Saturday, December 31, 2011

Junk Collecting...

The following Shel Silverstein poem, “Hector the Collector,” is in honor of the de-cluttering process I’ve begun on the home front.

Whenever I take down the Christmas decorations I get an urge to clean up the house everywhere. This poem reminds me that most of the stuff we hang onto are not treasures but generally just junk. The poem gives me motivation to stay with the purging project!

Hector the Collector
Collected bits of string,
Collected dolls with broken heads
And rusty bells that would not ring.
Pieces our of picture puzzles,
Bent-up nails and ice-cream sticks,
Twists of wires, worn-out tires,
Paper bags and broken bricks.
Old chipped vases, half shoelaces,
Gatlin’ guns that wouldn’t shoot,
Leaky boats that wouldn’t float
And stopped-up horns that wouldn’t toot.
Butter knives that had no handles,
Copper keys that fit no locks,
Rings that were too small for fingers,
Dried-up leaves and patched-up socks.
Worn-out belts that had no buckles,
‘Lectric trains that had no tracks,
Airplane models, broken bottles,
Three legged chairs and cups with cracks.
Hector the Collector
Loved these things with all his soul,
Loved them more than shining diamonds,
Loved than more than glistening’ gold.
Hector called to all the people,
“Come and share my treasure trunk!”
And all the silly sightless people
Came and looked ...and called it junk.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Have (Extra Large) Car, Will Travel...

It takes one large vehicle to transport 6 adults, one dog, snowboards with boots and gear, skis with boots and poles, food, and snow clothes. Unfortunately, we don’t own any cars large enough for the task.

My Volvo SUV might have 7 seat belts but the cargo space is tiny. So, these days, for any travel that involves “stuff,” we need to either drive 2 of our cars or rent something ridiculously big.

There aren’t that many options when you need people space and cargo room too. A Yukon/Suburban type only works if it’s a Yukon XL.

We found one of the only extra large vehicle rentals left in the Bay Area for our Tahoe trip. And, it is a lot more fun to all be together in the same car, even if a dog is part of the package. It’s just a little embarrassing to have become Extra Large travelers!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

We Have A Situation....

“We have a situation here.” - Webb Knudsen

When the whole family is on the ski slopes you do not want to get a cell phone call announcing a ‘situation.’

When I received Webb’s call, Andie and I happened to be together at the Comstock lift so I knew Andie was okay and since Webb was making the call I assumed that he was the reporter and not the victim. Which left Brent, Paige, and Korey.

In my mind’s eye I immediately conjured up all three unaccounted for in our party in various states of distress. Surely someone had taken a bad fall. I’m a pro at envisioning all worst case scenarios.

In fact, my imagination went from broken wrists to broken legs to possible paralysis before Webb had time to explain what the actual situation was. As it turned out, the situation did not involve injury on the mountain. The situation was an error with the house we’d rented.

Apparently, Northstar housing and Brent had different check out dates in mind. The Northstar cleaners arrived to prepare the cabin for the next renters and found it filled with our stuff. When they reached Brent, who has happily boarding with no plans to leave Northstar, it turned out that we made the mistake, not Northstar, hence we would need to uproot and move from our cool cabin to another unit.

The disruption was annoying but we all sprung into action and moved our gear in record time.

I noted a couple of things from the debacle:

First, many hands do make light work. Initially Brent and I were planning to move everyone’s stuff but when everyone pitched in the task went much faster.

Second, they say you can tell a lot about people from how they handle adversity. While this wasn’t a major life challenge, it was a minor disruption and I’d say we were pretty good sports about the inconvenience. Granted, it was our fault, but still, nobody threw a tantrum, nobody blew a gasket.

Finally, when Webb called me I was worried someone was hurt. So, when it turned out to just be a lodging issue I was so relieved that I probably handled it all better. If I had been told about the mix up without the overlay of my initial fear that someone in our group was hurt, then I might have been more bothered by the news. But, because I was so delighted that no one was injured, the housing troubles weren’t so bad after all.

The condo we switched to didn’t have a hot tub (darn!) but we boarded and skied safely for the rest of the day! All’s well that ends well!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Boarding and some skiing too...

We had a great time on the slopes yesterday. Even with the lack of snow there are enough groomed runs that it’s worth going out. Although this is the most barren I’ve ever seen the snow in Tahoe.

You wouldn’t know any of the Knudsen’s hadn’t been snowboarding for awhile, they were all looking pretty sharp. My skiing, however, never improves these days; I just stay in the game so I don’t miss out on any of the fun.

Whenever we take a ski vacation I marvel that anyone can afford to ski and snowboard. It’s a great family sport but it’s ridiculously expensive. Just the equipment and lift passes are costly and then add to that a stay at a cabin; you wonder how all these people on the mountain can pay for this fun but high priced recreation!

One highlight for us was spending the evening with Brian & Jane Stanton and Jane’s family. They were also here at Tahoe and we all got together for a fun game night. We played a few rounds of As Soon As Possible, so Brian’s in-laws could see how exceptional he is at ASAP. Then we played Catch Phrase and Taboo with the competitive boys team beating our less intense girls team.

Today we’re heading back out for more skiing (for me) and boarding (for the rest of the bunch). Fun, fun, fun!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Northstar at Tahoe...

Yesterday we made the trek to Tahoe with plans to ski and snowboard this week. It will be interesting to see how this goes since the snow looked pretty sparse on the drive up.

But Northstar claims to have 16 of 20 lifts open so they must have a lot of man made snow.

If the skiing is lousy at least we’ve rented a great cabin and have plenty of good food. Our traditional stop at Ikeeda’s in Auburn always insures we’ll have tasty treats, especially things like razzleberry cobbler (my personal favorite).

Last night the guys (Brent, Webb, & Korey) built a Jenga tower 33 stories high which we assume is the highest to come out of our Jenga game yet. If we can just raise it to 36 stories they can all quit their jobs and become professional Jenga players!

We’ll head up to the slopes after breakfast but if the snow conditions are too bad we can just come back to the cabin and practice our Jenga skills!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Sabbath Christmas

I loved having Christmas fall on a Sunday this year. Attending church Christmas morning made the day feel more meaningful; more Christ and less Santa Claus.

Our Sacrament meeting was great. Lots of music with a nice mix from the choir, congregation, and others and just one message from bishopric counselor Dave Bohn (who is always a good speaker).

Rob & Melisse Myers happened to be in town so it was an added bonus to see them and their three adorable kids (Elsa, Carter, & Hazel). Talking to Melisse about the murder of her brother, Bishop Clay Sanner, last year was really incredible. His death was a terrible tragedy but hearing some of the family stories was a great lesson re. people who have strong faith and firm testimonies of the plan of salvation. Bishop Sander’s wife sounds like an amazing person.

Another highlight for Christmas was getting in on the missionary call to Hermana Holland. Our families had gotten together for dinner and I didn’t want to impose on family time during their phone call to Rachael but I’m so glad we got to participate.

There’s something tender about talking to a missionary on Christmas. Since missionaries daily lives are all about spreading the gospel message their focus is different than the mundane things I fixate on. Rachael seems happy. You can tell she loves the people. She loved talking to us but you can also tell that her heart is in Texas and New Mexico right now (which is exactly how it should be). I liked Rachael’s advice that we need to keep doing the daily things (ah, it’s always those basics, those Primary answers).

Finally, speaking of missionaries, our favorite Temple Square Sister Missionary, Amy Harmer arrived home last Tuesday. The Harmer's had a surprise dinner Friday night with salmon, filet mignon, shrimp pasta, veggie pasta, etc. Cindy had even made home made eclairs and my favorite, her signature rolls. There is never a shortage of food at anything held at the Harmers!

Amy is doing well. On New Year’s Day (another holiday on Sunday) we’ll get to hear her full mission report. Something to look forward to...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What did you GIVE for Christmas?

"What did you get for Christmas?' This is the universal question among children for days following that most celebrated holiday of the year. A small girl might reply, 'I received a doll, a new dress, and a fun game.' A boy might respond, 'I received a pocketknife, a train, and a truck with lights.' Newly acquired possessions are displayed and admired as Christmas day dawns, then departs.

The gifts so acquired are fleeting. Dolls break, dresses wear out, and fun games become boring. Pocketknives are lost, trains do nothing but go in circles, and trucks are abandoned when the batteries that power them dim and die.

If we change but on word in our Christmas question, the outcome is vastly different. 'What did you give for Christmas?' prompts stimulating thought, causes tender feelings to well up and memory's fires to glow ever brighter.

Someone has appropriately said, 'We make a living by what we get, but we build a life by what we give.'

Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world's busy life and become more interested in people than things. To catch the real meaning of the spirt of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the spirit of Christ. -Thomas S. Monson, New Era, 1986

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas in San Francisco...

I love our tradition of spending a couple of days in the city during the holidays but if I’m not careful I can get sucked into all the commercialism.

Before our trek to San Francisco I was completely content. There wasn’t much in terms of worldly goods that I wanted. Even when I mentioned driving up that I might look for jeans, Andie noted how many pairs I’ve accumulated recently (and she’s right).

So, I’m lacking nothing but amidst all the crowds and store hype, I start to find things. Retailers convince me I need this or that. Sales promise 50% off. And, suddenly interesting ‘stuff’ appears. Nothing that I need but suddenly there are new things to want.

This is why I’m a believer in the concept of “out of sight, out of mind.” Or, if I don’t see things, I don’t need them, I don’t want them; often I don’t even know about them! Hence, the less I throw myself into the retail world the less I know what I’m missing. Out of sight, out of mind!

We had a great time on our city adventures complete with an amazing meal at a new Michael Mina restaurant called Bourbon Steak and the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker performance and a stay at the Westin St. Francis.

But, after a few hours of shopping in Union Square I’m usually overwhelmed by all the shopping madness. Still, I take part. Mostly, I have to, because it’s two days before Christmas and I haven’t shopped for my family. Because these days it’s nearly impossible to pick things out without their assistance. So, today it's Christmas Eve and ready or not, I think I’m about finished up with the shopping. Thank goodness!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Adventures in Dog Sitting...

Bert & Ernie! (well, if you reverse Bert’s ‘e’ and ‘r’ and add an ’n,’ you’ve got quite the pair! Brent & Ernie...and they are quite the team.

This is a photo when Ernie, as a new pup made his 1st appearance in Los Gatos, and now he’s a regular town celebrity (thanks to a few escapes from our tight security here at 25 Alpine).

While Webb took leave to visit New York City for the pre-holidays (lucky boy!) somehow he (foolishly?) trusted us with dog sitting responsibilities. At this point in the story, we’ve reunited with Webb in San Francisco for our annual holiday-overnight-in-the-city outing and we relinquished Ernie duties to the Bryan boys for Thursday/Friday.

The classic tale while Ernie was under our watch was our Wednesday morning dying dog scare. At 5 am (as always) Brent started his day but when I got up at 5:30 am (my usual), Brent was concerned about Ernie. “He won’t eat and he’ll hardly move,” Brent gave me his worried rundown. “He’s kind of twitching funny and he’s completely lethargic; something must be wrong, this is not like Ernie.” Brent can work himself into a dramatic frenzy fairly quickly so he was kind of worked up about Ernie’s condition.

Not as akin to the nuances of dog mannerisms or canine health conditions, I was more passive (I can’t pretend to be the hero or goat of this story) but it did alarm me. But my worries were probably more like “man, if Ernie is sick, this is not good timing! What are we going to do with him? I don’t have time today to take him to the vet.” I know, I come across at my worst when it comes to pet empathy (I’m seriously lacking in the dog loving gene and I’ve got absolutely no trace of the cat loving gene in my body).

Anyway, for the next three hours Brent stewed over Ernie’s ailments while I worried about how much trouble we’d be in if anything happened to Ernie. Suddenly around 8 am, Ernie perked up, enjoyed his breakfast and almost instantly transformed into the happy beagle Webb left us to babysit.

Finally, it dawned on Brent that Ernie had just been tired and not accustomed to a 5 am wake up call. Brent had been dumbfounded that Ernie hadn’t bounded from his quilt pile frisky and ready to play.

I guess it was our first lesson that there are morning people and morning dogs and mixing a morning person with a dog that is clearly used to sleeping in is not a good combination!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

In the Shark Tank...

I thought I’d be posting about Paige’s guest appearance in the Shark Tank. But things didn’t turn out quite like Paige expected. She’d been invited to a special box suite for last night’s Sharks game with the other Silicon Valley Turkey Trot Winners and told they’d be featured at intermission.

Paige had visions of a full meal spread in the box suite and her moment of fame on the ice. But, the race sponsors didn’t quite envision the same hoopla Paige was hoping for. The food was marginal and the winners were presented over the jumbotron. That’s right, no ambling down onto the ice, just waving to the fans from the jumbotron.

So, Paige didn’t quite get the red carpet VIP treatment but at least the Sharks won 7 to 1.

While Andie and I waited for Brent to pitch up we inquired about tickets which were ridiculously expensive (not that any price is too high to watch Paige get awarded!). But we hadn’t really come to see the hockey, we were there mainly for the half time shows featuring the runners.

I asked a security guy if we could just get in without tickets to see the intermission only (I just wasn’t in the mood to pay $200 for lousy seats). Initially he said no and then returned and motioned for Andie and I to discreetly follow him. Minutes later we were in amazing seats a few rows back from the ice. Sometimes it just pays to ask the right people and be nice when they turn you down. I think he felt sorry for us and returned to do his good deed for the day.

So the highlight of the night didn’t turn out to be our superstar runner as much as the free seats we scored! And by the time Brent got away from church appointments he’d missed Paige’s jumbotron moment so it’s a good thing I hadn’t bought him a $200 seat. Plus, I’m sure Andie and I will find something to spend our ticket savings on as we head up to San Francisco today!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kitchen Contraband...

I opened the fridge yesterday to find a can of diet coke on the shelf. And I’m happy to report that it looked completely out of place!

What used to be a staple in my diet has been banished from the homefront for almost 2 years running. Once I quit drinking diet coke it’s been an unwelcome guest.

It turns out that the diet coke was smuggled in by Andie. She’s cut back her consumption drastically but not completely given up the insidious habit. Come on, Andie, you can do it!

The cool thing for me is that diet coke no longer holds any appeal. I’m not even tempted by it lurking on my fridge shelf. Just annoyed! This is real progress for someone like me who really was addicted to the caffeine.

When I think back on how much money I wasted on carbonated drinks it makes me cringe. It’s hard to believe that I used to nurse diet coke cans throughout my day.

One of the best incentives to stop drinking diet coke came from my dentist, Dr. Hoover, who confirmed that not only is there absolutely no value in any of the ingredients (obviously!) but the carbonation (and coloring) is terrible for your teeth.

Now that I don’t drink soda I’ve got lots of extra room in my fridge for kale and chard and spinach and things that actually benefit the body! However, as Paige has pointed out, I can’t just buy the healthy stuff, I actually need to eat it! And, I have to keep a vigilant watch out for stealth diet coke drinkers who try to smuggle in contraband too!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right...

“If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.” -an Elder in Armenia

Alex’s missionary emails are a highlight of my week. I love his enthusiasm and love for the people of Armenia.

In yesterday’s email he shared a quote from another missionary headed home who told the other Elders that “if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.”

Obviously he meant this relative to working in the mission field but it held meaning for me as I read the missionary’s advice. I’ve been in the throes of the Christmas dash. I’m rushing around trying to finish up things that need to happen before the 25th. And I have not been having fun. Even worse, my family gets the brunt of my moodiness when I start to panic.

Usually my sour moods (due to stress) even get to me, which helps me turn them around (once they get to the point that even I don’t want to be around me). Yesterday the quote in Alex’s email was an instant reminder that I should be having fun. And if I’m not, then I’d better change something. Nobody wants to be around a Grinch during the holidays!

I happen to like Dr. Seuss (a lot) and I also like word clouds so coming across a wordle from the Grinch book was perfect. I’m feeling more inspired already! Today I’m planning on having more fun and less panic trying to finish up the Christmas prep!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Here We Come A Caroling....

“Most everybody knows what Christmas caroling is, but who does it anymore?” - USA Today article, 12/16/2007

According to the USA Today article, traditional caroling is only practiced by a shrinking fraction of the population.

Luckily for us, our church community hasn’t given up on caroling! Sunday night the Los Gatos Ward had at least two groups out spreading Christmas cheer with caroling and treat deliveries.

We had a handsome group pitch up on our front doorstep (Jeremy W. & Maria, Jeremy V. without Mallory, Adam & Breanna, Matt & Danielle, and Doug & Kathy). They sang a few songs, left a plate of goodies and off they went.

Then Andie & Paige joined up with another caroling group that included the ward youth. Maybe it’s just a sign that I’m getting old but I definitely treasure little things more than I used to. Carolers at the door is one of those things.

So, I certainly hope caroling isn’t a tradition that vanishes. It was a treat to have carolers drop by; things instantly felt more festive on the home front. And, even with my terrible voice, I find participating in caroling fun too. The caroling probably sounds better if I lip-synch, but either way, it’s the best way I know of to get caught up in the Christmas spirit.

“It’s not too late to revive Christmas caroling but it will take imagination and a willingness to break the ice. Singing is an act that naturally enhances a sense of community, whether it’s Take Me Out to the Ballgame, the national anthem or Christmas carols.” - Michael Hawn, Southern Methodist University professor of church music

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Honesty is the best policy...

I've tried to ingrain a sense of doing the right thing regardless of the consequences into my code of ethics. But sometimes this is hard to implement if the consequences of honesty might be negative.

This weekend Paige had to put the “honesty is the best policy” maxim to the test. She needed to give two weeks notice at her job since she’s landed another job starting in January.

This sounds straight forward but the catch is the friends and family shopping night on December 23rd. Paige has been excited to apply her employee discount to her Christmas shopping purchases. But, once you give notice at a retail store you generally lose the employee discount. So, Paige was feeling relunctant to convey the news she was leaving since she’d lose her shopping discount privilege.

But, regardless of the benefit of waiting to divulge this information, Paige knew it was more honest to tell her boss now rather than leave them scrambling with less notice. Still, she was painfully aware that doing the right thing would cost her the opportunity for getting any deals. So, disappointment notwithstanding, she went ahead and explained the situation to her boss on Friday.

As luck would have it, the boss was great about it all. She might even be willing to let Paige still take advantage of the employee shopping night next week. So, in the end, Paige did the right thing and it looks like she’ll be rewarded for it. But, even it had not turned out like it did, Paige would have still done the right thing. Plus, her integrity would be intact.

“Honesty is fearing a negative response and telling the truth anyway.” -Michelle C. Ustaszeki

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Evolution of Mitt...

There was an interesting Washington Post article last month about Mitt Romney’s church service. The main premise was how much he evolved from the time he was first called as the Bishop of the Belmont Ward in 1981.

Mitt served as Bishop for five years and then was called in 1986 as the Boston Stake President. The Post article quoted women involved in the publication of Exponent II, a Mormon feminist journal. Initially some women on the Exponent II staff were wary of Romney and somewhat critical of his patriarchal views.

But, even the feminists, for the most part, agreed that Romney evolved over the years. Some of the Exponent women described it as Romney’s “pilgrim’s progress from tone-deaf enforcer of doctrine to a more mature and tolerant pastor of the feminists in his flock.”

As someone who was both in Romney’s flock during the 1980’s (as a member of the Belmont Ward) and also loosely involved in Exponent, I think Romney may have evolved but the strong stance of some of the women may have also softened as they grew to understand who Mitt was at core.

As a Seminary instructor with a toddler and a baby, I didn’t have much extra time on my hands to get very involved with the Exponent journal but I found some of the women bright and likable. Others were on such a vigilant crusade for women’s rights that they sometimes carried things a little too far.

But, looking back, as I read the Washington Post article, I have to say that every encounter I had with Mitt (then Bishop Romney to me) was impressive and never demeaning towards women. If anything, I was sort of blown away when he asked me to teach early morning Seminary as a twenty-five year old mother of two. His confidence in my ability to pull off this feat gave me a sense of pride in myself.

A leadership approach Mitt used came up in the article and I think it’s a clever tool, something worth noting. At one point during Romney’s church service he decided to hold a meeting to address the frustrations of some of the women members in his area.

Mitt listened for hours to dozens of proposals by the women ranging from featuring more female speakers, to turning chapels into day-care centers during the week, to recognizing the accomplishments of young women, and not just young men, in church.

On three chart pads, Mitt listed policies and proposals into three categories: those he could change, those he couldn’t change, and those he could consider. Women who were at the meeting said that Romney did check with Salt Lake on several items and many things did change.

Whether a parent, a boss, or a leader, I like the idea of listing grievances in terms of things we can change, things we can’t, and things we can consider. It’s just another trait why I think Mitt would make an excellent Commander in Chief.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Emily’s Activity....

I haven’t had a play date with Emily for awhile so I was delighted Jennifer needed someone to watch her yesterday afternoon.

Emily was in great spirits and had plenty to talk about. My favorite line was while Emily ate her snack from the counter and pointed out our plastic nativity proudly noting: “I have an activity like that.”

Activity. Nativity. I can see the confusion. Unfortunately, once I called it by the correct term of nativity I couldn’t get Emily to call it an activity again. Too bad, it sounded awfully cute!

When Emily accompanied me to the post office, Hope, the best employee ever, was asking Emily all sorts of Christmas questions. Hope is always happy, always smiling; the perfect postal attendant to engage a four-year old child in serious discussion.

Hope wanted to know all about Emily’s Christmas tree and when she asked if the lights blinked, Emily pondered this question. Finally Emily stated firmly: “No, they twinkle.” You’ve gotta love kids figuring out new vocabulary. I’m not sure what Emily’s definition would be for blinking lights but it is clearly different in her mind than twinkling lights.

Emily also talked about getting big like her Dad. But, she said she probably won’t ever get as big as her dad. She said: “I will probably be as big as my mom, who is a human." I noted that she is already a human but Emily disagreed saying: “Not yet. I’m still little, I’m not a human yet.” Hmm...

I think Emily and I should have play dates more often so I can chronicle all this interesting information. Jennifer probably doesn’t have time to take notes on all of Emily’s quirky observations. And like I said, yesterday she was very talkative which pretty much assures unique commentary. Funny girl!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How Do You Handle Tangled Christmas Lights?

In 2007 Maya Angelou was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show for Angelou’s 79th birthday. The things she shared could almost be considered poetry, she is so gifted with words. A compilation of the things Angelou’s learned over the years is listed below. And, I have to say, there is a lot of wisdom that comes with age!

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas lights.

I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.

I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as 'making a life.’

I’ve learned that life sometimes give you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands: you need to be able to throw some things back.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Lump of Coal...

“It is a miracle if you can find true friends, and it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat, and it is a miracle if you get to spend your days and evenings doing whatever it is you like to do, and the holiday season - like all the other seasons - is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles, but to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them, and that’s the end of this particular story.” -Lemony Snicket

The holiday season is a good time to zero in and recognize the miracles that happen daily. I get so distracted by the unimportant things that I’m going to make a better effort this year to notice and watch for miracles.

Yesterday I found it quite miraculous that after my lengthy dental appointments from Monday I had no pain. The endodontist gave me a rundown on expected swelling, told me to expect soreness and prescribed vicodin for pain. I haven’t even bothered to fill the prescription since I’m not swollen or sore of hurting at all.

It’s just a little thing but these kinds of things happen all the time! Even to the lump of coal in Lemony Snicket’s story!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dental Drama....

I will never eat another Pfeffurnusse (German spice cookie) from Trader Joes again. A couple of days ago while biting into one, the unusually hard coating tore out my tooth (tooth #10 for dental reference).

The immediate problem was looking like a hillbilly with a big gaping hole. A terrifying sight! But Dr. Hoover came to my rescue and glued my tooth temporarily back in place.

Then, yesterday I had to suffer marathon dental appointments to repair all the damage. The first item of business was a root canal from an endodontist. After that, it was back to Dr. Hoover’s office for the remainder of the dental work.

While it might sound fairly smooth (and the repair was) the drama ensued over the weekend before Monday’s dental appointments. This is because on Saturday night the glued tooth became so loose I basically had to hold it in place almost everywhere I went over the weekend. And I went to several things (church, a fireside, a setting apart, etc.) And I could only eat soft food. And talking was frustratingly precarious too. None of this was any fun at all. In fact, it was miserable!

The whole ordeal was such a hassle that I’m throwing out the rest of the pfeffurnusse cookies so no one else will meet the same fate. Buyer beware! And to think that I used to really like those spice cookies. What was I thinking?

Our awesome dentists, Rex and Andy Hoover, both cautioned me to stay away from popcorn too. Apparently the common culprits for cracked and fractured teeth are often popcorn kernels, as well as nuts, granola, and squirrel food (their term). And Brent would add chicken wings to that list since that was his demise last time Dr. Hoover had to rescue a Knudsen with dental woes.

So, I’ve now been properly warned! You can also feel free to consider this post a cautionary tale!

Monday, December 12, 2011

We Can Do It! ...Or Can We?

Sometimes, we can do it. And sometimes, we can’t. Do it all, that is.

Overzealous women like to think they can take on the world. And maybe some can. Personally, I’ve got my limits. And I’m learning through experience not to overextend myself beyond my capabilities.

I’ve given up any pretense to be a high achiever in every category. For me it’s pretty basic, there are tradeoffs. No one (especially not me) can be the consummate parent, wife, volunteer, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, etc.

When my plate gets too full or I’m juggling too many balls, I’m getting better at letting something go. Even though it’s hard for me to say no to good things. My ability to decline invitations I simply can’t fit into my life is improving.

So, what gives? Well, this year it is homemade Christmas cards. I’ve custom made our holiday cards for many years and while I enjoy it, it’s a time consuming project. This year, with the addition of school, I simply don't have time to create a unique card.

We’ll still send a Christmas card but this year I ordered them. I hated giving up ownership, but as it turns out, the cards look just as good (probably better) than my home made ones anyway.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Free Parking in San Francisco!

Free parking in San Francisco constitutes a historic happening and I enjoyed it on Friday night. Score!

When we first moved to the Bay Area I was incensed by the exorbitant parking fees in the city. It was excruciating to pay six dollars an hour for parking.

In contrast, I loved the comp of going to a parking garage in Santa Cruz, right off Pacific Avenue, and paying twenty-five cents an hour.

But Santa Cruz can’t quite take the place of San Fran so I’ve just become accustomed to the outrageous prices. Still, I completely understand the logic behind city people who don’t bother owning a car.

I was in the city twice this past week. First, on Thursday, when Paige and I went up, we paid the usual inflated price to leave the car. But traffic had been so horrendous driving up we were happy to pay to leave the car and be out of gridlock for a few hours.

Then on Friday when I headed back for the PCG holiday party I had excellent parking karma. At shortly after six pm (when parking meters expire) I secured a legal meter right in front of the restaurant hosting the work party.

I can’t recall another time in the city when I’ve been so lucky. It was such a perfect spot (completely free) that I was convinced I must be missing a sign somewhere that excluded it. But, it was kosher, after all, and my car sat safely just steps away from my destination at no cost. It’s practically a Christmas miracle!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sub-for-Santa Project Looms Large....

I was so focused on school that I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that I am way behind on holiday preparation. So, once my tests and papers were complete the reality set in. I’ve got to really hustle to catch up before Christmas day arrives.

Fortunately my decorations are now up. Whew! That’s always a big undertaking and a big relief to have done.

Now the Christmas cards are the next big project to tackle. Unfortunately, I’ve been spending all my much time tracking down speciality items for the PCG Secret Santa family from Brent’s service project at work. I was almost finished until Brent generously brought home the gift list nobody volunteered to provide.

The items requested this year have gotten pretty specific. No more tags like “toys for a 3 year-old boy.” This family wants a certain brand bicycle for a little boy, Disney computer games, Disney comforters and sheet sets, Costco gift cards, etc.

I hope someone vetted the family in need because they certainly challenge the “beggars can’t be choosers” sentiment. I’m sure they’re wonderful and worthy recipients, but they are also quite picky about choosing specific name brand items for all their requests. I’ve had to run all over town trying to find a match for several gifts.

This subbing for Santa can be exhausting! Ho, Ho, Ho!

Friday, December 9, 2011

My pile of books is a mile high...

“Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.”
-Arnold Lobel

I always have a pile of books stacked up waiting for me to find extra reading time. My pile always sports an eclectic mix of titles and authors. But this past fall, with my return to school, most of my reading has been in the pages of my textbooks. Hence, my book pile has grown with less time for pleasure reading.

But the school quarter wrapped up yesterday. And suddenly I have a greater appreciation for the opportunity to read anything in my stack. No assigned reading throughout the entire holiday. I can start or finish or skim any books I want. I can hardly wait.

At the top of my list to read is Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. I had to restrain myself from starting it during school, lest I abandon coursework in favor of a good novel.

There is no possible way I’ll read through my whole pile of books before winter quarter begins at Santa Clara. But I’m delighted to just have a crack at it for a couple of weeks. Happy Reading to Me!

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.” -Jane Smiley

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Men to Match My Mountains...

“Bring me men to match my mountains;
bring me men to match my plains.
Men with empires in their purpose,
and new eras in their brains.”
-Sam Walter Foss

Last night we were at another Bay Area dinner for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Mitt talked about his childhood when his parents drove them all across the United States to visit America’s National Parks. Along the drive the Romney’s would read to their kids from Irving Stone’s historical classic about settling the west, Men to Match My Mountains.

It was during those trips Mitt fell in love with the beauty and grandeur of this country. His parents continued the road trip tradition, taking their twenty-five grandchildren on the same trek.

Mitt recently learned that the book's title came from an 1894 poem by Sam Walter Foss. The poem, “The Coming American,” ends with the lines: “Bring Me Men!” (like the old theme from the Air Force Academy).

Mitt memorized the first four lines of the poem (typed above) because they speak to his desire to end the government waste and domination over regulation that cripples free enterprise. “Men with empires in their purpose” are the kind of men we need to make America great.

Mitt’s a phenomenal leader and while I’m uber-biased I do believe he is the only Republican candidate that has a shot to win after the primary election. Of course the Democrats never criticize Newt, they’d love to have Obama challenge a Republican like Gringrich.

So getting Mitt through the primary is still a big hurdle. It’s frustrating to see his vision for the country and then see the polls favor men who lack character and integrity. Drives me crazy!

So, I’ll finish this post by quoting the last lines of the poem. Mitt only included the four opening lines in his remarks but to me, the whole poem epitomizes the kind of men of faith and inspiration that Mitt Romney exemplifies and that this country needs to lead our country.

“Bring me men to match my mountains, Men to match their majesty,
Men to climb beyond their summits, Searching for their destiny.

These are men to build a nation, Join the mountains to the sky,
Men of faith and inspiration, Bring me men, bring me men, bring me men!” -Sam Walter Foss, The Coming American

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

S.M.A.R.T. Goals....

When Brent asked for feedback on some goals for the Saratoga Stake, Paige reminded him to be sure he’s setting smart goals, or S.M.A.R.T. goals, as in specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

I’d forgotten about this goal acronym and it’s a good one to incorporate. If I blog about it I’m far more likely to remember it the next time I’m setting new goals, which should happen in a few weeks as we soon ring in the new year (hence new goals/resolutions).

I like all of these points. “M” and "A” are probably the most salient points to me. If a goal can’t be measured then I’m not sure it can really be considered a goal.

And attainable probably speaks to the realist in me. If it’s too pie-in-the-sky thinking it’s hard to take seriously. My personal goals need to be a stretch but something I can really reach.

So, maybe I’m not all that smart but at least I can set goals that are smart!

“The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.” -Benjamin Mays

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Constitutes an Ox in the Mire?

Since I don’t like sour cream I never remember to have it on hand when I fix enchiladas. Since Andie loves sour cream she can hardly imagine eating enchiladas without it.

After the church block of meetings on Sunday the girls took in the Palo Alto Creche Exhibit and realized on their way home that we were having chicken enchiladas for dinner and we were out of sour cream.

They considered pulling an “ox in the mire” rationale to purchase a pint on Sunday and smartly decided that wouldn’t really be justified. Sour cream is clearly a want and not a need.

Then, they came up with a clever alternate plan wherein they’d score some sour cream without making a purchase. While, not exactly stealing, they thought they’d just grab a free side order of sour cream. Unfortunately, Whole Foods charges for their sides which kind of foiled the plan to not-technically-shop on Sunday.

In a last failed attempt, they came home and tried to make sour cream from a Paula Dean recipe. The yogurt/butter combination didn’t work so well either. So, we ate our chicken enchiladas just the way I like them, plain-with-no-toppings.

But while shopping on Sunday is on my mind, here is some good advice from a BYU professor on Sabbath observance:

“Jesus never implied that pulling one’s oxen from the mire was acceptable Sabbath performance - he merely admitted necessity. When he stated that the Sabbath was made for man, he meant that in a positive way.

A Sabbath contributes. It pertains. It does not restrict or annoy, detract or make idle. The Lord’s day is to lead us in the Lord’s work, and the Lord’s work is to bring to pass our salvation and eternal life. Sabbath thoughts and activities should be so oriented.

The Sabbath is for our sakes. The Sabbath is a day of rest from the ways of the world. It is a day of reevaluation and restoration.

On the Sabbath day we should orient ourselves toward being more fully as our Father is - doing his work, serving others, visiting the sick, encouraging the lonely, loving our mothers and fathers, wives, husbands, and children. We should be seeking forgiveness, searching the word of the Lord, fasting and praying, and seeking with all our power to bring ourselves and our brothers and sisters closer to him and his Holy Spirit.

Whatever we do less than this is waste, and it is not our oxen we keep in the mire, but ourselves.” -Richard G. Ellsworth, Professor of English at BYU

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tea, Chinese Tea, is the Best Tea!

This post relates to one of Andie’s special talents.

Since Andie has been going to The Nutcracker at least annually for her entire life, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that she’s written lyrics to Tchaikovsky’s entire musical score.

Andie pretty much has a song to accompany every one of the dances. The rendition that gets stuck in my head is hearing “Tea Chinese Tea, is the best Tea.”

We’ll see The Nutcracker in San Francisco later this month but on Friday night we saw Sophie Ryvola in the San Jose Ballet production. Then, Andie entertained us all the way home with her original lyrics.

I’d only heard Andie's version of the Chinese dancers before last weekend but she’s got verses to go along with the whole ballet. And even though her lyrics are kind of goofy, it does take a creative mind to put words to every dance in The Nutcracker!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The way to do is to be....

One of my professors is really into meditation and mindfulness training. She told us she used to bring cookies for the last class but since she isn’t into baking they were never very good.

Now she brings poetry and hands out one of her favorite poems at the end of the quarter. The following Lao Tzu poem is what she gave our class with her best wishes that we always look within. It was a thoughtful gesture and the message of the poem should stay with us longer than cookies anyway.

Always we hope some else has the answer.
some other place will be better,
some other time it will all turn out.

This is it.
no one else has the answer.
no other place will be better.
and it has already turned out.

At the center of your being
you have the answer;
you know who you are
and you know what you want.

There is no need
to run outside
for better seeing.

Not to peer from a window.

Rather abide at the center of your being;
for the more you leave it, the less you learn.

Stretch your heart
and see
the way to do
is to be.
-Lao Tzu

Saturday, December 3, 2011

1st Study Group...

“Recipe for success: Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare whie others are playing; and dream while others are wishing.” -William A. Ward

I was invited to join a study group to prep for a final exam and Paige was quite impressed that the youngsters had enlisted an old lady. Maybe impressed isn’t the right word. Paige seemed a little surprised or maybe shocked and amused by it. Where is her faith in her mother?

I might be old enough to be the mother of my fellow students but I still know how to be charming and sociable (ha!). To be perfectly honest, I was probably as surprised by the study group invitation as Paige. But I happily accepted and our little group spent most of Friday holed up in the library compiling notes from the textbook chapters.

Sometimes I work better solo but I have to admit that the study group was a good starting point. One girl, who could type faster than anyone I’ve ever seen, will email us all the notes to study from. It’s not a bad way to cover a lot of material before a comprehensive final.

Besides, in a weird way, it feels like I’ve been accepted by my school peers. Even though we differ in age, we are basically "all in this together"; just like the High School Musical theme song!

"It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” -Albert Einstein

Friday, December 2, 2011

News from the school front...

Thursday was my last official day of classes to complete my first quarter for my Santa Clara’s master’s program. Now I’ve just got to study up for a few finals and the fall quarter will be history.

It’s been a loooong time since I’ve taken final exams! Too long to remember how comprehensive they might be (yikes). If I don’t blow it next week I should do just fine as far as grades go. Although I’ve definitely been a little slow getting up to speed on the whole back-to-school-drill. But I think I’m getting in a decent groove now.

I’ve had three awesome professors which has made the classes great! I’d pay to hear them lecture. Oh wait, I guess I am paying them (easy to forget about that little detail called tuition).

Winter quarter doesn’t start up until January 9th so I’ll have just enough time to kick back and enjoy the holiday season (well, as soon as I get the decorations up, the shopping done, and the Christmas cards mailed).

“Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study. Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life. -Henry L. Doherty

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Candle Burns at Both Ends....

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light!
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Second Fig

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

When Edna St. Vincent Millay died in 1950 the English novelist Thomas Hardy said that America had two great attractions: the skyscraper and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

The New York Times described Millay as “an idol of the younger generation during the glorious early days of Greenwich Village and one of the greatest American poets of her time.”

Between Greenwich Village, her days at Vassar and her gypsy childhood, Millay found plenty to write about and her sonnets are thought to be some of the best from the past century.