Monday, March 31, 2008

I'm Just Asking...

Is it wrong that it is 10:30 and I'm still in my pajamas? And that the beds still aren't made? Do you think it's bad that I'm considering just reading my book instead of doing all the laundry? Is it wrong that if all those things are wrong, I don't really want to be right today? Maybe it's just one of those days when I need to float.

But when I finally get my act together, I'm going to be paying it forward (finally!) Come back tomorrow for the details.

Friday, March 28, 2008

What Does My Garden Grow?

A couple of people asked what I am planting in my garden. Before I give the answer, I should tell you that, while we have planted a garden almost every year of our 14 years of marriage, I am no expert. Especially here in the desert. Gardening in Arizona is a whole different ballgame, but we're figuring it out slowly but surely.

This year we are planting 7 tomato plants, because there is nothing better than fresh tomatoes. Nothing. Except maybe fresh salsa. Therefore, we also planted 2 tomatillos, a couple of Anaheim peppers, and cilantro.

After my love affair with tomatoes comes cucumbers. Cucumbers in summer make me giddy and my heart beat faster. If you have not had cucumbers fresh out of the garden sprinkled with red wine vinegar, you have not lived. If you are one of that sad lot, you are invited to my house for dinner this summer. Please, let me help you to live.

Then, of course, we must always plant two zucchini, and here's why. Well, I like zucchini, and I'm slowly converting Mr. Wicke, I think. But the real reason to plant zucchini is that even if everything else in your garden fails, you will still be able to grow zucchini. You just can't kill it. So zucchini has become my old reliable.

Another new favorite is basil. Lately I've taken to growing basil all year long. And I'll tell you what! I might be able to live on tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella cheese sandwiches. (Wow, I'm getting hungry!) I've also grown a fondness for fresh pesto. Oh! And try this. Mix chopped tomatoes and basil in with some white rice for a summery side dish. So good!

Finally we grow some beans. I'd wax eloquent about beans, but, frankly, you've gotten me so hungry I need to make me a sandwich. Oh...if only I had fresh tomatoes!

A Happiness Post: Giving and Getting Happy

You know I am fascinated by happiness. It truly is the one thing you absolutely can not have too much of. I'm interested in how to get happy, how to stay happy, and how to make others happy. And I just read about a scientific study that proves one sure way to get happy. Give. That's right. Just like Jesus taught ever so long ago. If you want to find your life, lose it in the service of others. I just love it when science proves religiosity!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Details, Schmetails

Close friends are aware that Mr. Wicke will never be nicknamed "The Great Communicator". In fact they've often heard me say with a laugh that "it is the NOT talking that keeps us together."

It is a joke, but like every good joke there is a kernel of truth to it. We do talk about a lot of things: societal concerns, the nature of man, items of public policy, goals and dreams...We just don't talk about the details of living.

Like yesterday. He didn't tell me that he "locked" the garage door overnight by rigging a wrench through the door hinge. That probably would have been good to know when I left to go grocery shopping because when the door didn't open I tried it again, like every good woman will do. Then I heard a grating noise and the entire right side came off the track and bent at an awkward angle.

So while the not talking keeps us together, it also cost us 75 bucks yesterday. Oh well. Anyone want to talk about current events?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Whatever Floats your Boat

As promised, pictures of our cucumber boat float. For a super low cost, low effort project, the kids had a great time. In fact, they asked when we were going to do it again.

The only downside was when I got in the van this morning and said, "Man, it stinks in here! Is there something stinky back there?" To which Griffin replied, "Yup. It's just my cucumber boat." Mmmm, mmm...

Part of the fun is the creation of the boat. Don't get excited. There was no whittling or sculpting involved. It's just a hollowed out cucumber half. Naming any object a "boat" automatically makes it so, right? We also got a little creative by making a personalized flag. Sadly, the flags didn't make it through the first sail. Such is life.

The rest was just free for all fun...

(Gotta' love the boots.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nothing Much

That's right, there will be nothing special coming out of my head head today because I just don't have the time, nor the energy, but I'm going to have to pretend about the energy thing because I have company coming today. Woo HOO! My niece, Tamara, her four boys and Dr. husband who will be staying with us all week.

Now for the problem: What with spring break, Saturday projects (most of which are unfinished), Easter preparations (you don't want to get me started here), Logan throwing up Saturday night (possibly the grossest thing I've ever seen), and then Easter itself (Did anyone else make Deviled Eggs?) I am not well-prepared for visitors. There are beds to make, floors to mop, laundry to be done, vacuuming to do...AAAAAaaaaaaahhh! So I will pretend I have the energy, but you can plainly see that nothing interesting will be flowing out of my head onto paper today. Sorry. of cucumber boats coming tomorrow... C'mon! At least pretend that's interesting.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Getting Ditched: A Tribute to Childhood

During all of my growing up years our little community had open irrigation ditches running through town. Living on main street I didn't have one running right in my front yard, but my lucky friends Ella and Kelly did. Now when I say irrigation ditches, I mean knee-deep trenches simply cut into the earth through which water from the canal flowed all summer long. The adults used it to water lawns, backyard pastures, and the giant-sized gardens most families grew, but we kids merely spent hours playing in that cool, muddy water. Inner city kids had the spray of fire hydrants; suburban kids had a pool; Cowley kids had ditches.

Some of my happiest memories were made there. I remember playing house, each of us getting our own little section of the ditch where we created sitting areas and "cupboards" in the muddy banks; I remember one day when Kelly's out-of-town cousin was being a particular pain and we threw her in the ditch causing her to run home crying. We probably should have felt badly, but the reigning attitude was that she had it coming. I also remember my mom making cucumber boats which we raced from one end of the ditch to the other. I imagine all Cowley kids had such happy memories. Check out my neice Shana's comments from yesterday as proof.

The ditches are long gone now, replaced by progress I suppose, but I can't help but feel a little sorry for the Cowley kids of today. What are they going to do all summer long?

As a tribute to my childhood, my children and I are making cucumber boats today. I think I even thought of the perfect place to race them: Our local library has a nutty water feature that resembles a long ditch. And hey, if we get arrested my children may have some interesting childhood memories of their own.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Some of the Things Spring Brings: Bare Feet and Mud Pies

Welcome back, Spring. We made these pies just for you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Have I Mentioned I'm Not Really a Cat Person?

And then he said, "Mom, can we keep her?"

My reply? "No."

And to anyone out there who might be missing a cat, he is hanging around our front porch.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Brief-ish History of Spoons

Understanding this... going to take a little explanation. Hang on. I'll try to be quick.

One of my memories of childhood, was playing the game "Spoons" with my friend, Ella, and her father. For those of you who do not know, it is a card game, the object of which is to get four of a kind in your hand. Once you get four of kind, you take a spoon from the center of the playing area. After that the rest of the players fight for the remaining spoons, and the player left without one gets a letter. I think Ella's family spelled s-p-o-o-n-s. Anyway, once you have all the letters you are out. Yes, I know. What can I say? I'm from Wyoming. We have a lot of good games there as my friends will attest.

Back to Spoons. My memory suggests that I was not good at this game initially. I was so busy looking at my cards that I never noticed that the others had quietly taken the spoons. I'm not sure how long I continued to play alone, but I remember they thought it was very funny.

My next memory of Spoons is that my mother, a lover of games herself, made things interesting. She said that in her family they spelled the word donkey, and then the loser had to go outside in the front yard and hee-haw like a donkey. Again: Yes, I know. Remember, Cowley had a population of 455 people. We had to be creative. But the addition of public humiliation made the game ever so much more intense.

So fast forward a few years. Some 20-something friends, living in California, are sitting around with nothing to do. "Hey! I've got a game I could teach you." And we laughed like twelve year olds when someone had to go out in the parking lot of our condos and bray like a donkey.

It became something of a tradition at our get togethers, but being somewhat creative, it didn't take us long to take things up a notch. Braying turned into doing a dance on the busy corner of Barranca and Alton, but then we realized the options of humiliation were wide open. After that, the best part of the game became determining the punishment before the game even starts. It just makes us giggle. Oh, and we've had some good ones!

My personal favorite occurred on a camp trip when Shilo had to report that she had seen Bigfoot at the local grocery. The sixteen-year old clerk did not know what to make of her. Some of my other favorites: wearing two different shoes to church, lying on someone else's towel at the beach until they ask you to move, asking a stranger to rub suntan lotion on your back, playing Dance Dance Revolution in the lobby of the movie theater wearing wrist and headbands, wearing the popup fire engine tent and a fireman's hat while running the four corners of the intersection making siren noises...the list goes on and on.

But now that we're nearing forty, things have slowed down somewhat it seems.

"So are we never going to play Spoons again?" Shilo asked last Sunday night. "I mean is that just a bygone era?"

It has been a while. I take some responsibility for that. Ever since I refinished my dining room table I have put a stop to Spoons-playing there. Long gashes have been known to occur after all, but we were at Shilo's house where her table is protected by a glass top. Let the games begin!

Here's the result:

Kimball lost.

He had to wear a pirate patch to the movie...

And order the concessions using pirate phrases (as in "Would you like to see my booty?)...

And everyone enjoyed the show!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chicken Stories

Mesa is a well-known Republican mecca, so imagine my surprise when I visited our local KFC and discovered that they are now selling the "Hillary Bucket." Yeah, it's true. When you order the Hillary bucket you get two juicy thighs, two small breasts and a left wing.

...C'mon. Admit it. That's funny. Thank you to William Carey who told a joke I could actually remember. Usually I am joke-telling dyslexic. Honestly. I can tell it all the way to the end and then mess up the punchline or forget it altogether. I think it is a condition that is diagnosable but untreatable.

That joke is in tribute to my father, a master salesman who believed everyone should have at least one good joke in their repertoire. There you go, Dad. I just shot my wad with the Hillary bucket. Don't expect another good one for 10 years.

Speaking of chicken and my father (how often do you think that combination comes up?) it reminds me of a story. One time my dad and two of my brothers were traveling for business. As usual, they had left late and were driving through the night. And also as usual they stopped into one of those 24 hour truck stops that my dad had a thing for. Legend has it that the waitress, who, heaven love her, was working the midnight shift and in a rather foul mood, started to talk about the specials. "I've got some chicken legs and chicken wings..." Dad couldn't resist and quickly quipped, "Well, that's gotta be painful." She was not amused and gave him one of those looks that could kill, but he always laughed hardest at his own jokes anyway. My brothers just shook their heads.

If you too would like to honor the memory of my dad or maybe help me with my joke-telling dyslexia, let 'er rip and tell me a good one. I could use a giggle.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Visiting my Homegirl

Last weekend I dashed to LA to meet a long-time friend of mine who was there on business. I've known Shelly since...well, I don't remember not knowing I guess since birth. And although we are terrifically different--she's kind of a dukes-up sort of girl while I'm more of an arms-wide-open type--there is a sort of short hand language when you have that much history, and that is a really good thing.

Like when we met at the airport she said, "Oh, my mom called. Uncle Dick died." There was no need to catch me up or fill in the blanks. We know the same people, in fact we're both related to them.

She is also probably the only friend I have who, after I had discovered that I had forgotten my toothbrush would say, "Have you kissed anyone in the last 5 years that I don't know?...Okay, you can use mine." That is a good friend. Lucky for the germaphobes out there, we were able to find a toothbrush on our shopping spree.

But that wasn't the only thing we were willing to share over the weekend. Nope. We also shared a passion for Sephora, a tendancy to oversleep, a crab and steak dinner, linguini with scallops, and even an order of french fries, which should really tell you about the level of our relationship since I can't even share french fries with my husband.

When you've known a person for so long and have shared as many peaks and valleys as we have there's just a level of trust there. She is probably the only friend I have that would call me into the bathroom mid-bath just to say, "Remember in high school how we thought Jason Thompson was so hot?"

To which I replied, "Yeah, I dated him."

To which she replied, "So did I."

And for the record: He was hot.

She's also a friend who will look out for my best interests and tell me the truth, even when I don't necessarily want to hear it. But she also knows when to zip it. Like when we were headed down to the beach and she begged me to put on my bathing suit. "C'mon! Put on your suit! I'm wearing mine."

"I'm wearing shorts. I don't want to be cold. See, the difference is that you're from Montana and I'm from Arizona. My blood is much thinner." Early March at the beach is generally cool, and since moving to AZ I have a grand aversion to being cold. There was no way I was going to be laying out.

But what do I know? 10 minutes at the beach and I was burning up. "Okay. Give me the room key. I'm going to get my suit."

You know what? She's the kind of friend who didn't even say I told you so, and that is a really good thing.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Universe Has Spoken

Life is full of great coincidences, isn't it? Most of you know that this week I announced my consideration of life without TV for a while. My new blogging friend, EKB, over at The Musings of a Wandering Mind thinks I may be out of mine, but I think the universe is on my side. Because isn't it fascinating that just as I threw that idea out into the world, two days later I randomly picked a happiness podcast to listen to entitled If You Had a Year to Live, and wouldn't you know? Part of his proposed solution for greater happiness and fulfillment was turning off the TV. Can you say coinkidink?

The thing is, I'm not really anti-TV, so don't think I'm pushing a bill for a nationwide ban or anything. It's just that I've fallen into a bad habit lately of non-productivity. The path of least resistance to the couch and remote control is making Laurel a very dull girl, so it is time to shake things up!

This particular Dennis Prager podcast (get it here) was generated by a lecture given by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who is dying of pancreatic cancer. He is feeling really good right now and his lecture was fantastic. (Go here to see as presented on Oprah. It's not the original, but it's more polished the second time around, I think.) Hearing him speak inspires me to think of how I want to spend the limited amount of time we all have on the earth.

In his podcast, Mr. Prager suggests that to find more happiness we all live as if we only had one year left. Actually, I think Tim McGraw suggested it first, but nonetheless, when asking myself what my life would look like in that scenario, I have to admit that my TV watching would be severely limited. It just doesn't rank in the top 10 things I would like to do, so...

I've watched no TV this week. None. Zero. Zilch. And I haven't missed it. Maybe I can thank the writer's strike for that, or maybe it's just because I have: Reconnected with a friend after she got home from a trip. Had my friend Jodi and her family over for a BBQ. Read to Logan longer than usual. Read my own books. Read my scriptures. Organized my closet. Caught up on my laundry. Written some blog posts. And here's the biggie: GONE TO BED EARLIER. And you know what? I'm not tired in the afternoons anymore. I'm diggin' it!

However, that said, some of you made some good points. Like The Office, the summer Olympics. Okay, alright. Maybe I can't completely check out from popular culture. So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to record the shows (and I'm going to be choosy) that I want to watch, and just view them on the weekend. And I'll still get together with our friends on Thursday nights for our Lost parties. So, see EKB? Maybe I haven't completely lost my marbles. Perhaps I'm just searching for a happy balance. We'll see what the universe has to say about it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

As My Next Witness, I Call David McCullough to the Stand

Some bloggers have run into resistance about our hobby, or at least that is what I've gleaned from reading a few posts about the topic. There seems to be a notion that blogging can be a waste of time, unlike basketball, or scrapbooking, or movie watching, gardening, game playing or reading, which are more constructive pastimes...I guess? I mean who is the judge and jury who decides which diversions are more worthwhile than others?

Today I listened to an interview with David McCullough, one of our premiere historians and the author of 1776, who hit on a very interesting point. While discussing his study of the personal letters and diaries of historical figures that make up the majority of his research, he said:

"We don't write letters much anymore, and we don't keep diaries. No politician in our lifetime, I don't think, will ever keep a diary again. And they would really pour themselves out on paper. They would uncover their innermost feelings, their thoughts, worries, anxieties, ambitions, animosities, and particularly if they were writing to someone they particularly cared about or trusted totally. They also were doing something very important which we don't do much anymore, at least among family through correspondence of this kind, and that is the old expression: They were working their thoughts out on paper. We've all had that experience; we're writing a report, or a memo, or a letter, or a book, and suddenly you have an idea, you have an insight that you never would have had if you weren't putting those words down on paper, and that is why it was not just important that they communicate to someone else what they were thinking or feeling, but why it was so important--that act of writing helped them to clarify their thoughts."

That is one of the primary reasons I love blogging. It can be a great form of pondering and meditation. As I struggle to communicate the stresses, struggles, passions, concerns, and feelings regarding a variety of topics, I begin to see them more clearly. I do gain insights into the personal circumstances of my life.

It is too easy in our day and age to run from one activity to the next, full of noise and hurry, without really thinking and examining what is going on around us. Writing gives me time for that.

Even in my silly posts about the nonsense of daily life, documenting those moments makes me more aware of the life I am living. It helps bring what is important to me into focus. As I relive happy moments, I appreciate them more deeply, and as I find a way to laugh at the difficulties, it minimizes them.

Writing is exercise for the brain and food for the soul. I know I am better off because of it. And so to the pastime judge and jury: I rest my case.

Somebody Throw the Switch and Give My Delightful Back!

I am going on record as saying that I used to be delightful. That's right. I was witty, and flexible, and charming, and sort of cute. Then I had kids. Now I find myself saying stuff like: "Just do it! How many times do I have to tell you? Do you like it when Mommy yells? You must because you don't listen until I raise the volume!" And my all time favorite: "Because I told you so!"

I'm no longer witty and charming. And flexible? Hah! Suddenly I know where those little frown lines between the eyes come from.

Don't get me wrong. My kids are my favorite thing in the whole world, and I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing. It's just more demanding than anything I've ever done in my life. There's no off switch. Did you know that?

This morning I was awakened 45 minutes before I had to get out of bed by Griffin, a.k.a. the Mexican Jumping Bean. He crawled into bed with me and proceeded to wiggle until I snarled, "Go downstairs and find Daddy."

"No! I want to sleep with you."

"Then stop wiggling around!"

The stillness lasted only seconds. Bounce, bounce, wiggle, turn...




Cough, cough, cough, cough, wiggle, wiggle, bounce...

"Okay. I'm up!"

So I'm kind of tired, and I have cramps, and I'm a little grumpy, and I just want to know, will I ever get to be delightful again? Ever?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Could I Really Do It?

I've been toying with an idea. A bold, outrageous, trend-busting, totally-not-me, scary idea: I'm thinking of living without TV for a year.

Writing that even makes me shake my head. What you need to know to really understand the ground breaking nature of the idea is that I have always been, and probably always will be, a TV kind of gal. I like it. But lately I've been thinking I'd rather spend my time doing something else, and sadly, at the end of a long day it's just too easy to lie on the couch and get sucked into some mindless program. It reminds me of the magazine ad that shows people standing in front of the grand canyon and, instead of taking in the amazing vista, they are looking at a picture of the grand canyon on a large screen tv. I keep asking myself, am I busy living my life or am I too busy watching other people live theirs? And not even real people at that.

I've already made a deal with our friends that, if I do it, we could watch Lost at their house. I'm not going as far as giving up the best show on television. I haven't completely lost my mind, but I do think that it would be an interesting experiment. Mostly because it kind of makes my stomach flip over with fright.

Now don't hold me to it just yet. Remember, I'm just considering it. But feel free to give me some feedback.