Friday, October 31, 2008


Well, here is the letter I received from the high school principal yesterday. It really broke my heart. Things are going downhill in this world, for sure, but at least I (and Josi!) tried to make our voice heard.

Dear Ms. Jenna Consolo,

I have received your letter regarding the play "Spring Awakening" and appreciate your concerns. Due to the mature nature of the material, the advisory was sent to the parents of the students who might attend this field trip, and it seems clear that, upon reading the advisory, you have decided that the material is not appropriate for your daughter. I respect your decision, and the right of every parent to arrive at their own decisions regarding this matter. However, not all parents agree with your decisions, therefore, the trip to "Spring Awakening" will take place as planned.

Just to clarify, general school funds were not used, for this field trip. Mr. Lawler, the teacher, purchased these tickets out of an arts grant. No general education state educational funds were used for these tickets.

I am sure that sometime in the near future there will be an opportunity for your daughter, to participate in a theater activity, that will be more to your liking. Know that you will always be notified of any theater activities that the students might be attending, and you, of course, will always have the opportunity to make a decision for your child.

I thank you for your concern for your child, and we will respect your wishes in this matter, regarding your daughter's non-attendance at this particular play.

Sincerely yours,
Diane Klewitz

Well, besides her love of the unnecessary, comma, I think she missed the point, of my letter. I already, know, that my daughter isn't going. I was speaking, in behalf of the other students, that I care about, too.

Oh well. It's a sad state of affairs.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dressed Up

Just for fun, a look back. Enjoy! (Hey this was like a Wordless Wednesday until I started typing, huh? My first almost Wordless Wednesday!) Maybe my husband is right. Maybe I just can't not say something!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Saved Again

Ah, Halloween. I've struggled with this holiday my entire adult life. Mostly for financial reasons. And snobby reasons. Like, I'd rather use the money spent on costumes and candy towards Christmas, and it's hard for me to be thrifty on Halloween because I can't bring myself to buy a pre-packaged costume. Something (genetic--thanks, Mom) drives me towards cute, coordinated, handmade costumes, rather than store-bought costumes. And that means lots of time, money, thought, and energy. All of which I'm perpetually short on.

Sometimes I just think the whole holiday is stupid, and I've tried to find a way around knocking on people's doors begging for candy. For a few years, the kids did not go Trick-or-Treating. Instead we took them into the woods, had a campfire, ate candy, roasted marshmallows, sang songs, and decorated Giving Trees for the animals with apples tied to strings and peanut butter and birdseed covered pinecones.

One year, my husband and I just had our own Harvest Party with the kids, and then later, when I was involved in the homeschooling support group, we organized huge Harvest Festivals for the kids, complete with pony rides, square dancing lessons, and bobbing for apple contests. And a real-life fiddler. Gotta have a fiddler. (And look how my kids are cheating in both of these contests!)

I've sewn umpteen costumes. Panda bears, dragons, children's fairytale characters, medieval ladies and knights. Unfortunately, I've had to sell them all off either to scrape together money for other things, or to decrease the surplus population of boxes when it comes to moving time.
One positive thing about being divorced and sharing custody, is that we also share the holidays, so every other year I don't have to do the costume thing. Well, except we now have Conor. Last year, my sister-in-law, Sarah, saved Halloween and mailed out the monkey costume my mom had made for one of her kids. It was perfect.

This year I was really sweating it. As of last Friday, I had nothing together for the kids, and the ward Trunk-or-Treat was Saturday. But I've been so preoccupied with other more pressing things that I just kept pushing that nagging "need costumes!" voice to the back of my mind. I think I mentioned that on my sister's blog, and lo, and behold, a Halloween Miracle.

My glorious mother contacted me and graciously supplied me the funds to create Halloween this year. Thank heavens! I found a relatively easy idea in Family Fun magazine, and on Friday I scoured the town for the fixings. Saturday was spent putting it all together, and the kids were a hit at the Trunk-or-Treat. And they cleaned house on the candy, so I talked them into donating all the stupid candy (you know, the worthless, non-chocolate stuff) to give out on Halloween (re-gifting at its finest). I think the two older kids will stay in that night and watch a scary movie or something and the younger kids will hit the streets for a bit. I must say, I am grateful that it all worked itself out this year. Thanks to my Halloween-loving mother.

Here are the gnomes and the mushroom:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Toad in a Hole

Quick and easy breakfast idea:

I think my mom used to do this, and my kids love it. The best part is the buttered, toasted middle. Lightly butter both sides of the bread and then use a biscuit cutter to cut a circle from the center. Place them both, separately into a hot frying pan and add just a drop of olive oil in the middle so the egg won't stick and then crack the egg right into the hole. Cook it, flip it, eat it. I serve it with some fruit on the side.

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Project: Memories

Every now and then I reminisce. Maybe not in a good way, but I can't help it. I'm not having a good time with my ex-husband right now. He has become a person totally unfamiliar to me. I have a very hard time dealing with the negativity that I feel toward him, this man that I spent thirteen years of my life and had three children with. And a whole lot of dreams. Boy, did we dream. So, sometimes, to prevent the anger and hurt I feel at his current choices from taking over my psyche, and infiltrating every other area of my life, I try to remember the good times. I try to recall his good qualities, or laugh at an inside joke we shared, or remember some of the fun things we did together. I'm trying hard not to hate.

The other day I realized with great sadness, that though the new Adam and I have been married for more than three years, we have very few memories. Life has been very oppressive and trying, and mostly we're just trying to survive from day to day. Between our exes, financial distress, and the logistics of a new baby and blending two families, we've had very little "down time". This puts an added burden onto an already statistically-doomed marriage. (You know how they say second marriages fail even more often than first ones.)

Ironically, most of our happy times and good memories have taken place in bed. Now, now, I'm not just talking about that (but thank goodness for that).

Since Conor is the child that we have in common, we love to cuddle with him in our bed. He's our doo-doo, and we adore him. He absolutely loves being in The Mom and Dad Bed. He loves to watch movies, to eat snacks, to just sit with us. Sometimes after he's been put to bed in his crib, we miss him so much we have to go get him and bring him in for some cuddle time. It feels good to have him with us. He was, after all, born in our room, and he did sleep in our bed for his first six months of life. And besides the Conor time, Adam and I also like to have our little parties in bed, where we rent a bunch of movies and order some pizza or Chinese, and make a night of it. Sometimes we have Sudoku races, or some video game Family Feud or Jeopardy on the laptop.

But the point is, it might also be nice to have some memories out of the bed, and out of the house. Something we could take pictures of and look back at them and say, "Oh, yes, I remember that day! Boy, I love you." Some actual evidence of fun, because in the heat of the moment, when life is weighing down on us, sometimes I need some proof that I like this guy.

So, I'm on a quest to create some memories. Adam and I are so different that the challenge of finding things we have in common should prove quite interesting, and might actually make for a great book someday, but for now, the goal is to get out of the house at least every other week and do something together.

This last week, the only time we could squeeze in was a few hours on Saturday morning. No matter, I was so determined to get out of the house with him, it didn't deter us. Our first idea was to go bowling together (we've never done that!), but the league had taken over the lanes till noon, so that was a no-go. To the mall it was. We shared some Panda Express in the Food Court. (We both love Orange Chicken.) We walked around and Adam wanted to pretend that we had money and were clothes shopping for me. That was fun for a bit, but then became depressing, so we moved to pretending we were buying gadgets for him. We found our way into Brookstone. That store is fun. Everything you didn't know you needed. Since the place was empty, we each settled into side-by-side Shiatsu massage chairs and relaxed our stress-tightened muscles. We asked the sales clerk to take some pictures of us. Man, those chairs are amazing. If I had one of those, I might never walk again. I would just spend the rest of my life catheterized and sitting there getting acupressured, rolled, and kneaded. It was wonderful! On the way out, we each got a Cinnabon. Every marriage should at least have Cinnabon in common, and luckily we do. Divine!

It was a fun, carefree two hours, for about $16. And now we have a Memory. Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Alright, Already!

Blogland is amazing. All these friends I have, who apparently love me and care about me, and who have all sorts of confidence in me that sometimes I lack for myself.

Well, thank you. Your votes of encouragement and support literally brought me to tears of humility and gratitude last night. And besides the comments, I received several private emails, and a few phone calls as well. I think you all are wonderful.

I applied for school today. Glendale Community College. I have no doubt that they'll accept me, and I've lived here for more than 2 years, so residency is no problem. I'll be waiting to hear if they'll accept my former credits for some of those general ed classes. If they do, I'll have three Biology classes to take (yuck) before I can apply for the Nursing program.

I have no idea how I'll get there, but first things first, right?

Thanks for the push in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Too late to take the Plunge?

I want to do something more. I need to do something more. I feel too powerless, too helpless in life, and I want to live a life free from regret.

But I have this one regret that I simply can't shake. And I'll probably be crying as I type this.

Last Sunday, representatives from BYU and it's partner schools in Idaho, Hawaii, and the LDS Business College came to our Stake Center to present an education fireside. It was for students in grades 8-12 and their parents, basically with a tutorial of how to get into the various universities and what to expect once you're there. I learned a lot. And the whole time I was wishing that I was in grades 8-12, and that what I was looking at on that screen would be my imminent future and that I could be preparing for it with gusto, as I know my own children are now.

I make no bones about it. I should have gone to school. I had the grades, I had the ACT score. I had the acceptance. I even had some scholarship help. I should have gone. I wish someone had pushed me. I wish I knew then what I know now. I should have gone. I will not allow my daughter to make the same mistake that I made.

Sure, I'm proud of the things that I've accomplished even without school. I've been blessed with many opportunities that I don't feel worthy or deserving of. I'm grateful that I have spent my years as a mother, and I do not regret that. But I should have gone to school. I want it so badly that it consumes my thoughts many days. Is it possible for me to go back in time, in a way, and catch up? Can I go back and fill in that chapter of my life? Sure, it won't be entirely the same, especially socially, being in my mid-thirties and married with 4 kids and all, but I think all that considered, it would still light my fire in a way that I need.

Education is so important to me! I've dedicated 11 years to homeschooling my own children and hammering into their heads that they are each getting at least a Master's degree. Period. We learn and read around here like other people snack and breathe. And I don't discount the learning that I continue to do personally, but I want more.

And life is so uncertain. I've been a single mom with no real job skills to speak of. Now, I'm a married mom who has tried her best to shoulder financial pressures with her husband who struggles against a weak economy and a slow job market, with no steady employment. So I teach piano. I bake cakes. I write. And I wish I could go to school.

I want to get an RN. It hit me two weeks ago. I could be a Nurse! There is a nursing shortage, especially in CA and nurses are paid very well here. After finishing up prerequisites (which if the college will accept my classes from eons ago, I will only have three more to take before I could apply to the Nursing program), the program is 2 years. Well, I'll still be here in 3 years, and probably still struggling. Maybe even more so. Life is so uncertain. I don't like the fear and the helplessness I feel inside. I want to do something about it, for me. For my family. For my children. I know the road would be long and hard, and I know the competition is very fierce, but another goal I've had "down the road" is to be a midwife, and an RN is the foundation of that goal as well. I think I should do it. I want to do it.

But I don't know how. Yet.

I don't have a car. Public transportation is not an option. Even the college website says that. I wish I had a car. I miss being able to drive my kids places, or go somewhere as a whole family. (Ah, the beach! The museum! Sean's soccer game!) It's one of those awful vicious cycles. You need money to buy a car, but you need a car to seek more money. I see lovely minivans and those hefty Suburbans and I send my positive energy out there that somehow, in some way I will be able to have a vehicle to drive my children around, and to get me to and from school. (Heck, to evacuate in case of a fire, like we were threatened with last week! Or in the event of the looming "big one"! All so scary to consider, when you know you couldn't even fit your children in the car, let alone supplies and important things if you suddenly had to leave.)

I go to the college website and browse around. Glendale Community. Great nursing program. Not too far away. I'm sure I could get financial aid. What if I could be a nurse? It's exciting for me to even think about! I could work in obstetrics, or a burn unit, or in surgery. Would someone hire an almost 40 year old nurse? Is it too late? I want to be helpful. I want to be a blessing. I want to know that no matter what happens, I'll be okay.

I'm really toying with the idea of filling out an application to see what happens. Maybe I need to take that leap of faith and trust that a way would be provided. Aaaagh! Scary!

Monday, October 20, 2008

You Win, I Win!

Congratulations to Holly over at 2 Kids and Tired for winning the new autographed Hilary Weeks' CD! You will love it, Holly! Send me your mailing address, okay? And everyone who wasn't chosen, please go buy a copy and support Hilary! You won't be disappointed, I promise.

Oh, and thank you to wonder woman, who awarded me this darling blog award last week over at her blog! It's so pretty! I must now share it with:

Hannah-because her cakes and her garden are award-worthy and her creativity is off the charts.

Abby-because nobody takes self-portraits like she does, or has such a flair for baby photography.

Sarah-because her scrapbook pages blow "creative" out of the water, and her Monday dinners are so delicious

Tara-because I saw pictures of her house and I know she's just like her mother and everything she touches is divine, beautiful, and perfect.
And my Mom, who really needs this blog award because she IS creativity incarnate.
(Hey, you winners, all you do is copy and paste the award into your own blog and then pass on the love to someone else, however many you wish! Remember to put it in your sidebar too!)

The rest of you are fabulous too, and I'm sure an award is coming your way soon!

Friday, October 17, 2008

On Raising Cain

As a child and student, I remember being mortified many times by my mother's Letters. She was not afraid to let her voice be heard, to start petitions, to effectively "raise Cain" if needed. One of her favorite things to get ruffled about, as I recall, were the song choices by our elementary school choir teacher, Mr. DiMenna (affectionately nicknamed Mr. Demented, of course. His massive comb-over didn't help his cause any, nor did his Sansa-belt polyester pants.) He liked the 4th-8th graders singing songs that had lyrics like "lying next to you here in the dark". I would have been steamed too, but nevertheless it was still embarrassing to have to take her petitions around to all my friends' houses to see if their parents would join the cause.

I've written my fair share of Letters too, carrying on in her tradition. Maybe the fact that I got Letters from her and Italian from my father makes it near impossible for me to keep my mouth shut. And this latest episode at my daughter's high school is a real doozy, for sure. I appreciate so much the support you've given me, and I took the dear talented Letter Writer Supreme Josi Kilpack up on her offer to help draft a letter. She got right on it. I only tweaked it a tiny bit, and then personalized them for each recipient. The letter from yesterday's blog post was merely a theatrical effort to dramatize for the blog's sake. I know enough to not hit below the belt with name-calling.

So, without further adieu, here is the letter that I sent to the principal this morning:

Dear Principal Klewitz,

On Wednesday, October 15, 2008, my daughter, a freshman at Verdugo Hills, received a permission slip asking parental approval for her to attend “Spring Awakening” with her dance class, taught by Mrs. Weber, on November 5. The field trip, as I understand was initiated by the drama club coach, Mr. John Lawler. The permission slip gave a brief account of the “controversial” play, stating that it might not be appropriate for all students.
I am an ardent supporter of the arts and strongly believe that a solid foundation in theatre, dance, and music gives my children a wider view of the world and helps them to tap into their own creativity. I expect that to be the same goal of the public schools they attend, and am therefore extremely disappointed that the teachers and administration of Verdugo Hills High School would feel “frank portrayals of masturbation, abortion, rape, and suicide” are acceptable for any student.
With all the beautiful and edifying mediums of art culture available in this area, it is impossible for me to comprehend why “Spring Awakening” was the venue chosen. It is far beyond the scope of “education” for students to be expected to properly absorb and interpret the themes presented in this musical. Never mind that they are children, but to watch such “frank portrayals” surrounded by other teenagers is not only inappropriate, but extremely dangerous as they lack the maturity to fully appreciate the consequences of things like abortion and suicide. Part of our job as parents, teachers, and administrators is to keep our children safe both emotionally and morally while they are in our care, and this field trip promises to do neither.
The point of this letter is to let you know, without uncertainty, that I am absolutely opposed to this trip, not only for my child, but for every student. Its explicit content is counter-productive to the goals of education that as parents, teachers, and administrators we have all pledged to be a part of. I hope that you will reconsider the trip and choose a more educationally edifying event to support through both student attendance and the financial cost of such an endeavor.
In closing, please be informed that I have sent a copy of this letter to the LAUSD Board of Education District 6 member, Julie Korenstein; city council; and Governor Schwarzenegger’s office; as well as to the LA Times editorial office. I have also let Mr. Lawler know by email of my feelings opposing this field trip. I will be paying close attention to your choices in this matter as I evaluate what course of action I choose to take in the future.
Thank you for your time,


Jenna Consolo

And true to my promise, I sent letters to Mr. Lawler (the drama teacher who drummed up this whole idea), the LAUSD Board of Education, my City Council Member, Governor Schwarzenegger, and the L.A. Times. It's been a busy morning.

And I'm sure Lyndsay is, for the first time, grateful that I have a different last name than she does.

P.S.--Thank you, Josi! xo!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Permission NOT Granted

This is the permission slip Lyndsay brought home from school yesterday:

Field Trip Advisory for "Spring Awakening" November 11 (Advisory? Bad sign already)

"Spring Awakening" is a Tony Award-winning rock musical, based on the controversial 1891 German play of the same title by Frank Wedekind. Set in late nineteenth century Germany, it concerns teenagers who are discovering the inner and outer challenges of sexuality. The music contains frank portrayals of masturbation, abortion, rape, and suicide, uses profanity, and may not be appropriate for all students. Please discuss this with your child, and sign below if you approve of his/her attendance.

Ummmmmm, let me think. How about. . . NO WAY! 'May not be appropriate for all students?' How about any student!

Dear Los Angeles Unified School District,

Are you out of your ever-loving minds?! Good heavens, what were you thinking when you approved this field trip? Which one of you low-minded, permissive, filthy, despicable creatures was it that thought this would be the perfect addition to a dance class for 14-16 year old girls? With all of the beautiful and edifying art and culture that we are surrounded with, this was the one thing you thought they just couldn't miss? This was worth the cost of tickets and the $600 for the use of the schoolbus for the day? This was worth missing all the other classes of the day? Do you actually have children? Really? Do you really care about ours?

This is our tax dollars hard at work for the education of California's youth, huh? Despite budget cuts and educational crisis, this is the school district at its finest? How embarrassing.

Permission denied. You should be flogged.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hilary Weeks~ A Giveaway!

In 1997 I heard Hilary Weeks sing for the first time. Her debut solo CD had just been previously released, and she was performing at a fireside at my stake center in Mesa, Arizona. Her husband, Tim, was with her, and he did most of the speaking, with songs throughout sung by his wife. Next to Hilary, sat her little daughter, McKenzie, right up there on the bench next to her mommy, as good as gold. I thought to myself, 'what a lucky little girl to get to listen to this all the time!'

I became an ardent fan. I bought each CD as soon as I could get my hands on it, and learned the words to each song, most of them written by Hilary too. I was grateful that I had been in a place in 1997 where I could be introduced to her music, and I acknowledge God's hand in that blessing, because since then He has spoken to me many times through the words of her songs.

One particular time, in 2002, I was driving down a winding, mountain road coming back from my estranged husband's house, where I had just dropped off my three young children for the weekend. I had never felt so empty as I did driving back in the dark that night. I remember praying, frantically pleading with God to intervene in my life and help me to make sense of it all. It wasn't right that my babies were sleeping across town without me! It wasn't right that they now had Daddy's house and Mommy's house. None of this was right! And with an expression of my complete trust and reliance on Him, but a pleading for his strength to endure, suddenly, this song began from Hilary's CD:

"Why did this happen
Do you know what's happened to me
And heaven were you watching
Were you watching over me
'Cause the way that I've been feeling
Well I'm feeling so low
If You hear this prayer
And if I'm not alone
I need to know

I need to know You're there
I need something to hold on to
I need someone who will care
Carry me on
And carry me through somehow
Make sense of this pain
And show me the way

'Cause when the darkness comes
I'm a prisoner to my fears
Although I'm listening
The doubt is all I hear
But then I reach for Your hand
And feel You reaching back
And the light returns

And I begin
I begin to understand
My soul can feel the mercy
And love in Your plan
When I let go
And turn all the hurt and sorrow over to You
The burden is light
And trusting I find

Though the storms roll in
And the winds of change may blow
I know You let them come
So that I can learn and grow
And when I reach for Your hand
I feel You reaching back
And that's how I know
I am never alone.

It was a pivotal answer for me. I pulled the minivan over and wept. I could tell that God wasn't denying the hurt and the pain that I was feeling, but He was offering to carry it for me, walk with me, and that I wasn't alone, though I was driving by myself and going home to an empty house where my family should have been.

So, I loved Hilary even more. Many of her songs have touched me in similar ways. Through acts of the divine, I was able to meet her once at a Time Out for Women performance shortly after that experience, and share it with her, thank her for her gift. And then a few years after that, I had another opportunity to meet her again. She and her husband, Tim, invited me to their hotel room to talk, which we did for hours. She wanted to know me. And I came to love her even more. She is as genuine as she is talented. As beautiful inside, as she is out.

Since then, I've been able to attend, as her guest, several more Time Out's, to watch her work behind the scenes, to meet the other incredible speakers and performers, to eat with them, to talk with them, to learn from them. And I am more and more impressed with not only Hilary's music, but with the caliber of woman that she is. And funny to boot. So funny. So real.

Hilary's newest CD came out just recently. When our mutual friend, Angela, came out to CA on business, she brought me a signed copy from Hilary, and I was overjoyed. This is Hilary at her best. Her expression of gratitude in the front of the cover is so humble and touching. She knows from where her gift comes, and she truly seeks to be an instrument. I believe she is. It is so fun to get to know her newest "babies". I like to imagine the inspiration behind each song, and never fail to be amazed at how relevant each message is to my life too. She sings, and I feel it all.

The title song, "If I Only Had Today," expresses so poignantly what the important things to do would be, if today was all there was.

"I'd hold you and listen
And I'd let the dishes sit in the sink
I'd tell you I loved you over and over
And for once I'd just let the phone ring. . ."

Or, there's the beautiful "Just Let Me Cry", which if you're not already, you certainly will be crying by the end of it. (We girls always have something in our hearts to cry about! And crying feels good, and we need it!) I love the line that she wrote that says:
"When I agreed that God could put this heart inside me
I understood that there was a chance that it would break. . ."

I believe that. I believe we took it all, knowingly, because we knew it would be necessary. And worth it.

Oh, my gosh, nobody writes or sings more beautifully or personally about the Savior than does Hilary. Every time she writes a song about Christ, I think, well, she certainly can't top that. How will she ever find another way to say all those amazing things about Him? But she does. Every time. Which tells me she must know Him, and have the relationship with Him that comes from experience. "Tender Behind the Mercy" is so beautiful:
"He's the tender behind the mercy
The unconditional in love
And when I need forgiveness
He's the Redeeming in Son. . ."

There are so many gems! I love them all! I can't wait to hear her sing them live, because you think the CD's are good? You should be there to hear her sing them in person any and every chance you get.

Well, so here's the deal. You can tell I adore Hilary. I want more people to love her and to be blessed by her talent and her spirit. I asked her if she'd be willing to let me give away an autographed copy of her latest CD and she was all for it! (Because she's generous and cool like that, and she loves to party!), so if you'd like to be entered into the drawing this week, leave me a comment on this post, and on Sunday I'll draw a name for the winner of "If I Only Had Today", signed just to you. You lucky, lucky duck!

Also, please hop on over to Hilary's website, where you'll find all kinds of good things and her blog too! Say hi! And good luck!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sweetness. . .and a Winner!

If you love someone, give him Cheetos. Always a good mantra. (Don't ask me about the headband, that was his idea, but it does match!)

If you really want to do something kind, bring me a bowl full of pomegranate seeds (all the work done!) from your backyard tree. Just to be friendly. Thanks, Maritza! Holy cow, are they sweet and delicious!

Food storage makes me happy. Today we picked up our first order from our food storage co-op. That's 4 buckets of hard white wheat, and 2 buckets of rolled oats. It's a start, anyway, and progress is good. Now I just need a NutriMill wheat grinder.

And a winner of this sweet Cupcake Dress? (Drum roll. . .) I am so excited!!! I'm so excited!!!


I wanted you all to win, but I'm thrilled that Hannah's name was drawn! She's my fabulous cake-baker-decorator-Coupon-Queen-of-a-sister! Oh, Hannah! Yay for you! Bella will look so cute in that dress! I'll give Ale your address and have her send you one out! And everyone else, thanks for entering! Go to Ale's site and buy something fun! She's wonderful! And thank you, Ale!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Full Circle

My oldest, and certainly one of my dearest, bestest-ever friends called me on Monday. Her voice was soft as she said, "Jen, I think this is it."

Every woman knows. Labor. The blessed day had come.

She's Jenn. Like me, Jen, only with another 'n', which makes sense because she's a lot taller than me. Two peas in a pod, we were, friends since age 8, both with brown hair and freckles. So many of my childhood memories include her. She was always there.

And we grew up, but never apart.

We were supposed to go to the Y together, but she left, and I stayed behind. And then I got married. She couldn't be there. But she found rides from BYU for almost every Thanksgiving for the first several years of my marriage. She loved him too, for me. I had my first little baby girl, and we flew to NJ when she was 5 months old. Jenn held my baby. She loved her too.

Then Jenn left on a mission to Costa Rica, and I wrote to her nearly every single Tuesday. I was pregnant with my second child, and she was teaching the people of Costa Rica about Jesus Christ.

My parents divorced. Her parents divorced. We both felt our worlds rocked. Her parents were a part of the background of my life, and now, even if I'd gone home, to the ward we'd grown up in, it wouldn't be the same. Ever again.

When she got home, we still never let too many years pass without visits, mostly her to me. She finished school and graduated and found a job teaching. She traveled abroad and had exciting experiences. And then I was pregnant with my third baby, and she came and held my belly and marveled. She helped me paint the nursery and stencil Noah's Ark around the walls. She gave my husband and me tickets to Alaska to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We'd always wanted to go, and so we planned to go the following summer, when the baby would be about 6 months old, and the other two 6 and 4 1/2.

A year later, my husband left me. After more than ten years together, she was broken-hearted too. She'd loved him, but she loved me more, and my hurt was her hurt. We've always had that kind of connection, despite the miles.

She found a great guy. A really great guy who loved her, and was willing to go the distance, and she married him. I couldn't be there, because I was getting married for the second time that very same weekend. Now we share anniversaries! (Someday that will mean something cool, and we can go on a trip together or something.)

I became pregnant with my fourth child, and she came and held my belly. Listened to my baby within. Felt the jabs and the squirming life. And when he was born (just missed being there for the birth!), she came and held him, and because he was part of me, she loved him instantly. I watched her caress his cheek. I watched the way she held him, the way she looked at him.

And I wanted her arms to hold her own. I wanted her heart to burst.

And now it was time. Labor.

I wanted desperately to be by her side, but circumstances did not allow, so after a pregnancy of shared experiences and questions through phone calls and emails, I was able to be with her on the other end of the phone as she breathed through those surging waves of contractions, bringing forth her firstborn.

I couldn't help but feel the spirit of the event. Birth gets me every time.

"You're a queen," I told her. "Look at what you are doing. Your body is literally performing the measure of its creation in this very instant. You are a queen."


"And think of the sacredness of this moment. Your little boy, is at this time, saying his goodbyes to all of his loved ones in heaven, ready with anticipation and probably a little trepidation for his mortal experience. The veil is so thin. Maybe he's there right now with his siblings-to-be, and he's saying, 'I'll see you soon! This is it!' Maybe the Savior himself is giving him a farewell kiss. You are both having the most powerful experiences of your existences up to this point right at this very moment, simultaneously."

She's crying. So am I. But it's all good. Breathe.

"You can do this, Jenn. You are stronger than you know. Your body is wise and knows just what to do. Don't forget to marvel at its power and strength. It was created to do just this. You are doing it. I love you."

She needs to go to the hospital soon. And just a bit later, she calls and she says, "Jen, he's beautiful."

As I knew he would be. And now her heart is bursting. As I've wished for her for all these years. I remember vividly that first day of motherhood. And the second. And the third. And now, fourteen years plus down the road, I wonder what I'd do differently, what I've learned along the way. I can't possibly give it all to her. Maybe a bit here and there, but it's her journey, and I wouldn't spoil it for her.

For now, her heart bursts with love (and her body aches, and she can't shower, or go to the bathroom, and her back hurts, and sitting hurts, and she's oh, so tired, and her breasts are adjusting, and she has no time to herself. . .)

And my heart bursts in gratitude. Now, we are truly sisters.

Welcome to the world, Alden Michael. Boy, are you gonna love your mommy.

*Don't forget to enter the Cupcake Dress giveaway if you haven't already! You have until Saturday at noon!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Friend, Old Friend

I am appreciative to God for the friends that He sends to me, and I really believe that He sends them. I think about the pocketful of friends that I've gathered throughout my life and I see that each of them has been pivotal in shaping me, supporting me, inspiring me, strengthening me, and making my life more fun. I am lucky in that I have many really good friends, not just one or two, and that they are forgiving to the extent that they stick around in my life and become just as valued as my family.

I am not good on the phone these days. I'm barely hanging on to email, or blog-hopping. I rarely get to leave to travel to see my friends, most of whom live out-of-town, if not out-of-state. I simply am too busy with the tasks of motherhood and homemaking at this particular time. I am consumed with daily work. But my heart is never far away from those I love, and I'm so grateful that (I think!) no one holds it against me for being so out-of-the-loop these days. The great thing about a true friend, is that no matter how much time has gone by, when you finally are able to connect, it's as if not a day has passed you by. You simply pick up where you left off. It's wonderful.

I have a new friend in Angela. I met her a little over a year ago, simply by chance, through our mutual friend, Hilary, at a Time Out for Women event in Long Beach. Hilary is a singer/songwriter and was a performer at the event and had invited me to come as her guest since I live locally. Angela is also her friend, and lived in the same ward as Hilary and had tagged along with her for a fun weekend of Time Out. And since Hilary was on stage much of the program, Angela and I sat next to each other. And we ate together, and we talked. And we exchanged emails. . .and blogs. . .and the rest is history. She's awesome. I love her. It's wonderful to meet someone that you feel like you've known forever and just instantly connect with.
Angela travels with her work and one of the areas she visits is my neck of the woods in CA, so I was thrilled when she let me know she'd be in town and wanted to get together. I put the kids to bed and drove on over to her hotel, where she was stranded through a series of unfortunate events, without a car. We made a quick dash to Target, and then just went back to her hotel and talked for a few hours. Maybe she was disappointed at the lack of thrill involved in spending the evening with a washed-up, worn-out mom as I am, but I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in peace and quiet and talking. With a grownup. With a girlfriend. Nothing like it. She's great. You should go check out her blog and say 'hi!' She even brought me a copy of Hilary's newest CD, which Hilary had signed for me. I had been dying to get my hands on it, so it was a very nice surprise. Good one, Ang. Can't wait till you come out next time!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Giveaway! Cupcake Dress!

A very dear friend of mine, Alejandra (Ale) Kearl, is one of the hardest working, most creative, and inspirational people I know. She grew up in Chile and came to the United States to go to school, where she learned English, graduated, got married, and began a family. She has two of the sweetest, most adorable cherub-faced little boys you have ever seen. But as if that weren't enough, she began her own children's clothing business, all on her own, and she is flourishing here in Los Angeles and surrounding areas with her Baby Chic Boutique. Even celebrities like Helen Hunt and Bono have bought clothes from her, which she sews herself. And she's so nice, through and through. To prove it, she contacted me and asked if I would be willing to give away one of her darling cupcake dresses on my blog.

Would I? It would be my pleasure!

Ale designs all the dresses herself. I teach her oldest son, Nico, piano lessons, and Ale is frequently in the other room with her sketchbook figuring out next season's designs. Her fabrics are so cute, and her baby accessories are so. . .chic! Baby Chic. She offers adorable bibs and blankets which are all handmade, but also a variety of other must-have gear for babies and for moms in hot styles and colors. Even a Gift Registry! You must go check out her website, and then if you're ever in the L.A. area, make sure to find her boutique.

For this giveaway, simply indicate what size dress you'd like to win. The sizes of the Cupcake Dress run from 6 months to size 6/7 years. Go here for more pictures, and then leave me a comment with the size to enter! I'll draw a winner on Saturday from all the entries I receive until Saturday at noon, Pacific Time. Tell all your friends! You lucky, lucky readers!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Santa Letters

There are three kinds of broken hearts. There is the broken heart that comes from our own sins and misdeeds, when our actions leave us unsettled within and miserable. There is the broken heart that comes when someone else does something to us that causes us great pain and sorrow through no fault of our own. And there is the broken heart that simply comes from sad or tragic experience in life. However a heart breaks, the ache is real, and can have lasting consequence. But it doesn't have to.

The Santa Letters, written by Stacy Gooch-Anderson, tells the story of Emma Jensen and her four children, who lost their husband and father to a hit-and-run driver and have never quite been the same. Emma is especially shaken because William was the love of her life, and she is now left to shoulder the burdens that come with emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially sustaining her family without him, and the tragic way that he was taken from her, at Christmastime, no less, has made it difficult for her to find forgiveness and healing. Her children feel her depression and her sadness, and as Christmas comes around again, the one year anniversary of William's death, the family has accepted the fact that there won't be much of a celebration this year. All except McKenna, however, the youngest Jensen child, who maintains a spirit of faith and belief in the magic of Christmas. She has asked Santa for her Daddy to come home for Christmas.

And then a letter appears on the doorstep. A beautiful letter, embossed and sealed with wax bearing the initials "S.C." The letter acknowledges the grief that the family has experienced, but offers hope in renewed happiness and peace. It is signed, "Loving always, Santa". And each day, for twelve days, packages and more letters arrive, inviting the family to recognize one of the gifts of Christmas, such as music, traditions, laughter, good cheer, and service, and including the items necessary for their family to enjoy togetherness, and launch them onto a journey that just may change life for the Jensen's.

I'm a sucker for a Christmas story. This one is easily sappy and sweet enough that as I read I envisioned a Hallmark Christmas movie being played out before me. It has all the right ingredients for tears, laughs, and some personal introspection, which is always the best part for me. It would make a great family read-aloud. I especially like that at the end of the book, the author includes a list of possible things to add to a "Santa's Survival Kit", which would make great family gifts to give at the holidays. Added to that, on the website launched just for this project,, there are sample letters to print out and other ideas so that you can be a secret Santa too, and bless another family the way that the Jensen's were blessed in the story. Great touch. I can see "The Santa Letters" being a really fun project idea for families that I'm sure will gain popularity as the tradition of the story spreads each year.

Broken hearts hurt. I've experienced all three kinds of broken hearts, and they all result in real pain. But I've also experienced healing, and the effects of it are so welcoming and soothing, that they change the way that life is viewed from there on out. The Santa Letters brought that gift of healing to the Jensen family, most appropriately at Christmastime, when we celebrate the birth of Christ, the supreme source of all healing, all forgiveness, and all miracles.

To learn more about the author, visit her blog here. Or, to buy the book, find it, among other places, here.

And thanks to Tristi Pinkston for asking me to review this sure-to-be classic!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Flying Lessons

I've succumbed. I can't stand it any more. I come in humility, stripped of my former arrogance, to Flylady for help.

I first heard of Flylady ( years and years ago on a homeschooling discussion board I participated in. Flylady is the answer to managing a home, a family, and a personal life. Flylady says that one of the reasons it is so hard to stay on top on housework and organization is because we women are perfectionists. We want to do it well and we want to do right, but since the opportunity for perfection rarely presents itself, we instead do nothing. And then we feel overwhelmed. And then we start to feel badly about ourselves, and say mean things to ourselves. And feel stuck.

Flylady wants me to fly.

I resisted Flylady because I told myself that I already know how to clean my house. My house isn't like those other people's houses. It isn't filthy or anything, just a little out of order. It could use some dusting. Some scouring. Some organizing. But people who come over think it's clean and tidy. It's really only me who sees where it isn't.

But, as it turns out, I'm the only one who matters. The condition of my home is a direct reflection of the condition of me. And I'm tidy enough at first glance, but I could use some deep-cleaning too. Some polishing up. Some TLC. Not just enough to get by. I give such extraordinary care to everyone else who lives here, and I let myself live off the scraps. I deserve better than scraps, I think. I feel happy when my house is clean and running in smooth order. I feel free and in control, and I want to feel that way again. It doesn't matter if my mess isn't as grand as someone else's mess. It's how I feel now compared to how I could feel that matters, and I know I'm falling short of the mark. I know the degree of calm that I'm capable of.

So, I joined Flylady yesterday. It's FREE! And it's slow, and easy, and positive, and cheerful, and nurturing. All things I could use right now to help me climb back on top of things. On Day 1 the only thing I had to do was shine my sink. With Flylady, it all starts with a shiny sink. Sounds weird, but she's right. How many mornings have you come downstairs to make breakfast only to be greeted by a sink full of dishes from the previous day? Nothing says cheerful like a shiny sink, it turns out. So, I followed the steps very carefully to have a clean, sanitized, shiny sink, and I instructed my family that no dishes are to be put in the sink. All dishes go straight into the dishwasher. The sink stays shiny. And Flylady was right! Just doing that one simple thing made me so happy, and so proud. . .and it was contagious! Because it lifted my spirits enough to fold the pile of towels that I'd thrown behind the couch when they came out of the dryer. And I liked the shine so much that I washed all the mirrors in the bathrooms. And cleaned the toilets. And when it was bedtime, I felt so good that I took the extra time to pamper my face, and floss my teeth after brushing, rather than the old, "I'll floss tomorrow" thing. I decided I was worth it.

And how pleasant to wake to a shiny sink this morning! Day 2? Get dressed, all the way, even face and hair. Not too hard for me, as I usually do that anyway. Keep the sink shiny. And who knows what else will naturally follow. Flylady will help me incorporate small routines, simple steps throughout my day, that will keep things flowing and orderly. I can't wait.

Suddenly, the mountain doesn't seem so steep.

I give you, The Shiny Sink: