Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The One With the Resolution

This is not a New Year’s resolution. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a clean slate… a fresh start… January one… just as much as the next person. But this particular resolution has been six years in the making, and if I must put a date on it, it would be November 24th, 2008. So I can’t really call that a New Year’s resolution. This is it: for six years, I have been resolving to make an album. A musical album, consisting of songs I have written. In 2009 it is going to happen.
Santa didn’t leave all my recording equipment and software under the tree, but that is okay. It has been some years since I depended on him to make my dreams come true. I am taking steps to equip my own studio. This album is going to contain no less than nine original Christmas songs (some of which you have already heard here on the blog in their rough form). I am working on new arrangements and writing new songs. I am securing just the right voices, and even a couple of amazing instrumentalists.

There is a part of me that would like to say, if I can just make the CD, then I will have achieved my goal, even if I don’t sell a single one. But that would not be truthful. These recordings are going to be as amazing as I can possibly make them, and I am going to market them in a serious way. That is my resolution. I am throwing my hat into the ring.

As I have begun this process, I have realized certain things about my music. Here is a startling one: every good song I have ever written has simply poured out in about five minutes flat! That is a very humbling realization. To receive that kind of inspiration, I have to be a more worthy person. My scripture study and prayer has to be more earnest…more fervent. It occurs to me that if I am really going to accomplish this daunting task, I have to prepare in a very unique way: I have to keep Christmas for an entire year. The tree has to go. The smallest spark, and mine would go up like Chevy Chase’s tree in “Christmas Vacation.” The reindeer…the Santas… they will all be packed away on January 2nd, just like every other year. But Christmas must stay. How do I go about keeping Christmas? Performing acts of service is part of it. A certain feeling toward others is part of it. I had some ideas, but last night a phone call from a close friend brought it all crystal clear for me. It comes down to one thing: Charity.

I think I may have found a New Year’s Resolution after all. What follows is my personal theme for 2009. It is the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians. In case you are an auditory learner, I have added one of my favorite hymns. It is just me, on the piano…nothing fancy. I can’t put any songs up for awhile, because I will be working on new arrangements and recordings. But don’t worry, I’ll be making it up to you with a really amazing CD in a few months. So listen...What are you going to do in 2009?


1 THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away,
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The One Where Hell Froze Over

Did I happen to mention that I spent the night in a snowstorm in Primm, Nevada last week? I know. It sounds like I'm making it up. It is a single week before Christmas. I have just finished playing for a large Christmas concert, and I am trying to make up for all the lost time, when DK happens to mention that we have to make a "day trip" to St. George, Utah. I think I maybe rolled my eyes at that point. I mean, a day trip to Utah? But he assured me that we would leave at 5:30 when the boys left for seminary in the morning, and we would be back by midnight that night. Six hours there, a few hours in a meeting, and then six hours home.

We pulled out of the driveway at 6:10 a.m. Forty minutes late is actually pretty good for us, when it comes to leaving on a trip. I packed a little makeup, a brush, some aspirin and some eyedrops in my purse. That was the extent of my luggage. As we drove down the street in the dark, I looked down at my four-inch black-patent heels, and thought, I probably should have brought some more practical shoes, just in case. Nah... DK said we would be home by midnight.

At 7:10, exactly one hour from home, we were driving through several inches of snow over the Cajon pass. One hour from Orange County, California... snow. A lot. Of. Snow. That was the first time I said, "KH, are you sure you want to do this???" That was the first time. I think I asked him that about twenty times before we reached St. George. (In case you haven't read the older posts, DK stands for "Darling Kevin," and KH means "Kevin Honey." I usually refer to him as DK, but it is often Kevin Honey, when I want something...)

We sat in our meeting in St. George for about four hours. About halfway through that four hours, it began to snow. St. George doesn't get a lot of snow, but over the next two hours, it got about four inches, so we headed out as quickly as our California tires would carry us. Don't worry, everyone said, as soon as you head south there won't be any more snow. Famous last words. We drove through several inches of snow in Las Vegas. I did not say it, but I was thinking it. I was thinking it really loudly: "I told you so...I told you so... I TOLD YOU SO!" Home by midnight, right, DK?

I called home and asked one of the boys to google road conditions for highway I-15. He told me it was closed at the state line. "Which state line?" I asked, hopefully. I'm not good with directions. Maybe I-15 was closed at the Colorado state line, or maybe the North Dakota state line. Montana? Wyoming? Nope. No such luck. Closed from Primm, Nevada to Baker, California. We were fast approaching Primm, and plowing through increasingly bad roads and driving snow. Everywhere we looked, trees were bent and broken under unaccustomed loads of snow. In Nevada.

Sure enough, when we reached Primm, we were immediately directed off the freeway... into a madhouse of stranded travelers and semi-trucks. There are three hotels in Primm, each with about 1200 guest rooms. So it should be easy to find a room. DK crunched through the snow at the first hotel while I sat in the car, calling the kids to tell them we wouldn't be home. As soon as he set foot in the casino he realized we were in trouble. There were at least a hundred people in line for rooms. It was 9:30 p.m., and we found out that the road had been closed since 10:00 a.m. Not good news. He went to the front of the line, and approached a man who had just been helped. He told DK that he had been in line for about six hours to get to that point. He said that customers without reservations were being charged the rack rate for rooms, which was over $200 per night, and that we would be lucky to get one at that price, because there were almost no rooms left. He handed DK a toll-free telephone number, and told him that he should call immediately for a reservation, even though he was standing in the hotel.

DK did not realize until after the man left, that he was very likely one of the Three Nephites... because he saved us that night. DK called the 800 number, and was told that of the three hotels, they had a handful of rooms left in only one. He said he could book us in a room, but that he would have to charge our credit card immediately. DK braced himself for the impact, and asked the price. The operator replied, "Well, sir, I can offer you our promotional 'Wednesdays in December' rate. That will be $5.00." DK wasn't sure he heard that right. Maybe it was a service fee. Or maybe they were charging by the hour. But no. He charged the card for $6.18, including tax! It turns out, that the hotel they booked us in...actually had no rooms. But they sent us to the third of the three hotels, where we were given VIP status, and had a room key within minutes. Between the three hotels, we saw at least 300 people standing in lines for rooms, who would no doubt be spending the night in the 20-degree weather in their cars, or on the floor of the casinos, while we watched the newscasts of the record-breaking snowstorm from our comfortable five-dollar room.

We had 12th-floor view of the freeway, where at about midnight, semi-trucks were beginning to line up on the freeway in anticipation of the 12-noon freeway opening the following day. By morning, there were thousands and thousands of cars and trucks lined up waiting for the opening. We pulled out of our hotel parking lot at about 10:30 a.m. after a nice steak and eggs breakfast, still doubtful that we would make it home that day. We were worried that it might take hours and hours just to get on the freeway. The Nevada state troopers were letting 1,000 vehicles at a time onto the freeway, with ten-minute breaks in between. At 11:50, a police car came around with a loudspeaker. "Please get in your vehicles and start your engines; we are going to put you onto the freeway first." We just looked at each other. Once again, we were the luckiest people in Primm. At 12:00 noon, the freeway opened. At 12:06, we were flying along at freeway speed...in the first 100 cars on the freshly-plowed road.

There is definitely a moral to this story. First, I'm not going to fall for that whole "day trip to Utah" ploy ever again. You know... fool me once, and all that. Also, I will probably be carrying my toothbrush in my purse for awhile. I will never go more than an hour away without some comfortable shoes. Although in my sexy black pants and high heels, I made some really interesting friends in the Primm Valley Casino. There was this one biker guy with gold teeth, some pretty sweet boots and awesome hair. Think Kurt Russell in "Escape From New York." We bonded. That was pretty funny, too... DK put me in the back of the line there while he passed the 100+ people to go to the front of the line, which is what DK does... my new friends all kept telling me that they had been there for hours, and it would not do any good to go up there, and I kept telling them that they just didn't know DK. Of course I was right, because half an hour later, the line hadn't moved three feet, and DK was back, whisking me off to the VIP line at Buffalo Bill's... ah, but I'm getting sidetracked. Sorry. The moral of the story is, pack a little bag. Even for a day trip. Because things happen... even when there isn't a snowball's chance in... well, you know.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The One Where She Didn't Get What She Wanted

Was there a new iMac loaded with extra RAM and a super-duper hunky-dory 500 gig hard drive, preloaded with Logic Studio and covered by three years of Applecare under my Christmas tree? I don't think so. Let me check through the dry needles littering the carpet under my dead tree just one more time. Nope. No computer. Not even so much as a teensy weensy flash drive. But not to worry... Christmas is not about presents. Which is evidenced by this wonderful collection of gifts that you may or may not have found under your own tree.

1. The Razorba Back Hair Shaver. Yup. It's a shaver for those tricky places you can't reach. I don't have much hair on my back. But I did know this guy who was pretty much bald on top, who had so much body hair that it was like a pelt. The fur poked out from under the cuffs of his long-sleeved dress shirts. It peeked above his button-down collar. I never saw his feet, but I picture something along the lines of Hobbit feet. I can only imagine how the Razorba could have changed his life.

2. Casserole Caddy. Yes, this little beauty carries your tuna casserole in style, and then doubles as a lovely placemat when you reach your destination. I actually found two of these under my own Christmas tree. Imagine my happy surprise! I have to guess that this is the basic, or generic model. I have a most quaint and picturesque calico version. What a
great idea!

3. The Hot Pink Nutcracker Sweater. This is only one of the countless Christmas sweaters with which
you could have been blessed this season. A beautiful specimen. You know you have a favorite at home in your closet.

4. "A White Trash Christmas" CD. This is one of those CDs that you will want to listen to the whole year through. Included are such classics as "Osama Got Run Over by a Reindeer" and "The Little Hooter Girl.

5. Finger Nose Hair Trimmer. I know... right? A trimmer in the shape of a human finger. Fun
and practical. I haven't tried this one out, but I understand that it is equally effective on ear hair. I was attracted to this one for so many reasons... not the least of which is, I think I know this guy. He lives on my street.

6. Ann Coulter Talking Doll. Push the button, and Ms. Coulter will deliver such witty one-liners as "Liberals can't just come out and say they want to take more of our money, kill babies, and discriminate on the basis of race," or "Swing voters are more appropriately known as the 'idiot voters' because they have no set of philosophical principles. By the age of fourteen, you're either a Conservative or a Liberal if you have an IQ above a toaster." Or, my personal favorite: "Why not go to war just for oil? We need oil. What do Hollywood celebrities imagine fuels their private jets? How do they think their cocaine is delivered to them?"

7. Obama Limited Edition "Batmobama and Robiden" Giclee. In case the Ann Coulter doll is not up your alley, this one is sure to please... My favorite part is Sarah Palan as Catwoman. This is a true original.

8. "Miss Vera's Cross-dress For Success" Guide by Veronica Vera. Didn't get one? Probably a good thing. This is only for that very special someone on your shopping list.

9. The Jitterbug. This one had to make the list. It is an oldster-friendly cell phone. It has giant numbers for the visually challenged. Operator-assisted phone calling... and the best darn jingle on TV. It's a must-have.

10. And in case you didn't save up any of your cash for any of those after-Christmas sales, here is a budget-friendly alternative. These little beauties are marked down to move quick.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The One With the Heartwarming Christmas Story

I can't deny it. I am a sucker for a sappy Christmas story. I can't help myself. I love "Gift of the Magi." What follows is a story from my first year of marriage, that is my own personal version of "Gift of the Magi." The only difference is, that my story doesn't really end with a moral. And, it doesn't involve gift-giving. Okay fine. It is not even heartwarming. But it is true. And pretty funny...at least in retrospect. And given the "Magi" reference, I will try to endow it with a moral, charm and heartwarming style, even if the story itself is lacking in all three.

It was the winter of 1984. DK and Victoria were poor college students. They lived in a cozy little upstairs condominium in quaint downtown Orem, Utah, furnished with nothing but love. Well, love...and all the wedding presents they received from two wedding receptions. Oh, and some pretty happening oak tables and a couch/loveseat combo in plush blue velvet. Despite the snow on the ground and the chill that crackled in the air, DK insisted on riding his motorcycle to school, so that Victoria could take their only car to work at the law office.

A word or two about the car: It was a two-toned Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Brougham Edition. Very posh. It only had one little flaw (well, besides the fact that it was two-door, and in the coming years would, most inconveniently, house three car seats. But that was not really the car's fault. We might blame that particular inconvenience on DK and Victoria, or on car manufacturers for not inventing the mini-van until about 1987, or perhaps more fairly, on the failure of every contraceptive known to man. But, I digress...). The Cutlass was a lovely, comfortable car, a joy to drive...until the temperature dipped below about 30 degrees. Then it had just one slight problem.

Victoria was driving home from work one early evening in the near-dark of that cold December. Beautiful lacy snowflakes fell, swooping away just before touching the windshield, and sparkling in the headlights. Suddenly a piercing sound startled Victoria, drowning out the Christmas music coming from the premium sound system. It was an awful blare, varying in pitch, deafening and unrelenting. The car horn. It was stuck. Victoria quickly pulled over, and began to pound on the steering wheel. After a few moments, relief. The horn shut down, and Victoria's heart rate began to settle back into the safe zone.

Shaking, she drove the last two miles home, and parked in her reserved parking place, there in the carport under the window of their little apartment in the hundred-unit complex. Victoria perused her pristine Pillsbury cookbook, looking for the perfect recipe with which to surprise DK's taste buds on his return home that night. She was barely halfway through Meat and Poultry, when a horrifyingly familiar sound reached her ears through the closed window...the horn was blaring away again. Victoria did what any rational person would...she hid. As the horn blared on for a full two minutes, she sat on the floor behind the couch, clutching the phone. She frantically called DK at his work. DK was a mature man of 22, and he tried to calm his young 20-year-old bride. "Go down and hit the steering wheel again...shut it down..." he encouraged. "I can't, " she replied rather shrilly. "I'm hiding right now."

DK arrived home at about 9:00 that evening, to find that our young heroine had moved the Cutlass out of the carport, and into a parking space thirty or forty yards from the condo. He was tired from work, and while he listened sympathetically to Victoria's description of her traumatic evening, in his heart, he could not quite believe that the sound was so terrible. The two of them fell fast asleep, huddled together against the cold of the night.

At 2:30 in the morning, Victoria awakened to the distant, but still startlingly loud sound of the car horn blaring. She pounded DK awake. "KH! Do you hear that? That is the car horn. You have to make it stop!" DK patiently climbed out of bed, put on his shirt, pants, shoes and coat, and headed out to the car. He pounded on the steering wheel and made the sound stop. He trudged back to the apartment, undressed and went back to bed. Only thirty minutes passed before it happened again. "DK! Please make it stop! It is going to wake the neighbors!" This time DK threw on his pants, shirt and shoes, and went out to stop the offending sound. By the time it went off for the third time at about 3:30 a.m., DK did not bother with the shirt and pants. He jogged down to the Cutlass wearing nothing but untied shoes and his Mormon underwear...

By this time, DK was tired and cold. He opened the car, ripped out the fuses, slammed the door and headed back to the apartment. Only this time, he was greeted by a whole welcoming committee of fellow residents, who had also been awakened by the repeated horn blaring. Victoria and DK's next-door neighbor asked if there was anything he could do to help. DK just stood there in his underwear, smiled, and said "No, thanks. It's all under control." Completely nonplussed, he marched past the onlookers, kicked off his shoes and went back to bed, falling asleep within moments.

Now, if there is a moral to this story I honestly don't know what it is. But I must observe that over the ensuing years, DK remained calm and steady under pressure, impervious to embarrassment. This calm did eventually rub off on Victoria, and having sons gradually rendered her insensitive to any small embarrassments, inuring her to all but the most profound humiliation. Gone are the days when she might cower in the dark because of a blaring horn. These days it would take, say...flames. We must not make light of that, either, since the family Suburban did actually catch fire in the high school parking lot one year (which event, while it did cause our heroine to flinch in embarrassment, was unquestionably the highlight of Casey's senior year).

We leave our young newlyweds, then, happy and snug in their little condo in Orem. There were many more cold Decembers to folow...but none with blaring horns, as DK and Victoria never could figure out how to replace the fuse in the Cutlass, and thus went hornless until 1989, when DK surprised Victoria with a Dodge Caravan. Romance is not dead. They lived happily ever after, at least for the almost quarter century since then... and at this juncture, DK would probably say, "25 years? Are you sure that's all? It seems like so much longer..."

I know... O. Henry does it so much better...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The One With Old MacDonald (Or Things That Go Oink in the Night)

All afternoon and evening I kept hearing music. I couldn't exactly place what I was hearing, but I ruled out angel voices pretty early on. It was definitely not inspiration...whispering a new song for me to write. You know how crazy you sound when you look someone in the eye and ask, "Do you hear that?" That was me all afternoon. As evening wore on, I decided it was someone in a neighboring home having a Christmas party, and I got a little grumpy thinking that it was going to keep me awake when I went to bed.

So as the poem goes, I in my kerchief, and DK in his cap, had just settled down for a long winters' nap, when out on the balcony there arose such a clatter... oh no! The sound was coming from my master bedroom balcony. It turns out that we were the bad neighbors keeping everyone for houses around awake. I rose up from my bed to see what was the matter, and there it was: Skippy's Fisher Price Old MacDonald's Farm. Yes, there was music. (Sing it with me... E-I-E-I-O!) But that was not all... no. Every time it played Old MacDonald, every animal on the farm was chiming in. There were pigs, horses, cows, chickens... it was awesome. It seems that Skippy had been playing with his toy there and left it. Yesterday we got about four inches of rain, and it brought Old MacDonald to life as though it was on the Island of Misfit toys. So DK brought the farmer and his animals inside and set them in the bathtub. End of story? NOT. It puts me in mind of the Happy Birthday incident...(Insert Flashback/Dream Sequence Here)

About 15 years ago, DK/KH got a birthday card, which we thought at the time was pretty revolutionary... when you opened it, it played "Happy Birthday to You!" We thought it was fun and inventive. Until one of the kids removed the small player from the card. Without the card to close, there was nothing pressing the little trigger that kept it from playing. So it played all the time. In the bottom of a toybox, where it would take half an hour to find. In someone's bed. Under your own bed in the middle of the night. I threw it away so many times, I can't even count. But to my horror, somehow it always found its way back into the possession of my children. Until one day, when one of them flushed it down the boys' bathroom toilet. That should have been the end of the story, at least for me. Happy Birthday should have been entertaining the rats and alligators. But no. Somehow the music box from Hades managed to get stuck in the toilet. I tried everything I could to reach it, but it played at random times for weeks and weeks. When it finally died, it was not a peaceful death...the kind where you just fall asleep and don't wake up. Oh, no. Instead, the music began sounding more and more as though it was being sung by one of the drunken sailors in the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disneyland. "Happy Birthday to You." It was never a great song. But I would not mind if I never had to hear it again.

So, back to 2008. Bedtime. DK assured me that it must have been one of the kids making the farm music play, because look... there it is in the bathtub, all innocent, not playing at all. So we settled back in for the aforementioned nap, and had no sooner closed our eyes, when the barnyard went crazy. It was like a hoedown in my bathtub, what with all the music and animal noises. DK scrambled to remove the batteries, only to find that they were housed behind a panel attached by screws. The really tiny kind that you need a special screwdriver to open. It took a few minutes and a couple of different toolkits, but DK managed to open it. I was standing by with a really big hammer, just in case. Because we will never have a repeat of the Happy Birthday incident. And with an oink-oink here and moo-moo there... I was tucked back into bed, with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. So Happy Christmas to all... and to all a Good Night!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The One Where The Big Guy Helped Me With the Dishes

Tonight I was doing dishes at 11:30 p.m. I was using copious amounts of Williams Sonoma Peppermint Dishsoap. You probably think that is really wasteful of me to buy dishsoap at a high-end kitchen store. I do it because it there has to be one tiny little ray of sunshine in the whole dishwashing thing. It smells so good that sometimes I wash my hands even when they are clean, just so I can sniff the stuff. Most people think that clean dishes are their own reward. But you must understand that for me, dirty dishes are the worst job in the house. I would rather clean three weeks of mildew out of the shower than do dishes. I would rather scrub toilets. With my bare hands. I would rather scrub the boys' bathroom with my bare hands. No big deal, you say? Do you have five boys in your house? When you do, then we'll talk.

So, 11:30 p.m. dishes. Peppermint dish soap. Listening to my iPod. Christmas tunes. I turned to pick up a stack of dishes, and suddenly there he was. The big guy. That jolly old elf. Santa himself, in my kitchen. We're not talking about a cheap imitation mall Santa with alcohol on his breath and a fake yellowing beard and teeth. Not this one. He smelled of candy canes and pipe tobacco. I've never been a fan of smoking, but all in all, it was a pretty pleasant combination.

My first reaction was, "Quick, get Skippy! He isn't going to want to miss this." But Santa put a finger to his lips, shhh, and grabbed a dishtowel to start drying my dishes. Santa. He's on the list! You know, the list of famous people that, if they knew me, would be my best friends? It's not an idol list...there are plenty of people I admire that I know I wouldn't get along with at all. The ones on this list are the ones with BFF potential. Santa's right there with Tom Hanks, Matt Lauer, Amy Grant, Orson Scott Card and Gordon Ramsey. And do you know what? I was right. We totally hit it off.

He wanted to know why I was up at 11:30 doing dishes, when I have to be at a rehearsal at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow for a big Christmas concert for which I am playing. I told him it was the first time I've had all evening to do them. A friend called tonight and needed to go for a walk, and I went. The missionaries didn't have a dinner appointment, so I made them some soup, muffins and apple pie. A soloist needed to go over parts for the concert tomorrow, so I rehearsed. There were so many things to do, and so many places to go, that I was just getting to the dishes shortly before midnight. I expected a lecture about how I shouldn't overschedule, but I suppose Santa knows all about deadlines and fitting everything all into one night. So he just nodded sympathetically, and dried dishes.

We talked about my kids, his reindeer, gift lists, to do lists, and cookie recipes. I could tell we were working our way around to the big question. I can guess which one you're thinking: Why doesn't avocado come off in the dishwasher? I know, right? But no, it was the other big one: What do you want for Christmas? I had no desire to sit upon, nor did he offer, his knee. But there was the question, all the same. And my head began to swim with the possibilities. Visions of sugarplums were dancing. And I don't even know what a sugarplum is. I thought to myself, I have the actual Santa Claus right here in my kitchen, and he wants to know what I want for Christmas! New dress, new computer, look good in a swimsuit, movie tickets, a laundry elf (he has got to know some, right?), HD TV, a tummy tuck, laser hair removal (okay, that last one...I don't even know where that came from. No way I am going to let someone laser my hair follicles... and the one before that? I can see the headline now: MOTHER OF SEVEN DIES ON OPERATING TABLE...GETTING A TUMMY TUCK. I would be reduced to a cautionary tale. No, thank you). But even so, the list in my head grew longer and longer.

But then I realized a couple of things. First of all, that it was nice to have a little company while I do dishes late at night. Thanks, Santa. Secondly, there wasn't much that I want for Christmas, and even less that I actually need. That is a good realization.

I told Santa that he didn't need to worry about my friends and family, either, because it is one of my favorite things in life to give them gifts. He laughed at me then, and it was a quiet laugh. Good thing, since, everyone else in the house is snug in bed. But he still shook like a bowlful of jelly. He told me that was good, because a) I am 44 years old, and if Santa was dragging around gifts for people that old, that his sleigh would probably have broken down years ago, and b) I live in the same town as the "Real Housewives of Orange County." Apparently Santa doesn't visit any town that has that many people on the naughty list. "So I'm on my own? That is what you're telling me?" I asked. He winked and said, "Of course not. I'll still help you with the dishes." (I'm not going to lie...I think the old guy was flirting with me) And so he did. The last dish done and the counters all shined, I bent to start the dishwasher. When I turned around, he was gone.

Hallucination, brought on by the potent combination of stress, peppermint dishsoap and Christmas music? Perhaps. But I don't think so.

Yes, Victoria, there is a Santa Claus.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The One Where He Grew Up

This little song that I wrote, "Did You Know?" is so simple that kids seem to pick it up after only hearing it one time. That is part of what I love about it. The other thing I love is that it talks about Jesus, the grown man, not just the baby. I love the Savior and everything he has done for each of us. That is the true gift of Christmas. In the tradition of giving, I hope you enjoy this little Christmas gift from me to you. Vocals courtesy of Garry Pfile.

Did You Know?

Did you know when Jesus was a baby
That His mother laid him in the hay?
Did you know He slept among the oxen,
Safe and warm until the break of day?
Did you know He was the promised Savior,
Born to bring us love and show the way.

Did you know that Jesus was a shepherd,
That His lambs were people just like me?
Did you know that Jesus blessed the children?
Did you know He held them one by one?'
Did you know that Jesus came to save us?
Did you know that He was God's own son?

Did you know that Jesus healed the blind man?
Did you know He made the lame to walk?
Did you know He walked upon the water?
Did you know He calmed the troubled sea?
Did you know that Jesus loved the children?
That is how I know that He loves me...
That is how I know that He loves me.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The One Where Joseph Was Missing

I let Skippy set up this little nativity set. It was a good choice, as it seems fairly indestructible. Unfortunately, as I came to the bottom of the box, unwrapping and handing him each figure as I went, it became apparent that there was a missing figure: Joseph. Even the other nativity participants seem a little dismayed...just look at their facial expressions!

I have always been fascinated by Joseph. What would happen if Joseph really was missing? Where would Mary and Jesus have been without him? It wasn't an easy role he had to play. I am sure it wasn't exactly what he thought he was signing up for when he made plans to wed Mary. And yet he went on to personify grace under pressure. He must have really loved Mary, and he must have really loved the Lord, to respond to the call he was given and to protect them with all that he had. Don't you just love Joseph, when you think about that? I do. I wrote this song to be sung from Joseph's perspective. I apologize that it is about the worst recording I have...it was recorded live at a Christmas concert, and although you can hear vocalist Ric Starnes quite well, the piano sort of fades out. There is a fair amount of audience noise as well. But perhaps you can overlook that and just hear the spirit of the song.

Joseph’s Song

In a thousand anxious moments
I have seen this very night
I’ve imagined how I’d feel now
And I’ve wished with all my might
That I’d know you when I saw you
And I’d love you as my own
Though you’re God’s son born to save us
You’ll be mine until you’re grown.

In this city full of strangers
There is no place left to stay
But a stable meant for cattle
And a manger full of hay.
Not a place I would have chosen
For your long awaited birth,
But it’s quiet and it’s safe here
As we welcome you to earth.

Lay your soft head on my shoulder
Sleep until the night is done.
Hear my song and feel my heart beat,
You’re my little baby son.

I have seen how in an instant
Things can change like night to day.
From the moment you arrived
Life transformed for me that way.
When I held you for the first time,
Angels sang and shouted praise.
Then a new star burst from heaven
Bathing earth with silver rays.

When I gazed then at your mother
My heart swelled; tears filled my eyes
For her beauty burned like fire
As she smiled and soothed your cries.
In the glory of that evening
I fell on my knees to pray
Thanks to God for my sweet family
And this Savior come to stay.

Lay your soft head on my shoulder
Sleep until the night is done.
Hear my song and feel my heart beat,
You’re my little baby son.

Lay your soft head on my shoulder
Sleep until the night is done.
Hear my song and feel my heart beat,
You’re my little Jesus son.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The One Where Victoria Finds You the Perfect Present

Your troubles are over. You are going to be so glad I am the queen of infomercials, because I have done it. I have found the perfect gift for every single human (and some of the larger dogs) on your shopping list. It is called the Snuggie. It is a blanket...WITH SLEEVES! I am not going to lie...I have watched this video over and over and over. Every time I roll on the floor laughing. It is the best gift ever. No, really. Watch it. Witness the frustration that ensues when the lady in the regular blanket tries to reach for the cordless phone. It is classic. And don't cheat and stop watching before the end. If you do, you will miss the Jedi family. Yes, near the end of the video, there is a part where the whole family is roasting marshmallows...in their Snuggies... and they totally look like Jedi warriors! Oh, and I can totally see DK/KH and me doing that high five at the ballgame in our matching Snuggies. Now, I know there are those of you who will not see the intrinsic value here...for instance, Lisa, my "smart" friend (I have to call her that because she is 38 years old, and she reads at a 40-year-old level) points out that it is simply a bathrobe, worn backwards. Ahhh, Lisa, where is your Christmas spirit? 'Tis the season for gifts that come two for $19.95 and come with a free gift. The only question now, is what colors to buy...

The One With the Baby Piano

Stupid things I do when I'm distracted. Thursday I had a turkey in the oven (turkey? on the last Thursday of November? I don't believe in coincidence). About midway through cooking time I was feeling so in control of my fate that I decided to risk taking a shower and putting on clean clothes. I came down an hour later to find the turkey sitting in a cold oven. I apparently turned the oven off when I checked it before my shower. I tried to blame it on DK, but I know it was really me. This morning I wasn't feeling very well, but we are out of bread, and domestic goddess that I am, I realized that I needed to get bread made before the missionaries came home for lunch. I threw everything (well, almost everything) into the mixer, and sat down to check my e-mail for the six minutes it takes to make the magic happen. After six minutes, I turned the dough into the bowl, covered it with a towel, and placed it into a warm oven. Ten minutes later, it came to me in a flash...I didn't put in any yeast. That whole mound of beautiful dough...straight into the trash. Start from scratch. Couldn't blame that one on DK. This is a stressful week. What else am I going to do? Forget Skippy at kindergarten? Go to church with my skirt tucked into my pantyhose? (I actually don't wear stockings anymore...this is Orange County, after all. But I totally did that once when I was pregnant...let me tell you, it was super attractive!) When I'm under a lot of stress, it finds its way into my dreams. Sometimes I even go sleep-walking. The worst was a couple of years ago when the whole family was staying at the Hotel Monaco in Salt Lake City, and in the middle of the night, I went sleepwalking. Out of the hotel room. I woke up enough to realize that I was in a hotel, in my pajamas (thank you thank you thank you), and I didn't know what hotel, why I was there, or where my room was. Fortunately, as I woke up more, I remembered some details, and was able to find my way back to my room without providing amusement for the desk clerk. Sleepwalking. It is why, in a house with teenage boys and missionaries, we sleep fully clothed. Anyway, I can tell this week is getting to me... last night in a pretty graphic dream, I gave birth... to a piano. It wasn't a large piano, as pianos go, but come on...where is that anesthesiologist when you need him?

Monday, December 1, 2008

The One With the Baby

There is something about the night the Savior was born... the Christmas story... that first captures my imagination, and then transports me to that place and time. I have had some very sacred moments as I have studied and prayed to create Christmas music. Heavenly Father sent a Savior to provide us with an Atonement. But he didn't send him fully grown, clothed in power and glory. Instead, he sent him as a tiny baby, in the most humble of circumstances. I love to think of angels and shepherds together in a crude stable to see the baby Jesus. In an earlier post today, I found some humor in childbirth. I am grateful that there is some to be found there. But then the baby arrives, and it is profoundly moving to feel that powerful love you didn't even know was possible. So there, in Bethlehem, was a convergence of earthly, primal love for a tiny newborn baby, dirty and coarse surroundings, blood and pain...alongside heavenly visitors, a bright new star directly overhead, and in the center, the perfect only begotten son of a loving Heavenly Father: the most precious gift He could send, not just for Mary and Joseph's generation, but for every generation that ever did, or ever will, live on the earth. What story could be more compelling? This is a song I wrote a couple of years ago called "Mary, May I Hold Your Little Baby?" sung by Karen Lake.

Per request, the words:

Mary, may I hold your little baby?
Let me rock him while you sleep awhile;
I will keep him safe from harm.
Wrap my poor cloak around your shoulders;
I know that it is worn and old, but at least it will be warm.

Rest, now; when you wake I will still be here
Kneeling at the manger bed,
Watching o’er your little baby dear.
Mary, I heard you sing to your little one.
Even angels and shepherds wept at your lullaby to God’s holy son.
Mary, may I hold your little baby?
I believe that when he fills my arms,
My heart will be full too.

I know that you must be so weary.
There was not an inn in Bethlehem
That would take you for the night.
I came to see the little Savior.
I felt the Spirit whispering to come and feel his light.


Prophets have waited for a new star
To shine up in the heavens
To guide them to their King.
Look how it shines upon the stable,
Bringing rich and poor to worship him;
See the wondrous gifts they bring.

Rest, now; when you wake I will still be here
Kneeling at the manger bed,
Watching o’er your little baby dear.
Mary, I heard you sing to your little one.
Even angels and shepherds wept at your lullaby to God’s holy son.
Mary, may I hold your little baby?
I believe that when he fills my arms,
My heart will be full too.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The One With 50 Before 50

I was just on someone's blog who posted a "30 before 30" list. Intrigued, I began reading it, and realized that it was 30 things she wanted to do before she turned 30. Ick! That made me face the fact that not only is it too late for me to do that, but it is also too late to do a "40 before 40" list. The next horrifying step was to realize that I would have to do a "50 before 50" list. It just keeps getting worse.

At least I would have six years to complete it. But 50 things. I see that to complete 50 things, I would have to make some of them really easy, like "Run a mile without stopping." No, how about "Walk a mile without stopping." or maybe "Walk a mile without stopping more than six times." And honestly, I might have to cheat a little... I could pretend the things had been on my list all along, and check them off, like, "Have gray hair," "Start a blog" or "Spend eight years of my life lactating." See where I'm going with the cheating thing?

I read through her 30. One of them was "natural childbirth." And she had it checked off. Hats off to her. I came out of childbirth classes in my first pregnancy determined I was going to have "natural childbirth." I even read "Thank You, Dr. Lamaze." It was very enlightening. I thereby learned that it is possible to have painless childbirth, and that all the pain that people talk about was really just muscular exercise being misinterpreted. It made it sound a lot like doing abdominal crunches. I'm pretty good at those, so I felt pretty good about my chances. On November 26th of that year, when my baby was two weeks late, I had labor induced. My doctor was an enormous Polish man, with fists like hams. The first thing he did was rupture membranes, before he even started pitocin. There was blood dripping off his elbows by the time he was done. After eighteen hours of pitocin, when I was still only dilated to one centimeter and I could hear people whispering about a C-section, I was done. Bring on the epidural. I don't care anymore. And I have to tell you, that epidural was like a miracle. I was actually able to fall asleep for a few hours. I woke up about six hours later. It was November 27th, and guess what! I was fully dilated and ready to push. (By the way, happy birthday, Josh).

So with the next baby, I figured things would go much smoother, and I could do the whole natural thing. No drugs. Well, I had pregnancy-induced hypertension and was rushed in to be induced again. I was being carefully watched because they were afraid I would have seizures, and the labor went faster. At two centimeters, I told the nurse I didn't need an epidural, and so the anesthesiologist went home for lunch. About midway through his PB&J, I hit five centimeters, and I wanted an epidural so bad that I tried to get up and drive to his house, despite the gown that opened down the back and would not cover my hugely pregnant body. By the time that guy got back to the hospital, I was already curled up like a cat, ready for the needle. What does an epidural feel like? I like to think of it as being curled up in front of the fire on a cold night. A little piece of heaven. If I remember correctly, I may have named Tyler after him.

Third baby, I had learned my lesson. I told the doctor I wanted an epidural at three centimeters. I made sure the doctor had lunch brought in. By the fourth baby, I didn't even wait to tell the doctor. I told everyone I saw in the hospital that I wanted an epidural. The financial clerk at check-in was informed. I chatted up José, who wheeled me up to the LDR, to make sure he knew that I would be wanting an epidural as soon as possible. As the nurse started my IV, I told her I'll take that epidural now. Mind you, I wasn't even in labor at that point, since I was induced all seven times. Oh, and I also learned that the anesthesiologist would always ask you how you felt. The answer is, "Oh, it hurts bad." See, his goal is to keep the drug light enough to make sure you can still push when the time comes. However, my personal goal was to have absolutely no sensation from ribcage to knees. For several hours. Sometimes our goals were at cross purposes, so the answer to his question was always, "Well, it still hurts pretty bad. Let's have a little more juice."

Obviously, natural childbirth will not be on my list of 50 before 50. I also don't want to go in a hot air balloon. Or learn to cut hair, or build my own house. Or pretty much any of the other things on her list. Which is as it should be, since it is her list. Honestly, I'm not sure I want a "50 before 50" list. I have 50 things to do just this week, that I don't really want to do at all. I am getting tired just thinking about it. If I do make that list, I am afraid it is going to have things on it like "Get a pedicure," "Find the floor of my laundry room" and "Figure out what is making that smell in the refrigerator." Sometime before I am 50 years old. And you know what? Life is just too short to bring such low expectations to it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The One Where Goes She Goes Off On Safari

Two weeks ago I took my sweet little laptop to the Apple store because Safari, the internet browser, would not work. E-mail, check. iTunes, check. Internet browser, FAIL. They tried re-installing programs, re-installing the system, and those didn't work. So they replaced the internal hard disk. They said that would solve the problem. So on Monday morning I picked it up right when they opened. I brought it home, opened it up, and there was a welcome screen...in 36 different languages. Velkommen to your new hard disk... that was a very, very bad sign. It meant there was nothing on the hard disk. No data whatsoever. I'm not going to lie...I actually cried. DK was standing by, and he immediately called the Apple store, and miracle of miracles, they had all my data. We took the computer right back there. They said it would probably take about three hours to put it all back.

It didn't. It took 48 hours, and even at that, they were not able to put back the programs, just the data files. I was okay with that, since they saved my files. So this morning I brought the computer home, opened it up, and guess what doesn't work? SAFARI! What did I just go through this for the last two weeks for? The original problem is STILL THERE!!! (Sorry about the exclamation points. Let's just say that with all the frustration, I've fallen off the wagon).

Without any internet browser, I didn't even have a way to download an alternate internet browser like Mozilla Firefox or Netscape. I did finally come up with a plan. I asked DK/KH to e-mail me the installation program. It was 17 megabytes, and I didn't think it would even e-mail, but about 30 minutes later, there it was in my e-mail...and guess what! It worked. I am browsing... in Firefox. I don't particularly like it, but at least I am online. I am going to have to psych myself up for another round with Apple before long, but for this weekend at least, I am OFF Safari, and on to greener pastures.

And I didn't even have to go get a hobo finger. Hobo fingers are actually a little hard to come by this time of year. Hobos are better fed around the holidays, and the mortality rate drops slightly. I know... hobo fingers... pretty random, right? This is one of my favorite posts from the Bloggess... check it out.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The One With the Screaming Slingshot Monkeys

I apologize that I don't have a lot to say, but I realized that I had better post anyway, if only to keep bored people from composing off-color limericks in my comments section. Besides, you may have noticed, my "About Me" says "Quantity, not quality." I take that very seriously.

So...I am pretty excited right now. I won six screaming slingshot monkeys over at Della Hill's place! Della has a very fun blog. You should check it out: The Life and Times of Della Hill. Those monkeys have haunted my dreams for several days now. I have always thought it would be great to adopt some kids. Seven just isn't enough. However, DK/KH said no. That is why we have the missionaries. It is the next best thing. But I believe that these sweet, albeit loud, little monkeys, are really going to fill a void in my life. There is no such thing as loneliness when you have a whole litter of screaming slingshot monkeys. My only regret is that they couldn't join me on this trip. They probably could have helped to keep me awake on the drive.

Oh, and I was issued a challenge on Lisa's blog (Here's the link...but I'll warn you, it's not for the faint of heart). If you want to cruise on over there, you can read it in her words...but basically she offered me 50 bucks if I could bring her back some jerkey that was neither beef, pork, turkey, chicken or salmon. Easy peasy, Spice, ready your wallet... In fact, I am bringing you back both buffalo and elk jerkey. I am working on the trucker hat... from an actual trucker. Ewww.

Since I'm here, I may as well tell you a few not-so-interesting facts about Oregon. 1. They still have Birkenstock stores. Isn't that awesome? 2. They are rabidly "No on Prop. 8," even though that is a California ballot initiative. 3. You know those Harry & David catalogs that you get in the mail, where you can buy the Royal Riviera Pears? They are located here, and it was a seriously fun store. I even bought a couple of Royal Riv pears. 4. Here in Medford, they consider California people "hicks." Having grown up in the town just over the border in California, I sort of get that, but it is still amusing. 5. They still have full service gas stations, if you even remember what those are.

So tomorrow I'll be on the road. If you have any good suggestions for places I should stop, or just want to say hi while I'm driving, I'll be dropping a couple of posts, so be sure and check in!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The One About the Wet Stucco, or Her Quest For a Postcard

I was just going to be all mysterious about the wet stucco, because it is really a fairly lame story, but Pete, this one's for you. I stopped in SANTA NELLA, which is the town with "whatever the heck travelers want" or whatever their misrepresentation of a motto is (which location, by the way, no one guessed except my mom), and the Skipster and I went to three different truck stops looking for a single non-offensive, missionary-appropriate postcard. Do you think they would have anything like that? No. The answer is no. No they do not. They had pornographic magazines, model semi-trucks that were so large they might have been 1:4 scale, Dr. Phil CD boxed sets, cigars from a vending machine, "fresh" almonds with an expiration date from 1995 (I actually bought those, because on Tuesday Bob from The Biggest Loser said that I need to keep "power snacks" handy. He recommended almonds. It was an unfortunate mistake, as I didn't look for the expiration date until after I actually ingested some of the almonds), as well as all kinds of really cool auto parts for very large vehicles. I was informed by Manny, Moe and Jack at each location that no one sends postcards anymore. They just e-mail. Thus the free Wi-fi. Thanks guys.

Now I have spent 30 minutes searching for a postcard. I didn't want to stay any longer in that armpit of a pit stop, so I crossed the freeway and drove to the Ramada Inn in the picture (which does, indeed, have a guitar-shaped swimming pool. I know, because I have swum in it). Skippy and I got out of the car and walked up to the front entry. There was a maintenance man taping off pillars, and there was a big sign that said, "Please Pardon Our Dust. We Are Remodeling, Expanding and Modernizing." Awesome. We peered in, and it didn't look promising, but I was on a mission. I had to find a single postcard. Non-offensive was becoming negotiable... and shocker! The girl at the counter said, "Yes, right here. They're free." At this point I should have stocked up, since I would not find another postcard the rest of the day. But then for the next four days, Elder H would be getting the same Ramada Santa Nella postcard.

So I walked out with my prize. I triumphantly affixed my See-Threepio stamp, and then stood next to the USPS box right outside the hotel, addressing furiously. I looked up, and saw that Skippy, being the adventurous boy that he is, had scaled to the upper wall of a long bench-like shelf that ran around the whole courtyard. The level he was standing on dropped off about six feet straight down behind him, so I dropped the postcard and ran to help him step down. I told him to play on the bench part while I finished the card, and I sat down beside him so I could do just that. But I set my hand down, and the stucco bench was wet. My hand was covered with a light brown goo that was sort of a cross between paint and concrete. Ahh, a perfect match for my pants. Skippy had been playing all over the wet stucco, and now it has my butt print. Thanks, Ramada. And here is a sign for you: "Please Pardon My Butt During Construction. I Am Currently Remodeling, Downsizing and Modernizing."

The One With the Roadtrip, Part 3

Yes, I have arrived. It is wet here, and really beautiful with all the fall leaves that we don't get in Orange County. Thank you for joining me on the trip. It was very memorable. It is interesting to snap pictures, upload them, find Wi-Fi almost anywhere that has a little girls' room, and blog in minutes. Weird, right? Thanks to Lisa for loaning me the laptop-o-saurus, since she is right and apparently I need to get a hobo finger to operate mine, as I have killed it for about the third time this year. Thanks to Jamie for making a valiant attempt to out-comment Lisa. While it was a futile attempt, it was strangely touching.

I think I need to clear up one thing. First of all, the "truck driver" who took the bum picture was actually Skippy. And no, he is not going to need therapy because he had to take a picture of Mommy's butt; I asked him to take a picture of Mommy's whole back, and then I cropped the rear for the blog. I actually did not become overly familiar with any fellow travelers, except maybe Gladys and her husband (whom I hope safely reached their destination several hours ago, since they were clearly not equipped to drive in the dark). God Speed, Marty and Gladys!

The One With the Bum Picture

Yes, this is my rear end. It's a long story, but I sat in wet stucco. I know, huh? I'm driving hundreds of miles in a car, so how did I sit in wet stucco? It is not my fault. Skippy actually tricked me. I'm not going to talk about it anymore. These were my most comfortable jeans.

You still haven't figured out where I was with guitar-shaped pool? Hmm. I'll give you a big hint. It has a Spanish-sounding name. That should narrow it down.

So I have been playing car tag with this old couple for the last hundred miles. Grandma is driving, which is a sure sign that I should give them a wide berth. Oh, and they're both wearing those giant wraparound sunglasses--you know the kind--they are post-eye-surgery glasses, guaranteed to screen out every last unwanted ray. Every time they pass me, they turn to stare, and then look at each other. I can almost hear the conversation. "GLADYS, we keep going by the same people. Are you sure we're not lost? We must be going around in circles!" Yes, Grandpa, you do keep going by the same people. But it's just me, playing a cruel trick on you. Psyching you out with my cruise control.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The One Where She Sings Backup for John Mayer

Not very many people know this, but I have a really awesome singing voice. One of the best things about driving on the freeway without the whole family in the car, is I can listen to my music as loud as I want, and sing along, while Skippy can enjoy his movie with headphones. I sound so amazing singing with John Mayer, that if he heard me he would ask me to sing with him for his concerts. Other motorists agree. Although, in the interest of honesty, I will have to say that at 75 miles per hour, I can't be exactly sure that was what that guy was trying to communicate to me. (Sorry, DK...did I say 75? I meant 65! Love you!)

Anyway, I am pretty darned good. I wish you could hear me. But you can't. And the reason is not really what you think. It is actually because I think I might possibly be a vampire. I am sure you are thinking right now that that is a pretty big leap of logic, but hear me out. First of all, I am quite pale. And I often get my days and nights mixed up, to the point that I could sleep pretty much anytime. In fact, I could totally use a nap right now. I have sort of prominent canines. But here is the kicker: When people take pictures of me, it totally doesn't look like I appear in the mirror. They turn out way fatter, for one thing. And audio recordings of my voice also do not work. I sound so awesome in person, and on a recording, it is like some horrifying, otherworldly version of me. Or it could be that the "Twilight" movie is coming out tonight at midnight and I have that on the brain. Either way, you will not be hearing a recording of my voice. But if John Mayer were to go on a road trip with me, then we would see... Oh, and taking my logic to its next logical step, isn't it good to know that, despite appearances, John Mayer is very likely not a vampire? Probably can't rule out werewolf.

The One With the Guitar-Shaped Swimming Pool

Well, it is only 10:00 a.m., and I am already in... ? You have to guess. Clue: Deep in the heart of lovely Merced County. (Merced meaning mercy in Spanish... as in they mercifully have an In 'N' Out) Actually, I might consider In 'N' Out, but Skippy and I are still full from our lovely breakfast of homemade apple crisp which we enjoyed at the scenic rest area conveniently located practically on the grounds of beautiful Pleasant Valley State Prison (who thought that was a good place to put a rest area? Genius). Which led me to ask myself...these Caltrans workers cleaning the bathrooms... are they supposed to be wearing orange jumpsuits? Oh, back to the clues. Hotel with a guitar-shaped swimming pool. Their motto is "Everything For the Traveler," which I decided to put to the test, as I was in search of free internet and postcards. Postcards, you ask?

Not to talk out of school, but there is a certain missionary living in my house who is what I will call "postally challenged." Having a dry spell. Sans mail. His condition is complicated by the fact that his companion has probably gotten 30 or 40 letters since the last time he received even one. It is his own fault, for not coming out on the mission without any girlfriends. I mean, he could at least be getting "Dear John" letters. But despite the fact that he got himself into this mess, Skippy and I are on a mission of our own... we are going to mail him a postcard from everywhere we stop today. I have a wallet full of postcard stamps, and I'm not afraid to use them. Our challenge is to find postcards at truck stops that are not morally offensive (the postcards, not the truck stops. okay, maybe both). We'll keep you "posted." Sorry, that was low...

The Rehash Episode, With a Bonus

Do you know what I mean by a rehash episode? It happens frequently right before the holidays. You know...it is when the network teases you all week that your favorite sitcom is All New. You tell the kids to go brush their teeth and say their prayers and whatever you do don't bother mommy, and you settle in with your twinkies and Diet Coke for 24 minutes of pure escapism, interspersed with 39 commercials. And then it happens. It usually comes in the form of a dream sequence or series of flashbacks. It is the rehash. They didn't want to pay all the actors to come in this week, so you get one or two main characters who keep remembering all the stuff that has already happened. The Twinkies turn to sawdust in your mouth. You feel cheated and defeated. If you had wanted to watch what already happened, you would just jump onto your computer and watch them all over again on Hulu, right? (The photo is from the Dream Sequence in the movie "Vertigo." It really says it all.)

Well, the holidays are coming up, and sorry, but I have decided to rehash and recap. I'm Victoria. This is my blog. I have six sons and one daughter. I am a musician, a photographer, a Domestic Goddess, and (this part is new... even in a rehash episode, you always have to throw in a little All New material...) I shoot a pretty mean free throw. If you look back through my old posts, you will find that I have ingeniously figured out how to embed mp3 files in my posts, and you can hear some of the songs I have written. Shameless plug: I'm working on recording a cool Christmas one, that I will post early next week, so don't forget to check back to hear it.

Now, pay attention... this part really is All New. Tomorrow I am making a 14-hour drive to Oregon to pick up my only daughter from Grandma. DK (Darling Kevin, also herein referred to as KH, or Kevin Honey) cannot make the trip, as he has to stay and work to keep us hip-deep in whole wheat. I know. You are probably worried about me right now. Don't be. I should have been a trucker. I love driving long distances with nothing but Skippy, Excedrin and the sound of Kung Fu Panda to keep me awake. But just to keep things interesting, I have plans to blog several times while on my trip. The route up I-5 from Orange County to Oregon could be considered long and uninteresting. Unless you love agriculture. Imagine... a personally guided tour through the garlic farms of California. But have no fear. Skippy and I will find some fun on this trip.
Do me a favor and check in tomorrow and leave me some comments so I don't feel like I am traveling alone. Here is the bonus: If you comment on my blog while I am driving along, I will enter you in a drawing for a loaf of whole wheat bread and a jar of Knott's Boysenberry Jam. Don't worry... I won't bake it until I get home, so it will be nice and fresh before I mail it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The One With the Domestic Goddess

I know. The term Domestic Goddess has been tossed around a little too freely. But I am the real deal. Fact: I sew. Fact: I make an amazing pie. Fact: I knit, crochet and even cross stitch (who does that?). Fact: I can milk a cow (okay, so that is more agrarian than domestic, but let's call it extra credit). Fact: Twice (since 1984) I have been completely caught up on washing, folding and putting away laundry (cut me some slack... I have seven kids, for goodness' sake).

Since I'm feeling confessional, I'll just put it out there...I am not a great housekeeper. However, I am something better. I am very discriminating when it comes to good housekeeping. Let me give you an example: I can go to my friend Lisa's house, look around, rub my nose and cross my arms, and say, very seriously, "Wow, Lisa, your house is really clean." And do you know what? I will be right, every time. It is very clean. Can you see how having good taste in clean houses is actually better than having one's own house be clean all the time? Much more versatile. And consider this: Would you rather have a spotlessly clean house, or a cookie jar that is always full of some seriously decadent cookies? I rest my case.

Having rejected good housekeeping as a valid criterion for Domestic Goddess status, let me offer my most compelling evidence: I make bread. I don't just "make bread." I. Make. Bread. I have not bought store-bought bread since last January of 2008. Every two to three days I turn out three perfectly formed, incredibly fragrant, wholesome loaves of lovin' from the oven. Why do I do it? It is not to defend my title of D.G. Rather, I figured out that: a) I can make three loaves of incredible whole wheat bread for approximately 55 cents. That is not per loaf, that is for all three. In a house full of teenage boys, that is practically free food. b) My house always smells amazing (not like Mr. Clean, but even better). c) I can have the dough rising in the oven in less time than it takes me to find my car keys and my shoes and drive to the store to buy a five-dollar loaf of bread. d) Since I have started making the bread, my whole family has discovered that our previous favorite, Orowheat Country Potato Bread, actually has a strange chemical smell. We weren't able to smell that before, but now even Skippy won't touch the stuff.

I am not a jealous goddess... I am willing to share with anyone who would like to join me here at the top. Therefore I am including a link to my Six-Minute Magic Bread recipe, which I have developed over the last year. It is simple, delicious and makes fabulous sandwiches. I wish to warn you, however, that you have to pay your dues if you wish to become a D. G. Your bread will likely not turn out perfectly the first few times. It is an art, not a science. But it is worth it. If you decide to get serious, invest in some heavy aluminum non-stick one-pound bread pans from Williams-Sonoma. Also worth it. So put on your high-heeled shoes (you know the ones) and buy yourself one of those sexy, 50s-style aprons... every true Domestic Goddess deserves one.

Victoria's Six-Minute Magic Bread

Friday, November 14, 2008

The One With the Quirks

A friend of mine listed some of her quirks on her blog, so I tried to think of some of my own, and was coming up blank. I think it was some sort of traumatic memory block, because as soon as I thought of one, they started to pile up quicker than (insert colloquialism here--fleas on a dog, zits on a fry cook, leaves in November...you get the picture. I am not from the South, so my 'isms are kind of lame). Now I can’t stop. A quirk should not be confused with a peeve. Pet peeves are those things about other people that bug you. In fact, I have actually given up all my pet peeves, since I realized how many quirks I have, and that my friends seldom mock me for them. Here is a small sampling of the quirks that I will admit to having.

1. I adore infomercials, and I want to buy anything I have ever seen on one. I know it is not logical, and no, I don’t believe everything I see on TV. But just the thought of a Pompeil pasta maker and a Maxiglide (do you see the genius here? a hair appliance that sounds like feminine hygiene?) has me reaching for my credit card right this minute.

2. I’m scared of doctors and dentists. Especially dentists. I’ll take a pelvic exam over an oral any old day. I would elaborate more on this quirk, but I find that I am beginning to sweat excessively just thinking about it… so, enough said.

3. I love using exclamation points. I have to go through my writing when I am done, and take most of them out. Each time I replace one with a period, I feel a stab of regret. A single tiny dot doesn’t adequately express what I want to say.

4. I’m not very good at talking on the phone. I have to force myself to return phone calls. Please know that if I returned your call, it was a sacrifice of my personal comfort. I really had to dig deep. If I didn’t return your phone call, then you sacrificed for my personal comfort. Thanks for taking one for the team.

5. I hate sad movies and books. I used to love them. When I was younger, I would watch “Terms of Endearment” and “Steel Magnolias” just to wallow in the tragedy of it all. At some point I realized that there is enough sadness in real life, without having to borrow it from entertainment. I don't really need to see moms dying from wasting illnesses and leaving small beautiful children to be raised by their fathers. Now I still like action movies. “Quantum of Solace” comes out tonight! (sorry, but that exclamation point was warranted) Now if I were holding onto any of those pesky pet peeves, I would probably have some sarcastic remark to make about that movie title right now. See? I have let them all go.

6. Apparently I have this funny expression I make when I look in the mirror. Let's call it Blue Steel. (compare my photo with Derek Zoolander's) It’s kind of a lip thing. My kids love it. Give me a break, guys...I'm really not trying to do Blue Steel...it is, no doubt, a subconscious attempt to make my reflection look skinnier.

7. I can’t stand ants… in fact, I can smell them when they are nearby. No, I am not crazy. I looked it up, and they really do have an odor. The smell is actually formic acid, which is produced by their little ugly ant bodies. An anthill is sometimes called a "formicary" (I thought that was where you could buy generic medical prescriptions--who knew?). If Wikipedia says it, then it must be true. Creepy creepy creepy.

I’m sure that my really good quirks are ones that I a) don’t know about, or b) can’t quite admit to. If you would like to add a quirk that you think I should have included, please feel free to leave a comment. I know where the delete button is.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The One Where You Get to Have Dinner With Rob

Here is the menu for tonight, by special request: Cedar Plank Salmon, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Pizookies for dessert. These are a few of Rob's favorite things...and Rob was one of our favorite missionaries...

Of course, I feel somewhat obligated to sauté some green beans to serve with the meal...or maybe some oven-roasted asparagus. You have to have a vegetable, right? Potatoes don't count. Click on the link below to download the recipes.

Never heard of a pizookie? It is a giant cookie served in a deep dish pizza pan (thus the "piz" part of the "ookie") hot from the oven, topped immediately with scoops of ice cream, and eaten straight from the pizza pan with your friends. Or all by yourself, if you have had a bad day. It is guaranteed to make you feel better, or your money back.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The One With All the Questions

A lot of people call me for answers. How do I make pulled pork? I get a lot of cooking questions. How should I lose weight? Easy: don't make the pulled pork. My husband said __________ (fill in the blank). What do you think? I almost always agree with your husband, unless he is an idiot. What should I send my son for Christmas? How much roast beef should we buy to feed 300 people at the Ward Christmas Party? Do you have the sheet music for "In the Hollow of Thy Hand?" Insert eye rolling here. Is it exhausting having seven kids? You really have to ask that? Don't you believe in birth control? None of your business. Funnily enough, I even get medical questions; I am not a doctor. No, bloody urine is never a good thing. Even funnier is when the medical questions come from my daughter-in-law, who happens to be a nurse. I am flattered and honored by the questions...I do like to solve problems. I must just look old and weathered enough to have the answers.

But, today, I have a few questions of my own. Why is it that a 15-year-old boy would rather walk twenty miles barefoot in the snow than simply clean his room? Why did my feet keep growing even after I got married? Why is it that I am folding the same clothes that I folded a week ago, and I didn't see you actually wear the clothes? Why is it that I am the only one in the house who knows how to a) replace an empty toilet paper tube, b) wipe the kitchen counter, or c) answer the phone? Why do guys have such a hard time finding things? It is true...if I call 4-1-1 for a phone number, and a man answers, I simply hang up and try again. (I hate to stereotype...by way of apology I'm posting pictures of some of my favorite guys...that's Dillon and Skippy in the top photo) Why can't we play Wii for family home evening? Oops, that question was Skippy's. I'm starting to get wrinkles...doesn't that mean I shouldn't still be getting acne? Why do those spots in the carpet come back, no matter what I do? Why must I be a computer programmer just to figure out how to put cool stuff in my blog? Why does everything sound better in Italian? What does the United States Vice President do, again? Wow, now that I've gotten started, there are really a lot more things I would like to know. I'll have to pick it up later... right now it is time for that eternal question: What am I going to make for dinner?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The One Where She Gives In

Ok, I just had to do it. One little Christmas song. It is one of my favorite ones I've done. There was this cool experience Rachel and I had performing this at MV High School about three years ago. The night of the Christmas concert we did this song, Evening Lullaby, and when it ended, there was dead silence for about three heartbeats, and then the whole theater went crazy. We left the stage, and they wouldn't stop cheering until we went back out for another bow.

I got a call from the music director just a couple of months ago, and he asked about that song. He said that of all the music they have ever done there over the past twenty years, that one gave him the most amazing feeling when he heard it. I know it's not even the middle of November yet, but here's a little Christmas spirit just the same.
{This song is included on my Christmas CD. You can read more about it here.}

Evening Lullaby

They traveled far along the dusty way
To reach Bethlehem by close of day.
Come Joseph, hasten down the winding road.
Bring your donkey with its precious load.

As they entered through the city gate
Shadows fell; the hour was growing late
Then in the purple of a falling night
Shown a brand-new star in glory bright.

Who will share a room, a loaf of bread?
Where will Mary lay her weary head?
A tiny manger in a stable bare
Will be the cradle for her baby fair.

Come, shepherds, watch and wonder at the sight.
Find the stable bathed in holy light.
Enter softly; see the babe foretold
By prophets far and near since days of old.

Baby Jesus, now it’s time to sleep.
Close you eyes; angels their watch will keep.
And when you wake the night will fade to gray
Then you will smile upon a brand-new day.

Oh, and by the way, this beautiful painting, "Be It Unto Me" by Liz Lemon Swindle was the premiere image in an amazing series of paintings about the life of Jesus Christ. It is one of my very favorites, and hangs just inside my front door year-round. I love it. The missionaries told me they thought I chose it because it looks like me:) Now do you see why I like them so much?