Thursday, June 30, 2011

Books from behind Bars...

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36

Someone who interviewed Bernie Madoff in prison last week noted in the NY Times that Madoff has been reading James Michener novels while serving the first 2 years of his 150 year sentence.

The Times asked for reading suggestions for Madoff which most commenters agreed that Madoff lounging about reading is an odious thought altogether. But it got me thinking about inmates and their reading selections. Would reading great literature in earlier years have given some criminals a moral compass they lacked? Would reading classic works now make them more penitent? Personally I think reading quality novels is a great way to see characters grapple with conscience, consequence etc. For me, the dilemmas that characters face and how they react has always enlightened me.

While I think reading great books can impact the choices and actions we make personally, not everyone would agree. Laura Miller wrote in Salon magazine: “Some of the best-read people I know are thoroughgoing jerks and some of the kindest and noblest verge on the illiterate.”

Anyway, the image of Madoff incarcerated in North Carolina reading Michener is also a little unnerving. After all, many of us would love to have more time to read novels ourselves. It seems like our inmates should be earning their keep or doing something aimed at restitution.

Relative to Maddoff, it seems like he still lacks a sense of remorse or personal responsibility for all the financial devastation he caused. Madoff alludes to feeling anguish but almost more for being caught than for understanding the scope of his deception. I love the quote used in the article, that comes from a awesome contemporary novel, Atonement, by Ian McEwan (which describes Madoff to a tee):

“It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above it, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.” -Ian McEwan, Atonement

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gumballs and the Gospel...

A cute new ward member spoke in Sacrament meeting yesterday and used an analogy I’ve pondered since her talk. Angie is a convert of about six years and conceded that she has changed, mellowed a bit, since the exuberance she felt as a brand new member.

Initially, like many new members she was the bright-eyed bushy-tailed convert eager to soak in every church teaching. Angie described feeling like a kid in a candy store inserting shiny nickels into a gumball machine and just waiting for the gumballs to drop.

Continuing with her analogy, for a while, those gumballs came, but, at some point along the way, a gumball didn’t drop, it got stuck. Which was frustrating. And even worse, the kid next to her kicked his gumball machine and his gumballs rolled out in every direction. Which only made her mad. In other words, as the initial luster of church membership wore off and things didn’t go perfectly, Angie started to question, a natural reaction.

It took Angie awhile to learn that the stuck gumball did not mean she had been denied any promises of the gospel. Instead, the gumball that didn’t drop right out might even be the blessing because it’s often when we are hit with adversity that we find the need to turn to the Savior. And by turning to the Savior, that is how we develop a relationship with Him.

I’m definitely not describing Angie’s thoughts as well as she’d written them, but I liked her comparison. Because when gumballs drop out on command with no effort, it’s easy for our initial enthusiasm to get complacent. It’s actually our trials that truly remind us of how blessed we really are. And often it’s in our struggles that we truly seek Christ and the peace the gospel can bring.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stayin’ Alive at Fifty-Five...

“Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” -Charles Schulz

June 28th signals birthday time for Brent! And I’ve got to give him a lot of credit for maturity because Brent gets to spend his birthday conducting Howard Bennion’s funeral service. And he hasn’t complained a bit! Which is probably why he is the Bishop of the ward and not me.

Come to think of it, Brent never complains about any of the funerals, weddings, ordinations, interviews, blessings, moves, appointments, meetings, missionary discussions, and other sundry events that are part of his church responsibilities. He’s great to take it all in stride and generally Brent will rearrange his complicated schedule to accommodate lots of people who are a heck of lot less busy than he is. Again, I’d probably be more grumpy about endless church to-do lists, so I do respect and admire how generous he is with his time. Even and especially on his birthday!

After overseeing Howard’s viewing this morning, Brent will conduct the funeral, followed by the graveside dedication, and finally back to the church for a late luncheon (complete with traditional funeral potatoes). So, Brent’s day by then (um, birth day, that is) will pretty much be shot. Hopefully we can sneak in a birthday dinner and presents before he has to catch a red-eye flight back east later tonight.

But quite honestly, there probably isn’t anything Brent would sooner do today anyway. He thinks the world of Howard Bennion so he probably doesn’t mind sharing his birthday as we gather to pay tribute to Howard’s well-lived life.

Besides Brent, June 28th is also Anna King’s birthday! If you want to share a birthday with someone classy and thoughtful and genuine, that would be Anna. Anna has a calming personality, she’s someone everyone likes. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t like Anna. Whenever Anna has visited she’s been gracious and appreciative and we’ve really grown to adore her. So, birthday greetings to Anna if the Birthday Girl happens to read this!

As for the photo, that is Rachael (Hermana Holland) and I behind Brent playing tennis. Rachael and I didn’t have our sunglasses so we couldn’t see the tennis balls so our team of three (I think we were competing against Paige, Holly, and Connor) was pretty reliant on Brent to dominate the court. It’s not Wimbledon but when it comes to his tennis skills, you’d never guess Brent is turning fifty five years old. He can run around the court for hours without working up a sweat! You Go Birthday Boy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ego in Check...

I am not at great risk of ego inflation! Especially with Paige back in town this summer. All my kids do a great job of making sure I don’t ever think I’m too cool.

Here is how this works: I came home from church and since we had company coming for dinner I didn’t put on my usual uniform but dressed it up a notch with a nice lightweight sweater with light blue stripes. And, for the record, it’s from Bloomingdales, so I assumed the look was casual but dignified.

But, right during the dinner conversation Paige notes (to all, mind you) that my outfit reminds her of the Nickelodeon TV show Blue’s Clues. It’s true the light blue colors are similar to the dog and the stripes do resemble the stripes in Joe’s rugby shirt but Blue’s Clues fashion was not exactly the look I was going for.

And, we all know how the power of suggestion works. The minute Paige expressed her impression that I look straight out of a Blue’s Clues episode, my Bloomingdales sweater will forever remind everyone that was at the dinner table of Blue’s Clues. In other words, I might as well audition for the Nickelodeon show if I ever want to wear it again because it has now been branded!

I’m not too offended because Brent has a red striped Banana Republic shirt he quite likes but our kids have pointed out that it looks exactly like “Where’s Waldo?” So, at least I’m not the only target and both of us can stay rather fashion humble thanks to strict wardrobe commentary from our kids.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

30 Years of Happiness...

“Reader, I married him.” -Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

As someone who has been married for 30 years, I should be granted some authority to give advice on what to look for in a mate. Now that I’m an expert! (Ha!)

Although, it turns out that the McDonald’s Happy Meal celebrated it’s 30th anniversary in 2009, so the history of the Happy Meal predates our marriage for whatever that may be worth. The Golden Arches trivia will bug Paige since she’s been boycotting Mickey D’s for the last ten years or so. Anyway, moving right along... relative to marriage...

Research proves that you will be significantly happier in your marriage if your spouse is:
1. Agreeable,
2. Conscientious, and
3. Emotionally Stable

Those traits might seem pretty basic but I’ll vouch that those are pretty important things to look for in a companion. On the converse, if someone is a grouch, self-centered and irresponsible, they’re not likely a good spousal candidate.

Brent fits the bill for all three good attributes. He’s not exactly easy going (in fact some might call him intense) but he is generally agreeable. And he is very conscientious and also emotionally stable.

It’s actually hard to go wrong in marriage with a partner who is generally pleasant, fairly even-tempered and reasonably responsible. However, in order for a marriage to actually work with someone who has these qualities, there is still one catch.

The catch is, I need to have the agreeable/conscientious/emotionally stable qualities too! Therein lies the tricky part!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Grow Old With Me....

"Grow old with me, the best is yet to be." -Robert Browning

You've got to love a guy who can fall fast asleep during a lively Hawaiian Luau! That takes special talent!

During earlier years of marriage I’d get embarrassed when Brent's sleep anywhere/anytime skills were displayed at church, movies, etc. But lately it's become sort of endearing and definitely bothers me less (note my expression in photo is more amused that annoyed - which is major progress for me!). It turns out this narcolepsy-like ability can work in his favor sometimes (like when he takes red-eye flights or needs a quick nap).

Plus, heaven knows I've got plenty of annoying traits that Brent has to put up with. But no need to disclose those here.

Maybe one of the best parts of being an old married couple ("old" referring to our ages as well as the length of our marriage) is the comfort I find in predictability.

I can usually surmise Brent's reactions before he acts and I'm fairly accurate. I know what pushes his buttons. I know what makes him laugh. I know what inspires him.

So, here we are at 30 years of marriage, and still committed to the idea that it’s the best institution for teamwork and self improvement and, of course, the best way to raise a family. And while we can drive each other crazy at times we certainly drive and motivate each other to be our best selves too.

Happy 30th Anniversary to Brent! Love you lots!

"A sucessful marriage requires falling in love many times - always with the same person." -Mignon McLaughlin

Friday, June 24, 2011


Surprises have never been my strong suit. Advance notice works well for me. Attention directed my way makes me uncomfortable too. But, it turns out, surprise gatherings where I’m the focal point (yikes), aren’t so terrible after all. Especially when cute kids are involved.

Since I was planning to be on vacation today (my official birth date), my cute running buddies pulled off a little party a few days early. While Jen and I were running in the scorching heat, the others set up a stellar brunch (all my favorite treats).

I honestly had no clue anything was up until we returned to extra cars in the driveway (hmm...), so the runners score points for keeping their plans so secretive. I’m quite a super sleuth so it was stealth work on their part that I didn’t get wind of any plans.

Exhausted from our hot run, Jen and I opened the door to a booming “Surprise! Happy Birthday!” and darling little people charged my direction (see top photo). What a way to feel dearly loved! Of course, immediately following their exuberance, one four year old gave me a disapproving look and asked: “Why are you all wet?”

Well, I was all wet because that is what happens when old ladies run in record setting temperatures! Ah, the mouths of babes! Fortunately, no one else seemed bothered by my sweat drenched body and we proceeded to have a lovely feast.

While I’m still more comfortable behind the scenes than center stage, I have to admit that it was a kind and generous gesture and I love these darling women for their insistence at pulling off a makeshift surprise party that really touched my heart.

And since they’ve already treated me to a celebration, anything that happens today just feels like “icing on the cake.” I felt birthday celebrated all week long thanks to the running moms and their adorable kids!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Bit of a Scheduling Glitch...

I should be posting from Rancho La Puerta fitness spa in Mexico today but due to unforeseen circumstances, our trip got bumped. It’s kind of a bummer, but what can you do?

So, that’s the bad news. We didn’t go.

Fortunately there is also good news. First, we didn’t cancel the trip, just moved it to August. And, as for the days I thought I’d be out of town, I am now in town and without a full calendar of things to do.

And sometimes it’s nice not to have umpteen commitments on the schedule. Although usually if I have an open day it doesn’t take long to fill it. Seems the adage is true that when we keep busy, life is never boring.

So, our vacation has been delayed but now I have the luxury of a “stay-cation.” I can stay home and actually tackle some of those endless projects that I never get around to. And also just chill (yes, even in this heat!). Truth be told, I’ve heard about “staycations” and they sound quite delightful. So now, I’m having one! My first!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Last night we attended a Mitt BBQ, a fundraiser for Romney’s 2012 Presidential campaign. Paige even got to tag along for her first grassroots look at election beginnings.

It is always great to see Mitt and Ann. Ann looks wonderful and her health seems better this go round than the last. We had a good laugh about running the Bonnie Bell 10K together over 25 years ago. Another added bonus was getting to sit with our Boston buddies, the Finlaysons.

There are many things I admire about Mitt. First and foremost is his integrity. I’m skeptical of many politicians but I trust Mitt.

During the 2008 election Mitt took some flak for his Mormon beliefs and at one point he addressed faith specifically in a speech. One quote I like from the comments he made follows:

“I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims.

As I travel across the country and see our towns and cities, I am always moved by the many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life’s blessings.” -Mitt Romney

I have similar feelings to Mitt in regard to other religions. Getting to this point has been a process because in my younger days I was more critical of differences while I now clearly see how many faiths inspire their members to do wonderful things and be better people.

So, as a more seasoned church member, I now look at other religions with admiration for their traditions and heritage. Hopefully while the Mormon faith is in the limelight of late (with 2 presidential candidates and the award winning Book of Mormon musical, etc) others will paint their viewpoint of LDS church members with a broad stroke. We are so much more than than some of the misconceptions that I read about by misinformed critics.

It will be a shame if Americans get caught up in silly “it’s dangerous to vote for a Mormon for president” rhetoric because they would absolutely miss out on an excellent candidate with Mitt. We are definitely hoping that 2012 will be Mitt’s year to win!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An Indestructible Sense of Wonder...

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.

If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years ... the alienation from the sources of our strength.” Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Monday, June 20, 2011

In a Nutshell...

This is a great Persian proverb that I'd be delighted if any of my kiddos want to memorize to present for my upcoming birthday... (hint, hint)

"He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool.
Shun him.

He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child.
Teach him.

He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep.
Wake him.

He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise.
Follow him."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Popeye the Sailor Dad!

One thing the Knudsen kids discovered during our holiday trip to the British Virgin Islands is their Dad’s love of sailing!

Every chance he got to sail the catamaran, Brent was like a little kid with a new toy! Captain Terry sometimes preferred the simplicity of using the boat’s motor but Brent was gung-ho to use the sails as often as possible.

I was thinking the other day how children know some things about their parents but there are lots of things they don’t know. It’s easy for kids to forget their dad actually had a life for years and years before he was ever their father.

For instance, my Dad was a US Naval officer on aircraft carriers in the Korean War and it’s a part of his life I know next to nothing about. It’s my own error in not bothering to learn about his time overseas and I need to be a better daughter about paying attention to things that are important to my father.

Watching Brent giddy with excitement in the sailor role traces back to life experiences before any of his children were born. After Brent spent a semester at BYU-Hawaii he sailed back to the mainland living the life of a true sailor. It was during the those days at sea that Brent read The Book of Mormon for the first time and made the monumental decision to serve a mission. So it’s easy to understand why sailing is associated with great memories for Brent; his sailing days were transforming and literally changed the course of his life.

So, while Brent’s sailing days lately are few and far between, he’s clearly a better father because of discoveries he made out sailing, long before he ever had kids.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Great Sportsmanship....

I love a true race to the finish! At the Boston Marathon I didn’t get to see the top women runners at the finish line since I was awaiting my top daughters a little further back.

However, the women’s race was a thriller at the end. Up and coming American runner, Desiree Davila, was awesome (I watched the new’s coverage later).

Davila couldn’t quite close the gap and Kenyan runner, Caroline Kilel, won by 2 seconds in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 36 seconds. But it was exciting! We haven’t had an America women win Boston for over 25 years and Davila almost broke the spell!

Kara Goucher, had been touted as the top American female to watch before the race and she’s also a runner my girls and I admire. Goucher’s race didn’t go quite as planned and she ended up in 5th place, two and a half minutes behind the winners. But the week after the race Paige sent me the quote below by Kara Goucher. I think it shows a lot of class and great sportsmanship.

“I’m not going to lie: I want to be the woman who ends the American drought at the Boston Marathon. But I was so impressed by Desi’s self-belief, her guts, and her class, that I really forgot about what I wanted for myself and threw my support behind her as a fellow American. One thing is certain: Desiree showed that it’s only a matter of time before one of us pulls it off.” -Kara Goucher on Desiree Davila’s second place finish at the 2011 Boston Marathon

Friday, June 17, 2011

Onomatopoeia Obsession...

I loved words that sounded like their meaning before I even knew there was a name for it. Then when I learned the term “onomatopoeia,” I loved that word too.

Just try to say "enunciate" without articulating the word!

So, for your reading pleasure, here are just a few of my favorite examples of onomatopoeia. I pared down my list just to keep it simple, but as you can see, I am a geek when it comes to words!

First, as featured by the picture... Smug,

and how about.... Lewd,

and last but not least, Ruminate (as in, hope you enjoy ruminating over these fine words!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Like Father, Like Son (Reversed)...

“There are none in this world who can understand the glory of crew except those who have done it. There is something unimaginable in the sport of rowing - it cannot be described, it cannot be taught, it must be explored through experience. There is something about gliding quietly across the water at five in the morning that subconsciously satisfies the very depths of the soul." -Erin Walker

In high school Webb did the family rowing with The Los Gatos Rowing Club, but this week it was reversed and that’s Brent out sculling in Craftsbury, Vermont. When you hang out with Bob Arnot (Dr. Bob), you end up on all kinds of adventures.

The small town of Craftsbury is home to Craftsbury Sculling, the first rowing camp in North America and major training center. Their coaching is staffed pretty much by former Olympians. And check out the beautiful backdrop behind the calm 2 mile lake; those are the scenic Lowell Mountains.

I remember Webb’s workouts with the LG Rowing Club and they were intense. They didn’t just work out on the boats but also did a lot of strength training, weight lifting, running, and working out on Ergs (special rowing machines). Webb would come home completely exhausted and extremely hungry.

“Per Ardua Ad Meta” is the motto for the Los Gatos Rowing Club, which is Latin for “Through Adversity to the Goal.” Whether it’s Webb’s crew team or Brent out solo in Craftsbury, it seems like rowing is a sport much like distance running; definitely not for the faint of heart!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Who is the Enemy?

“Education is teaching our children to find pleasure in the right things.” -Plato

Of all the psychologists I’ve studied, Mary Pipher is my favorite. She’s well aware of the plight of parenting in today’s world where there is a shrinking universe of adults who pitch in to nurture children and teenagers.

Mary Pipher argues that with her grandparent's generation, life was much simpler. The choices they had available to them were limited. As farmers, in the early 1900's they knew who the enemy was: blizzards, and locusts and low cattle prices.

Today, we don't always know who the enemy is! We have unlimited choices available to us but instead of broadening our horizons, the choices can often destroy us!

Parenting today is very different and much more complex than parents who raised children in the 1950’s. Then, the main job of parents was to introduce children to culture but today parents need to be cautious to protect their kids from culture that can be toxic. With today’s avalanche of information, a big part of parenting is simply helping children sort through and make sense of what is most important and what your own family values.

I’ve read every book Mary Pipher has published and I think her advice to parents is some of the best anywhere! She advocates choosing our books wisely which really applies beyond just reading. The advice to choose books, music, TV, and movies carefully is good counsel for all of us, not simply the youth. Clearly, anything and everything we fill our minds with ultimately shapes who we become.

“Good parents are antidotes to advertising. They teach , ‘You are not the center of the universe.’ And they teach the meaning of ‘enough.’ Parents are the people who help children build meaning from all the complex information they are bombarded with daily.” -Mary Pipher

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old...

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.”

We had a hectic weekend but not without it’s tender moments. We were juggling some of our dear older friends visiting from La Jolla combined with some parties, runs, etc. with newer friends.

In these instances, “older” refers to friends we’ve known for over twenty years in addition to the fact that they are older (as in, Susan just celebrated her 60th birthday, but looks amazing) and “newer” isn’t just recently met, but younger as well.

The juxtaposition all weekend was interesting. One minute I’m discussing potty training and internships and the next minute it’s aging and retirement. Although lots of topics are still universal (marriage and kids no matter which anniversary you’re celebrating or whether your “child” is three or thirty).

Irrespective of age, I really am grateful for friendships with others of all ages and stages of life. I learn a lot about myself through connecting with friends. I prefer listening to talking (although I still talk plenty and probably too much) and receiving advice more than giving it (however I’m sure I dish out plenty of not-so-helpful unsolicited advice anyway).

But when it comes to friendship, I feel lucky. Blessed. Fortunate. I’ve had so many friends who I look up to (and not just because they are taller or older, but it turns out that most are wiser). And last weekend was a poignant reminder of how nice it is to share sweet memories with old friends and create fun memories with new friends.

“I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don’t believe I deserved my friends.” -Walt Whitman

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Father's Vineyard

"The Father's Vineyard" -anonymous

As round their dying father's bed
His sons attend, the peasant said:
"Children, deep hid from prying eyes,
A treasure in my vineyard lies;
When you have laid me in the grave,
Dig, search - and your reward you'll have."
"Father," cries one, "but where's the spot?"
He sighs! he sinks! he answers not.

The tedious burial service over,
Home go his sons, and straight explore
Each corner of the vineyard round,
Dig up, beat, break, and sift the ground;
Yet though to search so well inclined,
Nor gold, nor treasure could they find;
But when the autumn next drew near,
A double vintage crowned the year.
"Now," quoth the peasant's wisest son,
"Our father's legacy is known,
In yon rich purple grapes 'tis seen,
Which, but for digging, never had been.
Then let us all reflect with pleasure.
That labour is the source of treasure."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

One of my sports heroes...

“I will never do that again!” -Grete Waitz, after winning her 1st of 9 New York City Marathons

On April 19th, 2011, the day after my girls ran the Boston Marathon, one of my favorite running heroes, Grete Waitz, passed away from cancer at only 57 years old. Waitz embodies a true champion, a winner with class, humility and grace.

I love the story of the first time Grete Waitz ran (and won) the New York City Marathon in 1978. As Norwegians, her husband, who was also her running coach, convinced Grete that a trip to New York would be like a second honeymoon for them. At that point, Grete had never run more than 13 miles. So, the last miles of the marathon were so difficult that when she crossed the finish line (in first place), Grete tore off her shoes and threw them at her husband yelling that she’d never do that again. And then, of course, won the race 8 more times!

Joan Benoit Samuelson, another one of my running heroes, said in tribute to Grete’s passing: “What will endure forever is that Grete was able to balance a competive career with the most gracious lifestyle, and a character that emanated good will.”

Before Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon, died of brain cancer in 1994, he said this about his dear friend, Grete Waitz: “I always say she’s the queen of the road, but she doesn’t behave like a monarch.”

Although she was intensely private by nature, Grete Waitz was always approachable and even funny in interviews. But when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, Waitz never wanted to talk about the disease and refused to reveal what type of cancer she had. She claimed she would disclose more information on the day she beat it. Which never happened. Someday I would love to run the New York City Marathon. And if I ever do, I’m sure I’d be thinking a lot about Grete Waitz and her legacy along the way!

“For every finish-line tape a runner breaks - - complete with the cheers of the crowd and clicking of hundreds of cameras - - there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about.” -Grete Waitz

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gaining Strength the Hard Way...

“It’s very, very hard to imagine how you would cope when you haven’t faced tragedy. But the strength exists, and you do get through it. Having been through Wade’s death is the only way I know I can move on from this kind of emotional hardship.” -Cate Edwards, quoted in Harper’s Bazaar, after her mother’s cancer recurred.

At just 29 years of age, Cate Edwards has endured way more than her fair share of loss. First, when she was only 14, her older brother, Wade, was killed when his car rolled. Then she went through her mother’s battle with breast cancer and her mother’s death in 2010. Meanwhile, her father, John Edwards had his infamous affair and out of wedlock child while running for president in 2008.

A New York Times article on Thursday applauded Cate’s strength as she appeared in court with her father as he fights felony charges related to the affair and violation of campaign finance laws. Cate has a law degree from Harvard and she’s engaged to a medical resident she met while they were both undergraduates at Princeton. Friends in the Edwards inner circle see Cate as the glue that has held the family together. She has helped care for her two younger siblings, Jack, 11, and Emma Claire, 13, since her mother’s death last December.

Cate’s role in her family makes me sad. It feels ridiculous that the daughter has to be the family rock (or glue or whatever) mostly due to the immature, inappropriate behavior of her father.

One of my huge pet peeves is adults who behave badly! Especially when the adults are parents and then the children have to be the responsible ones. It’s wrong on so many levels. And while it’s wonderful that Cate is steady and strong, it’s pitiful that her father’s deceit caused the implosion of the Edwards family.

From John Edwards, to Arnold, to Weinergate, what is it with these politicians and their incredible hubris and poor judgement? In these crazy situations, my sympathies always go out to the children. Even when they appear strong like Cate!

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Lose/Lose Predicament?

“We will weather this.” -Representative Anthony D. Weiner

Hmm. I’m not so sure about that!

I don’t usually feel sorry for drop dead gorgeous women, but right now, for beauty Huma Abedin, I feel really bad.

Apparently poor Huma Abedin is intensely private and thanks to her scallywag of a husband, both their names have been in the headlines all week. Her husband of just 11 months.

Perhaps having Bill Clinton officiate at your wedding ceremony is just a bad start to a marriage! At any rate, the brash and cocky, New York Representative (and Huma’s husband) Anthony D. Weiner has had a rough week, pretty much ending up in a political maelstrom.

First, after accusations of lewd photos from his Twitter account surfaced, Weiner lied, claiming his account had been hacked. He even tried to pin it on “a vast right-wing conspiracy.” But two days later, he admits to carrying on inappropriate online conversations with several women.

In completely reckless fashion, Weiner sent out explicit images and exchanges that were filled with inappropriate sexual content. Most members of the House of Representatives think the scandal has been distracting and even his Democratic colleagues think he should resign. So far, he has refused but personally, I think his days as a congressman are numbered.

Sadly, the plot thickens! During all this chaos, the news leaks out that his wife, Huma, who is a top aide for Hillary Clinton, is pregnant. Without the pregnancy news, I would have told Huma to run away. And fast. Of course now leaving the arrogant Weiner, who seems crazier by the day, gets more tricky, as the father of her unborn child. So, yes, Huma is a beautiful woman, but I would sure hate to be in her shoes right now!

The whole mess just makes me profoundly sad!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

as small as a world and as large as alone

ee cummings is one of the more popular American poets of the 20th century. Like his name, most of his poems are written in lowercase letters. Cummings also uses eccentric punctuation, intentional misspellings, and unconventional grammar.

I had an ee cummings children’s book when I was young titled, “in Just-spring” that I loved and it’s pretty likely that Grammy still has the book (which would be a collector’s item, I’m sure).

Lots of ee cummings poems are best real aloud. The poem below is titled “maggie and molly and mille and may” and I should warn you that it will make you want to go to the beach (if for no other reason than to find yourself). But, hey, it looks like summer has finally arrived, so beach trips should be imminent!

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles, and

millie befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea
-ee cummings

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Webb throws a Baby Shower....

I love that the baby shower invitation on the left was produced by my offspring, although not from either of my daughters, but by my son!

As an new assistant at CAA, Webb’s job description entails anything and everything his boss sends his way. Which recently happened to include planning this upcoming baby shower.

I think the invite is darling; of course Webb is great on the computer. And, I’m relishing the thought of Webb working on the details of baby shower minutiae.

Working as a CAA assistant is a fast paced, hectic working environment where Webb’s found the days fly by, he’s been so busy. It sounds like his boss is demanding but fair, a hard worker herself, and probably a great person to learn a lot from while Webb does things as random and unique as planning his first baby shower.

Brent had lunch last week with a friend who has been successful in the entertainment industry. In an email exchange after they’d discussed Webb’s new position at CAA, Brent’s friend remarked: “Your son is approaching the industry in the correct way and you should be proud of him. CAA jobs are coveted and virtually impossible to get.”

So, it sounds like Webb was very fortunate to land this job and if party planning is part of the gig, then I’m sure Webb will figure out how to throw an awesome baby shower.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wherein I report on the report card...

For measuring school performance, I have no issue with report cards. But for Seminary, I am not a big fan of report cards. Which is a problem because, like them or not, part of my job as an instructor is sending them out quarterly.

So yesterday, I was stuck I filling out what is likely my last set of Seminary report cards. I struggle to resolve my own bias against the practice while still being compliant with CES regulations.

I don’t mind recording their attendance percentage. 80% attendance warrants credit, anything below doesn’t. This is an easy concrete marker to understand and achieve if they’d like to earn a Seminary diploma after four years.

But grades? For early morning Seminary? Having taught early morning and once (long ago) attended released time as a high school student myself, the two are very different. Our class doesn’t involve tests or homework, per se. I do give take home assignments but it’s things like considering what a gospel principle has to do with them or maybe giving them a challenge to test one of God’s promises. But, not exactly course work I’d feel comfortable grading them on.
I’m happy to give any student an “A” that comes regularly and participates in my lame games or class discussions. My issue is more about not wanting to give out anything lower than a “B” because it doesn’t seem like a low grade in Seminary is going to motivate anyone to want to come to class more often.

I always mail report cards home with an attached customized letter so that I can acknowledge specific things I’ve noticed about their progress or interest or improvement during the year. The last thing I would ever want to do is make anyone feel uninclined to return because of a lousy grade.

Maybe I’m too easy and should expect more, but teenagers, like all of us, should find church as a welcoming place. At least, that is my opinion, for what it’s worth (hey, maybe it’s worth an “A” grade!).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Looking at things from a different perspective...

"The abbot of a once famous Buddhist monastery that had fallen into decline was deeply troubled. Monks were lax in their practice, novices were leaving and lay supporters deserting to other centers.

The abbot traveled far to a sage and recounted his tale of woe, of how much he desired to transform his monastery to the flourishing haven it had been in days of yore. The sage looked him in the eye and said, "The reason your monastery has languished is that the Buddha is living among you in disguise, and you have not honored Him."

The abbot hurried back, his mind in turmoil. The Selfless One was at his monastery! Who could He be? Brother Hua? ...No, he was full of sloth. Brother Po?...No, he was too dull.

But then the Tathagata was in disguise. What better disguise than sloth or dull-wittedness? He called his monks to him and revealed the sage's words. They, too, were taken aback and looked at each other with suspicion and awe. Which one of them was the Chosen One? The disguise was perfect.

Not knowing who He was the monks took to treating everyone with the respect due to a Buddha. Their faces started shining with an inner radiance that attracted novices and then lay supporters. In no time at all the monastery far surpassed its previous glory.” -parable author unknown

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Duplicate Purchase....

I think it’s a sign that we have too much stuff when start repurchasing things we already own!

Take the lovely j/fit high density roller at left. I hunted one down for Brent last month at Sports Basement after it was highly recommended for IT band exercises.

Then, a few days ago, guess what I noticed right behind our elliptical machine. Not Brent’s new foam roller but an identical twin. A twin I didn’t know existed! Which also confirms the fact that I haven’t been using the elliptical lest I would have seen it.

Disregarding the expense and effort chasing down the new roller, I’m embarrassed that we had no clue we already had one in our possession. There is a chance, and I’m hopeful, that one of my kids will read this and text me to claim the roller belongs to them. Then, at least I wouldn’t feel crazy that I don’t know the contents inside my own house.

And now that we have two foam rollers, I’m worried that it might occur to Brent that we could do tandem exercising. Which isn’t a bad idea, just not one I’m overly anxious to implement. I’d sooner watch Brent on the foam roller while I’m enjoying a good novel. I happen to like stretching exercises more in theory than practice. So, theoretically, I don’t need one foam roller let alone two of them!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Teacher Always Learns the Most!

The Teacher Always Learns the Most! That is just a simple fact and probably no truer than during my years teaching Seminary.

Yesterday was our traditional end-of-the-year Seminary Breakfast and Sunday night is Seminary Graduation.
It’s been quite a journey!

I’ve loved many aspects of Seminary and anguished over others, but, overall it’s been delightful. Since my church callings have often been administrative, the opportunity to teach has been good for me. I do better soaking-in information than necessarily imparting it, so preparing was fun but I found the actual teaching part a little daunting. Which stretched me.

Most of what I learned was never shared in class. I’d spend inordinate amounts of time reading (in copious detail) everything imaginable on any given gospel subject. Then, during class I’d typically fit less than a tenth of the material I’d gathered.

I’m not so much an overachiever as insecure with my knowledge. And tragically, while I became an expert during each year’s course of study, my comprehension was/is abyssmal. Retention has never been my strong suit.

So, what have I learned? I’ve learned that scripture study every day is important. Really important!

I’ve learned that we have really great youth and you’ve got to cut them some slack for chronic tardiness. If they come for 30 minutes and feel a good spirit while they’re in class, that beats 50 minutes with tension because they pitched up late (in my opinion).

I learned that while I’m not necessarily a morning person, that I can pull it off. Also known as the valuable life lesson that we can do hard things!

I’ve learned that because I forget so much information that I will pretty much be relearning things over and over, for the rest of my life. Sad but true, I’m afraid!

I hope I was able to teach the students that blessings occur as they apply gospel principles to their lives. This has been my experience my entire life.

I hope I’ve shared my testimony of finding answers to personal questions through scripture study and prayer.

I hope the youth just remember feeling like, despite the early time, that class was a good place to be and a nice start to their day. It certainly has been for me!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Those Last Words in the Doorway...

Last Sunday night we went to a fireside the San Jose Mission holds intermittently for outgoing missionaries to share their testimonies combined with outstanding musical numbers. We’ve been about four times, there’s always a wonderful spirit there, my only pet peeve is that it’s usually a little long.

One common theme at the fireside was how difficult it is to wrap up two years of memories in a three minute testimony. One sister missionary noted several places in the scriptures where famous last words were expressed (most notable might be Moroni).

Sharing final words, saying farewell, concluding remarks; all of these remind me of some thoughts the actor, Alan Alda (think M*A*S*H), gave in a speech years ago. I saved his comments because they resonated so strongly. I’ll intersperse a few quotes from Alda with my ad nauseam commentary below:

“Deep in our hearts we know that the best things said come last. People will talk for hours saying nothing much and then linger at the door with words that come with a rush from the heart." (Alda)

I’m a classic at this behavior, talking about this, that, and nothing important, until the last minute of absolute departure. And that’s when a rush of heartfelt feelings bubble over. Happens to me all the time! So, Alda continues:

"Doorways is seems, are where the truth is told....We linger there with our hand on the knob chattering away...the very best things said often slip out completely unheralded and preceded by the words, 'Oh, by the way.'” (Alda)

Again, how often I’m guilty of incessant chatter and then at the end comes that, 'Oh, by the way your example has had a profound impact on me’ utterance of gratitude or those kind of remarks. I’m quite artful at dodging the tougher things to say, but at the very last moment, they might rush out in a bit of an awkward spew.

"I hear that patients will talk to their therapists for an hour, hardly saying anything, and just as they’re leaving, turn at the door and say, “Oh, by the way,” and in one sentence reveal everything they’ve been avoiding for 50 minutes.” (Alda)

If this practice is common among patients/people then therapists/bishops/etc. could clearly learn that those final words are a great time/way to uncover helpful or perhaps, more accurate, information.

But back to the fireside, the missionaries last words were poignant, not so much confessional as wondering how to adequately express their feelings at the bittersweet end. President and Sister Jackson’s family will also be returning to their home and life in Mesa, Arizona so they shared parting thoughts too. While they are never shy about sharing the gospel message, their last words were definitely filled with great tenderness and deep love for all their cute missionaries as well as the people they’ve served and come to know and love in the San Jose area.

All the testimonies were spoken over the podium but in my mind’s eye (thanks to Alan Alda), I could envision each of them standing right in a doorway!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I Looked Out the Window & What Did I See?

On the very day our nation commemorates running (see yesterday’s post), our morning run was foiled by rain. Now rain doesn’t stop true runners, mind you, but it’s a little problematic for the passengers in baby joggers.

So, I watched those passengers while the young moms ran sans baby joggers. It’s not that I’m so noble but I do have the luxury of flexible running times at my stage of life while the young moms have baggage (aka children) 24/7.

So, to entertain the kiddos I found a total saving grace. Primary songs! I have them all on itunes and we had a raucous music time going on in the basement.

Man, little kids know their Primary songs! It’s amazing! I was the official DJ taking requests and our repertoire included the Hello Song, Do As I’m Doing, Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, I Have Two Little Hands, and, the ever favorite, Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree. Most of the munchkins are still in the Nursery at church but someone is doing a great job with singing time. Even the kids who didn’t know the words could shake their hands to display the popcorn popping hand motions.

Maybe I’ve been in Seminary too long, where I get are-you-kidding-me groans when I attempt to liven up the morning with something/anything that requires spirited enthusiasm. But, with the toddler crew their excitement is unabated. They were happy to comply with props, finger plays, dancing, etc.

Perhaps we should shift our early morning Seminary students to a younger age group, start them at age two and graduate after Kindergarten. This subset of children are the ones rising early anyway, right? But, in all honesty, those teenagers might be easier on my energy. If I taught a class of rambunctious young kids, I’d come home needing a nap by 7:30 in the morning!

"I looked out the window and what did I see? Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.
Spring has brought me such a nice surprise! Popcorn popping right before my eyes.

I can take a handful and make a treat. A popcorn ball that would smell so sweet.
It wasn’t really so, but it seemed to be, Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.” - Georgia W. Bello, Primary Children’s Songbook

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

National Running Day.....

“Running long and hard is an ideal antidepressant, since it’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. Also, there are those hours of clearheadedness that follow a long run.” -Monte Davis

Did you know that June 1st, 2011 is National Running Day? It was news to me! But, I’m happy to join in the festivities, running deserves a day of recognition!

Our Lululemon group, coached by the cutest runner mom around, Lori Beveridge, is celebrating tonight (after we run of course).

National Running Day is held annually on the first Wednesday in June as a day for runners everywhere to declare their passion for running. It’s a coast-to-coast celebration of a sport that’s simple, inexpensive, and fun.

Running sometimes gets dissed for not being a sport; imagine that! The critics decry running as the means to an end, what someone does to warm up before working out, to train for another sport, or to lose weight. Naysayers don’t think anyone in their right mind would run just to run.

Phooey on the doubters! The Olympic Games were built around the sport of running. And, track and field events are the centerpiece of olympic competition. Cross country running likes to dub itself the true sport with no half times, no time outs, and no substitutions.

So, in honor of National Running Day, three cheers for running and runners everywhere!

“I run because it’s so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.” -Arthur Blank