Sunday, January 27, 2013

Drinks: The New Mormon Frontier

When I was a senior in high school, our church had a youth dance with a 50s theme. My brother and I thought it would be cool to go as "rebels without a cause."

We tried finding some candy cigarettes that we could roll up in our sleeves, but the store didn't carry them anymore. So we made our own fake cigarettes and rolled them in our sleeves.

As soon as we walked into the church house, our mother, who was the stake young women's president, saw our fake cigarettes and yanked us by our ears outside.

She made us throw away our fake cigarettes and gave us a lecture about the appearance of evil. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Didn't really listen. I was being all rebellious and what not. Rockin' and rollin'.

Fast forward 18 years or more and I have a confession to make from this Mormon woman: drinking fancy alcohol drinks looks appealing. Well, not really, but the idea of having a plethora of a whole bunch of different drinks to go with different food, that sounds cool.

I've blogged before about Kulani's dinner parties. They're a highlight of his life. The only thing we ask others to bring are drinks.

This time he asked people to bring "inconvenience drinks" to go with our theme dinner: inconvenience food.

Our dinner guests brought it big time. These drinks were special. Super special. Not special in the alcoholic sense, but special in the "Oh look at us. We're laughing and enjoying these swanky drinks. Perhaps Don Draper would like to join our party."

I think Mormons are thought of in the public-at-large as boring, mostly because we don't drink alcohol. Saturday Night Live recently lampooned Mitt Romney's presidential loss by showing him drinking quart after quart of milk to drown his sorrows. Milk: just not that sexy.

So perhaps there is a market for making sexy Mormon-friendly drinks. After last night, I'd say yes.

Our guests brought drinks I'd never heard of. Ginger beer and fermented orange drink. Amazing.

And one guest, Andy and Simy Gartz of Slab fame, even made some homemade "moonshine." They made two flavors that were out-of-this-world amazing. One was a tangerine/orange vanilla syrup that you added to soda water. And the other flavor included habanaro peppers and it would burn your throat and lips. It almost felt like perhaps I was drinking alcohol.

Rest at ease. I don't really see the likes of Don Draper dropping by a Mormon party anytime soon. But perhaps a few more of us will appear a little less like Donny Osmond and more like...Brandon Flowers? Give that guy an Italian imported San Pellegrino Arianciata or a micro brewed organic fruit seltzer!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Guileless Fred Anderson

I don't travel to Idaho as often as I'd like, but I found myself traveling there last week for the funeral of my best friend's father, Fred Clinton Anderson.

This was the picture of him included in his obituary:

Fred was also one of my former employers; our personal chauffeur; my water skiing instructor; stand-in for school projects; ward clerk; and part of a dying breed of humans who knew how to do just about everything.

I'm really sad that Fred is gone, sadder than I thought I would be. Fred lived a good life and lived to a good age of 78. But the older I get, the younger 78 seems, and I'm really sad Fred isn't on this earth any longer.

His oldest son Joel gave a beautiful talk at the funeral about his dad's life, and one of the things he said was how his family was trying to remember all the good times they had with their dad and be grateful for the time they shared with him, rather than be bitter about his passing.

I'd like to do the same with this blog post.

Fred had a large dry-wheat farm just outside Cassia County in Sublett, Idaho. It was approximately 20 miles from the Utah border, and about 45 minutes from my home town of Heyburn. He grew up in north Cache County Utah, married a girl also from north Cache County, and graduated from Utah State University in industrial design.

Fred moved his family to Heyburn with the intent of teaching school in the winter and farming in the summer, so he found a teaching job in Rupert, Idaho, and moved his family to a home in Heyburn. Teaching school and farming proved to be too hard to balance, so Fred gave up his teaching job, but kept his family in Heyburn.

I'll be forever grateful for that, because that's where I met my best friend Keri. She was born exactly 18 days before me, and we like to joke that we were friends in the womb. Her parents were in my parents ward. I sometimes like to think that maybe our families were old friends back in the old country of Denmark.

Keri was the baby of the family by quite a ways. Her older brother was five years older than her, and the next oldest sibling to her brother was nine years older than her. The Andersons had five children in all: Joel, Julie, Jaime, Cory, and Keri.

Since Fred wasn't as busy in the winter, he would often take me and Keri around to anywhere we wanted to go. He'd drive us to the bowling alley, skating rink, store, movies. We'd usually stay for a good three or four hours, then we'd call Fred to come pick us up.

I remember once I was going through a "my hair has to be perfect" phase. Keri and I were planning on going bowling one Saturday, and I was trying to do my bangs "just so." This was the late 80's,  afterall, and a girl's bangs were important: not ratted too high, but not too little either.  Fred pulled up, and Keri ran in to get me.

"Just a minute," I said, as I continued curling, ratting, hair spraying, curling again, ratting again, etc. I think I made Fred wait in that car for a good 15 minutes. Finally Fred came into the house to see what was the hold up. It dawned on me he had been waiting all that time in the car. Sheepishly, I walked out to the car. Today I try to think of Fred calmly waiting when I see my 9-year-old daughter has entered the "my hair must be perfect" phase, and redoes her ponytail for the 400th time. (The other day we were driving somewhere and the first thing she asked as she was getting out of the car was, "How does my hair look?" Oh, how what goes around come around.)

Fred bought a boat when we were around the age of 12. He would take us out boating and patiently try to teach us to waterski. The first time I actually got up on skis was behind Fred's boat. One time the town of Heyburn hosted a "boat parade." We all went down to the boatdocks to be on Fred's boat for the boat parade.

I think Fred brought a few baloons to decorate the boat. Only two boats showed up for the boat parade: Fred's and another person's. We still went through with it, though. As we passed under the bridge that spans the Snake River from Heyburn to Burley, cars were pulled over and people were lined up to watch the boat parade. I'm pretty sure they were all sorry they wasted time to witness the event.

We all laughed, and were also slighlty embarrassed. Fred was probably laughing the hardest, but he didn't care. He was determined to have a good time with his family and friends.

When we were in ninth grade, Keri and our friend Jana decided to make a movie for their Romeo and Juliet project. They decided they would film an episode of Sally Jessy Raphael (a talk show on TV with highly intellectual subjects such as, "My mom thinks my husband is a loser for being a male stripper"). We chose Sally Jessy Raphael because Carol, another one of our friends, could kind-of look like her. Sally Jessy's guest would be Juliet (played by Jana), her mom (played by me), and Romeo's mom, played by Keri. During the show we'd film flashbacks of Jana and Romeo (played by one of the Crockett boys, who were my neighbors).

In one of the flashback scenes, Juliet is at a dance with Paris. We needed an older gentleman to play Paris. Fred happened to be home, so we asked him. He played the part perfectly, bowing with a fur-type German hat, and dancing with Jana, who appeared bored to tears.

Fred loved to work with wood. I have many things made from wood by Fred, and then Keri would later paint the pieces and give them as Christmas or birthday presents. They were handmade and heartfelt. For graduation, Fred made each of the graduates a wooden recipe box. For another school project that Keri and I did for science class, Fred made us a wooden replica of a cow.

Keri has since continued Fred's love of woodworking and has made whole beds for her girls. I'm sure her dad was proud.

One summer Fred hired us to work on his wheat farm. He had a mobile home on his farm with three bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and satellite TV. We were so excited to be there. We slept in one of the rooms that night, and woke up early to work on the farm.

We started with a great breakfast including orange juice, pancakes, and eggs. We'd tell ourselves, "We've got to eat a lot of food to have strength to work on the farm."

Then we drove out to the wheat fields, each of us armed with a scythe. In wheat farming, you walk miles to cut down any rye growing within the wheat. Rye grows taller than wheat, so you can spot it fairly easily. Lots of rye with wheat brings the price and quality of the wheat down, is what Fred taught us. Fred worked right along side of us; always there to point out a rye poking out of the wheat. We started out like gang busters, but as we kept walking, we grew less enthusiastic.

We also became super thirsty. We didn't think to carry water bottles with us. We'd try to make it more difficult by thinking up all the things that make one super thirsty. Dry baked potato. Bag of salty chips. Ice cream. We thought it would make drinking water again taste that much better.

When we finally made it back to the mobile home, and after we had our water, Fred took us outside and showed us how to shoot a handgun. Say what you will, but it was really fun. And then he let us drive on the four-wheeler for a little bit. Then it was back out to pick rye.

I don't remember if he ever had us out a second time, or maybe we got too busy to make it out another summer. I'm not sure how great of workers we were. We dreamed of one day taking over Keri's farm and turning it into a youth ranch for juvenile delinquents.

Keri wanted to have a professional picture of her in the wheat field with her dad. I don't think she ever got that chance.

Fred was known as the guy in the neighborhood who would do anything for anyone. I think if ever there was a Christenson family emergency, it was likely Fred who we called first.

When my parents moved from Heyburn to Burley, it was Fred who showed up with his truck and a flatbed. He took load after load of stuff my parents, 10 children, and years of living had accumulated in our home.

When we graduated from high school, Fred offered to take all of Keri's friends out on the river one last time. I left for college almost as soon as we graduated, so I never got that one last adventure on the river with Fred. Like a college professor would say to us often, you never regret the things you did, only the things you didn't do.

I'm so glad I made the time to attend Fred's funeral. I learned a lot about him, and enjoyed seeing the Anderson family again. Judy, Fred's wife, is the only one left in Idaho now. It's sad to think that soon there might not be any Andersons left in my home town.

I love that pack of Aggies, and I really miss their guileless leader.

Jana, Me, and Keri after the funeral.
If we could, we'd spend a day on Keri's dad's farm and pick rye again one last time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Idaho: The Gemiest State of them All

At the pre-dinner event at Ironman Texas, the announcer asked the crowd, "Let's see if I'm in the right state." Then he began to sing, "The stars are bright, they're big and bright..."

To which the crowd clapped four times in unison and belted out, "Deep in the heart of Texas."

I'm not going to lie to you: I thought that was pretty cool. Being proud of one's state hits near and dear to my heart.

Outside of Texans, Idahoans are pretty dang proud of their state.

Really? Why? You ask.

For one thing, it's bred into us as fourth graders learning about our state history. Everyone memorizes the Idaho state song, which I'm pretty sure ranks up there as one of the coolest, and possibly proudest, state songs ever penned.

There's only ONE state in this great land of ours, where ideals can be realized.

Did you hear that? Only one state in all the United States where ideals can be realized.

Let me continue with the chorus:

And here we have Idaho--
Winning her way to fame.
Silver and gold in the sunlight blaze
And romance lies in her name.

Oh we'll go
Singing of you,
Ah, proudly too,
All our lives through
We'll go
Singing of you,
Singing of Idaho.

Are you in love with Idaho yet?

I have yet to find one Utahan my age that can sing their state song from memory.

We were also taught that if you ironed out Idaho's mountains, it would be as big as Texas. So take that, Texans!

However, taking that pride and placing it outside the state of Idaho is met mostly with jeers and laughter, at least in Utah. Let me illustrate this with an example.

On my first week at the best job I've ever had (and my current job), I introduced myself to my fellow co-workers of about 200.

I'm pretty sure I began with something like, "Hello, my name is Cindy Fisher. I am from the fantastic state of Idaho."

No sooner had I said the "o" than the crowd erupted in "boos" splattered with a few cheers. What I learned that day was that a real Utah/Idaho feud had been brewing in my workplace.

I'm not clear on how the love/hate of Idaho people had begun, but I suspect that when people from Idaho said they were from Idaho, other Idahoans in the room probably cheered. That probably got old to everyone else who wasn't from Idaho, and they probably started responding with "boos," which likely outnumbered the Idaho "yeahs."

That's not the only example I have of this stigma I feel from some Utahans about Idahoans.

Other co-workers of mine throughout my career have also made little backhanded remarks that made me think that they thought Idahoans were backwater hicks.

For example, I guess I don't always pronounce words correctly. And sometimes I flat-out use the wrong word. Let me assure you that is entirely due to my own stupidity.

So whenever I say the wrong phrase or mix my metaphors, I inevitably get a "your Idaho is seeping through," or a "I can tell you're from Idaho."

Idahoans, I'm sorry. You can blame me for reinforcing the negative stereotype of Idahoans being backwater, naive hicks. Me and George W. Bush: nukular cousins.

But where I falter on brain skills, I make up for in work ethic.

Idahoans are hard workers, and that's a stereotype I don't mind having.

In addition to my dad being a car salesman, he and my mom thought of a brilliant plan to teach us all to work. They started a night-time custodial business.

At first, my dad hired young men from our church group, but as we got older, we became the main employees.

On very busy nights where we had ball practice or games of one kind or another, we were awoken at 5 a.m. to do our menial jobs in the family custodial business.

I hated those mornings. But dang it if I'm not still getting up at the wee hours of the morning. I've learned to like the mornings. I paid my way through college working early morning custodial.

When I was 14, I joined my friends and worked in the beet fields all summer. To be fair, we worked from 8 a.m. until about 10:30 a.m. when it got too hot, and then we'd drive to the local canal and swim and pretend we were at a European spa having a mud bath. Working was a subjective term.

Still, I think we worked harder than most 13 or 14 year olds.

After a summer of work, we usually only made enough money to buy ourselves a pair of Birkenstocks and a trip to Lagoon, the amusement park in Farmington, Utah.

One time I tried working for my sister, who managed to secure a beet hoeing gig from some farmer. She fired us after one hour of work. I guess our weeding wasn't up to her snuff.

It was probably my own making in my own head, but sometimes I felt "less than" being from Idaho. Look a guy in the eyes at Lagoon or anywhere outside the state of Idaho when I was a teenager? Forget about it! They could probably see the potatoes growing out of my ears.

"Yep, she's from Idaho all right."

I just felt painfully out of my element in a big city, even though I loved big cities--still do.

When I was 20, my best friend Keri and I both found jobs in the Salt Lake area for the summer. At the end of summer, we agreed we'd take some of our hard-earned cash and go out to a nice restaurant.

We drove around for hours, but we couldn't find a place, or we didn't feel comfortable paying such high prices. We ended up eating at Taco Bell.

I wish I could take back that night now that I have more confidence and also more know-how of the ins and outs of high-end Salt Lake City restaurants. I'd plop down a $100 and say, "Dang it, I'm from Idaho. Make me something with a potato that would blow my socks off."

I've always been glad that I actually worked in a potato plant for at least one summer. Shouldn't that be some Idaho law: must work with potatoes for at least a month to officially be called an Idahoan?

My friend Keri, again (she's pretty much in every story I have from kindergarten to college), had a boyfriend whose dad operated a potato-processing plant called Mart Produce in Rupert, Idaho.

It was made up of probably 98% immigrant workers from Mexico, and then there was me, Keri, and the brother to Keri's boyfriend (by now, Keri's boyfriend was on a mission for our church).

We felt like Laverne and Shirley experiencing the blue-collar life. We helped bag the potatoes.

We had it down to a science, not like that's any big achievement. I would put a bag on the bagger, then Keri would push the button that would drop the potatoes into the bag; or vice versa.

We made $4.40 an hour, which was about .20 cents an hour more than minimum wage.

We made friends with a woman who knew Spanish and English, and she taught us some key phrases to say to our co-workers.

Through our extremely limited Spanish (we both took German in high school), we made friends. At the end of the summer, Keri took a picture of all the guapos we'd made friends with. It was a great summer, one of the best of my life.

I'm so proud of my Idaho roots and the things I learned. My cousin Chet, who is my age and works at the Idaho Department of Workforce Services in Burley, calls me every now and again with some job offer to tempt me back home.

"Cindy, they need a prosecutor in Cassia County. Do you think Kulani wants to move you home?"

I think of my Idaho summers swimming in canals; water skiing on the Snake River; working on beet farms; going to teen dances; cruising Overland.

Then I think of my current family home nestled in the foothills of Mount Timpanogos; our trips to Thanksgiving Point; the BYU football games, Bean Museum, and BYU Creamery; the concerts, plays, and culture within a short driving distance; various stores to shop.

I'm not ready to go home just yet, Chet. But I'll always have these potatoes in my ears, and in my heart.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Utah/Idaho: My two home states

As of late June, I have now lived in Utah longer than I've lived in Idaho. I moved away from my birth state of potatoes and irrigation canals to Utah County exactly 18 years ago.

I love Idaho, and I love Utah. But what I've found is some Idahoans don't always love Utahans, and some Utahans think Idahoans are backwater hicks.

Like a child caught in an ugly divorce, I'd like to offer my opinion as to why I love both states, and recognize in an ever kindly manner that perhaps both states also have their weaknesses.

Please note that these are my opinions based mostly on generalities of my home states, or more importantly, people who live in my home states. My apologies to people from California who may find themselves reading this and rolling their eyes and thinking, “Please. You do realize you’re talking Utah and Idaho? That’s like talking about which one’s better: the New Jersey Nets or the Washington Wizards.”

Sorry, Californians. We know you’re superior in every way.  

But if I’m to be honest, Californians do have a point. Saying I’m from Utah or Idaho to anyone outside the western United States causes all sorts of stereotypes to jump into one’s head.

When I say I’m from Idaho, it’s a glazed-over look, where I assume people are trying hard to think back to their 5th grade puzzle of the United States and think, “Where does Idaho go?”

When I say I’m from Utah, I can tell only one thing comes into their mind … “how can I change seats on this airplane—I’m sitting next to a Mormon.” No, I’m exaggerating—for effect. I do that from time-to-time. Ask my children. (“Girls, your poor mother has been working her fingers to the bone all day, and if I see one more mess in this house, I will likely die.”)

Let’s be honest, western United States. Most of the world looks down on us a little bit.

Even amongst our own kind, I’m pretty sure the coastal states don’t want to claim us as part of them. I’m talking Oregon, Washington, and of course, California.

So in an ever-picked-on way, I present to you my thoughts on my two terrific home states. If I could, I would build my home straddling the state line and never have to leave either one.

My Thoughts on Utah

People are prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, but poor Utahans get blamed for everything: both good and bad. I’ve heard Utahans seriously accused of all of the following:

·         Highest number of plastic surgeries.
·         Highest number of suicides amongst teenagers.
·         Highest usage of anti-depression prescriptions.
·         Highest number of foreclosures and bankruptcies.
·         Highest number of happy families.
·         Highest number of kids.
·         Highest number of porn viewers.
·         Lowest number of teen pregnancies.
·         Lowest number of DUIs.
·         Most racist state.
·         Most sexist state.
·         Healthiest state.
·         Unhealthiest state.
·         Crappiest beer.
·         Highest per capita Brazilian waxes.

That last one seems thrown in there, but I have actually heard a person make that claim. How they keep statistics on such a thing is beyond me. It only takes a thinking person about two minutes to discount this so-called Brazilian-wax “statistic.”

What did the person mean by repeating such a statistic, anyway? I can only guess at the implications:
  • Utah women want to look porn-star perfect for their porn-addicted husbands.
  • Utah women are always trying to keep up with the OC.
  • Utah women enjoy pain.
Note: Mom, if you are reading this, DON’T Google Brazilian wax. I’ll define it for you quickly: hot wax on your nether regions then ripped off your skin for the purposes of removing hair. Youchie!

If you are like me, you see those statistics and think, “Mormons.” Mormons have the highest number of plastic surgeries. Mormons have the highest number of suicides amongst teens. Mormons are the most in debt.

People at large tend to lump all Utahans in with the Mormons. It doesn’t matter to me, as I am a Utahan and I am Mormon. I can’t run away from these statistics. But to non-Mormons living in Utah, it makes it easy to say, “Well, that’s Mormons in Utah, not all Utahans.” They get a pass.

But I don’t. I am part of the 70% of Mormons who make up Utah. Without ever having a Brazilian wax, a prescription for anti-depression medication, a tummy tuck, or a bankruptcy, I reflect these statistics.

I have issues with these statistics in general, and some are obviously just dead wrong, but I have more grievances with people who use these statistics in a narrow way to prove Mormonism is evil and dangerous for people.

I guess conversely I should have issues when people use the “good” statistics to show how “good” Mormons are, but strangely, I don’t mind that so much. Crazy how that works.

I’m of the opinion that you should bloom where you’re planted. If our family would have ended up in Flatdry, Oklahama, I’d find something great about that place. But even still, if I could choose any place on earth to live, Utah County would still be high up on my favorite places. Maybe that says a lot about me already, and many people would be embarrassed if those words ever escaped their fingertips.

If you don’t get living here, that’s fine.

I do get it.  
  • I love the way the sun bounces off the mountains at sunset.
  • I love the unruly seasons.
  • I love how you can see the “Y” on the mountain as you get closer to ProvOrem.
  • I love the Murdock Canal Trail that allows me to run for miles on a flat route with amazing views of the valley.
  • I love the hold-out cherry and peach orchards, and that I can get fresh corn and fruit at various stands around the valley.
  • I love BYU campus and the Wilkinson Center and the Creamery and Lavell Edwards Stadium.
  • I love Orem’s SCERA.
  • I love all the canyons that are within minutes of my house: Provo Canyon and American Fork Canyon.
  • I love that if you love a sport, such as soccer, you don’t necessarily need to make the high school team to play. They have divisions for all skill levels.
I love every nook and cranny of this place. To me, it’s a magical place and I audibly say frequently, “I can’t believe I live here.”

Kulani feels similarly. When we were younger, Kulani’s family and my family both vacationed in Utah County. The Christensons would stay with either Uncle Fred or Grandma McEuen and we’d soak in all the valley’s warmth and charm.

We’re both from rural towns, however, so maybe Utah County felt big city enough for us without being too big city.

To me in those younger years, the Orem Fitness Center and Classic Skating were the coolest places on earth. And that we could walk there on sidewalks! In Heyburn, the town I grew up in, we only had one road with sidewalks.

When I became a teenager, I thought Utahans just seemed so much “cooler.” They had a mall. And they knew about the United Colors of Bennetton. And they knew how to rat their bangs a little bit, but not too much. And the guys…oh my goodness. Utah guys seemed so gorgeous to me as a teenager.

I still love the feelings that come over me when I drive by certain places.

I’m not sure Utahans who were born and raised here feel that same sense of wonder and awe. Sometimes I get the feeling that they’re almost ashamed of this place.

Having lived here 18 years, I know a little of what they’re feeling.

Saying you’re from Utah returns a mixed bag of thoughts and feeling. It’s not uncommon to hear disparaging remarks about Utah from people who’ve lived in other states and then moved to Utah, and I’m not just talking  Californians here.  

We’ve been admonished by our leaders to never say, “If you don’t like it, you can leave.” So when someone says something disparaging about Utah, I try to earnestly listen to their complaint and try to understand them.

But another part of me wants to voice an oft-repeated saying from my dad at the family dinner table: no complaining!

Or maybe there is a way to voice a little frustration while still conveying the message that you love living here, such as, “I love Utah, Cindy, you know that, it’s just that I’m not so in love with this infatuation with the Republican party….or the watered-down beer….or the keeping up with the joneses…sexism…or the fill-in-the-blank-with-the-oft-repeated problem.”

I know—I need to get out more. I hear that one a lot too.

The way I see it, every place has its virtues and vices.

I happen to love Utah. And I’m not ashamed of it.

Next up: My thoughts on Odahi.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Choking Under Pressure

I’m a mess when it comes to gift giving.

I’m a mess when it comes to time management.

And I’m a mess of a multi-tasker.

These three weaknesses have come back to bite me again and again. Heaven’s way of helping me turn my weaknesses into strengths, or as my dad aptly put it to me at least 1,000 times during my formidable years: be smoothed by adversity.

Let me provide you with some examples of these weaknesses. What my blog needs is more examples of my ineptitude, not less.

The first Christmas I spent with Kulani, I bought him a scarf, drinking glasses, and two place-setting mats. Nothing says, “I’m hot for you” like a wool placemat and scarf. How did he not dump me on the spot?

During my single years, the roommates and I drew names as a Christmas gift exchange. The gifts could be no more than $10. The gift I bought happened to be the largest, and the roommate whose name I drew was getting excited to open it.

I warned her, “Don’t expect anything great just because it’s in a big package.” (Oh no, here I go with a Michael Scott: “That’s what she said.”)

Unluckily for me, her anticipation just grew, because she was the last one to open her gift. Her face went from elated to deflated after she opened the present.

I had bought her apple-scented Suave shampoo and conditioner and a shower caddy, which I thought she said we needed one.

Real nice. A gift that says, “Hey, we’re roomies! Can I use your shower caddy?”

I tried never to put my soaps in it, just to help her understand that I did indeed buy it for her. I think she was allergic to the cheap shampoo.

The examples of my time mismanagement are endless. Dr. Phil once told me (yes, he speaks to me everyday at 4 p.m.) that people who are constantly late are arrogant.

Ouch, Dr. Phil! Take it easy on me!

No, no, I deserve it.

I once missed a brother’s wedding because I was that late. It was really a failure to look at when the wedding actually started, but still. That marriage ended in divorce, and I blame it entirely on me missing the wedding.

Heck, I was almost late for my own wedding. Thanks to my dad’s pedal to the metal, we made it in time. Well, five minutes late, but that’s really “on time” in my book. (I’m such an arrogant jerk.)

But this latest example has kept me crying on my huge pillah at night.

My sister-in-law Susan lives in a big house in Lindon and is pretty much the queen of throwing parties. They are legendary.

I received an invite to one of her parties in the mail, and my heart skipped a beat. She was hosting an Oprah-style “Favorite Things” party.

Are you screaming with me here, or is it just me?

I was to bring the following items:

·         A list of three of my favorite things from 2011.
·         A recipe from one of my favorite recipes from 2011.
·         12 small gifts representing one of my favorite things.
·         A sampling of the recipe of which I would be providing.

For the next few weeks I thought about 2011 and all the joys and pains of last year. For the record books, 2011 was a more difficult one for the Fishers.

Not to go into specifics other than to say marriage and family has good and bad; mountains and valleys. We pulled ourselves out of the valley, and I know one of the reasons I survived was due to a healthy dose of positive podcasts and CDs.

So I wanted to burn a CD of my favorite podcasts for my gift.

Wouldn’t you know it: I put it off until the last minute. It’s not that I wanted to put it off, but looking back, I honestly don’t think I had a free night.

Oh wait, there was that night I watched Downton Abbey for four hours.

No, that’s not a good excuse.

For various and sundry really bad reasons I put off making the CDs until the day of the party. I also needed to get ingredients for the recipe I’d be bringing. Oh, and I was working until 2:30 p.m.

Kulani is actually the one in our family who tries out new recipes, etc., so I decided to bring a dish that I kept reading about in 2011.

It involves a type of grain called quinoa. It’s pronounced “kin-wah,” but everytime I hear someone say the word, I want to punch them in the face.

It just sounds so pretentious, and even worse, it’s a favorite of vegans. It’s a grain that actually has protein, a substance vegans lack—that and a sense of humor. (Oh stop, Cindy, your painting yourself as a jerk. You really are arrogant, aren’t you? Dr. Phil was right, as usual.)

So I got off work, picked up the girls from home and school, made my way to Walmart, because I’d have the best chance of getting all the things on my list there. (A pack of recordable CDs and ingredients for a salad.)

They didn’t have quinoa (vegans obviously hate Walmart), so I made another stop at Smith’s. They thankfully did have quinoa.

I made my way home, and now the hour is drawing near. It is 5 p.m.

I start my quinoa, pomegranate, and avocado salad and make pretty good time there. I borrowed the recipe from Have you been to that site? It really is something special.

At 5:30 p.m. I’m done with the salad, and now I turn to my computer to start downloading the podcasts onto the CDs.

Snag: Windows Vista.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of working with Vista, consider yourself blessed. It is the worst program ever invented.

First of all, it constantly needs babied. It doesn’t like to access the Internet, so you have to first completely turn off the computer, and then turn it back on. And then magically, it lets you access the Internet.


I know, let’s multi-task while waiting.

Girls talking to me in the background.

Mmmm hmmm. (This is the sound I make when I want to look like I’m listening, but I’m really not. Ask my co-workers and husband how annoying it is.)

I’m trying to type up my recipe on Word (one of these days I’ll explain my hate for Word).

Then I remember this computer has never had our printer hooked up to it.

Access Hewlitt-Packard Web site for a printer download.


Multi-task over to the CDs. Put another one in to burn. Burn, baby, burn. Hells bells! Vista has stopped being able to read the CD burner. (Hells bells is an Idaho saying said mostly by my Jeppesen cousins. I consider it "swearing lite," which like diet soda, is okay in moderation. If you disagree, then this blog is not for you.)

Feet don’t fail me now. (This is my mantra I say to myself when I’m running late.)

Look up and notice that, oh crap, it’s already 6:30 p.m. The party has officially started.

I live 15 minutes away from Susan.

I’ve only burned four CDs, and my printer still isn’t working.

I give up. I’m missing the party.

The choice now is to show up with nothing, except the quinoa salad, which is quinoannoying, or don’t show up at all. I take the chicken way out and choose to not show up at all.

In the light of day I realize that I should have just grabbed a back-up plan, such as one of the following:
  1. Little baggies full of gourmet popcorn.
  2. Little bottles full of my favorite smelly lotion.
  3. That bee lip balm everyone loves.
I’m not sure I’ve been so sad about missing a party since I was in high school and managed to find myself on the uninvite list because of my outspoken ways.

I can picture what a fabulous time everyone had. My heart is sobbing for the missed opportunity.

Plan better for the future: a lesson I unfortunately seem to need to keep relearning.

I’m afraid if I don’t get myself in order, I’ll end up as one of “those” 10 virgins, parably speaking. (No, I don’t think “parably” is a word.)

Dr. Phil says one of the keys in getting over procrastination is by really experiencing negative consequences to the behavior. (What would I do without that man?)

If Susan tells me someone gave all the party guests a new car as her favorite thing, I’m pretty sure this will be the very last post you will ever read about my procrastinating ways.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Openly Weeping Appreciation for Helpers

The other day I took my little brother Ed out to lunch for his birthday. He was born when I was in the 7th grade.

My mom was 42, I believe, when she had Ed, her final child. She was also teaching at the same junior high I attended. I found out that my mom gave birth to a baby along with all my fellow junior high classmates and faculty. The announcement came over the intercom system:

"Attention: Mrs. Christenson had a baby boy this morning. Congratulations to Mr. Lynch."


A few seconds later, "I mean, Mr. Lynch won the faculty pool guessing when Mrs. Christenson would have her baby."

I loved the faculty at West Minico! They were a bunch of crack-ups!

During lunch, I told Ed that we'd hired a babysitter to watch the girls for a few hours a day. Kulani found a job outside the home, so we needed extra help.

Paula, my babysitter, is AMAZING! The first time I came home and saw how much she'd helped, I fell on my bed and weeped with joy. Literally weeped.

Everyday I come home she's done something more. She does my laundry. She cleans my room. The other day she cleaned out my fridge! Occassionally she'll have a lunch waiting for me.

And she's great with the kids, too. Once I quit my job, I have to figure out some way to keep her on to show me how she does it all.

I know, I know: More than anything else I've ever written on this blog (not my one-eyed dog Jesse or the cat who gets shut up in rooms, so he paws through the carpet all night), you are jealous of my sweet Paula. I'm jealous for you. I tell her everyday, "What can I do for you, Paula, because you do SO much for me?" I want to pay her $50/hour. I don't pay her that, but I'd like to.

So I was telling all this to Ed, and this story, of course, conjured up our memories of Grandma Pete.

Who was Grandma Pete?

Grandma Pete was the Christenson version of Alice from The Brady Bunch. (I don't have to explain Alice to my readers.) In fact, Grandma Pete's real name was Alice (Peterson), but she insisted that we call her Grandma Pete.

She was at least 70 years old when she started working for our family. She'd say that Mom giving her the job was a great blessing straight from Heavenly Father. But really, she was the huge blessing in our lives.

I'm embarrassed to think of some of the things I thought about her, so I won't write about those. She was a bit feisty and a touch cranky, but now that I'm older, I've realized that about 75 percent of people get that way in their older years.

How does that old saying go, "I'm now old enough to not be afraid of expressing my opinion, but now I'm too old for anyone to take me seriously." Grandma Pete wasn't afraid to share her opinion.

For example, she didn't want me wearing makeup until I was 18. My mom let me start wearing makeup whenever I felt like I wanted to start, which was about 9th grade. So every morning when I'd put on makeup, Grandma Pete would give me a frown and a head shake.

But these aren't the memories I want to share about Grandma Pete. Let me back up a moment and tell you a little bit about Grandma Pete's life.

Grandma Pete was married to Grandpa Pete, Al Peterson. He must have been 10 years her senior, but you wouldn't know it to look at them. They'd both lived rather difficult lives. He was much more cantankerous than even Grandma Pete.

They never had children of their own, but they raised five children. My memory is hazy on this one, but a close relative, maybe a sister or brother, died in a car accident, and Alice and Al took the children in as their own.

Al was a farmer, I believe, out near Emerson, a small farming community outside of Paul, which was outside Burley, which is about one hour from the Utah border. Utah? It's in the western United States. Oh, now you know where it is.

Grandma Pete took care of all five of those young children. Later, she took care of some of the grandchildren. She also watched another lady's adult child who was severely mentally and physically handicapped.

Grandma Pete was born to take care of children. And she seemed to love doing it.

When Grandma Pete started working for us, I was in the 5th grade. The youngest child was Wayne. He was just a baby. Grandma Pete also watched Mary for half a day (because she was in kindergarten) and Hetty, who must have been about 3 or 4.

And then my parents had Ed, and Grandma Pete watched him until Ed was in 1st grade. So all total, Grandma Pete was with us for nine years.

Ed told me during our lunch that he thought Grandma Pete was his grandma. Us older kids were always bugged that she insisted we call her Grandma Pete.

"She's not our grandma," I thought. I feel really bad about that now.

When Ed found out she wasn't our real grandma, he was deeply saddened. It was like he found out he'd been adopted.

"But I love Grandma Pete. She must be my grandma!"

And Grandma Pete loved Ed. I think she loved Ed more than any of the rest of the kids she watched.

She would hide things from Ed to see if he would find them throughout the day. Once my dad found a couple of Pepsis in his shoes because Ed hadn't found his treat that day.

As soon as Grandma Pete walked through our doors at 1911 Q Street in Heyburn, she would get to work. She'd help my dad make breakfast. She would start cleaning up dishes. She would start a load of laundry.

Do you know she did our laundry every weekday (excluding summers when my mom was home from teaching)? Can you imagine doing laundry for a household of about 10-11? (A little Christenson fact: We never had all 10 children living under one roof at one time. Either Doug was away on his mission when Ed was born, or when he came back, Amy was gone to college.)

Every day there was more laundry, and lots of it. And she'd do it all. Even fold it and put it into piles for each chld.

Our only job was to take our pile down to our rooms and put it in our drawers. We rarely even got that right. (But between you and me, doesn't every mother know that actually putting the clothes away IS the hardest part about doing laundry? That and the folding, I mean.)

And she'd vaccuum, clean the kitchen, and on very rare occassions, she'd make a lemon meringue pie that was really tasty.

I know my mom appreciated Grandma Pete immensely. Now that I'm a mother, I understand that appreciation on a whole new level. Appreciate is something you put on a thank you card: what my mom felt (and what I feel for Paula) is deep gratitude and indebtedness.

After Ed started first grade, Grandma Pete went downhill pretty quickly. She passed away a year later.

Perhaps she needed to be needed. If so, she picked working for a family who truly needed her.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Brudda, be awesome like kine!

My younger brother B.J. will be competing in the Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii, in about two hours. I think this is his fifth trip to Kona. Yes, he's that good, and did I mention he's my brother?

What's even cooler about B.J. is how cool he is. People gravitate to B.J. Perhaps it's his 6 foot 7 inch frame; no matter where you're at in a crowd, you can see B.J.'s head popping up amongst the other heads. But his personality matches his tall frame.

Whenever I'm running in a triathlon with B.J., I watch as person after person comes up to talk with him and ask him about his race. He asks them about their race in return. He always seems just as excited about how well they did as he is about his own race.

At many races he stays after to help clean up or do any other manual labor they may need.

B.J. is also super good with kids. He's taught my girls the "snowman" handshake. When someone sticks out a fist to fist-bump you, you add one fist to the top of their fist, and a second fist to the bottom of their fist, and say, "Snowman."

He's just a really cool guy.

He wasn't always so cool, or so I thought. I remember going to school with him when he was a first grader and I was a third grader. He always had on a huge smile and would wave and say hello to me when we happened to be eating in the same school cafeteria.

"Hi, Cindy!" he'd practically shout.

"Oh, boy. It's my little brother and look at how he combed his hair today. I should hide," is what I thought.

I remember in sixth or seventh grade, he declared that he no longer wanted to be known as "B.J." I'm guessing most boys with those initials once they hit a certain age would like to no longer be referred to as that. But he couldn't shake his name. It has stuck with him.

My parents liked to name us after teenagers they'd admired. B.J. was named after two teenage boys in our ward named Bill and Joel. They're still our family friends today, and they truly are great men. I love that B.J. is named after them. (B.J.'s real name is Bradley Jay, though. But my parents wanted the initials of Bill and Joel.)

I probably brought more pain into B.J.'s life than help. In junior high, B.J. and myself both had the opportunity of riding the ski bus. Because of the heavy influence of an older sister in college and having cousins in Utah, I started getting into alternative music, and so did B.J. Getting into alternative music also meant dressing the part and getting a "waver" haircut: two things that didn't mix well in our Wrangler-wearing, boot-kickin' junior high. B.J. became the target of "cowboy bullies." (To this day, I have a healthy distrust of cowboys.)

On one of our ski trips, from my vantage point of the ski lift above, I saw my brother speeding down a hill while being chased by a bunch of cowboys from our school. (How did you know they were cowboys? They wore jeans and a baseball cap when they skiied.)

I was furious. When I got off the lift, I skiied as fast as I could to catch up with them. And when I found them, I gave them a serious shout down about messing with my brother. Gulp. Men everywhere when reading that took in a collective, "Oh, no!" In my adult years I have learned that an older sister defending a younger brother doesn't help matters; it hurts more.

I can see those little Nelson Munzes (the bully from The Simpson's) standing over B.J. and hitting him while saying, "And that's for getting your sister to fight your battles. And that's for your waver haircut."

When we entered high school together, B.J. as a sophomore and me as a senior, the tides had changed. Now it was me saying "hi" to B.J. in the halls while he pretended like he didn't know me. But the bullying hadn't stopped, at least not as a sophomore.

Once I saw B.J. running as fast as he could and hiding behind the English building. A few seconds later I saw a bunch of cowboys running in the direction B.J. was running. (How did you know they were cowboys? They wore tight Wranglers, short mullets, and a baseball cap.)

The tradition in our school was for the senior boys to find sophomore boys, pick them up, and throw them in the bushes. I'm not sure they ever caught B.J., but they tried. Maybe that's where the beginnings of his speed originated.

Because I wanted to get to know B.J. better before I headed off to college, and because I wanted to look good in my prom dress, I joined B.J. on the track team my senior year. It was a lot of fun getting to know him and his friends.

B.J. and his friends invented a game called the "tricky trap." One of his friends would kneel behind an unsuspecting person, while another friend would come by and gently tap the shoulder of the person behind whom the friend was kneeling. This would cause the person to take a step back, not seeing the kneeling person, and fall over. Then they'd all laugh and yell, "tricky trap!"

They tried it on me once. The neighbor boy Lynn Brown was the one kneeling. I think it was Thurman Heiner who gave me the gentle tap. I fell over, and the laughs ensued. I got up seeing red. I chased Lynn down and proceeded to wail on him. I still feel pretty bad about that. Sorry, Lynn! All in good fun. I can take a joke now, I promise.

At one of the last meets of the year, my dad, who made us breakfast every morning, sat us down to breakfast and proceeded to give us a talk that would live in infamy. Lincoln had the Gettysburg Address. Martin Luther King had "I have a dream." This was my dad's talk. I think I'll name it "You're not the only one running that race."

My dad's speech essentially went like this:
"Your mom and I can't make it to your meet, but I want you to know that while you're running that race, you aren't the only one out there. Your mom and I are there. Your siblings are there. Your grandparents are there and your great grandparents. Your teachers and Sunday School teachers are there. You aren't alone when you run; everyone who has ever supported you in any way is with you, too. Don't be like some athletes who claim they did it all themselves. You are representing those who love you. Represent them well." 
Later that day as I was running the mile race and heading into the last lap, I saw B.J. and his friends and I heard them shouting, "Do it for the family! Do it for Maytag! (He was our pet dog.) Do it for the Laudromat! (That's where we lived when we were younger.) Do it for the trampoline! (The trampoline was like a second home for us.)"

I couldn't hardly breathe I was laughing so hard. After I got my composure, I picked up my speed and happily ran to the finish. On my shoulders was all of that, and I still managed to run a personal best of 6 minutes 18 seconds. (Slow, but fast for me.) I think those things weren't on my shoulders, but inside my heart fueling the engine.

So today, B.J. will be running in the Ironman Championships. In his heart, I hope he knows that we'll be there, too.

Do it for your family. Do it for the Hawaiian Style Cafe (a place we love to eat when we're on the Big Island). Do it for the state of Idaho. Do it for the University of Utah. Do it for the Salt Lake Running Company. Do it for the little kids who look up to you. Do it for the adults who look up to you. Do it for Will, who looks up to you most of all. Do it for the mountains. Do it for the sea. Do it for America. Do it, because that's who you are. And I love you, little brudda!

Some pictures to humble B.J.:

My dad always took a picture of us before going to school. The following picture isn't great, but it's a picture of me as a senior and B.J. as a sophomore. Proof that we were wavers. (And I think B.J. was a tuba player, and that's a tuba in that red bag.) Little sister Hetty is on the left and younger brother Wayne is on the far right.

I think I was in fifth grade in the following photo. B.J. would have been third grade, and Mary, on the right, would have been first grade. Hetty was at "Grandma-Pete school."

This last picture is of B.J. after the Spudman triathlon in July where he took first for the third time. Photo by Angela S. Nelson.