000 miles is the right perspective to have in life.

2. Stacee's kids (and in turn, my kids) had a wonderful time learning lesson #1.

Thanks, Stacee for a fun time. I can't wait until my car turns 200,000 miles! (Only 70,000 more to go)!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Mouse in the House

I don't typically condone rodent infestation, but this little guy looked kinda comfy on my front porch this morning.

I'll let my hubby deal with it when he gets back from golfing.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Big Balloons, Big Money, and Big Litter Boxes

I'm not intellectual enough to get into a full-on political debate with anyone (uncommon sense, remember?) but common sense is lost on today's political climate. Besides chasing a giant runaway mylar balloon that may or may not have contained a small boy (whew) there were two stories in the news that caught my attention today.

The first was the fact that social security recipients will not receive their cost of living adjustment for the first time since 1975. Despite the fact that the economy saw negative inflation, the cost of prescription drugs and food continues to rise. The president is proposing that every social security recipient instead receive a one-time check for $250, at a taxpayer cost of $13 billion dollars. Here's what it looks like with all of the zeros: $13,000,000,000. Really, what is $250 going to get people? Nothing; but it will get their grandchildren's grandchildren deeper in the hole.

The other story has to do with another bill being proposed: a $3500 per person tax break for pet owners. To quote the reporter, "Analysts say this could be good for the economy as people will spend the money on luxury items for their pets."

Hmmm... on one hand, we're plunging deeper into debt. On the other hand we're giving Fluffy the cat $3250 more than we're giving Grandma.

Well, at least Fluffy will finally get her luxury litter box.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Exciting Life

Today was one of those RARE days whenI actually had some time all to myself. I finished work, had two quick errands to take care of, and then found myself unbound by the constraints of time or kids. So I decided to hit some stores that I could only enjoy by myself. And you know what? I ended up at Target, bought a mop, and drove home.

I need a bath.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm Trying To Write This

When the school year began, I decided that Tuesday afternoons would be dedicated to writing. So every week I take my laptop and head to the library after work. I spend a couple of blissful hours surrounded by books and imagine what my own books might look like on the shelves. Hopefully the day will come when I won't have to imagine.

I am sitting in the YA section as I type this. Allow me to describe my surroundings. To my right is a mother and two small children sitting on the bean bags. I think she is reading books to them in Russian. She's loud enough that I know she's translating "No David." To my left are two men having some kind of very loud discussion about a possible job. An interview? It's not for a job here at the library, by the way. Within the YA section are two women. The younger one is helping the older one pick out a book. The older one can't seem to control the volume of her voice. There is also a woman with a teen-age daughter, both of whom seem to lack any sense of the phrase "quiet voice." They're talking to each other two aisles apart.

Is it just me or are libraries supposed to be places of quiet? I guess I'll go home and write. Hopefully I won't be distracted by something silly like laundry or dishes or dusting.


Monday, October 12, 2009


If you know me at all, you know that my little brain is capable of some pretty crazy dreams. It's been that way since I was a kid. I quit trying to analyze them long ago, because I'm afraid the result would be, well, frightening. Last night's was a doozy (yes, I said "doozy").

Here it is:

I was driving my car to Kansas City (not sure which one). My husband was driving behind me. Along the road were fields and pastures full of bison and buffaloes - you know, the ones with the big fluffy heads. Before long, my daughter and I were enjoying the bright-blue buffaloes leaping alongside our red Tahoe. Once we got to Kansas City, there was a ladder you needed to climb up and over to get into the city. As I swung my leg over the ladder, it began to tip. I woke up right before I hit the ground.

By the way, I've never been to either of the Kansas Cities. But I'm pretty sure neither of them require entrance by ladder.

Are you plagued by loopy non-sensical dreams? I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I Made a Quilt!

I have always been the "occasional" seamstress. If someone needed some pants hemmed or a Halloween costume made, out came the sewing machine. The past few years have seen a tradition of homemade pajama bottoms at Christmas. That's as far as my skills and desire have ever taken me. This year, summer came, and I found myself sewing like the mad hatter. It started out with a simple bag. Five bags later, I decided I really enjoyed the creative outlet that sewing offers and decided to make a quilt.

The first quilt I ever made was also the last quilt I ever made. It was one of those straightforward patchwork numbers with pink yarn tied at every corner and a sheet for the back. I used it all through college and today it is sitting in my garage somewhere.

This summer, I discovered a quaint little quilt shop in my town. The assortment of pretty fabrics was like a party for my eyes! It was hard to choose, but I zeroed in on some brightly-colored Amy Butler fabrics. I cut. I pieced. I sewed and trimmed. In between all that, I moved. And now that fall is here, I have a cuddly quilt that reminds me of warmer days to wrap myself in whenever I watch T.V.

More than that, I have something I can be proud of.

I created something that didn't exist before.

By the way, if you want to see some beautiful quilts, check out the Bloggers Quilt Festival here:

Friday, October 9, 2009


Call it a premonition, prompting, intuition, or a gut feeling. We've all had them at some point in our lives. I woke up this morning with an indelible, indescribable feeling of anxiety. I have no idea why. I had no tangible reason for such worry. And yet I could not shake it. I went to work and it stayed with me. I teach from 8:00 until 12:00, so after work I decided to take a drive to Park City and walk around in an effort to shake it. As I pulled out of my school's parking lot, I had a strong feeling that I should go and check my kids out early from their schools. And when my mind goes into overdrive, as it did today, I know better than to ignore those feelings. I first picked up my daughter and then went to get my son. And then, as soon as he was in the car, all the anxious feelings melted away. Just. Like. That.

The rest of the afternoon was a delight. We did, in fact, go to Park City. We walked around. We shopped. We shared a chocolate-dipped strawberry shake.

Maybe I just needed to spend some quality time with my kids today. It's more likely that I'll never know why my day started and ended like it did. Whatever the reason, I've learned not to ignore my instincts.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Do you ever find yourself in public places and wanting to shout out "OTHERS!"? For example, when old men have their grocery carts in the middle of the aisle while they carefully deliberate over which brand of instant coffee to select, I want to shout "OTHERS!" Or when I'm on an elevator and the doors open and 23 tweens all step into the elevator without first allowing me to exit - OTHERS!

Is it just me?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Start 'Em Out Young

If you didn't already know, I teach kindergarten. Along with getting 22 5-year-olds to sit still for more than 25 seconds at a time, I'm supposed to teach them to write their names. To accomplish this, I laminated 22 sheets of grid paper and wrote each letter of each of their names with meticulous perfection. I then gave each student their paper and a dry-erase marker.

The last writing session was going better than I ever expected. They were quiet. They were focused. They were writing their names. And then one girl (who shall remain nameless but about whom I'm SURE you'll be hearing a lot this year) discovered that the dry erase marker "smelled good." She quickly pointed this out to the other kids at her table who all proceeded to wave their markers under each others' nostrils. Word spread like wildfire and within seconds, I had a class full of little sniffers.

I actually said the words, "markers are for writing, not for smelling." Thankfully it was over before they could move on to the spray paint.

My New Sanctuary

Sitting in a tepid pool of my own filth has never really "done it" for me. I rather enjoy the gravity assist that a shower offers when I want to get myself good and clean. Besides that, baths have always bored me. I could never last for more than 10 or 15 minutes in a tub. That is, until now.

We recently moved into a new house that happens to come with an extraordinarily inviting, jetted bathtub. It's white and sparkly, and surrounded by gorgeous travertine. And it sat unused by me for three weeks. And then one day, after carrying yet another box to some corner of the new place, my back muscles simultaneously screamed out "enough!" What I needed was the swirling action of a hot, jetted bath. Funny thing is, I've "needed" a bath lots of times since then. I caught a little head cold, took a bath. I had some time to kill, took a bath. I even came home from work the other day and took a soak at 1:00 in the afternoon.

A girl could get used to this.

What do you do to relax? Have you ever gone from disliking something to embracing it?