Sunday, June 26, 2016


I have loved blogging at The Valiant Efforts of the Half-Arsed Homeschooler—I started it when I was relatively new to homeschooling and I needed an outlet to “talk” about it—I needed a place for my musings, and to shore up my confidence. Also, I hoped that my posts would demystify homeschooling for my public-schooling friends and family. 

As time wore on, my focus shifted from solely homeschool posts, to other aspects of my life. I found I have a lot to write about beyond home education, and want a broader platform in which to share.

As I take the world at a slant and write to understand as much as to share insights, I have named my new blog Talk Quirky To Me. My hope is to connect more fully with others through my writing. I will still blog about homeschooling, but I will also write about pop-culture, literature, current events, and whatever else piques interest.

Currently, TQTM is under construction and I’m still playing around with format and whatnot, but if you want to wander around over there, please join me at !

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Here’s your sign.


Comedian Bill Engvall has often said that stupid people should have to wear a sign that says “I’m stupid” as a warning to others of their idiocy. He tells anecdotes in his stand-up routines of people asking him asinine questions, to which he responds sarcastically and finishes with the comment “Here’s your sign.” 

Back in February, I wrote a late-night Sunday post declaring that I was quitting my Krav Maga instructor training. I told myself that I would still continue to train in Krav Maga, but just as a practitioner. Already, I had some misgivings about quitting instructor training, but the relief from the stress I had put myself under trying to keep up with an impossible training schedule (that I had created myself...) was immense. I went to lunch with my husband on Monday and told him how I felt and that I would sit with the decision for a week and then re-evaluate. I fully expected I would be perfectly okay with quitting. I was not looking for anything to change my mind. I just wanted some time to come to terms with the heart-wrenching (but relief inducing) decision.

Almost immediately after that lunch, and for the rest of the week, every song I heard on the radio was a message of overcoming struggle, doing hard things, reaching for dreams, and defying the odds. There were also songs that spoke to my desire for comfort and reassurance. I am a chronic station hopper, because I don't like listening to ads, but very pop, country, and classical station I tuned into seemed to be telling me not to give up. It was so bizarre. I thought maybe I was just picking up on all these messages because I was more ambivalent about quitting than I wanted to believe. “I’m not looking for a sign to continue,” I told myself more than once. “I have made my decision and I’m okay with it.”

The next day, I went to my Krav Maga class. I told myself I was just going to go and enjoy class as a regular student.  I hadn’t told my instructor about quitting---frankly, I didn’t yet have the guts, but figured I’d let him know for sure at the end of the week, after I’d processed my feelings of failure and disappointment (and braced myself for his.) 

When I walked into class, I was surprised to see a former Krav student who hadn't been to class in over a year. This guy and I had frequently partnered in class and become friends. I adored him and learned a lot from him—once upon a time, after a particularly strenuous class, this buddy made the comment, "I can always think of a million reasons not to workout, but I never regret doing it." I was heartbroken when he had to quit due to health issues, so seeing his ugly mug that day was the best thing ever!

His reappearance reminded me of his comment, which has always stayed with me, and I couldn't help thinking about it as we bantered in class that day. Involuntarily, I thought, "I can always think of a million reasons not to do this instructor training, but I'll never regret doing it." I shook off the thought, feeling firm about wearing the "quit" decision, but I had a great time in class and headed home feeling on top of the world after a good workout and catching up with my old buddy.

Later that day, another former Krav friend texted me an encouraging meme. Though she no longer does Krav anymore, we hang out together fairly regularly. The last time I saw her, we got talking about my training and my frustrations with it (I hadn't yet decided to quit, but was beginning to lean that way) and she had encouraged me to keep going and not let my fears and setbacks get me down. Anyway, it had been a couple of weeks since that conversation when she texted me. I assumed she had read my blog post, and said as much when I texted her back. Turns out she hadn't, she had just been thinking about our conversation and felt impressed to remind me why I had started instructor training in the first place and to stay focused and positive.

Throughout the rest of the week (and the next, and the next) I ran into people who wanted to talk to me about my experience with Krav Maga, stumbled across articles, scriptures, and even billboards that seemed positioned to encourage me to stay the course and not quit instructor training. I had a couple of friends who read my blog tell me their stories of their journeys in pursuing their dreams and the lessons they learned along the way.

I sought none of it--everyone and everything came to me.

Before a week had passed since my “I quit” post, I had a change of heart. OF COURSE I would continue instructor training. With so much encouragement and so many SIGNS all but hitting me over the head, I realized that I had never really wanted to give up—I was just overwhelmed and living in a vacuum. I needed to tap into the support that was so freely manifesting itself.

I felt a bit foolish about having publicly declared "I quit!" only to to flip-flop back. How wishy-washy is that? I thought about removing the post. I thought about immediately writing an addendum post (ta-da! Here it is!) but I took the next couple of weeks to do some soul-analysis. I’ve decided to leave the post up—my instructor told me when I started that it would be life changing and that I was guaranteed to learn a TON about myself in the training process. All my feelings of inadequacy, the overwhelm, the fear, the failures—they are as much a part of the process as the victories. So—the post stays—if for nothing but a chronicle of where I was mentally and spiritually at the time.

I realized that I had been trying for months to shoehorn myself into a training schedule and mindset that goes against everything important and necessary in my life. I had misplaced my priorities and was working against them all. My expectations and the demands I was putting on myself and my family were unreasonable and unsustainable. Collapse was inevitable! (I can see that NOW.)

In the last few weeks, I have felt very tender and raw, as I've rearranged my life to focus on God first, family second, and Krav after that. I'm amazed at how putting these things in their proper places in my life has made all the difference. I didn't realize how isolated I had made myself, and I reached out for help. I started with prayer for clarity of my purpose and responsibilities. I talked to my husband about what he needs and wants and what our family needs and wants from me and am actively working to be the wife and mother my family deserves. Finally, I contacted my instructor and asked for help with training. I had been going it alone, but failing miserably (“I am a rock! I am an island! I am a moron!”) He said he'd only been waiting for me to ask for help--and then threw me in the deep end by asking me to teach some classes while he was out of town.

Well, over the past two weeks, I've taught four classes. I was terrified nervous, but, I prepared lesson plans and executed them. I worked the classes hard and got honest feedback. My classmates--my students!--were so enthusiastic and kind. It's been a great learning experience and I am eager and excited for more. (Still a little terrified nervous.)

And here's an interesting finale to this post---Facebook reminded me that a year ago, to the day, I was at Krav Maga Worldwide HQ in Los Angeles training in a Level 1 class taught Michael Margolin, a fourth degree black belt and co-founder of Krav Maga Worldwide. I remember feeling totally out of my league...wondering if I’d ever be strong enough, fast enough, or smart enough to become a Krav Maga instructor—and too embarrassed to voice my goal to Michael (which my instructor back home told me to do!) I was definitely terrified and nervous, but eager and excited for more. Coincidence? I think not.

Marissa, here’s your sign.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Slice of Life

This afternoon, while I was clearing out a box of random stuff, I came across an old scrapbooking magazine, full of quizzes and questions to spark the journaling portion of a modern scrapbook page. Yes, I used to be an avid scrapbooker, complete with pinking shears and floral doodads to add to my acid free pages.  Nowadays, I blog, which is a lot easier, put provides far less of a tactile experience.  Whatever. Anyway, in the back of the magazine I found, there are 18 sets of questions to ask yourself (or whoever you’re wanting to know more about.) Here are my answers to the first set of questions:

1. The last person I sent a card to: I haven’t sent cards to anyone in a long time---I can’t even remember! Christmas cards to friends and family back in 2007???

2. What I ate for lunch today: Coconut Curry Pork—a new recipe I tried this month and loved. Served over mashed potatoes. Yummy!

3. Something I just learned: Well, I’ve known this for awhile, but I was reminded of it again today---I don’t like working on committees. I do not play well with others. Please just leave me alone and let me do my thing.

4. My favorite song this year: Renegades by X Ambassadors—it just speaks to me—and I love it even more after watching the official music video.


5. The last book I read: The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. I started it for a book club I just joined and it kind of lost me, but I found that these videos helped, and then I was all over it!

6. What I’m wearing right now: black track pants and a turquoise microfleece sweatshirt

7. The last phone call I made: To my friend Monica, to tell her she ought to look into selling her organic grape leaves to the local Mediterranean markets.

8. Inside, I don’t feel very different from when I was (how old?): I feel 18 in my head, but my body and life experience (and how others see and interact with me) indicates that I am in early middle age.

9. The last restaurant I ate at was: IHOP, for National Pancake Day. We took the kids and donated to the Make a Wish Foundation.

10. My favorite TV show is: King of the Hill, but I am also really enjoying Person of Interest and House.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Glimpses: February 2016

So we have these two adorable ginger kittens, Fred and George, who are fast becoming not so adorable---they need to be neutered before they turn into awful tom cats.  Unfortunately, in order to get them neutered, I have to establish them as veterinary patients first—and the vet won’t fix the kitties until they have all their shots, which are done in series—so we began that this month. Note to self---never take on free kittens. If you must have kittens, get them from the humane society---animals can’t leave the shelter until they are altered and vaccinated—Boom, done in one day (and for WAAAAY cheaper than at a vet’s office.) 


My kids had a piano performance this month called Monster Concert—10 or 15 pianos on stage, with two or three kids at each piano—all trying to play the same song in sync with a conductor.  Each concert has a theme, this year’s was “The Roaring Twenties.” Normally, we enjoy the hour-plus concert, but this time, since our kids performed early in the concert, we rounded them up and bailed as soon as they were done.  We’d had an incredibly busy week, with a still busier weekend in the making and snatched ourselves away as soon as we could to enjoy some ALL TOGETHER family time—at our favorite family restaurant, Chik-Fil-A.  This night’s meal was compliments of Christmas gift cards from Grandpa Gordon and Grandma Jen.  They know us well.


Ellen needs to log more driving hours before she can take her driver’s license test, so I let her drive me and the kids to some friends’ house, about thirty minutes away.  She did great, though we had one white knuckle moment when she took a corner a LEETLE too fast!  She cackled at my reaction, which made me think she swerved around the turn on purpose.  I freaked out on her for taking risks to scare me, before I realized she hadn’t intended to take the corner so hard and sharp, and that she had only laughed out of stress and relief that nothing bad happened. I should have known---Ellen is NOT the daredevil in the family. Where she learned silliness in response to stress, I have noooOOOooo idea.


Neenie is learning how to read and write—I LOVE this stage---it’s so awesome to listen to her sound out words and try to spell them.  Also, I love the prolific artwork she produces.  The kids have taken to calling the bean-bodied, stick-limbed portraits “Potato People.”  Here is Potato People MOM. I cannot get over the Bert from Sesame Street eyebrows and disgruntled expression. Clearly, she’s been studying me.


Have you ever heard the story of Beyonce, the five foot metal chicken?  Well, I found Beyonce’s BFF.  I fell in love with this flamingo at the local craft store and now I yearn for it. Someday, my precious, you will be mine. And all your little friends, too.

20160212_130103 20160212_130550 20160212_130127

My kids are as obsessed with Star Wars as I am with Harry Potter, so---somehow, they got it into their heads that because we have an annual Harry Potter month, we should have a Star Wars month as well.  I’m going to be honest here, Star Wars is not my jam.  But, February is hard for homeschoolers because BURNOUT.  Star Wars seemed the perfect thing to motivate the kids in their academics, so---we’re in the thick Jedi/Darth/Sith shenanigans.  We have painted rocks to look like SW characters, played a “drinking game” while watching Episode IV.  Of course, we substituted candy for shots. (I STILL couldn’t make it through the movie without falling asleep---Skittles and chocolate chips notwithstanding.) We have listened to the Star Wars soundtracks and read a biography about George Lucas.  Also, we are reading Ian Doescher’s “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope” and I am LOVING it.  The movie is boring and doesn’t make sense to me, but somehow it’s unbelievably awesome written out in iambic pentameter.  I thought my kids would only find it tolerable, but I was delighted to see they enjoy the absurdity of such a mash-up of language patterns and pop-culture.  I have discovered the intergalactic portal to the love of REAL Shakespeare.  I am over the moons of Tatooine about this.


Finally, the weather has been pretty awesome for February and the kids are spending lots of time outdoors.  Here’s a shot of the kids playing “blob tag” at our regular “game day” with friends—it’s like one big 3 hour recess!


Monday, February 8, 2016

A Scarlet Letter

I don’t know what it is about Sunday nights, but every single Sunday night, as I lie down in bed, I start stressing over the coming week—first and foremost, the thought of getting enough sleep to be able to successfully get through my 5:30 AM kickboxing class and STILL function for the rest of the day/week. 

Inevitably, no matter how early I go to bed, I toss and turn and fret and stress over the time ticking away as I can’t sleep and think about how each minute I’m not sleeping will make it that much harder to function the next day what with getting up so ridiculously early.  Then, I start thinking how much I hate getting up that early and how even though I do it, it doesn’t seem to be doing me any good and only stressing me out---all that work and sacrifice of sleep to not lose an ounce, not get faster or even really stronger, or any closer to my goal of getting fit so I can go do this dumb Krav Maga instructor thing.  My only gains? Exhaustion, anxiety, and frustration. And injuries and achy joints.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.  Well, all hail the Queen of Insanity.  As I lay in bed tonight, I took a hard look at myself and my absolute inability to convert from being a night person into a highly productive morning person and thought, “Is this really worth my time? Am I really ever going to become something I’m not? Because I am not seeing results. Not even any. And I am tired. And there is no value added here.  This dream is bankrupt, but I keep putting in deposits. This is ridiculous and insane and stupid.  I am insane and stupid to be putting myself through this.  What on earth makes me think I can do any of this crap long term? Because I can’t even do it short-term!” 

The ONLY thing that keeps me going at this point is that if I bail out of this Krav Maga instructor thing and admit defeat/disinterest/apathy to my instructor, he’ll see me as a failure. But maybe, I don’t care anymore. I’m too damn tired to care anymore. 

Oh, and I’ve had a couple of friends ask me that if I quit now, what will it teach my kids?  If I give up on this goal I set, it will OBVIOUSLY teach them that I’m a quitter and a loser and that will set the example for them to become quitters and losers.  But then I argue back, in a lot of ways, I am already their example of what NOT to do---they have told me this—and I’m like, “yeah, well, good to see reverse psychology is working here, then. You’re welcome.”

It’s not like I NEED to do this Krav thing... it’s not like it will make me more employable.  It’s not like I NEED to do it to put food on the table.  I don’t even intend to become an actual paid instructor upon completion of the training and certification. I started this stupid thing to prove to myself that I COULD do it.  But, it’s been over three years since I made this goal, and I think it’s pretty damn obvious now that I CANNOT do it.  Also, I’m so incredibly stressed out over the fact that I’m getting older and it shows in my body and brain function.  It takes longer and longer to recover from anything. My body cannot keep up with the dream.

I should just throw in the towel and revel in becoming Jabba the Hutt. At least then I’d quit worrying about everything I put in my mouth and being unable to sleep despite all the breathing exercises and meditation and going-to-bed-early and honestly acquired EXHAUSTION.  Apparently, I was born to be a hedonist.  I come from a long line of night owls. I should embrace that.  All of my friends who are pushing or are well into their 40s have begun embracing the fact that they are middle aged.  They are letting go of the idea that if they work their butts off they will retain their svelteness and youth.  They have accepted this is fallacy and they are at peace. They have seen the light and it is a neon sign saying “Embrace your muffin top! Binge on Netflix and cookies!  It doesn’t get any better, so you may as well enjoy the ride to decrepitude.”

I long for this kind of self-acceptance.  As I was agonizing over my workouts and the struggle to eat right and lose weight, one friend said, “I’m done with all that. I’m ready to just be fat and happy.”  (And she is a healthy eater and NOT fat!!!) And  I was JEALOUS of her contentment. 

All my life I have agonized over not being “something” enough.  When I was young, I was not pretty enough (though I was thin then, and my mother often pointed out that at least I had THAT going for me.) I wasn’t witty enough, or cool enough, or whatever enough.  And I agonized over it.  Now, I’m finally in a place where I’m totally at peace not being “classically beautiful” or the sharpest tool in the shed.  I have embraced the fact that I am weird, think too outside the box for most people, don’t get sarcasm when directed my way, and that I’m a hopeless geek.  I’m DOWN with all that.  Like, I’m cool with all that.  I am a dork party of one and I am happy in my party hat, thankyouverymuch.

But with this stupid Krav Maga goal, I am angsting ALL THE TIME over the lack of progress in training and lack of weight loss and strength and stamina.  The angst is ALL CONSUMING. This kind of thing DRIVES some people, but it is ruining me. WHY do I insist on continuing?! This body just will not go any harder than it’s already going, no matter how many pep talks I give myself, no matter how much I push myself with harder, more frequent workouts and longer study sessions and lean protein and kale and complex carbohydrates.

Sometimes we must concede.  I realize that now.  Failure is part of life.  It sucks, but we must accept it and learn what we can.  I have beat this dead horse into hamburger. It is not going to rise up and walk again.  I am dropping the angst by dropping this goal.  I tried valiantly, but I just don’t have any more in me for this. It is not worth the time and stress I’ve put into it. This has been a non-value added goal, and I’m done. Quitting, with a capitol Q.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Photo dump: January in Pictures

I used to scrapbook—now I take pictures on my phone and forget to document anything.  Here is my attempt to capture the past month:

Calvin broke his left radius and ulna back in November.  One splint, two casts, and one surgery later, he got his final cast off on January 4th.  He was so happy to have that itchy, smelly thing come off (and so was I!)



Evelyn begins sounding out words on signs she sees.  (This was at the doctor’s office, the same day Calvin got his cast off.)  Evelyn is four and a half years old and I haven’t begun any official curriculum with her yet, she’s just picking things up as we go.  I love this “learning to read” stage.  She was so cute.  Now she wants me to help her spell everything as she writes it down.



Watching the State of the Union Address.



Proof that my kitchen does get clean. Sometimes I look at these pictures just to remind myself that dreams really do come true, if only in the three or four hours between meals.




Halfway into the month, I discovered the French Cafe station on Pandora and decided to play it every time I cook. I whip out my French accent and sing along as I concoct delicious, gourmet meals now---hahahahaha!  I even decided to make a French meal—or the American, “whatever I have in the pantry” approximation: Croque Monsieur sandwich, grapes, and green beans (French cut, does that count?!)



One weekend, I was moving stuff around in the garage. It was cold, so I came inside to grab my hat.  Calvin took one look at me and asked, “Planning a heist?”



Alan Rickman died this month. I am taking it very, very hard.  Even though I never knew him personally, the characters he portrayed and the stories he told through his work, and his personal contributions to humanity and the arts impacted me deeply, and have made me a better person.  He will be terribly missed.The kids and I saluted him with hot chocolate and words from a traditional Scots/Irish farewell song, The Parting Glass:

Of all the comrades that e'er I had
They're sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e'er I had
They'd wish me one more day to stay

But since it fell into my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I'll gently rise and softly call
"Good night and joy be to you all"

Rest in peace, sir.



We celebrated Julio’s birthday with a little party at home with just the family.  Gloria made his cake.  I got to set it on fire.



We discovered a little pioneer cemetery in our town, tucked between the railway and a new housing subdivision.  A total of 12 people are buried there, nine of whom were children.  It is believed that everyone there died in from a diptheria epidemic.  The Kuna Historical Society located 11 of the 12 graves and set up the markers. Volunteers keep the area litter free and place flags and trinkets on the graves, and maintain the fencing, the sign, and the plaque wall indicating who is buried there.


One of the people buried there is known only as an “Immigrant Woman.”  I wondered where she was from and what her name was. I wondered if she spoke English and how long she had lived in Kuna before she died.  I guess we’ll never know.


I snapped this picture of the rainclouds at twilight outside my house---I loved the velvety blue gray of the skies and the drizzle and the smell of rain—it was so beautiful, and kind of mysterious looking!



Our town is not very big, and apparently our only claim to fame is being the “Gateway” to various natural attractions—which are kind of lame in my opinion—the pioneer cemetery, the Kuna Cave, The Birds of Prey Conservation Area (okay, that is pretty cool, but not really exciting to look at), and a few other little things.  Nevertheless, I took the kids on a field trip to explore our little town.  Other than the cemetery and our maybe half a mile of greenbelt along an irrigation canal, there wasn’t much to see, but the kids were undaunted. The kids read the ‘Historical” plaques at the tiny Kuna City Visitor’s Center, and magically discovered the history in everything they found.20160125_155938


“Ooh, look!  A historic, abandoned Nerf dart!”


“There’s a historic restroom!”


“A historic volleyball court!”


And finally, the highlight of the trip,  a trip to the “historic” fast food joint, Arctic Circle, for ice cream.


What a month!

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Today’s prompt:


What do you want to be known for? Maybe you want to change the world. Maybe you just want to make the best cupcakes known to man. Go all in and give us the deep life-long goal, or share a smaller mission.

I suppose I will sound absolutely shallow for saying this, but I don’t really want to be known for anything more than loving my family, making people laugh, and encouraging others to be open to new ideas, experiences, and insights.  I’m not on a crusade to save the world, just to make it laugh.

Dam store


This prompt got me thinking about funerals, which is maybe macabre for someone so, ahem, young, as I. But, I’ve decided that when I die, I don’t want a chapel funeral, with a life sketch and eulogy. I want folks to throw a party, remember the good times, and that I never took anything very seriously. No melancholy strains of Nearer My God to Thee or lilting Each Life That Touches Ours for Good, no dark colors and somber faces—no, no---I want a mariachi band, or a big New Orleans style brass band, playing the good, danceable stuff. 

Metalachi 2

Ooh, or maybe we could get these guys:The world’s first and only Heavy Metal Mariachi band—based out of Los Angeles, California!

I hope folks wear bright colors and comfy shoes. I hope they serve pizza and nachos and have a belching contest. I want someone to set up a karaoke machine so everyone can sing really bad renditions of Broadway showtunes and Elvis impersonations . I hope the beat is strong, the music loud, and someone decides to bust out their best samba. 

Cuban Pete

If there MUST be something said of me, I hope it’s done in Dr. Seuss type rhyme, or a clever parody of Poe’s The Raven. If there’s a viewing, I hope someone lovingly places a pirate hat on my head or a red foam clown nose on my face before the casket is closed for good. Cover my casket in striped ribbons in clashing colors, and plastic flamingos. And as they’re hauling me out to the hearse, I hope the Muppets’ song Mahna Mahna is playing as I’m carried out. Or maybe Jump In The Line by Harry Belafonte.

flaminos flaminos flaminos flaminos

crepe paper

Actually, maybe I better stick with the standard solemn affair—I’d hate to miss such a party!

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.

Friday, January 29, 2016

On writing

Today’s prompt:

Write On

Why do you write? What have you learned by facing the page? Did anything surprise you about your reflections this past month?

This Think Kit blog challenge has been exactly that—a challenge! I have loved doing it, even if I haven’t managed to post every single day---I wanted a kickstart to regular blogging and I definitely got that!

Why do I write? I write because I think better on paper…er, the computer. Writing helps me sort out what’s in my head.  I also write because I like to tell stories and entertain people. I like to build bridges and help others make connections between events, people, and other things that they may not have considered before.

The Think Kit prompts are decidedly personal and I’ve struggled with a few of them, not for lack of anything to say, but in how to say it.  I’ve worried a few times if I sound crazy or flippant or both.  Some of the prompts have touched on subjects I don’t really want to think about, because they are boring or uncomfortable, or I just thought they were too silly or mundane to bother with. 

That said, the Think Kit blog post challenge has been a lot of fun. I realized that with a little discipline, I can crank out some half decent posts.  With more discipline, maybe I’ll manage some truly fine ones.  The blog challenge has gotten the creative juices flowing and shown me that in order to write what and how I want, I need to make writing a priority and treat it like a job. Now I just need to set my hours and my deadlines!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Today’s prompt: 


Write a mantra for the year ahead - how you'll approach it, what you wish it to be. How'd you arrive at the mantra

Last November, I attended a talk by a motivational speaker. He was a bit too earnest and “rah-rah” for my taste, but he suggested we choose a word that would be our mantra—our guide for the coming new year.  He had us write down seven or eight words that came to mind about how we wanted to be in the new year and then had us narrow it down to one…and then we were asked to share what we’d chosen.  I found the activity kind of exciting, but also kind of hokey, and sat mutely off to one side while others volunteered their words, such as:






And I’m in the corner thinking:






*If you are baffled by the words I was thinking, get thee to the library, check out, and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, post haste!

 I’m sure I wrote down seven or eight real motivational words, but I don’t remember what they are.

I don’t know if mantras will ever really be my thing, but there are a few “catchphrases” that I find myself using quite a lot:

When something is lost (and I don’t need it right this second): “It’ll turn up.” 

In triumph:‘”Wuh-BAYUM!”

When something unexpectedly goes my way: “Well, hot dayum and hallelujah!”

When directing the children in their chores: “Put the thing in the thing, next to that other thing! Come, on, you know what I mean!”

At bedtime: “Don’t come down here unless you’re bleeding or on fire!”

In response to the question ‘What’s for dinner?’: “I dunno. I haven’t thought that far.”

When the kids ask me what we’re going to do for the day: “The same thing we do every other day—try to take over the world.”

My oldest kids just showed up and read this post over my shoulder. I hate that. But, they are nodding and now mimicking my triumph yell.  Get your own war-cry, kids, I’m trademarking mine!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

On navigating culture clash

Today’s prompt:

It's Customary

It's a small world after all! What custom from another culture do you wish you could transplant into your own? Maybe you want siestas (Hola, Spain!) or Hygge from Denmark. Or maybe you want to create a new custom altogether?

By the time I met my husband, Julio, who was born and raised in Guatemala, he was pretty “Americanized.” He had spent a year in high school as an exchange student in Utah, and then later served a two year mission for the Mormon Church in San Bernardino, California.  He spoke English (with only the tiniest trace of an accent) and was comfortable navigating US culture and maneuvering through our various systems (school, government, etc.) In fact, when I first met him, I assumed he was from New York or something—somewhere distant from me (born and raised in the western States) but not foreign.

Still, he carried vestiges of his home culture, which took me some getting used to.  First, was the fact that he greeted EVERY female friend he met with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, calling them “mi amor” (my love.) I was scandalized by this behavior. I was raised to believe that any kind of kissing was reserved for romantic partners, and that terms of endearment were for sweethearts. (It didn’t help that “mi amor” just sounded so sexy rolling off his lips, no matter to whom he said it.  I was a jealous young thing, what can I say?)

julio and cousins

Julio and his stunningly beautiful aunt and cousins.

I didn’t know anyone else who kissed friends, female coworkers, older women, and young girls to say hello, even though I had friends from various cultural backgrounds and countries. (Turns out, lots of my friends did this, amongst their own people and folks from cultures that shared similar greeting customs, but they remained hands-and-lips-off the Americans.) It took me a long time to understand that a hug and a kiss in greeting didn’t imply romantic or sexual interest, and that calling someone “my love” in Spanish is the equivalent of the English “honey” or “hon,” (as in “What can I get you, hon?”) Now, however, greeting-hugs and kisses and endearments are among my favorite customs in Guatemalan culture. 

julio and rocio

Julio (center) leading his niece to her grandfather, at her Quinceanera.

Another thing that I struggled with was the circuitous communication style my husband displayed. Guatemalans are not a direct people. They will never plainly ask for anything, but hint and drop clues, expecting you to read between the lines and respond accordingly.  I am really, really bad at this kind of communication. My husband tells me that early in our relationship, he would “test” me on certain things by placing, what seemed to me, random things and offhand comments for me to decipher.  I didn’t know this, having no cultural context for this kind of communication---and I often found him baffling.


Our engagement photo. We were just babies!

After one particularly exasperating evening with him, he expressed his disappointment that I hadn’t responded how he was hoping and then he pointed out all the times he had left clues and dropped hints hoping I would “get” the message he was trying to send. He admitted he had been testing me and was disappointed that I wasn’t getting it. I don’t remember what the issue was, but my ineptitude was so much that he finally had to spell things out for me, one bald-faced letter at a time. It must have been excruciating for him to be so direct, but I was just upset that he was pussy-footing around the issue.  I probably yelled something about being a jerk and playing mind games, not realizing that making things plain was not part of his cultural skill set.

This experience led to an uncomfortable, if ultimately enlightening, discussion about our needs and wants and hopes, and also our communication styles.  Over the years, we’ve realized that his indirect approach to communication, and my “line drive down the center” approach are part culture, part personality, and that before we get all bent out of shape, it behooves us both to check ourselves against each other’s communication styles, and adjust accordingly!

us now

This is us now. How did we get this old?

Certainly any couple will have to deal with each others’ idosyncracies, but those are compounded when coming from different cultures. Fortunately, my husband is patient, I have learned that there is more to navigating the world than ploughing straight through, and we are both inclined to find humor in just about everything, so we’ve managed to bumble triumphantly through the inevitable culture clashes. 

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Wonder and mystery

Today’s prompt:

Media Frenzy

Nervous at Airports? Created your first protest sign? Taken on a different perspective? How has what you've seen in the news changed you this year?

I am at a bit of a loss for this prompt, but it got me thinking about my media usage.  Facebook and Pinterest get a lot of flak for being worthless time sucks, but they have both expanded my world. Through Facebook and Pinterest, I have found artists, writers, bloggers, lesson plans, social and political activists, new music, project ideas, and new perspectives. 

I have come to think of the internet as an incredible tool to daily expand my horizons, and show my children the world in ways that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise.  Sure, we do a lot of traveling and we read a lot (a LOT) of books, but the internet has given us instant access to an unbelievable amount of knowledge, ideas, and perspectives. It is amazing!


“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” –Anais Nin

Friday, January 22, 2016

Where ya goin’?

Today’s prompt:

It's All About the Journey

Where did you travel this year? Did it move or change you?

I’ve traveled a few places in the last year, but when I saw this prompt, my first thought wasn’t of the visits to Utah for weddings, or Eastern Idaho for funerals, or even California and Oregon for vacations.  I thought more about my journey as a person.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I’m noticing that I really don’t care about a lot of the stuff that used to keep me up at nights:

  • Having the perfect house
  • Having perfect children who conform to cultural and social expectations
  • Having the perfect body
  • being the perfect wife/mother/friend/daughter/sibling

Some might say I’ve “given up” or “let myself go” or am even “irresponsible” regarding these things, but the truth is---I have come to accept my limitations and lack of interest in much of what it entails to strive for all this perfection.  I’ve become a whole lot more accepting and open to what IS and and I’m much more forgiving of myself for my failures. This acceptance has freed me to explore and do life on my own terms, with some pretty impressive (to me) results. I have figured out my talents and genunine interests, my aesthetic (anything that makes me laugh), my priorities, and my purpose. It’s not that I have EVERYTHING figured out, but I know who I am and I know where I’m headed.

I have a twenty-something friend on Facebook whose posts are rife with all the insecurities and anxieties particular to someone who is still trying to figure out who she is and what her place and role in the world is.  Part of me wants to reach out and put my arms around her and lovingly tell her to get over herself.  A lot of the the things she’s frettting over won’t matter in ten or fifteen years and she’ll have wasted a lot of time agonizing over them, rather than truly experiencing life and doing good.  At her age and a decade on, I was just like her…so I speak from experience.  Of course, I don’t reach out and tell lher to let go of the crazy, because I’m sure, that had someone done that to me, I wouldn’t have listened. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t listen, either.  Unfortunately, it seems that stewing in self loathing and insecurity over all the perceived imperfections in life is just part of growing up.

In the meantime, my favorite quote and mantra has become this saccharine-free quote from comedienne Sarah Silverman:


Now, I would never presume to compare myself and my work to the awesomeness that was Mother Teresa, but I love the sentiment.  The woman had work to do---there was no time to worry over keeping up appearances when there were real needs to deal with and real people to love.

Now, I like to look nice, and I like my things to look nice.  I like my kids to behave and I like to think that I’m doing a good job with all of that, but I’ve long since given up trying to look nice, be nice, have nice for the sake of the approval and acceptance of others.  A lot of what I do now, in fact, DOESN’T look nice, because frankly, creation is messy. Work is messy.  Forgiveness is messy. Repentence is messy.  Life is messy.  But it’s all beautiful and worthwhile if you learn from it and do good with it.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Standing in line

Today’s prompt:


What (or who) did you shell out or stand-in-line for this year? Was it worth it? What made you wait in line, log-on early, or form a lifetime attachment?

Here’s the thing. We don’t stand in lines. We make it a habit to circumvent the queue system if we can. One of the few times we couldn’t was when we stood in line to see President Barack Obama at our local university. The event was free, but for crowd control, the venue issued tickets, and we stood in line for a couple of hours to get ours.  We live in a decidedly red state, so I was surprised to see that the line for tickets was as long as it was.  I was also surprised to hear people of many different political persuasions talking and joking amicably with each other in line.  So used to the political vitriol on the interwebs, I fully expected people to be as nasty in person as they were online. I was delighted to be wrong.

Although many of our friends thought we were wasting our time and wondered why on earth we would stand in line for tickets to hear that @#*$% Obama speak, we were looking forward to hearing the President and being part of what was a historic event for our town. My son, Calvin, even got interviewed by the local news just prior to the speech.


Here we are, killing time in line at the university, waiting for tickets to President Obama’s speech.



Calvin being interviewed.

calvin on tv

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Magic of Moxie

Today’s prompt:

Read Up

Let's explore the power of words. Did a writer delight you, make you think, or impact you in some other way? Write a review, or share a favorite line from something you've read.


" 'The thing about growing up with Fred and George,' said Ginny thoughtfully, 'is that you sort of start thinking anything's possible if you've got enough nerve.' "

—Ginny Weasley in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

My kids and I have been (re)reading together the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, and though there are many inpsiring and thought provoking quotes throughout the books, this comment from Ginny Weasley really sparked with us.

Ginny is talking about her brothers’ ability to make things happen in their favor because they are unafraid to give it a go, and with gusto! Fred and George are always thinking outside the box and willing to take risks. They are tenacious, optimistic, and never let obstacles or failure railroad their ambitions.

I used to tell my kids that they could be anything they wanted to be—but then I realized that is not true. Wanting something is not the same as getting it or becoming it. You have to do more than want to be something, you have to work for it.  And all the better if you work for it with the moxie of Fred and George!


This posit is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Beating Homeschool Burnout

Today’s prompt:

On the Fringes
Think of things that have piqued your curiosity. What leaves you with more questions than answers? Who or what do you wish you knew more about?

Every winter, post-Christmas, we hit a slump in our homeschooling. We’re cranky, unmotivated, and experiencing some cabin fever. We used to spend a month or two floundering around, trying to keep to our routine, but it was always miserable and I’d fantasize about sending the kids away on the big yellow bus.

Now, however, when I start to notice symptoms of homeschool burnout, the kids and I make a list of new things we’d like to do or learn about. I write down everything the kids tell me, no matter how strange or mundane I might find it, and then we hit the library to see what information we can find. I also take a look at the several community event calendars are available in our area, to see what activities might coincide with our new interests, and I plan field trips.

Typically, our list is so long that we can’t get to everything, or we need to put some items off because they are seasonal or already planned for later in the year, but making our list and acting on it—checking things off as we go, reignites the homeschool spark.  It’s good to change up the routine!
This year, I made two lists, one for the kids and one for me. I don’t have a lot of personal time to devote to my own interests (what adult does?) but I like to chip away at it when  I can. 
Here are just some of the things from both of this season’s lists:

  • how chocolate is made
  • archery
  • wildlife
  • cooking (especially desserts!)
  • how to crochet a bear
  • botany
  • chemistry
  • how to run a business
  • animation
  • how to make a video game
  • drawing techniques
  • The Middle East conflict
  • Israeli/Palestinian conflict and how the Parents’ Circle is bridging the divide and working for peace
  • social work, particularly regarding children and families
  • container gardening/urban homesteading
  • traditional animation
  • filmmaking
  • koi ponds
  • Bonsai
  • learn to sight read music for the piano
  • the cultural anthropology of England (I just bought a book about this and it looks fascinating!)
The full lists are pretty ambitious, but each time I look them over, I marvel at how much there is to learn about the world and the people in it, and the universe we inhabit! It’s impossible to stay in the dumps when there is so much to see and do and learn!

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Work Culture

Today’s prompt:

Work Culture

Work culture is all the rage. What values do you bring to work? Is there any one cultural trait you want to import into your workplace? Create a punch list of small things you can do to nudge culture forward. Or, explore companies who seem to be doing it right.

I’m a homeschool teacher, so I work from home. I am also a volunteer secretary for a non-profit community choir that serves our area’s youth.  Most of my work there, I do over the phone and the computer, so---I don’t have a “work culture” per se. Instead, I offer a list of attributes that guide us in our homeschool:

  • Flexibility: This is a must have. It is impossible to schedule everything in our lives, because it’s LIFE, and we have to work school in with the running of the household.


  • Humor:  Life is so much more interesting when it’s funny. And humor is a great way to blow off steam or to ease tension and frustration with the schoolwork or with each other. We are always cracking jokes. Silliness is our love language.


  • Dignity: Though we love to laugh and tease pull pranks and are not afraid to look silly, we don’t do it at each others’ expense. We do not tolerate name calling or hurtful comments. We protect each other’s mental, physical, and emotional space. We build each other up.

family pic 2

  • Tenacity: If at first we don’t succeed, we try, try again.

egg shoot

  • Fun: Life can be so hard sometimes, so we look for ways to infuse it with fun. Makes for good memories!

Neenie snow tubing

  • Wonder: The universe is SO big and there is SO much to learn and see and do. It’s like trying to drink from an open hydrant.  We are never get bored. (And if we do, I assign chores!)