Sunday, May 31, 2009

Midnight Terrors

Nearly midnight in Arches National Park. The pavement ahead of us was brightened by our headlights. As my friend, Alysa, and I traveled, the patches of light were ever-shifting and changing. What was lit a moment ago was now an unknown shadow. And just ahead, where the light hadn't reached yet? There was only one way to find out: keep driving.

The moon was just bright enough to illuminate the shapes of massive rocks looming on each side of the road. In the near-darkness, their shapes were contorted into ugly demons and terrorizing faces--hundreds of feet tall. We were swallowed up in the eerie canyons and cliffs.

The idea was sound enough: I thought it would be fun to go star-gazing away from all the city lights. What better place to ponder the universe than in the heart of one of our national parks? The road is open 24 hours a day, so we thought it would be great... until Alysa casually remarked, "You know, I'm really scared of the dark."

"Oh, really?" I asked breezily ... and then quickly admitted: "Yeah, me, too. Scared to death."

"Why?" Alysa asked.

"Because you have no idea what might be lurking two inches away from you," I replied honestly. "You could be feeling safe and secure and there could be a mass murderer holding a knife two inches from your throat and you'd never know it in the dark." We pondered that for a few moments, feeling the skin on the back of our necks crawl. I continued: "What are you scared of with the dark?"


"Ghosts?!?!" I asked, laughing. "You're kidding, right? What about good old human people who might want to kill you ... or... stuff ...?"

"I'm not scared of people," she replied. "Just the supernatural."

As we continued driving along the steep roadway, I thought she was kidding. I mean, come on. Ghosts? Whatever.

Suddenly, a massive form loomed along the side of the road. It looked like a huge animal and I knew it was going to jump out in front of the car, stranding us with our fears and lack of cell phone coverage. I gasped and jumped in my seat. It was a rock. I hate the dark.

After driving for about 20 minutes or so, we spotted the parking turnoff for the Petrified Sand Dunes. Perfect! We pulled over on the side of the road and contemplated finding a comfortable stone sand dune to sprawl out on. We stepped out of the car and gazed into the blackness.

"Maybe we should just sort of look up while we stand next to the car," I suggested. So we leaned against the car and looked up. My brain kept wondering what would happen if we met unsavory characters while we were out here in the middle of nowhere. With nobody else around. That creepy fear started crawling up my neck again.

That's when it happened: a car rounded the corner and shone its lights on us. Fine. If they were good-intentioned people, they would have no interest in us and they would keep driving.

They slowed down.

Why? Why were they slowing down? What kind of freaks would want to come and bother two total strangers in the middle of the night?

"Frrrreeeeedd..... Get back in the car. They're stopping. Fred, let's GO," I said. Fred is Alysa. We like nicknames.

"Why?" she asked as I realized she was sincere when she said she wasn't scared of other people.

"Because those people in that JEEP are STOPPING and there is NO GOOD REASON why they should be STOPPING and checking us out and shining their headlights on us," I replied. "And it's freaking me out. I'm serious. Go get in the car!!!"

The Jeep slowly passed us, then came to an almost-complete stop. They swung around slowly in an arc until their car was next to ours and their lights were shining directly on us again. If you think the dark is frightening, it is nothing compared to being blinded by bright lights in the middle of the darkness. I felt completely exposed and helpless.

"Come on, come on, come on," I insisted, reaching for my doorknob. "Now, now, now, now, now!"

Alysa/Fred looked at me in confusion. "What? You're really scared that those people want to hurt us or something?" She was totally sincere. I was starting to feel panicked.

The car slowly swung around ours and drifted off into the darkness. Alysa burst out laughing.

"That was the PARK RANGER!!!!! You're scared of the PARK RANGER!!!!"

"What?" I gasped. "You're scared of GHOSTS and I'm scared of PARK RANGERS?!! This is ridiculous!!" We got back in the car and kept driving. We (unwisely) continued to swap stories of why we were scared of the dark until my senses were all on full alert. Our late-night communion with the great outdoors was seeming like less and less of a brilliant idea.

We reached the end of a roadway and were entering the parking lot loop to turn around when suddenly, the space in front of our car was filled by something other than light. A shape emerged from the darkness and raced across the road, inches from our bumper, before disappearing again a moment later.

Alysa may claim she didn't scream but I am certain we both screamed out in surprise. It looked like a jack rabbit, but I swear it was about 11 feet tall. Okay, maybe not 11 feet, but it was HUGE and it was FAST. My heart was racing as we decided we'd had enough thrills for one night and headed back to our hotel.

"You were totally scared of the rabbit," Alysa said laughingly a minute later. "And the park ranger. You're scared of rabbits and rangers. Ha ha!"

"You screamed, too," I said sullenly.

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did!"

"Maybe," Fred half-admitted. "But I wasn't scared. Just surprised."

"Scared? Who was scared??" I asked in indignation. "As if. Just surprised. Like you said."

I arrived back in Moab with everything intact except my ego.

Hi, my name is Juliana. I'm 30 years old and I'm scared to death of park rangers and rabbits. At least I'm not scared of poking fun of myself by sharing it with the whole world. That's got to count for something. I hope.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

5 Minutes With My Box

Who would have guessed that cleaning out a closet would rip me out of 2009 and send me flying back to the past? I started cleaning out my boxes of memorabilia from my youth. I'm not sure how I ever put a lid on those boxes, because they were teeming with stories, emotion, pain, and heart-breaking forgiveness that flew out at me as soon as I started sifting through the jumble.

* I found a crumpled piece of paper that held a reproof from a friend. I remember how angry I was because she was SO right... so I kept wadding the paper up in a ball, then unfolding it to read it again, and re-wadding it.

* I read a plea from a guy friend who told me he was so scared that our friendship would change after high school. He was afraid that I would move on with life and forget about him. Ironically, this guy has pushed me so far out of his life now that we haven't been able to even talk in years. Sad.

* I read letter after letter from one friend, apologizing for treating me so badly and wishing that she were a better friend. She was one of the best friends I've ever had and I never understood what she felt so guilty about. I still adore her whole-heartedly.

* I found a "love note" from a guy that I had never dated, telling me that he would never french kiss me because it symbolized ***. Gosh, that sure won my heart over as I ran screaming in the opposite direction. In case it's not clear, he didn't need to worry about the kissing bit. Really, really, really didn't need to worry.

* I found an old prom picture with a boyfriend who had scrawled "I love you" on the bottom. Dang I was skinny.

* I found love poetry that I wrote for Josh

* I found love poetry that I did NOT write for Josh

* I found multiple letters from a guy named "Mark" and couldn't for the life of me figure out who he was... Until I found some pictures and remembered freaky-guy Mark and how we had been pen pals until he sent pictures and I saw how freaky he and his life were.

* I found the letter that my first boyfriend sent in response to my "Dear John." His missionary companions had a few choice words for me after the breakup:
I've known Elder XXXXX since he first got here. He's an incredible man and a wonderful missionary. Are you sure you don't want to restate that lovely letter you penned him? Well, you know what, IT DON'T NOT MATTER CUZ HE DON'T CARE ANYHOW. ... I pray that your life in XXXXXless solitude will be as frutiferous as an Argentine street vender in Lomas de Zamora. With all my deep love and appreciation for the laughs, Elder Sanches
The other replies are less interesting/probably more so but in Spanish. I don't speak Spanish.

* I fought back tears as I read the sincere apology the above ex-boyfriend sent me a few months later:
You and your firendship have always meant a lot to me and just because you've decided to marry one of my best friends doesn't mean all that has to end...
He and I are still friends and I get together with his wife every month for a Girl's Night Out. That's the power of "moving on."

* I found an old email that a "friend" had sent to Mr. XXXXX while he and I were dating. In the email, this "friend" of mine demanded that he stop paying attention to me and start dating her instead. Since my boyfriend showed me the letter and let me REPLY to her from his account, I think you understand the way things were. Luckily for both of us, there was a problem with the mail server and she never got my reply. That was a stroke of luck.

* I found at least a dozen letters from a guy that I couldn't for the life of me remember. As I went through the box, I unraveled the mystery a little bit. Embarrassing to realize I'd forgotten him.

* I found several letters from somebody else that I still can't place. Sorry, Nelson, but I have no idea who you are. Even if we did correspond while you were a missionary.

* I found my ACT score of 32. Dude.

* I found two of the college recruitment letters that I got in high school. I had a whole box of them but apparently only kept the ones from Brown and Yale. I am very upset that I didn't keep the one from MIT. And I'm still slightly offended that I didn't get one from Harvard. They were the only Ivy League to ignore me. Hmph. All I can say is:

H-A-R with a V
V-A R with a D
Harvard boys are big and tough.
They know how to knit and stuff.
Harvard! Yoo hoo!
(Courtesy of my Yale alum family members)

* I found a short (VERY short) story I had written at a VERY young age. It was called "The Frozen Unicorn" and was so creative that I was jealous of the younger me.

* I found the famous Fight I had with one of my best friends while we sat in the back of a BYU class. I had no idea I kept it. She and I are getting together this weekend, and I can't wait to reopen this can of worms! Time brings great perspective.

That is only skimming the top of what I found in those old boxes of stuff. Someday I'll do a blog giveaway, and the prize will be FIVE SOLID MINUTES alone with My Box. If you don't laugh, cry and get some good inspiration for a melodramatic movie or novel, I guarantee your money back.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

High School Assemblies

During my sophomore and junior years in high school, a string of tragic car accident claimed the lives of several students. They were so young, so full of promise. I didn't know them personally but mourned along with the school.

Nevertheless, life went on. There is no compromising with the dictates of fate. Death is absolute; so is the throbbing continuation of life and renewal. So the student body picked itself up and cleansed itself from sorrow. Laughter filled the hallways. Flirtations made young heart and minds accelerate in anticipation. Jocks continued to increase their physical prowess. Intellectuals continued to increase their cerebral prowess.

Sorrow forgot--life continues onward.

There were times during the year when the student body came together as a sort of celebration of uniqueness and sameness. Assemblies. We all squeezed into our auditorium and basked in the lack of class time. Our eyes scanned the crowd for the friends that we could sit by, head to head, and laugh quietly with during the hour. After we were seated, our eyes still scanned the crowd for that special boy or girl that we just couldn't stop thinking about. Was he nearby? Did he see me? Would he come sit by me? Who was he with?

As the social fever pulsated, the faculty tried to quiet the roar long enough to establish some sense of order. The program was announced. Speakers spoke. Students clapped. The different classes tried to outdo each other with their chants of "95! 95! Ninety ninety ninety ninety 95!!!" The class of '95 was always the most vocal and seemed to honestly think that they were blessed with some superhuman specialness because they were part of the glorious graduating class of 1995. We '96ers were jealous of their enthusiasm, tried to emulate them and always fell short, muttering about how cool they thought they were (but really weren't).

One of the highlights of the assemblies was the student performances. Young vocalists donned long gowns and tried to sing Celine in a new way. Rocks bands feverishly banged their heads up and down and tried to keep a rhythm, but generally failed. Aspiring comedians tried to make the students laugh. We did laugh, but perhaps not for the reasons they had hoped.

The atmosphere was tangible as we celebrated our unique accomplishments but bonded together as students of our beloved school. We stood on our feet and passionately sang our school song. Joy was palpable.

Then one day, it happened. We were giggling, figuring out our after-school plans and exchanging glances that meant, "Did he seriously just sing that in front of 2,000 people? I'd rather be caught dead!" 

Two young men stepped onto the stage, acoustic guitars in hand. They were popular and good looking. The crowd welcomed them with screams and applause.

They sat down on stools solemnly and began to sing.

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Will it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

We immediately recognized who these people were. They were friends of the crash victims. We instantly understood. They weren't singing to the 2,000 people who were watching. They were singing to their friends. Whispering stopped. Laughter died away. Notes were not passed. The cute guy in the row ahead was forgotten. This was a sacred moment.

I must be strong, and carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong
Here in heaven

Time can bring you down
Time can bend your knee
Time can break your heart
Have you begging please
Begging please

There are some friendships in life that are so intense and so important that they can't be forgotten. There are some moments in life so unexpected, so intense and so important that they can't be forgotten. Both are sacred. Both are hallowed.

Beyond the door, there's peace I'm sure
And I know there'll be no more
Tears in heaven

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I <3 Books

This is my nightstand.

I love reading. Can you tell? Here is what is on my nightstand right now:

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell -- Given to me by my Mom. Haven't started yet.
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury -- Bought last week and I'm LOVING it
Goose Girl by Shannon Hale -- Bought last weekend at the Provo Book Fair and got autographed. I need to take this one upstairs. Just haven't done it yet.
Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card -- Lent to me by my friend. About halfway done.
The Mom's Book -- For the Mom Who's Best at Everything by Alison Maloney -- Given to me as a gift and I haven't started yet.
The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull -- Bought last weekend at the Provo Book Fair, got it autographed and am enjoying it quite a bit.
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull (2 copies)  -- Also bought at the Provo Book Fair, got them autographed and now I'm deciding which lucky nephew gets to have the spare.
In the South by Salman Rushdie (short story printed from The New Yorker)
Married for Better, Not Worse by Gary & Joy Lundberg -- Read a long time ago, thought I'd pull it out to remember the fun ideas it has inside for getting to know your spouse better
I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better by Gary & Joy Lundberg -- Read it, loved it, haven't put it away yet
* The Wizard's Princess by Alyson Ingebretson King -- Written by my friend, Alyson! Loved it and I need to return it!
The Hiding Place by Carrie Ten Boom -- Lent to me and I haven't started yet (It's on the list. I'll get there!)
The New Strong-willed Child by James Dobson -- What? My children aren't strong-willed. Why are you looking at me that way?
* Phantom by Susan Ray -- Lent to me and I haven't started it yet
The Peacegiver by James L. Farrell -- Lent to me and I'm almost done.
* Autobiography of Nuon Phaly (printed from the Internet) -- Story of the woman who started the orphanage where I am supporting an 8-yr-old girl
* Approximately half a dozen articles printed from -- This is a fairly regular feature ON or IN my nightstand
Broken Things to Mend by Jeffrey R. Holland -- Given to me as a gift. I'm done reading it, but haven't taken it uptairs yet.

Looking at this list, I honestly wouldn't believe this would all fit on one nightstand. At least, not alongside a toaster that needs to be sold/given away, Boggle Junior (also needs to be sold/given away), a lamp, receipts from my latest trip to California, a clock and a box of thank you cards. It certainly SHOULDN'T all be crammed into one small space, but there you have it. I love books. I love reading. I want everything to be within my reach when I settle down to sleep each night.

Still ... it may be time to tidy things up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Passion of Words

An invitation, an opening of arms--a plea--for the readers who open their minds to my craft:

I have built for you a house of words. Come, warm yourself by my fire. Breathe in the metaphors and imagery that I have carefully constructed as a gift for you. Tumble, fall, lose yourself in a new world.

I hold this world in my hands and offer it--so tentatively--for your inspection. Step in or step away--this world of words will still sit at my fingertips, spinning and flashing light, even if I enter this world alone. It is a castle of creativity, a yurt of passion, an empty meadow asking to be discovered.

I have opened the canvas wide and invited you to view this world with open eyes.

Come. Lose yourself and discover yourself.

Read. Think. Question. Ponder. Argue. See.


Monday, May 11, 2009

In the Language of Steinbeck

Last night, I started dreaming in Steinbeck. I have occasionally dreamt in German when I was younger, but never before in Steinbeck. John Steinbeck has a language all his own in the humble opinion of this devoted fan. His collections of words are piercingly true and imbued with a distant calm that simply sees life as it is.

I started reading "Tortilla Flat" a few days ago and I have already found myself narrating events around me in that unemotional third-person omniscience that makes Steinbeck so Steinbeckian. Or Steinbeckish. Or choose your own adjective. Last night, I was awakened from a dream and realized in shock that my dream was somehow colored through and through with the voice of John Steinbeck. Life was good.

~ ~ ~

Yesterday was Mother's Day. Don't even ask unless you really want to know. I wrote a four-page, single-space diatribe against this semi-annual Day of Wasted Expectations but decided that it may not be fit for public consumption. Email me if you want to read it.

~ ~ ~

Looks like I'll be headed to Deutschland in about a month. Wow! It has been a seriously long time since I have spoken any German, so I better start brushing up.

~ ~ ~

I took two of my nephews to "Math Circle" at Brigham Young University last weekend. The professor who runs the group looked at my two kids who were tagging along, trying to decide if they were going to be a part of the group or if they were just there to tag along. He looked Joseph over and handed him a worksheet and pencil. Then he turned to Thomas. Little, blonde four-year-old Thomas. He hesitated. 

"Does he understand clockwise and counterclockwise?" he asked. 

"Uhhh... probably not," I replied.

"Can he read?"

"Yeah, he can read."

That was enough for this math devotee. He plopped a worksheet fit for teenagers down in front of my four-year-old and went about his business. I couldn't help smiling. 

Saturday, May 09, 2009


69 cents. That's how much I earned through AdSense last month. At this rate, I'll be rich in about three millenia. It's a good thing I'm a very patient woman.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

I really do love being a Mom. I really, really do. But somehow I have this little sarcastic side of me that can't be contained. Sigh.

So, that being said... If I could give a Mother's Day card to all of you lovely mothers out there, it might just be this one that I picked up in Sausalito:

Visit Anne Taintor's website for other great vintage chuckles!

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Top Ten worst things about being a stay-at-home Mom:

10. The repetitive, monotonous, boring routine of doing the same thing day after day after day.
9. The repetitive, monotonous, boring routine of doing the same thing day after day after day.
8. The repetitive, monotonous, boring routine of doing the same thing day after day after day.
7. The repetitive, monotonous, boring routine of doing the same thing day after day after day.
6. The repetitive, monotonous, boring routine of doing the same thing day after day after day.
5. The repetitive, monotonous, boring routine of doing the same thing day after day after day.
4. The repetitive, monotonous, boring routine of doing the same thing day after day after day.
3. The repetitive, monotonous, boring routine of doing the same thing day after day after day.
2. The repetitive, monotonous, boring routine of doing the same thing day after day after day.

and... the NUMBER ONE worst thing about being a stay-at-home Mom... drum roll, please....

1. The repetitive, monotonous, boring routine of doing the same thing day after day after day.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hey, how are you?

Choose your preferred reply so I know how to respond when you ask how I'm doing. This might be better for everyone involved, since I'm not yet convinced that honesty is always the best policy.

A. "Fine."

B. "You know ... same old, same old."

C. "Great! My life is so stupendously perfect that yours probably pales in conparison!!! If you were predisposed to dislike me, this totally annoying reply will give you the justification needed to fully hate me without any guilt!"

D. "My current emotional state makes it difficult to believe that a future filled with any form of happiness, joy or social satisfaction is possible to achieve. In fact, I think that not only would hell have to freeze over for that to happen, but pigs would also have to be flying. In hell frozen over. And the pigs would have to be sweating despite the obviously frigid temperatures. That is how impossibly depressed I feel because of the number of rejections, failures, disappointments and problems in my life right now. How are you?"

E. "Why are you asking me this? What do you know? I didn't do it. Probably didn't. Maybe. If I did, I have a really good excuse for why I did. Stop looking at me that way."

F. I don't know. Ask me tomorrow.

Just leave your preferred reply below. XOXO

p.s. Can you tell it was a rough day?

6 Idol Observations

Last night was rock 'n roll night at American Idol and it was ..... a heck of a thing. A few observations:

1. Everybody knew that Adam & Allison would have a serious edge this week because this is comfortable ground for them. Was I the only one cringing just thinking about how Kris & Danny would survive this genre?

2. Adam & Allison were given the chance to make the first impression. They were in their element and delivered.

3. Adam & Allison were ALSO given the final moments to "get the last word" in the competition with their duet. They delivered again.

4. Seems like the cards were stacked pretty heavily for Adam & Allison to come out huge last night. Kris & Danny were stuffed into the middle, with their songs coming immediately after their duet. No time to rest or recoup. For Kris especially, he had to sing just a few minutes after hearing Simon's disheartening criticism of the duet. Harsh. Good thing I'm not a conspiracy theorist, because if I were, I'd be screaming "FOUL!" for my two favorites left in the competition.

5. Okay, fine. Keepin' it real? Kris' performance was weak and boring. Danny's was entertaining in a horrifying "can't take your eyes off the train wreck" sort of way. It was literally painful to not hit fast-forward as I watched my two favorites crash and burn. Dang.

6. Regardless, one bad night doesn't even come close to changing my mind about who I'm supporting. I have a special method of choosing my A.I. favorites: listening to the music. I understand that all of the Idol fans do this, but I do a little something more (and less). I go buy a few songs of each artist on iTunes, then I set them up in a playlist and I LISTEN. No visual distractions. No judges' sarcasm and in-fighting. No phone numbers or threats of elimination. Just music. I find out really quickly which songs get skipped over repeatedly and which songs I fast-forward to find. I'm usually surprised. 

Last year, I was a total Brooke White fan until I stopped and listened... then I realized that I liked her music, but didn't ADORE it like I thought I did. I discovered that I was actually a huge Jason Castro fan. Huh. Who woulda guessed?

This year, I was surprised again. Take away the goofy grin and great hair, and Kris Allen is good... but not fabulously great. Adam Glambert is no longer cute and fun--he's downright annoyingly unlistenable. (Go ahead. Disagree.) And guess what? Allison's take on "Someone to Watch Over Me" will be on my Faves list for a long, long time. But Danny Gokey will be the one that I watch for when new albums start coming out in the fall. His voice, his style... it's by far my favorite.

Even if his rendition of "Dream On" was 1000% worse than Michael John's amazing performance last year. Even if he made me cringe in horror last night. All of that is forgiven. Go Go Gokey!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Unthinking Mistake?

For years, KFC has been trying to shed their "FRIED" persona and appeal to the increasingly health-conscious public. The first step was to rebrand themselves as "KFC" instead of "Kentucky Fried Chicken."

Their latest campaign asks people to "unthink what you thought about KFC." The appeal is fabulous. They're offering a free meal to anybody who wants to download the coupon from today or tomorrow. The website you visit to get the 411 is:

Undoubtedly, they're hoping people will read this as "Unthink KFC." But with only one "k" in the domain name, it's got to bug people like me who start thinking:

1. Unthink Football Club?

... or could it be that you really mean ...

2. Unthin KFC???

Yes, that's right, folks. Stop thinking about FRIED chicken. Instead, enjoy their new slogan: