Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Weighty Issues

I keep wanting to be ready to write about this very personal issue, and I finally realize that I just need to do it. I will never be ready, but maybe writing about it today will help me on my way. A leap of faith, perhaps.

I am always struggling with my weight. Well, more accurately, I mostly ignore my weight and from time to time struggle with it. I believe that if I was actually always struggling, I'd have gained power over it by now.

Several times in my life I have focused very well on exercising regularly and eating healthfully, and I have enjoyed the fruits of my efforts. Then little by little I fall into habits that are not so good for me and the weight creeps back on.

I'm currently about 20 pounds below my all-time high, and except for a bit of weight loss and regain here and there, I've managed to stay at least 20 pounds below my all-time high in 1995, which I hit after several long, mismanaged years of corporate life.

But I'd like to lose 40-50 pounds from here.

There. I've said it. I'll report back.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Digging Deeper

As a followup to a comment in my last entry, Agitation, that "we've become a culture that expects simple solutions to everything and prefers sound bites to complexity and nuance," I confess that I am often part of the problem.

People who are acquainted with me probably think I'm quite politically aware. People who really know me are more likely to know that I'm generally politically aware, but that I'm often short on specifics.

I generally know about things like the trouble in Iran, Darfur and Gaza, President Bush's veto of funding for stem cell research and our lack of progress on the immigration issue, Salt Lake mayor Rocky Anderson's efforts to make city government greener, etc. But I'm pretty sure I could not engage in deep, meaningful discussion about any of these issues.

Like many people (if they'd only admit it), the things I do know have pretty much come to me by way of sound bites. (And frankly it scares me that there are plenty of people who spend a whole lot less time paying attention to the world around us than I do who have far more entrenched opinions about things than I do!)

So I hereby pledge to dig more deeply.

I'm going to listen to more in-depth interviews, read whole newspaper articles rather than just skimming headlines, and read entire books on subjects like the Middle East. I might even take notes.

Each week I'm going to focus in depth on one country. I plan to visit the websites for Unicef and Infoplease (I've added the links to my side bar) for an overview of history, politics and culture and any humanitarian issues facing the country. I'll also spend time reading any current news articles I can find and looking for photos online. Initially I was going to focus on one country a day but quickly realized that I'd never get out of the soundbite mentality that way.

Maybe one day, I'll not only be able to name every single African, South American, Eastern European, Asian, Middle Eastern country on a map (something I'm ashamed to say I can't do today), but I'll know something about the unique history and cultures of each.

(An aside: as I write this I realize how totally biased my childhood education was--by the time I finished sixth grade, I could--and still can--easily name every Western European country and I had a fairly clear sense of each. And the only other countries I really knew anything about were countries where the US had fought wars or that someone in my family had visited.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Two of my favorite radio shows (which I most often listen to as podcasts) have included interviews this week about the war in Iraq that have renewed my agitation. We're just digging deeper and deeper holes for ourselves!

The other day Diane Rehm interviewed Dina Rasor, author of Betraying our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War, who discussed the dangers involved in relying so heavily on private contractors to wage our military actions. Cynic that I am, I've just assumed companies like KBR have padded their expense reports as they bill us for services rendered. But my naive self was shocked to hear reports of human trafficking of cheap labor, employees who are not under the control of the military walking off the job at critical moments, refusing to provide vital services due to payment disputes (which makes sense in times of peace, but, hello, we're in a war here!). Our military is basically at the mercy of private companies, and we should all be angry as hell!

This morning (while I put a second coat of paint on our Adirondack chairs, which was also agitating!) I listened to Radio West, produced by KUER here in Salt Lake City. Doug Fabrizio interviewed General Tony Zinni, author of The Battle for Peace. His view is basically that we invaded Iraq and have subsequently mismanaged the war as a result of an utter lack of well thought out strategy that should take into account culture, history and an understanding of human nature. We have failed as a nation to figure out how best to participate in the world since the end of the cold war. We've become a culture that expects simple solutions to everything and prefers sound bites to complexity and nuance.

As I listened to these interviews, I realized that I am truly a product of my time. My world view is very much informed by the fact that I came of age in the late seventies and earned my degrees in international relations and political science in the eighties.

Much of what I learned and discussed in classes and with friends during those years was a direct result of our national debriefing of the Vietnam era and the civil rights movement. Lessons learned had started to crystalize: (1) You can't just export democracy. By definition it has to be a grass roots movement that people understand and embrace on a personal level. (2) You can't change people's hearts and make them stop hating simply by passing laws. And (3) we should be extremely suspicious of the military-industrial complex, in which revenue inevitably trumps morality.

Why, why, why don't we ever seem to learn from our past?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Country Living

Saturday night I was outside painting our Adirondack chairs. This effort was not, by the way, meant to fulfull any of my creative yearnings. Painting chairs like that is a matter of sheer endurance. I'm psyching myself up for putting on the second coat later today.

Anyway, I had the radio on and decided to tune it to a country music station just to shake things up. I don't listen to much country music, but some of my friends do, so KBULL 93 it was.

One song stood out. I don't know who was singing, or what the name of the song was, but it was obviously meant to romance a girl. My favorite line? "I want to search you for tics."

Saturday, June 16, 2007


My urge to create is slowly blossoming again after a long wintering over. So much of our book store business was about creating atmosphere and relationships, building something tangible and reflecting our aesthetics and values. Even figuring out how to keep track of all the bits of information we needed to keep track of required creativity.

When we closed the store, my creative side went dormant--definitely not by any conscious or deliberate choice on my part. In retrospect, I think it may have been a bit of a defense mechanism. I'd poured so much of myself into the store for so long and now it doesn't even exist. The whole experience has made me very tentative about putting my soul into something new.

I'm trying to nurture these new yearnings and to figure out what direction they might take me. I fall asleep imagining what sorts of projects I might like to try. I've become addicted to listening to podcast interviews and reading blogs written by artists and musicians. Twice in the past few weeks I've visited art museums. I think I might take guitar lessons, learn how to use Roger's new camera and, gulp, figure out how to thread the sewing machine I haven't used in many years.

As I move forward in this, I'm finding that the awakening of my creativity is a sort of spiritual awakening. I believe that our human desire to create comes from the part of us that is divine. As children of God, the ultimate creator, doesn't it makes sense that it would be in our nature?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sunny Days

An afternoon at the pool. Bike rides to the park. Hikes up the canyon. Chatting with neighbors until the sun sets. Fireworks. Late nights with friends. Walking home in the dark with a lantern. Waking up without an alarm clock, curtains blowing with the cool morning breeze.

Summer is in full swing and I am choosing to embrace it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Rainy Days

The cold (in the 40s!) and rainy weather arrived yesterday and continues today (though not as cold and rainy).

Although it was very chilly, it cleared up enough yesterday evening to go on a few rides at Springville's Art City Days carnival. Jack hooked up with friends Johnny and Benny, who didn't like as many rides as Jack did. Benny hates heights and Johnny can't do rides that go up and down fast. The only ride that gave Jack the willies was the Ring of Fire, and that was only because there wasn't a line so the ride operator made it go three times as long and kept pausing them upside down at the top of the loop. They all agreed that their favorite ride was the Starship--they're shoved up against the wall with cetrifugal force as it spins.

This morning Jack and his friend Rex had plans to go to the Fun-a-Rama (the city sets up huge inflatable slides and things at one of the parks for Art City Days), but it got rained out. Rex went off to the movies with his family instead and Jack spent the morning building very intricate Lego models of the three challenges in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

We've been playing game after game of Uno waiting for Rex to come over, and he has just arrived. Yay!

Tonight we're heading out to find a new bike helmet for Jack. He starts cub scouts tomorrow morning and will be learning all about bikes and bike safety in preparation for a big bike ride at an upcoming den meeting.

Even though we've had to wear socks and hoodies instead of sandals and short sleeves, summer is in full swing!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I Made It!

My mother-in-law and I left Jack and Grandpa playing happily and drove up to the new Ikea store south of Salt Lake City today. We had a very pleasant time browsing the store and lunching on Swedish meatballs and red potatoes in the cafeteria.

I made it out of the store for under $100. Here are a few of the highlights:
  • Duvet covers for Roger and me. One of our secrets to a peaceful marriage, inspired by our good friends Scott and Carolyn, is that we each have our own twin size duvets so we never fight over blankets. Several years ago my friend Wendy and I spent a night at the Four Seasons hotel in Boston (a birthday present from her husband) and at night they made up the beds with all white cotton linens, including duvets with white covers. So that's what we've had at home since then. I was so pleased to find solid white covers with some visual interest. You can't see the pattern on the photo at the Ikea website, but every inch or so they've tucked the fabric with a straight seam across the width of it. So it has lines, but it's still solid white.
  • A cool red cardboard box to store Jack's papers and projects from school (click here for an account of recent related trauma). I actually found a box that is slightly longer than the link to the Ikea website shows (21 3/4" instead of 17 3/4") so it can accommodate more odd sized projects.
  • An alarm clock for Roger, who is seriously alarm clock impaired. Really, he has at least three different alarm clocks, all of which are unreliable. The cool thing about this alarm clock is that we can record personalized messages for him to wake up to.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Jack's Brother

It was such a joy to finally meet Jack's half-brother, an adorable 10-month-old almost toddler now (pictured here with his mom, Jack's birth mom). What a happy, beautiful child!

I'm trying to sort through all kinds of feelings. Not surprisingly, it was one thing to deal with a theoretical baby who almost joined our family last summer (click here for more info), and it is now something else to deal with a real baby that we've held and fed and laughed with.

How amazing it would have been to have him in our family. It would have been a very, very good thing. But I am also thrilled that he has been such a bright spot in his mom's life, and it is clear that they are thriving together. (BTW, she is no longer with his father, who is leaving for Iraq this week with his National Guard unit.)

What I know for sure is that Jack's three siblings hold a very special place in my heart (click here for pics of Jack with his two older sisters). I imagine I feel so strongly about them because I love Jack so much. They are always welcome in our home, and I hope Jack develops a good relationship with all three of them through the years. Maybe Roger and I can be like an aunt and uncle to them.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Baptism Day

Jack's big day today! In our church, children aren't baptized until they are eight and it's clearly presented to them as a choice they make. Jack has been looking forward to this day for a while, and it has been a happy time for him.

Also in the tradition of our church, Jack's dad had the privilege of baptizing him, confirming him a member of the church and giving him the gift of the Holy Ghost. I had the privilege of speaking at the service about what it means to have the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Lots of special people were able to share the day with him, including:
  • Nana, Gramps and Aunt Linda who all flew out from Massachusetts
  • Grandma and Grandpa
  • Aunt Carol and Uncle Greg
  • Cousins Anne and her baby Hyrum, Jenny and her husband Kyle, Evan, Bethany and Sarah
  • Good friends from our neighborhood, best friend from school Rex and his mom, Erica, and best friend of all time Gracie and her mom, Diana
  • Jack's birthmom and his baby half-brother (who is about 10 months old) who drove up from New Mexico
Here are pictures of Jack and Grace and Jack and his half-brother (who has the same spark in his eyes that Jack has!):