Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Fourth of July Advent Activity

Have you ever beheld the amazing and talented Maira Kalman's mostly wondrous blog in the New York Times? If not, you should visit. Today. (I may not always agree with her politics, but I will always agree with her talent.) 

It's no exaggeration to say that the woman is an artist in every sense of the word.  And this week, in the smart and quirky way that only she can, Maira writes and draws about Thomas Jefferson...providing an excellent way to kick off this weekend's Fourth of July celebration.

Don't miss it. Really.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday's Gifts: (1) Red and Purple Plums (2) Love

Have you ever gone to church on Sunday, then come home...

with enough fresh-picked plums to fill your favorite bowl?

I have.

Usually the gifts I receive in Relief Society are more spiritual in nature, but I never go home empty-handed. From the minute I walk in the door till the moment I take my leave, I am fed...whether it be on the sweet plums of summer or the even sweeter fruit of sisterhood, belief, and shared experience. Either way, I am full when I walk out the door, and this Sunday was no exception.

I wish everyone had Relief Society sisters to love and uphold them. And to bring them juicy red and purple plums on a June day.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Words to Inspire the Human Mind

Isn't it interesting how the Lord so often prepares us for the lessons He sends our way? Yesterday I was inspired to write about light and the sharing of it. Not an hour later, while visiting Segullah (one of my favorite places), I received a hearty and heartening dose of light from Michelle's beautiful post regarding the recent death of her mother.

If you do not read her exquisite words and thoughts from start to finish, including the link within the body of her essay to this earlier post of hers, you will have missed one of the premiere reading experiences I've had in recent years. (I do suggest that you read the earlier post first in order to feel the full impact.)

Lest any comment of mine detract from its pure loveliness, I will leave you to enjoy this gift for yourself.


Friday, June 26, 2009

On Light and the Sharing of It

"Ye are the light of the world..." Matthew 5:14

Can a beautiful and thought-provoking story be a source of light in and of itself? My answer is yes. I think you'll agree:

The class was over, and the teacher was one of my favorites, so I threw out a final, "brief" question: "Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?"

The expected laughter followed, and people stirred to go.

Papaderos held up his hand with such gravity that it stilled the room. He looked into my eyes for a long moment, then responded. "I will answer your question."

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished around in its leather billfold for a moment before bringing out a small round mirror, the size of a quarter. Holding it up almost reverently, he began his story:

When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor. Our family lived in a remote village. On the road one day, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. It seems that a German motorcycle had been wrecked in that very place, leaving various bits of debris.

I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible. Disappointed, I decided to keep only the largest piece. This one. Taking great care, I scratched it on a stone until I made it round. Immediately, it became my favorite toy because of the reflections I could cast with it. I was fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine...in deep holes and narrow crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

As you can see, I kept the little mirror. In the growing up years that followed, I would often take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I began to realize that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I grew to understand that I was neither the light itself nor the source of light. But I also knew that light was available, in the form of truth, understanding and knowledge, and that it would shine in the dark places only if I reflected it.

I am a fragment of a mirror whose design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with whatever I have been given, I can reflect light into the dark places of this world or even the black places in the hearts of men and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.

Holding his small mirror carefully, my teacher caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them, first upon my face and then upon my hands, folded on the desk. Looking down, I saw the light.

Much of what I experienced in the way of information about Greek culture and history that summer is gone from memory. But in the wallet of my mind I carry a small, round mirror still.
- Author Unknown

"Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold, I am the light which ye shall hold up...that which ye have seen me do" (3 Nephi 18:24).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Playlist and So You Think You Can Dance

Here is the summer playlist, all 16 songs! (SYTYCD faves are at the end of this post.)

Be sure to scroll down and click off my red (blog) playlist in the right-hand column so you can hear the purple (summer) one here. Then just click on whichever summer song you want to hear (or listen to all of them, if you like!). The last two tunes (posted separately at the bottom) weren't available at playlist.com, so you'll need to click on them individually. ENJOY!!

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

C Moon - Paul McCartney

Two Birds - G. Love

As far as So You Think You Can Dance goes, my top three favorites yesterday were:

1. Evan and Randi for their Mia Michaels contemporary, tied with Kupono and Kayla for their waltz

2. Janette and Brandon for their hip hop, and

3. Ade and Melissa for their rhumba.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer's Here. I'm for That.

Summer's here. I'm for that.

Got my rubber sandals. Got my straw hat.

Got my [root ] beer. I'm just glad that it's here.

It's my favorite time of the year. And I'm glad that it's here.   
- James Taylor (slightly censored)

Okay, unlike James Taylor, summer is NOT my favorite time of the year. But it IS the time when my agapanthas begin to bloom, and these photos are nothing (blossom-wise) to what July will bring. So I look forward to that!

Another of the very best things about summer is my summer playlist. I make a new one each year to take to our beach house family reunion in Newport Beach, and this year is no exception. I will be sharing this blissful list with you tomorrow, so I hope you'll be back to discover some of the greatest summer tunes ever! (If you've already discovered a few of them, you can just nod your enthusiastic endorsement of my choices...)


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Poem for the Rooftops of Iran

I am a poet. And I appreciate the poetry of others. But one particular poem has touched me today, and I need to share it with you. It is the poem of a young woman from Iran, a poem of grief and fear for her country, a poem that touches me deeply, as it must surely touch the heart of any freedom-loving person.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers Are Our Sheltering Trees

My husband is the kind of father every child needs and deserves to have but doesn't always get. Sadly, those who are not blessed with such fathers eventually become aware of it, for they must navigate life in the absence of that strong, supportive presence from whose influence every young person should benefit.

The fortunate ones, those who do have a stalwart and loving father in their lives, may never be able to fully appreciate their good luck. When you have a strong, devoted man who gives his all to create a safe and secure place for you to grow and thrive, it's hard to even imagine living outside the shadow of that sheltering tree he provides. Not that you don't value the branches that protect you, just that you don't know what it's like to brave the elements without them. And you never will know either, not until your father passes away, and even then you will somehow feel his influence in a way that comforts and sustains you. The essence of a good father is never really removed from us, even when his physical presence is gone.

One of my sons, a pretty wonderful father in his own right, is a marriage and family therapist who counsels adolescent offenders incarcerated in the criminal justice system. These are generally young men whose standards are either skewed or non-existent, gang members who have committed murder or other violent acts with little or no remorse. Their world of struggling for survival has seldom been peopled with supportive, hands-on fathers, and almost never with men who were ready and willing to model behavior conducive to a healthy, positive lifestyle. This son of mine has always appreciated and looked up to his dad, but working in juvenile hall has probably given him a more meaningful understanding of the powerful role he plays in the lives of his own children. 

Of course, I have always understood the role my husband plays in our family, and on this Father's Day, I want to take this opportunity to thank him. I am grateful that my children have grown up beneath his sheltering tree, and I share with them the gift of knowing that someone solid, steady, and reliable will always stand beside me. As hard as he works, as all-consuming as his schedule can be, I know with certainty that he is ready to drop anything and everything to support his loved ones in time of need. His constant, enduring (and endearing) commitment is to making life better for the people he serves so selflessly, the family he has made (and continues to make) sacrifices for every day of his married life.

Thanks, Dave. Happy Father's Day! We love you. I love you.


PS. It has always been a comfort to me knowing that all of us are born with a Heavenly Father, whose love and concern for us are infinite. His tender care and compassion are extended to every man and woman who seek Him, and His influence in our lives and hearts is more powerful and perfect than we can imagine. How grateful I am for His kind and constant presence in my life.

Here are a just a few of my favorite fathers:

We have the cutest Grandpa (and Grandma) ever.
Happy Father's Day, Dick! Happy Grandpa's Day, Grandpa!!

My husband. Trying to bear up under a father's load?
(Or maybe, a bishop's?)
Happy Father's Day, Dave! Happy Grandpa's Day, Grandpa!

Ahhhhh. Looks like he made it!

Three great dads...including Uncle Perry from our extended family.

A few members of our immediate family...two dads present, and counting.

My brother, a devoted dad, with two of his boys

Our Matt with his own son, in the same backpack his dad used for him.

Now exploring the sans backpack method of transporting his youmgest.

Nothing like flowers from Daddy!

Except, just maybe, a fishing trip!



Saturday, June 20, 2009

Love Jane Austen? Meet Georgette Heyer!

"A writer of great wit and style...I've read her books to ragged shreds."
Kate Fenton, Daily Telegraph

For those of you who don't know her yet, kindly step into my bloggy parlor and meet one of my very best friends, Georgette Heyer. For those of you who do know her, step right in anyway and meet someone who is at least as besotted with her as you are! (Yep, that'd be me.) I may be her biggest fan, with the possible exception of a woman who calls herself "Dr. Sally" and runs a pretty terrific web site dedicated to the delightful writer herself.

It would not be a great exaggeration to say that Ms. Heyer is my favorite author. At the very least, she ranks among my top five. In fact, I would defy anyone who enjoys Jane Austen not to be enchanted with these utterly charming, refreshingly witty, and thoroughly well-researched novels. Set in 18th Century England and laced with history and hilarity, these still relevant period pieces pay equal attention to historical detail and good, old-fashioned fun. I would venture to say that anyone opening any one of her books (especially in the throes of a gloomy mood) will exit in a far sunnier frame of mind. Her light, airy touch is simply irresistible, which explains why I currently have 15 of her books on my lovely little kindle, with more on the way as funds and my husband's good nature permit.

Even better, her supply of books is relatively inexhaustible. Ms. Heyer, whose real name was Mrs. Ronald Rougier (she was a best seller all of her life but never made appearances or gave interviews), was born in 1902 and died in 1974. At the time of her death, she had 51 titles in print. Today she has even more, and reading this sample of her writing may help you understand the reason why...though taken out of context as it is, the passage doesn't begin to do her justice. (It does do her justice to know that a woman held in a Romanian political prison for over 12 years insists she kept herself and her cell-mates sane by relating Ms. Heyer's story, Friday's Child, over and over again.) I find this easy to believe in light of the fact that my brother; a literary snob of the highest order who would rather read Camus, Sartre and Nietzsche than Clancy, Grisham or even Conroy; is now a dedicated devourer of any Georgette Heyer novel he can get his hands on.

Immensely popular as she was, the undiluted respect in which the literary world holds Heyer today (for sheer technical skill and unerring attention to historical detail), was not extended during her peak writing years. Even Heyer tended to be self-deprecating about her work, especially in her heyday. The following excerpt, taken from a letter she wrote to her publisher, speaks volumes: "Spread the glad tidings that [the new book] will not disappoint Miss Heyer's many admirers. Judging from the letters I've received from obviously feeble-minded persons who do so wish I would write another These Old Shades, it ought to sell like hot cakes. I think myself I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense, but it's questionably good escapist literature and I think I should rather like it if I were sitting in an air-raid shelter, or recovering from flu. Its period detail is good; my husband says it's witty---and without going to these lengths, I will say that it is very good fun."

Very good fun indeed. And that's a promise.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Busting Out Some Birthday Bliss for Heather!

I always have an easy time remembering Heather's birthday, because it happens to fall exactly one week after she became my daughter-in-law. Yep, she turned 21 on her honeymoon, just seven days after marrying my son. (Boy, Matt. You kinda robbed the cradle. Not that you were exactly ancient yourself.)

But I digress. The point is this: What a cute couple they were and are! And what a great addition Heather has made to our family. I've posted it before, and I'll post it again. We love her. (Because it's easy!)

Wanna know why it's easy? Well, take a deep breath, because this list of lovable traits is sure to be a long one:

1. Her most valuable characteristic, of course, is her ability to put up with her mother-in-law. (excellent trait)
2. Which brings me to a closely related good quality...allowing said mother-in-law to shamelessly steal photos from her blog to post here! (really, really cute photos)
3. Which in turn leads to this piece of information: Heather is one heck of a good photographer! (and getting better all the time)
4. Heather is also a loyal friend, whose buddies will do almost anything for her. (because she returns the favor)
5. What's more, she brings her pals together by instigating mom-run groups like "Music Makers" and other group activity days. (yep, natural-born leader, organizer, and uniter)
6. Her creativity is off the charts, which shows itself in her home. (and in my grandchildren)
7. She is known as a motivated doer of challenging things, including running a half marathon recently and opting three times for natural childbirth. To say nothing of:
8. Giving us three beautiful babies despite the fact that pregnancy literally makes her sick as a dog...
9. Making the best enchiladas ever, on demand...
10. And, of course, taking care of Matt. (just kidding on the challenge quotient of that last one, Matt) heehee
11. Best of all, she is pretty much up for anything (any good thing, that is...)
12. And she actually loves our crazy family!

What could be better than a daughter-in-law like Heather? Not much...And she is gorgeous besides. And knows sign language well enough to teach it. (very cool) And likes the beach even better than we do! She even likes May I, LAKER basketball (well, sort of), and Circletime!! (Which just about says it all.)

Besides, it's her birthday, and she has better (and waaaay more fun) things to do than spend half of it reading the world's longest list of tributes (even when they are in technicolor!).

So just go out and have the best birthday ever, Heather, because you deserve it! That's why every single one of us wishes we were there to take you out to a yummy dinner, sing an embarrassingly loud version of happy birthday in several different keys, give you a great big group hug, and say:



Thursday, June 18, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance? Nope, but THEY can!

Mixed reviews from me for last night's SYTYCD show. On the down side, having four of the nine dances be of the ballroom variety didn't thrill me. (Dancing with the Stars fatigue, perhaps?) Granted, the waltz and disco were enjoyable, but not one of those styles can pack the same punch as the jazz, contemporary, and hip hop numbers do. (Though last night, the two hip hop offerings seemed a bit lacking.)

Question: Was the hip hop letdown attributable to the choreographer or the dancers? The jury's still out on that one.

On the plus side, and in no particular order, I absolutely loved these four couples: Melissa & Ade (jazz), Max & Kayla (pop jazz), Jonathan & Karla (contemporary), and Brandon & Janette (disco). Yes, I even liked the disco...but under duress. Kayla (the nordic beauty) and Melissa (the sassy ballerina) are probably my favorite girls right now, though Karla (the cute Filipina) did a great job last night, too. None of the guys has really rocked my world yet, though Ade is Lil C's pick for now.

I must say that I get a kick out of Lil C with his strenuously alliterative commentaries and studied word selection. I do NOT get a kick out of Mary's screaming, which was somewhat amusing in past years but has escalated exponentially to a level that is both thoroughly annoying and borderline alarming. Methinks her hot tamale train may have run off its tracks. (Note that Nigel has taken to wearing Bose headphones to drown out the noise.) Would that we all had a pair with which to protect ourselves! *sigh*

Having said that, I still love the show and can't wait to see all the great routines these amazing choreographers will come up with in weeks to come. And I am completely enamored of Cat Deeley, the hostess with the mostest. The way she hugs all those sweaty dancers week after week (with affection and without flinching), is beyond cool. And her accent ain't bad, either!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Message to Self: Snap Out of It!

Ever just wake up on the wrong side of the bed? That's me. Today. And I don't like it. 

Which is why I've decided to use my daily blogging habit to blast myself out of feeling like the whole world and life in general are conspiring against me. Because they aren't, you know. 

And I know it, too. I'm just not in touch with that information at the moment. But I will be...because I have a secret strategy. It's called the "Get-up-off-your-sorry-behind-and-snap-out-of-it, let-the-positive-messages-in-your-life-speak-to-you-(after-all-you-chose-them) home tour." I have taken the tour before, but occasionally a refresher is needed.

Here goes:

Some friends love you the best in life and some love you the worst;
but no one loves you near as well as those who loved you first.
Note to self: Remember, you are not yet as Job (not even close!).

The little boat of you and me went sailing on the deep blue sea.
We weathered winds and crashing waves, and we were strong and true and brave.
And we were still in love, so we kept sailing on the deep blue sea...
The little boat of you and me.
And the really important things in life are still in place.

Two lines of one couplet...same rhythm, same rhyme.
Sisters, bound in love, through the pages of time.
And ever constant...

With plenty of sweet reminders that life is always good,
Even on those days when it doesn't quite feel like it...

Those gloomy days,

When the ones you love seem farther away than you wish they were.

Those days when you need to remember that angels really do come
When they're needed.

A very good friend proved it when she gave me this bag thinking that was the one who had helped her.
(She only got that half right, I think.)

Yep. Love is all around us.
 And all I really need to do is take time to Be Still and Know that.

Because I do know that, for certain.
Faith gives us an anchor in a raging sea, 
calm in the midst of chaos,
vision to know right from wrong,
and the courage to express it.

Of course, I'm still learning.
And that's okay.

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse.
"You become. It takes a long time..."
That's why it's always good to remember that...

Winter, spring, summer or fall...I've got a Friend. Lots of them, actually.
(Some of them are right here, reading this blog.)

The good news is that...
Little by little, life goes by.
Short if you sing, long if you cry.
Note by note, life's music plays on...
Songs ever changing, but never gone.

And that's ever so true,
Because believing in yourself (and other happy things)

Can really help you rise above the blues
And keep your chin up through adversity.

What's more, comfort is always available, if you know where to look for it...
Out of the dreariness into its cheeriness,
come we, in weariness, HOME!

...Never forgetting to make 
A safe place for others, too.

And always, always remembering to keep
Your sense of humor.

To say nothing of
Your sense of wonder.

And your appreciation for 
Precious things...

Made precious largely by the people around you,
Who give and receive them on a daily basis.

It helps a whole lot to remember
That other things (and places) are sacred, too.

Like sharing your talents and knowing they are making a difference for others,
Which makes an even bigger difference for you.

Always remembering, every day and in every way
That joy is yours for the taking, if you choose it.

And I do!

Of course, some days are easier than others.  =)

So ends the self-addressed "Get-up-off-your-sorry-behind-and-snap-out-of-it, let-the-positive-messages-in-your-life-speak-to-you-(after-all-you-chose-them) home tour." Hey, I feel better! 

What method(s) do you like to use to chase away those sneaky blues?