Saturday, December 30, 2006

I'm Guessing They Were Disappointed

Once in a while, I like to look at my StatCounter to see what search terms have brought people to my blog. For my final blog entry of 2006,
I would like to share with you my top three favorites:

Helen Keller Nightmares
Ladies in swimcaps
Anne Hathaway Mormon?

And on that random note, a very Happy New Year to you all!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ma Vie en Rose

Yesterday I wore my rose-colored glasses. I bought them a few weeks ago at Target. It's taken me a while to succumb to the giant sunglasses trend: when I first began to notice them, I thought they looked silly; especially when worn by tiny Orange County teenagers - each lens engulfing an entire cheekbone. And my much-smaller lenses (purchased for $5.00 in 2002) were entirely functional, if not fashionable. But a few weeks ago, while shopping for Christmas presents at Target, I suddenly became aware that my eyes were tired and teary from driving around in the blindingly bright Southern California December sun (because I always forget my functional-not-fashionable sunglasses), and I decided the time for gigantic lenses was finally at hand. It took me less than 30 seconds to pick out the rose-colored beauties; I don't think I even came to a complete stop at the spinning sunglasses rack. There they were, directly in front of me, for $9.99. I placed them in my basket with nary a second glance - impulse purchasing at its quickest. When I got to my car, I put them on, and you know something? The world really does look better through rose-colored glasses. The trees were lightly tinged with pink, and the brown and beige terra cotta buildings took on a warm glow. I watched an airplane shimmer through a rose petal sky, and the clouds were pale cotton candy. When I got home, I didn't want to take my glasses off.

Sometimes a trip to Target and $9.99 can help you see the world in an entirely different light.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ho, Ho, Whoa!

Yesterday I went to a hair salon in the mall to get my roots done. My salon has the word "International" in its name, but I doubt it is actually international. Kind of like when people put extra consonants and/or vowels at the end of words to make them seem more ritzy. Like "shoppe" and "towne." Just so you all know, I live in an apartmentte complexe.

Anyway, I'm not here to talk about my hair or my ritzy apartmentte.
No, my friends. I'm here to talk about the LARGEST CHRISTMAS DECORATION I HAVE EVER SEEN.

After exiting my international hair salon on the third floor of the mall,
I turned the corner and came upon this:

Big deal, you say. It's just a slightly fuzzy picture of a Christmas tree, you say. But you haven't looked over the railing yet.

Look at the people down there! They're so little! I had to go down to the ground floor to get a closer look:

As I was taking this picture, a little boy in a stroller was squealing with delight at the train weaving in and out of the roots of the tree (it even has train sound effects). Then he looked up at the giant Santa looming over him, and screamed in terror.

Let's go up to the second floor and get a closer look at that Santa:

If my apartment had a chimney, I would not want this man anywhere near it.

And the other Santa?

It kind of looks like he's winding up to hit someone over the head with that Christmas tree.

Let's go up to the third floor again.

The globe on the top has snow inside it that blows around.

Where do you think they store this thing? Some airplane hanger somewhere? I'm sure it comes apart, but still. And how do they put it up? Ladders? Cranes? Mountain climbing equipment?

I decided that I needed to film a documentary about it.

But first I needed to go to Borders to get some hot chocolate.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I'm sick. I think it's only a mild cold, but I didn't get my flu shot this year, so I'm a bit worried. (If there were awards for worrying, I'd have an entire wall devoted to the displaying of such awards, and then I'd worry about the manner in which the awards were displayed.) Luckily, my show opened the day before I got sick, so at least I can be grateful I wasn't sniffling and coughing on stage, and I now have several days to get over whatever is plaguing me before my next performance.

Anyway, because of my affliction, I've spent the day drinking orange juice (with extra pulp), and watching mindless television. Well, not completely mindless, as this evening I have learned the following facts:

1. Anthony Hopkins was in a movie with Chris Rock. Although it's difficult to imagine why anyone thought this was a good idea, the fact remains that it is so.

2. Soleil Moon Frye (of "Punky Brewster" fame) is now starring in movies on the Lifetime Movie Network.

3. For only 2 payments of $19.95 (plus $7.95 shipping and handling) I can own GeMagic. Owning GeMagic would mean that I could put rhinestones and other sparkly "assorted studs" on practically anything. Cathy Mitchell, a "Home Products Expert", told me all about it. (How exactly does one become a Home Products Expert, I wonder. Are there online classes I can take?)

4. The McRib is back.

5. Fitness Made Simple is made for real people.

6. In 1973, Sean Connery made a movie called Zardoz. It is set in the year 2293. Apparently, this is how people will be dressing in the 23rd century:

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to take some Nyquil. But not before I pull out a credit card and call a certain toll-free number.

I won't tell you exactly what my friends and family are getting for Christmas this year, but I will say that rhinestones are definitely involved.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Death By Brownie, Anyone?

I went to London on a seven-week study abroad when I was 19. I could tell you about the full-male nudity I saw whilst I was there (Angels In America, anyone?), and that I was so shocked and stunned that I turned to the girl sitting next to me and whispered, "Um - is he, uh, naked?" and the girl (also a young, innocent BYU student) whispered back, "Um - I, uh, I think so." (And now I'm going to get a bunch of people visiting this blog who did a google search for "full-male nudity" and "naked BYU student" and oh they are going to be so disappointed!) Instead, I will tell you about how, after a week in London, my friends and I observed that there were an inordinate amount of men in England named either Barry or Nigel. We were discussing this fact one day as we walked past a phone booth, and, just as my friend paused for breath, we heard the man in the booth say:

"'Allo, Barry? This is Nigel."

I wrote home to tell one of my bestest friends about it, and it has come to pass (for at least the past 10 years), that whenever we call each other, whoever is doing the calling will say: "'Allo, Barry? This is Nigel." in a Cockney accent.

Anyway, today I received an email from Barry ('Allo, Barry!), informing me that my brownie recipe was in the Daily Herald. She told me that Annette Lyon, one of the founders of the Utah Chocolate Show (also a friend)(Annette, not the Chocolate Show)(Although I'm sure that, were I to attend, the Chocolate Show would become a friend as well), shared the recipe as part of an article about the show, and chocolate in general.

In high school, we would eat giant pans of the aforementioned brownies until we were pretty much sick, and then we'd eat some more. If you decide to make THEM, I recommend 3/4 cup cocoa (instead of one cup), and 3-4 Tbs. chocolate drink mix or hot cocoa powder. Eat them for me, my friends, for I now have a wheat allergy, and can no longer indulge as I did during the carefree, gluten-filled days of my youth.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Recently, I had the following conversation with a bank teller:

Teller (reading my name): "Emmelyn. Hmmm. That's an interesting name. Did your mom just like, make it up or something?"

Me: "Um-"

Teller: "Or is it a combination of Emily and Emma?"

Me: "Well-"

Teller: "Or Evelyn and Emmaline?"

Me: "It's-"

Teller: "Or are you named after someone or something?"

Me: "I-"

Teller: "Huh. Emmelyn. What an interesting name."

Now, before I go any further, I'd like to take this opportunity to state that I understand that it's probably part of Teller Training (TT) to chat up customers while processing their requests. And I'm cool with that. I'm down with that. I don't mind bank personnel asking me how my day's going, what the weather's like outside, or if I've just requested $10 in quarters because it's laundry day. (Although sometimes, when they ask the quarters question, I want to stare at them and say: "No, the quarters aren't for laundry. I just like to pay for everything in quarters." or "It is absolutely none of your business why I need these quarters.")

But seriously, folks, is the name Emmelyn really that interesting? Interesting enough to warrant four inquiries as to its origin? Seriously? Surely there are many names out there that are far more deserving of such interest.

That said, I enjoy having a unique name. I'm glad that it's just unique enough, and not a "what were your parents thinking" kind of unique. When I'm introduced to people for the first time, I usually have to a) repeat my name several times and then spell it per their request, or b) correct them after they've called me Emily, Emmaline, Emmalou, Evelyn, or AmyLyn (or, in one memorable instance: Bemmalyn). If I don't feel like doing either of those things, I just tell them my name is Emmie, like the award. (Although Emmie, while simpler, is no hassle-free guarantee: After giving my name to a restaurant host on two separate occasions, I've looked down to discover they've written "Bemmie" and "Memaie", respectively. So perhaps the fault lies not in various restaurant hosts, but within myself. Am I inadvertently putting a "b" sound before my "eh" sounds? Next time you talk to me, please let me know. You'll be doing me and restaurant personnel a great service.)

Anyway, because I know what it's like when people mangle one's name, I try to pay very close attention when someone tells me their name, so that I can make sure I don't mispronounce it. Of course, the fact that I forget that person's name mere minutes (and sometimes seconds) later is the topic for a whole 'nother blog; a blog entitled: "Why I Can Remember Entire Monologues From Plays I Did In High School But Not My Relief Society President's Name: One Woman's Personal Journey." (And since that blog title has a colon in it, there's hope that it might some day be made into a Lifetime original movie.)

One more thing I'll tell you about my name: my pre-marriage initials were ET. That meant that when I was in the sixth grade, and Steven Spielberg made a movie about a glowy-fingered alien of the same name, my classmates thought my initials were HILARIOUS. I remember one particular time in grade school when I had gone to the office to call my mom, and two boys from my class saw me on the phone and yelled "ET Phone Home!" and then ran away laughing hysterically and high-fiving each other.

Sixth graders are so interesting.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What Might Have Been

I was going to blog about a rather appalling talk I heard in Sacrament meeting last Sunday (the general gist of it being that men need to lie to their wives), but then I decided that I need to just let it go.

Then I was going to blog about how I can't wait to meet my newest niece, and how I sent her a teensy tiny fleece jacket and a little shirt with a lamb on it (and how suddenly Old Navy has super cute baby clothes), but then I realized the person who'd be most interested in that information already knows about it, having given birth to said niece.

Then I was going to blog about how my husband took me to a Massive Attack concert, and how the people behind us passed a joint up and down the row, and how my brother-in-law asked me what I thought of the concert, and the best description I could come up with was "loud." But then I realized that there might be some Massive Attack fans out there whom I don't want to offend, and I didn't want them to get the wrong idea, because I actually did like some of the songs, even though they were really, really loud.

Then I was going to blog about how, in return for going to the Massive Attack concert, my husband offered to listen without prejudice to some of my favorite music, and how I started to compose a cd for him until I realized that there is absolutely no way on this earth he's ever going to like Paul Simon, The Indigo Girls, Irish folk music, or songs from Sweeney Todd, and so I decided to just be grateful that we both like classical music, Moby, and selected hits from the '80s, and not to blog about what a musical geek I am.

Then I was going to blog about how I was doing yoga in the corner of the 24 Hour Fitness exercise room when two girls in tight spandex came in and started dancing, and one of them said "Watch this!" and went leaping into the air, landed awkwardly, and started screaming that she'd torn her ACL, she just knew it, and while her friend ran for some ice, she called her boyfriend on her cell phone and said, sobbing, "I guess being a Laker Girl just wasn't meant to be."

But then I realized that it was 1:57 am, so I decided to go to bed instead of blogging.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Fright Night

Six years ago, on a beautiful autumn evening in Manhattan, my friend persuaded me to do something that would come back to haunt me:

She took me to see The Exorcist.

"It'll be fun!" she insisted, practically dragging me toward the giant doors of the AMC Theatres in Times Square. "I've heard that it's not even scary! It was made in the 70s! It's totally dated!"

Sitting in my seat with a bag of popcorn that cost approximately half my paycheck, I was already regretting my decision by the time the lights dimmed. I'm not a complete wimp when it comes to scary movies, but in order for me to have a frightfully good time, two guidelines must be followed:

1. I must have control over my surroundings. This is why I hardly ever watch scary movies in the theater. If I get too scared, I need to be able to get up, turn on a light, walk around, throw a blanket over my head, mute the sound, or, in extreme cases, run screaming from the room.

2. Gore is right out. Wait Until Dark? Love it. Hitchcock? He's a genius. The Others? Bring it on, spooky Nicole Kidman and your creepy kids. Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Not in a million, trillion years.

I have learned through sad experience that if I break one of my rules, tragedy is almost certain to follow. For example:

When I was in junior high, I was at a sleepover when everyone (but me) decided it would be a great idea to watch Poltergeist at midnight. I didn't want anyone to think I was a scaredy-pants; especially my friend's super cute older brother who was inexplicably hanging out with a bunch of 13-year-olds. I managed to make it until the beginning of the clown-under-the-bed scene, and then, threatened with an impending heart attack, whispered to my friend that I had to go to the bathroom. In my haste to escape the room before that clown did what I sincerely hoped he was NOT GOING TO DO, and being slightly disoriented by the dark room, I ran straight into a heretofore unclosed sliding glass door with such force that I was knocked backwards and directly into the lap of the super cute inexplicable older brother.

(Long after the bruise on my face healed, the bruise of early adolescent mortification remained.)

And so, on that October night six years ago, I really should have known better than to let my friend talk me into seeing a film about demonic possession in a darkened theater. While everyone around me was laughing at the cheesy special effects and hokey dialogue, I was absolutely terrified. Around the time when the possessed girl spider-crawls backwards down the stairs (someone please hold me), I turned to my friend and whispered:

"I have to go to the bathroom."

Standing in the lobby, I munched on my pricey popcorn and considered my options. I didn't want to desert my friend, but I knew that if I went back into the theater I wouldn't be able to sleep that night. So I sat down on a bench, pulled my lunchbreak book out of my purse, and prepared to enjoy my autumn evening in a non-terrifying way.

As I opened my book, a super cute boy walked by, and smiled at me.
I smiled back, and you know what's spooky?

He looked a little like my junior high friend's inexplicable older brother.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hooray! Hooray!

I'm in a play!

This is the play:

This is an official description of the play:

"In the last decade of the twentieth century, a beautiful young woman in nineteenth century clothing is found floating on an iceberg in the middle of the North Atlantic. When rescued, she says only one word: Titanic. The characters and their interactions, which both deepen and unravel the mystery, reveal that few people are what they seem."

I am not the beautiful young woman. According to the audition notice, this is who I am:

Halbrech: Attractive, very intelligent, doctor of an undisclosed specialty.

This, according to the script, is what I will be wearing:

(The script does not say anything about posing or having hair like this person.)

This is how many people are in the play:


This is one of my lines:


And this is all I can say, because my husband reads this blog, and he doesn't want to know anything else about the plot before he sees the show. (He is one of those people who loves surprises.)

This is how excited I am to be in a play after my 3-year hiatus:


Friday, October 06, 2006

They Seek Him Here, They Seek Him There

The other night, I caught the last half of a movie I hadn't seen in a long time. A movie that I've probably seen at least 15 times since it was produced in 1982. A movie starring, strangely enough, Jane Seymour. (I'm not a huge fan; especially when she tries to do a Southern or American accent. I mean, why couldn't they have just changed it to Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman From England? That would have made it easier on all of us. Not that I ever really watched Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman, but I'm just sayin'.)

Anyway, this film also stars Anthony Andrews, and a very young (and already quite quirky) Sir Ian McKellen. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's your next hint:

"Sink me, the lady's a poet!"

If you remember that line, we need to talk.

After I first saw The Scarlet Pimpernel in high school, it quickly became my all-time favorite romantic movie. (Followed closely by "Somewhere In Time." Hum the theme song with me now . . .) Anthony Andrews was soooo dreamy, with that whole "I'm pretending to be an effeminate fop but secretly I'm a very masculine manly intelligent man" thing he had going on. And Jane Seymour didn't know! And he couldn't tell her! But she married him anyway! (And why was that, again?) And then he thought she betrayed him (which I HATED - stuff like that in movies always makes me SO uncomfortable. I can't stand it when characters are kept apart by misunderstandings and/or lack of information. Except in the A&E Pride and Prejudice, but that's mostly because I have Jennifer Ehle's performance to enjoy, and Colin Firth to look at.) What was I saying? Colin Firth . . .

So I asked my husband, the trusty Steve, if he'd ever seen The Scarlet Pimpernel.

"The one with Jane Seymour and Gandalf?" he asked. "My sisters loved that movie."

I told him that I and all of my friends had loved it, too, and we thought Anthony Andrews was to die for.

"Yeah. My sisters did, too. I never understood that. Wasn't he, uh, really effeminate?"

Yes, I explained. But that was his personna, you see. He had to pretend to be a fop. It was a matter of life and death!

"Okay, but even when he wasn't using his personna, wasn't he still, pretty much, really effeminate?"

My teenage heart wanted to cry out "No!", but having just seen part of the film, I had to agree. Yes, Steve. Yes, he was. But we loved him anyway. He fought for truth and justice and he wore a cape and hid in a tree and rescued Jane Seymour. And that was enough for us.

And so my question, dear readers, is this: Did you, too, love this movie? Did you fall victim to Anthony Andrews' girlish charm, and long to sail away with him into the poorly-filmed fake sunset?

If not, who were the movie men who made your teenage heart swoon?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A New Chapter

As you may have noticed from several recent blog entries, acting has been on my mind as of late. Oddly enough, by the time I marched down the aisle to get my diploma, my MFA program had so completely exhausted me that I wasn't sure I ever wanted to act again, or at least not for a very long time. (Very dramatic of me.) So, I took a year off to recover, enjoy my new marriage, and pay off some student loan debt. And then, I started to miss the whole theatre thing. Quite a bit. It was around that time that I was cast in the Joseph Smith film; an experience I feel very fortunate to have had. After filming ended, I decided it was time to tackle the acting world once more. Unfortunately, my knee then decided that it was time to have surgery and take FOREVER to recover. And that was really lame. (Pun intended.)

It's been eight months since the surgery and, though I'm still not able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, I'm going to try to be an actress again. To tell you the truth, I'm a little scared. But it's now or never. (Well, not really. That was kind of dramatic.)

To aid in my artistic pursuits, my truly amazing and fabulous sister has created a website for me. (Did I mention she is amazing? And beautiful!) I feel a little bashful sharing it, which is silly; I mean, actresses are supposed to be all "Look at me!" and "Hey! Over here with that spotlight!", but I've never really been a fan of the whole self-promotion part of showbiz. However, since it's mostly family, friends, friends I haven't met yet, and the occasional lurker who read this blog, and as one of the first steps in my journey back to doing what I love:

I'm going to turn off comments for this one, but there's an email address on the website, if you feel commentarily inclined. I'd be happy to hear from you!

(Unless you send me spam.)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Steven Wright Saturday

I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time." So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.

All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my hand.

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

I almost had a psychic girlfriend, but she left me before we met.

Change is inevitable....except from vending machines.

Shin: a device for finding furniture in the dark.

42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Small Part

I recently subscribed to Backstage West, a news magazine for actors on the west coast. In today's issue, amongst the 5 bazillion advertisements for headshot photographers and acting coaches (Learn what it takes to be a STAR!), I came upon this ad, which I shall share with you verbatim:

Calling All Angels


Help someone else's dream come true
while you pursue yours.


We'll treat you like a star:
chocolates, massage, flowers,
and beautiful headshots.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Perfect Dance

Sometimes, when my perfectionism rears its ugly head, I remember the lesson I learned when I was asked to be a Sri Lankan dancer.

One of my many tasks as an MFA student was to understudy the plays performed in three separate theatres. Almost always, my classmates and I had a full day of classes (and were in a play already), so learning the lines of a different play, and finding the time to see that play so we could learn the staging, were rather challenging endeavors. The situation was further complicated by the fact that, because there were only 14 students in the program, we were often assigned multiple roles to understudy. One summer, the 14 of us were understudying over 60 roles, which made for some frenetic, confusing, and often hilarious understudy rehearsals. During a run-through of Julius Caesar, for instance, my classmate was understudying a man who is being chased across the stage, the man who chases, catches, and kills him, and the person who berates the killer. Watching my friend attempt to portray all of these characters simultaneously was one of the most entertaining moments of theatre I have ever experienced.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I drove myself crazy over my understudy assignments. I resolved that if I ever had to go on, I wouldn't miss a line. I wouldn't miss a word! This resolution came in handy when I got the call late one afternoon that an actress had lost her voice, and I better get myself down to the theatre and into costume. With little time to rehearse, and having met the other two cast members only briefly, I stood behind the curtains that night feeling very grateful for my obsessive, perfectionistic tendencies. And went on to have a wonderful time.

During my second year of school, I attended a rehearsal of a play I wasn't understudying, and got there just in time to see a beautiful scene in which a Sri Lankan woman performs an intricate dance, narrating it in her native language. Rumor had it that no one would be asked to understudy the role because of its difficulty. That night, I got a call. Rumor had it wrong.

After crying for a while, I resolved to be the most perfect Sri Lankan dancer a 5'9" white girl with minimal dance experience could be. My first step was to ask the actress for help with learning the dance. Miss Sri Lanka seemed very nice, but she was kinda busy, she said. And she was sure she'd never get sick, so I didn't have anything to worry about. Good luck, she said.

Next, I asked for a videotape of the dance, so that I could pause and rewind it while trying to learn it. Sorry, they said. Copyright laws. I then tried standing in the back of the theatre, looking over my shoulder at the actress so that I could mirror her movements, tripping over myself and kicking my own shins numerous times in the process. At night, after rehearsals for the other play I was in, I listened to a tape of a Sri Lankan man speaking the pages of dialogue, sounding out each word phonetically.

I began to have nightmares involving dancing naked in Sri Lanka (at least I think it was Sri Lanka), while a man yelled phonetics at me from the audience. I cried. I prayed. Failure was not an option. I was going to be perfect.

And then, one day, when I was near despair, a classmate sat me down and said:

"Listen. I know you don't want to let anyone down, but face it. You are never going to be a Sri Lankan dancer."

And, as much as my perfectionism hated to admit it, I realized he was right. No matter how many hours I spent listening to that strange man's voice on tape, or tripping over myself in the back of the theatre, it just wasn't going to happen. And I didn't even want it to happen. I was going to let people down, and that was okay. What they'd asked me to do was completely insane. And I was driving myself insane because of it.

Since my Sri Lankan epiphany, I've tried to redefine perfection for myself. I've realized that I'll always feel driven to do things perfectly, but I've decided to focus on the gospel definition of perfection. In the footnote for Matthew 5:48, perfect is defined as "complete, finished, fully developed." I love that definition. Because, as delightful as they are, eternity would be really boring if we were all Sri Lankan dancers.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I'm in need of a little inspiration.

Therefore, I hereby proclaim today (September 13, 2006),

Inspirational Quotes Day.

Or, if you prefer,

Words Worth Pondering Day.

Here are a few to start with.

"Apparent failure may hold in its rough shell the germs of a success that will blossom in time, and bear fruit throughout eternity."

-Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

"One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar."

-Helen Keller

"And it struck me that the most difficult thing had been the decision to act, the rest had been mere tenacity - and the fears were paper tigers."

-Robyn Davidson

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."

-Anais Nin

"Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost. Sometime, somewhere, somehow, we shall find what we seek."

-Helen Keller

"Industry is the handmaid of good fortune."

-Martha Wilson

"The detour of course became the actual path."

-Gretel Ehrlich


Monday, September 04, 2006

The Drive Thru

So I have a new boyfriend.

It's only fair, seeing as how, for several years now, my husband's had a girlfriend:

No, not Julie Andrews. Anne Hathaway! And can you blame him?
You can't, can you? I mean, have you seen The Princess Diaries?
She's adorable!

Anyway, back to my boyfriend. One Friday evening a few months ago, I had a hankering for a Del Taco Ultimate Taco with no tomatoes. When I handed my money up to the drive thru window, a smiling man looked down at me and said:

"Hi, I'm Juan."

I gave Juan my $1.53, and turned to adjust the radio volume. When I looked back up at the window, Juan was still standing there, smiling at me. Then he disappeared, and returned with my bag. It felt a little too heavy for one taco (even an Ultimate Taco), so before I drove away, I checked inside. Resting next to my taco was an order of fries.

"Juan? I've got fries in here, and I didn't order them."

Juan's smile got even wider.

"I know. For you, they're free!"

Still smiling, he closed the window, and I drove away with 500 more delicious calories than I'd signed up for.

Before I go any further, I feel that I should mention two things. First, Juan couldn't have been more than 18. Second, if we'd been standing next to each other, I could probably stare down at the top of Juan's head.

About a week later, I drove through Del Taco again, and whose smiling face should appear at the window?

"My friend!" He said. "How are you?"

"Hi, Juan! I'm great!"

When he handed me my bag, it felt even heavier than before. Sure enough, I opened it to discover the largest order of fries that Del Taco offers. The largest order of fries that I had ever seen. More fries than I could shake a stick at.

"Juan. You can't just give me all these fries for free!"

"But I want to!"

"Juan, this is a lot of fries."

"I know!"

When I got back to my apartment, the french fry smell was so powerful that I knew I had to come clean to Steve about Juan. I confessed everything, and showed him the fries.

"Wow, Em. That is a lot of fries."

"I know!"

A few days later, Steve expressed a hankering for Del Taco. Let's go, I said.

"Well, maybe you should go by yourself."


"Well, because maybe your boyfriend will be there."


"Well, because maybe he won't give you free stuff if I'm with you."

A good point. But I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable about young Juan's french fry overtures. I mean, what exactly did he expect in return for the french fries? Where exactly was our relationship going? So Steve came with me. And Juan wasn't there.

A few weeks later, I drove through Del Taco for lunch. Surely Juan won't be there, I thought. I've only seen him at night.

I drove up to a familiar smile.

"Hello, my friend!"

"Hi, Juan! Are you working days now?"

"Nah, I'm just covering for someone."


There was an awkward pause. This was unfamiliar territory. We'd never seen each other in the daylight! I wondered what would happen.

When he handed me my bag, it didn't feel too heavy. There was a breathless moment of anticipation as I opened it. The smell of french fries filled my car.

"Juan, you really shouldn't keep doing this."

"I know!"

And, smiling, he closed the window.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Love Letter

Dear Provo,

It's been a while since I last saw you. It's okay if you didn't notice I was gone - you've had a lot going on these past few months. I'm sorry I missed the June blossoms, the July parades, and the August thunderstorms. I hope you know that I never want to be away from you for long.

Sometimes, you make my heart ache a little. At night, when I read books in my room in the house where I grew up, listening to the train whistle and the crickets and the wind in the trees and the silence, I think about everything we've experienced together. Remember the summer night games of hide-and-go-seek with the neighbor kids? Remember sun-warmed apricots, canyon marshmallow roasts, late-night conversations with best friends, snow on Christmas Eve, and my first kiss? (I know, I know, I should never have dated him, everyone told me he was bad news, but he was SO cute! Remember?)

One of the things I haven't thanked you for lately is your consistency. Every time I go to the grocery store, I see a friend from high school (or their mom), and get an update on their life. I get to see babies I never knew existed! I love that. Thank you.

Thank you, too, for reminding me that 80 degrees is not hot. When it's 80 degrees in California, I get cranky. I shouldn't. I know.

There are a few things I've been meaning to ask you about. For all your consistency, I've noticed you've recently made some changes, and I have to admit they take a little getting used to. I don't know how to feel about the new all-white temple. And what's up with the missionaries? Why do they all look like babies? I used to drive by the MTC and think they were cute. Now I want to protect them and give them motherly advice. And don't tell me I was that young when I went into the MTC. I so was not.

Well, this letter is getting long, and I know you don't have a lot of spare time, so I'll wrap it up. I love you, Provo. Please don't get too busy or change too much. Oh, one thing: do you think you could look into being just a little less dry? I love what you do for my hair, and I know you're a desert and everything, but I've used about a gallon of lotion today, and my skin is still itchy. If it's too much trouble, don't worry about it.

Thank you for everything!


Monday, August 14, 2006

1,095 Days

This morning, to celebrate our three-year anniversary, Steve and I drove to Orem, and went to Village Inn. Steve had the blueberry blintzes, and the pancakes that came with my omelet. Wilson Phillips sang about holding on for one more day. The ladies in the neighboring booth talked about how Village Inn pie compares to other pie, and about that time that woman they know broke both her ankles.

A little over three years ago, Steve met my family for the first time. After the introductions, my youngest brother interviewed him, asking him every question he could think of while the rest of my family sat around and watched. Steve loved it, and they loved him. After the interview, Steve was understandably very hungry. I took him to the only place I knew was open - the destination of choice for post-play actors and late-night truckers.

At Village Inn, a little over three years ago, this is what Steve ate:

Large bowl of clam chowder
French dip sandwich
French fries
Chocolate shake
Belgian waffle
Half of my salad

Afterwards, he "slept like a baby."

Earlier this week, we celebrated our anniversary in style with a lovely dinner and a fancy hotel, but I'm glad we went to Village Inn today. It wouldn't have felt right if we hadn't commemorated the actual day with sticky menus, eavesdropping, maple syrup, and Wilson Phillips.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Television for Women

Late last night, there was a movie on Lifetime called "The People Next Door" (starring Faye Dunaway and Nicollette Sheridan).

The TV Guide description:

"The childless couple next door seem like nice people to a single mother, until they kidnap her three kids."

I guess after the kidnapping, they didn't seem so nice.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Farewell, Avonlea

Before heading to the salon Friday morning to get my hair blonded, I made a list of post-blonde activities: Put gas in the gar, practice the organ for Sunday, go to the gym, and do some grocery shopping.

By Friday evening, my gas gauge was panic-level low, I was almost home before I realized I'd forgotten to turn the lights off at the church, I arrived at the gym without my water bottle, towel, or ipod, and returned from the store without the one thing I'd gone for in the first place.

Coincidence? Or blonde-related?

I do love my new hair - even if it cost a small fortune. I had no idea! My first professionally-aided highlights occurred one year ago in the makeup room of the LDS Motion Picture Studio, when it was decided that the Pioneer I was portraying should look like she'd actually spent some time in the sun. Up until then, the price of a box of Natural Reddish Blonde was about all I was willing to pay to give my hair a little boost. That, and the occasional $14 splurge at Supercuts.

With a little help from Clairol, I was a redhead for most of my 20s, although I have one friend who refused to refer to me as such. (Hi, Sam!) When I met her in high school, I was a natural blonde, and she was a natural Anne of Green Gables devotee. Later, no matter how red I went, she insisted that I wasn't really a redhead. Not like Anne!

(Love you, Sam!)

I have friends who, being sassy blondes themselves (Hi, Skanky Chris!), tried to convince her otherwise. To no avail.

(Love you, Skanky!)

Never content with my status quo, I've been vacillating between red and blonde for some time now. It's a waste of time and vacillation, really. I mean, have you seen my husband's hair?

We've been told by more than one person that we look like brother and sister. I really had no choice.

Also, the way we met: Stu asked a friend of mine (Hi, Jannah!) if she knew any tall, single blondes. Thank goodness I was blonde at the time! (And tall.)(And single.)

I've gone natural ever since the Pioneer highlights, and my hair's been getting more and more non-descript. And so, after accosting several women in the grocery store these past few months to find out where they went blonde (and insulting at least one of them, I'm sure, for not assuming their color was au naturale), I finally decided on the place of blonding.

And here I blondely sit.

I think it was worth the depleted bank account.

And I'll let you know if I start having more fun.

In the meantime:

(Hi, Carina! This one's for you.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


I've been thinking about guilt, regret, and retrospect lately.

I've also been thinking about helping versus enabling, but perhaps this all might be a little too much to cover in one blog entry.

So I'll focus on guilt.

A few weeks ago, I asked the bishop to release me from my calling in the Primary. In retrospect, I should have asked to be released much sooner, or not accepted the calling to begin with.

When the bishop first asked me to be the Sunbeam teacher, I was delighted. I was also scheduled for knee surgery the following week, but told him I was sure I'd be ready to teach a few weeks after the operation. Those few weeks came and went, and though my spirit was willing, my flesh - not so much. But I did it anyway. It was my calling! My kids tripped over and climbed on my crutches for a few months, and when I stopped using crutches, my kids tripped over and climbed on me. My friends in the ward were happy for me.

"Looks like you’re all better now!”

Thing was, I wasn't. But I thought I should be, and I couldn't ask to be released. I'd never done that.

Well, except on my mission.

When I first hurt my knee in Montreal, I thought I just needed to have more faith. This hypothesis was backed up by many fellow (mostly male) missionaries.

“Just have faith, and you will be healed!”

I did, but I wasn't. Instead, I was paired with an amazing girl who also had debilitating health problems, and we spent several incredibly difficult and wonderful months together, lying on our beds, telling each other stories about our lives. Rarely well enough to proselytize, and only able to read scriptures and Ensigns for so many hours a day, we soon learned almost everything about each other. I'm sure if you asked her, she could tell you the names of all my friends' boyfriends. And I could tell you the plots of all of Stephen King's novels, even though I'd never read any.

(She was a big fan.)

I don't regret one minute of our time together, but I do regret the guilt I felt for not getting well. (That, and the guilt I felt for talking about boys and Pet Sematary.) Guilt kept me on my mission far longer than I should have been, and pushing myself because of that guilt is the main reason surgery was recently required.

My husband and family members told me from my first Sunday with the Sunbeams that I should ask to be released. But I couldn't ask. I looked healthy - everybody said so! When I went home, my knee spent the rest of Sunday (and sometimes Monday) on ice and painkillers, but there were people with far worse handicaps! Some people with missing limbs run marathons!

In retrospect, I was being ridiculous. Especially since I had (and have) two other callings. TWO.

A friend of mine once said:

“Faith is not the power of positive thinking. It's submission to the will of God."

I often find it difficult to decipher God's will, but I don't think he wanted me messing up my knee - either in California or Montreal. When I finally prayed and asked if it was okay to leave my mission early, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and peace. I hadn't expected that.

So, I no longer teach in the Primary. I don't regret asking to be released.

And I only feel the slightest bit guilty.

Friday, July 21, 2006

You Are My Sunshine

My 2-year-old nephew, after trying to shield his face from the sun coming through the car window:

"Listen ME, sun. LISTEN me. Stop it! Go 'way!"

Monday, July 17, 2006

Cosby, Cocoons, and Crevasses

As I settled into my aisle seat on American Airlines this morning, I was hoping against hope that the seat next to me would remain vacant. The stewardess had announced several times that it was a full flight (We've got a full flight today, folks, Please step out of the aisle and let people pass because we've got a full flight, This flight is full, folks, Just to let you know, folks, we've got a full flight today!), but sometimes stewardesses are wrong, like when they announce that there will be only a slight delay due to the plane's mechanical problem, and you should be off the ground shortly.

The plane doors closed, and the pony-tailed man in the window seat had just begun to rejoice at the emptiness between us when a small woman with a gigantic bag tapped me on the shoulder. As she plunked down into her seat, the pony-tailed man let out a loud, long sigh. I watched as she pulled a king-sized pillow from her luggage, followed by a neck pillow and fluffy down comforter. (Impressive, no?) When I stole a glance a minute later, only the tip of her nose was visible.

The stewardesses walked the aisles, hawking $2 headsets and $4 snack boxes. And only a small amount of ginger ale in an ice-filled cup. Free peanuts and entire cans of soda are not given out willy-nilly on this flight, folks!

I sipped my 2 ounces of ginger ale and watched 15 minutes of in-flight television. Did you know there's a museum that has a Cosby sweater collection? The sweaters that aren't displayed are stored in a climate-controlled room, and handled with reverence and gloves. Each time the museum curator held up a sweater, there was a clip of the Cosby Show with Mr. Huxtable wearing the very same sweater. My favorite sweater had fireworks and the Statue of Liberty on it. Very festive, though I wouldn't want to be wearing such a thick, wooly sweater in July. During the last Cosby clip, the cocoon next to me mumbled:

"I paid $2 to watch this crap?"

Good thing the next segment was about Paris Hilton!


We had our mattress inspected last week. Duane the Mattress Inspector inspected it. At some point during the past six months, our mattress went from enveloping us in a cloud of fluffy softness to enveloping us in a cloud of fluffy quicksand. There are two distinct his-and-her crevasses on either side of the mattress, with a high barrier between them. I have to call out to Steve in the middle of the night just to see if he's still there! So I phoned the store, and they sent Duane. One glance was all it took for him to inform Steve that it looked bad. Real bad. We had to wait a few days while his inspection was filtered through the proper mattress channels, and I got a message yesterday saying that our mattress did not fulfill "three out of the four mattress criteria," and that we could come to the store and get "a replacement mattress of equal or greater value." Steve thinks that Duane meant to say "equal or lesser value," but I'm trusting that Duane the Mattress Inspector says what he means and means what he says. I think it's important to give people the benefit of the doubt, don't you?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Last night, after settling in to watch Miss Marple sip tea and catch killers on PBS, I heard the sound of an explosion from the general direction of the parking lot of our apartment complex. Several seconds later, my phone beeped with a text message from my husband:

"Going for a quick ride!"

I suddenly remembered that several hours earlier my brother-in-law had picked up his '69 Camaro from the shop. The now-in-pristine-condition muscle car of men's dreams had been sitting mere yards from my husband all evening. I was amazed he'd resisted its siren song for as long as he had. Seconds away sat the car in which I'd lost my hearing, gotten light-headed from fuel fumes, and seen my very life flash before my eyes the last (and only) time I'd been coaxed into going for a ride in it.

The explosion from the parking lot merely indicated that the '69 Camaro was back in business.

Steve told me that when his brother pulled into the parking lot this afternoon, a man came out of his apartment and said:

"I wanted to see what sweet thing was making all that noise."

Wherever it's driven, men pay tribute to the Camaro. It even sets off other cars' alarms.

Before I dated my husband, I was one of those girls who didn't know anything about cars. Blissfully unaware, I was happy as long as my car got me where I wanted to go and didn't fall apart in the process. That said, my first car may have been possessed by the devil. The heater turned off and on of its own accord, and the tape deck once shot a tape out with such force that it landed in the back seat. Whenever I gave my friends a ride, they would stroke the dashboard and say sweet things to the car in an attempt to keep it from killing us like that car in the Stephen King novel.

My second car was cherry red, and came with me to grad school. I'll always remember the joy I felt when first I saw it in the driveway, and my parents told me it was a new addition to our car family. It had automatic seatbelts that made a sort of growling, groaning noise as they slid into place. One of my classmates named it "Frankencar." As in: "Grrr! Frankencar no like go up hill!" and "Frankencar is ANGRY!"
I cried when it was time to say goodbye to Frankencar. We'd been through a lot together.

There are now at least two Camaros in our parking lot: my brother-in-law's '69, and my husband's '96. On my first (blind) date with Steve, I waited for him outside my apartment, and as I watched him pull up to the curb in his red Camaro (the sun glinting off the pristine, perfect paint) I thought:

"Oh, puh-leeeeze. Who does this guy think he is?"

Sitting in the tan leather seat on the way to the restaurant, I doubted there'd be a second date. I mean, he'd seemed really nice on the phone and everything, but the car was a little much for a liberal Mormon actress like me.

Steve got a parking ticket that day, and we were married less than a year later.

When we were engaged, he let me borrow the Camaro. Accustomed to compact cars, I felt like I was driving a long, narrow tank. I was terrified that I might wreck or scratch it, even though he told me that it wouldn't matter and not to worry. When I drove it to the theatre, my actor friends surrounded the car, ooooing and ahhhhing. Steve laughed when I told him, and said:

"They have no idea what a redneck car it really is."

"You've got to be kidding me!" I said to him. "Your beautiful Camaro?"

Turns out, I was still one of those girls who doesn't know anything about cars.

Nowadays, things are a little different. I can tell you a thing or two about gas mileage and mufflers. I can tell you that Formula One racing is like a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while Nascar is two-for-one beer night at Hooters. I can even tell you the actual name of the car I want:

(A Mini Cooper! It's so cute!)

My brother-in-law has already tried to talk me into another ride in the '69 Camaro, but I think I'll content myself with listening to Steve recount their adventures. And as I sit next to him on the couch, breathing in the fumes from their late-night ride, I'll remember my first glimpse of that shiny red Camaro, and how I had no idea that my future was driving up to meet me in a redneck car.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Wardrobe Malfunction

Last Friday I decided the time had come to purchase a few new items for my almost non-existent summer wardrobe. I knew what I was looking for, and I knew where I had to go to find it, but I didn't want to go where I needed to go to get it.

For me, shopping at Orange County's Fashion Island is either amusing, fascinating, or incredibly frustrating, depending on my mood. Fashion Island has a Koi pond. At night, Fashion Island looks like the streets of Paris. 12-year-old girls wear tight tank tops, high heels, and chatter on pink, diamond-studded cell phones at Fashion Island. At the Fashion Island pet store, average-looking kittens cost $1200.

Last Friday, I knew as I drove to Fashion Island that the experience had the potential to be less than positive. I was not looking forward to watching botoxed, breast-implanted, orange-skinned women heading to kate spade (with their diamond-studded cell phone carrying daughters-in-training) to purchase $50 flip flops.

The thing is, I often enjoy people watching at Fashion Island, especially when I'm with my husband. My favorite thing to point out to him is a woman wearing fake hair. You know, a woman whose hair is pulled back - a gigantic, gravity-defying ponytail (of a slightly different shade) sprouting from the back of her head? Steve likes it when I point out these things to him. Especially when I do it too loudly, and the woman turns and looks straight at me with a shocked expression.
(That only happened once, but I believe it was Steve's favorite people-watching-with-Emmie experience.)

Last Friday, however, all I wanted from Fashion Island was a pair of reasonably-priced capri pants, and maybe a t-shirt or two. And at Fashion Island, where mangy-looking gerbils go for $300 apiece, I knew that wasn't going to be easy.

The first pair of pants I tried on were perfect. They fit like a dream, and were a delicious color. And after tax, they were $78.

Cute, huh?

$78 worth of cute? I don't think so.

My shopping experience went from ridiculously expensive to ludicrously expensive, and if it hadn't been for the fact that I eventually wound up at The Limited (still expensive, but much less ludicrously so), I probably would have ended up sobbing quietly into the Koi pond. Or holding a $1200 cat for ransom until my reasonably-priced demands were met.

And so, two hours after arriving at Fashion Island, I left with more or less what I came for. And as I was leaving, I passed the kate spade window display.

These flip flops were on sale. For $50.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Misanthrope Redux

Today Mr. Balcony walked by the pool gate.

What you may not know is that I was in the pool at the time, swimming straight at him, unable to change course before:

"Hey there!"


This exchange was followed by several seconds of silence during which he stared through the gate, and I attempted to swim in the opposite direction in a casual it's-nothing-personal-I'm-just-swimming-away-
from-you-because-it-happens-to-be-the-next-part-of-my-exercise-routine sort of way.

Before I could get too far, he said:

"So, is it cold in there, or what?"

I weighed my response options. (Can you see my dilemma?) And decided on the path of least resistance:

"It's not that cold."

"What?? You're kidding me. You must be freezing your butt off in there! You're crazy to swim in that cold water!"

Did I:

A) Reply: "Oh, I'm crazy, all right - crazy like a FOX!"

B) Jump out of the pool, grab him, throw him into the pool, and yell: "See! It's not THAT cold!"

C) Whisper to a nearby bunny: "Yup. I'm the crazy one."

Hint: Bunnies are good listeners.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Did You Ever Know That You're My Hero . . .

Shout-outs (shouts-out?) to AzĂșcar, C Jane, Carrie, CC (currently of London), Eric D. (who had his own entire website before this blog was even a twinkle in my eye) and others (you know who you are, don't you?) for inspiring me to get a little more creative around here.

Let us all blog on.

Monday, May 29, 2006

I Like To Look For Rainbows

Wrangling my Sunbeam class these past two Sundays was so vexing that I had no other choice but to write a song about it.

As I approached the Primary room yesterday, a small figure streaked past me, going a hundred miles an hour in the opposite direction. Evidently, his father had not consulted him as to whether he actually wanted to attend Primary, but had merely deposited him and then quickly departed (with a small sigh of relief, perhaps?) to a classroom unknown. My little friend was having none of it. I gave chase, pausing for the end of the opening prayer in a chapel-held Gospel Doctrine class as my Sunbeam dashed between rows of benches and out the far door, his cry of "NOOOOOOOO!" echoing behind him. When I finally caught up with him, he was in no mood for my sweet-talking, nor my reasoning. At long last, the promise of a "special surprise" got him headed back to the classroom, but he was obviously very skeptical. (And with good reason. I didn't think a crumpled sticker from the bottom of my Primary bag was all that special, either, though it would be surprising to find one there.)

As I wrestled to persuade my escapee to remain seated, my littlest class member was dropped off by her mother, and I turned to say hello. She, who usually springs onto my lap and fights off other would-be lap sitters with surprising ferocity for one so small, looked up and gave me the biggest scowl I've ever seen on such a sweet little face. Somehow, in the first five seconds of our interaction, I had fallen from her good graces, and remained so throughout the rest of our time together. Perhaps it was just as well, as last week it was only after she'd been sitting on my lap that I realized she hadn't been forthcoming about her urgent need to take a trip to the ladies' room. At least I'd been wearing my black skirt.

As I kept a watchful eye throughout Sharing Time on the two aforementioned Sunbeams (who, while the rest of the Primary sweetly sang "I Like To Look For Rainbows," had thrice attempted escape), I felt a curious warmth on my chest. Looking down, I saw a little arm, and the little hand attached to it squeezing my right breast. Evidently, the Sunbeam sitting next to me, a visitor whose name I'd not yet learned, was not going to let a lack of formal introduction keep him from making himself as comfortable as possible.

When at last the time came to separate for classes, my two scowling friends, fresh from their latest botched escape attempt, exclaimed loudly (and, impressively, almost in unison):


"Funny," said the Primary President, "They loved you last week."

"Yeah. Funny."

Once inside the classroom, things went even more rapidly downhill. The friendly visitor had a meltdown, and kicked (accidentally?) my gimpy knee. They didn't want to color. They didn't want to sing. A story? How dare I even suggest it! It was the most acute case of Preschooler PMS I'd ever seen.

They did, however, all want to go to the bathroom. At least that much they agreed upon. I'd only opened the door a crack when one of the boys pushed through and took off down the hall at lightning speed. I caught up with him just in time to see the men's room door swing shut; "I CAN DO IT MYSELF!" echoing from within. When he emerged a minute later, the front of his pants appeared to disprove his earlier exclamation.

It was at this point that I started to compose my song. Its tune is a simple one, and perhaps someday I will post the accompaniment, but for now:

I Do Not Ever Want To Go To Church Again

I do not ever want to go to church again
I'd rather stay at home
I'd rather be alone

I do not ever want to go to church again
I'm not a jungle gym
I'd rather sing a hymn

All alone
In my home

I do not ever want to go
'Til in hell there is some snow
I do not ever want to go to church again!

I hummed my song as I searched for a parent to help restore the pants to their former state, and as I wrestled my unwieldy group back into their classroom.

Once inside, a miraculous change occurred. Had they said they hadn't wanted to color? Ridiculous! That's what they wanted to do more than anything in the world! A story? They thought I'd never ask! Songs? Why, they knew all the lyrics, and then some!

Except for the lyrics to my song. But I think I'll keep those to myself.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Mohawk in Manhattan

One early summer day in New York, I was headed to the Times Square subway station when I noticed a small crowd ahead. As I got closer, I could see that the group of people were gathered around Mr. T, who was decked out in all his Mr. T glory. By the time I reached him, the crowd had dissipated somewhat, and he looked up from signing an autograph.

"Hey, Mr. T!" I said, giving him a smile and wave as I passed.

"Well, hello there, little lady!" he responded, giving me a megawatt Mr. T grin.

At my favorite Indian restaurant later that night, I told my friend about my A-Team encounter.

"Did you get his autograph?"


"Wasn't he offended?"

"I don't think so."

"I bet he was. After you left, I bet he said: 'I pity the fool who doesn't ask for my autograph!'"

Somehow I doubt it. But I think that, of my several celebrity sightings while living in the Big Apple, exchanging grins with Mr. T was my favorite.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Misanthrope and Her Pool

This just in: Money can buy happiness!

For the past week I've been spending a great deal of quality time with my latest (and perhaps greatest) purchase. Allow me to introduce you!

I call her AJ for short. I strap her around my waist, and hop into the pool. She keeps my head above water in the deep end so I can exercise without any knee stress. She is truly the loveliest of inventions!

I've been slipping into the pool around 4pm every day. The apartment complex is quiet, the sun is low, and there's usually a lovely, water-rippling breeze. Often, two or three bunnies come to keep me company; hopping around on the grass near the gate. I know I look completely ridiculous; my swimcapped head bobbing along the surface of the water, but I don't care. It feels fantastic, and I get a lot of good thinking done to boot!

Until yesterday. As I took my first step down into the deep end, I heard the squeak of a sliding glass door. Glancing up, I saw a man peering down at me from his balcony.

"Just jump in! It won't be so cold if you just jump in!"

I gave him a courtesy smile, and continued my slow descent.

"Seriously, just jump! It can't be that cold!"

"It's pretty cold."

"Aw, come on! It's not as cold as the ocean! Why don't you get a full wetsuit? Then you wouldn't be so cold!"

At this point, I decided on the "if I'm not looking at you then you're not there" approach. It worked for about 5 seconds.

"See, it's not so cold, is it?? Ya shoulda just jumped in!"

I began my laps. Five minutes later, I looked up, and he was still there, staring down at me.

"How is it now? You're used to it now, I bet! Not so cold now, is it!"

Today, I managed to make it into the pool with no sign of Mr. Balcony. Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief, I heard:


Looking up at Mr. Balcony's balcony, I saw a girl staring down at me.

Two minutes later, the girl appeared at the gate wearing her swimsuit and carrying a large red inner tube.

"Hey! I forgot my key! Can you get out and let me in?"

She grabbed the gate and shook it. As I stared up at her, an elderly gentleman with keys walked by, and let her in.

"Hey, is it cold in there? I bet it's cold!"

"It's a little cold."

"I guess I better just jump in, then!"

She and her inner tube came hurtling towards me, landing almost on top of me with a gigantic splash.

"Awesome! It's not cold! It feels totally warm! It's not EVEN cold!"

The elderly gentleman peered at us through the gate.

For the next twenty minutes, she shrieked and splashed as if she were playing with a school of friendly dolphins, all the while exclaiming:

"It's WARM in here! It's not EVEN cold! Not EVEN!"

She swam closer and closer until she was diving and paddling mere inches from me. At one point, she strapped on some goggles and put her face in the water, staring straight at my stomach.

"Hey! What's that thing around your waist? Why are you wearing that thing?"

The elderly gentleman, who had disappeared at some point, came back and peered at me through the gate.

What will happen tomorrow, I wonder? Will I meet the rest of the impressively warm-blooded Balcony family? Will the elderly gentleman throw on a pair of trunks and join us? Will my AquaJogger be an effective device with which to pummel people over the head? Repeatedly?

I may not know the answers to these questions, but I'll tell you this much: when I am rich, I will have my own pool. Balconies and red inner tubes will be prohibited, as will peering, elderly gentlemen.

And my pool will be heated. It won't be cold. Not EVEN!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Garden of Delights

I could have sworn I was in England yesterday, but for the sun (it was shining a little too brightly, you see). And then there was the bamboo path. You don't often come across those in the UK.

I'll tell you this much: if you ever visit Orange County (and I both know and like you), I will take you immediately to the Huntington Gardens in San Marino. Did you know they even existed? I didn't. Until yesterday, when my wonderful in-laws introduced me.

If you come, we will start with tea in the Rose Garden.

(But only after stopping to smell the roses.)

After scones, fruit tarts, and cucumber sandwiches (with cream cheese and watercress, I believe), we could stroll through the Shakespeare and Herb Gardens, if you'd like.

We could also stop and look at some of the statuary Henry Huntington and his wife Arabella imported from Europe. (They had a LOT of money, you see.)

Since there are 120 acres of gardens, we might need to stop and rest in the Japanese Garden.

Then, if you wanted to, we could go to the museum and look at Blue Boy. (I didn't take this picture, but he's there! I promise!)

After a few more rooms filled with John Singer Sargent, maybe you'd like to see the Gutenberg Bible, or some early Shakespeare folios.

Or, we could just sit under a tree and smell the flowers. I'll wear my rose-colored glasses.

Even though, in this place, I don't need to.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

So I decided a little while ago that I want to get more creative with my missionary endeavors. Here's the thing - I could continue to give out the Book of Mormon, but everybody's doing that! Anyway, after giving it a lot of thought, I decided that what I really want to do is to give out Brother of Jared action figures. And amazingly enough, my brother-in-law found just the place for me to get them! He was totally inspired.

This Brother of Jared action figure comes with his very own glow in the dark stones! And for an extra $9.95, you can get a carrying case for him, styled after the Golden Plates.

Here's what I'm thinking: shouldn't the Ammon action figure come with a bag full of arms?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Heal Thyself

I have issues with Western medicine.

Don't worry - if you break your arm in my presence, I won't suggest an herb poultice and some acupuncture. (Although once the cast comes off, that wouldn't be a bad idea.) However, after my last visit to the physical therapist, I was reminded of the myopic tendencies of many of those I've dealt with in the medical profession.

A very brief summary of my knee's offense is that my IT band (the muscle that runs along the outside of the thigh) is a little too short, and has been since I hit that crazy growth spurt and attained 5'9" by the 7th grade. This made for some awkward Jr. High dances, especially since the boy I liked was 5'6". (My husband informs me that he was even shorter than that at that age, which would have made dancing with him either very awkward or "totally awesome", depending on who you talk to.)

Ahem. Anyway, the muscle couldn't keep up with my bone growth, and the disparity has been pulling my kneecap out of alignment ever since. (Slipping on ice and landing on my knee as a sister missionary didn't really help either, but that's another story for another blog.) During my teen years, I didn't realize what was going on with my knee because I was dealing with the origin of my issues with Western medicine:

When I was 12, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Over the course of my adolescence, I saw many doctors, and their treatment was heavy-duty pain killers and steroids. The result was a slight reduction in pain, and a major increase in weight gain, grogginess, and depression. Eventually I decided that I'd rather live with the pain than with a body full of drugs with scary side effects. Fortunately, my mom had been on a tireless quest for alternative methods of treatment, and, in the end, the things that brought me the most relief were acupuncture, massage, herbal supplements, and prayer. I continued to treat my symptoms the non-Western way until my early 20s, when the pain began to dissipate, and ultimately (Hallelujah!) disappear almost entirely. The doctors were amazed that I suffered no joint damage, and the only symptom I have now is that I get a little achy when a storm's coming in. (I can predict the weather! It's great at parties!)

So, back to my present issues with the West. My recent knee surgery was to get rid of damaged cartilage and de-tighten the IT band (my surgeon is excellent: he's a good Westie), and then it was off to physical therapy. Throughout the next few weeks, I made a little progress, but my muscle was still extremely tight, and I was worried. Each conversation with my PT went something like this:

"So my IT band is still really tight."

"Hmmm. It shouldn't be."

"Well, it is, though. What can I do?"

"Hmmm. Well, the IT band is a really hard muscle to stretch. Are you icing and taking your anti-inflammatory?"

"Yup. So how can I stretch my IT band?"

"Well, it's a really hard muscle to stretch. Keep icing and taking your anti-inflammatory."

She finally showed me one stretch, but subsequent visits proved frustrating and painful. Doing some tearful google research one night, I came upon my salvation: a slim volume entitled Yoga for Healthy Knees. Amazingly enough, ladies and gentlemen, there are many wonderful stretches for the IT band. Many. Wonderful. Stretches. Within the first week, I started noticing a major difference. Now, 2 months later, my leg feels happier than it has in years. Am I still icing and taking my anti-inflammatory? Well, I'm icing, and once in a while I pop a pill. Certainly the surgery has a lot to do with my knee's recovery, but it wouldn't be nearly as happy without the yoga.

So, while I'm definitely not in the Tom Cruisey camp of natural healing (heaven help Ms. Holmes if she gets post-partum depression), I do think that Western medicine's approach could do with a lot less treating the body as a battleground (and smothering symptoms with drugs), and a lot more exploration of the mind/body connection, seeking out the true sources of our ailments, and working with the body to heal itself. Also, more IT band stretches.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go snack on some seaweed and aloe vera juice.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006


My grandpa died on Easter Sunday. He was a wonderful man, and lived a long and good life. Luckily, Steve and I saw him when we were in Utah just a few weeks ago. We had a great visit, and he seemed in good spirits - his dry sense of humor fully functioning, and his beard still as bristly as ever when he kissed me goodbye.

Before the funeral, my siblings and cousins gathered to practice some hymns we'd been asked to sing. I looked around the room, and thought about the legacy grandpa left. I thought about summers spent in our grandparents' swimming pool, and trips to Bear Lake. About that sign in their bathroom that said "We aim to please. You aim too, please." About the many times grandpa asked me why I wasn't married yet, and told me I was too picky. About how much he liked Steve. I thought about family, about eternity. I also thought his grandkids sounded pretty darn good singing those hymns.

During the funeral, I noticed too late that I'd put my violin directly under an air conditioner vent. I'd already been having problems keeping it in tune because of the California-to-Utah climate change, and the fact that it'd been resting under a cold stream of air did not bode well. I was a little nervous to begin with because I'd been asked to play a really tricky piece I hadn't played in years (I'd promised grandma I'd play it at her funeral, but she decided I should play it at his, too). Sure enough, I'd only made it halfway through when there was a loud sproinging sound, and one of the strings went completely out of tune. I think grandpa would have found the whole thing pretty entertaining.

After the funeral, the family was invited to a dinner that the Relief Society made for us. On the way there, my sister and I bet that there would be funeral potatoes and ham. My brother-in-law (who grew up in a different country) didn't know what funeral potatoes were. He found out at the dinner. They were right next to the ham.

Less than 24 hours later, I (along with my aunt, 3 cousins, sister-in-law, and sister) became violently ill. I don't think I've ever been so sick in my life. What did we all have in common? That second batch of funeral potatoes. Food poisoning at a funeral: a memory to treasure. My mom took care of us, bringing me Coke with a straw, and I was reminded of all the times she's taken such good care of me when I've been sick. As I sipped my Coke, and sang songs with my 2-year-old nephew (he does a truly amazing "Popcorn Popping"), I thought about family again, and eternity, and how incredibly grateful I am that these people I love with all my heart will be with me forever, and I with them. And how, in heaven, there won't be any need for funeral potatoes.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On Big Storms and Superheroes

Three-year-old Alex, a little guy in my Primary class (with curly, curly hair and big brown eyes), sits so quietly and reverently that I worried about him at first. He barely makes a peep. Once in a while, however, he will raise his hand in response to a question, and give an incredibly detailed and (most often) amazingly accurate answer. There is one caveat: the answer must always involve a "big storm" of some kind. He worked in the big storm reference quite easily and aptly when the answer involved Jonah and the whale, and on another occasion when we were discussing the pioneers. He had to get a little more creative when the answer was about prayer, but, in the end, it all made perfect sense.

Another of my little guys brings a big stuffed Spiderman doll every Sunday. Spidey is a little worse for wear: he's missing a foot, and part of his head. He also loses bits of stuffing during each class - bits that are eagerly scooped up by his classmates and referred to as "clouds." It is important that Spiderman get his own chair during the lesson, as well as his own crayons and paper. He prefers the lined paper from my notebook, but only if it has no rips at the top. Spidey is quite particular.

Along with the importance of big storms and Spiderman's preferences, I've also learned that there is one magical response which can serve as the answer to any question asked in Primary. This response is, of course, "Jesus."

Exhibit A: Last week's "I Am Thankful for Water" lesson.

"Where does water come from?"

The hands shoot up before I finish my sentence.

"Jesus!" calls out Spidey's pal.

"And what do we use water for?"

A second of silence as they ponder.

"Jesus! Jesus!"

I have a fleeting thought about working in some reference to the water we drink in Sacrament meeting, and how that relates to their answers, but instead reply:

"Yes! We all love Jesus, and He loves us! Who wants to color?"

For several weeks now, we've been learning the Articles of Faith. We are learning them by singing them, because they've been set to music.

My problem with this is three-fold:

Firstly, I just don't think the Articles were written with musical accompaniment in mind. They don't rhyme, and they've got pretty awkward rhythms. It's kind of like setting the Declaration of Independence to music. (Although most likely that's been attempted as well.)

Secondly, the tunes to which they've been set are in a minor key, and sound like a cross between the soundtrack in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion and "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler On The Roof.

Thirdly, no one is explaining what the Articles mean. Not that I expect my three-year-olds to grasp the finer points of doctrine, but when they're singing about not being punished for Adam's transgression (in a minor key, no less), it'd be nice if they at least knew why we were teaching them to sing about it in the first place.

This brings me to another issue. Raise your hand if you remember the Primary song "It Shouldn't Be Hard To Sit Very Still." (Also in a minor key.) Sing it with me if you recall:

It shouldn't be hard to sit very still
To think about Jesus, his cross on the hill
And all that he suffered and did for me
It shouldn't be hard to sit quietly
It shouldn't be hard even though I am small
To think always of Jesus. Not hard at all.

Hmmm. Maybe it's just me, but at age 31 I still find it hard to sit very still. What was the reasoning behind this song? Let's start the guilt at an early age?

So I've decided I'm going to write my own Primary song. To keep my little class interested, it will be about big storms (in life), and how Jesus can help us through them (even more than a superhero like Spiderman). And it'll have a catchy, upbeat tune. So catchy that you won't even be able to sit quietly while you sing it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Wonderful Welshman

A remarkable man and gifted poet passed away last week. Leslie Norris, BYU's emeritus poet in residence (whose work is known and revered worldwide), died after suffering a stroke. I've had the privilege of attending some of Leslie's poetry readings, and chatting with him and his wife in their lovely home. Leslie was self-effacing, witty, and generous; his charming Welsh brogue made conversation all the more delightful. He will be greatly missed.

A second printing of Norris's Ark, one of Leslie's books of poems for children, was issued in 2000. In the Author's Note, he says:

"[Writing poems for children] was both harder and more enjoyable than I had expected. I had to learn to look at the world with newer eyes, and to be perfectly clear in what I said. I had to forget the words 'if' and 'but', except when they opened up worlds of the imagination . . . If I could fly . . . But a dog can talk . . . It was very good for me to think like that."

One of my favorite poems in the collection is called The Wire-Haired Fox-Terrier. An excerpt:

I am a great
Cat chaser
And garden tennisball
Nosy Parker

Noisy Barker

And middle of the lawn bone-burier

I'm a wire-haired
Fox Terrier.

At night I am

A sleeper

And nobody can sleep
Or snoozier

Or cosier

When the frost outside gets frozier

Than a tired

Fox Terrier.

And from another of my favorites, Bird And Boy:

So you want to fly. Why?
You haven't any feathers.
Do you think it's good fun
Being out in all weathers?
Said Bird to Boy.

You haven't any wings,
You can't build a nest.
Why aren't you satisfied
With the things you do best?
Said Bird to Boy.

What would it be like?
A sky full of boys,
Their arms flapping, their big feet -
And the noise!
Said Bird to Boy.

If you'd like to know more about Leslie's life, click on his picture above.