Change, My bookshelf

A Routine Check-up

I know I dissed O magazine and others for their headline hype that often leads to total disappointment once I open the covers.

Well, I gave into the magazine cover lure again and bought a Good Housekeeping magazine.

I’m happy to report I learned something.

Turns out that Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project writes a GH column that is very instructive.

In the issue I read, she wrote about scheduling priorities and how our ordinary routines influence our happiness.

And, she disclosed the secret of adulthood!

Here it is: What we do everyday matters more than what we do once in a while.

There’s truth in that statement for me because I think I kid myself about what I do everyday as part of my routine and what I do once in a while.

For example, I think I go to the gym every day or at least five or six days a week. I eat good salads every day, and make healthy dinners nearly every night. I write something meaningful every day. I call my mom at least weekly, text my kids daily and call them a few times a week, go out with my husband every weekend, and call my friends regularly.

In reality, I make it to the gym five days a week on a really good, perfect week. I write something every day but not anything as structured and focused as I think. I sometimes forget to call my mom, and she calls me to remind me! I text my kids less often than I think, and I don’t’ always go out with Doug on the weekends. And calling my friends? I’m terrible at that, really terrible. I’m not a good phone caller.

According to Christopher Alexander, a writer and architect, most people have about a dozen routines. I wrote down some of mine – errands, cleaning, exercising, meal preparation, working, morning and bedtime routines, holiday, travel routines, etc.

Rubin said one way to make us happier is to add fun to our routines. So I thought of some of the more unpleasant routines like tidying up my house – emptying the dishwasher and organizing the mail. She suggested trying to make those routines more fun with music or books on tape.

So I went through all of my routines and figured out how I could make them more pleasant or fun so that I could pack a little more happiness into my life.

“By identifying these patterns and acknowledging their power to shape our lives, we’re better able to spot happiness-boosting ways to change them,” she said.

I like that thought because our routines end up shaping our existence.

So, while some magazines offer more headline hype than substance, Good Housekeeping came through for me, and I guess I have to give that the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Community, From the News, Uncategorized

Memorial Day

Memorial Day Weekend 2012 and what it conjures up…

1. Memories of living in Crystal City and taking my camera over to Arlington Cemetery to photograph the thousands of flags posted by the graves and feeling overwhelming gratitude for the soldiers who served the United States with such courage and valor. I couldn’t believe the sea of red, white, and blue flags waving in the humid breeze of the nation’s capital.  “And this is where I live,” I kept thinking.

Photos from

2.  Going camping at Fairfax Lake Park with my family and camping next to Rolling Thunder bikers.  Turns out they were nicer, friendlier, and quieter than the Christian Bible group camping on the other side of us.

3. Listening to Ronald Reagan in 1982 speak in Arlington National Cemetery about the many heroes buried in the cemetery that represented America’s best. He said, In America’s cities and towns today, flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries; public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor. In 1863, when he dedicated a small cemetery in Pennsylvania marking a terrible collision between the armies of North and South, Abraham Lincoln noted the swift obscurity of such speeches. Well, we know now that Lincoln was wrong about that particular occasion. His remarks commemorating those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” were long remembered. But since that moment at Gettysburg, few other such addresses have become part of our national heritage — not because of the inadequacy of the speakers, but because of the inadequacy of words.”

The “inadequacy of words.”

When it comes to commemorating those who gave their last full measure of devotion, Reagan was exactly right — there is an inadequacy of words to express our gratitude.

Photo credit: freerepublic

4. I think of the Challenger astronauts on Memorial Day because they were buried in Arlington Cemetery, along with many of the other national heroes. I was working in the House of Representatives watching the space shuttle Challenger on television as it blasted off into space.  Then in horror, I watched it explode.  I immediately thought of my first boss, Senator Jake Garn, an astronaut himself and how heartbreaking that must have been for him.  He knew those astronauts. Then I thought of being at Cape Canaveral watching the space shuttle Discovery soar into the air and felt part of the excitement and anticipation of everyone on the ground watching.  I remember standing near John Travolta and seeing his eyes light up with childlike wonder as Discovery disappeared from sight.  How could the families and friends and onlookers cope with what they saw after Challenger’s blast off? It was a an awful day.  But like always, American paid tribute to them and the country came together to both mourn and heal.

5. I think of my friend Keri whose husband Rich served two tours of duty in Iraq.  She became the caretaker of all the women and families left alone at Fort Campbell when all the men were deployed after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. After thinking, “Why me?” she quickly changed to the wiser question, “Why not me?” While we remember the soldiers who fight for us, we have to remember the families whose sacrifices too are monumental.


6. I also can’t help but think of 9/11 — a day that will forever be memorialized on any day of national significance.  Instead of focusing on the terror, destruction, and utter heartbreak, I try to think of the U.S. flags springing up everywhere, the outpouring of love and support and national unity.  I think of walking through the neighborhood putting flags in the ground by every mailbox. I think of crying unexpectedly at the stoplight when I heard the song “I’m Proud to be an American.” I remember talking to my burly brother, the brick mason, who said he heard about it on his work radio. Then he and the other workers took an early lunch. He sat on the curb and opened his lunchbox and broke down sobbing.

7. On a happier note, I think of being at the beach, watching the flag wave on our deck, hearing the ocean waves in the distance, and listening to the happy sounds of a houseful of people enjoying the sublime and often overlooked gifts of peace and freedom.


I’m in Arizona for Sara’s roommate, Julie’s wedding.  Julie has been like part of our family for the last four years.

She is the roommate you pray for when you want your daughter to be happy in her new college life.

One afternoon when I was visiting them during their sophomore year, Julie asked Sara about her day.  Then she said, “Come and sit down and tell me all about it.” She scooted over on the couch to make room for Sara and I, then crossed her brown Arizona legs and got comfortable, facing both of us, ready to listen, really listen to Sara tell her about her day.

That was the moment I fell in love with her.  I knew Sara had a generous, open, kind, and loyal friend, and that their friendship would not end at graduation when they went their separate ways to create their individual lives.

When they both applied for the London Study Abroad program, her Mom and I worried about what would happen if one got in and the other one didn’t.  How could we have half of this perfect pair schlepping to class during a cold Utah winter while the other one discovered Cath Kidston, visited the Tower of London, and watched London roll out the red carpet for a royal wedding?


Luckily they were both accepted and made their jolly trip to London together.  They attended prep classes on campus before they went, and walked in separately so they wouldn’t tip of f the other students that they were best friends.  This was their way of branching out. Then they met outside and came together like two magnets again.

They both flew to London from different places but met at the airport and rode together to their new home on Palace Court. They lived off cupcakes, crepes, and European chocolate; rode bikes in Hyde Park and had tea in Kensington Palace.  They celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, and fell asleep on each other on every sightseeing bus trip.

When Doug and I went to London at the end of their semester to take advantage of them as our experienced tour guides, they were sad to leave Palace Court but when we took them to our hotel, they were giddy with excitement about sleeping in what they saw as fancy luxurious beds after sleeping on student bunk beds all semester.

We toured Italy with them and laughed at their goals of having gelato every single day and taking pictures of all their meals.

When we arrived early to help get ready for Julie’s wedding reception, Julie wasn’t in her wedding dress yet. Sara and Julie looked at each other and tears filled up in their eyes, and they grabbed each other in a tight hug.

“Do you want to help me get dressed in my wedding gown?” Julie asked.

“Of course!” Sara said, and they walked off together.

I couldn’t keep the tears from filling my eyes either as the two of them walked away.

Even though Julie’s got a new best friend and roommate, Sara and Julie’s sweet friendship will not fade away.  They have too many memories from their freshman dorm life to their dreamlike semester abroad.  They have helped each other through homesick moments, broken hearts and boyfriends, homework, finals, and studying stress, and a million other moments known only to the two of them.

As Julie climbed into her husband’s jeep with “just married” scrawled on the window, I watched Sara and the other guests send them off in with sparklers lighting up the night sky.   Sara and the other bridesmaids spelled out L-O-V-E with their sparklers. Just then, Julie turned around, smiled and waved at Sara, and I knew that another one of those priceless girlfriend moments had transpired.


I am so grateful for my daughters’ friends.  They are there for them when I can’t be.  They are the shoulders they cry on when they can’t cry on mine. They are the ones they confide in about all the things they can’t comfortably tell me.  They are the ones who keep them going in their day-to-day lives because they share a girlfriend bond that is different from a mother-daughter bond.

Congratulations Julie, and thank you for being Sara’s true friend, for lifting her up, cheering her on, and consistently loving her.  Thank you for being there for me because when God gives daughters good friends, he gives mothers peace of mind and solace, and to a mother, that is the greatest gift ever.





Family, Pets

About that anxiety, Nikki…

Nikki is avoiding me.

I tried to take his picture for this blog post but he eluded me.

I think he’s mad because he saw my empty suitcase being filled again.

I can’t help it, Nikki. I have places to go.

Last time I went away, Ginger, our amazing dog sitter, sent me an urgent message.

“I’m very worried about Nikki.  Since about 2 this morning he has been pacing all over the house, panting, and chewing on his back leg.  It is now bloody looking.  I think he is in pain but I don’t know what I should do. Is there anything I can give him?”

Nikki, what are you doing to poor Ginger, waking her up at 2 in the morning?

I told her to give him a Benadryl because sometimes his skin gets itchy and then he can’t leave it alone.

This is a common problem with Bichons because they have sensitive skin and sometimes scratch until they break the skin.

Doug said, “I think he’s just missing you.”

He says that all the time, but I refuse to believe Nikki is that attached to me.

(As I write this I can feel his fur on my foot because he is so close to me.)

Doug said when I leave town, Nikki roams around the house looking for me the entire time I’m away.

He’s restless and nervous until I get home.

If I go across the street, he sits in the front window and waits for me and then jumps excitedly all over me when I come home because five minutes is like a month to him.

I took him to the vet after I got home last time because his skin was so irritated.

Guess what the doctor said?

“I think it’s a combination of his dry skin and the separation anxiety he feels when you go out of town.”

Separation anxiety?

This is not acceptable, Nikki.

Ginger is so good to you and you wag your tail at a dizzying speed with happiness when we go there so why so much anxiety?

Well, the experts say, he spends too much time with me.

I’m not sure how to solve that problem.  Take him to doggie day care?

I did a little research about Bichon Frises and separation anxiety.  Apparently, that’s another issue with this breed.

A possible remedy? Sending him to Ginger’s house with pieces of my unwashed clothing.

I’ve heard this about puppies but Nikki is an old man by now.  Still, my very scent can calm him down.

It’s worth a try.

I’m sure Ginger will be thrilled when I show up with bits of my worn-out pajamas to store in his crate.

I’m going to experiment this weekend while I’m away for a wedding.

I’ll leave a piece of clothing in his crate and see if he acts calmer for Doug.

Then when we go to the beach soon, I’ll arm Ginger with my worn-out pajamas, some children’s Benadryl and some Benadryl spray and instruct her to use them at the first sign of an impending situation.

And if that doesn’t work…

I will have to order the cone of shame.

I think Nikki is afraid just hearing the rhythm of the keys that just typed out those words.

Like I’ve said before, we have a sweet deal with Ginger and her family and we can’t afford to mess it up.

You hear me Nikki, snoring there beside me? We can’t afford to mess this up!





How Sweet it is

Annie’s home.

This means fun, activity, parties, messes, friends, singing, lacrosse, and food.

By food, I mean Annie and her friends making addictive Pinterest foods like Nutella muddy buddies and decadent Blondies. It means me making addictive Pinterest foods like Nutella french toast.

Decadent blondiesnutella muddy buddies

Seriously, who invents Nutella muddy buddies and Nutella french toast? And who thinks it’s okay to make things like that and actually eat them?

I love baking and would love to pin recipe upon recipe, and bake one masterful baked good after another, and then show off my luscious treats on my blog and then to all my friends, families, and neighbors.

I’d love to dream up a Nutella cookbook. How about cake with Nutella in the middle or e’clairs with Nutella drizzled on top?

The problem is that these delectable sugary treats are addictive.

So baking is a habit I’m trying to break.

Baking is bad. Baking makes me fat. Nutella is not my friend.

Since I’m a woman who gets regular mail from AARP and I gain weight just looking at Pinterest foods, baking is the last thing I should do with my time.

I’ve always wanted to be the woman who sneers at fat-producing, non-nutritional foods — the controlled woman who calmly walks past them, and happily heads for the celery, salivating at the sight of red pepper hummus, and a the plethora of colorful veggies.

Instead, I’m the woman who sits on the deck on a beautiful spring day writing a blog about Nutella muddy buddies because if I stayed inside, I’d be standing over a bowl devouring them, and marveling over a clump so big it resembles a meatball.

My inner sweet-toothed, undisciplined self wants to have the muddy buddies, not the celery .

I’m always trying to tame my weakness for all things sweet.

I hate it when people ask, “What’s your favorite dessert?” because I can’t think of just one.

I try to get excited about grilled salmon drizzled with a teaspoon of olive oil with a side of lentils for dinner.

I wish I could crave a hunk of fish like salmon instead of the red Swedish kind I see in the candy aisles of the grocery store.

I love having Annie home, and I’m excited for Sara to come home in June, but I have to avoid the Pinterest food trap.

Just because it looks fantastic and amazing doesn’t mean my body will like it.

I mean, my mouth will love it… but it won’t take time for me to regret it.

So summer of 2012 will be full of fun,activity, parties, messes, friends, singing, lacrosse, but please, get thee hence Pinterest with all your tempting foods.


For Mom

If you’ve kept up on my blog over the last year, you know I often mention my mom.

On her birthday a couple of weeks ago, I posted a note about her on Facebook.

I said I’d been quoting her a lot lately.

A few friends commented and wondered exactly which of her sayings I’d been quoting.

You see, not all of her sayings are polite to quote, and these friends knew it.

She’s a spicy-tongued gal and if I slipped into “Sandra speech” too often or too freely, I could get myself into trouble.

Since Mother’s Day is approaching, there are a few things I want to say about my Mom:

1. She cannot tell a lie under any circumstances. Consider this conversation I had with her when I was in college:

“Mom, do I look fat?”

“Oh, don’t ask me that!” She said. “Take it back right now because you know I can’t lie.”

“Well, that means you think I’m fat,” I said.

“Just around the hips,” she replied. “Now let’s change the subject, and don’t ask me questions if you don’t want the truth because you know I can’t lie.”

2. She has so many friends she can hardly keep up with them all. One of my nieces said, “Grandma, I tried to call you all day yesterday but your line was always busy.”  Mom quickly replied, “I can’t help it. I’m popular!”  She’s been teased about that ever since, and her response is always the same, “What did you want me to say? I really am popular! That’s why my line is always busy.  Sometimes I think I don’t have time for any more friends because I’m too damn popular as it is.”

3. She is the best listener and the best cheerleader in the world. Throughout my life when I’ve had either good news or bad, she’s the first person I call.  If it’s good news, she’s ready to celebrate.  If it’s bad news, she’s there to cry with me or kill the person that hurt me.  I absolutely dreaded calling her to tell her about my cancer diagnosis because I knew she would be devastated and so worried.  Finally, when I called her, she cried with me and then said, “You know what? I know you.  I know you’re strong and determined and that you will beat this.  I know you will fight with everything you’ve got and I’ll be with you every step of the way.” Through her words and her example, she’s taught me there’s a time to cry and there’s a time to wipe away the tears and march boldly on. We can mope for a moment, but then we pick ourselves up and go on. And whining? Forget about it. She won’t put up with it for a nano second. “It never does a bit of good to whine about anything!”

4. If I hurt, she hurts. Period. I’ve definitely inherited that from her. When my girls hurt, I am totally connected to their pain.  She embroidered a pillow for me with one of my favorite sayings, “Always remember, I am the rock in your garden, and you are the blossom in mine.” She absolutely is my rock and I hope I can be the same kind of rock in my daughters’ gardens because they definitely are the blossoms in mine.

5. She is the hardest worker I know but she knows when to quit and relax. (I’m still trying to get the “relax” part down.)  Just a few weeks ago when Annie and I and I dropped in to tell her we were headed to the airport to return home, we found her on her patio painting the screen door.  “When I finish this, I’m going to paint that antique cupboard and the posts around the patio.  Then I’m going to start planting my flowers.  I’ve got it all planned out.”  A few days earlier, she pulled out her gardening notebook and showed me the drawings for her flowerbeds. At 77 years old, she does not stop working.  Her relaxation is to watch Law & Order and embroidery gorgeous quilt squares and read one book after another.

One of mom’s many projects

6. I have two brothers and one sister. During the course of our lifetimes, Mom has rescued each one of us from at least one major crisis. By rescue, I mean swooped in and cradled us as adults just like she did when we were children.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have you for my mom.