Monday, November 30, 2009

Just Say Bliss with my Christmas Play List!

Here's a hot holiday news flash for you. My 2009 Christmas playlist is complete, and I'm handing out a few musical tips for your auditory pleasure:

It Wasn't His Child by Trisha Yearwood (not a big country fan, but this song gets to me)
Only at Christmas Time and Joy to the World by Sufjan Stevens
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Jack Johnson
In the Bleak Midwinter by Loreena Mckennitt (I like James Taylor's even better, but I used that last year)
I Saw Three Ships by Sting (a really cool Celtic version)
The Christmas Song and I Believe by Andrea Bocelli and Natalie Cole (sheer heaven)
Christmas in Killarney by The Irish Rovers (totally eclipses Bing Crosby's version)
Still Still Still by Afterglow (warm and peaceful times ten)
Someday at Christmas by Stevie Wonder (the guy who wrote it in the first place)
Grown-Up Christmas List by Michael Buble (also love it by Amy Grant)
Christmas Time is Here by Sarah McLachlan (Charlie Brown nostalgia always satisfies)
Frosty the Snowman by Dan Tyminski (more nostalgia)
Winter Wonderland by Vince Gill (again, better by James Taylor, but I did that last year, too)
Sweet Little Jesus Boy by Straight No Chaser
Pretty much anything at all by Straight No Chaser (an a capella group)
Christmas songs in general by John Denver (who knew?)

Having given you the official list for this year, may I add that the best Christmas CD anywhere is James Taylor at Christmas? I have never heard its equal. My next three favorites of all time are A Christmas Album, Christmas to Remember, and Home for Christmas by Amy Grant. (I know. She isn't a big fan of Mormons. But this Mormon is still a big fan of her Christmas music.) Joy: A Holiday Collection by Jewel rates high, too. And don't miss Andrea Bocelli's new one.

Remember the old standards, too, because Christmas wouldn't be the same without 'em: White Christmas by Bing Crosby and The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole. Slightly newer standards, like Christmas Portrait and An Old-Fashioned Christmas by the Carpenters, are wonderful as well.

For me, this time of year is all about the music. And there's some pretty great stuff out there.

Time to get in the mood, folks. We're kicking off December tomorrow!



Saturday, November 28, 2009

From Fall Foliage to Christmas Crush

It's a beautiful day in my neck of the woods.

Just around the corner is my favorite tree.

(I love the blanket of cinammon leaves on the lawn.)

Not too far down the freeway is my favorite city.

(One of the best places to be on a crisp and sunny fall day.)

But I, of course, will spend the afternoon cruising the outlets.

Shopping up a not-very-winterish storm with two of my sons.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Bow to the Pilgrims, Who Started It All

“The Pilgrims, being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet upon the firm and stable earth, their proper element. And no marvel if they were thus joyful."

–William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth County

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of [our enemies], has spared us from pestilence and disease, and has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience, Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings.”

–William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony

So once in every year we throng, upon a day apart,

To praise the Lord with feast and song, in thankfulness of heart.”

–Arthur Guiterman

Happy Thanksgiving to every one of you, and thanks for being such faithful visitors to my blog. As the saying goes, when I count my blessings, I count you twice!

For the joy of human love
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise


PS. Here's a little Thanksgiving treat, which will probably be far more enjoyable than my pies. Below is a picture of the first meeting house of the Pilgrims, built in 1689 at Plymouth.

And a picture of the first landing that makes me feel instead of think.

Let's remember them today.

How grateful I am for this great nation
and all that we enjoy as its citizens.
What a bountiful harvest is ours!
(even in hard times)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oh Donny Boy, the Fans, the Fans Are Calling

Oh, Donny Boy, the fans, the fans are calling...
From state to state, and down the mountain side.
The Kelly's gone, and Mya's star is dying.
'Tis they, 'tis they, must go and you must bide.

Did Donny-O deserve to win? Well, his dancing didn't, but he came on strong at the end...and he apparently has a fan base. A very BIG fan base, which kind of surprises me to tell the truth. After all these years, I mean.

Mya was the best dancer, and that's a fact. However, she was also the most trained person from the beginning (check out her dance videos), so maybe it's okay that she didn't take the trophy. Let's face it. For all intents and purposes, she was a professional dancer from the get-go. Mya could change careers and go the ballroom route tomorrow, but why would she? Her own gig is far more lucrative.

As for Kelly, she was my favorite. Not because of her dancing, I hasten to add, though it improved (with her confidence) to an amazing degree. She clearly had the ability to be better than good all along, but her anxieties got in the way. As an inveterate mother, I took great pleasure in seeing her grow, both on the show and in general.

But what really got me was her personality. That girl has some major charisma going on, and maybe now she knows it. I have a feeling hearing everyone in the audience chant "Kelly, Kelly, Kelly..." may have felt just as good as a mirror ball trophy in her hand. And it will certainly echo in her ears for years to come.

Anyway, this was an entertaining favorite so far. Popularity won out over talent, but I guess that's okay. After all, America is voting, right? Giles was the best dancer last season but come in second; Mario was the best in his season but came in second, and now Mya has topped her season and settled for second. I won't be losing any sleep over it.

I will say this, though. Since being the best dancer did not turn out to be the criteria for winning, I'm kinda sorry Kelly didn't take it. Not that I begrudge Donny his victory, because I really don't. After all, he was doing a show every night in Las Vegas and dancing by day...not easy! And I'm happy for his partner, Kym, who is more than deserving.

But I'll tell it like it is. That little Kelly simply won my heart.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Every Thing, Give Thanks

When wintry winds and stormy seas

Make all the world seem bleak

When hope is difficult to find

And peace is hard to seek

Through troubled times and dreary days

In glorious and simple ways

My eyes are somehow turned to Thee

And once more, all is well with me.

For this, my heart will ever raise

A song of love, a song of praise.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Thanksgiving Confessional

Last year, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my entire family and much of my extended family. This year, I'll be cooking for four.

My reaction to this is mixed. I've never cooked turkey and the works for such a limited group, so I'm hoping the whole exercise will be easier in small batches. At the very least, it will be less cumbersome.

On the other hand, it'll be odd to sit down for our big dinner with only four people at the table. Fortunately, though I'll be missing my two married children and their spouses (who will give thanks with the in-laws on Thursday so they can hang with us for Christmas), the four people I will be sitting down with are primo. And hungry. And gratifyingly grateful. (Not just in general, but for the food...a quality those of us with fairly obvious cooking deficits value highly.) It's true. They're just not that proven by the fact that the one and only time we went out––to a posh Thanksgiving buffet dinner at the Fairmont Hotel downtown––they actually complained that they missed "Mom's food." Music to my ears.

Of course, I could have invited a bunch of people over for dinner, and I did think about doing that. But to tell the truth, I couldn't handle the performance anxiety. You see, I never invite non-family members to Thanksgiving dinner. Not because it wouldn't be fun. Not because I wouldn't enjoy them. Not even because I'm too clannish. But actually because my cooking is as notoriously unpredictable as my oven. In fact, we make a pretty good team. Especially if you find culinary disasters amusing. (My specialty.), I will not be visiting my turkey and fixin's upon anyone but my own family...this year or any year. My kitchen services will have to be limited to less important meals and occasions. I'm fine for Sunday dinner or Family Home Evening BBQ's. Even my traditional Christmas fare is pretty foolproof. But Thanksgiving? (shudder) Nope. That is one can of worms (olives? cranberry dressing?) that I'm just not willing to open.

There you have it. My full confession. It is what it is. Easy does it. And I'm taking it one year at a time. Because, when it comes to cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I'm a white knuckler. Completely turkoraphobic.

And I'm not even working on it.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Revenge Sweet When United Takes Heat

Okay, the video posted below for your viewing pleasure is not only extremely clever but highly entertaining. (Grannysue is still chuckling.) Being a veteran of the airline wars myself, I confess to finding it more than a little gratifying, as well.

Only one prerequisite before you check this thing out: Ya gotta read the (100% true) back story. It seems that a singer-songwriter's favorite, custom-made Taylor guitar (worth $3,500) was broken by careless baggage handlers at United Airlines. Not surprisingly, the singer (Dave Carroll) went through all kinds of contortions trying to get the company to reimburse him. When United still hadn't made good on the guitar a year after the fact, he told the Customer Relations manager that he intended to write a song about the experience, create a music video, and post it on youtube. The manager answered, "Good luck with that one, pal."

Here's the corker: 6.1 million youtube hits later, United suddenly wants to make good on the guitar in exchange for Dave Carroll's agreement to pull the video. Can you guess Dave's response? He said...

"Good luck with that one, pal."

hehehahayukyukhiccupsnort (Yep, Grannysue is still amused.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Guidelines for Mammograms? What?!

According to the United States Preventive Services Task Force (a panel of experts appointed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to provide guidance for doctors, insurance companies out, folks...policy makers), all women except for those specifically designated as "high risk" should begin having mammograms at age 50 rather than age 40. Furthermore, they should have them every two years rather than every year. And they should stop giving themselves breast examinations.

Interestingly, it was only seven years ago that the USPSTF conducted its last study. At that time, the panel counseled women to have mammograms every year, beginning at age 40. True, the members of the group are now different, but could the data they investigated have changed that much in seven years? Maybe it has, but my initial reaction was to suspect that the health care rationing I've feared under Obama's plan has already begun. Am I crazy?

So far, the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology have stridently disagreed with the new guidelines and are refusing to back them up. Both organizations will continue to espouse the old regimen. On the other hand, the National Cancer Institute has promised to reconsider its recommendations due to the USPSTF's findings.

Let's face it. Right now, Medicare is required to pay for annual mammograms, and so are private insurers in every state but Utah. Under the new guidelines, that coverage will likely change.

According to Dr. Karla Kerlikowske, a professor at UCSF, "the message is to get 10 mammograms in a lifetime, one every two years, beginning at age 50" in order to minimize potential harm and maximize potential benefit. The task force concluded that one cancer death is prevented for every 1,904 women between the ages of 40-49 who are tested yearly. That number changes to one death averted for every 1,339 women aged 50-59 and tested yearly, and one death for every 377 women aged 60 to 69 and tested yearly.

To those of you who've hung around here a while, it's no secret that I hate getting mammograms, and I can't honestly say that I'd be sorry to give up having them every year. But I've also had several friends, diagnosed under age 50 by yearly mammograms, who would probably not be with us right now without that earlier screening. I've also had friends over 50 whose lives would almost surely have been lost from fast-growing forms of breast cancer had they not been tested annually. That looks like some pretty big downside from where I'm sitting.

I've always felt some concern about the amount of radiation we receive in our yearly mammograms, but so many of my friends are getting breast cancer that I'm going to side, for now at least, with the American Cancer Society. Ideally, we would all get an ultrasound every year, which works better diagnostically and is entirely free of radiation. Barring that, I've read that the newer mammography machines are both improving results and lowering levels of radiation, thus minimizing potential overexposure.

It's a hard one, and maybe I'm just conditioned to think we need yearly mammograms, but I still can't help feeling suspicious. Doesn't this new revelation come just a little too close on the heels of the health care bill? Isn't the coincidence of this timing just a little too convenient?

I'd love for all of you to weigh in here. I could use a reality check!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Joanna Gone?! DWTS Stunner...

Click on the arrow to see Derek Hough and Joanna Krupa performing a lovely, ethereal Viennese Waltz. (Don't forget to click off my playlist as well, because you will like the music they are dancing to.)

Is anyone out there besides me still trying to absorb what happened last night on Dancing with the Stars? Next week's mockery of a final will now consist of Mya and Dmitry pitted against the two couples who can't possibly beat her...or shouldn't, at least. But let's be real. If voters continue to value likability over talent, it's completely within the realm of possibility that either Kelly or Donny could take home the trophy.

Yes, dance fans, Derek and Joanna are gone, though they performed beautifully Tuesday night (and most every other night) and were the only two contenders skilled enough to actually give Mya a run for her money on merit. Admittedly, Joanna has never been my cup of tea (though she was beginning to grow on me despite her occasional stiltedness), but it's sad to see that DWTS not only continues to be a popularity contest but has become even more of one. Not since the year Emmett Smith beat Mario Lopez has such a travesty occurred, although those two were more closely matched in ability than either Donny Osmond or Kelly Osbourne are to Mya.

If ability and execution mattered, Donny would not be participating in the finals at all. Nor would Kelly, for that matter, because Aaron Carter is a better dancer than either of them. Yes, he bugged me, too, but he was a better dancer. Still, I'm bothered considerably less by his going than by Joanna's exit, because somehow Aaron's lamentably squishy personality leaked into his dancing a bit––for me, anyway.

Having said all of that, I admit to liking Kelly Osbourne very much, and her improvement over the past couple of weeks has been amazing as her self-confidence has grown. What's more, I was enchanted by the moment when she and Louis were hugging in the confessional and she whispered, "I love you, Louis Van Amstel." Then she broke out of the hug and gave him such a sweet look of true affection that he got emotional and lost it himself. I'm not kidding; I actually replayed that little scene several times because I was so moved by it. In fact, I was plain old moved by Kelly in general...her growth...her charm...her plucky, what-you-see-is-what-you-get personality. So I do relate to those who voted for her, and I do think she deserved to be in the final.

But Donny didn't. He just didn't. He completely blew one of his dances Monday night, and that should have been the tiebreaker between Kelly and him. And there was no need for a tiebreaker with Joanna Krupa. Because she was head and shoulders above either of them in both talent and execution.

I hope Mya wins the final. She has it all...personality and prowess...and if there's any justice in TV-land, she will take the mirror ball home. (In other words, she's at risk, big-time.)

Footnote: It occurs to me that Derek Hough may be the one who actually scotched things for Joanna, because her story of always wanting to be a dancer and the obvious affection of her family was quite appealing Monday night. Derek, on the other hand (who happens to be my favorite choreographer on the show), has been a little full of himself lately. Seen on camera during the judge's rating process, he almost seemed to be "bribing" the public to vote for him based upon the great ideas he had for a freestyle at the finals. Similarly unappealing were films of rehearsals with Joanna where he showed his temper and even kicked a wall when his partner had trouble executing a move he was trying to teach her. Not cool, dude. Not cool.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Praise to the Man

Smith cabin

Light coming through the Sacred Grove

Light reflected through the Grove

Palmyra Temple

Aren't these pictures beautiful? Scot Proctor, publisher of Meridian Magazine (Maurine Proctor is editor-in-chief) took the photos himself and has offered them as free downloads. Apparently, it is reader donations that keep this magazine afloat, and those of you who have had the privilege of reading it know that this publication is too good to fail for financial reasons. If you want to support the magazine with a gift of any size, click here. (Even five dollars is appreciated by them.)

Okay, now that my public service announcement is over, I just wanted to say a few words about Joseph Smith. As a Relief Society teacher for my church, I've been giving monthly lessons on his life for nearly two years now. Initially, that seemed like a long time to me, but focusing on him for an such an extended period has helped me come to know him better and appreciate him more.

Last week, I taught a lesson that quoted excerpts from Joseph's journal expressing many of his thoughts and feelings about his calling as the prophet of this dispensation. Reading, pondering, and discussing his words made me more aware of Joseph's humanity and vulnerability as he gave his life over to what must have seemed a herculean and, at times, thankless task.

Joseph wanted his motives to be understood by others, but all too often they were not. Like any man, he had feelings...feelings that could be hurt. I would guess he spent many a long night on his knees seeking comfort from the Lord, and I’m sure he received it. But, as any of us would, Joseph yearned for the people he served so valiantly, members and non-members alike, to understand him. These words, in their rawness and simplicity, touch me every time I read them:

You don’t know me. You never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I would not have believed it myself. I never did harm any man since I was born in the world. My voice is always for peace. I cannot lie down until all the work is finished. I never think any evil, nor do anything to the harm of my fellow man. When I am called by the trump of the archangel and weighed in the balance, you will all know me then. I add no more. God bless you all.

Joseph is as misunderstood today as he was in his own time, perhaps even more so. But having been blessed to teach these lessons, my understanding of him has increased. I hope the members of my class feel the same way.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Going Gently into that Good Night...

Well, I'm back. I'm tired. They're moved in. I missed Stake Conference. And I've managed an estimated weight gain of five pounds. (Estimated because I don't have the heart to get on the scale.) I am way too gentle with myself to do such a thing. People need to be gentle with themselves, ya know? Michael McLean says so. (Click Gentle under Featured Songs.)

I was greeted at the door last night by a home that was 56 degrees cold. (Why, I don't know.) Admittedly, I had turned the heat down before closing up the castle, but I could have sworn I just punched it a few times to avoid unnecessary expense. Little did I guess that, five days after the fact, my return home would mimic a trip to the frozen arctic and include a rather disconcerting carpet-as-tundra experience. (Honest. The fibers sort of crunched beneath my feet.) Naturally, I punched the thermostat back up to more of a Mediterranean summer and raided the freezer for ice cream as a last hurrah.

Today, that last hurrah has been shut down, due to impending obesity. (Wait. Hold the "hurrah shutdown" till tomorrow. I'm having the entire Singles Ward over for dinner tonight, and I ain't about to miss out on a couple o' Hawaiian Luau slices from City Pizza.) After all, I deserve it, right? Right?? Right??!



PS. And maybe a brownie or two for dessert, too.

PPS. I promise to go back on the wagon Tuesday.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Moving Can Be Quite Moving

Saturday morning my husband and I will be helping our kids and grandkids move to a great new community. The schools are considerably better than where they lived before; the ward is good, and the area seems to be booming. Needless to say, I am really excited for them.

I'm also a little bit sad. Why? Because they happen to be leaving some of the best and most supportive friends imaginable. Over the past five years, their ward family has come through for them again and again and then some...from difficult pregnancy to NICU birth experience to Stevens Johnson syndrome to this very move and more. It looked like half the elder's quorum showed up not only to lift those bales, tote those barges, and load up the truck but to transport and unload the ungainly thing at its destination. What's more, they all managed to be cool and funny while accomplishing these tasks. It was neat to meet the same guys my son has enjoyed playing basketball with every Wednesday night, and I know he will miss them. They've made it pretty clear they're going to miss him, too.

I need to give a shout-out to my cute mom and stepfather for making chicken and shrimp gumbo from scratch and driving an hour and fifteen minutes to feed us all the epitome of delicious southern comfort food. I truly think they may have saved my life; I was freezing to death in here from having every door in the house open as the volunteers carried things out to the truck. It was pretty obvious that Great Grandma and Great Grandpa had just about done themselves in "doing for" us, and there was no doubt in my mind that nurturing their children is far more important to them than taking care of themselves. (Not that I wasn't already aware of that.) We love you guys!

Big day ahead, so I'd better turn in. I sure had fun with the birthday boy yesterday, although he was a little freaked out watching his room vanish one stick of furniture at a time. I have a feeling he's going to be pretty relieved to see it all reassembled in a different venue later tonight.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Bryce's 2nd Birthday Bonanza


You bring your grandma so much joy.

There really are no words to say

How glad I am you rolled our way.

You didn't have an easy start.

Those first few days, you stole my heart;

And you have not returned it still,

As I'm quite sure you never will.

(Not that I'd take it if you tried...

My heart to yours is firmly tied.)

There's something in your big, blue eyes

That has the power to hypnotize.

The wonder that you bring to living

Fills my soul with deep thanksgiving.

Your sparkling personality

Is brighter than the eye can see

And quirkier than tongue can tell.

Your spirit makes my spirit swell

With gratitude for little things

Like seashells, feathers,

bugs, and swings.

In fact, you really rock my world.

In you, life's colors are unfurled.

There's nothing you're afraid to try.

You're such a plucky little guy,

And thoughtful, too, and so in touch

With beauty, nature, goats (!) and such

That I could watch you all day long.

From dawn to dusk, you do no wrong.

And I'm not prejudiced at all. (?!)

In summer, winter, spring or fall...

Right from your head

Down to Your Toes...

You come up smelling like a rose!

Except, of course, for when you don't.

(But I won't tell Mom if you won't...)

Just promise that you'll always keep

Those smiles and frowns that go heart-deep,

And don't forget you're loved a ton

By Grandma and Grandpa Anderson.