Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bella Hits the Road (again)...

Bella is off on another adventure! But this time without Paige behind the wheel. It’s a road trip for the fun-seeking parents.

The old photo (you can tell it’s old because Paige looks about 12 but she must be 16 since she’s driving) was the only one I could find of Bella and I’m the lazy blogger who finds time to grouse (ad nauseam at times) but no camera time. Hence, blog pictures that aren’t ancient are usually just borrowed to illustrate my diatribes.

So, Brent and I leave later today following a luncheon with Mitt Romney (here we go again?! :)) We’re driving Bella up for Paige since the schedule is too tight post London (turnaround flights to Boston and then BYU graduation). In other words, it’s quite magnanimous of us but we do have ulterior motives.

For example, with skiing still prime in Utah (yes, even in April) and General Conference, it’s as good a weekend as any to road trip to Park City. Although the weather may be colder than I prefer.

I’m a fan of spring skiing with enough sun to ski sans parka. Yes, I like the conditions when the teenage boys sometimes schuss down the hills shirtless. Although their attire (or lack thereof) isn’t the reason for my spring weather preference. It’s strictly a warmth issue for this transplanted to California dweller. So I’m praying for sunshine while Brent is hoping for snow (somewhat incongruous desires but we’ll see what happens).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Library Lust...

"I do things like get in a taxi and say, "The library, and step on it." -David Foster Wallace

I love that quote! Since my local library is merely blocks away I don't need taxi service but I can totally relate to the excitement of getting to the library asap!

Truth be told, one big perk that weighed heavily in purchasing the home we live in was it's close proximity to the town library. Okay, I liked the 7-11 too, back when I was a Big Gulp frequent buyer. Now I never go to 7-11 anymore but I’m still a library frequent loaner.

While the Los Gatos Library is a small and imperfect library, it is still a library. And, a big renovation is currently in the works. Renovation is probably an understatement, the town is building a brand new 12 million dollar, 30,000 square foot library, due to open in February 2012. As a town member and library patron I’m delighted!

Happily, the old library will stay open during the construction. Sadly, the only bookstore in Los Gatos, Borders, is closing imminently due to the company’s bankruptcy restructure plan. Which makes me feel guilty about books I purchased on Amazon or the outskirts of town at Barnes & Noble. I know I need to support the local haunts if I want them to thrive.

Of course, supporting libraries is a charge I take very seriously! Have library card, will travel!

“If you had a choice between spending a summer in Nepal and spending a summer in the library, go to the library.” -Annie Dillard

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rest in Peace: Mr. Super Glue

According to the New York Times the
inventor of Super Glue, Dr. Harry Coover, died last Saturday. He was 94 years old.

On the very day Dr. Coover passed away, Brent was attempting to Super Glue his Power Balance wristband together after the plastic split apart. Brent was very sorry the surgery was unsuccessful.

Needless to say, when I saw the glued wristband in the recovery room (okay, on a paper towel in the kitchen), my immediately thought was that Brent will try to fix anything with glue! Can you imagine the faith needed to believe Super Glue will bond a silicone wristband together?

Brent is generally partial to his favorite, all purpose Gorilla Glue, but Super Glue was sort of the grandfather that begat all the super sticky adhesives. I actually get a kick out of Brent’s bold efforts to start any and all repair work giving glue the first shot. Occasionally (use term very loosely), glue actually works.

Anyway, Dr. Coover fondly became known as “Mr. Super Glue” even though the prolific inventor held 640 other patents in his name (guess it was the patent name that “stuck" - haha!)

Super Glue was one of those unintentional “eureka type" discoveries Dr. Coover made with another researcher back in 1951 while looking for a temperature resistant coating for jet cockpits. He unveiled Super Glue during a live television show where a metal bar was lowered onto the stage. Dr. Coover super glued another metal bar to the lowered one, had his daughter grab hold, and she was raised in the air on the strength of his invention. Ta-da!

I’m always the naysayer but after reading of this TV demonstration featuring Dr. Coover’s daughter I’m beginning to wonder why Brent’s wristband mend didn’t work after all. But, despite the glitch (my politically correct term for failure), I’m sure Brent will continue to be a staunch supporter of Super Glue. Brent is nothing if not loyal and tenacious, so glue will continue to reign supreme in our household for fast repair jobs (efficacy notwithstanding). But it does look like his treasured (albeit of questionable powers) Power Balance wristband will need to be replaced.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Enlightened at Lent...

One of Brent’s employees gave up drinking alcohol for Lent this year. Since Brian is well aware that Brent is a teetotaler they’ve had a few discussions about Brian’s Lenten sacrifice.

It turns out that Brian has made a startling discovery. Without drinking he’s lost weight, had way more time at his disposal, zero headaches, and no day-after-party recovery (I guess that’s called a hangover).

According to Brent, Brian has seemed happier, more enthused about work, more engaged generally. Brian is quite delighted. Maybe all this increased productivity and sense of well being will entice Brian to stay sober 24/7 even after the Lent season concludes. Knowing Brent I’m sure he’s already proposed this clever idea to Brian.

I know there is social drinking and problem drinking and a difference between the two. But, quite honestly, many drinkers I knew growing up nearly invariably became problem drinkers, sadly even alcoholics. The devastating effects of their drinking gave me zero desire to venture down that path. Their lives looked miserable and any thrill of partying quickly lost it’s luster.

Someone shared a testimony recently in church and threw out the question: “I just don’t know where I would be without the church” and then surmised that they’d probably be out drinking and partying. Their comment surprised me a little because although I’m very grateful for the church I don’t refrain from drinking only because of The Word of Wisdom.

I stay alcohol free in an effort to keep the commandments but also because I’m not interested in: a) putting myself in vulnerable situations, or b) losing control over my behavior, or c) making a fool out of myself. I seem to make a fool of myself with no intoxication necessary, thank you very much!

I never felt like I needed alcohol to be more interesting, more engaging, more fun, or more chill. I don’t claim to be interesting or engaging (guess ignorance is bliss) but I do have fun and I’m afraid I’ll never be chill (with or without alcohol).

But, back to Brian’s sacrifice: I think it’s cool that his transition has felt fruitful and positive to Brian in numerous ways. Maybe he actually will continue his abstinence post Lent.

Photo: Team Captain Brian giving a victory speech at the PCG Olympics with his boss doing a little stretching in the background!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Waiting Game...

Aunt Lisa told me that Andrew and Caitlin are waiting for the baby’s arrival to learn whether it’s a boy or a girl.

Now that parents can find out gender there seems to be a growing trend to opt out of knowing until the birth. When I was having babies determining sex was still speculation, so, naturally, everyone wanted to know!

Ah, the element of surprise has returned to the delivery room! The anticipation factor for today’s parents is tantamount to the thrill of knowing for parents in my generation. Which is how the pendulum always seems to swing with these kind of things; back and forth.

Ultrasound equipment was still fairly primitive in the 1980’s. My doctors were generally reluctant to venture guesses and would always qualify their prediction with some pithy remark like: “Don’t paint the nursery pink yet.” But even with their caveats, their “opinions” were correct with my last two pregnancies. Although those sonogram pictures fooled me; I thought it all looked like complete mumbo-jumbo. I was astonished that the doctors could make heads, tails, or limbs of anything on the grainy screen.

But now technology brings such state-of-the-art equipment a sonogram can even show 3D images of the fetus. I’ve seen a few of the 3D mug shots and they are wild. Some show enough detail to argue whether the in-utero child resembles mom or dad. The difference in a contemporary sonogram picture to one thirty years ago is like the difference between a 1982 computer to now (light years apart).

So, now that sonograms are accurate for clear gender identification, lots of couples choose the wow factor of surprise. Of course! But I admire these couples. I think waiting is great but I couldn’t do it personally. I’ve never been know for having any patience. Especially when knowledge is power (or, a head start with name selection, nursery decor, prep generally). If there is information available to me, I’m a need-to-know kind of person. Guess I must lack whatever gene gives these new parents the ability to wait it out for a delivery room surprise!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

...then comes the baby in the baby carriage...

Newsflash: Caitlin and Andrew have exciting news! A baby is on the way!

It’s hard to believe that their wedding was almost three years ago; it doesn’t seem that long ago when they visited us still operating under the “just friends” guise.

Andie figured that ruse out, maybe even before Andrew and Caitlin. I remember coming home to Andie’s clairvoyant speculation that, based on her scrupulous observation, there was more than a friendship in the McNally-Olsen alliance. Yes, Andie does have special powers like that!

So what started as best buddies moved to a bonafide couple to a happy marriage and now on to entirely new terrain: parenting!

Andrew was a hilarious little boy so I hope the baby will inherit some of his fun personality. Who would have thought that the little boy who refused to ride Dumbo at Disneyland (too scary) would grow up to fly US Air Force planes.

With all of the McNally siblings currently living in the Bay Area, it shouldn’t be hard to get Andrew and Caitlin to consent to frequent visits. I’ll keep the Baby Jogger ready!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Deluge of Rain...

“If I were running the world I would have it rain only between 2 and 5 am. Anyone who was out then ought to get wet.” - William Lyon Phelps

Sometimes meteorologists have to get creative. Day after day of "rain in the forecast" starts to feel beyond redundant so they stretch the phraseology every way imaginable just to mix things up a bit:

- A plethora of showers
- Forecast: more rain and more rain
- Another drenching storm on the way
- A wet weather pattern
- Bay Area soaked to the skin
- Heavy precipitation
- Intensity of widespread rain
- Silicon Valley showers remain undaunted

The rain has definitely overstayed it’s welcome. The first day of spring (March 20) officially came and went. Alas, no sign of spring. I’m so annoyed by this wet weather that I’m actually wondering if I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). More likely I’m just sad (lower case) that so many trail runs in the past two weeks have been aborted or run through mud in a downpour.

I still remember our naive weather assumptions when our California friends learned we’d be moving from La Jolla to Seattle and asked how we liked the rain. Brent and I would both insist that rain didn’t really bother us. No, we were quite impervious to silly distractions like the weather. That is, until we left gorgeous-most-of-the-year La Jolla and learned first hand about wet, gray and dreary.

So we hightailed out of the Pacific Northwest for the first California opportunity but with the torrential showers of late I’m afraid the Bay Area is just as waterlogged as Seattle. If I’m stuck living in a rainy climate I should consider joining Paige in London. Perhaps British rain is more tolerable!

“Gosh, it’s raining cats and dogs," said Fred looking out of the kitchen window. “I know,” said his mother coming inside. “I’ve just stepped in a poodle!”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

But Here's the Rub....

This is not a photo of my pantry. It's from the OXO website and I'm now the happy buyer yet perplexed owner of a slew of these state-of-the-art containers.

Okay, I was touting bins yesterday and today I’m onto a container discussion. Do you see a theme here? It must be spring (as in spring cleaning).

Now the reason I'm not 100% satisfied with my container purchases is that my cupboards, no matter how I sort and organize never look like this picture. Which drives me a little crazy!

First, it's nearly impossible to ascertain the perfect size for various items. I pour in the pretzels and they don’t entirely fit! So what do I do with the leftover pretzels? Doesn’t it kind of defeat the point of the lovely containers if I leave the spillover in the original pretzel bag?

Plus, when everything is filled to the brim it looks aesthetically pleasing but when the cereal, crackers, whatever, falls below halfway the look isn’t quite so dapper.

So, I’m partially content. With everything in either a container or sorted with like items in matching bins it’s a big improvement. But I’m still trying to determine what to do with extra contents lest I sabotage my organization efforts with loose packages gone wild.

And, I’m also trying to figure out how to refrain from getting anal about diminishing amounts lest I go bonkers whenever people eat. After all, having the food for consumption is the main purpose, right. Sometimes I get confused and think it’s just for decoration. Oh, wait, that would be the intention of the OXO picture, whereas my containers are meant for real usage.

So, it turns out that trying to replicate the OXO website photo is just as absurd as people who continually try to keep up with the Joneses. Futile.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

You Can Never Have Too Many ...Bins!

When Paige arrived in London she expressed mild frustration over not having "bins" to store her belongings. That's an inherent hazard of semester abroad. But I'm glad she's become a lover of bins. Because I think bins are essential. A staple. Bins are to the home-at-large what sugar and flour are to the kitchen.

I've probably spent a small fortune on bins over the years and can't imagine life without them.

My first tip to "getting organized" is bins! Not that anyone asked. Still, there is no charge for this advice: Buy bins! Small bins, medium bins, large bins; you'll need every size! I usually keep a cupboard stocked with empty bins of assorted sizes.

Furthermore, all bins are not created equal! There are definitely good bins, substandard bins and everything in between. "I never met a bin I didn't like" would be a false statement! I am persnickety about the bins I choose.

So, I'm delighted that Paige was lamenting no bins at the BYU London Center. Maybe my sorting obsession has found another convert! Even better, could it be that some things we teach our kiddos do come home to roost? In a good way.

Finally, one of the best bins on the planet just happens to be....the Trash Bin! Whenever storage bins start to overflow, the trash bin is the perfect receptacle for eliminating surplus. In fact, the trash bin might be my favorite bin of all! Always toss liberally, ...just don't throw out your bins!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who says girls can’t play football...

Andie attends the Stanford 2nd Singles Ward and apparently they have a long running tradition of a yearly Flag Football Game against the San Francisco Singles Ward. First the girls play and then the guys.

On game day (Saturday), it wasn’t just raining, it was pouring (buckets of nonstop heavy precipitation). I assumed the friendly rivalry between the two wards would be postponed but I was wrong. Inclement weather or not, flag football was on, beginning at 10 am at Palo Alto High School.

The girls had been holding weekly football practice, coaches were recruited, and uniforms were loosely prescribed. Since Andie was on the team (center of photo in one of her trademark headbands), we donned our rain boots and umbrellas to cheer on the Stanford female jocks. And, they were impressive! Furthermore, they won!

Besides winning at Flag Football, the girls (from both teams - to be fair) seem like real winners! Andie’s met some great girls in her Palo Alto surroundings. Guys too, but I didn’t stick around for their football game so I can’t comment on their sports prowess. The girls are an eclectic bunch, well educated and involved in a sundry of graduate programs or careers.

These are bright, capable, clever women who haven’t let intelligence or a corporate ladder diminish their love for living the gospel. Many will undoubtably find great companions and marry themselves right out of the singles ward. Either which way, it’s reassuring to learn of the caliber of these women as Andie talks about them and know that whether they become mothers, US ambassadors, or professional flag football players (ha!), they have good values and high standards. Andie is lucky and blessed to find teammates and friends who share goals and aspirations similar to hers.

It was a wet but fun event. I would have preferred running on the field as a player to passively watching on the sidelines shivering but no one asked me to suit up! Oh, well. The Stanford Ward Bishop even showed up with his family and lots of hot chocolate to warm up the soaking Stanford Saints (their official team name).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Madness in March at the Men’s Cook-Off...

The Los Gatos Ward has an annual Men’s Cook-Off and I have to admit that the food is always better than ward events with women providing the food.

Our ward has some talented male cooks. The Bishop is not exactly one of them but that never seems to impact the judges. Brent has this ridiculous ability to win despite his minimalist approach. It’s quite embarrassing.

First case in point: About a decade ago, Brent won 1st place at a Saratoga Stake Chili Cook-Off, basically on chili that consisted of opening a #10 can and pouring in catsup, BBQ sauce, Tabasco sauce, and I forget the 4th ingredient.

Brent didn’t really plan on being a serious contender but threw the chili together about 10 minutes before departure so he didn’t show up empty-handed. And, somehow, out of at least 20 pots of chili, his doctored-up-store-bought version won. Which felt really awkward when people requested the recipe.

Brent doesn’t quite understand that his chili shouldn’t really be eligible; I think he naively believes that “altering” prepared food still qualifies. Shameless! While Brent finds his winning streak humorous, I doubt the men who slave over complicated recipes would concur.

Second case in point: the mini ice cream sandwiches. A couple of years ago Brent was swamped on the day of the Men’s Cook-Off, so I whipped up some bite size chocolate chip cookies and filled them with ice cream. Again, it was just an effort to pitch in, not seriously compete against homemade apple pies and fancy creme brulee. But, of course, the pithy little treats were a hit and won the dessert category, much to the chagrin, I’m sure, of serious guy bakers in the ward.

Sticking with a good thing, and, in a touch of laziness, Brent’s been showing up with mini ice cream sandwiches for several years now, and sure enough, on Saturday night, they won again!

I’m kicking myself for missing a window of opportunity. On Saturday, when Brent took stock of ingredients around the house and mentioned the possibility of taking his green smoothie shake to the Men’s Cookoff, I immediately pronounced that a lame idea. So, naturally, Brent’s fallback was the mini ice cream sandwiches. What was I thinking? I should have heartily endorsed his morning shake as an excellent offering (ha!).

Because while some green smoothie shakes are delicious, Brent’s morning concoction tastes pretty terrible. Think Jamba Juice meets the compost pile! There is way too much kale, chard, flax, and unidentified objects for his breakfast drink to place at any cook-off.

So next year, I’ll highly recommend Brent’s green shake ...just to bring a touch of humility to my award winning cook/husband! He’s getting a little too proud of a creation that I invented in the first place. Seems we’ve created a “Cooking” (loosely defined) Monster!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mochi at Costco!

I am not kidding! Costco carries Mochi! Actually, I don't know if they'll always carry it or if it was just a roadshow. But, happy day, Costco had Mochi!

It came in a container filled with individually wrapped mochi of 3 different fillings: red bean, strawberry, and mango. There are about 20 of each kind. And the mochi with red bean paste is the best, hands down!

I have refused to look into the nutritional value (or lack thereof) in mochi. I don't want to know that there is probably nothing healthy about mochi. I don't want to know if it’s high in calories (likely) or contains carcinogens (doubtful).

Ignorance is bliss, mochi is bliss, and that is all I need to know!

Some people need their chocolate fixation and apparently I need mochi. And now I can buy it at Costco! In bulk! Hmmm....I'm starting to wonder if this is a good thing? .

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Augie’s Quest...

“I redefine normal everyday. You can either mourn what you can’t do or celebrate what you can.” -Augie Nieto

Last night was the 6th annual “Augie’s Quest” Gala. This year it was back in San Francisco but it rotates between San Diego, Las Vegas and the Bay Area depending on the location of the IHRSA conference. The fundraising event, to generate funds for researching Lou Gehrigs disease, began in 2006. Our friends, Augie and Lynne Nieto, started the charity after Augie was diagnosed with ALS.

Augie was a remarkable guy even before the diagnosis; ambitious and very successful in the fitness industry. After discovering his ALS, Augie turned his passion to finding a cure. To that end, Augie’s Quest has raised over 25 million dollars.

The average survival rate for ALS is just five years and over a year ago Augie crossed over to the other side of the survival curve. But with damage to motor neurons, Augie was first confined to a wheelchair, then lost ability to use his arms, and now even his ability to talk. We’ve attended “Augie’s Quest” every year and have seen the tragic decline.

The atmosphere surrounding auctions is generally upbeat and last night’s event was fun; including a musical performance of the band Sugar Ray. But it’s always bittersweet to see Augie; thrilling that he’s still alive, heartbreaking to see the ALS progression.

Augie’s an inspiring guy and it’s always a reality check to remember the healthy Augie. One year (circa 2003?) Brent and Webb went to Augie’s home in Corona Del Mar and imagine Webb’s surprise when Augie handed Webb the keys to his ludicrously expensive Ferrari and told him to take it out for a spin. Yikes! That was probably one of Webb’s first introductions to driving a stick shift car. In a Ferrari, no less!

“If Augie’s efforts, and the efforts of those working with him, can save any one of these families from this heartache, then it will be worth it. It hasn’t come without a cost. But this quest has kept Augie alive longer than we expected. He has used his talents in business to deal with something much bigger.” -Lynne Nieto

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Time, A Place, and a Way of Life Long Gone...

“Retrospection can be illuminating, it can be numbing, it can be sobering; it can be fruitful, it can gladden my heart, and it can drown me in despair. But looking back on my early days on our farm in Iowa, I find that I take enormous satisfaction in my memories of the past, and my reflections on how that time, so rich, so satisfying, so fulfilling, yet so undeniably challenging, affected me.” -Mildred Armstrong Kalish

“Little Heathens” took me by surprise (of the pleasant sort). It was our Bookgroup selection on Tuesday night and I did not expect to like it as much as I did.

Memoirs are a popular literary genre but lately I’ve noticed abundant use of contemporary writers to use traumas in their past to explain or justify their sordid lives. Emotional tales of abuse, neglect, addiction, etc. has almost become a gimmick to rationalize bad behavior, lack of character, et al.

Mildred Kalish, the author of “Little Heathens,” is the opposite extreme. Her book is a detailed account of growing up during the Great Depression on a farm in Garrison, Iowa. While Kalish is completely pragmatic about the difficulties, her optimistic nature depicts a childhood that she endearingly describes as “quite a romp.”

Let’s face it, those 1930’s depression years were tough on everyone and on top of the widespread economic woes, Kalish’s father was exiled from the family by her maternal grandfather for reasons only alluded to (bankruptcy, bootlegging and jail time) and the family never spoke of him again.

Instead of dwelling on the pain of not having a father figure in the home, Kalish gives an incredibly rich look of her family’s experiences and how these shaped who she became. Kalish is a great writer and her exacting memory makes for a great narrative. The book was completely delightful; I give it a hearty endorsement!

“Isn’t it perfectly obvious to all that those early childhood experiences, under those special conditions with those particular relatives on that Iowa farm, prepared me for the modestly successful, hugely satisfying, truly blessed life that has been my lot? I shall always be grateful.” -Mildred Armstrong Kalish

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Le Fheile Padraig...

“La Fheile Padraig” (St. Patrick’s Day in Irish) is celebrated around the world on March 17th but Paigey (our study abroad traveler) happens to be celebrating right in Ireland today! Will she get to kiss the Blarney Stone?

So first, a quote for Paige (she can affirm if this is so because I have never been to Ireland): “In Ireland the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs.” -Sir John Pentland Mahaffy

For many, St. Patrick’s Day is just a good excuse to party, Irish or not. But, since one in five white Americans consider themselves to have Irish blood in their ancestry (this would include my family) many party with Irish pride!

My maternal grandmother, Nano, was always quite proud of her Irish ancestry (diluted as it was). But, in honor of Nano, we always celebrate! Not the raucous drinking green beer hoopla but we’ll don green attire, look for leprechauns, eat green bagels, etc.

For a little trivia, the color first associated with St. Patrick’s Day was originally BLUE. Somehow during the 17th century and the wide use of the shamrock attributed to the patron saint of Ireland (Patrick purportedly used the 3 leaves to explain the Holy Trinity), the color shifted to a green hue. Personally, I’d prefer blue but my Irish blood isn’t strong enough to have any impact on that tradition; the GREEN is likely here to stay.


May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
Make peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Depression for Dummies :)

“This is my depressed stance. When you’re depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand. The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better. If you’re going to get any joy out of being depressed, you’ve got to stand like this.” -Charlie Brown (Peanuts)

Sunday night we went to a fireside where Soren Koldewyn, a therapist, spoke to ward council members. One goal was learning how to determine when someone needs professional help. Or, when someone’s mental health issues are beyond the scope of church leaders or priesthood blessings, etc.

Brother Koldewyn addressed anxiety, stress, and addiction but the main discussion circled around the many faceted topic of depression.

Depression is always a loaded subject for a myriad of reasons. First, everyone knows someone (perhaps them) who suffers from depression. So, their exposure and personal experience will certainly influence the conclusions they draw about depression.

Plus, depression has so many guises and forms that distinguishing situational depression from chronic depression or clinical depression can be a real minefield.

Symptoms also run the gamut. While one person has a loss of appetite, another will overeat. Signs can be tricky since some people follow a textbook example while others might mask or hide signs and some seek and desire attention.

Treatment varies too. Some people respond to talk therapy without needing medication. Others clearly need to be medicated; some sporadically, some forever. Some people will refuse help altogether. Denial is not uncommon.

So, there is nothing very cut and dry about diagnosing or treating depression. It’s a rabbit hole! While getting out on a walk or run might bring some people out of a low period, another person can’t muster up the strength to get themselves out on the run. See the paradox: what someone needs to do to feel better, they sadly, might be incapable of doing.

It’s this complexity to mental health issues that fascinates me. There usually aren’t one size fits all, easy answers. It’s often a lot of trial and error. I probably came away from the fireside with more questions than answers but that’s not a reflection of Brother Koldewyn. His comments were good.

The discussion just gets my mind racing. Oh, thoughts....that could be a sign of depression! But, hopefully, it’s a function of my interest in the subject matter rather than a depressed state of mind. I’ll keep you posted (if I’m functioning, that is). If I’m not, there’s another sign! Three more signs would confirm that I’m officially depressed! Yikes - better go running!

Postscript: If my comments are too light hearted or offensive, I’m sorry. I do understand there is a difference between the Charlie Brown "depressed stance" and depression that requires outside help. I’m just spouting off thoughts (note my blog name “ad nauseam”) but I certainly have no expertise on the subject. So, if I appear glib, I apologize!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Case of the Missing Girl Scout...

“On my honor, I will try,
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.” -The Girl Scout Promise

After yesterday’s tirade on Boy Scouts you probably think I’m about to lash out at the Girl Scouts today. But you’d be wrong!

I don’t really have any complaints with Scouts, Boy OR Girl. They’re both great organizations. My issue is more bewilderment that our church is tightly aligned with boy scouting.

But speaking of the Girl Scouts, this time of year always means one thing: Girl Scout Cookies! The cookie boxes get smaller and the price gets higher but that’s okay. It’s their annual fundraising push (and a successful one at that).

Today I’m trying to solve the mystery of the missing Girl Scout. Picture a milk carton with a photo and a “Have You Seen This Girl (Scout)?” write up on the side. Yes, I’m afraid there may be a MIA Girl Scout in Los Gatos. Troop number unknown.

Here are the facts: I buy Girl Scout cookies from any girl in uniform. It’s a self imposed policy similar to my vow to stop at all lemonade stands. So, with this policy in force I ordered cookies from four sources this year: a friend’s grandaughter, another friend’s neice, a neighborhood girl, and a unidentified girl scout who randomly rang my doorbell.

So far my cookies have been delivered from the first three sources, the girls I have a connection to. But the mystery Girl Scout has never returned. Granted I have not paid for the cookies, you pay upon delivery, but I’m perplexed. Could she have been abducted by Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster?

One theory is that she returned (possibly numerous times), found no one home at the Knudsens and gave up. But this is unlikely because I am home a lot. So much that sometimes my kids call me a “homebody."

Or perhaps my illegible handwriting on her order form has the Girl Scout still trying to decifer our address. This is plausible because I do have terrible penmanship.

It’s possible that I dreamt a Girl Scout came to the door and sold me cookies. But the dream explanation is a stretch because I don’t usually remember dreams so vividly. For example, this girl scout had 2 blond braids and I clearly remember ordering 3 boxes. My dreams would be too fuzzy on details like hair color and box quantity.

The whole exchange has me puzzled. It’s so uncharacteristic of a Girl Scout! They’re so dependable, so trustworthy, so entrepreneurial! And, I’m not worried about my cookies. Okay, I’m a little worried about my cookies. But, since I didn’t put all my eggs in one basket, so to speak, with 4 cookie orders, it’s not exactly a crisis. I’m mostly curious to know what happened to that cute little Girl Scout. And, I’d kind of like to solve the mystery (and retrieve my cookies too!).

So, if anyone sees a suspicious Girl Scout sneaking Peanut Butter Patties from her inventory please notify me asap! In the meantime I promise to still save the boxes from Lori’s niece for Paige...since I know Paige might be worried, under the circumstances!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Scout Is...

On Saturday Alex Holland was building benches for his Eagle Scout project at Oak Meadow Park. I volunteered but didn't contribute much since there were power tools involved and scouting men can get possessive about drills and saws. Hey, I tried!

There I go...dissing scouting men already! I should be posting about how great it is that Alex is getting his Eagle Scout and what wonderful young men the Boy Scouts of America produces. But that would be disingenuous.

I applaud Alex and I'm proud of him for "hanging in there.” I think he'll be glad he finished although right now Alex doesn’t seem to care much.

But in all honesty, I don't think Alex is a great young man because of, or due to, the BSA. While many of their activities are character building I've never quite understood why our church is so wedded to their program. There is nothing inherently wrong with the scouting program but the convergence with church is a little confusing. Almost to the degree that I feel like I'm a bad church member if (or when) I don't wholeheartedly endorse the scout program.

If the Young Women's Personal Progress program and Girl Scouts were both facilitated through church it would feel cumbersome. However, if certain young women choose to do girl scouting, like other young women choose marching bands or club sports teams, well, girl scouts is a worthy activity and their experiences will probably bless their lives. Not to mention earn them value projects for YW!

I just prefer to see our church youth programs have a primary focus that embodies gospel principles. The Boy Scout traits (trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and obedient) are clearly inspiring. But so are the attributes that give the priesthood it's power (long suffering, gentleness, meekness, kindness, love unfeigned, etc).

I've heard the argument that while the church doesn't really need the scouting program, the BSA needs the church. But, as a global church that feels a little antiquated. I'm not sure that model still fits. Losing the church support could be a devastating blow to the boy scout program but they'd figure it out. After all, the BSA is one of the wealthiest non-profit organizations in the country. Besides, many LDS young men in the US would probably continue to do both but it wouldn't be so tied into our church structurally.

Stephen Covey wrote the bestseller "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" book that spawned an entire 7 habits industry. Sometimes people say Covey took gospel princiles and repackaged them for any audience. As a church maybe we could try the reverse. We could take the best and most wonderful things about the scouting program and repackage them into a Young Men's program that stands on it's own merits and doesn't require the BSA interface.

My lackluster thoughts about scouting don't consume me. I’ll still pitch in and support the boys with their spaghetti dinners or eagle projects. It’s just my pet peeve that because we invoke the scouting program alongside young men's programs, the overall experience is not as spiritually focused or doctrinally rich as the YW program for girls. So, for what it's worth (which isn't much), when I hear the church tout "simplification," I think scouting could be a good place to start.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Heart Wrenching...

"There are moments when you have to just walk away and cry." -Lou Angeli

The devastation in Japan from the earthquake and tsunami is heart wrenching! Completely overwhelming! As if those disasters weren't enough they're now experiencing aftershocks, fires, and terrible meltdowns at nuclear power plants. The aftermath is horrendous!

The power of nature is daunting. It's swift and the force and sheer magnitude is practically unfathomable. It's humbling to view video footage of the destruction and realize how vulnerable and precarious life can be.

When tragedy unfolds it's impossible to make sense of suffering. I know during crisis people question why a loving God would allow such sad and terrible things. Personally, it affirms my faith that while I don't understand all the purposes, I trust in scriptural promises that "adversity and afflictions shall be but a small moment." (D&C 121:7) I believe there is so much that I can't understand. But what I can do is trust in His plan.

Since I couldn't bring myself to download a tragic photo I decided my blog picture would be Katsushika Hokusai's 1830 woodblock print "The Great Wave off Kanagawa." It's one of the most well known works of Japanese art and I've always liked the copy in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Looking at the print it's sobering to recognize that the Japanese people have always had to deal with havoc wreaking tsunami weather.

"...and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds." -D&C 88:90

Saturday, March 12, 2011

School Pride...

"There is no bait and switch here. BYU recruits off of the Honor Code. BYU is very serious about it and for good reason. These things are at the very core of the religion." -Steve Young (former BYU & 49'ers quarterback)

The honor code infraction of basketball star Brandon Davies has certainly put BYU in the limelight this month.

After BYU's win over San Diego State the polls ranked BYU third in the nation on a Monday and then on Tuesday, the axe fell when Davies was suspended from the team for honor code violation.

I'm fascinated by the massive press coverage of this story. Opinions are all over the map but I'm impressed that so many sports writers and sports fans are applauding the school. Plenty of them think the honor code is draconian, too restrictive, ridiculous, yadda, yadda, but they still admire BYU's backbone to hold athletes to the same standards as other students.

I'm almost taken aback by all the brouhaha. When I attended BYU (let's see...34 years ago), the honor code wasn't something I gave much thought to because it was pretty much how I lived anyway. I'm not trying to sound high and mighty but it is a code of conduct I believe in and try to live (then and now). Since I attended church, lived the word of wisdom, was chaste, and didn't swear, studying at BYU didn't feel restrictive. My biggest issue/pet peeve was probably wanting to dress more casually (casual not immodest) than the dress standards allowed.

Moral values have changed a lot in the world today but there are still plenty of BYU students who believe in the merits of the honor code standards. As a private university, no one is forced to attend so critics can decry the code as strict or lame (or both) but they can't shame the school for it's commitment to principles. On the other side of the fence are plenty of college athletes getting the "wink, wink, nod, nod" on too many laissez-faire campuses.

So I'm proud of BYU but I do feel bad for Brandon Davies. Nobody deserves to have their mistakes become such public fodder. But this is not BYU's fault. When you are an athlete on a championship team it's hard to avoid the notoriety. Plus, Brandon's teammates, coaches, and the school at large seem anxious to extend their support, encouraging him to work within the system and return to play. No one wants to vilify Brandon. He seems like a good guy!

I admire BYU for upholding the honor code when it is devastating to do so! It's easy to be a proud alumnus of a school that does the right thing especially when the right thing is such a tough loss for the school.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Relief Society!

We had a lovely Relief Society Birthday Celebration on Tuesday night chaired by Tia Barth. Jen Smith offered her home and cooking skills to provide a cozy setting and delicious dinner.

The theme was The Hundred Dresses and all partygoers were asked to bring a dress to donate to a woman's shelter. The hundred dresses comes from a wonderful Newbery Honor children's book by Eleanor Estes, published in 1944.

The book shares the story of a poor Polish immigrant, Wanda Petronski, who wears the same faded old blue dress to school every day. Trying to fit in with the other girls Wanda describes in detail the hundred dresses she claims to have at home. Her classmates tease her and suddenly one day Wanda has moved away.

Maddie and Peggy later discover that Wanda didn't have actual dresses at home but she did have 100 intricate drawings of beautiful dresses. Maddie is haunted by the way she and her friends treated Wanda and regrets never doing anything to stop the mocking even though it made Maddie feel uncomfortable. Maddie realized she'd been fearful that if she stood up for Wanda her friends might turn on her and ridicule her.

It's a charming old book and some would say a little overtly didactic but I don't really mind kid lit with characters like Maddie who grow through experience, even if the author's moralizing is a tad obvious.

Hey, if it helps me think about compassion and the importance of standing up for what is right, I'm not opposed to some blatant gestures of moral instruction through story telling. Although I know children's literature professors who believe books intended to teach lessons are blasphemous! Oh, well! I like them anyway.

Maddie's recognition of her role in hurting Wanda reminds me of the famous Abraham Lincoln quote: "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Stitch in Time....

Poor Chloe! After spending Christmas Eve getting stitched up from head wounds after her grandfather's dog bit her, you would think she'd get a break from emergency rooms for awhile.

Instead, after our Wednesday morning run we had 5 little monkeys (Chloe, Emily, Natalie, Jake, & Noah) jumping on the bed (Webb's) and guess who fell off and bumped her head?

Unfortunately, it was more than a bump on Chloe's head. Even though Becca was right next to her, somehow in the kids jubilant jumping Chloe ended up gashing her forehead on the desk.

Since head wounds immediately look bad (ie. blood) we were out the door, straight to Good Samaritan Hospital (do not pass go, do not collect $200) only to arrive to a packed room of sketchy people - the kind you only seem to find in ER rooms. Good thing we rushed hurry up and then wait.

Eventually we (Becca, Chloe & I) were put in room #25 for a little more waiting. I guess I went along for the ride since I love hospitals (ha!). Actually I felt kind of responsible for the mishap since it happened on our turf. Yes, I excel in guilt. Years of practice!

Finally, a plastic surgeon wrapped Chloe up like a burrito (that or a institutionalized patient) for maximum restraint (see Becca's photo) and stitched her up. Until they velcroed her into the mummy suit, Chloe was cheerful, talkative, happy to be there. She only came unglued (again, note photo) for the brief stitchery and then she was content again in a flash.

Chloe gets an A plus for her emergency room visitor conduct. She was, by far, the most adorable patient of the day (even with blood oozing out of her forehead). Becca was stellar too! I failed miserably in my grandmother-in-training-practice...these things shouldn't happen on my watch! And Chloe shouldn't have to be the home safety guinea pig; although to Chloe the day almost seemed like a big adventure. Such a trooper!

5 little monkeys jumping on the bed, One fell off and bumped their head.
Momma called the Doctor and the Doctor said, "No more monkeys jumping on the bed."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Missionary Bound Birthday Boy....

Today is Cousin Alex's 19th birthday! He's a freshman cadet at the Air Force Academy and awaiting his mission call! The papers have all been submitted.

I love this picture of Alex in his kilt at his brother Andrew's wedding. I can't remember if that is Jack or Andrew Marriott that Alex is playing with but I can remember how Alex spent half the day keeping those 2 cute Marriott boys entertained.

Alex has always had such a great personality. Of course I've always attributed it to his birth order. He's a third child, I'm a third child. You can see where I'm trying to go with this.

Honestly though, I wish I was half as good natured as Alex. I'm afraid there is more to it than just being a third child (although Paige & Anita, two more 'third child' people, would likely support my theory). Alex has always had a happy disposition. I've loved his visits to California over the years because he is so easy to please. Lisa would always urge me not to go out of our way to do anything special. She'd assure me that Alex was content to do whatever we might be doing.

Sometimes you hear that drill from house guests but it isn't really so; they have expectations! But with Alex, he truly was delighted to do whatever we were doing. Alex is the epitome of low maintenance; he is always smiling and always appreciative.

So, it looks like sometimes we can even learn good things (by example) from teenagers (albeit this teen is now in his very last teenage year!) Birthday Greetings to Cadet Olsen! Wherever Alex is called to serve his mission, he'll be a awesome missionary!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Hard Act to Follow...

Tomorrow is Ash Wedesday which ushers in the beginning of Lent. Last year was monumental: I quit drinking Diet Coke!

My sacrifice was so successful that I've continued the no Diet Coke, no caffeinated soda boycott to this day. I'm quite proud of this accomplishment, thank you very much!

Initially, in my "baby steps" approach to change of any kind, I switched from drinking Diet Coke to drinking Diet 7-Up. It seemed reasonable to nix the caffeine but hang on to the rights of carbonation. I know it sounds a little illogical but it made sense to me. Call it Phase 1.

However, at some point is occurred to me that I'd traded one vice for another (albeit less insidious but still lame). So in a moment of great courage I finally gave in about a month ago and banned all soda from my house, my car, my shopping list, my life basically. So far I've stuck to this as well. Progress! Phase 2!

All this build up to say that since Lent 2010 was a huge success; I feel pressure about what to relinquish for the 2011 Lent season. Many typical lenten sacrifices seem too easy (ie. giving up ice cream or chocolate would be a piece of cake for me, no pun intended). Others seem too hard or nearly impossible, like people who give up carbs. Personally, I would starve. I'm afraid I might be as addicted to carbs as I was to caffeine! It's possible that I could give up all breads, which would be wise but very difficult. I'd be such a grouch no one would want to be around me if I swore off breads.

So, I've got 24 hours to make a decision. And lots of pressure, due to last year's victory (such a hard act to follow)!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spiritual Muscle Memory...

I was impressed that Denise Wilson was able to share her testimony in Sacrament meeting yesterday. She's had a difficult 2 months since Bud's death. Denise has bad days and good days, even bad hours and some good ones too. Clearly, it's a process.

Denise mentioned "muscle memory" in her testimony. Spiritual muscle memory kept Denise coming to church, kept Denise praying, and pretty much kept Denise living the gospel even if she didn't feel entirely inclined to at moments.

Muscle memory is doing something over and over again to the point where you do it automatically without thinking about it. Muscle memory develops the interaction between our muscles and our brain.

The rituals. The motions. Sometimes that's all you can do. And, as Denise shared, some days in January and February, that was all she had.

But, that's the good news of spiritual muscle memory. While we might just be going through the motions because that is what we've learned to do, eventually we turn a corner. It reminds me of the Winston Churchill quote: "If you are going through hell, keep going."

I admire Denise's good judgement to soldier on despite days when her faith felt on shaky ground. Watching Denise has strengthened my testimony of the importance of hanging in there regardless of the trial or challenge. Spiritual muscle memory can only kick in when it's been ingrained in our behavior before calamity comes!

Whether it's a spiritual nature or a physical one, muscle memory is a fascinating phenomenon. A miracle of our intricately designed minds and bodies. One of those miracles I often take for granted but I'm certainly grateful for!

"Muscle memory refers to several valuable things. On one hand, it's like a concert violinist whose years of scales and fretwork create a template that enables him to play with precision and speed required by the greatest scores.

On a similar front, your habits of training to swim, bike and run imprint on our muscular-skeletal and nervous systems a template for greater performance we can rely upon, even when returning to training after a prolonged absence." -Mitch Thrower

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I thought you were the mother...

"I thought you were the mother?"

That's a classic line from my story repertoire. It was spoken by twelve-year-old Rachel Goldbaum, the little girl who lived next door when we moved to La Jolla.

When Rachel uttered the famous (amongst us) line, Andie and Webb were four and two and Rachel dropped in (which would soon become a daily occurrence) to scope out the "new kids on the block."

The age difference didn't impede a wonderful friendship because Rachel's seniority was diminished by her down's syndrome. She adored the Knudsen kids and they loved Rachel dearly.

But on that first day when Rachel was curiously checking us out she wandered through our house asking Andie and Webb endless questions: "Where will you sleep?" "Where is the playroom?" "Do you have a dog?"

But the doozer was when Rachel came into the kitchen and I was moping the floor (on my hands and knees, mind you). Rachel froze, watched in silence for a minute, and then quizzically stated: "I thought you were the mother?"

Well, my kids looked flummoxed! In their world my behavior (scrubbing floors on all fours) was exactly on par for a mother's duties. But from what we quickly gathered, in Rachel's world, this didn't compute. For Rachel, the mother and the maid were not synonymous. It took some explaining for my kids to understand why Rachel was tripped up by viewing a mother cleaning.

I immediately worried that we might have bought a home in a neighborhood that was out of our league. If moms in this cul-do-sac don't do housework I'd soon be quite the anomaly.

Fortunately it turned out that Rachel's perspective was not indicative of all the moms on the block. Phew! And Rachel soon figured out that some women are the mom and the quasi maid too.

Rachel became a fixture, dropping in most afternoons, and we looked forward to her visits. Whenever our doorbell rang, 9 times out of 10 it was Rachel, standing with her hands behind her back, urging me to pick the hand that held the flower she just plucked from my front yard to give me (or give me back in an altered state if you want to be technical). So Rachel's question about my role (mother? cleaning help?) is understandable. Clearly she had some confusion over who owned the flowerbeds in our front yard too.

From holiday correspondence with our former Jewish neighbors, the Goldbaums, it sounds like Rachel Goldbaum is still happy, healthy, and thriving (she must be about 36 years old)! Or, as Andie might say to describe Rachel: "What a cutie!"

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Science, Religion, & Forbes Magazine!

Yesterday I shared a Clayton Christensen quote from the feature article in Forbes Magazine. During his health struggles Clayton learned turning inward only made him miserable; while focusing on others gave his life meaning and joy.

At the end of the Forbes article I was really touched when Clayton sneaks a testimonial of his religious beliefs into a business publication. It's short and sweet (very Clayton like) but gives the final word.

After all the discussion about his heart attack, his cancer, and his stroke, in the end, Clayton finds truth in his belief in a loving God who created him. I hope Forbes readers will notice the fact that while Clayton is a brilliant scholar, his crown jewels are not accolades in the business world but his gospel beliefs and his family.

Although Brent and I only knew the Christensen family well during our years in the Belmont Ward together in Boston, they are one of the finest families we've ever met! Following is the conclusion of the Forbe's article on Clayton:

"When I was at Oxford, each one of us had responsibility for three or four families in our congregation, which we call a ward. Another student at the university and I were assigned to look after quite a poor family.

I learned that their 10 month-old baby, Wendy, had been in the hospital for six months. She couldn't digest anything. Wendy had the body of a newborn, but her face looked like a 10-month-old's. They had decided nothing could be done. So my companion and I said let's go see Wendy, and we went there and understood the situation. I then had a feeling in my heart, which I feel came from the Holy Ghost, that in this case God wasn't trying to bring her home. Wendy was sleeping. So we put our hands on her head, and through the power of God and authority of the priesthood, blessed her. And she got better.

I don't view it as mystic. I believe that God is our father. He created us. He is powerful because he knows everything. Therefore everything I learn that is true makes me more like my father in heaven. When science seems to contradict religion, then one, the other, or both are wrong, or incomplete. Truth is not incompatible with itself. When I benefit from science it's actually not correct for me to say it resulted from science and not from God. They work in concert." - Clayton Christensen, Forbes Magazine, March 14, 2011