Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Journey Home

I love Edward Abbey. I feel the heat and solitude of the desert soaking into my skin as I read his words. I savor the sun on my face and hear the wind pulling my hair. Listen as he describes Death Valley in summertime:

The glare is stunning. Yet also exciting, even exhilarating--a world of light. The air seems not clear like glass but colored, a transparent, tinted medium, golden toward the sun, smoke-blue in the shadows. The colors come, it appears, not simply from the background, but are actually present in the air itself--a vigintillion microscopic particles of dust reflecting the sky, the sand, the iron hills.

While my politics are a bit more moderate than his, I actually like people for example, I also can understand his call to wilderness, not just in the desert, but in our daily lives. He reminds us that the Parks are not parks, they should be an enter at your own risk place. Life is a grand chaotic mess and glorious in that mess. The part of me that chafes at the rules and laws that proliferate in a large state (I've lived in Texas and California, they are both trying to control their populations, just pretending to have different motives.) loves this paragraph:

The permissive society? What else? I love America because it is a confused chaotic mess--and I hope we can keep it this way for at least another thousand years.  The permissive society is the free society, the open society. Who gave us permission to live this way? Nobody did. We did. And that's the way it should be--only more so. The best cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy. (Italics in the original)

We shouldn't always have to ask permission. Yes, I understand why we have licenses and taxes and admission fees and no trespassing signs, yet so much of our life is asking permission for things that are regulated just for the sake of someone in government having a job and some trace of power.

No entrance fee here, just beauty.

Anyway.  Moving on to the real reason I love Abbey. This is how he feels about the mountains:

A taste of mountains. I could not say I had come to know them in any significant way.  All I had learned was something about myself. I had discovered that I am the kind of person who cannot live comfortably, tolerably, on all-flat terrain. For the sake of inner equilibrium there has to be at least one mountain range on at least one of the four quarters of my horizon--not more than a day's walk away.
The view from my front window in Moab

A few more quotes:
From these rocks struck once by lightening gushed springs that turned to blood, flesh,life. Impossible miracle. And I am struck once again by the unutterable beauty, terror, and strangeness of everything we think we know.

Near the summit I found an arrow sign, three feet long, formed of stones and pointing off into the north toward those same old purple vistas, so grand, immense, and mysterious, of more canyons, more mesas and plateaus, more mountains, more cloud-dappled sun-spangled leagues of desert sand and desert rock, under the same old wide and aching sky.

I could never express it so well. That is why I read Edward Abbey.

The Journey Home. Edward Abbey. 1977. Dutton Press.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Calico Chili

I have written about my love for Bountiful Baskets before. I haven't written about my love for vegetables because I am still working on that, not sure it will ever come.  But I do have a few recipes that make me feel like super-awesome healthy mom. This calico chili recipe is one of them. I made it tonight and my 6 yr old asked for more, both my teenagers said how good it was and everyone finished their dinner. I win!

Mine doesn't look like this. Close enough.
Calico Chili

1 can chick-peas
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1/3 cup water
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 large onions, chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes (I left these out this time because I didn't have any, it tasted fine)
1 cup chopped red cabbage
1 cup chopped regular cabbage
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms, or one can
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
6 cups chicken broth
1 small can tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp chili powder (I just use a sprinkle because my children are wimps)
1/4 cup diced green chili peppers (optional, see above)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Pour water, oil and vinegar in a large pot.  Add onions and saute until soft, about 8 minutes. Add all the veggies and saute a few minutes more. Add everything else, let simmer for an hour.

I got the original recipe from Prevention's Low-Fat, Low-Cost Cookbook, 1997, Rodale Press. I have no idea if this is still available anywhere, I got it from a used book store more than ten years ago. It is a great book.  I did take some liberties with the recipe, for example, using canned beans instead of dried. I also use tomato sauce instead of paste and add more water.

So I also made breadsticks to go with our healthy dinner. It did knock the healthy quotient down a bit, but they were yummy.

My fridge is very bare, I am glad the Bountiful Baskets pick up is tomorrow. Then I can plan a new round of yummy dinners.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Memory of Light

I started reading this series of books in a difficult point in my life.  I had quit working because of an illness that turned out to be severe depression. I couldn't work, I spent most of the day in bed. After being introduced to therapy and prozac I felt much better, but had a hard time finding a new job.  While I was trying to find things for my newly energized self to do, a friend gave me the first four books of the Wheel of Time series. I blazed through them in three days, then went to the library to get the next two. According to Goodreads that is 4864 pages.  I read them in a week. 

I seem to remember reading one, straight through, sleeping, then starting the next one.  Food may have happened, but I can't really be sure. I started talking about the characters as if they were real (I still do sometimes). I dreamt about them. I couldn't stop thinking about these books. It was slightly scary. It was probably more scary for my roommates.

For our first Christmas together my sweet husband sold his soul (temporarily) to the Book of the Month club so he could get me the first seven books in hard cover. I still have all but one of them. For many years I would read all of them when a new book came out.

When the author announced that he was very ill with cardiac amyloidosis I began following a blog for the first time in my life. When he died I cried for a man I had never met and wouldn't know on the street.

Later it was announced that Brandon Sanderson, an author I had never heard of, would be writing the last book of the series. I immediately looked up what he had written and started in. He was LDS, teaching creative writing at my alma mater, BYU. I shared his Alcatraz series with my children. We own all of his books.

Through Sanderson's works, and his blog, I became aware of other writers: Dan Wells, Howard Taylor, Patrick RothfussMary Robinette Kowal and many others. I learned of Writing Excuses, which is the best podcast I've ever heard, as well as the best motivator to write. Even for slackers like me who really don't intend on writing fiction anytime soon.

I've shared all of these things with my husband, my children and anyone who will let me talk about books with them. My brain will forever be in debt to the man from Charleston, South Carolina.

That is my story of the series. The end was amazing.  The criticism of A Memory of Light was similar to that of The Hobbit movie; too long, too rambling, disjointed and blah blah blah. I don't care. I loved them both. I read this book in two days, while still managing to feed my family.  I bawled like a baby. It was a sweet farewell to something I have kept in my mind for  sixteen years.

With all of this background I am not sure I can give a real review. Every part relates back to the other books.  All of my memories are intertwined with my own experiences through them. I nursed babies, let toddlers climb on me, cooked dinner and talked with my husband while reading this series. They have probably influenced my opinions and thoughts on many subjects in ways I don't even realize.

But the one thing that I keep thinking about, more than two months after I finished is the solidarity of the characters of the books. In most epic fantasy, the hero goes off to save the world and does so alone. Sometimes there is a small team, or even an army, but what is the rest of the world doing? Do they even know that their existence is in danger?

That doesn't happen in this book. Everyone can see the signs, the world is coming apart in easily visible and understandable ways.  Food rots in the blink of an eye, ghosts wander and the world decays and no one can pretend or look away.

So the last battle isn't just the hero's battle. Everyone who can come is a part of it. In the beginning of previous books we see people leaving their homes, knowing that this is everyone's fight and they need to be a part of it.

The battle is most of the book. It truly is the Last Battle. In this fight of good vs. evil everyone has a stake in the game. There are small characters from the beginning of the series, fighting and dieing. Those sworn not to fight still care for the injured. Those who have no skill in fighting bring food and supplies, send messages, wash bandages. This is the world's fight and all who value good come to help.

That is not to say everyone is abandoning self-interest. There is still politics and maneuvering for power. There are still those who loot the bodies or go over to the other side. But the universality of the struggle was powerful in a completely unexpected way.


The themes of fantasy are ideas that many think of as old fashioned: good vs. evil, the hero fighting for right, courage and honor. When the only one fighting is a knight with a sword facing some black-robed sorcerer it is easy to dismiss these ideas.  When an author gives you the image of entire villages coming to fight, men, women and children. Of a woman leaving her best pots to a neighbor so she can go. Of farmers bringing every animal they have, because if the wool isn't needed, the meat will be. Regular people are easier to relate to than some fantastical hero. Or so we are told.

I could see our world, our fight of good vs. evil. Those who would destroy our world don't wear black or cackle.  They convince us we can't do anything. They tell us those with whom we disagree are bad and compromise is the last refuge of the coward. They tell us everything is fine. They convince us that only the heroes can help, so it is OK to watch evil and do nothing. They spread ignorance and complacency over our minds like a blanket. Then tie it tight with fear and violence.

But even as it is easy to see the cracks and decay in our own world it is easy to go out and fight. We don't have to leave everything behind and fight horrible monsters. Really all we need to do is expand our awareness a little. Volunteer -- anywhere -- if we all gave a few hours a month, so much good would happen.  Read something from the opposite political view. It might make you angry but it might make you think. Smile to others when you are in Walmart. Get outside yourself just a little and you are fighting the battle. No sword necessary.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Great Man

I just spent a marvelous few days on a getaway with my husband. And since I can, I am going to brag about him a little bit. Let me explain my wonderful husband. No, is too much, let me sum up:

We got married very quickly. We dated for four weeks and got married three and a half months later. The whole story is a bit complicated but it was inspiration the whole way.

During this time and after I have joked that the Lord picked us up by the scruff of our necks and said "Get married!" What is more impressive is that neither of us reacted by running the other direction. He was (and is) amazingly handsome, so I wasn't going anywhere. Not sure of his reason for staying though.

We have been married for just over 15 years now.  We had 6 kids in 11 years.  We lost twins in stillbirth.  We have moved 8 1/2 times and lived in 6 states (if you count Moab as a different state than Provo, which it totally is, metaphysically speaking). We've only had four cars in that time, two of which we still own.

How do you determine a successful marriage or a good husband? The numbers are great. But they can't document the other important things. He was with me for the birth of all the babies, including the two we didn't get to take home.  He stays up with the toddler who had a late nap and now thinks that bedtime is midnight.  He knows about my fast food habit and doesn't say a thing.  He talks to my hysterical pre-teen until she can sleep, never being impatient with her fears. He does the dishes and is teaching my children to do a good job when they do them.

He says I look good when I haven't brushed my hair all day. He holds me when I just need to cry. He eats everything I cook, even when an new recipe isn't quite what I expected. He was patient with my emotional response to budgeting, waiting until I was ready to work hard on it. He bought me a new wedding ring after I lost mine in the move to San Antonio, even though I don't think he truly understands why it is important.

So, I am completely in love with a wonderful man. I am blessed beyond my ability to explain. I am constantly aware of the blessing of family that I have been given.

Look, aren't they cute?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Picture catch-up

The winter months are always crazy. Here are some pictures to catch up the important events of the past three months.

We had one very blurry birthday: 

But at least it had good cake:

Then there was Christmas, of course:

And another birthday, which I somehow forgot to get a picture of, so here is one of the birthday boy doing something else:

And yet another birthday:

Which was quickly followed by a baptism:

Add in one more birthday:

Two school performances:

And a busy little brother:

And we're exhausted:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Busy busy

Wednesday was incredible. This is a quick summary of my day: Children are numbered in birth order, additions by initials.

6:45 - Get kids 1-5 ready for school
7:30 - Take them
8:00 - Get myself ready, #6 ready.
9:15 - #6 to babysitter
10:00 - Important school interview for #1.
11:15 - Get #6 from babysitter
11:30 - Get J (four yr old I tend some mornings) from preschool.
12:00 - Home in time for lunch. Feed everyone at home #1, #6 amd J.
12:30 - Check bank balance, send emails, pay a bill: online stuff.
1:00 - Early out day #3, #4, #5 + N (neightbor girl, waits for older brother at our house) come home from school.
1:05 - Snacks demanded and provided.
1:20 - J. goes home.
1:30 - N goes home.
1:35 - Go to library.
2:00 - Pick up #2. Take him home.
2:15 - Parent teacher conference for #3 & #4.
3:15 - Call kids to be waiting when I drive up, take #1, #3 & #4 to piano lessons.
3:45 - Pick up Scout shirt for #1.
4:00 - Take shirt home and sew scout merit badges
5:00 - Pick up kids from piano
5:30 - Home again, iron shirts for scouts, get everyone ready
6:00 - Blue & Gold banquet (continue sewing badges during banquet).
7:00 - Court of Honor for #1 and #2.
8:00 -Kid bedtime
8:30 - Husband goes to basketball.
9:00-11:00 - Toddler bedtime (this takes a very long time lately)

Tired yet? I sure was. I hate Wednesdays.