Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Years for the procrastinator

Published December 30, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

It's New Year's Resolution time again. For me, that means it's time to find another creative way to write another New Year's Resolution column. Lucky for you, I'm a creative gal, and I'm, uh, resolved.

If you sensed hesitance in that last sentence (hey...that almost rhymed), it's because my New Year's Resolution for this year requires a great deal of growth and change for me. A procrastinator by nature, I've lived my life by a well loved motto: Never put off for tomorrow what you can put off until 2008. Until last Thursday, I thought I had plenty of time. Then I looked at a calendar. Aw, dang.

That baby with the 2008 banner is ready to high-five the old man of '07, and I'm sitting here like I'm taking the SATs with a kindergarten education. When you put things off the way I do, the day of reckoning comes at you like a freight train full of Twinkie wrappers and pink leotards...or like a hastily composed simile: it makes sense on some level, but ultimately, it's makes you fear for your brain cells. (Anyone wanting to draw a parallel to the above and my writing style can go take a New Year's flying leap.)

I've had to leave my computer to get air and do a guided relaxation exercise eight times already, and I'm only four paragraphs into this column. With a few more deep breaths for good measure, I will share the things I will finally get done this year.

-I will change the name on my social security card. I remember this every year at tax time when I have to wait two beats to make sure I sign my maiden name, Sarah E. Braudaway. That thought is always punctuated by the shocked screams of the tax preparer saying, "You got married WHEN?" Considering I got married and changed my name to Wilson 12 years ago, that said marriage ended two years ago, and that I plan to change my name to Clark sometime this year, I'm putting my visit to the social security office at the top of my list.

-I will buy a pie server. Well, if that's what you call one of those wedge shaped spatulas. It may not seem like a big deal, but years and years of Thanksgiving pies don't lie. Forks don't work. Regular spatulas don't work. Garden spades work okay, but they make the pie a little crunchy.

-I will learn to sew. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. (I needed a little comic relief to ease the tension.)

-I will have my wisdom teeth removed. Yes, I'm 31 years old now and should have had them out by the time I turned 21. I've been hanging on to them because I was hoping to glean a little wisdom from them before giving them up. So far, all I've gleaned is pain and a chance to use the word "glean." It's nice, but it's outlived it usefulness.

-I will develop and print all the pictures I have taken over the last 8 years. This is actually a two part goal, because the cost of printing all those photos will require me to either win the lottery or get another job. I'm willing to work part-time buying lottery tickets in case anyone's looking.

There are a few more, but I'm still in denial. As a woman who's raised procrastination to an art form, this makes the 19 mile, 13 hour Half Dome hike I did this year look like (insert hastily worded simile here). The good news is that I have an extra pair of hands to help. Lucky for me, 2008 will mean marrying the best friend I've had since I was 17, so the two of us can pound these goals out pretty quickly, I think. As long as he's not a procrastinator like me, we're golden!

Wait...he took nearly 14 years to give me the kiss he wanted to give me the night we met. Aw, dang.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I know where all the time has gone...

Published December 23, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

My oldest child turned 11 on Friday, and I participated in that age old tradition of motherhood by facing the day with a very loud, "WHAT?" It seems cliche because it's true, but I really do not know where the time has gone.

Except that I do.

Every mother in the world could tell every young person in the world to live life to the fullest because time moves fast, and before you know it, your oldest child is turning 11. The problem with this advice is that for young people, time doesn't move fast at all, so warnings fall on understandably deaf ears.

Long before my only became my older became my oldest, I have pondered on this disparity of age and time. Why does time move slowly for children and quickly for adults? What occurs that produces this change? Where, in fact, does the time go?

Santa took it.

That's right, folks. I am making the accusation of my own free will and in full awareness that this may create mass panic in the community. That jolly old soul with the rosy cheeks and the flying sleigh is the culprit behind this time/age phenomenon. He comes to our houses, wiggles down chimneys, leaves presents, and takes our time.

Think about it. The man manages to produce toys for every child in the world with a production schedule of just 364 days. He delivers said toys to all the children in the world in ONE NIGHT. Clearly, Santa has some kind of power over the space/time continuum. No one without that power (who isn't a mother...*badum ching*) could get all of that done. And really, he's old, but have you ever known Santa to age? I think not.

The twist is that while Santa's taking our time, he is clearly NOT taking the time of our children, and therein lies the answer to the problem. When you're a child, you believe in Santa and time moves on its leisurely course, cutting a lazy path through life like a river made of caramel. Once you stop believing, time whips past you like a bullet train (Polar Express, anyone?)

You might consider this an act of revenge on Santa's part. After all, I'd be pretty miffed if I brought you presents every year and then you doubted my very existence. Of course, we all know Santa's not the type to look to revenge. The time loss is more of a natural consequence to a very unfortunate choice. People who don't have time for fantasy and fairy tales and a little bit of whimsy simply don't have time at all.

While wasted years of unbelief can never be reclaimed, you can make a change now that will see you through the rest of your life. It's time to slow down the train and take a ride on the lazy river. In other words, it's time to start believing again. In years past, Santa gave me a music box, a pogo ball, and a pair of roller skates. This year, I give Santa my belief. The cool thing is that it's all I have to give him to get my time back.

Of course, I'll be adding a cheesecake to the cookies this year...just in case.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Because she is a mother

Published December 16, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

There is a story attributed to Victor Hugo about a mother who, having a piece of bread to share between her two children and herself, broke it in half and gave it to her children. Soldiers observing this were divided as to why the mother took no bread for herself. The first assumed she was not hungry. The second made the more astute observation when he said, "It is because she is a mother."

You're hearing me here, sisters, aren't you?

Now, I've never been in a situation quite as dire as that, unless you count the time some well intentioned but misguided individual planned a Muffins for Moms event at my children's elementary school and then refused to allow any of the children to share in the muffins. Breaking my oversized muffin in half and giving it to my kids was done because I'm a mother. Storming into the principal's office and complaining and having the muffin nazi thrown out was done because I'm a hothead. (PTA, this is why I am still not a member.)

So, it's Christmas/Birthday time for me, and in seasons past, this time of year would lead me into my traditional Christmas Conundrum. Do I spend my gift money on myself or do I spend it on the kids? Do I choose a so-called high road and sacrifice to my own detriment, or do I accept my own worth and treat myself at the risk of feeling selfish? 11 years of motherhood mixed with a couple of years of pretty intense therapy have lead me out of conundrum and into compromise.

When it comes to shopping for myself, I get creative. There's some kind of pre-purchase penance I do in order to feel like an adequate nurturer before committing the "sin" of self indulgence. For me, that means justifying any purchase by conforming it to a set of rules. 1) The purchase must be naturally cheap or so reduced in price that it cannot NOT be purchased. 2) The purchase must serve the family in some way.

Why the need for compromise? After all, it's gift money intended for me. There really isn't a reason I should feel the need to justify spending gift money on myself. The only answer I can give you is, "Because I am a mother." Even if I'm taking this whole concept to an unhealthy level, if you're a mom, you know what I'm talking about. You give them your body for nine months (longer if you're nursing), and something inside of you changes until you want to give them everything. And how.

Last year, I spent my birthday money on a new wok to replace the broken one that had been sorely missed. The kids love my noodles with the homemade sauce. I spent my Christmas money on a stereo for the kitchen, the better to entertain my children with Weird Al and They Might Be Giants every day before dinner. This year, I've pooled my money and bought an outrageously low priced, used laptop computer from my neighbors. The kids now have free rein of the "big computer" for games and homework, and I can do my own schoolwork at the table with them during homework time.

Someday, I may get to the point at which I can spend a little something on myself without thinking of how it will benefit my kids...maybe after another two years of therapy. Maybe all I'll ever do is realize that taking good care of myself means taking better care of my kids, so any purchase for me benefits them too, and in the end, they'll thank me for my balanced example.

Well, that's just crazy talk. Here kids, have a muffin.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Feeling naughty?

Published December 9, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I'm telling you why...Santa Claus is coming to town, all right, and according to the song, he's got a twice-checked list in that sleigh. Which column did you make this year?

It's a shame we don't find these things out until the big day. Sure, most people SHOULD know if they've been naughty or nice throughout the year, but I'm willing to bet there will be a large portion of the population on Christmas morning standing, jaws slack in absolute shock, beholding stockings filled not with chocolate and perfume but ugly lumps of coal.

The good news is that I've joined forces with Santa Claus this year to give certain citizens the heads up. Don't mistake this information as a chance at absolution. It's too late for that. There is no such thing as deathbed confession when it comes to the big guy in red. You've had all year to do right by society. We just thought perhaps the advanced notice would give you a head start on making a change for 2008.

Man in large truck who nearly rammed my car as he was driving out of a parking lot last night, then honked at ME like it was my fault: NAUGHTY. Sure, people make careless errors on the road all the time. A wave and a sheepish smile might have gotten you on the nice list, buddy. May Karma flatten your tires.

Person who stole the cash in my wallet: NAUGHTY. You're not even getting the coal treatment. Santa's bringing you every smelly diaper I've changed since becoming a mother. That's five smelly bottoms in quick succession. Have fun with that. The man who found my wallet and took great pains to find me and return it is, of course, on the top of the nice list. He gets every hug and kiss I've been given since becoming a mother.

Richard Simmons: NAUGHTY. Your song "It's the Most Fattening Time of the Year," is in no way amusing or motivational. If I want to chow down on pie and egg nog until I have to be rolled from a room, I'll do so without your commentary, thank you. The management of the radio station which played this song at the precise moment I was taking a bite of my lovely chocolate chip muffin have also made the naughty list. To the makers of the muffin: You are very, very nice.

Britney Spears: NAUGHTY. Not that I've ever considered you an upstanding citizen, but woman, what happened to you? Are you out of your mind? A) You're a mother. Act like it. B) White trash is not the new urban chic, no matter what your stylist tells you. C) The charcoal would be very useful in ridding the narcotics from your system, so make use of it. Just a thought.

The United States Congress: NAUGHTY. If I wanted nothing but whining, arguing, and stonewalling to happen, I'd have sent my children to Washington and told them it was time to clean their rooms. Santa and I are taking the next pay raise you vote yourselves and sending you all to obedience school.

I know. It's never nice to find out you're on the naughty list, but take heart. The new year is less than a month away. You have a chance, a real chance, to make something of yourselves. All is not lost. There is hope. Unless, of course, you're the inventors the of Wii.

Santa has a whole other list for you, and it involves fire ants and Barry Manilow music.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

It's okay! I won't try to eat it!

Published December 2, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

November 14 was a momentous day in my household. I know, I know. I have momentous days all the time. It's one of the cool things about having five kids. One child would give me several occasions per year that I could call momentous. Multiplied by five, the momentous day potential leaves me giddy to the point of collapse.

Michael was the child in question on that Wednesday two weeks ago. He made the day momentous by being kind enough to have a birthday...and not just any birthday. Michael's cake was topped by candles numbering three. Say it with me now...MO-MENT-OUS!

If you're a mom, it won't be difficult to understand where I'm coming from here. The third birthday is a big event. It's HUGE! At this point, I'm not sure there is any birthday more exciting or welcome than a child's third birthday. Yes, the first is fun with its lone candle and cake-covered face. 16 is exciting (terrifying?) with the promise of adulthood around the corner the prospect of driving right there on the doorstep. But three...three is THE year, my friends.

Three is the year mothers all over the U.S. get to tone down the worrying (just a notch, of course). You see, three is a magic age in which a child suddenly stops looking for windpipe trouble around every corner. I'm talking about choking, people. My youngest Wilson has officially passed the choking hazard age limit and has been promoted to dogs. That's right! Michael has the go ahead to eat hard candy!

Let me tell you, this is a relief! It's been a long, lonely 11 years, raising children who could at any moment decide to choke on anything that happened to be lying on the carpet. It's been a long three years, getting Michael to this point. And with four older children who crossed the three year threshold many moons ago and therefore have no small-toy part restrictions, it hasn't been easy keeping things off the carpet.

Mothering a child under three is kind of like walking through a minefield...a minefield of legos and board game parts. The hazards are everywhere. And by the time a child gets to be about two, he's smart enough to realize you're not letting him have what everyone else has, but not quite developed enough to understand why.

Fortunately for us, Michael has crossed over into the world of the "3 and ups." If Miriam dumps her craft beads all over the floor in her room, we're good. If Ray spills his rock collection or Cate empties Monopoly, it's going to be all right. That long awaited day has come at last! I feel like making a t-shirt for Michael that says, "It's okay! I won't try to eat it!" (I wonder if I could get him to wear it every day.)

Now that my youngest has made this giant leap for all toddlerkind, I'm left to wonder how I'll fill my time. Perhaps now, I can finally take up tennis. Maybe I'll learn to water ski. I don't know. What I do know is that I don't have to worry about that bag of butterscotch candies my friend gave me or the container of marbles just waiting to be tipped over. Michael is three now, and this mother's butterscotch filled dreams just came true. For the time being, he is safe.

Until Evelyn introduces him to matches, of course.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The "wr" word

Published November 25, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

As I prepared my Thanksgiving feast this week, I did something I thought I would never do. On the advice of my friend, Kris, who shared our meal with us, I opted for adventure and did something different with my sweet potatoes. Some of you may remember a rather strongly worded column from a few years ago about my feelings on sweet potatoes and my absolute refusal to further sweeten them in any way. Thursday, I threw all of that out the window, grabbed my batch of mashed, orange goodness and covered it with brown sugar and melted butter. It was divine.

So what about that fabled column? Confession: I wrote the column from the perspective of one who had never even tried the fabled "candied yams." Disingenuous and unfair of me? Perhaps. I still contend that a) yams are a food not found in North America, therefore, not present at ANY Thanksgiving feast, and b) candied yams are icky. But my former point, ie: that adding anything sweet to an already sweet potato is to transform a perfectly tasty dish into something as sickeningly sweet as Shirley Temple covered in melted chocolate and drinking an energy drink...well, I was...I was...wr....wr...

So, I'm having a little trouble with "wr" word. It's nothing new. I've always had trouble with it. I mean, it's not as if I've never been "wr." I'm "wr" all the time. I just don't like to say it. And when I say I don't like to say it, I'm not saying I don't like to admit I'm "wr." I admit I'm "wr" all the time. I just don't like to say the word. It's a stupid word, and I'm very much NOT "wr" about that.

Okay, the issue at hand is sweet potatoes and my ignorant and very public assertion that sweetened sweet potatoes are of the devil. In the interest of fairness and to protect the good name of The Spectrum, a retraction is necessary, so I'm going to have to admit to being "wr" about the sweet potatoes. I'm just going to have to find a way to do it without actually saying the "wr" word.

-The political angle. Mistakes may have been made. I may have been misinformed about this particular issue. However, it depends on what the definition of sweet potato is. I don't really recall whether I knew that.

-The Freudian angle. I never had sweet potatoes of any kind at any Thanksgiving during my childhood. It's all my mother's fault.

-The Amazing Grace angle. I was blind...lost in a wretched, sweet potato-less existence. I've been saved! I see the light! I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeee!

-The unwitting accomplice angle. I was duped! I've been had! He told me sweet potatoes were bad, and I believed him. I feel like such a fool.

-The George Gershwin angle. You say sweet potato. I say sweet potahto. Potato! Potahto! Marshmallows! Disgusting! Let's call the whole thing off.

Perhaps in another few years I'll actually consent to eating a bite of candied yams and will have to print a further retraction. It doesn't seem likely, but if I was "wr" about this... You're probably all wondering why I don't just buck up and say I was "wr" without the use of word shortening and quotation marks. After all, it's just a harmless little word. If I can manage being a single mom of five with a full time job and school I can do that, right? If I can hike the Half Dome, I can do that, right? You're right. Here goes nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I was...I was...wr...wr...wrapped in a blanket of ignorance, but the alarm clock has sounded. (That was the metaphorical angle.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Attitude of Gratitude

Published November 18, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Back in August of this year, I found myself in a very peculiar situation. I was lying, flat on my back, my trusty hiking backpack beneath me, while the waters of the Virgin River rushed over my uncoordinated body. A concerned Englishman named Paul, my hiking partner for the day, hovered over me like a kind hearted nature lover observing a stranded beetle. As he helped me to my feet, he asked whether I wished I had chosen a different hike; after all, it was my third fall of the day. I shrugged my shoulders, chuckled a little, and said, "Aw, I haven't broken any bones, so I figure it's good."

Paul observed me, dumbfounded, and asked in his very British way (that's the way of people who eat their dinners in undercooked pastry and call it pudding) how I managed to keep such a positive attitude. My response was immediate and enthusiastic: "I keep a gratitude journal."

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I thought I would share with my readers what I shared with Paul. Every day, I pull out my trusty gratitude journal and jot down 4 or 5 things for which to be grateful. I've kept my journal for nearly a year, and I'm happy to say it's done amazing things for me. For instance, when Paul inadvisably led me to a deeper section of river and the current became so strong we were both swept off our feet for a few terrifying moments, I didn't let it get me down. Later that night, I made note #7 on the gratitude list for the day. "I'm grateful I didn't drown, ha ha." Indeed.

Rereading entries from past months shows me that anyone and everyone can find something for which to be grateful every single day. Whether it's an entry as poignant as, "I'm grateful this morning wasn't quite so bad," or one as random as, "I'm grateful for my turtle!" it's something, you know? I've found gratitude in situations both mundane and dramatic. Here are a few you can borrow if you need some to get started. I mean, you're all grateful my life is going well, aren't you?

"I'm grateful for my CAR PAYMENT!" -- If you had to drive what I drove for most of 2006, you'd be more than happy to fork out the money for a minivan that runs.

"I'm grateful I had a good time, even if it was a little strange." -- First post-divorce Singles dance. I danced with a nice man. He probably fought in the war next to my grandpa, but he was nice.

"I'm grateful I'm not as sore as I thought I'd be." -- Entry after my Half Dome hike. I thought I wouldn't be able to move. Turns out, I could wiggle my toes.

"I'm grateful for tough days at work that help me appreciated my own children." --It's the days when you walk into your bathroom to find Mary Kay lipstick smeared across the toilet seat that this entry comes in handy.

"I'm grateful we didn't die while Carla was driving." --My sister drove the wrong way down the street in Vegas. I don't like to talk about it.

"I'm grateful for EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP!" -- I'm having this one framed.

"I'm grateful the kids took on dish duty without complaint." -- I'm putting this one up next to that one.

It's not hard once you get started. My gratitude journal has become a trusted friend to me. When something good happens, I look forward to the moment I can write it down. When I have a very bad day, I look forward to writing my gratitude list even more. There really is nothing like finding something to smile about on a very bad day.

Seriously...she's an awesome turtle.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

You heard me! The way I are!

Published November 11, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

When it comes to music, I have fairly eclectic tastes. My choice of music is governed more by my mood than anything else. Most of the time, I'm in the mood for jazz or classical, but I find there's always room for country, classic rock, R&B, oldies, and even rap. It was while in one of these moods one morning last week that I decided to tune my radio to one of the popular stations in town.

As I drove to work, a new song was just beginning. The strong beat pulsed through my speakers, and I felt my head unconsciously bobbing along with it. That rhythm was accompanied by a peppy techno chord progression that immediately made me want to dance. I decided this one had promise.

And then (ooooh, you knew there'd be an "and then," didn't you?), the artist formerly known as "someone I'd never heard of and for good reason" started to sing. The lyrics conveyed the following message (paraphrased for clarity): "I'm a complete loser with no money, no prospects, and no intention of getting any, but I think we're going to be perfect for each other, mainly because I have absolutely no idea how to speak my native language."

If you think I'm being too hard on him, you won't for long. A female voice, upon hearing this profession of, uh, love says (inexplicably), "I like you just the way you are." Our jobless, penniless, grammar-challenged hero responds, "Can you handle me the way I are?" Yeah, that's what I said...the way I are.

I actually might be wrong about that lyric. When I listen to the song, I hear, "Can you handle me the way I'm are?" but lyric sheets all over the internet have it as "the way I are," and the name of the song is actually, "The Way I Are," so that must be it. As I write this, I realize I've been doing exhaustive research to find the correct version of this torturously incorrect lyric so as not to embarrass myself by getting it wrong. I'M worried I might embarrass MYSELF.

Here's what I want to know. How is it that no one in the entire music industry had it in them to tell this person that he sounds like a complete moron in his song? When you think about the astronomical number of people involved in producing an album... No one stopped for one second and said, "Dude, my three year old daughter knows it's not 'the way I are.' Are you serious? Because, no." I'm thinking someone, anyone from the sound mixer to the CD jacket artist could have at any moment stopped this man from infiltrating the airwaves of the world with a grammatical travesty such as this. Alas, the travesty continues unabated.

Perhaps I'm showing my age or complete lack of modern sensibility here. Or maybe I'm just one of the few remaining warriors in an epic battle against the dumbing down of the English language. It's a losing battle if I ever saw one, mainly because the people I'm trying to convince probably don't understand a word I'm saying, and those that do are more interested in making money than producing something that doesn't make the ears of English teachers everywhere shrivel up and retreat into their skulls for refuge. Can nothing be done?

WARNING! LAST DITCH EFFORT AHEAD! Mr. Grammar-Challenged Freeloader, I are Sarah Wilson. I writes words fur dah newspapers. I are sad. Your song hurt my ears lots. It make me cries. I'm are disappointed. Please stop...soon. And I are hope you know. I like you just the way you are...

...when you are silent.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel

Published November 4, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

It's the aftermath of Halloween at my house, and all I can really offer you is a little ditty that keeps swimming around in my exhausted head. It's sung, ironically, to the tune of "The Sound of Silence." (Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel.)

Hello, column, my old friend,
I've come to write you once again.
We just got back from trick-or-treating.
The kids and I, we had a meeting,
And I asked them to go to bed for goodness' sake...
They're still awake.
Looks like it's Haaaaaaaalloween.

All through the eve we walked along
Among the brightly costumed throng.
It's such a shame that I'm so tired,
Because my children are all wired,
And their bedtime has been pre-empted by
The sugar high.
Oh yes, it's Haaaaaaaalloween.

And on my front room floor I saw
Ten thousand candies, maybe more.
Children eating without chewing.
Self control, they're all eschewing.
And my youngest told the rest he wouldn't share.
They didn't care.
Just one more Haaaaaaalloween.
"Kids," said I, "it's time to rest.
I need you all to clean this mess
Tomorrow I have a long workday
To cover all the bills I must pay."
But my words like silent dewdrops fell.
They said, "Oh well...
Come on, it's Haaaaaaalloween."

So, then I took a mighty breath
And very sweetly threatened death,
And then my words rang out a warning.
The treats would disappear by morning,
And all candy would be on the off-limits list
And sorely missed
Until next Haaaaaaaaloween.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween Checklist

Published October 28, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Today is a momentous day for me. As I write this column, it is exactly one week before Halloween, and all the costumes are finished. (Excuse me while I brace for the imminent universal implosion.) I didn't even realize I had everything ready until the kids asked to go to the Halloween carnival at the church tonight. When I began to tell them I didn't know if we had all the costumes, I stopped in my oft procrastinating tracks and realized my mental list was almost completely checked off.

Ray: Ninja costume? Check. Nunchucks? Check. Nunchuck Skills? Consult Karate teacher. Nunchuck spelling? Wikipedia says we're good...Check.

Miriam: Burglar costume? Check. Menacing stare? Check. Cleptomania? Two out of three's not bad.

Cate: Cat costume? Check. Puss in Boots accessories? Check. Pronunciation practice so she'll stop saying Pus in Boots? Check.

Evelyn: Fairy costume? Check. Precious, fairy-like good looks? Check. Self deprecating smile so no one realizes I secretly take full credit for those good looks? Check.

Michael: Pumpkin costume? Check. Remembering why I've never had a child wear a pumpkin costume? Check (bad preschool memory involving a stuck costume and a desperate need to urinate). 2nd guessing the pumpkin costume? Check. Remembering my issues should not come before my desire to make my children happy with the costume they choose to wear? Check. Pumpkin costume/newfound humility? Check.

Of course the kids' costumes are not the only ones ready for the big day. I put the finishing touches on a rather spectacular costume of my own. I'm one of those moms who dresses up with the kids every year. If you're not one of those moms, I just have to say I don't really understand you. I like you, because you have enough good taste to read The Mother Load, but I don't understand you.

I mean, think about it. All year long, you're "MOMINEEDFIVEDOLLARS!" or "MOMSHEHITME!" or "I'MTELLINGMOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!" One night a year, you get to be someone else...go incognito...hide behind a mom-free facade (while performing your mom-ly trick or treat duties, of course) and relax in your new identity. You're not going to grab that opportunity like it's the last bottle of fabric refresher on the store shelf after potty training week?

Since becoming a mom, I've been a firefighter, a toddler, a graduate, and a gypsy, among others. This year, I won't so much depart from reality as I will make that reality known to the world in a very enthusiastic way. I'm accompanying the kids trick or treating as "Weird Al Yankovic's Biggest Fan." There's not much to it, but it is a costume I'll never forget. The jury's still out on whether I'll tweak it a little here and there and turn it into "Weird Al Yankovic's Favorite Stalker." Either way, it's perfect. That mental list is almost completely satisfied.

Sarah: Weird Al Yankovic's Biggest Fan costume? Check. Life experience as Weird Al's biggest fan? Check. Life experience as Weird Al's stalker in case I decide to go that direction with the costume? Do the words, "Restraining order? What restraining order?" mean anything to you?


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Internet Mom

Published October 25, 2007

Pssst...Hey you. Yeah, you...with the disheveled hair, the tired face, and the mouse in your hand. I see you there, on the other side of that computer screen. I see you checking us out. You're thinking, "I should be doing ___________ right now..." And yet, here you are.

And why are you here? Because you, like me, are an Internet Mom. The Internet Mom, much like her counterparts in previous generations (the Quilting Bee Mom, the Tupperware Party Mom, and the much maligned Soccer Mom), is a mom who, craving the company and support of other moms, has found a unique way to connect. Our grandmothers bonded over needle and thread. We bond over broadband.

I've been a mom for the past 11 years and an Internet Mom for about the past 6. After giving birth to my youngest girl, I happened upon a message board for moms while nursing her in the middle of the night. There was a raging debate going about the best way to give birth, and like any self respecting homebirther, I happily joined the fray. Typing one-handed, I proceeded to ruffle feathers all over the United States, and the heady feeling of power was intoxicating. An Internet Mom was born.

I've settled down considerably over those 6 years. I'm much more likely to ruffle feathers with this column than anything else, but an Internet Mom I have remained. The heady feeling is still there, only now it's brought on by having so much knowledge at my fingertips 24 hours a day. You know that feeling you get when you finally remember where you've seen that actor before or you figure out that song lyric you couldn't quite place? Googling at 3 am and finding out for sure so you can actually sleep is way better! But there's more...

I can't get enough of tracking my checking account online, paying bills online, or ordering necessities online. The internet is the world's most perfect store. I can always find what I desperately need. A few months ago, I ordered a book I needed for school. A week ago, it was sheet music for the girls' choir I direct twice a week. Most recently, it was the "Weird Al Is My Homeboy" t-shirt I'm using as part of my Halloween costume (I say that as if I'm not actually wearing the shirt with love and pride as often as I possibly can).

I am also happy to report that there is no feeling quite like the giddy rush of telling a funny story and seeing an online friend respond with a hearty ROFL (Rolling On Floor Laughing). You don't get that kind of reaction in real life, let me tell you. The fact that said friend is most likely just having a quiet chuckle in her computer chair is beside the point. In that moment, you've just made someone stop, drop, and roll with laughter, even if on a figurative level. It's a beautiful thing.

So, you wonderful fellow Internet Mom, whether you're old hat at this kind of thing or you're a newby looking for direction and friendship, welcome to our corner of the web! We're glad you could make it, and we're looking forward to providing some fun and friendship while you're here. If you happen to ruffle a few feathers, that's okay too.

If you tell a funny story right after, all that rolling on the floor will smooth them right out.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Motherhood Karma

Published October 21, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I have this story about my mom that I like to tell from time to time. My younger sister, Carla, and I lovingly refer to it as "the day Mom had a nervous breakdown over fish sticks." Just writing that has caused me to giggle uncontrollably for the past 15 minutes.

The story in a nutshell: Mom was having a bad day. We were having fish sticks. My dad, Carla, and I decided to amuse ourselves by first stealing fish sticks off of each other's plates and then tossing fish sticks across the table at each other. Mom's bad day was compounded by her annoyance at our behavior and she finally let out a very, very frustrated, "If I see one more fish stick fly through the air..." We considered that for about two seconds. With a mischievous look, my dad sent a fish stick sailing across the table. It smacked Mom squarely on the nose and landed on her plate. The rest is nervous breakdown history, and Carla and I have been telling the story, to uproarious laughter, ever since.

I thought about this last week when, after four hours of trying to get my daughters to clean their room, a mischievously dropped toy was enough to send me over the edge and make a little nervous breakdown history of my own. It was when I crossed the "someday, you'll have kids and they're going to be just like you," threshold (made it almost eleven years without saying that...give me a cookie) that I realized fish stick+toy=Karma. They've probably already started recounting the story to their friends, giggling uncontrollably each time.

Suddenly, I'm remembering every little thing I ever did and hoping the Motherhood Karma Monster will soon develop some kind of advanced memory loss. If I'm in for everything i gave my mom...well, let's just say I don't think I'm cut out for this.

What if I confess? Is there some form of Karmic absolution available for the truly penitent? I know I'm mixing religions here, but it's worth a shot, right?

-Mom, do you remember that day someone used your curling iron without permission, no one would confess, and you narrowed it down to Gina or me? That was me. Really sorry.

-Mom, when you told me you wanted me to wait and practice a little longer before getting my driver's license, I just had my friend, David, take me to the DMV.

-Mom, I intentionally swept the kitchen floor badly so you would get frustrated, come in and "demonstrate," and finish my chore for me.

-Mom, I was the second gunman on the grassy knoll. (Okay, that's not true, but didn't the thought of it being true make all that other stuff pale in comparison?)

Maybe what I'm trying to do is similar to a deathbed confession...too little, too late. Apparently, the time for producing obedient children happened during my own childhood, and I seriously mucked that up. Of course, if we think this through we'll realize I was only disobedient because MY mom was disobedient as a kid and needed some Karmic retribution of her own, so it's really not my fault at all.

I think my mom deserves a fish stick to the nose for that...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mama, don't bury me with the spuds.

Published October 14, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Shameless plug alert: Ladies, October 25th is the expected launch date of, a new Spectrum sponsored website created by moms, for moms in the Southern Utah area. As a committee member, I've had a hand, along with many talented and dynamic moms, in creating this truly wonderful place for local moms on the web. Check out the page on the launch date and stop by our booth at the What Women Want Expo next weekend!

Now that that's taken care of, we can get to the topic at hand. Perhaps it's better referred to as the topic at stomach, as it is food related. I use the term food loosely, however.

Earlier this year, I wrote a column detailing my final wishes...those very important things I'd like to have done when I leave this life (kicking and screaming, of course). If you'll recall, and more importantly, if you don't, I want my organs donated, my body donated to science, and then I'd like to be cremated and have my remains released from Angel's Landing in Zion National Park. I'm currently taking applications for the job of "Most Honored and Blessed Hiker." Who knows? It could be you!

I was going to leave my final wishes at that, but it occurred to me that after 12 years in this state, I've pretty much "settled" in Utah. In all likelihood, this will be the state in which I die. For the most part, that's not a bad thing, but there is one custom peculiar to this area that makes me want to drag my sick and dying body across any available border before I kick that proverbial bucket.

People...I'm talking about funeral potatoes.

Often served after a Mormon funeral, hence the name, funeral potatoes are diced or hash brown potatoes swimming in fat, covered in fat, drizzled with fat, and then baked in fat. Sometimes, they're topped with corn flakes (for balance, I guess). I've also heard them referred to as Yummy Potatoes, Good Potatoes, and Mormon Potatoes. I like to call them Massive Coronary in a Casserole Dish.

I am asking, nay, begging. Please, for the love of all things holy and cholesterol free, don't serve funeral potatoes at my funeral. I know I'm a member of the LDS church. I know that membership carries with it certain responsibilities and even more certain peculiarities. I know I'm supposed to be "in the world, but not of the world." Funeral potatoes are where I draw the line.

The truth is that I just don't like funeral potatoes. No offense is meant to people who love them, though I express my deepest concern for your health (really...have you seen your doctor lately?). While I know I won't actually be around to eat the meal lovingly prepared for my grieving family and friends, I'm not keen on having many of them follow me in death just moments after my memorial service, you know?

If I may be so bold, I have tentatively drawn up a suggested menu for the...uh...festivities. It's nothing fancy, in fact, it represents the simplicity and practicality of Sarah: spaghetti, garlic bread, and green salad. Jello salad is optional. I don't love it, but I don't have a big problem with it either, and I'm pretty sure it's a commandment that every Mormon function must include jello salad in order to be sanctified in the eyes of God. Far be it from me to plan a funeral God couldn't look upon with approval.

Of course, if funeral potatoes are required for sanctification, I'd rather take my chances.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Big MOVE!

Published October 7, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Before we begin this edition of The Mother Load, we'd like to ask my editor, Kathryn, to offer a word of prayer.

Is it me, or is it Sunday in here? Why, yes. I think it is Sunday in here! After nearly seven years on the pages of the Saturday Spectrum, I'm still a little shocked that my beautiful brainchild is here in the Sunday paper. I mean, this is big news, isn't it? It's the big paper, you know. It's bigger than all the other papers. I had a paper route when I was 11. I can totally vouch.

It's actually so big that I can't seem to share the news without being completely obnoxious. Sometimes, I giggle uncontrollably. Other times, I dance around like a toddler in line for the bathroom. The other morning, I actually burst out with, "Read The Mother to you at craaaaaazzzzzy, discount prices...only on SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAAAAAAY!" I may be a little excited. What do you think?

I got the email notifying me of the switch last week. On Saturday, I awoke and pictured thousands of Mother Load readers opening their papers and staring in consternation at the Southwest Living page, saying to their spouses or children or 25 cats (whichever the case may be), "Oh no! Where's my favorite column? What will I do without my Saturday morning routine???"

I hope most of those unfortunate people found The Mother Load, safe and sound, the following morning. I thought about making an official announcement in this particular Mother Load, but soon realized that the only people who would read it would be the people who have already figured this out. It would be like saying, "Attention Readers: You're reading right now. Don't know if you realized. Wanted you to know. Reading...that's what you're doing...right now. Good for you."

I've had a few people ask me why my column has moved to Sunday. To be honest, I'm not sure. Perhaps there was a space issue. Perhaps it conflicted with something else on the page. Perhaps it's just a great, big, ball of awesomeness and no other paper but Sunday's can fully reflect that awesomeness. It's a grand delusion, and those are the best kind. I think I'll keep it.

Whatever the reason, Sunday is now where you will find my voice. I really like it in here. The comics are all colorful and big. There's an insert full of TV listings (if I had cable, that would be very handy). And, seriously...have you SEEN the coupons? What's not to like? You get me, my good buddy, the Wizard of Id, and a buy one/get one free deal you wouldn't believe. I'm telling you, this is a match made in...

Okay, okay...let's not push our luck here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

This kid thinks she owns the place!

Published September 27, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

The other morning, I had a dream I was in Salt Lake City, riding the Trax light rail train. I stood quietly as I watched homes and businesses whip by me out the window. Then someone kicked me in the stomach. I looked down to see who the offending person was and found myself staring into the eyes of my daughter, Evelyn.

"Evelyn," I said in confusion, "what are you doing in my dream? You weren't here a minute ago." She smiled sweetly up at me and then kicked me in the stomach again. At this point, I realized what was going on and the dream Sarah gave way to the groggy, real life Sarah. I opened one eye to see a dark blond head of curls on my pillow just before receiving a third kick to the stomach.

At that point, there was only one thing I could do. I reached out in the darkness for my cell phone, clicked to the "Memo" option and recorded the following in a drowsy voice: "Column idea. I've got this whole big, giant, king-sized bed...and she always wants to sleep right next to me."

I don't know if I'd call that a universal truth of motherhood, but it's right up there with, "She has a whole, big, giant plate of food, and she always wants to eat from mine." or "We've got this whole, big, giant house with two bathrooms, and she always wants to go in mine...while I'm in there...using it."

Maybe it's more like the Murphy's law of motherhood. It's, "Why would I want to drink my perfectly good soda for which I begged until I cried when I can have yours?" or "Why would I want to eat my own perfectly good bowl of popcorn to watch the movie when I can steal yours?"

You get a special set of boundaries when you become a mom, by which I mean, you have none. I'm not really sure we can blame our kids, though. It's not like we moms don't encourage it. We let them camp out in our bellies for nine months, completely taking over our bodies like something from "Alien," then the moment we get our bodies back, we use them to feed our babies around the clock for months on end. Can we really blame them for thinking they own the place?

If I'm completely honest with myself, I'd say that I don't really mind it. It really doesn't bother me that Evelyn finds her way into my bed in the middle of the night and decides, given all the space from which to choose, to cuddle up to me. I know that means she loves me and likes feeling secure and safe by my side. I just don't like getting kicked in the stomach.

I'm working on some strategies for getting more sleep. Last night, I made a nifty boundary marker out of blankets pillows down the middle of my bed, sprawled out on my half and left the other half open for my late night visitor. She took the bait and we both slept well. A quick glance at my bed as I write this tells me tonight will be much the same. At some point, I'll need to wean her from my bed completely.

If she gets married by the time she's 25, life will be grand.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

No really, Mom...we're cool.

Published September 15, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I woke up this morning a full half hour before I need to wake up to get to work on time. This is quite a feat, considering most mornings I wake up a full 15 minutes after I need to wake up to get to work on time. Not much, short of a road trip, gets me out of bed any earlier than I have to be up. Not much, that is, except for Stripe it Rich Cake.

Stripe it Rich Cake is my favorite cake in the whole wide world (my birthday is December 20th. Many of you should start taking Some people call it a "Jello Poke Cake." Whatever the name, it is a cake pan full of moist, pudding filled perfection. It's made by poking rows of holes into a freshly baked cake, then pouring freshly mixed pudding over the top, then chilling, frosting, and serving. The result is pure heaven. I made the cake for a coworker's birthday, and not even a speck of it was left in the pan five minutes after it was unveiled.

The Stripe it Rich Cake has an interesting history in my life. There's a whole story behind it...a painfully tragic story involving a much younger me, and the cake that, seemingly, could never be mine. It's much too long (and painful and tragic) for a Mother Load column, at least in the version I usually tell. I'll sum up as best I can:

Birthday #5 or 6: I had my first taste of Stripe it Rich Cake and fell in love. Birthdays #6 or 7 to #17: I asked for a Stripe it Rich Cake to no avail. Birthday #17, I told my sob story to a friend who promptly called my mother for the recipe and made the cake for me. A few months later, my younger sister, Carla, got the cake from my mom for her 16th birthday without even requesting it.

And then...Birthday #18. I came home from school to find two cakes on the counter, waiting to be frosted. The first was a plain chocolate cake. The second had the telltale holes. At long last, my mother had come through! There sat a Stripe it Rich Cake just for me! Carla and I were so excited we frosted both cakes and each took a beautiful, perfect piece from the cake of my dreams. Oh, the exquisite joy of it. It was heaven, and it was mine.

Only it wasn't mine. Mom came home, saw the missing pieces of cake and let out a shout. "That wasn't your cake! That cake was for Young Women's night at church. THAT (indicating the untouched, plain chocolate cake) was your cake!"

Oh, the ironic tragedy of it all! It's nearly Shakespearean, don't you think? All I need to complete it is a balcony, a trio of witches, and a talking skull and this thing could play on Broadway. I've been telling my story for about 12 years now in a one woman show, complete with voices, outrageous gestures, and the occasional costume, to anyone who would listen. It's my "Oh my gosh, I was the forgotten middle child and nobody loved me. Isn't my life so hard?" story.

It was when I told the story a few weeks ago that I realized those stolen bites of the cake that was not mine were the last bites of Stripe it Rich cake I'd had. I spent over ten years hoping for the cake as a kid, and in 12 years of adulthood, and I hadn't ever made the cake for myself. After all, if I made myself a Stripe it Rich Cake, where would all my underprivileged pining go? What would become of my story if I just started gifting myself the cake to end all cakes?

I looked briefly at the options. Bitterness/cake. Whiny story/cake. Shakespearean tragedy/CAKE! I made a command decision. I made a Stripe it Rich Cake. Today, I made another. In the coming weeks, I will make more. I'm sure of it. What? You won a free pedicure? Let's have some cake! What? It's National Toenail Awareness week? I'll bake a cake! What? You just saved a bunch of money on your car insurance? CAKE!

The whiny voice inside of me is saying, "But, but, story..." I'm still trying to convince it that I forgave my mother years ago, that I'm probably not remembering the story correctly anyway, and that harboring resentment over something as silly as cake is, well, silly. I don't know if it's working, but I keep trying.

The voice quiets down when I stuff it with cake, so I'm hopeful.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sunsational Days of Summer

Published September 8, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

September has arrived in the desert, and with it comes the advent of a brand new holiday. If you'll remember, I'm the official U.S. New Holiday Namer and have been since I gave myself the job in an edition of the Mother Load a few years ago. My new holiday will occur every year on September 9th. I'm calling it Desert Tortoise Day. It's similar to Groundhog Day, only without all the fur and media hype and groundhog groupies.

Like Groundhog Day, Desert Tortoise day is all about predicting the weather. If the Desert Tortoise sees his shadow, we'll have two more months of summer. If the Desert Tortoise doesn't see his shadow, we'll have two more months of summer. If the Desert Tortoise gets tired of living on the reserve, hops the tiny perimeter fence, and heads for cooler weather, we'll have two more months of summer.

It may not be as exciting as the Groundhog Day prediction, but it's certainly more accurate.

I was actually quite shocked to learn that I've made it all the way to September without writing an, "I hate St. George summers!" column. I usually have one cranked out by the middle of June. One year, I wrote three separate columns dealing with summer in the desert. When I realized I hadn't used the pages of the Spectrum to lament the summer heat so far this season, I figured I'd either gotten used to it or I'd settled into some newfound sense of maturity and restraint.

It was when I heard a radio ad proclaiming these the "Sunsational Days of Summer," that I realized neither was the case. Screaming words they could never print in a paper as nice as The Spectrum, I cursed the radio voice to the hottest depths of a Sunsational hell and cried like a little sissy girl. It seems no amount of conditioning will ever help me get used to temperatures topping 116 degrees Fahrenheit. I've also decided maturity and restraint are completely overrated, so here I am, writing an "I hate St. George summers!" column yet again.

September is always a hard month for me. The first 15 Septembers of my life are so deeply imbedded in my subconscious, I still expect the weather to be the way I remembered it as a child growing up in Oklahoma, Germany, and north Texas. The calendar page turns to month number nine, and suddenly a primitive part of my brain is screaming, "JACKET WEATHER! YIPEEEEE!" then recoiling in shock at the absence thereof. I'm definitely not walking outside into the heat and proclaiming it "Sunsational."

I mean, really...Sunsational? Is that how you would describe this weather? Sunsational? How about Scorchtastic? Maybe Blisterific would fit. Swelterlicious might work. Then there's my personal favorite: Scalderamabamaholycowitsreallyhot!

I guess I should count my blessings. There are hotter places on this earth. My friend, Becca, and I skirted Death Valley on our way to Yosemite this summer. St. George isn't quite as hot as Death Valley, but almost. We're like Gravely Wounded Valley. It Doesn't Look Good Valley. It Could Go Either Way Valley. I'm Not Quite Dead Yet Valley.

Of course, in two months, when we've finally seen our last triple digit day and the weather suddenly changes just in time for Halloween, I'll be happy I live in Southern Utah. Crazy hot summers mean wonderfully mild winters. We endure the heat to get the payoff at the end of the year. It's all about the balance, right? Right?

Whatever. I'd live naked in an igloo all winter long for a little bit of jacket weather right now.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Geek in Heaven

Published September 1, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Sometime last year, I wrote a column that was destined to become an all time favorite of mine. I called it "the geek column." It defined, in no uncertain terms, the difference between a geek and a nerd, and it served as my notice to the world that I, Sarah Wilson, am a geek and proud of it.

These days, I am not only a geek. I am a geek in paradise.

What is a geek's paradise? There are, of course, several possibilities: electronics stores; Renaissance fairs, science fiction conventions. For most of us, a little bit of paradise can be found while viewing anything produced by Monty Python or while listening to anything sung by Weird Al Yankovic. The greatest geek paradise, however, is found within the hallowed walls of an institution of higher education. In my case, that institution is Dixie State College.

(Pardon me while I do an extremely geeky happy dance.)

As a bona fide, registered, card carrying geek, I can't help but dance with joy over the prospect of going to school. I love school. I love books. I love teachers and outlines and essays. I love grades and deadlines and homework and tests. Stepping into my first class was like coming home. I had to resist the almost overwhelming urge to tackle my instructor in an inappropriate bear hug while screaming, "I'M HEEEEEEEEERE!" I'm sure she appreciated my restraint.

Since beginning classes last week, I've spent many a happy hour reminiscing about my high school days. My high school experience was somewhat similar to most. I attended dances and football games and participated in Senior Skip Day (sorry, Mom). I was in clubs and choirs and performed in plays. I had my trusty band of friends who laughed through lunches and hung out after school.

These are not the things I really remember about high school, though. When I think about the precious moments of high school, I remember the warmth of worksheets straight from the copier...the excited butterflies of SAT day...the absolute thrill of successfully titrating a solution in Chemistry...the exultation of getting a perfect score on an exam and ruining the curve for all the suckers who actually needed one. (Did I just type that out loud?)

This is not to say going back to school after a 12 year absence has been without its bumps. I dealt with a little anxiety over being 30 among 18-21 year olds until I saw a woman in her 70's purchasing her books in the bookstore. I've gotten plenty of exercise by walking the wrong way to classes. I didn't manage to actually cook dinner any night this week. It's an adjustment, to be sure.

By adjustment, I mean "HOLY COW! I'M IN HEAVEN!" but you knew that.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Adventures of HikeWoman

Published August 25, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Living my life as a published writer, I'm often approached by people with suggestions on what I should write. The suggestions range from the witty to the off topic to the inappropriate, but I try to listen and be open, taking note of those ideas that would work well for "The Mother Load." Lately, the suggestions have been loud, and they have been unanimous.

"WHEN are you going to write the Half Dome column?"

They have a point. I hiked the Half Dome trail in Yosemite just over a month ago, completing the 19 miles in a grueling 13 hours. My dear friend, Becca, and I bounced up to the trailhead with vigor and excitement and just a little nervousness. 13 hours later, we hobbled back across that line, exhausted but accomplished, feeling like superheroes. (That is to say, we felt like superheroes who had faced an arch enemy, battling for 13 hours straight while covered in kryptonite and simultaneously holding an endangered bus full of nuns and school children.)

You know, I kind of like the idea of being a superhero. I think I'll keep it. 13 hours on that trail certainly earned it for me. And, if I do say so myself (and I always do), I fit most of the criteria for being a superhero. I found this criteria on various websites, including a site devoted to the promotion of the "Real Life Superhero" community, a growing movement of ordinary people fighting crime while dressed in costume. (I wish I were making that up.) To prove myself a real superhero, I submit to my readers the following:

-Costume. It's not much and wasn't sewn by my adoptive earth mother out of alien baby blankets, but my costume is perfect for my superhero persona: HikeWoman. Cargo pants, light t-shirt, a reflective cap, and extra padded socks allow me to hike in style. Sunglasses conceal my identity, and my beloved Merrell hiking shoes keep me going for hours on end. I may not have a jaw dropping, black body stocking like Catwoman, but I can guarantee I'm much more comfy.

-Gadgets. I'm not able to claim any actual super powers, so I'm of the Batman variety of superheroes. I compensate for my humanity with gadgets. Instead of ex-ray vision, I have my trusty flashlight. Instead of sticky spider claws that enable me to scramble up walls, I have my hiking gloves with the "sure grip" textured surface. My Camelbak acts as my all in one utility belt. Instead of super strength, well, I have completely disgusting power bars...but who needs super strength anyway, right?

-Sidekick. Every superhero needs a sidekick, and that's where Becca comes in. I prefer, however, to consider her my partner in crime fighting. We're like the two person version of the Fantastic Four. We're the Terrific Two, if you will. Becca fights crime and fashion faux pas as "The Prada Boy Scout." She's always prepared...with handbags and shoes and other glamorous accessories.

-Alter ego. HikeWoman's alter ego, Sarah E. Wilson is as nerdy as they come. She even writes for a newspaper just like Clark Kent! ( didn't hear it from me.)

-Nemesis. For now, my nemesis is the Half Dome itself, and what a clever villain it is. Braving the first 8 miles of the trek, 4800 feet straight up, we made it to the base of the dome only to learn we were almost out of water. With another 8 miles to the bottom, I looked at my arch enemy and admitted a slight defeat (making sure to note that dehydration is my kryptonite). I made it all 19 miles, but I didn't stand on top of the rock, so I consider this battle a draw. Now, I sit in my fortress of solitude, training for the day next year when Half Dome and I will meet again. Next time, I'll have all my gadgets, skip the power bars, and I'll make sure I have enough water.

I'm also in the market for a radioactive spider, if anyone knows anything.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spring Cleaning for Obsessives

Published April 28, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Happy April! How's the Spring Cleaning going?

I wonder what it is about spring that makes a person want to clean. I had previously thought "Spring Cleaning" was an arbitrary thing imposed by mean mothers who want to deprive their children of the joys of playing outside on the most beautiful days of the year. 10 years of motherhood and the 10 springs that have come along with it, I realize it's actually an instinct imbedded within my being--probably on a cellular level. It's spring...time to smell flowers, dance in rain showers, and clean the house for hours.

I've decided there is one problem with this type of cleaning. It snowballs. A mom in the midst of spring cleaning is like a socialite with a trust fund in the middle of an outlet mall. "I'll take that...and that...and that..." You start cleaning and in the process of cleaning you realize how much more you have to clean. Pretty soon, you're buried under a metaphorical mountain of housework desire. "I'll clean that...and that...and that..."

Case in point: About six springs ago, I decided to buy a commercial spot remover and claim victory over the dirty spots on my living room carpet. Upon cleaning my first spot, I was amazed, nay, ASTONISHED at the cleaning power of this product. The spot I was working on was gone, revealing the original vibrant, forest green carpet beneath. I was in awe! I was overjoyed! I was ready to sing the praises of this product to everyone I knew. And then I looked at the rest of the floor.

For about an hour and a half, I attacked spot after spot after spot, each time marveling at the ease in which I was able to uncover the true beauty of that carpet. Stepping back to survey my work, I was aghast to realize that where I formerly had a dirty carpet marked by even dirtier spots, I was now looking at a dirty carpet speckled with clean spots. An hour and a half of my life and all I gained was a new desire to rent a carpet cleaner and attack it all.

I am a list maker, and the sight of my spring cleaning list is like a crazy, blurry portrait of my delusions of housework grandeur. My list for today looks like this: organize all the closets in the house, sort through clothes and donate, label and alphabetize VHS tapes, wash windows, reorganize camping gear, defrost the chest freezer, file all my bills and receipts, give myself an exfoliating facial, color my hair, and write the great American novel.

You laugh because you think I'm joking.

What I predict will happen today is that halfway through the first closet, I'll realize I've been wading through mattress pads, gloves, hats, crutches, and board games for seven hours straight. Will that discourage me? Of course not. When I'm on a cleaning kick, the reality of the situation is not important. I'm like the kid who wants to be a firefighter/dentist/pediatrician/ballerina/superhero/garbage collector. Why not, right?

It will be interesting to see how much actually gets done. My greatest fear is that I will give up after realizing the deluded error of my ways and not much of anything will get done. Okay...that's my second greatest fear. My greatest fear is that my lifeless body will be found in a few days, crushed under the weight of sleeping bags and frozen meat.

Those fears notwithstanding, I will be diving into Spring Cleaning...perhaps with a more manageable list. Or maybe I will just see it as a "Reach for the stars to capture the moon" kind of thing and know that I will get more done than I might have without all my high hopes.

Of course, once I've captured the moon, I'm just going to realize it needs to be swept.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Be Mine. You too!

Published February 10, 2007

St. George Spectrum & Daily News

In case you've forgotten...or you live in a cave...or you enjoy life without access to cable TV...Valentine's Day is this Wednesday. If any of the previous conditions apply, you might want to get your forgetful, cable-less self out of the cave and get to the store to buy some candy before all that's left are those weird candy "conversation" hearts.

I've never been a very big fan of the conversation heart. It's traditional, sure, but it's chalky and small and completely devoid of chocolate. I think they're fairly cute, but when it comes to eating them, I just don't see the attraction.

You know, I'm not sure I really understand the purpose of the Valentine conversation heart, either. I've always assumed that from the time they were created, back in 1866, they were meant to be given as a pledge of love from one person to another. Indeed, the original conversation candies had the phrases, "Be mine," "Be True," and "Kiss Me," which are still in use today.

Here's where I get lost. People don't just give these hearts to their true loves. People give these things to every Joe Schmo on the street! They pass them out like, well, candy! After a while, I figure people just stop reading them. Certainly, the 8th time you get a "Be Mine" candy heart from a mere acquaintance, it begins to lose its meaning. (Personally, I consider that particular heart carte blanche to jump into the giver's arms and scream, "I'm YOURS!")

To its credit, the company making these hearts unveils a new set of sayings every year. It keeps things fresh, I suppose. I don't know if it really helps. This year, the new phrases are "animal themed" in honor of their pairing with a Massachusetts animal rights group. That's interesting. I still don't know how I'd feel about my children getting "Puppy Love" hearts from their teachers at school.

I know Valentine's Day is the holiday for lovers, but couldn't there be a set of generic hearts for those of us not really interested in wooing anyone in particular? Seriously, folks, how many people are actually paired up on Valentine's Day? 50%? Is it even that high? Shouldn't there be a more sane option for the rest of us?

How about, "Lets Be friends" hearts, with sayings like "Be Yourself!," and "We're Platonic!" and "Things are fine just the way they are?" Or maybe they could make "We've Just Met" hearts: "Nice Shoes," "You're Not Ugly," or "Let me get that door for you, madam."

They could even make "Break-up Hearts" for that person who just can't suffer through the holiday with the one he's with. "We Need to Talk" and "It's Not You, It's Me" hearts would be all he needed to dispense with the offending significant other. Personally, I'm partial to "I Love You, But I'm Not IN Love With You," because, like every person who's ever dated, I thought I made this one up.

I wouldn't mind seeing a bag of hearts bearing completely random sayings and phrases. They already have a few hearts in the regular bag like that. Why not spread the wealth? I, for one, would love to see an "I Burped" conversation heart someday. It could be given before or after the "Excuse Me" heart. Other hearts I'd like to see: "You're Adequate," "Gone Fishing," "Blighted Area," and "There Is No Spoon."

The good news is that the company making these candies will actually create conversation hearts for anyone who has an idea for a good phrase. As long as you're willing to pay for an entire production run of candies (roughly 1 million hearts), they'll make them just for you! Not a bad idea, don't you think?

1 million "Read The Mother Load" hearts are on their way to my house as you read this.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Shopping alone

Published January 20, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

So, I did my grocery shopping today. Big news, huh. Sarah went to the store, put food in a cart, and then purchased it. Stop...the...presses.

What you may not realize is that the above announcement IS big news. SARAH (singular) went to the store. SARAH (no one else mentioned) put food in a cart. SARAH (completely and totally alone) then purchased the food. So, maybe stock prices went up or mortgage rates went down or somebody somewhere got inaugurated or assassinated. Big hairy deal. I WENT TO THE STORE ALONE AND I'M HERE TO TELL THE WORLD ABOUT IT!

Eleven years of shopping with small children will do this to a person.

Shopping alone is hard to describe. it's not. It's AMAZING! I walk down the aisle and no one sits on the floor, refusing to move. I browse cereal selections and no one whines or begs. I get to the checkout with everything I need and absolutely nothing that I didn't already plan to buy. It's a miracle!

And the checkout...oh, the checkout. It was a beautiful thing. I pushed my cart up to the line with a decided swagger and announced in a brusque voice: "I am the Lone Shopper. I shop alone." After the cashier decided not to call security, we had the following conversation.

Me: "You know, if I knew anything about computer programming, I'd play with this touch screen so instead of asking me, 'Was your store clean today?' it would ask silly questions. Maybe...'Does your cashier have a mullet today?'"

Him: (Laughing) "You know, I used to have a mullet when I was a kid. I told my friend the other day that I was thinking of doing it again."

Me: "I had a girl mullet in the 80's. A girl mullet and a perm. It rocked."


Seems like a fairly boring conversation, but really, it's a revelation. The only thing I usually say in the checkout line is, "Michael, sit back down. No, Ray, you may not have a candy bar. We discussed this earlier. Evelyn, put that down. Who put the Chex Mix in the cart? SHARE the popcorn chicken, please. You know, if I knew anything about computer pro--Cate! Not okay! Miriam, you just went to the bathroom. Why do you need to go again?"

Having seen the absolute miracle of shopping alone, I've vowed to do it again as soon as possible...maybe even tomorrow. I'm definitely going to make a habit of this. I'll save money and time and maybe even a little of my sanity.

I would like to give a warning to anyone who wants to attempt shopping alone after years of shopping with kids. You may at some point find you are bored with the ease of picking up food items and placing them in your cart and having absolutely nothing else whatsoever to do. You may even feel an almost overwhelming urge to scold someone else's child in order to bring a little equilibrium to the experience. That's okay. It will pass. At least, I hope it will.

To the woman with the red headed boy in frozen foods: I'm sorry. He can have the toaster strudels if he really wants them.