Health Care Reform

Me (Reading to Greg from the Internet): Listen to this. "The incidence of overweight people in the U.S. has reached epidemic proportions . . . approximately 65% of U.S. adults are overweight."
Greg: They otta just shoot 'em.

Me: Oh, yeah. Right. That'd mean that they'd shoot you and me, you know.

Greg (starting to get excited): Yeah! Think how great it would be! It'd be so much easier to stay on a diet. Talk about incentive.

Me: You've got a point there.

Greg (now really amped): That could be the solution to health care! There's my new plan: Just shoot 'em.

You realize that he's not kidding here, right? Well, mostly.



This morning I sent an email to some family members about arrangements for the sale of our mom and dad's home. Notice my typo. What a crybaby.

Annie Link wrote:
I just wrote a check from our personal account to H-- E-- in the amount of $X,XXX.00 to pay for painting at Dad's house. I will either reimburse myself out of Dad's account, or wail until we close on the house to collect these funds.


The Boxer

In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains.

Sometimes, you say it
so perfectly,
so exactly,
so true to my core -
I feel like you've been living
right here in my body.


Earl's List

So, I'm finally getting around to cleaning off my kitchen counters and table. Can you tell how hard I'm working on it? I mean, blogging is especially important to getting the job done right. A-n-y-w-a-a-y, I just ran across my scribbles from our church talks two weeks ago. Two husbands spoke about keeping love strong in a marriage. I liked that neither of them got all preachy on the subject. They were just regular guys--not Perfect Husbands, in fact, but honest and clearly trying. Earl shared a list of a few things he's trying to improve. (I'm going to remember this the next time I have to give a talk in sacrament meeting: Lists are good. Especially when they're honest--and succinct enough to squeeze into the white space on the program.)

So, here's Earl's list:

1. When we're having a fight: remember, at the end of the day, she wants the same things I do.
2. It is more important to be loving than to be right.
3. When we have a little free time together, discuss Interesting Things. Kids and finances are not Interesting Things.
5. Say hello and good bye--and take time to touch while you do.
6. Look good for your wife. He explained this one: "I probably look better to Julie when I'm taking out the trash or loading the dishwasher."
7. Pray with her so she can hear me say thank you to God for her.

I've been thinking about how I can customize Earl's list for the way I treat Greg. I wonder if he knows how often I thank God for him? I wonder if I look better to him when I'm clearing off the kitchen counter?



I once heard an interview with a songwriter who kept a pencil and pad on her nightstand to record her midnight genius flashes. One particular morning, especially excited to see the holy writ she remembered capturing in dream state, she grabbed the pad. It read, "Never buy a coat with a snake in the pocket."

Not that this ever happens to me


Memories of Bart

The summer I turned 19, I hitchhiked my way to Nogales, Arizona, walked across the border into Mexico and bought a $20 bus ticket to Mazatlan.
As best as I remember, my ride over that shoulder-less, pot holed, desert road took about 18 hours, including stops to load and unload chickens and passengers. I was the only Gringa on the bus, the only person who spoke any English, 18, blonde, and wearing cut-off Levis and a t-shirt. I didn't dare sleep. When I arrived at the bus station I had only $85 cash, a swim suit, those cut-offs, and a scrap of paper on which I'd written the name of a trailer park where, hopefully, my brother was still camped.

Bart had called me from a phone booth about a month before. I could barely make out his voice. The line sounded ancient and crackled with Sonoran dust. "If you want to come meet me, I should be in Mazatlan by around the second week in June," he'd said. I told him I didn't think there was any way I could afford to get there, but we'd see. I had just finished my first year at college, quit my campus job and was moving out of my apartment to no-clue-where. Neither of us would have a phone or a mailbox. If we were going to meet up, luck (Karma, we called it in the 70's) would have to play a big role. I really didn't see it happening. But later, as I thought about the call, I could remember something in his voice. Something inviting. Love. He wanted me to come. I realized that I had to try to find him.

I have no memory of how I got from that dirty bus station to the scrappy trailer park on the beach outside of Mazatlan, but Bart was there, smiling like the sun, and he immediately gathered me up into those wonderful, strong arms. He'd been living there on the beach in his old camper and truck for about 3 weeks by then. I can still see exactly how beautiful he was: 24 years old, golden haired and bronzed from the Mexican sun. We eased into Mexican life. Showered outdoors with the giant cucarachas, body surfed all day, siesta-ed every afternoon in colorful hammocks we bought from the vendors on the beach, laughed til we peed in the evenings along the promenade or the moonwashed beach. We cooked fresh-caught shrimp that cost us about 12 pesos a kilo, laid them alongside thick slices of monster avocados, white crumbly queso and handmade tortillas. Our days melted into weeks. We lost the date and told the time only by the sunrise and sunset. I ran out of money. Bart never said a word.

An old dilapidated row boat showed up on our beach one day. We looked it over for a week or so, first working on stories about where it had come from, then wondering if it might be sea worthy enough to take us out to the little island, Isla Pijaro, we called it, midway off the horizon from our beach. The story telling and wondering took a while. It had to be sandwiched in between surfing, siestas and sunsets--and our tanning competition. We compared shades daily, forearm to forearm. By now, we were both "brown as a couple of berries." We chanted this several times a day, just the way Mom would have said it.

It was about this time that we lost the newly weds. They were a cute little couple, not more than 18 or 19 each, and had shown up at the park on their honeymoon. From Minnesota, I think; fresh faced and as straight-laced as librarians. They spent a couple of days working side by side, setting up the sweetest little camp you ever saw. Perfection just short of a white picket fence. We were all having so much fun watching them nest, it didn't take long to notice that they'd disappeared. 24 hours went by with no sign of them. The campground was buzzing. Theories flew like mosquitoes. Finally, the loner guy from California said he was pretty sure he'd seen somebody out skinny dipping in the ocean a couple nights before. Could it have been them? Did they get eaten by sharks? Turns out it was almost that bad. They'd gotten their bare little butts pulled out of the ocean by the Federali's. They spent the last three nights of their honeymoon in a Mexican jail.

Sometime after this excitement, we discovered a driftwood-looking oar somewhere around the park. It was a sign. We should test the ship. It leaked a tad, but we made it out to Isla Pijaro. The island was rocky and desolate of anything but scrub brush, but it had a pretty little beach with a small shore break, so we goofed around in the waves and watched the terns (Bart called them sea turds) until we got hot and thirsty and realized that we had no shade, and were starting to fry. (Of course we'd brought nothing other than our swim suits and the truck keys.) About half way home, the dingy started filling with water and when we realized that we weren't going to be able to bail fast enough, we both started laughing so hard we capsized and the truck keys sank into the briny deep. Bart didn't even think to get upset, he was too busy laughing at the insanity of it all. It was so like him. Why get angry? Things always work out, don't they?

One morning we woke up and decided it was time to move house. We christened the truck Spiro and the camper, Martha and set out to explore the dusty roads that lay southward. We drove through the magic of my first-ever fireflies and into jungles black in the night, surprising the tlacuaches with our headlights as they hung by their tails from the trees that curved over the narrow dirt road into San Blas. We practiced our Spanish trying to sing Give Said the Little Stream, and Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam in the language, coaxing Spiro over mountain passes, blasting the heater to keep the engine from overheating.
Big cities were disorienting. We found our way to the Orozzco Gallery through the traffic of Guadalajara by following the first blue car we saw. Bart would say, "This guy looks like he knows where he's going, don't you think?" and we'd set into following him. In Mexico City, it was a red truck, I think, that led us to the Zona Rosa. We were never lost. But we never really had much of a destination, for that matter.
In the smaller cities,in the 1970's of Taxco and San Miguel d'Allende and all the others whose names I've forgotten, there was no need for a lead car. One road only, and it always led into to the town square, where again, we'd be the only live blondes most had ever seen. The children would gather round Bart, first curious and shy, but finally giggling and teasing. He enchanted them. He enchanted me. I had never known that kind of love and absolute acceptance. I had never known that kind of joy.

And it was always, exactly that sweet for all of my life with Bart. Always that delicious hug. Always that generosity and complete acceptance. Always that love that never judged, that knew no bounds.

One year ago tonight, on the eve of our mother's birthday, I stood by his bedside and whispered to my brother that it was OK for him to leave. I promised him I'd take good care of Gretchen and told him I expected him to give Gavin a big hug for me. I told him how much I loved him, how grateful I was for the way he had always loved me. For the joy we'd always shared. I called softly to Gretchen, telling her I thought she should probably come in, our vigil was over. We held his hands and stroked his beautiful cheeks, said our good-byes and lovingly eased him on his way.

I sure do miss you, my Bubba. Thank you for a perfect ride.


Perfect Valentine's cookies

Let's start with the best part first . . .

My Favorite Sugar Cookie Frosting

Cream together:
1 C Butter, room temp
1 8 oz. brick Cream Cheese, room temp
1 Tbsp Vanilla

Slowly stir in:
1 2-pound bag bag Powdered Sugar

Frosting should be soft and creamy, so watch closely as you add the powdered sugar and stop adding sugar before the frosting starts to get too 'stiff.'

Now add:
2-3 drops red food coloring (for Valentine hearts)
1-3 tsp Almond Extract (Add, stir and taste, add, stir and taste. I like lots. Your tongue may be more wimpy.)

Cover with plastic wrap and hide it from yourself and the kids in fridge just while you bake your cookies. Don't leave for too long in the fridge! It will get too firm. (Great for eating with a spoon but not good for spreading on cookies.)

Amazingly Easy Sugar Cookies:

Cream together:
2 Cups Margarine (sticks not tub)
Do NOT try to get fancy and substitute butter. Trust me: this time butter is NOT better.
2 Cups Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
2 large eggs

Stir together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture:
4 tsp baking powder (not soda)
1 tsp salt
5-6 Cups flour (watch dough texture during addition of last cup, you may only need 5-ish cups flour)

Roll out to about 1/4" thickness and cut with cookie cutters. This dough does not have to be chilled. You will love how easy it is to work with! (I roll them out on parchment paper, which makes the cut cookies easy to lift to cookie sheet.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 6-7 minutes. If you like soft cookies, under-bake (large, thick cookies: 6-7 mins, smaller, thinner cookies: 5 minutes).

*I also bake these on parchment paper. Use a flat (no edges) cookie sheet. This way, you can use the parchment to slide the hot cookies quickly off the cookie sheet and onto the counter so the hot cookie sheet doesn't continue baking them. If you like crisp cookies, you wouldn't need to do this.

(My local grocer's bakery sells me sheets of parchment paper, cheap, cheap, cheap. Ask around.)

Wait until the cookies cool to frost them. As your cookies sit, the frosting will form a slightly crisp 'crust', but underneath that crust will be dreamy, creamy lusciousness that surprises and delights on first bite. If you're going to add sprinkles of any kind, it's important to shake them on quickly, before the frosting dries.

WARNING: Do not make these cookies when no one else is home. You will eat the first batch all by yourself and then be forced to make another batch to cover your tracks. I've grown out of several wardrobes this way.

(Photo from google images. Thanks! to whoever shot it.)


How blessed
and comforted
I felt this afternoon as I read these words
from a modern-day apostle of the Lord:

Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see proverbs 3:11-12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain . . . Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.
-Richard G. Scott, "Trust in the Lord," Ensign, November 1995, 16.


Because I'm not really sure where to find you . . .

. . . I'm going to post my response to your email to Natalie here, too. I'm sure hoping that you'll see it. I really want you to know, I understand.

Dearest Anonymous,

Thank you for reaching out--in what was probably the best way you could come up with in that moment. Your words have given me an opportunity to look into my own heart and this is what I saw:

There have been days when I, too, have felt 'left out' and misunderstood--and in those dark moments,
I haven't always been able to be my best self
or to find the perfect words to say,
"uh, I'm having kind of a hard time over here . . ."

There have been days when my pain was so acute,
I've said things I didn't really mean-
(and Oh! how I've wished that nobody else heard,
and I could just have a quiet 'do over').

There have been times when I've judged harshly
before I really understood . . .

When Natalie and Gavin were growing up, I used to always tell them this:

"Sometimes . . .
you have to look really hard at a person . . .
and remember . . .
that they're doing the best they can.
They're just trying to find their way, that's all . . .
Just like you."

And do you know what young Natalie would usually say?
"Mom. Shut up."

(I was really good at talking too much--
especially after it was time to shut up.
Yeah, I know, you noticed.)

Anyway, dear Anon, thanks for helping me see these things.
I sure hope you're feeling a little better today.
And I hope I've seen clearly here.
I've prayed to be able to.

I love you,
(Natalie's mom)

[the quote came from my favorite movie: On Golden Pond.]

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship . . . or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with . . . awe and circumspection . . . that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

I really want to be the kind of person who reaches out to
"lift the hands that hang down."

But sometimes it's hard.

Sometimes . . .
those "hands' try to push me away

Sometimes, they even lash out at me and
I get hurt
and offended
and I want to hurt back.
I feel self-righteous and want to
condemn, ridicule,
snub or turn away.

It's these times when I have to take a deep look at my heart
and prayerfully ask

How committed am I to
and LIFT
when hands hang down?

Immortal horrors?
Eternal splendors?

For my fellow immortals
and for myself . . .
the choice is mine.