Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Never Forget, Ever Honor...

“And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me. -Lee Greenwood

About fifteen years ago a survey asked children why they thought there was a holiday on Memorial Day. Many guessed reasons that had more to do with barbecues, parties, and celebrating things like the opening day for swimming pools. Most of the children surveyed had no idea that we honor the sacrifices of our soldiers on Memorial Day.

I have to confess to a similar blunder as a kid when I got excited about Memorial Day because The Salt Lake Country Club swimming pool opened. Then, Labor Day signaled the depressing news of the pool’s final day. Both holidays have become like bookends to usher in and then close down the summer season.

In 1997, a National Moment of Remembrance tradition began to help younger generations learn about the meaning of the Memorial Day holiday. At 3:00 pm, everyone is asked to keep silent for a full minute, then ’Taps’ is played, during which time we’ve been asked to reflect on those who have served our country to protect us.

As a kid and an adult, I could certainly do a better job of paying tribute to our servicemen on Memorial Day. Gosh, my blog post is even a day late. However, as a kid (and I haven’t actually tried recently - or basically in my adult years), I could play ’Taps’ on a bugle my grandpa Lon gave me (not that anyone has recruited me to play - just some trivia, fwiw). In fact, I still have the bugle (so maybe I’ll get it out and practice for next year).

“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example. -Benjamin Disraeli

Monday, May 30, 2011

The one inside of your head...

I recently read "Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story" a non-fiction work by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. It's a great book but many women are more familiar with Kidd's novels, especially after "The Secret Life of Bees" became a bestseller (which I also read and loved).

Kidd is a gifted writer and both her fiction and non-fiction books seem to have an overarching theme of listening to our inner voice. Kidd understands it’s a daunting task, it's a road she's been traveling ever since she launched into writing despite her own feelings of inadequacy.

I also read a commencement address Sue Monk Kidd gave at Scripps College in 2010. Once again, this idea of finding a purpose grand enough for our life is Kidd's mantra. While encouraging the students to seek meaning in their lives she shares a passage from her novel to explain this premise.

As background information for context of the quote, in The Secret Life of Bees, Lily is a teenage runaway who finds refuge among a group of African American women who turn to a statue of a black Madonna for strength and consolation. August Boatright lives in a bright pink house that houses the Madonna icon.

One day August says to Lily, "Listen to me now. I'm going to tell you something I want you to always remember. Okay? The black Madonna is not some magical being out there, like a fairy godmother. She's not the statue in the parlor. She's something inside of you. When you're unsure of yourself, when you start pulling back into small living and into doubt, she's the one inside of your head, all day long saying, 'Lily, don't be afraid. Don't ever be afraid. I am enough. We are enough.’”

Sunday, May 29, 2011

He’s Our Bi....shop!

Around 1 pm every Sunday, Bishop Knudsen’s office fills up with Primary kids eager to recount an Article of Faith in exchange for a treat.

Brent’s kind of a pushover with the Primary kids. His interest in the children is one of those “mantel of the calling” gifts. Not to sound disrespectful but Brent’s nature of his own accord wouldn’t normally include such earnest excitement for “little people."

But, for now, he has direct stewardship over these little people, as well as their moms and dads, so initially by assignment, he feels a responsibility toward them. And, he’s a devoted bishop and pretty committed to wanting these cute kids to understand that their lives are enriched as they make good choices and stay close to their Heavenly Father.

So what might have begun as part of his duties has become one of the perks of the job. Or, in other words, Brent adores these little cuties (as Andie would call them).

Since Brent’s 5 year mark as the Los Gatos Bishop is approaching next month, he could be released at any point. Which I anticipate will be hard on him since he’s
loved serving and the time commitment doesn’t really phase him. He genuinely enjoys almost all aspects that are part of the job (go figure).

In some regards, I’m a lousy spouse for a bishop. I don’t complain much about his absence from home, I’m pretty independent. But I critique way too much. Sometimes it’s just hard for me to keep my mouth shut when I “notice” things (“things" could imply anything from rambling announcements to longwinded meetings or overly ambitious goals). I’m sure I drive him nuts when I note this or that detail that could be tweaked or changed. I’m like those annoying backseat drivers.

Despite my criticism, I’m pretty impressed by how well he can juggle (seemingly effortlessly) all the duties of the job. He’s generous with his time and eager to always do the right thing. I’m sure he’d be happy to continue shepherding the Los Gatos Ward flock but while an actual date is unknown, at some stage, another priesthood holder will take the helm. At that point, Brent’s new gig will be to sustain and support the next Los Gatos Ward Bishop, just like we’ve tried to do for him (which I’m better at on some days than others).

Overall, I’m proud of our bishop! His traditions and his enthusiasm (see photo) definitely mitigate his lack of brevity and other trivial issues I might give him grief about.

Busy as a man can be, He’s our bishop.
He finds time to talk to me; He’s our bishop.
Always kindly words he’ll say, To the children ev’ry day.
Let us help him ev’ry way; He’s our bishop.

Cheerful as he serves the Lord, He’s our bishop.
He’s the father of our ward; He’s our bishop.
He helps us to do the right, In our Heavenly Father’s sight.
We love him with all our might; He’s our bishop. -from the LDS Children’s Songbook

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Not-So-Moody Blues...

In my wildest dreams (or was it Your Wildest Dreams), I didn’t expect to go on Tuesday Afternoon (well, Friday night actually) with my Knights in White Satin (okay, just with Brent). I planned to Ride My See Saw, (but we took the Aston Martin) since I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band (ha! I wish).

Well, it turns out I knew more of the Moody Blues song line up than I expected. Their Mountain Winery Concert was excellent. We just had two minor glitches.

First, it was freezing cold! After a nice sunny day in town there was a dramatic weather shift. And somehow we missed the “dress warm” memo because the audience was decked out in gloves, hats, scarves, and parkas and we barely grabbed sweaters as we went out the door. I suppose I had a coat but it was kind of a designer type and not a functional model. Brrr....

Next, while enjoying our nachos Brent noticed that a dollop of cheese landed on the blanket of a huge imposing guy in the seat next to him. Normally my reaction would be to apologize profusely while wiping it off but this man looked like an ornery club bouncer. The kind of man who could do some bodily harm if you spilled cheese globs on his blanket.

We both starred at the nacho cheese stained blanket until we realized our options were limited. We had to come clean and acknowledge our culpability (Brent’s actually, I’m just being nice to share in the blame) in the mess we’d created. It was a scary, tense moment but thankfully, as it turns out the man looked more foreboding and frightening than he actually was (seems like we dodged a bullet, or something of the like, there).

Our next winery concert we’ll come better prepared with gear like earmuffs, hand warmers, maybe even our own blankets, and we’ll definitely eat our nachos before we sit down.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Oprah’s Testimony of Sorts...

“...Nothing but the hand of God has made this possible for me...I know I have never been alone...I have felt the presence of God my whole life.” -Oprah Winfrey

In full disclosure, I didn’t actually see Oprah Winfrey’s final TV broadcast and haven’t really watched her show per se (but I’ve caught an episode here or there over the years on rare occasion).

Still, I’m a big fan of Oprah, probably not in the same league as Amy Harmer’s reverence for Oprah, but it’s hard not to respect a woman who has climbed so far and done it the old fashioned way, by hard work. Plus, I love both commencement speeches Oprah delivered at Stanford (’08) and Duke (’09) and I read Oprah’s “O" Magazine, so just because I’m not a daytime TV viewer, I’ve always championed Oprah as a celebrity who sets high standards for herself and advocates them for all of us.

Sally Quinn has a Washington Post column titled “On Faith” that I read and this week Quinn praises Oprah’s last show as a compelling and inspirational sermon. Regarding the last twenty five years of the Oprah show, Quinn applauds it as “ministry at its best and something that more religious leaders should pay attention to.” Quinn believes that Oprah "managed to touch something in a lot of people and changed countless lives by giving her audience a spiritual message that they could apply to their own lives. Her message was inclusive and pluralistic rather than exclusive. Everyone belonged. Everyone had value.”

In Oprah’s magazine (which I assume will still be around despite the TV show’s departure) she frequently extols her values and while I’m not always in 100% agreement, for the most part, I admire her position. One constant theme running through her interviews with others is holding people accountable for their actions. In Oprah-speak she persuades all of us (via those she interviews) to "be responsible for the energy you bring into this space.” I like the pro-active, save yourself stance Oprah emulates and she’s clearly been a force for good for lots of people.

“You will receive in direct proportion to what you give. You have the power to change somebody’s life...Not everybody gets paid for it, but everybody gets called.” -Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Character Counts...

“A Christlike character is the greatest thing in all the world. You may be a great writer, a great historian, a great engineer, a great political leader but if you lack character you lack the true spirit of greatness.” -President David O. McKay

As we wind down our Seminary school year we’ve been studying the lives of the latter day prophets and I’ve really enjoyed reading about them in depth. Sixteen in total, from Joseph Smith to President Monson.

Our ninth church president, David O. McKay, presided over the church for almost 20 years and he was the prophet when I was a child. I still remember what a strikingly handsome man President McKay was with his thick white hair and sweet charisma. President McKay is the first prophet who held a college degree.

But the attribute that sticks out after all my study is the importance President McKay placed on character. To David O. McKay, having character meant everything! Some church historians believe his conviction regarding man’s character was of greater importance to him than quibbling over church doctrine.

Studying our prophets at length has left me with an impression of what wonderful men each of them were (all sixteen latter day prophets) and yet how human they were too. They weren’t perfect, their life journeys were filled with trial and error, making mistakes and doing better the next time. It helps me to remember that each prophet was also a product of their environment and the times that they were raised. Their greatness was acheived by continuous striving to do better and be better.

President McKay was such a champion for developing attributes of a Christlike character and his conviction really resonates with me. I don’t think the importance of character can ever be overstated! (Take that, Arnold Schwarzenegger!) So, even though, I try not to pick favorites, when it comes to former prophets, I heartily endorse President McKay’s assessment that sound character is what constitutes true greatness.

“In other words, the highest purpose of education is not just to teach facts, however important they may be, but to train the mind to make good citizens who develop character. -President David O. McKay

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Builders & Wreckers...

The poem below is one I’ve had in my collection for years but never known the author. But I like the metaphor of demolition versus building when it comes to character.

It’s so much easier to be the naysayer, to shoot ideas down, to criticize, to be the pessimist. Having the character to lift others, to plan, to improve and build is more labor intensive but certainly leaves a better end result.

I watched them tearing a building down.
A gang of men in a busy town;
With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and the sidewalk fell.
I asked the foreman: "Are these men skilled,
And the men you'd hire if you had to build?"
He gave a laugh and said "No, indeed!
Just common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken a year to do!"

And I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Moab: A Magical Place!

Here’s our little Poogie, biking the Moab Trails! And good job pleasing the parents by sporting a helmet (safety first!).

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when Paige was on the back of my bike cruising around La Jolla. I remember biking over to visit teach Sister Clawson when Paige was a newborn and nearly gave her a heart attack (Sister Clawson not Paige). Apparently Sister Clawson thought if I had to roll baby blankets every which way for padding maybe Paige was too small to be a passenger. Oops!

Truth be told, I had a new bike and wasn’t going to let a baby stop me from taking it for a spin. Luckily, Paige survived our early rides together and now she’s big enough to handle the terrain all on her own. She’s gone from being slumped over in the baby carrier to serious mountain biking, ala, the Slickrock Trails in Moab.

It’s fun to see Paige get out and enjoy the wonderland and beauty of Utah. As a youngster myself (a waaaay long time ago), we’d visit national parks like Canyonlands, Arches, and Zions and just assume everybody had spectacular spots like these nearby. We had no clue of our good fortune to live in a state surrounded with beautiful nature.

The Canyonlands/Moab area where Paige spent the weekend was once described nicely by the author, Edward Abbey (a frequent visitor), who called it: “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth - there is nothing else like it anywhere.” Take that, Disneyland!

Thank goodness Paige made it through her early months when I had no business strapping her into a bike carrier before she fit in the seat! She’s clearly much safer now (solo) than relying on my biking prowess and lack of good judgment.

As I note some of the dumb things I’ve done in my past (such as cycling with a brand new baby in tow), a refrain I keep coming back to is the common but accurate question: What was I thinking?!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Job Ladder...

I thought of Webb in his new job this week when I was reading an essay by Peggy Noonan.

For a quick background on Peggy Noonan, she is a political writer with a regular column in The Wall Street Journal. I’ve long admired her writing but she won me over completely during the 2008 election when she wrote that Sarah Palin was lacking “the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office.” Amen to that!

But, back to Webb in his new job. Since a first week can be overwhelming and usually involves learning the ropes I think Webb will appreciate the story below.

In the 1980’s Peggy Noonan was a speech writer for President Reagan. When she first started working in The White House, Noonan had a bad case of new-job-nervous-jitters that she describes in her three stage reaction below:

"Stage One: I hope nobody figures out how stupid I am.

Stage Two, after a few months in the White House: Hey, I'm as smart as everyone else.

Then a few months later came Stage Three: Oh, my God, we're in charge?”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Decisions determine Destiny...

"It is not our abilities that show what we truly are, it is our choices." -Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

It’s interesting to look back and realize that our choices really do become our destiny. It didn’t hit me until midlife but as I hit an age where I do a fair share of looking back (both nostalgically and thoughtfully), I see more clearly how fascinating it is that we end up in this setting , that environment, or some place.

My own life trajectory is (in some ways) easier to make sense of in hindsight. For example, when I transferred from BYU to the U or U after 2 years, I didn’t really have a good reason, but it felt right (in a nonsensical way).

While I’ll never know my life path if I had stayed in Provo, being at the U at the time did enable meeting Brent, a fortuitous event. It’s just interesting to note how small occurrences in life (because of our choices) do send us off on adventures that make huge differences in who we become, where we end up, what we do, and so on.

Actually, author, Ann Patchett, who has written some of my favorite novels (ie. Bel Canto), explains it much better so I’ll just finish with her quote below:

“Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you to another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours - - long hallways and unforeseen stairwells - - eventually puts you in the place you are now. -Ann Patchett, from What Now?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Men on the Move

“Many hands make light work.”

While our men at church certainly aren’t professional movers, they’re not novice either.

As a woman, one heart warming experience is watching our guys assist families moving. Moving in or moving out. Loading up a van or unloading it.

Moving in is always good news, signaling new members in the ward. But the church won’t discriminate, if people are heading elsewhere, the same troops rally!

As Relief Society sisters we provide lots of miscellaneous service but when it comes to heavy lifting with moving it’s usually the men’s expertise at work. I pitched up on Thursday to help a new couple renting a place in our ward. There were 3 missionaries, about 10 guys, and a truck filled with a bed and mattress, dressers, couches, bookshelves, tons of boxes, and even a piano. And, in no time flat the truck was completely emptied.

One cool thing about service via moving are the instant tangible results. Lots of service is more ambiguous. As women, when we watch children, host a shower, take a meal, or give a ride the results aren’t as obvious as the swift work of unloading a moving van. There’s definitely something nice about working where the progress is noticeable.

Another cool thing is simply how generous church members are with their time. People moving in are usually total strangers but a few phone calls or an email and a crew shows up. I’m always touched by how willing people are to give of their time. Talents too, but let’s face it, moving is more sweat of the brow work.

I tried to be helpful on Thursday but ended up mostly relegated to carry the lightweight stuff (ironing boards, snowboards, loose boards for the bed frames). The manly men take dubs on lugging the piano and keeping it in tune (ha!). I did take a minute to stand back and just notice how quick and how smooth and for amateurs, how pretty darn professionally, a group of decent guys can move a couple into a new home.

If our church membership helps us serve others, that might be considered humanitarian work, but it’s a pretty good endorsement of religion for me! Surrounding myself in a community of remarkable people who show up, over and over, simply because they’ve been asked. It’s not a bad template of Christian living at it’s very core.

Friday, May 20, 2011

3 Generations of Westons...

Bob Weston (new grandpa), Ben Weston (new dad), and introducing, Luke Isaiah Weston (born on Susan Weston’s 60th birthday).

On top of grueling swim workouts (still hoping to qualify for the London Olympics) and graduating from law school, Ben still managed to add “becoming a dad” to his busy schedule. Exciting news!

We love the Westons; they’ve been wonderful friends and it’s fun to look back on great La Jolla memories, especially their Bar (Ben) and Bat (Eve & Leah) Mitzvah celebrations.

Susan is like a wise older sister. I loved her response to my inquiry regarding their new role as grandparents. Susan said: “It’s a new arena and I think boundaries will be part of this next adventure.”

Boundaries? I’m embarrassed to admit that boundaries would not have even occurred to me! Luckily, Susan’s comment gave me pause and may have prevented a helicopter grandmother. My inclination would be more likely to smother my first grandchild ad nauseam. So, my children are fortunate that I have trailblazers like Susan to mentor me. Now I’ll be more aware of boundaries and more careful not to overstep them.

So, as always, Susan, is clever enough to know that there are limits, yes, even for grandparents. Especially, perhaps, as the paternal grandmother. And, it’s exactly Susan’s nature not to overstep or intrude on Ben and Carrie’s new little family unit.

Or, along this theme, here’s advice a Tao scholar gave parents on rearing their children: “Live your own life, with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul. There is no need to live theirs. They will do that wonderfully for themselves.” -William Martin

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Word on Statistics...

Wislawa Szymborska is a Polish poet who won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.”

I love her poem below "A Word on Statistics” that was translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak.

Out of every hundred people
those who always know better:

Unsure of every step:
nearly all the rest.

Ready to help,
as long as it doesn’t take long:

Always good,
because they cannot be otherwise:
four --well, maybe five.

Able to admire without envy:

Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.

Those not to be messed with:
forty and four.

Living in constant fear
of someone or something:

Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.

Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.

when forced by circumstances:
it’s better not to know
not even approximately.

Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.

Getting nothing out of life but things:
(although I would like to be wrong).

Those who are just:
quite a few at thirty-five.

But if it takes effort to understand:

Words of empathy:

one hundred out of one hundred - -
a figure that has never varied yet.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gotta Love our Bohemian Runner...

“I do like standing on podiums.” -Andie Knudsen

I received this photo and quote above via text message from Andie over the weekend. Lately, Andie seems to be winning more than her fair share of trail races. She’s been running in a bunch of Bay Area 10K’s and generally ends up with prizes like new running shoes, Sports Basement gift cards, and, most importantly (to Andie!) a perch on the winner’s podium!

I’m not sure what is up with her new winning streak. Maybe it’s her outfits. Perhaps it frightens other runners to see a goofy blond speeding by in a plaid lululemon skirt, black tights, funky arm warmers, and colorful headbands. Andie’s running attire definitely has a bohemian flair to it.

And, characteristic of Andie, finding herself on the winner’s podium suits her well! I rarely run fast enough to even place in my age group, so I’m unaccustomed to the exhilaration that might come from her podium delight. Although, I do understand endorphins kicking in, so even without garnering a place at the podium, I can still relate to the feeling of a runner’s high.

Maybe if I just spruce up my running outfits (go for a wackier look), I too, might shave some time off my pace and scare a few other geezer runners as I pass them on the course! Although the thought of standing at the podium truly makes me nervous enough to just keep plodding along at my slow and steady gait.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Power & Influence & Lack Thereof...

“The role of Chief Observation Officer is clearly the most influential in the organization.” -Roger

Brent was interviewing potential CFO (chief financial officer) candidates for PCG so we joined up with Roger and his wife for a great meal at Tamarind in Palo Alto.

In an email exchange that included the dinner invitation, Brent jokingly referred to me as the Chief Observation Officer, in justification of getting together with wives. Hence, Roger’s tongue-in-cheek quote above arrived in his email reply.

However, I take my COO assignment (albeit, self appointed) quite seriously. More so, it seems, than anyone else (clearly more than my boss!). I’ve been crafting and honing my observation skills for years. I’m almost prideful enough to say I’ve got special powers.

One problem I’ll acknowledge with my 24/7 observing: I’m afraid I’m like a typical critic; great at observing what is wrong. Or touting what not to do. Just don’t ask me how to fix or correct issues, I haven’t quite refined that talent yet.

So, Roger is a bright and capable guy but he is unfortunately (especially for me!) wrong in his premise that the role of the COO is the most influential in the organization. Perhaps this is how it should be, but this is not how it is.

In fact, my influence is, sadly, miniscule. My opinions generally go unheeded. My ideas remain just that, ideas. Perhaps my advice and commentary lacks credibility because it’s so cheap, as in free. Maybe I need to charge more for my astute observations. Because one thing I have definitely observed is that people value things more when they’ve paid for them.

In the meantime, I do find it can be lonely at the top (or perhaps at the bottom - depending on where the COO might fall on the business hierarchy).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gatekeepers of the Entertainment Industry...

Here’s the newest employee at Creative Artists Agency. Webb starts his new job today, working in the script department as an assistant to the executive responsible for all the scripts.

It feels like a first-day-back-to-school for my kid and I wish I could get out the camera and take a picture of him walking down the street swinging a new lunchbox. I guess the LA to Los Gatos distance precludes that favorite mom tradition. But, I bet Webb has the same nervous jitters as a first day back to school: hope I like my teacher/boss, bet I’ll meet some new friends/coworkers, what will be my favorite subject/assignment, and, where’s the nearest bathroom?

Fortune magazine called CAA “the entertainment industry’s most influential organization” and Fast Company named CAA in their list of the 50 Most Innovation Companies in the World (right alongside names like Google and Apple).

I don’t know a lot about the entertainment industry but when I learned that Meryl Streep (my favorite actress) is a CAA client, that speaks volumes. In fact, it sounds like most of the top tier or A list stars are clients at CAA.

And if CAA’s job is to match talent, then Webb should be a natural. Webb has always had a good eye for “cool.” Come to think of it, he always had a knack for picking out a really hip new lunchbox for the school year.

So, from Webb’s Walden Media experience to his new gig at Creative Artists Agency: good luck at your first day on the job!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Got Chia?

Brent’s new Aztec ways have introduced a new product into our pantry: Chia!

When the Chia Pet craze was around in the 1980’s, I never imagined that a Chia eating craze would evolve. But, chia seeds appear to be the new flax. In other words, for good health, sprinkle into just about anything.

Chia has more fiber than bran, more antioxidants than blueberries, more iron than spinach, and way more magnesium than broccoli. Plus, it’s the richest plant source of Omega-3. So that’s not a bad nutritional profile.

We caught wind of chia from Dr. Bob Arnot (see yesterday’s post) who thinks chia is the new black! And, apparently, the old one too, because the Aztec Indians used lots of chia in their foods.

If I’m suspect of any dietary regimen I’ll I check with Mallory Lake, my favorite culinary source and expert of all things at Whole Foods. Well, even Mallory gives chia seeds the thumbs up. Plus, she gave me some cool chia recipes and I’m going to try her chia pudding today. With ingredients like chia seeds, carob powder, hemp milk and agave, how can this pudding not taste delicious?

Brent’s been adding Mila (a chia brand name) into his morning smoothies and couldn’t figure out why the shakes were so thick. It turns out the chia expands or gels so it thickens anything you mix it with.

So, the Chia Pets were pretty kitschy but I predict chia seeds are going to have more appeal than Chia Pets (which shouldn’t be hard) and that it will have greater staying power. Got Chia? If not, get some!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Aztec Cuisine...

It just took one morning of paddle boarding with his friend, Dr. Bob Arnot, for Brent to be consumed with adopting the Aztec lifestyle! Okay, mostly just an Aztec diet, per se, but pretty much anything touted by Dr. Bob is sacrosanct.

Since their outing at the beach last week we’ve got a whole new plan of attack for Brent’s knee pain which includes a special foam roller for exercises, some newfangled supplements, no more ibuprofen, and an afternoon spent with a team of medical specialists at a fancy New York City hospital.

Hopefully this bag of tricks will mitigate Brent’s chronic knee pain. And, in addition to the physicians and stretching and medicine, Dr. Bob promotes eating like our former Mexican neighbors, the Aztec Indians.

According to Dr. Bob, by increasing our consumption of things like sweet potatoes, corn/maize, and chia seeds, we’ll lower our glucose load and decrease our inflammation. Other carbohydrates like bagels, rice, spaghetti, and pancakes result in a terribly high glucose load. Low glucose = good, high glucose = bad!

Personally, I still prefer a flour tortilla to a corn one and a yukon gold potato to a sweet one but I’ll humor Brent in his new Aztec ways. I’ve even offered to feed him gophers, just like the Aztec’s ate, but I draw the line at cannibalism.

Friday, May 13, 2011


I’ve never been particularly superstitious but I do have a newfound respect for friggartriskaidekaphobia! “Friggar” is the Norse god for Friday and “triskaideka” for #13.

It just so happens that today my post will not reflect the 5:15 am deadline I self impose. I was up at 5 am but I could not write a post because the blogger site was down! Not on Thursday the 12th or Wednesday the 11th, no, just my luck, the site went down on Friday the 13th!

According to one stress management center nearly 20 million Americans suffer from a fear of Friday the 13th. 20 million plus one, with my bad luck on blogger today! Sometimes people are so paralyzed by their fear they won’t get out of bed, or they’ll significantly change their normal routine.

I did get out of bed (Seminary teaching duties) but my normal routine was thwarted by inability to access the blogger site. In further bad luck, my Thursday post disappeared, but maybe they’ll fix that. If not, just trust me that it was remarkable, surely my best post ever. A literary masterpiece! :)

Apparently the Greeks and some Spanish-speaking countries consider Tuesday the 13th, not Friday, as a day of bad luck. Tuesday gets the bad rap for them because the fall of Constantinople, marking the end of the Byzantine Empire, happened on a Tuesday back in 1453.

So the weekday (Friday? Tuesday?) can be argued but there’s usually no dispute that 13 can be an unlucky number. Well, except in Sikhism, where the number 13 is considered lucky. So, maybe blogger was working today in India! Actually, I’d better post before I jinx things and the site breaks down again!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Have I Done Any Good In the World Today?

“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.” -Sally Koch

We had a Relief Society Service Auction on Tuesday night. Everyone donated services (babysitting, dinners, tutoring for teenagers, sewing lessons, homemade jam, cinnamon rolls), we scored points through a fun survey, and bid on the offerings.

It was a fun and a light hearted evening but we all enjoyed the competitive bidding and everyone went home happy. Which proves my theory (okay, not mine exactly but I endorse it) that people who serve others are the happiest people.

The auction reminded me of a talk Kyle Bakken gave probably a year ago when he was on break from BYU-Idaho. Kyle had chosen a general conference talk on service which seemed poignant since his parents are like the poster people for serving others. The Bakken’s are featured regularly in the Los Gatos Weekly for their community service and Candy always has umpteen projects providing service of one sort or another.

I’m not sure why the service auction made me think about Kyle’s talk, except that I remember how friendly and happy Kyle seemed. You could see it in his countenance. Of course Candy is always delightful to be around so I think the auction atmosphere was another confirmation that serving others is truly the best route to finding our own happiness in life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Word Cloud Treat...

“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” -Iris Murdoch

One small treat from my Mother’s Day celebrating was a sweet email from Webb’s girlfriend, Anna, who gave me this customized word cloud. Anna put my blog ip address (whatever that is) into a word cloud generator (whatever that is) which produced the word cloud on the left (and I do know what that is!).

I’ve shown the Seminary kids word clouds after General Conference sessions to impress them with recurring themes by our leaders. The size of the word reflects the frequency of use by the speakers so the conference word clouds always show words like “Savior,” “Christ,” “faith,” “love,” and “service” in big letters.

The customized word cloud Anna made from my blog posts is revealing to me. I’m glad to note that words like “parenting,” “family,” “good,” and “quote" are prominent features in my writings. But I’m embarrassed to see “Kathryn” appear so large. I guess I need to change my blog header that claims that my blog isn’t meant to be “all about me.” I started the blog with a sincere intention not to be egocentric but it appears that it IS “all about me” after all. Oops!

Mainly, I like the word cloud because of Anna’s thoughtfulness to produce it. It’s a clever gift and like my opening quote states, it’s one of those small treats, which, continually bestowed are indeed a source of happiness in life! Thanks Anna!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


"I didn’t listen to her because she was my mother & wouldn’t know anything until I was much older.” -Brian Andreas, Story People

The rule around my house (imposed by me) regarding gifts for Mom restricts my kids from monetary presents and requires their memorization and presentation of a poem, quote, scripture, etc. This started about six years ago and it’s a tradition I love.

However, I did purchase a Mother’s Day gift for myself this year, the Story People print at left. It’s now framed and sitting on my desk as a reminder not to fret over the minor detail that my kids sometimes think I am a hapless, bumbling idiot.

It’s probably a tried and true fact that during their teen years, my children didn’t generally give much credibility to my wealth of knowledge. Nor did any accumulation of experience I’d gathered impress them. To them, I was kind of a nitwit.

But all adults weren’t necessarily suspect. I recall times when my advice was discounted and promptly ignored while another source imparting similar wisdom was applauded.

So, you can see why this art print would catch my fancy. It implies that when my kids are much older I will finally gain some credibility. Or, at the very least, at least they will listen to me. And I occasionally get glimpses of this transition when they acknowledge my idea as having potential or they’re relatively attentive to my astute commentary. It’s not a frequent occurrence but it’s definitely gone up from zero so it can only rise in time, or, as Brian Andreas notes, when they are much older.

In the meantime, while I wait for this exoneration, just having the print makes me happy (and hopeful)!

Monday, May 9, 2011


In recognition of Mother’s Day, the New York Times teamed up with Smith Magazine for a contest. Participants had to create six-word memoirs (which they called “Momoirs”) to sum up their own mother or motherhood in general.

There were thousands of entries. I love the six word memoir concept and enjoyed reading them so I thought I’d list a few I liked below. *Note: all of them are exactly (and only) six words but still give you a pretty good sense of the writer and/or the subject. Clever!

“When in doubt, I call Mom.”

“Force of nature, undeniable, hopeful.”

“We all think we’re her favorite.”

But is it your best work?”

“Nurtured with wisdom, made me laugh.”

“Mom, the sun of our family.”

“Mother Theresa, eat your heart out.”

"Prenuptial: whoever leaves, takes the kids.”

“Mom constantly saved me from myself.”

“So many socks, so little time.”

“Mother seeks promotion to Grandmother.”

“The hardest job I ever loved.”

“Give them roots, then the wings.”

“Love you, Mom. Best sentence ever.”

“When breastfeeding doesn’t work, udder guilt.”

“Because I’m your mother, that’s why.”

“Unpaid, lifetime commitment, most important job.”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothering my brood...

Kelly Corrigan’s short memoir, Lift, is a great description of the holiness a mother feels at one moment and her sheer terror in the next.

The quote below should give my kids a sense of the fear and trepidation I sometimes get as their mother. The what-have-I-done worry when those tables turned and I was no longer the child. Suddenly with no license, no requirements or qualifications, instantaneously I became a mother. Their mother. For life. Yikes!

My first realization was that, for better or worse, my kids were stuck with a mother who was clueless and winging it as I went along. There is no exact science to parenting and even if there was, science is not my strong suit anyway.

So, on this occasion of Mother’s Day, I’m grateful that my kids have become such wonderful adults despite my shortcomings. One reason I blog is to keep on imparting thoughts since I still take my mothering job quite seriously, even with adult children. If nothing else, at least my blog should give them a sense of who their mother is and what she believes in. Mainly them!

“This tug-of-war often obscures what’s happening between us. I am your mother, the first mile of your road. Me and all my obvious and hidden limitations.

That means that in addition to possibly wrecking you, I have the chance to give to you what was given to me: a decent childhood, more good memories than bad, some values, a sense of tribe, a run at happiness.

You can’t imagine how seriously I take that - even as I fail you. Mothering you is the first thing of consequence that I have ever done.” -Kelly Corrigan, Lift

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Lanyard...

There are some wonderful poems by former US poet laureate Billy Collins. Below is a portion from one of my favorites.

The poem is about a boy making his mother a lanyard at summer camp and realizing that his meager gift could never come close to compensation for all his mother did for him. But, at the same time, he knows that because she is his mother, it isn’t only enough, it makes them even.

Even though I’m a mother three times over, I still read the poem from the young boy’s perspective, knowing I can never repay or thank my own mom adequately for all she did for me. But also knowing that anything I do is somehow enough. Something about that parent/child relationship makes the inequity fair. With Mother’s Day tomorrow the poem feels especially poignant.

"The Lanyard” by Billy Collins

...I sat at a workbench at camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light.

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift - not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mothers & Daughters, Daughters & Mothers...

“Even when all the paperwork - a marriage license, a notarized deed, two birth certificates, and seven years of tax returns - clearly indicates you’re an adult, but all the same, there you are, clutching the phone and thanking God that you’re still somebody’s daughter.” -Kelly Corrigan, The Middle Place

Yes, even though I have two daughters of my own (and a cute son), there are still those times when I’m grateful to be a daughter too.

In a few of life’s scarier moment’s (Webb’s burned arm incident 21 years ago comes to mind), if Brent isn’t available, the next go-to person I immediately think to call is my mom. It’s almost reflexive. And it probably applies to the lows (SOS and frightening things) as well as the highs (I did it! or Guess what?). Life’s ups and downs; both instinctually have me calling home (just like ET).

Also, for the good and the not-so-good, whenever I’m around my mom, I can easily, almost subconsciously, revert easily back to the daughter role. I barely notice the slip from parent to child behavior. Although in the last few years, with aging parents, there is a bit of a shift. Pulling off the helpless child feels a bit, um, childish, when my parents are slowing down and I can actually (finally) be helpful to them. New terrain, unchartered territory!

But regardless of my maturity level (or lack thereof), it’s always been reassuring to have someone out there who thinks I’m the cat’s meow (like only a mother can). Not everyone at my (advancing) age (or even those younger) still has their mother around and alive, so I’m aware of my good fortune. And I’m grateful!

And, with Mother’s Day approaching, it seems like a good time to acknowledge this blessing in my life. The blessing of being a daughter and having daughters (and a cute son) too. To have a mom and be a mom; that’s the bee’s knees, lucky me!