Monday, May 28, 2007

New Site

I should mention, as a follow up to my earlier post titled "Fun Moms Would Do This Stuff," that I have reorganized my info, added more to the calendar, and purchased a dedicated domain name. You can find my cool new version of the site at:

Thanks to the people who helped me with this project, including (but not limited to) Josh, Mike, Nick, Marianne, Mike (the other Mike), James, Josh (the other Josh), the friends who gave me feedback as I was developing it and my well-behaved kids who watched hours of Dora The Explorer and The Backyardigans while I coded and searched the internet.

Techie News

A local company made headlines today as the #2 fastest-growing tech company in America. (Read it here: The company helps "mom and pop" businesses gain an online presence.

There is a certainly a huge market for this kind of service out there, so I'm not surprised. What did surprise me was the information available on their website. My first question, of course, was what kind of jobs they might have posted right now. (My husband's 50-minute commute each way is more than a little tiresome.)

I did not find any job listings online or even a link to job openings. Nor did I find a statement of "we do not currently have any jobs available." As I was mousing over their menus to see what kind of information they had available, I noticed that the menus were extremely straightforward. Then I moused over "Investor Relations" -- where a whole list of subitems was readily available.

So this business specializes in helping other people create an online presence... yet the seeming majority of their readily-available information is for investors. This brings up several questions as to their business model or, at a minimum, their public relations strategy. I do not feel compelled to critique in this area, since I have very limited information regarding the company. But it's something to keep an eye on. Best of luck to our local company as they "grow up"!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Crawl, baby, crawl

Yesterday I got inspired by my friend Mike adding "AdSense" to another blog I post to. (http://tni.geekuniverse.og) So I thought I'd give it a try here and see how it turned out. For those who don't know, AdSense is run by Google and it uses the Magic of Googleness to match up potential advertisers with participating websites. So it "crawls" your website regularly to figure out what it's about. Then it adds advertisements that will match the content of the site.

I was excited to see what kind of ads I would get matched up with, since my personal blog is rather random. At first I got a public service ad, which made me pretty happy. Then I started getting ice cream ads, which were also awesome. And that makes sense, since my entries titled "Sunny Side Down" and "Frozen Scrambled Eggs" were all about misadventures in ice-cream making.

But then I noticed an ad at the bottom advertising a site to discover your errr "lifestyle" preference. (If I say it outright, just imagine the kind of ads I'll get next time Google crawls through here!) I wondered what I might have written that matched my website up with an ad like that.

Other than that one, though, I was very pleased! I actually wanted to click through to see the ads, but that is against the policy when you sign up for AdSense. It makes sense that you shouldn't be paid for your own clicking. But who else is going to more interested in targeted ads than the person who wrote the content for the targeting?? Kind of a catch 22 in advertising terms--logic insists that advertisers must exclude their prime target!

So far I've earned 35 cents. As Mike put it: "It's gonna be a lot harder than I thought to become an internet tycoon."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

FICTION: The Chameleon

Note to readers: when I write fiction, I like to take bits and
pieces of myself and twist them around to create a fictional character. It may
be tempting to interpret my lead characters as autobiographical but they are
not, which is why I rarely share my fictional writing with anybody else. So
please read on with the word of caution not to think that "Charlotte" is a
mirror image of the author, although we share some things in common.

When I was seven years old, my Mom took me to a baseball game. She said she wanted some time alone with her only daughter. The team we were cheering for wasn’t very good. At one point, my Mom took off her hat and threw it on the ground. I asked her why and she told me it was because our team was losing and they didn’t even seem to notice.

After the game we went to my Grandma’s house and she was serving hot dogs. She always served hot dogs when I came over because she thought that’s what little kids liked. But I hated hot dogs and I still do. So when Grandma put one on my plate I picked it up and threw it down on the ground. Mom went really pale and Grandma asked me just what I thought I was doing young lady. She didn’t sound angry but sometimes you can just tell.

I told her it was because I had never liked hot dogs and she had never even seemed to notice. I don’t really want to talk about the rest of the evening with Grandma because I like to remember her happy now that she’s passed on. But when Mom and I got back in the car later, I started to cry and asked why it was okay for her to throw her hat but it wasn’t okay for me to throw my hot dog.

Mom told me one of those little pieces of wisdom that has stuck with me to this day. She never thought it would stick but it just stuck anyway. She said, “Charlotte, you just need to learn how to act different places. Grandma’s house isn’t a ball field so we don’t treat it that way. We act different there.”

I was confused and furrowed my eyebrows at her. She didn’t seem to notice and started to talk as if she were talking to somebody else who wasn’t there. “You can’t treat everyone the same, either. Some people want to see one half of your face so you show it to them. Other people want to see the other half, so that’s what they see. There won’t be many people in this world that you can really look in the eye and feel like they see all of you.”

It made sense to me, young as I was, and I never forgot. I learned that there were really loud people who wanted you to be as loud as they were. And there were loud people who just wanted to hear themselves so they wanted you to be quiet. And there were quiet people who wanted nothing more than to listen to someone else so they wouldn’t have to do the talking. And then there were people like me, who were quiet most of the time, and just wanted to have quiet, peaceful people surrounding them.

But however much I liked my world to be quiet and controlled, I tried to play the part I needed to play when I was with other people. I just considered it good manners to try to show whichever side of my face the other person wanted to see. I tried to explain this philosophy to my best friend, Marcus, when I was 15. He looked at me as if I was a stranger.

He stared and stared at me and I felt more alone the longer he stared. He had always been one of those people who I could really look in the eye and I would just know that he knew all about me from every angle and he liked me anyway. Now as he stared me in the eye, I felt like maybe I was wrong and we didn’t know each other at all. He said to me eventually, “Do you know what a chameleon is?”

“Of course,” I answered, relieved that he was changing the subject.

“Do you think it’s wrong what they do? To change colors all the time?” he asked.

“Of course not,” I said, confused. “Isn’t it some kind of defense thing? To protect themselves from predators and stuff?”

“Yeah,” he said. “But it sort of makes you wonder what color they really are. You think you know and then suddenly it changes. And then you realize it could change again any moment. Like there isn’t anything solid or real about them if they’re always changing.”

Suddenly I knew he hadn’t changed the subject at all and I felt embarrassed. One moment I felt like he didn’t understand what I was trying to say about how I acted different around different people—it was just my way of having good manners!—but then the next moment I wondered if he really maybe understood me better than I understood myself. I felt deeply uncomfortable and changed the subject. I can still feel that uncomfortable feeling when I think back to that conversation years ago—like there’s some little piece of truth aching to get free but you just can’t quite get to it and figure out what it is.

Ten years passed and I slowly started to realize my good intentions had gone wrong somewhere. Everybody who knew me loved me and wanted to spend time with me, but the more others adored me, the less I liked myself. With each passing year, I started to feel that there was nothing about me that was truly admirable. So I tried harder to reach out to others to soothe the fears circulating within me. I was more vivacious around my fun friends. I was more filled with wisdom and humility around my grandma. I tried harder to be serious around my boyfriend, Kirk, who disapproved of my loud friends.

Another ten years passed and I quietly accepted my way of life. I was a chameleon through and through and I knew there wasn’t a person in the world who could look me in the eye and even guess what was going on inside my head. I had married Kirk and we lived a peaceful life. We had two kids and were expecting one more and then things started to crumble.

It happened like this. I was talking to my oldest girl, Elizabeth, and I said to her on a whim, “Lizzie, what do you want to be when you grow up?” She immediately replied, “I’m gonna be a Mommy just like you but I’m gonna be a doctor too and when my kids get owies I’m gonna fix ‘em up but I won’t just be pretending ‘cause I’ll be a real doctor and not just pretend like I am right now when I play with Robbie.”

I laughed and patted her on the back. “That sounds really good, Lizzie!” And that’s when it hit me. One of those memories that suddenly comes out of nowhere and seems to smack you right in the face. I remembered when I was five years old and my kindergarten teacher asked us to draw pictures of what we would be when we grew up. I had drawn a picture of my mom down to the last detail. The dark green pants that weren’t really very stylish but were her favorites, the chunky orange necklace that I hated but really revered because it was part of who Mama was, the shoes that I said looked like old lady shoes. All those little things that made Mom who she was—that’s what I wanted to be.

Now I was 35 years old and realized I had no idea who I was. In a moment I started to wonder what sort of depths of human complexity lay deep inside me. I had never really wondered if I had talents—I’d just assumed I didn’t. I wondered if maybe I could paint if I tried it. Or sing. Or play the tuba. I’d never even thought about those things because life had always steered me along an okay path. I’d always reached out to try to be whatever other people wanted me to be.

I asked myself in that moment, “Who do I want myself to be? Who am I?” And answers flooded my mind, but only answers that I would give to other people. For my kids, I was a mother. To my husband, I was a wife. To my friends, I was a listening ear. But for myself—well, I’d never considered that. And I knew my kids loved me and my husband loved me and my friends loved me but I knew as a fact that I had never loved myself. It hit like an electric jolt through my entire body.

I felt tired. My head suddenly started to hurt and I felt nauseous. So many questions suddenly swirled around my head but I didn’t want them. I wanted them to go away because to confront them—well, who knew what would happen? Would I suddenly be unhappy in my life? Would I suddenly demand more? Is this how midlife crises were born? That made me feel normal again—this was just a midlife crisis. It happened to everyone so I just needed to get some sleep and the feeling would go away.

I made dinner for my kids and cut their food up just the way they liked and made different food for my husband who always complimented my good cooking when I made his favorite meals. I needed to hear that today because I felt weak. When he said casually, “You sure know how to cook lasagna,” I felt some of my pain rescind into the darker reaches of my mind. And when my friend Megan called me later, crying and confused, and ended up by saying, “Thanks, Charlotte. I knew I could count on you to cheer me up” I felt that I had rediscovered my identity.

I went to sleep that night content to discount my earlier revelations as a phase I was going through. I guessed that even adults went through “phases” but they were just more grown up than temper tantrums and playing in the mud. I figured that I had gone through a midlife crisis phase that afternoon and I should just be happy that it only lasted for a few minutes. I had escaped without buying a convertible, demanding a younger husband or any of the other garbage people went through during this phase. So I counted myself lucky to be able to move on and have that phase behind me.

The only problem was that when I woke up the next morning, the phase was still there. And as I tried to ignore it while my son demanded Mickey Mouse pancakes and my husband complained that I had packed him the same lunch the day before, it only seemed to intensify. Suddenly I didn’t think I was so different from my kids and I thought that maybe they were a whole lot smarter than I had ever been.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fun Moms Would Do This Stuff

I put together some ideas for a church thing tonight. Then I put it online to share with the world. Please send me more ideas and I'll get them added to the list!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Frozen Scrambled Eggs

Who would have known you can scramble your custard to the point where it looks like breakfast food (stop laughing) and then stick it in the ice cream maker and it still turns out amazing?

I wouldn't have thunk it. But my husband did. And it turned out great!

After I ruined (correction: thought I ruined) my custard this morning, my husband went out of his way to try to comfort me. (Although his laughing didn't really improve the situation.) He made all the kids come and give me a hug and he said, "Don't worry. Everybody scrambles their custard sometimes."

So after he turned my mess into a lovely frozen custard yesterday evening, he started the pecans. (We were making butter pecan ice cream/frozen custard...) Well, apparently he let the pecans toast a bit too long and they got burned. I tried to comfort him, but I don't think it helped that I was laughing.

And the pecans tasted great anyway.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunny Side DOWN


I have been psyching myself up for homemade ice cream for over a month and waiting until just the right time.

I bought the cream over a week ago.

I bought the milk two days ago.

I put the ice cream-making bowl in the freezer 24 hours ago.

Then I scrambled my custard this morning.

Then I cried.

Maybe another day.

Saturday Night Ferver

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine invited me to come with him and some other friends to the May 5th Real Salt Lake game. I have been excited about this for weeks. Not only is The Bruce going to be in town (and I loooove The Bruce), but this game marks The Return of Cletus. Definitely a must-attend game.

And to be able to attend with friends--just plain awesomeness. These particular friends are funny. No other way to say it. I couldn't wait to hear their snide remarks, sarcastic commentaries and general exclamations of disbelief as our team lost gloriously.

I mean, this is Real Salt Lake. Love 'em but I'm a sucker for punishment. To call them a winning team would not only be false, but outright laughable.

So Saturday morning came and we arranged a carpool to go up to the game together. That meant the game was only a few hours away after weeks of anticipation! Then two little words inserted themselves in the front of consciousness: Stake Conference.

Now if you're not Mormon like I am, this probably means nothing to you. But if you are LDS, you know that Stake Conference is a twice-yearly meeting for everyone in a regional group of congregations. Higher-ups from our church leadership attend and it is generally a good experience. (Unless, like me, you have three small children who don't want to sit quietly in a chair for two hours...)

Stake Conference is always on a Sunday, but there is an adults session the Saturday night before. This session is always painful for me because Saturday nights are always my time to socialize, relax or have fun. To summarize: soccer is a heck of a lot more fun than stake conference. (I'm sure I'll repent of these heretical statements one day. Maybe. Umm... maybe.)

I battled my conscience for over an hour. My husband was completely unhelpful, withholding his opinion and only giving me subtle hints as to his feelings. (This is his way of trying to be supportive, but it is often not helpful.)

In the end, my conscience won. I was extremely annoyed. EXTREMELY. So I went to stake conference. It was nice. I left early to go to my dad's house. We watched the RSL game together in high definition on a DVR where we fast forwarded all the commercials. It was fun and the result--well--amazing. No, my team didn't win, but that didn't matter. (For more, see where I wrote my feelings on the drama.)

In the end I knew the final scoreline and saw all the goals. But I will never--ever--be able to guess the exchanges between my friends during the drama. There is no commentator that I can DVR. No highlights reel to watch over and over. My brain and my conscience are still battling after the fact, trying to decide who was victorious.

So what is the moral to the story? The point? The general thesis? If you figure it out, let me know.