Other People

Back in the early 80′s when I was an awkward pre-teen I fell in love with some animals. They weren’t real animals, they were much better than that; they were Critter Sitters. These were soft, adorable illustrations of animals dressed up all cutesy doing things that animals clearly aren’t meant to do: why would a koala rake leaves or talk on the phone? I never asked myself that question once. (Who decided there was anything cute about raking leaves anyway?) None of that mattered. I was madly in love with Critter Sitters.

I managed to get a few critter sitter folders since they were cheap and easy to find.

I also got a nightshirt that I wore to all slumber parties and sleepovers. I felt so attractive in it; like I was actually as adorable as the animals printed on the front. The holy grail of Critter Sitter items was, in my mind, panties. I saw a pack of panties with Critter Sitter characters on them and my heart nearly stopped. Now this was back in the day when everything came plain and you had to pay extra for cartoon characters. Nowadays it’s the opposite and I have to search high and low for plain, non-character clothing. Most of the underwear my mom bought for me was waist-high briefs printed with tiny rose buds. There was a pair with pink roses, a pair with blue roses and the most disdained: the pair with yellow roses.  I don’t know why I didn’t just spend my allowance and buy some critter sitter underwear, but that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility in my feeble 10-year-old brain. So I decided the next best option would be to paint Critter Sitters onto my own underwear. I was born uttering the phrase, “I’m sure I could do that. How hard can it be?” Now that I’m an adult, that viewpoint has really come in handy. But preteens are not so good at doing stuff.

I got out a pair of silky white granny panties and the only paints I owned–watercolors–and set to work. Within a couple of minutes it became clear that, as brilliant an artist as I was, I would not be able to recreate the Critter Sitter artwork in any way. Instead of shrugging my shoulders and tossing the panties in the sink to rinse them out, I had that furtive sense of guilt that kids always seem to have. My only option seemed to be to throw the underwear into the woods behind my house.

It was a wet, muddy morning but I slipped out the siding door in my socks and flung the underpants into the trees as far as I could. (Knowing me, that was about three feet.) I thought I was home free until I noticed my little brother Ben watching me. He was old enough to know something odd was going on but young enough to not be able to speak intelligently. That kid sat next to the sliding door pointing and making babbly toddler noises until finally my dad decided to go check out what was out there in the woods that Ben was so fascinated with.

My father came back inside a few minutes later holding a dripping pair of panties. “I don’t know what Ben was so interested in, but here’s some underwear I found outside,” he said, tossing them to me.  I froze and looked down. Instead of wondering why my underwear had painted stick figures all over them, my dad had only seen a pair of panties that had been rinsed out in the rain. I nearly fainted with relief. The idea that someone might find out that I had tried to paint my own underwear seemed beyond foolish and absurd; buying them at the store suddenly made perfect sense.

Now to come up with a plan to ride my bike on the freeway to the mall . . . . (oh yeah. It happened.)



It’s been Prom time around here. We have a no-dating-til-age-16 rule which means this was the first year that York and India were both old enough to go. India went with her boyfriend, Ethan, to both the school Prom and MoPro (Mormon Prom) where there aren’t so many skanky dresses and hoochie dancing. York just went to MoPro. Boys have a really easy time as far as the Prom is concerned: we bought him a nice suit, got his haircut, picked up a corsage and voilà! He was all set. For girls it is another story entirely. First there is the dress. It’s bad enough finding a dress that is cute and affordable, but when you’re Mormon it’s supposed to be modest too, meaning no crazy cleavage and shoulders must be covered. Choices are very limited locally. (I wish there were some sort of modest Prom Dress Excahange!) One of India’s friends loaned her a really pretty navy dress that we managed to modest-ize and I think it turned out well. Now that the Prom’s over we have to unpick all the modest additions so we can return it. Good thing they were just basted on.

It’s also a good thing that I know how to do nails, hair and makeup. There were a lot of girls who didn’t even bother to put on lipstick! For the Prom! It’s a good teaching opportunity to explain the difference between daytime and nighttime makeup. Of course India’s face showed up the best in all the pictures. I don’t take my beauty responsibilities lightly! Because India went to two Proms, that meant I got to spend two Saturdays in a row getting her all ready. (Luckily I used Angel Pro nail polish–with some silver glitter on the tips–so her manicure looked just as nice the second weekend as the first.)

Mister waited for India’s date to show up.

India’s boyfriend is the nicest boy. Terribly sweet and gentlemanly. Even so I had a little chat and told him that I’d punch him in the face if he drank any alcohol. I like to make sure that we’re on the same page.  I was sort of kidding, but not really.

The Prom was pretty nice and a good time was had until things started to get crazy and everyone was grinding on the dance floor.

The next weekend was MoPro. Since York doesn’t have his driver’s license yet, India had to drive him to pick up his date, Taylor. It was like some sort of bad Brady Bunch episode. Taylor is a pretty low-key, casual girl and York likes hanging out with her so they had a fun time.

I especially love this picture because York never–and I mean never–smiles for pictures. But lookie here! What a nice smile! I knew he could do it. York is not really into looking good (I picked him up from track practice a few weeks ago and he was wearing a dark green t-shirt, orange silky basketball shorts and black knee-high dress socks. He wears this ugly stuff proudly!). Finn, who is 14, is super into his looks. He actually had to tie York’s bow tie for him, help York style his hair and loaned him a nice watch to wear. It was pretty funny to see.

All the people going to MoPro together came over to our neighborhood and took pictures before heading off to dinner. What a cute bunch of kids!

Today we were on our way to church when a car pulled up beside us at s stop sign. It was a nice new convertible. The woman in the passenger seat was wearing a bathing suit and there was a young boy in the back. I heaved a big sigh because some Sundays I would much rather be hanging out and having another Saturday. Mormons are big-time Sabbath keepers. Sunday is the day for church and family, thinking about God, napping (being the Day of Rest and all) and maybe taking a leisurely stroll. There is no eating out, no swimming or sports and absolutely no shopping. The idea being that we don’t want to cause anyone to break the commandment of keeping the Sabbath Day holy.*

When we were travelling home from Arizona a couple of months ago, our trip spilled over onto a Sunday. Obviously if you’re travelling you have to buy gas and food and all even though it’s the Sabbath, so we decided to stop at the Costco in El Paso to grab some hot dogs. Holy Cow! Costco on Sunday is even crazier that Costco on Saturday! Maybe the El Paso Costco is always that way. But we could barely find a parking spot! Is this what Sunday is? The day of shopping? I had no idea!

Part of me really likes having a day that we don’t have to worry about most of the cares of the world. We don’t have to think about errands or kids’ birthday parties (a Sunday invitation is an automatic no). It’s a day to recharge ourselves spiritually and physically. I also love having my kids around me for an entire day without everyone scattering in a million different directions.

I needed to talk to one of the women in the ward when I was at church today. I hadn’t seen her during Sacrament meeting so I asked one of her friends if she would be there for either of the other meetings (church is three hours long and consists of three separate meetings). “No, she was really tired and wanted to sleep in and just have an at-home day”, her friend told me. I really felt like screaming. I would like nothing more than sleeping in and having an at-home day too! What makes her think that we all love being at church? It’s like being on a diet and having someone tell you that they can’t diet because they like sweets too much. I like sweets too!

A lot of time doing the right thing is the harder, less fun choice. And yes, I think going to church is the right choice. No matter what religion you are, spending time thinking about something other than yourself and what you feel like doing is a good thing. Especially if you’re encouraged to be loving and kind to other people. But it’s not a fun choice. It’s not entertaining. It’s like eating vegetables. It’s the best choice as far as eating goes, but it’s not exactly the tastiest choice. Some people really love veggies–to the point of being a vegetarian–but there are a lot of people who go days–or even weeks–without eating their veg. I think we could all agree that vegetables will never taste as good as a cookie.  But you need to eat food that is nourishing. And church is kind of like vegetables. Maybe not the funnest or most exciting but it’s the thing that will keep your spirit healthiest.

And so the family in the convertible turned right today; going to the lake or maybe to the water park. We turned left as we always do and went to church. Just like every week.

 

*There are plenty of crappy Mormons who shop/go boating/eat out on Sundays. If we see them we usually shout, “booooo” and thrown rotten food at them. Just kidding. I’ve struggled with Sabbath-keeping at different points in my life. We all make choices and will have to deal with the consequences, whatever they may be. But it’s one of the Ten Commandments, so you can’t really argue with that.

I went to see that new Jackie Robinson movie yesterday. I snuck out in the middle of the day and went to the fancy theatre that has super cushy recliners. It was all fine and dandy until I spilled an entire Coke Zero on my pants. But I’m a tough broad so I just ignored the soaking wet denim. I was actually wearing a raincoat but do you think I spilled the Coke on that? Of course not.

The movie was good, if formulaic. It’s always so crazy to see how racist people used to be. (I’m sure there are still incredibly racist normal people–normal, as in “not skinheads”–but it’s got to be pretty underground.)  When I see movies like 42 or The Help it’s very hard to understand that’s how things were for black people not that long ago. Part of me wonders if was really that bad because how could people have been so hateful because of someone’s skin color?

I grew up in a different environment than most white people, I guess.  Detroit, where I was born and raised, is mostly black. I lived in the first suburb north of the city. It was lower- to middle-class and was probably the first stop when people wanted to move on up from Detroit proper. I would say that the schools I went to were pretty evenly split between black and white, especially as I entered my teen years. Unlike the South, though, there really was no sort of “us vs. them” mentality. The most popular boys in my fifth grade class were Jahmod (A black kid) and Jason (a Jewish kid). (Oh yeah, there was a huge Jewish population in our town too. Which meant white Christians were totally the minority. We loved Jewish kids because that meant we got a whole bunch of Jewish holidays off of school too; not just the regular Christian ones.) Being Mormon and white? Super minority. I was pretty much the only one in middle and high school.

The mall closest to our house was called Northland and was the first modern shopping mall in America.  I remember going there and being the only white person I’d see. It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or weird; it just was the way it was. I took Mister to that same mall when we went back to visit Detroit for my dad’s funeral back in the early 90′s. Man, did he almost have a heart attack! Being from Portland, OR, he was never exposed to many black people. He thought for sure someone was going to attack us. I just laughed and told him how I’d been shopping there dozens of times by myself at night. I can only blame the media for giving him the idea that young black men are all thugs; how else would he have developed that opinion?

We had lots of black people at church. Our bishop was eventually a black man, as were some of my primary teachers and Young Women Leaders. Our ward spread deep into Detroit and we had a real variety of members.Not just blacks but some members of Arabic descent too. It all seemed completely normal. I don’t recall the race card ever being mentioned.

When I look back on the relations between blacks and whites growing up, I wonder if maybe I was just clueless. But I remember blacks and whites sitting at the same tables at lunch; blacks and whites going to dances together and hanging out. Maybe our town was unique or maybe I just remember things differently, being a white girl.

 

*Yep, that’s me, Jennie Hildegard Davis, in the third row of the school picture; rocking the braces and feathered bangs. Viva Eighth Grade!

 

My kids have been bugging me for months to watch a bunch of YouTube videos by some German guy named Flula. Apparently he lives in America and has a bit of trouble figuring out the idiosyncrasies of our language.  Finally I caved and watched some of these videos. They’re pretty funny, although he’s no Sweet Brown. This one was my favorite. These are a lot funnier if you have preteens to watch them with. (For some reason this guy alway tapes videos in his car. Kind of weird. And he is a DJ part time, hence the headphones.) If you want to see more of the German Guy his Rock, Paper, Scissors and Jennifer the Party Pooper”  vids are also really good.

One of my very favorite things growing up was to come home and find my mother not there. She was very bossy and we fought a lot but that wasn’t the reason why; I loved to make baked goods while she wasn’t around to tell me I was doing things wrong. She also would make me share anything I baked and that was entirely distressing to a sugar-crazed glutton like me.

The year I turned 11 I learned how to make pie crust. I suppose my mother taught me or maybe I just went through her recipe files and taught myself. Either way I figured it out. At first I stuck to making rolled out dough sprinkled with cinnamon. It’s still one of my favorite treats to this day. But eventually I decided to incorporate one of my other favorite ingredients: strawberry jam. It wasn’t homemade. I don’t think I knew that homemade jam even existed. I used plain-old Smuckers to make tarts. I called them tarts as they looked like pop-tarts. This is how they looked in my nursery rhyme book too (“The Knave of Hearts, he stole some tarts”). Nowadays, though, tarts are just teensy pies. The things I traditionally think of tarts are called hand pies. This term is horrid. If an apple pie is made of apples and a lemon pie is made of lemons, what conclusion would you draw of a hand pie? Exactly. If you know a better name, please tell me.

I could barely wait until my jam tarts were out of the oven before gobbling them up. Usually I didn’t wait and would burn my tongue on the steamy filling. Once I added a spoonful of marshmallow fluff to each jam tart but that was gilding the lily a bit, even for a passionate sugar-lover. I would happily eat an entire batch of tarts, wrapping them in the prettiest dishtowel I could find and sneaking them throughout the evening. Everything would be cleaned up meticulously before my mother got home. Not that she would have cared, really, but I liked having secrets.

Not all my goodie-making experiments turned out so well. Once I tried to melt chocolate chips in a saucepan thinking that they would magically become hot fudge. Instead I completely burned the chocolate and could not get it out of the pan to save my life. Panicking, my solution was to throw the pot into the snowy woods in my backyard. My idea seemed to work and nobody noticed. I’m sure my mother tore apart the kitchen looking for her pan but nobody thought to ask me, seeing as how I was only nine.

Then spring came. The snow melted. And one day my very angry father came storming into the house wanting to know who had left a pan outside. My brother was just a baby so my sister Arianne (who was six at the time) and I were told to stand on the steps so that our faces were at the same level as my father’s. Over and over he demanded to know what had happened. There was no way I was going to fess up. I knew that irate look on my father’s face well. It meant one thing: Spanky-town.

Arianne and I both adamantly denied any knowledge of the pot. Had I half a brain I should have blamed it on one of our terrible babysitters. But all I knew is that I wasn’t about to get in trouble. And no child was as stubborn as I was. My father continued grilling us for an eternity. Finally he announced, “well, I’m just going to have to spank you both until somebody admits it.” This was too much for my poor, tenderhearted sister. “I did it! I left the pan outside!” she wailed. I could not believe this brilliant turn of events. I looked at my sister out of the corner of my eye and remember thinking one word: sucker. I then skipped happily off to my bedroom while I assume my sister got laid across my dad’s knee.

I never felt bad for an instant. Looking back I can’t believe how horrible I was. Apparently those years of Sunday School lessons bounced right off my forehead.  But I did learn to use a double boiler when melting chocolate.

 

*The picture is from one of my very favorite blogs: Aunt Ruthie’s Sugar Pie Farmhouse. She has a delightful–gulp–hand pie recipe that you might want to try.

It’s Red Ribbon Week. Oh joy. I love to rant and rave about how stupid it is (you can read about it here). There is no way that having weird hair/crazy socks/wearing pajamas is going to keep my kids off drugs. That’s the whole point of red ribbon week, right? To get kids not to take drugs? But this year I’m not feeling quite so irate. It’s true, I did find myself at The-Store-That-Must-Not-Be-Named at 11 pm on Monday buying slippers (“Give drugs the slip!”). But even so, I just kind of shrugged it off.  Today the kids are supposed to wear a shirt with a sports team logo. You might think that’s a no-fail category but when you have a houseful of nerds who don’t like sports, that’s a tall order.  Ada likes the University of Texas Longhorns so she always has something burnt orange to wear. However, Mister and I are BYU alums. It’s not so easy to find BYU shirts in Austin.  And don’t even suggest for a second that we own clothing items from a professional sports team. The mere thought is hilarious.

Yesterday the kids were all talking about the various plans about what to wear for crazy sock day. Jasper mentioned that the Principal of the school never wears anything for red ribbon week, not even a funky hat. “Yeah, she’s not very festive,” Arabella noted. But Ada drew the most obvious conclusion, “I think it’s because she takes drugs.”

Well, there you go.

cellphonerudenessiphone
A couple of weeks ago I was waiting in line at the grocery store. A friend of mine called my cell phone and we had a nice little conversation. As I got toward the front of the line I could tell the lady behind me was very put out. She was sighing loudly and loading her items onto the conveyor belt a little too forceably. The man in front of me was paying so I had nothing to do but stand there. Which is boring. So I kept talking on the phone. But I realized that she thought me rude for being on my phone. I wanted to ask her why it’s rude to be on my cell phone. Was she planning on talking to me? Had she been looking forward to the conversation she and I would be having while we were standing there? No. Of course not. It may be Texas but we’re not that friendly! Apparently I have to sit there in stone cold silence while I’m waiting in line; anything else is rude.  Would she have thought me rude if my friend was standing there with me and we were having the exact same conversation? Doubtful. Although maybe so. What difference does it make that I’m on a phone? (Just so you know, when it was my turn to check out I hung up, made dumb small talk with the check-out guy, paid and left.)

It really all boils down to who is more important: the person on the phone or the person in front of you. Which means that if I’m at a store it’s always going to be the person on the phone. Sorry, check-out people, I’m just not that into you. (Although if you work at a store you’d better give me your undivided attention; you’re paid to do that. If I’m not on the phone, that is.)

One of my friends posted on Facebook about how she was having a conversation with a friend who kept texting other people the entire time. This issue is a little more of a slippery slope. On one hand I get texts constantly: from my kids, my husband, friends, ward members, the Bishop. I like to check them because you never know when something will be important and maybe just need a quick response (such as Mister texting me, “where did you put my car keys???”) I take ten seconds to respond. To me this is a lot less rude than answering a phone call asking the same thing.  I like texting because I can glance at the message and–most of the time–ignore it or answer it later. But sometimes I will text back while someone is talking to me. My ears aren’t broken, after all. I can still listen. Obviously if the conversation is really serious, I try to avoid it. But usually I’ll say, “give me a second to take care of this” We live in a modern world where multi-tasking is the order of the day. I don’t want to be rude, but what exactly is rude these days?

I’m sure my grandmother would think all of this is not at all polite. But then, this is the same woman who has actually said the n-word as she described a black person. So obviously we all have different standards about what is polite and acceptable behavior.  What’s your opinion? Is using your cell phone to communicate in public a big no-no? Or is it just fine? The majority rules, so let me hear what everybody thinks!

 

I’ve been the Relief Society President for over four months now. Which has been about when my blogging began to fall off. You might think it’s because I don’t have enough time; that’s only partly the case. My responsibilities come and go. Sometimes I’m incredibly busy and sometimes I’m not. Here’s the real cause for the blogging slow-down: I now have to be discreet. I can’t just blab about all the things I’ve been doing because a lot of times they require helping other people who are in rather delicate situations. You thought I would continue to be a big fat blabber-mouth, didn’t you? Sorry to disappoint.

For example, over the last weekend I spent probably 20 hours doing service for other people. Some of which included painting someone’s entire house (interior). A non-air conditioned house that hovered around 100°. I have never sweat so much in my life; crazy sweat that was dripping off every surface of my body. The good news is that I probably just painted my way into heaven AND I lost four pounds.  But that’s all I can really tell you. I certainly don’t want to get in trouble for announcing someone else’s problems to the world. That would be very uncool.

I also gave some rides to some people who can’t afford gas for their car. And then I went over and made some people breakfast on Sunday morning because they’re having a really hard time emotionally and physically. But that’s all I can really say about those situations. Because I know for sure all these people don’t want their issues blabbed on a blog. So I have these smidgens of stories and a smidgen of a story is worse than no story at all. It’s like announcing you’re a spy and not being able to give any details. Why even bother?

My material is drying up, is what I’m saying. It’s a lot harder to come up with subjects to write about when you’re trying to be compassionate.

Also, I still am missing a computer. Which means no Photoshop. My photographs need photoshop. They’re not atrocious–not quite–but they need a lot more editing than can be done on any of those freebie websites. I’ve done four or five tutorials and they’re either languishing on a broken hard drive or waiting for some proper attention. I apologize if you were dying to know how Jasper and Arabella’s birthday parties went. Or how to make great pizza crust from scratch. You will have to wait some more. Or maybe I’ll just swallow my pride and publish them anyway.

Waah, waah, waah, listen to me be a big baby. I’m not trying to make excuses; just letting you know what’s going on. The good news is that I’ve been working on a couple of other blog posts so you have something to look forward to.

And then the kids will be in school next week so I’ll have several kid-free hours with which to fritter away my time. I promise to make it up to you, OK? Just stick with me. And if you need a ride somewhere because you can’t afford gas, call me! I’m becoming quite an expert!

I don’t have a TV so I know very little about the whole movie theatre shooting. I do know that a lot of people are upset about the Colorado parents being judged about bringing little kids to movie theatres. While it isn’t the most important issue in the theatre shooting, I do think it needs to be talked about because it’s a huge pet peeve of mine. The most important issue being this:

If you bring a little kid to a Rated R movie you are a bad parent.

There are no ifs ands or buts about this. Very few things are as cut and dried to me as this. Only a parent who is incredibly selfish would bring a child to a strictly adult movie. Why not find a babysitter? Or go see something that won’t give your kid nightmares? You might say that it’s none of my business. But it certainly becomes my business when your child comes to school and teaches mine to drop the f-bomb.  It becomes my business when your child is exposed to tremendous violence. What do you think will happen to children who are desensitized to violence starting at such a young age? Hopefully they won’t end up shooting people at a movie theatre when they grow up.

I’m not talking about tiny babies. If you have a newborn you can get away with bringing her to a movie; she’ll probably sleep right through it. Depending on the sleepiness of my babies I could bring them to movies until they were 2-3 months old. Which brings me to my second pet peeve.

Babies and toddlers in movie threatres. If there are not talking animals then please consider not bringing your child. Especially to a prime time movie. Nothing makes an audience more upset than a whiny, crying, runny baby or toddler. You know why there aren’t more babies and toddlers at the movies in the evening? Because the rest of us got babysitters. Don’t be selfish/idiotic/rude and think that somehow your kids don’t count.

Please know that if you bring someone under age 4 to a movie, there is a good chance that you will have to leave the theatre. Even a newborn can wake up and start wailing. For the love of Netflix, please watch a DVD at home or get out there and hunt up a babysitter.

Mostly I just want parents to not be selfish. Get a babysitter. If you can’t afford one then what are you doing paying for a movie on a Friday night anyway? If you don’t know any babysitters then ask your neighbors for some names. Babysitters are not that hard to find!