Wednesday, April 27, 2005

How to torture a 2 year old...

It's good to be 2!
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

Today (yesterday) was our grandson's 2nd birthday. We had a party over at the other gramma and grampa's house, and man did that little boy make a haul! Each time the door bell rang he would run to the door, "Hi!" grab your package and run to give it to his Aunt, who insisted all presents were for her. The fire place hearth was full to the edges! He hadn't really caught on that eventually all those present would not be hers! He's a pretty good little guy about sharing anyway. (He has a REALLY good mommy, daddy's not so bad either.) His 3 year old cousin was there. Sadly, she did understand who was going to be opening all those gifts. We allow the kids to play a while, eat some pizza and it's time to open the gifts.

I got trash! : )
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

It takes a minute for him to realize, "Hey, I get to help mommy open this stuff!" But once he's into it, he's into it! Everyone is excited for him. The first package comes down from the hearth and it is filled to the brim with red tissue paper, striped tissue paper and lots of it! The anticipation is rising! We all know what's in there! We can't stand it anymore we want to see that little face light up! Egads, child open that present! Very soon one and then another person is asking him, "What did you get?" He keeps digging and digging and pulling all the paper out. He almost there...He replies, "Trash!" He looks up and is a little confused but seemingly very happy that we all gave him trash! He giggles some more and then finds the toy. This is pretty good!

Where's the guitar?
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

There are lots of presents left to be opened but the toy he got first was pretty good. Mommy is able to convince him that waiting to play and opening some more toys is a better idea. So he sits down in her lap and opens another one. This time he has hit the mother load! It's a "Wiggles" musical guitar and it's RED! And plays familiar songs! And has a hundred million buttons to push! And the "Wiggles" have their pictures on it! THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER! Man oh man does this kid think that guitar is it and a bag of chips!

But there are more toys to open. So mommy talks him into putting the guitar aside and opening one more package. He doesn't really want to, but mommy says we have to, so o.k. Open up one more box... yeah o.k. big deal, books! Where's that guitar? And he FLIES out of mommy's lap and into Great Gramma's because she has the guitar! This scene is repeated with the addition of more dull books, a possible prospect for the middle of the night "Wiggles" flashlight car, some lousy clothes, a couple of crumby church type toys, an interesting but not quite up to par ambulance with lights and sirens and a man who shouts orders, a red Hawaiian shirt that merited an unsolicited "CUTE!", but, MAN! WHAT DOES A KID HAVE TO DO AROUND HERE TO GET TO THAT GUITAR? I was losing it! It was so funny to watch him go for that guitar and finally he got to play with it. WHEW!

He was pretty good about not being crabby, but he really wanted at that guitar! It worked out well, however, because the 3 year old was able to get her hands on all the other toys and play with them while he was occupied with said guitar! So everyone was happy.

After the toy playing came candle blowing. He stood straight up until the signal was given and then practically ate the candles in his attempt at blowing them out. First shot -there out! (I think we had practised this!) And then before mommy or daddy could react, he grabbed the candle out and showed everyone the prize! "Whoa, that's HOT!" He said in surprise. Luckily he didn't grab it by the wick, but he still felt the warmth of the wax on those tiny fingers. Then he began to laugh and said, "It's mommy's, it's YUMmy!" We all ate dessert and took a million pictures and had a grand time.

I love that little boy!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Good Business

Work is sending Thor to Santa Barbara and lucky me, I get to tag along! (ooh, reminds me of those Girl Scout cookies!) It's a funny thing. Thor is very much the introvert. He's not much on sports - well, he likes to watch different games , but he's not like most men who die if they miss this or that or even see them at all. His main interest is without a doubt within the four walls of our home. He's happy to just hang out. He doesn't need to get in on the conversation or rebuild something all the time (he can leave that to S'mee). He likes long drives and his family. He really hates getting in front of a crowd and during his stint in the Bishopric he was literally physically ill every weekend just thinking about how he had to sit in front of the congregation for an hour and a half. Poor guy.

He likes to refer to his current career as being a Bishop for his company. He, like most Bishop's feel like their congregation is more like their family. Thor has a family of about 650+ families. He has higher ups he still needs to have a P.P.I. (profession-al personal interview) with, he needs to keep the missionary work going (always recruiting new personnel), tithing, welfare, budgets, etc. (he is C.F.O. and C.E.O. , and the fiduciary on several committees). He over sees contracts and guidelines and makes sure everyone is acting accordingly (Bishop's counsel) and, at times, he needs to excommunicate folks (everyone needs to follow the law, no exceptions). He offers counsel and extends professional help to those who may require more than his listening ear and good intentions. He has "ward counsel" (all leadership invited) and "ward socials" (all employees and sometimes their families invited). He is steward over "auxiliaries" (different departments). He's pretty booked.

Part of his job is keeping up with laws, policies, legislature, domestic and international working conditions and attending different government counsels and functions. This is the part of his job he regrets the most. He's not a fan of elbow rubbing and name dropping. He has met and conversed with his share of high government officials, but you'd never know it from him! Part of his job is also learning all that he can about pensions, safety, new codes, laws and regulations for California. That, and whatever he can do to keep everything in his jurisdiction legal and functioning at top performance and profit for both labour and management. He has to be bi-partisan, middle of the road, and be able to see things from both ends so that he can be fair, but mostly trusted, by both ends. He does a lot of arbitration as well.

He still gets physically ill. Mostly when he sees cuts in health and welfare coming or when he has to explain to retirees that once again, their costs are going up. He really cares about the families in his stewardship. When the majority of folks vote to increase the co-pay for E.R. visits and other health appointments, prescription drug costs, catastrophic illness, and long term health care, Thor thinks back to when we were a young family of 7. Five children going to the doctor adds up. Even as low as $5.00 per co-pay adds up- $25.00 just to walk through the door. Add another $5.00 co-pay for prescriptions and you have just taken $50.00 out of the family budget for that week. Most co-pay are higher than $5.00.

It's interesting. I have plenty of people who presume that because of what he does and who he associates with that Thor is making the big bucks. His wages are determined by the number of employees within his jurisdiction. He has the largest area in the U.S. but one of the smallest populations in the work force. So our numbers are very small. That's o.k. He knows each employee (by face, name, and circumstance) and many of their family members. In a way it makes his job very hard.

When Thor goes away to D.C., Santa Barbara, or Timbuktu you can bet he'll be the one guy who hits every session instead of the golf course. He there for his family. For him it's not just business, it's personal.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

No clever title for this one...

Weird happening of the day: One of the gals I work with had come to church early and sat in on the Primary before us. The gal teaching the lesson used the ol' knot in the string idea to help the children there understand this mortal life and yada yada yada. Later I walk in to set up our Primary and she is telling me about this very interesting way of explaining time, life, immortality, etc. and there you go... "Have you ever heard of it as a knot in the string?" I had to chuckle a bit. Yeah. Pretty cool.

Church was pretty great today. A new family, all of the new family, gave talks. Even the 7 year old talked! It was really fun for a Sacrament Meeting. The the entire family sang together and Dad finished up the schedule. Pretty cool.

Something that occurred during Sacrament meeting prompted me to leave. Here is this beautiful and seemingly perfect family all singing together and pretty much filling the room with a sweet Spirit. I notice a sister leaving with tears in her eyes. Normally you could just say, "o.k." and leave it at that. But I know this sister and I know of her situation and I know why she left. She did not cause a scene in any way and I doubt that anyone besides my self even noticed her leaving. I waited until the verse was ended and then I too slipped out. I found her in the hall overwhelmed with emotion. Her circumstances are such that sometimes when she sees the "happy complete family" it stings just a bit.

Years ago I had a friend whose husband was not a member. He was very supportive, but she knew he would never join, or if he did it would be a long time off. She attended every meeting and social without fail, and with out her better half. Her kids had long left for their own families and now here she was every week, alone. Alone in a church of families. Alone in a place that stresses happiness dependent upon eternal covenants and companionship. And there she was, without hope. She described it to me like always being an invited guest to the country club, but knowing you can never join in on your own.

Well intended folks would inquire where her husband was, how he was doing, and always invite her to join with their families at dinners, socials and during meetings at church. As the ward grew, new folks would move in and seeing her always alone, assume she was single. Replies to questions and concerns were always polite and between smiling lips, but in her eyes we all began to see the sadness.

She missed the fall social, and then the Thanksgiving Toy Drive, and by the time the Christmas Party came she had found reasons to be "too busy to attend this time." By the following summer she was missing all the meetings and eventually quit coming at all. I spoke with her from time to time, we were friends for heaven's sake! There were lots of us who went to lunch with her and plead with her to come to "homemaking, if nothing else." She would politely refuse and one day she explained to us after a matinée, "It just hurt too much to constantly be reminded of what I will never have. I can't do it anymore." They put the house up for sale about two years later and they moved. The letters and cards were always returned unopened. I wonder about her to this day.

People tend to judge their futures by their past. Because I lost one friend I fear I will lose another. All I could do today was give her a hug and whisper to her that I understood how hard it was. I admire this woman more than I can write. She is amazing and strong and smart. She is always responsible in her calling, and will do anything for anyone. She is always in leadership positions and her children have been or will be sealed in the temple. She is constant and she attends the temple regularly. She is a beaming light shining to the Young Women, and an example to their moms. She is funny, witty, charming, and willing.

But she never comes to the socials.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

A sStiiicKy Venture, (but totally fun, dude!)

shell frame 2
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

This shows the corner detail. I began by choosing the shells and star fish I thought I would use. I used many more than I anticipated! I laid out the larger scallops and added sand dollars around the frame. They were the larger of the pieces, so I needed to know where they would look best and how far over the edge I could go without looking intrusive.

In this first corner, the peachy scallop went down first and I topped it off with the dollars. Using the silicone as glue, I spread it thickly on the back of the ornaments and gently pressed them in place. I needed to be sure that the spaces under, beside, between and around the larger pieces were filled with the tiny shells before the larger ones were set permanently. To apply the tiny shells I used the silicone directly on the frame, spreading it about an eight of an inch, and hand placing each little shell one at a time. I would turn some with the smooth side down, others on their sides and gave as much variety as possible so that it looked as if they just fell on the frame and stuck. I used a paper clip (unfolded) to manipulate the tiny shells into spaces that were hard to fit; and made sure that the frame was completely covered.

I added star fish randomly, but with some composition. Also, with the star fish I needed to be extremely careful as they are most fragile. They dry stiff in whatever position they were laid out, so some are flat as pancakes, while others are convex and concave. Figuring out which would look best curved over this shell or that was pretty fun. I also made sure that if a star fish had a curved leg that it was supported by another object, thereby protecting it from future breakage.

I will allow it to dry for about 48 hours just because, in these matters, I tend to be paranoid! After that it will be filled with one of the many family photos we have taken while at the beach and hung in a place where I can see it everyday! Wahoo! (I really love that big blue!)

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Shell Game

shell frame
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

This afternoon I finally got around to a project I have been wanting to do for months! I gathered up a bunch of shells I have collected and went about placing them onto a purchased frame.

Our house is in transition. We are going away from the "Early Mother in law with splashes of Thrift Store" look, to a nice calm beachy Polynesian feel. Not that I nor Thor are remotely from Polynesia, we just like the culture and hope to acquire the "Aloha" principle via osmosis (no pun intended).

Back to the frame. White wood with a grassy linen mat. In the photo it looks more gold than green, but it is a very light celery. I used 3 & 1/2 shell necklaces, assorted star fish, sand dollars and scallops. I am not sure exactly what kind of glue the ancient sea farers used to hold their shells onto their frames, I chose a silicone sealant for its ability to withstand flex, heat, moisture and bond well. Details next post!

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If you don't want my peaches, don't shake my tree.

I have written this post 5 times now. Each time it ends up being WAY too long and sounds very gripey by the end, and I am just mad after reading it for corrections, etc. So I will not rewrite it again. Just suffice it to say that if you want to stay married, love your husband for who he is and has always been. You can begin by looking at him as the eternal companion he will be someday and if you treat him nice for what can give you, he just might start being nice back. Appreciate each other. Be a united front and stop arguing in front of the kids. They learn from you two. If you -their only example of Heavenly Father and Mother- are fighting over crap -yeah, I said crap- then why do you think they fight and argue over who gets what toy? Good grief! Go to the master bathroom, turn on the faucet and have the argument behind those doors. Learn to live within your means and teach your kids to do the same. Lighten up. If you can't live happy on this rock for 60 years you'll never be happy for eternity. Let this be your mantra: If it won't matter in five years why worry (fight, etc.) about it? (Chances are if it matters for five years it could matter for eternity. Who knows.)

Discipline your kids and get a grip mom, you're the boss so start acting like one. Kids need clear instruction and boundaries. If someone sent you to Pluto, you'd need to learn the language, the etiquette, the rules and what is expected behaviors, or you would never succeed. If you stood up as tall as you could and you only came up to their knees you'd freak out too. Try seeing things from their vantage point and give them a break once and a while. Let them win the little things and pick your wars. Be strict with the things that will matter in five years. Play with them. And again, if you can't enjoy them for 18 years, how do you think eternity is going to feel? Not all teenagers have to be horrid, they are a reflection of what you created in your home.

P.S. Not that I don't want to help you, or listen to your woes (trust me, we have ALL been there), I am just tired of the incessant complaints without you taking action or responsibility for your part in it too. And yes, I know there are kids that are just flown in from the planet REBELLION and no matter what you do they will go their merry way and there you go. But I think sometimes we give up too easily on a kid who is just plane bored and name him/her trouble. 'Nuff said.

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Happy Earth Day Mom

the fifth day
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

"...Let them have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." - Moses 2:15

I remember the very first Earth Day. It seems so long ago, but like other national events, a collective remembrance easily brought back to our emotional and rational consciousness.

I was in grade school and my teacher prepped us for this new holiday day by day for weeks. We had more frequent trips to the library, extra time saved at the end of the day to read, search and find all kinds of new and interesting things about our "mom". Some things, like rain forests and polar ice caps were fascinating and grabbed our eyes as well as our minds. Then there were the scary things we were learning about that grabbed my heart. The tiny valley where I lived was the hole in the donut of hills and mountains around us, and learning about "inversion layers" was mind blowing to me. I could walk outside at recess and actually see the accumulation of vapors daily and felt really smart and observant. Smog was new back then. Just as communism, and the threat of bombs scared me -so did smog. I saw it coming, staying, hovering, and all the well meaning reassurance of my teacher could not dissuade the feelings of impending doom; and all it would wreak on me, my family and my future.

We were given tasks to accomplish, both as a class and individually. As Earth day approached our anticipation of the celebration did as well. On the actual day we had a "play day" full of activities. Special games and contests, and in the afternoon the excitement of an assembly! The walk to the cafeteria was electric! We met with other classes, all in line and a twitter with the party atmosphere that seemed to be our special guest that day. We all sat down on the benches and watched as one 6th grade class presented a play. A poem was recited by the kindergarten, and art work from our class was prominently displayed, taped to the tables still upright and folded into the walls. Pictures of all kinds and varieties. Frogs and waterfalls. Trees and slogans. Mine was a collage.

I remember it was on manila tag board. I had cut various photos from magazines and glued them over my original art. It was a city scene. I had learned how to draw perspective and so I enjoyed drawing streets and sky scrapers. Because of my newly acquired knowledge of Smog, it was keen and so important for me to express and educate others of this common enemy. The manila colour of the tag board was the perfect backdrop for my city of "progress". Heavy swirls of golden brown haze rose to the top of the paper. Sky-scapers lost their spires in it's gloomy breath. A black and white, rather sad faced cartoon of a cat was cut from a magazine and set to stroll down the sidewalk. I used my mom's Tri-Chem Fabric Embroidery - Turquoise Blue to draw a dead fish floating down the gutter. "My fuchur" was written on a bill board atop one of the lower buildings in black Magic Marker.

We ended the day by planting a tree in the front of our school. We held hands and stood in a circle as we sang "This Land Is Our Land". Then we went home. The end of the school year came and to my utter surprise I was awarded with my first trophy: 1st Place Artist for "My fuchur" an Earth Day Poster. I was evidently impressed and humbled as I remember both the events on this current Earth Day.

So here we are a thousand years later and what has happened since? Well, to my surprise California passed laws and regulations that have in the past 30+ years actually dropped auto emissions to the point that our air is actually better than it was when I was in grade school. Good job guys!

I am still a bit of a hippy chick. I am still fearful and worry about our eco-systems and environment. I fear we are more concerned about money than resources. I am hopeful and assured that there are others out there who are dedicated and making things better for all of us. I recycle and reuse, I try not to waste my water and resources. I participate in our community clean up days. I am part of a group that has an "adopted highway". If I could, I would morph myself into Ed Begly Jr and be as self sufficient as he. I think the point here is this: God created this big blue marble for us to spin around on and then blessed us with the responsibility to care for it. So, for today, at least, let's think and rethink how we can beef up our efforts and be a better steward. Let's make our momma proud.

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Harry Potter's room

Harry Potter's room
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

We had a scare this week. The apartment manager called and told us that there had been a miscommunication within the office and #5's room had already been contracted and signed MONTHS ago and therefore she could not move in.

#5 took the call immediately after returning home from early morning seminarya, so she wasn't as focused as she should have been and kind of had a melt down. She began to think that she would indeed end up having to live as Harry Potter did - under the stairs, in a basement totally devoid of windows). As you can see from the photo the term "room" has been terrible misused. As you look at the photo, the "room" "extends" to the right to the scale of 5' x 4'. (remember how I told you the door hits the end of the bed as you open it? That's the width of this "L" shaped atrocity. Can you picture making this bed every morning? How anyone could live there is beyond me. Needless to say, #5 was freaking.

She took off for school and I tried calling the management back. Ha ha ha ha ha! These people are busy folk! Eventually I retained one of the managers and asked what the situation was (minus the hysterics and panic). The apartment had indeed been under another contract for months. How a business can make this kind of mistake is ridiculous, but what can I do about it now? #5 still had the summer contract but the Aug.-Aug. contract was no more. They could get us in the exact same apartment with the exact same living conditions with the exception of our option was now on the basement floor instead of the street level floor. I'll take it. The arrangements were made; and after talking with the owner, the management procured permission for me to paint the basement room. This is a HUGE thing as the owner doesn't allow anyone to paint - at all- no exceptions! So yippy!

#5 came home to more than good apartment news, she also opened a correspondence that informed her that she had earned 1/2 tuition for 2 semesters with the option of renewal for 4 years dependent on grades! WaHooo!

a. Early morning seminary is a religion class designed to Spiritually educate high school students within the L.D.S. Church Educational System. The curriculum is Old Testiment, New Testiment, Book of Mormon, and Church History - Doctrine and Covenants/Pearl of Great Price; with one of the previous per year of indepth study. Early morning seminary is designated for students outside of Utah and parts of Arizona where participants meet prior to the high school day for the 50 minute program. This means they get up and ready themselves for study which begins as early as 5:30 a.m. in some areas.

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Organize Yourselves!

Last night was my class on organization. It went fairly well with the evening beginning in a way I think should become a tradition for "Enrichment Night"a. Fondue! In the familiar LDS exclamation: OH MY HECK!

Is there anything as delicious as naked fruit dipped in chocolate and caramel? So simple, yet yumminess was at it's height. Who knows, maybe I was the only one who wanted to take their shoes off, grab a snorkel and just swim in the pot with fresh pineapple rings as my water wings.

I have never visited the wardb where I taught last night and I must say the ladies there were interesting and welcoming, as well as fun and interactive. The speaker before me gave a very informative talk on tackling the paper tiger we all seem to cage on our desk. Simple file systems followed by a question and answer period. There was a small debate over how long to hang onto bills and other documents for legal and tax purposes, other than that -smooth sailing!

One sidebar: The question of a home safe came up. Advice from our Fire Fighter son came to our family quickly after the large CA fires a while back. If you store your precious papers, documents or belongings in a "fire-proof" safe know that the safe will indeed be fire proof, your item inside will not be. It makes sense when he explained why. The fire proof safe is made to withstand a certain degree of heat before becoming invalid. If the fire becomes hotter than the safe is made to withstand, the hinges and locks, etc. can melt and weld the safe into a huge metal block without means of entry. Something to think about. Your items inside are not made to withstand those same degrees of heat without becoming baked to a cinder! Imagine taking your insurance papers and baking them for an hour in your oven set on broil. They would come out very fragile if at all. It works the same in the safe. Most home fires get pretty hot and you should not risk truly important unreplaceable papers anywhere other than a safety deposit box. Last night one lady brought up that banks also catch fire, what's the difference in safety? Banks and bank vaults have fire sprinklers which if they don't eliminate the fire will at least keep the heat degree down and the articles inside the vaults have a better chance of survival.

The meeting was to end at 8, and it was 7:45 before I even began, so it was a rather short and hurried version, but went well. The gal in charge gave me an extra 10 minutes, but I could have gone on for much longer and there were so many unanswered questions! I stayed afterwards and caught up as many queries as they wanted and still made it home in time to watch the Donald say "your fired". (yeah, I know, but for whatever reason I like that stupid show)

As always the big hit was a chart I made for our family to eliminate arguing and disobedience. It, basically, is a training for mom! I think when we realize that we are indeed the mom, the kids will catch on and that's where the change begins.

I don't have the space to review all my personal ideas and tips but a great resource on line is

  • organize tips
  • Organize tips . com has great FREE down loads for all kinds of "stuff", check lists, schedules, charts, and articles to help get you started. It also has a gazillion things for you to purchase, so puruse carefully and enjoy!

    More on the whole organization later. I need to send some good mojo vibes to Flickr and see if I can help them get back in gear! ugh!

    a. Formerly "Homemaking Night" or "Work Meeting", a once a month meeting where LDS women (18 and older) gather together to be enriched and educated on a variety of Spiritual and Temporal subjects. Usually very informative, fun and social, sometimes with dinner being served or refreshment. b. An LDS term having the same meaning as "congregation".

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    Wednesday, April 20, 2005

    Super Models

    faux window with birds
    Originally uploaded by S'mee.

    Sometimes artwork is for the birds. This is an example of faux windows. In a model home, the developer wanted the windowless laundry room to look less claustrophobic, cheery, and someplace pleasant to a chore. I began by chalking out the space and matching the ledge and colours to the existing windows in the house. (This is where my painter's fan deck comes in handy!) I snap some photos for reference (my model of the house features). Next came the painting as desired by the client. Sometimes they want a few plants other times they go for a virtual jungle!

    This client, the developer, wanted "subtle vines, very few, but straggling into the room. And birds." So this is what I came up with. We also have a two little birds sitting on one of the door frames unraveling a baby sock.

    It's difficult to see in this photo, but the sky is lighter at the horizon line than it is towards the atmosphere. The haze and clouds are done with white, blues and a tad of yellow. The birds were taken from a local ornithology catalog, although they have the benefit of plenty of food! No one wants skinny birds. Most folks think that an artist just has these pictures already in their memory banks and can reproduce them without models. There are some who can, but most cannot. I try to use models as much as possible, so I can get the details correct; such as the higher the sky - the deeper the blue.

    Ever really look at things? Most pine trees are more blue than green, dirt is rarely brown and clouds come in so many more colours than white. But our collective memories tell us that clouds are white - all the time, unless they are stormy and then they are always grey. Not so much.

    Where would you place eyes on a head? Most people don't realize they are dead center, (about a nostril to nostril width apart) when looking straight on the face, tip of head to tip of chin. Of course there are always exceptions, but again that proves my point on the necessity of models.

    Next time you venture to draw, which I hope you do, use a model! Take time to look at your model with seeing eyes, not memory eyes. It will make all the difference! And remember, even Michelangelo had to pick up a brush for the first time.

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    My Hero

    Hence forth, be it known that within this blog, as he has been known in our home for years, hubby will be know as Thor! (must say this with fist in air and voice of authority!) Some may remember the comic book hero, but for me the Norse Mythology fits rather closely and so we choose that reference above all others!

    In Norse mythology, Thor was the god (well we're working on that)of war (can we change that to peace? ), thunder and strength (he is a big burly type! ), and son of Odin (um, Roy). Thor destroyed the enemies of the gods with his magic hammer (All I can tell you is that he destroys all of our enemies! ). It was he who chased away the frosts and called gentle winds and warm spring rains (o.k. so he moved us to the middle of the Mojave ) to release the earth from its bondage of ice and snow. He was also the god of the household (you can say that again! )and of the common people. He even married (way back in 76! ) Sif, a pesant woman (S'mee! ). The lightning's flash was his mighty hammer, Mjolnir, hurled in battle with the frost giants, and the rolling thunder was the rumble of his fiery chariot! (there are rumours to the preceeding, just ask his kids.)

    Thor is currently in D.C. S'mee is sad. 'Nuff said.

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    Tuesday, April 19, 2005

    One Semester (and then some!) in the bank!

    It's Tuesday so time for the scholarship report.

    My husband always says that his job has always reflected the teaching he learned as a boy and then in his callings via the church. The church has offered us all blessings beyond what we think of on a daily basis. Public speaking. Orgaization of thoughts and life. Being Prepared. Being firm in convictions and standards. Being comfortable conversing with new people who have different ideas and cultures. Making goals and staying focused. Doing the task at hand until it is finished. Knowing that if you have failed there is a lesson to be learned and you can turn it into a positive life lesson, and so on. He says being a business manager is very much the same as his experience in the Bishopric.

    Up at 6:30, drive an hour and a half, avoid a jam on the freeway by accessing alternate routes. Having an ATM machine eat my card. Showing up early - who knew? We grab name tags and brochures, find our places and ready ourselves for the opening introductions. It is brought to our attention that today's competition began with teachers and administrators hand picking eligible students who showed academic and civic achievement. That pool was narrowed down determined by the highest scores to a field of 350 -375 in each of California's 10 districts. The 350 or so were pared down to a group of 32. Those 32 kids were divided up into 4 groups and sent to today's competition. Applied Arts, Liberal Arts, Fine Arts, and Math & Science. My #5 was in the math and science group of 8.

    Going into the competition she was calm albeit full of trepidation due to her perceived lack of math and science skills. She feels her strong suit is English, grammar, and writing. The competition was 3 part. #1 They were given 30 minutes to prepare a statement (that would not be judged nor even read) to help them gather their thoughts on the topic. #2 One by one they would present a 2 minute presentation of their thoughts on the topic. (This part would be judged by a panel of four assorted community business persons) #3 As a group, the 8 contestants would panel discuss the pros and cons of each contestants idea and could be spontaneously asked questions by anyone on the panel and the judges. (also judged) Scores would be tallied and then a lunch with awards after a keynote speaker.

    When #5 was "released" for the 20 minute break between competition and lunch, she looked sick. I could tell she felt she had failed. "I was the only one who took a different view point and then everyone attacked it. The judges were asking all the other kids questions and smiling at them and then whenever I made a point someone else would shoot it down. One kid even tried to gain sympathy by relating his siblings disability to the related topic... but he couldn't state for a fact, but he just stood there all weepy and everyone was sad for him. UHG!" She was very sure they were impressed more by the other kids because they kept more queries for them instead of her. She got a few questions but not rebuttals from the judges like the other kids. While she expressed her disappointment in herself, she was at least smiling and trying to enjoy the event. She introduced herself to most of the kids and about half of the adults and asked who was going where and what their majors would be and tried to fill the time chatting.

    Lunch. Rubber chicken with rice. o.k. Not much to write home about. In the introduction the host reassured everyone they were "truly winners just for being here!" Yeah, yeah, o.k., but I want her to win. It sounded nice, but pretty cheesy even for the mom sitting there very proud of the gal who got through the eliminations. The added bonus is for everyone who showed up - just for being there - they would receive a pretty good chunk of change. So, hey, at least we go home with that! S'mee was satisfied.

    Of course because it makes a good blog entry and the fates were against us, her category was presented last. All through the day Dad kept text messaging me asking for updates as he couldn't attend. During the 2nd category awards I got his 6th message wanting more news. A "She's already won in my opinion, tell her I love her." was passed via the phone under the table for view. She smiled.

    Her friend's category was up. She had the same experience as #5, lone wolf crying in a desert of penguins with all the judges throwing fish. She too felt she would lose, although she felt justified and confident and that the judges in her category would most likely give the high award to a certain boy, whom she admitted graciously deserved it, and to a girl who did not. She was right and she received her prize money, smiled like a beauty queen and was quite the gracious little gal. I was proud of her attitude.

    #5's group. 5 honourable mentions, then 3, 2, and #1. It was torture. There was a particularly rude gentleman whose name was called first. I admit I was glad he wasn't in the top ranking and that his name had been called before #5's -"even though in the 5 there were no particular order of importance or rank". WHEW! o.k. I am ready for you to call her name. Another name and another and then another. I was all "OH MY HECK!" then I remembered that there was one more in the bottom 5. Not her name! She's in the top three! HOLY HANNAH! I am screaming on the inside. Third place, Second place and then there was #5! She actually received number one! I was jumping up and down inside and my heart was pounding as she walked up to the podium to receive her scholarship money. BIG money. I was thrilled!

    On the ride home we talked about what happened in the competition. After hearing her rendition of the proceedings in detail, I noticed that the reason she more than likely won was due to her learning and experiences in the church. She's just like her dad.

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    Sunday, April 17, 2005

    Most people go this time of year for the cherry blossoms.

    Next week hubby goes to D.C. on a business trip. I usually save up plane fare and go along. This time I am staying home so that I can attend a scholarship contest with my #5. (more on that Tuesday)

    I enjoy D.C. It's so different from where I live and there is a definite sense of anxiety there. All kinds! For instance the idea of the traffic. Everyone has a car, but there isn't one parking space in the tri-state area, and they drive like maniacs. They race from signal to signal and honk horns like no where I have ever been. I always feel like I am in a movie there. The pedestrians are lords of this jungle, dressed to the nines in heels and brief cases, and when they get the chance they just cut into traffic and dare bones to break. (hence a major part of the honking) People are everywhere, tons of them and they all have someplace extremely important to go. I am fascinated by the numbers of junior high kids who spew out of buildings and museums on an hourly rotation like the children of Zeus. Most of them wearing F.B.I. shirts. This causes me to wonder how one distinguishes the real F.B.I. from the junior high kids during a riot.

    The last time I was there I was in a women's restroom at the subway station. A group of F.B. I. agents came through the door, one with an incredibly swollen tongue, another with great wisdom. "Haa Mahhhm" "No girl you got to get that thing working in yo mouth better than that or you gonna get yoself killed." "HAA MAHM" "I said talk better not louder. You gonna get killed." "Do. You. Thin. Ma. Mahm. Wi. Ril-eh. No-tith?" (replies with just a hard look) "Well at least it looks cool. I wish I got mine done. Man! I am SO stupid!" "Ah Wi dusth kep pwactithee uh ti I thoun goouh" "Yeah girl, she never gonna fine out! By the time we get off the plane, you be all done swellin'." I was in the stall and even I knew what had happened. Unless mom is completely deaf, that girl gonna get huhsef killed.

    I love how everyone there looks important. You just know that chick on the subway with the briefcase is a spy, or at least hoping to be one. Then the total republican clean cut Mr. Armani suit with Italian leather shoes - what the heck? #1 he's on the subway going the wrong direction for that suit. #2 he's probably from some communist country and is a spy! There's the crazy person who is mumbling to herself and checking the chain count in her cable knit sweater. Definitely a spy! The whole time I am there I have Peter Gunn going in my head.

    I walked home from the subway to the hotel. What was I thinking? It was like 5 city blocks and I thought to myself "why not? It's silly to pay for a cab for just 5 blocks!" Well, it was about 10:30 at night and raining. Raining hard. I had on my new suede leather coat. I replayed the Sienfeld when Jerry turns his coat inside out and then decides not to and ruins his coat to walk home in the rain with Elaine's dad. I kept rationalizing the cost of the cab to the rain and the walk. "Cows don't shrink in the rain. Cows still look the same after it rains. I am not paying for a cab!" So I head out and my coat got completely soaked. I felt like a drown rat by the time I got home, but it was the experience of it. After about a block I noticed that the street lamps no longer were there and that the streets became dark, narrow and full of dark alleys. "Brilliant S'mee! Girl, you gonna get yosef killed!" Too late to turn back now I walked faster until I could catch up with a couple of women I saw about 1/2 block ahead of me. I approached them and asked if I could join them in their walk.

    The thing about D.C. is that it is a very international city. These women couldn't speak English and they thought I was some crazed person. They look scared and took off like you can't believe. "This is reassuring! Perhaps if the bad guys come I can just mumble to myself and begin counting the ribs in my now soaking cuffs. They'll think I am nuts and move on!" So I walk faster and faster and eventually get to a place where I can see the hotel. By the time I get inside and up to our room I am completely drenched, dripping like I stepped out of a pool and my once camel coloured suede leather bomber is a nice chocolate brown. "Don't they make chamois out of suede?" Maybe not. ugh. "Man! I am SO stupid!" Hubby walks in almost right behind me, in plenty of time to see me peeling dead cow off my now cold (but alive!) body. I explain everything to him and I get a pretty good reprimand on the dangers of D.C. at night in our neighborhood and after I dry off and take a warm shower he is there waiting to give my legs a good rub down. That's a good guy!

    Moral of the story: Next time you get an opportunity to visit D.C. enjoy the anxiety, the people, the crazy drivers. Catch a few spies on the subway, covertly listen to the F.B.I. agents who run from place to place and pierce their parentally unattended tongues, and enjoy a walk in the rain with your favorite cow. After all of that, go home and retell the adventure to your more than generous spouse. Know that however long the plane ride home, by the time you get off - you be all done swellin. And you will be glad that you lead a dull life in the SoCAL desert.

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    Saturday, April 16, 2005

    Going to the Snailbox

    Movie night. Our favorites include a pretty eclectic mix. We go from "Little Nemo" to "Pride and Prejudice". "Il Postino" to "The Hunt For Red October" "Chocolate", "Life is Beautiful", "Princess Bride", and "Young Frankenstein". Pretty much anything with Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, or touched in anyway form or fashion by Tim Burton, all three in the Red Curtain Series by Baz Lurman - especially Strictly Ballroom, and too many oldies to mention. We even go for the occasional documentary and absolutely dive into anything that would only be seen on PBS. (My kids are the only ones in their peer groups who know most of the programs on NPR, but that's another post - geek alert!)

    Tonight is, once again a replay of "You've Got Mail". I am not sure what the appeal is other than the sweet story that you don't need to think about later. For S'mee, part of it is relating to the opening sequence where both lead characters anticipate receiving mail. It goes back to when I was a little kid. Who among us didn't run to the mailbox everyday in anticipation of someone, anyone sending us mail? It stays with me still. Each day I head out to the snail box and search through the bills for a piece of friendly correspondence. The elation that bursts forth when finally, after a long period of time there is a surprise address to me!

    Now I am the mom. Heck I'm 47 flippin' years old. When will this hoping end? Probably never. Because I am a hopeless romantic I will continue to search for the illusive piece of information that comes miraculously to my house from far away giving me a five minute reprieve from daily life to sit and "chat" with an unexpected guest from my past. I love that! "Who will it be today?" I wonder.

    People have stopped writing like they used to. No more letters in the mail, just flyers and bills and odd random letters from my congressman encouraging me to vote for this or that, like his or her newsletter will influence me in a different direction. Martha wants me back and will give me a deal I won't be offered again. And then there are the missing children/$5.00 off oil change coupons. What a waste.

    I have a friend, Sheri. She is a dream. She was a (hearing) friend of one of my (ASL) students who is this gorgeous bright friendly gal. She sat across from my student in a class and became a friend to both of us. She has this riot of rust coloured hair that I would die for and a face that reflected her inner love of life. On top of this she is one of the most creative people I have ever met. I used to receive letters from her via the snail. They would come on receipts or torn grocery bags. Sometimes on the back of a shard of cardboard. Each time they would be decorated with her penmanship and drawings. I treasured them for more than the words. They brought her personality back to me as well. She continues to correspond, just via the net... so no more art pieces disguised as letters. Her Keroppi stickers have been replaced by cc notations and work related addresses, but I love them still.

    When things in my life go wrong, again I identify with the saddened and confused Kathleen after she has been "stood up" waiting for NY152 in the cafe. I long for friends to be there and reassure me things will be o.k. I hope for relations to somehow convey their love across e-lines and for me to have the ability to so the same. And, I must admit there are those who I long to have a relationship with, who frankly, could care less. But that's the wonder of e-mail; there's always hope.

    This blog will eventually bring me more friends, most of whom I will never meet. My shopgirl, my NY152, my anonymous lurker who will say something profound and then disappear once again.

    I go to the computer now, just like Jo Fox and Kathleen Kelly, waiting for family and friends to drop me tidbits of their lives. I like hearing about their dogs and husbands and the bragging about children who, less than perfect, are perfectly adored by the authors. Someone cluing me onto a great page or product or information I would have missed otherwise. I like hearing about the mundane things, the eye appointment that still hasn't helped the situation. It's like sitting on the porch stoop waiting for the rumble of a jeep starting and stopping as it rolls slowly down the block. "You've Got Mail!" I am ten again.

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    Friday, April 15, 2005


    The little desert valley where we live is surrounded on all sides by low hills (actually the back side of mountains), two sides - east and south are particularly close. Sometimes, when the moon rises on a clear night, it appears enormous as it begins to peek over the Eastern hills eating up what seems like miles of jet black horizon. The amber colour is like unto the flesh of a summer squash; and as it flies higher into the grey night sky -it becomes so bright white it almost hurts to view it. Your eyes are so wide open searching for any light source in the west, then you see that big orb in the sky straight above you and the reflection of the sun on it's surface shrinks your pupils so painfully fast it gives both pleasure and pain at the same time. The surface is so clear you can see the craters and valleys and shadows. I love that moon.

    I love that fact that although we haven't much to look at during the day light hours, we have beautiful sunsets and glorious stars. I don't say glorious without meaning full of glory.

    glory: n 1. very great praise, honour, or distinction - renown. 2. a source of honour, fame or admiration. 3. adoring praise, worshipful thanksgiving. 4. resplendent beauty, magnificence. 5. state of great splendor or prosperity. 6. state of absolute happiness, gratification. 7. the splendor and bliss of heaven. 8. to exult with triumph, rejoice proudly. 9. to boast. 10. "Glory be to God" as used to express surprise and elation. - Webster's

    All of these I have experienced while witnessing the stars above my home, in my valley. Like Abraham (see Abr. 2:16), I look up and understand that "eternity is our covering and our rock and our salvation as we journey"... Those stars I see are the same he saw, and they were placed there by my Salvation and if I continue to look to Him while I journey I will be blessed. And I do enjoy looking at those stars! I am humbled by them. There are some who say stars fade, they fall, they shoot away to nothingness. Science tells us they die. I was created to last forever. Those beautiful stars will die and I will live forever! Pretty amazing.

    Have you ever just sat and stared at them? I mean so much so that you feel that some of them are indeed closer than others in your depth of field. Long enough to notice them swirl and find their path in the long night hours? I remember one night I was alone in my thoughts. I was driving through the desert on my way home and just lost my breath as I looked through my bug splattered windshield into eternity. I was struck by the numbers and vastness of the space within my vision. I am not learned at all, but I knew, the Spirit was testifying to me about truth and space and the purpose of all those stars. I felt kinship to Abraham and wondered and awed at what he must have experienced when the heavens were opened to his faithful eyes. I am filled thinking about it even still.

    Abraham was taught about order and time and eternity via the stars. He was instructed that greater light moves slower (Abr.3:4-10) and that the Lord's time is equal to our thousand years. To me there is much to be said in the statement that we, as a society, should slow down. Some folks say to smell flowers while doctors say to just relax and catch a breath to lower our blood pressure. As we approach the latter days on this planet, whether they be a few weeks from now as some always claim or a few thousand years down the road as others hope, no one can argue the world will become faster and faster. We know from prophecy and revelation that Satan's influence will become stronger and stronger as the last days approach. Do you see the same correlation I do? As we are more influenced by Satan our world grows faster and faster, while the Lord's time remains constant and ordered and slow.

    "And it was in the night time when the Lord spake these words unto me: I will multiply thee, and thy seed after thee, like unto these; and if thou canst count the number of sands, so shall the number of thy seeds." - Abr.3:14

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    Thursday, April 14, 2005

    Six Years of Childhood

    I was traveling this morning and ran across

    I read through some of his words, feelings really; and they triggered old memories.

    When our eldest child was 6 he was diagnosed with a rare form of a rare (then*) blood disease. For a "rare" disease it was normal that a child would acquired it and could then go through it relatively unchanged, recovering unaided within 6 weeks. Then the secondary group of kids who would recover aided via steroid and drug therapy. Third group: recovered after therapies that involved "unproven drug therapies". Our son was in a 2% group that was totally unresponsive and would "never recover" and have potential for fatal repercussion. He, as a result of the disease, had a dangerously enlarged spleen, extremely low platelets, high white count, constant severe bruising, spontaneous bleeding - internal/external, extremely lowered immunities, acquired Hep. C, Cytomegalovirus, pneumonia several times a year, viral meningitis, and other complications that kept him out of school for 3 years and then some, and away from church and social situations (read: pretty much any where but home). Blah, blah, blah.

    We set our lives on auto-pilot and went to hospital/clinic visits (1 hour commute one way) sometimes daily and most often at least twice a week, for six years. During this time we prayed. A lot. We pleaded with the Lord to relieve our family from this disease, to heal our little boy, to make everything right again. Once in a while we would throw in a "if it be Thy will", but I'm being honest here - I wanted my miracle, not His will. I did however, maintain my faith through it all and I (looking back on it now) can't remember ever being "WHY ME? WHY US? OH CURSES!!" and being angry with God. I remembered that everyone has their trial and all that, this was just one of ours. (there would be more) I definitely had my "please feel sorry for me" pity parties and there were times when I was so tired of it all I just went silently crazy. I can remember burying my child several times and rehearsing in my head how I would explain to younger siblings that he had died. I would breakdown and cry almost every month in the shower - especially after a particularly hard treatment or exam (lumbar punctures and bone marrow checks were devastatingly painful to witness, and much more painful to go through as my son had to).

    There were those who tried to comfort us, me. They would call and chat and visit when appropriate. I looked forward to these angel friends. They saved us many times just by showing up and staring with us into the green hued light of a sterile room. There were those who seemed to delight in our misery. They would point out that if we were truly faithful the Lord would stretch forth His mighty hand and cure our son. Thanks. That helps. The truth is -and I understood this then- that the Lord is in control and although having faith is a good thing, unless I have the faith of a prophet, I wouldn't changed the Lord's plan in this matter. Tough luck, too bad, stinks to be me. This was a nice test and there you go. Deal with it. The words still hurt, then, and still now. Don't tell me I do not have faith when it comes to my little boy. I wanted to hurt this person back, but there is no equal to the pain her words caused. So move on.

    We were in and out of the hospital so many times we had a specific room assigned just for us. The nurses knew us by name. The doctors were open and friendly. The routine became routine. Pajamas were home made so that he could have firemen and dinosaurs, trucks and other fun prints on his bleached and funky smelling hospital snap up the sides IV accessible nightwear. Special body pillows to alleviate the bruising of his body and bloodied nose just from his turning in his sleep. Mornings would be met with mouthwash to rinse the blood from his mouth so he could taste his breakfast. "Mint flavored everything in the morning." Hugs were forbidden at times because of the bruising. A spleenectomy was suggested, but his platelets never rose high enough to accommodate the surgery. And there were no trips to parks or slides or swings or school with chums. He was home schooled by a grumpy old lady who came twice a week. Eventually his levels rose enough to merit some activity, and then they would drop and he would be pulled from having a normal kid life a again.

    Year six met us with quite a surprise. His levels began to rise. Each week a little more until he had enough to seem like a remission. Time was now monitored and eventually he was in a "remission". After a year they called it a full remission and we were allowed to come in for check ups once a month, then every 6 months and eventually once a year. Now there are blood counts and checks for various diseases every 5 years. So far so good.

    He's married now. Almost 18 months. He still has some minor situations in his body that are directly linked to his childhood disease. But he's a big burly fireman. One of those that was on the first strike team a few years back when CA was on fire. His team was right there next to the team from up north, the team that lost one of their men down saving San Diego. My son fought 40' and 50' flames in the hills above Claremont, then San Berdoo, then San Diego. If they needed a strong team of fire fighters, they sent in my son's group. He's my hero.

    Heavenly Father has a time schedule and a plan for our son. Our son is one of the healed. He is a miracle. There are moments when I am plagued with guilt because he was healed while other little children, some with more terrible diseases, grew up and are still tethered to the clinic, the 4th floor, to seclusion, to IV poles, to not being big and burly. These little children and their families are still in my heart. They are still heroes to me. I know their hope and they trial and their faith. I know that there is sometimes nothing left to say or do, but breathe in the sterilized bleach scented air and gaze into dotted ceiling tiles. Learn how to run and repair your IV pump. Find all the words hidden in the letters of your disease. Mentally destroy all your "mean white cells". Count the squares in your room, the holes in the curtains. Rent a video. Pray for the hug that can come when the count rises. Eat chocolate-hazelnut tofutti. Scare the nurses. Race in a wheelchair when no one is looking. Knock on the morgue door after 9 p.m. Replace the urine specimen with apple juice and drink it in front of the lab tech. Have your mom paint a smiley face on your tush with lip stick for the night nurse to find. Decorate your room, you're going to be there for a while.

    There are other children who face different challenges. I feel empathy for them, their families, mommies and daddies. My hope is that they know they are not alone and that they are receiving hidden gifts and blessings. I pray for their strength and knowledge of eternal truths. My heart stays with them all.

    Thank you to the friends we have. Thank you Heavenly Father for saving the little boy who now saves others. Thanks for the whole experience that helped our family stay together and prioritize what really matters.

    * Idiopathic Thrombo Cytopenia Purpura or I.T.P. - I.T.P. as stated above, is usually a very harmless and dull disease in which patients basically recover without incident in about 6 weeks; and thus go unrecorded. Back in our day, not one case had been recorded in Southern California for 14 years prior. Severe cases such as ours, required hospitalization and treatment. Less severe recored cases require in and out patient treatments. By the time we were into 3 years of the disease there were 12 more boys in the same hemotology/onocology clinic. Idiopathic defines this as an unknown cause for disease. We believe it is environmentally charged as the disease is claiming more and more children each year. The cause is unknown, however boys seem to have a higher incident of illness than do girls. There is a strong indication that one acquires I.T.P. after a severe lung problem, such as a strong cold, or pneumonia. This was not our situation; we had no illness prior to the discovery of this. Although our son continues to have severs colds, allergies and bouts with pneumonia on a regular basis. On the plus side, he also has a more efficient use of his lungs, which enables him to use less air than most people in a similar situation. This is a good thing for a fire fighter using an air tank!

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    No Place Like Home!

    Ugh! Lousy night sleep for both hubby and I. He dreamed that we were out in the desert and the guy at a hotel wouldn't let us check in because my husband was wanted by the police. (Evidently all those nights in Mexico are catching up with him.) S'mee? I had a dream where (miraculously) we paid off our current mortgage and hubby surprised me with a second home that had also been paid off.

    The issue here was the 2nd home was an old school mobile home. In a "park". The mobile home was larger than the home we have now (not too hard to do), but it smelled like old people. Not like a convalescent home, but like old people perfume, and smoke, and broccoli, and heavy wet stale air. The interior was dark (due to the "deluxe" curtains with block out lining!) and filled with all kinds of "walnut paneling" and multi-coloured brown shag carpet. The house came furnished with over sized colonial furniture; sofa and love seat covered in "velvet" that had brown and gold scenes of mansions and oak trees - breath taking to say the least. That and the land lord was this skinny over tanned bimbette with a bright yellow fluffy bathing suit (-yikes!) anyway it was disgusting to see it poking out of her "trendy" clothes. (envision the 50's version of Bridgette Bardot, BIG hair, in a fluffy yellow bikini, baked in an oven for the last 40 years) She was very helpful as she kept reminding us that she "needed the $250 for that month's space rental. Meet me at the club house, by the pool." ("you forgot to fill out the paper work!")

    I woke up wanting to rip out our carpeting, too late, that's already been done. So essentially, the dream was so real that I am just weirded out by this 'move' that isn't real. And Bridgette...uggh!

    What did I watch last night?

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    Tuesday, April 12, 2005

    Awe, the smell of cremated cow in the afternoon!

    Speaking of blessings... Thanks to two of my good friends who, a few years back, presented me with new pots and pans. Now some may think this a strange gift, but trust me when I say - Wa Hoo! It's days like today -when I burnt a perfectly good roast to a crackly crunch- that I appreciate the pots more and more.

    I had another lovely migraine and had headed for the dark room for relief. I fell asleep and awoke to the scent of burning money. As I pulled the pot from the oven I knew dinner was a loss. The thought of prying charred flesh from the bottom of a pan is, well, there are no words. But pull I did. Because of the pot (yes!) the meat pealed right off and the pot was almost clean enough to just throw in the washer.

    So, once again ladies, THANK YOU for the pots and pans!

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    At the beginning of this semester #5 was informed that she was the Valedictorian, and then due to an admitted error from her less than stellar AP Chemistry teacher, she was denied the honour by 3 points, which she could have earned easily, but again, admittedly her Bio Teacher blew that opportunity for her. Top ranking in her school is fiercely close, with the top five literally separated by those 3 points and determined by each of the students' weighted classes.

    All of the top 10 students have the typical "all A" report cards, the whole 4.0 GPA is a thing of the past. Now everything is based on which AP (accelerated program/advanced placement) classes you have; kicking the GPA goal to 5.0. She is blessed with a keen intellect and has taken every opportunity to advance as quickly through high school as possible. She chose classes based on their ability to be used as college courses, thus eliminating the need to take (and pay for them later) in college. At the end of each year she has taken the AP tests that, based on her scores, have enabled her to pretty much blow off her first year at the Bayou, or other colleges if she chooses.

    This morning she was informed that she had indeed missed the spot for Valedictorian. She knew that a couple of months ago and dealt with the disappointment much better than S'mee (who wanted one AP Chem teacher in a dark alley...). She decided that being in the top 5 was a great accomplishment in it self and that she had already been accepted to the colleges she wished to attend and benefited from being able to chose instead of settle for; so why pout about top five? She's graceful as well as smart.

    This morning she was also informed that she had placed second in her class and the honour of Salutatorian would be hers! We are extremely proud of her and are jumping through all sorts of joyous hoops and dancing all kinds of happy dances. (pretty good trick for dad and his funky knee) She of course is still a bit embarrassed about the whole of it and won't let me announce it to very many people. ("Not everyone has it as easy as me mom, look at #4, he had to struggle for everything he learned. And #3, who worked as hard as me and just missed it by inches."). I told you she was gracious. But I am not. So here's to my #5, and all my kids, who have accomplished a lot. And thanks to a Heavenly Father who has blessed them deeply! We are very very happy and extremely blessed!

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    Monday, April 11, 2005

    Chair man of the bored!

    Hubby decided to be industrious on Saturday. He was wiring the shed out back so that it has enough light to perform arterial surgery at midnight. It's only a 12'x20' shed, but has 6 fluorescent lights in the ceiling with 12 electrical outlets around the perimeter, 3 outlets for the exterior and conveniently placed switches to turn everything on. I love this man! He's not much on household duties, a bit of a procrastinator, but when it comes to electrical stuff - he's your man; and he doesn't shoot low. He has thought out pretty much every possible scenario of what the shed may be used for in the future and provided the needed power. Thinking ahead, he also added enough power to the outside to prevent and prisoners from escaping or going over the razor wired fencing. (cue loud German shepherds barking at said prisoners) We do not have a prison, nor will we be performing surgery anytime soon, but we're ready (all we'll need are the sirens).

    I walked in on hubby about 98% finished and noticed he continually was getting up and down on an old plastic office chair (instead of going to the garage and grabbing a nice stable ladder). "Sweety, (I usually call him sweety just before I nail him) shouldn't you go get that ladder? I mean, the chair method is going to kill you tomorrow." "Nope, doing fine." (flexing and being all manly) "o.k." (with heavy tones of doubt)

    Sunday. S'mee felt like doo doo, but hubby and the family went off to church without a hitch. About 45 minutes later I hear the door open and think, "Hubby came home to check if I am doing o.k.... how sweet!" Clump, shhhhlep. Clump shhhhlep. I can tell he is limping, this can't be good. He's gone and blown out his knee. It seems hubby indeed felt the effects of the chair routine from the day before, but pride kept him from saying I had been right. So he was walking in pain when he left.

    Upon arrival at church a young gal noticed hubby walking up from the parking lot and decided she would hold the door for him. According to hubby, she should have just let it shut closed because he was way out there still. But he could tell she was going to stand there and wait for him, so he ran to the door. About two steps before he reached the door he popped the knee, and there you go.

    He had to kneel to say a prayer and wanted to just stay there for the duration of the day, but traditionally one is suppose to rise after saying the prayer, so he struggled and made his way back to his feet. His brother noticed the pained expression and knew something was wrong. The jig was up and by the end of the first hour he was dead in the water and had to be drug out of church.

    Now he is home -under protest- until I give him the work release. He is doing business over the phone for at least two days. I know he would rather stay on schedule at the office, but I am happy to have him home. Poor miserable bored outta his mind stuck in a chair hubby.

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    Sunday, April 10, 2005

    Amazing Saturday!

    Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra

    I went to a concert today that was meant for very young children, there were children from age 2 through adult; but was certainly suitable for the enjoyment of adults. The musicians themselves were between the ages of 12 and 18. The following was their program today:

    Overture to "Russian and Ludmilla" ..............Glinka
    The Swan....................................................Saint Saens
    Scheherazade (4th movement)....Rimsky-Korsakov
    Festive Overture.....................................Shostakovich
    Symphony in D Minor (1st movement)..........Franck
    West Side Story.............................................Bernstein
    Malambo from the ballet "Estancia".........Ginastera

    (note that all of the pieces are as written by the composer and have not been arranged - these kids mean business!)

    This children's program included a "Wizard" who chatted about the story lines in the music, or lack thereof, with the conductor Roger Samuel. This was humorous throughout and there were even segments of the program that included a small group of audience members to "act out" Scheherazade, and all were to "help out" in Malambo by clapping in syncopation with the orchestra at conducted intervals. My particular favorite was the running gag between a confused but charming violinist and the Wizard during the West Side Story number. I have been to this concert every year for the past 4 years and am always surprised at how well they can entertain a 2 year old as well as impress the musically educated adults in the room. These kids are phenomenal!

    At the conclusion of the program small music boxes were handed out to every child in attendance. Did I mention that this concert was free? The folks on the board for the CYMO are primarily interested in keeping "symphonic music alive" and "ensuring the cultural future of our youth." They hold auditions every summer and rehearse every Monday evening for 3, 31/2 hours. 90+ kids from all over Southern California are in the orchestra, some traveling 2 hours to attend rehearsals. That's dedication!

    During their season they also perform with guest musicians, some from the LA Phil - and others, guests conductors and attend a "retreat" where they are educated and trained by professional musicians specific to their instrument.

    These young musicians are talented to the level that they are asked each year to do the sound check for the Los Angeles Philharmonic (both at the Hollywood Bowl and now over at Disney Hall). They have toured Europe, have c.d.s of their performances and are currently looking forward to their May 15th concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (home of the LA Phil). This is an invitation by the LA Phil and quite and honor as they are the only youth invited to participate. This will be the only concert where one has need of purchasing a ticket*. But with the other 5 concerts they provide throughout the season, they suggest you arrive early and stand in line for a free admission ticket, as they are ALWAYS a full SRO audience. Pretty impressive for a bunch of kids.

    Their concerts are held on the following dates, if you have the time- I suggest you give them a try. They are not your typical teen aged group of musicians.

    *Sunday, May 15, 2005, 7:30 p.m. CYMO at Walt Disney Concert Hall - LA
    Program includes: Dmitri Shostakovich: Festive Overture, Johannes Brahms: Double Concerto, Cesar Franck: Symphony in d minor, Alberto Ginastera: Estancia Suite - with Bing Wang, Associate Concertmaster and Brent Samuel, Cello both from the LA Phil.
    Tickets $24, $27, $31, $36 @ or call LA Phil @ (323)850-2000 or contact CYMO @(909) 624-3614

    Sunday, June 12, 2005, 7:00 p.m. CYMO Season Finale Concert at Bridges Hall of Music -
    Pomona College, The Claremont Colleges, Claremont (CYMO @ 909-624-3614 for info)
    Free Tickets! Stand by line suggests you be there no later than 6:30 to receive your ticket. Doors open at 6:30.
    S'mee suggests you get there and stand in line no later than 6:00 because if you are too far back in line they run out of tickets every time! Trust S'mee - get there early and then sit in the balcony middle for the best sound!

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    Friday, April 08, 2005

    PALM reading: "good life line!"

    I love my life! #1 for days such as these when I finally wake up without a stupid migraine that robs me of my days and nights.

    #2 you ask? For times like this morning when, while waiting for the light to change, I saw Fidel Castro driving the cream coloured '78 Ford pick-up right behind me! Yup, right there- long beard, mustache, Green fatigues - complete with snappy little Army hat. The only thing missing was the cigar. I assume this is because he is vacationing here in my town and understands the restrictions on Cuban Cigars, that and Californians frown on smokers; especially in public places. All in all it was a pretty cool celebrity sighting!

    #3 would be a dreamy sighting of another kind: 450 450! thread count PIMA cotton sheet sets at (get this) $56.00!!! WAH-HOO! Also, a terrific little SEGO PALM in a 5 gallon planter for a mere $14.99! (she comes up to my mid-thigh!) CRAZINESS has ensued and S'mee is de de de liri o-us! All this and those sweet little SPA TOWELS - In a very lovely shade of "fog on the beach just before noon" blue! 3@ $9.49 - u-huh!

    #4 would be the wonderful guy who says, "Just get me a tub of red licorice and you can get the other stuff too."

    My life is good. SWEET!

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    Tuesday, April 05, 2005

    The real thing!

    model homes 049
    Originally uploaded by S'mee.

    Model homes. These are both a frustrating and fun inducing projects. Frustrating because you have no choice in what goes on the wall, and little input. You get paid to put what the designer thinks will look best and usually there isn't a lot you can do to change her/his mind. Fun because you still get to paint stuff.

    The Tuscan Grapes in the photo are slightly larger than life and take up an area in the home's dining room. There are companion paintings throughout the kitchen and dining area and each grape cluster took about an hour to do. That blows most people's minds. "An hour to do that?" Well, no, actually an hour to do just the grapes, the leaves, vines and aging take more time. People also get unsettled when they find out how much I charge. I think I am worth it in cases like these, where, contrary to the cartoon look of Dani's palm trees and monkey, this style is a tad more difficult to achieve. Most of my clients do not have the skills (yet) to achieve this look without a lot of gnashing of teeth. So where's the fun in that?

    There's more frustration; the cost. People forget that it is indeed, real art. That and it's original and even if the neighbors call me into their house to do the exact same thing, it won't be. It can't be reproduced exactly. That's why you pay someone like me to paint instead of wallpapering; like tens of thousands of other family homes. Chances are if you were to purchase a framed piece of poster art the same size as my work, it would equal the cost of the painting. Change that for a nice print or reproduction the same size and you have just exceeded my price. Forget about getting an oil or acrylic framed painting for that space and size. Most of us can not afford the "real" thing.

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    Scouting the New Player - or - The GIRLS of Summer

    I am pleased to say that after watching me paint the baby's room, Dani was pleased, a bit "amazed" (as Chronicler says), but is willing to give the big boy room a try with me. This is making me very happy!

    I will journal the happenings as we go through this process. It will prove that even a gal who "KNOWS [she] doesn't have any artistic talent" can indeed produce something worthy with a little help at first, and eventually fire the artist. YEAH!

    Step one: Brain-storming. Dani is great. After walking into the room she began to 'see' what she wanted. "The bed as first base. Then on the wall above it the diamond with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Would that look o.k.?" "I think it will be marvelous." "Then, maybe, can we make a border along the ceiling with the people in the grandstands?" "I think that's very cool." "They can be looking at the game, right? Is that weird? I don't know..."

    HEY! WAIT A MINUTE! Can you see how she has a great idea and then, because she remembers the "artist" is in the room, ("UGH! I have no talent") negativity has begun to take over her thoughts. She's beginning to doubt all those good ideas. So I need to step in fast.

    "Dani, you've got a terrific idea and I think he and grampa are going to love it!" "You think?...MOM! Mom, C'mere... " Dani re-tells her ideas to get approval from a second source. That's good! Mom will love these ideas too. And she does. So now there are 3 of us and the basic design has been born. There were additions to the plan. Faces in the the crowd will be varied but basic circles with faces and hair and different races. Some will hold banners, popcorn, sodas. One will be catching a ball, one taking pictures, some high fives and folks doing the wave. Across the room on the wall he will see from his bed at night fans will be holding placards that spell out "Y O U R O C K !" with his name.

    After explaining that this project, although time consuming and mostly on ladders (what is it with me and the ladder work?), will consist of geometric art. A diamond. Circular faces. Base lines. ANYONE can do this. Dani is beginning to feel confident and she actually tells me in kind of a "remember now" voice that she will be helping me with this project. So I am excited!

    This will be an ongoing post so look for updates next week or maybe even earlier. I think this will be fun.

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    Monday, April 04, 2005

    mOnkEy bUsIneSs

    mOnkEy bUsiNeSs
    Originally uploaded by S'mee.

    Hopefully this will post and also show a picture of the baby's room. This is new for me and I am still trying to get the bugs worked out.

    Although my legs are currently in a state of constant cramping and "dancing", I am pleased with the outcome. The photo doesn't show the height of the trees at nearly 11 feet. I barely reached that height on the ladder and was stretching most of the day while standing on tip toe! The trees have more shading than is recognizable in the photo. Leaves have several shades of green that define and outline the leaves. The trunks have shades of greens and browns, and lashings within. The vines were marblized a bit and shaded to show the twisting. The monkey had more shading than is visible and the definition is hard to see as well. Bad photo. Hopefully upon my return next week I can retake the photo and post something more closely resembling what the room actually looks like.

    All in all, baby, mommy, and grandmommy were pleased. The boy friend gave approval, but I am not sure how grandpa and big brother feel because I left before they arrived. Cross your fingers for me.

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    Saturday, April 02, 2005


    How is it that someone can say one sentence and destroy your entire evening and make you feel lower than low? They say you choose to feel and that no one can "steal your sunshine" unless you allow it. Why do I keep allowing it? Man! I hate feeling this way. C'mon on Sunday, help me feel better.

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    Bins and Purge

    About a year ago I gave a class to about 25 women on home organization and storage. I think the initial thought was, "Physician- heal thyself!". I have lived in the same area for the past 27+ years and frankly, folks know me! So there was some skepticism all around on my ability to express any coherent objectives that would be received with any form of acceptance. (I am not known for my model home appearance.) But those who truly know me know that I enjoy (not suffer from) certain OCD benefits that have helped me be organized, if not tidy. So the class was on; and to my surprise I actually had attendees.

    Since then I have been asked to travel to other groups and teach the same class about 6 times. Next week will be another trip into the junk drawer and hopefully these ladies will laugh along and have a good time while we talk "dirty".

    I like to survey ahead and get some ideas from the attendees, things they are having trouble with or things they would like information on. Questions from the past have included everything from, "How do I throw away things my mother-in-law gave me?" to "How do I get my kids to help without it becoming punishment for all of us?" Answers to the above: Just throw your mother-in-law away first. And, That's impossible. Actually there are more realistic answers, but I'd bore you here with the long dissertation.

    Basically being organized is a matter of getting rid of all the "stuff" you have accumulated over the years and being consistent about storing the "stuff" you keep in well labeled clear containers. Then get some OCD of your own to stay on top of things. This way, tidy or cluttered, when someone asks if you have those tiny gold safety pins you know the answer and if the answer is yes, you know right where there are.

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    It's good to be home! Nothing like sleeping in your own bed to give you a much needed rest. I am very blessed to be as old as I am. This means I am finally afforded a nice mattress, a feather bed to cover that and lovely 350 tc sheets (thanks R&G) to snuggle between. A wonderful handmade quilt topped by a thick, downey, and exquisitely heavy comforter! YUMMY! I enjoy my bed so much these days! I am blessed! Mainly I am blessed with a hard working, selfless, and generous husband. Thanks Babe, I love you!

    I woke up this morning and went down to the paint store to grab the paint for Monday's job. Last week when I picked up the seed money, Dani informed me that Grampa thought the big boy in the family, "Tommy", is beginning to feel neglected and so he, Grampa, wants to pay to have "Tommy's" room decorated as well.

    The plan is to paint the 3 palm trees and 1 monkey in the baby's room. Quickly. Switch gears and transfer all of our attention over to the 10 year old. It's a base ball theme. Last night I dreamed about the room. I will draw up the concepts and hope they all approve. Of course in the dream there wasn't money involved, nor were there any constraints as far as construction. So I am sure there will be adjustments.

    After we finish "Tommy's" room it's back to the baby's room for a cool ceiling.

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    Friday, April 01, 2005

    The theory of realtivity or why eternity is only 30 years

    I think I am posting more complaints than happy thoughts. I had made a goal for myself to try and be more positive in my observing and to try to post things that up lift rather than just have an open gripe session. Then this.

    I met with a friend last night for dinner. Last night's kitten dish spilled the "details" of why two of my very good friends are getting a divorce after 30 years of marriage. From what I can tell both parties are -as usual- at fault. Now if this were just some random couple I could go on. But this couple made sacred promises to love each other for eternity. I know this is a foreign concept to most of the world, but in my religion we married FOR EV ER!

    Even in a regular everyday wedding there is a promise in there somewhere about "until death do you part." right? Here's my difficulty: One party was away to long, the other party needed too much. One thing leads to another and they grew apart, leaving a gaping hole in which a third party was able to inappropriately comfort a member of this union. Now by inappropriate I am not suggesting anything other than conversation. But comforting conversation by a dear friend that leads to more intimacy than a couple currently share is inappropriate and will lead to destruction of one of the parties, if not as in this case, all three.

    Next. One party files for divorce. The other party states that reconciliation has been offered and refused. "Too little too late" it seems is the excuse for them both. One party moves out and away from the situation and the divorce is proceeding.

    My huge big fat ugly problem: In a U.S. civil union, "Until death do you part." is understood by most English speakers to mean that you are married until one of you is DEAD. No pulse, no heart beat or brain waves, cold, stone stiff, DEAD. Within our religion even the death will not severe the marriage and you are still indeed hitched. Best be careful whom you choose to stay with for eternity; or just a lifetime.

    One party in this friendship of mine has begun dating another person. The other party is playing the martyr and "waiting until the divorce is final." - but already has committed to date a fourth party, who has shown interest and is willing to delve into this relationship as soon as "legally possible." UGH! I want to scream. (If there has been an agreement to date later, intimacy has already been established and the pretence of waiting seems moot.)

    What are these people thinking? Even in the lowest possible legal sense they are still married to each other for at least a few more months. What happened to trying to forgive and compromise and make things work? 30 years down the tubes because someone has had it and is fed up. According to my knowledge the only abuse between the couple has been indifference and neglect. I don't think that is irreparable. It isn't easy by any means but isn't 30 years and 6 children worth ALL the trying until you get it right?

    The outside parties make me sick. Why would anyone get in the middle of two married people? You have to be insane to do this. And why would anyone think of dating a divorced person so soon? Shouldn't there be some healing period or time to think? How about a year? I can hear people all over the place yelling at me and telling me all the reasons why it's o.k. But to me it just seems like everyone is asking to get into another bad situation before they have been able to clean up the last one and figure out why it went wrong. Everyone too busy feeling sorry for themselves and pointing their digits at the other person and never seeing what they did wrong to help speed up the destruction of their family.

    I know. It's easy for me. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for the past 29 years. Think about that folks. Do you really think each and every moment of those 29 years has been rosie and that we were deliriously in love? Get real. 29 years takes more than love- it takes forgiveness, compassion, trust, commitment and hard freaking work at times. I thought that was what marriage was all about.

    There are some actual deal breakers: Abuse that is mental, physical, or spiritual. From what they tell me, this isn't the case. And, as bad as the above are, I know of couples that have committed strong enough to even get through those. But not very often and I don't blame those who choose to leave dangerous situations. From what I have been told, none of these abuses happened. They just wandered apart and found other folks more interesting and didn't have the power to come back together.

    I am so sad. I know of 4 more families that have fallen and it has affected more people than they will ever know.

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    ApRil FOols JoKe....

    Weeellll, not exactly. The following story is true. Only the names have been obscured to protect our dignity!

    I was cruzin' the net when my cell went off. The programmed ring told me it was hubby. So I pick up expecting a rather nice conversation and instead got a frantic man on the other end. It seems that hubby got up early, went to the bank, grabbed some moola for his business trip to Reno and headed out for a 45 minute commute to pick up his partner. They rode the free way for another 3 hours and needed to stop for fuel. YIKES! This is where hubby realizes that he has left his card in the ATM machine like 4.5 hours ago. He is having a minor coronary as he is pleading with me to give him the 800 number for canceling your cards. I am fumbling to open the PDA and grab said companion card and HOPING that the numbers are still there. You see, my signature and all the other important info on my card INCLUDING the raised numbers imprinted on it have all been flattened or erased from a lot of use! I find the numbers and give them to him and within 5 minutes a return call tells me that indeed the card has been canceled!

    Now, I didn't have the guts to ask him how I was going to pay for my trip back to SoCAL with a canceled card... but there you go.

    This reminds me of when we applied for and received a credit card to be exclusively used for our son's wedding. The card arrived in January and was activated in anticipation of buying frenzies. Somewhere in the last weeks of May I actually began purchasing flowers, food, tuxedos and other things. The first couple of purchases (the $200.00 + tuxedo rentals, and a trip to Michael's ) went fine. But when I went to (stupid - I HATE this store) WalMart to pick up $16.00 worth of ribbon, the card was denied. "Too much activity on the card" and they thought it had been stolen!

    In fairness to the clerk at WalMart she was gracious and handled the situation nicely. I can't say that about the gal behind me in line who -not realizing she was in a WALMART -hello- threw a hissy fit and ranted about the wait and my inability to pay for $16.00 of ribbon. I finally told the clerk to never mind her, she was just upset that a house had been dropped on her sister yesterday; (and that really sent her up!)

    The problem was eventually fixed; although there were a few more times when the card company helpline was involved!

    Is it any wonder I never use those cards unless I have to?

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