Friday, June 24, 2005

I'm all agoog

I was going to blog this yesterday but other stuff came up. So, sorry, it's not the most timely entry ever.

Wednesday we had our quarterly Board of Trustees' Meeting at Google HQ in Mountain View. All I did was sit at the registration table and greet people, then pull trustees aside to take headshots before they went upstairs to their meetings.

Oh yeah, and nosh on the free snacks. And talk to curious Google employees (they actually call themselves Googlers in conversation) who wanted to know about our new campus. And learn about what a freakin' sweet place it would be to work.

If I didn't have a husband tied to campus in Merced, I would so be applying for one of Google's open PR or tech writing jobs right now. I want the free snacks, the gourmet lunch, the on-site gym, the dodgeball in the hall, the kid-and-dog friendly office with the green and orange carpet. I want the $5000 adoption benefit and 12 week full-pay maternity leave. TWELVE WEEKS, HOLY HANNAH! And two weeks for the partner who is not the primary caregiver! I want the pool table and funky chairs and dry cleaning service. I want the energy and unity that seemed to pervade the place. I want it all.

Husband says, "But then you'd have to live in Silicon Valley." Yeah, and that's bad? It's getting to where housing there isn't THAT much more expensive than housing in Merced. We couldn't afford to buy a home there, but guess what? We can't afford to buy here, either. I have a lot of "if only" feelings about that, but it's all water under the bridge now.

Anyway I do wonder, why don't more companies work this way? The only thing I couldn't see at Google that I would wish for in a job was an on-site childcare facility. Do that, Googlers, and you will be perfect.

On the bright side, I think in the long term many of the most important things I saw there will happen at UC Merced. We already have remarkable unity and purpose. We'll have that youthful energy as soon as our students arrive this fall. Campus dining will be fresh and delicious although not free. The buildings are going to be innovative and gorgeous. Someday, when the kinks are ironed out, there will be childcare on campus.

I really don't have anything to complain about. I could probably even pop over to Target and find a bright green rug to perk up my gray, gray office.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

House for rent

Our little home in Sugar House is available for rent. See pictures and get more information.

Please note the shrubs have been trimmed and the stove has been replaced since these photos were taken.

Old lady wisdom and other stuff

Some days I try to think of something to blog about and draw a blank. This is not one of those days.

Lisa at FMH is feeling some guilt that looks an awful lot like depression. I don’t know how she’ll feel about my seriously amateur diagnosis there, but I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em, and I think I’m not the only one. Lisa, I’m saying it out of love and sad experience here. Get some help.

At the same time, my friend Dana asked on our message board if she’s the only one to whom mothering does not seem easy and natural. Uh, NO! (Dana is so cool. If you need some fabulous custom-designed jewelry e-mail me and I will put you in touch with her.)

Between these two ladies I have come to respect and care about so much confessing their struggles today, I remembered a conversation I had with an old lady in our ward when Sam was 2 and Abe was a baby. (Remember, the worst time of my life?)

She asked me how we were doing, and I said something like, "Oh, we're having a lot of fun."

She looked at me very pointedly and said, "When my kids were little I was working hard and loving them, but I never would have said I was having fun. Nobody would have said that."

I have thought about her reply a lot since then and I think it is really true that now there is tremendous pressure telling us that motherhood should be all fun, "cookies and milk and yellow balloons." (Does anybody else remember that song from their old Brite music records?) And when we find out that it's not really that way, we start thinking the problem must be in us. When really it is the image and the expectation that are out of line.

It's such a shame that I felt like I had to pretend I was having fun, when really I was literally having a major crying jag (complete with vocal wailing) almost every day, seriously wondering if my 2yo was demon-possessed, etc. No wonder everybody thinks they suck. We all put such a good face on it when we're together. And it doesn't do anybody any good.

Four years later I think I am past the worst days of motherhood. To be excruciatingly honest, going to work has helped. Medication for my older son has helped. Time and experience and supportive friends and family members have helped. Professional help has helped, a lot.

Another old lady in my former ward said to me once, “Your son is going to grow up to be a bishop. Look at all his energy!” I think she saved my life that day because I was basically thinking at that point he was going to grow up to be a convicted felon, if he grew up at all.

Old ladies rock. I hope I’m a good one someday.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Something important

Here's something I feel is important. Take a look and do what you think is best.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Wanted: 12 ounces, only 12 ounces, of beer

I tried to buy a single 12-ounce can of beer at Albertson's for the purpose of making Sally's liquid yeast bread. No go. Funny thing was, I'd seen a six pack broken up just the week before. But the checker said the liquor manager told them to stop ringing them up.

Maybe I just look like someone who should not buy beer. I do kind of have the ultimate Utah-Mormon face. I look like everybody's cousin. In fact I probably am everybody's cousin.

The checker, by the way, was the same cute high school boy checker I've seen at this Albertson's for almost two years now, since he processed my video-rental application a couple of days after we moved to Merced and teased me for doing all that work just so I could see Miss Congeniality. I mean cute in a could-almost-be-my-son kind of way, since I was probably 12 or 13 when he was born.

That checker has also seen me numerous times with my kids. Taking my kids to the grocery store is like taking a three-ring circus, and that is saying something since there are only two kids. So maybe he was thinking, "I understand why that woman would feel driven to drink, but I really cannot let her start because with the life she leads, she will be sucked into a vortex of destruction immediately." If I had intended to drink the beer, he might have been right about that.

Just so you know. I'm still on the hunt for the beer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New story in the Friend

My third story is in the Friend magazine for July. "Maggie's Peaches" is a true story that happened to Maggie Tolman Porter, who was my great-great aunt if I remember correctly. It gets complicated mecause my mom and my dad are both related to her. The joys of coming from a longtime Utah Mormon family!

I am really pleased with the illustrations on "Maggie's Peaches," especially the one of Maggie holding a candle and a can of peaches that looks like a can of tomatoes, down in the cellar. One of the unexpected joys of this process is seeing how an illustrator envisions the story I've recorded. In this case they really match.

Someone asked me how I come up with these stories. Honestly I think most people have these stories in their families. Some families, like mine, tell them more often. Some kids, like me, are insatiable consumers of narrative and soak them up more completely. It was an incredibly lucky and blessed set of circumstances, especially considering that without the income from these stories we likely could not have continued to eat last year!

More will be coming. I'm especially excited to start seeing the stories of my great-grandmother, Alice Ashdown Tolman, in print. The Friend has bought four of them. I don't have dates yet for those, but I sure hope they do a good job with her shiny black ringlets.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

BOTD (bummer of the day)

So the Management Services Officer just came around distributing "incentive awards" which I guess is a fancy way of saying bonuses.

They were for people who were hired before July 1, 2004.

I was hired July 19. Wah!

Monday, June 13, 2005

The promised fajitas

So I promised I'd post my fajita recipe sometime. Not that anyone seems to be clamoring for it, but I made it last night and ... YUM.

Here's how.

Fajitas of Promise

1/2 a small flank steak (remember we used the other half in that salad with the cherries?)

juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
salt and pepper to taste

1 medium purple onion, cut lengthwise into matchsticks
1 green bell pepper, cut lengthwise into strips

1 package small tortillas (I like the Mission whole wheat variety)

2 avocados, diced
light sour cream
shredded sharp cheddar

Mix lime zest and juice with oil, spices and garlic in a large bowl. Spoon half to two thirds of it over flank steak and rub it in. Get your grill sizzling hot.

Dump onions and peppers into bowl with remaining marinade. Stir to coat.

Put your meat on the grill. Get a nice, cast-iron frying pan hot and ready for the veggies. Once your meat has nice, black grill marks and a good crust on one side, turn it, and put the veggies in the pan. Add a little oil if necessary. Stir them constantly. If they start to dry out you can also add a tiny bit of water.

If you're lucky this will all be done about the same time. Let the meat rest a couple of minutes before you slice it diagonally across the grain. Pile it on tortillas with the peppers and onions as well as avocado, sour cream and cheese. Salsa, too. Have a little salad on the side if you are feeling guilty about all that good creamy stuff! Enjoy!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Tender mercy (humbled mama)

Adam had a post on Times and Seasons the other day about a "tender mercy of the Lord" he experienced. His thoughts have stuck with me through the last couple of days -- even my rotten day yesterday.

And then as I was putting the kids to bed something happened to me that made me think about it again.

DH was out visiting someone in the quorum. These are supposed to be half-hour visits but with my DH they always turn into whole-evening things. That's just how he is. The man can't shut up. I say that with a measure of respect; I think it makes him a good eqp and also a good scientist (collaboration is his strength!) Of course to be honest, I also miss him when he's talking to someone besides me and the kids, and so a touch of resentment is sometimes mixed with that respect. More so on days that are rotten already.

So I was putting the kids to bed alone, feeling a little resentful. We read the Book of Mormon aloud every night before bed. We're not over-ambitious; we shoot for ten verses a night. The rule is that the kids cannot talk unless they have a question about the reading. This actually prompts them to think of questions, because like their daddy, they do not like to be quiet.

Last night we actually read all of Alma 29, which is 17 verses. Sam's question: "What does repentance mean?"

I don't even know how to describe how immediately I felt humbled at the chance to explain this to my kids -- not just in the context of the scriptures but in the context of their own lives. Both of them made mistakes yesterday. Both of them felt bad. They needed to learn last night that God will forgive them as long as they are sorry for their mistakes and try to do better, and will love them no matter what. I need to be reminded of that.

Then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me.

Alma 29: 10

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Terrible horrible no good very bad

Crap has piled up today.

Topic number one: Here's the article I wrote. Here's the article in the San Francisco Chronicle on the same topic. I'm not going to comment further except to say, it's frustrating to me personally. And editors, we live in Merced County over here.

Topic number two. I talked to a woman from my ward about topic number one. This is a woman who lives in a big, gorgeous house, stays home with her children, and basically probably doesn't have money concerns. She said, "I don't really like all the development going on out there," meaning the campus. I wonder if she can see how obnoxious it looks for her to voice opposition to something that is designed and dedicated to improve the position of people who have probably never dreamed of living the way she lives? Just because she's concerned about the obstruction of her view?

Topic number three. I went to a luncheon. Well, I thought it was a luncheon. It was actually a baby shower. I had no gift to offer. Kind of like the little drummer boy, or actually, kind of like a LOSER!

Topic number four. I won a t-shirt at a staff meeting. Okay, that was not terrible horrible. That was fun.

Topic number five. My favorite bulletin board had a how-fertile-are-you poll. Why? Maybe they just wanted to hear me say it again: INFERTILE. Mostly I cope with that fine. Today I am bummed about it, probably because I want more kids and DH really doesn't, at least not now, and I can't flush my pills or put a needle through the condoms to get around that. So you see, being bummed about our infertility truly does not mean I love or appreciate my current kids (who joined our family through adoption) any less. It just means I am having a bummer day and could have done without that poll.

Topic number six. My four year old had a pull-down-your-pants party at his summer preschool. With other kids, including a girl. This is the second time this has happened. Normal behavior, I am sure, but good grief. Embarrassing.

Topic number seven. My six year old got in a fight at his summer program and punched a kid in the stomach. ("Now I have guilt!" - Rex from Toy Story) I can't help but wonder if this is inevitable, since he is cooped up with the same kids all day. It's kind of like putting crabs in a shoe box. Not what summer is supposed to be like. No carefree days of riding bikes, running through the sprinklers, lounging in the children's room at the library. My kids get summer programs. That sucks.

Topic number eight. I grounded both kids from tv and computer for their disparate infractions. While trying to show the six year old some alternate activities (look at this cool map!) I burned a batch of microwave popcorn. Naaaaaaaaaaaaasty.

Topic number nine. I was making Kraft Mac n Cheese for the kids for dinner, because DH and I are really not hungry. I poured in the milk and it was ... lumpy. Ewwwwww.

I think that is all. I hope so. Some days are like that, even in Australia.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Book Gifts

Lisa is posting at FMH about what it means to have books about women and women's issues. I started responding with this as a comment and then realized that it is not completely relevant.

I was thinking about this and realized that one of the things my dad has done that has meant the most to me has been giving me books about women that he thinks I will like. One was Worth Their Salt from the USU press. One was The Brontes: A Life in Letters. One was Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.

See? My dad is so cool! The neatest thing is that all these books have challenged me and made me grow and think about women who are not necessarily a lot like me. But they've also been obviously chosen for me by someone who knows what I think about and care about.

My mom has given me Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean as well as some cookbooks from Weight Watchers and Cooking Light. Hmmmmmmm ... what would you infer from that?

In fairness, she also gave me The Secret Life of Bees, which I loved. (They're discussing it at Conversation this month!) And she gave me All Together in One Place, which I tried to read the horrible winter when Sam was 2 and Abe was a baby, leading to the eventual awful breakdown at the child psychiatrist's office -- we were there trying to cope with a very aggressive and difficult two-year-old -- where I sat there wailing, "I can't even sit down for half an hour and read a book!" (Yes, I know how spoiled that makes me sound. But I also trust there are other moms out there who know what I'm talking about. Bad, dark, evil times.)

And she has mostly laid off with the comments about weight and housekeeping. For which I plan to send her a copy of Cane River. Love you, mom!

Do you think Amazon will pay me for this post? Hahahaha ...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Imaginary food

So it gets to bearound 3 in the afternoon and I start daydreaming about dinner. In the days when I stayed at home this stage of the day usually sent me scrounging for snacks. Now, all I have is a yogurt and it just doesn't seem so appealing. And I am NOT going to allow myself to walk down to Starbucks and get one of those yummy creamy strawberry ice cream type things. (I'm not quite enough of a Starbucks junkie to remember what they're called.)

In this way, working a sedentary desk job is helping me LOSE weight. As much as I liked to think I was active when I was a mom at home, I was really spending most of the day ... um, grazing. Though I am not fond of the bovine image that terminology conjures up, it has pretty much become reality.

So here's my dinner daydream today. I can't wait to eat it. It's healthy, and seasonal, too.

Steak salad with grilled summer vegetables, cherries and bleu cheese

Mix in a small bowl:
juice and zest of one lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Brush marinade on:
1/2 a small flank steak (I am guessing it's about 1/2 lb.)
4 small yellow zucchini, halved lengthwise
1 small red onion, halved top to bottom

Grill flank steak on one side. When you turn it, put your veggies on the grill. Cook until steak is done to your taste (I like bloody, DH likes burned; we compromise and eat it slightly pink) and veggies are tender.

Cut it all up and serve on

red leaf lettuce, torn in bite size pieces

Garnish with

1 pt. sweet cherries, pitted and halved
bleu cheese (are you guessing yet that this is a favorite ingredient?)

I also think some nuts or something else crunchy would be good here, but I'm struggling to think of the right type.

I am also going to have to play with a vinaigrette. I am thinking rice vinegar, honey, and a mixture of olive oil and corn oil -- nothing too assertive. We have lots of strong flavors going here already.

I also wish I had some really good bread to go with all this. Like Sally's liquid yeast bread, for example. I have some of the mix. But I can't figure out where you buy a single 12-oz can of beer. Every place I look (Albertson's, Food4Less) just sells packs. Am I just a very naive Mormon girl?

I'm a hungry one, at least.

Friday, June 03, 2005

EQ party at my house tonight

Games, brownies, chips and soda pop in the back yard. Little kids on the swing set, or kicking the soccer ball across the lawn. Listening to the neighbors' sprinklers come on as the sun sinks. Cool breezes, back-porch lights.

Welcome, summer!

(I just hope somebody comes. Poor DH has been on the phone the whole dang week trying to drum up partyers. If you're in central Cal and belong to an elders' quorum ... any elders' quorum ... come on over, we'll take ya.)