Monthly Archives: November 2009

Monday Mission(s) Accomplished:

1.    Discovered the reason behind my weeks-dead washing machine: detritus in the pump–two socks, a lego man, a plastic gecko, various bits of crayon, fragments of a ballpoint pen, what appears to be a cog of some sort, an AA battery, a hair band, a bobby pin, a plastic disc stamped to look like a piece of money, eight candy wrappers, and a sickly sludge comprised mainly of hair and lint–think dust bunny, dipped in the goo that builds up in your p-trap. The best part? I paid some other schmuck to take the thing apart and dig this stuff out. Totally worth the price of the service agreement. I should know; I usually do these things myself.
(Question: shouldn't there be some kind of a filter that prevents this? Do people really, honestly, empty out their pockets and shake out each item of clothing before laundering to ensure nobody has cleaned up by simply sweeping everything on the floor into a laundry basket?)
2.    Cleaned out the bottom of my dishwasher: two melted baby bottles, and a measuring spoon. No kidding. Again, hired shmuck.
3.    Found within myself the spine to refuse said schmuck's offer to sell me a special, magical soap I can use to . . . wash my washer. If I was really worried about that hazy layer of lint stuck to the inside of the washing machine's window, I'd just, you know, wipe it off with my finger. Like you just did, to show me how dirty it was. Probably. 
(Now, if you had a magical potion to dissolve the stuff that's going to get into the pump…you might sell me on that.)
3.    Cooked my Thanksgiving turkey. What? It's not Canadian Thanksgiving or American Thanksgiving? Hey, the bird finally thawed. Today.
4.    Tried to defend the moral basis for my gutting of said turkey to six preschool children. 
          (Kimber, what is that?

          A turkey.
          Are those its guts?
          Are you hurting that turkey?
          The turkey is dead.
          Did you hurt it when you killed it?
          It was dead when I got it.
          Thanksgiving is all over.
          You're weird.)
5.     Established, beyond all doubt, that I'm weird.
6.     Oh, did I mention that I made it out of bed? That has to count for something. Today. And I'll probably even stay out of bed until after the potatoes and gravy are made and the peas cleaned up from whatever distant reaches of the universe they rolled to during dinner, and the teenagers are picked up and the games are played and we've had a proper Monday Evening, gingerbread men and all. Maybe. Gingerbread might be pushing it.  Maybe we'll just play spoons and eat Oreos.  Wait. No Oreos.  Maybe we'll just chew gum. That counts, doesn't it?

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Somebody Please Explain

Our daughter has always had her own room, while our five boys have shared. Granted, it was a big room, but they are getting older and privacy is becoming an issue. 
They want bedrooms, and I want all the tools out of my kitchen, so we decided to finally build the garage with the extra bedrooms we'd been planning–from the start. The bedrooms we'd told the septic design lady to allow for. 
But this week, we hear from the building department that our blueprints are unacceptable. Our septic system is only big enough for a four bedroom house. 
We point out that it's designed for ten people. We only have six children and barring a miracle, we aren't having more. Not that it's any of their business. They measure. They do some figuring. Oh. So it is. But it still isn't big enough for more than four bedrooms. 

We can have ten people, but not more than four bedrooms? What? Do that math! And how does more square footage translate into more strain on the septic system?? I'm completely flummoxed. Somebody explain this to me.
Please. Give me just one, just one way this ruling could make any sense. 

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All Hell, And Then Some

I've been doing some freelancing lately, and for the most part I enjoy it. You take a lot of meaningless drivel and boring statistics and you start fashioning paragraphs and sentences and if you do it just right you end up with a pretty readable story.
However, there are always people involved with these stories. 
Words I know how to deal with; people not so much. I admit: I had socially backward childhood.
Just to give you an idea how the process works:
Day One: I get an email from the Big Guy containing a name and a contact number. I immediately call said contact. They never, ever answer, so I leave a message telling them who I am and why I'm calling. Then, knowing I have some time to kill, I get online. I google the company name; the contact's name; I find out everything I possibly can. If it's a fish market I research fishing laws and markets and marine life. 
Day Two: I call and leave another message. I'd like to do an interview, it should only take about fifteen minutes of your time, we can do it whenever is convenient for you. Call me back–thanks!  I get online again and I figure out the secret code for that company's email. Usually it's something like I plug in my contact's name in the secret format; usually I'm correct. They will usually answer this email, and set up a time for an interview.
Day Three: I keep my appointment. If I'm lucky, so does the other person. Chances are, however, that the interview will consist of a cheery greeting, and an idea for a more qualified individual I can talk to–which they will email me later.
Day Four: I get the email. I call the new contact and leave a voice mail. I also immediately apply the secret code and send an email.
Day Five: Contact responds. "I'm terribly busy. Perhaps next week sometime, what works for you?" I immediately respond leaving the schedule wide open, and we set up an interview.
Day Six: It's the weekend. I conduct more research. I talk to people who buy their fish at said market. I talk to people who fish for a living. I talk to everyone I can. I try to find an angle for this story so that when I interview this person, I'll know what direction to take.
Day Seven: Did I ever mention how much I LOVE the concept of a Sabbath day?
Day Eight: Big Guy emails me. How are we doing on the story? I respond-pretty good. I've got some great information together. I still need to do the interview. And then I pause–when can I have it done? Well, it should only take me an hour or so after the interview, so I promise him, "I'll have it to you tomorrow."
Big Guy responds: good, because it's running the next day–I'll need it for final approval in the morning.
WHAT????? The other assignments I'm working on, that I received before this one, won't be running for weeks still. But he told me this could get fast and furious. So I think hard. I have enough material to write a good story; my facts are straight. I consider calling said contact and explaining what I've got. Hahahahaha. Yeah, right. Like they'll answer. And I've been in trouble before for hounding a source too much. So I content myself with an email. Which nobody  responds to. Surprise, surprise. 
I'm not the kind of person who says, "Sorry, so-and-so did or didn't do this, so I can't keep my end of the bargain." I improvise. I come through. So I stay up all night. I make the story as good as I can. I quote the contact's boss from their website–and I am careful to make it clear that I'm quoting a quote. 
Day Nine: Big Guy is rattling my cage with emails. Are you done yet? All hell is breaking loose down here. Yes! Yes! I'm almost there! Give me an hour to try to contact these people one more time. I'm not sure they'll be happy with not having input here. I don't tell him the interview isn't until one o'clock. The way I figure it, he's sending the story to the contact for final approval; if they are as busy as they appear, they might be glad I wrote the story without harrassing them further; if they don't like it, they'll send it back–or be motivated to call me up and give me some input. What can it hurt?
So I hit send. 
Not a good idea. More than "all hell" broke loose. They love the story as far as a story goes, but they think I made parts of it up; they don't recognize my sources; I'm a liar! Contact sends this email to Big Guy, plus carbon copies the thing to every single person in the organization and maybe a few more. 
I apologize (and sweat) profusely. I keep my interview appointment that afternoon and write an entirely new story in less than two hours. It's half-way decent, but I send it off full of grammatical and probably logical errors. I just want to get it out of my inbox. Out, out, damn story.
And then I stay awake all night again agonizing over my reputation as an honest writer, not to mention having my name printed next to the unedited drivel I so hastily posted. 
C'est la vie. Lesson(s) learned.

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God Speaks Italian

Had one of those weekends. You know which kind.
Spent Sunday morning in covert hysterics, agonizing over my parenting skills or the lack thereof. Praying for an answer–direction, hope, anything. 
But I receive nothing. God is eerily silent.
And then sitting in the van that morning, waiting for my kids to pile in before church. Freezing because both doors are open. My eldest has planted herself in the driveway. "I'm not getting in the back," she insists. 
"Neither are we," her brothers retort. "We were here first." They don't care that she's really, really tall, and she's wearing a skirt.
"We're wearing suits," they remind her.
"It's not as hard to climb back there in a suit."
They sit there, staring forward. Smug. 
They've had this discussion before. Frequently. I don't take sides. I wait for someone to give. "No arguing," I remind them when voices begin to rise, and so they conduct their debate in subdued, reasonable tones. Back and forth. But no one budges.
And then I remember–we didn't have our morning prayer. I say, "Hey, we need to have prayer." Daughter folds her arms, still firmly planted outside the van.  Son whose turn it is bows his head, "Dear Heavenly Father," he prays. You can almost hear the smugness in his voice. "Please  help us get to church on time, and to stop fighting."  He still doesn't move. Honestly–I thought he might recognize the irony, and give in. 
No way. 
But the youngest does. He dives over the back seat with a smile on his face. It feels good to be the hero. 
Thank you! And we are on our way. 
At church, I struggle somewhat to focus on the speakers. Something about listening to the promptings of the spirit. Yeah, yeah, I've heard this before.
After sacrament meeting is over and the kids have skedaddled to classes, a member of the bishopric comes down off the stand. He sits next to me. This is the guy who assigns people to terrible things like serving as Scoutmaster or public speaking. 
"How are you doing?" he asks, in his thick Italian accent. 
"Great!" I smile broadly at him. Because even if he has another task for me, I have to admit I am fine. Even in the face of my worries and God's silence, I'm okay. I've been in far worse places before.  It's just been one of those weeks, and there will be other, better weeks. I know this. 
"I just wanted to thank you for your son," he says simply. He's referring to the smug one, in the van. "He amazes me in class and at activities."
"He's a pretty good kid," I acknowledge, and as I say it, I can feel the truth of what this man is saying in my bones. I see my son's life in one snapshot. He is a good kid. His stubbornness drives us all a bit crazy sometimes, but he more than makes up for it in so many ways. 
The Italian proceeds to tell me exactly why my son amazes him. I'm trying to maintain my smile, because otherwise I'm going to begin sobbing and melt into a puddle of snot and tears. The examples he gives amaze me, too. I'm not sure I taught him those things.
This was a middle-aged, bespectacled man speaking to me, but I heard the voice of God in my extremities.  It's going to be okay. Your efforts will be enough. You are not alone.

I barely made it out of there in time to dissolve in private and I had less than an hour to compose myself before I had to get up and teach my class of young women–whose mothers probably agonize over them. 
Your best effort is enough. You are not alone. God hears and answers prayer–sometimes in an Italian accent, and often when you least expect it–but His grace is ever-sufficient. 
"God does notice us and He watches over us, but it is usually through another person that he meets our needs." (Spencer W. Kimball, 1895-1985.)

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Actually… God Doesn’t Really Need You

Although I have seen the film literally dozens (possibly hundreds) of times before, I was struck by this verse: "And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night."
Struck by that word–"rule"–and the image of the sun on its path through the sky and the moon and the stars. Rule. In what way does a big rock in the sky rule the night? A fireball ninety-three million miles away rule the day? 
Are they coercive? Demanding? Do they nag to you pick up your socks?
Not so much. 
They are constant. Predictable and consistent. They add light, warmth, and rhythm to our days. Together they are the very source of life as we know it, and yet they go about their business regardless of the opinion, actions or desires of any individual or special-interest group.
Which somehow brought to mind this statement:
"God did not give that first great commandment because He needs us to love Him. His power and glory are not diminished should we disregard, deny, or even defile His name. His influence and dominion extend through time and space independent of our acceptance, approval or admiration."
Clearly, God rules in much the same way as those celestial spheres. 
Uchtdorf goes on to say, "No, God does not need us to love Him. But oh, how we need to love God!" and he proceeds to remind of us why, however I'm stuck on this idea that God doesn't need us–which obviously, He doesn't, but I also remember that other oft-quoted statement: 
"God does notice us and He watches over us, but it is usually through another person that He meets our needs." 
I'm trying to wrap my mind around both truths at once.
If God does not need us. If he rolls on, eternally unchanging and independent of our actions or non-actions, why does he so often work through our failing, frail, faulty human hands? Because he doesI know this. But why?
I could postulate forever, even quote you some authoritative answers on the subject, but it might be more enlightening to ponder the answer during some quiet moment, yourself.
Deeply intriguing, even somewhat disturbing, as I consider how I should be interacting with other faulty humans in light of the answers I came up with–if I would emulate the love of the Father and the example set by His Son. 

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Consumer Reports, Volume Three

I bought this amazing pan at Costco. I have been cooking eggs in it for weeks now, out of sheer delight at its truly non-stick properties.
Today while wiping it clean, I had an electrifying thought: why doesn't someone market a wall paint like this? Is there somewhere I can take my doors and have them coated with this stuff? Door handles, at the very least?
While we're endorsing the consumerist lifestyle anyway, let me just say that buying a good set of knives should be high on your list of things to do in this life; I should know. I just bought knives, after sixteen years of hacking away with a) a dollar store paring knife or b) a big old plastic-handled knife the Mr. brought home from Argentina sixteen years ago. He keeps trying to toss it, but there are some things the paring knife can't handle. Well. Actually, now that I have real knives, I realize that there were a lot of things that neither knife was handling very well. A knife snob might mock my new knives; to me, they are heaven.

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Cats, Saw Blades and Arctic Temperatures

Ten lessons learned from my weekend backsplash/island tiling project:
  1. You can do it yourself;all those dusty little bits and pieces–guards and guides and such–that you don't know how to attach to the tile saw–just leave them in the shed. Yes. You heard me. All you need is the spinning blade and the table. (Although…don't quote me on that if you're in any way connected with OSHA.) 
  2. Putting the saw up on some kind of table–some kind of elevated platform, would likely be worth the extra effort as opposed to just setting it on the lawn and squatting for hours at a stretch. Saves your glutes; and then you don't have to imagine what would happen should you accidentally lose your balance and plunge, face-first into the saw blade.
  3. Cats are not frightened of plunging into said blade; it doesn't make any loud terrifying sounds until it's actually cutting something. Just spins and throws water everywhere. Which, apparently, they don't notice either.
  4. Eye protection is not optional.
  5. Eye protection with windshield wipers would be a killer idea.
  6. I look good covered in pulverized slate…mixed with water and sprayed on with a fine mist, it brings out the color of my eyes. Possibly because they–and the circles left from the goggles–are the only thing not slate colored by the end of the day.
  7. Pulverized slate makes a fail-proof, fade-proof fabric dye. There is no detergent on earth that will take the color out, once it's in.
  8. Standing in an arctic wind while operating the saw doesn't actually help that much in keeping the water out of your eyes. You would think it would, though.
  9. Buy extra tiles. And then throw a few more in the cart for good measure. Okay, fine. Set them gently in the cart. You always need more than you think.
  10. Because when you run to the store for those last few tiles, and your mortar is setting up and so you don't take time to shower or change or even to rub some of the mud out of your hair, you will run into every single person you know. 

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Potential Underwear

We're at Wal-mart. On our way past the boys' section, I remember that my boys said they need underwear. Who knew: to be a tightey-whitey wearer in middle school is the utmost in humiliation–and apparently they know these things about one another. And so I send the oldest on a mission: Go pick out some boxers. 
I'm contemplating a display of holiday cards when he returns. He looks a little flushed; he is empty handed. 
"What?" I say.
"What what?"
"You couldn't find any?"
"No. I mean, yeah. I found some."
"Where are they?"
He pats his abdomen; it crinkles. For the first time I notice the bulge under his shirt.
"Give those to me!" I exclaim. "They're going to think you're a shoplifter!"
But the boy feints left; he won't let me have the underwear until he determines my motives. "Are you going to hide them, or are you going to walk around the store showing my underwear to everyone that walks by?" he asks.
Ah yes. The intensely personal nature of potential underwear; I had forgotten.

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Happy Mother’s Day

You know those times when two siblings have fairly equal claim to a certain privilege and the older one is coaxing, wheedling, offering mega-bucks in increasing increments in exchange for capitulation from his younger sibling and the younger sibling is digging in his heels deeper and deeper and you're listening to the exchange and you're bracing yourself for the worst? You know the feeling of dread? Because you know that no matter whose favor you come down on, your eardrums are done for?
And then the older child unexpectedly not only takes the high road but goes the extra mile and makes his whining little brother feel like king of the universe and everyone is suddenly all smiles and warm fuzzies and it turns out you were bracing yourself for nothing at all–don't you want to just break down and cry?

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The Eternal Optimist

"Mom, it's almost my birthday!"
"Yeah–because it's almost December, and then after December it only has to be January, February, and then March!"

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