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Tips From A Former Florist Since It Is Nearly Mother’s Day

  • May 9, 2013 11:48 pm

Tips from a former florist since it is nearly Mother’s Day:

1. Shop local.  You will do much better on prices and quality if you avoid the nationwide teleflora type shops and look up a local florist or better yet, a nursery.  Place orders by phone or in person- not online.

2. Have an idea of what you want- if you can be specific, be specific.  If you can’t be specific, ask what is fresh and just off the truck today.

3. Think outside the vase.  A flat of annuals or a box of perennial bulbs for a gardener is more exciting than blooms that will die in a week.  A hanging basket or pre-made planter will last for moths if properly cared for.  I have sent my mother entire flats of impatiens a few times- gets quite the reaction at the office, and mom’s garden looks lovely all summer.  A small plant with a gift certificate is also extra special.

4.  If you must do cut flowers, there is more to life than roses.  As a former florist, I can tell you that roses are the most uninspiring flower out there.  They are a pill to clean and die off quickly.  They are also what I really want to get out of my shop before they open and go completely limp.  Think irises, tulips, delphiniums, daisies, alstroemeria, lilies, carnations, or my personal favorite- orchids.  Be unique.

5.  I always make it a point to tell the person taking the order that my mother is an avid gardener and that I was a florist.  This says that we recognize quality, and we expect quality delivered.  If you have been disappointed in the past, it doesn’t hurt to mention that.   Saying, “wow, your competitor left me really unimpressed last year” gives them a reason to do better.  Letting them know that you know a .99 cent carn from a $5 lily gives them a little accountability.  Most florists really want to please you and want to sell the best product possible.  You don’t need to be rude about it, but working something like, “I really don’t want my mom to be disappointed because she is such an amazing gardener and we had this really lackluster product last time I sent flowers.  What do you have that is fresh and will really wow her?” is a good way to go.

6. Have your recipient snap a photo of the arrangement when it arrives and send it to you.  Most people aren’t going to say, “Thanks for the ugly flowers,” or “wow, you spent five bucks on me” but if it is in a photo-  you can see for yourself if you got what you paid for, or if you got the vase that fell off the back of the truck, so to speak.  If you find yourself underwhelmed, call and complain.

7.  On the flip side, a little praise never hurt.  If they have done well, you can call and say so.  At the very least, make a note of the business you used so you can use them again in the future!

8.  Having a bad day?  There is NOTHING wrong with sending yourself a few blooms!  Flowers have been known to actually lessen symptoms of depression.  If you need a pick me up, visit your local nursery or florist and get yourself a little something!  Don’t pout because no one remembered you- treat yourself!

Stress, The Parable of the Talents, And You Bet Your Boots This Is One Of Those Posts Written For My Own Edification

  • October 8, 2012 9:44 pm

The woman in this photo is more stressed out than she looks.

Shortly before the Air Force moved us to South Dakota, I had an evening where the stress of the move and the impending unknown brought me to my knees in tears.  I am pretty sure that every military wife has some version of this moment before moving.  I was happy about moving, for the most part. The other part of me, the part that sparked the emotional meltdown, was made up entirely of fear.  It usually is.

I ended up in my bedroom with the door shut, on my knees, trying to put into words the near panic attack that was going on in my brain. There were the usual concerns of stuff breaking and housing being impossible to set up, and then the “what ifs” set in and the rest of the prayer went something like this. “What if no one likes me? What if I end up hating it there? What if I’m unhappy? What if everyone I meet thinks I’m an incompetent loser and WHAT IF THEY’RE RIGHT!!!?” It was with this very mature and self assured thought that I opened my eyes, not even formally closing my prayer, eyes bugging out, staring blindly at my bedspread while contemplating this new horror I hadn’t even allowed myself to verbalize during all of my mental rants.

It was at that moment, while I was dangling on the precipice of a self loathing induced nervous breakdown that I heard a very quiet, gentle voice inside my mind say, “Leah.  Don’t worry.  I’ll put you to work.”

And then I smiled. My Savior knows me, and because of that, as it says in scripture, He knows precisely how to succor me in my time of need. Only someone who knew me very, very intimately would give this perfect answer that I wasn’t expecting. I have such a defining need to be useful, and have learned the lesson that work is a blessing many times over. I do not cope well with idleness.  I also know that the very best way to end a pity party is to get up and go be of service to someone else. That is the recipe for true happiness, and that is why so much of Christ’s teachings focus on the importance of giving service.  He wants us to be happy.

I used to think that the commandment to give service was for the benefit of others and society.  Caring for the sick, the poor and the lonely is just good sense if you want a functioning community.  But I understand that the Savior didn’t give any commandments that weren’t for our direct benefit.  The gift of being able to work and serve others is a gift given for our own edification- and ultimately our sanctification.  If the point of being here on this earth is to become more like Jesus Christ, then giving loving service could probably be considered Christianity 101.

That’s all fine and dandy, isn’t it?  Well, what about when you hit that other wall where the work God has blessed you with seems like more than you can actually manage?  What if no matter how hard you try, and how faithful and diligent you’ve been you still fall short and never quite get to where you meant to be? What if you’ve got so many things on your plate that your head is actually starting to spin and you think you might crack sooner rather than later?

That’s where I was last night.  Actually, that’s where I’ve been for several days. God has most definitely kept His promise to “put me to work,” and vastly exceeded my expectations of what that was going to entail. And that’s great!  It’s just hard, and frequently I don’t know what I’m doing. I have been assuring myself for several weeks now that His grace would be sufficient in all things I am trying to do right now, because I know that the things I am using my life up on are what God would have me do. And that is true. Knowing you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, and knowing that He will make up the difference because you are doing your best is a huge comfort.

But even then, because I have some really unhealthy perfectionistic tendencies, I can still become completely overwhelmed. And then God blesses me.  I was reading in Matthew 25 last night while prepping a seminary lesson I need to teach this week when I ended up going over the parable of the talents. Initially, I glanced at it, thought I already understood it, and started to move on- and then something told me to stop and go back. I read that parable with completely new eyes last night. (Go figure- I’m doing service by teaching seminary, and it’s blessing me.  Case in point.)

To sum up (although I recommend you just go read verses 14-30 via the Matthew link above): The lord gave three of his servants each some talents (a unit of money). One got five, one got two and one got one. The first two were industrious and made the most of what they had, ultimately doubling what they started with.  The servant’s master was pleased, called them good and faithful, and made them rulers over many things.  The last guy took his talent, buried it in the earth and failed to benefit himself or anyone else with it, and had nothing more to present to his lord. The lord said this servant was wicked and slothful, took back the one talent, and cast the servant out.

It is so very, very easy to take this parable, turn monetary talents into the talents we have been blessed with and say: Use ‘em or lose ‘em, and while you’re using them, do so in a way that benefits God, and makes you worthy of being called good and faithful.  End of story. (See? I can be succinct when I want to.)

So what was new last night? It all started when this very overwhelmed woman read the verse that states:

His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

All I could think was that I absolutely did not want to be made ruler or given any more responsibility than I already had. What kind of reward was that? This is pretty childish, but understandable.  When you’ve just spent a half an hour in prayer, bemoaning your pathetic capacity to handle the many things that are stressing you out, the answer you want is not, “I’m going to bless you with even more of that!”

Then I read further on, and saw what the underachieving third servant had to say to justify how he had manged things:

And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

I was afraid. Did that ever jump out at me. I was afraid, too. Afraid of having any more on my plate.  So afraid of failing at what I had been given (not just talents, but time, energy, and the very breath in my body- everything the Lord gave me) that I was actually ready to turn down the opportunity to make more of myself.  No thanks, Lord, you can keep all that extra stuff and I’ll just try to return the basic gift of myself to you intact, no worse for wear- but no better.  Don’t you just hate it when you read the scriptures and realize that you’re the equivalent of the third servant?

Before I had time to feel too badly about this, I looked over the parable again and saw the beauty behind verse nineteen.

After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

After a long time . Perfection, or even being wildly profitable isn’t required now. While there certainly will be a reckoning of how I spent my time and energy and what I made of myself- that’s not today. The story isn’t over. I have time. Not time to be lazy and slothful and a big chicken, but time to work on things and get better. Time to have faith.

 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliverdest unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

I have gained. It also struck me that both of the good and faithful servants simply reported their work as having gained. It didn’t matter that one had ten and one had four, they had both gained. There was no perfect number of talents, no lofty goal to hit before you could be considered good and faithful. Good and faithful servants gain. They grow. They do a little better each day. The point is not perfection- it’s progression.  I can look at myself and honestly report that I, too, have gained. Do I have it all together? No. But I have it more together than I did before.  Maybe I’m not quite so third servant, after all.  Let’s look at that verse that had me scared earlier.

His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Two thoughts:

1: Since I’m here trying to learn to be more like Jesus, it is valuable to note that this exercise in “gaining” is really just practice helping me to be more like Him.  Everything the Savior puts His hand to is made more. Loaves and fishes, a repentant heart, fishermen into apostles. Christ magnifies everything, including me.  In a very small way, that is what He is teaching me to do.

2: It’s not about the level of responsibility.  It isn’t about how much or how worthwhile what I do amounts to.  It doesn’t matter how fast I do what I’m supposed to do. It matters that what I do is done joyfully. It all goes back to that original blessing of happiness.  God lets me serve because He wants me to be happy, so rather than asking to do things better or faster or smarter, I would be wise to ask Him to help me live my life with more joy. Joy is the end goal of life, as well as the sustaining force that can carry us through.

And I knew this before.  I just needed reminding.

I Went On Vacation- Almost By Myself!

  • October 5, 2012 5:21 pm

We had planned a family vacation to Fargo awhile back, and then the Air Force canceled it, as they are wont to do.  So when my husband came home from work about two weeks ago and said he was taking leave, and then asked me if I wanted to go to Fargo, I said yes. . .but I wanted to go by myself!

I have never just taken off and left my husband home with the kids.  And certainly, I’ve never left him home with FIVE kids. The closest I’ve come is having babies or surgery and spending a night away at the hospital, which is completely different than a full week of an experience I like to call “Welcome to Motherhood!”

He was very supportive of me taking a vacation (we both knew I needed it), and we decided that I would take just Maggie and have a girl road trip.


It was so nice to sit down, and stay sitting down for as long as I wanted.  It was great to hear quiet and not automatically assume that someone was shredding curtains or setting the carpet on fire.  I ate meals without popping up and down ten times trying to take care of everyone else while my food got cold.  Maggie is easy, entertains herself for the most part and completely enjoyed her break from reality as well.  I loved shopping with people who were patient, walked at the pace of normal human beings, and never screamed hysterically for a treat.  Heck, I loved shopping in general, simply because Fargo has pretty decent options when it comes to clothes shopping and I had all my favorite stores at my fingertips!  It was beautiful.

Just a few pumpkins. . .and sevral boxes of gourds

I visited a few friends, but mostly just hung out with my parents and did nothing, which is just what the doctor ordered. We did have one grand adventure when we drove out to Bluebird Gardens, a really cool Farm co-op my parents participate in.  We harvested pumpkins, lugged them out of the field ourselves and loaded up my car with A LOT to take home.

I ran out of room in the back- good thing I only brought one kid with me!

Confession: I love pumpkins. And not a little. Very little in nature makes me happy like Autumn and Pumpkins- and boy did Fargo deliver a gorgeous fall!

Isn't that a super cool bush behind me? What gorgeous color!

Now I am home, and getting back into the swing of things.  Gabe has barely moved from my side since I walked in the door.  All is well at home, and Chris did an amazing job making sure everyone was happy and fed.  Astonishingly, the house wasn’t completely destroyed when I got home.  I wonder if he’ll let me do this every year?

A Private Grief

  • August 13, 2012 7:50 pm

I wish I had the right words.  This isn’t usually my problem- in fact, I tend to have more words than anyone cares to listen to.  I usually have three different ways I can clearly explain myself, and once I get what’s in my head nailed down, I’m better. It becomes concrete, owned, and passé. Whatever the event was is now neatly filed and case closed.  I need the right words- I’m not myself without them.

For months now all I get are flashes, phrases, metaphors- bifurcated thoughts that lack gravity. When things are really, really wrong and raw, I can’t speak; processing pain becomes visceral. I can’t get an intellectual hold on something that I can only channel physically. I don’t have the vocabulary to effectively make someone understand what it is to feel such a profound level of pain that you can’t breathe. Saying that sounds melodramatic and hokey. It doesn’t come close to doing justice to the horrid, strangling catch in my throat, and the impossible combination of being too full, welling and frothy with emotion and completely gutted at the same time. I am both the delicate reed and the strength of the wave that overcomes it.

That probably makes no sense. Words are laughably insufficient.

I have not handled this third and final miscarriage well. The first two were hard, but this one just broke my heart.

I felt the initial shock, but pushed it aside, telling myself that I’d done this twice before, and that it just didn’t matter.  And this worked for awhile, because I had so many other riveting concerns that driving what I really felt as far underneath everything else- major surgery, months of pain, and just coping with the day to day, as I could was all I could do. I had to bury it because the physical strain was taking everything I had. There wasn’t room left.

After I was physically well, it resurfaced. At first it was voiceless, tears coming suddenly while driving or finding myself standing, dumbstruck and immobile at the sight of a beautiful baby. Most of the time being busy kept those feelings at bay, and I filled up every second, coping by doing anything but grieving. I refused to make time.

My mind retaliated and carved out hours against my will. Bedtime became a routine where I would lie awake for an hour in silence and then, when it was perfectly still, I shattered. I was invisible in the darkness, tears running from the corners of my eyes, tickling my ears, then hitting the pillow until it was so damp I had to get up to find another one. After awhile I just kept an extra by the bed.

Sometimes it wasn’t quiet. There were nights where I ran out the door seconds before I could wake anyone, locking myself in the car at midnight sobbing, keening violently into the blackness until there was nothing left.

Mostly, I was glad no one noticed. I thought I did a pretty good job concealing things.  It was a private grief, and I wanted it to stay that way.  I didn’t talk to friends, family, not even my husband for several months. I have never been so silent.

I forced myself into situations where I deliberately salted my wounds and demanded that I hold it together anyway.  It was almost a punishment for being so weak and so vulnerable.  I am not permitted fragility.

I held babies at church.  I walked up and down every baby aisle at the stores I visited. It was sheer grit that got me in the door and kept me in my seat at a friend’s baby shower. I made myself stay until the last gift was opened and then literally fled a room full of good friends the second the last wrapping papers hit the floor. Who knew that a few baby blankets could make me feel completely smothered?  I barely made it to the car, and then sat there feeling like a jerk for skipping out so early while knowing I would have been a bigger jerk if anything had happened to detract from her attention and joy. I don’t think anyone saw. I hope not.

I was mad at myself for being so upset, even now, months after the fact.  People don’t talk about this. Once the initial loss is over, you’re supposed to tie grief up in a neat little box and move on. I accused myself of being unwilling to heal, of refusing to find solace. I fed myself every platitude, every particle of pragmatism or hope I could find, every truth designed to make me feel better- and none of it mattered. Be reasonable. Be sensible. Get over it. I couldn’t even if I knew how.

I am not deliberately inconsolable.  It is simply where I am and accepting, validating and not trying to change myself or my heartache helps- at least it removes the guilt and the pressure to feel better right now.  This grief is like a hunger, and you can’t feed hunger with rocks or sleep or flowers or scripture.  Hunger is only fixed with nourishment, and I don’t have anything that will satisfy.

I should have had a baby this week.  Maybe should isn’t the right word- could have, might have, would have had what I wanted, if things had gone my way. When I was given my due date back at the beginning of this, I automatically pushed it to a few weeks earlier because my kids have been four, five and three weeks early, respectively.  I landed on the eighteenth of the month that fell within that time frame because all three of my kids are born on the eighteenth of a month. August eighteenth was my adjusted date, and in all probability, the most likely corner of time in which that child would have arrived.  I would very much like to skip the rest of this month and go to September because it holds no expectations and is free of this.

I’m not sure how I feel about this timing, but it looks like our license for foster/adoption will be finalized this week. There is a good chance we could be getting new kids at our house right around the eighteenth. You can imagine the perfect outcome where a hole in my heart miraculously gets filled by the addition of a child who was meant to be mine arriving at just the right time.  It’s heartwarming, this possible miracle. It’s perfect. It is also unbelievably unlikely and smacks of being way too good to be true. While I believe God can arrange that, and even know that His character is unspeakably merciful, and understand that He wants me to be happy- I have almost no hope.  I can’t have it because any unfulfilled hope will just break my heart again and again and again.  This pretty picture is the very antithesis of how my life actually works.  Hope for anything but a challenge is downright foolish.

The things in my life that are worth the fight have always required one. It has always been hard work and the grace of God that got me anywhere. I want to expect a miracle.  I want to expect beauty for ashes being right around the corner. I want to assume that every happy fairy tale I’ve concocted can and will come true, and soon.  I know I don’t deserve it.  I am unworthy of more blessings than I already have.  I am in desperate need of mercy, and I am afraid to even ask for it.

I can separate the two events. There is a loss and a gain and neither one is mended or invalidated by the addition of the other.  The future may well be wonderful.  I have faith that it can be.  But it doesn’t change this specific pain, and I don’t know that it ever can. I am well aware that I have a very rich and full life and that there is an astonishing amount of goodness in it. I also know that there are many people who have dealt with much harder things, and who have walked the road I’m on so many times that three miscarriages probably sounds like a good deal.  It may be ungrateful to be so sad.

I have been grateful when my parents quietly acknowledged what I had lost.  I’ve been grateful to a friend who told me about her new pregnancy last, but who told me herself. I don’t think she knows how much having someone guess that I might not be ok yet meant to me.  I was very grateful for the ability to keep my expression smooth and emotions hidden when kind, new friends jokingly responded to the information that we had three children with, “that’s a good start!” I wanted to cry, but I bluffed, and the moment passed.  For once I had the pardon of a poker face. I am especially grateful for my husband who has patiently been my greatest source of comfort, who knows there aren’t words for this, and who is a gentle buttress against harsher things.

Grief doesn’t change my ability to live life and to do many things well and with satisfaction. I am not crazy or seriously depressed.  I have a life full of gifts and happiness.  There is just pain running beneath it all, and this week is especially hard.





Bamboletta Cornrows

  • July 30, 2012 11:03 pm

Today I am going to show you ow to do cornrows on your Bamboletta doll. These make for a really funky style and are easy to do.

To begin with, separate the bottom layer of hair from the top. divide those into smaller sections and create several braids. Leave about half a braid’s worth unbraided at each “ear.”  Now- you could do smaller braids than this, but I don’t recommend it.  If you try a three strand braid, you will find that they knot up when you try to take them out.  Also, smaller braids will leave the hair more kinky afterward than a thicker braid.  It is helpful to do this layer first so you can gauge how long you want your top braids to be.  If you do the bottoms last, you will probably find that you want the top braids longer.

When you are ready to go on to the top, separate out small sections.  Start braiding at the part line and pick up one or two more strands per braid as you work down the side. This will attach the braid to the head so they aren’t sticking out all willy-nilly.

It should look like this.

Pick up at the next bit down, taking some hair from both the center and that bottom hair you left.  This just helps the braids be more face framing, rather than all pulled way back. It creates a slightly fuller look in front.

Braid it up!

Then go down the part doing the same thing.  You may want to get your top ones done before you go back and get the center layer braided. With the center braids, you won’t need to add in bits of yarn to make corn rows- just braid it straight out.

When you have your top finished, it should look something like this.

Once you have your braids complete, you can play around with a few styles.  I like to pull it back like this twisting the braids as I go.

And then I like to flip the ends up under that twisted style to create an even cuter look.  There are loads of things you can do with these- braid the braids, pig tails, the options are wide open.Do make it a point to not leave the braids in too long.  The smaller braids will leave small waves in the hair, which looks pretty for a day or two, but which you probably don’t want to have last forever.  I leave these in for a week to ten days and within a few days of being loose the yarn has completely straightened back out.  Leave it in for months, and it will probably hold the waves a lot longer.

Until next time, Bamboletta fans!  Get ready for some ideas on styles for boucle babes like this one!

Polished Insanity, or Yet Another Reason Why I Will Forever Be On My In-law’s Bad Side

  • July 21, 2012 3:24 am

me on vacation in manti, ut

When we were at my in-law’s home a few weeks ago, I had a horrible experience. I need to preface this with some back story.  You need to know that my in-laws built a beautiful new home just a few years ago. You should also know that shortly after they laid the gorgeous Brazilian cherry flooring, a tiny, tiny rock got caught by the wheel on Gabe’s high chair, and when I went to take the chair out to our car I inadvertently scratched a HUGE scratch in the floor in a very visible place. I felt terrible. I cried. In fact, I still die just a little bit inside every time I see that scratch, and that was two years ago.

This trip was a little exciting because my in-laws had just finished the basement. There was now a bathroom and two guest bedrooms, all designed to make someone staying in their home feel very comfortable. It was finished literally days before we arrived, and it was beautiful.  The bathroom has lovely tile flooring and a very striking glass and tile walk in shower in natural, neutral tones.

So one morning Chris and his parents went to the temple and I stayed behind to watch the kids.  I had all the time in the world, and I enjoyed a long shower and some extra primping in that beautiful new bathroom. After I got dressed, I decided that I would paint my toenails. It should be noted here that I have never, ever in my whole life made a nail polish mess. EVER. So when I put my foot up on the lid of the toilet and set the polish down next to it and began to apply the bright red polish, I wasn’t worried at all.

I got two thirds of the way done with my toes when the unthinkable happened. Somehow that little bottle slipped and fell to the tile below breaking off half the neck of the bottle. It then proceeded to bounce, flipping back and forth, back and forth on the floor no less than seven times, wildly spraying streams of very bright red all over the floor. In slow motion I watched this bottle bouncing as though possessed, and all I could think was “the devil is in the details.”

Now, I am not one to use the excuse “the devil made me do it”, but for the first time in my life, I honestly felt sure that there just had to be a pack of demons in that bathroom, plotting my demise. I had already wrecked one new floor in this house, and I was sure that some evil being had a plan that my in-laws would just never, ever like me, no matter what I did. Since things had been going relatively well, Satan just had to intervene and make sure I stayed firmly planted on my mother in law’s bad side forever. I was going straight to hell, and there was nothing I could do to fix it.

I was in a state of total panic.  Nail polish clean up usually involves attending to the spot as quickly as possible, but when there are streaks of polish across at least fourteen ten inch tiles and up the side of the shower, it is impossible to even know where to start. I grabbed a roll of toilet paper, got on my hands and knees and started dabbing up the thickest splotches. This, of course, smeared the red lines into hot pink blotches, but I had to get the excess off before I could do anything else.

Once I had the bulk of the goo removed, I poured nail polish remover all over the floor and began to scrub like crazy. I wasn’t getting very far. I bolted up the stairs and found a magic eraser sponge. That, combined with the acetone, started getting most of the polish up. I put good old fashioned elbow grease into this for at least twenty minutes before I just knew I wasn’t going to get any more up this way. I reached up to the sink, grabbed my own toothbrush, and started working on the tiny divots in the tile that were still stained. After about ten minutes, I had almost all of it up.  I stood up to survey my work, took a few steps back and screamed.

I had forgotten that my toenails were wet. During the entire time I had been erasing the evidence from one half of the floor, my wet toes had been leaving a second set of streaks behind me. I had to start the whole process over on the other half of the floor. Maggie had heard the scream and walked in and asked what I was doing.  I explained and then swore her to secrecy.

By the time the worst of all of it was up, I had spent almost an hour on my hands and knees. I was certifiably high off the acetone fumes, and still in a state of panic because though the tile was back to normal, the grout was still hot pink in at least twenty places. I called my mother in desperation and explained my situation.

She laughed at me. Then she told me that I should have visited her, and that if I had, I would be eating a Dairy Queen blizzard and taking a blissful nap on the big white swing in the backyard.  But no.  I had gone to my in-law’s home, where things never seemed to go right, and look where that had gotten me. There is nothing so bad that a little extra guilt can’t make worse.

I asked her what she would do to remove nail polish from grout, and she quickly ran through the remedy list of everything I had already tried. She googled it, and came up with the same answers.  I tried soaking the grout in even more nail polish remover, but NOTHING was going to get the pink out. She put me on hold and asked a co worker who had recently grouted a bathroom what she would do. Her answer was that she would stop trying to remove it, go to Lowe’s, buy matching grout and cover it.

BRILLIANT. Except I was in teeny tiny Manti, Utah and I had no idea where one might buy grout, (the closest Lowe’s was about two hours north) and I had no idea what this particular shade of grout was called. I decided to go look through the garage to see if there happened to be any left overs.  This house has two garages.  One is a two car and the other is a one car garage. Both have shelves and stuff lining every single wall, and it is packed with everything from motor oil to Christmas decorations.  Holy cow, how would I ever find anything in this place? I started in one corner and methodically worked my way through the shelves.  At three fourths of the way around, I found a bag of left over grout. YEA!

Now I just had to deal with the totally insignificant fact that I had never in my life had occasion to mix or apply grout, and had no idea what I was doing. It was also getting to that point where people should be coming back home. I was nearly hysterical.  Reason and common sense were completely taken over by wild eyed insanity.

I lugged the grout into the kitchen, and read the side of the bag. The directions were for people who wanted to mix up gallons of grout at a time. I only needed a cup. I put a few spoonfuls of dry grout into a large dixie cup, put the cup under the faucet and proceeded to add way too much water. Aaaagh! In a mad hurry, I thought to myself, “I’ll just dump most of it down the drain and it will even out.”

I can only imagine the pack of demons that must have been rolling around on the floor, sides splitting from laughter when they realized what I was about to do. “Oh this is TOO good- better than we imagined,” I’m sure they said.

Thankfully, my guardian angels yelled loud enough to access even my shorted out, acetone riddled brain cells, and seconds before I tipped the cup into the sink I heard them yell, “YOU DO NOT EVER POUR CEMENT DOWN THE DRAIN!!!!!!!!!” Oh yeah.  I knew that. Whew. I shudder imagining what explaining that would have been like. I stirred a few more spoonfuls of dry grout into my cup and thickened the mixture up to what I hoped would be appropriate.

I ran downstairs with my cup o’ grout, knelt down on the floor and prayed that it would work. I carefully dabbed the wet grout over the hot pink streaks. It was covering it!  Except it was all smudgy and didn’t have that nice clean, linear, professionally applied look any more. This was more like what a finger painting preschooler would do. I ran my fingers down the sides of the tile, pushing all the grout into the right grooves and finishing it off with a knife like swipe of my thumb nail. It looked perfect. I did this about twenty more times, until I had no fingernails left, and stood up and inspected. The grout I was using was darker than the grout already there.  I willed that stuff to lighten as it dried.

It had been just over two hours since the start of this debacle, and I was still shaking from adrenalin when Chris walked in the door a few minutes later.

There is no evidence whatsoever left in that bathroom.

In Which I Most Certainly Will NOT Include A Photo

  • June 11, 2012 10:48 pm

I love my mother dearly.

I also love her mother, my strong, sharp, flippin’ hilarious grandmother, who I sometimes miss so much I can’t breathe.

And today I was thinking about something that happened with them back when Jonas was just barely one year old- that’s almost nine years ago, people.

There is the most beautiful beach in Pacifica, CA.  It is about a mile away from another nice, but super crowded beach that I liked to go walking on in what now seems like a past life.  Chris was trying to take me to the second beach when we stopped too early and found the first beach.  There are about a hundred old wooden steps down from the highway to this very secluded, very private beach, nestled between two cliffs. It is picture perfect, serene, and utterly unspoiled- and there is almost never anyone there.

That’s because it’s a clothing-optional beach.

So, with this information, I couldn’t help but take my mother on a little trip over there when she visited. Because- there was never anyone there when we visited before, and it was truly lovely, and wouldn’t it be so fun to watch my mom’s face when I told her what kind of beach she was at?  Never miss an opportunity to shock your mama- especially if you are really pretty straitlaced and not very shocking at all, like my goodie two shoes self.  I don’t get a whole lot of opportunities to see my mom’s eyebrows jump all the way to her hairline.

So down the stairs we went, me, mom and my baby boy, all the way to the bottom, and we were rewarded for our efforts because, indeed, it was as perfectly pristine as remembered.

And then Mr. Naked As A Jaybird walked around the corner of the cliff.

Cue MY eyebrows hitting my hairline, and my mother giggling at MY expression (I honestly don’t know why I try).

Well, this guy was awfully naked.  All he had on was a floppy hat covering his balding head. I have no idea why he bothered with that cap. I’d be considerably more worried about a sunburned willy than skin cancer on my ears, but what do I know? The guy wasn’t anything special to view in the nude, but also not disgusting, and it was, after all, the kind of beach where guys go when they have a thing for airing out their privates, so not really all that shocking.  So, I figured- well, what the heck.  Why let one wanker ruin a perfectly good beach trip?

We continued to enjoy our afternoon, snapping a few pictures, taking in the ocean lapping at the shoreline, and watching (because we really had no choice, and honestly, how can you NOT look), at this guy meandering around the beach, with his dopey Gilligan hat on, sand between his toes and heaven only knows where else, and his Johnson flying at what can only be described as. . .half mast.  At least, for his sake, I hope it was half mast.

It was a great day for a few beach pictures, and since my mother and I just can’t help ourselves when it comes to photo-taking, we had to bring out the camera and get a few cute shots of me and my little boy, and grandma at the beach, waves hitting the shoreline, the beautiful cliffs.

Figuring that I could still have the last laugh, I took the camera and with great stealth and deception, I pretended to take a picture of my very nice family members, but instead- I took a picture of our nude friend.  With my mother’s camera.  And I didn’t tell her about it.

This was not a digital camera.

I can only imagine what the North Dakota developer thought when he processed my mother’s California vacation photos.

She picked up the photos on the way to meet my grandmother for lunch, flipped through the stack and was shocked.  Mission accomplished.

Then she intentionally put the naked guy back into the pile of respectable vacation memories, sat down with Grandma for lunch and handed her the stack of photos. (Certain traits seem to be genetic.)

Well, Grandma was having a great time remarking on the cuteness of the baby, the pretty daughter and grand daughter, the picturesque beach. . .and then she yelped, pressed the photos to her chest to hide them from view, and looked around wildly to see if anyone saw that she was looking at dirty pictures in the middle of a restaurant.

It is one of my deepest regrets that I was not there to see this.

My mom said they both had a good laugh over it.  Then they mailed me a copy of the picture.

To this day I can’t picture it without giggling.


Thoughts On The Dead, As Penned By The Living

  • June 6, 2012 9:58 pm

bleeding hearts, grown in my mother's garden

The day after school got out I packed up the kids and headed home to North Dakota.  It was a quiet trip, relaxing and free from so many of the obligations that usually exist when a person goes home, and I had time to do some things I had wanted to do for a long time.

I got to visit the cemeteries where my family is buried and that was really wonderful, but also emotional.  I haven’t been out there in many years, not since before my grandmother passed away, and it used to be something I did yearly.  You know how when you grow up you move away and find you miss the oddest things?  Well, I have found every Memorial Day especially hard because we always spent them visiting these graves and remembering and honoring our ancestors and those who served our country, and being so disconnected from all these people I loved stirred something in me that was really uncomfortable to deal with.

I feel a responsibility to take care of these graves and to pass that knowledge and memory down to younger generations. I understood the sacredness of grave sites as a very little girl, piece by piece, maturing through countless visits with generations of my family’s women by my side, sharing histories and tears, silently teaching the stoic acceptance I’ve come to find comfort in. This dedication is something born in me- and not something I know how to pass on any other way.

My children visited with us this trip and I was pleased to see them interested and respectful at an appropriate level to their age, particularly my daughter, who expressed such fascination with the engravings and the names and dates.  These hallowed grounds are perfectly mitered into my heart, into the reality of who I am and where I came from. At one cemetery alone, I find myself surrounded by two sets of grandparents, great grandparents and my brother. At another, the generations go back much farther. It makes sense to me that I would eventually end up resting there as well- the cowboy song lyrics, “bury me not on the lone prairie,” always made me laugh a bit- because the lone prairie outside of Enderlin, ND is precisely where I wanted to be buried.

Of course, I am a grown married woman.  I have moved away, and it is likely that even my own parents will end up in a different plot of land all together . My husband wants to be interred in Manti- and I understand that desire- his family are all there. I am part of that family now, and so it follows I would rest there as well. As macabre as it sounds, I find myself wondering if they could just cut me in half- just as split between families in death as I am in life.  It would be gory, yes, but fitting nonetheless.

What bothers me most is that I will someday be left motherless and likely live too far away to visit those graves.  This ancient practice of respect and connectedness for one’s ancestors will lie squarely on my shoulders, and I will almost undoubtedly default on those responsibilities due to the practicalities of the living.  I do have siblings who could be there, but they will both likely live even farther away, and have even less reason to return to a home with no living relatives, and I feel that the responsibility has always been mine, as if assigned in some predetermined destiny.

The scriptures say to let the dead take care of the dead- and I get that. You can’t sacrifice your life on the alters of the dead.  It isn’t right or reasonable, and certainly wouldn’t reflect what my family would want. But I feel that someday all this will be forgotten, and that much of that forgetfulness will stem from my own choices to leave the land I was raised in. The sod generations of my family broke and planted and created lives on year after year will cease to be home, and the graves will become overgrown, cracked in the harsh winters, and ultimately forgotten.

I’m sure many of the people whose mortal shells lie in these graves understand why my heart is wrenched by this.  After all, they left their native homes in Norway and Germany, places where generations go back hundreds of years, to immigrate to America. They knew they would never return, and I can’t imagine saying goodbye to both the living and the dead with such a sense of finality.  I wonder how deeply they ached when they received news of their parents passing. I wonder if they wept because they couldn’t press flowers into the mounds of earth that covered so much of what they held dear. An ocean must have seemed like an eternity, as unreachable as heaven from earth.

Sometimes I feel like I’m somewhere in the middle of that ocean, reality steering me to safe moorings, but with pieces of myself left wandering on distant shores.



Treats To Try With Augason Farms!

  • May 21, 2012 4:58 pm

I have a few new recipes for you to try out using your Augason Farm’s products!  These swirl cookies were a huge hit at my house, and not too tricky to make.

Swirl Cookies

1 package basic sugar cookie mix

1 cup flour (you can use gluten free flour if you need to)

food coloring


Start by mixing the cookie mix to the specifications listed on the package, then add in a cup of flour. If your dough is still super sticky, add more flour until you have a firmer consistency. Divide your dough. Roll half the dough out as if you were making cut out cookies.  Try to keep the shape as uniform as possible, so it is easier to work with later.  I did a rectangle.

Take the remaining dough, add a few drops of food coloring (your choice-pink is pretty cute too), and mix it until the dough is uniform in color.  Then roll it out on wax paper so the shape and size are as close to the other dough as possible.  Flip the dough off the wax paper on top of the other dough, then go over it one more time to seal the two dough together seamlessly.  Trim off any excess or irregularities.

Roll the dough up as though you were making cinnamon rolls. Put lots of sprinkles on a cookie sheet and roll your dough log in them until the sides are covered. Take dental floss, hold one end in each hand, slide it under the dough and cross the ends over the top to slice through the dough.  You can use a knife, but floss works better. Lay your cookies out on a baking sheet.

I pressed each of mine down on the pan to help any roughness from the slicing smooth out, and also so the cookies didn’t start out too thick.  Bake them for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees, and enjoy!

My next recipe is for Breakfast Muffins.  These are a great goodie to serve at brunch, and easy to transport if you need to take them somewhere.  It is also very easy to change the serving sizes- just add more of the ingredients- you can’t wreck it.

Breakfast Muffins

Augason Farm’s Scrambled Egg Mix prepared for as many people as you hope to serve.

Cooked Sausage

Diced onions

Diced peppers

Shredded cheese

Bread (cubed in 1 inch cubes)

Get all of your ingredients prepped.  Mix everything but the bread together in a big bowl. Line your muffin pan with cupcake wrappers. The foil type works better than the paper, but either will work.  Fill the bottom of each muffin wrapper with bread cubes- about 5 for each one.  Then pour the egg mixture into the muffin wrappers until it is about 1/2 inch to the top.  Bake these at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the egg mixture is fully set. Depending on how much cheese you use, it make take more or less time.  We like it cheesy, so it takes a little longer. When they are done, pop them out of the pan and serve.

With kids getting out of school and busy summer schedules, no one really wants to heat up their kitchen cooking major meals.  Augason Farms has a variety of great drinks to keep you hydrated and easy, every day sized soup mixes.  Try the Southwest Chili Mix  over your next grilled hot dog for a perfect Chili Cheese Dog- without the work that chili from scratch requires!

For a quick dessert that is sure to please, try out this microwave cake:

Easy Black Forest Cake

1 Chocolate Cake Mix

1/2 cup flour (3/4th if you are in high altitude)

1 cup of sour cream (sour cream powder works too)

1 can of cherry pie filling

chocolate frosting

Mix all of the ingredients together and put in a greased, microwave safe cake pan (I like to use a stoneware bundt pan for this one).  If you don’t mind heating up your kitchen, then cook it according to the directions on the cake mix.  If you want to use your microwave, put the pan in the microwave and cook on high for 12-18 minutes.  I am giving a wide range here because microwaves often cook at different speeds. Our last unit took 13 minutes, our new one takes 16.  Basically, keep an eye on it after 12 minutes and when a knife comes out clean, your cake is ready.

Allow the cake to cool, then drizzle chocolate frosting over the top and serve!

Happy Cooking!


Don’t Ask Me How I’m Feeling

  • May 18, 2012 10:40 pm

A few days ago I realized that people had been inquiring about my health for nearly five months straight.  Let’s recap: I was pregnant, then I had a miscarriage, then I realized that something was really not right with the girlie bits, then I had a hysterectomy and rectocele to fix it, then I had recovery from the hysterectomy and the very, very bad complications from the rectocele for two very long months, at the end of which I had a spectacularly painful ovarian cyst rupture and the very next day after I finally came out of the fog of pain and thought- oh my goodness, I think I might actually feel ok- I came down with a sinus infection and the bronchitis from hell, and now I’m over the five day fever, but still coughing hard enough that sometimes it makes me puke. (This is where I get a prize for longest run on sentence ever.)  Now when people ask me how I’m feeling, I literally want to scream, not because these people are on my nerves, but because MY WORD IT’S BEEN FIVE MONTHS OF THIS!

It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the concern.  I do. I really do. For much of 2012 I’ve felt like I’m in this private bubble of frustration and pain, and it is healthy for me when people pop that bubble by honestly inquiring after me.  It’s just I don’t want anything else to be wrong. I want to feel normal and function normally.  I want there to be no reasons for anyone to even think I might need that kind of attention.

I can’t tell you how grateful I was to have so many friends step up and watch my youngest during this time.  I have been in hard situations where I had little support, so I know how valuable and rare and wonderful having such a circle of loving kindness is.  It has been humbling and inspiring. It has also been hugely frustrating to spend so much time sitting on the sidelines wishing I could help others, but not even being able to help my own family.  I felt horrible taking so much time and calling people for help ALL OF THE TIME, especially when I would hear of other friends who had surgery or got pneumonia or had a baby or who just needed a well deserved mental health day. I wanted to help, but instead I needed help.  I felt like a jerk.

I have also developed a huge aversion to calling people to find a babysitter, even when I desperately need one, I’d rather slam my fingers in the car door than be, yet again, an inconvenience. Trouble is, normal life requires occasional sitters as well, and mangled fingers don’t solve that problem.

I’ve hit the point where I can’t help but wonder if my friends look at me through the lens of, “oh, her again- run away before she needs help.” I feel like people who used like me might actually be judging and avoiding me.  I wouldn’t fault them for it.  At this point- I’d avoid me. I tried very hard to spread my help requests out over as many people as possible so it wouldn’t be a burden to anyone, and I hope I didn’t become anyone’s huge pain in the butt.  I can’t tell you how much I hate being on the receiving end of things, especially for so long.  One of my goals in life is to be a part of the solution, not the problem, so you can imagine that I’m not feeling very good about myself right now.

Honestly, I kind of want to just retreat back into my bubble and stay out of people’s hair. I get this way when I feel discouraged or sad, and I know it is the wrong thing to do and that I need human interaction or bad things happen to me mentally, so I am trying not to do that.

I need to regain my health and rejoin the human race.  And I need it yesterday.