Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I'm jealous

Jealous of what? This list of foreign countries visited. I was hoping to have a comparable list but mine falls short of Michele's 27 countries! Here is mine (also in alphabetical order):

Australia
Austria
Belgium
Canada (does French Canada count as additional country?)
Costa Rica
Dominican Republic
France
Germany
Guatemala
Italy
Japan
The Netherlands
Mexico
Puerto Rico
Switzerland

In January I get to add St. Lucia to the list! I am also hoping to go to either Kenya or Korea next year. But here is my wish list of must-visit countries (sort of in prioritzed order):

Kenya (or anywhere in Africa really)
China
Finland
Cuba
Egypt
Thailand
Czech Republic
England
Iceland
Greece
New Zealand
Russia
India
Brazil

Shoot, there are a lot of places I want to go. Maybe I should just try and get on the Amazing Race so I can see it all! I think I would be good at it, I just need to choose a partner . . . where have you been and where do you want to go?
12 days until my Annual Christmas Dessert Party
61 people plan on attending
8 more people might attend
10 dessert recipes chosen
1 grocery list created but not yet executed
0 desserts actually made
0 decorations in my apartment

Monday, November 27, 2006

I forgot the photos!

Above is the whole extended Cox clan minus 5 (including my 2 brothers and their wives) and to the left and immediately below are photos from the sealing of the youngest and newly adopted cousin PJ.

To the left I am with my aunt Risa and baby PJ (isn't he adorable?) and below are my sweet grandparents.This is the cheesy photo of my sister and me with our mom. We were kind of joking around with the hands on the shoulder but I think it actually looks good.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Home for Thanksgiving

I'm sure every home town/state has its own idiosyncrasies that both endear and embarrass its residents and ex-pats. I look forward to witnessing some of these oddities and dread others each visit. Thursday I was wrapped up in the idiosyncrasies of extended family organizing Thanksgiving dinner, family photos and an anniversary party for my grandparents in American Fork. I didn't think about or prepare myself for the bigger picture.

Friday my newest cousin PJ was sealed to his parents at the Jordan River Temple. It was the long awaited and much needed faith affirming experience for me to sit in a sealing room with my parents, grandparents and various aunts and uncles. It was more emotional than I anticipated, especially comforting an aunt whose husband is on a long and slow journey back to the church. The importance of eternity hit me as I looked at the reflections of all those familiar faces smiling in the mirrors at this chubby faced 6 month old baby who looked at each of us with a serenity that implied he understood and appreciated having each of us there for his big day. I was touched and inspired. The church is about so much more than the cultural oddities that so often distance me.

After the ceremony, as we waited for the newly sealed family to come outside, my grandfather sat in a wheelchair in a corner of the lobby. Next to him on a bench was an older man close to his age with a walker next to him. My grandpa is the folksiest man you will ever meet. Even with his diminishing health and the fatigue that seems to be always with him he finds a moment to strike up a conversation with a new friend. He leaned over to the man and said in his thick Southern Utah accent as he pointed to the walker "I see you've got yourself a get up and go cart." My aunt and I were standing a bit away from him but my grandpa has this deep resonant voice that is incapable of a whisper or subtlety. We burst into giggles and I repeated the line over and over the rest of the afternoon vowing to remember it. My grandpa isn't normally in a wheelchair but he has his own "get up and go cart" that he refers to as his "four-wheeler." There are so many Grandpa-isms, it is good to add more to the collection.

After we left the temple my parents and I decided it was time to feed my Cafe Rio fix. We battled some holiday shopping traffic jams to get to the parking lot but were happy to discover that 3:00 is indeed an ideal time to pick up Cafe Rio - there was only one person ahead of us in line. I am not sure if it was my own self-consciousness or really was the dress and boots but I felt conspicuous like everyone was staring at me so out of place among the jeans and hoodies. We took our orders home to share with my sister and I was relieved that I didn't see anyone I knew.

Later that evening my sister and I went to see a movie at Jordon Commons. And this is where the idiosyncrasies and stereo-types fell right in my lap. We somehow managed to find a front row parking spot directly in front of the theater entrance and as we walked in to pick up the tickets I soaked in the familiar sight of Utah teenagers and families. Don't take this as a derogatory description. Utah has its own styles and oddities that are different from the oddities I find in New York and so many of them converge at Jordon Commons. It is evident in how people dress, the way they wear their hair and the large mugs of Diet Coke they carry with them. I soaked this in as my sister and I dashed through the crowd to hand over our tickets and slip into our seats. I observed a few more people when I went back out to purchase some Junior Mints and water. When I returned to my seat my sister and I chatted and giggled about whatever it is that makes us laugh. When the previews started a camera swept over a picteresque scene and a voice said "Joseph Smith". . . This startled me and I said something to the effect of "I forgot I was in Utah" or "I'm back in Utah" to my sister and the woman next to me glared at me. It really wasn't a criticism or derogatory remark - just startled. I am not accustomed to my religion following me to the movie theater.

After the movie we prepared to dash back to the car but paused in the food court area to watch the last 3 or 4 minutes of a tight Jazz game. During one of the time outs I looked around at the other people who had also paused before entering or exiting their theater to cheer for the Jazz. I felt like I was still part of the community and I was proud to be a part of that. We all cheered as the Jazz edged out the Lakers in the final minutes and won the game. I thought about how I could never have an experience like that in New York - even if the Knicks owner (James Dolan?) also owned a large megaplex complete with big screen televisions playing the game. I just can't picture New Yorkers lingering around and rallying like that for a regular season game (maybe the playoffs). Something I miss about home.

Saturday and Sunday pass far too quickly and I'm struggling (clearly) to get back into the swing of things at work. The good news is I don't have to wait too long for my next visit, only 25 days away.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanks

I'm going to go ahead and steal this Thanksgiving post idea because as usual, it is a good one.
____________________________________________________
Dear Saint Sammy,
Thank you for being the best cab driver ever by pulling off a miracle and getting me to the airport 35 minutes before my flight left. I know I should have left earlier instead of getting that pedicure but I wanted my feet to look nice for my family. I now know a 20 minute ride to the airport can take an hour and a half the day before Thanksgiving.
Your friend,
Late Rider
____________________________________________________
Dear Ma Soeur,
Thanks for being the best sister and digging ditches in Guatemala with me, this was another memorable year. Thanks for helping me surprise Mom and Dad with a visit this last summer and thanks for always being willing to giggle and laugh with me. You're the best!
much love,
ta soeur
____________________________________________________

Dear Malcolm,
Thanks for being the best dog ever. I love that no matter how long I have been gone I can always count on you to jump up and down, run around in circles and cling to me when I return home. You and I have been through many tough times and you have always been there for me. All of your gray makes me sad.
your bff,
ae
____________________________________________________

Dear Digby's,
Thanks for making the best steel-cut oatmeal in Manhattan. I look forward to breakfast with you every morning.
yours,
a regular
____________________________________________________

Dear ipod & itunes,
Thanks for being invented. Walking to work wouldn't be the same without you.
Thinking of you,
a listener
____________________________________________________

Dear Firm,
Thanks for being my employer and paying me more money than I deserve to make. You have your faults and I have mine but overall you aren't too bad and I'm grateful to have a place to work.
Best regards,
Cog Associate
____________________________________________________

Dear Netflix,
You have changed my life. Thanks for making it even easier to be lazy on a Friday night, it is always nice to come home to that red envelope in the mail.
Faithfully,
Addicted
____________________________________________________

Dear Extended Family,
Thanks for a lovely (though chaotic) Thanksgiving dinner. The pototoes may have been bland and the turkey dry but Grandma's stuffing was the greatest and the slide show for Grandma and Grandpa was well done. Sorry my family cut the evening a bit short, we are just not used to that many yelling and screaming kids.
love,
the eldest granddaughter
____________________________________________________

Dear Readers (all 5 of you),
Thanks for listening to me rant and cry and complain and laugh and giggle with you. Your comments and encouragement mean a lot to me. Please keep writing and reading.
love,
Soul-fusion
____________________________________________________

Dear Popcorn & M&Ms,
Thanks for being the best snack ever. I know I rely on you a bit too much but seriously, who could resist that salt and chocolate combo? Yum!
Looking forward to another great year!
Snacker
____________________________________________________

Dear Pilates Instructor,
Thanks for being the one person to ever offer me enough incentive to work out in the morning. Thank you for continuing to encourage me to work out even when I never seem to make any progress. I appreciate it.
fondly yours,
weak abs
____________________________________________________

Dear doormen at the Helena,
Thanks for always have a warm smile and a hello every morning when I leave for work and every evening as I arrive home. I so appreciate feeling welcome.
Regards,
6E
____________________________________________________

Dear Wholefoods,
Thanks for having such a wonderful salad bar full of fresh food, I know I can always count on you for a good dinner or a Saturday lunch.
Best,
a happy customer
____________________________________________________

Dear Roofdeck,
We had a great run this summer - all those evening parties and Saturday afternoons with a book. You were always there for me with warm breezes, stunning sunsets and phenomenal evening views. Thanks for making me the popular kid in the ward. I know I have neglected you lately but I promise to return in the spring as soon as the sun warms your solar panels once again.
Faithfully,
6E
____________________________________________________

Dear Fellow Squid,
I am so lucky to have stood next to you in 8th grade gym class. I am grateful that this year we managed to once again move our treasured friendship to greater depths after a very honest discussion in your driveway. You always make me laugh and I am happy to call you my oldest friend. I love you.
Love,
But I am a Kite
____________________________________________________

Dear Girls (you know who you are),
Thank you for also being lonely social rejects in high school ("you don't understand!") and welcoming me into your circle. We have been through a lot of ups and downs and I can't believe we have all stayed together. Thanks for dressing up with me, thanks for dancing with me, thanks for laughing with me, thanks for crying with me and thanks for always accepting me. I couldn't have asked for better friends.
all my love,
ae
____________________________________________________

Dear Banana,
Thanks for making Martin pants. I always know I can count on you to fit consistently and make me feel professional (even when I would rather go to work in pajamas).
Sincerely,
Customer 5203671
____________________________________________________

Dear Chagall,
Thanks for those two beautiful murals hanging in the Metropolitan Opera. I love when they open the curtains and light up the murals, I always make a point of pausing in Lincoln Center to bask in their beauty.
Very truly yours,
An Admirer
____________________________________________________

Dear J & Nadia,
Thanks for moving to Boston and being so close to me. Thanks for last weekend - I loved Central Park and the Museum of Natural History and seeing Madama Butterfly with both of you at the Met was a remarkable experience. Please visit often. I love you!
Love,
A
____________________________________________________

Dear Nick,
Thanks for being one of the funny kids. You truly are the funniest person I know. I miss you and I wish we talked more, I miss your stories.
love,
your sister
____________________________________________________

Dear Newark Airport,
Thanks for moving your security lines along so well Wednesday night. I was truly worried when I saw the line extending through the entire terminal out past all of the food stands. Thanks for moving quickly enough to get me to the terminal with enough time to use the bathroom and buy a gross pizza for the flight so I didn't starve.
Sincerely,
A late flyer
____________________________________________________

Dear NY Taxis,
Thanks for your bright yellow cars. I know I don't tell you enough how much I appreciate that little light being lit up on the top of your car that tells me you will stop and give me a ride home (especially as we head into the bitter cold of winter). It is a comfort to know that even when I go all the way up to the Upper East Side, home is just a whistle and a raised hand away.
Yours always,
a faithful rider
____________________________________________________

Dear Brooke,
Thanks for being a regular FHE supporter and a great Hell's Kitchen neighbor. I appreciate all of the times you listen to me vent and complain about dumb boys. I'm sad you live in Queens now but I promise to make an effort to visit.
yours,
ae
____________________________________________________

Dear Utes,
I can't say that I'm not disappointed in you this football season but thanks for trying, I know you will do your best to win tomorrow against that school down south. I promise I do not have split loyalties. Please try extra hard tomorrow since I kind of made a bet with my uncle that I would buy them (which may have included his entire family) sushi if you lose tomorrow. Please play well.
Got Utes!
an alum
____________________________________________________

Dear Jazz,
Welcome back!!!! The mourning phase is over - we all miss John and yes maybe even Karl, and I am happy to see that you are playing better than ever this year. Keep up the good work and I will try and visit at Christmas. Thanks for the endless memories.
Yours,
a one time fanatic
____________________________________________________

Dear Delta Center,
I am really sorry they have renamed you after a nuclear waste facility. Thanks for the memories - I remember seeing you at your open house when you were shiny and new. It just won't be the same with this awkward new name that I will never remember. It will always be the Delta Center to me.
In loving memory,
a fan
____________________________________________________

Dear Jenny the Stylist,
Thanks for the fun new hair. I love it. Everyone at work loved it and my family loved it. I think it suits me and I thank you for recognizing that.
very truly yours,
Client
____________________________________________________

Dear Shoes.com,
Thanks for your endless supply of shoes - I love them all. And thank you for being so willing to take the ugly and the ill-fitting ones back at no charge to me. You are truly self-less that way.
Fondly,
Customer
____________________________________________________

Dear Grandma E.,
Thanks for turning sweet and slightly crazy in your old age. I think your willingness to show some affection my way has helped me get over some of my youthful bitterness. I am grateful we have had the chance to see each other so often this year. I know you are looking forward to seeing Grandpa again someday but these last few years have made me recognize how much I am like you.
Thank you,
your granddaughter
____________________________________________________

Dear All the Boys I Have Ever Dated,
Thanks for teaching me about relationships - the good and the bad. You have each contributed to who I am today and taught me to have high standards and expectations of my future husband. Thanks for the good times.
Sincerely,
Ex-Girlfriend
____________________________________________________

Dear Blogger,
What a great idea! Thanks for giving me a forum to express my oh so important thoughts, trivial complaints and embarasing moments.
Regards,
Soul-Fusion
____________________________________________________

Dear Mom & Dad,
You are the best parents I ever could have asked for. Thank you. Even when we don't see eye to eye and even when I am impatient and obnoxious I know you are there for me and supportive of me and I could not ask for anything else. I love you.
Love,
your eldest daughter
____________________________________________________

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

would you like some bacon with your pumpkin pie? no thank you.

Over the past few years I have been experimenting with different pie crust recipes to try and achieve that crisp and flaky texture. Because of my quest, I was drawn in by this article in the NY Times "Heaven in a Pie Pan: The Perfect Crust." I eagerly opened the article hoping to pick up some secret tidbits I can incorporate into my pies this year.

Then I discovered the secret: lard, specifically pig, duck and processed lard. Tips include "cut[ting] out the pinkish bits." Eeeewwww! I think one of the reasons I love baking so much is I get to avoid handling raw meat products. I am not a vegetarian but I can relate to their choice to avoid meat - I rarely cook it at home and used latex gloves while I was handling my turkey last year. So as you might suspect, I am not going to start adding lard to my pie crusts - especially when it might require me to "pick out any bloody bits and sinews, chop the fat into pieces, and render it slowly in a double boiler for eight hours." Pretty disgusting if you ask me.

One good thing I picked up from the article is that shortening is the key (aside from lard) to having a crust that holds its form. I use butter (for the taste) which is why my pie shells tend to shrink or the decorative edges fall off. My sister and I did a beautiful braided edge on one pie last year that tragically fell off in pieces but tasted amazing. I prefer the tastier, not as pretty version sans shortening (and lard). No worries vegetarians, my desserts will always be meat free.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Nog

I cannot take credit for the below, nor would I want to, yet I feel compelled to share it since it has become a very odd tradition for my brother to send everyone he knows an email about egg nog. Since Tiffany was asking about holiday traditions, I thought I would share one of ours, the below is this year's list with last year's introduction (since I liked it better). Enjoy!

Ching-chingching-chingchingchingching
Dashing through the snow.......

Now that Halloween has passed, it's time to break out the pipe cleaner antlers, ugly sweaters with glowing red noses on reindeer and of course..................NOG!
Let's here it for the Nog.
Nog is so wonderful, thick and delicious. And finally the laws will allow us to purchase it again. My freedoms have been restored and off I rush to the Safeway in search of nog donned in festive X-mas boxers with long underwear underneath, some kind of mesh hat with antlers and a lime green sweater with Rudolph, a glowing nose, and syntho here comes Santy Clause playing from somewhere inside the sweater.
I think we should celebrate everything nog, all the time. Nog may be relegated to second fiddle status next to jokers like Frosty the Snowman; but I say nog is the greatest of Holiday Traditions. Give me nog or give me.... uhh....something that isn't nog. Because the season cannot begin without celebrating everything nog, please take a moment to remember egg nog's lesser beloved and obscure cousins. Really, if all you taste in your life is Plain Jane egg nog you will die a little less complete. This is a memorable time of year because it means the first shipment is on the shelves. The government has finally allowed us to buy it again. As always, I would like to celebrate some of the lesser known, least popular versions. Eggs extended family is so frequently overlooked. Join with me, in the spirit of the season. That's right! It' s time to experience life. It's time to experience NOG! Viva la Nog!

root nog
celery nog
beef nog
chicken nog
don't forget soy nog for the vegans (no animals were killed, maimed, ridiculed, mocked, taste-tested, joy ridden, developed, forgotten, or enslaved in this nog)
Bruce nog
almond nog
a-mond nog (Nothern Calif exclusively)
online nog
inline nog
cut-in line nog
soda nog
lime rickey nog
grape soda nog
grape-a-licious nog
juice-a-rific nog
bluecross/blueshield nog
fogettaboutit nog
does this look like your parking spot nog
I can't feel my feet anymore nog
pepper-jack nog
ranch nog (has bits of corn, gravy, and mashed potatoes mixed in it--aka Nog For My Father)
fusion nog (some kind of a blend of Chinese/Carribean/French nog)
jujji fruit nog
Buffalo Nog
Bison Nog
French Poodle Nog
surrey with a nog on top
Old Nog
Sticky Nog
black-eye nog
dance of the sugar nog fairy
St. Elsewhere's Nog
Coppa Ca-Nog-a (the hottest nog north of Havana)
Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabbadoo Nog (that's the worst nog I've ever heard Homer)
Nogger
neener-neener-nog
Jimmy likes Nog, Jimmy could really go for a Nog, cause Jimmy loves Nog Nog
Nogfeasor
Nogalicous
Nogtastic
Winder Dairy Nog
ol' nog
Jell-O surprise nog
sine qua nog
And you don't quit nog
Bruised, battered and nogged nog
Wal-Nog
Nogfare for the Common Man
Log Nog (what rolls down stairs rollover in pair, rolls over your neighbors dog/what's great for a snack and fits on your back....it=s nog, nog, nog)
nogbo
Hip Nog
Nog hop
Bohemian Nog
WASP Nog
athlete's nog
girly nog
manly nog
freaky nog
stuffy nog
prissy nog
stinky nog
stank--eee nog
naz-tee nog
Corn Baller Nog
St. John's nog
get of your nog and jam
tired nog
sick nog
sick and tired nog
Wan' somma your Brown Su-gar Nog
Billy's bathtub nog
Soldier of Nog
Madnog
Maddog Nog
Dog Nog
Dog Mad Nog
res ipsa noguitor (the thing speaks for the nog)
Uncle Stinky's Nogcar
Frankly I don't give a Nog
Vermont Teddy Nog
Pennsylvania Dutch Nog
Converted Nog
ALL CAPS NOG
Turnip Truck Nog
Move-on.nog
Capitol Nog
Nog on a Plane
Milquetoast Nog
Lost City of Nog
Extra Elbow Room Nog
Contract with America Nog
go fug your nog
freeze dried nog
Clutch Nog
After the nog is gone
Low Birth-weight Nog
Walker Texas Nogger
Burning Hunk of Nog
split pea nog
still legal in 8 states nog
sold separately nog
What the dealy-o nog?
Brendon Frazier Nog
Hydrogen Powered Nog
Alternative Nog Power
The longest nog
High as a Georgia Nog waltzing Ma-nog-a
onion Nog
garlic nog
onion and garlic nog
Sweet Nog Alabama
Breakfast at Nog-iffy's
Nogwork Orange
Nog-22
Black Nog (cause he's got a plan to stick it to the man)
Dill sauce nog
US District Nog
Nog-Shake
Nog-twist
Who told you to put the nog on? I didn't tell you to put the nog on. You never know what a nogs gonna do! Nog
The Nogtation
The Last Nog You Will Ever See
Non-threatening Nog
Afternog Delight
The Final Nog-Down
Nogner's "The Nog Cycle"
Nogburg
Noggin jiggy wid it
Forever in Nog
Slightly Sloppy Nog
Home Depot Nog
Elbow Nog
Nogzilla
The Truly Joyous Nog
Rocket Fuel Malt Nog
Amplified Nog
Coming to you live from station W-E-N-O-G, better known as WeNog, or deeper still the Mother Nog connection, coming directly from the Mothership. 500 Hundred Kilowatts of P-Nog power.
Since you been Nog
Skip To My Nog
Fried Green Nog
Tyrant Nog
Tyra Nog
Somebody Stop Tyra Nog
Uncle Jessie's Mullet Nog
Duke Boys Nog
Just the Good Ol' Boys Nog
Past the Tipping Point Nog
Clang Clang Clang with the Nog
Joyful Nog
Earth, Wind, and Nog
Yeah, I had to pay for it, Nog
Uncle Wiggly's Secret Stash Nog
I'll be Nog for Christmas


Happy Holidays!
St. Nick

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Attention Early Christmas Revelers: Give Thanksgiving A Chance!

It is only November 14th and I have already been completely bombarded with all things "holiday season" or Christmas. Only a day or two after Halloween I went in a number of drug stores (admitedly searching for leftover bags of Take Five candybars) and the shelves were already cleared of all traces of black and orange, ghosts and witches and were replaced with red and white, santas and snowmen. Halloween was dumped in a discount bin near the checkout. No turkeys, no pumpkins, no cornucopias - straight for candy canes. Fifth Avenue has given itself over to Christmas as well - and not just the necessary prepatory measures - the giant red bow wrapped around the Cartier store is not only in place but fully lit up as well. The lights are up and on the trees on the last block of my walk home and the tree in Rockefeller Center is covered in scaffolding and being trimmed as I type - if I could just lean a little to the right out my window I could probably see it through the crack between the two buildings I stare at. At least Roc Center has the courtesy to wait until after Thanksgiving to light it even if the Rockettes are already in full swing with their Christmas Spectacular. I am just grateful I have not yet heard my first Christmas song of the season.

Before you start thinking I am some sort of Christmas hater, I must explain. I love Christmas - the lights, the parties, the snow, the gift giving, the crisp air, the Christmas cards, the baking (trust me, I LOVE the baking), the mistletoe, the Messiah concert, my dessert party, the trees being sold on every other street corner, the Christmas music (I created not one but two separate Christmas playlists for my ipod) . . . I could go on and on. But I feel compelled to speak out for the holiday that gets steam-rolled - Thanksgiving!

If I could figure out a way to extend Thanksgiving, I would. What could be better than a holiday dedicated to food, family and perhaps some family games or maybe a walk? The only frantic, chaotic portion is traveling (which is dreadful) and grocery shopping. Compared with the pressures and obligations that Christmas presses upon us, this is nothing. Seriously, I wait all year for turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, yams!, Dixie salad (a fruit salad specialty of my mother, I just learned that is the proper name today), all the various veggie side dishes, roll, even the jello salad and of course PIE with freshly whipped cream on top! Anytime I can, I volunteer to make pies and I always make way too many. Yet they always get eaten. Oddly enough Thanksgiving is the only time I ever make or even eat pie. I think I just like saving it for one special time of year. By making freshly homemade pie and rolling out the dough for the crust, I feel like I am extending a tradition.

Last year I had Thanksgiving at my NYC apartment (some of the food is pictured at the left) with my sister (from SLC), my brother and his wife and their two friends from Boston - 6 people in my 1 bedroom table-less apartment. We had the greatest time. It was my first time cooking an entire Thanksgiving feast and I kind of feel bad that I am not doing it again this year. I took Wednesday off and my sister and I wandered the City picking up last minute items that weren't being delivered by my online grocery store (the only way to grocery shop). The turkey was by far the biggest challenge but lots of fun and it was so exciting when it turned out after all the brining and basting! I also discovered twice-baked sweet potatoes - amazing! Oh and we had about 5 pies. Yes, 5 pies for 6 people. I love baking pies (below is last year's apple pie).
This year I am going home. I may have mentioned how much I hate traveling on Thanksgiving on a prior post because I am just dreading it. The last time I flew home (actually to Vegas) for Thanksgiving was 5 years ago and it was miserable! The flight was overrun with stereotypical Jersey-ites headed for a cheery Thanksgiving at the slots. An old woman who did not speak English stole my seat. I tried to tell her she was in my precious aisle seat but she wouldn't budge and her daughter next to her insisted I leave her alone and not separate them because she was family. They directed me to her crammed, sufficating middle seat across the aisle. I pushed back some but the entire plane was glaring at me like I was the bad guy and the flight attendant basically told me to sit in the middle seat! It was terrible. I get really claustorphobic in the middle seat on a plane when I don't even get an armrest to myself - the nasty little plane bathroom becomes a haven for privacy.

A week from tomorrow I will join the masses shuttling home for turkey and I cannot wait! I am looking forward to cooking, to eating, to chilling out and to counting my blessings. Hopefully one of them will be an uneventful flight.

Monday, November 13, 2006

not exactly a shining moment

Yesterday was stake conference. I was tempted not to go since, as my sister reminded me, I just went to stake conference with my brother in Boston two weeks ago. Plus, my grandma advised us that she thought stake conference was optional. I went anyway but arrived late.
I slipped into the back of the very full gym just after the opening prayer and told the usher I just need one seat and he pointed to one just a few rows from the back. As I climbed over the couple on the end I noticed who was seated on the other side of the empty seat - TW. The guy who has decided to avoid me at all costs ever since I returned from an extended business trip to California. Of all the empty seats, why was I directed to the one next to him? I couldn't help but worry that he thought I sought that seat out on purpose. I didn't and I wanted to find another seat but that seemed worse.

So I remained collected, sat down, took off my coat and as I crossed my legs I discovered that the lining of my dress was nowhere to be seen. Instead, what could be seen was my leg covered by a very filmy layer of fabric and my nylons! My dress was suddenly see through. I then proceeded to shift and fidget and twist in a not-so-subtle attempt to find the lining and restore it to its proper place. It wasn't working. I tried crossing my legs the other way since it seemed only one side of the lining was tucked up near my waist somewhere but this would not do. I kept fidgeting. Finally, TW turned and asked if everything was okay. Apparently I was not being as subtle as I had hoped. I explained I was having a small malfunction with my slip. He told me "do what you need to do" but what I needed to do was stand up and pull everything back to proper order and that was not an option. I somehow finally managed to yank the twisted lining down to cover everything that needed covering and tried to refocus. But TW returned to his old ways of whispering comments and behaving in a manner I would normally interpret to be flirting with me.

But don't worry, I am not falling back into that trap.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

why I love NYC in the fall

Words cannot describe what a beautiful day it was on Saturday: 62 degrees, bright blue sky with plenty of sun. I decided to walk home from a brunch at 23rd and 2nd Avenue and couldn't allow myself to just go home so I ended up at Central Park. Here are some pics of my day: the Veteran's Day parade near Madison Square Park, a small flea market in chelsea and Central Park where I enjoyed lunch on a park bench and neglected my book as I watched people playing every conceivable sport at Sheeps Meadow. Beautiful, perfect afternoon.










Saturday, November 11, 2006

My Feminist Soapbox

I spent the afternoon mulling over how I want to recount this morning's incident and now that I am home with the blank screen in front of me I am at a bit of a loss as to how to start, how much background to give, how far I delve into the issue. Instead of figuring out the most eloquent and logical format, I am going to just dive in and see what happens - wish me luck.

This morning I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and rushed out the door just past 10 so I could take two buses to attend a brunch for the BYU alumni women's law forum. I have not previously chosen to be involved with this particular group for a variety of reasons I have never been able to fully articulate. As time stretches out between me and my BYU experience I am softening, I question my biases and wonder if I have exaggerated the negative. I forget what bothered me. In an age when law schools enroll around 50% females across the country, my class was only 30% women. At times I have read that they are doing their best to recruit more but I never really saw it. When I applied I was accepted and didn't heard a word from them until I showed up at orientation. No one made any effort to convince me to attend. That tells me that at least at that time they were not actively seeking to recruit qualified women. During the course of my three years there while I was convinced that feminist was a bad word, I listened to men in my class tell me and the other women that we were taking spots that should have gone to men who have families to support. I know my qualifications were questioned, maybe the bar was lowered because as a former employer told me "BYU needs women, you should be able to get in there." I witnessed a classmate of mine tell a female professor she should be home with her children, not teaching. I listened to my female classmates explain that all they really want to do is get married and have children. Five years after graduation most of them are at home with their kids, many of them never even practiced after graduation. That is a choice each of them made and I do not question it. However, as I interviewed for jobs I had several potential employers question me on my "5 year goal", in an effort to gauge whether or not I was comitted to practicing. What I do wonder is whether those women who are not practicing, whether all of the overly educated mothers out there are at home by choice or because they didn't have an option - they could either work full time or stay home full time. Or maybe they are at home because they can't handle the judgment of their neighbors should they choose to work.

The alum currently acting as the NY president (or representative or whatever the title) has been practicing law for 3 years in NYC, she was two years behind me in law school and when she was a summer associate at my former firm, I was her mentor. I have never had negative feelings for her but I've always felt we were different enough that a friendship never fully developed as one might have expected from our common background. She, like me, is unmarried and does not have children, I'll refer to her as "S".

When I arrived at her home only two other women were present - one a student, the other a fourth year associate at a large firm who recently had a baby and just returned to work full time. I'll refer to her as "M". No one else came.

Initially the conversation was light and pleasant but somewhere it took a turn and voices began to rise, the pace of conversation quickened and an urgency to get one's point across caused each of us to interupt one another and request others to allow a point to be made. The topic of conversation had fallen on women in law firms - their progression towards partner, the value they add, whether women with children should be there. . . . My bias in this discussion was that S was talking about the state of things at her current, and my former, firm. I admit, I have some bitterness towards my prior firm. My prior firm gave me enough of a negative experience that I learned to speak out for myself and women and to insist on a more welcoming environment because it was not willing to give this. I watched one woman (also mormon) get all of her cases taken away as soon as she announced her pregnancy. She was squeezed out - I watched it up close and personal. I am sure there are some things she could have done differently but there was no reason for her to be treated the way she was - certainly not because she was pregnant. S claims she deserved not to be there because she wasn't a good associate. S was not there, she has listened to the firm's side and bought it completely.

I watched senior female associates be passed up for partner year after year. I looked at the partners in my department and they were all white males - all 30+ of them. At one point our department decided to give the women some training to show they cared about retaining us. A female partner came from LA to tell us it is possible to be a female partner at firm X. The part that sticks with me 3 to 4 years later is how that woman said after she made partner she realized she had "forgotten" to have kids, but it was too late. That was supposed to be encouraging? Another incident that stands out was when we had training that told us to not talk about our kids (not one woman in the department had a child and very few were even married) and to refrain from activities or conversations that reinforced female stereotypes. The example was "don't bring in baked goods." Apparently this made men realize we are women and should be home baking!! None of that seemed to be a good way to recruit and retain female lawyers to me. I worked with one senior female associate who was made partner a couple of years ago. S claimed she was only made partner because she is female and they use her to push "women issues." I was horrified.

She went on to explain that "women's issues" don't effect her because she is going to be a stay at home mom because her family will come first. Up until this point it was mostly S and me debating back and forth about issues primarily centered around her current firm. But when S continued to explain how a family could not be a top priority if a woman is working, M jumped in full speed. I was impressed by her poise and restraint. Her husband is the primary caretaker for their child. They made a decision together and she is making it work for her family and her family is her first priority. S continued to cast doubt on this.

I do not know what choice I will make when and if I have children: work full time, part time or stay at home or create some other option in between them all. I don't know that now and I can't know that now because I cannot predict my situation. The reason I get involved at my firm and in my community in diversity matters and women's issues specfically, is to expose myself to as many options as possible. It is a cause I believe in - women add value to law firms and the work enviornment needs to adjust to allow them to rise. Women with careers have to be more creative about their path if they have children. There is a time and a season for everything, unfortunately the biological child bearing years directly coincide with prime career building years. When (and if) I am confronted with the choice, I want to know what other women have done - what works, what doesn't, what has potential to work for me. I have watched too many friends walk away from firms because they had no other choice but quit, whether they wanted to or not.

I think it is easy to over-romantacize the idea of quitting a high paying New York law firm life to stay at home with babies. It is easy to daydream about that when you are tired of the drab routine of working 10, 12 or 15+ hours a day. But when I am dreaming of that do I envision children screaming and puking and pooping and throwing things and temper tantrums and yelling "I hate you mommy"? Of course not. Do I envision the endless laundry, the dishes, the meals to prepare, the annoying kids shows playing in the background or the craving of adult conversation? No. I think, wouldn't it be easier if I didn't have to get up and go to work every day and worry about billable hours and meeting unrealistic client deadlines. Staying at home is tough and in some ways scarier to me than going to work. There are pros and cons on each side. No one wants to be a neglectful mother. No mother sets out with the idea that her family is going to come second or third or just plain last. Why do women make these judgments of each other so often? My mother talks about feeling judged when she was a stay at home mom and then judged again when she was forced to go back to work - as an underpaid, underappreciated secretary. My mother didn't have options. She didn't have the luxury of choosing whether she should or shouldn't work and what to do with her career. My mother had to take a low-paying, thankless job because she wasn't prepared. She taught me to be prepared for the unexpected in life.

I believe the purpose of groups like this one is to share and support, to learn from one another and build each other up - not second guess decisions other women have made with their husbands and God as to what will work best for their own family.

This is an excellent article (starting on pages 9) I considered blogging about earlier. I know the author and I love the story she opens with. The question is as a woman, "how can you be a devout Mormon and work?" I find it sad that there is a perception out there among some that Mormon women are not "allowed" to work. I find it even more sad that within our church there are people who do not see the value of women not only getting an education but also pursuing careers.

I am 31 years old and unmarried. There is very real possibility that I will never get married or if I get married that I will not be able to have children. Am I just supposed to wait around for these things to happen performing a job that doesn't amount to a career or a maybe a softer career that is more suitable for a woman like a school teacher? Are school teachers questioned about their dedication to their families for working? What about when my children are old enough to be in school or after they move out of the house and I am left with time on my hands. Am I just supposed to clean the house, plan their social calendars and make crafts? Is that how I put my family first? What if I found myself in the unfortunate position of being a single mother (by divorce or being widowed) or what if my husband couldn't support the family for one reason or another? Shouldn't I keep every option open to myself to ensure my future and my hypothetical family's future? Isn't the time to prepare for such things now?

A few years ago while I was living in Salt Lake I was advised by a bishop to not tell boys that I am a lawyer because that is too intimidating for them. I was upset by this. I was upset by many of the reactions I received about being a career driven woman. One Sunday Elder Oaks stopped by our singles ward. He came to relief society and was given time near the end to address us. He spoke pointedly and encouraged the girls to get an education and pursue careers. He talked about his mother who raised him and his siblings alone. He talked about his first wife who slowly worked at her education over an extended time period while she supported his career and raised their family. He also spoke about his current wife who has advanced degrees (maybe a doctorate?) and didn't marry him until she was 50 (I think), she is well educated and had a career of her own. She didn't just wait around. After class I felt compelled to speak with him. When I told him I was a laywer he grew excited (he is a lawyer as well, a brilliantly accomplished one at that). I was surprised when he told me that law was an excellent career because of the flexibility. He understands that there needs to be a backup plan. He understands that women need to be prepared and education and career can be those tools.

I used to say that my career was Plan B while I waited for Plan A to kick in - Plan A being the traditional marriage and children route. I no longer find these two plans to be mutually exclusive. I want options. I don't believe I should have to sacrifice family to be a successful attorney in a large law firm and I don't believe I should have to sacrifice a career to be a successful wife and mother. They may not happen all at once and they may not happen in the timeline I envisioned but I believe I can be both and I feel sorry for those who don't see that. Not because I think S should want what I want, but because I believe all of us, as women and sisters, should be supportive of each other in pursuing our own unique paths.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Brooklyn is picking on Utah

Some of you have probably seen the ads for Domino's new "Brooklyn Style Pizza" with its stereotypes of Brooklyn and it claim to be akin to a Brooklyn slice. It seems I was not alone in my questioning of what makes a Brooklyn slice different from a Manhattan slice? I've had pizza in Brooklyn and I don't know the difference between that a picking up a slice in Manhattan. New York pizza is different from elsewhere with the thin crust, loads of cheese, minimal toppings and wide slices. Obviously each slice shop varies in quality and flavor but that doesn't mean Brooklyn has its own distinct style.

I'm also extremely skeptical of whether Dominos can actually produce an edible pizza, let alone one that compares with my favorite Brooklyn pizza place - Grimaldi's (traditionally enjoyed with a walk back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge). Granted, I can't remember the last time I had pizza from Dominos. It generally falls into the category of fast food from a chain - and as most of you probably already know, I really hate franchise food (McDonalds, Dominos, Burger King, TGIFriday's, etc).

Reading this article I learned I wasn't alone in my skepticism.

As much as I agreed with the article, I do take considerable issue with the below quote from a Brooklyn pizza proprieter who said this after trying it:

“In Utah, they’re going to love it because they use ketchup and American cheese on their pizzas,” she said.

Excuse me but after spending the majority of my life in Utah I have to say that I have NEVER eaten or even witnessed anyone selling, buying or eating a pizza in Utah with ketchup and American cheese. Disgusting. In Utah we tend to enjoy our pizzas with thick crust, loaded with toppings and (I have to admit) on the greasy side . . . The Pie, anyone? Or for the Utah County residents, Brickoven Pizza. I also have fond college memories of The Pizza Factory in Cedar City, especially those sticks of garlic bread - those were amazing!

Any other suggestions for what a Utah pizza might be?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

email quiz from lizzie

  1. FIRST Name: Alyssa
  2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? not my first name - but my middle name is the same as my mother and grandmother
  3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? wow, this could be a first but I don't actually remember the last time I cried. Either I am blocking something out or . . . I don't know, very strange.
  4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? no, and if you have ever seen it you know why.
  5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCHMEAT? I get turkey all the time thinking it is healthier but I don't really like lunch meat, I try to keep it to a minimum
  6. KIDS? 0
  7. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? I would hope so! I think I'm a pretty good friend but I guess you never know until you have been on the other side of that friendship
  8. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? currently I have at least 2 or 3 scattered in notebooks in my apartment, a small moleskin in my purse and of course, this blog
  9. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? define a lot
  10. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes
  11. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? why not?
  12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Kashi Go Lean Crunch (dumb Whole Foods didn't have it last night)
  13. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? no and I generally avoid shoes that need to be tied.
  14. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? depends on context. muscle wise no. emotionally I'm pretty strong from all the baggage I lug around
  15. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Ben & Jerry's chubby hubby
  16. SHOE SIZE? 7
  17. RED OR PINK? definitely red
  18. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOU? my procrastinating (I'm doing it right now)
  19. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? someone I've never met
  20. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? I agree with Liz, "this is a lame question" especially since I took it out of email and put it on my blog. . .
  21. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? no pants - a beige skirt, brown fish nets and brown boots
  22. LAST THING YOU ATE? oatmeal
  23. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Green
  24. FAVORITE SMELLS? plastic bandaids, flower shops on NYC street corners, chocolate chip cookies right when they come out of the oven, mulled cider with a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices, those nuts they sell on the street in NYC, rain in the mountains, autumn, freshly cut grass, freshly washed hair, the smell that escapes a freshly opened kool-aid or jello packet, lilacs, Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products, this one guy's office down the hall from me - I cannot figure out why his office smells so good, maybe his laundry detergent? I don't dare ask since he is married and I am really not attracted to him, I just want that smell, oh, and I love the smell of chai tea
  25. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? I think the helpdesk at work sometime yesterday - that is pathetic
  26. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO? probably eyes, maybe height
  27. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? OF COURSE!!!
  28. FAVORITE DRINK? since it is getting cold, I love Starbucks vanilla creme with skim milk and no whipped cream. It is like a hot vanilla milk shake. yum!
  29. FAVORITE SPORT? college football
  30. HAIR COLOR? naturally brown but right now it is much darker
  31. EYE COLOR? green
  32. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? yes, until they hurt my eyes, then it is glasses
  33. FAVORITE FOOD? so hard to narrow down to a favorite - but I really love Mexican, Thai and Indian. Oh, and sushi.
  34. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDING? I really like suspense with a good twist, something that is hard to find
  35. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? embarrasing - I netflixed The Breakup and watched it Sunday afternoon, pretty lame
  36. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? oatmeal shirt with brown cardigan
  37. EXERCISE? snoozed through it this morning (again) so I took the stairs out of my building and walked to work in the rain. I am good at going to pilates at least once a week.
  38. SUMMER OR WINTER? winter for snowboarding, sweaters and comfort food, summer for long days, beach trips and late nights on my rooftop
  39. HUGS OR KISSES? I'll take some of both, thank you.
  40. FAVORITE DESSERTS? chocolate souffle from Roy's, pumpkin cheesecake bars (since it is that time of year), cheesecake from Carnegie Deli and hot fudge brownie sundaes
  41. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? probably Tiff
  42. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? maybe no one will respond. . .
  43. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
  44. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? my firm's name
  45. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? Gilmore Girls and a little bit of political election coverage
  46. FAVORITE SOUNDS? waves crashing on a beach, river rolling over rocks, laughing (when I get to participate), whatever is playing on my ipod, rain with low rumbling thunder
  47. ROLLING STONE OR BEATLES? Rolling Stones
  48. THE FURTHEST YOU'VE BEEN FROM HOME? Sydney, Australia
  49. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? only if you include that trick where I can twist my arms up and stick my head through because I have freakishly long arms and a little head - kids love it
  50. WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN? June 21, 1975 in SLC, Utah

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

yum

During last week's Halloween office infestation of every conceivable candy in miniature form, a co-worker and I discovered this incredible candybar:


We managed to track down only one of these incredible bites of heaven each, they were in pretty short supply. Each time one of us walked past the pantry with the magically replenishing ghost bowl of candy or one of the many never-ending bowls, buckets and dishes scattered on ledges throughout the floor, we rummaged around for the red wrapper filled with the magical combination of 1) chocolate, 2) pretzels, 3) caramel, 4) peanuts and 5) peanutbutter. But to no avail, we only got a taste and they were gone.

Sunday my friend ran the New York City Marathon - something I cannot ever fathom even having the slightest inclination to do. So how do I think such an accomplishment should be rewarded? With chocolate of course. So I scoured the neighborhood Duane Reades and CVS pharmacies for a bag of the miniature version to no avail. I should have made time to venture down to Times Square to the Hershey's store. As an alternative, I picked up a couple of full size bars (unfortuantely no supersize available) - she was SO excited! She used one of them to lure her boyfriend into our new cult of Take 5 junkies.

Check it out, just beware of the potential for addiction . . .

Monday, November 06, 2006

don't forget to vote tomorrow

Hopefully you have better candidates to choose from where you live. . . I am just trying to find candidates who 1) don't have alleged mob connections; 2) don't use state employees to chauffer their wives around; 3) don't use their wire tapping resources to catch their husbands in affairs; 4) don't use their political office to win certain government contracts for their friends (and alleged kickback money for their own pockets); and 5) don't use horrible finger-pointing, name-calling, the-other-guy-lies ads - I know what the other guy did wrong, now tell me what you will do right!!

In other words, I am just looking for a few people to whom I can support with my vote without thinking "at least s/he isn't as bad as that other guy". But as it stands right now, I think most of them have some major integrity issues. This is why I hate politics, but I'm voting anyway so you should too.

Happy voting!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Spring Cleaning in November

My bedroom has been a disaster lately and I think the large bins of sweaters I dragged out of the closet (at the left) have been preventing me from sleeping soundly. So today I tackled it and made an even bigger mess.**
These photos are the before and during photos.
I went through every item in my closet to pack away summer clothes and make room for winter clothes. As I sorted I also forced myself to get rid of clothes that a) don't fit; and/or b) I haven't worn in the last year. I was most ly successful at this but you would be surprised at how attached I can get to a pair of pants (especially ones that no longer fit!).










Now check out the after photos, I filled 4 garbage bags full of clothes to give away (now I just have to figure out a way to transport them to Good Will). I also took several trips to the garbage room to get rid of all of the shoe boxes I decided to clear out from under my bed. I finally detached myself from the pretty boxes and realized it is much easier to keep out of season shoes in a plastic under the bed bin rather than separate boxes. Now my room is clean and neat and I can sleep soundly! Good Night!
**Just realized I didn't post the right before photo that included piles of clothes and hangers on my bed . . . I was having some issues with loading photos last night. I'll try and fix it later. I promise it was a more drastic change than it looks here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Number 9: My Grandparents

I will not waste my (or your) time explaining the chaotic state of the plans for my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary, that would only wear me out and make me forget why I am going to the hassle and expense of flying home for Thanksgiving (after I vowed in 2001 never to fly on Thanksgiving weekend again). Instead, I am going to focus on the reason I agreed to travel at the worst possible time of year: to celebrate my beautiful grandparents. The seven children of these great people (and specifically one daughter-in-law) have some pretty divergent ideas on what it takes to put together a really "special" celebration. But that is not what I will write about. What I want to write about is what my family (okay me) has decided to do, on our own. We are putting a slide show together complete with short video clips of each family member discussing favorite memories or characteristics about our grandparents. Simple, poignant, meaningful, aka, "special".

Before I can sit myself in the uncomfortable position of talking to a camera, I want to sit down and really think about how they have touched my life and what I should say to them. I am doing that here. It has turned into a stream of consciousness memory dump but when it all came out, I had to keep it. This post is strictly for me.

I am the oldest of about 19 grandchildren with ages ranging from 31 to a few months old with large gaps in between. My middle name is the same as my mother's and the same as her mother's and I want to have a daughter to whom I can pass it along.

St. George: I think my earliest memory of my grandparents was Easter, I was probably 4 or maybe younger. From the time I was born (I think) we spent Easter at my grandparent's house in St. George, Utah. This was long before St. George became an "it" place for Utah teen spring breakers. It was still a small town of which most people in Salt Lake had never heard. My grandparents house faces the Red Hill and in those days there weren't condos blocking the path straight up the face of the Hill where we spent hours and hours exploring (or in the case of my youngest brother, getting stuck and rescued). My grandparent's home is more familiar to me than any other childhood home since my family moved a lot; Grandma and Grandpa were a constant. Their home is simple and small with only one and a half bathrooms which makes family gatherings there chaotic and lazy - lazy because everyone tends to lounge around in pajamas a good portion of the day waiting for the shower, chaotic when you are trying to claim a towel and get in and out with a decent amount of time to yourself in the only shower. This is especially difficult for celebrations like weddings - and the reason my brothers and sister were late for mine. The living room is the main room in the house and has a giant window facing the Red Hill. I never realized how beautiful that view was until I moved away. The kitchen has a sliding glass door to the carport that was so heavy and clunky and easily off its track that now, years after it was replaced, most of us still have to catch ourselves from flinging the door open with too much force by ingrained habit. The kitchen is simple and used to have these hideous black and white marbelized linoleum tiles that were replaced not too many years ago but despite my recent trip there in September, I cannot picture the new stuff. The kitchen is where we most often find ourselves when visiting - sitting on not entirely comfortable wooden chairs with the tv too loud in the background and lots of cooking. Grandma always makes "hotcakes" or sometimes Zoom hot cereal. When she answers the phone there is a sing-songy lilt in her voice and her hello sounds like yellow. She also puts an r in wash. Grandpa likes to sit in his La-z-boy recliner with the phone planted on his leg and his hand holding it there. They had a rotary phone most of the time I was growing up that sat on a telephone shelf in the entrance hall. When the phone was propped on Grandpa's lap, the cord was stretched all across the room. For some reason there was a microwave in the living room for a while. I'm not sure why or for how long. They had a trampouline in the backyard - I loved sleeping out there and jumping on the tramp with my dad. There is also this old, rusted clothes line crank thing just out the back door. It hadn't been used in years but we liked cranking it around and making up uses for it. The house doesn't have a basement but there is a crawl space that always creeped me out a bit; especially after a cat died under there and stunk up the whole house. I think someone had to crawl underneath to extract it. They had the best climbing trees in the front yard. Sadly my grandmother's allergies forced them to cut most of them down. Hummingbirds remind me of their home.

Thanksgiving: Like most families we alternated between my Dad's parents and my Mom's parents for Thanksgiving. I was never as excited the years we went to my Dad's parents as when we went to my Mom's. The contrast could not have been starker: for my paternal grandparents we went north to Idaho Falls where it was colder, maternal grandparents we went south where it was warmer - one year we even put the long church tables in the driveway and ate outside. My St. George grandparents are humble, simple people - loving and accepting of everyone, no exceptions. My Idaho grandparents were more stern, formal and judging - not as tolerant of kids jumping on beds or making messes in the basement. In St. George we ran barefoot and wild, climbing trees, wandering around the block to see our cousins and exploring the Red Hill. In Idaho we could play in the backyard only or when we were older we could go "play at the track" - meaning we could walk up the street to the high school and walk around the football field. Thanksgiving in Idaho meant Marie Calendar's pies, cranberry sauce still in the shape of the can, formality and just our family and my grandparents. In St. George there were lots of aunts and uncles (some cousins, although very few when I was growing up) and a long table set up in the living room. It also meant homemade everything - turkey of course, mountains of mashed potatoes, gravy, the best stuffing ever (I called her for the recipe last Thanksgiving), yams with marshmellows on top, a couple of different jello salads, fruit salad with whipped cream, walnuts and pommegranites long before the health craze, and of course the pies! Grandma made so many pies! All from scratch. She would make pie crust after pie crust and fill them with pumpkin, apple and various cream fillings. The pies would be lined up on the long shelves in the large, cool pantry. We always ate our pie with freshly whipped cream, trying slivers of each kind. All weekend we would find ourselves returning to the kitchen, pulling out our favorite leftover dishes and lining up for the microwave. Breakfast was always fruit salad and pie. These are the traditions I have retained and will follow with my family.

Camping: Oddly enough my grandpa doesn't like to camp but my grandma does. We used to go to these Johnson family reunions (I really have no idea how we are related to the Johnsons, I know neither my grandparents nor their parents are Johnsons but somehow we are in that clan) that were somewhere near St. George that was really dusty. We would go up with my grandparents in their trailer and meet all kinds of "cousins". We even had church up there in this outdoor "church" with logs for benches. I thought it was really great to go to church dirty in jeans. At some point my grandparents broke away from the Johhnson reunions and stuck with their own siblings which was quite as huge but still pretty big (my mother has over 100 first cousins!). These reunions were at different locations in southern Utah but my fondest memories of them are when they were on Cedar Mountain because it is so beautiful there. But by that time I was older and became slightly (okay a lot) snobby and felt most of these "cousins" were hicks and spent most of the time with my mom's immediate family. My grandma always made lots of carmel popcorn balls. She made tons of them - enough to fill a garbage sack and I LOVED them! Eventually we stopped going to those reunions and now have just my mom's immediate family and we no longer camp.

Games: At family reunions or around my grandparent's kitchen table we liked playing cards. My favorite games are Pit and Spoons. Not because these are the best games but because of what it is like to play these games with my grandpa. Norm is a very large 6'4" man with a thick southern Utah accent and a meandering way of telling a story that starts somewhere in the middle with a "well, you know . . ." or "well you heard about . . ." and works its way out until you eventually manage to put it in context or give up trying to understand. Pit is a pretty fast paced game with a lot of yelling but when Grandpa plays he studies his cards and watches everyone else until he eventually says "well I've got 2." You realize he's been watching when you try to trade with him and he says "well I'm not trading with you" because he realizes you have the bull or the bear (bad cards). He never wins but is always entertaining. Grandma on the other hand comes out of her normally quite shell and becomes almost as boisterous as the rest of the table and I loved it when one time she yelled "Uno" or "Bingo" when she won and was supposed to yell "Pit!" This last September when I saw them at the family reunion in a cabin at Pine Valley Mountain I organized a game of "I have never" with everyone I could coax into taking a seat in the circle. We had about 15 or so people in the circle ranging in age from my mom and her sister in their 50s to the youngest cousins at 4. My grandparents sat on the loveseat facing the circle holding hands. Even though my grandpa can't physically play a game where he needs to run around and change seats he still managed to find a way to be involved. Each time one of the younger kids was in the middle he would call them over and coax them on what to say.

Sewing: My grandmother is one of the most amazing seamstresses ever. I am biased but that is a fact. She is meticulous to the details and nothing she makes ever looks homemade. There is a very large windowless bedroom in their house that I believe was the original garage transformed to a bedroom long before I or maybe even my mother was born. One wall of that room contains shelf after shelf of fabric. When I was 13 we lived in St. George and I or my grandma decided I should learn how to sew. She helped me make my own "units" and one of those hideous skirts with the 5-6 inch elastic waistband - I know you know what I'm talking about, watch out because with everything 80s returning these things are bound to be just around the corner. She also helped me make (or rather made) my Halloween costume that year - a great pirate dress with a white elastic off the shoulder white top and a red and white polka-dot bottom with a matching bandana. The hit of the 8th grade dance! Unfortunately I never picked up her talent. When I was looking for a wedding dress and didn't like anything I saw (the beading and lace of the 90s scared me) she offered to make my dress and used three separate patterns to make it just how I wanted. She even had some amazing design details by using leftover lace from the bodice on the skirt. In my final fitting the day before the wedding I comlained that she needed to dart the top better so my profile didn't look so flat and she told me even with my newly purchased miracle bra from Victoria's Secret she couldn't create something I didn't have, I took after her and my mother too much for that. In law school when I decided to make a quilt out of my t-shirts, she was there to help me finish it - but not without scolding me for cutting out the t-shirts according to the design on the shirt rather than cutting them all a uniform size.

Visits as an Adult: I went to college about 45 minutes from my grandparents and whenever I got lonely or upset or just needed to run away, I would hitch a ride to St. George and show up at their house. It didn't matter the time, I always knew I could drop in unanounced and the sliding door off the kitchen would be unlocked and I could walk in, they would feed me, talk to me and Grandpa would drive me home whenever I wanted telling me stories about truck wrecks and the war along the way. It wasn't just me that would drop in. Sometimes I brought friends with me. We were always fed and entertained. Once when I stopped in on the way home from a trip to Las Vegas I walked in the kitchen, had my friends wait there while I went into the living room to greet them. My grandpa was sitting in his lay-z-boy recliner in dress pants with suspenders and no shirt - just the one piece garments with the zipper up the middle for a top. My grandma encouraged me to invite my friends in and after we chatted for a bit my grandma noticed my grandpa's indecency and yelled "Norman! Put a shirt on!" So funny. My friends and I talked about it the rest of the drive home. Then there was the time I went to visit with a boyfriend when my grandma realized she had only made up one bedroom and forgot we weren't married. In her defense, it wasn't too long after my divorce. That same trip my grandpa was telling that boyfriend (who had served his mission in Taiwan) a story from WWII when he was in the navy and had to turn some big ship around near Taiwan (I should know the story better I have heard it so often) while we were eating breakfast. When the boyfriend opened the sugar bowl it was empty. Still listening to the story he retrieved one of the canisters from the counter and spooned out some of its contents onto his wheaties or shredded wheat (the two standard cold cereals at my grandparents). When he took a bite he had to run to the sink to spit it out. He had put salt instead of sugar on his cereal! My grandpa chuckled and commented that he thought it was strange that he would want salt on his cereal.

Their Wedding: My grandparents got married when they were 19 years old. They met in high school or maybe earlier. My grandma thought he was handsome and a nice dresser because he wore store-bought pants. He joined the navy at 18 and went away to WWII. Somewhere in there she ended up in LA for a while and was writing to two servicemen but switched the letters to each, I need to ask for better details on this story. I also want to clarify the story of how they got married. I think he came home once and they didn't get married for some reason, maybe she was mad or wanted to wait or something. The other time he was really sick and they did get married. But maybe he was sick the first time. There is this really great photo of them holding their small one tier wedding cake standing in their front yard (two doors down from their current home) with the empty fields stretching behind them to the Red Hill. He is in uniform. They are smiling. I love it. I need a copy of that photo.

The Store: My grandpa had a family store in St. George that was in his family for who knows how many generations. I know his mother ran in it before him - I like that my great-grandmother was a businesswoman - and I think it may have been at least one more generation before that. They sold appliances and electronics and furniture and I remember the movies and tapes. I loved visiting Grandpa at "the store" (which is how it is always referenced), I remember watching a large portion of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on several televions at once there waiting for something. There were always sodas in a fridge somewhere. My mom has stories of her dad working long hours 6 days a week at the store, of him making deliveries late on Christmas Eve and of their Christmas presents being leftovers from the Store (not really in a bad way though). At some point in the early to mid-80s the Store went out of business and a family legacy was lost. His was one of the traditional "mom and pop" stores that didn't survive expanding department stores moving into small towns. When the store closed each of my siblings and I got to keep a tape we selected from the collection - for FREE. This was very exciting to us. I chose Lionel Richie. I think my brother chose the Miami Vice soundtrack. I think my sister chose some sort of Unicorn tape but I have no idea what that would have even been.

Disneyland: The store had a yellow van with Arrowhead printed on the side (I believe that was the name of the store). Shortly after my 8th birthday we took that van to Disneyland. We being my parents, my 3 siblings, my grandparents and at least an aunt and a couple of uncles. My mom's family is pretty spread out in age so these three siblings of my mother were unmarried and while one was probably only 11, the other two were late teens and early 20s. As is often the case with an oldest child and oldest grandchild, I assumed the trip was all for me. In my head, everyone was going to Disneyland to celebrate my 8th birthday. Part of this was reinforced by the fact that we were traveling (at least in my memory) between my birthday and my baptism date. Therefore, everything between those dates must be about me. No one tried to correct me on this point. The van didn't have any seats other than the driver's and passenger's captain chairs. So we were all bouncing around in the back with pillows and blankets to cushion the bouncing. This predictably led to some car sickness. My siblings were always skeptical of my claims of car sickness, accusing me of just wanting to sit in the front. But on that trip (as on others) I proved myself with an emergency stop on the side of the road. When we got going again I got to ride in my grandpa's lap in the passenger seat (this is pre-seatbelt push). He gave me a frisbee and told me if I had to throw up again to use the frisbee and then throw it at my aunt. He also introduced me to mirages in the desert. He would point out the water off in the distance and when I told him I could see it he would ask if I could see the cows and when I agreed he would ask me about the palm trees and I would once again I could see them and would finally catch on when he asked about the hula dancers.

There are so many stories flowing through my head right now about these two incredible people to whom I cannot pay adequate tribute, I feel it is all falling out in a jumble. They have had an incredible life's journey together, one which I cannot comprehend ever ending. They still hold hands and I love hearing them reminisce together, correcting each other over differing chronologies and mistaken details.

This is why I am traveling home on the worst travel day of the year - to create more memories, fill in the gaps in their stories and celebrate my roots.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tackling the List, Starting with #6: Books at the Airport

Anytime I travel, whether it is a short commuter flight to Boston or DC, a 5 hour flight home or an international adventure across country lines and multiple time zones, I devote a great deal of time to selecting the proper reading material(s) (lucky for me the ipod and its never-ending supply of music has eliminated the pain-staking task of selecting cds for the trip as well). If I am in the middle of a book the selection can be easy but most often I am not so I have to browse through my own collection or stop off at the local B&N (time permitting) and pick up something from that never-ending list of "Book I Want To Read". When the trip is lengthy or I am nearing the end of a current book, I take a second and sometimes third book - you never know what mood you will be in sitting on a beach in Costa Rica or riding a train through the Swiss Alps. And you definitely don't want to end up in the position I once found myself wherein I finished my current novel with several hours left on my train ride. Luckily I was reading Pride & Prejudice for the 3rd or 4th time and I didn't mind starting over for a 4th or 5th read, much to my sister's shock and dismay.

Despite all of this pre-planning, the over-priced bookstores scattered throughout airports everywhere always manage to suck me in. I usually enter thinking I will just browse for a minute before I need to board my plane knowing full well I will end up buying something. There is something about the airport bookstores that allows me to cast aside intellectual ambition with the copy of The Picture of Dorian Grey in my bag and turn to simpler, faster reads like The DaVinci Code, The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me (I believe I picked up each of these in an airport somewhere). I rationalize these purchases as better travel books because they require less of my attention span. The one exception is the time I bought a Virginia Woolf novel in an airport - I think I read each paragraph of the first few pages 2-3 times waiting for my flight to board. Even with headphones I am that distracted in airports.

It happened again this past Sunday. I arrived at Boston Logan airport earlier than I had planned only to discover my flight was scheduled to depart much, much later than planned (from 8:40 to 10:15 and I showed up not long after 7). I had a book and an In Style magazine in my carry on that no longer seemed appealing so I went in search of something more suited to my mood. I had a couple of ideas of what I wanted but couldn't find Running With Scissors. I continued looking in the memoir/biography section (I truly love memoirs, there is something so appealing about reading other people's personal histories, maybe that is why I love blogging and reading blogs) and came up with Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. I am now about half-way through and I have to say how much I am enjoying it and the book only improves my already high opinion of Obama - which is saying a lot since I really dislike most politicians.

Back to the subject at hand, does anyone else have this strange draw to airport bookstores or any insight as to why I find them so appealing?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

I went to the rooftop viewing of the classic movie "Rear Window" for my fill of social time and then came home and scanned in these gems from Halloween's past. Enjoy!

On the left is Halloween of 1985. I am the I Dream of Jeanie fan. The turtle neck was not originally part of the costume but Utah was generally pretty chilly by October 31st so costumes generally had to be adapted to the cold. You have to admit my mom was pretty incredible - look at those costumes! All homemade!!

Below is Lizzie and me and I don't actually think we were in costume but as you can see from the date it was Halloween and it kind of looks like those overalls and converse should have been a costume (although the hat was actually my favorite camping hat).
The below photo is from what I consider the best Halloween ever. My friends and I threw the biggest and greatest Halloween party. We had great costumes, had loads and loads of people show up, had a phenomenal costume contest, gave away great prizes (thanks to Emily) and still managed to have a good time and look hot all at the same time - the three of us got the most "sexiest costume" votes but we didn't feel it would be right to give ourselves the prize. . . but who could compete with Poisen Ivy, Xena the Warrior Princess and Catwoman?

Okay, the below Halloween photo does include an ex-boyfriend but the costume wouldn't be the same without him (just think of him as a prop) - we were Boris and Natasha (don't ask what is going on in the bulging butt region of the dress, this was originally one of my bridesmaid's dresses that a friend of mine and I hacked up and turned into my costume - sewing has never been one of my strengths so I think I created a bubble butt somehow).


Last but not least is my sister and me a couple of years ago. I utilized a great wig and the marching band uniform my high school band teacher gave me for graduation because my friends and I stole them from the storage room so often in high school he thought I should get to keep one (my high school didn't actually have a marching band).

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