I Loved The Voice

It's been awhile since I enjoyed a new show as much as I enjoyed The Voice. In fact, it's been awhile since I looked forward to ANY show as much as I looked forward to this one each week.

I've watched American Idol now for years and every year, I'm annoyed by the live auditions. Here's why: They're completely staged and they're often insulting. I have a younger brother who can really sing. He's amazingly talented. And he's cute--curly dark blond hair, blue eyes, good smile. He's also really likable. He auditioned for AI three times. He never made it past the screeners in the parking lots because he didn't "fit" what they were looking for. And yet every year we're subjected to weeks of embarrassing people with zero talent being let through so that the judge's have material for their snarky, trying-to-be-funny remarks. Sure, they let through a few that will move on to the end, but the auditions are all for America to laugh at someone's expense.

Then comes The Voice. From the first week, we only saw real talent. The people who were let go those first couple of weeks were as good as most of the Top 12 on AI. And the ones that moved through were excellent. The system rewarded talent, not attractiveness, marketability or sluttiness. Some of the people who made it through weren't pretty people. But they could sing. And no contestants were made fun of or used for cheap laughs. Everyone was treated respectfully.

And instead of giving us Simon, Randy, Paula, Ellen, Stephen, Jennifer, and Kara, sitting there commenting on their clothes or whether or not they like country music, or flirting with each other or Ryan, we had Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green and Adam Levine, coaching, mentoring, and caring about the contestants. And not just the ones on their own teams, but about all of the contestants.

I loved how fast-paced it was. AI starts in January and ends in May. The Voice was just ten weeks from start to finish. Maybe that was because it was its first season and they'll tweak it a little, but it was so nice to have it move along.

And speaking of moving along, give me Carson Daly's slightly awkward, crooked mouthed, but straight-to-the-point delivery and interaction with the contestants and coaches over Ryan Seacrest's slick, fake, banter-filled hosting any day. Ryan thinks the show is about him. Carson know's its not about him.

And the talent standing at the end pretty much sums it up. Dia Framption and Javier Colon were separated by only two percent of the vote. Dia was number 1 on I-tunes. Javier won the show. I didn't care which way it went. They were both fantastic. And their original songs were both better than any original song EVER on AI.

I'll be watching The Voice next season, for sure. You should join me and we can talk about it. Did you watch it? What did you think?

(Image from http://blogs.houstonpress.com/artattack/2011/06/the_voice_final_four_semi-fina.php)

It's Been One Year...

We were about to go grocery shopping when I saw the mail truck depositing mail in our boxes. The kids got in the car and I picked up the mail. As I walked into the house to leave the mail on the entry table, I sifted through the bills and catalogs. And then I stopped. There was a letter from Cedar Fort.

I wanted it to be good news, but I braced myself so I wouldn't be disappointed.

Yeah, right.

Of course I wanted to be prepared for disappointment, but I couldn't help but be hopeful. I wanted good news so badly.

The first line told me they'd read the book. The second line told me they liked it. Then they told me they'd like to talk to me about making some adjustments so they could publish it. They wanted it and they wanted to talk to me about it.

You might think my first move would be to call immediately and say yes, yes, YES!

I didn't. Instead I ran out to the car, waving the letter in my hand doing a scary and uncoordinated victory dance with my face twisted into a ghastly expression that scared my kids. Once I'd calmed them down and they knew the good news, I called my parents, my sisters and my husband, reading the entire letter aloud to each and every one of them.

Then I went grocery shopping. I had to think and put things into perspective.

What I really had to do was calm down so I could carry on an intelligent conversation with the acquisitions editor. I couldn't run the risk of looking too shocked or worse, insane, to the woman I would soon be working with.

The next day was company Lagoon day. Lagoon is the closest amusement park to where I live. Not the best place for a heart-to-heart with the publisher that was interested in my book. But I did it anyway. Bruce, my 18-year-old son and I left the busy part of the park and found an empty picnic table. It was at that picnic table that I visited with Jennifer for about an hour.

She knew my book. She knew Anna and Kelsey and Susan and Brent. We talked about specific parts of the book, and she knew what was happening almost as well as I did. It was an incredible feeling to have someone I didn't know--that didn't have to be supportive because they love me---know and love my characters and my story. It was a rush!

And now Gifted is in bookstores and on Amazon. Book clubs are reading it. It has it's own webpage. It's been reviewed. I've been interviewed. I've had book signings. People have told me how much they love Anna and Kelsey and Susan and Brent. It's really a dream come true.

Tomorrow is company Lagoon day. And you'd better believe I'll be walking by that picnic table and tossing a prayer of gratitude to heaven.

Missing My Boys

Two years ago Friday, we took Mehmet to Asian Buffet. Mehmet ate his "little cakes with strawberry sauce." Yuck! It was to honor the first time we'd gone there right after he moved in with us. We had all been eating and Mehmet had spoken up and said, "These little cakes are really good with this strawberry sauce. You should try it." We'd all had a good laugh and explained to him that those were little donut holes and sweet and sour sauce.

Two years ago last night, we had a party at our house. About a hundred teenagers and a few adults stopped by to say good-bye to Mehmet. The City of Cedar Hills shot off an impressive fireworks display and those that were still here sat in the back yard and watched it. Travis jokingly told Mehmet that it was for him, since he was leaving and he said, "Really? Just for me?"

Two years ago today, we went to church, but left right after sacrament meeting. We drove to the airport, trying to enjoy the moment and not think about what was to come in just a short hour or so. We checked Mehmet in and met with the other host families and Barbara, the very serious woman in charge. She asked us if we'd enjoyed Mehmet living with us and we responded that we had. She asked Mehmet how he felt and he said he loved us. Then Travis spoke up and said, "I think he really liked it at our house because we let him get a tattoo." Barbara looked disapprovingly around at each of us. Since we know Travis's sense of humor, we played along. She asked if she could see the tattoo and I think it was Mehmet who said, "I can't show it to you. It's in a private place." Barbara then lectured us about having not read the rules and walked away saying, "I hope this doesn't come back to haunt us." As soon as she was gone, we all laughed until the tears came.

Then we said good-bye. We hugged each other and cried. Some of us cried for a long time. On the drive home, I sat in the back seat with Joe, who was a broken-hearted 9-year-old.

Six months ago, we dropped Bruce off in front of the MTC. There was no time for jokes, or lengthy conversations. Those had to be done in the days before. That morning was busy and bittersweet. I didn't allow myself to think beyond the moment. We picked up kids who'd gone to school (Joe was working on perfect attendance, after all). We came home and made waffles, loaded the car and drove to Provo.

I looked back at Bruce's face and he looked happy and scared. It was a strange expression I'd never seen before and I had to turn around so he wouldn't see me cry.

It was fast--like ripping off a band-aid and then he was gone. To us, at least. It was a strange thing to have him just a half an hour away and yet he might as well have been halfway around the world. And then he was halfway around the world. And we wait for every letter. Sunday evening can't come fast enough. We read his uplifting, funny letters and I laugh, I'm proud of him, and I try to ignore the ache in my heart.

Today, as I think about Mehmet, I think about Bruce. And I miss my boys.

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You've Won $100,000--Now What?

Recently I overheard an interesting discussion. It was taking place between a mother and her teenage son. It went something like this.

Son: What would you do if someone walked up to you and handed you $100,000 and told you to spend it on whatever you want.

Mother: I'd put most of it in the bank to pay for you kids' college.

Son: That's so boring. What if you had to spend it on something cool?

Mother: College is cool.

Son: It can't be college or bills. It has to be something cool.

Mother: Maybe I'd buy a car or a boat.

Son: A boat would be cool. But you'd probably get a practical car, so that would be boring.

The lesson I gathered here is that mom's are pretty boring when it comes to $100,000 gifts. I thought about where I'd spend $100,000 and most of my ideas probably aren't cool--college funds, medical bills, and missionary expenses probably wouldn't be considered cool enough.

So what "cool" things could I spend my hundred grand on?

I'd probably buy a car since there aren't many times when I'm going to have $100,000 to blow on something.

I think I'd get some comfy theater chairs for our theater that is now filled with old church choir chairs that get really uncomfortable by the end of a movie.

I'd definitely plan an amazing family vacation that we could take when Bruce gets home from his mission. Better yet, we could take the family to pick him up and then fly to New Zealand--one of the places I want to go before I die.

I'd buy Travis a new watch. He really likes watches.

I'd buy a refrigerator for the garage that doesn't leak. Oh wait. That probably isn't cool.

I'd buy a complete set of the Oxford English Dictionary that costs more than any dictionary should cost, and send it to my friend who reads and gives feedback on my books.

I'd fly Mehmet back over from Turkey to visit. Then I'd refuse to let him go back.

I'd buy all my nieces and nephews (and any of their parents that want one) large DQ Blizzards. And I'd have a Georgia Mud Fudge one with them.

I'd buy a 5 pound box of hand-picked assorted See's chocolates and I'd share them with everyone who wanted one.

And then I'd probably be out of money.

Any cool things you'd do if someone handed you $100,000? (Sorry, I'm not offering.)

Where's God?

(image found at http://bit.ly/lZ7quK)

Awhile back I wrote a posting about how I came to love golf. This weekend was the U.S. Open. I didn't get to see it all, but I did watch Rory McIlroy win and pay tribute to his parents.

During the broadcast, NBC, who had the television rights to the Saturday and Sunday rounds, did one of their little feel-good segments. The piece cut back and forth between a classroom of children reciting The Pledge of Allegiance, patriotic shots of the flag and military and artistic shots of the golf course and well-known golf moments. It was a nice piece. Except for one thing. During The Pledge of Allegiance, they cut out the words "under God." They were tricky about it, too. They would recite a line of The Pledge of Allegiance, then cut away briefly with a patriotic shot, then back to the classroom. If you weren't paying close attention, you'd have missed it.

NBC was deluged with complaints and has since issued an apology.

Not long ago, President Obama left out the words "their creator" from the preamble to the constitution. Obama's people quickly attempted damage control and made a statement that President Obama was ad-libbing that part and it was unintentional. He really believes in the constitution as it is written.

Maybe you remember when the new gold dollars came out. There was a series of emails and articles upset that "In God We Trust" had been left off the coin. We were quickly informed that it was still on the coins--it was just inscribed around the edge of the coins. That's nice, I suppose, but you're likely not to see it there and even if you do, it's pretty hard to read unless you're looking at an enlarged picture like the one above.

Little by little, God is being removed from our culture. NBC apologized, Obama's people apologized (sort of) and the makers of the coin managed to make the reference to Him almost indistinguishable.

I'm not typically a conspiracy theorist, but I can't help but think that these things aren't accidents. I think there are some pretty cunning people behind these decisions and they're hoping they can sneak it past us. The more they sneak it past us, the more we get used to it not being there. It's a slippery slope.


I was helping my girls pack for girl's camp and glanced up at the television during NBC's U.S. Open piece. I saw images of the flag, heard the pledge, felt sad that Payne Stewart died such a strange and untimely death. But I didn't realize the words "under God" were missing until I saw a news story with NBC's apology. The apology came because Twitter and Facebook and NBC's message boards were instantly deluged with complaints.

And I hadn't noticed. I wish I would have. I wish I'd have been one of those registering my unhappiness at the beginning. I'm glad there were some paying closer attention than I was.

And I think that's what we have to do. We have to point these things out. We have to refuse to allow those that are trying to sneak this by us to be successful. We have to pay closer attention. I have to pay closer attention.

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Check This Out!

Linda Weaver Clarke is featuring me and Gifted in an interview and book giveaway at her blog. Check it out here and enter to win a signed copy of my book. 

And have a great day!

Lessons From My Dad

The scriptures say that where much is given, much is expected. I don't really like this scripture because it's pretty much setting me up for failure. I've been given so much. Very few children can truthfully claim to have been blessed with parents as wonderful as mine. I'm immensely grateful, but sometimes I wonder if maybe I'd have been better off being born to crappy parents so that any good thing I do counts for extra points.

Oh well. There's nothing I can do about all of this except try to be the kind of person my parents are proud of. In the meantime, since it's Father's Day, here are a few of the great things about my dad.

Dad taught us to stick up for family. When I was in about the 3rd grade, my brother and I walked across to the junior high school to ride the bus home with Dad. He was a school teacher there and also drove the bus, so we often rode home with him. We got out fifteen minutes earlier than he did, so we waited on the bus. A bigger kid came out to the bus and started harassing us. My dad had full lips and bratty kids who thought they were funny called him "Liver Lips." When Dad got to the bus, he heard the kid saying rude things to us and could tell we were scared. He kicked the kid off the bus and told him to find another way home. Then he finished the kick-off by saying "And you're saying it wrong. These are lover lips." I thought Dad was so clever, but even better than that, I knew he'd always stick up for us.

Dad helped us learn to love good music. When I was a kid, Dad hooked up our stereo to a giant speaker that was taller than any of us kids. I think it had been a theater speaker. Then Dad got his hands on it and it became our entertainment stand (the television sat on top of it) and our source of good and LOUD music. We listened to 1812 Overture, Grieg, Robert Goulet, Ravaun, Barbra Steisand and Johnny Mathis.

Dad taught me to care about politics. In the late 1970s when feminists and others were doing their best to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, Dad and Mom regularly went to rallies opposing its ratification. I was young. I didn't understand what the big deal was and why we'd oppose it. After all, one of the slogans was "Equal Pay for Equal Work." Why would we oppose that. It sounded fair. Dad explained to me that if it passed, it would open the door for many things that would be harmful. It wasn't just about "Equal Pay for Equal Work." It was the first time I understood the way the political game works and the underhanded way conspiring people try to push through their own agenda. It helped foster some cynicism that I think is necessary to see through all the political muck.

Dad taught me that a testimony is a living, breathing thing and that if we don't feed our testimony, it will die. Dad and Mom made the church a central part of our lives--every day started with "Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?" and then we'd read scriptures. If we hadn't said our morning prayers, this gave us a chance to go do it.

Dad also taught me to prepare for temptations before they came. In Family Home Evening, we did role-playing so we'd have had practice handling situations. I can remember when a friend tried to get me drink a beer. I got out of the situation with confidence because I'd practiced what I'd do in that situation.

Dad rarely got angry with his brothers, but once, a brother got upset with my mom about something. He called her a disgusting name. I'd never seen my dad get so upset and for a few minutes, I was afraid for my uncle's safety. Even though it was an unpleasant situation, I remember being so happy to know that Dad loved Mom so much.

Dad has always welcomed others into our family. We had people live with us when they needed a place to stay and he always welcomed friends into our home. No matter what their circumstances, Dad wanted our family to be a positive influence and a welcoming environment for others. I was always glad that friends were welcomed.

Dad supported his kids in school and extra-curricular activities. I can still hear him saying "Put a little arch on it," when a free-throw was being shot. He helped us with homework. I was an impatient reader when I was a child and would make so many mistakes, just so I could get through it quickly. I remember reading to Dad and he'd start out giving me 20 M&Ms in a cup. For every mistake I made, he ate one. A couple of times, I didn't get any M&Ms, but it didn't take long before I was getting all of my M&Ms.

Dad's always been a morning person. His methods for getting us up in the morning were maddening. They ranged from a glass of water, to "Feet on the Floor Contest" to a loud horn honking. And he was always cheerful as he tortured us. His example has helped me be more of a morning person now that I'm the one who has to get everyone up.

Dad taught English for many years and helped me love books. He writes beautifully and has always encouraged me in my writing.

I'm so fortunate to have been blessed with the dad I have. I wish everyone had a dad like mine.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.

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Some Thoughts on Getting Older

Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm getting older. Let's just say that when my mom was my age, I thought she was kinda old. So I guess I'm kinda old. Most of the time I don't feel old. I'm often surprised by the actual number of years I've lived. But other times, I do. I've discovered that aging is a mixed bag--most things aren't great, but there are a few perks. Here are some of my thoughts on getting older.
  • My knees aren't great. If I don't pay close attention to what I'm doing, I pay for it. I can walk the hills around our house, but I have to conscientiously think about how I'm stepping so that I keep my knees aligned. There are other things I'd rather be thinking about.
  • I no longer feel obligated to finish a book or a movie I've started. If I don't like it, I quit. I don't want to waste time on something I'm not enjoying.
  • My kids feel more like friends. That's not to say there isn't still parenting that has to be done, but honestly, I like talking to my kids. I find them funny and clever and smart and mature. I'd rather hang out with them than with most people I can think of.
  • I'm proof that some dreams come true when you're older. I became an author--not in my 20s or 30s, but in my 40s. 
  • I'm also proof that some dreams die as you get older. I think my knees and my age have killed my dream of going on The Amazing Race. This makes me sad.
  • We can take fun family vacations and know that all of us will remember them. (At least until I'm older and lose my memory.)
  • After decades of fighting my hair, I now know how to work with it. This is a biggie!
  • I can unapologetically like whatever kind of music I want to like. I'm also free to dislike whatever music I don't like. Musical peer pressure is a thing of the past!
  • I have to keep track of glasses--one pair to read and a different pair to see the TV or movies. This can be very frustrating as it seems the pair I need is rarely where I am.
  • My parents are getting older. I know this is a really obvious thing, but the reality of it scares me.
  • I'm one of the older moms at school which gives me the freedom (and permission) to volunteer for what I feel like doing. Instead of feeling obligated to go to the school every week for one thing or another, I'm perfectly comfortable volunteering for the field trips. I'd much rather sit with my child on the bus than everyone else's child in the hall.
  • I have wrinkles. I just hope they're mostly smile wrinkles and not a furrowed brow.
So there you have it. My family is giving me a Kindle. I'm giving myself a half pound of See's. And then I'll have an entire year to get used to being this old.

Common English Language Mistakes to Avoid

This is not meant to ridicule anyone who makes these mistakes. Often, mistakes like these are made because we were raised by people who made them. If ignorance is the cause, I hope this will help.

"I could care less..." If you think about what you're saying, you'll quickly see that this doesn't make sense. If you could care less, that means you care and the whole point of this phrase is that you don't care. If you "couldn't care less" that means that you don't care at all because you couldn't care less than you do. This phrase is usually said with some passion and you don't want to passionately mis-state your position. Especially in an argument. That would undermine your position and your position might be right.

"Could of," "would of," "should of." This is often the way we pronounce the phrase because of our lazy speech habits, but what we really mean is, "could have," "would have," or "should have." You'll sometimes see these spelled as contractions--"could've, would've and should've." This problem is a written one, so when you make this mistake, you've created a paper trail. That could end up being embarrassing.

Then there's the confusing usage of I and me. How do you know which one to use? Let's look at a couple of examples.

George and me are going to the movies.

Is this correct? No. It should be "George and I are going to the movies." How do you know? Leave George home. Now would you say "Me am going to the movies." or would you say "I am going to the movies." There's your answer. It should be George and I.

Come sit with Alice and I.

Is this correct? No. It should be "Come sit with Alice and me." This is simple. Kick Alice off the couch and what have you got left? Come sit with I? or Come sit with me. Of course it should be me.

Are there any common mistakes you've noticed?

He's Not The Chosen One - At Least Not This Year

(Picture from http://www.cbc.ca/sports/basketball/story/2011/06/12/sp-game6-nba-finals.html)

Many of you know I love basketball. I love the NCAA tournament and always watch a good part of it including the finals. When it comes to the NBA, I'm a little more discriminating. Usually I watch the tournament games that include the Jazz and the Celtics and hope they go far. Once those two teams are out, my interest usually fades and I may or may not watch the finals. It depends on how busy I am.

This year was different. The Jazz didn't even make it to the tournament and then the Celtics were eliminated. But I still watched.


Because I wanted to see Miami eliminated. And with each round, I feared they might take it all. In my mind, this was unacceptable.

To join your rivals so you can get a ring feels cheap and unfulfilling to me. It's the equivalent of the kid on the playground who's getting bullied. I'd want that kid to learn martial arts or boxing and stick up for himself so with self respect, he defeats the bullies and leaves the playground a better person.

When LeBron James "took his talents to Miami," he decided that the best way to take care of the bully situation was to become a bully. He could join forces with a bunch of other strong kids and then he could rule the playground. They could strut and posture and intimidate with their menacing stance and scare all the other kids into submission. Then once they've walked all over everyone and won their championship, we could all watch him them walk into the sunset, the champions. And to add to the drama, LeBron could take off his jersey so we could read his tattoo that says "Chosen 1" as he left us all in awe, worshipping King James for his mad skills.

This entire scenario made me sick. From "The Decision" press conference until the finals, I rooted against them. How could I not? I've never once in my life cheered for the gang of bullies that pick on everyone else. Why would I start now?

Making it to the finals was more than I wanted for them. If I could have picked my preferred end to Miami's season, it would have been elimination in the first round. But with each round that they advanced, I got more concerned that they might actually do what they said they were going to do at the Miami party last fall. You know, the party that celebrated their championship before they'd actually won it.

I'd just like to thank Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, and Barea for taking down the bullies. And they did it without bullying and posturing and intimidating. They did it playing hard and working as a team.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were caught on film making fun of Nowitzki's bout with the flu. Nowitzki asked his team to ignore it and focus on the game. There's a lot of symbolism in that little exchange. You could compare their maturity, their humility and arrogance, whether they focus on the game or focus on themselves.

I guess the "Chosen 1" will have to try to add another bully to his gang and give it another try next year.

Congratulations, Dallas! And thank you!

Family Reunion

This weekend:

I'm going to laugh with hilarious people.
I'm going to watch some people scream in terror on a huge swing that sails out over the water and I'm going to doggedly resist the peer pressure of those trying to convince me that I should try it.

I'm going to watch people ride the zipline over the water and I might allow myself to be talked into trying that.

I'm going to work with my "crew" on our assignment--breakfast. I'm going to help scramble eggs and make pancakes for 150 people.

I'm going to spend money at an auction buying things we may or may not want because it's for a good cause (the next reunion).

I'm going to miss those that aren't there because of recent death, tornadoes, health problems and missions.

I'm going to savor the time I get to talk with cousins I don't see nearly often enough.

I'm going to canoe around the pond with my kids.

I going to ache that Uncle David isn't there. I don't ever remember a reunion without him there. EVER.

I'm going to stay until everyone retires to their tents and then I'm going to be a wuss and go to a hotel room.

I'm going to cheer during the canoe races.

I'm going to enjoy every minute of being with my big, funny, loving, eccentric, crazy family.

I'm going to come home tired, happy and very grateful.


Panic: (according to Wikipedia definitions) a sudden sensation of fear which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking, replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation consistent with an animalistic fight-or-flight reaction.

A panic button is a button you can push to quickly help mitigate a dangerous situation.

I saw a movie on television awhile back called "Panic Room." In the movie, the room is a place to escape when there's something happening that might cause panic.

I've always been someone who handles most situations pretty calmly. When one of my kids has been injured, I've been the calm voice of reason to my husband's panicked reaction. When a man was sitting in my car in a dark parking lot after work late one night, I walked up to him and asked him what he was doing. He drunkenly got out and left. My reaction should have been one of panic, but it wasn't. I'm not prone to screaming or hysterics in the face of danger.

But I've found that lately I've had a few occasions where I've had a sudden sensation of fear, one strong enough to dominate or prevent reasonable and logical thought and make me feel anxious and agitated. These aren't comfortable feelings and in the last year, I've felt them a few times that I can distinctly remember.

The things that have brought these feelings to me aren't life and death in the way a hurricane or a plane crash or an armed robbery might be. Of course those are awful events, but those have more to do with physical safety and for some reason, physical safety, even of those I love, doesn't scare me as much as some other things do.

The things that have caused me panic are thoughts of losing those I love, not through death but through separation or isolation, thoughts of my children having lasting unhappiness for one reason or another and thoughts of my life changing completely and me having almost no control over what's ahead.

I've wondered if these feelings are normal. Are they the natural result of children growing older and stepping out to face the world? Is separation and isolation from people I love and rely on something everyone fears? The older I get the more I realize that the control I thought I once had over my life and my circumstances is very tenuous. I don't have much control at all.

Sometimes I want a panic button that sets everything right again. In my world, I want to be able to push that button and have everyone I value be close at hand and happy.

Sometimes I want a panic room that I can retreat to that feels safe and comfortable. In my panic room, people couldn't drift away or make choices that will make them unhappy or take them away from me. My children would choose good friends and good spouses. I wouldn't lose good friends or family members. It would be a controlled environment. 

But who would be controlling it? 

I'm not smart enough to make choices for everyone. Sometimes I'm not even smart enough to make choices for me.

I suppose the best remedy for these feelings is faith--faith that those I love, love me enough not to leave me stranded. I have to let others have control and hope that their choices don't hurt me.

Even though that causes me to feel a little panic.

How To Clean the Jets on a Jetted Tub

I love a nice hot bath, especially with a good book and some powerful jets. My problem is that I get sick to my stomach thinking about the gunk that builds up in the jets--you know the parts of the jets that you can't get at.

Here's the solution.

Fill the tub with hot water to about 3 inches above the jets. Add 1 cup of bleach and a couple of tablespoons of powdered dishwasher detergent. Run the jets for fifteen minutes. (Our jets just have one speed, but if your jets have more than one speed, use high speed.)

Try not to get sick if your water ends up with nasty particles in it. Just pat yourself on the back for getting rid of them.

After fifteen minutes, drain the tub and fill it with cold water to about 3 inches above the jets. Now run the jets for ten minutes.

Drain the tub and rinse it out well.

It's recommended that you do this about once a month, but I suppose it depends a little on how much you use your jetted tub. Every other month is probably good enough for a lot of us, but I once heard that Oprah takes a long jetted bubble bath once or twice a day. She might need her people to clean hers more often.

I Need a Rock... A Large One

I need a rock to crawl under and hide.

This morning I took a walk with my daughters. They're young and fit. I'm not. But I'm working on the fit part. We took the walking trail around the Cedar Hills golf course. I've been told it's about 2 1/2 miles and about 1/3 of it is uphill. It's a good workout if you walk quickly and we were.

Veronica had been sharing a few pointers she'd learned in her aerobics class. She showed us how to walk with the right posture and the best way to swing the arms. At one point she held her hands above her head. Savannah and I thought it was a workout trick, so we did the same. Then Veronica told us she was just trying to get her nails to change colors (she had nail polish on that changes color in the sunshine.) We laughed and put our arms back to our sides.

We passed quite a few people--runners, a couple of cyclists, a few people walking their dogs. Everyone  said hi and everyone smiled. Some looked amused as they smiled. We smiled and said hi back.

Then Veronica turned to me to say something and said, "Oh no, Mom. You're shirt's up."

I looked down and sure enough, my shirt was bunched up. If I hadn't had my "underwear" on, I'd have  been exposing my entire stomach. Even though I wasn't exposing myself completely, it wasn't a good look. I can only assume that it had been like that since Veronica had tried to change the color of her nail polish. And that had been awhile.

No wonder everyone smiled so widely.

It's Late...

It's late, and I really should go to bed. But I need to do a blog posting and I have a lot of things running around in my mind, so I know if I go to bed, I'll just be looking at the dark ceiling and thinking about things like blog posts, poems, short stories, home construction, track and field, tornadoes and school getting out.

So I think I'll quickly write about them and then I'll go to bed. Hopefully then I'll be able to sleep.

Blog posts: Sometimes I feel inspired so I write. Sometimes I write and then get inspired. And sometimes it's hard to do either. But I will tell you this: Writing this blog has turned out to be a lot more enjoyable than I expected. It's made me look at things a little differently. Something that in the past would have been just another random experience suddenly becomes blog-worthy. The funny thing is, sometimes my husband or one of my kids will say "You should write about that on your blog." I struggle with that. Maybe it's because I'm an ego-maniac, but if something doesn't strike me a certain way, it's hard for me to run with it.

Travis had an idea for a novel. He calls it "The Origami Murders." It would make an interesting story or movie and he thinks I should write it. I can't. At The Whitney Awards, we sat at a table with a couple who write books together. He thought that would help inspire me and we left with him enthusiastically talking about "The Origami Murders." So far, I'm just not inspired. Sorry Travis. Maybe someday.

I went to Poetry Picnic in the Park with Joe today. After eating lunch and watching a bunch of screaming 4th graders play, we sat down with our child and they shared their poetry book with us. Among the many poems each child wrote was one they had to write about the rainbow. Here's Joe's:

Basketball Rainbow

Red is the color of the Chicago Bulls.
Orange is the color of a basketball.
Yellow is the color of a loser Laker jersey.
Green is the color of a Celtics jersey.
Blue is the color of Jimmer's jersey.
Indigo is the color of the Jazz's jersey.
Violet is the color of TCU's jersey.

He's a talented boy, right? And he likes basketball.

Today I found out my friend's short story is being published. I read the story several months ago and loved it. I'm excited for him. It's brilliant writing and a seriously entertaining story. I'll be linking you up to it when I have a link. It's a risk because my writing will likely suffer by comparison, but you'll also see how lucky I am to have someone like him look over my work!

Last summer they built two houses across the street. Now they're building two houses on our side of the street. I'm tired of the construction. Twice in the last two days I've had to ask people to move vehicles or machinery just to get out of my driveway. Today there were two cement trucks, two dumptrucks, two backhoes, one flatbed truck, one crane and about fifteen guys ALL ON OUR LITTLE STREET. And it's so noisy. It  makes me want to go somewhere quiet to work, like a hockey game or an amusement park.

Joe ran in a little track meet tonight. He's a pretty fast kid and he qualified for the next round in the Hershey track meet. That means in two weeks we'll go back and he'll run again to try to qualify for the State tournament. I'm taking bets now. Not on if Joe wins or loses, but on whether or not I'll need to wear a parka for that track meet. WE FROZE TONIGHT!

I continue to watch the tornadoes this season, especially the aftermath of the Joplin tornado that left part of my family homeless. I can only imagine the weariness they must be feeling, trying to put their lives back together one piece, one day, sometimes one hour at a time. This life is so full of hard things. Monumentally hard things. I admire all of you trudging through it and hope you find your burdens lightened and peace in your hearts.

And finally,

SCHOOL'S OUT. Well, it will be tomorrow. For all practical purposes, it's out. And can I just say how happy I am. I'm so finished with homework, with projects, with finals, with early mornings, with teachers I'm not loving and with countless activities. We've been losing our mind as my friend Alison can attest to. (Sorry Alison. Here's my public flogging for forgetting something really important!)

Give me a little sleeping in, summer reading, sunshine, easy trips to Grandma and Grandpa's and a summer trip. We're ready for it!