Sunday, August 27, 2006


I am up early, as J left for bishopric meeting before 6, and I couldn't get back to sleep.

I have not posted about this because I wanted to wait and see. I wanted to give myself a little time. Our family attends church as part of a "ward," or congregation in the Twin Cities area. J was a counselor in the bishopric there. About a month before we went to Maine, we were asked to meet with the stake president (ecclesiastical leader of a group of wards), a man for whom I have a great deal of respect. He asked us to attend a different ward. This ward needed us, he said, because there was a large number of new hispanic members who needed mentorship and encouragement in the gospel. The building where this ward meets is an hour's drive from our home. He told us we would not do any midweek activities there, it would be a Sunday thing only. We agreed to do it. I thought to myself that at least J would be out of the bishopric and we could drive together and then sit together at church.

No go. One week later J was called to serve in the bishopric of this ward. Probably most of you know that the leadership of the Mormon church is a lay leadership. No one is professional, no one is paid. A bishop, who usually serves about seven years, has two counselors to help him with the leadership responsibilities of the ward. Ideally, the bishop should be free for counseling members while his counselors take care of the nitty gritty. I mean, not always, but what I'm saying is that though the calling of "bishop" is probably the most difficult in many ways, the counselors also have a lot to do. J being called to the bishopric means that he needs to leave for church hours earlier than I do on Sunday, and he comes home hours later. We will not be driving together. We will not sit together, as the bishopric sits on the stand.

How do our children feel about it? Not thrilled. They are o.k. with the long drive, but they miss their friends in our old ward. They miss their Sunday school and Primary experience there. They miss their music leader and their teachers.

How do I feel about it? Scared. Shy. I am not very outgoing. It usually takes me a long time to get to know people and make new friends. I do a lot of driving around during the school year, and I'm not enthused about a two-hour round trip to church. I miss my friends at church. I think I can safely say that for most Mormons, the ward is the center of our social life. I feel out of the loop. I feel disconnected.

So, why are we doing it? Why didn't we just say no? We have heard many surprised responses from both Mormons and non-Mormons about our choice to go ahead with it. "You're doing what?" "There's no way I would do that," etc. I can't speak for J, but I'm doing it because I believe I am called of God to do so. Do I really think that Heavenly Father, in his vastness and greatness, knows or cares whether our little family hauls off every Sunday to a different ward? Well, yes. Maybe I should say something about how callings work in the Mormon church. We don't volunteer. We are not necessarily called to do things that come easily or for which we have a talent. In fact, quite frequently the opposite is true. At a ward level, callings come from the bishopric and from a stake level, from the stake presidency. J told me how it worked in the last bishopric he was in. In one of those early Sunday meetings, different people are considered for different jobs in the ward. Primary teacher, Sunday school teacher, financial clerk, media specialist, ward missionary, activity commitee member, etc. All three members of the bishopric get down on their knees to pray about a specific individual and whether a calling they've chosen for that person is what the Lord wants. When they are done with the prayer, if they all have a feeling that it is right, they go ahead with it. If someone does not receive that confirmation, or impression from the Holy Ghost, then it isn't right and they need to make a change. J said that in every case after praying together, either all three felt that it was right, or all three felt that it was wrong. He said it was really amazing how it worked. Sometimes he would start out the prayer unsure that it was a good idea, but then by the end of the prayer he knew without question that it was right. Or the opposite would happen.

Callings are not handed out arbitrarily. If the stake president asked us to do this inconvenient, disruptive thing, then it wasn't because he thought it was a good idea. It's because he had received a confirming feeling from the Holy Ghost that it was God's will.

I have received my own confirmation that this calling is right for our family. I don't completely understand why us or why there, but I want to help build Zion in whatever way I'm needed.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

food of the great minnesota get together

Because that's what it's all about, am I right? Last year, my first time at The State Fair of All State Fairs, I stupidly thought I had to have a healthy Greek salad wrap for lunch before going for the good stuff. Duh, Calandria, this is the FAIR. This year I did not waste any precious stomach space on healthy food, as you can see from these pics. I wasn't thinking of my thighs or my cholesterol.

Georgie really liked this "Gator on a Stick." Yes, it's alligator sausage.

Fresh, hot mini donuts.

Cotton candy. The kiddos liked it.

At right, deep-fried cheese curds. Heavenly.

Deep fried pickles. Another favorite.

We didn't eat this but I snuck a photo. I think they're called spiral chips.

Deep-fried twinkies on a stick. Yes, I actually witnessed people eating these things. I was too shy to ask if I could take their photo, but I did think of it!

I forgot to take a photo of our other favorite, Neon Ice Cream. It's hydrogen-frozen, the creamiest ice cream ever.

There are also deed-fried candy bars on a stick. Deep-fried choclate chip cookies. (Why?) Ostrich on a stick. Mac and cheese on a stick. Spaghetti and meatballs on a stick.

Some people swear by the Sweet Martha's cookies. Everyone seems to be eating those. I see people hauling them out by the bucketloads (not an exaggeration) and I wonder, what are you going to do with those things? There's no way you can eat them all before they go stale. You can buy them in the frozen section of the grocery store, you know. I tried them last year but it was so anticlimactic. I make much better cookies than those. Here's a photo of MN governor Tim Pawlenty serving Sweet Martha cookies to fairgoers.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I haven't posted too many pics of Bernie lately. She had the longest, thinnest feet I'd ever seen on a newborn. They were so strangely out of proportion with the rest of her tiny body.

And then here she is a year ago feeling lovely.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

wicked cunnin'

I've always thought this a wicked cute one of Lidia. I miss being able to say "wicked" without people looking at me funny. Marcus asked me a few days after we got home from Maine what "wicked" meant. I told him it is an adverb meaning "very or extremely."

And in Maine, "cunning" means "cute."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

summer reading

I started this post a few days ago but the power went off and I lost it. That day Lidia and Georgie had some friends over. They played cops and robbers in the dark basement for a couple hours until the power came back on. They were so disappointed when it did.

J's parents arrived a couple hours ago. They drove up from Reynosa. Nothing shocking happened to them in Emporia, Kansas this time. I don't think I ever posted about this, but I was telling my mum about it yesterday and she liked it so here goes: A few months ago I was checking my stat counter. That tells me who's been visiting my blog. I saw that someone from Emporia, Kansas had been on my blog. I clicked on the drill down to look at the IP, and it was Emporia Police Department! Whoever had googled "Emporia Kansas police department" and they found that special little post. They must have read it all because they were on that page for 6 minutes. I probably don't have to tell you how much that made my day. Take that you [expletive that Calandria doesn't say anymore]!

Did I not entitle this post "summer reading?" But aren't you glad I digressed?

Here are the books I've read this summer and a few brief thoughts on each:

Basque History of the World, by Mark Kurlansky. I didn't get to finish it because I got it on interlibrary loan and it was due back. Right away I'll say that Kurlansky's writing doesn't sizzle. My fingers itched for the red pen. However, I am intrigued by the Basques, and so any information about them, however poorly written, is of intense interest to me. I want to get the book back so I can finish it.

The Child That Books Built: A Life in Reading, by Francis Spufford. Spufford's writing does sizzle, and I found parts of this book to be very thought provoking. I enjoyed his writing about the Little House series and Chronicles of Narnia. His pornography musings, not so much.

The Road from Coorain, by Jill Ker Conway. This is probably the best memoir I've ever read. Oh, that all memoir writers had such inspiring and interesting fare! I was captivated by Ker Conway's description of her sheep station upbringing. (Athena, have you read this one?) I was fascinated by her relationship with her mother. I was inspired by her conquest of the various Goliaths in her life. Ker Conway was the president of Smith College and has some interesting things to say about education. Why did this memoir work? Because though the author is formidably intelligent, she is also very likable. She has a good sense of humor. I didn't mind that she analyzed her own first 30 or so years of her life in 256 pages, in fact I found it interesting. Very, very few people can pull that off.

Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale. I was reluctant to start it. I brought it with me to Maine because it was a Relief Society book club selection. We meet on Tuesday combined with the Young Women to discuss it. I was reluctant because I'm not a big fan of modern fantasy. I like Tolkein, Lewis, and Nesbit, and that's it. Also, to be perfectly honest, I knew that Shannon Hale is a member of the Church and I haven't had many good reading experiences with LDS authors. Isn't it strange that I am biased against writers of my own faith? I did take courage because the book is a Newberry Honor book, and I'd heard good things about Goose Girl, Hale's first novel, from one of Georgie's teachers. Well, I loved Princess Academy. It is actually "crossover fantasy," which I suppose must mean that people like me like it. The fantasy element is subdued. It's about a group of illiterate girls from a mountain village who are herded into a "princess academy" to prepare for one of them to be chosen as a bride for the prince of the kingdom. I really like the dynamics between the girls and how their relationships change and mature. I like what the book puts forth about leadership and education. After finishing it I thought to myself, "I wish I had written this book." If I was reluctant to start the book, Georgie was even more so. I told her she would like it, but she couldn't get past the title. It was that loaded word, "princess." However, after lots and lots of encouragement from her mother, and especially after her mother reminded her that there is always delicious dessert at book club, Georgie started the book one night before bed. She finished it the next morning.

Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindberg. I liked it. It was fine. I liked Mitten Strings for God quite a bit better.

Beekeeper's Apprentice and A Monstrous Regiment of Women, both by Laurie R. King. These are the first two in the series that foists an awkward 15-year old girl on the "retired" Sherlock Holmes as his protege mini-sleuth. Actually, the Mary Russell character isn't fifteen for long. She quickly becomes of age so that she and Sherlock can experience a book and a half of sexual tension before they get married. O.k., I'm not saying the books are uninteresting. They do rather beg belief, but so do many mysteries. It just makes me smile that Laurie R. King actually squeezed an eight-book series out of her Sherlock Holmes-as-lover fantasy. She admits that the character Mary Russell is really Laurie R. King. Anyway. You'll notice that I did not stop after Beekeeper's Apprentice. I did read the next one so I could find out if Mary really hops in the sack with the 60-year old Sherlock.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi. I've always wanted to read one of his books because he's such a highly recommended children's author and all that. I can see why he's popular. The book was certainly engaging and there's lots of action. I think the book could provoke some good discussion, because I was confused by the protagonist's final decision at the end. Maybe "confused" is not the right word. I didn't believe she really would have chosen that way.

Now I'm trying to decide between starting The Magic City by E. Nesbit, author of my beloved The Enchanted Castle, or Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, or Our Mutual Friend by Dickens.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

blogger friends

I noticed that I had several bad links to my friends' blogs. Sorry everyone! I think we're all good now.

Also, thought I'd post a couple pics of the beautiful Mallory of Major Mal. She's my cousin, and isn't she gorgeous? And smart. And kind. And available. Mal begins her second year at BYU-Idaho in a few weeks.

yesterday afternoon

The light seemed good so I decided to try my hand at some flower pics. I love Mainegirl's. Sadly, I haven't many specimens left in my garden because I stupidly neglected to have someone water while I was away for a month. These hardy souls are some of the few that survived.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

the rereads

My friend Karen recently posted asking what books are worthy of rereading? I had commented on her blog that I've read My Antonia three times and will probably read it again every 5-10 years or so for the rest of my life. My Antonia is one of the most beautiful and satisfying books I've ever read. I love Cather's writing. I love anything by Cather, partly because of the strong sense of place that comes through in her descriptions of the prairie. There is such a sense of longing, and if there is anything I love to feel, it's anoranza. (Anyone, do you know how the heck I do tildes on blogger?) Yearing, nostalgia, hankering. I hate that last word, "hankering." However, I love the word anoranza in Spanish. Can anyone teach me another great word meaning "longing" in another language?

What other books do I re-read and could do so indefinitely? Here's a by-no-means definitive list.

Scriptures. Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants.
Chronicles of Narnia
Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and probably some other Austens
Shakespeare's plays
Christy, by Catharine Marshall Maybe some of you think that's an odd one to read over many times, but that book really hits me!
Anne of Green Gables
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Brothers Karamazov

A funny thing about that last one. At the 5 Browns concert they had a question and answer session after the intermission. There were some funny questions, and the Browns were fairly open and candid. Someone asked about their favorite books and I immediately thought, "Someone is going to say Brothers Karamazov." And sure enough, that was Melody's choice. That was my favorite book when I was her age. Deondra's choice was Anna Karenina.

Here's a quote from a short story I love, Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin: "For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness."

So friends, what do you plan to re-read every now and then?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Gaelic Storm

Gaelic Storm plays Irish pub music, and though some of the lyrics aren't the best for kids, my children really love it. I was sad to discover I didn't get a picture of Ellery Klein, Gaelic Storm's fiddler who royally rocks. This band was the steerage band in the movie Titanic. Yup, the only good part of that film.

why we didn't stay for the whole concert

As you can see in the top photo, the kids were a little squirrelly during Gaelic Storm's performance. They were tired. Well, more than that, they wanted to get ice creams at McDonald's, which J had promised. They lasted three songs. I got to hear another two while they went to get the car and then picked me up at the entrance.

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself that I didn't get to see the whole thing. I mean, it wasn't THAT late. It was 8 pm. They stay up until 10 some nights just goofing around in their rooms. Also, I was surprised that they were not more interested in the performance, being that they never tire of hearing their Gaelic Storm CD.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

5 browns

Last night J and I went to the 5 Browns concert. Quick poll: Have you heard of the 5 Browns?

They are concert pianists ranging in age from 21 to 27. They are five siblings from Utah (yup, they're Mormon) who studied simultaneously at Julliard.

The concert was held at Orchestra Hall and that place was packed. It'd never seen it like that. And talk about a variety of people! There were many older people, there were children as young as five, there were artsy looking youths, and there were large family groups, obvious Mormons. I found this on their website: "The roar of 2,500 screaming grade school and high school kids in a packed concert hall in Arizona nearly swept the Browns off the stage. And it happened again amid the deafening cheers of 4,000 in the college basketball arena of a small Idaho town, so packed that even the seats with no view were taken. The Browns have discovered that almost a third of their audience has seldom, if ever, attended a concert of classical music..." I was not surprised to read that, as that was my impression of some of the fans in attendance last night, even in sophisticated Minneapolis. (Quick kvetch: I know it's summer time and the livin' is easy, but can't we find something besides ratty jeans, shorts, and tank tops to wear to a Friday night concert at Orchestra Hall?)

It is understatement to say that the Browns are incredibly talented. But I've seen lots of very talented people perform. Really, what is especially attractive about the Browns is their youthful enthusiasm, their down-to-earth personalities, and the fact that they play all five together! My favorite pieces were Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 played by Gregory and the Allegro moderato and Presto feroce from American composer Lowell Lieberman’s Gargoyles, Op. 29, played by Melody. But they are truly incredible playing together. There's some telepathy going on. Here is a video of them playing Scenes from West Side Story. If that link doesn't work for you, go to their website and click on AUIDO/VIDEO. Scroll down to find the video.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

back in our old neighborhood

shakopee derby days

On Sunday night we went down to our old neighborhood in Shakopee and saw the fireworks for Shakopee Derby Days. Shakopee boasts a race track (thus 'Derby Days'), casino, amusement park, and women's prison.

We lived beside a huge field where the fireworks are set off. It was wonderful to see our old neighbors. Every time we go down there to visit, I have to hear "Why did we ever move?" and "Don't you like our old house better?" etc. for days afterwards. My children loved it there.

I believe the fireworks are sponsored by Canterbury Downs and Valley Fair, and they're quite dramatic.

utah baby names

If you are not familiar with Utah Mormon culture, the last post may have confused you a bit. Here is an excellent site to bring you up to speed on the phenomenon of baby naming in Utah. I noticed that an old prof of mine, Don Norton, wrote one of the articles.

Monday, August 07, 2006

los chihuahuenses

Maybe Utah should consider a similar law.

what would you like to see?

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you probably know that I enjoy classic films. In fact, I enjoy good movies so much I sometimes think my dream job would be movie editing (the editors are the real creators of the movies) or directing, or producing. I sometimes read books and then have dreams of them in movie form. They're pretty good.

I love Shakespeare plays, and I think several have been done very well as films. My favorite is Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. I also loved his Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing. I understand he just finished As You Like It.

One I would like to see redone is Taming of the Shrew. There's that '67 Zeffirelli version with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, and it's not terrible. But Taylor and Burton bring too much baggage to it. It's all about them. I sure would like to see Johnny Depp as Petruchio! And who to be Katharina? Any ideas?

There are other books I'd like to see as movies. Song of the Lark by Willa Cather is one. Huh! I just went to IMDb and there it is! There's a 2001 version. I'll have to try to get hold of that.

What books would you like to see turned into films?

Friday, August 04, 2006

my fourth

I was in good shape emotionally and physically when I got pregnant with my fourth child at twenty-seven. I worked hard to stay in good shape. I ate healthy foods. I was doing deep lunges, squats, and push-ups in yoga class the day I went into labor. The first picture was taken two weeks before I gave birth, and the second picture a few hours after.

We were very excited to have our fourth child. One morning in the fall of 2001 the kids and I made a morning trip to Target. I'd suspected for a few days that I was pregnant so I picked up a test. I went home and did the test, and to my great joy, it was positive. The phone rang and it was J. I opened my mouth to tell him the news but before I could say the words, he said, "Have you seen the news?" I was confused, thinking still of my news. He told me that there had been a terrorist attack and I should turn on the t.v. It was about 9:30am, right in the middle of everything. The twin towers had been hit, but had not yet fallen. The Pentagon had not yet been hit, nor had the plane in Pennsylvania crashed. I watched it all unfold, forgetting about my happy news. That night I wrote in my journal, "I don't think I will tell anyone today, but I have inwardly rejoiced and given thanks to God." I didn't tell J until the following week.

That fall J's health began to decline. He was always tired. It seemed that he could never get enough sleep. He even went in for a physical and the doctor thought he might have mono. But it wasn't mono. During the winter we went through that repeated strep thing that so many families get, where you just can't get rid of it. Finally, a week before I had Bernie, J went into the emergency room with what appeared to be a heart attack. It turned out to be myocarditis, a complication of strep, and I've posted about it before. J had a long, slow recovery. It took about six months for him to feel normal again. It wasn't easy having three young children, a new baby, and a sick husband. It was grueling, but I did it and we all survived. I believe Heavenly Father inspired me to maintain such optimal physical health throughout my pregnancy so that I would be able to care for my family during those exhausting six months after Bernie was born.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

san miguel

I haven't posted much lately because I've had a heck of a time uploading pics on blogger. Also, I've been busy taking a trip down memory lane. I started a massive scanning project. We only got a digital camera relatively recently, and we've got about ten years of prints. All of my kids baby pics are prints. I decided I wanted them digitalized. I'm not doing all of them of course, just the best ones. But there are so many good ones! It's been a lot of fun looking at the pictures with the kids and telling them stories about their adorable babyhood. This is something that normal families with functional mothers probably do often. You all pull out the scrapbook/photo albums on a rainy Sunday afternoon and cuddle up on the couch together to smile and sigh over your happy family memories. However, this mother is scrapbook/photo album-challenged. My photos are all in a big cardboard box. Yes, that's right. I know that some of you are groaning, slapping a palm on your forehead and dragging it down your face Tom and Jerry style right now, but I have to be honest. That was my yoga mantra this morning: "Honesty will pour out of my heart as forthright words leap from my tongue and take flight."

O.k., not really but I did do the meditation section of my yoga video this morning. It wasn't as California-kooky as I thought it'd be. I kind of liked it.

The picture above is one I've always liked of myself. I was six months pregnant with my fourth child when J and I took an all-night bus from Reynosa, Tampaulipas to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. When you are twenty-seven and in very good physical condition, you don't stop to consider what 14 hours on a bus will do to your pregnant woman's ankles. And you cannot possibly imagine what 17 hours will do, which was the length of the return bus ride because the bus driver stopped every couple hours for tacos. (To be fair, it was a few months after 9/11 and we were detained for quite a while at the 100-mile border stop.)

But I like this picture. I like beautiful San Miguel in the background, and I like my attitude. I'm like, "Yeah, I'm six months pregnant. What's it to you? I'm good. Everything's good."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Thanks for checking to see if the slideshow was working, folks. Thank you, Sumpy Gump, for your suggestion. Both the slideshow and Organizr are working for me now.

no fair!

J caught Marcus in the kitchen making this sandwich at about 11 am one morning. "Hey," J said. "It's not lunchtime yet!"

Marcus smiled knowingly and said in a low, conspiratorial voice, "I'm having a sandwich now and then I'll have another when it's lunchtime. Then the girls will say to me, "No fair! You had two lunches!" He chuckled and took his clandestine sandwich down to the beach to eat, where I took this picture.

Speaking of "No fair," that is exactly what Marcus said the morning he came down to breakfast at the farmhouse and found that Nana had an aquarium filled with tadpoles on her counter. Later he went to camp with Nana and scoped out the bedroom situation there. He said he'd like the room with the big lake view. "Sorry, that's my room," said Nana. "No fair!" said Marcus.

After we'd been in Maine a week or so, Marcus approached J and me and started to ask some tough questions. "You know after you got married? How come you had to get a job in dumb Minnesota? How come you didn't get a job in Maine?" We explained that jobs in dad's field were not easy to come by in Maine. A few days later Marcus said, "I know what job you can have so that we can move to Maine. You can get a cleaning job! There are cleaning jobs everywhere!" We asked him if he meant something like being a janitor. "Yes," he said. "You can be a janitor and we can move to Maine." He seemed very pleased with himself, and a little excited at the prospect of moving, which he seemed to think was imminent. J told him that if he got a job like that, he'd probably have to get two jobs, and Marcus would rarely see his old dad. Marcus seemed fine with that. J told him that I might have to get a job, too. Marcus was like, "So?" Finally, J said that we couldn't have the same lifestyle. We might not be able to afford things like Nintendo Gamecubes. Marcus' lips turned down at the corners and he began to blink back the tears. That last one really got him.

We asked him what he liked so much about Maine. The pond, the stream, and the lake, he answered promptly. It seems that what Marcus wants is a more rural life, or at least, a house lot that has water.