Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Credit HiSTORY

To Owe, or not to Owe, that is the Question . . .

When I was 18 years old, I was given very little advice or direction about finances, except one suggestion from a non-blood relative, "Get a credit card. It will show you are responsible and will help you build your credit."

Three years and ten-thousand dollars in debt later, I found myself unable to participate in a volunteer opportunity because I had this big ball of debt hanging around my neck. I moved to Alaska, lived with a family friend, and worked two jobs. I spent $100.00 on a bike, and a few dollars on clothing at a thrift store. I walked to work in 35 below zero in the winter, and rode my bike to work in the summer, 14-20 miles round trip each day for nearly a year. I was literally a slave to that debt, but I paid off every penny of that credit card, a two-thousand dollar car loan, and student loans. I was debt free!

Three years later, I married, and started the process all over. We paid off credit cards, along with some other debt. A week ago, we had six credit cards with absurdly high credit limits. None of them carried a balance. Today we own ZERO credit cards. We have zero consumer debt, and are working toward being mortgage free.

The Credit Logic Train:

1. Myth: Credit cards help you build credit.
Truth: Paying your utility bills on time, managing a checking account without overdrawing your account, and owning a debit-visa card that draws from your checking account will build your credit. Sometimes you need a loan for a car or a home, or maybe a student loan if you really can't afford to pay out of pocket, but you don't "need" credit cards.

2. Myth: It's safer to use credit cards. They are protected, while debit cards are not.
Truth: Debit-visa cards are afforded the same protection as regular credit cards.

3. Myth: I need credit cards to travel.
Truth: Debit-visa cards work just as well to reserve rooms, purchase airline tickets, etc.. If you can't afford it, you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

4. Myth: I need credit cards in case of an emergency.
Truth: If you will save even one dollar out of every paycheck now, and then anytime you get a raise, put that amount into savings every month, you will have a nice little DEBIT reserve instead of needing credit. Saving is a great way to show how much self-control you really have!

5. Myth: I get a cash refund from credit cards, or I build up SkyMiles. People who don't pay their balance every month are basically paying me for my responsible behavior.
Truth: Yep. I used this excuse too. Sounds pretty good at 1%, 2%, or even 3%!I could pay it off every month while earning money! Keep in mind that all the credit card company is doing is giving you part of the fee they are collecting from retailers for each credit purchase. Credit use drives up prices at retailers because they have to pay those fees. You are still paying for it. As for SkyMiles or Rewards, I figured out that the annual fee for carrying the rewards card actually only just paid for itself. I could have saved $35.00 per year and ended up with a plane ticket faster than I could with SkyMiles earned, and the SkyMiles would expire before I could use them. I won't even touch the whole consumer debt rationale, "Let's buy (expensive item) because we will get money/miles back for this purchase."

6. Myth: I need to keep credit card accounts open because it makes my credit look good and shows how much people are willing to lend me.
Truth: Open, unused credit card accounts are a liability. I get all of these little notices every month that tell me about a new change in my terms, and these new terms are typed on tiny, and hard to notice slips of paper. I have found that credit card companies tried to sneak some crazy fees in there, but I caught it in time and called to opt out. My time is too precious to read the fine print on every change they make each month, and I assume yours is, too.

7. Myth: Same as cash credit card with zero percent interest are a great deal, because I know I will pay it off.
Truth: Careful, all of that interest you didn't pay for those two years could hit you in one big chunk at 25-35% if it isn't paid off by then, down to the last cent. Of course, that is the gamble. Don't get hurt of lose your job, or suddenly that good deal could double in price.

8. Myth: If you are responsible, you should go ahead and use credit cards. People who are irresponsible make credit cards look bad.
Truth: Struggle a bit and wait long enough to pay cash for it. Pay into a bank account instead of paying a credit card company, and make that purchase once enough is saved. That sounds pretty responsible to me. There's no need to be a debtor to someone else. This list could go on and on, but instead, let me address the real question you may want to ask:

No credit cards? Sounds stupid. Why would you do that?

Here's why (Skip this part if it hurts):
Certainly, "credit," (as in loans for equity-worthy items of necessity) can be useful. It is how one purchases homes and helps pay for school when necessary. Credit card companies are really good at making people believe that credit card purchases and cash advances are really just little loans, not unlike a home loan. Not so. They make it look like you are more financially smart by having them. Now, this may not always be the case, but right now credit card companies are in trouble, and guess who they expect to get them out? Me (oh, and the government, but that's another story).

Before cancelling all of these cards, I received notices from almost every single company, stating that my rates would be locked in at a significantly higher rate - from 11% up to 35% in some cases. Various fees were listed like a shopping list for this or that, and I thought, I don't need this, even if I do carry a zero balance. All I need is to have one "newly imposed" annual fee escape my notice, and WHAM! That can add up pretty fast at 35%.

Chalk one more up for being a non-conformist in a world full of credit-crutches.

Have you ever paid off a large credit card or loan? How did it feel?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Hunt is on!!!

Today we hunted, and hunted, and hunted for the perfect Christmas tree. Kawi came along, but stayed in the truck, and went ballistic anytime we were in sight of the truck. (Kawi suffers from separation anxiety.)

It was a lovely day, and many other people had the same idea as we did. We got a little hungry. We got a little grumpy.

We had to agree on what we really wanted. We also had some soul-baring moments (inside joke).

Alas, we finally found the (almost) perfect Christmas tree!!!

And then C realized he had dropped his Blackberry somewhere in the snow.

And then C asked if I would say a prayer so that he would find it.

And he found it, half-buried, but unharmed!

Then we went to Arby's for turkey and swiss sandwiches on wheat minus the mayo, and C thoughtfully commented, "I didn't know they sold this kind of stuff at Arbys!"

We came home and rearranged the furniture to make room for the tree. We stood the tree in the front room and put a star on it. It really was perfect.

Since we were already in remodeling mode, we hung C's birthday present over the piano. And it looked perfect, too!

Friday, November 27, 2009

On the Lighter Side . . .

After eating badly, it's always nice to go for a healthy meal, healthy for those who eat turkey, that is. One of my fave Bistros does a similar sand year 'round. Here's my low cal version:
You'll need:
*Orowheat Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins (try Costco)
*Leftover turkey breast
*Fat Free Philly Cream Cheese
*Cranbevvie Light (see below)
Toast sandwich thins (100 cals! Half of regular sandwich)
Spread one side with cream cheese, the other with Cranbevvies, add turkey breast, enjoy for under 200 cals!
Cranbevvie Light:
Boil 1 cup water
Add 1/8-1/4 cup sucralose
Add 1 bag fresh cranberries til they pop
Remove from heat
Dissolve .3 oz box sugar free cherry jello into hot cran mix
Set up overnight in fridge (Cranbevvie leaded version starts with 1 cup water, 2 cups sugar, regular cherry jello)
For those vegetarians out there, broil some big fat slices of Yam in the oven with some Kosher salt 'til tender, and use that instead of the turkey!
The day before Thanksgiving, I put up Christmas lights. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and being outside was the ideal scenario. Late last night C and I went for a looong stroll around the neighborhood, and when we turned the corner to our house, there were the fabulous lights decked out along our fence and four of our apple trees glistening in the night. Maybe they will deter the deer this year from eating the apple tree bark! Now I have some Computer Science homework to rush through, but I can honestly say I have enjoyed myself. I hope your holiday was likewise beneficial for your heart and soul. What did you do during your holiday?

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Last night C went to the Church to wait while the Bishop met with someone since the executive secretary was out of town, and then went to the gym, so he didn't get home until 11ish. I made the final preparations for his birthday and Thanksgiving, including these Prism candles. The flames are the same color as the candles!

We started watching a movie in bed, and around 12:30, I realized that it was already his birthday, so I paused the movie and told him I'd be right back. I ran down to pull his cake out of the freezer, quickly piped on the Happy Birthday C, lit the candles, and while walking down the hall, started to sing. When I opened the door to the bedroom, he jerked back to consciousness and responded with a sleepy, "huh?" He'd forgotten all about his birthday, what with school, work, and bishopric, not to mention his diligent efforts to help his brother lately.

After wishing him a midnight Happy Birthday, I kissed him on the forehead and told him I would put the cake away, but that I was lucky to have him in my life. We slept in until about 7:15 the next morning, and after some gift opening and a breakfast of wheat sticky rolls, C ran down to the school to play Turkey-bowl with a large group of our neighborhood men and boys. C was a great coach to the young tykes - 8ish in age, and prodded them on to tackle the adult quarterback with cheers like, "Boogers and snot! Boogers and snot! Let's go get 'em!" And if you know anything about that age group, they LOVE to hear things like that and got all wound up and excited and performed like true NFL athletes with C's outstanding coaching skills.

Here I will disclose my deep dark secret, so if you are one of the few diligent family members who read my blog but never comment, here it is: You know that AMAZING Yam casserole I bring every year? Well, a little background. The first year we were married, my mom was out of state, and my dad was having dinner elsewhere, and C's mom asked if she could come to our house, so I rushed around frantically like the sky was falling, trying to get everything ready. C looked at me like I was coo-coo, and said, "What are you DOING?" I said I was trying to get things ready for dinner, and he said again, "But what are you doing? Why are you acting like this?" I really didn't know, except that it was a tradition in our home to act frantic and stressed on every holiday. So we started a new tradition: NO STRESS HOLIDAY!

So ever since that day, we have kept it easy. I can slave away like a crazy person, or I can keep it nice and easy. And since I cook SUPER healthy, I opted for an out, an unhealthy out. Honeybaked Ham makes a delectable, yet artery-clogging Sweet Potato Souffle that has never failed to please. One version of the recipe is available here. I actually know how to make this from scratch, albeit in a healthier version, but since healthy doesn't go over well at Thanksgiving, I buy them, plop them in a casserole dish, and voila! An instant, effortless hit. There it is. My deep dark.

On a happy note, the birthday boy is out cold in the big comfy chair downstairs, wiped out from a busy week. I got a good workout in this morning, and just might sneak in a second one in a little while. I ate two bites of pecan pie before the sugar rush hit me like a brick and I left the fork staring up at a pointless pie. Oh, and if you can't think of anything you are thankful for, what could be better than hearing from a bunch of New Yorkers?

Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for my good husband, my home, my job, my car, Jesus Christ, all of the good people who protect our freedoms, especially those who never get any credit for it, and a healthy body! What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Go, Donny, Go!

What a delight to see Donny Osmond take the trophy last night. It's pretty cool to see such a surge of fan support for both he and his sister (who took 3rd when she danced).
I only voted once for DWTS, and it was on finals night for Donny.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

All that's Yoga and Right in this World

As I rushed through a CS assignment last night after receiving a "nurturing" e-mail from some stranger who failed to introduce himself as my new Student Advisor until after I sent him a, "Why are you babysitting me?" reply, I got to thinking. Maybe I am just a grumpy person! Of course, you can see from C's fab talk in the last entry that he is NOT a grumpy person. Truly, he walks the walk. I, on the other hand, have determined that cotton candy is my nemesis in every sense of the word(s). I am more like the brick that hits you up side the head. While bricks are really quite helpful, they also aren't the kind of thing that people flock to, and say, "Oooh! Let's go get a brick!" and everyone cheers.

While fluffy sweet is not my thing, I am pretty awesome at getting the job done and holding up against all kinds of weather. I work hard, and am loyal and true to what I am, and I don't evaporate in the open air like said nemesis. I don't waste time on petty things or being catty or gossipy. I just am what I am. When you really think hard about it, you'd much rather have a brick than cotton candy in the first place because cotton candy makes you feel great for an instant and then makes you feel like crap later.

I went to Yoga on Wednesday. Tyran's class, usually 5-7 in size, had almost 20 squatters last night! Very impressive! Tyran is quite possibly the best Yoga instructor in the state, in my opinion. He really has a gift, that man. None of this trashed out "aerobics" Yoga, or stretch-til-you-hurt-yourself stuff you find with the big-box gyms. No, this is an instructor who can make the very loud volleyball game next door vanish, and who undoubtedly invests more time and money than his compensation merits. He is there because I need a place to go when the stress fractures my nerves into bits of broken glass, and I am sleeping with my shoulders hinged up around my ears. He is there to make those demons seem less powerful, and to make my mind pay attention to the fact that my muscles are there all tied up in knots.

Tyran talked about stress points in our bodies and in our minds, and how they can get us stuck. As I listened to those ideas, I realized that I probably am not really such a grumpy person. I just need to believe that I AM that nice person who is patient and kind. I just really like genuine, sincere, real people, and get a little impatient with pretendy people. Maybe that makes me grumpy... But I am making progress, because I sat next to a pretendy today, and I didn't get as irritated as usual. I was nice. After all, pretendy's are really just insecure folk who don't know how to act around secure or intimidating folk, so they have this pretendy place they go in their minds that makes them feel safe and . . . well, that's my theory anyway.

Ahhh, Exercise!
Doesn't that word just make you feel energized? No? Well, too bad for you. I am so impressed that I have been able to run strong lately. I am still listening carefully to my body, but let me tell you, Vibram Five Fingers are really the way to go for mending plantar fasciitis. I have been gradually building back up to the same running schedule I was doing prior to my injury, and it is going very well! I am learning a lot about my body by running in them, and even did a full Jillian workout yesterday in addition to my nice strong runs and Yoga this week. One benefit from having PF for the last few months: my biceps rock right now. They giggle with delight anytime I get in close proximity to the chin-up bar. I just feel giddy when I see exercise equipment. I just want to saunter up and say, well hi there. What brings you to this place? How about I take you for a little spin?

We had a lovely dinner tonight. I invited over our starving student neighbors and sent them home with some extras. For once, I didn't simmer during dinner over that dish that just didn't turn out right. Everything was great! C stepped in to assist me as the overcooked food prevention committee. I made two types of trimmed lamb chops that I started marinating yesterday afternoon - Raspberry Chipotle, and Rosemary Dijon Mint. Ah - and they were perfect! The marrow bled out and they were perfectly medium rare. Only a fool eats tender, fresh Australian lamb well-done. It is perfection between rare and medium rare. You can't truly appreciate that fact unless you've had it both ways. Freshness is definitely a factor here for the ultimate flavor. Add sides of fresh pineapple, fresh steamed green beans, hand snapped, and whole-grain wild rice. Rice and beans were in the nude, to give emphasis to their full flavor potential. Oh, and whole wheat rolls from scratch, fresh out of the oven, with sides of sugarless apricot jam, clover honey, and ginger pear preserves.

With only two days left of work this month, things are looking bright and bleak all at once as I realize the time to complete my courses is vanishing like the sands of time. And this brings me to my latest dilemma: Thanksgiving. I am certain I sound like a hermit for saying this, but I just discovered there will be 23 people present. 23 people! SIGH. So here's the big question:

You prefer a Thanksgiving that is???
A. Small and sweet
B. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (ie - the more the merrier)
C. Somewhere in between
D. I don't care as long as I get to eat as much as I want

Monday, November 16, 2009


C did such a great job on his talk, I thought I would post it here:

This morning I see young men, holders of the Aaronic Priesthood, making excellent choices by being where they should be and doing what they should be doing. But even we, holders of God’s mighty priesthood, at times make choices that require self examination so that we may become more like Christ.

To you young men of the holy Aaronic Priesthood I speak this morning; I am honored and in awe of your goodness, faithfulness, brotherhood and Christ-like examples. It’s you, in years to come, that will carry the gospel of Jesus Christ and lead his kingdom on earth. It is also you who will be fathers and leaders in our communities and in our great nation. Who you choose to be today, is what this nation and church will become tomorrow.

In my years of interaction and association with young people I’ve paid special attention to the spiritual and social challenges that face you. May I speak of one this morning.

I’d specifically like to speak to you young men of a principle of chivalry which is loosing ground within our culture. A classical art that is being lost among our young people. An expression of sound honorable character which is being sold off by popular culture in the name of entertainment. A doctrine of Christianity which is sadly being treated as Nephi said, “for the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet.” (Nephi 19:7) …….I speak of the principle of respect.

Today we witness ever increasingly powerful messages in society that make a mockery of things that are worthy of our respect. Some popular television programs are solely designed to make fun of and humiliate others. Video games, which allow the user in fantasy state to steal, harm, abuse, and even kill others, show little respect for others and the law. Entertainment shows display individuals acting in crude, reckless, and dangerous ways all in the name of humor.

Supposed reality situations portray people manipulating, teasing, belittling, humiliating, and intimidating others all in the name of competition. Infidelity or sexual relations before marriage are repeatedly viewed as normal and acceptable in the name of “love.” Pornography provides a steady flow of spiritual sewage which displays disrespect for women and that which is most holy and sacred to God.

So often in our culture, fear, intimidation and physical violence are mistaken for ways to gain respect from others. I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed youth quickly react in violent ways when they felt as though they were being disrespected by others. Let me be clear to you young men, violence is no way to gain respect from others. I repeat, creating fear in others through violence or intimidation does not equal respect.

Even your schools are not free from general teasing, bullying and rudeness toward students and teachers. And sadly, even some of your homes and priesthood quorums have elements of teasing and other disrespectful behavior. By God’s standards, this just should not be.
Now popular culture is not entirely to blame, there is much more to it than just TV and video games. But the fact of the matter is, respect between God’s children is diminishing and all of us can improve.

Respect for others is shown by your behavior. The things you do toward others. Do you treat others in word and deed that demonstrates that you care, value and honor them? Respect is generated by providing others with something they value and appreciate, which is good. When you serve others, say a kind word, are helpful, follow through on your promises, listen to others, follow instructions, understand another’s point of view, value and honor womanhood and refrain from thinking of young women as anything less than a daughter of God, you are fulfilling your duty to God and you are acting respectfully.

Respect also has an element of thinking. All of your behavior begins within your minds. We are taught by King Benjamin “that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds” (Mosiah 4: 30) we can commit sin in our minds. Respect begins with thinking about others as having value and as being worthy of our respect, simply because they are children of God.

Now respect is not the same as liking someone, you all have different interests and are drawn to different people as friends for different reasons. Though you may not be drawn to someone as a close friend, every child of God deserves your respect.

While all individuals deserve your respect, not all behavior is worthy of respect. Behavior that is evil or contrary to God’s commandments does not deserve your respect. The prophet Moroni teaches, “take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.” (Moroni 7:14)

It is a delicate balance to respect the person and at the same time show not respect to evil behavior, but it is a God like attribute you must cultivate and strengthen during your life.
But you might say that a person is not worthy of your respect because they don’t treat you with respect first. So why show them respect? Good point, but you are wrong if you think that. I could not find in the scriptures where Jesus taught to respect only those who respect you. In fact, the Savior taught, “But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” (3 Ne. 12:44)

Young men, there are those who deserve an increased level of respect; your Priesthood leaders and advisors and your teachers at church and school. These good people work hard to serve you and prepare you for adulthood. Your Heavenly Father wants them to successfully instruct and teach you. Ultimately the respect you show them will turn to your benefit and learning. By showing them respect, you show God and yourself respect.

Now one last element of respect I need to address. Young men, respect your mother and your father. Especially respect your mother, I beg you. Your parents are not perfect, and they may even make decisions that you do not like. But they are working hard to care for you and provide you with the experiences you need to grow from being a boy to becoming a man. And a man never disobeys his mother. A man never raises his voice or talks back to his mother. And a man never intentionally deceives his mother. She gave you life, and cares for you day after day… respect to your mother! The way you treat your mother and young women now is the way you will treat your future girlfriends, wife and daughters.

A phrase I highly recommend you use at home when your mother asks something of you, is this: “Sure, I’d love to.” Repeat it in your mind as I say it again. “Sure, I’d love to.” Let’s practice again. Will you please clean up your room? “Sure, I’d love to.” Will you please take the trash out, “Sure, I’d love to.”

You now have the secret to success with your mother, especially if you really mean it when you say it. If you keep this up through the years, someday when you have your drivers license and want to use the car, you’ll ask; “Mom, may I use the car?”….and she’ll say….”Sure, I’d love to let you use the car.” AS LONG AS YOU”RE A GOOD DRIVER!

Now… the adult men here this morning. In order to take our young men from being boys to becoming men, we must teach them the principle of respect. In order to teach respect, we must be men worth respecting, and we must be examples of respect to women and others. May the Lord bless you in your efforts to instill respect in your sons, or the boys you influence in your daily walk.

Young men, in conclusion, remember that Jesus was a young man in ways similar to you. The scriptures state, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and Man.” (Luke 2:52) The Savior’s childhood development was normal and natural. James E. Talmage wrote in Jesus the Christ, “He came among men to experience all the natural conditions of mortality;…His boyhood was actual boyhood, His development was as necessary and as real as that of all children.” (Jesus the Christ, p.105)

I share this perspective of the Savior’s life to give you young men understanding that Jesus Christ is your example as you learn to follow this simple commandment to be respectful, even to “ love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) Rarely do we reflect on the life and character of the Boy Jesus, however, this is something members of the Aaronic Priesthood should do often. You young men need to know that even you, a young man, can relate to the Savior personally, and He to you perfectly, as you mature and increase in your own wisdom and stature.

One thing is critical as you rely upon the Savior and his example, you must understand he was perfect…..perfect in his obedience. This is where He is different from you and me, but we can learn from Him. Though the Savior understood his divine mission and knew that the authority of His earthly mother was less than the authority of His Heavenly Father, the Boy Jesus obeyed his mother….perfectly. It was through his perfect obedience the Savior obtained a perfect understanding of all things.

Even though he probably said it in Hebrew, I’m sure Jesus was often heard saying as a young man; “Sure….I’d love to.”

May you young men and we old men, show the proper respect deserved by all of God’s children is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Progress 0, 1 UP!

C has been working for hours and hours on his talk, listening to it over and over, cutting it down here, buttoning it up there, adding a touch of paint everywhere. Timing it over and over so that he WON'T go over! So different from me! Of course I prepare carefully, but I just want to say, "It's okay, honey, there are always the teleprompters!" (Not really, but with the amount of time he has invested . . .)

Tonight we went out with some friends. I felt really bad for them. They wanted to take us out and we were off, then on, then off, then they knocked at the door at the moment I couldn't answer it, then they left a message and drove to the restaurant, and after all of that, they still like us, and we still had a lovely time. I think they mentioned at least five times, "Wow, you guys are just SO busy!"

It has been an emotionally disturbing week. I won't bore you with the details, but learning to let consequences fall is a very hard thing to do, and then when you finally muster up the courage to let that happen, something backfires, and you have to start all over again, so after three or four of these re-starts, we are right back where we started with ZERO progress on letting the consequences fall, and my patience is running oh so thin. Heavenly Father has got that whole, let consequences ride with the actions thing down, but me - well, I have a long, long way to go before I can measure up.

I feel like my patience has been napalmed from every direction this week, and I confess, barren wasteland is really not my color. On a happier note, Mom took me to lunch on Thursday, and gave me the very best movie in the whole wide world: UP! Any movie that can make C cry in the first ten minutes. . .! And when I say cry, I mean, tears actually flowed from his tear ducts. That has happened maybe two other times in our ten plus years of marriage. I also received a gift certificate to one of my fave Theatres. Did I ever mention that I was once an actress? Not a singing, dancing, actress, but a Meryl Streep hopeful - - pre-Mama Mia, that is. Oh, why, oh, why did she go there???!!!

That's about all I can muster up for now. Oh, I did take some of my frustration yesterday and made something good happen. I submitted something. I don't write for fame or money, but I just needed to feel productive, so just the fact that I submitted is a big fat deal. It isn't a heavy-duty, serious pursuit, but I did it, and now I have a surprise to look forward to, good or bad! Oh, and I did write a song this past week, lyrics and music, and started another piece I like much better. Just because I can, I guess. My audience really liked it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Quiet Evening at Home

C is tickity tacking away on his computer, working on a talk for a large "Stake" church meeting this weekend. I am attempting to get up enough motivation to work on my Computer Systems class, while watching the time on my clock tick-tick away. The air feels particularly chilled outside, althought the forecast for tomorrow says that the lovely weather will continue through Wednesday. I am snuggled up in a down comforter on my big comfy "chair," eating pinenuts and scattering the shells on the glass table next to my scriptures, and licking the bitter pinegum off of the tips of my fingers. The light on the porch is burned out, and the freezer is softly howling in the kitchen.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day Off: Return and Report

So this is how my day off really went:

1. Sleep in: Doesn't sound too hard, right? The hubby was out of town, no children . . . at 5:30AM I heard Kawi crashing around in the dark in his cage. Just ignore it. Again, crashing. Just ignore it. Finally I went into the room where he sleeps and pulled the cover off of his cage to find a panicked, wide-eyed cockatiel sitting next to his windchime, across the cage from where he sleeps. I pulled him out of the cage, took him to the bathroom, and then took him with me to bed. He sat on my knee until the room got bright enough for him to comfortably venture around, nibbling on my lips to let me know he was hungry. Fortunately I had a bag of pinenuts at hand, so a cracked a few, and he ravenously gobbled them up non-stop until I peeled myself out of bed at the belated hour of 7:45.

2. Exercise: This one went rather well. Running felt good in my VFFs, then lots of chin-ups, push-ups, some elliptical, and other circuit work while I watched the 10th Kingdom.

3. Go Shopping! I felt obliged to clean out Kawi's much neglected cage, so before I exercised, I sprayed it out and left it to drain in the tub. I pumped the iPod while I tidied the kitchen from my Chili night, swept under Kawi's kitchen cage, and designed the layout of his regular cage. I know that sounds funny, but you want them to move around without getting hurt, so you arrange the toys and perches, let him do a test-run around the cage, and fix any flaws. I think I got it on the first try this time. He likes to flip upside down and posture with his wings extended just before he goes to bed, so you have to leave plenty of room for wing-stretching. Finally I headed out to do some shopping. I found a fabulous tailored black velvet shirt with 3/4 sleeves, and a unique collar. Velvet is so easy to maintain! I also found a Jones New York black 3/4 sleeve sweater with a gold zipper. It was the ultimate in classic lines without drabbery and typical sweaterness. Finally, I found a stretch-knit - no, not jersey knit, but a classy stretch knit with a simple necklaced collar. I did get to Banana Republic to try on several shirts, but ran out of time before I needed to meet C at home to leave for our overnight getaway, so I put everything on hold for a later purchase date.

4. Pack for my Get-away! Well, that didn't take much, just a few things tossed in a bag in 5 minutes, and ready to go!

5. Go to the Temple! This was perhaps the best part of my weekend. I did get to the temple, but not until Saturday, and C came with me! I had three AWESOME surprises that made me feel it was my special day to be there, although I can't really describe them. At the VERY end, something really cool happened with C and I in addition to the other three surprises, which just made my day. A most memorable trip!

6. Eat! Most of our dinner was ideal - we were placed in a private corner of the restaurant right next to the fireplace. Our meal was good - not Waterfront good, but reasonably good. I had grilled salmon with lemon caper sauce and C had a chicken enchilada. We strolled back in the perfect evening air and stole a very delicious kiss in the remote little gazebo before returning back to our room. The fireplace lit, C pulled a blanket and two pillows from the wardrobe and created a perfect cuddle spot for the two of us - without ever reading my blog! I later told him that he couldn't have made it more perfect. After our fireplace snuggle, we cuddled in bed, and yes - it's true - watched the Office!

The next day, still full from dinner, we skipped breakfast, but stopped by for some coconut gelato, and then ran down to the forest service to purchase our annual Christmas Tree permit just before they ran out. I won't include the part where I dropped the wristband for the tree at the gelato place and had to return to get it, because that just doesn't sound very romantic at all, nor will I mention the family drama that kicked in during my birthday dinner later that day, because things like that just don't happen on a perfect birthday date, but I will mention that C took me out for a sushi birthday dinner, and we enjoyed some fabulous sushi and a few other treats.

So, yes, in almost every aspect, I had a perfect birthday weekend, with my amazing loving buddy! Thanks, C, for making it so special, and for being patient with those other unexpecteds. Thank you for making me feel like the most important person in the world, and for being my steady, endless rock of strength and support. I am so lucky to have you in my life!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day Off, what to do, what to do. . .

Tomorrow I decided to take the day off, so here's the plan:

1. Sleep in. This is harder than it sounds. I wake up every morning between 6 and 6:30, so on my days off, I wake up between 6 and 6:30. Sigh.

2. Exercise. I am thinking, maybe a little Yoga to relax, and then lots of pull-ups, some running, some push-ups, ah. And then a nice warm shower.

3. Go Shopping! I have a few items on my list. I think I will go try on a few of the new wrinkle-free shirts at Banana Republic (wrinkle free is hard to find for women, and I am a knits-hater, so that makes it even harder. . . )

4. Pack for my Get-away. Just a little over-night escape with my bestest buddy!

5. Go to the Temple! Sometimes you just need to recharge those spiritual batteries. Mine are a bit low lately.

6. Eat! Have a delicious dinner in a cozy little restaurant with my beloved, followed by a Jacuzzi, romantic snuggle by the fireplace, and then a half hour of . . . The Office, of course. We both missed watching it tonight! (Wink, wink.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bleeding and Voting, Inside and Out

What's my Holiday?
My brother was born on a holiday, and my sister was born on a holiday. One day, when this realization hit me, I asked my mother, "What day was I born on?" She wisely told me that I was born on election day, which was true - roughly 1 out of every seven years. I guess I feel some obligation to encourage voting, not just because it occasionally falls on my birthday, but rather because of my deep patriotic feelings that have been around for many, many years.

Yesterday was election day. I voted for who I best felt would manage the interests of the city. Sometimes those decisions are difficult, because you know that there are many, many good men and women who would do a good job. The individuals for whom I voted won.

No Time to . . .
On a final note about election day, it is never about a single day, nor is it about two days, although without voting in the primaries, you don't get to decide who you will vote for later. It is an investment in your future, which if taken seriously, will truly make a difference. Less than half of our city came out to vote. It is very frustrating to me to see the news full of silly, stupid stories, when so many more significant things are happening in the world, and it frustrates me to think that voters can't take an hour or less out of their day to choose their government officials, yet they will sit around for hours and watch TV or search the Internet.

God loves everyone (but the whiners . . .)
I have seen non-voters complain for hours about the government, and I have seen non-voters foolishly try to excuse away their lack of involvement for some "logical" reason or another. While I am sure there are those who have valid excuses, I say, shame on you if you don't vote. Shame on you for throwing away the very freedom for which so many people died and for which so many continue to die. You can vote early, you can plan ahead, and if you are out of the country, you can get an absentee ballot, but nobody can vote for you. Skreeetch! Ballotbox, er, soapbox #1 aside.

Blood is OH SO GOOD!
Today I gave blood. I love giving blood. Not in a masochistic-strange way, but in the way that you feel you are momentarily giving up a bit of your own strength and health to give to someone else who is weakened and unhealthy. Aside from giving away organs, it is a great gift at a minimal cost to the giver. The Red Cross director was there, and came over to chat with me. He thanked me for giving blood and told me that the people who gave blood weren't just ordinary people, they were extraordinary. I smiled, and he said, "It's true! Not just anyone gives blood," and he went on to explain how he missed interacting with these extraordinary people as a phlebotomist. Well, if nothing else, it makes you feel really good giving a drop of life to another human being. (I found a photo that depicts this thought after I wrote this, but it is copyrighted, click to see!)

Free Food and Compliments
After giving blood I attended a special Recognition Banquet. I love hearing all of the marvelous things said about those being recognized. I thought about how lucky our Division director was to be able to read all of those wonderful things about everyone, and he was very sincere and kind. It meant so much to me when he said really kind things to those I know REALLY needed to hear it!!! When you recognize others, they feel good, but you also feel great!

A Tulip that could lift a Ton
When I was in college, and having a really sad day, I took the bus downtown, bought a single tulip wrapped in bright paper, and visited a woman in a rest home not far away. Every time I arrived, she greeted me with open arms, told me I was the daughter she never had, and talked to me about her children whom she missed dearly. Every time I left, she forgot me, but she had a fresh, bright tulip to remind her that someone had visited her recently, and that someone loved her. More than that, however, every time I left, I no longer felt sad. Somehow that sadness melted away during that hour, and I walked away with my chin held up. Maybe that sounds a bit selfish on my part, but blame it on my grandmother, who often took me to visit that well-seasoned, and well-worn ilk of my own species. I suppose you could say that's where I got the idea in the first place.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why I Love Food

I have been trying to determine my attachment to food lately. I would rather learn than eat or sleep, but I would throw away sleep LONG before I would throw away food. After some introspective analysis, I have determined the following:

1. Food is not an emotional need for me.
2. I don't just eat to eat. I eat to have an experience.
3. Sometimes I eat socially, but usually favor the often unpopular abstemious approach to the more socially acceptable out-and-out gorging.
4. I like to have a full stomach, but like knowing it is full of good things.
5. The real culprit to my love for food is that my tongue loves the adventure of experiencing many different flavors within a very short amount of time.
6. Due to #5, the sampler tray, irrelevant of price, ALWAYS looks like a good option because it offers the most variety (as long as it isn't full of greasy, nasty, cheap food).
7. While I don't favor smörgåsbords, I do favor Sweet Tomatoes and any restaurant with a REALLY GREAT salsa bar, just so I can experience lots of delectable flavors.
8. I hate eating random garbage food. It makes me feel the same way I feel when I blow a whole lot of money on something totally worthless. Each bite is a serious consideration and planned investment.
9. I don't remember the last time I ordered something menu-ready. Inevitably, I am that woman every waitress LOVES to wait on. (Could you make those eggs poached, and bring me a side of salsa with that? Could you remove the bacon and the cheese, put the salad dressing on the side, and give me a TON of cilantro with that?)
10. I do my best thinking when I have something in my mouth. Since starting my CS coursework, I have picked up the habit of chewing gum. VERY nasty habit, indeed! But there is something very soothing about popping loud bubbles while plowing through a difficult programming project. The more challenging the problem, the louder the snaps. C made my addiction very apparent when he recently said, "I will come downstairs and sit by you as long as you don't pop your gum."

So there it is. I go through about a pack of gum a week, usually Trident melon or citrus flavored, depending on which deadlines I am trying to meet. So, what is food to you?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Not One Piece of Candy for Halloween

Perhaps the decision to not pass out even a single piece of candy for Halloween sounds brutal, or even Scrooge-like, however, let me explain. First, you have to read 400 Watts' entry on childhood obesity. Second, you have to know that in an effort to complete a Computer Science class in record time - like three weeks? my fitness suffered. By the time Halloween rolled around, I looked at the two huge bags of candy I bought at Costco, and thought about the many times I have downed an unruly amount of chocolate while handing it out to cute little kids. Once a bag of candy is open in the house, it runs through your mind like the plague until you have consumed it all or made it disappear in some other way. And then I thought about my Grandma passing out apples for Halloween and how lame that was. Finally, I cracked. I ran to Walmart, loaded up on toys and non-edible trinkets, emptied them into my Halloween bowls, and returned the candy to Costco.

The first trick-or-treaters were a five 12 year old boys. I started to explain that instead of candy this year we decided to hand out. . . "PRIZES!!!" One of the boys shouted, and after an eager scramble through the bowls, each walked away proudly with their selected "prize." Our non-conformist approach went quite well, not only with the children, but also with the parents. Not once did I see a disappointed face, nor did I hear anyone ask where the candy was, with exception of C, who thought the response with the older kids might not go so well. (Secretly, though, I think he really missed the excuse to down a few Snickers bars and Kit Kats.) I even saw a few of those prizes clutched in the hands of the kids at church today. So there it is, one for prizes, zero for candy, and all is well.

Oh, Crap for Afghanistan!

Wow. So, if you haven't been following the elections issue in Afganistan, here is a summary:

2004: UN runs Afganistan's election. Hamid Karzai is elected president at the people's vote.
2009: Afganistan runs their own election, and Abdullah Abdullah runs against Hamid Karzai. The Taliban threaten voters, chopping off ink-stained voting fingers and "encouraging" voters to avoid the polls altogether. Corrupt polling officials then stuff the ballot boxes with ballots for Hamid Karzai, the incumbant. After investigation, it is decided to have a rull-off on November 7th, a re-vote. Intimidation threats boost, and many individuals claim they will not vote again.
This just in: Abdullah Abdullah decides not to run after all . . . the mind rapidly runs through all of the reasons - - death threats? Who knows. Things are NOT looking good for the Afghans, nor for the vote of confidence in democracy for Afghanistan anytime soon.

Meanwhile, President Obama is hesitating on troops support in Afghanistan . . . and Clinton claims that the Taliban has "some" momentum in Afghanistan, and that the US isn't losing . . . what can you say? When you only have one presidential candidate to work with in an election, I guess you have no other choice than to try to work with what you've got. That being said, things aren't looking so good for the Afghans.

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