It Only Took an Hour . . .

31 03 2010

I should be cleaning my house, which looks like a giant picked it up, shook it really hard, and set it back down again, but I knew you were curious how I fared yesterday. My blog readers come first, of course. That’s just the way I am.

Thanks for all your well-wishes on my first day of school in . . . well, a lot of years. Ten or so. 

I found a new notebook around the house, so I didn’t have to buy one. I did, however, spring for a new backpack.

You’ve come a long way, JanSport! It even has an ice-pick loop, which is a nice added feature.

Seriously though, the reason I needed a new backpack (aside from the hunter green thing) is because I have some back issues. My chiropractor recommended a backpack with a waist belt, to offset some of the strain on my shoulders. (When I once got a backpack with a flimsy waist belt many, many years ago, I asked my cousin, “What is this for?” She said, “Oh, it’s just a thing nerds put around their waists when they wear their backpacks.” My battle between nerd-dom and back aches lasted about 17 seconds.) I found this beauty on sale (thank goodness! no way was I ready to pay 100 bucks for a backpack) and wore it out of the store. (Not really. Okay, yes really. I’m trying to cut down on my plastic bag consumption.)

Anyway, I ended up not getting any big sunglasses. I just didn’t have the time.

That, as you’ll soon see, was a mistake.

I went to my first class yesterday morning, 3-Dimensional Design, excited, nervous, and about five minutes late. I walked in, and it was an art room (hey, Einstein!) so there were no desks, just an open area with students sitting on metal stools. Everyone, of course, turned toward me when I opened the door (which leads directly outside . . . no indoor hallways) so I smiled and said, “Um, hi.”

“C’mon in, have a seat,” the teacher said.

Except there weren’t any. Seats, I mean. At least on the entrance side of the room. They were all stacked on the other side, through the haphazard circle of everyone else sitting on their metal stools. And, though I love my backpack and it’s weight distribution properties, it is kind of big.

Before I could worry too much about it, though, this young man with a shaved head and a big diamond stud in his ear (I think it was fake), stood up and crossed over to grab me a stool.

Oh! How very gentlemanly. (Or possibly he just has respect for his elders.)

It was nice of him and I settled in to enjoy the reading of the syllabus. Before much longer, we were pairing up for lockers and I just asked the first person I saw if they wanted to share. He happened to be quite young with long-ish very messy hair, and appeared to have no clue what was going on, possibly having slept through the entire ‘Intro to this class’ lecture. “What class is this?” he asked me. “Art 120?”

That will be interesting, I’m sure.

After locker sign-ups and a tour of the supply cupboard, we broke into groups to make three-dimensional art with whatever furniture we could find in the room. In the midst of this activity, where my group and I managed to make an easel look menacing and ready to attack some poor stools, the door opened, bringing with it a rush of cold March air.

A young man walked in, scanned the room briefly, then walked straight up to me.

“Excuse me,” he said. “I left some paintings here to be graded at the end of last quarter and was wondering where I would find them.”

In my mind, I was thinking, “Why is he asking me?” Out loud, I said, “I don’t know,” just as the dots connected in my brain.

He thought I was the teacher.


I hadn’t been back to school an hour, and I was already being mistaken for the teacher. I laughed about it the entire day.

The thing is, I am old enough to teach college. I just don’t feel like I am.

But apparently I look it.

Will it look odd to wear sunglasses during class, do you think?

On Tap for Today (or My Kids’ Mom Goes to College)

29 03 2010

I’m going back to college.

Starting tomorrow.

My stomach feels funny.

Here are a few things on my to do list:

  • Buy a notebook (new!)
  • Buy a backpack (not in hunter green–I’ve already had that one for 15 years)
  • Buy some big sunglasses (so the other students won’t notice my wrinkles)

Wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it.

Very Punny

17 03 2010

A couple of nights ago, just as we were sitting down to dinner, Zack looks over at Colby and says to me, “That kid has a serious case of . . . ” [hands clasp under chin, head tilts slightly] ” . . . AW-tism.”

He’s totally right.

Lucky Tableware

15 03 2010

Growing up, we had some of those great plastic glasses, like the kind they have at pizza restaurants (except ours were navy blue instead of red). One of them got chipped and cracked along the top. Whenever the broken cup was plunked above our plate, we kids would complain to the point where my mother wanted to slit her wrists (she didn’t actually tell me this, but, having had a similar experience in my own parenting, I’m extrapolating), so she came up with a brilliant idea.

The cracked cup nobody wanted became The Lucky Cup

If you had The Lucky Cup at breakfast, good luck was yours for the taking the rest of the day.

Unfortunately for my dear mother, the fighting didn’t stop . . . it just switched to wanting the chipped cup instead of despising it. O Fickle Youth!

Imagine my surprise and delight when, after heating up my leftovers-as-lunch, I grabbed this from the drawer:

The Lucky Fork!

The Wheat Free Life

13 03 2010

A friend from Boise contacted me the other day to share her new blog, The Wheat Free Life. Michele is the wife of a former bishop of mine, back when I was going to Boise State University. They became wonderful friends, and many happy hours were enjoyed at their home and cabin.

As one of the many people who contacted me and offered advice and encouragement after Zack’s celiac diagnosis, Michele has always shared her wonderful recipes freely. (And let me tell you something–she is a great cook!) Now, with her new blog, even more people can benefit from her extensive recipe testing and wheat-free knowledge.

Here’s the link. Happy eating!

River Thoughts

11 03 2010

I had this great post all worked out in my head about the book I read while sitting on the riverbank and the things I realized as I was doing it, but then the next day Colby had his bloody nose episode. Naturally, I had to write about that. As the days have gone (sped) by, there hasn’t been much downtime for me to get back to the things I learned the other day.

(This, as you will soon understand, is kind of ironic.)

Camille Fronk Olson is the author of Mary, Martha, and Me, subtitled Seeking the One Thing that is Needful. I’m really not much of a non-fiction reader. I readily admit that I had this book for three months (one month original checkout, and two renewals) and had hardly cracked it. When I saw it was time and past to get the book back to the library, I took it with me down to the river.

(As an aside: have you heard Alison Krauss sing “Down to the River to Pray” on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack? I really like it, and MoTab has a version of the same song on this cd. But I digress.)

One of the problems with non-fiction is it takes me so long to read. There’s none of the plowing-through-to-get-to-the-end-of-the-story business. Non-fiction, by its very nature, is made for pondering. So while Mary, Martha, and Me is a slim volume, it took me longer than I would have expected to read.

I can’t do the book justice in a review because I didn’t take those kinds of notes as I was reading it. What I do want to share with you is the idea of balance that the author sets forth. I have always read that story of Mary and Martha as being quite two-dimensional: Mary chose the right, and Martha chose the wrong. As I read this book and thought about it more, however, I realized a few things.

One: Christ never said Mary chose the better part. The Bible says, “One thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part” (Luke 10:42). Sister Olson (can I call her Sister Olson?) pointed out that ‘better’ is a comparative word . . . and it isn’t found in this passage.

Two: “Seeking the one thing that is needful” can involve both the way Mary does things, and the way Martha does things.

Three: God has a specific plan for me–just me and no one else. He knows me well enough to know what is best. I just have to ask and listen to discover what that is.

There was an example that struck me particularly, and what I ended up drawing while I sat and pondered. In talking about Mary and Martha, Sister Olson cited the parable of the olive tree found in the Book of Mormon. The branches were taking over the roots, or the roots were taking over the branches–and the result was a diseased, unhealthy plant. Only when the two–roots and branches–were balanced did it flourish.

She compared the branches to service, to meals given and favors granted. She compared the roots to scholarship, to thinking and pondering about the scriptures.

In my mind, I started thinking of the two things as doing and being.

If we are so busy doingdoingdoing that we have no time to simply be, the frantic pace will make us topple over.

If we are so busy thinkingthinkingthinking, we lose touch with other people and the sweet blessings from serving are lost as well.

I drew three threes, one with tiny roots and overarching branches, one with a stumpy top and a huge root system, and one where both were pretty much equal. There’s a symmetry in a good, healthy tree–and not just in the pleasing way the branches seem to know right where to sprout to keep it balanced. The roots mirror the branches. Trees need both the roots and the branches: the roots to obtain water and nutrients from the soil, and the branches to absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide and turn it into food. (I love trees. I loved them even before I moved to Washington.)

We also need both: we need the doing part of life, where we lift, encourage, and support one another.

We need the being part of life, where we find the quiet places inside us and listen to what they’re saying.

Sister Olson points out that there is no one right way to go about it, but there is One thing that is needful. When we stay focused on that One thing, everything else balances out.

One Reason Not to Clean Out Your Bag

5 03 2010

Today after Colby’s speech therapy, we headed over to the community college to pay my tuition for next quarter.

[Digression: At Christmastime, my mom said, “What are you going to do?”

Me: Well, I got accepted to the community college.

Mom: Good for you!

Kind Brother: Mom. It’s community college. Everyone gets in.

Thank you, Kind Brother, for bringing the rain. Where’s the parade you’re going to ruin?]

The sun shone on our unjacketed shoulders as we walked (since, of course, I parked on the exact opposite side of campus as the Cashier’s Office) past pockets of Asian youth crowded around the ashtrays, around strings of Asian girls (all very thin), and some old men sitting on a bench. One of these old men was making balloon animals (?–I know), and motioned us over, seeing as how Colby was the only being under 18 within the campus boundaries.

He made Colby an airplane on a stick (balloon). Colby and I were delighted and continued on our way.

As we rounded the bend (me trying to memorize the map the kind young man gave me at the first [and wrong] building we went to), there were stairs heading down and stairs heading up. Colby veered toward the stairs leading down, so I said, “No, Colby. We’re going up.” He looked up at me, swinging his long balloon around in one hand, and started to follow.

Just then, a student walked passed. Colby turned his head to look while still walking . . . and tripped. He trips quite often, actually, but this one was much worse than usual (on concrete) and he was still trying to hold onto his balloon with one hand.

He smacked his face, hard. I have never seen a nose begin bleeding so quickly. I was cool, calm, and collected. Colby was screaming, blood was streaming down his face, and people were walking by in an uncomfortable manner. I grabbed my backpack, unzipped it, and found a tissue.

One, solitary tissue.

I tried to hold it to Colby’s nose, which he didn’t like at all. He pushed it away, spreading blood up both his arms in the process. A girl came out, saw us, and said, “I’ll go get some wet paper towels.”

A few seconds later, another girl stopped and dropped a big wad of napkins on my bag. She kept her distance, but asked if there was anything she could do. No, no thanks, but I appreciate the napkins, I said.

The paper towel girl came back, and a young man offered his assistance. I declined, but with gratitude, and he said there was a nurse’s office just up the stairs and around the corner.

People were still streaming past, Colby’s nose was still bleeding freely, and he was still crying and fighting off attempts to clean him up. I eventually calmed him down enough to go inside to the restroom, where the paper towel girl helped us wash hands and face.

After thanking our helper, we went and paid tuition, then headed around campus the other way (so as not to have to talk to the balloon men and explain our bloodiness) to get to the van–which had a parking ticket under the wiper (of course!).

Poor little guy fell asleep on the way home, all tuckered out from the crying.

You can surely imagine how the stains looked when they were fresh and bright red.

I stuck the rest of the napkins in my backpack, where they will stay. You never know when you may need to staunch blood flow.

Down by the Bank

3 03 2010

Yesterday, I got the kids out the door to school and thought, “Phew. I’m going to finish my book.”

So I sat down and finished my book, and then I got online and started blog-surfing and playing Scramble on Facebook (my type of heroin) and before I knew it, the morning was over.

Gee, I thought. The morning is over and I haven’t even showered yet.

I took a long shower and wondered (not for the first time) why showers seem hotter during the day than in the early morning. (Haven’t decided. Is it the outside temp? The fact that I’m fully awake? What say you?)

I put on yoga pants even though no yoga was in sight for the rest of the day, then decided to ride my scooter down to the park. I put an apple and some string cheese (lunch of champions!), a book, a notebook, and my little camera (thanks, Mom!) in my backpack and rode my brake hard the whole way down the big hill. The park was still there (naturally), but I don’t think I’d ever been there before without any children.

 I steered clear of all playground areas on purpose, not quite sure if they would make me happy or sad. I tootled along one of the trails (an older man, walking with his wife, called out to me, “That’s cheating!”) and ended up at a sculpture. You know, the kind comissioned by the Arts council to bring culture to the city or something.


I like it.

I thought about sitting there and eating my lunch, but decided not to–it was wet. I rode on.

I decided to head up the hill, where a group of large rocks is surrounded by some lovely blooming trees. When I was within eyeshot, though, I noticed some guy talking on his cell phone up there. But it was okay, because the trees weren’t blooming yet, anyway.

I rode on.

I ended up next to the outer wall of the park.

Which isn’t so much a wall, really. It’s more like a crummy raised sidewalk. (And I say crummy with deep love.)

I couldn’t ride on it because it was falling apart, so I simply carried my scooter and went on my way.

I loved this bit of spring moss, which isn’t moss green at all. More like chartreuse.

Moss is very romantic, yes, but it becomes a scourge when it overtakes your lawn. (Firsthand experience!) I can certainly enjoy its springiness in the park, though.

It was about this point when I remembered the river. You might think a person, living less than a mile away from a river, would remember it more often. I think I forgot about it mostly because, whenever we go to the park, my number one priority is to keep my small children away from swiftly moving bodies of water.

I hopped off the other side of the wall and descended down the rocky side of the bank. (It’s a good thing I didn’t have a bike–I don’t think that would have worked nearly as well.)

The book I had brought was nonfiction, perfect for river reading. What is it about moving water? It sets a nice stage for contemplation.

I sat on a rock and opened my book. Now, let me just say that I am a fiction reader. I wouldn’t have picked this one up yesterday except it was due at the library and I’d already renewed it . . . twice. Since I’d already had my fiction fix that morning, though, it was just right.

I read.

I contemplated.

I drew a picture in my notebook, which could probably be described as a triptych if it had hinges. The first two parts were painful because I was trying too hard (you could tell) but by the third one I had loosened up enough for it to look how I wanted it to.

I ate my string cheese then took a self-portrait.

 (I’m kind of a dork.)

I thought some more, the river lulling me with its placidity. I ate my apple.

I dug through my pack to find my cell phone in order to check the time (I was volunteering at the school, and wanted to do my hair and change out of my yoga pants before going).

Yep. Time to go.

I tucked my books and phone and camera back into my bag, and thought about road trips and throwing apples out the window. I found a likely clump of grass surrounding a scrubby tree, and chucked my core that direction. Just as it left my fingers, a voice said, “Hi, there!”

I jumped about a foot.

Really, you’d have thought I’d been dumping a box full of styrofoam peanuts into the river the way my heart raced.

“Hello,” I said weakly. “How are you?”

In my mind I was telling myself not to be defensive, there was nothing wrong with sending an apple core back to nature. The lady turned and walked away.

It was really weird, and I decided I’d contemplated enough for one day.

I scootered (walked) up the big hill and went inside my house.

Then I did my hair. (Please don’t look at that picture of me closely. It is so scary.)

Lovely Letters

1 03 2010

I adore email. Since it came into my life as I started college (does that date me?), I have loved the option of writing my thoughts and having them quickly received as opposed to talking on the telephone.

(The telephone and I are not friends. Have I mentioned this before?)

However, as email has become more prevalent in daily life, I no longer expect the little “11” next to my inbox to connote eleven personal messages. Not likely. I’m involved with several online writing groups, receive sales info from more than one store, and alerts from the library when a book I wanted is on hold.

Convenient? Yes.

Personal? No.

My brother said to me about a year ago, “I don’t even get excited when I get emails. What I get excited about is a letter!”

Imagine my happiness this morning when I got the weekend mail and pulled out of the mailbox not one but two (2!) special letters addressed specifically to me.

I could tell they were for me even before I saw my names on them . . . because their stamps were upside-down.

Do you know the secret of an upside-down stamp?

I’ll tell you.

It means, “I love you.”

It’s a tiny little secret, that not everybody knows because–really, who writes letters anymore? Not a lot of people.

But my family does.

And they love me!