Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Well Happy New Year!

Happy New Year
Originally uploaded by wordsforsnow.

O.k., I admit to being a tad late on the Christmas post, so trying to redeem myself I will set up this offering:

Every year it's the same in my house. Thor becomes a small child around this time of year in antiscipation of a new year on the horizon. Full of promise and new opportunity he loves the idea of goal setting, life changing habits, and renewed energy; the ending of all the old bad stuff from the past year, the dead wood being burned, and the basic "new start"!

He giggles with delight as he sees himself slim, firm and tanned in a few short months splashing in a Hawaiian surf. He contently sighs as he imagines his new controlled and managed office, full of inspired coworkers being ever so efficient. He organizes his palm pilot and rearranges the desk, throws out stacks of old papers and gets ready for tax day! Yup, Thor is one of those guys who has the taxes accomplished as soon as the W-40s arrive in the mail. (I'm not really sure that's what they are called, that's how excited I am about taxes!)

His love of tax paying (NOT), but rather getting the deed done, comes from a favorite Aunt, who is a tax gal. Every year for his entire life his folks went to Aunt M for advice and number crunching. We went to her also, until the idea of getting it done faster appealed more than family obligation. Anyway, Aunt M is SO completely into taxes that she, in planning her soon to be end, has informed the hospice care workers that she is to be kept alive until the new year so that Uncle K can have another year of "benefits". Yup, she's a character, and we love her.

Back to Thor. He has a ritual. He takes down his share of Christmas (I don't even start until Jan.6th). He cleans out his files and goes through his "top drawer" for important receipts and papers. He cleans things randomly to burn energy. This year he is taking charge of an over run side and back yard. There are a few odd house jobs and then when all is done, he sits at his desk and pulls out a legal pad.

All those thoughts, the ones that have been formulating for weeks are now placed down on paper. Goals. All kinds of goals. Every year, without exception there is one for weight, exercise, money management, and better health. Others soon follow and he smiles to himself in satisfaction at his new found purpose in life.

After a few hours of contemplation he will prioritize the list and place it permenantly into the palm for a daily reminder. He admonishes me from time to time with quotes from prophets and world leaders who remind us that nothing is accomplished without a plan and daily goals to achieve them.

Most of all he loves the new start. The feeling of being able to start again new and fresh. The new day to make it right and be a better man, father, husband, friend, and "boss". He can forget the past mistakes of last year. A new day to be a new man.

For me, well I am not a fan of making more mistakes, of falling short, and making promises I may never keep...even to myself. So I have avoided the resolution part of New Year's Day for as long as I can remember. I don't like lists, I am not a fan of the typical New Year's Eve party, and a lot of it makes me a tad depressed.

We have agreed to disagree. For years Thor has tried to convince me and I have been stubborn. I look at it differently. I am religious. I admit it. I bite it all -hook, line, and sinker. And for me, my particular religion provides me with a way to have a new start, a new beginning, every week. Each Sunday I partake of an ordinance that I believe creates a new person in me. I have made covenants to God that, if I do certain things, God will forgive me in such a way that it will be a clean start each week. That works for me.

Thor also partakes in the same ordinances that I do, however his New Year's resolutions are still important for him. This isn't wrong, nor is mine wrong. For me, I need that weekly reassurance, that short time frame to renew and make new goals...privately, but yeah, I admit that I do make those same goals. For me, I can make it week to week, a year is just too long to check progress. Thor has more endurance, more patience, more determination a and faith in his ability to get the job done!

The one thing we do agree on is that we both LOVE new things, changes, variety. We wouldn't mind moving each year if we could just get up and move. It's the hassle of packing and unpacking, and the whole address change and bills being forwarded that make it nasty. Meeting new people and having different experiences and jobs would be welcomed. New. New!

Another is that if we could influence all we know to be happy, truly happy and content, we would snap our fingers and do it. We enjoy our life and wish for all we know to have the same.

Happy New Year to you, my readers. I wish you happiness and the ability to find contentment and joy in your life. I wish you a new year of memories and health, a curious Spirit, a creative edge, a thirst for knowledge, and opportunities to serve. I wish you all compassion and an open mind and heart, open ears to hear truth, and hands that welcome, and a heart that continues to grow. May we all find some where to contribute. May we find joy in little things. I wish us all the sight to find need and the time and wherewithal to fulfill those needs.

Thanks to all of you who read this little scrap of e-whatever. Thanks for the comments and support, friendship; and challenges when necessary. It's been a great past's to a new year full of surprises and growth!

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

more from the Wild Animal Park!

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The art and craft room

I need to preface this with

It took me 30 years to be able to have this room!

I don't want anyone to feel like this was just something I wanted and went and got. Even after the boys were gone it still took me 3 1/2 years to work long enough to afford to make it how I wanted. I had all of the clear containers before... just all over the house, tucked here and there, hidden away or stacked up in a corner! All of the books were lining the hall and shoved in other shelves. All of the supplies were stored in a garage or in a closet.

I am blessed!

There is still much that needs to be accomplished before the room is complete. Taking down the blanket from the window and putting up the blinds. The blinds are purchased, but Thor is still pretty busy at work and frankly, my "standing on a ladder" days are over! My knees are shot and it ain't gonna happen. There are still 3 pictures to be hung over the day bed. The window sill has need of grout. Now that all the book shelves have been installed and the furniture put back in, after living and working in the room for six or so months, now we have decided that perhaps we should have put down wood floors instead of keeping the old (and I mean OLD) carpeting. Live and learn. I need a comfy chair that is high enough to accommodate the height of the work table... might have found one...I'll let you know. Thor wants to put in a ceiling fan (with bright lights) for the summer heat when it comes. I am not arguing... this is a good idea!

The walls are a funky 'avocado' green to match the leaves in the Hawaiian print on the the day bed. And the closet doors are chocolate brown. All the book shelves were purchased as kits for $15.00 a piece. They only had black, and it matched so there you go! We purchased an inexpensive base board and painted it black to match and nailed it to the top edge, connecting the three and making them look like one unit. We finished off the separate shelf as well so they would all look better than $15 shelves.

Thor installed up lights on the top and behind the molding of the shelves. It looks great at night and adds much needed light to the room while accenting the coral, shells and palm trees, etc. on the shelf tops.

The slat board and glass shelves, along with the metal paper holders were purchased at a store closing. I knew what I wanted and, fortuitously, a store went out of business with those items when I had the money to purchase and at just the right time for our 'remodel'. This never happens, and I was really really lucky and BLESSED! I had to drive 1 1/2 hours three times to get all I wanted, but it was worth it.

I use no name brand reusable plastic food containers -always clear- to hold an organize my embellishments, glues, staples, brads, buttons, etc. I found the perfect folders on school clearance to organize my large sticker collections and other flat paper cutouts. I place them in page protectors and organize them by categories.

My work table is a piece of 1 1/2" thick butcher block 3'x5'. #4 gave it to me until he buys a house sometime in the future (at least 5 years). We have it upside down to keep the pretty side pretty, and supported by two $12 book cases that companion the $15 shelves. The smaller book cases hold books on one, and current projects and photo boxes in the other.

I wrapped a measuring tape around the front edge of the table for convenience. I also have measured marks hidden in the large shelves for measuring ribbon.

Clear containers hold: glue guns and sticks, yarns, felts, sewing supplies, threads, embroidery supplies, sequins, glitters, paints-stained glass, stencil, mural, fabric, poster, puffy, gel, craft, wood, glass, water, & oil, silica sand and flower press, scrap fabrics, magnets-sheets and rounds, book binder, paper making supplies, tablet binder, sticker maker, small sewing matching for scrapping, sea shells and sea life, crayons, markers, pens, pencils of all kinds, small ribbons, pins, tacks, adhesives, small frames, wood pieces, cookie presses, crochet supplies, beads -glass and plastic, vellum, small scrap papers, sponges and applicators, sea glass, tiles, grout, wire spools, and all varieties of stationery supplies, paint brushs, stipple brushes and sponge brushes, and water bottles!

There are pieces of coral, shells, and some other decorative iems on display. #5 made a ceramic tribal mask that just happened to look great, so I put it up also. Over the day bed I have three photos of ferns/tropical plants in black frames. I scanned the photos out of a botanical book I picked up during an after school sale a few years back at Bath&BodyWorks; a coffee table art book that was originally over $60 that I got for $10. Like I said, I have been planning this room for years and putting things aside for it a long time.

Thor drilled holes and mounted magnetic strips onto the closet doors so that I could use them for memos, ideas and other things when needed. On the tiny wall behind the door I have a photo collage made for me by my former deaf students.

That's the tour! Sorry it took so long to get it up.

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finally, the craft room reveal...

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Ornament Swap 2006!

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

O.k. a quick post in between trips. I will update more later about the trip to drop off a missionry last week, the family visit to the Wild Animal Park last Monday, and the upcoming temple wedding on Saturday in St. George; and then a baby blessing in Henderson on Sunday. WHEW!

In the mean time, here's someone pretty to look at while I am gone again. This amazing guy posed over and over for me and just chatted away while I took his photo. I think he likes the attention he gets from all the visitors at the park.

We also saw three rhinos charge each other and challenge a duel of sorts, some lazy lions, tigers, and some long necked giraffes. It was a great day, very inspiring- despite the woman walking around in her mink coat???

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Friday, December 01, 2006

the Christmas trees

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one of my Christmas wishes...

Divorce Lawyer
Originally uploaded by Markettara.

O.k. first off, everything between Thor and myself is great.

Second, if I were queen of the world I would make this one of my first decrees:

If you and your spouse decide you can't get along any longer, that you absolutely must get a divorce, then you have to play by these rules.

If you have minor children THEY get custody of the house. It's the grown ups who can't play nice, the kids have nothing to do with it, so why should their lives be the first to get messed up?

The deed goes to all the children. It will be held in trust until the youngest child is 21. At that time the house can be sold and the profits divided among the children. Parents: figure it out and pay it off. Let's just call it a parting gift for the kiddies. A kind of consolation prize for their emotional foundation being ripped from under them. Don't have a house? Then continue to pay rent on the one they are currently in until they are legal adults... get this: The kids ain't leaving, you are!

In the mean time, Mom and dad can pack up their clothes and favorite toys every weekend and move in and out of wherever they decide to live. Hey, there's still a master bedroom, Mom can have it this week, dad can have it next. Deal people, you're the adults! Find yourself an apartment close to town or drive all day to get here, the kids are staying put.

The kids are staying in the same school with their same friends. They are staying in the same church and going to the same neighbor's house for after school game time. You screwed up -they didn't. They get to keep the same teachers, doctors, grocery store guy... you two adults can figure out where to get new ones for yourselves.

Since when was it fun for a kid to pack up their little life in their backpack and schlep back and forth during their free time just to hear their parents rant about how bad the other parent is? The kids get to stay in their own beds and the adults can schlep.

The kids get to keep all the holidays at home. Yup birthdays and Christmas, Halloween and the fourth of July will be where they always home with the kids. Mom and Dad, if you don't like it, don't come. If you decide to join the kids that holiday, then bring your happy face and pack your own backpack.

The whole idea here is that the kids' lives will not be any different than they are currently, other than the fact that mom and dad are only in the house one at a time.

Oh and another thing. When a crime is committed a criminal has to pay for his crime by "doing time". If you are of the religious sort, when someone commits a sin, they confess and some form of restitution is made. O.k. Here's the deal: You adults made a promise to stay together "until death" and some folks even throughout "eternity". You promised to make a home for little people that would be loving, nurturing and safe. You brought little people into the marriage. If you get a divorce, you are breaking your promise. Marriage is a legal contract, you are breaking that contract. True, it's not like you stole a car or robbed a liquor store, you're just stealing your child's stability and robbing them of trust and emotional good health.

Soooo, to pay your children back for said crimes against them you will not date "seriously" until the youngest is 18. The only thing you'll be "doing" is time. No need to bring in other people and mess up their lives too. Your children don't need two sets of screwed up "parents" and they don't need step siblings to compete with or miss when they go home. Your children do not need to know you have a sex life. Do you, even today, want to know that your mom or dad is doing the horizontal mambo with anyone? Neither do they.

Once all the kids are 18 or older then you can go out and mess up your life again with someone new. As an alternative to dating, how about seeing a good therapist? Find out why and where you messed up in the first place.

Some folks think this would never work. I disagree. Divorce is so easy now that it is almost a no brainer. Some people actually believe they will get married and divorced at least once before they find the 'right' person. If they knew the above rules were actually law, maybe that would cause more folks to pause before making a commitment (and children) in the first place. Perhaps, if when divorce is looming on the horizon, with such a law in place, it would cause partners to reconsider why they 'fell in love' in the first place and work to get it back to that place again.

I am a firm believer that no matter what has happened in the marriage, if both partners want to reconcile it can be done. If one does not want to stay married the other can't do too much about it. Either way, the kids were not at fault and should not be punished.

Back to that part of whether or not this can succeed. Yes it can. Thor has a business partner who, some 15 years ago, divorced and decided with his ex-wife this plan would work. They have been schlepping for 15 years. The kids are happy. The parents are finally happy. It's a decision that can work if you think of your children instead of how much you want revenge.

That is all.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mele Kalikimaka!

Mele Kalikimaka!
Originally uploaded by S'mee.
This is a close up of some of the ornaments on the beach tree. I made these two little hula dancers from store bought ginger bread men, gave them faces and added shells and real starfish. There are also real shells,anenomes, and star fish on the tree, as well as reeds. This year I added these really cool spheres I found that are somewhat irridescent. They go directly over the bulbs and look like bubbles! I also have sprays of wired sequins and glittered 'coral' and 'seaweed'. There is a tiny paper mache 'Santa' in beach gear standing guard at the base of the tree. The star on top is two large star fish back to back.

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The "beach-y" tree

The "beach-y" tree
Originally uploaded by S'mee.
So #1 is up!

I love Christmas, everything about it! I love to decorate the house and bake cookies and buy presents and do all kinds of secret surprizes. It's the best time. I live for Christmas!

Years ago we always went down to a certain little farm in a wooded area near by and walked through the hills and cut down our favorite tree. Sometimes the tree would come with complete with a bird's nest, little critters, and some definate holes and bare spots. The farm where we went was a natural farm and they felt it best to just let nature design the trees. We had such fun back then! And ooh the scent of the tree in the house was heaven!

After a while the kids became quite talented at designing decorations and coming up with themes...this is when our 'trouble' began.

You see when you have five kids who take instruction well, and then develope their own style and ideas, they each want to be the head tree designer. Every one wanted their own tree.

We started out with little trees, each kid got a small tree to do with what they would. One thing led to another and eventually everyone had a big tree. Folks would give us their old trees, you know, the old fake tree with the silk pine needless that were falling off as fast as a 6 week old real tree? Well we took them anyway.

So now all the kids are gone and I still pull out all the trees and decorate them in themes. So far I have up 12, a 10', 3- 6', 4- 4' and a bunch of little ones. There are still plenty out in the shed waiting for Thor or myself to bring them in.

This is the beach-y tree. Lots of shells, and bubbles and a few Hawaiin dancers. The girls always put a tree that was elegant, with all hand made beaded ornaments and all the 'fancy' ornaments we collected over the years. The boys always like to go with colour or toys or lots of hand placed garland and/or tinsel. The thing is, after a while they were really good at it.

When they were little I taught them to stand back and look for holes in the tree, to see the colour balance and fill in the tree with the main ornaments first and follow through with the fillers. When they were little I wouldn't go back and correct their decorating, it was what it was, and as they grew their work got pretty good.

Many people will come by and check out the trees. Some I think like them. Some comment on how they look too much like department store trees or too commercial, others wonder why all the fuss? For us it's simple: we like to decorate. We like to celebrate. We like making the house extra special for those who drop by and for those who live here. It's a special time of year and things should be as special as possible.

We have one tree that is really cool. The tree that houses all the ornaments that friends and relatives have hand made. We call it the 'country tree' and it's filled to the brim with all kinds of trinkets, toys and memories most of all.

There's the tree that is filled with nothing but hearts! And the one that holds the ornaments for folks who pop in during the holidays. Anyone who comes over from now till Christamas will get an ornament to take home. This year we have tiny little clear balls filled with sand and shells with a tiny bow. There is a note attached that reads: "When you see this ornament on the tree, remember the One who walked on Galilee."

There is a snowman tree, a retro tree, a 'Grinch who stole Christmas' tree, a tree with cheesy beach toys and fish, another with tiny nativities, one "martha" tree, and a few more.

We love Christmas!

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1st of the ornament swap!

1st of the ornament swap!
Originally uploaded by S'mee.
WoHooo! Taylor sent a lovely and very appreciated gift for the ornament swap! This beautiful crystal star with "2006" written in gold, plus 4 pieces of very nice ScharffenBerger chocolate ( the woman must be psychic!), and a terrific photo postcard of Lake Tahoe!

I am waaaay excited! I have the perfect tree for this star and I can't wait to place it! Thanks Taylor, this is wonderful!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On Friday all the kids and spouses and their offspring will be at our house.

We will be feasting on slow roasted ribs (for the guys mainly, or is that manly???), slow roasted turkey breast (for the spouses who prefer poultry over red meats), and one of the d-i-l is bringing her famous meatballs!

For side dishes we will have mashed baby red potatoes mixed with real butter and sour cream instead of milk, fresh steamed French green beans, baby Euro Greens with gala apples, mandarin oranges, feta cheese, candied walnuts - with raspberry and balsamic vinaigrette, fresh roasted corn on the cob, fresh pineapple with blue berries and black berries, home made rolls with real butter, and a fresh baby veggie tray.

D-i-ls are providing desserts which I am told will include (all home made) cheesecake, peanut butter cookies, ?cake, and a pie!

Sons are proving all the "drinks"... probably a variety of sodas!

There will be plenty of munchies for after-meal-into-the-evening snacking, MooseMunch, Almond Roca, French chocolate ganauche truffles, and the world famous cream cheese and homemade chili sauce dip with Wheat Thins!

I have to make an effort in the feasting department because if I don't my sister would be very disappointed in me! So there's the menu.

The activities for the day will probably include lots of visiting, lots of giggling, some games and certainly going over the things for which we are thankful. This year we have quite a list! Some of those things are:

family. good family. close and happy with each other.
the Gospel, which frankly, makes all of us very happy when we follow what the Saviour has asked us to do. aaaaannnd gives me the knowledge of who i (we) really am (are).
the Saviour, who as I was reminded by the written words of a now dead man, has "redeemed us and allows us to partake of life each day; overlooking our backsliding ways, and proving us with the means to live eternally with our God."
health. there are so many ways i could write about this blessing. some to sacred to display publicly; just let it be known that our family has seen its' share of genuine miracles and i KNOW we have been and are continually blessed of God.
little tiny people who make us laugh all the time.
a house that is truly a home.
cars that are reliable!!!
talents and gifts and the generosity of others.
commandments. i know that sounds all goody goody, but trust me when i say that i have learned to be grateful for commandments.
music. dance. ears to hear. legs that move...sort of!
love, genuine and true and forgiving and enduring. love that continues to blossom well after the bloom should have faded. love that knows humour and laughter more than tears.
knowledge. the ability to continue to learn.
service. both given and received.
the "things" we have.
indoor plumbing....always a blessing.

all of these and more. and the holidays that bring us all together!

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Over the river and through the woods....

So here's the scoop:

Heading off to Thor's folks place tomorrow for the big day with some of the kids and generally whomever shows up on that side of the family. They have an acre of land with two houses on it and plenty of yard left over for croquet, badminton, basketball, football, soccer, hide and seek, and the telephone pole out back that anyone who wants to can put on a pair of lineman's boots and try to climb with a harness. If tradition holds out the weather should be rather warm and perfect for staying outside.

The littlest of people can roam freely on the acre, feeding chickens, ducks and geese, collecting eggs for gramma, or chase each other through the freshly mown grass. They are welcome to dig holes and usually there is some sort of digging contest which involves depth and tunnels and being big enough to accommodate several filthy children by 2:00. There is a ride on toy and plenty of bikes, skateboards and scooters, wagons, and tons of old stuff saved from when their parents lived in that house. Thor once was the proud owner of a unicycle, still in the bowels of the garage along with a couple of pogo sticks.

Tweeners seem to love the pomegranate bush and pick off fruit and sit under a tree to pick out the delicious seeds until their entire fingertips (both hands) are as red as the fruit. They can go for walks around the neighborhood and visit horses and goats and other animals the neighbors have. Or they can sneak off to the house out back and play video games, music, watch sports or dance and be silly playing board games, or running up and down the stairs while all the adults are looking the other way.

Young adults gather out front and play sports until someone threatens a broken neck. A few go off to chat about careers, education, who is dating, married, giving birth, or getting ready to commit homicide over this or that subject or professor in college. Someone finds a way to show up in a "new" car each year so there are test drives and talk about payment schedules and just how much time they will need to pay it off before student loans catch up to them.

The adults divide by gender and yak it up over crackers and cheese, veggies and dip until the conversation heads off to the kitchen. The guys will have gathered together to assemble the tables: the real one, and the door turned on it's side, set on two saw horses and covered with clothes, the kids tables, and card tables where a lot of the tweeners like to eat and have elbow room. The young adults take care of setting the table and the women take care of making sure everyone has filled up on the crackers and cheese while we finish off the cooking.

If crackers and cheese aren't your idea of a snack before the big meal, gramma and grampa have made sure there are candy dishes filled to the brim with M&Ms, Skittles, Red Vines, chocolate covered peanuts, cashews, nut mix, peppermint patties, and baby Reeses' peanut butter cups every twenty feet in the house. If you miss those you can always grab a chocolate or oatmeal cookie from out of the opened and strategically placed Costco box and if you get thirsty... head out through the garage and grab a soda from the cooler.

At one point everyone, all 60 of us will be scrunched into the kitchen - dining and living room areas setting and placing food which, no matter how hard you try, will become cold as ice before you can eat it. The women cook and the guy folk carve and it's a carbohydrate artery clogging festival! Each family brings part of the side dishes and someone is assigned the turkey and another a ham.

The food is less than stellar. Nothing fancy or gourmet. The turkey is usually pretty good -as is the ham, after that, well we're talking cafeteria food. Green bean casserole with the gray funky sauce and crushed fried onions, runny funeral potatoes and lumpy mashed potatoes, red jello that is melting to quickly, another red jello that has cool whip in it, orange jello, and of course the green fluffy jello. Canned yams with burnt marshmallows on top, corn, and plain green beans. Costco rolls with grocery store brand margarine. A beautiful salad NO ONE ever eats. Salty gravy and 2 kinds of soggy stuffing- with and without onions. A couple of dishes full of canned cranberry jello sliced according to the rings on the can and a dish of the cranberry relish. A plate of raw cauliflower, "baby" carrots, and broccoli with ranch dressing.

Everything has traveled at least an hour... let your mind wrap around that for a second!

Each family always brings at least two desserts. This adds up to each person having at least six servings of pie, cake, brownies, cookies, pudding stuff and who knows what else. And for some weird reason, these always taste pretty good.

The only rules are that you have fun and give both grandparents a hug and a kiss. After that, it's no holds barred. Grampa delights in ruining every child's appetite; and if he can sense a mother's indignation that's all he needs to kick it into high gear and make sure the kid never eats anything nutrious the entire day. The "meal" begins at about 3:00, but the eating begins the minute you enter the property and doesn't stop until gramma stuffs your car with leftovers and "something" for the ride home, which usually includes a soda and cookies.

Is it any wonder why my kids still love to go to gramma's?

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

and they said it wouldn't last

O.k. so I never said I was the brightest crayon in the box; but man, do I love Disneyland!

30 years ago this month Thor and I took our high school romance to a new level and to celebrate we went to Disneyland on our honeymoon. Heck, we were 18 and 19, what else would we have chosen? So we though we'd go back again and spend a few days at the happiest (albeit-most jam-packed) place on earth!

Our first day there we noticed signs on the streets leading to the park that stated, "ALL PARKS FULL TO CAPACITY" and other signs which directed you far from any entrances as possible. Did that deter Thor and I? No, we're idiots. We drove around to the parking structure and noticed (for the first time in my experience) that there were cars on every level including the roof. Not to worry, we found the back lot to DownTown Disney and found a space. Heck there were lots of spaces back there! We walked into Disneyland and people watched like crazy for 2 1/2 hours and then we went back to the Hotel, got cleaned up, then back to the park to watch fireworks.

The following day we went again, this time we were greeted by the same signs, although we actually had a great space in the parking structure... we went early! However, once inside we noticed the signs that proclaimed a t.v. Christmas special was being filmed all day. Bunches of Disney Channel celebs and bands I have never heard of were performing all day and then there was Ryan Siecrest (?) and a parade. Much hoopla! It was beginning at 8 that morning and didn't finish shooting until 4:30. We did a lot more people watching!

All in all we had a great time doing nothing. Most folks would have had a terrible time, but it was fun for us to walk around the crowds and find spots to sit and watch everyone. We watched a dance team from a high school...pretty impressive actually. We went into the gallery and back into the artists cove, places that -when it is time to ride rides- you never go to. It was great to watch folks pose their kids on the steps, see the pirates go in and out from breaks and work, watch the artists at work, and to see the whole mass of humanity swarm around from sitting on the balcony in New Orleans Square.

We planned on staying all night to see the fireworks again, but frankly...I'm old and gave into going back and taking a hot shower. Our hotel has a great view of the fireworks from the back, but we opted to just listen to the BOOM of them from our room.

The following day we went into my parents to help them with a project and met with chronicler and the Big Guy for a turkey dinner they had prepared. It was fabulous. (See her blog for the amazing apple dessert...wonderful! and pretty too!) We had a good visit and then the drive home. It's always good to get back to your own bed after a few days away.

So there you have it. Proof that young impulsive kids can make a marriage work; and that after 30 years and five kids...there are still plenty of fireworks!

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another meme

The MeMe... requires you to BOLD the ones you have done! I saw this at Chronicler's place and also at Maren's, and after seeing it at Lisa's well, I succombed to the temptation. Although it will be the shortest read ever because, evidently I have led a rather dull and boring exisitance. Here goes: (commentary in blue)

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink.
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain.
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive.
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid.
06. Held a tarantula.
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone.
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it.
09. Hugged a tree.
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise.
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game.
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon Again?
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne.
24. Given more than you can afford to charity.
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment.
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can.
32. Held a lamb.
33. Seen a total eclipse.
34. Ridden a roller coaster. I hated every second of it.
35. Hit a home run.
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was watching.
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day.
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment.
39. Had two hard drives for your computer. I'm not sure I even understand this
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was s**t faced.
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country . From a foreign country ...yes.
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing photographed my kids rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving.
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them.
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow.
56. Alphabetized your cds -it would freak me out to not alphabetize them!
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers, no, however I have been nude in front of strangers -by accident! I was pulled half drowning from the Kern River...very humbling experience!
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie -Ever seen "God's Army"?
74. Crashed a party.
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days.
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River see #60 above for why I avoid rivers!
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Gone to a movie by yourself.
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone, define "combat zone" my version, yes.
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently -and at the same time!
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children -reared children, yes.
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking 103. Had plastic surgery. -does my son count? He has had several "plastic" surgeries.
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived.
105. Wrote articles for a large publication - wasn't published, but yes. If you count artwork, I have been published several times.
106. Lost over 100 pounds.
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart.
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show - I did however, win third place in a National Magazine contest for an interior design, and have won several monetary first place prizes for a major corporation as a visual display artist for holiday window design.
113. Broken a bone.

114. Gone on an African photo safari -I have driven by Wild Country Safari, and also the wild Animal Park in San Diego, does that count???
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol -I do not recommend this at all.
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet.
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours.
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school- just never finished.
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach. This is my nightmare, I won't even get close enough to one to kill it.
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad and the Odyssey
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
137. Skipped all your school reunions - no, however I highly recommend skipping them all, big mistake, I will never go again.
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language you can do this???
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair
147: Been a
48: Shaved your head
149: Caused a car accident
150: Saved someone's life -To quote my friend Chronicler, and Lisa,my own , but also my niece.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Getting a head start on the big day

I had to do it. I had to change the old Christmas wreaths to something more seaside; something with shells. So this is the new format: shells, pearls, starfish, some "coral", and my favorite kiwi green coloured balls. I like it, hope everyone else does too!

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

5 meme

I got this meme from lolly!

All about 5s...

1) Five Minutes to Yourself. How would you spend them, ideally? Ideally? I would spend them creating. More than likely -poorly. The honest truth is that I am very lucky to have time by myself. Problem is I work much more effectively while surrounded by people. I do not like being alone very often.

2) Five dollars to spend right now. How would you spend it? Right this minute...paint. Tomorrow? Paint.

3) Five Items In Your House You Could Part With Right Now? The mess. Guess that doesn't count though... 1. Old games in the game closet 2. All the garage sale stuff waiting to be garage sold 3. the baby grand 4. the couch and love seat 5. the dining room table (outside of the house: cars, cars, and more cars)

4) Five Items In My House You Could Absolutely Never Part With? 1. Indoor plumbing, 2. hot water heater, 3. scissors, 4. bed, 5. scriptures (in no particular's that I use these things EVERYDAY!!! lol)

5) Five Words You Love? 1. "mommy" when voiced by one of the offspring, 2. "babe" when voiced by Thor, 3. "chocolate?" when offered, 4. "thanks" when it's genuine, 5. "happiness" when it's felt

the second meme
1. Favorite memory of your mother: The first thing that comes to mind is me sitting on her lap when I was 5 years old. I cut myself and she put me on her lap to comfort me. She put her arms around me all the way and layed my head on her chest. My cheeks rose and fell with her breathing and she was warm and smelled like Avon White Gardenia mixed with "hospital". It was one time when I felt she really loved me.

2. Favorite memory of my dad: The day he had to drive the 3 sisters to Oceanside for the middle sister's piano lesson. It was blazing hot and we were crammed into a small Datsun 2-door sedan. The day was long and the drive longer in the summer heat. About 20 miles from home the driver's side rear tire blew. We didn't have a spare and so dad had to drive on it very slowly, making the drive even hotter and longer than it needed be. We were so young and giggley and with each giggle we were driving the poor man nuts.

The miles on the flat tire began to take their toll and the rubber slowly tore away and began to slap the metal wheel frame in loud (LOUD!) rhythm. whack, whack, WHACK! whack, whack, WHACK! For miles this went on and we girls were finding it hilarious, but tried to stifle our laughter, because by this time dad had enough and was quietly fuming in the driver's seat. If looks could kill we would have all three died right then and there in the back seat.

We made a final turn about a mile from home -whack, whack, WHACK! whack, whack, WHACK! - when another driver got my dad's attention and yelled through his window, "Hey Buddy! You got a flat tire!" That was all my dad could take. With every fiber in his broiled humiliated being he stuck half his body out of the window and yelled at the top of his lungs, "I KNOW IT!!!!!" When that happened we girls could no longer contain our laughter and burst loose with whoops and yelps and nearly cried we thought it was so funny! Dad just about killed us, but to this day, all three girls crack up just thinking about that day in the car! (seriously...I am laughing out loud to myself right now!)

3. Favorite memory of your sibling(s): There are too many things I could write about here. The siblings were everything to each other. We were so dependent on each other for every aspect of our lives: love, entertainment, safety, friendship, you name it! We did everything together and were each others best friends for so long that by the time the other friends came into the picture we had already bonded enough to read each other like books. We would fight like dogs with each other, but if any one else picked on one of us the other three came out sluggin'! We built forts and played games, we swam and roller skated, we sang and made up plays, and could laugh ourselves silly over nothing. We were nomads for so long that we understood very young that friends come and go, but your siblings will be there forever. So far, that's held out true.

4. What one skill would you like to wake up tomorrow and be able to do (though you'd never learned it): Languages. Spanish, French, Latin... I would love to learn so many different languages. It would be great to just walk up to folks and converse in their language.

5. Which one of your dreams has come true: Married to Thor and got the kids. I think eventually we all get what we want because it is what we work for; consciously or subconsciously.

Thanks Lolly! Anyone else game??? I'd love to hear about your 5s!

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Ornament Exchange

partridge in a pear tree
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

From Chronicler I received an opportunity to join an internet Ornament Exchange, organized by Nicole of Freshly Blended and cake+pie. I was (am) excited and joined in.

With further encouragement from my dear sister I quickly (and I mean VERY quickly) painted 12 5x7 inch canvases that represent the Twelve Days of Christmas had they been painted by different artists. (Their style of art, my twisted idea of what it may have looked like!) I chose some of my favourite paintings and artists from the Impressionists, Pointillists, Surrealists, Abstract, Cubist, and Neo-Plasticism artists, post and prior periods in some artists.

The one in the photo is my version of a Joan Miro, depicting the Partridge in a Pear Tree. A French surrealist who literally would, at times, starve himself, deprive himself of sleep, and some presume, follow the advice of his associate Andre Breton(known for promoting the use of starvation, sleep deprivation, and drugs for inducing hallucinogenic states conducive to create art that reveals the subconscious). Who knows? I just know that since I was a little gal I have loved his work.

I painted all 12 paintings in about five hours as they need to be completely finished and in the mail soon. My schedule is gearing up and feared I wouldn't have time to complete them all; so I took the free time I had yesterday to get started. I will finish off these unusual "ornaments" by adding a customized envelope to each of the painting backs. The envelope will contain a photo of all 12 paintings in the collection, a description of each painting and the original artist, and where in the world the all 12 individual paintings are located. Each person will receive one of the 12 paintings. There will be a ribbon hanger affixed between the envelope and the canvas so that the painting can be hung, either on a tree or wall, etc.

Each photo will be professionally photographed with the idea of reprinting the paintings and making them into Christmas cards at some time in the future. All of the paintings may be seen on my Flickr! page, access is easy... just click on the photo and it will take you here. I hope you find these as interesting and fun as I do.

UPDATE: As of 9:23 p.m., Nov. 8, I am completely done with these ornaments. This is an all time record. Start to finish in one 24 hour period. Waaaahooo! Let the party commence!

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Monday, October 30, 2006

In praise of a danged good idea...

England Trophies
Originally uploaded by matters_1.

How many of us have trophies laying around the house? Either from our own well spent youth, bowling night with the boys, or even our own children's sporting mementos, we all have them someplace. Let's face it, after the relative moment of "IN YOUR FACE BABY!" the trophy on our shelf really doesn't get much play after that.

#1 has a bunch of old soccer trophies, and a few participant trophies from grade school events, metal ribbons, plaques of faux marble and walnut proclaiming success at spelling or 7th grade science, etc. His wife on the other hand has accumulated a zillion (yes, a zillion and I am not exaggerating a bit) trophies. She also has all the academic ribbons, medals, and trophies, but she was really good at sports. She was a gymnast; and at one time was on world tours for the Olympics doing exhibition gymnastics to promote the Olympics and Jr. Olympics. She was a cheerleader (grade, jr. high, high, and college on scholarship) and also did childhood sports. She has won numerous events as a choreographer and also as a coach for high school cheerleading and the list goes on. In essence, she kicks booty and has a gaggle of golden figures collecting dust in the garage.

Well #1 and his wife (and man! Do I need to come up with better names for the offspring and their spouses and children or what?) Any who, they have a new home. A home BTW they are both wanting to look very nice, no trophy rooms to be had, what to do? What to do?

She has a FANTASTIC idea. She, my little smarty pants daughter in law, is also the head educator for the preschool in her district for children with severe physical and mental disabilities. Her idea is to take all of those glorious reminders of their past triumphs down to the local trophy guy and have the name plates removed. The name plates are flat and easily stored in a scrapbook. New name plates will be made:

Best Smile and Attitude 2006

Most Improved Small Motor Skills 2006

Best "Best Friend" 2006

Best Mathematician 2006

Most Improved Language Skills 2006

etc. and so on. (I am making these titles up, she will have better ones I am sure.)

At the end of the year every student in her program will receive a trophy. Some will have young soccer boys shooting for the goals, while others will be girls bent over backwards, and even a few overly excitable cheerleaders with pompons raised in one hand. Some of these trophies will stand taller than the child in their wheelchair or walker. Some of the trophies will never be held by the recipient because the weight will exceed the little arms' strength. A few will be "loving cups" or punch bowls that will more than likely hold chunky cars or dolls. But every child in that preschool will receive a real trophy from a teacher who knows what really matters; that her students receive recognition for the strides they make while in her care.

Miss #1 LOVES her students like they were her own little kids. She lives to see their personalities grow along with their abilities. She understands that within each imperfect body or brain lay a perfect Spirit that hears her loving instruction and feels the warmth in her touch and voice.

This is a great idea. She is a super teacher. "Teacher of the Year!" in my book. Someone, give that gal a trophy!

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

It only happened once...then it happened again

I was called to the new stake RS presidency...again. This time I am the 2nd Counselor, still Education, but for whatever reason the Pres decided that #1 will be Enrichment gal and #2 the Education gal. O.k. So we had our first meeting together as a presidency.

In the first hour of this meeting we talked about many things. One of topic was about a small group of young women who became pregnant while still in their teens or early 20's. "They're just defiant, rebellious, I guess. They come from terrific homes, loving families. It's a puzzle why they would do this to their parents." was the response from one of the women at the table. Another said, "It's sad."

I piped up and said that "it was neither sad nor a rebellion against the parents but rather a lack of knowledge. A misunderstanding of who they really are. If one truly gets who they really are, they would never allow themselves to be abused, mistreated, disrespect, or seduced to a state where it endangered their standing in the eternities. Somewhere in their childhood they missed that 'child of God' lesson, or they didn't feel it enough to believe it."

I got three puzzled looks as they tried to understand what I was trying -obviously without success- to say. I think there is a lot of "psycho-babble" out there, a lot of excuses to be sure, but I also think there is something to knowing who you are. If I really believe that I am a literal Spirit son or daughter of God (any God- you don't have to believe in the same God as me, just that you are definitely Divine in nature) then chances are you will have self worth.

Now I know, there was a time back in the 80's when we all blamed every ill character trait on our lack of self esteem... but think about it. If you think you are it and a bag of chips, you won't take crap off of anyone. No one would talk down to you without your correcting them. No one could make you feel bad, hurt your feelings, lure you into something stupid to elicit sympathy or friendship. You would be confident to say "yes" and "no" when you wanted to, rather than going along with someone else with pressure for some form of reassurance or validation. You would be king! Kings answer to no one but themselves and God. Not arrogance or conceit, but true confidence in who you really are and your worth in general - enough to stand up for yourself in any situation. There would never be a "just this once", or "He said he was sorry, but I was too pretty (or made him mad), and it happened again." - "What happens between two people is their private business. Besides, it's only now and then." - "She was my best friend, don't you do things for a best friend?" and "No one will ever know except me."

The discussion at the table went from rebellion to "perhaps these girls were trying to get attention from their parents". My argument still stands. If they know who they are -the attention would be nice, but not necessary. "My father pays no attention to me, so I am going to my boyfriend to get the love I need." O.K. you're dad's a jerk; but if you think you are o.k. then you certainly don't need him to tell you what you already know. "I'm o.k. I'm lovable. I will be loved eventually by someone who deserves me." The thought of cheating on a test, engaging in chemical abuse, driving too dangerously, lying to another person -or ourself, would be beyond our comprehension. A child of GOD would never do those things because it would be beneith them to do so. The more we realize our worth, who we are, the closer we come to not wanting to risk our personal self. We want to rid our self of those habits, tempatations, or incidents that hamper our progression towards our eternal Home.

I have a friend who, somewhere along the way, lost herself to an abusive eternal companion. She did not start out in life loathing herself. She started out thinking she was smart enough, thin, educated, and pretty enough to land a guy. Trouble is the guy she got had grown up in a home where values got skewed. Not to excuse his behaviors, after all he has agency as well as the next guy, but he learned that in order for him to be "o.k." he had to be in control. Control meant power, power meant authority, and authority meant everything. Without authority he was nothing.

Little by little he demeaned his wife to the point where he robbed her of her family, isolated her from her friends, and closed her world up teaching her through words, actions and emotional outbursts that she had somehow "changed" and was losing all value in his eyes. She was becoming stupid, weak, incompetent. Day after day these drills took their toll until she no longer believed she was worth anything. She allowed herself to be abused, fearing that she had no power and that no one would believe her because she was incapable of communicating and articulating what had become the reality of her life. "After all, [she] was the cause. [She] made him, forced him to abuse her because she was worth less and somehow less than the rest of God's children." What esteem she had for her Divinity had been slowly grated away and replaced through trusting her most sacred companion... in his eyes she had become nothing. Because she trusted his judgment of her, she believed she was nothing and that she deserved what was coming to her day after day for 30 years.

People can be taught to love themselves or to hate themselves. When the latter occurs, they begin to doubt their own judgments and allow others to make decisions for them and the abuse begins. Whether beatings, verbal, or allowing someone to seduce you into thinking they love you only to satisfy a moment in time or even to "just this once" with a promise of future (not present)'s all because we forget that "I am God's child and you better back off before you mess with me." "Mess with me and you mess with my Dad...who just happens to rule the universe, SO BACK OFF!" "I know I love you and that you love me, but I refuse to lower my standard for either of us, because I am better than this small moment of temptation."

I am not sure that I ever made my point at the meeting, or even here. However the main thing is this: We are in this together. When we sit together we need to edify each other. To build each other as much as possible. Don't allow someone near us to feel they aren't worth everything. The members of the church, moreso than any other group, should understand their worth. Yet, we can see the depression on the faces of those around us. We hear the stories of lives that have been shattered, postponed, hearts broken and Spirits struggling to find a way back into a world where they know -for sure- they belong.

I wish that I had the ability to convince people who they really are. None of us are perfect, however when we understand that this whole planet was designed for our benefit, we do try harder to keep our Divinity closer, to grow more, to be happier, to earn those things our Father has; we fight for our Spirit, we guard our selves and protect our souls from harm. We treat others with respect and Christ like love because we know who they are too.

The worth of souls is great in the sight of God...and it should be in our sight as well.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

From here to eternity...

A mid town cemetery. Encompassed within one small neighborhood block, this rolling hilled memorial land was dotted quite beautifully with all kinds of markers, stones and statues to honour and remember loved ones.

The standing angel actually stood over my head by several feet, hence the angle...but whomever was buried there had a very high and lovely crypt.

"GRIEF". Large enough to house 6-9 caskets, no one will ever know who is mourned lest they go to the house of records. Only "GRIEF" proclaimed for eternity on the monument's 2 sides.

Someone also lost, this time to weather and time, only in their 20's when they were placed beneath the small stone. Birth date: Feb. 22, 187_. Death: Dec.1, 1896.

At the center of the cemetery was a circular drive wide enough for one vehicle to make a tight U-turn. In the center of that circle were the graves of the local Fathers and Priests. A large standing cross in the exact center and their grave in spokes around it. One particular Father must have had the hearts of the locals as his memorial is much larger than all the rest and has the duty of providing the foundation for a statue of Christ surrounded by and holding lambs.

The last of the photos shows a very intricate cross with cut work detailing. Very ornate. Must have been a really nice person. Or fussy.

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Chronicler informs me that we are, indeed, relatives. Evidently she has the exact same photo of Canadian geese walking through grass. Yup, we're absolutely fascinated by Canadian geese in grass. These were in a community baseball park. Hers, Hyde Park, NYC.

"Snickers" has moved. Clicking on the photo may enlarge it enough to see that condos will now replace this business, one that was in the neighborhood for generations. The condos are extremely modern, all exposed pipe and corrugated metal, and glass. Kind of cool, but really out of place next to the old style of buildings. Interesting turn of events.

"Armstrong Laundry"- evidently the "first automated" laundry in Cleveland- also being encouraged to move and make room for condos. Kind of sad really.

Not sure if you can see the progress of the changing neighborhood in this photo, but the stone arch tells a story. Through it you can see the young man who has the assignment of remodeling this stone home and making it a tad more, well, clapboard. From what I could see on the sight, this corner home was HUGE. They have taken down most of the facade and front parts of the home. Along one side of the house they have build a new structure completely out of clap board siding with a corrugated metal roof. Pretty. (depends on your view I guess) I thought from my observations that they intend to leave the arch and some of the other rock detail on the other side of the house; but why? This house will definitely blend the old and the new. Just not in a good way.

Lastly, as election time swiftly approaches we would like to remind you to "Elect Jesus".

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Monday, October 23, 2006

more from the 'hood...

There are, seriously, so many different and varied neighborhoods! This is what Miss S'mee LOOOVEs about cities. Turn your head or walk a block and you have gone from Prussian Chapels to Mexican Barrio, or the industry of the past rolling into the condos that are replacing the old Jewish neighborhood.

These are photos (albeit mixed up because I still can't figure out why they are downloaded in one order, and posted in a terrifically different order...) photos of things I found wonderful!

The glazed Madonna in her turquoise robes and golden crown standing above the entrance to yet another church. This time Catholic. Around the corner from this Catholic church there was a Greek Orthodox with the most intricate windows of stained the basement!

In the heart of the industrial neighborhood, completely surrounded and dwarfed by the other structures was a restaurant. Hidden and cloaked down an alley way and guarded by the iron gate. How anyone finds this place (except by accident, like I did!) is beyond me! The food must be great because the street was lined with cars and folks were clamoring to get in there. But take heed to the sign on the gate and don't let the dogs escape! (there is so much here that needs to be commented on. Hidden restaurant, funky neighborhood, dogs where food is being prepared or served, dogs that want to "escape"....egads!)

I drove through a very crowded neighborhood with amazing tiny little 2, 3, and sometimes 4 story homes. Packed on each other with tiny little yards and very little space between. The tree lined streets were what brought me there first. Huge over grown, likely never pruned trees that clung to each other from across the narrow (and I ain't kiddin') street. The grasses from the lawns creeped over the sidewalks in places and happily began to grow in squiggles through the broken asphalt. Only four or five blocks deep and wide, the house were all unique; like each one had been custom build and over the last 2oo hundred years. Every style and every medium used from wood clap board, brick, stone, stucco and left over corrugated metal. Among them was a faerie tale house, the kind where you know Merlin lives if he had to live in the city. It seemed so out of place. I drove around the block twice just to get the picture. I like the brickwork around the door, the point on the porch roof and the way the soot from the street and wet is climbing its way up the unmaintained wood entry. I can imagine the visitors who are greeted through the door window as the owners peep through to see who has come to chat. Cool house.

I actually sat in my car, on the tracks to get the picture. The way the old tracks curved and snaked its way through the modern rail system above was just very pretty. Still used everyday, the train below doesn't deter the plants from growing along side nor the moss from making the cross rails home.

I missed the Rock and Roll Museum (except the parking lot, yeah, I took pictures from the sidewalk like a dork.) but I had so much fun driving through all the nooks and off beat places that I ran out of time to see the places I can actually see on line. Oh well, the drive was worth it.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Nature finds a way...

Cleveland is wet. Not as wet as New Orleans, but sitting on Lake Erie has a tendancy to make you humid even in the great heat of summer. Proof of that humidity are the many ivy covered buildings and bridges. (I have so many more of these photos, however they are in Thor's computer and I am not the technocrat I should be; so there they will stay.)

These buildings are still working businesses with people coming and going all through the day. Sitting across the street, you can see into the windows exposing rooms full of workers. Trucks drop off and pick up items; and the day goes on all without notice of what pretty surroundings the ivy seems to make to a desert girl.

Ivy is everywhere. Houses, churches, businesses, old abandoned cars, tressels, and bridges. This happens to be a draw bridge that is no longer in use. Pulled into it's upright position for quite some time the ivy decided "why not make it pretty?" and began to grow. There are parts of this bridge that the ivy hangs down fourty+ feet in long flowing stems that look like faerie hair blowing in the breezes. It really is incredibly gorgeous. I wanted a closer photo, however the building just below the bridge is a "gentleman's club" (nudey club to you and me) and I wouldn't go within 1/4 mile of the joint.

Both these photos were taken in "The Flats" area of Cleveland, known to the locals as manufacturing, industrial and unfortunately a "seedy" place to be. No one would ever go there during the evening hours without specific address and purpose from what I was told. That said, during the day it seemed quite interesting, and in some places, so pretty -I couldn't stay away after viewing it from the higher elevated neighborhoods.

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Cleveland Rock of Ages!

It's Sunday so the post will be about Cleveland's beautiful churches.

Seems that somewhere someone decided that this town needed religion and they needed it bad. A contest was held to see which religion could build the prettiest edifice, and there you go... a city that is dotted, almost to the point of every block, with gorgeous old churches.
Churches of every denomination and with stonework, brickwork, and all over architecture that begs the parishioner, "enter".

The years of standing in the exposed elements of a northern states steel mill/refining town takes its' toll; and these old houses of worship are tarnished and covered with the black soot of a coke oven. The soot filled air clings to the brick, and when the rains come it drizzles down the facade, sometimes coating the faces of saints and angels alike. To me, the blackened stone and brick add to the gothic structures and lend power to the already dramatic entry ways and adorned windows. In addition to the soot stains there are the ivy and other clinging plant life that crawl its' way up to heaven via the sides of the buildings. Sometimes the buildings were completely green with plants! Giant 'bushes' with window cutouts and doorways cleared of the growth. Amazing.

I loved the church with the obviously well maintained red doors that literally grabs you by the eye and pleads with you to pay attention. The stained glass in most of these churches is detailed and reflective of the memberships' choice of deity, saint, or particular religious lesson, history, or message to the community or passerby.

The many and varied steeples in the city were indeed dwarfed by the other buildings; sky scrapers, a zillion bridges, steel mills, factories and bill boards...however they still manage to peek out of the trees and signal just where you ought to be -instead of where it is you are headed to. Some are crosses, some are bell towered, some are multiple steeples or crosses that even differ on the same building, such as in the photo here.

They divide the congregations into race, ethnic, language and regional versions of Christianity, Muslim, Jew, and others. This town is full of God fearing folk!

I was talking with a certain missionary about the LDS church in town. I found two, and they looked as familiar as any I have ever seen. Most of my readers can spot a LDS chapel without any trouble. If nothing else the LDS are good at finding a way to simplify and organize even the building of churches. However, there was one neighborhood that went to the church and asked them to step up and take the structure up a notch...or ten. Seems that they also were familiar with the typical LDS building and, thank you very much, but that just wouldn't do sitting across the street from the other churches. So they petitioned pretty hard and finally the church gave in and produced a church that the surrounding neighborhood would feel comfy with. One with gothic features and a tad more decorative touches. Unfortunately I never found the building. Darn it all!

I remember the same situation happening, and being retold to me as I rode the trolley tour in New Orleans. A LDS chapel there was also built to accommodate the surrounding neighborhood with all the New Orleans wrought iron and French influenced architectural style. The trolley conductor/tour guide pointed out that none other of the modern churches or businesses would comply with the city request. He was impressed that a bunch of "uptight folks" would even live in New Orleans, much less build to comply -and happily so.

So enjoy. I just love the red doors, the circular windows and the arched doorways, the now blackened angels and saints who watch over all who walk on the property, and the ivy and soot that compete to cover the whole of it. Cleveland still rocks, just not on a Sunday!

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006


So to change the subject back to simpler times...I give you Ohio, again. This first photo was taken as I drove through a state park during a misty rain. The colours do not come close at all to the rich greens and of course there isn't any scent on the screen so you can't tell how absolutely wonderful the woods smelled as I drove slowly through this part of the country, just a bit east of Kirtland. Gorgeous! I was quite taken by, number one (duh) the absence of hills, mountains or general large bumps in the landscape. Number two, the lush green foliage that just sprouts out of every inch of land unmaintained and unattended to. Spontaneous growth amazes this Mojave Desert chick...I was visually dazzled!

Second photo was taken in a little town that I had to drive through to get into a small Amish community just around the corner. Without my notes I am afraid I cannot remember the town's name, grrr. However I was immediately struck by the resemblance, however coincidental, to the town that is in "Back to the Future" complete with the town clock tower as in this photo. The center of town had the same little grassy mall, complete with white gazebo band stand and surrounded by the town square. There was a movie theatre at the end of the block as in the movie and small shops circling the square, plus in just the correct place, a malt shop/diner. If this isn't where the movie was filmed it was certainly the inspiration for the set at Universal Studios. Either way, this little town was typical to most of the older towns I encountered there. Simple life at it's best, and of course, magically green and filled with colourfull flowers and luscious trees.

As I drove from Kirtland out to the John Johnson farm, just 20+ miles away the country side was amazingly beautiful. Streams and small rivers crossed the highway so many times I gave up counting them. Fields of wild flowers between the fields being used by farmers to grow all manner of fruit on trees, and row after row of corn, hay, and smaller low growing crops. Tidy, smartly groomed farm houses, bright white with colourful roofs, doors and window shutters. Grass lawns that roll from home to home unimpeded by fences. Occasional buggies would mark the Amish farms, as would the black, midnight blue, and lavender clothes hanging to dry on the line just off sides of the house. I wove my way through tiny hamlets of 200 to 400 towns people. These little towns welcoming passersby with a block or two of shops and stores made of white clapboard and brightly coloured doors. Benches and rockers line the walk ways and, as our traveling companion noted the day he rode with us, the classic cars that seemed to be everywhere would make any young man drool with envy.

I guess my main impression was the green peacefulness that was constant for miles. The way the country side appeared to have stayed un-wrestled over the last 100 years, unblemished and untarnished by modernism or the conveniences of our day. Sure, they had all we have here in CA. It's was just left in proper perspective in this little neck of the woods.

As the events of last week still haunt me, all of us I guess;- I can't help but remember those peaceful few days when I thought of how lovely it was to be in a place that respected the values of quiet repose; and honoured the traditions of differing beliefs while living across the street from your neighbor in peace. The warm feeling of a community without fences; and the perfect blend of simplicity among the modern made the few days spent there a lasting memory of nostalgia for a time I have never lived. Tolerance is not something to be learned or applied with a mental note every day but something that has been so inbred that it does not need a reminder; it comes as naturally to those towns-people as does breathing. This is where we all want our children to grow up.

The problem is all of our children do not grow up in a Utopian society. We (adults) do not live in a Utopian society. Our neighborhood now suffers from severe classism, racism, gangs, nearby prisons, political agendas, and many other common calamities that plague "normal" life for most of us. The key is being able to make our own "acreage" (even if that "acreage" is a one room studio in a 5 story walk up) as close to Utopia as possible. To get rid of our familial fences. To plant the kinds of fruit that will yield not just this year, but through the eternities. As any farmer knows, plants need daily care, weeding, correct pruning and staking, fertilizer, and watering. If we want good fruit we need to pay attention. The house needs to be taken care of, maintained and groomed. The need for modern convenience needs to be balanced against the need to remain simple enough to enjoy what life brings and to act instead of reacting to what life teaches us. In a Utopian society one needs to have a good work ethic, integrity, honesty, and the abilty to enjoy life as it is; to be content with what we have.

What I am eluding to, all to ineptly, is if we want Utopia we need to make it ourselves. And make it on an everyday basis, continually year after year. We need to focus more on what is important and let go of what is not.

Years ago, in the midst of personal trial, I decided to make all my decisions based on what would matter in five years. "If I leave these dishes until my guests go home or even until tomorrow morning....will it matter in five years?" "If I take the office box of paper clips home for personal use...will it matter in five years?" "If I hold onto this grudge...will it matter in five years?"

Some of these questions can be answered both yes and no depending on my personal character, however, using my "five year" plan, I have been able to let some things go and pay much more regard to other decisions.

Utopia is a decision I made, it is there, deep in my heart. A desire that I believe is divine in seed. To make sure it becomes a reality I need to yearn for it every moment, and work it out in my daily routine. I need to want it not only for myself, but also for those with whom I share community. If I want this for my self and for my neighbors, then I have a much better chance of acting in such a way as to make my seed of Utopia grow to fruit.

I do not know if I am living in Utopia yet, however I have begun to pack boxes of my personal life in antiscipation of the move. I do know one thing: I am much happier now than I was 5 years ago. I antiscipate being much happier than I am now five years from today. That's my plan.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

three oddities in Ohio to consider...

First up, "THANK YOU FOR NOT PICKING OUR NEIGHBOR'S FRUIT" a sign at the John Johnson Farm. Years ago the LDS Church owned the land where the tempting fruit now grows and folks got used to just taking a sample now and then when the moment beguiled them. The land was sold to private family farmers (several years ago) who would prefer consumers of their fruit to have purchased it prior to eating. The church agrees; and suggests so through the signs along the shared fencing.
Next, this amazingly shocking hot pink gas and tire station I found driving around Cleveland. At first I noticed the obvious colour of the building, then started to see that the colour somehow found it way onto the cars in the facility! Across the street was a bakery that was almost as vivid only in turquoise green and brick red. Between the two colourful businesses the street was a shock of colour and advertisement, fighting for your attention and dollars.
Lastly is a final tribute to someone who adores Chevy s-10s. This was one full block of granite! It is full sized and if you look closely enough you can see where the weight of the truck has made the tires slightly flat against the road, or in this case, grass. The detail on this monument was laser perfect and something that caught my eye from a block away. The point? That this particular tomb stone carving business would not be deterred by degree of difficulty, or choice of sculpture, to honour that loved one. They are the best in town and will/can carve whatever you wish to represent you throughout eternity.

All three of the above examples are meant to get your attention and focus your way of thinking for just a moment; just enough time to leave a decision making impression. Whether subtle or in your face we are challenge each day to make decisions that can impact our eternal course. Some influences are very easy to interpret, while others are more gentle and restrained. Yet the choices we make now (based on those influences), even the small seemingly insignificant ones, can matter eternally.

I am off again to the land of glaring, in your face influence...unfortunately most of the influence in this land will be of the negative variety. Things which pervert and distort reality in hopes of luring us and our morality away just an inch or two further from what would matter eternally. Those inches add up and soon, before we know it, we are so far from what we had originally set as a goal it feels almost impossible to go back and get on track again. Lucky for me, I have other choices in this land of indulgence. Lucky for me I know I have the power of choosing for myself.

So we head out for yet another conference in Las Vegas. I am so very blessed to have family close by, the temple to visit, and Thor to keep me company in a land of illusion.

Have a grand week! I will try to post more photos from Ohio while I am in Vegas. In the meantime, what are some of the odd things in your neighborhood that try to influence the folks in your town?

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