18 December 2011

A Piece of Cake

My daughter requested a German Chocolate Cake for her birthday this year. Being handy in the kitchen (not bragging), I obliged. And in the process of making that confounded cake, I experienced an epiphany.

In preparation for making this cake, I did my homework. Since baking is not my forte, I researched everything from the etymology of German Chocolate Cake, to recipes, to people's reactions to said recipes. I carefully selected the best and began my prep work. I pulled out all the stops- we're talking cake flour, sifting, chocolate squares, whipping egg whites. Everything. The actual cake batter took me nearly an hour to complete. I was happy as a lark when I gently placed the cake pans in the oven, timer set.

When the cake was finally baked, I knew, right away, there was going to be trouble. The cake had not risen as much as it should have, and upon quick inspection, I noted the cake was FIRMLY stuck in the pans. How could this be?? I coated & floured the pans and followed every instruction to the letter. I hopped on line, furiously googling, "How To Get A Cake Un-Stuck From A Pan." No success with suggested methodologies. Finally, I caved. I knew there was only one way that cake was coming out of the pan: by brute force. And it wouldn't be pretty.

Using a rubber scraper, I scraped both pans out onto the counter. It was the saddest site I think I've seen (kitchen-wise). I picked up a piece of the cake and tasted: it was heavenly. I just stood there shaking my head. I re-read the recipe. I had done everything as explained. UGH!!! The birthday cake was dead.

I sucked up my pride, tossed the awesome tasting but now-just-a-pile-of-crumb cake out. I headed to the pantry, fingers crossed. Sure enough, there was a German Chocolate Cake mix on a shelf. With some doctoring, I had the new cake into the oven in about 4 minutes. I've still got home made frosting, and it will taste just fine. Plus, I'm not sure my kid's 12-year-old palate is sophisticated enough to even spot the difference.

Moral of the story: Sometimes we do things right, like we should. We labor, we are obedient, we take the time, we follow the instructions. But that alone does not guarantee success. Sometimes, we still take a few stripes, waste some valuable resources in attempts to do good. Our efforts are met with opposition and even failure. The trick is to not just throw in the proverbial towel and walk away. The trick is to have a back-up plan and the tenacity to use it. Even if we fail the first time around, all is not lost. We have gained valuable experience (for example, I learned that Wilton makes a substance that guarantees the release of cakes from pans). We have gained wisdom, patience. But that is not all. We need to take the next step: Be willing to try again. If we stop at each failure, how will we ever progress? Whether it is our culinary skills, our personal belief system, or our very own salvation, we must have the ferocity, humility and character to persist.

So yeah, I made a cake mix for Chloe's birthday. Because, this girl will have her cake, and eat it too.

24 November 2011

Thanks A Lot

I have so very much to be grateful for. I could make a list as tall as my house of great gifts bestowed upon me. My niece, my family, my friends would all be on it. But I will let the poet Folliott S. Pierpoint speak for me in his poem-turned-hymn, "For The Beauty of The Earth." I have long loved this hymn. I have found comfort in it year round and find it especially meaningful this time of year. Enjoy the message and may your day be full of Thanks. I am grateful for you and your roll in my life. Happy Thanks Giving to you and yours.
For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies:
For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale and tree and flow'r
Sun and Moon and stars of light
         For the joy of human love,
         Brother, sister, parent, child.
         Friends on earth and friends above
         For all gentle thoughts and mild. 
         For each perfect gift of Thine
         To our race so freely given.
         Graces human and divine
         Flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of praise.

19 November 2011

WIsdom From The Shire

If you know me, you know my dog, a Shih Tzu, is named Mr. Frodo. Its no accident. Firstly, I am a nerd. I have always loved the stories of Tolkien. When I adopted my dog, he went by another name. He was a scruffy, 1-year old with a serious case of snaggle tooth and no sense of home. But he had the biggest, most loving eyes I had ever seen in an animal. And I wanted him to be a little companion to me. I was single, over the age of 30, and just lonely. I named my furry-footed companion Mr. Frodo after one of the most loyal, trusted characters in modern literature. Over six years later, the beloved  pooch has proven worthy of his name. In some of my darkest times, Mr. Frodo has, literally, been by my side. He's adjusted to the many changes of life, including the arrival of my niece and noweven has a canine companion of his own (Starbuck the cross-eyed mini-Poodle/Japanese Chin).

Mr. Frodo, my Mr. Frodo, has kept me going through thick and thin. Sounds silly, you know- because he's a dog and all. But it's true. And so I come to a quote provided by Samwise Gamgee, the loyal sidekick of Mr. Frodo Baggins. Its given me a little perspective lately and helped me to keep my chin up. Three cheers for good friends...and wise & loyal Hobbits!

14 November 2011

I Can't Run But...

I am a notorious dreamer. Literally. I have been ever since I can remember (age 5-ish). Dreams are the way my crazy thoughts, often kept to myself, come bubbling up to the surface. They are also a way for the world and for God to communicate to me. Its just as much as part of who I am as my eye color or my hirsuteness.

Lately, I've been dreaming A LOT. Like crazy dreaming. Some dreams mean nothing. For example, the other night I dreamed I was lecturing a doctor from Grey's Anatomy on his love life, while using the example of the family trials from Wizards of Waverly Place. Not much meaning there...just a dichotomy of what's on the telly.

But for the first time since my childhood, I have been experiencing re-occurring dreams. Weird, right? Probably not. I know its my brain telling me to fix things. Ugh. Who likes to fix things? I'll share with you one of the dreams that pops up like an email reminder.

I decide to go jogging. I get dressed up and ready to go. I head to a destination where I'm going to run- sometimes my neighborhood, a local park, or even down in Moab. By the time I get to the actual place where I'm going to jog, there is someone there to go along with me. I don't recognize this person (ie: they are not some one from my waking life), but I know they are a friend.

We start off walking to get our heart rates up, and then hit a very slow jog. Side note: I really hate jogging in real life. I will walk anywhere, but unless I'm running in a game or away from something scary, I'm not running. In my dream, I am making a HUGE effort to jog. But I'm not traveling any distance. It is as if my legs are stuck in translucent quick sand. They are moving slowly, painfully, but I'm simply unable to move forward. Sometimes I'm stuck in a cross walk and motorists honk their horns and yell scornfully.

Even more strangely, I start to apologize to my running partner and anyone who will listen. "I am so very sorry. I really can run, I just don't know what's happening right now. I feel like such a failure, I'm so sorry." The struggle continues on with me stuck in a bizarre stasis until I wake.

This is the story of my life right now. I'm in a situation where my career is in a giant hole. I know I need to get out of the hole (read: get a new job), but the harder I try, the less I seem to be able to do. I know I have people cheering me on in life, but I am that motorist. I am ever so frustrated with my own lack of movement. I call myself a failure nearly every day. I want to be jogging, but not for lack of desire, I'm simply kind of stuck right now.

To put all of this into perspective, life is OK. I'm alive. I have a beautiful, healthy and intelligent daughter. I have a lovely roof over my head, 2 little furry friends I call companions (not Hobbits- the dogs). I have family and friends who love and pray for me. I sincerely try to focus on the good. Blah, blah. I am just freaking annoyed with my current situation. To quote Paul Simon, "I can't run, but I can walk much faster than this."

18 October 2011

Did Someone Hit the Repeat Button?

Life is an adventure. As a single, LDS woman raising a now 11 year old girl, some days are better than others. I joke that many days are like the movie, "Ground Hog's Day", where the hero of the film finds himself in a bit of a time warp, forced the live the same day over and over again (Ground Hog's Day, to be exact). In the movie, this character knows what's going to happen because, well...he's already lived it an infinite number of times. Some days, he is just desperate/apathetic/hopeless to move on to the next day which will never come. On other days, he does his all to make the best of specific circumstances. He tries to help out those in need and set right little wrongs along the way.

Ever experience De'ja vu?
Parenthood is just like Ground Hog's Day (the movie, not the national holiday). Moms (and dads) wake up every morning to assorted children. How they came into our homes does not matter. Adopted kids, foster children, birth children, nieces or nephews...they are our lives. And when they caw (or cry or jump) in the morning, we are suddenly at their beck and call.

I sat down recently to assess our little family dynamic with my niece- whom I call my daughter. Truthfully, we've been in a precarious state of late. She's sorting out the type of things pre-teens often do; kicking up a little bit of attitude and rebellion in the process. On the other hand, she's doing SO much better at school. We've gone from failing to A's & B's. Overall, I'd call our situation a "mixed bag".

But when people ask me, "How are things going?" I nod and smile and say, "Kind of like Ground Hog's Day." Then explain: Each day is new, and with it brings new homework and new micro-challenges, clean clothes and different menu options. But essentially, we just repeat the same days over and over again, until we learn whatever lesson God has planned for us, and then we move on to the next.

With enough nurturing on our part, LOADS of patience, and many hours spent on knees praying, we make it past that singular, repeating day. And our children are grown, entities unto themselves. We will then be parents of adult children (freaked out yet?).

I don't know what I'll do when that day gets here for me. Let me be clear: I relish, love, memorize each moment, every day and keep a mental scrap book of the ephemeral snuggles, giggles and high-fives. But until that day, I'll be parenting in Rinse & Repeat mode. I will continue to make little (and maybe big) changes & advances daily, but I do so with a life-time commitment to stick to it and do my very best. I'm pretty sure we'll survive the process no less for the wear, and perhaps just a bit wiser than we began. :)

05 September 2011


It is 3:18 a.m., and for the I-don't-even-know-how-many-times, I am still very much awake. I'm lying in a perfectly quiet, dark room. My bed is made. The dogs are asleep in their bed. The evening is cool. I am listening to the whir of the ceiling fan and the cadence of crickets. For all intents and purposes, it is a perfectly lovely night.

The problem is, it is night. And while the world rests, I cannot. I am weary. I can almost feel the neurons  firing in my brain as I try to find a solution. I am, if nothing, logical. There must be an origin, a cause to my sleeplessness. Sadly, the only thing I can discern is that I am in desperate need of a massage (and...probably a good 5 or 6 hours of sleep).

In the "Bright Idea" section, I come up with the idea to google "insomnia". There are 544,000 suggestions for "Hypnosis" as a cure. I vaguely ponder the probability of finding a hypnotist at this hour. This line of inquiry isn't really panning out for me. Back to the blog.

I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety has been my sidekick for nearly a decade now. Some times I feel shame when I verbalize that. "I have anxiety," just doesn't sound cool, it sounds weak. I don't want to betray myself by seeming weak to others. Yet it is my very own struggle, and I try to own it.This week, tonight, it is owning me. I don't like to be owned. 

For now, I lie awake, trying to con my subconscious into submission: Relent! I wonder if I should call my mother on the East Coast to chat. Although early, she would still answer the phone. She'll worry, I'll feel guilty, and then 2 of us would be awake instead of one. Not a viable solution. I almost giggle out loud because this is pretty ridiculous. I'm talking to myself, typing and am no closer to getting off to the Land of Nod. Now my contacts are dry from blinking at the computer screen.

I won't always have anxiety. At some point in my life, it will abate. I will overcome. Or not. I'll adapt and thrive. But whatever happens down the road, one thing is clear: I'll not sleep tonight.

08 June 2011

No! Child Left Behind

Nerdhood came to me at an early age. I was the weird kid who loved to learn. At night I would sneak into the tiny hallway between my sister's room and mine and read random excerpts from our vintage Encyclopedia Brittanica set.

Imagine my complete incomprehension at having a daughter who doesn't enjoy learning. In my small brain, to dislike learning is akin to...disliking to breathe! School has been a bit of a battle these last 2.5 years. Sometimes a single assignment  takes hours to complete. Not because of difficulty of the assignment, but because of the unwillingness to get it done. As a result, homework time is dreaded by both parent and child.

Fast forward to the end of the school year, and report card day. B, B+, C, C+, N, N. What? What's an "N"? What happened to D & F?

Thanks to legislation for "No Child Left Behind", the report card reads like a feel good summary for the end of year, instead of the reality: my child failed 2 classes out of 6. But don't worry- she still gets to go onto the 6th grade, no educational help needed. Wait, what?

30 May 2011

Sister and Friend Azminda Roa: 1958-2011

Our prayers for others flow more easily than those for ourselves.  This shows we are made to live by charity.  ~C.S.Lewis

I recently lost a very dear friend. She was young, she was vibrant, stubborn, wise and independent. I could fill pages telling you how amazing she was. Is. I have tried to grieve, have tried to leave this in God's hands, but I have not yet found peace. 

My thoughts have very often turned to my memories of my friend. I find myself overwhelmed by her great acts of service and charity. Time and time again, I remember the kindness she showed to those around her, and the love she sowed. I was many times a witness to her service to others. I was many times the recipient of such service. She had a very strong personality and was therefore often misunderstood. But her heart, her spirit was indomitable and obedient and caring.

She left us too soon. I wish I could have been with her or visited her before her passing. I am comforted by my religious beliefs that there is a life beyond this one, and that my dear friend is at peace from this conflicted world, suffers no longer, and I will yet see her again. But in the mean time, I feel the most dire urge to remind everyone: cherish this life. Cherish your loved ones.

My grandmother, and now my mother, often tells me, "Somos prestados." This roughly translates to "we are only here on loan," as if to say God grants us but a short time on this earth, then we are returned back to his care.

And today I am keenly reminded, we are but loaned.

To my dear friend and sister, Azminda Roa- may the richest blessings be poured down upon you now that you have departed this side of the veil. Thank you for the legacy of friendship and service you have left to so many on this earth. Your absence is keenly felt. You are loved. I look forward to the day when I meet you again.

10 April 2011

Betwixt and Be Tween

Growing up, there were kids and teenagers. There was no special demographic called "Tweens". You were either a kid who rode your bike around town & played till the sun went down, or you were in Highschool and a bonafide teenager. Today we have an entire market built around the ages of 10 to 13, complete with clothes lines, body care, TV shows and cell phones.

And I, am the proud, if befuddled, parent of one of these tweens. She's 11 and I'm constantly trying to keep up and keep her in check. This week Disney's Shake It Up is totally in and Justin Beiber (thankfully) is SO out. Jonas Brothers are a distant memory. Jeans MUST be skinny jeans or they will languish on the shelves and shoes is a complete guess (I think my kid is a sneaker type). Peace signs are cool, dancing is hip, and a tween should NEVER be seen holding a parent's hand.

It's a daily effort. As many parents can attest, you take the good with the bad. We try to find common ground (we can agree to watch the FoodNetwork when I'm SO over Disney channel, and we both like strolling through IKEA), and we learn together. I don't always feel like the best parent, but I get us to therapy, read tons of books and do my best.

My niece and I are celebrating 2 years together. I cannot believe how quickly those 2 years have passed. Some days I feel like she's been with me her entire, sassy life. Others, I wonder at each moment which has passed. Yet somehow in these 2 years, I still haven't gotten my head wrapped around how the heck to deal with this complete person who is in such physical and emotional transition. What do the demographic studies say about that? :)

30 March 2011

Ice cream, Popsicles, Tonsils, Oh My!

I was blessed enough to land a new and amazing job this last November. It has been such a miracle in my life. I'm still working away with design and marketing, so really, what more could a girl ask for. So when I fell slightly ill over the holidays, and that slightly ill migrated into seriously ill, I was a little bit bummed. Doctor appointment after doctor appointment, I had turned up with a bunch of strange "kid" illnesses which I had never before experienced: tonsillitis, bronchitis, sinus infection, unidentified throat weirdness, ear aches, eye infection (??).

After finally seeing an ENT, I was diagnosed with a whopping case of Cryptic Tonsillitis, I made the first available appointment for a tonsillectomy. My fantastically wry doctor warned that anyone over 20 would face a "very difficult recovery" with at least "2 weeks flat out in bed". However, he did advise I could eat all the ice cream, popsicles and smoothies I wanted. Not great food for a non-ice cream lover (don't hate!).