Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Get Candy, Get Candy, Get Candy!" -Jerry Seinfeld

"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"
Sally: Do I get to go trick-or-treating this year, big brother?
Charlie Brown: Sure, Sally.
Sally: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! How do we do it?
Lucy: All you have to do is walk up to a house, ring the doorbell and say "Trick or treats."
Sally: Are you sure it's legal?
Lucy: Of course it's legal.
Sally: I wouldn't want to be accused of taking part in a rumble.

Halloween! Of course it has been overly commercialized; any holiday that opportunists can "milk" these days, they will! But when all is said and done; I love Halloween! For me, Halloween is all about the candy!

I love the Jerry Seinfeld monologue about his quest for candy on Halloween: "So the first time you hear the concept of Halloween when you're a kid, your brain can't even process the idea. You're like, "What is this? What did you say? Someone's giving out candy? Everyone we know is giving out candy?!"

I felt like Seinfeld when I discovered that older kids used Pillowcases! ...Get Out! I'd been content to canvas Maywood Drive with my little plastic pumpkin collecting treats. Suddenly, I learned I could wander neighborhoods endlessly, inhaling candy while filling the pillowcase! Intoxicating!

Post "trick or treating" brought another Halloween Highlight! Sorting, Organizing, and Cataloguing the Candy! (Perfect for my skill set!): 20 Babe Ruth bars, 13 Skittles, 6 Good & Plenty, et al. Then, finally, the Candy Exchange: I'll give you 2 Snickers for 1 PayDay, and so on. Since I prefer fruity candy and caramel models to chocolate, I could always score some win/win trades!

Now, Halloween Costumes I could take or leave (honestly, I'd prefer to bag that part). For me, Halloween is a Holiday that is all about the Candy! (or did I mention that already?)

Friday, October 30, 2009

It Takes A Village!

While Hillary Clinton popularized the African proverb "It Takes A Village To Raise A Child;" I have another take on it for today's events: "It Takes A Village to Hold a Funeral & Throw a Halloween Party (on the same day!)

Today our Los Gatos Ward family (aka "village" for this post) will honor Sister Kim Bennion, who passed away last week. After her funeral our Relief Society will host a luncheon for the Bennion family. Then, the annual Los Gatos Ward Halloween party is on for tonight!

Fortunately, the Bennions wanted to have Kim's funeral at the Saratoga Stake center. As the building scheduler (yeah, someone has gotta do it), funerals take priority but it would have been a challenge to have a funeral while the activities committee is desperately trying to decorate with coffins, RIP headstones, and ghosts lurking about.

There isn't a lot we could do about the unfortunate collision of these two events ending up on the same day (funerals aren't something you can schedule in advance). But the touching part is how seamlessly both the funeral and party come together!

Brent met with the Bennion family last Saturday to plan the funeral. After getting their wish list, he called people to participate (via singing, playing piano, speaking, programs, etc). Every single person Brent phoned immediately accepted! Which means taking the day off work for most! Brent was quite inspired by the goodness of the ward members to quickly and graciously say YES with no hesitation!

And, the Annual Halloween Party is a great example of the "village" mentality at it's finest! The Party is "part and parceled" out to different organizations. The Young Women run games, face painting, and the cupcake walk. The Primary decorates and hosts the parade. The Young Men put together a top notch Spook Alley. The Relief Society provides dinner and refreshments. The Elders quorum plans the Trunk or Treating and the Activities Committee oversees it all. It's always a fun event but the best part is seeing every group do something individually and then collectively,... wah-lah, a Halloween celebration appears!

Both these events won't faze our ward members! Their are lots of great worker bees! One of the best things about our church is the opportunities we have to serve! While we don't have funerals and Halloween parties that often, there are always needs! I read the following quote years ago about families generally but it felt to me like a great description of a "ward family." "Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one." - Jane Howard

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Life of Crime! (well, last week anyway)

They say delinquency starts with small things and escalates! I'm afraid I had my own slippery slope of questionable behavior last weekend!

The 1st incident!: We purchased dinner at the Oakridge mall food court with the intention of taking it into the movie theatre. But, heading into the show a large sign announced that no food could be brought inside. It had to be purchased at their concession stand!

At this point most people would probably toss out their meal or scarf it down quickly. But the principle made me mad! The theatre charges ridiculous prices and has a total monopoly. So, I disguised our dinner; cleverly concealed between 2 popcorn boxes and smuggled it into the movie!

Obviously, not getting caught in Incident 1 was the impetus for the 2nd Incident (see the downward spiral here). I snuck a big bag of kettle corn and bottled waters into the Stanford football game! Technically, I don't know whether they let food into the stadium or not. I saw them looking through everyones bags at the entry gates and I'm sure they don't allow beverages because people were leaving cans in heaps at the trash bins outside the stadium. But, I proceeded along, assuming I'd get caught/busted. Except as "friends and family" of a player (complimentary tickets), we entered at a different gate and and no one checked my bag!

I'm not planning to make a habit of breaking rules! But it was interesting that after I "got away with" sneaking dinner into the movie, it must have tarnished my inner compass because I hardly thought twice the next night about the illicit bag of popcorn & drinks! Which just goes to show me that I'd better refrain from future smuggling of any nature before my entire value system goes out the window! I've heard many a hardened criminal claim it all started with that ripped off pack of gum!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2009 Primary Program! "It's a Wrap!"

One of the best things about the month of October is the annual Primary Program! The Los Gatos Ward had our program last Sunday and I haven't stopped thinking about it! Don McCleve stated that "it might be the best program he has ever seen!"

A lot of credit goes to Kristen Schillage, a tremendous Chorister who brings "Special Singing Juice" (Koolaid in a squirt bottle) to get those children's voices loosened up! This year the kids knew the words to all the songs. And they sang loud (but didn't yell which can sometimes happen when you tell little kids to "Sing Loud.")

And kudos to a great Primary Presidency! They are a formidable team: Tina Fontana, Tia Barth, Julie Holland, and Denise Wilson! Andie has been working in Primary and is totally impressed with all of the presidency!

Andie also noted (and I heartily agree) that there isn't a single Primary kid in the whole bunch who isn't drop dead ADORABLE! Seriously, they are one cute bunch of kids! Every last one!

The take home message of the program was all about FAMILIES! It was tender and sweet and pretty much left you wanting to take home every one of those darling little kiddos! It's too bad it takes the leaders and kids a year to prepare for their big performance because I'd be in favor of having a Primary Program once a month! It's that cute!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's A Boy! Hayden Hart has Arrived!

"Snips and Snails and Puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of."

I think Webb will always call her "Miss Nelson" but technically Miss Nelson became Mrs. Hart and now Mrs. Hart has become a Bona Fide MOM! Hooray!

Hayden Nelson Hart arrived on Friday, October 23rd at 8:10 pm. I am so happy for Stacy and Wayne! There is nothing quite like being a parent! And they will be Amazing in the Mom and Dad Department!

Stacy has lots of good training! First, she taught Webb in 5th grade (I'd say School Teachers learn to bribe, coax, and cajole - all transferable to parenting). Then, Stacy had to "put up with" running with me for several years (she must have made mental notes galore when I vented about the "joys" of parenting!). Finally, the pinnacle of her Training in Patience, Long Suffering, & miscellaneous attributes that are helpful in Parenting, ...well, she's worked for Brent in San Francisco for many years! Surviving at North Castle Partners and PCG has definitely given Stacy a skill set that will come in handy as a Mom. Mainly, Patience and Multitasking!

Even without all the prep work, Stacy just has a natural disposition for "Mothering!" "Nurturing" really is second nature to Stacy! Miss Nelson becomes Mommy Hart! Very Cool!

Monday, October 26, 2009

"In and Out" Houseguests! The Very Best Kind!

"Fish and house guests stink after 3 days." -Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac

Some people have company who overstay their welcome! Not us! This weekend our house guests came and went so fast we actually wished they could have stayed longer!

So, the Olsen crew coming to Cali may have set a new record in our home for the shortest stay! Andrew and Caitlin flew in from Texas and Lisa and Alex from Utah. Everyone came to watch Bo and Liam McNally (Caitlin's brothers) play football for Stanford.

We joined the Olsen/McNally cheer squad for the Homecoming game on Saturday night after everyone arrived. Stanford beat Arizona State (33-14) and Bo played great defense! And, since Bo is hoping to be drafted in the NFL, winning and playing well are especially important! Liam redshirted last year and plays offense but didn't play Saturday night.

After the game the whole gang spent the night and everybody flew out on Sunday! It was great to see them but we would have loved at least another day to catch up! It reinforces my theory that short visits leave everyone wanting more versus long stays where everyone thinks the guests departure isn't coming quickly enough! Consider this my thesis statement for House Guest Protocol for Dummies!

Honestly, I don't recall visitors that have overstayed their welcome in our home. I've heard horror stories from others who have company that shows up and stays for a month (or indefinitely), or shows up without warning, or shows up wanting to be entertained 24/7, etc. I guess we just have friends and family with good manners! Especially the Olsen crew this weekend!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"We've Got A Diem To Carpe!"

It turns out that movies can be a good source for excellent quotes!

We loved "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!" At first it was a little unnerving to pay $27.50 for 2 tickets! ($10.75 each plus $3 extra for 3D!) That's probably the most I've EVER paid to see a movie - so it's a good thing I enjoyed the whole show!

The movie was filled with clever lines! On my next Motion Picture Field Trip (can't afford these too often) I might have to take a notepad and pen!

On of my favorites lines was Flint (the zany inventor) with his twist of Carpe Diem (Sieze the Day!) when he shouts to Steve: "We've Got a Diem to Carpe!" (A Day to Sieze!) Classic!

I loved Flint's mother's unwavering belief in him despite a few experimental flops along the way! I loved Flint's father trying to encourage his son using fishing metaphors that Flint simply couldn't relate to. I loved it when Sam Spark's (female weather intern) feet land right in Flint's eyes and he tries to man it up and claim: "It's okay. It's just pain."

The animation is incredible! As the town figures out that "Bigger is Better" is NOT always the case, the depiction of the gargantuan food falling from the sky is awesome! I know in Children's Lit, it isn't kosher for kids books to come across as didactic, so, movie gurus also might cringe if I point out that there were some great "messages" in the show! But, they weren't overly blatent or patronizing and they worked for me! Even if it isn't sacrosanct, I happen to like films that have a good message. Yes, I would say that "Up" and "Cloudy" are my 2 favorite flicks so far this year!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker! err, The Butcher, The Baker, The Chronic Listmaker!

When I was growing up my Mom would intermittently get the kids involved in the housework. To distribute the chores, (and since I was the child who got a little nutso about organizing and equity) she would let me make up a chore chart and assign siblings various rooms to clean. It was the beginning of a long life of Chronic List Making!

*Up and Out of Bed - Check
*Blog - Check
*Teach Seminary - Check
*Morning Run - Check (and so on...) In full disclosure I don't really "check"; I "scratch" things out! Done! Obliterate! Be Gone! I have been known to write pretty mundane things down, just to have the cheap thrill of scratching mundane things off! I realize that sounds a little pathetic!

This List Making skill/obsession can be a Good Thing and it can also be a Bad Thing! But, either way: I Need My Lists! Without a helpful "To Do" reference to turn to; I can become helpless and incompetent! And I am not kidding!

Some "plus" points of chronic listmaking: Lists keep me organized. Lists help me stay on task. Lists help me remember things. There is great satisfaction in marking things off my list.

The "minus" points of chronic listmaking: I become restricted by it: The rigidity! I tend to limit myself: not on the list, not gonna happen! ....... And the biggest problem for me: You lose the list, you lose your mind!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues....

"Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices." - Benjamin Franklin

I was an odd kid; the kind who read The World Book Encyclopedia for enjoyment. I bought Poor Richard's Almanac by Benjamin Frankin with money I earned babysitting. Poor Richard's Almanac was a treasure trove! I loved the smattering of aphorisms, poems, weather forecasts, & miscellaneous tidbits! I was absolutely a "Tidbits" kind of kid!

Benjamin Franklin tried to cultivate his character by the 13 Virtues listed at left. He didn't try to work on all of the Virtues at once. Instead, Franklin would work on one each week "leaving all others to their ordinary chance."

While Franklin didn't live completely by his virtues and by his own admission, he fell short many times, he believed the ATTEMPT made him a better man contributing greatly to his success and happiness. Below is his list with Franklin's elaboration on each Virtue...

1. TEMPERANCE: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. SILENCE: Speak not but what may benefit others of yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. ORDER: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. RESOLUTION: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. FRUGALITY: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
6. INDUSTRY: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. SINCERITY: Use no hurtful deceit' think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly."
8. JUSTICE: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. MODERATION: Avoid extremes: forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. CLEANLINESS: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
11.. TRANQUILITY: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. CHASTITY: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
13. HUMILITY: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Augie's Found What I've Been Looking For." - Jon Ondrasik, Five for Fighting

"Augie Nieto's got a story to tell you,
Though it's hard to hear him speak.
He caught Lou Gehrig rounding third one day,
Now he's happy as he'll ever be...
....Augie's found what I've been looking for."
-lyrics by Jon Ondrasik, Five for Fighting

One of Brent's good friends from business has an inspiring story. Augie Nieto, is the owner of Life Fitness, a company he founded and built into a sucessful empire in the fitness world . But five years ago, the driven and handsome Augie Nieto, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrigs disease.

This picture is Augie in good health; today his mind is strong but his body has been ravaged. He can only speak through a computer.

It has completely changed the lives of the Nieto family. His wife, Lynn, has been his rock! Initially Augie struggled and even considered taking his life. But, he rallied and has absolutely "fought a good fight" against ALS. Augie has raised millions of dollars for research that will hopefully one day find a cure for this terminal disease. His fundraising efforts are like everything Augie does: extraordinary! We've attended the "Augie's Quest" bash every year (it's been in San Diego, San Francisco, and Las Vegas).

At the last "Augie's Quest" Bash (held in the spring every year) the lead singer in Five for Fighting, Jon Ondrasik, who is a friend of the Nieto's, performed a song that he had written especially for Augie. We loved the song but it hasn't been available until the group put out their new album, Slice, released last week. The lyrics are touching; especially if you know the Nieto family!

ALS has changed Augie! Despite his success in the business world he has said that he'd like to be remembered as "a good husband and father, a loyal friend and someone who can be counted on to do the right thing." I love Augie for showing all of us that in the face of tragedy, here is a man who chooses to say: "I can look at the ocean and say I'm the luckiest man in the world." Check out the song on itunes: it's hard to hear it and not be moved!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Double Your Fun!

Separated At Birth, Part 2:
Thanks to the good memory of Webb's friend, Anna, I'm able to post my Olympic Athlete Look Alike afterall! Thanks Anna!

I was slightly off on a few of the details: First of all, she is from the Czech Republic (not Finland)! Secondly, she is an Olympic Gold Medalist for Kayaking (not Rowing). And her name is Stepanka Hilgertova.

Obviously, Stepanka is hot stuff in her country....of ALL their athletes SHE was the one chosen to carry their flag! Yep, my "double" must be quite the celebrity in Eastern Europe!

So, I wonder if anyone has ever told Stepanka that she looks like Diddy Kong? We're like Triplets! The Three Amigos!

I noticed that both Diddy and Stepanka don hats slanted pretty much like my running hats! So, I think that might be the most common denominator for the 3 of us!

Once in awhile the look alike factor can lead to some extraordinary moments! For example, after her Saturday Night Live parody someone reported that "Tina Fey looks more like Sarah Palin than Sarah Palin looks like Sarah Palin!" So, if Nintendo or the Czech Republic needs a stand in; I Will Be Ready!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Separated at Birth...

It's not uncommon to be told you've got a "Look Alike" out walking around!

Infact, Webb saw my twin during the Beijing Olympics Ceremonies. I can't remember her name but I felt honored; someone who looked like me was an Olympic Athlete! Cool! I think she was a Finnish gold medal rower (and carried the flag for her country, no less). And when I saw her, I even agreed; there WAS an uncanny resemblance!

Now Paige has decided that when I'm dressed in my running attire I look just like Donkey Kong's son: Diddy Kong (see picture at right). Paige claims it is something about the angle of the hat.

Well, I don't hold false illusions that someone is going to mistake me for Gwyneth Paltrow but Diddy Kong? Seriously? It seems a tad embarrassing. I mean, Diddy is a young boy AND he is a monkey; AND, apparently he is a monkey who wears no pants!

So, while Paige might be a really fast runner; she didn't score any points telling me I look just like Diddy Kong! I'm sticking with the Olympic Athlete look alike that Webb discovered! I'll post her picture if I can find one. Who knew there were so many versions of me out and about? And, in fairness to Paige; if you compare Diddy to my picture in yesterdays post, I have to concede that she does have a point! It's a stretch, but, yea, I suppose we could be related!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pride! ...and.... Prejudice!

Okay, I will concede that I am PREJUDICED because, afterall, They are My Daughters, ...but I couldn't have been more PROUD of my 2 Marathon Runners yesterday!

Andie and Paige were both hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon and needed to run under 3:40 (based on their age). I was nervous about their ambitious goal; anything under 4 hours is a respectable marathon, under 3:40 is a great race! They clearly had their sights set high!

Lo and behold, they both had AMAZING RACES; both of them clearing even a 3:30 hurdle easily! They raced together most of the marathon, taking turns pulling each other along! They finished up with times of 3:25 (Andie) and 3:27 (Paige) - both easily qualifying for The Boston Marathon! And they finished up as the 24th and 29th Overall Runners and both took 6th in their Age Groups! Incredible! There's something like 20,000 entries for the half & full marathon.

"What the daughter does, the mother did." -Jewish proverb. I like this proverb but in our household it isn't technically true! In other words, this mother never ran a a sub 3:30 marathon! Of course I didn't run my first marathon until I was almost 40 and ran a 3:52. And I guess we will never know what my time could have been if I'd started doing distance earlier. But I am pretty thrilled that my daughters did so well!

The rest of The "A" Team ran the half marathon and we all had a fun race but weren't quite as driven as the girls! The weather was perfect; not too cold and not too hot. I think all the runners would agree with the Steve Prefontaine quote that "A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they're capable of understanding."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Run Like A Girl!

"Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts." -Steve Prefontaine

This morning is the 2009 Nike Women's Marathon! We've got a team of Female Friends of all ages and stages of life banding together to Race the Beautiful San Francisco Course!

We've dubbed our group The "A" Team in honor of Aiden Bryan and Ashley Barth, our 2 Young Heroes who are Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Survivors! Last year when Tia and I raced, Ashley was still in treatment. Nike donates part of their proceeds to Leukemia research. A good race and a good cause; how can we resist?

Most of us are just tackling the Half Marathon distance but Andie and Paige will be running the Full 26.2 Miles! You Go Girls! Some advice for them from a running champ: "It hurts up to a point and then it doesn't get any worse." -Ann Trason

I'm always a little skittish at the start of any race. The crowds and the hype can sort of work against me. Running is usually such a quiet and peaceful form of exercise and suddenly a race throws you into a realm of commotion and competition. By nature I've never been very competitive so the chaos doesn't pump me up; it just unnerves me!

But once I get past the initial "What was I thinking? mode and get into a groove and pace that suits me; I usually enjoy the energy and occasionally even emerge with "a runner's high!" I'm hoping that will be the case today. But mostly, I'm hoping that my daughters will both have a great race! They've trained well and they deserve their moment(s) of glory! Go Andie! Go Pooge!

"The gun goes off and everything changes...the world changes...and nothing else really matters." -Patti Sue Plummer

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"The Still Small Voice"

"And a great and strong wind rent the mountains,... but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake, a fire but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." 1st Kings 19:11-12

Sophie Ryvola asked if I would speak about the Holy Ghost at her Baptism on Friday night. Even though I'm not fond of public speaking, I love an opportunity to reflect on the GIFT of the Holy Ghost.

My own experience has been similar to the experience of Elijah in the scripture above. I haven't been one to have spectacular or dramatic displays to confirm spiritual things to me. But I have had many Defining Moments throughout my life that assure me of the presence & promptings of the Holy Ghost!

When I was Primary age we got to actually sing in General Conference (I know, who would EVER BELIEVE that I sung in a Choir at General Conference?) I think the feeling I had during our performance is my 1st recollection of the Holy Ghost touching my heart. Since that time, over 40 plus years ago, I've felt the influence and inspiration of the Holy Ghost touch my heart many times. It's a GIFT I haven't always deserved but I've always been grateful for it nonetheless!

Friday, October 16, 2009

She's Baaaaaaaaack! NorCal Kid.....Back in LG for the Weekend!

"The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires." - Dorothy Parker

Paigey is here! It's a quick trip but still fun to have her home in Los Gatos. Technically she's back to run her 1st marathon but I think she also needed a little "Emily Fix!" Can you blame her? Just look at that cute toddler!

Paige is forever the "(wo)Man With A Plan" so she has her schedule filled for the 3 day visit...complete with a haircut appointment, some friend visits, Emily time, the race, watching Andie teach at Fisher, errands, etc. Never a dull moment (or much down time) with Paige around! She keeps herself and her minions (that would be me) on the move!

It's nice to see the Emily/Paige Bond since they share a slice of history in my life story! Part 1: August 15th, 2007: I "deliver" Paige to Pepperdine for her freshman year and I'm a tad distraught over sending my "baby" off to college! Part 2: August 16th, 2007: The very next morning, Jennifer "delivers" her "baby" Emily! Her "arrival" is a happy diversion from Paige's "departure." A Stroke of Serendipity!

"Human Beings are the only creatures on earth that allow their children to come back home." -Bill Cosby

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Buy the Car, We'll Throw in a Guy (boyfriend/husband/you name it) Too!

It's a Package Deal! Andie & I were looking at cars and the auto industry is so desperate for business they were offering all sorts of deals. But the Classic was the Pick Up Hustle by the Sales Manager who was willing to throw in "a guy friend" for Andie!

Maybe I just don't get out in the world often enough but I found the exchange and his come-ons quite hilarious! This crazy stuff really goes on! Who knew!

Eli, the Sales Manager at the Dealership, was smooth, slick, and determined! Yep, he could be a Poster Boy for the Car-Salesman-Stereotypes! Since Eli was married, his shtick was trying to buddy-up to Andie and convince her to get matched up with one of "his friends."

Eli had an answer for everything! During the attempted "Can I Line You Up?" segment; Andie told him she has pretty high standards for guys she'll date. Eli promised her that his friends are "really good guys" and Andie responded that she doesn't drink, smoke, or party. And, of course,.....neither do Eli's friends! Such a coincidence!

Regarding the matchmaking efforts; if Andie had responded that she was wild, crazy, and looking for a-good-time; well, I'm fairly certain that Eli's friends would have been "party guys too." There was too much "Me Too" going on in the conversation to be credible! When he learned we were Mormon, he whipped out his iphone to show us his scriptures app, gushed about the pretty church near his home, and recalled a really nice Mormon girl he had dated!

I was a little surprised that my presence (The Mom) didn't seem to deter him a bit! Which was quite amusing for me: I'm usually not privy to the world of flirting-it-up in the 21st Century! While I'm sure Andie was flattered by the lavish attention thrown mercilessly at her feet; she did have the good sense to take her friend Adam along (Adam, as in, a male friend) when she went back to the car dealership! A sure fire way to avoid any "pick up" pressure or Eli shenanigans! All in a day's work (I guess); I enjoyed the free entertainment!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"And I Wonder, Still I Wonder, Who'll Stop the Rain?" (credence clearwater revival)

"Rain, Rain, Go Away!
Come Again Another Day!
Little Johnny wants to play,
Rain, Rain, Go to Spain,
Never Show your Face Again!"

I like the IDEA of FALL more than I actually like the autumn season. The thought of galoshes, umbrellas and leaves changing colors creates a charming visual! In my mind!

But in reality, the rainy season, when I have to wait for a respite in the storm so I can get out on a run frustrates me. Slows me down.

This 1st big storm this year came in with gusto! It's been a relentless downpour! Yesterday I felt like curling up with a good book but since I was taking dinner to the Hollands, I needed cooking supplies so I had to venture out despite my preference to hunker down! Duty Calls!

"Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply..." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Had I Known....How To Save A Life! (the fray)

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." -William James

Yesterday John Bryan was a Bone Marrow Donor for someone in Italy who needed a transplant. I only knew about John's generous gesture because they needed someone to watch Emily.

I was really touched and inspired by John's act of kindness for a complete stranger. He was on a registry and when he matched someone in need they contacted him. John has donated his time and marrow in a process that is much more complicated than giving blood.

There were preliminary hospital visits and daily shots to prepare his body. It's a painful procedure! But since there is great satisfaction in serving others, I would imagine that possibly saving the life of another person would feel quite amazing! It takes service to a new level!

I'm impressed with John's donation. It motivates me to try to be more generous of my time, talents, and resources! I've always had a hard time donating blood; sometimes my iron has been too low and one time I was trying hard not to faint but when I started sweating, they sent me home! I'm not sure if I'm a good candidate for bone marrow donation but I would like to try for success at the next Red Cross Blood Drive.

"How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed, in a naughty world."
-William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bon Appetit!

"Moderation. Small Helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health." -Julia Child

The first clue I had that I would like the movie, Julie and Julia, was the fact that the screenplay was written and produced by Nora Ephron. I've enjoyed her writing over the years as well as her sister, Delia Ephron. Two very funny women!

The second clue I'd love the movie was Meryl Streep playing the role of Julia Child. I'm a BIG Meryl Streep fan! I think she is one of the best actresses all time!

After my vacation in France I have even more appreciation for the great sage of American Cooking: Julia Child. And for the movie. And the wonderful French cuisine! As Julia Child said: "In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport." And how can you not adore a woman who said things like: "If you're afraid of butter, just use cream." and "I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then I just ate."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

There's No Place Like Home!

"There's No Place Like Home!"
-as Dorothy told Toto in The Wizard of Oz

It's ALWAYS feels good to make it back to the hearth and home! Especially after a trip abroad! The first thing I noticed going through the US Customs line was my familiar native tongue; everyone speaking English! While I picked up some French words traveling, I slaughter the beautiful French language when I try to speak it. I'm terrible with foreign language pronunciation!

The mail is piled high but it looks like more catalogs than bills. (whew!) Brent actually did some laundry so the mound isn't insurmountable! Andie kept the house clean and best of all, there was a sign up, reading: "Welcome Home FRANCEY Pants!" Clever!

Leaving on a Trip and Coming Home are the 2 hardest parts of travel for me! Once I'm out of town, I'm good to go. I thrive! But packing up to leave the comfort of my routines...not an easy task for me! And, now, on the return, I always feel a little overwhelmed to come home to so much "stuff." Somehow we get along fine living out of a small suitcase. Then we return to our massive life accumulations and I want to purge it down to a simpler life!

The Wizard of Oz brought notoriety to "no place like home" when Dorothy is happily back in Kansas. But the line was used earlier in a poem and it is probably felt quite universally by most of us.
"Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." (from "Home Sweet Home" by John Howard Payne)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Educating a Mind Through Travel...

"Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from the traveler's immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells, and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way." -Ralph Crawshaw

My mind feels duly stretched! In fact, my head is spinning trying to remember the names of all the towns and places we've visited in France this week!

We've seen most of the hot spots along the French Riviera. And we've seen a lot of Provence. The weather has been incredible but without the usual crowds of summer. The locals say that October is known for it's warm weather but the tourists haven't caught on. Guess we are just smarter than the average tourist!

We've been to museums and cathedrals and chateaus and gardens and medieval castles and hill towns and palaces and restaurants and archaeological digs and outdoor markets galore! And even a little shopping (but not much)! It's been a glorious week and we've decided it'll be New York City 2010! Au Revoir!

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Good Company in a Journey Makes the Way Seem Shorter." -Izaak Walton

"I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them." -Mark Twain

This travel group has a smooth synchronicity! There has never been a major problem arise and we never argue. We're certainly all very different with varied interests but everyone is agreeable! I can't speak for myself (without sounding obnoxious) but I'd vouch for Ann, Carole, Julie, and Susan: there isn't a self-centered personality amongst them!

We know each other well! We know who gets up first and last, who likes to bath and who prefers showers, who wants what for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, who packs the aspirin and who is most likely to have an umbrella!

Wherever we travel there is a rhythm to our days. We take turns being the "Mom for the Day" (we're all happy to relinquish this title for the week so we each have to take a turn being the "Responsible Person" for the day....."The Decider" as President George Bush might say).

Everyone makes an effort to be unimposing! If there is a lousy bed, we all volunteer to sleep in it. If it's a "last bite" of a shared dessert we all donate it to the person next to us. Simply put, I think it's a wonderful group of women who go out-of-their-way to make sure that everyone is having a fun trip and everyone is getting to the sights they'd like to see!

It isn't realistic to think that real families could get along as ideally since our group only has to spend a week together. The diplomacy is short-lived! Even I (note the bold type) can try to be on my best behavior for a finite amount of time. But, our travel week, with lots of pleasures and very few problems, does show you that it is well worth it to make the effort to be generous with each other; because when EVERYONE does it, EVERYONE WINS!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Prolific Art! .....In Matisse Country!

"What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter." -Henri Matisse

I am getting a full dose of Matisse here in southern France. Since Henri Matisse is one of my favorite artists I'm happy to take in all the sights. We've seen a few places he lived in Nice as well as the Matisse Museum.

Picasso, Renoir, Chagall, many of the Masters had roots and ties here in the French Riviera and Provence! When you travel around you can see why. It was a perfect place for these great artists; the colors and light are as luminous here as anywhere in the world!

Yesterday we enjoyed the markets in Nice, dined on a fancy lunch in St. Paul at La Columbe d'Or, and checked out one of the most dramatic hill villages, Gourdon, perched high upon a rocky cliff. We found a gelato stand with every flavor imaginable (more choices than Marianne's Ice Cream in Santa Cruz). They had tomato-basil gelato, lavender, avocado - getting the picture? I tried the Rhubarb gelato and it was yummy!

"I have always tried to hide my own efforts and wished my works to have the lightness and joyousness of a springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labours it cost." -Henri Matisse

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Euro = Monopoly Money!

"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money. -Susan Heller

Clothes: I like to come home having worn every article of clothing! No wasted space! I usually have our Fall Girls Trip down to an art but I ran into a glitch (although it's a good glitch) this year. It is much warmer than I expected so I'm not wearing the warm sweaters and I'm having to wear my polo's twice. Bottom line: I packed too many cold weather clothes.

Currency: I have the hardest time treating foreign money like real cash! The minute I exchange Dollars to Euros I lose all concept of value! It looks like Monopoly Money for Adults! Logically I know that 1 dollar is worth 0.679 Euros (todays exchange rate). Or the easier way to wrap my brain around this is to figure that 1 Euro is almost $1.50. More accurately, 7 Euros = around $10 (at least I think that's correct). But I can get pretty discombobulated by the continual conversion. But I'm pretty frugal at core (even when I play Monopoly) so I don't usually lose all control (and thus all my money). I dole it out sparingly and it looks like so far I calculated how much I'd need just about right! But even after a few days, the Euros still look fake to me!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Croisette in Cannes! I "Cannes" Hardly Believe We're Here!

We walked the Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes today! Yes, we walked down the Red Carpet! The famous Cannes Film Festival is always in May, but we happened to arrive for the annual MIPCOM convention. This event also takes over the town; a trade show for the TV & film industry.

Julie thought she saw Matthew Perry but he was trying to look incognito. Apparently Jerry Seinfeld is here talking up a new show called The Marriage Ref.

Next stop: St. Paul-de-Vence. This village town had incredible art and galleries. The highlight for me in Vence was the Matisse Chapel (or Vence Chapel of the Rosary)! I've wanted to see this since Paige did a college paper about the stained glass windows Matisse designed to thank the Dominican nun who took care of him after surgery from cancer. It was really neat to tour the chapel after reading about it from Paige's paper.

We loved the Foundation Maeght; a private art collection with a massive Joan Miro exhibit. I've never seen so much Miro in one location! We also checked out Mougins, the village town where the Williams are living. Picasso spent the later years of his life in this hill town. Mougins is known for it's famous restaurants; two created by the legendary French chef Roger Verge'. Another beautiful sunny day in the Riviera!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cruising around the Cote d'Azur

We can hardly believe we are here enjoying the famed French wonderland! Hooray for Jerry William's fortuitous luck in landing a yearlong work gig with Cook Medical laboring here in Europe!

Since Ann needed some extra company while Jerry is off on business trips, our traveling girls squad was happy to join her to explore the coastal towns along the French Riviera! Actually, Ann has had nonstop company but she's such a great hostess who wouldn't want to visit her here.

Today we spent the day in the sovereign principality of Monaco! Monaco is thought to have the highest per capita income in the world. Which is easy to believe....there is no income tax so it's become a haven for the wealthy Europeans to bank and live! It's all quite amazing! We loved checking out the Monaco palace and went to the cathedral where Princess Grace Kelly,the American actress, married Prince Rainier in 1956.

We also went to the medieval village of Eze and walked up the hill where you got great view of the whole area. On a clear day you can see Italy! In Eze you get a great sense of the history (and violence) of the early days here. The village has been completely rebuilt.

It's a fascinating place! Jerry's work almost stationed him in Germany and we are delighted that the Williams ended up here in Nice.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Some Get To Buy "Coach." Some Get To Fly Coach.

Andie is our Coach Buyer of the week! She found a winner "Mary Poppins" bag this week that is big enough to hold running gear, school books, lunch, laptop, etc. It's huge! It's colorful! And it was marked down from the sale price. A real find! A great bag!

But I have the dubious distinction of being the Coach Flyer of the week! I had to sink a little lower on the travel front this year....I couldn't get the frequent flyer miles to work so I actually bought a ticket to Nice, France. Which meant no Business or 1st Class! I'm much too cheap to go high end if I actually have to pay for it!

And I've learned that on an international trip your airline seat makes a big difference! I've been spoiled by getting a few flights in luxury so it's hard to go back to the riff-raff coach section!

But The Traveling Gals (Susan, Julie, Ann, Carole, Kathryn) have all arrived in France! So, even if I had to travel coach, it will definitely be a 1st Class Week of Adventures! Stay Tuned!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Look Who Else Is Going To France!

Elizabeth Smart has been called to serve in the France Paris Mission! How Cool Is That!

While Andie was the most vocal about her obsession with the Elizabeth Smart Drama in 2002, our whole family followed the story pretty closely! I'll never forget how thrilled I felt when she was found alive 9 months after her abduction!

On Friday, Elizabeth Smart testified in court against Brian Mitchell. From what I read she was incredible! Poised and articulate, she did not mince words calling Mitchell "a master manipulator who used religion as a front to get sex, drugs, and alcohol." At the end of her testimony, when she was asked to describe Mitchell the adjectives she rattled off included evil, wicked, sneaky, slimy, selfish, not spiritual, not religious, and not close to God.

One thing I love about Elizabeth Smart's decision to serve a mission; it is another example of Smart not being defined by the tragic experience! She has refused to be a "victim." Both Smart and her family have carried on with their lives with class and dignity! Instead of letting the horrific event scar them emotionally they've coped by moving on. They haven't wasted time dwelling on the past. I admire them all!

Elizabeth Smart is a great example of someone who has suffered terrible things and come out stronger! Amazing Resiliency! She will be a great representative for the church in France!

Friday, October 2, 2009

There's An APP for that! (?)

"If you are open and receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit in your lives, you will understand the lessons of the past, and they will be burned into your souls by the power of your testimonies.

And how do you get such a testimony? Well, there's no new technology for that, nor will there ever be. You cannot do a GOOGLE SEARCH to gain a testimony. You can't TEXT MESSAGE faith.

You gain a vibrant, life-changing testimony today the same way it has always been done. The process hasn't changed. It comes through desire, study, prayer, obedience, and service. That is why the teachings of prophets and apostles, past and present, are as relevant to your life today as they ever have been." -Elder Russell Ballard (April '09 GC)

With General Conference this weekend we're reminding the Seminary youth to "Listen Up!" I'm a little hypocritical because I'm flying to France later today and with the time change I'll miss the Saturday sessions. But I'll watch on Sunday.

I was thinking of the Apple "There's An APP For That" advertisements when I read the quote above. I like the juxtaposition; there is NO "Google Search to gain a testimony, you can't Text Message faith" and you won't find an Apple App that rivals the feeling we get from living the gospel! It can't be duplicated on any computer either! Technology is great and the meteoric rise of Apple's Apps are amazing, but neither App's nor technical prowess can feed the "things of the soul."

Elder Ballard suggests that a testimony comes from Desire, Study, Prayer, Obedience, and Service. And until someone develops ALL that in an Apple APP, we should probably keep listening to our leaders at General Conference!