Friday, November 30, 2007

The Best Birthday Present Ever

My friend Kelsey is a notoriously thoughtful creature. The kind who sends thank you notes when you've had a good conversation, postcards from foreign lands, and sweatshirts with logos that double as inside jokes. She is truly a specimen.

We were chatting on google today (my most vicious vice) and I told her it is my birthday right off the bat, because I think it can be pretty rough to find out that kind of thing halfway into a conversation and end up feeling dumb. Five minutes later, she told me she had a present for me. Here it is. I think you all might get a kick out of it. Although, I must admit, I think I more closely resemble the canine model than the Swede.

Thanks Kelsey. You know how to make a girl feel special.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Surnames: a new approach

The other night I drove past the home of my mother's childhood best friend, and, in a fit of automatic-but-unconventional spoonerism, combined her married and maiden surnames (Grunley and Ziegler) into a name I found quite funny: Grunzieg. I noticed that my own names made a pretty good one, too: Amy Peterlee. Then I got to thinking about all of you and noticed that I quite liked some of the names I contrived: Jen Bramberlain, Kristin Quillis, Julie Searson, Missy Warbert, Anna Larbach, Jacki Leeker, Jasmine Van Sanchezenan, Autumn Beardswater. The list goes on, but I will cut to the chase: my mother's...

Jackie Fahrterson!

I think we should have a revolution. No more "taking his name" or "keeping your name" or (heaven's to Betsy, how inconvenient!) hyphenating. Let's get creative and truly unite. Let's marry our names along with our finances and our future. What do you think mom?

If you can think of any other funny ones, please contribute. The comments make me feel alive.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Engagement Pictures

I have always been a little freaked out by my mother's refrigerator, plastered with the gleaming smiles of the soon-to-be-wed, recently-post-pubescent in our extended friend circle. Their shining little mormon faces, brimming with anticipation, in cloroxed glory. I always found them homogeneous (the jury's still out...) and, thus, I did not want any such pictures to be taken at the time of my nuptials. No sir.
What a fool. My rebellious inclination has doomed me to begging photographically inclined family members to take belated engagement pictures for the rest of time (is this the thirteenth circle of hell?), trying to capture our happiness at Life Together and excitement for Our Future.
What I am trying to say is, if we were getting married next month, I think this would be the picture I would choose for your refrigerator. Sorry I didn't send you one two years ago.

Hibernation Station

Something about being back in my parents house resets my internal clock (and, frankly, much of my personality) to the Teenager setting. I don't know what it is, but I find myself sleeping in until noon and neglecting all outside interests and responsibilities, such as visiting dear friends of mine who still live in the area and hemming my pants/eating vegetables/posting on my blog/etc. respectively.

Oh well.

Thanksgiving was lovely (exception: the aforementioned assault of my teenager personality). Everyone did a good job of making food with unmitigated amounts of butter. I personally contributed somewhere in the neighborhood of a pound of butter to the event, disguised as yams (which were excellent) and three botched chocolate decadence cakes (which were [barely] edible). I thought it was the oven, but have since concluded that Williams Sonoma has failed me (a first) and that it was the recipe's fault, so don't make it. It looks good; don't be fooled. I should have known better than to make a dessert that contains two measley tablespoons of sugar.

Oh well.

Ryan made good cauliflower that involved cheese and mayonnaise and I suspect contributed to my postprandeal angina.
Interestingly, the Paradise Pumpkin Pie (please excuse embarrassing name) that I made in an effort to use up the last of the Thanksgiving accoutrements was really good, despite its more humble origins than its decadent predecessors. I made it on a whim and, although it had all the chicness of it Village Inn impersonators, people seemed to really like it. I guess you never know.

Being here in the late autumn makes me homesick. I love the way the gray skies light up the trees; fortunately the late summer meant I arrived just in time to bid farewell to the colors. Utah is nice and everything, but there's no place like home.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Someone Who Cares

In one of the many videos my father dutifully filmed of my siblings' and my childhood, a tender moment is caught between my brother, aged four, and my sister, aged sitting-in-a-high-chair. Her little blonde head is meandering around, spastically watching some, possibly nonexistent, thing. He is hovering over her, clearly caught in a moment of intense emotion, holding a bowl of rice chex and desperately trying to shove plastic-covered-spoonfuls into her mouth. It's the dialogue that really makes the shot priceless. He insistently repeats, "It's hard to find someone who cares! It's just so hard to find someone who cares!" Indeed it is, little David, indeed it is. Hard to find someone who cares enough to feed you something of great value while you sit in a high-chair lolling your head around, distracted by nothing at all.

I, however, have found someone who cares. Boy does she care. My pal Ash CARES.

Tomorrow is the International Day of Action Against Big Box Stores and Ash, who believes in the good of mankind and hope for our future, has planned a parade in its honor. I will be unable to attend the parade, which I find horrifying and obscene, because I will be in my last day of Rape Crisis training, but you should go! It will be fun! There will be a float!

Do it for Ash; be someone who cares.

P.S. If you don't know why Big Box Stores are a bad idea, here's a good explanation

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Many Faces of Robert Plant

I haven't given too much thought to Robert Plant lately, until I was pleasantly greeted on NPR a few days ago by the recent compilation he made with Alison Krauss: Raising Sand. The clips I heard were soulful and beautiful; a definite departure from the variety of soul with which Plant is typically associated, but sweet and lovely nonetheless. I drifted into the nice smooshie coziness of driving with the heat on and beautiful music playing, and determined I would obtain the album by any means necessary.

Upon further inspection, I don't care for the entire album, but what I like I like a great deal. May I recommend tracks 2, 6 and 13--you can hear them for free on the site.

Perusal of the website provided not just a musical Robert Plant update, but a photographic update as well. I was content to retain my visage of Robert Plant as the fellow depicted above; a sex-symbol rock star and a tragic victim of the associated lifestyle. I presumed he had dropped off the face of the earth, literally or figuratively, never to be seen again. But there he was, a little scary but alive and well. I guess I'm glad to see the years of debauchery and abuse haven't stopped him from showing up with a pretty girl on his arm.

A Cry for Help

My reasons for creating this blog were twofold:

1) In the interest of my grandmother, who doubtless reads my haphazard missives at her many brunches, lunches, and teas
2) In order to avoid constructing a Curriculum Vitae

I do not know about the first, but my second objective has been met most successfully. I have not typed one syllable into anything resembling a vita. However, when I woke up this morning I realized that my nonexistent vita is due in precisely one calendar month; without it my application to grad school will be incomplete, my dreams dashed, and my future as a helpless destitute ensured.

If anyone has a penchant for writing CVs and could point me in the right direction, I'd be most obliged.

Nuff Said

Monday, November 12, 2007


This year, fortunate for me, Veteran's Day, once called Armistice Day, fell on a Sunday. This meant a rare but notable occasion to sing patriotic hymns during a month that is not July. I quite like the verve of these hymns, so when I recognized our collective good luck, I was visibly excited.

Topping off the list was the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! My favorite. And, this time, there was an extra glimmer of anticipation. You see, we currently attend church with a congregation that is most colorful. Boasting a wide range of refugees, a group that comes in a van provided for those who need assistance, and young couples straight-outta-b-y-u, we are truly a motley bunch. When you're a member of a large social group, especially one of this caliber, you're gonna have a couple favorites, and I found my Number One on the Sunday preceding the fourth of July. Leopard-print clad, with glittering sequined high-heels and a broad headband worn Rambo-style over a hairstyle that can probably be best described as a Flat Top, I knew she was right for me at once. Pure Pulchritude. The line-up of hymns that Sunday included all the biggies: My Country Tis of Thee, America the Beautiful, and, of course, my precious Battle Hymn.

During the first two songs it was impossible not to notice that one voice stood out about the rest in our congregational canticle. Loud and strong and pleasingly off-pitch, it was so significantly greater in volume than the sum of the other hundred-plus voices that folks were craning their necks to find its source. I myself craned, I'll admit. Really, it was such a scene that to scan the crowd was perfectly appropriate. Not surprisingly, the songbird was my own true Flat Top.

Finally, the closing hymn: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored...". It was positively deafening. I am of no timid voice, and, upon all I hold dear, I promise you I could not hear myself one little bit. I couldn't hear anyone else either, for that matter. Flat Top's truth was marching on. When we reached the refrain of the final verse she treated us with an impromptu descant. I cannot emphasize enough the emotional impact of her choice. I thought I would laugh, or cry, or die, maybe all three, but, oh my heaven, that clarion call was not one I'd soon forget. Glory Hallelujah. Yes Ma'am.

When I saw the Battle Hymn on yesterday's line-up I knew the question on my mind was the same as on everybody else's: Would it be the same? Would she sing with full intent to deafen? Would Flat Top sing her descant?

She sure did, with all the fervor of the patriotic season. This time I didn't hold back. I laughed. I cried. It was transcendent. I hope that all veteran's present, in this life or beyond, felt duly thanked and, more importantly, celebrated.

Volunteering: It's not just for rich housewives anymore.

I have had the very, very good fortune to think of something constructive and, dare I say, meaningful, to do with my time. Salt Lake City hosts a fabulous organization called the Rape Recovery Center and, thankfully, they have opportunities for volunteers. The only requirement for volunteers is participating in a 40 hour training which sounds onerous, but doesn't feel it. The center offers counseling services to sexual assault victims which probably, when defined generously, includes just about all of us. The first half of the training has been highly informative; the staff is impressive. Volunteers are able to answer calls on the crisis line, advocate for victims as part of a hospital response team, and assist with community outreach programs. I would be delighted to do any of these, but the hospital response team is really calling my name. I'll let you know.

Being back in a classroom has been sublime. I forgot how much I love sitting around and listening to experts fill me in on the meat of a subject without having to sift through all the chaff myself. I am engaged by the material, enamored of the speakers, and there are no grades, so, really, it's better than most school.

One topic of unique interest to me is the myths that circulate about rape. While nobody with a soul would say rape is an appropriate punishment for a crime (at least, I don't think anyone with a soul would say that...) it is common to think that victims bear some responsibility when they are assaulted. Whether they were in the wrong place, with the wrong people, or wearing the wrong outfit, the culpability is never the victim's. Of course it isn't: who would assert such harsh repercussions for wearing a miniskirt and drinking a beer? Having fraternized heavily with a culture that promotes good clean fun and has been known to judge harshly those whose fun is less clean, I have heard many express assignment of blame to victims with undertones ranging from confused sadness, presumably about the poor victim's poor choices that landed her in a mess, to genuinely malignant. Let us be clear about one thing: it takes a rapist for a rape to happen.

A second myth I find perhaps even more disturbing is the conflation of sexual violence and just plain sex. Let us be clear about another thing: sex and violence have not one thing to do with one another. I recall one uniquely distressing occasion when in a predominantly male gathering, I heard one fellow spout that he thought is was "messed up that some guys just don't control themselves", insinuating that the drive to rape is in any way connected with the innate and delightful drive for sex. I felt outraged; violated by his insinuation. How terrible to think that men who find you appealing are disinclined to rape you because they are exercising their self-control, rather than resting assured that your disinterest would, however disappointedly, inevitably result in theirs. I take issue with this myth particularly with regard to marital rape, or pressure for sex. I have heard women remark all too often that they acquiesce rather than participate; in other words her disinterest in sex (for whatever reason) does not curb his interest. How tragic for these women to live with the knowledge that his desire is for something quite different from her happiness. What lonely hell.

I am pleased for the education I have received at the Rape Recovery Center and elsewhere that empowers me beyond such degrading suppositions.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Armenian Apricot Soup

I am now going to blog about food, although this was not my original blog-tention, because tonight's dinner was good, with all that implies. In order for me to pawn any recipe off to others it must pass a few tests:

1) It must be nutritious enough that if you feed it to your young, vulnerable children I can still sleep at night.
2) It must be good tasting enough that I have a genuine intention to eat the leftovers.
3) It must be simple enough that it is possible an average person could have all the required ingredients and gadgets in their kitchen simulteneously.

Now that you know the criteria, please feel obligated to pass along (to me!) all recipes that meet them.

This recipe passed the three tests. It promotes health, tastes exotically yet heartily autumnal (it looks it too, if you can't tell from the blurry picture- sorry), and was easy to make and clean up. It does require one ingredient I consider unusual: red lentils. However, I was lucky enough to have some lying around and that I was eager to use up, although now that I have a good use for red lentils, I may keep some on hand more often.

I pilfered the recipe from this website but it was originally created by this fellow, who I find appealing enough that I signed up for his newsletter.

Soup is great all the time, but especially as the weather gets cool (glory be!). I hope you like it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tuesdays are Awful

I have a spouse who I really like. I've always really liked him, right from the get-go. But on Tuesdays, I have no spouse at all. Whose big idea was it for him to have classes from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.? Whose Big Idea???

Now, I don't mean to complain, but the life of a childless housewife can get a little dreary with no spouse. Today, for example, I went to a step class, figured out why our rent was deducted four times this month instead of one, called my insurance company to find out why my pap smear wasn't covered, ate some healthy (bor-ing!) food , unloaded the dishwasher, folded the laundry and blogged. I never saw it coming, but I am a real grown-up, pap smears, salads and all. Not sure how I feel about that. At least i didn't make the bed.

I'm sure this sounds like a walk in the park to all you busy folks, but if it were you, you'd be dying too.

Ryan has just one more semester of school, but then I will be in school..he will be at work...maybe a kid will happen...I guess life isn't about being able to hang out with your best friend all day every day (you couldn't have convinced me otherwise for a good while, I'm sure most of you remember, you best friends, you), but on Tuesdays, it sure feels like it should be.

Honey Bucket

It's a big deal; I have decided to upgrade. After seven years of loyal service with T-Mobile I decided to take them up on their offer to send me a free phone (a $200 value!) . I will miss this sturdy phone, although I will not miss the decorative message I etched into it's plastic shell one day while bored at work:

It's an excerpt from J-Lo's hit single, Jenny from the Block. I can't for the life of me recall why I used the engraver at Dressed in White to carve it into my phone, but my guess is it was pretty funny at the time.

Anyway, I have been experiencing a bit of hesitation, feeling that a new phone with bells and whistles (current phone has neither) might be over my head. To exacerbate my concerns, today on my way home from the supermarket, I was listening to a show on NPR about how multi-tasking makes for shoddy-tasking. The guest indicated that gadgets intended to facilitate multi-tasking, such as camera phones, were undesirable.

Just as I was listening to his protest, I saw the something that could warrant the installation of cameras in phones all by itself: a Honey Bucket truck. Honey Bucket, for those not in the know (I was one of you just an hour ago) is a Portable toilet company. The truck was a giant silver silo of, presumably, raw sewage, emblazoned with the company's disgustingly funny logo. There was a port-o-toilet strapped onto the silo, also bearing the logo. At that moment, I fervently wished I had a camera on my phone, because Ryan needed to know about this gross thing, and sending a text is just not nearly as funny as sending a picture. Oh, well. I sent the text.

Thankfully, Google Images contained several adequate photos of Honey Bucket paraphernalia, so I am able to increase the emotional impact of this post with a picture. More thankfully, my phone replacement should be arriving any day now.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Drumroll please...

she was a freudian slip. it was the cleverest costume i had ever heard of.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The morning after

Well, well, well. What have we here? It seems to be a nearly demolished bag of Halloween candy! It couldn't be that this motherlode of candy was consumed by Amy, not after her ceaseless preaching of her own nutrition-savvy? Not after she has done so much research she can spell diabetes sideways and has sworn to get her jollies from cucumbers forevermore? Not when she insisted that waiters bring the steamed broccoli with no salt or she would call the management?

Could it?

This, my dear friends, is the result of every grown-up lady's worst nightmare and fondest wish: that the kid inside is occasionally, if uncontrollably, very much in charge.

This morning after I dropped off my sweet salad-grubbing husband off at school, I thought I would run some of those errands I neglected to run yesterday. So I stopped at the grocery store. It was only seven-fifteen a.m., so things still had that cozy early-morningness to them, and I planned to grab some cilantro and cashews and head home to make some min-e-ve-gan-stro-ne. However, when I entered the store, my senses, and sensibilities, were assaulted. Bags of candy for 79 cents each. I assure you, I have never bought a bag of candy in my life but, for some reason, this was a bargain I could not pass up. I bought a BAG of CANDY and ate it for BREAKFAST. Sick.

Not all of it. But, by my calculations, 970 calories worth. I was appalled. You should be too. Just under One Thousand Calories of Nothing.

I guess I should eat some humble pie, on account of my oft-pontification. Or, better yet, make it a humble salad.

Halloween: a day like any other

Children love Halloween. Once people get older, somehow it becomes a day when it's acceptable to dress like a hooker (disguised as a nurse, devil, bunny, schoolteacher, you name it, those hooker costumes take all kinds) but for kids it is a day of fun and fancy, to plan and create a costume where, just for one day, everything is weird and that makes it special. Also, there is candy. You have already heard all about that, though, so we will move on. Well, I decided that Halloween was going to be a grand old time this year for me too. Why should kids get to have all the fun? I woke up, eager to put on my costume and spend the day feeling festive. But my to-do list waits for no man, so i was off, in my pumpkin sack, to the gym.

Ok, I took off the suit before I got all sweaty, but I definitely wore it in there and, not surprisingly, I turned a few heads. The only other people wearing costumes were under age five. I guess grown-ups don't get to wear fun costumes all day, although I did hear that my friend Kate's mother, a prosecuting attorney, wore a witch hat in court. So perhaps there is hope yet. I planned to wear my costume all day and do several errands, but then I accidentally made cupcakes instead so I didn't get as much publicity (or as many photos) as I would have liked. They weren't even pumpkin cupcakes, they were carrot. And they weren't that good. Oops.

In the evening I went to a party at Sophie's house (pretty girl in the middle). Her whole family seemed to think that Halloween was really important, which I appreciated. So did Kate and Neil (visit them at!).

In case you can't instantly tell, they are dressed as Southern California, which I thought, though irreverent, was genius, and finely executed. My favorite costume was this girl I didn't know:

Can you tell what she is? Leave a comment if you figure it out (not if you already know, because that's cheating) and I'll tell you tomorrow.

Happy Birthday!

The marvelous individual who became my best friend when I was five turns twenty five today (Happy Birthday to you!). I was present for the birth of her first child, which was a great honor and privilege. She lives in Hawaii now, so I was unable to attend the birth of her second beautiful daughter (smiling above), which I consider a uniquely great tragedy as the baby was born at home so I probably could have actually been of some use. She had planned to deliver in a hospital with a midwife, and determined that she would labor at home until she perceived that she couldn't "take it" anymore, at which point she would transfer to the hospital. I spoke with her on the phone briefly a few hours before she delivered the baby and could tell in her voice that things were progressing well. The next time we spoke, she reported to me on the rest of the story:

"I was doing fine, really, but labor became so intense all of a sudden that I knew I would not be driving anywhere. When the time came, I ripped off my pants, squatted down, and pushed the baby out in the kitchen, simple as that."

I think she depicted the scene with panache.

Her husband calmly caught the baby, and the two of them watched while their new daughter peacefully breastfed for her first time as though she had been doing it forever. *sigh*

The interesting part, for me, has been observing how different things are, parenting-wise, with the second baby. Whereas breastfeeding the first was nothing short of hell on earth, breastfeeding the second has not caused a moment's discomfort. My friend has become an avid Attachment Parent and has experienced what can only be described as the pure joy of motherhood. I saw her recently and her whole family was positively radiant.

I have seen enough births to know that no two are the same. I have seen many friends who made informed, responsible choices about their births end up with birth experiences that were disappointing at best, including the friend who inspired this post. I advocate for all women to really do the research and find out how safe home birth is before categorically rejecting the idea. I have never given birth and am, therefore, admittedly no expert, but I have done my homework and I really believe in the possibility of birth beyond what many consider possible. My favorite book on the subject is Ina May's guide to Childbirth, which I would heartily recommend to everyone.

On her birthday, my friend sent me a gift (this is a good kind of friend to have). I received this video in my inbox this morning. I liked it and so, since I know she'd want me to share it with anyone who might not know about the safe and potentially magical experience of home birth, I am posting it. I will admit that it made me cry. Kind of hard.

Please never amputate viable body parts; take the time to learn the truth about circumcision.

Happy Birthday one and all!