Monday, November 30, 2009

Story #8 The First Date

My laptop is ill with a virus and it has fouled up my posting efforts! I will need to double up on my stories to get them all in before the deadline. Feel free to send my computer get well's in intensive care as I write.

My first date with Bob was actually Bob, 3 of his friends and me. I guess Bob needed moral support. Actually, his friends were supposed to have dates, but they all struck out. Wait - let me back up a little...I first met Bob through a mutual friend, Steve. My first date with Steve was a double date, Bob was the other guy and his date (a blind date for him) was a girl named Candy who was a senior in high school. (Bob was 23 at the time - cradle robber.) Bob and Steve had been mission companions in Spain and both shared the same corrupt and bizarre sense of humor. After that first meeting, Bob asked Steve if he was going to ask me out again - or if Bob could ask me out. Steve told him that he was going to ask me out again. Months later Steve and I decided we were better friends than anything else and we stopped dating. That summer I received a phone call from Bob asking me if I wanted to go water skiing. He said his name was Bob Denney, but he never mentioned Steve and to be honest, I couldn't remember who he was. I had always wanted to learn to water ski, so I said yes, got his address and told him I would meet him at his house.

As soon as I arrived I remembered who he was, but decided to go anyway. I AM JUST KIDDING! The 5 of us headed off to Echo Reservoir for same late afternoon and evening skiing. All of the guys were unbelievable patient with my uncoordinated attempts at skiing. I was so impressed with how at ease I felt with all of them and that was in a swimsuit! (Of course I was a much smaller size back then...but still.) Believe it or not, because of Bob's patient instruction I was actually able to get up on two skis - there were moments when I thought I needed more :)! I was happily skiing when suddenly Bob pulled the boat around and the other guys lifted me into the boat. "What's going on?" I asked. They told me that a couple of the other boats on the lake and crashed and we needed to see if we could go and help.

Since it was a Monday evening there were only a few other boats on the lake. One of them was an older, wooden ski boat holding a Mom, Dad, their older married daughter and her husband, their 12 year old boy, 2 younger girls and a yappy little dog. They were driving across the lake at a pretty good clip when a large fiberglass boat cut in front of them. The wooden boat crashed into the side of the fiberglass boat, went under and came up on the other side. When we arrived there was debris and screams were everywhere. The first person we saw was the older married daughter. Her scalp had been partially severed and was flapped open. Bob's friend Jeff jumped into the water, grabbed a towel and wrapped her head. Her husband was clearly in shock, but uninjured. Another boat pulled him in and wrapped him up. A third boat jetted to shore to call for help. The mother of the family was screaming hysterically, no one could understand her and she would thrash about if anyone tried to pull her out of the water. Finally a prayer was said and the woman calmed right down. She then told us that her son and husband were missing.

Seeing the upturned boat, Bob and his other two friends assumed that the father and son must have been trapped under the boat. At first they tried to turn the boat over, but it was so heavy they could not lift it at all. Bob and his friends assumed that there would be a pocket of air inside the upturned boat, so Bob swam underneath, only to discover that the pocket was so small there was no way to catch a breath. Each taking turns, Bob and his friends dove deep into the murky water to try and find the bodies of the father and son.

It wasn't long before life flight, the sheriff and specialty divers arrived. The had us drive over to the far side of the lake to clear the area while they searched for the bodies. Life Flight took the older daughter and her husband and rushed off to the nearest hospital. The mom, daughters and little dog left with the sheriff so that the divers could do their work. We were out on the lake until 2 a.m. when they finally called off the search for the night. At that point we were able to dock and head back to Salt Lake.

Unfortunately, the bodies of the son and father were not found for another 2 weeks. I don't know how the older daughter fared - or the rest of the family. I hope she survived. I was so impressed by Bob and his friends. Their courage and willingness to help in this desperate situation was amazing. I decided I should go out with Bob again - and 18 years later - here we are!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Story #7 Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving! I thought a Thanksgiving story was appropriate.

Most every year my family would be invited to the Cutler's for Thanksgiving dinner. This was heavenly for many reasons. One, I felt like I grew up there, so it was very homey; Two, Joanie is an amazing cook. Cook isn't the right word...Chef is better. Three, there was always a crackling fire going and great conversation.

One year, Joanie had invited another couple to the dinner as well. She had asked both my Mom and Sandra, the other lady, to bring dessert. She requested a trifle from my Mom and asked Sandra to bring a pie. After dinner, as we were all sitting around the fireplace, Joanie began to take dessert orders. I started to feel very sad for Sandra when person after person kept asking for trifle - and no one wanted her pumpkin pie. I really wanted trifle but asked for pie so at least someone ate some of Sandra's dessert. My Dad (step-dad) was sitting next to me and he also asked for pie.

I looked longingly as each person received their bowl of trifle. Soon Joanie handed us our pumpkin pie. I took a bite and had to use all my will power to not spit it out or make a face. Something was seriously wrong with this pie. Ironically, Sandra and her husband were also having trifle, so she had no idea that she had baked the worst pumpkin pie ever in the history of Thanksgiving. I looked over at my Dad and we exchanged knowing glances. I sat in awe as I watched him actually take another bite. He gave me a small nod, as if saying, "Come on...we have to make an effort." I managed to take two more bites. If I ate anymore I was sure I would begin spewing pumpkin pie all over the coffee table.

It was clear that Sandra did not put sugar in filling and she seemed to be lacking in the finer art of crust making. The crust was very, very hard and salty - that combined with unsweetened pumpkin custard is not a great way to finish a beautiful meal.

I couldn't wait to get in the car with my parents so that my Dad and I could discuss the trauma we had both experienced. I needed to have some group therapy time ... and was nervous that Joanie would ask if we wanted more. I have been very careful about pumpkin pie ever since that experience. Every time I see a pumpkin pie I have a flash of post traumatic stress disorder. So, before you dive into your pie today, pick someone to taste test it for you.....does anyone know Sandra?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Story #6 Colliding with cars

I developed the bad habit of getting hit by moving cars when I was young. I have been hit a total of 3 times in my life. The first time I was hit I was in 2nd grade. I was walking home from school and came to a 4 way stop. There was a car coming, but she had her blinker on to turn right, so I started to cross the street. Apparently, she was just going around the world to the right and had no intention of either turning, slowing down or stopping so she hit me instead. I flew through the air, but was fortunate enough to land on some one's front lawn, rather than the sidewalk or street. I must have gone unconscious because when I opened my eyes I remember seeing the woman who hit me screaming hysterically and the police running over to me. A lot of that portion is hazy, I know an ambulance came, they took me to the hospital, my brother was there, my Mom quickly arrived - and miraculously I hadn't broken a bone. I was very bruised up and had a lot of cuts and scrapes, as well as a big bump on the head - but I was okay.

I stayed home for a couple of weeks recuperating. I do remember that it felt like Christmas. One of the guys my Mom was dating kept bringing me Archie comics (my favorite) and M&Ms. My class all made me cards, and neighbors kept bringing in goodies as well. I remember thinking this wasn't so bad - watch TV all day, no school, get presents - all for letting someone drive their car into me. Okay, maybe it sounds kind of bad when I put it that way - but I was 8 - Archie comics were the ultimate.

A few weeks after I was pronounced healed and ready to return to school I encountered the same problem - but with a twist. My Mom had Delia (I can't believe I remember her name), her accountant over to help her with taxes. For some reason Delia didn't have her car and so she needed to drive her home. My Mom and Delia were in the front of the beautiful Pinto wagon, Marc and his friend Andy had climbed into the back and I was in the process of climbing in when my Mom said, "Everyone in?" Someone must have said yes because she started to drive away. The problem was I was only halfway in when she took off - so I fell out of the car, smacked my head on the sidewalk and screamed while she managed to run over my leg. I remember that for some reason I was mad at Marc, so when my Mom asked who should sit in the back with me while we drove to the hospital I said Andy. I bet Marc was really upset about that! I also remember being really worried about my shoes. I had just received, thanks to the previous collision gift extravaganza, a pair of navy blue shoes. These weren't just any shoes - they were the cool shoe for any 2nd grade girl in Eugene. They had this fabulous 2 inch thick wavy sole. I felt fabulous in them and I was worried that the blood was going to ruin them. (A girl has her priorities, after all.)

I distinctly remember two things from the Emergency Room. First, I remember the doctors asking me what happened. I said, "My Mom ran over me." I remember seeing my Mom cover her face with her hands while the doctors and nurses turned and looked at her. Second, I remember the doctor asking me how I felt. I asked, "Are my shoes okay?" He told me that wasn't important. WHATEVER! These were totally cool shoes - I didn't like the doctor after that.

My third brush with the automobile industry happened not too long ago. Bob and I were loading groceries into our car when a woman backed into me - knocking me down. It scared me more than anything, but I felt very annoyed when the woman said "This is so scary for me." I am sure that it was scary for her - but she shouldn't be complaining to the woman she just hit with her car. I had a sore hip and a bad attitude for the rest of the night - but no other damage.

I feel that I have maxed out my lifetime supply of car "strike-ability" and hope that this is not some weird DNA thing that I may have passed on to my girls.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Story #5 Rebellious Reading

Many years ago, while finishing up my Bachelors degree, I was working on a project regarding how television negatively effects children's reading abilities. The irony of this is that I am a HUGE fan of all things literary, but was also a latchkey child - therefore carefully tended by Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, The Flintstones and sometimes even Phil Donahue. The sad thing is I didn't even make the correlation until I was thinking about this post.

As long as I can remember I have loved reading. Joan Cutler, who cared for me when I was younger, would read to me and her son Nathan all of the time. She had impeccable taste in children's books and still does. My favorite by far, maybe because it touched on the little rebel within me, was Gone is Gone by Wanda Gag. It introduced me to the age old debate of who works harder, the husband or the wife. I loved this book. I still remember my 5 year old self thinking, "The husband is so silly to think he can do anything as well as the wife." I loved the whimsical pictures and hearing Joanie's different voices for each character. I have since searched for the book, but have yet to be able to find a copy!

But the real trigger moment for me happened when I was turning 10 years old. My Aunt Rose gave me a copy of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for my birthday. I remember overhearing my Mom tell someone that I was too young for the book - and wasn't it a shame. So my inner rebellious streak flared up and I became determined to read Great Expectations and prove her wrong! Thank heavens for rebellion. Any of you who have read Dickens know that some of the text can be challenging, or at least a bit wordy, but never the less I did it. I read Great Expectations at the age of 10. It was a tough go, but I quickly got the gist of the story and actually found myself getting into the rhythm of the language and connecting to some of the characters.

It lit some kind of fire in me. I would ride my bike to the library and check out a dozen books at a time. I loved to discover a great author and then read everything they had ever written. I saved up my money and would buy paperbacks at the local book shop, many of which I still have today. There was something so exhilarating about entering a book store! Oh the possibilities for escape....adventure, romance, sadness, laughter, mystery...I was interested in all of it. The librarian at my elementary school saw a budding bibliophile and began suggesting different authors with various writing styles to me. I read Agatha Christie, Lois Lowry, Madeleine L'Engle, John Steinbeck, and even the Bronte sisters. She asked me if I would be her special library assistant. Every time she would receive a new shipment of books she asked me to read them first and let her know what I thought. I loved knowing I was the first to crack the spine of each new acquisition.

I remember in 4th and 5th grade reading something of Judy Blume's and then consuming every book she had ever written. Eventually, I came upon one of her more controversial young adult novels, Forever - which is quite a sex education, for those of you who aren't familiar with the book. Bypassing all need for parental consent and debate, my friend Tonja and I passed this book around our entire class - giving away all the nitty gritty details of some one's "first time." By the time I got the book back the book had been appropriately (or inappropriately) highlighted - with even a few reactions jotted in the margins. I sold the book to a boy in the 6th grade for $5. Check Spelling(We just didn't let Mrs. Anderson, our 5th/6th grade teacher, know she was off the hook for the whole puberty and sex discussion.)

To this day I love to be the first to crack open a new book, the smell, the rustle of the paper, the possibilities. I will admit that Forever pretty much took care of any interest in Romance novels - the one genre that doesn't really interest me. (Although, a well written sex scene in a good novel is never a disappointment :)) Until she passed away, I used to fantasize about meeting Madeleine L'Engle. I read all of her young adult books when I was younger, and all of her other writings as an adult. I felt like she had always been a part of my life and that we would have had an amazing connection. I think the idea of learning and understanding different characters in a novel is one a the greatest benefits of being an avid reader. What better way to begin to understand how people of all different backgrounds think and live. Reading may have started out as a way to prove my Mom wrong - but has turned into a life long love affair.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Story #4 Why do a sense of humor and Depression go hand in hand?

In my twenties I was diagnosed with Depression and have been fighting the battle ever since. (I have to capitalize the word to give the girl the respect she deserves.) The problem is, once I start feeling a little better I think..."This is it! I have fought the beast and won!" But then I turn my head and there she is...laughing...she was just taking her coffee break...getting ready for the next round. Never you fear, I do have my cache of weapons. I have fought the battle with Wellbutrin, Prozac, Paxil and now Lexapro. It's just that after awhile the weapons lose their sharp edges - and I am apt to become battle weary.

Now the title of this post was not meant to brag - I'm rarely funny on purpose - but haven't you noticed some of the most talented, funny, creative people in the world are also plagued with battling that beast Depression and her twin sister Anxiety? It's almost as if nature decided, "Alright we will let you have these gifts, but you must continually pay the price with mind-numbing bouts of fear, anxiety and wondering if you can go"

Don't worry, I won't out any of you fellow depression-ites, but it seems to be everywhere. I remember sitting in church and hearing a Sunday School teacher state that if only people would pray more, they wouldn't have to turn to Prozac. I didn't know if I should walk out or clock him over the head with my Bible. Most people I know who suffer from depression spend more time on their knees than your average non-depressed individual. And with my lovely Olivier insomnia, I have spent hours on end on my knees. Don't get me wrong, I frequently think I would and could be worse off without the prayer. I do believe that when I hit my moments where I just can't go on, that the Lord reaches down his hand and helps me to stand again. And somehow, miraculously, I summon the energy and fortitude to keep up the fight.

Putting my uneducated diagnostic skills to work I would say I inherited a few of the Depression and Anxiety battle wounds from the family tree. My Mom is one of the most cheerful people you will ever come across...positive in such a way that Pollyana would be envious and yet she can worry at Pulitzer Prize levels. My Dad (not step dad) seems to deal with depression and bouts of Eeyorism, from what I can gather, and flashes of anger and brilliance. Okay, he's pretty brilliant on a regular basis, but you get the idea. You combine that DNA and Voila! here I am - stock full of both lovely traits. TA-DA!

There is no storyline here, or if there is it doesn't fit into a neat little package. It's messy, complicated, repetitive and requires a lot of reading between the lines. I just felt that this story is the subtext, if you will, for a lot of what happens in my life. So, if my 40 story project is going to paint some kind of picture of who I am - how could I do that without my arch-nemises?

I now know, from experience, that no medication will keep working without doing some talk therapy. So, if Depression is rearing her ugly head at you - find a's worth the expense....whatever pharmaceutical weapons you posess, only the therapist can give you some armour. (Are you wondering how long I can keep up this battle metaphor? Just a little longer.) In spite of giant strides and a few excited blows to Depression's vital organs, she remains strong enough to make a showing...just when you least expect it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Story #3 Guardian Angels

Just remember - there is no pattern whatsoever to my story topics!

Another story from college. My freshman year at BYU I lived in the dorms - Deseret Towers to be precise (which have since been torn down!). I was lucky enough to have an Aunt and Uncle living close by who would frequently invite me to their house for Sunday dinner. When I arrived at their house my Aunt Brenda asked me how I was, in such a way that I felt that I should be feeling worse than I was. "I'm fine. Is there something I don't know?" "I just thought your Mom would have called you about your stepfather. He is in the hospital. It's his heart, and things don't look good."

Now for those of you that don't know, my step dad....forget the step Dad is one of my heroes. I am so grateful that he is a part of my life! He has had heart problems to the point that many years ago one doctor gave him only 6 months to live! Considering his history you can imagine how stressed out I felt. I tried calling my Mom from my Aunt and Uncle's house but couldn't get a hold of her.

I returned to the dorm feeling extremely worried and sad. One of my girlfriends, Andrea, came in and wanted me to come play a game with several of the girls. I told her what I had just found out and that I wasn't in the mood. She said she understood, gave me a hug and left. About 30 minutes later she came back to my room and asked me to come with her. I told her I didn't want to, but she insisted. I followed her to the common area bedroom (for visitors and such) and there kneeling on the floor was every girl from our floor and most of the girls from the floor below ours. (It was a pretty big room.) "We all wanted to say a prayer with you," Andrea told me. "to pray for your Dads' recovery." She then gave a beautiful prayer, followed by each girl coming by and giving me a hug and well wishes.

I had never been so touched. Seeing all of those girls kneeling on the floor ready to pray for me and my family was an incredibly powerful experience. It only took a few minutes of their time, but the effect it had on me will last forever.

Now, almost (gulp) 22 years later...(is it really that long?) my Dad still has more energy than I do. He always amazes us with his recoveries. Isn't it amazing how the Lord uses other people to strengthen us?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Story #2 A bad date or Never assume the odds are in your favor

I came up with this 40 story idea, but it is tricky to decide what to write about - so don't assume they will all be profound. They may be small, funny, strange or meaningful - who knows what kind of picture they will paint! So on to story #2...

I had a lot of guy friends in high school but didn't date a lot. Some of my dates were truly just friend dates and nothing more. When I got to BYU, however, the dating scene changed - which was very refreshing. Quantity does not equal quality, however, which led to some interesting scenarios.

One date that stands out was with a guy whose name...I think...was Steve. The fact that I can't remember his name is actually part of the problem. In our student ward there was one apartment that had 4 young men, cousins and brothers, living in it. 3 of them were exceedingly cute and he was different. So, when the phone rang one afternoon and one of them called to ask me out, I had no idea which one it was that was calling. I figured that the odds were in my favor, I mean 3 out of 4 chance it was a fun one, so I said yes. When he came to pick me up I was a little disappointed to discover that it was the humorless brother who I was going out with.

He was a chemistry major, not that there's anything wrong with that, who enjoyed talking chemistry all the time. This would have been okay - but I was an English major. The collegiate version of oil and water. As I got in the rusty old car, what a lovely surprise to see two more chemistry majors sitting in the back of the car. Yippee a double date where the periodic table is great fodder for conversation....I knew I was in trouble. But I soon discovered that we weren't just heading out to we were driving (45 minutes each way) to Salt Lake to walk around Temple Square and see the Christmas lights. If any young men are reading this post - do not take a first date to anything that requires more than 15 minutes travel...'cause if it isn't going well, it makes for a very long night!

One of the first things I noticed about the couple in the back was that the girl, bedecked with coke bottle lenses, had both of her sweater's shoulder pads sticking out around her neck. Do you remember in the late 80s and early 90s how everything you bought had either sewn in or velcroed shoulder pads? Well, I don't know what was going on with hers...but it wasn't pretty. At first I thought maybe she had brought ear muffs that she had placed around her neck, or that she was injured in some kind of freak chemistry accident. It was quite the puzzle - and I was thrilled when I figured out what they were. Every time I looked at her it was as if some white mittened creature was trying to emerge from her sweater. I know this is mean, but it did provide me with the ONLY entertainment for the evening, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

As we started down the freeway I noticed a cafeteria lunch tray on the floor in front of me. I bent to move it out of my way, only to have Steve shout, "Don't move that!!" It turns out the tray was covering a rusted out hole in the bottom of the car. That's right, I could have pulled a Fred Flintstone, because this hole was big enough to put both my feet through. Did I mention it was winter....and that his heater didn't work?

I foolishly kept trying to be a part of the conversation, but every time I would make a little joke, all three of them would stare at me as though I had shoulder pads sticking out of my shirt...I would have to explain every little, tiny joke I made - which as you know, pretty much ruins the joke. By the time we got to Temple Square I was dying to go home.

Although the lights on Temple Square are spectacular - there is a coldness factor that can determine how much you are able to enjoy them. It was about 10 degrees that night. Need I say more? I was already cold from the drive to Salt Lake - and was apparently with a human being who was impervious to cold. At several points I said, "Aren't you cold?" To which he replied, "Oh no, I could stay out here for hours." He then went on to explain to me how you could attempt to figure out the energy required to light each tree. He went on and on about estimating the number of bulbs, wattage and all kinds of other factors that were no where near interesting. Did I mention the temperature? He then pontificated on the invention of electricity, which in turn led to a fascinating conversation about how certain metals, chemicals and various liquids conduct electrical currents. Oh, the laughs we were having. Did I mention that I was an English major? There were points where I wanted to grab him and shout, "Just get it over with, kill me now! I can't take the torture! I'll tell you whatever you want to know!!!!"

We froze out there for 90 minutes!!!! At one point I felt like just walking away and trying to find a bus. At least I would be warm. The other couple had disappeared into the visitor center to - so I didn't even have the shoulder pads to look at. I stopped talking, because quite frankly, my mouth was frozen shut. He kept telling me what a great listener I was and how so many other people seem to find his stories boring. Hmmm, weird.

We finally went to a coffee shop to get some hot chocolate. He was thoughtful enough to ask if I wanted separate checks. I actually told him no, that I was okay with him paying for my hot chocolate. I mean I deserved some kind of compensation for the glorious evening. Who asks the girl if she wants separate checks?!!!!

I won't keep the suspense going - you are all wondering how the date ended, right? We drove home in his little rusty igloo, and as we turned on to my street I almost shouted in joy "HOORAY! I made it!" I walked quickly up to my door hoping to slip in without any further conversation, but he was quick for a chemist. "I had a great time with you tonight." He said. WHAT? What date was he on? "I would love to give you a kiss good night." "Oh," I replied, "I don't kiss on the first date." (Or any other with you, you frozen cretin.) I then slipped in as fast as I could and took a hot steamy 30 minute shower.

Don't you just love dating? Aren't you glad your done?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Story #1 - Grandpa Millard and Zucchini Bread

(I am sitting in my Grandpa Millard's lap, Lisa is...well I don't know what she's doing, but even from her back you can tell she's laughing!)

When I was little we would spend several weeks every August and December with my Grandma & Grandpa Millard here in Salt Lake City. Although the drive seemed eternal, even in the finery of our Ford Pinto Station wagon - equipped with faux wood paneling, it was always exciting to arrive. Grandma and Grandpa had a few things we did not seem to enjoy in Oregon. The first was thunderstorms. I loved sitting in the chaise lounges (which were metal, by the way, seems like an odd choice for watching a storm) on my grandparents back porch and watch the lightening. I'm sure there are all kinds of fascinating meteorological reasons as to why we didn't have lightening and thunder in Oregon, but I have no clue what those might be. We did manage to have plenty of rain.

The second source of enjoyment was a freezer full of Hostess bakery delights. (Delightful to children, anyway.) Grandma always had loads of Ding Dongs, Twinkies, Cupcakes and occasionally SnoBalls, neatly stacked in her upright freezer. We would all be excited to devour the treats - so excited that waiting for them to thaw was not an option. I have vivid memories of Marc and I gnawing on the sides of our Ding Dongs trying to get to the rock hard creamy center. As you can imagine, the Ding Dong would soon become a mushy, slimy mess, and we would throw it away out of disgust and frustration.

One week in August my Mom, Marc and Lisa would drive down to Provo and participate in Education Week at BYU and leave me with my Grandparents. I always felt a little abandoned and left out as I watched them drive away, and wonder why I couldn't join in.

One year my Grandpa noticed me sitting sadly on the front porch. He came out the screen door and handed me a large hat and a pair of garden gloves. "We are going to harvest some zucchini today!" He happily announced and began walking toward the backyard. I put on the floppy hat and attempted to put on the large gloves and trotted after him to his vegetable garden. We carefully examined his gigantic zucchini plants for the perfect zucchinis. "We need just the right zucchini's, because today is a very important day." he told me. "Why is today important?" I asked. "Because today you are going to be my assistant chef - We are making zucchini bread."

This peaked my interest. I liked to help in the kitchen. Grandpa and I picked out several dark green specimen that met his exacting zucchini bread standards. I lugged the zucchini through the back door and up the steps to the kitchen. Grandma was setting out all of the necessary equipment as I proudly displayed our bounty. You would have thought it was a pile of jewels, the way she oohed and ahhed over our perfect choices.

"The first step," Grandpa announced, "is to wash and grate the zucchini."

Looking back I don't know how my Grandparents had the patience to watch me grate the zucchini. I was determined to grate it all by myself. There was no food processor involved - this was pure muscle and time. Have you ever watched a small child attempt to grate cheese? Somehow the cheese gets all squished and crumbly once it enters little hands - now picture that with zucchini. I am quite certain that I must have grated for two straight hours, curls falling in my eyes, tongue poking out to the side in deep concentration. My grandparents just smiled and chatted with me, as if they hadn't a care in the world.

Once the zucchini was finally prepared we began to assemble the other ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar, oil. I begged my Grandfather to allow me to sift the flour. It is not that the recipe called for sifted flour, but merely that I was fascinated with the sifter.

After another long delay, with a vast flour distribution over every surface, we mixed the batter and placed the loaves in the oven. This is when Grandpa pulled out the games. I loved to play a game with them called "Help Your Neighbor." I can't remember if they invented this game, but I know that they made the pieces to the game. We had a series of cards with numbers, there may have been dice, all I really remember was how I would giggle as I beat them in game after game. They were always so astonished, "Bert, can you believe she won again?" my grandma would say.

Soon the smell of the zucchini bread would send our stomaches to growling. Grandma would take out the loaves and make us promise to let them cool. The wait was interminable. Grandma placed 3 large glasses filled with cold milk on the round, oil-clothed table. She cut thick slices of the warm bread and generously spread butter across the tops while Grandpa and I would lick our lips. She passed out the plates with the fragrant bread and then she and Grandpa would toast the assistant chef before we devoured our creation.

After that summer, each year I would stay we would always bake zucchini bread. I would like to think my cooking skills improved, but no improvement was needed on the company. To this day, those warm summer days baking bread with my Grandpa make me smile.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

40 is creeping closer, can you hear it?

I can't believe I turn 40 next month. When I turned 30 I couldn't even say the word. I would have a violent physical reaction - but for 40 I am excited. There have been huge changes in my mind this year, most of which I can't write about out of respect for others. I have been through some painful reckoning (that word seems particularly relevant), and allowed myself to mourn mistakes I have made, difficulties I have gone through and feel this great sense of liberty. Realizing that I have a lot more control in my life than I previously thought has opened up this new sense of freedom. Because of this, 40 feels like a whole new chapter in designing a life I love - one with limitless options!! I am no longer feeling quite as unbalanced as I did when I first started this blog - even though the balance on the scale has only changed 15 pounds. When you remove all of that emotional baggage we all carry around - you gain a sense of energy that makes you feel 50 pounds lighter.

I have been trying to think of ways to celebrate "blog style" for my upcoming birthday and have come up with one self-indulgent idea. (It is my birthday, after all.) I am going to write about 40 different occasions in my life that have had some significant meaning. I figure this will be a great way to journal since my journals growing up seem to be mostly about boys and fights with my sister.

So tune in tomorrow - I'm excited about the first story!

P.S. I love hitting spell check and seeing blogger say "No misspellings found." It's like a pat on the back.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Notice any similarities?

Have you seen the ads for those bumpit hair "raisers"? Or the Progressive lady? I just find it odd that we are heading toward the alien look.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Crinkled Cars

I mentioned, a few posts ago, that I was in a little car crash. It was the fault of my invisibility super power gone awry. I was driving up a busy road when another car pulled out from a side street right into the passenger side of my car. She told me she just didn't see me. Apparently, my powers affect automobiles as well. It is not like it was night time - or a stormy day. It was the middle of the afternoon on one of those infrequent, beautiful fall days. There was not a cloud in the sky...and did I mention that I was on a busy street? My car, while black, is usually very visible in the daytime.

The other driver's insurance is paying for everything, which is a plus, but I still don't have my car back and I am truly missing it.

In a misguided "Bailey Building and Loan" decision, I told the adjuster that I didn't need a rental car, since we already have an extra car at home. (Please tell me you understood the "It's a Wonderful Life" reference. I just thought that if we all only took what we need, then every one's insurance would go down. Quit laughing - I have good intentions.)

For the past couple of weeks I have been driving our 11 year old mini-van, lovingly named the Loser Cruiser, which has been exciting for all the wrong reasons. First, I can no longer surprise someone with my arrival since the squeal of my brakes can be heard for miles. I am trying to pump the brakes now and create some sort of rhythmic, musical experience. Second, you can only drive with one hand. You need the other hand to catch the nuts and bolts that seem to mysteriously fall from the car once you hit the freeway. Third, it is haunted. At random intervals, so random that it does not happen daily, the driver's side window will roll down. Now this sounds exciting, but on the rare occasion that I am having a good hair day, the unexpected wind can be very upsetting.

I am trying to just be grateful that I have a car to drive, but once you get used to a little bit of luxury, like non-squeaking brakes, it's hard to go back to....well an 11 year old mini-van. I miss my heated seats, my CDs (which I left in the car), my in car blue tooth magic, windows that I can control and the great headlights. I know headlight seems like a weird one, but these headlights have made all the difference in driving at night. (Gosh, that makes me sound old.) When I drive the van at night I keep checking to see if the lights are actually on - it seems like they do nothing for illumination.

I thought I would have the car back last Friday, but the body shop guy has had the Swine Flu and that morphed into pneumonia. I feel very badly for him....but I am worried that I will be driving down the freeway and chunks of the van will start falling off leaving me skidding down I-215 in my captains chair holding a detached steering wheel. I just don't have the feet power to pull off the Fred Flintstone kind of transportation. Come back to me TSX!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Life stories

Last Sunday we went to my parent's house for dinner. Everything tastes better when you don't have to cook! Plus my parents always serve a main dish and about 14 side dishes. I am not exaggerating....Michelle back me up on this one!

My nephew, James is serving a family history mission here in Salt Lake City. It is a pilot program for young men and women with either physical or mental disabilities that otherwise would not have an opportunity to go on a mission. James is PPDNOS, but to make it simple, it falls under the umbrella of autism. He was at the dinner with one of his roommates. The young man, whom I will call Elder Smith, spent quite a long time telling me about his life. He struggles with facial tics and a stutter, but communicates quite well. I mean no disrespect by repeating his story, but I found it quite impressive and was touched that he would just volunteer this information. (People just tell me stuff.)

He was born at 28 weeks in Kentucky. He weighed only 2 pound 4 oz. It is a miracle that he lived - but amazingly that fact has not been his biggest trial. His mother soon discovered that his father was beating him. She thought the bumps and bruises were from normal baby/toddler activity, until she caught him at it one day. She divorced him, but unfortunately became involved in drugs and alcohol addiction. After several years of neglect the state placed him in a series of foster homes. His grandparents had lost touch with their daughter and when the state removed Elder Smith from his mother's lack of care they were on a mission in Africa and were never contacted. When they returned from their mission, they decided to try and contact their daughter again and discovered that Elder Smith had been in foster care.

Through the assistance of LDS social services, they were able to gain guardianship and eventually full custody of Elder Smith and bring him to Salt Lake. He was a pretty angry person by that time. His grandparents tried to encourage him to come to church, but he was too mad about all he had been through and felt like he already had life figured out. Soon he discovered that his father lived in West Valley and he tried to contact him. His father said that when he was 16 he could come and live with him. His grandparents were wary but decided to pursue setting up a supervised visitation schedule for Elder Smith and his father. The father rarely showed up for any of the visits - with each visit re-opening issues of abandonment and pain for Elder Smith.

As time went by, Elder Smith could see that the anger he had inside of him, although justified, was destroying the possibility of him becoming the type of person he really wanted to be. He prayed that he would be able to forgive and let go of all of the hurt he had inside. He said it was the first time he felt the Holy Ghost in his life. He went to his Grandmother and told her that she needed to forgive his parents, too. He told her that God wanted them to be able to move on with their lives, and the only way that would happen was to release the bitterness that he and his grandparents had been holding on to. His grandparents were impressed with his example and promised they would do their best.

After that life altering moment he decided he wanted to start attending church. He realized maybe he had a few things to learn and began to open up to the people around him. It was still very hurtful that his father would never follow through with any of his promises. His mother is off of drugs and living in Utah as well. He hopes that for his 21st birthday she will stop smoking, because he worries about her health. He said he has loved being on his mission because he made a great friend. One of his former roommates, who has since finished his mission, became a best friend to him. He said this was the first time someone his age looked at him without seeing what was wrong with him and loved learning all that the two of them had in common.

I was touched to learn that my parents had never seen him talk as much as he did to me, to anyone. I was amazed with all the challenges this young man has he has still found room in his life for forgiveness and hope.