Saturday, July 30, 2011


This afternoon some friends of ours are joining us to go see the musical Hairspray at the Nampa Civic Center. We have season tickets to the Music Theatre of Idaho and have really enjoyed going to watch the various productions there. So far this season we've seen:

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
The Secret Garden
South Pacific

The first one we saw there was last fall when we went to see Jekyll and Hyde since someone we knew was in it. We were really impressed by the quality of the production so we decided to go ahead and get season tickets this year.

We still have three more to go after this one:

The Music Man
Wizard of Oz
A Christmas Carol

We always go to the Saturday matinee shows so we aren't out late. Once we even did a little geochaching in Nampa before the show. It's a fun date to go see these plays and and we've been consistently impressed with the talent of the performers. There are some great voices in our local area!

Usually Larry and I have just gone one our own. Today will be twice and fun because we are going with our dear friends Larry and Judy Todd. One of our best blessings living here is that THEY live close by too. We knew each other for many years in Oregon and used to get together about once a month for card nights at each other's homes. Then they up and left us, moving to Nampa. Now we are here in Boise so our monthly card nights have resumed! It's so great having some tried and true friends with many years of shared history even though we've only lived here a year.

As much as we enjoy playing "Hand and Foot" - sort of like Canasta, we decided to do some other stuff together. So we are planning a trip to go tubing the Boise river and today we'll see this play. Of course, as much as I'm sure we'll enjoy this afternoon's show, it just won't be the same without John Travolta as Edna Turnbald.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Micro Credit - Touching the world

I have been reviewing my Kiva portfolio to see the status of the various loans I've made. If you are not familiar with Kiva you really should check it out.

Back in 2006 I chose to put $75 into micro-credit loans in various places around the word. Since that time whenever the loans are paid back to me I reloan it to someone new. From that SAME $75 dollars I have now put $600 in assistance out to people in the following places:

Dec 2006 - Perris W. from Ongata Rongai, Kenya Supplies for embroidery business

Dec 2006 – Mamadow D. group in Nder, Senegal – to buy an irrigation pump to improve farming

Dec 2006 – Oliver N. from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – to buy supplies for Batik business

July 2007 - Sambath H from Ta Khmao district, Cambodia – to repair motor bike & buy groceries for sale

Dec 2007 – Makhmadsaid H. from J.Rasulov, Tajikistan – to buy livestock

Dec 2007 - Fuzuli G. from Beylagan, Azerbaijan –to buy sheep

Jan 2008 – Fauu M from Manono, Samoa – for iron roofing for home repair & fertilizer for farm

Jun 2008 – Victoria A. from Pucarani, Bolivia for purchasing milk cows

Jun 2008 – Shamin Noor M. from Arifwala, Pakistan, to buy masonry tools & expand fruit stand

Mar 2009 – Wofunaria from Zana, Uganda to buy food for chickens to raise eggs for sale

Mar 2009 - Dounyu Grou from Wome, Togo to enlarge cabbage production

April 2009 – Rihana Grom from Kot Radha Kishan, Pakistan – Rickshaw / buffalo for milk/ other

May 2009 – Barrio Lido Group from Bolivia – carpentry & brick laying tools

Oct 2009 – Nurbubu S. Group from Balykchi, Kyrgyzstan to buy winter fodder for cattle

Sep 2009 – Hoang Tia Group from Dong Anh- Ha Noi, Viet Nam to expand recycling business / etc

Jan 2010 – Yeradon Group from Segou, Mali to busy food supplies for business

Mar 2010 – Thiem Thi from Dong Anh- Ha Noi, Viet Nam to buy piglets and improve piggery

Apr 2010 – Qoyllority group from Muñapata, Peru to buy sheep

Jun 2010 – Nueval Semilla group from La Paz / El Alto, Bolivia to buy supplies for sewing business

Aug 2010 – Turdubiubiu group from Karabalta, Kyrgyzstan to buy cattle and chickens

Nov 2010 – Musruf C. from Sabirabad, Azerbaijan to buy sheep

Nov 2010- Mnatsakan G. from Sevan, Armenia to buy calves and fodder

May 2022 – Pao K. from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to buy cows and oxen

June 2011 – Nakisunka group from Mukono, Uganda to buy piglets

I'd say that's one investment that I'm VERY satisfied with the return I've gotten.
The stock market may have taken a major hit on our 401K's, but I still feel good knowing that from a small sacrifice on my part I have had an opportunity to make a bit of a difference in the lives of people around the world.

On my lender page I have this quote from Edward Everett Hale: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

I'm truly grateful that in this small way I can make a difference all across the world.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Right now I am listening to the CD "Emotion" by Papa Wemba. What are you listening to these days??

To Blurb or not to Blurb, that is the Question

I've been toying with the idea of printing out a book from this blog that would capture my first year in Idaho. I've been looking at some layouts over at Blurb and tinkering with what I would include and what I would leave out.

I'm ambivalent. Part of me says the last thing I need is another THING. When we left Oregon we deliberately opted to downsize, getting rid of 30 years of accumulated STUFF to take up a more simplified life. However, this feels different. I think I would like having an actual book with words and pictures that I could look at and share.

I expect if I do go ahead with it I'll clean up and edit some of the posts a bit. I tend to write a lot of free flowing babble on these pages, and don't always even take the time to spellcheck. (HORRORS - don't tell my students!)

Since I long ago lapsed out of the habit at keeping a personal journal and I never have gotten around to any sort of formal personal history, this is probably as close as I will ever come to recording my days.

Who knows? Maybe one day my grandkids will get a kick out of it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Puzzle Pics

I can't remember if I posted these here before or not...I know I shared them on Facebook, but they MAY also have been in a previous post. No matter. When I got into my folder of puzzle pictures to grab the one that represents "Dandy Lions / Dandeilions" I was reminded of the others so I will share here.

Can you tell what word these photos represent? I will put answers in comments. Don't peek until you try to figure them out!

What makes a plant (Ob)noxious?

I've often heard it said that the definition of a weed is any plant growing out of place, or where it is not welcome. In that sense a dandeilion is NOT a weed if you want it for the edible parts or the pretty flowers. Clearly, people think different things when they think of Dandeilions / "Dandy Lions"

So you could say it's all a matter of perspective. A rose would be a weed if you don't happen to like roses.

However, SOME plants it seems have been deemed to be too nasty to tolerate, no matter how pretty they are or how much some individual might appreciate them...such as my now long gone "policeman's helmet". So I got to wondering, what makes a plant deemed to be dangerous enough to the local environment that it is no longer a matter of private opinion, but gets legislated as "Noxious" with state regulations demanding it be eradicated?

This is what the Idaho's Noxious Weed Pagee says:

What is a noxious weed?

Noxious weeds are plant species that have been designated "noxious" by law. The word "noxious" simply means deleterious, and all listed weeds are deleterious by definition. There are hundreds of weed species in Idaho; in 1977, 35 were designated noxious by Idaho law. [As of 2009, there are 57 noxious weed species.] The Idaho Department of Agriculture uses the following criteria for designation of a noxious weed:

It must be present in but not native to Idaho;
It must be potentially more harmful than beneficial to Idaho;
Eradication must be economically physically feasible;
The potential adverse impact of the weed must exceed the cost of control.

So there you have it. I admit, I was tempted to keep my plant and just not say anything when I discovered its bad rep. After all, it was pretty well controlled in its own little corner of my private back yard. After all, it didn't seem obnoxious to me. (I really do like the term "obnoxious weeds" better no matter what the official law calls them.)

But as corny as it may sound, for me it was a matter of integrity. I do not want to be a person who is sneaky about breaking laws. Even though I saw very little risk, eliminating the plant seemed like the right thing to do.

I will admit I HAVE done some things against the rules. I have fed ducks in a pond clearly marked DO NOT FEED THE DUCKS. I have driven faster than the posted speeding limit. I have unbuckled my seat belt before the plan had fully arrived at the gate. (oh horrors!) But for the most part, I really do try to be an honest, law abiding citizen. In most matters, I don't think it is right for me to pick and choose which rules are comfortable or convenient to follow and to ignore those that I don't happen to like. I think there is a time and place for civil disobedience, but that's for a different post.

For now I just knew I would not appreciate my sweet plant knowing it was kept surreptitiously. So out it went. Still, I will I'll miss it some. Cest la vie.

FOUND IT - but not good news

Anyone who has read this blog much knows that I've been on a quest to identify all the many plants in my yard ever since moving to Boise. I've been blessed with a place that is just full of all sorts of lovely specimen plants that were brought in by a previous owner. I also have been given starts of many new things from various garden pals I've come to know here. It has become something of an obsession for me.

I've got MOST of the things growing in my yard figured out now and have assembled quite an impressive list.
Here are the plants in my FRONT YARD
and here are the plants in my BACK YARD

Cool, eh?

There was one in particular, however, that has really had me stumped.

It grew in abundance along the fence on the west side of my back yard. It had TALL hollow stalks (many over 6 ft), very shallow roots, and white flowers on top. The plant looked like this:

I have gone through MANY different garden books looking for this. I took plant samples to knowledgeable people at a couple different nurseries. I had both serious private gardeners and professional landscapers come to my house to look at them. NO ONE seemed able to identify what the heck this thing was.

I FINALLY found out the name of my mystery plant. It's called "Policeman's Helmet" also known as Himalayan Balsam.

Great! Right?, not so much.

Guess where I finally found it?

In my book of Idaho Noxious Weeds.

Yeah, unfortunately, even though this has been sold as an ornamental in some places, here is is considered nasty.

So out it had to come:

I made sure my neighbor who had some growing on her side of the fence pulled hers all up too.

I was pretty bummed about it at first, but I finally decided I didn't really mind. Now I simply have more room for collecting different colors of hollyhocks

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Overcoming Adversity

As we were leaving the area where we were camped this morning I happened to spot this tree next to the road. Clearly, this poor tree has experienced some significant adversity at some point in the past. Whether the trauma was a one time major storm that about knocked it flat, or a series of problems that caused it to tip over I can't really say. But what impressed me about the tree was its determination to grow upright, despite its troubled past.

I feel like I am a lot like this tree. My early days were stormy ones. The specifics are not important. Suffice it to say that both from the choices I made and the choices others made I got pretty well knocked flat in more ways than one. Every kid has their heart aches. Some come dressed up as serious problems, some not so much. Mine were a mixed bag that knocked me for a loop. As a consequence my teen aged years were a firestorm of self-loathing and rebellion. That led to some turbulent twists and tumult during my twenties, with a few sweet islands of light that began to wake me up to the possibility of a better way, but having no skills or frame of reference to really build on. My thirties were a tense and turbulent time as I tried to make my peace with old nightmares and sort out what mattered. Only in my forties did I begin to get comfortable in my own skin. Even then, there were more than a few hiccoughs along the way.

But now I'm in my fifties and I can honestly say I have never felt more at peace. That doesn't mean my life is entirely without problems. But how I approach my problems when they come now is radically shifted from the old days of drama and angst. These days when difficulties arise I face it with a completely different sort of awareness that EVERYTHING - both the bad and the good, the comfortable and the excruciating, will work together somehow in a way that will ultimately teach me and bless my life if I can be open to that.

Example - recently I've been having some pain in my back and neck. It has been hurting a lot, so I went to a chiropractor to get my spine adjusted. While I was there I mentioned to the receptionist that my husband and I were planning on going to the Ketchum / Galena area for the weekend. She then told me about Red Fish Lake which she claimed was the most beautiful place she had ever seen in her whole life.
I looked at a map and saw it wasn't that far out of the way from where we were going to be anyway, so we decided we would go check it out.

Had my back not been messed up we would have missed this amazing, soul shaking part of this weekend journey. Seriously, it was that special. It is an absolutely amazing place and I feel much richer for having experienced it. Am I GLAD my back was hurt? NO. Will I go running to embrace other painful things because they might bring me similar blessings? Absolutely not. Face it, pain sucks. I don't want to hurt - physically or emotionally. But what I DO know for sure is that whether I run from it or embrace it, from time to time painful things WILL happen in my life. And one of the ways I get through those dark days, whether they be a kink in my vertebrae, the death of someone I hold dear, financial reverses or the dog barfing on a new rug....from big challenges to small ones I honestly believe that EVERY experience in this life has the capacity to teach and bless me if I let it.

There was a time not so many years ago when I struggled mightily with some issues that I thought were bigger than my capacity to endure. I honestly believed at one point that I would carry the grief, sadness and heartache of it to my grave.

But I was wrong.

I mended. Today I am happy. Today I truly do know peace. Granted, I may be a bit crooked in spots, sort of like this tree. But I'm standing tall. And I can honestly say that I would not know the level of joy and delight and sheer gratitude that I have now if I had not walked through the dark.

I am so relieved to have come to a spot in my life where I don't have to take everything so stinking seriously. I have perspective. I have an ability to let go of things that I can't control. I have an ability to truly cherish simple pleasures like the flowers in my garden or a sunset or the sound of a child's laugh.
And I'm choosing to focus on that. I'm choosing to stand up straight in my present instead of continuing to worry over getting knocked flat in the past. If this tree can do it, why not me?

I am a walking blood meal

As much as I loved our recent trip to the mountains, there was one down side to our holiday. The mosquitoes. I do not understand why they love me so much. Larry and I could be hiking on the SAME trail and he would not get one single bite. I, on the other hand, am covered it itchy welts. I think I will go take a general body dip in calamine lotion now.

Photo from How Stuff Works (linked above)

Pointy Mountains

I took this photo this morning at Little Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth mountains.
Seriously,the picture does not do it justice. It was so breathtakingly beautiful it made me weep with joy. This is hands down one of the most magnificent places I've ever been. Spent a very relaxed, peaceful time exploring / hiking and then a leisurely drive home through gorgeous canyons.

I'd pinch myself, but if I AM dreaming, I don't want to wake up.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Galena Yurt Camping

My beloved and I are spending a relaxing weekend in the mountains. Larry is taking a fly-fishing class and I'm enjoying some geocaching, hiking, reading and just getting away. We are in the Sawtooth Mountains and enjoying every minute of it.

We are camping in a Yurt about 20 miles north of Ketchum. Yurts are really quite cozy - even comes with a skylight!

The place has all the rustic appeal of wilderness camping with a bit more tent to set up or equipment to haul. Just bring food, sleeping bag and a change of clothes and you are good to go.

It's actually pretty nice to be sleeping on a cushioned platform rather than the rocky ground. This is what I call baby bear camping. Not too hard. Not too soft. JUST RIGHT.

The propane camp stove works great - we brought fresh squash from our garden and some kielbasa sausage....YUM!

Of course, camping means high class facilities.

Regardless of what Freud may have theorized,this is the ONLY time I get penis envy.

To make reservations to stay in a Yurt, contact the nice people at Galena Lodge:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Shoshone Falls

Thursday after I got off work my beloved and I went to the Twin Falls temple. The Boise temple is now closed for major renovations and will remain so for about a year. So until it reopens, we'll be making regular trips to Twin Falls, about a two hour drive. Quite different from our regular Sabbath worship in our local chapel, temple attendance is something that is deeply important to me.

After our time at the temple we took a drive over to Shoshone Falls. Always a nice view, they are looking particularly spectacular right now because we have has so much rain and snow this spring, so the water is running very high.

I'm looking forward to several trips there in the coming months. We are planning to do some day hikes and picnics in the park and Larry wants to try fishing on the lake up above the falls.

Idaho has so much to offer. This really is a pretty corner of the world.

Book Review - Safe Money Millionaire

The book "Safe Money Millionaire" is a short (120 pages) little "How To" book written in a conversational tone for the average person. In it BYU trained Brett Kitchen and Ethan Kap from Utah debunk widely accepted financial wisdom. They lay out a step-by-step method for individuals to protect their assets and make gains WITHOUT risking savings in the volatile unpredictability of the stock market.

Through stories and examples Kitchen and Kap propose a few very basic ideas.
1) wanting to get rich is a worthy goal.
2) much of the popular financial advice for how to do that is flawed.
3) there is a better way.
4) follow us.

One of the basic premises of this book is that investing money in a 401K retirement plan is a bad idea. Kitchen and Kap definitely have an uphill battle to get every day Americans to believe that 401K's are unwise. Even after the horrendous financial meltdown of 2008, MANY people are still very much committed to the idea that 401K's are one of the best ways to plan for retirement. But like salmon swimming upstream, tearing down that idea is exactly what they set out to do, going against the current council of many popular money folks with a lot more name recognition.

That being said - just because a person gets famous in financial advice circles does NOT mean the advice they give is sound. There are plenty of Dave Ramsey Bashers or people who hate Suze Orman out there. I LOVE the quote from Bertrand Russell that Kitchen and Kap included on page 25: "Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken."

Understanding the problems with 401K's was pretty easy for me. Where I balked was at the alternative they offered: Cash value insurance plans. I'll admit right up front, I have a VERY STRONG personal bias against most forms of insurance. Getting past that bias was all but insurmountable for me.

Ideas are tenacious little buggers. Once a person has latched on to some idea, opinion or value they tend to burrow deep into our psyche, with roots deeper than a mallow weed. In a world full of ever shifting, complex information, most of us are more likely to notice the things that CONFIRM what we already believe rather than giving our attention over to the things that contradict. We are constantly on the lookout for the bits and pieces that tell us what we already know to be true IS true, so we can continue to hold on tight to our ideas, feeling confident we are right. We are human deleting machines... we go around daily ignoring or refuting the data from our lives that suggests we might just be going down a wrong path (no matter how valid that information may be).

So no matter how clearly the book explained the merit of having a 101 Plan, it just didn't appeal to me. While I do begrudgingly fork out money each month to insure my life, my home and my car, I resent what I see as a "fear tax". I believe ALL insurance companies operate on focusing people's fear and worry.

Personally, I'd rather have a chunk of cash in a safe, interest bearing fund and rely on THAT to help me get through the difficulty I would face in the unforeseen event of my pipes bursting or my car crashing or my house burning down. I long for the day when I can be 100% self insured. I'm not there yet. But I really do want to be able to forget about any insurance policy at all (other than medical care) at some point in the future.

So wrapping my mind around the notion that using cash value life insurance as an alternative investment was a leap that I had more than a little difficulty wrestling with. Also, wanting to know a little bit about the backgrounds of the authors I did some digging. I found Brett Kitchen's FaceBook page and see there that he is in insurance sales. Oh really? Having an insurance salesman tell me that buying a cash value life insurance policy is a wonderful idea just feels a bit like having a fox guard my hen house. He may have some very valid points to make, but my skeptic brain wonders how much of the advice here will benefit ME and how much will benefit HIM if I should take it.

However, I kept reading.

Even if I disregard that part of the book all together, there were several other little gems along the way.

I was impressed by the part that explained that getting a fat income tax refund is NOT in your best interest. (I've never understood why people feel so good about letting Uncle Sam use their money all year long for free.) I totally agree with the concept of structuring deductions so the amount you pay IN to the IRS comes as close as possible to amount you will be billed. If I want to have a cushion "just to be sure" I will put that amount into a separate bank account THAT PAYS INTEREST TO ME and then have it available to pay any remaining tax bill that may come due.

There were also a few other things that were worth the read.

When I was done with the book I cruised over to take the online quiz at the authors' website to find out my TRUE FINANCIAL AGE. (This is supposed to assess how many more years I will have to work before I can securely retire.) I must admit, I plugged in all the required numbers with a bit of trepidation. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when it said I could retire at 64. REALLY? Huh, I figured I'd be working AT LEAST another 15 years which would put me closer to 70. But no matter.... truth is I will work for the insurance benefits whether I need the actual pay check or not.

Bottom line for me, this book is worth picking up. It is a quick, easy read that has some useful information. Even if you don't agree with or follow all of their advice (like me), I think it is a good stepping stone in becoming more educated about financial matters and goes a long way to demystify the investment world.

To see what other reviewers had to say about this book, check out Tristi Pinkston's Virtual Book Tours HERE and scroll down till you see this book over on the right hand side among others that have been reviewed.

To buy this book you can go to or check out your local bookstore.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book so I would review it. I had no obligation to say favorable things and have no other incentives for this posting.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I Love Boise

I spent some time walking around Downtown Boise last evening. The more time I spend here, the more I absolutely love this town.

More than a few people have asked me why I chose to move here. There were a lot of reasons. Here are my top 10 reasons for loving living where I do now, in no particular order:

1. Climate
Boise gets four distinct seasons, each with their own loveliness and annoyances. I like that. Also while it does get up to 100 degrees or a bit higher in the summer, there is very little humidity. (Having spent a week in Michigan recently I was reminded what a blessing that is!) Also while it we get some snow and freezing temperatures in the winter, it's not ever really freeze-your-boogers cold (again, thinking back to the 10 years I spent living near Kalamazoo).

2. Safety

First, relating to the climate - this is not a place that is at high risk for dangerous weather events. While NO PLACE on earth can guarantee that bad stuff won't happen, Boise is not known for earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides, major flooding or any other natural disaster that can be catastrophic.

Beyond the safety of the skies and waters, the crime rate in Boise is relatively low. It means a lot to me to be able to go walking alone along the city streets and encounter strangers who smile at me, knowing that as long as I use reasonably good judgment I am going to be safe.

3. Size

Boise is my Baby-Bear Town. It's not too big. It's not too little. It's JUST RIGHT.
As the county seat of Ada County, it is the most populated city in the state, with a little over 205 thousand people in the city itself and more like 616,500 in the general metropolitan area (according to Wikipedia which I would NEVER accept as a source in my academic classes, but for this silly little blog is plenty good enough...)

I'm done with living in "quaint" podunk towns of 1,000 people where you have to travel to get to any sort of meaningful resources. But by the same token I have no desire to live in a huge city like Phoenix or Seattle. Portland is nice, and would probably be a close second choice for me if I didn't live here, but with 2,260,000 people in the greater metropolitan area there it's just to big for me.

Boise still has a feel of connection among the people who live here that sometimes gets lost in urban areas. People are friendly. The place is big enough that you don't have everyone trying to know your business but small enough that folks genuinely seem to care about their community and be willing to work together to keep it nice.

4. Resources & Services

Related to size, in a city of this size we have lots of good infrastructure and resources - health care, education, retail, restaurants, etc. We have a great parks system, a decent zoo, and lots of things to do from free concerts in the park to farmers market. You name it, just about anything a person might want access too can be found right here. Also I appreciate being in a place that has decent services like curb side recycling, community composting and the like. I do wish there was better public transportation, but overall I'm pretty happy with what is available to me here.

5. Navigation
Boise is VERY easy to get around in. Whether I want to stay on back roads or jump on the connector and take the freeway, getting from point A to point B is pretty comfortable without any ugly bumper to bumper angst. (Of course Eagle Road is the exception - that's something to be avoided as much as possible! But other than that, most travel is lickety split.)


Boise is known as the "City of Trees". With good reason. For a community carved out of the desert of the Intermountain West, we have a phenomenal number of truly beautiful trees.
Add to that the Boise River that runs through town and the well maintained greenbelt for hiking, biking, etc it's just a downright PRETTY place to live.

7. Mountains & Wild Places

While I love living in a town with stores, schools, hospitals and good services, I also like it very much that within 20-30 minutes I can be up in the mountains or out on some trail where I can connect with nature. Larry has been finding several different places for fishing and we go out on hikes reasonably often in places so pretty they just plain make my heart sing.

8. LDS Temple
As an active member of the LDS faith, it is a wonderful blessing to have a temple so close. Unfortunately our temple just closed for major renovations and will remain so for about a year. So for the immediate future we'll visit the temple in Twin Falls - a couple hours away. Long term, however, we have our temple here which is 15 minutes from our house, and a second one is planned to be built in nearby Meridian. After living lots of places where we had to drive from 3-8 hours, this is huge for us.

9. Affordable Housing

No matter how wonderful a community may be, it would do me no good if I could not afford to live there. The flip side of the economy bust has been the radical drop in house prices. For those trying to sell a place, that's not good news. But for those trying to get into a home in Boise right now there are some amazing deals.

10. Family
The one critical thing that Boise offered us that no other place on the planet would have is BOTH my beloved and I have a sibling close by. After spending most my adult life living in towns far from any sort of family connection, it has been a tremendous blessing to spend time with my brother and his wife and to visit Larry's sister during her frequent trips here. (She lives just a couple hours away but comes here once or twice a month to visit her daughter and grand kids in Meridian.)

While it has been an absolute delight over the past year to have closer family connection, it also gives us both a deeper sense of security as we approach our old age to know that if anything happened to either one of us, the other would have a support system close by.

I could go on and on. There is so much I like about living in Boise, Idaho. It took me over 50 years to get here. But now that I'm here, I couldn't possibly feel more at home.

TimeBank Idaho - Potluck

I wrote previously here about my interest in TimeBank Idaho. Tonight my husband and I went to our first potluck to meet other members of the group. I am even more intrigued than before.

I was impressed by the interesting mix of people that came together to share ideas. There was an attorney, a psychologist, a massage therapist, a reiki master, a "grunt laborer", and others who I did not get a chance to talk with much. But it was clear that people came from all sorts of back grounds, living all walks of life. I like that.

One of my all time favorite pieces of writing is the essay People Like Us by David Brooks from the September 2003 Atlantic Monthly. In it Brooks points out that while Americans talk a good bit about valuing diversity, when it comes right down to it most people tend to associate with others very much like themselves. In neighborhoods, work places, houses of worship, bars, all sorts of settings... from the playground to the board room there is a tendency for people to sort themselves to be with others like themselves.

I think there is tremendous value in knowing and associating with people who look, act and think differently than I do. My friends across the spectrum of life experience enrich my understanding of the world in immeasurable ways.

Because I am active in the LDS church I actually have lots of opportunities for giving and receiving, for connecting, for doing a lot of the things that TimeBank seems set up to support. But the thing is, as much as I love my LDS neighbors, I LIKE knowing people who don't fit that mold. I want access to the kinds of conversations I will have by meeting people of different faiths (or no faith at all). I like having contacts with people who live in a different section of town and therefore can give me tips on resources in an area my own immediate neighbors may be less familiar with. I very much enjoy the chance to contribute to a group that supports the idea of sincerely valuing ALL people as having something worthy to offer.

So I will definitely be looking to do more with TimeBank Idaho. Last night was my first potluck with the group. It most certainly will not be my last.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Willful Suspension of Disbelief

Anyone who reads fiction is very familiar with the concept of "willful suspension of disbelief". This has to do with our voluntarily going along with the plot, characters and theme of a story, allowing ourselves to get caught up in the tale "as if" it were real, even though we know it is not.

Over the years I have read quite a bit of science fiction and a smattering of fantasy works. I grew up reading Tolkein's tales of Middle Earth and spent a few years in my 20's as an avid Trekkie, to the point that I would use phrases and analogies in my every day conversations based on the world created by Gene Roddenberry.

So I am no stranger to Willful Suspension of Disbelief (WSB).

Still, when a book violates not only the rules of the known universe, but also seems to change its own rules midstream, my mind balks.

Such was the case with my recent read of Sweet Dreams by Bosie author, Aaron Patterson.

But here is my quandary.... I am not sure which bothers me more, for a book to be totally predictable or for a book to shift gears so suddenly and unexpectedly that I lose my ability to believe in it.

I get bored with books that plod through a formula so entrenched that on page 30 you can pretty much guess how it will end. However, if an author is going to take a wild leap of changing all the rules of who characters are or what they have experienced there better be plenty of explanation to make those shifts plausible. I simply did not think Patterson met that standard with this book.

There were pieces of this novel that I genuinely liked. On two different nights I sat up late turning pages because I was very engaged in the story and simply could not put it down. It held my interest and made me want to know how all the pieces were going to fit together.

My frustration is, I don't think they did fit together. At least not enough for me. When I got to the part where THE WHOLE BOOK turned on it's head to go off in a different direction I was beyond skeptical. I kept looking for enough back story to make sense of the shift and it simply didn't play out. There was one point that had the potential for some fascinating spins that just never completely materialized.

Add to that some truly INSIPID dialogue and some extraneous sentences that annoyed the dickens out of me making me want to trade my whole kingdom for a decent copy editor (which could also have helped with the multiple typos my teacher eyes kept finding scattered throughout).

So I'm this a book I would recommend? It truly had some things about it I liked very much. I can see why some would very much enjoy it. I've just passed it on to my husband to get his impressions. I suspect the James Bond elements of slick agent with awesome technology will appeal to him. Still, for me there are just too many holes. MAYBE some of the questions the book left me hanging with will be resolved in later episodes of this series. Or not. I guess I just might have to read the next book to find out.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Books Read in 2011

I didn't keep track of my reading until summer. I started logging each book on July 1, 2011. I'm sure there were many good ones early on, but what they were is anybody's guess. So here are the ones I DO have a record of:

JULY 2011
The Ambler Warning by Robert Ludlum
The Spire by Richard North Patterson
Sweet Dreams by Aaron Patterson (Review Here)
Safe Money Millionaire by Brett Kitchen & Ethan Kap Review Here)
A Morning for Flamingos by James Lee Burke
Latter Rain by James M. Conis Review HERE

Audio Books
Death of a Village by M.C. Beaton
Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

August 2011
Deception Point by Dan Brown
212 by Alafair Burke
Sunset Limited by James Lee Burke
Dead Connection by Alafair Burke

Audio Books
These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauff
Let's Roll by Lisa Beamer
Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway
Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat

September 2011
Angel's Tip by Alafair Burke
Two for Texas by James Lee Burke
....and a whole lot of student papers!

Audio Books
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
Oh Pioneers! by Willa Cather
The Keepsake by Tess Garritsen
Exit Ghost by Philip Roth

October 2011
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson

Audio Books
LA Outlaws by T. Jefferson Parker
A first Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi

November 2011
Half of Paradise by James Lee Burke
Judgement Calls by Alafair Burke
The Assassination of Governor Boggs by Rod Miller (Review HERE)
Trial by Fire by J.A. Jance
Now You See Her by James Patterson
No Second Chance by Harlan Coben

Audio Books
Men of Ireland by William Trevor
The Capture of Cerberus by Agatha Christie
The incident of the Dog's Ball by Agatha Christie
Long Gone by Alafair Burke
Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Steven Dubner

December 2011
Books in PRINT
Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Traveling by Tin Lizzie by Laura Purtyman McBride

Audio Books
Ape House by Sara Gruen
You Were Always Mom's Favorite! - Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives by Deborah Tannen
Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway

Back in the Saddle

I've been out of town for the past week, visiting my grown up sons and eight grandkids back in Michigan. It was a delight to get to spend time with them all, and as ever difficult to leave them again.

I've been musing on how goodbyes never get any easier. Every other task I can think of seems to get easier with practice. My proficiency increases with repetition. Alas, parting from those I love is not like that. My first day or two back is always a difficult time as I adjust all over again to the awareness of all I'm missing out on in their lives and the bleak knowledge that those kids are growing up without much influence from me.

Try as I might to stay in touch with phone calls, email and facebook along with the occasional fun care package, our face to face visits happen only one week a year. Distance and dollars prohibit any more. Still, through those annual visits we have formed a bond that holds tight through the years. I hold fast to that in my mind and already look forward to next year.

Of course when we returned my gardens had gone through all sorts of transformation. The peonies and foxglove are all spent and the delphiniums very nearly so. Now we have roses and lilies blooming and the lamb's ear is really taking off. The squash and tomatoes in our raised beds went crazy. On the down side, the spinach, swiss chard and cilantro all bolted in my absence and without daily diligence weeds in the flowerbeds have sprung up with abandon.

I wish I had the time to really dig in to get everything ship shape again for the dog days of summer. But tomorrow I go back to doubt to a "to-do" list that grew as much as my weeds while I was gone.

So for a while I was feeling grumpy, frustrated, out of sorts as I struggled with a combination of hot weather, messy garden, missing my family, and just plain jet lag from the trip home. But, blessedly, today I've been able to put my stinky mood behind me.

Changes and transitions, ever shifting seasons are the warp and weave of my life. Some times come easy and vibrant - like spring time in my garden, other times have bumps, like now.

Western culture focuses so much on what is quick, what is easy, what satisfies cravings for pleasure with little patience for the sweat times, the difficulties, the stones in our shoes. But if I've learned anything in my 53 years in this world it is that some of my best lessons have come from responding to the challenges. While I'm not one to seek out hardship, I will not discount the lessons. I love the saying I see painted on plaques now and again about how the challenge of life in not to avoid all the storms, but rather to learn how to dance in the rain.

In truth, I have just enough bumps in the road right now to remind me how blessed I really am. I wish I had a thinner waist and a fatter bank account. I wish I had more discretionary time. I wish I had more contact with my family. I wish the laundry fairy knew where I live. I wish I had more blossoms and less weeds in my garden. I wish my sweet husband would get over his cold. On a deeper level I do worry some about some concerns affecting some of my family. But I am practing acceptance, and doing my best to sincerely let go of the things over which I have absolutely no control.

Sure, there are times I wish and wish and wish about this and that which could be different. But rather than grumble about having to go back to work tomorrow I will count myself grateful that I have a job. Instead of bemoaning all the weeds in my garden, I will celebrate that I have a yard that grows so well. And rather than sulk any more about being so far away from my sons and their families I will be ever so glad that I live in a time when jet travel allows me to get to them in a day - even if it only happens once a year.

I think of all the early pioneer families who went west for faith or fortune, never to see their families back east again.

As for the bigger things, I'll just have to trust that things will work out in the end how ever they are supposed to. For now, rather than fretting, I choose to focus on the blessings. I'm no Pollyanna with rose colored glasses ignoring the rough spots. I see the dark alongside the light. But I am determined to point the spotlight of my attention to what brings me joy and makes me feel alive, rather than sink into discouragement or overwhelm over the problems I have no control over.

As I prepare lectures for my upcoming fall semester class I am reminded about the Reticular Activating System in my brain that only allows me to pay attention to a tiny fraction of what is going on around me. Since I only get a small slice, it just makes sense to be sure I pick the right slice to notice and fully experience. So I aim to do my best at choosing the bright spots - despite some challenges that lie lurking. That's not to say I won't have days when the hard things loom large, threatening to take over. But for now I am feeling closer to a positive balance, and that's a good thing.

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