Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Blessing of an A Minus...

There is a great parenting book titled “The Blessing of a B Minus” by Wendy Mogel. The theme of the book is summed up well in the following quote:

“What parents don’t realize is that there is still a normal curve. Most kids are in the middle. Some kids will never love to read or never be good at math and they can still lead productive, happy lives.” (Wendy Mogel)

As a returning student after decades away, I don’t have parental pressure, but I still push myself. Suddenly I’m the one that has to be gifted....or else. And, this quarter I had one class that I was not only not gifted in, I was below the curve.

I felt behind from the first day as one of the two English majors who had never taken statistics. We both came to every class completely bewildered after the course readings. But, the material started to make sense gradually, thanks to a good professor and a study group that took pity on us and explained concepts in ways we understood.

Well, after spending inordinate amounts of study time, my final grade for the course was an A minus. Was I disappointed with the minus? Not a chance! I was happy to earn any kind of A. After all, this was a class I nearly dropped after the first week I was so confused.

The grade wasn’t a gift either. I spent more effort on that class for that A minus, than my other courses simply because my natural abilities made those classes easier.

And, maybe it’s because I’m a returning student, after such a long hiatus, but I relish the satisfaction of working hard and succeeding in a tough (for me) class.

Yes, this A minus really was a blessing! I earned it but I appreciate it too.

“I can feel how large, how essential this moment is as it’s happening; that is what I have come to love about being an adult, to the extent that I can claim that title: that one knows more about how good things are, how much they matter, as they’re happening, that knowledge isn’t necessarily retrospective anymore.

When I was younger, I missed so much, failing to be fully present, only recognizing the quality of particular moments and gifts after the fact. Perhaps that’s the one thing that being “grown up” is: to realize in the present the magnitude or grace of what we’re being offered.” -Mark Doty

Friday, March 30, 2012

Growing Up...

“You may say, But wasn’t this the Sixties? Yes, but only for some people, only in certain parts of the country.” - Julian Barnes

Yes, I grew up in the Sixties (and Seventies too) but the 60’s in Salt Lake City wasn't quite like the 60’s in Haight Ashbury. I was living in the wrong city for any big immersion in the psychedelic hippie culture.

Plus, I was only 10 when the big Woodstock festival took place. Needless to say, I wasn’t in attendance.

Where was I? Well, in junior high days (before any of us could drive) we were haunting the streets of downtown SLC. Truly. My buddies and I thought we were real hot shots taking the city bus downtown.

So, yesterday was almost a deja vu because Brent had meetings and I was downtown without a car, so I wandered to the library, the new City Creek development, and all over the downtown. It felt nostalgic to traipse about by foot everywhere.

Except, of course, you can never quite come back. Salt Lake City is much cooler than when I was young. We didn’t have UTA Trax, or the Gateway, or a big new Whole Foods in Trolley Square. In fact, I can remember what a big deal it was when Trolley Square opened in the early 1970’s.

The highlight yesterday was connecting with Mike and Linda Dunn for dinner, where we did more fun reminiscing about the good old days. Linda definitely taught me the ropes for some of our wild and crazy (Utah style) adventures downtown. Our version of the Sixties!

“When people talk about the good old days, I say to people, ‘It’s not the days that are old, it’s you that’s old.’” -Karl Lagerfeld

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Location, Location...

According to Google Maps, Brent and I are heading to the red dot in the center of Salt Lake City (aka The Grand America Hotel).

When it comes to watching General Conference, my preference is to take it all in on my couch (maybe even in my pajamas).

But, Brent’s more of a 'be there or be square' kind of guy, so he likes to be right at the conference center.

I was willing to compromise since we are staying at a nice hotel, and truthfully, it might have been a little lonely watching conference solo in Los Gatos. So, it’s a quick trip to Utah for a couple of days, then home to start school for my 3rd quarter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bring It On?

I didn't really notice how dated our house is until designers, contractors, and architects started rummaging through it.

Okay, I knew it could use a face lift but I’m fairly reticent to start changing things because of the snowball effect.

For instance, our hardwood floors desperately need re-finishing but they encroach into the kitchen where the tile and cabinets are old too. So, pretty soon sprucing things up feels overwhelming and potentially more expensive than I’d like.

That’s the scope of the project in prose, below is my rough attempt in poetic form:

For years we’ve considered updating the house,
Especially now, since it’s just me and the spouse.

But to remodel the kitchen, the flooring spills over,
And suddenly the makeover’s all inclusive, moreover.

Choosing cabinets and fixtures and the whole kitchen sink,
I’m afraid details and decisions could drive me to drink! (diet coke, that is)

And, what if we temporarily had to move out and into a rental,
With my reluctance to change, I could go certifiably mental.

Remodel veterans will caution, "over budget you’ll spend,
And the project drags on, it could seem to no end."

When I take in these thoughts, there is a part of my brain,
That says, considering any remodel is rather insane.

Better to live in a place that, while dated, is home,
Than to go crazy deciding over platinum or chrome! -K2

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Behind Every Good Man....

“I am so mad at the press, I could just strangle them.” - Ann Romney, quoted by National Review on how it was getting harder and harder to be cheerful.

Ann is such a trooper! We got to hear both she and Mitt speak last night at another Bay Area fundraising event and Ann is a big asset for the campaign.

I loved Ann’s comments about the 2008 campaign. After it all, she told Mitt they were never doing that again and Mitt reminded Ann that she said that after every pregnancy! And, they went on to have 5 sons!

So, as far as the election, Ann did relinquish and 4 years later they have to go through all the drama again. And, I’m pretty impressed that in spite how tawdry it can get during the media scrutiny, Ann is committed and articulate and a great spokesperson for the Romney campaign.

Ann is definitely Mitt’s biggest cheerleader, and 2 words she uses to describe him are character and competent. Obviously I agree with her assessment and I think Mitt is awfully fortunate to have such a classy wife! Go Ann! Go Mitt!

“Ann is also my best counselor. There is no issue that is important to me, political or personal, in terms of personnel type issues, that I don’t ask Ann’s advice.” -Mitt Romney

Monday, March 26, 2012

Come Together....

“Come Together, Right Now...Over Me” - The Beatles

Just a week ago it looked like Andie might be moving back to Los Gatos. She’d signed over her Menlo Park lease to another girl and had to be out by the end of March.

But, everything in Palo Alto that felt good was too expensive and everything affordable didn’t seem like a viable option. Hence, things were not panning out, so an interim move back to 25 Alpine was the plan.

Still, as much as Andie adored the idea of moving back in with us (who wouldn’t want to live with us, right?), she claimed the commute to teach in Palo Alto was the vexing problem. Or maybe we were problem and she didn’t have the heart to tell us. But, either which way, it was looking inevitable (much to Andie’s chagrin).

Then, Andie was saved by an 11th hour housing option that miraculously “came together.” We’d been planning to load her stuff last Friday night and bring it back to LG on Saturday. But, she and another gal saw a place Thursday night, signed a lease on Friday and we helped them move in on Saturday.

Every now and then, things just seem to come together! Andie feels quite certain that higher powers were looking out for her on this one. And, hopefully she’ll still come down to LG to hang with the old folks too!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Did You Really Just Say That To Me?

Sentimental Moment or Why Did the Baguette Cross the Road?
by Robert Hershon

Don’t fill up on bread
I say absent-mindedly
The servings here are huge

My son, whose hair may be receding a bit, says
Did you really just say that to me?

What he doesn’t know
is that when we’re walking
together, when we get
to the curb
I sometimes start to reach
for his hand

Oh, how I relate to this poem! It doesn’t matter how old my kids get, the reflex to parent them always remains. The reality they’ve grown up and don’t need me telling them to “look both ways” before crossing the street is hard to grasp.

Hershon describes this sentiment in a great poem with very few words. I can perfectly imagine being somewhere like Willow Street and reminding my kids (okay, my adult children) to go easy filling up on the bread but I would never in a million years impose my opinion on my friends. What’s up with that? And, I’ve also had those moments where I forget that my kids no longer need curb assistance. Love this poem!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Famous Last Words!

I still remember my dad's laughter when he told me about a headstone that read: "I told you I was sick.” Because I also find that funny, I guess I must share a similar sense of humor with Gramps.

When it comes to famous last words, I read a story about a 91 year old man who, prior to his death, was very clear with his daughter that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered along the Charles River in Boston. His wife wanted a more conventional funeral for him.

Upon his death, his daughter was able to share the last words he wanted spoken on his behalf. At his funeral service she conveyed the message her father wanted: "Just tell them," he said, "To those of you that knew me, well, you knew me. To those of you that didn't, you missed something.”

And, then his daughter concluded simply by saying: "I knew him, and I miss him.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Break...

Santa Clara University is on a quarters (not semesters) schedule and my Winter Quarter is officially over. Spring Break begins today and classes start up again on Monday, April 2nd.

I’ve taken my tests and turned in the last of my papers, research proposals, etc. Woo Hoo! I don’t know my grades yet (minor detail) but I loved all my classes and it would be pretty lame to do poorly in courses you enjoy. At least that’s what I’m banking on.

Okay, I didn’t technically enjoy the Statistics/Research Methods curriculum but the professor was great so that mitigated the fact it was difficult for me to make sense of ANCOVA, reliability coefficients, frequency distributions and kurtosis (just to name a few of the obscure terms I’ve been trying to master).

I’ve got a big 'ole stack of books I’ve been anxious to devour, just enjoyment reading (no textbooks!) as soon as the break arrived. Can’t wait.....

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Families of Missionaries...

It’s often said that families are blessed when they have a missionary serving in the field.

I felt this was true for our family when Webb was in Russia and Julie Holland mentioned it last week when Rachael (Hermana Holland) was released.

While my nephew, Alex, has been serving in Armenia, his older brother, Andrew, became a dad when Caitlin delivered James McNally Olsen last September.

Last week, Andrew, Caitlin, and baby James went on vacation to the Grand Canyon. When they were heading home on Saturday a driver across the median fell asleep and crossed over into their lane. Caitlin was driving and tried to swerve out of the way but they hit and their car rolled.

They were taken by ambulance (Andrew & baby James) and a Life Flight helicopter (Caitlin) to a hospital in Flagstaff, Arizona. Miraculously, other than some scratches, baby James was fine. Andrew’s neck is hurt but he was released the following day. And Caitlin, who suffered the most serious injuries, had a concussion and some head trauma.

But, they’re now all out of the hospital and healing at home. It was really touching to read my sister’s email about how much they feel like Alex’s mission service blessed their family through this frightening ordeal.

In another tender mercy, when the hospital in Arizona (where the Olsens knew no one) learned they were LDS, they sent members over to give them blessings AND a family in the local ward took James to their home and cared for him while Andrew and Caitlin were hospitalized.

Thank goodness for Elder Olsen in Armenia and church members in Arizona who reached out to help!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Class Participation...

One of the Peanuts comic strips has Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy lying on a hillside looking up at the clouds:

“If you use your imagination you can see lots of things in the cloud formations. What do you see, Linus?” Lucy asks.

“Well, those clouds up there look like a map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean. That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, a famous painter. And that group of clouds over there gives me the impressions of the stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side,” Linus replies.

“What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?” Lucy inquires.

“Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsey - but I changed my mind.”

Yes, I usually feel pretty much like Charlie Brown when it comes to comments in class. I’m generally thinking of something along the lines of the ducky/horsey about the same time some young brainiac spews out a Linus answer.

I suppose this is why I’m always reluctant to raise my hand and why I get so nervous about professors who grade on class participation!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lacking Inspiration...

Bad Day by Kay Ryan

Not every day
Is a good day
for the elfin tailor.
Some days
the stolen cloth
reveals what it
was made for:
a handsome weskit
or the jerkin
of an elfin sailor.
Other days
the tailor
sees a jacket
in his mind
and sets about
to find the fabric.
But some days
neither the idea
nor the material
presents itself;
and these are
the hard days
for the tailor elf.

Yesterday I was struggling with one of my papers due for finals week and I remembered Kay Ryan’s poem. Ryan was the US Poet Laureate from 2008-2010.

Anyway, some days neither the ideas or material seems to come, I guess for tailors and writers alike! Hope the writing process goes a little better for me today; major paper due this Thursday!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday Stillness....

“The task of spiritual direction is not to make something happen, but to become aware of what God is already doing, so that we can respond to it, participate in it, and take delight in it.” - Lisa Myers

Ah, Sundays! What a rich blessing they can be in our busy lives!

Yesterday was an amazing Sabbath! It had been a volatile Saturday, more drama than I like (my bad, I’m afraid some of the hubbub was my fault). But, the chaos did make me particularly grateful for a new day; especially one of rest and reflection.

It was exactly what I needed! I’m not sure whether Sacrament meeting was better than usual because I love and adore the Hollands or if it really was an exemplar meeting. Probably a combination of both factors.

I was just deeply touched from the get-go. Holly and Dave’s talks were great, Alex playing the ukelele while Rachael sang “Soy un hijo de Dios” (the Spanish version of I Am A Child of God) was so tender, and of course, Hermana Holland’s missionary tales were inspiring. Even the ward choir number (with Sophie Ryvola’s special solo) was beautiful.

Before church I happened to be listening to one of my psychology podcasts that was addressing “stillness” (one bonus of psychology is how often it can intersect with things of a spiritual nature). During church it hit me that Sundays are often my stillness from the hectic Monday thru Saturday loudness of the world. Some people manage to function without setting aside a day that is different from the rest; I just don’t think I’m cut out to be one of them. My life is clearly better from having the stillness of a Sabbath (on a weekly basis).

“Stillness is what creates Love
Movement is what creates Life
To be still
But yet moving
That is everything.” - Do Hyun Choe

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bill Marriott retires at 80..

Bill Marriott’s 12 Rules for Success

1. Continually challenge your team to do better.

2. Take good care of your employees and they’ll take good care of your customers, and the customers will come back.

3. Celebrate your people’s successes, not your own.

4. Know what you’re good at, and then mine those competencies for all your worth.

5. Do it and do it now. Err on the side of taking action.

6. Communicate. Listen to your customers, associates and competitors.

7. See and be seen. Get out of your office, walk around, make yourself visible and accessible.

8. Success is in the details.

9. It’s more important to hire people with the right qualities than with the specific experience.

10. Customer needs may vary, but their bias for quality never does.

11. Eliminate the cause of a mistake. Don’t just clean it up.

12. View every problem as an opportunity to grow.

I love this photo of Bill Marriott with John, Steve, and David (his 3 sons). He turns 80 on March 25th and he’ll retire at the end of the month. His 12 rules for success are for business but applicable for anyone really.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Center Cannot Hold...

Today is St. Patricks Day and instead of any leprechaun tales, in honor of Ireland, I’ll print a passage from the great Irish poet, W. B. Yeats.

It’s one stanza from The Second Coming, one of Yeats best known poems. In fact, if you’ve heard people use the phrase “the center cannot hold” or “things fall apart” they’re quoting Yeats (and might not even know it).

It’s kind of a dismal poem for a holiday, but Yeats wrote the poem in 1919, a rough time in history, hence, his somber vision of the world falling apart. But, it’s a classic, and a glimpse of why Yeats won the Nobel Prize in Literature just a few years later.

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
-W. B Yeats, The Second Coming

Friday, March 16, 2012

Range Anxiety...

Range Anxiety: The fear of being stranded in an electric car because of insufficient battery performance.

As if I don’t already have a laundry list of anxiety neuroses, here is a new one to add to my fears: range anxiety! In fact, I’m afraid I already suffer from pre (or anticipated) range anxiety.

And, we don’t even have an electric car. Yet. But, as of yesterday, we do now have step one, a plug-in charging station in our garage.

It sounds like step two is the PG&E installation of a second electric meter, one dedicated for electric vehicles only. At that point we should be ready for our first electric car. Wherein we can test the new phraseology of range anxiety.

Actually, at this point, Brent, who will be the primary EV (electric vehicle) driver commuting from Los Gatos to San Francisco, doesn’t seem overly concerned about this issue. In theory, Brent thinks recharging the car in the city won’t be a problem. In reality, I’m not so sure; but every household needs at least one person to worry about the details.

So, while I have my misgivings about getting stranded; I also have an additional concern. I don’t want to become the emergency rescue squad for any family members who deplete their electric wattage, leaving them who knows where in the Bay Area. For lack of a term (since I might be the first to suffer from this ailment), I’ll call it “EV assistance anxiety” (EVAA), or, the fear of having to rescue drivers experiencing actual range anxiety debacles.

On the upside: I read that Triple A (which we happen to be long time members, whew!) has a pilot program they are testing in 6 cities (which includes SF - yes!) where special AAA trucks can fully charge EV’s in almost 30 minutes. This somewhat mitigates the potential of both anxieties for me. Although, it (of course) brings a new concern: exactly how many road assistance calls do AAA members get each year?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hermana’s Home...

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ changes people. That is what this is all about. It has changed me even though I sometimes have a hard time seeing that." - Hermana Holland

Rachael returned home from the Albuquerque New Mexico Mission yesterday! Woo hoo!

Rach looks great and just like a missionary, her countenance radiates! It was fun to see her surprise at how much Connor and Holly have changed since her departure.

When Hermana left Holly wasn’t driving and not only that, Holly is now taller than Rachael. And, Connor turned 12 last week so he’ll be a deacon passing the Sacrament.

It will be great to see the Paige/Rachael combo reunited on Friday when Pooge gets back in town tomorrow! Good times!

“Serving people really does make you love them. Service brings the greatest joy anyone could ever ask for. Something a lot of these Mexicanos have figured out.” -Rachael Holland

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Not Myself...

You know the ditzy person who leaves class without their power cord? That person is (usually) not me.

You know the person who shows up at the Relief Society dinner without contributing any food? That person is (usually) not me either.

This week I keep tripping up, bad behaviors that feel out-of-sorts for me. I mean, I have plenty of bad behaviors, but distraction faux pas and not at least attempting to do my part, aren’t my typical pattern.

Both things are somewhat explainable (written as one adept at rationalizing). At my Monday night class the professor’s Macbook needed charging and since we have twin computers, she borrowed mine during class. Who would turn down that request since the teacher will be giving me a final grade in 2 weeks. But then, class ended and I got all the way home before I realized I had one laptop minus one power cord. Whoops!

With the Relief Society dinner last night I didn’t technically have a food assignment. But, it’s not like me to not attempt to do my share. I’m not trying to sound magnanimous here, but I do like to pitch in. It just felt sort of weird to show up at an activity where I hadn’t helped with anything.

This is one of the problems with school; it’s kind of encroaching on my window to serve sometimes. But, it's giving me a lot of empathy for sisters who work.

During Relief Society it’s pretty standard for sign-up sheets to make their way around class (everything from feeding missionaries to helping others with kids, moves, rides, whatever). It’s not as if I always sign up, but it is new territory for me to find my school load sometimes precludes it.

This has been an exercise in showing restraint when one part of me kinda/sorta/wants to volunteer but the other part of me knows I can’t quite pull it all off.

The purse party for the Los Gatos Ward sisters last night was another Jamie Walton production which translates to amazing in every way! I can’t believe I didn’t take pictures! Happy Birthday Relief Society!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Humoring the telemarketers...

A telemarketing job would drive me crazy. But, it turns out, without even trying, I'm able to provide some humor for these call center workers.

I came home to a hilarious voicemail message yesterday that I’m saving to replay whenever I need a laugh!

The message is basically an exchange between telemarketer #1 commenting to telemarketer #2. Telemarketer #1 called us, we weren’t home, and our voicemail engaged before she realized she hadn't hung up her phone (or headset?). Now I have a great recording of their exchange.

Telemarketer #1 said: "I would have said Nude-son and the lady’s message says Kanud-sen.” Would you say Nude-son?”

Telemarker #2: “Let see it. Oh, yeah, I would say Nude-son too."

Telemarker #1: “Well, their machine said, ‘You have reached the Kanud-sens.'” And then, the telemarketer erupts into a convulsive laugh.

I had no idea the pronunciation of our last name, could evoke such a fit of laughter. It’s probably a classic you-had-to-be-there story but it cracks me up every time I replay the message!

Plus, I usually hate telemarketing calls and now I want to answer every phone call because I would definitely recognize her voice (and that crazy laugh). Then, when she asks if she has reached the “Kanud-sens” (all proud that she’s got the name down), I’ll throw her a curve ball and say, “I’m sorry, this is the Nude-sons.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Traffic School Graduates....

We aren’t just a family of college graduates. Every last one of us has a traffic school degree as well. Some (unfortunately) have multiple drive-more-safely degrees!

This is not an accomplishment we should be proud of. Apparently, I need to debunk the status we give to the word “speed” around here. Somehow we missed passing along the “there’s a time and a place” addendum to the word.

Just to be clear, speed is not an inherently good thing. It might win a race on foot but can earn a hefty fine by car. This disconnect hit me when Paige mentioned via phone she was doing her mandated traffic school (for driving too fast in the OC) and a couple hours later emailed it was already completed. Without thinking I congratulated her on her speedy work, forgetting that it was her speedy work behind the wheel that landed her in traffic school in the first place.

Ironically, I was praising speed, albeit for educational endeavors of sorts (well, it is called traffic SCHOOL), but still, it’s a bit of a mixed message. Hurry, hurry hurry. We rush around to speed through this and that, and then forget to slow down when our foot hits the gas pedal!

So, after my kudos to Paige on her speedy finish with the traffic school assignments, I did remind her to watch her speed on the road. And, one serious follow up to that (to all family members - listen up!): No texting while driving! No exceptions!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake!

“Qu’ils man gent de la brioche” - French for "let them eat cake.” I think.

It may just be folklore but during one of European famines of the late 1700’s, the French Queen, Marie Antoinette, upon learning the peasants had no bread uttered the famous “Let Them Eat Cake” phrase.

There is no solid evidence Antoinette was actually so heartless. However, in a slight twist, when Anita and Robb saw we had no bread in the house, they brought us cake.

And, not just any cake. Fresh Banana Cake from Icing on the Cake! The best bakery bar none!

Anita and Robb are the most unobtrusive house guests on the planet! They don’t let me feed them, they strip sheets off the bed, bring in our trash cans, do everything for themselves and then give me cake to thank them. I’m not sure for what. I did nothing!

In fact, poor Jake and Albert (their 2 cute Scottish terriers) are probably so glad to take leave from our house where they are exiled to the outside (I promise I invited them in; Anita just knows me too well to take me up on the offer I guess).

Anyway, I promptly took a photo of the cake because it no longer looks like this. Once we slice into this particular make and model there is little restraint. Or, at least, I can’t hold back. We’ve nearly consumed it all (with some help from others on Saturday too).

Plus, Anita kindly pointed out that it IS cake, not bread and therefore does not violate my Lenten sacrifice either. And, although it was a super quick visit (they basically drove all the way down for Dave Francis’s funeral) it was sure fun to see the Terrys (almost like having your cake and eating it too)!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Death, Be Not Proud...

One week. Two stories. Three deaths.

First story: Dave Francis, a wonderful podiatrist in the Saratoga Ward, passed away on Monday, after a valiant fight with cancer. The theme for Dave’s funeral service yesterday “A Life Well-Lived” was appropriate for a man who was good to the core. I don’t know the Francis family well but was touched by the sweet tributes of his five adult children for whom he was clearly their hero.

67 years of age doesn’t sound young (to some) but I don’t think of Dave Francis as old either. He feels like a peer, so the aging bar is a moving target I guess. But, his death felt premature. Although, there was still a peace about it; a sense his life had meaning and his death was not the end. The crowded service spoke to the impact his example had on the lives of others.

Second story: Thursday brought an terrible tragedy that rocked Andie’s world. George Hodgins (pictured at left), is one of Andie’s boys! She took care of George while working at the Morgan Autism Center, and helped his family with private respite care. Andie brought George over swimming, took him to movies and the mall. Even though George’s autism left him unable to speak, Andie and George had a special bond.

But, George’s mother, Elizabeth Hodgins, in an awful snap of judgment, killed George and then herself. Andie’s been in shock since she heard the sad news. It feels surreal to read the headline article in the San Jose Mercury News and then learn it’s describing Elizabeth and George.

The shocking news was heightened because while Elizabeth had done the unspeakable, the autistic parent community felt her awful plight. Struggling to care for autistic children is unrelenting; especially as they age. George was 22 years old and even though he was fairly high functioning in his understanding, his inability to speak was a huge challenge.

It’s hard to imagine how hopeless Elizabeth Hodgins had to feel to commit such an egregious act. On one hand, as Andie recalls, Elizabeth, was doting and constantly over-parenting George’s every need (get him just the cookie with the sprinkles, make sure you take him to the Disney store, he likes this game but not the other, etc) but on the other hand, it completely exhausted her. George was their only child, yet, he required full time supervision.

George’s death and Elizabeth’s suicide is deeply tragic on so many levels. After working so closely with the Hodgins family, this will leave an indelible imprint on Andie . It’s hard not to wish there had been a better support system in place for the Hodgins family.

“Grief is in itself a medicine.” - William Cowper

Friday, March 9, 2012

Why Love Matters....

The cute photo is Evelyn Anise Menasco (Amber & Sam’s new baby) and she’s appearing since she’s the most recent new baby photo on my cell phone and this is a post about babies. This was Evelyn as a newborn and she is already 2 months old!

Anyway, I’m reading a book assigned for class called Why Love Matters by British psychotherapist Sue Gerhardt. The book is fascinating (especially relative to some of the more tedious textbook reading!). It explores how critical love is to our brain development in the early years of life.

The book confirms the huge importance on new mothers being attuned to their baby’s needs. Parents who respond appropriately by feeding their baby when it’s hungry, engaging their baby when it’s bored, create a robust immune system and stress response.

Many parents do this instinctively but when needs aren’t met, a baby develops a rickety system with defense mechanisms in place. Babies that don’t have enough responsiveness from care givers have to learn to self-regulate as best they can. But the foundation is flawed.

Early patterns are persistent. They become inscribed in our brain’s neuronal networks. While they are learned in an unconscious way they ultimately become our emotional habits.

I wish I’d read this book before I had children, but, unfortunately it wasn’t published until 2004. But it’s a good read about the latest findings between neuroscience and psychology. And, a great reminder of how important parenting is (especially in the very first years of life!).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

When are the giants coming over for dinner?

I’m trying to write down funny things cute kids tell me since I have huge regrets I didn’t do more journaling when my own kids were little.

Yesterday I spent my run with darling four-year old Sabrina. Her mom was pushing her sister in another jogger and since I couldn’t keep up with the lead runners (who had no baby joggers to contend with) I fell back a little and it was just Sabrina and I.

Sabrina and I had delightful conversations about Stuart Little, Canadian geese, and making necklaces our of colored straws, but I was a little confused when she asked me when the giants were coming over for dinner. The giants? For dinner?

Soon I figured out that another time Sabrina was over, she noticed the huge fork and spoon hanging in the kitchen, asked about them, and apparently I told her they were to feed the giants when they come for dinner. Oops! I didn’t realize she had taken my tall tale to heart.

Of course, instead of explaining the misunderstanding I got myself in deeper and insisted she should join us the next time the giants dine at our house. Sabrina liked this idea but thought it best not to include her mom (who might get scared).

Running with Sabrina in tow was definitely more fun than running alone, conversational entertainment the entire course. The only demoralizing part was her commentary about losing sight of the lead runners. When Kristy or Jennifer were up ahead she’d say things like: “Wow, they are getting so far ahead, I can hardly see them” or “now I can just see their legs” or “they are starting to look itsy-bitsy."

I should have pointed out that there happened to be runners and walkers behind us too, but next time I guess I should just attempt to keep up. That would eliminate a blow-by-blow account of how wide the gap is getting between us and the fast runners! So, I either need to run faster, or, let Sabrina push me!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Turtle

Turtle by Kay Ryan

Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four oared helmet,
She can ill afford the chances she must take
In rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
A packing-case places, and almost any slope
Defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
She’s often stuck up to the axle on her way
To something edible. With everything optimal,
She skirts the ditch which would convert
Her shell into a serving dish. She lives
Below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
Will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
The sport of truly chastened things.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where is that moth when you need him?

Issues with intermittency!

Here is the deal: There are a lot of problems that are intermittent and while this might sound okay (because theoretically you get a break), they can actually be more frustrating than consistent problems.

At least something consistently bothersome is predictable. I can count on the annoyance and plan around it. But, think about snafus that strike randomly; these are the one that truly drive people (okay, me) nuts.

Here are two examples: First, when my car does something odd, but because it happens sometimes but not all the time, I can’t replicate it for the mechanic. Because, of course it never happens when I need it to (for demonstration purposes).

This is a frustrating situation, and worse, it can make me look like an idiot when I describe symptoms to a mechanic and they look at me like the problem might be more in my head than in my car.

2nd example: When I called the exterminators who service our yard about having moths inside the house they told me they needed to determine what kind of moth we are dealing with before they can spray anything. "Just get us one sample,” said Urbano. But, those moths that had formerly been (what seemed like) everywhere were suddenly nowhere to be found.

So, that is one of life's pet peeves for me; things hard to solve or fix because they happen intermittently. So glad I got that off my chest!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Full of baloney....

Yesterday was Fast Sunday and halfway thru Sacrament Meeting Andie whispered what I thought was: “Do you have any bologna at your house?”

My first thought was “poor Andie, she must really be starving! Bologna? Really?”

But it turns out that Andie was actually inquiring whether we have any “Bolani” which makes a lot more sense. Bolani is this cool Afghani flat bread we’ve been purchasing at the Farmer’s Market and Whole Foods.

So, the answer to both questions is an adamant no. I have no bologna in the house. And, I have no bolani in the house.

Now, I have never purchased bologna in my life, which is why I was puzzled by Andie’s question. It’s just never really been part of my food repertoire. And I didn't have any bolani because technically bolani is bread (which I have given up for Lent). Although now, thanks to Andie and the power of suggestion, I craved bolani for the rest of the day!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Two Scoops of Raisins...

I have a hilarious professor for a Research Methods course this quarter. She’s a little eccentric, which becomes clear with the following story:

For no reason, other than her own curiosity, Dr. Skinner (no relation to B. F.), decided to test the Kellogg’s claim that every box of Raisin Bran contains two scoops. Actually, based on her information, the cereal purported to have 134 raisins in every box.

So, Dr. Skinner purchased 25 boxes and literally counted out the raisins in every box. Yes, she really did that. Her tally came up with an average of 132.5 raisins in each of her boxes.

After that she ran all sorts of technical data analysis based on that number, to see whether the difference was significant or not. Basically I can tell you by eye-balling the numbers that it isn’t a significant difference, but statisticians are nothing if not thorough.

The class is pretty challenging so a little light-hearted presentation of her Raisin Bran research definitely gave us a break from the monotony of learning about confidence intervals, the Bonferronni technique and other things I barely understand!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Trust Your Struggle...

“Allowing the truth of who you are - your spiritual self - to rule your life means you stop the struggle and learn to move with the flow of your life.” -Oprah Winfrey

Lately this "Trust Your Struggle" phrase has been showing up on lots of graffiti art and tattoos.

It’s a good sentiment because while I would likely choose to never go through struggles, I have to admit that I do learn a lot from them. Sometimes all I learn is that I am strong enough to get through them; although that isn’t a bad take home lesson in itself. And, sometimes I learn more profound wisdom too. Especially when I look back!

Whatever challenges I face in life, I need to take heart that they may be tailor-made; customized with exactly what I need to learn .

Actually, Helen Keller says it better than I do, so I’ll just wrap this up by quoting her below:

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Grapple a Day....

I love apples. I also love grapes. And, I’ve been disappointed with the crop of piƱata apples this year (the flavor just isn’t up to snuff).

So, I was delighted to see a new hybrid-of-sorts, the “grapple.” In fact, I discovered grapples last week in southern California and I’ve eaten all the grapples I brought home so now I’ve got to find them here in the Bay Area.

Apparently they take Fuji apples and soak them in a Concord grape concentrate. The process doesn’t add any extra calories or sugars and it doesn’t alter the great texture of Fuji apples.

The grapple tag line is: “Looks like an apple. Tastes like a grape.” Truthfully, they mostly still taste like apples but they definitely have a grape smell. And, I happen to like them! The idea kind of remind me of Pluots (the plum apricot hybrid).

Oh, yeah, I call them grapples (just apples with an added “gr”) but Grapple Fruits, LLC, that produces them claims the pronunciation is gra-pples (with a long a, like in grape). Or at least that’s how it’s written on their packaging. Either way you say it, give grapples a try!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


“Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
All the rest have thirty-one
Save February, and she alone
Hath eight days and a score
Til leap year gives her one day more.

Did you miss going to Disneyland yesterday, when it was open 24 hours for a Leap Day celebration? I’m afraid I knew about these extra bonus hours and completely forgot to mention this fact to family members residing in Anaheim’s vicinity. Sorry about that!

When Julius Caesar proposed adding an extra day to the Gregorian calendar back in 45 B.C., the rationale was basically due to the fact that it takes slightly longer than 365 days for the earth to go around the sun. Hence, adding an extra day every four years, evens things out.

Now, since we probably won’t think about leap year again until 2016, I’ll wrap up this trivia with the odds of having a birthday fall on February 29th. That likelihood is one in 1,461 and about 4 million people worldwide share a Leap Day birthday. Of this 4 million, I know of exactly one (a classmate in one of my psychology classes).