Saturday, August 11, 2012

Recollections of the mind: In which the author describes a neighbor

Today's writing exersize...[needs polishing]
Ruth is a kind little lady who is over 90 years old and still living on her own. She often has a visitor or two almost every day to check on her but she loves it most when children come to visit and play at her house. Though she never married and has no children of her own, she has a fun collection of old toys and makes sure Mary Fern, her housekeeper, stocks a box of club crackers in the cupboard for the girls when they come to visit. When I see Grael whispering in her mother’s ear, I can often guess exactly what she is asking for!

The only things the children are not permitted to play with are the dolls displayed up on her fireplace mantle. Ruth once traveled to China for humanitarian aid. I can’t fully recall the details but her life’s profession dealt specifically with eyes. Seriously, I need to get some facts straightened out in order to polish this piece up. But anyways, while situated in a poor area of China, she orchestrated a project and hand-sewed dolls for children to play with.  

Though her hearing is weak, her eyes are still quite sharp so she entertains herself with books; my kind of gal! Her niece, a librarian, brings her a new selection every week or so. Ruth did confess to me once that, though she always tries to finish each book she reads, she sometimes just skips along through a book if it’s too sad or boring. Eh, I just give up but she sure perseveres! No wonder she’s managed to live into her 90’s and her mind is still sharp as a tack!

The back patio garden, which she shares with two neighbors located on either side, is beautiful and serene. Flowers bloom thick and fragrantly and a large tree grows in the middle of the small cement pad, with plenty of bird feeders hung from its thick and shady branches to attract the diverse population of birds native to Iowa. Ruth recalls she and her friends wanted a good tree to provide shade but didn’t realize the tree they chose would grow to be so massive! When looking out the window at it, I sometimes imagine a small wooden swing hanging from one of the low branches angled just perfectly for such a novelty. And it would keep me from walking into it and smacking my head every time! That’s how low the branch hangs. There is also a wooden bench swing that, if someone helps her down the steps, Ruth sits on and watches the girls run about outside in the grass.

Though she has started to use a walker within the past couple of months, she still manages to get out of the house to go places often. I see Mary Fern take her to get her hair done every couple of weeks. She looks so tiny riding in passenger seat of the big blue minivan.

Ruth is a good neighbor to have across the street. We really should go visit her more often. And I should get a picture of her and the kids to post here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Recollections: In which the blogger rediscovers her childhood dream to become a writer

This blog has gone to the weeds lately. Time to refresh it with one of my little writing excersizes.
The earliest recollection of me wanting to be a writer when I grew up was probably in third grade. I continued with that thought all through grade school, entering my school writings in contests when prompted by teachers, and winning a few awards here and there; nothing grand but still cool to a kid like me, nonetheless. I remember entering a poem in a Young Writers and Artists contest held up at USU that consisted of a day of readings and workshops. I got a neat pen on a string that I’ve still kept after all this time even though the ink has dried out in it.

I spent summers up at Bear Lake, carting several books along in my backpack to read as well as a spiral notebook to write my stories in. I always made sure to hide them from my brother. Not that he liked to read but I’m sure he would’ve made fun of my nonsensical stuff like older brothers often do to torture their little sisters.

I professed many times to my parents that I would become a writer someday. I can’t recall their responses, nothing bad I’m sure though. But I remember that they couldn’t figure out which side of the family I got my zest for reading and writing from. Neither read as much as I do and my father spelled terribly on grocery lists so often that I liked to make fun of him (sorry dad, I still love you). Although, it took me a few years to realize that he did spell catsup correctly after all!

College came along and I of course chose to major in English. At first, I adamantly stated I didn’t plan on the teaching track. But then I thought what would I do with an English degree if not go into education? Keep cleaning hotel rooms and office buildings? Overnight shifts at the domestic violence shelter manning the crisis line and getting bedding for women and diapers for their babies?
Trouble brewed over the semesters as I began to tire of dissecting works of literature considered profound and pivotal study materials by varying professors, a couple of whom felt a book wasn’t good literature unless it contained a smattering of sex and swearwords amidst deep thoughts of suicide or death. Not that I was wanting a morally BYU-like education, but I occasionally felt like some professors intentionally picked certain books just to see if they could enflame any of their Mormon students in their classes. And then don’t get me rambling on about transcendentalism; subtle pun intended. Perhaps I just didn’t know what good literature was. And if so, how was I ever going to write good literature or even teach it to high school students? Perhaps I wasn’t cut out to be a writer.

The boiling over point was a ten-page research paper after reading of ‘A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man’ by James Joyce. To say I didn’t do well is an understatement. Man, I bombed that sucker. Do I feel bad? Well, like the country song goes, sometimes you gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. I wasn’t getting anywhere. My brain had been bled dry of any literary inspiration.

I may have attempted one more semester before deciding I must not be cut out for English Literature and writing as I’d hoped. I felt like my childhood dream had been crushed by attempting to get a college degree. I explored the Family and Consumer Science Education major before concluding that I was getting burned out with college. I’d been in school for around five years and felt like I didn’t have much to show for it. Ending up, I was probably one year away from a straight English Literature degree, no teaching, but just had no more oomph left to finish.

Meanwhile I’d been happily married about a year now. Little chubby cheeks and dainty toes in shopping carts and strollers were catching my eye. Wee little romper outfits and baby booties were messing with my feminine hormones. So I quit school and decided to enter the grand profession of motherhood.

Four years or so later, two kids, a minor bout of postpartum depression, and twelve-hundred miles away from family for medical school, and I think I’ve recovered at last from the burnout. Just like I don’t need a college degree to be a mother, I don’t need a college degree to be a writer. I’m ready to get back in the saddle again and re-dream that childhood dream of becoming a writer...

By the way, I’m not a huge fan of country music but I seem to have made two references to country songs therein. Oh dear.

P.S.S. Here's a picture of my inspirations because that's all you really came here for... :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My First Winter Craft!

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Frosty Monson

Didn't I tell you after that button-up shirt fiasco that I would craft something cute out of some of hubby's old socks? I did! Aren't they adorable? Want to make your own? Then head on over here! But, a couple of things I did differently that may give you some ideas for if you want to make your own:

* The eyes are sewing pins since all my buttons seemed too large and crazy-looking to be eyes (brown for me and blue for hubby).
* The clothing on mine is a leftover long-sleeve from a nightgown I once modified into a short-sleeved nightgown (one good reason to keep random fabric scraps in your arsenal - for random Saturday night crafts). The bow scarf is also leftover ribbon. I used some small silver pins (the kind you get in nice men's dress shirts...yup, I keep those, too!) to make the lovely shape of the bows on both the neck and the head since I can't tie bows worth a darn!
* Hubby's clothing consists of an old black sock and a scarf from...wait for it...a pair of hubby's old pj pants! The hat is just the toe of the black sock, pinned in the back to give it shape and to stay in place.

So yup, these little "snowpeople" were made completely from leftover socks and scraps! I'm already decorating for Winter even though it's a crispy Fall weekend here in the Mid-West. So, what's next? :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Some things on Pinterest...

For a good laugh, you've come to the right place today!

Here, we have a no-sew tutorial for a women's shirt/dress/call-it-what-you-will-but-I-call-it-slutty that was recently floating around on Pinterest:
And, here's what it looks on your average housewife who's a little ADHD when it comes to doing housework on a Saturday (See shirt on floor. Rather than putting in laundry hamper and continuing on with cleaning, think of Pinterest pin.):

Moral of the story? Some things on Pinterest should just be left alone.

And now I will go finish crafting some other old clothing item of my husband's into something more worthy of the weekly pin-did challenges over on the awesome Modern Marigold blog. Oh, and putting the shirt in the laundry hamper. One thing at a time, Ma, one thing at a time.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Smart shopping

I am the wife of an MD/PhD student who earns a small stipend and a stay-at-home-mother of two small children. According to the US government standards, we are considered to be below the poverty line but I think we live quite comfortably, eat very well, and the only current debt we have is our home mortgage. Yes, I'll willingly admit we currently qualify and use WIC (women infant children food assistance program). But we also shop quite frugally and manage to stretch our dollars quite far!

If it’s alright, I’d like to pass some of my frugal grocery shopping tips on to you. You can also learn more by just Googling for more frugal shopping and even frugal cooking tips. Lots of people write blogs and websites devoted to shopping on tight budgets. Heck! I’m still learning and I'd love to hear from others what sort of money-saving techniques you use when grocery shopping as well as favorite blogs on the subject!

Price per ounce – shop with a calculator to figure out which package of vegetables will give you the most for your money. Sometimes, beggars can’t be choosers and one must buy the store-brand if it’s the cheapest. Some store-brands are even better than the name-brand!

Shop for sales and keep track of prices with a small notebook in your purse so you can record what a good price is when you come across it. Look at the store ads, clip coupons. Stock up on things to keep in your pantry you know you use often rather than waiting till you run out. Peanut butter on sale? Stock up if you eat it often. Mayonnaise? Pickles? Cereal? We're also in the market for a chest freezer so we can stock up on awesome priced frozen vegetables and meat.

Buy some items in bulk – dried beans, brown rice, sugar, flour, oatmeal, etc. It’s intimidating but a big bag of brown rice is a smarter choice than little boxes of minute rice and stores well in five-gallon buckets in my food storage room. Brown rice is also healthier and fills you up more than white rice. And you don’t have to be a family of four or more just to buy in bulk. Even my husband did it when he was a bachelor!

Food storage – Yes, I’m LDS. I grew up learning about food storage. It’s not just about being prepared for a natural disaster or job loss but stocking up on things you eat when on sale to easily have on hand. I stock up on canned food, boxed cereal, etc. Anything that has a good shelf life and that we eat often, I’ll buy when I can. I’ve also learned from my mother’s mistake of buying red wheat that she never could really use. Don't buy in bulk what you just won't eat!

My laundry/food storage room

Make dinners from scratch – I must confess that Stouffers lasagna is quite tasty but it’s expensive and actually not all that healthy (too much cheese also gives my nursing infant painful gas, anyway). I can also make a bigger pan of healthier lasagna for less than those frozen meals cost. Left overs are also just fine in our house. My husband made a huge batch of chili this weekend in our stockpot. He doesn’t mind eating it for lunch almost every day this week. And no, he’s not that gassy because his body is used to eating beans and able to digest them. (Besides, if you know anything about my sense of humor, I think farts are funny!)

Gardening – I can’t talk about this one but someday, I’ll find my green thumbs and figure out how to cultivate a garden of fresh fruits and veggies and learn how to preserve them for the winter months.

The list can go on and perhaps I'll write again in the future about smart shopping but this is what I've come up with in just one morning while my daughter watches some Cailou.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

He's here!

Announcing the arrival of Wesley Eric Monson
Born June 11th, 2011 at 10:42 pm
8 pounds 9 ounces and 21.5 inches long

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May...the "almost there" for many things...month

(NOT Dandelions...stupid preggo brain)

Yes, we're all still here, alive and well.

* Lizzy is growing tall, like the pretty dandelions in our lawn (yes, I think they're kinda pretty), that I can only buy clothes for her if she is right there with me in the store so I can hold them up to her and say "nope, next size". She has quite a vast vocabulary of words and sentences like delicious, what doing mommy?, nuffin', sorry mommy, and so what?


*Hubby is studying his brains out (and I'm sort of trying to keep up with the mess) and will be finished with his first year of med school on Friday. YAY! And then the peasants shall rejoice (I dare you to name that 90's sitcom reference).

"Some days, we act like we've lost our minds...and most days we truly have."

*As for me, I'm feeling like a large hippo, move as slow as a turtle, waddle like a duck, and my ankles are nonexistent possibly due to a sudden heatwave hitting Iowa. My lack of oomph has caused me to do very little other than to plop my tooshie on the couch in front of a fan with Lizzy and read books, toss a ball, or draw on her nearly dead magna-doodle (man, those things don't hold up like they said they would, losers). (And this is my blog, I'm allowed to complain, neener neener!)

"Happy Birthday to mommy"

* Bjorn/Thorin/Wesley/McKay is riding quite low and still practicing his ninja kicks daily. Next week, I'll be considered full term at 37 weeks, Auntie Michelle will come for a visit, and I can then go into labor anytime (the sooner, the better, I say).