12 November 2012


In times of trouble, frustration and loneliness, I remind myself- nothing is permanent. We always know there are brighter days ahead. Sometimes, its simply tougher than other times to keep your chin up and press forward. Thankfully, we have the blessing to always press forward. Better days: please come swiftly and succor my soul.

05 November 2012

And I Shall Vote For...

You know...I come from a funny little family. I was fortunate enough to be taught in word and deed about many things. Manners were really big in our house. Holy cow- if you couldn't chew with your mouth closed or keep a napkin on your lap during dinner, my mom would let you know about your lack of manners. Yet I am not at all ashamed of the teachings I received, strict or arcane as some of them may seem in today's free-for-all society.

One of the things I remember with great clarity is our privilege and obligation to vote every year. My parents, grandparents and aunts would vote, and be sure that I knew it. They probably didn't even recognize the effects on me. But I have a very specific memory of a discussion with my grandfather.

Let me preface with this: I think my grandfather is one of maybe 3 of the greatest men I have ever had the blessing of knowing. Grampa, as I call him, is the kindest man I know. I do not ever recall him being angry or mean. The strongest thing he would say to someone would be the occasional, "Jackass!" to a crazy driver (oh- and to those kids who kept stealing Rudolph the Reindeer's red nose one Christmas). Other than that, I never heard the man speak ill of anyone. Not a soul. To this day, despite suffering from dementia, my grampa continues to be docile.

One year my grandparents were over my house. I remember very distinctly sitting on the couch with my grampa and asking him who he voted for. Without missing a beat, he said, "Donald Duck." Even as a kid, I knew this didn't make sense. "No grampa, for real. Who did you vote for?" Again he responded with a swift, "Mickey Mouse!"

No matter how I tried, he would not tell me who he voted for. He was funny and kind. But he was also sure to explain to me that who we vote for is a very private matter. From the way he explained it, I understood voting to be a highly personal, worthy of great respect. In my child's mind, it made perfect sense. I grew into an adult who shaped my beliefs based on this teaching. Interestingly, to this day, I still have no idea if he was a Democrat or a Republican.

Fast forward to 2012. The word "acrimonious" comes to mind when I think of the political landscape. I'm a news nerd. I LOVE to read global news. I've been following the US political landscape very closely. I definitely have opinions. I like to speak to people who both agree and disagree with my own views. But when I read the news, and then read comments left by ordinary people, I am aghast. People call each other names, they lash out, they insult strangers, they spew hatred and anger. I read it every day. I have read news feeds where people, literally, threaten physical violence should their candidate(s) not win.

Many feel very strongly about the 2012 US Election on Nov 6th. I know I do. But for the love of all that is sane- please be polite, and encourage others to also be polite. It sounds like such a basic request. Leave the pride aside if you're on the "winning" team. Shelf the animosity of you're on the "losing" team. Because really- the only winners & losers are We The People. Regardless of the final tallies we are still One Nation Under God. Whether we like it or not, we will be in this together.

On that note, I declare: I am officially voting for Han Solo. Yep. He's got my vote. If he doesn't win, I promise not to riot or hold grudges against the Hutt Clan.

30 September 2012

Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree...In China!

I just stumbled across such a lovely story, I've been feeling the need to share it. My blog is called "The World Is A Tile" because its just a tiny, small world we live in. This story kind of illustrates the point.

I work for a very small, local company. You get all the good & bad you do with a small company. The bad, everyone wears numerous (nay, too many) hats. The good, well the people. I get to do what I love (mostly) and all of the people I work with genuinely care for each other. Weird, right? Anyway...recently a few of the ladies took one of the employees out for her birthday lunch. I was overworked and hesitant to go, but my wonderful boss guilted me into going.

As it turns out, the woman whose birthday we were celebrating related one of the most amazing stories I have ever heard. And I feel like it needs to be repeated. Those in the LDS community will be very familiar with the song, "Popcorn Popping On The Apricot Tree." Its a song we learn as little, little kids. We even have hand gestures to go along with it...you know- to make it all the more exciting.

Mrs. Georgia Bello wrote the tune some time in the 1950s. Her nieces and nephews grew up singing the tune long before it became a Primary favorite. She submitted the song to the LDS church for their use. It was a gift, she said. The LDS church copyrighted the song in 1989. I know I sung that song as a little kid, and could still sing it upon demand- hand gestures and all.

As a bit of a personal back story, Mrs. Bello did not have the easiest life. She was adopted, and faced familial challenges. She was by no means wealthy or a woman of "worldly" stature. One day, the LDS church phoned Mrs. Bello. A representative of the church explained the Chinese Government had requested permission to distribute the song to ALL of the schools in China. The representative went on to explain the church would relinquish rights of the song in order that Mrs. Bello could reap the financial benefits of such a transaction. Her immediate response: Nope. I gave the church the song, and it belongs to you. Smiles are all the payment I require.

The church representative persisted. "Mrs. Bello," he explained, "We are talking about millions upon millions of distributed copies of your song. The royalties would be very significant and we would like to return the rights to you." Mrs. Bello's response was again swift and sure, "No thank you. Please do with the song as you wish." When pressed as to what the church should do with monies made from the song's royalties, Mrs. Bello only asked the church do "something good" with money.

Mrs. Bello never spoke of this. Most people just knew her as an employee at a local music store. Some knew she had written the beloved Primary song. She just lived her humble life the way she thought was good and right. Years later, she received another call from the LDS church. This time, the message was brief. "Mrs. Bello, we just wanted to let you know we put your royalties to good use. We built a temple."

For the LDS, temples are a sacred, vital place. What an amazing call that must have been. To the sick and dying, that is the equivalent of building a hospital! To us, a temple is a bit of a spiritual hospital. This unassuming woman's love for music accomplished more than I can imagine. Happy kids the world over are singing this fun little song. And as a result, an entire temple was built, providing haven and a place of service for hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saints.

Mrs. Bello passed away in 2007. I wish I had the opportunity to know this story when she was alive, and thank her. To her, to her family, I say, thank you, Sister Bello. For in the gospel we truly are brothers and sisters. Thank you for your unselfish act. Times are tight, money can be scarce. But hearing this story made me stop and think: How can I share the talents, the possessions which I have? Its not much. But I can give time. I can share meals and rides. I can smile more often and speak encouraging words. Challenge accepted! And next spring when the trees in Utah blossom, I will have a new appreciation of how little means can bring about great things.

10 September 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

I haven't blogged all summer, and my mother is probably the only one to notice. Which is just fine, by the way. Summer began with employment, after 11 months of UNemployment. New job was quickly followed by new car, which was quickly followed with my daughter starting a new school (Jr High!).

While I don't have oodles of time to write about our little family's adventures, I do have a few comments on the world in general. As Inigo Montoya said in the Princess Bride, "Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

  • Children are priceless. And they also kind of break moms' hearts. My dear, amazing daughter has broken my heart. But we have both learned about repentance, forgiveness and the beauty that is the ability to change one's self from within. My struggles with my daughter make me wonder what God must feel with us, His children. I must be a colossal pain in the ass...
  • Parents are to be cherished. Heck- everyone is to be cherished. I was taught by my parents that life can be taken from us at any time. I've said it before- we are all "on loan" from God. People, honor your parents. Call them. Tell them you love them. Skype with them. Take them out for lunch. They won't be with us forever, and life is too short to have regrets. Treat your parents well. We put them through hell as we grow & they deserve our love and honor.
  • A good night's rest is truly under-rated in our society. I hate sleep, but I'm learning the human body really needs a good 8 to 9 hours to be at a physical, emotional & cognitive best. I hate going to bed early, but darn- it sure does make life better.
  • The next time you see a mom (or dad) out & about with kid(s), if she needs help, or asks for help-- lend a hand. Trust me, its very difficult for some of us to ask. But if someone reluctantly does make a request, its usually an important one. Life as a single parent is not easy. Just like any other family, single-parent families have the same struggles...we just have one less resource to deal with said problems. Be kind and patient with us. Support can be hard to come by. I know I'm just grateful for the odd invite out or the person who swings by to lend a hand. Sometimes asking for help costs us much more than others may know. Be gentle. We're trying.
  • Finally, figure out how to live in the moment. We hear this from "self-help gurus." But this is a very basic and powerful tool in our lives. I've made an effort to be 100% present whenever I'm with my daughter. That means putting the cellphone/Laptop/Kindle Fire/business reading aside. Its not always convenient, but I cannot express how much this has helped our relationship. Don't waste precious time! Play that game of Go Fish, take a walk, tickle one another- whatever. Just be there, 100%.
And that should be enough to get me rolling in the blogosphere once again. Hoping you are all well, and are able to be with the ones you love. Now go call your mom! ;)

25 April 2012

This Lump of Clay

Two things are mostly responsible for this post: First, an abundance of time has given me the opportunity to read. I love reading! I was explaining to my daughter how I used to go to bed with stacks of books around me. True story. I've been boasting to my daughter- I've read 6 books in 7 days...how's your reading going? For her, its a little competition to get her to pay attention & focus on her reading. For me, its a great opportunity for my mind to uncurl from the fetal position and stretch heavenward. Hurray for thinking!

The second impetus behind this entry is a quote I heard on NPR. Its not available in print, yet, so I won't quote it exactly or give the exact source just yet (I promise to update!). But the quote went something like this, "We are all born in a place on this earth, and from that springs what we are made of. Are you made of stony clay or soft, pliable clay?"

And the wheels haven't stopped turning since. I know who I am, and where I come from- both spiritually and physically. But I the thought of what I am made of, what materials would define me and my earthly existence, has made me dig deep and give pause.

From New Jersey, and perhaps from my English & Irish ancestors, I am a vital loam. I remember the first time I read that word- loam. I had never heard of it before. It is a type of soil which contains sand, silt and clay in specific proportions. Loam is ideal for agriculture because it provides much needed nutrients and yet is able to drain away excess water. It is a care-giver to plant life. New Jersey is, after all, the Garden State. We have beautiful soil which grows, quite possibly, some of the best tomatoes and corn in the world. Grass is green and rich this time of year. The air is humid and soft. The land provides life and abundance.

There is a part of me which is an amalgam of my current life and my Basque heritage. The Basque people are greatly misunderstood (that's another conversation entirely). They come from a mountainous region between Spain and France. The land was thought to be too steep and inhospitable to the French and the Spanish, but it suited the stubborn Basque people. They loved the tough earth which could be tilled with great efforts. They loved the stony paths and the lush mountainsides where their sheep grazed under careful watch. Wars were fought, lost and won, on either side of the Basque territories- never within. The rugged and beautiful landscape was used only as a pathway between the 2 areas by invading forces. The Basque people, coupled with their land, were that formidable, that indomitable. The land was strong, resilient, yet few understood its inherent hardiness.

The clay I am made of is rich & generous, meant to nourish others. There is a congenital flinty component to my makeup which serves as a ward & protection. As I put these words to form, I feel better- as if knowing what I am formed of, I might better understand how and what I can endure, what I can offer. Now ask yourself, what clay are you made of...?

08 April 2012

A Little Goes A Long Way

This week has been a bit busy. My entire family has gathered from NJ & FL to join my daughter & I for Easter. The house is noisy, chaotic and full of people. In short- it's wonderful. Naturally, since I have company, I fell ill. Totally lame and kind of my own fault for not taking care of myself before I got seriously sick, but no big deal. I went to my trustworthy doctor, got a physical and a year's supply of various medicines for my sinuses.

I dropped my prescriptions off at our local Costco pharmacy without any fuss. The next day, between airport runs, I went back to pick up my meds. To my surprise, the cashier said my prescriptions had been flagged and said I needed to have a consult with the pharmacist before purchase. A little strange, but not a big deal. I went up to the consultation window, and a small, flustered woman in a white smock appeared on the other side of the counter. Nervously, she began to explain to me 2 of the prescriptions had an instant and fatal reaction when taken together. I listened carefully, since I was extremely stunned. I had recently taken the same 2 scripts together...and thought I was going to die. Turns out, it wasn't all in my head.

As the harried pharmacist finished explaining, she nervously gathered a pile of papers and offered me a print-out with all of the scientific facts. I thanked her heartily and asked a few questions. I bantered with her, and to my delight she began to smile. Then came the shocker. The pharmacist told me, "I'm really glad you are taking this news so well. I was very worried you would get upset and not be understanding." I laughed...until I realized she was serious. My response was quick, "Ma'am, you- literally- just saved my life. I would have taken those medications and my heart would have stopped. Then I would be dead. How in the world could I possibly yell at you? I should hug you." She smiled more broadly, "You are just SO CUTE!"

I've been called many things in my life, and "cute" is not one of them. I wasn't being cute. I was being honest and grateful. Surely this woman must be over-sensitive to people. Why would people yell at her? I thanked her again and stood in line to pay for my items. While waiting, my mom and I started people watching. We saw a number of people grumpily trudge by, shove other people's shopping carts and brow beat the staff over trivial matters.

In just a few short minutes, I realized the pharmacist was not at all over-sensitive. Summarily, people were just not kind. Over the last few days my mind has gone back to that incident over and over again. I am not always the happiest person around. I know for a fact I drift off into my own little world and start to scowl over my thoughts. Yet a little eye contact, a smile and a thank you goes a long way.

People should never feel like they are going to be berated. Especially someone who is trying to make lives better. How much effort does it really require to smile? If I honestly ask myself...the answer comes easily. I think we get to be in such a hurry (guilty!) and are so weighed down by our own issues/burdens we forget to reach out our hands to others (guilty again!). Kindness, or even simple courtesy are being lost in the din of our treadmill lives. I don't want that.

Because the pharmacist prevented my heart from imploding, I have decided to be nicer. It really shouldn't take such an incident. I am ashamed. But I'll come clean, and will try to be better. I can stop for that pain-in-the-rear-pedestrian that is not in the right of way. I can let a car in front of me in traffic. I can certainly say please and thank you to cashiers or random strangers. And I can certainly teach my daughter how to do these things as well. A little kindness truly does go a long way. As the saying goes, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."

01 April 2012

3 Years, 3 Letters

My mother is visiting us from New Jersey. Its a real treat to have my mom here. She's been busy heading up the "Bucking Up" brigade and has been keeping the house spit spot. My mom is obsessed with cleaning- she actually enjoys it (seriously!), so I let her have her fun. My laundry basket is emptied every day, and ever night clean, folded clothes magically appear. We spend the days doing silly things. I introduced my mother to Downton Abby...and now she is determined to watch every last episode.

As you may or may not know, my daughter is my sister's birth daughter/my niece, but I took her in almost 3 years to the day. I've blogged about some of our tough times and some of our accomplishments. We are very open in our family, and we speak of how great it is to have more than one "mom" in our lives. I refer to her as my daughter, and people who do not know me closely are never the wiser. It's just not that big of a deal. We are a family, and that is that.

My daughter, however, calls me "Tia." Tia is the Spanish word for aunt. At my age, I kind of decided that I will never be called mother...and that's OK. I do not feel like less of a woman in any way. To get to my story, the other day, I was upstairs trying to unclog a bathtub drain and my mom was downstairs with my daughter. I called down to Chloe and asked her to bring me up something (I cannot even remember what it was). No response. If any of you have a 12 year old, this is typical.

I called down a second time, then a third. Finally, I could hear my mother say to Chloe, "Chloe- your aunt is calling you. Please answer her." The angry and swift response both shocked and tickled me, "Abuela, she is NOT my Aunt. She IS MY MOM!" I could feel the silence coming from my mother. I was completely floored and just moved. Seconds later, Chloe came bounding up the steps with whatever object I had been asking for.

On April 9th, it will be 3 years since we started our little adventure. That's how we refer to our home life- as Our Adventure. I'm pretty sure I've aged significantly in those 3 years. I joke that I will now need Botox for my wrinkles (I'm only half kidding). I have laughed every day, cried many times, and raised my voice just every so often. I've watched Chloe go from what I call "Baby Chloe" to "Young Woman Chloe." As with most adventures, not every day is smooth sailing. But the outcome, the end result is always worth the time and effort invested. The day my daughter called me "Mom," is a day I will remember. Its a short word- just 3 tiny letters, 1 syllable. Yet for me that word's meaning is so grand and so sacred.

16 March 2012

Good Cop/Bad Cop...or Single, Deranged Mom

It is a scientific fact some species of animals eat their young. Some days, I wish I were that species. I am probably not the greatest mom in the world (not for lack for trying), but I can say I love my little one tween much beyond words or sometimes even actions. Here I shall comment on a difficult phase we're going through (on top of puberty- as if that weren't bad enough). My kid has sticky fingers and a horrific attitude.

First- I confide while asking readers to not judge. Chloe came from a broken home & suffered much at a young age, before coming to live with me. I've hesitated even saying anything to close friends because I am afraid the walls will go up, fingers will be pointed, and my kid's life will be over before it begins. But its not like that. All children having survived through what she has, are bound to have little social issues here & there. We do therapy, we do church, we do strict mom/tia (that's me!).

Here's where it gets tricky. No matter what happens- good, bad and ugly- I am always forced to be the "bad cop." I am and always will be the disciplinarian. There simply is not anyone else there. I make sure I provide abundant positive reinforcement & even incentive programs to help keep her scholastics on-task. We have fun and spend time together, so she knows she is important to me. To be fair, I give her my expectations and corresponding consequences well in advance, with fun boards around the house to serve as reminders. My threats are NEVER idle. You can ask anyone. I stick to my guns. Yet once every few months, we have an "incident" of her taking money from a wallet which does not belong to her.

Its so stinking frustrating. I'm well educated, I've run the gamut of psychological q & a's with her. I've been shouting angry, sobbing sad, and now...just kind of dispirited and left scratching my head. Is there a "bad cop" I can hire through some social services? Maybe mix things up a bit. I'm joking, and of course, I have a plan of action in place and new and more stringent consequences set up for the repeat offender.

And as I type and mull through the day's events, my reactions, her tears- as well as her inability to understand the consequences of her actions, I come to the conclusion that Moms freaking rock. Single moms are going straight to heaven (except for me, because I have a swearing problem yet to be resolved). I will choose to be BOTH good cop and bad cop, and take my meds so I'm not angry, delusional, Deranged Cop.

Feel free to hit me up in the comments if you have any suggestions for me! Single mom far from family is a lonely gig, so I'm always open to advice. :)

14 February 2012

Bb's Top 5 Valentine's Day Movie Picks

This year, I thought I'd go out on a limb and bring everyone my top 5 Valentine's Day Movie picks. You know, since I love this Holiday more than any other holiday (read: sarcasm). I know its deeply rooted in tradition (read: Hallmark) and emotion (read: a free dinner or flowers). So to prove once and for all that I am a romantic at heart, I present to you my top-rated love stories:

#5: Battlestar Galactica
OK...this is a television series, and not really a movie, but come on- what doesn't say love like intergalactic battle for the human race? For those of you not in the know, this is a timeless epic about life after habitable worlds are destroyed. Humans must find the mystical "Earth," while battling evil/not-so-evil alien lifeforms (Cylons!). You had me at "Intergalactic."Sigh. Or maybe Sigh-Fy...?

#4: Finding Nemo
Don't scoff because this is a Disney movie. Finding Nemo is one of the few "kids" movies I can watch ad nauseum. Sure, its animated, but the humor is spot on. And funny is the new, new sexy. Especially since becoming a parent, I appreciate the relationship between the neurotic parent, his friend, and his child. I'm a single parent too. Some days I feel like I'm swimming around all by myself, trying to navigate my way to P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way. Then along comes a day when I meet the SLC version of Bruce the Shark or the loveable, amnesiac Dori. This movie highlights the fact that some days, we simply get swallowed by a whale. But we also learn, we're all in this together. Just keep swimming!

#3: Hot Fuzz
If you haven't yet seen this British gem, then please rent it immediately. It is a timeless tale of overcoming social obstacles and stereotypes in order to form lasting friendships. A too-good cop gets "promoted" to a sleepy English village and is forced to partner with the hapless but hug-able Police Constable Butterman. There are plenty of car chases, swan chases, Shakespeare, and shoot outs to fill my empty heart. And if you don't like this movie, well jog on!

#2: Hero
This is my idea of a tear-jerker. Jet Li stars as the movie's protagonist, Nameless. Sure, its in Mandrin and you might have to read subtitles (or listen to the dubbed version), but this is a visually striking love story. OK, maybe not a story about romantic love, but love & sacrifice for the greater good. The cast is the Hong Kong equivalent of super A-list stars. The actors are so fluid in their moves, their Shaolin-style fighting is virtually a dance. The scenes are layered in color to represent various emotions, using the backdrop of remote China as its canvas. When I watch this movie, I feel as though I am viewing art. Plus-- its a freaking Kung-Fu movie folks. It doesn't get much better than that. Kung-Fu, people! Kung-Fu.

#1: Man on Fire
What do you get when you mix Denzel Washington, people trafficking, and an adorable little girl (the now grown-up- and lovely- Miss Dakota Fanning)? A freaking great movie based on a true story. This tale takes place in Mexico City. It is a place I love and hold dear, but also a place which serves as a cautionary tale of corruption and vices. Is this movie formulaic? Maybe a bit. But talk about a true love story. We even get Christopher Walken as the voice of reason (weird, right?). Oh boy. I'm getting all misty thinking about the revenge Denzel exacts on crooked cops and wayward politicians. I'm have to go grab a box of tissues right now & watch some explosions.

And there you have it. The Top 5 Love Stories according to yours truly. What? Did you honestly think you would find a chick flick on my list? Puh-lease. But seriously- these movies are top notch and worth a watch. I actually own all of these movies, so you are also welcome to watch them with me. I'll even serve popcorn. But no funny stuff. This is Valentine's Day- a day reserved for TRUE love. You know, like the love between a Ninja and his sword. Wait...that didn't come out right...

06 January 2012

Going Home

Home has such a depth of meaning for most people. Its not where you live, but where you are. It is where you lay your head at night, and where you surround yourself with family or loved ones. At different points in our lives home may be a childhood bedroom with a twin bed, a dorm room with stacks of books, a small apartment which used to be a garage.

There are a multitude of images which the word home evokes for each individual. A quick Google search of the term, "Going Home," just spit out 339 million results. There are songs, poems, pictures. All about going home.

I chose to go home this Christmas, taking my daughter and my 2 dogs. To my childhood home, where my parents still live. It was an event preceded with much trepidation and anxiety. Our family was coming together, in its tiny entirety, for the first time in 5 years. It was a wonderful time. A true blessing. But I think we all know it could have gone either way- good or bad. We were blessed. The visit was beyond lovely. The whole time I was home, I kept hearing the Jenny Bruce song, Home,
in my head:

Mirror of life
Pillar of light
Blood of my heart
oceans of fate,
rolling and deep
could not keep us apart

I know they say you can't never go home again.
But all the world be calm
Going home...
you will walk into the light
there's fire burning warm and bright
open up the door to a room where they're waiting for you
and you feel so at ease you will know you're at home

all that I am
fruit of the tree
falling from grace
you are the sun, moon and the stars
no one can ever take your place

I know they say you can't never go home again
But all the world be calm
Going home...
you will walk into the light
there's fire burning warm and bright
open up the door to a room where they're waiting for you
and you feel so at ease you will know you're at home

Inside, faith is gonna find you
somewhere no one knows the word goodbye.

At 2 a.m., one blustery and dark morning, I took dog out. There I stood on my parents lawn, in the still black of the night, in my bare feet and pajamas. That song was running through my head, as were a multitude of other thoughts. Thoughts about the whys, the hows, the what comes next for me....and I looked up.

There in the still sky, shining as if just for me, was Orion's Belt. I was a kid who liked to think a lot, and always looked to the heavens. Orion's Belt was what I would look at every night before coming in, and again every morning before heading off to early morning seminary. After nearly 20 years of creating my own home where ever I am, I looked to the skies and saw a constant.

Like the hand of an angel, those stars instantly calmed my soul. Yes, came the answer. You can always go home. Faith will always find me, and home will always be where no one knows the word goodbye.