Friday, January 30, 2009


Here are two pictures of my beautiful foster daughter in Cambodia, celebrating her birthday with the other January birthdays. Isn't she precious?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Free Pastries!

I am not embarrased by my obsession with Portos Bakery ... very much ...

I visited there again yesterday and was absolutely delighted again. I'm going to write a separate blog entry just about the joys of the Southwest Steak Salad (if that doesn't make you want to come back soon, I don't know what will...) but for now, a simple announcement:

I have approximately 20 cheese rolls (these are a sweet dessert .. see last paragraph for description) that I transported carefully from Burbank, CA to my home. I froze them right after purchase and took them out of the freezer right before I left for LAX. Then I popped them back in the freezer as soon as I got home tonight. I tried one before popping them back in the freezer and I can report they are still delicious, although slightly less flaky. (What can you expect?) They aren't pretty anymore since they were jumbled about in my carry on bag (an awesome new reusable bag from Whole Foods!) but they taste great.

So ... if I've made you curious about this crazy bakery hundreds of miles away that I insist on visiting whenever I'm in The Valley, drop me a comment or give me a call tomorrow and you can have a little slice of paradise delivered straight to your mouth. :-)

To clarify exactly what I have: a cheese roll is essentially a creamy, soft, sweet cream cheese filling (not unlike a form of cream cheese frosting) surrounded by crispy layers of puff pastry that is baked with sugar glazed on top. I'm addicted to these things ... as much as I can be living hundreds of miles away from my source.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

15 hours into vacation

I'm sitting in my sister's dining room, surrounded by heaps of kitchen cabinets and other artifacts of renovation. The room is quiet other than the soft whoosh of the air conditioning system. I've been awake for hours and my sister and nephew are still sound asleep. (It's 10:18 here in Santa Monica.)

Last night, as my ovarian cyst started wreaking havoc on my intestines, I wished briefly that I were at home, putting my kids in bed and talking to my husband. I knew I could count on him for a back rub while the discomfort lasted. Then I paused and realized I was in Santa Monica, wishing I were at home. That thought was comforting. It's good to remember how much I love my family.

This morning, I am grateful to be exactly where I am. I am feeling a bit uneasy about how my kids are doing while I'm away from them--I always feel that way--but the peaceful, slow-moving morning is refreshing and delicious to my normally-overloaded nervous system.

I realized that while I'm on vacation, I live more deliberately. Since I am not in a normal routine, I put careful thought into how I spend my time and what I eat. Routine at home is the backbone of sanity, but it is also somewhat threatening to my New Year's Resolution, which is to seek out joy rather than simply hope it finds me. I need to live more deliberately if I want to become the person I want to be. That is what I love about vacation: I feel that I have a choice to discover who I am and what I will be during this brief time while I am not being defined by the needs of my affectionate children and husband.

As I lay awake this morning, wondering what time it was, I felt completely peaceful reclining with my soft bamboo blanket over me. I pondered on why it is that I can feel completely at ease lying in the same place with nothing to entertain me. I've had trouble sleeping lately, and sometimes I lie in bed awake for hours, willing Morpheus to overcome me. This morning, I realized that, though it was daytime and I could easily pick up a book or go hop in the shower, I was content to simply rest and be.

Why? The answer came to me easily: because I'm a storyteller. My brain is always at work, analyzing past events or imagining life as it could be or could have been. I play act in my mind what the coming day will be, how others will sound and what we will say to each other. This is thanks to my tendency toward anxiety disorder--my brain obsesses over things and analyzes them. It is also the wellspring of my creativity--the ability to see things in a hundred different lights and myriad ways.

I have a personal theory that the greatest creative minds the world has ever known all had a tendency toward anxiety or mood disorders. They just go hand in hand. And while my anxiety is minor and very easy to manage, I adore the creative processes that are constantly at play internally. I wouldn't trade it away for anything.

So I started thinking about this idea that I'm a natural storyteller. I wondered if there was other evidence that this is true. I immediately started writing this blog entry in my mind and realized that perhaps, that itself is proof of the hypothesis. Who else would tell a story about lying in bed?

I thought about the good night stories I tell to the twins. This bit of inspiration hit me one night as I was praying for patience with my jack-in-the-box twins who refused to stay in bed. The thought came to me that when it was just Joseph, I would lie down next to him and read until his body relaxed and he was able to start feeling drowsy. With the twins, they sit next to me on the floor during story time and then have to climb into their bunkbed. "Tell them a story after they're in bed," came the thought.

So I tried it out. I told them to lie down in bed with their heads on their pillows and their feet under their blankets (I have to be extremely specific with my children) and I would tell them a story. It worked like a charm. The jack-in-the-box syndrome has all but disappeared when I employ this technique.

The trouble is that I have to come up with a unique story every single time. And the children seem to want me to expand on the same themes over and over. It becomes tedious after a while to think of a new adventures for "100 frogs and rabbits." However, I always do it. I come up with a story on the spot that is engaging for them (and for my husband, who likes to secretly sit on the other side of the door and listen).

So I have decided that I am a storyteller. Whether on my blog or sitting on the floor of the twins room at nightfall or as I lie in bed at night, laughing at my own idiosyncrasies, that is who I am. I need to embrace it and become good at what I love to do. If only I could learn to spend every morning with deliberate intention like I did today. Some day ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Easy Question

People sometimes ask me if I'm a morning person. Let's investigate the evidence.

Today is a typical day. Before 10:00 a.m., I had:

* Read a chapter or two from the Book of Mormon
* Read a chapter from my current novel
* Fed the three boys a well-balanced breakfast (okay, maybe the "well balanced" part isn't typical... but at least it was true today!)
* Nagged Joseph until he finally got dressed for school and out the door. I lost the tooth brushing battle, but at least his hair got combed. Sigh.
* Got the twins dressed and convinced them to go potty even though they insisted they could "hold it" until after preschool. Ha.
* Unloaded the dishwasher
* Reloaded the dishwasher with the breakfast dishes
* Wiped the countertops
* Checked out the menu plan for the rest of the day to make sure I have what I need
* Started a load of laundry
* Exercised while the twins played with the train set
* Stretched and got dressed to take the twins to school
* Changed a dirty pair of underpants (Grrrrrr.....)
* Bundled the boys into coats and over to preschool
* Didn't lose it when Elijah stood outside the school, refusing to go inside
* Drove home and put the laundry in the dryer
* Showered
* Done my hair and even put on makeup (shocking, I know!)
* Packed my bag for California!

Magic 8 ball says:

Very likely that I'm a morning person.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another once in a lifetime

Sometimes I am so generous it astounds even me. Like when my nephew announced he was headed to Los Angeles to visit the Disney Animation Studios, and I generously volunteered to chaperone him on his trip. If that's not pure charity, what is?

So tomorrow I fly to LAX with my nephew and Wednesday we get to see the inner workings of Disney Animation Studios. The studio happens to also be in the same city as that icon of baked goods: Portos Bakery. So we'll enjoy a few chocolate croissants, cheese rolls (cream cheese filling wrapped with flaky layers of pastry, aka the most heavenly baked good I've ever tasted... you have to try one to understand... ), and a mountainous slice of pecan coffee cake. Then we'll head back to my sister's condo in the middle of Santa Monica, where we can relax and play Pixel Junk Monsters, dine out or enjoy some fresh food from the Whole Foods Market a couple blocks away, while soaking in the 72 degree sunshine.

Which brings me back to my thesis: my nephews are lucky to have an aunt as altruistic as myself, sacrificing two days of the activities I love better than life itself: potty training a stubborn three-year-old, wiping wet noses, preparing meals that nobody appreciates, slipping around the ice and snow and folding mountains of laundry.

I hope I've set an example of Christian Charity for those of you reading. If you haven't set your heart on following these high ideals, I hope I've inspired you to rethink your life.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Ode to Throwing Conventional Wisdom Out the Window ... Or ... An Ode to Liquid Fabric Softener and Fluffy Towels

You wrap me up in your warmth
You dry the water from my cheeks
I relax into you
I breathe you in


The smell of your closeness brings a smile to my lips
Your scent intoxicates me
Makes me dizzy with pleasure
I could wrap myself in you for hours

Life calls

I sigh

I'll miss you

I'll return to you


Life is crazy

Such a crazy day today. The highlights:

* Yesterday evening, I was hit with sudden and acute pain in my abdominal area. I won't go into details because I'm not quite THAT open with my confessions, but we'll say that it had me doubled up in pain for a while. The pain eventually subsided and I was able to sleep peacefully. I thought this was just part of a recurring health issue I have (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), but it was different. The pain was much more acute--almost debilitating--and I haven't been under any unusual stress like I am when IBS usually hits.

IBS usually only hits a few times a year and is gone within a couple hours. A warm bath is always a cure all. I was extremely disappointed to step out of bed this morning and double up in pain again. Dang! I was extremely irritated to have to ask my husband to work from home to care for his ailing wife. (When I think of an "ailing wife" I think of a gaunt, sickly woman with pale skin sitting in a rocking chair with a blanket on her lap. I'm afraid I don't fit the image, which is probably why I chose to use the word. It's my way of laughing at an otherwise unfunny situation.)

After taking my IBS medication and enjoying a warm bath, I told my husband to go to work because I felt fine. He refused and said he wanted to wait a while longer before leaving. Within about 30 minutes, the pain was back but less severe. To make this long story slightly less long than it could be, we'll summarize the rest: I went to my doctor and then in to the imaging clinic for a CT scan.

If you read this blog regularly, you'll know this is the second CT scan in a year. I am not happy. Drinking nasty tasting fluid, followed by having an IV stuck in my arm was not what I counted on today. (I was able to laugh a little at the sign that said, "Don't stare into the laser" that I encountered during my first CT scan.)

My expected result? A nurse will call me and say, "Nothing unusual with the tests we did. Have a nice day." And I'll feel fine the rest of the day and it'll all be a big hullabaloo about nothing. Bleh.

* In other news, my ward boundary change has prompted me to rediscover the joys of Facebook. In fact, I think I find myself becoming an addict. It's the most simple, lazy way in the world to socialize.... which it makes it perfect for me! Don't get me wrong--I adore socializing. I'm just kind of shy about calling people up to do stuff. I have insecurity issues about assuming others have "better" people to do stuff with. So Facebook makes it possible for me to connect and communicate with people without feeling like there's any obligation on their part to reciprocate. Yeah, I'm kind of messed up but at least I have my health. (Wait.. what?)

* Last night, I went through the list of Facebook "You Might Also Know..." suggestions and requested a bunch of new people to add to my friends list. I looked up a few neighbors that aren't in my ward anymore and requested them as well. I let it search my IM lists and this morning I checked out all the people who graduated from my high school my senior year. This was interesting. I saw all sorts of names that I couldn't attach to a face. I saw lots of faces that belonged to casual acquaintances who were never exactly friends. I sent messages to several of these to just say hi after all these years. Consider two of these:

1. A boy who had grown up about 10 doors down from me who was in my sunday school class since we were young. We had spent numerous hours together during classes, youth activities, and dances. We weren't really friends but we had spent considerable time together.

2. This is going to be embarrassing. Number two is the first boy I ever kissed! It was a G-rated one-night-stand, if you know what I mean. Our friends hooked us up, he made his move, we kissed and then we never really talked to each other again. (I was grounded the next day, which was probably all for the best.) I was 15 years old when it happened, and then we spent all of our high school years passing each other in the halls without even acknowledging each other.

Today, I couldn't help myself. I sent him a two-line note saying that I recognized his name and wondered if he remembered me? I assumed he would not. That was half my lifetime ago!

I also sent a two-line note to my former neighbor. Can you guess which one of them replied saying he couldn't recall who I was... and which one of them replied with a warm greeting and recollection of past memories? #1 had forgotten me. #2 remembered me perfectly (somewhat to my chagrin, I admit!)

Life is always surprising. I woke up this morning expecting to feed the kids breakfast, clean the kitchen, exercise, take the twins to preschool, have my voice lesson, pick the kids up and maybe catch a quick nap before Joseph got home. Instead, I woke up in pain, ended up having a CT scan done before lunchtime and reconnected with my first kiss, who I hadn't talked to in 15 years! (My kissing must be extremely memorable ... Just kidding!)

Life is crazy and bizarre sometimes. Isn't that wonderful?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Most Embarrassing Moment

I've decided it's time.

It's water under the bridge.

It's ancient history.

Time to Confess. Why not?

A couple years ago, I felt my stress level rising. In the words of my physician, "Life is hard. If nobody has told you that yet, I'm telling you now. Life is hard." She was apologizing for being behind schedule because the patient before me was in need of a little emotional care in addition to physical care.

We all have those moments when we need a little emotional boost. A couple years ago, I decided the time was right for me. It was embarrassing to call our mental health hotline and ask for a referral to a therapist. It's hard to admit it on my blog, too, but there you are. I felt my anxiety level rising and decided I could use a little help figuring out some strategies to deal with the anxiety.

So I got a name of a therapist in Pleasant Grove and started going to see her. If you've never been to a shrink before, here's how it goes: you spill your guts. You talk about everything under the sun, including the details of all your family relationships. It's easy for a person like me to talk and talk. I'm a fairly open person in most ways. So I talked and talked. I spilled the beans about all my personal history and psychological troubles.

After several visits with her, she asked, "Where did you say you live?" I explained. She pushed for more details, "Which part of that neighborhood?" Now this was getting weird. So I told her exactly where I live.

"I used to live in that ward," she said.

I stared. Then it all hit me.

I had been her son's scout den leader. He had been inside my home. I knew exactly where she had lived. I had gone to church with her. I KNEW HER. And to say that she knew me was a heck of an understatement after a few therapy sessions. Can you imagine what it's like to look at your shrink and then realize that you actually know each other... but had forgotten? 

Once we made the connection, she knew exactly what my house looked like and how it was laid out on the inside. She had been in my home before! And we had completely forgotten each other!

It's not the kind of Most Embarrassing Moment that you usually hear: falling down in public or accidentally exposing your anatomy. It was exposing my entire soul to somebody I thought was an impartial stranger, only to realize it was my neighbor. Do you have an embarrassing moment worse than that? Blog about it then come back and send me the link!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy MLK Day

An excuse to post U2 videos? Well... okay.

U2 was my favorite band all during late elementary school and junior high. I loved watching these today along with the "I Have a Dream" speech and talking about civil rights with Joseph. Happy Martin Luther King day, everyone.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Interiors and Exteriors

My approach to home improvement is the inverse of my approach to self improvement. When it comes to self improvement, I work from the inside out. I try first and foremost to be a good and pleasant person, following my own chosen path of integrity. 

It's a good day if I am patient with the kids and kind to other people, even if I haven't showered or put on "cute" clothes. (In truth, I don't think I own any "cute" clothes, but I'm workin' on it.) Conversely, it's a terrible day if I lose my temper with the wee ones or laze around getting nothing done, even if I look my best on the outside. It's all about looking from the inside out.

My approach to home improvement is the opposite. I work from the outside in. First, we built ourselves a nice house, which is a big, bare, beige-walled box of a place. We emphasized function, not style, when we designed it. We figured we could fill in the gaps a few years later. We've been lucky with several things, like the fact that my brother was constantly selling us used furniture on the cheap. (Stuff he'd used to stage the homes he sold.) Other than that, we've tried to be cautious in our purchases. We wanted to purchase things that were good quality and nice, even if it meant we waited years to save up for them.

And, keeping with our outside-in home decor philosophy, we started with the big stuff. A nice leather sofa for the front room. A bookshelf thingee to house the TV upstairs. A new bunk bed for the twins. A book and toy shelf for the play room. Uhh, that's pretty much it I think. 

Stuff we got free or cheap includes our entire master bedroom set, the desk my computer is sitting on right now, Joseph's bed and dresser, the twins' dresser, both of our two dining room tables (one of which holds a TV), the sofa and loveseat in our family room upstairs, two coffee tables, three other desks, folding tables, and several bookshelves. It's eclectic, to say the least, but it works and I feel great about the amount of money we haven't spent on all that stuff.

I look around my house now and it's a big, beige-walled, bland box ... with furniture. It still doesn't have that "homey" feel to it. It's sort of lacking in the personality department. So now it's (finally) time to accessorize with the small interior elements.

Two years ago, we set aside some of our tax return money for some home improvement projects. Then we never really followed through on it, so the money is still sitting in our money market account, waiting to be used.

I decided this week that the time has come. I can't do a whole lot with the amount of money we have, but hopefully I can do enough to make the house into more of a home. I'm going to work with my cousin (-in-law, technically) to come up with more of a consistent plan for the main gathering area, and I'm going to hang an original painting or two of hers in the main area. I have this idea that I'd love to have artwork that is meaningful to me--painted by people I know and love. (Check out Melody's awesome paintings here and you'll see why I'm so excited.)

I jumped in with both feet today and bought a funky mirror to go over my fireplace. I love it! I got it home and looked at it and it's PERFECT for my room! It feels so great to have a little personality at long last, but I would never do it any other way. I'm so grateful that we bought our home when prices were cheap and I'm so glad we've never gone into debt to decorate. It might take us a few more years to catch up with the Joneses, but I've never worried too much about the Joneses anyway. I'll let them worry about their own physical exteriors and home interiors, and I'll neglect ... errr, improve ... mine in peace. :)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Beige Life

I am a great believer that people need to experience both the pleasant and bitter parts of life. I made a deliberate decision to let my son walk to school in the snow several times during the past week because I think that it's good to feel cold and wet. It's good because it's nice to be reminded how wonderful it is to feel your toes warming up again after being in the snow. It's good to realize that warmth is a blessing.

I was sick to my stomach two nights ago and extremely tired and dizzy and achy all day yesterday. I was, in a word, miserable. Today I felt completely rejuvenated and joyous. It felt so amazingly good to not be sick. If I hadn't been sick yesterday, I wouldn't have felt so happy and grateful today. My contentment with an improvement in health motivated me to achieve new levels of domesticity. (I actually washed the laundry and folded it in the same day. All this and a clean kitchen, vacuumed carpets and home-cooked dinner. My husband was dumbfounded.)

What would life be without the lows? The highs would just be mediocre bumps in the landscape of life, instead of soaring triumphs. Instead of vivid contrasts of light and dark, life would just be beige.

I admit that when life seems to be all dark, I would readily agree to a life of beige. That, however, would be extremely short-sighted. I don't want to live a beige life. I want to live a life filled with all the spectrums of circumstance: joy, pain, triumph, and sorrow. That's what makes life worth living. That's what makes life challenging and fulfilling. That's what pushes me to new levels of humanity and divinity, hopefully.

If your life starts feeling beige, go step out into the snow. Barefoot. Run around your yard barefoot, like I did with my nephew on New Year's Eve. Then go into your home and wrap your toes up in warmth and be grateful.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Too Good to Be True

Some things are too good to be true. Like watching everyone in my family get sick without feeling sick at all myself. Like thinking, "Maybe I won't be doubled up over the toilet in 24 hours like Elijah is right now."

At least when my stomach started hurting a few minutes ago, I wasn't too surprised. I know what to expect. I just don't know when.

See you in 24 hours, world.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Moment of Mourning

To all my friends who I am shocked to find in a different ward starting tonight, what can I say? It's still sinking in. I love you. I'll miss you. I've learned so much from each of you. I hope that we still see each other and remember each other and remain friends even though we won't see each other on Sundays.

And on a less serious note, a small story: last night I asked my bishop if we would be meeting for all three hours next Sunday. He said, "Yes, we might not be meeting at the time you expect but we'll meet for all three hours." Before I go further into the story, I should state that I absolutely hate 1:00 church. I have been looking forward to our 9:00 church schedule during all of 2008. I love going to church early before my children get cranky and tired. Our primary was so much more reverent today on the 9:00 schedule. It was absolutely lovely.

So when the bishop uttered those words, I felt like I'd had the rug pulled out from under me. I've been looking forward to this schedule for two years! Noooooo! So of course I said to the Bishop, "If we're being moved back to one o'clock church, that's it. I'm out of the church." He laughed and said, "I sure hope not." I hoped his reply was more along the theoretical lines of hoping I wouldn't leave the church over something so trivial (which of course I wouldn't.)

As I walked away from him, however, I wondered if that meant the unthinkable was coming. At our stake boundary realignment tonight, it was confirmed. I get to endure ... err, I mean enjoy .. another year of going to church in the afternoon while my kids should be having a quiet time. Sigh. I suppose worse things could happen, like a third of my subdivision suddenly being in a different ward. Oh wait.. that happened too!

So I'll endure a few moments of mourning during this time of change. In a few days, I'll get to work figuring out how this all affects my calling and trying to pull things together so we can build unity in our new ward. Such is life: things happen, and then you carry on.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sucker for Punishment

Last year, entering the NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) competition wiped me out. It took me several months to want to sing again after my dreadful performance. Well, I must be a sucker for punishment because I just signed up to sing again at NATS in March. I'm super excited, too.

This year, I no longer qualify to enter the novice division (three years or fewer of voice lessons) and there is no intermediate division for the adult group so I have to enter the advanced division. Since that includes all the voice majors from BYU and people who actually know how to sing, I'm going to enter the event non-competitively.

It'll be fun to have something prepare for and to get some feedback from the judges. Even better: none of the stress of having to sing in front of the recital hall! I think I may even perform in both the "Classical" and "Musical Theater" divisions so I can have even more fun.

Who am I? This is fun to spend months preparing for something where I know I'll be the worst singer in my division?

Bring it on!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

All Natural!

Pizza Hut is offering a "Natural Pizza" with "all-natural pepperoni" and "all-natural mozzeralla cheese" and "all-natural sauce from vine-riped tomatoes."

I understand the concept of this. I get it. But my sarcastic side MUST ask: what are your other pizzas made out of? Synthetic plastic? Some compounds created in laboraties? I mean, what is NON-natural tomato sauce? Or non-natural mozzarela cheese? Ugh. I don't want to know.

All I know is that this advertising campaign is a definite FAIL because it made me wary of their other products, rather than tempting me to try the new one.