Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Fairy Shoveled My Driveway


I have the most incredible fairies watching out for me. Tonight a snow fairy shoveled my driveway. And my sidewalk. And my porch. I don't even think it was the same fairy who stained my fence this fall, just another amazing fairy who made my night.

She must be one tough fairy, able to wield an oversized snowblower and a heavy snow shovel. Maybe she's a superhero fairy. (What? It could happen. Or, maybe she is really Robin.)

Now I just need to find the fairy who bakes yummy cookies for all the other fairies and have her make some for me to give out to say thanks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Greatest Snow on Earth



This white stuff is beautiful! I'm sticking to this story for now, mostly because Dana's snowblower rocks!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Question of Love

This commentary by Keith Olbermann about the vote on Proposition 8 in California is the best one I have seen. I hope that, regardless of how you feel about this issue, you will watch this commentary and listen with your heart. He puts into words many of the things I have been thinking and was too angry and too emotional and too heartbroken about that vote to say myself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bending the Arc of History Toward Hope


"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
Obama's speech last night was one of the most exciting and thrilling addresses I've ever heard. Like a friend of mine said with tears streaming down his cheeks, it's good to have an adult in charge again.
"All of those watching tonight from beyond our shores, in the parliament and in the palaces, those huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular but our destiny is shared."
It's stirring to have an inspiring and impressively intelligent leader. I think people all around the world are cheering and giving America another chance.
"It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America. It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day."
I'm so elated I have lived to see this day and I'm inspired by a visionary president elect who elevates and speaks for the higher good of all. This is a very good day for America.
"We have proved that the true strength of our nation comes not from the scale of our wealth but from the power of our ideals - opportunity, democracy, liberty and hope."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't Speak to me of Liquor

I went into Utah County today to vote and decided to stop in on a new bakery in Highland at the bottom of the hill. I was hoping to make another quick stop for some wine for an election victory toast, so I asked the girl at the bakery if she could tell me where the nearest liquor store was. Her eyes got wide and she looked at me blankly as if I was speaking some strange foreign language. I just waited, until finally it dawned on her what I was asking. With an adamant shake of her head, she leaned over to the girl on the cash register next to her and whispered in that stage whisper usually reserved for words like cancer or homosexual, "Do you know where the nearest liquor store is?"

I tried to soften the blow a little by helpfully adding "a wine store," thinking it might be the word liquor that was causing all the alarm.

Girl #2 just looked up incredulously, assessing me as if she was trying to figure out what sort of a person would ask such a question. With a solemn shake of her head, she walked back to the young guy bagging bread and whispered something in his ear while pointing at me. I looked down, suddenly feeling a little ashamed like I had just asked where the nearest crack dealer could be found.

He yells back to two other people working in the store, but neither of them had any idea either. So, they send someone to the back to ask a couple other people who shook their heads and proclaimed loudly that they have "absolutely no idea where the liquor store is."

Finally, overhearing the exchange, a sophisticated older woman standing in line next to me leaned over and said she thought the nearest one was the one in Draper.

Yes, Draper.

I know exactly where that one is.

So, I drove out to the freeway and over the Point of the Mountain, back to Salt Lake County to my obviously heathen town of Draper. Not exactly a worth-while trip. It turns out, the liquor store is closed on election day. Well, I can understand that. We wouldn't want anyone to be drunk while voting in Utah. They might just accidentally vote for a Democrat.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Trail of Leaves

My plants are a barometer of melancholy. It's during the times I fancy myself fighting off torture in the pit of despair or stumbling blindly through the fire swamp that my plants lose their luster, start to turn yellow from lack of water, and slowly start dropping their leaves in defiance, marking the path of their imminent demise. My one plant has been through this with me time after time. Like some of my friends, she gets less resilient to the low periods and seems to show the stress quicker and react more forcefully. Every day she is telling me that if I don't snap out of this soon, she will be naked and far beyond the point of no return.

She and I watched as the stand of scrub oak in the back yard put on a spectacular fall show of brilliant yellow and then dropped all their leaves in one afternoon exposing the gnarled gray branches like arthritic fingers beneath. We watched, transfixed, as it happened, willing the leaves to just hold on for a while--begging them fervently to delay that dark and cold winter for a few more weeks.

It's time, they said. It's just the natural cycle of life and our hope of spring lies deep within us and is just as unstoppable.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fairy Dust and the Fence


A fairy stained my fence while I was at work today. Okay, maybe it wasn't really a fairy, but that would be a very cool story. Except I guess it would take a fairy an awfully long time to stain a big huge fence and she probably couldn't even lift the paint brush with her little arms and getting stain on her wings would be disastrous. So, it probably wasn't really a fairy. But it was some secret, Tom-Sawyer-good-Samaritan-fence-stainer. Nice, huh? It's incredibly hard to feel sorry for yourself when you come home to a beautiful, golden-brown fence on a sparkly fall afternoon.

I have a sneaking suspicion I know who it was (or at least one of three possibilities), but I'm really loving the not-knowing part. I should probably try to track down my generous stain benefactor, but then that whole idea of the fairy would be gone forever. I figure I might as well live in the fairy tale as long as I can.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Don't Blink, You Might Miss It

Have you ever had one of those moments when you suddenly realize that your life might just be defined by before this moment and after this moment and you are pretty sure everything is going to change? I might have just had one of those moments. Just wanted you to keep track so I can say, "See, I knew it!" in retrospect.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Don't Buy This

The following is a public service announcement. By taking my errors public, it is my sincere hope that I can save you, the grocery-buying public, from the egregious embarrassment of making these mistakes yourself.

First, never buy sugar-free hot fudge sauce. It's really a dark, shiny, melted-down plastic goo made to resemble a rich sauce for ice cream. This trick is doubly cruel because by labeling it fudge, this deceptively crafty manufacturer leaves you with the mistaken impression that it is some kind of chocolaty goodness. Just believe me when I tell you...it's not.





Second, never buy the frozen 5-pound bag of deluxe tiny green peas from Costco. You will never be able to use even a half pound of those green little BBs before they turn into bleached out, icy, pea raisins--not even if you buy the 5-pound bag of frozen carrots to go with them.

Third, never buy Absolut Pears vodka from Sweeden. Yes. I know the bottle is cute and it looks enticing, but it bears no resemblance to either vodka or pears and will only light your head on fire.


Fourth, never buy cocktail pep, smocked sausage sticks. "Who would?" you ask. Well, someone who is obviously craving that great smoky flavor of pork hearts, beef fat, and potassium and sodium nitrate. If you insist on disregarding my warning and buying them anyway, don't, under any circumstances, read the ingredient list.

Fifth, never buy a cat toy that chirps. It will never stop chirping no matter how dark and still the drawer is you put it in. And like a crazed bird stalker, the phantom chirp will increase exponentially in volume when you are walking quietly by in the dark at 2 a.m.

Okay. You can now go back to your regularly scheduled program already in progress.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Senseless Sensibility


"Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken."


It's senseless how much I like Sense and Sensibility. I've seen it no less than 25 times and every time Margaret Dashwood says, "He's sitting next to her. He's kneeling down!" I burst out crying. Yep. Crying. Every time. I'm such a girl.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pushmi-Pullyu

This Need Less, Give More experiment is chock full of catch-22s.

Like Dr. Dolittle's pushmi-pullyu, sometimes I can't decide which direction is right. For example, I want to cut back on my use of paper goods. Like my friend Dana, I want to stop using paper towels and napkins and use cloth instead. But that would mean I would have to buy cloth napkins. And so, I run headlong into the Need Less experiment. Under a strict interpretation of the rules I can't buy "things," but I can buy consumables. (I'm trying really hard not to mention soap.) Because paper towels and napkins are technically consumables, I could buy them. But I don't want to because the subcontext of this little experiment has to be creating less waste and using less of everything.

Do you think finger bowls are acceptable? Or should I just make all my guests use their sleeves? I guess I could start tearing up sheets and make my own napkins, but that just seems wrong.

Then yesterday I was at the grocery store actually buying groceries. As anyone who has looked in my fridge can attest, this is something I rarely do. But thinking I would turn over a new leaf (and because all the guys at work have me convinced that I should get prepared for inevitable Armageddon), I decided to put something other than J├Ągermeister and blue cheese dressing in my fridge.

Along comes the catch-22 again.

I only have two cloth grocery bags and I'm pretty sure all the groceries I need won't fit in just two. I don't want to use plastic bags, but under the rules of the experiment I can't buy any more cloth bags. Is there really anything wrong with just marching your cart full of loose groceries out to your car? Every place except Costco frowns on this practice for some reason. Maybe I should use pillow cases? Or hat boxes? I have plenty of those. But I think even the nice people at Harmon's would look at me funny if I walked in with a cart full of hat boxes and started filling them with bananas and tortillas and string cheese.

There has to be a way to stay true to the Need Less experiment and also use less of the consumable stuff too. Any ideas?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chasing Away the Winter Blues

Because I'm freaking out and feeling sorry for myself about this slap-you-in-the-face winter weather, I decided to try to come up with ten things I like in the winter.

Here goes:

1. My instant gratification fireplace. I love curling up by it, reading a good book, and dreaming about summer.
2. Taco soup. I'll admit that taco soup is pretty good any time of year, but it's the perfect thing to chase away the winter chills.
3. Electric blankets. I absolutely love turning my blanket up to high a few minutes before I get in. It's so toasty and comforting. Almost as good as having a man in there warming the bed up--almost.
4. Hot baths. I'm a year-round bather, but a hot bubble bath is even more enticing in the winter.
5. Pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream. This is a sweet indulgence I save for this time of year.
6. Skiing. I don't ski nearly as much as I used to or as much as I wish I could, but skiing is definitely a winter bonus. I remember years when skiing was so high up on my agenda that I would be thrilled to see the first snow flurries and feel joyfully excited waiting for that first run of the year. My friends and I would meet at the quad (a big, open grassy area at my university) during the first snowfall of the year and dance around with glee, catching the snowflakes on our tongues and thinking about all the perfect ski days to come. I'm going to try to tap into some of that excitement again this year.
7. No more yard work. I love the thought of the alfalfa patch getting covered with snow so I don't have to think about it until spring. No more lawn mowing or weed pulling. Let's not think about snow shoveling.
8. Coffee. I drink coffee all the time too, but there is something visceral about it during the winter. I love holding the hot mug and breathing in the rich aroma. It's only during winter I have to remind myself to stop drinking it by noon or I'll never sleep.
9. My red and green down blanket. I love this blanket. It's soft and fluffy and cosy and comfortable. Plus, my sister Heidi gave it to me so I love it.
10. Candles. I love lighting candles during the winter. I like them everywhere--on my nightstand, on the side of the tub, on the kitchen counter--wherever I can put one.
11. Sledding down the hill behind my house with my nephews. It's fun, they love it, and we get to cuddle up, drink hot chocolate, and read stories after.

So there is even one extra. Please tell me all your winter favorites. I'm going to need some new ones to help get me through.

Whiter



















Just two questions: What happened to fall and why can't I learn to move my grill in earlier?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Winter White

















It's white in front.

















It's white in back.

















It's white on the side.

It's winter here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Need Less, Give More Makes People Happy!



















People keep asking me who is getting all this crap I'm giving away. Well, here is one happy recipient.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need

"A Thneed's a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat.
But it has OTHER uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!"
--From The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

I want that.

Not a day goes by without the thought of something I want (read NEED) flashing through my mind. It's funny that I somehow thought that once I decided to swear off shopping, the desire for stuff would go away. But it never really does. I'm hardwired to want more and better and bigger and nicer and more comfortable stuff. There is always something that pops into my mind unexpectedly and I think, "I really, really want that." In fact if I think long enough about that thing, it gets to the point that I'm fully convinced that I NEED it. I need it. I need it. I need it.

But I don't.

I don't need it. I just want it really bad and I'm used to getting nearly everything I want. So, it's a mental fight to calm that need down.

I'll use this morning as the example. I got up and it was still dark and surprisingly chilly. Dark and chilly...dark and chilly...what would make that better? Of course! One of those cute little flickering fireplaces that you plug in and it casts a nice (albeit fake) fiery glow around the room. Yeah! I need one of those. Then I could turn it on before I get out of bed and it would warm my bedroom up and then I would actually feel like getting up. Yep! I really need that thing because it is going to turn me into a morning person and I will jump right up into my cosy, glowing bedroom and I will get ready faster and get to work earlier and my boss will notice and give me a raise and then I can get two little fireplaces and the whole cycle will repeat itself only now I will be so cosy that I will feel like getting up and working out and I'll get in fantastic shape and feel like a new person and my life will be perfect. Perfect I tell you! I have to have one.

But then I remember the Need Less challenge. Damn. So I start talking myself down off the need cliff. Come on now. It's not like I live in an igloo. And really, wouldn't making my room that cozy just make me want to stay in bed longer enjoying the cozy goodness of it? And come on. It's absurd to think that one little fireplace is going to turn me into some kind of bounce-out-of-bed-morning-exerciser.

And so the need dissolves a little and my rational mind starts to kick back in and I push it down to the want category where it belongs. And then I resignedly remind myself that I want to consume more responsibly and use less stuff in this big, overpacked world of ours. In fact. That want is bigger than my desire for a little fireplace and my NEED is tamped down.

But, it turns out, it's only tamped down. It's not out. That hot flame of NEED will crop up again and again and again in many insidious ways. I just have to tell myself it's sort of like going to bed a little hungry. It feels like that cookie will be the answer when you are contemplating that long night of craving, but then you wake up in the morning and realize that you got through it, you really didn't need it, and you really don't crave that thing any more.

That is until the next NEED flares up.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Like a Lamb to Slaughter

I am so excited for the vice presidential debate that I can hardly stand it. I have scheduling conflicts all over the place that night, and things I should be going to (I'll be a little late to bunko), but I'm pretty sure nothing could tear me away from the spectacle. I'm planning to watch with my extremely insightful friend Dana and her sagacious husband. I haven't been this excited about a vice presidential debate...well, ever. I know my excitement is a little over the top, but I almost want to rub my hands together gleefully. I think Dana mentioned that she will be serving lamb.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oh, Brother!

No matter how old (or how tall) my little brother gets, I guess he'll always be my baby brother. Today while I was at work, I got several quick texts in close seccession.

"Wendy...Wendy...Wendy...Wendy. Are you there?" Thinking something was terribly wrong I quickly texted back. "Yes?"

"I just tore my favorite pants on the chain of my dirt bike. Can you fix them?"

"Geez, Micah. I thought someone was dead."

Next thing I know, I'm delivered a pair of Aeropostale cargo pants that have seen better days with the entire leg shredded. Really? He must be thinking that not only am I some kind of sewing expert, but that somehow I can weave camo-colored cloth as well. Might as well weave straw into gold while I'm at it.

"Okay, I'll try," I say not wanting to disappoint him. So tonight I spent hours sewing and zig zagging and patching and hand stitching a pair of cargo pants that are frayed at the waistband and worn through on the hem. The patch job is not exactly pretty, but will probably get him through a few more jumps on his dirt bike. And I get to maintain my big-sister, fix-it reputation one more day.

I think he owes me. Good thing I have a soft spot in my heart for little brothers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Give George Bush the Title

I say we just go ahead and call it. The George W. Bush presidency is the worst in history.

Okay. I realize this may be slightly premature and the historians will need a cooling off period before this prestigious and competitive award can be ceremoniously bestowed. But I've run an official poll in my head and I don't think any other president in history stands a fighting chance.

Using almost any method of accounting and nearly any criteria, this presidency will be infamous for ineptitude. Being egregiously shortsighted, completely lacking communication finesse, or blundering a few decisions, even somewhat important ones, could possibly be overlooked with the benefit of rose-colored glasses and several years of perspective and amnesia were it not for a series of world-altering disasters that each alone would move a presidency onto the losing side of the scoreboard. Three disasters seem to stand out in my mind as the worst of the worst.

Let's review these three in chronological order rather than magnitude because their respective impact and crushing long-term effects have yet to be fully realized.

First: dragging us into an illegal, unethical, and unwarranted war by misrepresenting the nature of the intelligence and willfully misinterpreting the threat of weapons of mass destruction, not to mention blatantly lying about the tie to terrorism and the acts of 9/11. Then, once there, grossly mismanaging the war.

Second: spectacularly botching the federal response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The administration's political cronyism, lack of public policy, and unmitigated incompetence was fully exposed while W himself cracked inappropriate jokes and praised "Brownie" in the wake of unfathomable destruction, tragic human suffering, and death.

Third: facilitating complete economic melt-down with trillions of dollars of new debt, continued weakening of the U.S. dollar, and a catastrophic mortgage and banking crisis fostered by corrupt and irresponsible deregulation policies.

Who could ask for more evidence that this administration will ultimately bottom out the list of bad? But there is more--much more. Here are a few other examples I can think of immediately:

  • Ignoring warnings of terrorist threats before 9/11
  • Suspending habeas corpus
  • No Child Left Behind act
  • Alienating American allies
  • Steamrolling tax cuts that benefit the rich
  • Allowing torture of prisoners
  • Illegal wiretapping

This list could go on for pages, but I think my opinion is clear. I just hope we can survive it and we don't end up with more of the same.






Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pas de Deux Staring Captain Casey

Captain Casey has a new friend. She's a fat, round house fly that seems way too rotund to actually get lift off. But flying is her specialty. We're calling her Felicity (the fly) and Casey can't take his eyes off her. He chases her around the house, sliding through the hallway on the rug, and leaping from the couch to the table--then onto the counter with a flourish and a twisting back flip. An advanced form of cat ballet, this pas de deux is entertaining and thrilling. Casey's eyes light up as they follow the effervescent circles and spirals of Felicity's solo. As the cavalier, he crouches in wait for his chance to soar through the air with claws outstretched, hoping to bat his little ballerina to within reach.

This dance goes on and on with periods of extreme athleticism followed by exuberant pacing until the pinnacle moment when Felicity pirouettes her way into the lamp and Casey can't help himself. He must have her! So throwing caution to the wind, he hurls himself onto the lamp and with a spectacular crash ends up tangled in electrical cord and covered in shattered light bulb glass.

Bravo, shouts the audience of one. Baryshnikov could not have done so well.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Suds


Okay, I'll admit. It's hilarious. Pure entertainment. Who would have thought that mentioning soap one time here would lead to a complete soap opera. The funny thing is: you all came up with this independently and without prompting. I hope it's not a hint that you really think I need a good lathering up. It's sort of like the hundredth monkey phenomenon and myth--it started with a couple of you until the idea somehow reached critical soap mass and soap just bubbled up from everywhere.

Don't get me wrong, this soap is great. And having you all give it to me in different forms and places and ways is extremely sweet. Really. It's just that the example I meant to use, instead of soap, was gold bars.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Natalie

My best friend from law school stayed with me on Sunday night. She's one of the world's most amazing people, so I have to do a little bragging about her. She made partner this year at Chicago's most prestigious law firm, on the fast track, and is the first woman partner in the tax division. It's not a surprise to me. She is brilliant. But more importantly, she is witty and warm and interesting and generous and extremely low-maintenance--she slept on the cold bed (a beautiful blow-up number).

You would think I could at least roll out the red carpet when my fancy Chicago attorney friend comes to visit, but because of the crazy need less experiment I couldn't really go out and buy a bed. But she was happy. That's the beauty of Natalie; she is down-to-earth and real in spite of her glamorous life. And I love her.

She, along with our friend Cindy, got me through law school. I couldn't have survived that experience without them and my good memories of that time are all wrapped tightly around those two incredible women. We used to go to the fieldhouse every afternoon after classes, pull three cross-country ski machines together, and talk about case law and relationships and precedent and our dreams and due process and sex and constitutional issues and people in our class. I looked forward to that time every day and think back on it as some of my all-time favorite life moments.

Natalie is definitely one of my all-time favorite life people and I'm glad she's in the world.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Off Switch

Every once in a while I get a childhood flashback to something someone said that has gotten stuck in my head. I think I must have been going along as a kid, pretty oblivious until, wham, someone said something that changed my thinking and it got filed away in the "how can this be true" category. These were usually adult conversations I overheard and had to think about to make sense of.

One of these conversations I remember clearly was between my mom and dad. They were talking about one of my dad's sisters who was getting divorced for the fourth or fifth time. I remember my mom saying that my aunt "liked the falling in love part, just not the love part."

I turned that around and around in my head, thinking about what that meant and how that possibly could be true. Wasn't the falling in love part and the actual love part the same thing? How could someone fall in love and then not feel love? Was love that impermanent?

Now I'm older--much older. And I still move this conversation around in my head. How can people fall in love and then not feel love? Is it easier for some people to turn that on and off? And if there is indeed an off switch, how can I get one?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Surviving a Jump

I often wonder which people will end up having a lasting impact on my life. I'm in a new environment, and I find myself looking around and trying to guess which of these new people will be the ones I tuck into my heart and carry with me for the rest of my life. But one thing is very clear to me. Somebody is comin' with me.

I find myself already sorting and gathering and I think I have a couple of likely candidates, but it's really too soon to tell.

In case you may be getting the wrong idea, I don't think the sorting is as much like "duck, duck, goose" as it may sound. It's really not about which people I like. It's more about which people will get dragged along with me because their impression on me is so profound that I can't let them go when I move on. And it's inevitable that I will move on. I'm not really the staying around type, so I have to put a couple people from every place I briefly visit on the train with me.

I guess it's easy to underestimate the kind of impact we have on each other. It's sometimes more comfortable to think of our actions toward someone as having a beginning and a finite end rather than a ripple effect that may go on forever.

I recently watched an interesting documentary called The Bridge that explored the phenomenon of suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge. It's the scene of at least 20 suicides every year with 37 last year. It's by far the most lethal suicide setting in the world. The director and his crew filmed the bridge from several angles, every daylight minute for a year, and captured 23 of the 24 suicides in 2004. He interviewed the friends and families of several of the jumpers and showed some of the actual footage of those dramatic leaps.

But one of the most interesting interviews was with a young guy who actually survived hurling himself from the bridge a few years before. He had walked back and forth on the bridge before his jump, crying and hoping that someone would notice his pain and stop him. He didn't ask for help, but he believed that if someone noticed him and recognized his pain he wouldn't do it. When a woman asked him if he would take her picture on the bridge and said nothing to him about the tears streaming down his face, he decided to go ahead with his plan. He's one of just a handful of survivors out of the hundreds who have jumped.

I don't think many of us are impervious to the superhero fantasy that we could somehow be the one to rescue someone. I know I'm not. The chances of being in the right place at the right time for something that dramatic are extremely slim. But we are in the right place to make someone's life better (or worse I suppose) every day. We do have the chance to have an impact on someone who is struggling. We can make a difference to someone just by trying to make people better for having known us. And maybe those collective actions will have that dramatic effect or maybe our world will just be a little nicer and easier to bear.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Phoney Baloney

The Need Less, Give More experiment got a little disconnected today. And, it hasn't even been a month yet! Sigh.

I've been busily dialing up justifications in my head ever since. Let's see if you buy them.

My phone has been giving me stress for months now. I don't get cell service on the mountain, so I had to get a thing called "HotSpot at Home" to pick up service through the Wi-Fi instead of a tower. Turns out, it's not so hot, at least not with my little Nokia darling. I've been wrestling with T-Mobile for months trying to get my service to work right. It would randomly disconnect me, get greedy and not let me reconnect, stutter and pop, and secretly disconnect sometime during the night--every night. I have spent countless hours on the phone with snippy T-Mobile customer service people who never once returned my calls when they said they would. And all to no avail.

Then today I actually went in to a mall store to speak to a real-live human about my laundry list of cell phone problems. (It felt really weird walking into the mall, by the way.) It didn't take the humans in the T-Mobile cage long to hit on the key problem--something that an infinite number of specialized specialists in targeted departments deep in the bowels of T-Mobile's escalating customer service maze couldn't seem to figure out.

"Ohhhh," said the perky young sales boy with a shrug and a wink, "This Nokia phone doesn't really work with the HotSpot."

Ten words! Ten words could have gotten me past my connection problems a year ago!

So, to make a long story even longer, I had to trade in my defective Nokia for a shiny new Blackberry. I'm not even close to being disciplined enough to go without a phone for 11 months. And yes, I had to pay some money for it, so it was probably (okay definitely) a purchase. Consumerism got a little victory over me today after only 26 days.

And if my guilt wasn't enough, I got a punishing slap when the helpful sales boy preceded to permanently delete more than 60 of my contacts in my phone. (You better text me your phone number with your name because I probably don't have it any more.)

The T-Mobile boy did promise that this phone would last "forever" and I would love it more than I've ever loved a phone before ever in my whole life because this is the phone he uses and he loves it more than he has ever loved a phone ever in his whole life. (Granted, his life has really not been all that long.)

This phone better be good.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hay!

As it turns out, I'm the white-trash neighbor.

This whole summer I've watched with barely passing interest as the little patch of weeds between my house and my neighbor's house turned into an alfalfa field. I wondered why my neighbors had landscaped their whole yard and left that little strip between our houses undone. My landscaping was done by the builder before I moved in, so why would they leave that little strip? And one day a couple of weeks ago when the NNG was giving me another long lecture on ground water, he wandered over there to look at something and to see if it was my property. He didn't think it was, so I continued to blissfully ignore it. Then a few days ago DeLaina disturbed my reverie by casually wandering over there and pointing out the stake in the curb. "This," she said helpfully, "marks your property line."

Well, duh. Of course I knew that. It's just that walking to the VERY edge of my property and looking down hadn't yet occurred to me. I barely visit that curb when I'm taking my garbage cans out. Plus, it just didn't make sense that the builder would leave a three-foot wide strip unlandscaped. Who does that???

My young neighbors couldn't be nicer. Tonight the husband came over just to see if I knew that was my little piece of heaven. He thinks the builder should have fixed it and I should hold their feet to the fire. Either that or he's getting a goat and is looking for feed for it.

I guess I should be happy. I've just acquired three more feet of property I didn't know I had. I'm practically a tenant farmer with a hay field ready to harvest. Now I just have to figure out who to feed and what the hell to do with that big pile of builder debris, rocks, and junk left there.

Cool. I'm only working until 10:27 every night. I needed a project right now.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Power Trip

Power is trippy.

It seems to me that few people can handle power and still be open and available to other people's opinions and suggestions. Most people just grab up power and clamber on top of it, happy to have the leverage they need to beat off anyone trying to join them on the power pile. And while they are at it, they will fend off anyone with a suggestion that would make the pile bigger because they are afraid of having someone join them up there. Instead of bigger, they just want that power pile to get higher, so they surround themselves with people who will just moosh their ideas onto the top of the pile without adding anything new except the same old shit over and over again. Then when the power pile gets way too high and wobbly on the top, there is no one down below with their own ideas to either shore it up or add to the base to make it more sturdy. The fall is not only inevitable, but stinky.

I really think the solution is pretty simple. Listen to other people's ideas. In fact, seek them out by encouraging open discourse and lively discussion. It's not effective to just seek validation by finding people who will sell their soul to agree with your already established opinion. That just gets your own ideas parroted back to you. A more effective strategy would be to actually include the most divergent opinions in your decision making process and be willing to change your mind if a great idea presents itself.

If this post sounds a little angry and bitter, it is. I can hardly swallow my bitterness tonight. But I'm sure I'll be back to tasting sweetness again very soon.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Spin-off Mail

The most touching spin-off happened from the Need Less, Give More experiment. My friend, Teresa revealed on my birthday that she is doing an experiment of her own. She decided to send one card or letter of encouragement and love to someone every week until my next birthday. Not an email, not a phone call, but a real life, snail-mail card.

I love her idea and I love the response she is already getting. In fact, she said having the goal to send one letter a week has made her think of others she would like to send and she has ended up sending more than one each week since my birthday. She wrote this in an email: "Oh, interesting thing, Wendy. Instead of just writing one person I find myself sending several…those things I had meant to do,…. Sympathy, wedding anniversary, birthday…just had not done them yet. Maybe the “fruit” of this experiment is to motivate me to do the “I should." Hmmmm."

There is just something so warm and exciting about receiving a real letter in the mail. I've received a couple from Teresa myself and I always get a thrill when I see the hand-addressed envelope. It's really the only thing that makes me keep getting the mail at all. I'm not a big fan of mail usually. I would give anything to be able to stop the junk mail and intercept the unwanted solicitations before they end up in my mailbox. I try to pick off the mail slowly piece by piece by calling the junk-mail senders and asking them to take me off their list, but it's a laborious process and doesn't seem to net good results. I still get a lot of junk mail I don't want. Someday I hope they come up with a do-not-send list like the do-not-call list for telephone solicitations.

But now I'm getting off the point. My point is this: personal letters = good. Junk mail = bad. Teresa and her year-long experiment = lovely.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The List

I broke down and put my list of give-away items on my sidebar because everyone keeps asking me about it. But it's an embarrassing list and seems extremely puny and unimportant. When this unnecessary stuff is written down in a list, it makes it even more evident to me that this stuff is completely irrelevant. I'm hoping that documenting the silly nature of my junk will be the impetus I need to do something more, give something more, and try harder to make a difference that will actually have an impact on someone. For me this little exercise of finding something to give away every day just serves as a daily reminder that I want to find ways to make the world a better place. For now it's simply meditation and serves me much more than it serves anyone else. But maybe eventually it will help me to find something bigger to do. I hope so.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bittersweet Revenge

I'm a people watcher. No. I'm a people studier. And whenever I am captured in another corporate zoo with a herd of other human specimens, I can't help but closely examine all the animals caught in that trap with me. It's just something I do. Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps me sane. And for the most part I'm pretty good at figuring people out.

But I'm a little more cautious about getting into the mix this time around. The last time I ventured into the corporate world I got bit hard by two of the wiliest members of the pack. I remember wondering at the time why I had been totally abandoned by karma. It seemed like these two were wrecking havoc all around them and not getting the requisite karmic thump. It threw me off balance and had me doubting my belief that what goes around comes around.

Yesterday I went to dinner with some of my old friends from that old corporate zoo and I learned that the same two people who made my life so unbearable were finally getting that thump--hard. And the news was a lot less satisfying than I imagined it would be. I thought I would be gleeful in hearing about their pain and instead I just felt bad for them. It didn't make me feel better about what happened before, although the news did put a little bit of the balance back in the universe. I guess that the revenge just wasn't mine and it was much more bitter than sweet.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fire on the Mountain

I realize it's a bit redundant, but wildfire is wild. When you get the word that a wildfire might be threatening your home, it's funny how quickly you can assess what's really important and what isn't.

So, just in case you are anxious for the whole story, here it is so far: I was at work today around noon thirty in a lunch meeting on the top floor of our shiny new corporate building. We have a beautiful view of the South Valley from that boardroom. We were reviewing a corporate video and focused on the minutia of it when I heard the word fire being passed around the table in hushed tones. We tried not to get distracted by the plume of smoke spreading across our serene view of the mountains Southeast of us. I thought to myself that it looked uncomfortably close to MY mountain, but it was hard to tell from our vantage point. The meeting continued and I made an effort not to watch as the flames got more and more apparent and the smoke higher. By the time I got back to my office at 2 p.m. I had eight missed calls. The first SunCrest neighbor call I returned was my friend Bonnie asking me if there was anything I wanted to get from my house. I've thought about that question in very hypothetical terms, but I could feel the panic rising as I quickly started doing a mental ranking.

1. The cat.
2. Umm, really who cares. Maybe some pictures.
3. That random candle holder and my Kirby vacuum? Nope. Right back to who cares.

But the thought of Captain Casey's pitiful cry as he burned up in my house had me racing up the hill to "save the day." With just one tiny, quick little stop for gelato with my friend DeLaina. (Obviously didn't feel that urgent.)
At first the fire looked extremely far away, but then as I got farther up the mountain it felt closer and closer until I pulled into my driveway and could see the flames from there. I knew in my head that it was probably farther away than it looked, but I've also had my fair share of California wildfire indoctrination. It still made my heart race and I was too mesmerized by the possibility of jumping, crazy, wildfire to leave my house. If celebrity homes can burn up, what's stopping mine from turning into cinders? My neighbors just over the hill had hosed down their yard, packed their necessities, and headed down the mountain to the in-laws' house.
The next call I took was from my friend Rob congratulating me because I won't have to worry about unchecked consumerism any more. "Just wanted you to know your experiment will be rendered useless when this fire burns your house down," he said, thinking he was extremely funny.
The third call was another friend just making sure I was okay. He was watching the mountains and it looked to him like all of SunCrest was going up in flames.

Seriously? Is this really helping?

Watching the news didn't help much either. They kept playing the most dramatic footage over and over and talking about mandatory evacuations and stranded hikers. I stood on my front porch, transfixed by the scene, watching the huge tanker planes drop thick fire retardant in an orange line down the mountain.

Now that the sun has set, the bright red flames stand out even more. They are comfortably far away and unnervingly close at the same time. But I'll spend at least one more night safe in my bed. I guess that's about all any of us can really hope for anyway.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Conservative Conservation

One problem I have with conservation is that it almost has the word conservative in it. It is somewhat ironic that it's usually liberals and not conservatives who are concerned about conservation.

But not always. Nobody is better at this conservation thing than my mom is and she is one of the most conservative people I know. Because of my involuntary indoctrination on conservation while growing up, I have residual rebellion about it. My mom is naturally all about reduce, reuse, and recycle. For her, a dedication to saving the environment was only a byproduct of the necessity part. We were responsible for our own garbage. All of it. There was no big lumbering garbage truck coming down the road to take away our garbage in neat plastic bags to deposit in someone else's backyard. We had to either compost, burn, or recycle every last piece of garbage we generated. They still do, in fact. My mom collects all her recycling in bins in the garage and a few times a year she takes it to Pocatello more than 50 miles away.

But when I was young I interpreted her nearly religious dedication to conservation as meaning we couldn't afford things. I really wanted to throw things away and get new stuff rather than cleaning it or fixing it or making do. It seemed to be all about money and to me being wasteful equated to being rich. Having shiny new stuff meant you were one of the elite.

Now I think a lot about conservation and how to do it. I have to be careful to not make it about money in my mind. Once it becomes about saving money instead of saving the world I feel that old rebellion creeping in. I don't like to say, "I can't afford that." I don't even like to think it. As trite as it sometimes seems, I prefer to think of conservation in terms of lessening my impact, reducing my footprint, contributing less to the tragedy of the commons. And guess what. I save some money too. I'll try not to think about that part.

For anyone keeping score, yesterday I gave away an eye mask and today a pair of jeans.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Need It

Just over a day into my little experiment and I'm already thinking about all the things I "need" and can't buy. I find myself making a list in my head of items I meant to get before this self-imposed deadline and just didn't really get around to buying.

I realized I've lived for years without a plastic cover thing that you leave in your microwave to use as a barrier for splattery dishes, but suddenly, now that I won't buy one, I desperately need it. How can anyone actually make due without that? And I think glumly about how much better my entire life would be if only I had thought of it before starting on this silly experiment. It's irrelevant that I rarely use my microwave and can use a plastic lid or a plate to the same effect.

And a fly swatter. How, I wonder, have I ever made it through life without that simple little gadget? It must be much better than a rolled up magazine or they wouldn't have them at every dollar store. And now I have to live my tired dreary little life without the benefit of something so basically important to civilized living.

Oh yes. The list goes on. I stomp around my house making an internal note of those things I can't live without, but will somehow have to for a year. I don't think I've realized how utterly lacking my life was before now.

On the up side to this little tirade, however, is the realization that I have plenty of things for the give-away pile. While searching my house for those things that I "need" I uncovered a lot of the unnecessary I had forgotten about. I tried nobly to convince myself that I had gotten rid of nearly every peripheral thing and the getting-rid-of part of this experiment was going to be the hardest. But that's not actually true. I still have plenty of things that can march their way out and by next year I won't even remember what they were. Today it's a pair of black shoes that look eerily similar to two other pairs of black shoes I have. Who knows why I have so many pairs of black shoes, but it's one less today.

One of my friends thought that a better way to do this experiment would be to put everything I own in the basement and only allow one thing a day to come back up. Anything left in the basement at the end of the year would then obviously be unnecessary. That's something I'll have to try another time. I just don't have the energy to haul everything I own to the basement. Plus, it would take a month just to get all the truly necessary stuff in my bathroom back.

But most of my friends just try to bail me out. They offer to give me some of their things to give away and they try to think of ways to get around any rules I may have. They are very creative in their ideas: things like giving them money and having them make the purchases or trading them for things I really want. They've all offered to give me junk that I could then give away and have great suggestions for things that would be less painful to give like pennies or food items. Some suggested before I start I buy a bunch of things I don't really need and then exchange them as the year wears on.

Who knows. I may resort to bending the rules enough to justify something, but for now I'll just keep pretending this is a hard thing to do and try to think less about stuff and more about life.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

First Photos

The first pictures with my new camera: A few of the Tour de Utah racers going past my front door and my nephews by my back door. I don't know much about using this camera yet, but I'm sure I'll get better! At least I hope so.



























Today I'm giving away my old pink gym bag because my friend Shelly gave me a new pick gym bag for my birthday that's much better! And who needs two?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Need Less, Give More

I believe a better, healthier world is possible. I think it may be the smallest things that end up making a difference, or at least catapulting the biggest changes.

Today is the day I've been looking forward to for several weeks. It's my birthday and it's the day I'm starting on a year-long experiment. I'm calling it Need Less, Give More. This little experiment is relatively simple, I won't buy anything (besides consumable items like food and soap) for one year--until my birthday next year. And during this year I will also give one thing away every day.

I don't know how this will really play out, but I hope I will learn and change and grow. I made my last purchase today--a camera. So, hopefully during this next year I will be able to document some of my experiences and share some of the things I learn along the way.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tour de Utah Goes Past My Front Door

I just found out that a real-life road race with famous pro cyclists will be going right past my front door on Saturday. I couldn't be more excited. My friend KC, who is the best athlete I know and a fantastic pro mountain biker herself, told me about the Tour de Utah and it turns out they go right past my house.

They are calling this race "the toughest bicycle stage race in America." It takes place over five days with flat sprinting stages and mountainous climbing stages. This stage starts in Park City on Saturday, goes past Sundance and over the Alpine Loop. It's the fourth stage--obviously a climbing stage--through 98 miles of mountain passes and up and over SunCrest to Snowbird.

Anyone want to come up and watch with me? They probably will hit my house three or four hours into the race which starts at 10 a.m. That puts them here at around 1 or 2 p.m. KC is going to call me from the top of the Alpine Loop when the racers go over, so I'll have a 45 minute warning. She and a bunch of her cycling friends are doing their own ride up there.

One of the teams that does the Tour de France will be racing (I think they are Garmin-Chipotle Pro Team) along with a lot of other pros and several local racers. I think it will be awesome to watch. Come up! I'll even feed you something after.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic Hat Trick

I would like to award some Olympic medals of my own for craziest head wear.

BRONZE: The bronze medal goes to the track cyclists with this Star Trekkie little number.






















SILVER: The silver medal has to go to the shrieking women's fencing team with their Darth Vader masks.















GOLD: And the gold medal goes to the ear-muff baby bonnets of the water polo team. Grrr. Sexy!


















Ladies and Gentlemen. Please stand for the national hat anthem, "My Easter Bonnet."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Embarrassed to Death

Since when is death preferable to embarrassment? Is getting embarrassed really the end of the world? Take the Chinese gymnastics coach, for example, who said he would "jump off the highest building" if his solemn team of gymnasts didn't take home more gold than last time. No wonder those boys never smile. A fall off the high bar becomes a life-and-death situation. Lucky for all of them, they won, because cleaning up that mess (physically and psychologically) would take a while.

The Chinese are big on avoiding diu lian (losing face) at any cost. They would rather tell you they will come to something they have no intention of ever attending than say no. It's a culture that takes a lot of finesse to navigate. Embarrassing someone or making them lose face is probably the worst sin imaginable. It's a cultural phenomenon that runs exactly counter to the American preference for almost rude straightforwardness. I'm pretty sure if you put a New Yorker and a Chinese person in a room together for a week somebody is going to die of embarrassment. And it won't be the New Yorker.

But in nearby countries, a much darker and more egregious interpretation of this shame-based philosophy is in the news lately. Called "honor killing" a relative, usually a father or a brother, kills a woman for some behavior they think will shame the family. From refusing to succumb to a distasteful arranged marriage to being the victim of sexual assault, it's a putative measure, practiced mostly in the Middle East, brought against a female who is perceived to have brought dishonor to the family. Sometimes even the other family members look the other way thinking it may be impossible for another girl in the family to make a good marriage if a "shamed" girl has not been adequately punished.

The fact that this fear of being shamed is on this level is astounding and heartbreaking. To place honor above human life is impossible for me to understand. It of course requires an acceptance of violence against women, deep seated sexism, and a long-standing tradition of women as chattel. But if this is the most shocking and lurid of these practices it certainly makes me think that the other less egregious atrocities against women are more common than we even want to believe.

Surely any amount of shame or embarrassment is preferable.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Internal Viewfinder

Just when I start thinking I should leave this state I have a weekend like last weekend. It's easy for me to get so caught up in day-to-day that I forget to look up. But once in a while I get a vivid reminder that some of the world's most spectacular mountains surround me and I really should appreciate their proximity and grandeur.

This weekend we camped at Albion Basin in Little Cottonwood canyon and spend Sunday morning at 10,500 feet on top of Catherine Pass at a place called Sunset Peak. It was a breathtaking hike--literally--and an awe inspiring view from the top. From the summit we could see from Alta to Brighton to Mt. Timpanogos and on to Heber City.

Hundreds of wildflowers pointed the way and the chipmunks at the top scurried around me and sniffed my fingertips in greeting. When we got back, three huge bull moose took up residence not 100 feet from our campsite and acknowledged our presence in their backyard with their bugling call.

I feel lucky to live in a place so packed with nature's spectacular beauty and heartstopping scenery. Once in a while I remember to appreciate it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sand Bagged

Latvia upset the U.S. in men's beach volleyball--a match that was incredibly mesmerizing. A little like David and Goliath, Latvia's two young players weren't intimated by the older, bigger, and usually dominant American team. Latvia, ranked close to the bottom at 23rd weren't even supposed to be competitive with the top-ranked Americans. I felt sorry for the dazed Americans, but you have to smile at the audacity of the Latvians who came out with nothing to lose and played like it was fun. It was a blast to watch. The god-like volleyball players are heartstopping.

I want to hang out with the men's beach volleyball teams and I want to look like the women beach volleyball players. A girl can dream.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympic Aspirations

I'm crazy about the Olympics. I love all of it. I love the opening ceremonies, I love the swimming. I love the gymnastics and the diving and the sprinting and the...well, like I said, I love all of it. I love the personal profiles of all the athletes and the way the world seems to come together. I love learning about the under dogs and hoping for a Cinderella story. I love the discipline and the amazing physical spectacle. I could easily spend the next two weeks watching every minute. Good thing I have a job so I don't get too obsessed.

And this year it's in China, which is meaningful for me since I studied at NanJing University and I speak Chinese. I found myself getting a little teary during the opening ceremonies and watching the cultural display of the best that is China. It gets too easy to forget how amazing the Chinese culture is with all of the negative aspects in the news lately.

I have loved the Olympics since I was a kid. I have vivid memories centered around my grandma and grandpa's little farm house one summer which served as the gathering place for me and my young aunts and uncles mesmerized by hour after hour of the competition on a little black and white TV in the tiny living room. During the boring stuff we would run outside and twist each other up on the swings and jump on the trampoline pretending we were Olympic athletes. It was the year that Nadia Comaneci got her perfect 10 and every little farm girl dreamed of being her.

That was a magical, optimistic time when I actually believed someday I would be an Olympic athlete. No, I wasn't sure in which sport, or what it would take, or how I would actually get there, but I was pretty sure, nonetheless, that I'd be carrying that American flag someday. (I realized tonight that it may not be too late since Japan has an athlete who is 67 years old. Hope springs eternal.)

The harsh reality is that I don't like pain enough to be an Olympic athlete. I'm not sure I even like pain enough to get through an entire spin class. But just watching the opening ceremonies tonight has made me want to somehow be faster, strong, better. I'll take it. I need all the encouragement and inspiration I can get.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

So, about that $79 BILLION surplus

After last night's somewhat snarky blog I thought about being a little nicer tonight. But yesterday I read this article in the New York Times and I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around it.

Here is the lead: "Soaring oil prices will leave the Iraqi government with a cumulative budget surplus of as much as $79 billion by year’s end, according to an American federal oversight agency. But Iraq has spent only a minute fraction of that on reconstruction costs, which are now largely borne by the United States."

I've been thinking about it all day and I still haven't really come to anything but a knee jerk reaction to it. What the fuck?

"In one comparison, the United States has spent $23.2 billion in the critical areas of security, oil, electricity and water since the 2003 invasion, the report said. But from 2005 through April 2008, Iraq has spent just $3.9 billion on similar services."

I'm just shaking my head. If I wasn't so tired tonight I might be able to actually have something constructive to say. But I think this article mostly speaks for itself.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

ALWYSL8, Will You Wait?

I'll keep it short tonight because the beautiful, funny, smart, and humble dinner club babes kept me out late.

Speaking of late (kinda), I had to note this. Tonight I saw a vanity plate that said ALWYSL8.

Really? I'm thinking that means "always late," but I can't really figure out the point of that. Either her husband is constantly annoyed because she's always late and made her get that plate as punishment, or she is really proud of the fact that she is always late. Could be that she's trying to change and she thinks if she advertises this to the world she will be embarrassed into being on time for a change.

I can only guess. But it seems like it's not really the kind of habit you would want to affirm.

I think people who are always late might be a little narcissistic. They think their time is a lot more important than the time of the people they keep waiting. Their lateness is a way to control their out-of-control lives. But you can bet if someone gave them a million dollars to be on time they would be. Probably even $50 would do it.

I'm not directing this toward those occasionally-a-few-minutes-late people or this would just be a lecture for myself. I'm not even thinking about those people who are usually several minutes late. (DeLaina, I'm not thinking of you being late to dinner club tonight either. Except if you are late like that again you at least have to flick my ear or something to let me know you have arrived!! You know it's all about me, me, me.)

I'm talking about those chronically very late people you have to adjust starting times for. You know the ones. You have to tell them that things start an hour before you actually want them to show up. Then they are almost on time when they arrive an hour and a half after the pretend start time.

I think I'm just talking to the ALWYSL8 lady on the freeway today. She did race past me going fast. Hmm. Maybe she's late for something...just a hunch.

Monday, August 4, 2008

SunCrest Market Malaise

The little SunCrest Market is closing and I'm so sad about it. I knew it was struggling, but I was cautiously optimistic that our letter writing and puny "Save the Market" campaign would help. I shopped there as much as I could, but let's face it, I'm just one person and my 1/2 gallon of organic milk and coffee creamer a week just wasn't going to make all that much difference.

It's a bummer though. I was trying to turn that place into my little Cheers bar. I've always wanted to be a regular someplace and feel like one of the "in" crowd. I love the idea of a little neighborhood hang-out where people gather to catch up on the local news and happenings. Growing up on a farm I always felt like an outsider. All the townies would get together at Toolie's Drug Store or at Irita's Beauty Shop and gossip. My mom claimed to hate that type of thing and would actively avoid most purely social situations, especially Irita's. And town was way too far away for me to ride my bike to alone. But I was always so jealous of the town people. I really wanted to hang out and hear about the Hatch family across the tracks, listen to the old-timers talk about the good ol' days, and figure out just exactly what went on at the old school house.

Still one of my very favorite things to do is to hang out and just talk--talk about anything and everything that comes up. There is nothing I miss more than those all-night philosophical discussions that seemed to happen with regularity during college.

And beyond any social aspirations I had for that miniature market, it was just fun to go there. My nephews loved it. It had become our tradition when they came to my house. We would go to the market (sometimes we would walk which would make it even MORE fun for them) and get some popcorn, treats, and a DVD. They loved to walk up and down every isle and point out all the really cool stuff. Then they would inevitably choose the messiest candy possible like a giant jaw breaker or a tube of some kind of sweet blue goopy stuff--the candy their parents would NEVER let them get. And off we would go to cuddle up on my bed with a Disney-arama DVD and sticky fingers. I'm pretty sure Harmon's will not hold the same appeal.

I wish these small, privately owned businesses could make it in today's society, but it's hard to change people's shopping habits no matter how high the price of gas is. And there is always going to be a big box store with a super in its name with slightly lower prices at an unreasonably higher cost.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

It's a Shut Out

So, I got locked out of my own blog last night. SHUT OUT! I don't know what was going on, but it might have been something with blogger or it might have been something with Sitemeter. My friend Natalie was having the same trouble and sent me an email about what to do. (Thanks Natalie.) But now it seems fixed and I didn't even follow the instructions she gave me.

Here is the real story though. I was kinda relieved last night that I couldn't get in. I was struggling to think of something to write and the entry was sure to be lame.

In other business (since this is sort of a business blog), I need a camera. I want a good one that I can use to take everything from snapshots to really nice photos. Anyone have any suggestions? I don't know where to start and I just want someone to tell me the best camera to buy and I'll go get that one. Help!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jumper Sex

Someone from Dammam, Ash Sharqiyah, Saudi Arabia found my blog today by searching for "jumper sex." You know...Polka Dot JUMPER and the SEX and the City post. Makes perfect sense. But what exactly is jumper sex? Is that sex while wearing a polyester, zip-up jumper? Is it sex while sky diving? Or maybe it's sex in the UK wearing sweaters. (The Brits inexplicably call those things jumpers.)

I have no idea, but here's a welcome to my new Saudi friends. I hope Polka Dot Jumper is one tenth as interesting as whatever jumper sex site you ended up on.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You Do, And You Will Clean It Up

A song came on the radio tonight that reminded me of this guy I used to know. He was taking voice lessons from some completely unqualified voice teacher and ended up learning how to sing the lamest pop song out there. So tonight, during the four minutes it took for the song to whine its way into my ears, I flashed through scene after scene of our interactions. And the feeling over all was...well not great. Yep. I can't think of this guy now without shaking my head and remembering that crazy place he was in at the time. His life wasn't exactly going like he planned and he was like a cat in the water, floundering around and taking down anyone who got very close to him. I happened to be in the water at the time too and all the splashing made it really hard for me to breathe. Plus he was incessantly clubbing himself and everyone else with his insecurities trying anything to make himself feel more worthy. It was a recipe for disaster.

I've since lost track of this guy. He wandered off into some other cult-like self-help group and I haven't really seen him since then. But thinking about him makes me wonder if I've left people out there who would roll their eyes when they think about me. I've done my share of floundering and I wonder if I've inadvertently splashed people and never cleaned it up. I probably have; and I wish I could go back to them with a big towel and maybe some ice cream or something that would make them feel better. Or at least make me feel better.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Hero

My friend Rob showed me an interesting quote from Ayn Rand's book The Fountainhead.

"Jules Fougler said in last Sunday's Banner that in the world of the future the theatre will not be necessary at all. He says that the daily life of the common man is as much a work of art in itself as the best Shakespearean tragedy. In the future there will be no need for a dramatist. The critic will simply observe the life of the masses and evaluate its artistic points for the public."

It's Rob's premise that nothing is heroic any more. It's just as interesting and fulfilling to watch regular people doing regular things. From Survivor to Big Brother to The Bachelor and all the incessant cable reality shows. We are a culture obsessed with watching ourselves. And it doesn't take greatness to be famous or talent to be emulated or intelligence to be rich.

I guess that's really not the first time we've heard this though. Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead was published in 1943. As for nothing being heroic, I think she would optimistically disagree.

We all need a hero once in a while.

Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need

I need a hero
I'm holding out for at hero 'till the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero 'till the morning light
He’s gotta be sure
And it’s gotta be soon
And he’s gotta be larger than life
Larger than life

--Bonnie Tyler

Monday, July 28, 2008

Infinity

I feel restless tonight. I've felt restless all day with this strange sense of impending doom. I know it's made up, but I still feel it. So I thought I would try to work it out at the gym. I climbed on the treadmill and started walking, faster and faster with the incline incrementally higher until my legs were burning and my lungs had that sharp little tickle. Me with my headphones, lost in my own little musical world, with all the other hundreds of treadmill walkers and runners like a sea of humans marching along to nowhere on their infinity machines. It's very surreal--the gym experience. And it didn't exactly lift my spirits like I hoped it would. It's a lot easier for me to focus on the people running faster than I am. But they aren't actually getting anywhere either, so I don't know why I even look.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Never Iron Your Sheets

I've done something very bad. I hate to admit it, but I ironed my sheets (and my pillow cases and my duvet cover). Here is how it happened: I washed my sheets yesterday and left them in the dryer while I was gone all day. By the time I got home they were incredibly wrinkled and bunched up from lying in the bottom of the dryer in a ball for 17 hours. So, I thought to myself, I'll just iron the top so it's not so wadded up. Then before I knew it I got carried away and ironed everything. And it took FOREVER.

After my little ironing marathon, I made the bed and slipped in. It was heaven! My sheets were like butter--soft and silky and smooth. My bed looked clean and new and everything laid perfectly flat and tight. The sheets felt cool and crisp and smelled fresh like Downy and Magic Sizing. Last night was a spectacular sleeping experience from start to finish.

Now I am ruined. Who the hell has time to iron their sheets every week? Who wants to? Not me. But now I'm spoiled for the slightly wrinkled sheets of yesterday. I don't know if I can go back.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rap the Lake

My brother Micah and I drove to Idaho today for our traditional family Bear Lake day. We've been going there every year for...well as long as I can remember. Probably since I was three or four and that's a long time.

Micah and I had a lot of time in the car together (three hours there and three hours back) and he has a new iPod, so I got a crash course on rap. I got the history, the current state of the genre, the genealogy of rap artists and who is connected to whom. This was a sociological lesson I clearly needed desperately.

Here is how the six-hour conversation went:

Loud, base-dominated song full of expletives starts.

Micah: You know who this is, right?

Me: No. Should I?

Micah: OF COURSE. He's only the best rapper of all time.

Me: Oh, who is it?

Micah: (Insert rapper's name here.)

Me: Oh. Got it.

Next loud, base-dominated song full of expletives starts.

Micah: You have to know who this is, right?

Me: Umm. Nope. Who is it?

Micah: Only the greatest rapper in the world.

Me: Oh really? Who?

Micah: Dr. Dre/2Pac/Eminem/Jay-z/Snoop Dogg/Notorious/Ludacris/Insert Rapper's Name Here.

Me: Oh

Next loud, base-dominated song full of expletives starts.

Micah: Well, you HAVE to know who this is, right?

Me: (Thinking really hard.) Well...no. Not really.

Micah: You are kidding me. Only the most famous rapper of all time.

Me: Oh. Duh.

You get the picture. Obviously there are a LOT of greatest rappers of all time and I should be able to recognize all of them. In fact, after a six-hour cram session, now I can.

Friday, July 25, 2008

TGIF

Thank God It's Friday. I've had plenty.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A World That Stands as One

Barack Obama spoke in Berlin today. This speech is one of the most inspiring and elevating speeches I've ever heard. I know it becomes an unusually long blog entry for me, but I think it's worth printing, worth reading, worth pondering. It gives me hope.

July 24, 2008
A World that Stands as One
Barack Obama

Berlin's Victory Column in Tiergarten Park
Berlin, Germany

"Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you Mayor Wowereit, the Berlin Senate, the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.

"I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.

"I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father - my grandfather - was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

"At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning - his dream - required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.

"That is why I'm here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life.

"Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Templehof.

"On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruin. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall. The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses, and pondered how the world might be remade.

"This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.

"The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.

"And that's when the airlift began - when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.

"The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.

"But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city's mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. "There is only one possibility," he said. "For us to stand together united until this battle is won...The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty...People of the world, look at Berlin!"

"People of the world - look at Berlin!

"Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.

"Look at Berlin, where the determination of a people met the generosity of the Marshall Plan and created a German miracle; where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.

"Look at Berlin, where the bullet holes in the buildings and the somber stones and pillars near the Brandenburg Gate insist that we never forget our common humanity.

"People of the world - look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.

"Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall - a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope - walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.

"The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers - dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.

"The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

"As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.

"Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.

"In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we're honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.

"In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth - that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.

"Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more - not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

"That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.

"The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

"We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.

"So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.

"That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations - and all nations - must summon that spirit anew.

"This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.

"This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO's first mission beyond Europe's borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.

"This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.

"This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad. In this century - in this city of all cities - we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.

"This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.

"This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.

"This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations - including my own - will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.

"And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. We must remember that the Cold War born in this city was not a battle for land or treasure. Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust - not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.

"Now the world will watch and remember what we do here - what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?

"Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words "never again" in Darfur?

"Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don't look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

"People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time.

"I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

"But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived - at great cost and great sacrifice - to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom - indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us - what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America's shores - is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

"Those are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. Those aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of those aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of those aspirations that all free people - everywhere - became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of those aspirations that a new generation - our generation - must make our mark on history.

"People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. Let us build on our common history, and seize our common destiny, and once again engage in that noble struggle to bring justice and peace to our world."