Thursday, May 25, 2006

Why I want to go to space . . .

A week ago I attended the state PTA convention in Provo. (I’m going to be on the district PTA council over family life and education in the secondary schools.) I didn’t expect much going into the experience, but I came away enthused.

Probably the best speaker I heard was former Senator Jake Garn. He spoke to the combined session that kick-started the conference. And he was great! He not only motivates, but does so with a down-to-earth approach. Plus he’s funny!

He spoke about his experiences as an astronaut aboard the Challenger space shuttle. Jake Garn told how he is still an avid runner with a resting heart rate around 48 beats per minute. He also explained how he conducted several medical tests upon himself while in space -- one being a heart rate monitor that he wore constantly. Anyway, he recalled how frustrating it was to wait hour upon hour as the shuttle launch was delayed. Finally when the final countdown began, when the engines began to rumble, when he realized that he was strapped down to over a million pounds of thrust and it was really happening, he looked down at his heart rate monitor and saw that his heart rate was 127 beats per minute. Which proves, he said, that you can be flat on your back doing absolutely nothing and still have an aerobic workout!

Jake Garn also went into detail about the beauties of space. He told of traveling at 17,500 miles per hour in orbit around the earth, so fast that in every 24 hour period the sun rose and set 16 times, each a breath-taking experience.

As much as I’d like to see and experience the wonders and beauty of space, I have another reason I’m yearning to leave the earth’s atmosphere – I want to experience weightlessness!

Just imagine weighing absolutely nothing! Someone could ask you what you weigh, and you’d reply, "Zero pounds." And everyone would weigh the same. There would be no niggling thoughts about losing that last five pounds or even the first five pounds. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty appealing to me!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Making the World a Better Place -- One Fridge at a Time

Some days I wonder if my life will have meaning after I'm gone. Will it have added up to something commendable, worthwhile, interesting at least?

And then on other days I clean my fridge and know that my efforts are not all for naught. The little things really do matter.

How, you ask, can cleaning the fridge give life greater meaning? Easy. I let it remind me that I have a life.

For starters, my fridge hasn’t been cleaned since we moved into our home in February of 2004. Sure, I did clean up the strawberry topping that leaked from the cake for Lou Bellle’s after-baptism lunch. And I have wiped up seepage from defrosting chicken, spilt milk, and stray catsup. I can’t say, however, that my fridge was clean, exactly.

As I emptied its contents onto the kitchen counter, I recalled the other tasks that had kept me occupied – that had kept me from cleaning the fridge sooner. Here is a partial list: planning a yard, consulting on sprinkler placement, being my girls’s soccer coach, preparing Sunday school lessons, doing laundry, playing basketball, shopping, cooking, working as a second grade reading aide, walking with friends, walking without friends, hiking in the mountains, vacationing at Disneyland, keeping a journal, visiting grandmas, riding my bike, even filling water balloons.

I’d say that my priorities are just about right. Cleaning the fridge isn’t more important than living.

Even the contents of my fridge tell a tale. For one thing, there’s not a lot in there. As my brother, Drew, once said, "Wow, your fridge is . . . er . . . bright!" The reason – we have a 12-year-old boy. He’s a bottomless pit! Keeping him fed has become more challenging of late. Here it is barely past the middle of the month, and I’ve already way overspent our food budget! I think we’ll be testing the contents of our year’s supply this month. Sigh.

And finally, isn’t the outside of a fridge more important than the inside anyway? School lunch menus, shopping lists, children’s artwork, photos of cousins, clipped comics, even a magnet listing the number for poison control. (Do you think my husband was trying to tell me something when he posted the magnet on the fridge?)

All in all, cleaning the fridge helped me see the bigger picture. Certainly is feels good to look inside the gleaming fridge, but contemplating what goes on outside the fridge feels even better. The little things I seem to spend so much time on really do matter. Life, my life, makes a difference.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Living on Belly Acre Farm . . .

Why do I call my blog "Belly Acre Farm?" Simple. Because we have just over an acre of land, and we’re raising children. And kids, like most everyone else, often bellyache. Hey, I even bellyache.

As of today Hubby has planted 18 fruit trees: 2 cherry, 2 pear, 2 apricot, 1 Italian prune, 1 nectarine, 2 peach, and 8 apple. Most were small bare root trees we planted last year, so it will still be a couple more years until we get much fruit.

In addition to our orchard, we also have a large pasture that will someday feature a young steer. Last year we had chickens. This year we have a dog, Zeke, who uses the old chicken coop for his house. We also have a neutered cat, Oreo.

Within a half block radius of us, we have three neighbors with chickens. And I’m sure that someday we’ll return to raising chickens. (As soon as the kids forget that part of the deal is eating them after they’ve laid eggs for two years.)

Oh, and the biggest thing that causes farm-related bellyaching around our "farm" is our huge garden! Hubby has planted three rows of raspberries. (Each row is approximately 65 feet long.) He also has plans for strawberries, corn, squash, pumpkins, peanuts, peas, tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Also, each of our children has a small part of the garden that they get to select seeds for, plant, weed and care for. The hope is that my the time our county fair rolls around they’ll have something to enter.

School will be out in about two weeks, and then the kids will have something new to bellyache about – "Mom, I’m bored!"

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I am me, you be you

In today’s entry I’m trying to capture a bit of what makes me me. For instance, there is something in my personality that is driven to share – to connect with others – to help others feel better about themselves.

So much of myself is my thoughts. They are who I am, what I am, and I enjoy, even need, to spend time sharing them with others. I thrive on feedback – on finding some topic that resonates with others.

In this blog and in my life my message is: Don’t try to be like me. Don’t try to be like anyone else either. Be yourself. Find out what you are about – what floats your boat. Part of that process includes spiritual introspection. The Lord sees you as you are and as you can become. Ask him to let you see a glimpse of yourself as He sees you. I feel the most fulfilled when I know that I’m about my Father’s business. And believe me, it’s not all drudgery.

For instance, I have a habit of striking up conversations with people in checkout lines. I may not share the Good News of the gospel, but I try to brighten their day, make them smile, or simply make them grateful that they aren’t looney.

Just today I was shopping with my friend Linda. We were at Sam’s Club, and I saw a woman working a demo for soap and some other personal hygiene item (couldn’t quite tell what it was.) I said to Linda, "That’s got to be challenging to demo soap. Do you walk up to a man and say, ‘Excuse me, but you really need this soap’? If it was me, I’d be tempted to use some in the shower at home and come to work the next day and say, ‘Ma’am, which armpit scent do you prefer? Tropical Mist or Spring Clean?" Or, I’d use the soap on one armpit, and nothing on the other. I could ask customers, "Notice how this armpit smells nice and clean, but this one, on the other hand . . ."

Linda laughed as I raised my arm to expose the pit. She was, however, surprised when I gave the same pitch to the young man behind the check register. Fortunately he had a good sense of humor.

That’s me – making people laugh in the checkout line. It’s part of the way that I spread joy. Or nuttiness, or whatever. But I think people appreciate a little levity every once in a while, and I’m happy to provide it.

I, like you, defy categorization. I am more than the sum of my parts. I love chickens. I yearn to return to Japan to visit my host family. I speak fluent pig-latin and even put it under "language" on a job application once. (I got the job.) I love my pickup truck. My musical tastes run the gambit from opera and classical to country and rock. I’ve probably strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel at least a couple of times.

You get the picture.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

To do! To do! To do!

I moved my Nordic Track ski machine out onto the back patio this morning. I must say that exercising outside certainly was refreshing!

We’re making progress towards having the basement finished. Hubby has been diligently working on pulling electrical wires. The brick mason came on Monday and extended the brick area for the wood burning stove. The plumbers have finished the rough plumbing. And I still need to get a hold of Jose Franco about bidding on the dry wall. To do, to do, to do!

I’ve completed chapter one of my manuscript that I’ll be submitting to Deseret Book. It’s a compilation of 40 or so of my best "From the Trenches" parenting columns. I have high hopes that they’ll like it and want to publish it.

In weight loss news, I’ve lost just over 20 lbs. in twelve weeks. I feel fantastic. I tried on a pair of jeans this morning that were way too baggy. I guess it’s time to sort through my clothes and give away the baggy stuff. (I’m hoping that if I give it away it will be extra motivation to maintain my weight loss.) I’m also feeling optimistic about losing the 30 additional pounds that remain.

Must get to work!

Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm Not Your Slave, I'm your Mother

From the Trenches
I'm Not Your Slave

During the course of the day I assume many different roles: Laurie Laundress, Clara Cook, Ella Entertainer, Betty Book-Reader, even Nellie Nag. On one particularly trying morning, I seemed to be Polly Put-it-away more than usual. After depositing my son's pajamas in his drawer one too many days in a row, I turned to him and said, "You need to put your own pajamas away. I'm not your slave!"

"What's a slave?" he asked. "A slave," I explained, "is someone who has to work but doesn't get paid for it." This simplistic answer seemed to satisfy his curiosity while summing up my own feelings.

The rest of the morning I worked like a slave--or at least I felt like one. I cleared off the breakfast table and grumbled. I loaded the dishwasher, wiped the counters, and swept the floor. Even while dressing my daughter and changing her diaper I remained mopey. I think the only thing I took pleasure in that morning was my shower. And that was interrupted half-way through by both kids pounding on the bathroom door. They were thirsty.

After putting my daughter down for her afternoon nap and quietly slipping out of her room, I turned around. There in the hall was my son, holding a handful of coins, pennies mostly, that he'd collected from his grandparents. "Here," he said, giving them to me. "Now you're not a slave."

I thought about it for a minute and decided he was right. For a total of 13 cents, he bought my freedom.

Reviewing the morning's activities, I realized that my feelings of self-pity had affected more than just my attitude. By considering myself a slave, I had unwittingly cast my children as the loathsome taskmasters. How much of my resentment for my work-load had been carried over to them? Not much, I hope.

So now that I'm emancipated, how do I go about my day? Reality is that I still have all of the same jobs to do. How do I keep from feeling like a slave?

For starters, I've begun think of myself as a volunteer. Together with my husband, I made a conscious decision to have a family. You could say that I volunteered to be a mother. On days when motherhood is a bit more than I bargained for, I find it helpful to remind myself that I chose this lifestyle.

Another way to feel liberated hinges upon service. Who has the time to ladle soup at the local soup kitchen? We all do. Only we have to stop thinking of the soup kitchen in strictly traditional terms. Why not think of it as our own homes? The very things that can make us feel like a slave--doing laundry, cleaning toilets, picking up toys--when viewed from another perspective, can be acts of service.

Of course now that I'm beginning to get the hang of home-based volunteerism, my son has other ideas for me. Just the other night as I was sorting the last pair of socks, he approached, more coins in hand. "Take these," he urged. Once I was holding them he said, "Now come with me. I need help picking up my room."