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.