Tuesday, December 3, 2013

And Now the Holidays Are Here

Hey. I've learned an important life lesson here recently, so listen up! There is nothing, and I mean nothing like spending 6 weeks in and out of doctors' offices, medical clinics, and hospitals to make you feel like a wretched, horrible, incompetent excuse for a mother.

I speak from experience.

I really love dislike hate sitting in that tiny little room on a hard chair, that you KNOW is covered in germs and upon which some kid probably puked at some point, while your under-sized, malnourished child sits on butcher paper in an exam gown. The best part is when the doctor asks you questions, to which you can only stare blankly because you have no idea what the answer is. I mean, YOU'RE the doctor. Why do you think we're here? If I could answer these questions myself, I would be down at Menchie's having frozen yogurt. 

What are his bowel habits? (Side note: doctors love to talk about poop).
How would I know? I haven't looked at his poop since I potty trained this kid.

Does he use his inhalers every day?
He needs inhalers? And he needs more than one?

Did you know he has extreme tenderness at all the insertion points of his tendons and ligaments?
Actually, I did know that, thanks to our AT-HOME MRI scanner.

He needs to eat more.

As of today, we have made it almost an entire week without any illness whatsoever from the 10-year-old. THIS is a major milestone, because it's been about two months since he first got sick. The list of ailments, -itises, and -osises is long. And he has a mild case of asthma. Who knew? Certainly not THIS mother.

The good news is, after every medical visit, we walked away with a stack of papers telling us how to whip this kid back into shape. So, you know, I finally have an owner's manual.

Beyond spending practically every minute either taking care of a sick child, juggling doctor's appointments, or fighting strep throat myself, I have also had clients to juggle, articles to write, a conference to plan, the rest of my family to take care of, and a house to maintain; most of which happened while my husband was out of town. Doesn't that remind you of the line from The Princess Bride? "I've got my country's 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to prepare for, my wife to murder, and Gilder to blame for it. I'm swamped."

And then Count Rueger says, "Get some rest. If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything."

I love that movie. Needless to say, I'm swamped. There is something to be said for stress. At the beginning of November, I bought tickets to take my daughter to a performance of The Forgotten Carols. I remembered that fact the morning after we were supposed to go. So yes, my batteries are drained. So if you haven't heard from me in a while, it's because I'm recharging. The holidays are here and I have to be want to be pleasant. So I'm going to get some rest now, because if I I haven't got my health, I haven't got anything.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tuesday With Malcolm

On FaceBook, I've been participating in the 30 Days of Thanks. It's kind of fun for me to think of something I'm grateful for each day and then share it with my friends. I should probably do it more often.

Last night, I got a much-needed night out. Dan and I took a drive down the canyon to Salt Lake City, where we met up with Chris and Kim. Just as I was backing the car into the parking stall, I looked over and noticed some friends of ours also parking their car. We all had tickets to go listen to Malcolm Gladwell speak at Abravanel Hall. So the six of us went out for some delicious authentic Italian pizza. If I could remember the name of the place, I would tell you. But it was so good that I will definitely be going back and I'll remember the name of the place then. My pizza had kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and prosciutto on it. THAT I remember.

After dinner, we all walked over to Abravanel. Fortunately for us, we were able to cut through the convention center and stay warm! We went to pick up our tickets at Will Call, and while we waited in line, Ann Romney and her son got in line next to us. She looked right at me and smiled. How cool is that?

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite non-fiction authors. I think he's on that list for a lot of people. It was so intriguing to listen to him speak. He told the story of larger-than-life (though only 4'11") Alva Vanderbilt, a wealthy New York socialite who ended up being a major figure in the women's suffrage movement. He used words like opulent and festooned and dictatorial and goldenrod. Don't you just love words? Gladwell is the best at weaving a true story into something of grandeur. 

At the end, he talked a little about his new book, and mentioned that the last two chapters are about faith. "The miracle for me," he said, "was that in writing this book, I found my faith again." He went on: "I was raised in a Christian home, and I strayed from it. And in writing this book, I realized I was missing out on something." There was a palpable silence in the hall. He mentioned the story of a woman who was able to forgive a man who raped and murdered her daughter. "I think faith allows people to do extraordinary things they would otherwise not be capable of."

And so today, I am thankful for faith. Yes, it allows me, an ordinary person, to do things I would not otherwise be capable of. It allows me to look and see and feel and stretch and reach beyond myself. It guides many of my decisions; especially the important ones in life. It comforts me when I'm feeling lost and confused. It offers me reassurance that there is something bigger, more knowledgeable, more powerful than I can begin to imagine, guiding me along, ensuring that the right people and blessings cross my path just when I need it. And something I've learned: faith is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.

Malcolm Gladwell said that at Alva Vanderbilt's funeral, her casket was carried by 20 female pall bearers. Three songs were sung, the last of which was written by Alva, herself. I don't remember the exact words, but being a feminist, they spoke of how no man, not St. Peter himself, would have a say as to whether or not she got into Heaven. Instead, the angels would herald her arrival by shouting, "Here comes a Daughter of The King."

Faith tells me I am a daughter of The King. And THAT is extraodinary.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I Am a Grumpy Old Man

My dear friend Martha e-mailed me the other day and said she is entering her curmudgeon years. She is taking the anti-drug slogan from our childhood and just saying "no" to anyone in her path. I think it has less to do with being a curmudgeon and more to do with being a bit wiser than we were twenty years ago.

I, on the other hand, am a grumpy old man. I have a sick kid - sick without answers - and it is making me grumpy. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make him all better. Instead, I boil beneath the surface when the doctor says everything is normal. You can take one look at him and see that he is most definitely NOT normal.

Also, the wind has been howling since last night and I want to howl right back. Instead, I stare out the window with a hot cup of tea and mourn the loss of each red leaf as it shakes and then falls from the pear tree out front. Everyone keeps talking about this beautiful fall weather we're having. If you have to wear socks, the weather ain't beautiful.

I think I am going to take a cue from Martha and just say "no." No to winter. No to sickness. No to doctors.

Hawaii, anyone?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Who Says Customer Service is Dead?

Yesterday, the husband and I stopped by our local hardware store for some weatherstripping. This place is pretty cool. It's really old rustic inside and they sell just about everything you can imagine. It's like a modern-day general store. If you're lucky and show up at the right time, one of the owners will spew a wealth of knowledge about whatever it is you're looking for. If you're not so lucky, one of the high school kids will help you.

We got one of the high school kids.

He took us to the weatherstripping aisle, where as you might guess, you can find every type of weatherstripping known to man. I picked up a package that looked like it might fit our needs. We discussed it for a minute and then Dan asked our "helper" a question. After a long pause, he said, "What? Sorry, I zoned out there for a minute."

Perhaps we'll have better luck next time.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

2014 Toyota Tundra

2014 Toyota Tundra Preview
Like a Kid in a Candy Store

    Bear with me, here. Do you remember when Charlie Bucket went on the tour of Willy Wonka’s amazing chocolate factory? Remember all the choices and options there were? Lickable, flavored wall paper. Everlasting Gobstoppers. Chewing gum that packed a 3-course meal into one delicious treat. Then, at the end, there was the great glass elevator with hundreds of buttons that took you not just up and down, but sideways, and frontways, and diagonal, too. 
    I think Tundra’s designers took a cue from Mr. Wonka himself. Tundra is now offered in five trim levels, with a slew of options available within each grade. Flavored wallpaper (darn it) is not one of them. What is offered, however, is the opportunity for every Tundra consumer to get exactly the pick-up truck they need. With three engine choices, various cab configurations, and a host of bells and whistles, the American-built 2014 Tundra should give Ford, Chevy, and Ram a run for their money.
    I had a chance to take the 2014 Tundra for spin through Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I spent time behind the wheel of an SR5, a Limited, and a 1794 Edition Tundra.
    Toyota engineers listened to their customers when it came to designing this latest iteration of the 1/2-ton pick-up. Owners wanted a less bubble-like look and designers answered with stronger horizontal lines, a more chiseled body, and a front fascia that looks like it means business. The hitch connector was moved next to the license plate light, where it is both easier to see and access. The front bumper is now a 3-piece modular outfit, which should help out the guys who are always pulling something out of both the proverbial and literal ditch.
    Inside, soft-touch materials give the SR and SR5 versions a more refined feel. Leather options deck out the interiors of the Limited, Platinum, and 1794 Edition. All trucks I tested were double cabs, which offered spaciousness and comfort; as well as plenty of room to stretch out in back. One innovative feature is the “tip-up” back seat, which sounds exactly like it is. When you need to secure something within the interior of the truck, the back seats tip up and out of the way, meaning lower load height and increased cargo capacity.
    The Tundra handled beautifully on hills, highways, and off road. The cabin remained quiet. It accelerated with little effort. Depending on which model you choose, the Tundra is capable of towing up to 10,500 pounds. I towed a 5000-pound trailer, and while it was a little slow to reach cruising speed, it did so easily and smoothly. It was absolutely no effort to steer, maneuver, or turn -- even on unpaved surfaces.
    The 1794 Edition is definitely the star of the line-up, though not any more or less capable than any of the other trim levels. Its name pays homage to the founding year of the ranch that the San Antonio Toyota Plant now calls home. With special badging, 20-inch wheels, and Lexus-quality leather, the 1794 Edition is a workhorse in show horse clothing. Toyota designers wanted the 1794 to reflect the truly American truck it is. The Tundra is designed, engineered, and built entirely in the U.S. and is mostly made from American-made components.
    With so many choices, features, and options, when it comes to the Tundra, you might just find yourself feeling like a kid in a candy store. Pricing ranges from $25,920 for SR to $47,320 for Platinum and 1794 Editions. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

2014 Toyota 4Runner

Another fun perk of being an automotive writer is getting invited to fun locales to drive new cars. About a week and and half ago, I found myself in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to drive the 2014 Toyota Tundra and 4Runner.  First up, my review of the 4Runner:
2014 Toyota 4Runner Preview
The Can-Do SUV

    I can’t believe I’m typing this, but the mid-size SUV segment is shrinking. I’m talking about the solid, hard-core, high-riding, go-anywhere SUV. I mean, what happened? Wasn’t the mid-size SUV the bread and butter of the SUV world? Sure, they’re still out there, but in name only. Most of them have been transformed into unitized crossovers, great for getting to soccer practice, found in suburbanite garages all across America. But what about the rock climbers? The mud boggers? The mountain men (and women)? In other words, what’s left for the real adventurers?
    Though the segment may be shrinking, the new Toyota 4Runner is here to answer the call. I got a little taste test recently, during a whirl wind trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Set against the backdrop of the Grand Tetons, I was given a small peek at the can-do 2014 Runner.
    But first, a little history: the 4Runner first rolled off the assembly line in 1984. Since then, nearly two million units of this iconic SUV have been sold. Even more astounding, of those nearly two million, a whopping 75% of them are still on the road today. To say the 4Runner is the can-do SUV is just the tip of iceberg.
    I started out with an on-road test, driving a 4Runner Limited 4X2 in and around Grand Teton National Park. The first thing you notice when sitting behind the wheel is visibility. With a nearly vertical windshield and generously proportioned windows all around, the 4Runner offers that rare combination of ride height and nearly unobstructed views all around. The ride is solid and the cabin is quiet, with just the right amount of road feedback coming back at you through the easy-to-hold steering wheel. Handling feels good, though on gravel roads, the steering seems to loosen up somewhat. The 4.0-liter engine remains unchanged and offers plenty of get-up-go when you need/want it. The 4Runner does come equipped with a new trailer sway control, which used various sensors to detect and therefore suppress trailer sway -- which is a definite plus when towing high-profile trailers in windy conditions.
    Later, I was taken for a ride in a Trail edition 4X4 at the famous Diamond Cross Ranch. If the 4Runner is the can-do SUV, the Trail is the can-do SUV that takes names. We came in at angles steep enough to make your mother swoon -- especially with 2-3 wheels in the air. We pulled up muddy climbs. We rocked our way down jagged crags. Multi Terrain Select, a control knob located over the rearview mirror, allows the driver to input the type of terrain you are approaching. From slippery, muddy surfaces to rocks, dial the knob to select, and the 4Runner does the rest. There are also selectors for crawl control, vehicle skid control, and traction control. And should you decide you need to lock your rear differential, there’s a button for that, too. Needless to say, it would be mighty difficult to get this car stuck.
    4Runner’s new look is much more rugged, much more chiseled, with stronger, better defined lines. The 4Runner is offered in three design grades: SR5, Trail, and Limited. Within each grade is offered an array of options for both inside and out. Of note, my Limited 4X2 came equipped with automatic running boards, a feature to which I have always been partial.
    Inside, soft-touch materials abound, giving it a rugged, yet refined feel. Also new this year is the Entune entertainment system, featuring all the connectivity you could imagine, with apps like iHeartRadio and Pandora. However, I think the 4Runner itself provides plenty of entertainment without the electronic pomp.
    So yes, my first impression of the 2014 Toyota 4Runner is a good one. It’s the last body-on-frame design left in the segment. It looks tough, it’s strong, and it will go anywhere. It’s the can-do SUV.

For more information, you can go to www.car-data.com.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tales From First Grade

Today I started a two-month long, 1st grade substitute job because, you know, I'm not busy enough. Anyway, first grade is really fun. We were having a little getting-to-know you kind of a meeting, where each of the kids got to tell me something about themselves, and then they got to ask questions of me. This can be a dangerous endeavor, but I decided to go ahead and risk it. One boy raised his hand and asked, "How OLD are you, because you look like a TEENAGER!"

Pretty much decided who my favorite is right there on the spot.

Their regular teacher is on maternity leave, having just given birth to twins. Naturally much of the chatter among the children is about babies and their origination. As they were coloring their worksheets, I listened to one boy tell all the other kids at his table all about how babies are made.

And I quote: "The mom goes to the doctor and he opens up her belly button and sticks a tiny baby inside. Then he covers it all up and the mom goes home and takes a nap. When she wakes up, the baby is big, so she goes back to the doctor and he stretches out her belly button and yanks the baby out!"

It's going to be an entertaining couple of months.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What Their Mama Saw

Well, here we go again. I have a freshman, and I have a 5th grader. They're both attending new schools this year. The freshman was nervous about going to high school and the 5th grader was excited about getting his own locker and sitting anywhere he wants during lunch at the intermediate school. When I came out of my room this morning, he was standing in the hallway, holding onto his bangs.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I decided to try out a new hair style for school this year."

"And how's that working out for you?"

"Well, I need them to stick out, not up, but they won't stay."

"I've got something that can solve that." It only took two applications before he realized if he left his hair alone, it would stay put.

Here's what they looked like this morning:

And what their mama saw:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Growing Pains

Before I can complete today's post, there are two things you need to know:

1. I have a beautiful and talented daughter who is musically inclined. She has hummed and sung her way through life, filling our home with beautiful music.

2. I have a darling husband who is struggling with his beautiful and talented daughter growing into a beautiful and talented young woman.

Okay. With that in mind, I give you the laugh of the day.

This morning, I was in my room, painting yet another set of doors. Jess was the only other person home, and she would wander in out of my room, and we'd have short little conversations. At one point, she came in singing "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from the movie Mulan.

Jess: "Did you hear what Dad said to me about that song the other day?"

Me: "No."

Jess: "He said it was 'inappropriate.'"

Me (incredulous): "What? Why?"

Jess: "He said I shouldn't be singing a song like that. So I told him that it's a song from a Disney movie and Donny Osmond sings it. I said it was a song about preparing men to go to war, and if Donny Osmond can sing it, then it's probably okay for me to sing it."

Me: "And what did he say to that?"

Jess: "He said, 'OH! I thought it was a song about a young girl making a man out of a boy!"


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Television Debut

Every now and then, there are some pretty cool perks to being an automotive writer. Like, say flying on the Ford Corporate Jet, for one. Or driving around a race track with a professional stock car driver at 210 m.p.h. for another. Or riding in a top-secret V-12 Mustang. Those are super cool things to do, and if you ever get a chance, I highly recommend doing them, because those moments are far and few between.

Today, I had another one of those moments. I got to be on T.V.! Aside from having the sweatiest arm pits I have ever had in my life, it was a lot of fun! I was invited to do a segment on a local show here called The Daily Dish. So I drove down to the ABC4 studio in Salt Lake City early this morning and did my thing, talking about cars. I got to spend time in a green room. I met three guys who own a film production company. I met a psychic! And not a fake psychic like the guy on Psych.

The show's hosts, Nicia and Troy, were super friendly and immediately put me at ease. I was also amazed at how small the studio was -- like slightly larger than my living room-small.
A shot of the show's hosts during a commercial break

Can you believe all those lights?

The production booth (a.k.a. two tables right behind me)

Troy, the host from Australia

Those three guys talking about their film company
I had this horrible fear that I was going to freeze in front of the camera, but amazingly, I survived, and kept my arms firmly at my side! If you want to check it out, click here. It was a lot of fun, and despite having a face for radio, I think I'd be willing to try it again!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Yes, I Have a Problem

I'm a pretty simple person. When I leave my house, I am all set if I have but two things in my possession: sunglasses and lip balm.

That's it.

Simple enough, right?

There is only one lip balm I like. And there is only one place to get it. The last time I bought it, I bought two tubes, because I love it so much. Well, this week, both tubes ran out at the exact same time. So I went back to the place that always sells it; only they don't sell it anymore. This is a major problem.

There are only two other places I know of that carry it:

1. Harmons in St. George, which is a 4-hour drive away from where I live.

2. The Burger King truckstop in Fillmore, which is a 2-hour drive from where I live.

Don't tell me to try Chapstick, or Carmex, or Burt's Bees, or EOS, or Nivea, or Softlips, or anything else! I hate 'em all! I want my Shaka Laka! I know -- SHAKA LAKA. As fun to say as it is to use.

I'm typing this little post, trying not to think about how my lips feel like they might peel right off of my face any second now.

If anybody needs me, I'll be the lipless, shriveled up lady in the corner.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cindy 4.0

Top 10 Birthday Highlights

10. Breakfast at Ruth's Diner with friends. If you're in the Salt Lake City area, you really have to go to Ruth's Diner. Secluded up in Emigration Canyon, it's an old trolley car that was converted into a restaurant 60 or so years ago. You can eat on the back patio, surrounded by tall trees and the sound of a rushing river. And their breakfasts are DEEEE-LISH!

9. There's something significant about having a birthday with a zero attached to it. Dan was especially sweet to me, gently easing me into my fourth decade on this planet.

8. Jamison sucked the helium out of my birthday balloon and sang "76 Trombones" in a very funny voice. Yes, The Music Man is still very much alive at our house!

7. Getting lots of texts and phone calls from friends and family.

6. Being sung to by a professional opera singer -- in Italian! (See #9)

5. Shopping at one of my favorite places as a result of receiving a generous gift card. (See #9)

4. Being told over and over how young I look. (See #9)

3. A good nap (I need my beauty sleep, after all).

2. A surprise party at an Italian restaurant, surrounded by wonderful friends! (See #9)

1. Speaking of which, a friend suggested that I am 4.0. Four Point OH. I liked that idea. It sounds like a really good Olympic score or a perfect G.P.A. Or just a better version of myself. So I'm sticking with that.

I am Cindy 4.0.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Around Here...

...you can always tell if a person isn't from around here. They're usually the ones driving 10 miles an hour, distracted by all the beautiful scenery we've got. And really, you can't blame them.
Mt. Timpanogas on a Summer Day
We have a little burger/ice cream shack here called Timp Freeze. It's a cute little place. They have a walk-up window where you can order shakes and cones and all of those yummy summertime treats. Everything they sell is listed on an overhead menu board.

Dan and I were sitting outside of the Timp Freeze one night, enjoying our ice cream cones. Another couple came sauntering up the sidewalk. I nudged him with my elbow and said, "Look. Out-of-town-ers."

"How can you tell?" He asked.

First of all, the two of them were dressed like all of those beautiful people you see on Pinterest.
 I mean, who ACTUALLY dresses like that? Nobody from around here, that's for sure! She had on a sheer green, drop-hem skirt with metallic silver stilettos. He wore heather gray, linen pants, a cream-colored button-down shirt and a gray felt vest. A felt vest! In July! Then there were his hipster glasses. I started to wonder if maybe they had just come from a wedding. Or a perhaps a Pinterest photo shoot.

They walked up to the little order window and he said, "We'd like to see a dessert menu."

Need I say more?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cindy, Jedi Master

Today I took my daughter to Park City to do a little shopping. While she was in the fitting room at Old Navy, I searched my purse for a Tic Tac and realized that I did not have my wallet with me. I knew exactly where it was: sitting on my desk at home. So we returned the pants to the rack and came home. We decided to watch The Empire Strikes Back, which I had checked out from the library.

I hadn't seen that movie in years, and it brought back a funny memory. You know the scene where Luke Skywalker is hanging by his frozen feet in the monster's ice cave? His feet are frozen into the ice and his trusty light saber is stuck in the snow below, just out of reach. He uses the power of the force to summon the light saber into his grasp, then uses it to free himself from the ice.

When I was a kid, I would hang upside down from the top bed of my bunk and try for hours to summon my trusty toy light saber from the carpet. I would also try to close my bedroom door through the power of the force.

Alas, it never worked, but I was an expert at hanging upside down from a bunk bed!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

There's a Girl I Know

That's my daughter there in the front with the tan skirt. Isn't she pretty? She has been involved with our local theater's production of The Music Man this summer. This has proven to be a major time commitment for our entire family. She's been rehearsing since March and performances have been running since July 3. Everything we have done for the last several months has revolved around this play! It's our first experience of this sort, and I might have complained to myself a time or two.

But I have watched this girl grow and learn from this experience. Because this is theater, there has been drama. And I don't do drama. They've changed her part several times, which has changed our schedule. But she took it all in stride, never letting it get to her, and she stuck it through. She's made friends, comes home with a smile, and generally has a wonderful attitude about the whole thing.

The reward for me was watching her the first time she came out onto that stage singing and dancing. What a great moment for this proud momma!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Dangers of Bowling

"Hey Mom, remember that time you took us bowling and a bowling ball fell on your pinky and smashed it all up?"

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Dear Jen,

I know on several occasions, we have discussed at length, the trustworthiness of someone who wears red pants. This was based on a character you had written into your book. And no doubt, that girl could NOT be trusted.

But I have something to confess to you. I, Cindy Stagg, own a pair of red pants, and have owned them for almost a year now. I received a T.J. Maxx gift card for my birthday last year, and I purchased these pants. They were so cute there, hanging on the rack. And when I tried them on...they were even cuter! They cuff at the ankles and come with a darling little leather belt!

But I digress.

I have been very careful not to wear them in your presence, for fear that you might think ill of me. One time, I wore them on a day I happened to be substituting at Midway Elementary. I was exiting the side door at the end of the day and you were waiting outside with Sampson. Fortunately, you were distracted by all the little kids wanting to say hello to your horse, so disaster was averted.

I hope, with time, you will find that I can still be trusted -- despite the fact that I wear red pants, and yes, I allow my daughter to wear them, too! I think my track record speaks for itself. Besides, you cut that red-pants-wearing floosey out of your story anyway!


Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Morning

This morning when I woke up, my left achilles hurt for no apparent reason. If I were say, training for a triathlon, at least I would feel really cool about it. But no. Every step I took shot an achy pain right through the back of my heel. I limped around the house for a few minutes, drinking orange juice, brushing my teeth, getting dressed. I went walking, and wearing my sneakers helped alleviate some of my limp. When I got back, I did a few stretches and the pain mostly worked itself out.

Brian Regan talks about getting older and discovering new aches and pains each morning, like waking up and immediately clutching your lower back. "Great! Well, I guess I'll live with THAT for THE REST OF MY LIFE!"

Anyway, it's the little things like that I'm starting to notice. Actually, I've been trying to ignore them, like they don't exist, but sometimes they yell really loud -- or hurt really bad -- as it were. And they're really bugging the heck out of me.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Writing and Pizza -- It's Like I'm in College Again (Sort of)

As a public service announcement, I thought I should let you all know that you should not annoy me when I am in the middle of putting on/attending a writing conference. And that's because when I am at a writing conference, I am euphoric. Euphoric, people. Please don't take that away from me.

Case in point:

I had about an hour for dinner before I needed to return to the conference. So I called the hubby and told him I would pick up a quick Little Caesar's pizza, giving me approximately 45 minutes to spend at  home for the day. Easy enough, right?


As a general rule of thumb, if you are going to order $94.64-dollars-worth of pizza, DON'T USE THE DRIVE-THRU. Also, be sure to have a credit card handy and not a check. Secondly, Little Caesar's, get my order right the first time. I mean, how hard is it to put the wrong pizza back and take out the right pizza? Isn't that the very definition of hot-and-ready? Hmm?

But then, then I handed the girl a twenty to pay for my $8.58 pizza. She yelled out to the universe, "Can someone get me some change?" Apparently, the universe was not interested in getting her some change. So I frantically dug through my ash tray and scrounged together the fifty-eight cents. I handed it to her and said, "Now you can just give me back $12.00." I probably should have just told her to sign over a promissory note for her first-born child, because she still wouldn't have known what I was saying. She took the change, looked at me, looked at her hand, and proceeded to count the change THREE times. It could have been that my combination of coins threw her off, as it wasn't two quarters, a nickel, and three pennies. It was still .58 cents all the same. "Just give me back $12.00," I repeated. She then takes out a calculator and does some kind of calculus-type equation to figure out how much change I am owed. She handed me $12.01. And I still had to ask for my pizza.

Needless to say, I had 15 minutes for dinner with my family.

The conference, however has been lovely so far. Louise Plummer is my new best friend. Ann Cannon is a delight. Those of us on the planning committee have been working for nearly a year, and it has been such fun to see it all come to fruition. But above all, it has been motivating. I am motivated to write.

And all is well in the world.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

For the Fourth

Happy Fourth, everyone!

This morning we attended a really wonderful Sunrise Service. There were flags waving, and young girls singing, and a choir paying tribute to the Armed Services, and a stirring speech. The speech was given by Doug Wright, a well-known radio broadcaster in Salt Lake City. Among the things he said, he invited everyone to think back on their first patriotic experience. He spoke of his own, as a young boy with his grandpa, raising the flag in the yard on the Fourth of July. He watched the way his grandpa handled the flag with such dignity and respect, and it stirred in him feelings of love and loyalty for this great country.

My first patriotic experience is one that I, too, will always remember. I was born in South America. You know, it's like North America, only south. When I was in the first grade, my parents took me to wherever it is you go when you are a child and are about to become a citizen of the United States. I don't really remember much about that day at all, except that I had to miss school. It was the next day that has stayed with me all these years. When I got back to school the next day, my teacher, Mrs. Baxter, gave me two things: a little American flag, and a book about Paul Revere's famous Midnight Ride. In my absence, she had all of my classmates make flags out of construction paper. And then, and then... she lined us all up at the door, like every teacher does. I was the line leader. We all held our flags. In her hand was a small tape player. She pressed play, and from that tiny monophone speaker, came John Phillip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever." And for the next few minutes, we marched through the halls of The North School, in Heber City, Utah, a classroom full of little six-year-olds, having our own little American parade. I waved my flag and lead my class through the hallways; teachers and students stepped out of their rooms and clapped and cheered. I was an American Citizen.

I don't think my young, six-year-old mind understood the full impact of that day. I just know that I got to be the parade leader. But as I have gotten older, and looked back on that experience, I realize what Mrs. Baxter did for me. She instilled in me a sense of pride, a sense of love, for not only who I am, but where I am. And where I am has largely shaped who I am. I look back on that experience with appreciation and gratitude, thankful for a teacher who understood that becoming -- and being -- an American Citizen is indeed, something to celebrate.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dog Etiquette, According to ME!

This morning I was outside watering the flowers when a couple of ladies, each out for a walk, crossed paths with each other. The first lady was walking her dog and the second lady was pushing her baby in a stroller. They chatted for a moment and the dog lady asked the other lady how old her baby was. The second lady told her she was a year old. The little dog jumped up and leaned its paws against the front of the stroller to get a better look at the baby.

The dog lady gushed on and on. "Oh, how cute is that? I can't decide which one is cuter!"

Hold the phone. She couldn't decide which one was cuter -- the dog or the baby. Might I just tell you, the correct answer is the kid. The kid is ALWAYS cuter than the dog. I don't care if the kid looks like he or she just arrived here from Jupiter, the kid is ALWAYS cuter. I don't care if your living room is wallpapered with Basset Hounds frolikcing in a field, the kid is ALWAYS cuter. I don't care if you have ever pushed a puppy in a stroller, the kid is ALWAYS cuter.

Got it?

Common sense, PEOPLE!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why I Love March Madness

Growing up, I would have been considered the sports fanatic in my family -- and that's not saying much. I went to a few spring training games with friends, I tried to catch the big U of A vs. ASU rivalry game every November, and because I was in the school band, I saw all of our football and basketball games by default.

However, the one sporting event I have truly loved since I was young is March Madness. And, thanks to names like Sean Elliot, Steve Kerr, and of course, Lute Olson, Arizona became my team. And while I will always cheer on the Wildcats, I just love the tournament in general. Why?

1. It's something that my husband and I share and enjoy together. In 1997 when the Cats won the championship, it was the single greatest moment of my NCAA-lovin' life. The next year, when Utah took out Arizona in the Sweet 16, it was the greatest moment of Dan's Ute-lovin' life. Every year, we fill out our brackets, and there have been several times that I've done much better than him. And it's paid off. I've won new shoes, massages, and a month's worth of him making the bed. Let's just not talk about this year's brackets, okay?

2. It's just plain fun to walk into various places of business and see all the little brackets posted on the walls. It makes me laugh. It reminds me that we all need a little escape, that tournament brackets, whether you follow the teams or not, are something in which we can all participate. I mean, who would have predicted anything about Harvard this year?

3. Beyond that, March Madness is a good metaphor for life. Not everyone is invited to the party, and not everyone gets a trophy. Sometimes (and this was tough) not even Arizona is invited. Some people show up who have rich and/or famous dads (yeah, Tim Hardaway, Jr.). It's messy and it's sloppy. One moment it's all going your way and the next moment everyone seems to be ganging up on you. It can get ugly -- people lose teeth and break legs. In slow motion, some plays are absolutely beautiful. There are buzzer beaters that take your breath away and you find yourself holding out hope until the very. last. possible. second. And then Cinderella shows up and you HAVE to cheer for the underdog, because what kind of a monster would you be if you always cheered for Duke the #1 seeds? The best, of course, is when your own team is the Cinderella team. And honestly, how can you not love a white kid named Spike who comes into the championship averaging 2 points per game and then scores 17 points in 17 minutes of play? To quote Luther Vandross, he got his "One Shining Moment."

Finally, when you win, it's pure elation. When you lose, you pick yourself up and try again the next year. And THAT'S why I love March Madness. See you next year, boys.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Status Update

Have you noticed in the status bar on Facebook, it asks you some kind of question, like "What's on your mind today?" or "How are you doing?" I'm going to go ahead and answer that today.

I am freaking out, man!

Yeah. Just like that. There's a lot of good stuff happening, but it is also really stressful. The bank denied our loan one week before we were supposed to close on our new house. And it wasn't for any other reason than we were buying the house on a flip. We were told if we would bring them another $45,000, they would approve our loan. Um, I'm sure most people have an extra fifty large just sitting around, but we're not one of them. And that's the whole reason for going to the bank in the first place, right? Fortunately, I called my friend at City 1st Mortgage, and she had me a new loan the very next day. So we're back on track.

Which means that there is packing and sorting and prepping for a garage sale. There are paint colors to pick, and did you know that gray is an impossible color to choose? Fifty Shades of Gray? I don't think so. I bet I looked at 100 shades before I found one that didn't look purple or brown or blue or beige.

And did I mention the cleaning? The new house has been sitting empty for a year, and has accumulated a year's worth of dust and dead flies. Gross, I know. And I'm a firm believer in leaving the old house cleaner than you found it, so there's that.

In the meantime, there are clients who need blog posts and facebook updates and newsletters. And there are children who need dinner. Why do they always need to eat? And they want clean clothes, too.

And then. THEN! There's the big Amazon contest and we are 11 days away from finding out if I am a semi-finalist. Who can concentrate on ANYTHING when I am 11 days away from finding out if I am a semi-finalist?!?!? What? We're buying a house and moving? I had no idea, because I am WAITING TO SEE IF I AM A SEMI-FINALIST!!!!

People, I haven't done my hair once this week! Thank goodness for ball caps and ponytail holders.

To end, I will leave you with a little tip: if you're looking to invest in some stock, consider peanut M&Ms and cherry Coke. I have a feeling there is going to be a surge in demand.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thank You!

As a personal rule, I believe in being positive. I really don't see the need for negativity; mostly because I'm lazy. It takes way too much effort to be mean and vindictive or an all-around sourpuss. It's just easier to be nice. Remember the penguins from the movie Madagascar? Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave. 

Also, I believe that like attracts like. If you're generally happy and positive, you will attract generally happy and positive people into your life. Before you accuse me of being all Pollyanna-like, I also have a healthy respect for reality. Sometimes, reality does in fact, bite. Tough things come along and make you wish you were somewhere on a faraway tropical island, sipping slushy drinks on the beach.

This week, however, is not about the tough things. This week has been all about the good things; the highlight of which was seeing the word "author" next to my name. Author!!!! My novel made it to the quarterfinals, which is the most I was hoping for. Anything after this will be the icing on the cake.

Also, things are plugging away for us to move into our new home within the next several weeks. We've lived here in the beautiful mountain tops for five years, and we are excited to finally put down roots and have a place to call our own.

Beyond that, the weather warmed right up, and I got to take a drive in a convertible -- and there's hardly anything that makes me giddier than sunshine and a convertible (except of course, seeing the word author next to my name)!

BUT (and this is the biggest thing this week) as I shared on Facebook all of the good things that happened this week, I was utterly humbled by all of the friends who were genuinely happy for me; at how many people offered sweet sentiments of congratulations and well wishes -- even people who were possibly as ecstatic as I was. Texts, e-mails, hugs...I was the recipient of all of this positive energy this week.

And to all of them, I can only say, thank you.

What an affirmation of like attracting like.

I know, and I mean KNOW, that my friends would rush to my aid when the tough times hit. But how much sweeter it is to know that they are there in the good times, too.

P.S. I have dubbed 2013 "The Year of Yes." We're making good thing happen up in here!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Math or Cleaning?

Last night I was helping my son with his 4th grade math homework. While we were bellied up to the counter, elbow deep in fractions and decimals and number lines, I had asked my daughter to straighten up the living room and kitchen. From this little scene, I learned something: cleaning frustrates her as much as math frustrates me. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this, but there was a certain problem in the math book that had me stumped. My daughter, of course, is something of a math wiz. She was sweeping the kitchen floor when I asked her to take a look at the problem and then explain it to her brother.

And then there was this moment.

This moment when I realized that she is her mother's daughter.

"Okay," she said. "Everybody stop. Everybody do a ten-foot radius check."

"A ten-foot radius check?" I asked.

"Everybody pick up and put away whatever is within a ten-foot radius of you. I don't care if it's yours or not."

*where have i heard that before?*

Mind you, I would not have used a high-fallutin' math term like "ten-foot radius," but I would have said something like, "I don't care who it belongs to or where it goes, just put it away!" So I smiled to myself. And I took my ball cap to my room. Then I came back and picked up a dish rag and wiped down the stove, because, you know, it was only three feet away from me. She sat down and calmly and successfully explained the math problem to her brother.

And then to me.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Dance

I have some pretty exciting news today. Last month I entered my novel into a contest called the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It's a contest with several rounds, and yesterday I learned that my novel made it to the second round! I'd be lying if I told you I didn't do a little happy dance in my kitchen with my husband and kids. And then I did a little happy dance in the car. I may have even done a little happy dance at the gas station in Beaver, Utah. There weren't any witnesses, so you can't actually prove it. I have no idea how far it will actually go, but for now, I'm counting this as a small triumph!

I will probably be happy dancing for another day or so, and then I will be biting my nails until March 12, when the next advancement is announced. *That seems so far away!*

So if you want, do a little happy dance with me right there on your side of the screen. Right now. Go ahead.

It's fun, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


I have nothing much to say today, except for this:

Dear People Who Make Pants,

Please, for the love of Mike,* once and for all, would you just finally realize that we (meaning the world) need pants that cover our hineys and stay there when we walk, bend, sit, reach, eat, run, wipe the table, get out of the car, get into the car, stretch, talk on the phone, pedal our bicycles, pose for a picture, do the laundry, go to job interviews, lie on the couch, crouch on the floor, stoop on the steps, and generally live our lives?!?!?

Also, please remember that some all of us have curves and junk in the trunk and waistlines and hips bigger than our waists. Please take that into consideration the next time you cut some fabric and sew it back together.

Every Woman, Everywhere.

*I love my Uncle Mike.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


For Christmas this year, I decided to make gratitude journals for my husband and kids. Each book is entitled, "365 Things I am Grateful for in 2013." I thought it would be a fun exercise for us to do together, finding something to be grateful for each day this year -- and acknowledging it.

I thought I would share what I was grateful for yesterday.

Yesterday, I got called in to my old school to sub second grade. It's the first time I've subbed since before the shooting at Sandy Hook happened. Yes, that event hit especially close to home for me, as it did, I'm sure, for every other teacher in America. I'll admit, it was on my mind as I pulled into the parking lot. As I entered the classroom, I took note of little things, like how this classroom was exactly three doors down from the office; like how the door opens out to the hall and not in to the room, which would take an extra bit of a second in the event of a lock down. Also, how there was no way to lock the door from the inside. I also noticed that the wall between the hallway and classroom is made of cinder block, and how that was a good thing.

But then the bell rang and the kids came in, and we talked about what Santa brought them and the difference between summarizing and retelling. We added two-digit numbers and played "I'm Going to the Moon." We stayed in for recess because it was EIGHT degrees outside and we learned about electrical charges. All in all, it was a really good day at school.

And so, the thing I was grateful for yesterday was courage. I never thought of teaching school as a very courageous thing to do (that's usually reserved for the police and firefighters and customer service reps at Target). But yesterday, it took a little courage for me to walk into a K-4 elementary school, in a small town, with a close-knit community.

And I was grateful I had it.