Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Woman of Interfering Means

I'm reading A Woman of Independent Means right now for a book group. If I were not reading it for book group, I would have dropped it after the first few pages. This is not a book I enjoy. The author, Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, favors us with a letter at the beginning of the book addressed 'Dear Reader.' She confesses that she nearly flunked the only creative writing class she ever took in college, and I wonder if that should have given her pause. But then I suppose I am in the minority in my dislike of this book, as according to the back it has 'delighted millions of readers' and was even made into a miniseries with Sally Field.

The book is written in epistolary form, a series of letters. I find everyone in this book annoying, especially the main character, Bess Steed Garner. She strikes me as an officious busybody who frequently encloses generously-written checks with her letters to oil the cogs. I often roll my eyes while reading, or rather, skimming at this point. For example, Bess Steed writes exhaustively about her overwhelming love for her first husband, Rob. But she never sees him. He is always working late, and then he even jumps at the chance to send her off to Europe for an entire summer. She writes him passionate love letters and then complains that his letters to her are sporadic and restrained in tone. While Bess is in Europe she mentions in a letter that her housekeeper/companion Annie believes that her (Annie's) husband is having an affair. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Is that enough foreshadowing? I thought that surely Bess would come home to find Rob in the throws of an affair. I actually wondered if she would catch him in the act. Nope! Rob later dies and Bess holds the memory of this 'near perfect and sublime' marriage. Talk about anti-climactic, and talk about stupid!

I do believe this book could generate some good discussion. We'll see.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Peace House

This morning I went to a Peace House Foundation boutique sale, luncheon, and style show with my friend Karen. Karen and I know each other from when Georgie was in Minnesota Virtual Academy. We were in a co op together with Carla, who is now living in Tanzania because her husband is the principal of the new school Peace House is building for AIDS orphans. Follow that?

I am so impressed with what Peace House is doing. Did you know there are 11 million AIDS orphans in Africa? It is difficult for me to wrap my brain around that. Peace House is supporting younger children living with relatives in their own communities so that they can continue with school. They are also building boarding schools for secondary school age children. The schools will have a focus on teaching entrepreneurial skills. It is at one of these schools near Arusha, Tanzania that Carla's husband Mark will be (it's being built now) the principal. Peace House Academy will provide a home to at least 640 AIDS orphans. The president of Tanzania donated 100 acres of land for the school site.

Here is where you can donate online to Peace House Foundation. If there was ever a worthy cause, this is it!

Friday, April 21, 2006

too cute

Got this funny one from ml.

a happy dozen

Twelve years ago today I married this handsome guy. It was the best decision I ever made.

sleeping it off

Bernie had a huge temper tantrum at lunch time because she wanted to watch a movie and we let Marcus connect the Gamecube. She threw a control across the room so she was sent to her room. Almost an hour later we realized it was awful quiet up there and this is what we found.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

3 years ago

I like this old one of me with the kids. Bernie was such a little doll at that age! And doesn't Lidia look like she can't decide if she wants to laugh or cry? I know the feeling.

The girls wanted to stay extra time with their grandparents in Mexico. Because the airline changed their flight time, we were able to switch their flight to Friday without having to pay.

We miss them, but are very glad they're having such a good time!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

fotos de Hermosillo

J returned from his mission to Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico fifteen years ago. This past weekend he had the opportunity to return for a mission reunion. He had a wonderful time! Hermosillo temple
There was not a big turn out for the reunion, but J (front center) loved reminiscing with these old friends. J loves and respects his mission president, Tomas Valdez, third from the right. He was a great mentor to J.

how to fold a shirt in Japan

Thanks to Montse for this very cool link!

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Here's an article after my own heart. Friday's Taste Commentary in the Wall Street Journal is Fun For the Whole Family, Really: Sick of trashy pop culture for kids? Try classic movies.

Now this guy has boys, so the films they've seen together have tended toward the sports and war flicks. I don't know that my girls would especially like the ones they list in this article, but I've been meaning to get them watching some good classics. They loved "It's a Wonderful Life" when we saw it with Nana and Grampie at Thanksgiving. They adored the 1971 BBC miniseries "Tom Brown's Schooldays." They were not especially fond of one I thought they'd really like: "Bringing Up Baby" with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. They kept looking at me while rolling their eyes and saying, "This is SO silly."

When I was a kid there was always an old movie on Saturday afternoons at 2 pm or so. (I don't remember what station. It must have been network because that's all we had.) If it was rainy, which it often was in Maine, I'd watch the movie with my mom. I learned a lot from these classic films. Come to think of it I saw a great deal of programming on PBS that was directed toward adults. There were not a lot of kids shows on then like there are today. I remember one of my favorites was "All Things Great and Small," based on the series of books by James Herriot about a Yorkshire vet. I started reading the series when I was a little older than Georgie. Maybe that's where my anglophile tendencies come from--sustained exposure to large quantities of BBC in my early childhood.

What is it you call a British accent, Athena? Pommy?

Oops--this post started out one thing and ended another. Oh well.

Friday, April 14, 2006

another Mitten Strings for God thought

I've been on my own with Marcus and Bernie since Tuesday. J gets home Sunday night. He flew into Hermosillo, Mexico, for a business meeting, took a bus to Yuma to visit his sister, and has now returned to Hermosillo for a mission reunion. J finished his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints fifteen years ago.

I am very, very tired. I went to bed late last night because I watched "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie." I like to see movies J wouldn't like when he's gone. Bernie came in and woke me up in the middle of the night, and Marcus got me up at 6. I was outside with the kids a lot today trying to tire them out, but I think I mostly exhausted myself. I am writing this because I know that if I lay down to read I will fall asleep and J has not called yet.

Has anyone read blink by Malcolm Gladwell? I always get to the bestsellers a little late, if at all. It is a fascinating book.

What I wanted to post some thoughts on now, however, is Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison. I think this book is great for mothers in a hurry, and even mothers who are not in so much of a hurry. I highly recommend it. Give yourself a gift for Mothers' Day and buy this book! (You also richly deserve a massage and pedicure.)

Here is something that's been on my mind since I read it:

It seemed that the more consciousnes I was willing to bring
to [motherhood], the more meaningful this role became. Shaping and
protecting our family space, celebrating birthdays and holidays, setting a mood
around the dinner table, cultivating an atmosphere in our home, painting and
baking and storytelling with my sons, simply attending to the details of our
lives together--these and countless other activites both large and snall came to
represent opportunities for deeper attention, work, and growth. Over and
over I found myself both humbled and challenged by the magnitude of my task
as a mother in contemporary society. Could I find a way to bring beauty
and meaning to an empty afternoon, while the rest of the world spun on at a
different pace? Could I confront a room full of scattered toys and see
there an opportunity to transform chaos into order? Did I possess the
self-discipline I needed to effectively discipline two boys? Did I have
the inner strength to resist the values of corporate, materialistic
America--and to shape a different set of traditions and ideals? Could I
summon enough humor, patience, flexibility, and love to meet their needs from
one day to the next? Was I conscious enough of my own needs to articulate
them, and meet them, too? Could I let one identity fall away and begin to
forge a new one out of such reflections, lessons, and feminine energies?

I've been asking myself how much consciousness I bring to my role as a mother. Now I guess I do bring a lot of consciousness--maybe too much sometimes. It is true that I constantly evaluate my effectiveness as a mother. What I mean is, how conscious am I moment to moment throughout the day as I interact with my children, that I am mothering, I am nurturing. I think if I could be more mindful of that, then the time I spend with my children or even doing household tasks would be more meaningful. Instead of thinking, "I hate taking care of these stupid toys," my approach could be, "I am bringing order to chaos."

Munye's kids

Ave asked for pics of Munye's kids. Munye (the n is supposed to have a tilde over it, but can't figure out how to do that on blogger so I added the 'y') is J's only sister. Her husband is a border patrol agent and they moved to Yuma, Arizona last year. This picture of my children with their three cousins was taken last April when they still lived in Kingsville, TX.

We do have a picture we got for Christmas of the whole family but I can't find it (read=I'm too lazy to look for it). J is actually visiting there in Yuma right now and I told him to take a bunch of pictures of Munye's family. I will post them when he gets back.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

ave's kids

Aren't these great shots that AVE took? I will get to kiss the rosy cheeks of these little whippersnappers in less than 3 months from now...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Katherine Anne Porter

My mother gave me the complete collection of her short stories one Christmas Even when I was in high school. I spent all night reading. I finally fell asleep for a few hours and then immediately began reading again as soon as I awoke. My younger siblings burst into my room and flung my stocking and its contents on my bed. They begged me to come out because Mum wouldn't let them open gifts until the whole family was there. I believe those hours of reading brought on what I call "book flu:" the headache, burning eyes, and nausea of one who has focused on the printed page for hours and hours without rest. I had book flu frequently as a child.

For my American Lit class I just had the opportunity to revisit "Flowering Judas," Porter's most anthologized and probably best work. I find the story very disturbing. The symbol of the flowering Judas is elusive and ambiguous. Just when I think I've figured it out it falls apart.

I am fascinated by Porter's education. She gave people the impression that she was from an aristocratic Southern family and had attended convent schools. Many bios of Porter found on the web mention this. In fact, she was from a very poor family and was brought up by her grandmother. According to her bio in Anthology of American Literature 7th edition, she only had one year of formal education, and that in a "school for young ladies in a small Texas town, where she was taught dancing, elocution, drama, and good manners, and was exposed to 'fine' literature." I think she got away with a lot because of her looks, which were stunning.

So what I want to know is, was Porter homeschooled to some extent by her grandmother? Was she completely self-educated? I need to read a biography. There are several and I don't know which would be the best.

Monday, April 10, 2006

nothing gold

This morning J got up before 6 and was off to work. He's been working 12 and 13 hr days lately on a "Romania deal." I hope he gets it!

After he left I thought I would get up, but instead lounged deliciously in bed when I remembered I didn't have to take the girls to school. Ahhhh. I fell back into a light sleep and began to dream that I lived in a big old house in the woods. Eventually the dream changed somewhat and I was a young girl living in this house with two older brothers. It was early Spring and the maples were tapped. The dream's perspective shifted again and I was no longer the girl--I was watching the girl and her family. In the dream I had a feeling that I needed to write this girl's story. I knew her problems and how she would resolve them. I saw the interactions between her and her brothers and knew how I would portray them in the story. I saw several little adventures the three had together, and some the girl had by herself. I began to feel happy and excited to begin writing the story.

Marcus came in and I awoke. I jerked up to look at the clock and saw that it was 7:30. I fell back into bed and tried to pretend that I didn't care--I could always take Marcus to school if he missed the bus, but it was too late. The dream was quickly receding from my mind "as dawn fades into day." Oh dear. I tried to grasp at it as I dressed and fed Marcus but I could only retrieve the bare outline of what was there.

I console myself with the thought that sometimes dreams you think are loaded with import turn out to be silly and meaningless when you finally recall them.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

mango! mango!

was the chant on the way to the airport. Georgie and Lidia left today to spend a couple weeks in Mexico with their guelitos. Georgie had a dream last night about guelita's kitchen stocked with ripe, juicy mangos. When my kids are down in Mexico they eat quesadillas, avocados, fried eggs, and mangos. Not much else.

Lidia's backpack nearly outweighs her thanks to the fifth Harry Potter.

They did not even pack pants--just shorts.

The ones left behind.

Goodbye, big girls!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

the club responses

Thank you, everyone for your funny and supportive comments! Man, I know who to go to when I need a boost! I had to laugh at some of the comments. One thing is sure, I'll have to keep my stunning good looks, genius, and heartthrob husband under wraps or I'll be run out of town on a rail. Haaaaaahahahah! Oh, that felt good.

I should explain the whole application thing. MOMS club is an international group for at-home mothers. There is a large local chapter here in my suburb that sponsors play groups, a book club, a recipe club, and lots of holiday parties. Sorry to give the impression that I had to fill out an application just to join a play group, but the play group was the only reason I was joining. My own rather limited social needs seem to be met through church, friends I've met through my children's school, the LDS Mother's Education e-list, and you wonderful people!

I like to think that if it were me having a play group at my house, I would casually invite next-door friends to come on over whether they were members of MOMS club or not. I hate exclusiveness.

I liked Bookworm's comment about us all being "on the same side" as women. We don't have to be cats, do we? We can rise above it and lift each other up.

I think Karpete is on to something when she said that the ladies felt guilty and awkward for not letting me join their group, and that it affected their behavior negatively. That's probably what's going on. When they see me they are reminded, "Oh, there goes the lady we didn't let join" and they feel small inside. Guilt does that to me too.

I will take Bookworm's advice and be "moderately friendly." Haha! I like that.

And you are right--you are all so much more fun. Too bad all of our kids can't get together to play. Can you imagine the rocking and rolling play group we'd have? Party time!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tacos al Pastor

This is J's all time favorite meal. When we go back to visit his home, a northeastern Mexico border city, he eats as many tacos al pastor as he possibly can. He likes them from the street, the grittier the better. (Thanks to Mainegirl for the link to another CarlosBravo photo.)

the club

I'm really trying not to let this bother me but I guess it does. And that bothers me even more than what happened.

Back in the fall I decided to join Mom's Club here because I wanted to be part of my neighbor's play group. She had told me it was really fun and one time when it was in her backyard we went over and joined in for 1/2 hr or so. I thought the other mothers were kind of on the serious, boring side, but my neighbor is cool and there was one other friendly mother. Bernie really enjoyed playing with the children.

I filled out my application and then called the play group organizer with some question. I told her I wanted to join that particular play group, and she said that should be fine, but she would call the play group "captain" to let her know. I found out from my neighbor that the play group captain sent out an email asking the other members if they should let me join, and everyone except my neighbor and the friendly mom said no! My neighbor swears it was nothing personal--the other moms just thought the play group was already too big.

I couldn't help but feel rejected, but I tried to get over it. About a month later the play group moms were in my neighbor's yard decorating her front door because she ran the marathon that day. I smiled at them, waved, and yelled "hi." They looked at me, frowned, said a grudging "hi" and quickly looked away. On another occasion the neighbor invited me over to make egg rolls at her house and the play group captain was there. She would not look at me or talk to me. I finally struck up a little conversation with this lady when my neighbor went to change a diaper, but she was obviously resistant to speaking with me and avoided eye contact.

For the past couple of months, my neighbor has not been coming over to chat or inviting my children to play. When I have invited her children, she always has something else planned. She is really busy, but I can't help wondering if I've done something to offend her.

This morning I was taking the kids over to play across the street at the playground, but they ran to the neighbor's backyard because they could hear kids playing there. It was play group. I smiled and said "hi" to the moms as I went over to get my children and dog. The did not even say "hi" back this time! My neighbor didn't either. She just said, "These children are afraid of dogs." They did not look afraid. They seemed to be having fun with Frodo. I scooped him up and told my children we were going to play across the street. Luckily they didn't give me any trouble about wanting to stay.

The weather was lovely and the kids had a lot of fun playing. But I couldn't enjoy it.

Am I over-reacting?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

goings on

Bunch of random stuff I've wanted to jot down in no particular order: (second thought, we'd better do bad stuff first so we can end with good)

J spent a few hours in the ER today. He's been having chest pains and shortness of breath again. This has happened periodically (every 3-6 months) since he had myocarditis 4 yrs ago. They ran the tests on him and found nothing. They think that today it may have been indigestion. A few weeks ago he had some pretty intense chest pain and they think that could have been stress. The ER doc told him today that sometimes people manifest stress that way. I'm not sure what I think about that. I'm not sure I'm o.k. with it. I think I want him to have an appointment with the cardiologist.

My dad was in the hospital over the weekend with a heart attack. He is feeling fine now and has appointments for tests on Monday and Tuesday. I would normally ask for prayers in his behalf but he's asking for no prayers (tongue in cheek) with the new study results showing prayers do no good.

We went to Georgie's orchestra concert tonight. It was as good as can be expected with 4 school orchestras in one huge gym. We were in the crowded bleachers with knees in our backs. Marcus and Lidia were doing a number on the poor souls in front of us. At the beginning we stood up for the Star Spangled Banner and I glanced down when it was over and people were clapping. Marcus had placed a quarter with a wad of gum stuck to it (gum side up) on the bleacher in front of us where a lady with a generous derriere was just about to sit down. I snatched the quarter out in the nick of time and looked murder at Marcus. He had the nerve to glare at me for confiscating his quarter! That pretty much set the tone for the evening. The children were exhausted from playing outdoors all afternoon. They lasted a few minutes in the stuffy, hot bleachers and then J had to take them out.

We are NOT handling the time change well.

Sigh. Now for the good. I am enjoying violin so much! I decided I don't have to graduate before I take lessons. Even college drop outs deserve to do something worthwhile and enjoyable once in a while. I'm taking lessons every week in April and May.

Lidia finished the fourth Harry Potter. Isn't that the Goblet one? Don't ask me. I am not a fan. It took her a couple months but she did it and has even started the fifth. I honestly don't know what all the hoopla is about these books but it is wonderful to have Lidia excited about reading. I was thinking today that I shouldn't be so hard on her. Not that I'm hard on her, but maybe sometimes I expect too much. Lidia is in second grade. At the end of second grade I read my first chapter book, Charlotte's Web. I didn't really get into reading for pleasure until fourth grade, so why should I have expected Lidia to love it?

Georgie is on a math kick, of all things. She is preparing for Math Masters, an event that sounds like an absolutely smashing good time. You go there and take a bunch of timed math tests. Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to such a thing? Is this my child? I think not. I watch her and J busily doing word problems together. They burst out laughing last night and tried to explain the joke to me. Something about how they had done the problem separately and on comparing results found that they'd done exactly the same process. If you are a math nerd, you might understand why that is funny.

We had lovely Spring weather today and I got a bunch of yard work done while I was worriedly waiting for J to get out of the ER.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

feeling cute

Bernie chose this outfit today. The dress has little white polka dots.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


From a talk I gave last week in church:

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we have semi annual conferences where we hear the prophet, the apostles, and other authorities in the Church speak. They speak on many topics that they choose themselves. These conferences occur the first weekends in October and April. Many of us use these semi-annual conferences as a time of self-evaluation. We make new goals based on what we hear at conference.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes conference worthwhile for me. One reason is to be motivated by the Holy Ghost to change my behavior so that it is more in accordance with the moral teachings of the Savior. But I’m a sinner and I will always be a sinner in this mortal life. I’m not saying I should give up on following the Savior’s teachings for that reason or be lax in my responsibilities. Obviously I need to do the opposite! I need to hear the Sermon on the Mount and I need to live it. However, what I feel I most need to hear at conference is a testimony that the Savior died for me, that Christ is risen, and that He knows me. One Roman Catholic philosopher says, “When Christianity was proclaimed throughout the world, the proclamation was not 'Love your enemies!' but 'Christ is risen!' This was not a new ideal but a new event, that God became man, died, and rose for our salvation. Christianity is first of all not ideal but real, an event, news, the gospel, the 'good news.' The essence of Christianity is not Christianity; the essence of Christianity is Christ."

The gospel is, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

The gospel is "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

When I watch conference, I look forward to hearing special witnesses of the living Christ bear testimony of Him. I am always anxious to hear what they say, not as great and illustrious men though they are, not as marvelous speakers though they are, not as profound moralists, though they are. I want to hear what these special witnesses can tell me of the Savior.

The apostle Robert D. Hales says “In the choices we make in life, we need to know the Savior. His simple admonition 'Come … follow me' could transform human existence if we would let it. He has the power to make our burdens light if we will turn to Him.

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have the opportunity to bear testimony as a sacred witness of the Savior. My greatest desire is that my testimony might penetrate the hearts of those who hear it.

I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that He guides and directs His Church by revelation through His prophet in this very day and time. If we will have faith in our Savior, He will see us through our trials and tribulations, and we will be able to endure to the end and return to His presence after this mortal probation. He lives and knows and loves each one of us. He so much wants to bless us if we will come unto Him.”